It’s almost tamale making time so I’ll be deep into making various traditional and vegan tamales with the family. But before that happens, I wanted to wish you all a Merry Christmas. I hope you are enjoying your time with your loved ones and continuing or making new traditions.
The time between Christmas Day and New Years Day is a perfect time to read a new book, journal, or decide your writing goals for the new year.
I’ve collected a few posts on writing that I hope you find helpful:
I’m all about trying to improve my writing skills. The stacks of books, both virtual and physical, take up more than one shelf of my bookcase and four bookshelves in Kindle Fire. So, it is with great expectation that the new Urban and Rural Settings Thesaurus (I wonder if it’s ‘thesauri’) are now available.
As we storytellers sit before the keyboard to craft our magic, we’re usually laser-focused on the two titans of fiction: plot and character. Yet, there’s a third element that impacts almost every aspect of the tale, one we really need to home in on as well: the setting.
How would you describe this place to someone who’s never been here?
The setting is so much more than a painted backdrop, more than a stage for our characters to tromp across during the scene. Used to its full advantage, the setting can characterize the story’s cast, supply mood, steer the plot, provide challenges and conflict, trigger emotions, help us deliver those necessary snippets of backstory…and that’s just scratching the surface. So the question is this: how do we unleash the full power of the setting within our stories?
In fact, swing by and check out this hidden entryfrom the Rural Setting Thesaurus: Ancient Ruins.
And there’s one more thing you might want to know more about….
Becca and Angela, authors of The Emotion Thesaurus, are celebrating their double release with a fun event going on from June 13-20th called ROCK THE VAULT. At the heart of the Writers Helping Writers site is a tremendous vault, and these two ladies have been hoarding prizes of epic writerly proportions.
A safe full of prizes, ripe for the taking…if the writing community can work together to unlock it, of course.
Last night I read my short story to an audience of 80+. My son, brother, and some friends came out to hear me read and accept my award, which made me a little nervous but their presence meant a lot to me. The positive comments afterward helped lift me up from the weariness I and other writers often experience since we usually work in isolation.
Most writers want to write AMAZING prose. Words so delicious that readers can’t wait to scoop up every tasty morsel and flip the page for more.
We want readers to feel emotion when we compose our sentences, to get goosebumps and shivers of excitement. We want readers to be inside the story. We want them to see what we see, hear what we hear, and be right where we are in our head.
Writers want to take the reader into the ghostly forest, a medieval castle, far-flung flung planet, or inside a prison.
So how do you amp up your writing?
Describe what the characters experience without telling them the emotion, i.e. fright, sadness. Describe the sensory details. Use the five senses: Sight, sound, taste, smell and touch. There are really six, but more about that one later.
Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass. Anton Chekhov
This is my stack of books on writing. The ones by Stephen King, Ann Lamott, and Natalie Goldberg are hiding somewhere:
All of these are great books for the mechanics of writing but my go to book isn’t in that stack. It’s on my Kindle.
This book describes the sixth sense: Emotions. There are 75 emotions described by the possible body language cues, thoughts, and visceral responses for each. I also have the companion e-book called Emotional Amplifiers. (The latter book is free).
2. Create compelling characters who have strengths and weaknesses, who are unique in their own way, and who have qualities worth rooting for or caring about. Show some physical characteristics, some language quirk and some personality. Give the reader a character worth remembering.
3. Create the mood by describing the setting. Again, the reader needs to be immersed in the story by visualizing the scene.
Here are some helpful tips on how to incorporate sensory details in your writing:
And here’s some handy tips for creating the mood of your scenes.
These books, The Setting Thesaurus, aren’t out yet, but I’m watching Writers Helping Writers website for the launch date, which right now is June 13, 2016. I’m excited and marked my calendar for their arrival.
I’ve pinned these charts to my “Writing Tips-Fiction” on my Pinterest boards for future reference. You might want to do the same.
I’m writing a story about a twenty-one-year-old young woman. In the midst of writing it, I think damn she’s making a lot of mistakes and I begin to edit some of the stuff out until it dawns on me the character is twenty-one.
I have this ‘thing,’ in my writing, I’ll admit it. I try to protect my main character.
This happens in the first draft. When I re-read the chapter, I realize I’ve made worse mistakes than the character I’m writing about and I lived another day.
I’ve been soft on the main character. I haven’t pushed her.
So I have to quit the coddling the protagonist because I’m being a helicopter writer. (Same as helicopter parent but with an imaginary child). And that never turns out well.
From my own experience, here are some of the signs of a hovering writer:
Boring writing: The writer is afraid to look beyond and beneath the surface. They are afraid to dig and go deeper into the mind of the main character. What will they do with all that emotion? The story then becomes dull. Good fiction has to entertain you, arouse your curiosity and get you into the story.
No character growth: If the writer doesn’t allow the character to fail, what does she learn? This is like with parenting and allowing our kids to fail which helps them to learn from their mistakes.
Nothing bad happens: A reader stops reading. Facebook, Instagram, and the kitties on YouTube are more interesting.
No drama: might as well turn on the television and watch a telenovela.
The character is two-dimensional: She speaks, she acts but she doesn’t feel. There are no emotional wounds and consequently, we feel nothing for the character.
Back to my 21-year-old protagonist. She thinks mistakes are the end of the world. And they are, at least the end of her world as she knows it. She thinks no one else can relate and doesn’t let anyone help her. Remember the arrogance of youth?
This is the point where a writer can push the character and ask the what if questions.
What if the character takes the situation into her own hands? Her depressed, angry, shaky hands.
But if I hover and don’t let her take the situation into her own hands how will the reader know that her struggle allows her to grow? By allowing her to do dumb stuff, like when she tries to control what’s going on, she finds that things don’t turn out like she wanted them to. Life gets worse.
This time in-between where we think our mistakes are the end of the world is the story I’m trying to tell. The space between happiness and misery.
If the character didn’t make the mistakes, what’s the point of the story? If I coddle her, how will I or the reader know how far she’ll go to get what she wants?
Will she realize that she can move past the crappiness of the mistake? Can she move forward, poco a poco? Little by little?
A helicopter writer won’t discover this for their character if they keep hovering. The character won’t be pushed to make a hard choice or be challenged. Neither will the writer.
Worse, the writer will find they just wasted hundreds of hours writing a story that went nowhere.
Take a look at this quiz from Fiction University, about suffering from Nice Writer Syndrome. This is another form of helicopter writing.
Writing characters can be similar to parenting your children. A dose of tough love can help them develop character, uniqueness, and growth.