Creating Detailed Character Profiles

Creating Detailed Character Profiles discusses the importance of knowing everything about your characters when you begin a writing project and shares links to character sketches for the characters from The Big Bang Theory TV show as great examples.

Characters are an important part of any novel, sometimes THE important part depending on whether your story is character or plot driven.

In recent months I’ve written a few posts about developing characters for your novel, namely:

In my opinion, it’s important to know everything about your characters when you begin a writing project. (If you disagree and like to develop your characters as you go, please let me know in the comments. I’d be interested in your perspective.) And, today, I thought I’d share some great examples of character sketches that we found over the weekend.
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Writing Mystery and Suspense Fiction: Can You Ever Really Know a Person?

Writing Mystery and Suspense Fiction: Can You Ever Really Know a Person? suggests that we can’t ever really know a person and that accepting this as fact opens the door to some pretty wild and crazy characters and storylines.

As writers, particularly writers of crime, mystery and suspense fiction, it is often our job to create characters and situations that shock and surprise our readers because they didn’t see “it” (whatever “it” may be) coming. We create the twists and turns in our fiction, the unanticipated outcomes to entertain our readers.

It’s easy sometimes to feel that the particular scenarios we’re developing for our stories are perhaps too far fetched and too obviously the stuff of fiction, so much so that no one could possibly believe it, as if our imaginations are in overdrive.

In that vein, have you ever really considered how well you can know someone? Is what we see truly what we get? Are your gut feelings about someone always spot on? Does a wife know her husband through and through and vice versa? Would a parent know if their child tortured small animals behind the barn? Would your gut tell you that the guy living across the road who smiles and waves at you every morning when he gets his newspaper from the mailbox is a pedophile with gigabytes of kiddie porn on his computer?

Real life and real people harbour a lot of surprises. Here’s some examples:

  • He was funny, a big television star, a father figure to many, educated, likeable, and when a couple of women spoke up to say that he’d drugged and raped them, some people were skeptical, others outright defended him saying things like “I know him and he’d NEVER do that!” More and more women came forward with similar stories. The number so far is at something like 40 women now. Court documents are unsealed and he admits that yes he gave drugs to women to have sex with them.

    Who is he? Bill Cosby of course, and we may never know the truth about what happened because the statute of limitations has likely run out on the incidences.

  • This guy was funny, too. Always appearing to us as happy and energetic almost to the point of bouncing off the walls, this man entertained people of all ages through his work in television and movies. Nearly a year ago we were all shocked and saddened to learn that he’d taken his life.

    Who was he? You know—Robin Williams.

  • An elected president of his church’s council, a Cub Scout leader, a trusted and respected family man who just happened to work for a home security company. No one would have guessed that for nearly 20 years he bound, tortured and killed people around the Wichita area for kicks.

    Who was he? Dennis Rader a.k.a. the BTK Killer.

  • He was a member of the Nazi Party, and an industrialist during WWII. By all appearances he shared the common goals and beliefs held by Germans at the time including the annihilation of the Jews, but secretly he saved at least 1,200 of them from the gas chambers.

    Who was he? Oscar Schindler.

  • She went about her business in Amsterdam during WWII, keeping her head down and living as normally as was possible during the Nazi occupation of the city. But, when no one was looking, she was smuggling whatever food and supplies she could find and bringing them to the Frank family and the others they shared an attic with.

    Who was she? Miep Gies.

  • They were the stars of a reality TV program based on their family of 19+ children. They expressed their Christian values at every opportunity but they had a secret, a BIG secret involving an apparently overly curious son and young girls.

    Who were they? The Duggars.

  • He was a respected Colonel in the Canadian Forces, he once piloted a plane carrying Queen Elizabeth and in his spare time, he broke into houses, pawed through the underwear drawers of various girls and women, stealing and sometimes just trying on their bras and panties. Eventually he took things a bit further by breaking into a few houses and raping women and then he killed two women: Jessica Lloyd and Corporal Marie-France Comeau.

    Who was he? Russell Williams, a convicted murderer currently incarcerated in a maximum-security prison in Port-Cartier, Quebec.

I could go on and on with this guessing game. The news media regularly treats us to stories of women who’ve secretly given birth and murdered their newborns, of men with multiple wives who don’t know about each other, of people secretly paying off debts or donating money to worthy causes or individuals, etc.

The point I’m trying to make is: Can we ever really completely know another person?

I suggest to you that we can’t and accepting this as fact opens the door to some pretty wild and crazy characters and storylines.

As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts on the subject. Leave a comment.

Photo credit: Pixabay

Booking Your Blog: A Couple of Things to Consider

Booking Your Blog: A Couple of Things to Consider discusses issues you need to be mindful of if you decide to utilize your blog posts as content for a book.

Joel Friedlander used the term “book my blog” when he published his book A Self-Publisher’s Companion. Similar to Nina Amir’s How to Blog a Book concept in a “which came first, the chicken or the egg” (i.e. the book concept or the blog), sort of way, both ideas ultimately suggest turning blog posts into a book.

If you plan to use your blog posts for a book right from the get go as Nina suggests in her book and on her blog How to Blog a Book, you may be able to avoid the issues in the list below because you can write your posts to avoid these pitfalls. But, if you decide to utilize your posts as content for a book after they are written as Joel did, be mindful of the following:

  • References to dates and times: It’s easy when you’re blogging to say something like “yesterday I read about…” or “at lunch today I thought about…” or “did you see that article this week about…” In your blog post these sort of references have context but in your book they won’t work, at least not without some tweaking. Try “I read about…” or “I thought about…” or “did you see the article about…” These may not be the best examples but I think they make the point.
  • Hyperlinks: If you’re publishing an e-book, the hyperlinks from your blog posts are likely to transition without too much difficulty. You should, of course, verify that the links are still active and working correctly. If you plan to publish a print book, however, proceed with caution. I’m currently reading a print book copy of The Art of Social Media by Guy Kawasaki and Peg Fitzpatrick. This book is a classic example of, in my opinion, what not to do with hyperlinks in a print book. There are numerous mentions in the book like this one: “Here’s a directory of LinkedIn groups.” The underlining implies that there was, once upon a time, a hyperlink, and presumably these hyperlinks still exist in the e-book version of The Art of Social Media. It is both frustrating and disappointing that some effort wasn’t made to type out the URL for these links. If the example above had been re-written to something like “A directory of LinkedIn groups can be found here: URL-goes-here” and the URL had been hyperlinked, it could have worked for both e-book and print book versions. Without the URLs it feels very much like being left out of the loop and several of the Amazon reviews for the book echo this sentiment. For your book, forewarned is forearmed, right? Keep all of your readers happy and avoid this.
     
    Note: Despite the absence of URLs in the print book, The Art of Social Media is a good read if you’re looking for ideas and inspiration to get started with social media, or expand your social media reach.
  • References to past or future posts: Often if a blog post subject is complex, it can be split over multiple blog posts. Watch for references to previous or upcoming posts on the subject like “Booking Your Blog – Part 2”.

These issues can be corrected if you opt to convert your blog posts into a book and should be caught during editing.

Can you think of any other considerations when converting your blog posts to a book? If so, tell us in the comments.

Photo credit: Damesbaden, Scheveningen, Holland courtesy of The Library of Congress.

Show, Don’t Tell: Paint a Picture with Your Words

Show, Don’t Tell: Paint a Picture with Your Words provides examples to explain the concept of show, don’t tell when writing.

You hear it all the time in fiction writing courses, and you can read about it in books on writing and on blog posts online. Show, don’t tell.

I can be kind of dense sometimes but I have to say that that often left me scratching my head. Huh? Show? Don’t tell? Whatcha talkin’ about?

But I get it now–I think!

Examples

I think a couple of examples are the best way to show you want I mean.

Example #1

Tell:
The boy walked slowly across the street to his house. He knew he was in trouble.

Show:
He was short for his age and looked even smaller in his older brother’s hand-me-down blue jeans rolled up at the legs so he wouldn’t trip. He shoved his hands into the tattered pockets and trudged across the narrow street. With hunched shoulders, he walked into the house and braced himself for the whipping his father would surely give him.

Example #2

Tell:
She was an old woman. She looked him in the eye and said thank you.

Show:
Her wrinkled skin had been damaged by the sun over her many years on this earth. She brushed a long strand of grey hair from her forehead and tried to adjust her stooped frame to look him in the eye. “Thank you,” she said, her voice barely audible.

Be Specific

Give details. Be specific. Paint a picture with your words. Avoid adverbs. (They usually end with “ly” if you’re confused about which ones are the adverbs!) Close in the gaps so that the reader knows exactly what you’re talking about and can picture it!

Do you see the difference? Do you have any other suggestions to help writers show and not tell? Tell us in the comments.

Photo credit: Pixabay

Should You Be Writing Your Book in Longhand?

Writing Your Novel in Longhand explains why some writers prefer to writing longhand and debates the pros and cons of this approach.

I started journaling again about two months ago. I’ve written diaries periodically through the years. I wrote one when I was a teenager and journaling was mandatory at the start of every English class. I’ve written travel diaries when I travelled. These assorted journals are scattered around the house, in my cedar chest, and boxes stored in the basement, but I’ve never consistently and willingly, without grades depending on it, written a journal.

But, now, every morning through the week, after eating my bowl of cereal and before I fire up the computer, let the dogs out and start into the business of my day, while the house is still quiet and I can only hear the ticking of the grandfather clock, I sit in my sunny living room and write in my journal. I write about the weather, my hopes, my dreams, my thoughts and my memories. The words just flow freely from my heart and my head onto the paper of a spiraled notebook purchased at the dollar store, so freely that I’m now considering writing the rest of the first draft of my novel the old fashioned way, with pen in hand on paper.

In high school I wrote my first serious attempt at a novel with a pencil on three ringed paper. I’d lock myself in my room for hours at a time and write and write and write until the callous on my finger was thick and tough and my fingers were cramped. The writing process was undeniably slower than typing away on a keyboard, but my focus was practically unbreakable.

But now when I try to write on the computer, the whole world is literally at my fingertips. When my concentration slips for just a minute, I find myself checking for the latest news headlines or the weather forecast or checking email. And, sometimes I find that I’m re-reading and editing my work excessively, just because I can and it’s so easy to do so.

There are a variety of websites and programs that promise to eliminate distractions. Some are free and some are paid or subscription services. I always convince myself that I don’t need to use them, that I have control and that I can write without a program to babysit me and block my access to the internet, and I don’t even realize until I’m suddenly surfing that I do need a program to babysit me and block my access to the internet—until the next time!

So my recent success with journaling has reminded me of how enthusiastic and focused I was about writing, just for the sake and pure joy of writing, without interruptions, so many years ago when I wrote with a pen and paper, and I’m seriously thinking of trying to repeat that experience. I’m thinking that I might edit it when I transcribe it on the computer. And, maybe, after doing this for a while, I will be more engaged with the creative process of writing a book and less distracted by the Internet and all that it offers, and can go back to working on a computer to write my first draft?

For More Information

It seems I’m not the only one who recognizes the joy of writing in good old fashioned longhand. For more perspectives on writing your novel in longhand, check out these articles:

Why creative writing is better with a pen
Writers Who Don’t Use Modern Technology
The Mighty Pen – The Benefits of Writing Longhand
Write or type?
Writers Writing Longhand
8 Ways Writing Longhand Frees Your Muse

So there you have it, the argument for writing without the benefits of modern technology. If you think about it, modern artists don’t make a point of using Paint Shop Pro to paint their pictures, do they? Maybe we shouldn’t be using word processors to write the first drafts of our books?

Would you consider writing your next novel in longhand? Please tell me in the comments.

Photo credit: Pixabay

14 Reasons Writers Write

14 Reasons Writers Write lists reasons why writers write.

When I was a young girl, I was an avid Nancy Drew fan. I would consume a book in a day. I loved mysteries and I think this greatly influenced my initial desire to write. My first serious effort was in grade six and resulted in encouragement from my teacher and I’ve been writing in some way, shape or form ever since then.

So that’s the short and sweet version of my story. But, why do others write?

Reasons Writers Write

Writers write to:

  1. Satisfy a need. For some of us, writing equates to scratching an itch.
  2. Escape from reality. When we write we can sometimes tune out everything going on around us. The tropical paradise setting of a novel can be an amazing escape from a sink full of dishes, can’t it?
  3. As an artistic outlet. Some people paint. Some people sing. Some of us write.
  4. Communicate.
  5. Influence others. Books can start trends (vampire novels or handcuffs anyone?) and share knowledge that can influence readers.
  6. Create the kind of stories they like to read. I love a really good ghost story with a great back story. The type of story that is believable, in theory, and interesting without gruesome special effects. There aren’t a lot of stories out there like this so I think I’m going to have to write my own!
  7. Silence “the voices” in their heads. Do your characters talk to you? Do you nag you to write down their stories? Mine do.
  8. Express themselves. Some people are quiet and feel more comfortable sharing their thoughts through their writing.
  9. Make sense of a situation. Ever explored your thoughts and feelings in a diary?
  10. Be happy. Some people are miserable if they don’t write regularly.
  11. Help others. When we write about our experiences and share what we know, we can sometimes assist others who are dealing with the same issues.
  12. Educate others. Others can learn from your knowledge if you write about it.
  13. Gain exposure and, maybe even fame. Some writers write because they desire this.
  14. Leave something behind. It’s a nice thought to leave something behind, even if only for our family and friends, to remember us by, isn’t it? I’d love to discover a novel written by my great-grandmother even if it was only a first draft stuffed in a shoe box in the attic.

So, can you think of any other reasons people write? Let me know in the comments so I can add it to the list.

Photo credit: Pixabay

The Weary Writer

It’s been a long day. Well, actually it’s been a long couple of days.

It’s tax time here in Canada and between procrastinating, something I’m very good at when I want to be, and being genuinely busy, the deadline has crept up on me. So half my weekend was devoted to rounding up receipts, adding up figures and alternating between madly scribbling down numbers and scratching my head.

Today wasn’t much less hectic, work-wise or personally, and I’m tired. Pooped. Zonked. Drained. Done in and done for. Beat, dog tired and drooping. Get the picture?

I still need to write my blog post to stick to my schedule, albeit a self-imposed schedule, because it’s important to follow thru. It’s important to meet deadlines and it’s important to be accountable to my readers.

But, I don’t feel like writing. I really really really don’t, and if I had just a bit more energy, I might consider throwing a tantrum like a two year old child and throw myself on the floor. But if I did that now, someone would have to help me get up off the floor, or they could just leave me there and maybe toss me a pillow and blanket?

Ever have days like that?

So, I’ve downed a bottle of water to rehydrate myself. Sometimes that helps wake up my brain. At this time of the day I don’t dare try caffeine or I’ll never sleep when I actually do get to hit the sheets.

And, I’m here, at my laptop, staring at the screen trying to think of something fascinating to say, or witty if I can’t manage fascinating, or boring if I can’t manage either of those, but if the latter at least I tried.

Can’t bat a thousand every time, but maybe I can still score an “A” for effort?

So, what can I learn from this?

  1. I’m human, not a machine, and there will be days when I struggle to do it all.
  2. It’s more important to try than to walk away and throw your hands up in the air.
  3. You’re not going to bat it out of the park every time, but with practice and determination there will be more homeruns than foul balls.
  4. When I get tired I start using sports idioms like I know what I’m talking about. Anyone who knows me can tell you how funny that is.

And, now I’m going to bid you adieu and go to bed.

Nite, nite…..

ZZZZZZZzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz…

Photo credit: Pixabay

Who Would You Pick If You Could Channel a Writer?

Who Would You Pick If You Could Channel a Writer? If you could contact a deceased writer for guidance with your writing, who would you pick? Shakespeare? Agatha Christie? Charles Dickens?

Last weekend I had an intuitive reading. An intuitive reading, if you’re not familiar with the term, is the same as a psychic reading or a medium reading.

The whole idea of spiritualism, spirit guides and guardian angels is something that has interested me for a long time. I don’t buy into it 100% but I have had a couple of things happen in the last year or so that have me believing more than ever that there’s something to all of this stuff and I’d like to learn more before making up my mind conclusively.

I know a lot of you will think I’m completely nuts, and that’s okay. There are days that I would agree with you!

For the last couple of weeks, I’ve been reading a book entitled Ask Your Guides by Sonia Choquette which explains the differences between guardian angels and spirit guides and how communication with them works.

According to the book, it’s perfectly acceptable to call upon a deceased expert in a field where you want help or advice.

So, for example, if you’re having an electrical problem and you had an electrician in the family who has passed on, you can still ask for their help and guidance with fixing it. So keep all of that in mind and let’s discuss your favourite writers. Are you a big fan of Ernest Hemmingway? How about Shakespeare or Emily Bronte or maybe Agatha Christie?

Just imagine for a minute that you could channel your favourite deceased writer and ask for their guidance. Come on, we writers have imaginations, well at least fiction writers do, so I know you can do this. Close your eyes and just imagine the chance to have a chat, perhaps telepathically, with Laura Ingalls Wilder or maybe Charles Dickens. Even if you don’t believe in the possibility of any of this happening, isn’t it an interesting thought?

What would your favourite writer say to you? How would she or he evaluate your writing? Would they be impressed or would they suggest major changes? Maybe they’d be in awe of your efforts? If you could ask them anything, what would it be?

Who Do You Write Like?

Maybe you already write like somebody famous? Check out I Write Like. If you copy and paste a sample of your writing a box on this site and click on the Analyze button, it will tell you who you write like.

I copied this blog post into the Analyzer and apparently I write like H. P. Lovecraft. Why not copy one of your own blog posts or a section of your book into the Analyzer to find out what it says about your writing? Let me know in the comments. And, if you’ve channeled a famous writer, I’d love to know about that, too!

9 Reasons to Keep a Journal

9 Reasons to Keep a Journal lists nine benefits and reasons for keeping a journal.

Do you keep a journal? I used to regularly write in a diary when I was a teenager. In high school the first 10 minutes of our English class was always devoted to writing in our journals. This is something that I want to do again.

There are a lot of benefits to keeping a journal, including:

  1. Reduces Stress

    There is something so relaxing about being in a quiet place and concentrating on just your thoughts with pen in hand.

  2. Explore Your Thoughts and Feelings

    It can be cathartic to write down what you’re thinking and feeling if it’s for your eyes only knowing that you won’t be judged by others.

  3. Feel Less Alone

    There’s a reason people often start out writing their journals “Dear Diary.” A diary or journal can be like confiding in a friend. If no real friend, (or cat or dog in my case) is nearby to hear you if you need to pour your heart out, a journal is a great way to do it.

  4. Develop Your Writing Skills

    Journaling is a great way to develop your writing skills and even your writing style. Like an athlete in training, you’ll build “muscles” and might surprise yourself at how much you can write at a time with practice.

  5. Track Symptoms of Illness

    Sometimes symptoms of illness can be subtle and it’s only with reflection that we recall past indications of health issues. Along with writing how you’re feeling mentally, maybe track anything that’s a bit off with your physical health as well in your journal?

  6. Create a Record of Events

    Logging information about big family gatherings, what gifts were received for a birthday or Christmas, and that sort of thing, to record specific memories that might otherwise be forgotten over time.

  7. Create an Heirloom

    Having spent a lot of time over the years doing genealogy, I would love to find a journal kept by one of my ancestors, wouldn’t you? If you keep a journal, you could create such an heirloom for a future generation so that they can know you through your writing.

  8. Write a Memoir

    If you think you might ever want to write a memoir, start writing a journal. The task will be much simpler if you can refer back to your journal.

  9. Win Arguments

    I’ve thrown this one in just for fun. My daughter publishes an annual scrapbook-like book full of family pictures, photos of their calendar pages where all events are noted, and paragraphs about accomplishments, celebrations and other events that have happened throughout the year in the family through Blurb. She swears that whenever there’s a dispute between her and her husband about when something happened, they refer back to the book—and she’s usually right!

Just some thoughts on journaling. Is this something you do or think you might want to start doing, too? Let me know in the comments.

Photo credit: Pixabay

10 Ways to Gain a Fresh Perspective on Your Writing

10 Ways to Gain a Fresh Perspective on Your Writing — Consider these ten suggestions if you need a fresh perspective to see where to make changes and improvements to your writing.

Yesterday was a warm and sunny day, the warmest of the year so far and we spent a great deal of time working outside in the yard, trimming bushes and the dead stalks from perennials that we hadn’t managed to do before winter and that sort of thing.

It’s always interesting to see the yard after the snow has melted, to see what survived the cold temperatures, and what plants are already poking above the surface with new growth. We have a huge yard, nearly a third of an acre, in the suburbs and I love walking around it at this time of year, envisioning how lovely the gardens will look and making plans for changes and improvements—a new plant or tree here, maybe a trellis with a climbing rose bush there, etc.

Springtime offers a fresh perspective. It’s almost like seeing the yard for the first time.

How Writers Can Gain a Fresh Perspective on Their Writing

A fresh perspective is important to see where we need to make changes and improvements, but, as writers maintaining blogs and cranking out books, how do we gain that?

Here’s some ideas that might help:

  1. Read it out loud.
    Sometimes we can hear the errors and weaknesses in our writing easier than we can see them.
  2. Read a book about writing.
    For example, if you’re writing a thriller, read about how to write thrillers. You might find some advice that you can implement or recognize a weakness in your own writing that you need to correct.
  3. Take a writing course.
    Learning new things can alter your perspective and as an added bonus, build your enthusiasm.
  4. Work with beta readers.
    Feedback from others can be very helpful and can provide you with a fresh perspective.
  5. Walk away from your writing for a while.
    You don’t have to physically walk away from it of course, but put it in a drawer or close the file on your computer for a while—a day, a week, a month—whatever it takes for you to gain a fresh perspective.
  6. Have your writing read to you.
    There are numerous text-to-voice apps available. Many of them are free. Microsoft Word offers this with its latest versions. Find one that works for you as some of them sound more natural than others and listen to your book.
  7. Review your writing in a different environment.
    Sitting in the same spot, at the same computer, can be like wearing blinders. Shake things up a bit and take your laptop into a different room before reviewing your text.
  8. Review your writing on a different computer or device.
    Your writing will look somewhat different on a different device and sometimes that subtle difference is enough to give you that fresh perspective.
  9. Print out your writing.
    I don’t like to review things online for errors and I will often print out my documents and grab my trusty red pen to mark them up.
  10. Change the font, text size or line spacing in your document.
    It’s amazing how much of a difference something so simple can make!

Well, I hope that gives you some ideas for gaining a fresh perspective on your writing. If you have more ideas that you’d like to add to the list, please leave them in the comments.