Wednesday, August 28, 2013

For writers, tragedy is a good thing

Caught up in the moment
No one wants to read about everything going right.  Readers want things to go wrong so they can watch the characters find their way through their difficulties.  Houses burn down, people get sick or lost or lose their jobs.  They get angry and lose their temper.  We readers know this happens in real life.  Watching someone go through these kinds of difficulties and come out the other end stronger gives us hope.

In my classes, my students often ask me questions after we have finished a book.  So many times they are questions I cannot answer because the characters aren't real, and I cannot call them up and check on their progress.  But often my students see them as real, that there is more yet to come.  Every writer should aspire to the kinds of questions my students ask.

  • Did he go back and find her?
  • Why did she leave him if she knew he needed her to stay awhile longer?
  • Will they every see each other again?
  • Did she have an unhappy childhood?
  • What did her family think about what she did?
All I can say is, "I am not sure.  Why do you think they did it?" Or some other statement to put it back on them to consider the possible answers.  Their question are proof that my students have connected to the characters.

Readers find understanding, lessons and experience in the books they read.  This is why writers find tragedy a good thing.  It makes our characters live in reality in a way that brings our readers insight and emotional release while they are "safe" from reality at the same time.  

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Characters that grow while I write

Growing together.
I love building characters that I wish I could visit.  These days I am working with Mick and Emily.  I like them because they like each other.  Emily understands Mick whether he is pacing up and down with excessive energy, moping around about some thing that is bothering him or just grinning at her.
But Emily will not put up with the moping and she tells him so.  He's a good guy.  He thinks about things and though he won't pull himself together all at once, he will think about what she said and try to be better.

Mick had a bad heart and it sidelined him, kept him out of enjoying doing activities he wanted to do.  It stuck him on a mountain in a house looking at the paper trail of his company but unable to manage it himself.  It left him growing Christmas trees, but it never left him bitter.  He had Emily and that made all the difference.  But having Emily, for a man of the 70's era meant he had to accept that he would probably not be able to protect her if he ever had to fend off an attacker.  So they lived in a small mountain town where everybody knew everybody, and he didn't have to fear not being able to protect her.  I suppose it's his man thing because there was never any sign of danger to make him worry.

In this third book in the Student of Jump series, Mick finds himself no longer held back by his heart.  But fear is much harder to replace with confidence.  He is a knight with armor, sword and shield, a fair lady by his side.  But he has never jousted before.

As I work through this redraft, Mick and Emily grow.  They don't become steady in the clinches.  They don't have all the answers.  They don't find themselves in situations that bear easy answers.  But they have each other, I think.  I am not sure how it is all going to end.  Sure the book has an ending, but these two keep growing with experience.  Emily didn't have anything holding her back.  She stayed back for Mick.  She gets as frightened as he does, just about different things.  But together they manage; they support each other even when both are trembling.  That's why I like these two characters.

If you are a writer, who are your favorite characters at this time?  If you're not a writer, what character and from what book do you wish you could visit.  Why?

Friday, August 16, 2013

I was inteviewed by Indie Author Land!

This is a big share post.  Indie Author Land posted their interview with me about the second book in my Students of Jump series.  In Times Passed and No-Time Like the Present are both available at under all the major formats and as well as other major e-book outlets.

See my interview at Indie Author Land today.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Keep universal symbols in mind when you write

white rose = purity, plastic = fake
Every writer should keep aware of their use of the symbols (mythologies, metaphors, colors, etc.) that subconsciously attract, repel and inform readers.  For instance, let's use the age old feature of color.  Red denotes passion, rage, anger, love, disease, destruction, corruption, etc.  So if you put a woman in white, you could be providing a contrast or a condition.
  • The woman is corrupted but presents herself as pure.
  • The woman is pure
  • the woman is potentially pure, but in danger of being corrupted
  • etc.
Let's examine red when it is combined with white.  Hawthorne did this with great effect in "Young Goodman Brown."  Brown's young wife wore pink ribbons.  Did the ribbons represent her inexperience (youth) or was it the fact that she was a wife (therefore no longer pure) so her once white symbols have passion/love diffused into them?  Or has she lost purity and been corrupted by the devil, and the symptom of this corruption is the pink ribbons in her hair.  Were her ribbons white, could the reader then assume she is innocent?  But her ribbons are pink, so has she been corrupted?  The journey of Young Goodman Brown is based on his concern over her purity.

These features add depth to the work.  So the writer must examine their work for those universal symbols that our readers will catch consciously or subconsciously, thus providing greater depth of characterization and perhaps conflict of character.

Symbols to consider:
  • names
  • color
  • occupations (general:  cabinet maker, hero, prince, clock maker)
  • hats
  • objects
  • shapes of features (narrow set eyes denote criminals, large eyes innocence)
Here is a simple example.  One of my students named two of her characters John and Sheela.  The student chose the names because she felt they were common everyday names and would place her characters with the working class.  John was concerned that his wife was cheating on him.  I pointed out to my student that the name John when combined with Sheela created a symbolic factor that played well with her plot.  John a term used for men who solicit sex in exchange for money combined with Sheela a term with conflicting mythological meaning regarding corruption (either as protection from devils or symbolic of sexual fertility) would lead the reader to assume the wife was in fact cheating on him and perhaps he was just as flawed because he viewed her as a means of sexual satisfaction.  The student was shocked she had chosen names that would have this effect.  She changed the name of the woman immediately. 

I used the name Miranda for one of my characters because I liked the added connotation of knowledge and wisdom that went with the name.  Vivian, an overly attentive mother, for its closeness to vivacious, and Misty, Miranda's daughter, because of both her internal conflict over her relationship with her father and his conflict about being a single father.

What symbols have you made use of in your work?  What symbols have you seen used by other writers in the works you have read?

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Different ways I limber up the writing muscle

Since my time to write is extremely limited as well as seasonal, I have to be ready to write the moment opportunity arrives. In some ways, knowing that this is the only time I'll write for the next week does make me write whether I am feeling it or not.  And summer is my writer's holiday.  You can't pry me away from the computer whether it's flowing or not.  But I have found a few ways to make those first minutes writing worth pushing cobwebs aside.  I have several ways of limbering up.
  • I reread what I have written so far and hope to get pulled in by the bread crumbs I left behind the last time I closed the computer.  This does not always work as sometimes I am in a hurry and forget to leave the crumbs.
  • I lay down on the couch and tell myself to take a nap.  I think about the story and wait for the lights in my head to go out. As a sleeping technique, this never works.  My characters immediately sit up and start talking.  I start eavesdropping, and then off to the computer I slink hoping nobody notices.
  • I get on the treadmill (a real one, jeesh) and just think about what is going on in the current scene.  By the time the first ten minutes have gone by, I am dying to get off and start writing, but I have an unwritten contract that states I must remain on the treadmill the full twenty minutes.  That gets me my workout and a real desire to write.  Sometimes three scenes will unfold in front of me, and I do everything I can to hold on while I work from scene to scene.
  • I tell my daughter the problem.  She recommends a solution which causes me to explain why that just won't work though I assure her it is a fine suggestion.  By the time I am done explaining, I know just what I need to write.  I hope I am not destroying her confidence.  Hmm, better talk to her about that one.
  • I send my best writing bud Marcy an email, usually vaguely worded.  After we toss a few clarifying comments back and forth, things start to rev up in the muse department.  Marcy's great.
  • If these fail, or I forget to do them, I sit at the computer and say, "Just write whatever is falling out.  Something is bound to be useful."  And that's what I do.  Write, write, write until I am limber, and then I write a whole lot more.  This is the there is no-time-to-take-a-nap, ask another person, no-crumbs-left-behind approach.  Just sit down and type.  
Not one of these is the best of the bunch.  They all ultimately work for me.  In fact, this particular post relied entirely on the last technique.

How do you limber up?  Are you a consummate planner, a panster by practice, or do you fight with the wordsmith every time you sit down to work?  How do you make sure you pull the narrative out of the bag?

Friday, August 2, 2013

I found a hole in my publishing activities

I knew Smashwords covered all the main bases in distributing to e-book sellers, but I overlooked the Amazon portion of that distribution net.  Apparently, my books were not available at Amazon.

Three years ago when I was looking into e-book publishing, I checked out Barnes & Noble and Amazon.  Through my research I kept seeing posts about Smashwords, so I finally followed their trail and did more research.  I created accounts at all three as I worked out my decision for which one I wanted to use.  Two accounts remained dormant as I made my final decision and published with Smashwords.  I still feel I made the right decision.

But recently, finding that hole forced me to do some more thinking about this.  Smashwords offers the option of closing out a distribution route, so I closed Smashwords distribution to Amazon since I did not meet the eligibility requirements to get on the list and went direct to Amazon and published all four of my books this past week.  Hole closed.

Moral of story: (is not women are entitled to change their  minds) Stay aware of the process you are working and adjust as needed.  I am still with Smashwords, but I am with Amazon, too.

Students of Jump, Book 1:  In Times Passed

Students of Jump, Book 2:  No-Time like the Present

Gardens in the Cracks & Other Stories

The Little Handbook of Narrative Frameworks

I dare you to find me.

Since I own a Sony ereader, I largely go to Sony for my e-books.  Sony also has my books through Smashwords.  Where do you look the most for ebooks, and where do you buy them from (could be different places)?