Monday, May 2, 2016

3 "Aha!" Writing Tips for Character Development

by Kasey Tross

Whenever I come across a good writing tip, I think, "Ooh, I should share this on MMW." Sometimes this means one tip inspires an entire post, but sometimes there are just too many and I get ants in my pants and decide you simply cannot write another sentence without KNOWING these amazing tips, my fellow MMWs!

So today I present you with a few of my favorites I've come across in the last few weeks (mostly as I've been procrastinating writing by browsing Pinterest- but at least I've been browsing writing-related stuff!) and I realized only after starting this post that these are all character-related. I'm a very big fan of character-driven stories, and I struggle a lot with writing characters, so maybe that's why I gravitate toward these tips.

1. Secondary Characters are People Too:

Yes. So much yes. I think sometimes we think of secondary characters as "the help" and forget that they have their own passions, fears, strengths, weaknesses, and backstories. What are they? How does this story affect them? This is what makes our stories 3-D: when we do this extra work, when we get to know a character. Are we going to explain all of this in our story? No, probably not, because it would be unnecessary and likely detract from the story. But it will show up in the way a character reacts to your MC: is she irritated? Secretly happy? Your MC may never know, but YOU knowing is what will make that secondary character look sideways at your MC, or scuff her foot, or sigh, or react in whatever way that reminds us that she's a person too.

2. The Power of the Quirky Detail:
(sorry about the poor quality- this is a screenshot. Click on the image for a link directly to Laura Davis's post.)

I love this. I just love it so much. I have a secondary character in my book who is a woman in her 50s, graying hair, tanned cheeks, windblown look, walks with a limp, and doesn't like to be called "ma'am." I didn't know why I liked her so much, but maybe this is why- because she's very specific.
I love this challenge to "make each description so clear, so specific, it could be no other person in the world." This ties right in with #1, and it gives me some pretty clear criteria with which to evaluate my own character and place descriptions. I especially loved that part about how if the author gives you that one quirky detail about a character's face, "you will make up the rest of her face with absolute clarity." That's so true! I think sometimes we try to over-describe, and this just reminded me how unnecessary that is. 

3. What Do They WANT?

No fancy picture for this one, because I don't remember where I got it from, but recently I read that before you write a scene, you need to know exactly what each character wants most in that scene. I think I've often made the mistake of having my own idea of what I want to happen in a scene and then just kind of working toward that without first considering what the characters want to happen. The result is a lot of contrived scenes. Instead I need to back up, get inside each character's head, and work from that vantage point. They are not just the backstop for my MC's ball. They are real people too! (Well, you know, not real real people. They're characters. But you know what I mean.)

Saturday, April 30, 2016

The Children's Book Festival and Connecting with Other Authors

By Lacey Gunter

I love libraries. If I ever end up moving to a small town that has no library, I think I would simply have to start one. Luckily, I live in a city with a great Library, the Provo City Library.  I adore this library. They have tons of great programs for all ages. They especially love connecting authors with readers. Which is exactly why I am putting a plug in for their Children's Book Festival next weekend. If you happen to be in the Provo area, check it out.

Every year the Provo City Library has a Children's Book Festival.  As part of the festivities, they bring in a well-known children's author to give a presentation Friday night to a smaller and usually more mature audience, and to participate in some of the activities with the kids on Saturday.

This year they are bringing in David Wiesner. My kids and I have delighted and giggled over his illustrations many a time. His Caldecott Medal picture book Tuesday is one of our favorites. I can't way to hear what he has to say and to mingle with other authors and readers.

What is your local library like? Do they have any great programs like this?  If so, I recommend, as an author, you check it out.  Making connections with other authors is a critical skill in the publishing world these days. Sometimes it is the one difference between landing that great agent or book deal.  We often pay hundreds of dollars to do this at conferences. So when it comes to your town and its free, the price is always right. Plus many of these local author connection talks tend to have smaller audiences and allow for more personal contact with people. Local niche bookshops can also be a great resource for this.

If your local library or bookstore doesn't have a program, what sort of writing organizations exist in your community? If you haven't already, join one. If one doesn't exist, start one.  If you are nervous about meeting with other authors, don't be. We tend to be a pretty friendly community of people in my experience and there is more to be gained from the relationship that just finding a critique partner. I have been entertained, encouraged and inspired many a time through friendships I have made with authors in my community.  They also can provide a wealth of knowledge, experience and resources.

If you are in the Salt Lake or Utah County areas and you don't know where to look, ask me. I would love to see you at one of these activities and get to know you. If you live close to any of our other MMW bloggers I am sure they would be happy to help as well.

I hope I see some of you at the Children's Book Festival next week, ladies. Until then, happy writing.

Friday, April 29, 2016

What Drives a Writer?


I wrote an e-book last year that was published in July. It has not made me a millionaire, but I'm OK with that. I just wanted to get the message out there. I felt a great sense of accomplishment, and then moved on to other things.

Recently, my e-book was invited to be part of THE ULTIMATE HOMEMAKING BUNDLE, which was released this past Wednesday. The BUNDLE is only on sale for one week, so I've been scrambling since Wednesday to post BUNDLE info on all my social media sites, write new copy for the blog (for the week) and review all 70 e-books in the BUNDLE, so I can write about them intelligently. All I ate yesterday was a banana and some leftover carrots.

When I'm in the thick of writing like this, I get so weary and wonder if it's worth it. My back aches, and my thighs are spreading by the minute because I'm in this chair for hours on end. I've not climbed into bed before midnight all this week. The promotion for this BUNDLE ends May 2, so the end is in short site, but I'm really pooped.

This is when I really admire writers who write for a living, every day. How do they do it?

Writing is hard, and it always saddens me a bit when I finish reading a book in two days that the author probably spent a year writing!  Doesn't seem like a fair exchange, does it?

I spent about four years writing my e-book, The 12 Days of Christmas Adventure, only because I didn't work on it every day, and it has over 200 photos in it, which needed editing.  Readers can read it in about an hour (it's about a holiday project for families.)  Add in all the writing I ended up taking out of my final draft, it seems like it took me 20 years to write the thing.

That's why I think people don't write unless they really love it. I can't not write, I've often said, even though that's a terrible double negative for a writer to write. If I haven't written a blog post in over a week, I get a bit twitchy. It's in the gut. It's in the soul.

So, in spite of my fatigue and terrible diet this week, I'm plugging away. Because that's what writers do.

If any of you homemakers want to check out THE ULTIMATE HOMEMAKING BUNDLE, click AWESOME RESOURCE FOR MOMS! This will take you to my blog post where I write about it.


Thursday, April 28, 2016

Save the Idioms!

by Patricia Cates

I am currently raising school age children in the western United States. It may be different elsewhere…but sadly I am seeing more and more often that my honor students, who love to read, are completely ignorant when it comes to the meaning behind many of our old idioms and adages. They are constantly asking me what things mean, which, by the way, is great! They can pronounce and spell the words fine. However they have no idea what on this good green earth any of it means. Maybe I am over the hill and that is why I know of such things, but isn’t it our rightful duty to pass along these words and phrases?

An example of this came up last night. This past Saturday my 16 year old daughter was bidding adieu for the evening, to (pardon the expression) a beau she has recently been talking to a lot via text. So she seemed a tad bit perplexed last night as to why this young man had not texted her in four days. They have been getting along famously for weeks. She felt pretty down and seemed to really want to analyze why he had become silent. In sleuthing as to what she could have said wrong, and looking through their conversation, I saw that the last thing she had typed to him was, “Good Riddens!! Not only did my straight A student (AP Calc, History and Lit) misspell the phrase, but she may have given him the slightly wrong impression? 

I quickly explained to her that this was, in fact, an awful thing to say to someone. You would never say that to anyone you hoped to ever see or speak to again. What a doozey! She honestly thought it was an old English way of saying toodles, good talk. She seriously did not believe me, and so she googled it. Upon her realization of the error...we laughed so hard she almost fell over and I was literally in stitches. She later decided to text him (first this time) in an attempt to smooth things over. He had not misconstrued her meaning and indeed he had gathered that that was their final good-bye. Such fun!

My mother is from the south. My father’s father was born in 1898. Adages of all sorts were in my upbringing. I really enjoyed the best of both worlds. Even back when I was growing up I do not think many of my close friends had heard a lot of these odd sayings, unless their parents were as old as mine, or they read newspapers, or spent time among adults who used a lot of euphemisms.

Hence my concern for our modern day youth. Will they be able to carry on these phrases for future generations or will it all be lost in a decade or two? Is it already lost? Will they know what “Six of one or a half dozen of the other” means? Will they be able to pass on more than “A friend in need is a friend indeed?” I am sure they understand that “Almost doesn’t count.” But for sake’s alive, I’m even a little worried about that one!

I’ve noticed that some of our television stations are running old shows. Perhaps our kids could watch “I Love Lucy” or “Gunsmoke” to hear a few choice phrases. I may be off my rocker, but I personally believe it would help our youth to become better readers and writers when they have a few more idioms under their belts. Or I could just be barking up the wrong tree.  

Sunday, April 24, 2016

You Gotta Know When to Hold 'Em... Your Tongue, That Is....

by Jewel Leann Williams

Ahhh, Facebook.  That melting pot of ideas, that purveyor of Candy Crush and Farmville (do people still play Farmville?)... the app where all of us come together and say terrible things to people we may have known once, but don't anymore, or who are friends of our friends, or friends of their friends, and who just happen to disagree with us on basic, fundamental principles.

Like, is it blue and black or white and gold?
Trump or Cruz or Hillary or Sanders or none or all?
Soccer or football? Or futbol?
Rousey--whiner or role model?
Toilet paper?  Over, or wrong under?
Who gets to go in the ladies' room?

Why, oh why must we argue about everything?

I keep seeing this meme on the Facebook, and I shake my head and smile sheepishly at myself every time:

Wisdom for the ages. I made this myself, by the way. 
Then, I read someone's post about something that ticks me off and I start firing off a witty, sarcastic, acerbic response that is sure to either have them quaking in their boots at the error of their ways and bring them around to the right path again, or, more likely, going to tick them off and inspire them to write their own response. While it will be heartfelt, and maddening, it will not be near as clever as mine, and I'll have to point out their grammatical errors and their logical errors and then they'll point out mine (because any time I tell someone about their grammatical errors, I misspell something) and then we do that a few more times and I keep feeling worse, and worse, and then I want to erase the whole thing but they called me out by name and if I erase my stuff then only their arguments against me, with my name in them, will stand, and I can't have that because even if I feel crappy for getting in an argument, I'm still right and they're still wrong and I don't want the world to think I backed down. Breathe....

Yes, I have a hard time holding my tongue--my fingers--my tongue-fingers? when I get fired up about something.  Righteous anger at its most wicked.

But... should I?   Should you? Should we?

Are we really going to change anyone's mind with a healthy dose of the quick volleys of opinions and often insults that Facebook serves so well?  I propose that we will not.

There are forums for this sort of thing. Blogs, letters to the editor, actual (GASP!!!) in-person discussions!! Poetry, stories, heartfelt videos.... but... sadly, not really Facebook.

So, I skip over that post because I know it's going to push my buttons.
I hide this post from my feed because I know it's going to push someone else's buttons.
I ignore this comment to something I post (or even just delete it) because it's going to start contention.

I try and hold my tongue to serve the greater good--because if no one is really listening, there's no sense screaming until your voice is hoarse. All that does is make people put in earplugs.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Book Review: Duchess, by Nikki Wilson

- a post by Jeanna Mason Stay


I hope Nikki won’t mind, but I decided that for my blog post this fortnight, I would review her book that just recently came out. I love you, Nikki, and I’m so happy for you that your book got published. Plus, I thought it was a delight!

So, without further ado . . .

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars (On my own blog, I have explained that I generally reserve 4 and 5 stars for books that touched me deeply or were really extraordinary in some other way. So 3.5 is a high rating, honestly, but I’m starting to rethink this because it comes across as lukewarm, which it isn’t. So just know I thought this book was a fun, worthwhile contemporary romance.)

Clean rating: G. Super duper clean.

Short summary: Katie is the manager for a major pop star, Duchess, but what people don’t know is that she also is Duchess. Chase is a veteran who is asked to help put together a charity concert with Duchess as one of the stars, so he has to work with Katie. Of course the inevitable craziness ensues when she tries to hide her identity and Chase tries to figure her out.

Recommend it? Are you a fan of light, clean, contemporary romance? Then yes, I recommend it. It was a fun read with a premise that was pretty amusing (imagine trying to be both a pop star and the pop star’s manager—what a pain!). There was also some seriousness—Katie’s mom is very sick with cancer, and Chase still suffers from PTSD and from some things that happened when he returned home—but it was handled gently so it didn’t feel heavy or depressing.

What I liked: I most enjoyed the situations that arose from Katie’s predicament. While I don’t really know about whether the situation is all that realistic (it probably isn’t), I didn’t care. It doesn’t matter whether or not this would work in real life. What matters is that Nikki sold it as believable in her world. It was funny, and I could feel Katie’s tension as she tried to navigate the different relationships she had, not telling anyone about Duchess. I also enjoyed the developing relationship between Katie and Chase. For me there was a nice level of tension, and I very much enjoyed that it was romantic but never crossed any lines. Plus, I really liked the cover—I thought it captured the essence of the story very well.

What didn’t work for me: This is a personal thing, but I rarely like reading song lyrics and poems within a book. I can rarely do them any justice in my head, and I wind up not enjoying them. So I would have preferred less of that, but your mileage may vary. I also had a few times when I wanted to tell Katie that she was being unrealistic about her mom’s prognosis and she needed to behave a little better. On the other hand, I think that those of us who truly believe in life after death tend to have a much easier time with death, so maybe I’m being too harsh?

Last words: Go buy it! Not only is it very inexpensive, and not only will you be supporting our very own awesome Nikki, but most of all you will be getting a fun romantic story out of it!

Monday, April 18, 2016

6 Reasons Why Writing a Book is Harder Than I Thought

by Kasey Tross

Writing a book is hard. Like, really hard. It's like climbing a rope or doing hip-hop- it seems pretty simple when you see it happen; you don't really know how hard it actually is until you try it.

It's haaard.

I was explaining this to a friend the other day (who I think was asking me, "Kasey? What's the deal with that book you were writing? Isn't it done yet?" and I was like, "It's haaaard.") and I started to wonder if anyone else has had a similar experience to mine when it comes to writing. I mean, you pick up a book and read it and I think it's easy to just assume that the story was just there in the author's head and they just sat down one day and wrote it.

That's not how it works, people. Not by a long shot.

At least not for me, anyway.

Here's my list of 6 Reasons Why Writing a Book is Harder Than I Thought. Do any of them ring true for you?

1. It's puzzling. I've learned I'm pretty good at writing, but only marginally capable at storytelling. I don't think up a story all at once. I get little bits at a time. The story comes in odd, mismatched pieces, with random scenes and curious characters showing up at various points in the process, while all the while I'm trying to piece them together into some sort of coherent whole. I often think this might be much easier if the reverse was true.

2. Directions, please? Thanks to the above, it's easy for me to get lost in my story. I need directions. But there's no map. Or GPS. Or little old man sitting outside a convenience store who can tell me to turn left at the field with the brown cows. So I find myself writing a scene and then going, "Wait- when was the last time these two characters saw each other? I think I wrote that part like 6 months and 4 chapters ago. I don't even remember what they said. What do they know? How will they feel seeing each other again? Do their reactions even make any sense?"

3. That awkward creative amnesia. Along the same lines of #2, I often go on writing binges when I'm hot and heavy with my MS for several weeks, then I have a cooling off period for months. So when I get back to it, I think I'm doing okay, and then a few weeks in I realize there's a whole other character I'd written before whom I'd completely forgotten about, and now I have to find some way to work him back into the story. It's awkward.

4. Details, details, details. I never imagined that I'd be looking up times for sunrises and sunsets during specific times of year, or creating my character's entire family tree just to give myself a framework from which to write, or researching horse medications and symptoms of smoke inhalation. I feel like every few chapters I'm stumbling over an odd little detail which, if not pursued by hours of research, might break the integrity of my whole book.

5. Notes. So many notes! When you're writing a novel, and doing it in this haphazard, as-the-inspiration-hits kind of way like I am, you end up with a lot of random notes written on whatever is handy when inspiration strikes (see my last post, The Problem With Muses). So I make these notes and leave them places, and then I try to figure out exactly where that awesome idea I had last week in the car on the way to the dentist went...and of course 3 weeks later I find it under the seat in my van, scrawled on the back of a school fundraiser flyer, stained with something I hope is soda. And then I realize it doesn't really matter now anyway, because I dropped that scene a week ago. *sigh* I literally spent 3 hours last week collecting & sifting through my pile of hastily-jotted notes just trying to find some semblance of organization.

6. Overarching editing. There comes a point- at least once a week, it seems- in which I decide that some Major Edit needs to occur in the book. Needs to. And it's never anything simple. It's almost always something that requires me to go back through the entire. thing. and comb through every page to add or subtract whatever this Major Edit is. It's kind of a pain in the butt. A Major Pain. (On the good side, I get lots of opportunities to read through what I've written and see my story's big picture, which helps quite a bit with #3.)

So for those of you who have successfully completed this process and have written an entire, fully coherent manuscript, you are my heroes. I bow to your greatness. I aspire to the top of that mountain of accomplishment, and I hope to join you there one day, when I'm finally finished slogging through the swamps of my own creative muck.

The good news in all of this is that maybe- just maybe- I'll learn something from this headache and the second book won't be quite this hard.


Did I mention that this is haaaard?

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Giving Google somethin' to talk about.

By Lacey Gunter

There are so many articles online about getting Google to pay attention to the writing on your blog or website so that other people can find you when they search a topic that relates.  I often wonder about the opposite end. How much is Google paying attention to what we write in our search engines?  If you are anything like me, a large portion of the topic research I do for a manuscript takes place online.

We should all know by now that Google and other internet giants are keeping vast personal records on each of us, based on our search, surfing and social media habits. Lucky for me, I write children's lit. So while my search topics can get wild, crazy and very random, they stay within safe legal and moral limits. Authors who write romance, suspense, criminal or horror may not be so lucky.

Being a wife of a lawyer, I hear how the information internet companies have on you can come up in a criminal case.  Sometimes things like this even get used in civil cases, like divorce. But it doesn't even have to go that far to affect most of us. Many of the adds that populate our web browsing are driven, in some part, by what we search.  But with the vast amount of information available in just a few clicks, it's seems almost archaic not to use the internet for research.

So what is Google saying about you behind closed doors? For most of us writers, I bet it is a pretty crazy message.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Do the Twist

by Patricia Cates

"Come on baby, let’s do the twist
…Come on baby, let’s do the twist
Take me by the little hand and go like this…"   

Chubby Checker makes it sound so fun! Actually there is a lot of thought, and plotting and planning, that go into a story twist, though. So how do we finagle that? How do we finesse a plot twist or a surprise ending? 

I’m pretty sure that back in 1959 “the twist” was much easier to do. At that point the best known novel for a good and shocking twist may have been Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None.  Now that almost feels predictable. Audiences have become savvy. Fight Club and Gone Girl have taken plot twists to a new level.  

So what can writers do in today’s world to attempt to bring something fresh and new to the table, and that will grab the attention of readers?  

I consulted the internet to find out what goes into a great novel surprise. (Funny how Wikipedia never lets me down! ) Here is a brief summary of some ideas I found for creating that twist you’ve been looking for: 

1.      Kill someone off that is important to your story. The reader never saw THAT coming. Yep just kill off a main character…fun!

2.     Make the narrator out to be a liar. The reader can find out mid story or later that they’ve been duped by someone’s point of view…it’s not the actual way things went down. Hmmm…

3.     Switch it up.  Make the perceptibly rich guy dirt-poor, or the bad guy actually good. Take the power away from the powerful and allow the weakling to rule. Simple.

4.     Make a double identity character. Ah ha! Make it even better by not allowing that character to be "in the know" about it. They won’t know who they really are! A lost twin? An heiress? A royal? Or worse.

5.     Create an unfolding and awful problem that results from a victory. Oh no! Oh yes!

6.     Let out a secret…it could be to the protagonist or the audience or the villain. (I like to give the villain the upper-hand, personally I feel it creates worry for the hero.)

7.     Expose a liar!!! Can a hero lie? You bet. Whoever you want to lie…make ‘em lie good. Dishonesty is good in this case.

8.     Create a base twist. After the initial plot is revealed, about a chapter later, let the reader realize the main obstacle is not the biggest problem…not even close. Make it tragic.

9.     Let the audience think the hero has won…and then pull the rug out from under him. Gotcha!

10.  Allow your reader to know something that the MCs don’t. This could keep them waiting for the secret information to be revealed. Let them believe this for a long time and then make it false, the true info is still secret. Shhhh…

Hopefully these few tips make plot twists feel almost as fun as dancing. C'mon baby...let's do the twist, sing it!

Monday, April 11, 2016

The Problem With Muses

10:30pm- Getting Ready for Bed

You know that one part in the story where she finds out that he's the one with the ring? You should move that right after the scene in the car.

Okay, I will.

You should write this down or you'll forget.

But I'm in the middle of brushing my teeth.

But you'll forget. Just write it down real quick!

Okay, FINE.

[I rush out of bathroom with toothbrush hanging out of my mouth to reach the pen & paper on my nightstand.]

11:30pm- In Bed, Almost Asleep

Greg didn't set the fire.


Greg didn't set the fire! Don't you see? Rick made it LOOK like Greg set the fire, but he only did it because he wanted to make it look like Greg was getting back at Alison for the thing at the restaurant. This is HUGE!

Wow, okay...but it's almost midnight.

But this is HUGE!! HUUUUUGE!

I know...but...I was almost asleep.

Kasey. Sleep or success? SLEEP or SUCCESS? Come on, which is really more important??


YES! Get your butt out of bed and WRITE this DOWN!

Okay, okay, fine.

[I flick on my bedside light and start writing.]

1am- Trying (and Failing) to Get Back to Sleep

Why haven't you told me this before? 

Because you never asked. 

Why would I ask you about something like that? Come on, Alison. We can't keep playing these games. I need to know the truth.

What if the truth is too complicated? What if the truth will tear apart everything you've ever known? What if-

What are you doing?

I'm coming up with some amazing dialogue. And it's for a pivotal moment in the story, too. 

It's ONE o'clock in the MORNING.

This stuff is coming fast and furious. Are you going to write this down?

I'm trying to SLEEP here! I am literally LYING IN BED with my eyes closed.

You're right. Too much to write down on your little notepad. It's coming in a flood now- she said in a voice that broke his heart- oh, man- his breath caught in his throat- okay, get up! Time to go downstairs! We need a computer!

It's ONE AM!

You keep saying that like it matters. Um, hel-LO? InspiRATION happening here!

[gets out of bed]

You're killing me. You are actually. killing. me.

Death or success? Death or success? Hmm....

Shut up. If you weren't so darn good I would fire you.


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