Thursday, April 29, 2010

Inside Out

I’ve been reading Brandilyn Collins’ Getting Into Character and find the comparison between actors developing their characters and writers building theirs completely fascinating. Brandilyn draws many parallels that show why her characters are always so very real.

I’m only on the second chapter (as finding time to just sit down and read is…well…hard), but already am full of ideas on how to improve my characters, as well as how to make future ones more developed before I even start.

One guideline sticks with me. “Characters are built from the inside out.”

At first, that statement is like a “well duh”. But when you really sit down and consider it, in the examples that Brandilyn gives, it takes on a deeper meaning.

As we develop our characters and get to know them, we’re creating actual personalities. Everything about those personalities has come about for a reason. In the real world, people don’t have traits, ticks, and mannerisms just because they were born that way. Their personalities evolve and develop as they learn, grow, evolve, and experience.

So, it seems natural that if your character bites her lip whenever she gets into an uncomfortable situation, there’s a reason why. It’s our job as writers to figure out why so that we are using that tick in a way that is true to our character. If our character walks around, head held high, staring the world down—something in his gave him that steely, me-against-the-world attitude. What was it?

Make sure as you develop your characters, that your characters walks, talks, thinks, acts, etc in a way that reflects who they are, and that you don’t give them any traits, mannerisms, or ticks just to make them stand out. There is a reason for everything, or it’s not true to the character.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Happy Earth Day!

In recent years, "Going Green" has become a hot topic. We're in a rush to save our planet...and ourselves. But what happened to all the "easy" stuff they taught us back in elementary school? Sheesh! Going Green really seems like a full time job...not that I don' Really I do.

Now, as a writer, there are several items that I use that often go to waste. So, here is a list of ways we writers can pitch in to SAVE THE PLANET!

1. Keep my laptop/desktop off when not in use. This lets the smoke clear, the generator cool...and keeps me from returning to my computer for "just a few more minutes".

2. Recycle soda cans. I have discovered a new way to relieve stress and cure writer's block! Tin Can Toss: build a pyramid of cans and throw random stuff from your desk at it in an attempt to knock over all the cans. When you succeed in knocking over all the cans in ONE shot...your writer's block will be cured. Really. DO IT!

3. Reuse old pens/pencils. Decorate the tips of old pens and pencils with little felt people that represent your characters. In addition, use one of the cardboard boxes that housed your bulk paper and create a stage. A great way to reinact scenes to make sure they are realistic and plausible.

4. Finally, our most important resource...PAPER! With all the paper we use, we probably should each be responsible for planting a small forest each year...but instead, let's be creative.

* Wrap presents. Hey, if people can use newspaper to wrap gifts, we can use our old drafts. After all, our novels are much more interesting than last month's political upheaval.

* Make sure to use front and back. Done with first draft? Print the second draft on the back of the first. won't get confusing. Use a different font/different colored ink. It's THAT easy.

* We've all heard about people wallpapering their office with their rejection letters. DO IT! Motivation and fashion decor rolled into one.

* Never underestimate the adrenaline rush in a good game of trashcan basketball. Just make sure to reuse the "balls".

* One word: BONFIRE!!!

So, now that you've got a plethora of ideas to put all that waste to better use. I expect that we'll be using less trees, less electricity, and to all become the next Broadway designers.

Oh, and anything else that you may "think" is trash, ie used ink cartriges, notebooks, broken CDs or other media storage, use to create ART that will drive your inspiration right into the next novel.

What are your tips for Earth Day?

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

More Books?

More Books?

My Amazon order arrived on my doorstep this morning. Yay! I’m sure my hubby would just be like “More books? You haven’t read the ones on the bookshelf yet.”

Guilty look.

Yeah, but I NEED these books. Well, I don’t know that I need them since I have a couple unread writing books on my shelf, but still…they are writing books.

Plot and Structure by James Scott Bell

The Art of War for Writers by James Scott Bell

Police Procedure & Investigation by Lee Lofland

Christian Writer’s Market Guide by Sally Stuart

As you know, I am in the process of reading through what I’ve written of my WIP so far. One thing I’ve noticed is that I really love my plot. However, I have a little trouble piecing the plot together in a smooth fashion and bringing all three POVs together at the right point.

I suppose that’s what I get for being a pantster who doesn’t keep track of her plot.

Along with that, one of my friends works for the police and says that some of my story is a little “off”. Yeah…probably should have done more research than reruns of Bones.

I am determined to get back on track and do this right. No more “winging” it. After all, with a third child soon to make an appearance, an abundance of time to write a novel is just going to dwindle even more.

Did I mention it is my goal to be published by the time I’m 30? My birthday’s next month…I’ll be 29. *gulp* Guess I better get on the ball!

You tell me...what one writing resource have you found most beneficial?

Friday, April 16, 2010

Successful People

For those who follow my Twitter/Facebook updates, you know that I’ve had trouble getting back into my novel. Due to severe morning sickness and general lack of motivation, I have barely touched my novel since last December. Add to that a healthy dose of guilt because I’m not working and let’s just say I haven’t been in a good place when it comes to writing and anything writing related.

By some miracle, though, this past week and a half I’ve had a strong desire to write. Something. Anything. Hence the increase in blog post frequency (aren’t you the lucky ones?). However, a couple of days ago, that ambition became more focused. Work on your novel. Still, every time I even pull it out and look at it, I feel totally lost. Like the time away has distanced me too much from the novel to move on. So what do I do now?

I chatted with a friend online and she tried to encourage me and help me draw up some kind of plan…but I still wasn’t feeling it. I didn’t know these characters anymore. I remembered there was a lot I wanted to change about the plot, but couldn’t recall exactly what. I began to feel that familiar sense of defeat.

Then I ran across this quote on a friend’s Facebook update:

“Successful people pull dreams from the sky, put work clothes on them and call them Goals.” –Dave Ramsey

For some reason, after reading that quote, everything snapped into place. My motivation, a plan, and a reason to keep at it. The quote itself didn’t seem to have a lot to do with my situation, I still don’t think it does. What stuck out to me was the fact that dreams take work. Not that I didn’t already know that, but I think I needed that reminder. Writing is not an easy pursuit. Like an unused muscle, I can’t expect to jump back in and be able to just go like I did before. I have to build up to it. Work at it.

I’ve decided to print out what I have of my novel and do a good read through. If at the end I feel inspired enough to finish the last 20-25K, I’ll do that. If all the stuff I want to change still weighs heavy on my mind, I might just have to go back and fix the novel first. Ready or not…here I go!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Let's Share! -- Dreams

Pregnancy comes with its share of ups and downs—we all know that. From funky food cravings to glowing skin, and hot flashes to midnight baby gymnastics in the belly, we never know what’s next. The positive side of all that? Lots of insanity to draw inspiration from. Am I right?

Crazy dreams are often a part of this thing we call pregnancy. Some people have them all through pregnancy, but I find that mine always occur in the last twelve weeks or so. These dreams are something I’ve come to love and fear at the same time, but would definitely make a good basis for a short story or novel.

One that stuck in my mind over the years occurred a couple of months before my eldest daughter was born. My husband had gone from National Guard to Active Duty and we were preparing for a move from Kansas to Texas when I was about thirty-two weeks pregnant. We had two vehicles and so would be driving down separately. For a couple of weeks, I freaked out about driving by myself, even though my husband would be right behind me. Yeah, I know, irrational pregnant women.

Anyway, one night, I had a dream that I was driving through Oklahoma when hubby and I got separated, and I got lost. Of course, in the middle of the night along some back road to nowhere, my water broke. Because of the intensity of the contractions, I was forced to pull over and lay down in the backseat. My cell phone wouldn’t work (Can you hear me now?), and the road was empty.

After an hour or so, a pickup truck finally pulled up behind me. I prayed with all my might that it wasn’t some crazy psycho who would kill me and steal my baby. Although the old man with no teeth and a scruffy beard looked like he could, he wasn’t. He helped me into his truck and rushed me to the hospital.

My dream flashed directly to the delivery room (as dreams often skip around, you know). The doctor is leaning forward, telling me to push. He looks up at me and he has one of those old head pieces that has the metal reflector with the light—know what I’m talking about? With a small circle cut in the center that you put of your eye? Yes? No? Anyway, he tells me I’m doing great and one more big push.

My body tenses for that last big hurrah. The doctor grins and congratulates me on a brand, new… Gumby. You all remember Gumby, right? Little, green, putty guy that had a cartoon for awhile?

That’s right. I gave birth to Gumby.

And not just any Gumby. It was one of those Gumby toys they used to sell that was sticky and you throw it up against the wall. Remember those?

Well…that’s exactly what the doc did. He turned around and threw my baby Gumby up against the wall.

I burst in to tears and started yelling at the doc.

Then I woke up.

Talk about weird dreams…

So…let’s share! What’s the strangest dream you’ve had? It doesn’t have to be pregnancy related…just strange. Enjoy!

Monday, April 12, 2010


Last night was the season premiere of Army Wives and, being an Army wife myself, I fell in love with that show in the first season. However, I must say, I was slightly disappointed with the premiere.

To bring you up to speed on the two areas I’m talking about, let me do a quick recap of last season (very quick, I promise).

In the last season, Army brat turned soldier, Jeremy, went on his first tour in Iraq. While he was there, his best friend was killed in a bad luck situation. His friend was in a Hummer where Jeremy had been moments before, but since his friend was limping offered to switch places. Jeremy had a hard time dealing with this. In the last scene of the season finale, you see Jeremy’s parents walking up the driveway of their home (where Jeremy is staying temporarily after returning from Iraq). They hear a gunshot and his dad takes off toward the front door.

In the second scene, Joan is a new mother who was deployed to Iraq not long after giving birth to her daughter. In her last scene, Joan’s convoy is attacked and you see her pulling a wounded soldier behind a military vehicle. Seconds later, a bomb explodes underneath the car.

Both season endings were perfect. It left you clawing for the next season (which, thankfully, they didn’t make us wait until June again). You had to know what happened to both of them. I wanted to hunt down the writers just to find out. Obviously, they really knew what they were doing—how to make the viewers come back.

So, last night, I sat down with some strawberry shortcake, a box of tissues, and a eager spirit as the first scenes of Army Wives flashed across the screen. And my first disappointment hit.

Jeremy’s father rushed into the house to find his son standing at the end of the hall, tears in his eyes, gun in hand. While a slight deluge of relief rushed through my body, it seemed almost unrealistic that he merely shot his picture. It wasn’t until much later in the show that we find out why he probably didn’t kill himself.

The show moves on and gets to a point where it shows Joan’s husband at his desk at work when the phone rings. My first immediate thought is that the military does not call you to tell you your spouse was killed. They send two soldiers to your door—a scene every military spouse dreads. But, it’s not someone on the other line to deliver bad news, it’s Joan herself. What? She didn’t die either? No, she tells her husband that they were attacked and she was getting some stitches but would be fine. She loved him and would call him in a few days. As the scene fades out, they showed a side view of her and we can tell it’s a little more than stitches.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not exactly rooting for death and dismay for these characters. But the lead up and execution of the cliffhangers left the audience with certain expectations. And while the new developments in the premiere still set us up for an interesting season, it wasn’t what we expected. In some ways, it was almost unrealistic. That was particularly frustrating. I can explain away the shows choices in my mind, but that doesn’t rid me of my initial reactions.

What about you? Have you read a novel or seen a show that left you disappointed? Were you able to pick apart why the writers chose to go the way they did? Did it make any more sense?

Later this week, we'll discuss more in depth how to avoid this in our own writing.

God bless!

Monday, April 5, 2010


First, let me apologize for not blogging much. Truth is I lack the inspiration for proper posts. I haven’t been reading up on the latest trends/tips for writing, in fact, I’ve hardly been writing at all. In the midst of all the craziness in my life, looking for the “call to love” beats just hasn’t been a top priority. So, when it comes to coming up with ideas for posts, I’m stuck. Writer’s block, if you will.

However, you know what has been on my mind a lot lately?




That’s right, folks, the nesting period has officially settled in. With the addition of a third child in our near future, the office had to go. We turned the office into the girls’ bedroom, and the girls’ old room into Connor’s bedroom. Or that’s the plan…we got the rooms switched. Right now, though, Connor’s room looks like one of those rooms from Clean House or Clean Sweep. As I told my friend and fellow writer, Jill Kemerer, my goal for the week is to get rid of all those boxes. We’re about half way through, still four days until Friday! (My goal to finish Connor’s room.)

I have always been a pack rat, and so has my husband. So, with the office being turned into a bedroom, we’re forced to get rid of stuff. I definitely feel like one of the people on Clean Sweep as I sadly bid goodbye to “stuff”. I have a question for you guys…do you keep every card given to you? Yes, I’m referring to the Christmas cards, and birthday cards, and Valentine’s card. I think there’s a card out there for just about every day of the year. I don’t think I’ve ever really thrown any away. Every time I start to throw one away, I think about the time and effort that person put into picking out that card and sending it my way. Now, I have a trunk full of cards from the last ten years. What’s that going to look like in another ten years?

Yes, the nesting period is here—which, in my case, is probably a good thing. Except now I’d rather clean and organize than write…talk about messed up priorities!