tagged with: Arts
Joyce Carol Oates at USF

Joyce Carol Oates at USF (Photo credit: shawncalhoun)

If you are a fiction writer, one of your major challenges is creating memorable characters. Think of your characters as the pillars of a structure.  If they are not strong, or don’t have the necessary qualities to support that plot, it’s likely to collapse. If your readers don’t care for your characters, especially the major ones, chances are they won’t care for your story either. Think of  a movie you saw that you really enjoyed. Why did you enjoy it? What do you remember about it? Of course, great acting may be one of the reasons you enjoyed the movie, but if the main character was weak, then the acting couldn’t do much to improve on it.

In my critique group, I get a lot of praise for my characters, even the lesser ones. I think it’s because I try to get to know them – their likes, dislikes, what makes them tick, what is likely to set them off – that sort of thing. When I began my first book in the Egypt series, I searched faces on the street and in magazines looking for the right faces to match my characters. I found that people in public gave me what I wanted more than magazine photos, for the simple reason that I could commit to memory their build, their gait, facial expression, mannerisms etc. Nothing gives me more pleasure than when my critiquing friends say, “I just love Marva,” or, “I just love David.”

In the video below, popular writer Joyce Carol Oates discusses how to create outstanding characters. Enjoy!

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Last year I decided to unofficially participate in NaNoWriMo, not because I wanted to write my novel in a month, but because I hoped to feed off the energy and motivation generated among writers during this month. There are live events near where I live, and I hope to attend at least one. This year my novel is almost complete. I’d hoped to have it completed by now, the first draft, that is, but my plot took an unexpected twist and I’m really enjoying it. So far, I have topped 102, 000 words, way more than I originally intended. However, I know I’ll be doing some slashing in the earlier chapters once I begin to edit. Anything that doesn’t advance the plot has to go. By the time I’m done, I expect to be under 100K.

So what about you? What does your NaNoWriMo look like? Are you attending any live events? What goal(s) have you set for yourself? Leave a comment below and let me know what you’re up to.


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While on my walk this morning, I came across a couple staring at something on a tree branch. As I drew nearer, the woman pointed to the tree and said, “Isn’t it amazing how God puts so much detail into everything?” I peered at the tree to see what she was talking about, and there was a huge spider caught in a big web. I agreed with her that God is a God of details. Then I saw she had her phone out. “Did you get him?” I asked. “I sure did,” she replied. So I got out my phone and took two shots. See one of them here.

As I walked away, the word “details” kept popping into my mind. I immediately thought of my writing. As fiction writers, it can be very easy for us to focus on getting our plot just right; working out the conflicts, all the little twists and turns and surprises, while ignoring the details. But its these little details that make the story come alive and make the reader feel she is in the story, not looking in from the outside.  Let’s look at the paragraph below from The Memoirs of Cleopatra by Margaret George:

Warmth. Wind. Dancing blue waters and the sound of waves. I see, hear, feel them all still. I even taste the sting of the salt on my lips, where the fine, misty spray coats them. And closer even than that, the lulling, drowsy smell of my mother’s skin by my nose, where she holds me against her bosom …

Do you see, hear, feel and taste the details? That’s the kind of sensory experience you want to give your readers. This is not the same as clutter, which adds nothing to the story. If it feels cumbersome, it must go. But if everything fits into place, like the markings on a spider’s leg, then you are on to something. Like any craft, it takes practice, but eventually, you should get it just right.


I will be taking my book Women For All Seasons on a virtual book tour from October 7 – 18.  I will also be giving away a copy of the book and downloadable excerpts to readers who visit the blogs and leave a comment. I will post all the details as the time draws nearer. Meanwhile, if you wish to jump ahead you can purchase a copy on Amazon from the link on your right, or from Smashwords at https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/34069


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Every writer needs to have some kind of networking support in order to grow and become more proficient in his craft. One form of support is the critique group, which means just that – members critique each other’s work and provide helpful feedback on different areas of the work. If it is non-fiction, the critique may focus on grammar, sentence structure, content, relevance and development of the subject matter. If it is fiction, members may focus on theme, point of view, character development, setting, dialog and narrative in addition to grammar and sentence structure. (more…)

Speed bump Almería

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The book marketing journey continues. It may lead me along winding lanes, dark alleyways, sudden stretches of sunlit roads and then maybe  a speed bump or two. If that happens, I’ll simply slow down, then pick up speed and continue on my journey, the wind in my hair and a song in my heart. I’m saying all of that to say this: the book marketing journey can be unpredictable for an unknown author. It can be daunting to say the least, not a venture for the timid or the overly cautious. There are many avenues to explore, one of which is book signing events. (more…)

Stephen King, American author best known for h...
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As writers, I believe we owe it to ourselves and our profession, (yes, writing is a profession) to strive for excellence. We cannot be content with just slapping something out on our keyboards, posting it somewhere and smacking our lips, thinking we have done our duty. We need to make sure that anything we sign our names to bears the mark of excellence.

Where would the world be if we never had a Beethoven, a Mozart, a Dickens or a Wouk? Would we have even known the meaning of the terms “creativity”, “artistry”, “genius”? The world will always make room for excellence, but will be indifferent to mediocrity and sloppiness.

Everyday I read things in print and online written by seasoned writers that make me shudder. Some of them have clearly not been proofread, while others are just habitual errors some writers make. This one is a comedy of errors, you might say, although it’s not funny: The prices of shoes varies dependant of where you but them from.  This one is from an ad: Very interested in how your marketing.  From another ad: You can make your own decisions and place your bid. Then set back and wait.

Avoiding these errors can be very easy if you would only take the time to carefully proofread your work before clicking the submit button. Or, better still, have someone else check it for you. If you are a beginning writer, you may be able to conceive plots that will make Stephen King blanch with fear, but unless you can master the basics of grammar and structure, you will be missing the mark. There are many books on the market that will teach you all you need to know to make your writing flawless.

One of my favorites, and I daresay the favorite of many, is The Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr and E.b. White. In just 85 pages, the writers cover  such topics as punctuation, grammar, composition, commonly misused words and expressions and Style. Another gem,  Grammatically Correct by Anne Stilman deals with the same areas, but in greater detail. There is also a section on Spelling. If you prefer, you can always take a course at your local college or online. But make sure it’s a reputable site.  Whatever you do, don’t stop writing. The more you write, the more proficient you will become.

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by Beth Ann Erickson

Intuition is the deep knowingness inside yourself. It’s that place within you where you know beyond a shadow of a doubt that what you’re doing is right or wrong for you at the moment.

Living intuitively, life is a joy, your work a pleasure. When you don’t listen to your intuition, you’ll stumble, life will be difficult. Everything you do will feel like swimming up stream.

You find yourself self sabotaging yourself. You may forget to answer e-mails. You won’t return calls. You’ll find yourself doing anything except tend to the task at hand.

In a similar vein, when you follow another person’s path (which is exactly what you’re doing when you’re not following your intuition), the same thing will happen. You will self sabotage the project. You won’t feel joy. You will have an inner sense of panic.

So it’s imperative to follow your intuition because your path will always be unique… never quite the same as other writers.

Where one writer will share a trick to do “this” and another writer will share a trick to do “that,” these techniques may or may not work in your situation.

It’s important to take into account your personality whenever you’re evaluating marketing techniques.

I’d darn near die (literally) if I had to cold call editors. I have no problem contacting people if we have a prior relationship, but to call out of the blue? No way.

That’s just the way I’m wired. I accept it and work around that inability.

Some people may dislike writing queries and sales letters. Then cold call. Send e-mails. Do what works for you.

This is why it’s so important to follow your hunches no matter how far off the beaten path it may be.

Your activities may make no sense to the person watching your life, it may look bizarre to others, in fact, your hunches may not make sense to you either.

But in your spirit, in your soul, all will make perfect sense. And that’s what matters.

How to Know You’re on the Right Track

When you’re on the right track, career-wise, you’ll experience love. You will experience joy. You will find yourself in a high-powered creative zone.

Ah, but what about money? How will I make a living doing something far off the beaten path?

Or worse yet, how will I understand how my writing career will unfold without knowing the end result of my actions?

To that I say, your first goal should not be to rake in the big bucks.

Your first impulse should always be joy.

It’s been my experience that money flows towards joy.

This is because when you’re writing in a state of joy, you won’t self sabotage yourself. You won’t feel anchors beneath your feet. You will feel incredible peace while clients, customers, buyers will be drawn to that same incredible peace.

Your first and foremost plan should not be gaining wealth. However, on the other hand, if your grand plan, if your Polaris is to accumulate great wealth as a writer, if that is your joy, you just may find yourself in a very hollow situation later on.

This is because accumulating wealth isn’t in and of itself a negative thing.

However, making wealth your sole purpose in a writing career seems to stem the ebb and flow of creativity. And ironically you may find yourself without a message, without anything to share with your reader.

What a bummer, eh?

I know far too many copywriters (those who write advertising) who entered the biz for the promise of high pay. Many have gone on and done quite well.

Thing is, most are avid “swipers.” Some border on plagiarism.

This means that alone in a room, without their swipe file, they probably couldn’t come up with an elegant, solid sales piece more than flap their arms and fly to the moon.

They may be making the big bucks, but they also get to contend with the continually niggling feeling of inadequacy wondering if and when they’ll ever develop the chops to build their own message from the ground up.

It’s tough to do when you’ve short circuited intuition.

Mark my words, these non-writers will not enjoy long lasting writing careers. They simply can’t. They don’t know how to write.

But I’m off track. Back to it.

If your first path is joy, and if you’re committed to spreading that same joy, the money will make its way towards you and you will live a full, happy, and beautiful life.

Truth be told, the only path to joy leads through the door of intuition.
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This article written by Beth Erickson is one that every writer, aspiring or seasoned, should take seriously. When you write with intuition and joy, your readers can sense it and will come back to it again and again. Without joy, your writing will be as flat as the paper it is written on.  

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The race-course is used by joggers and walkers...
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This morning I left home a little later than I should have for my morning walk. The reason was that I simply thought I would lie in bed a little longer, but the increasing brightness on the other side of my window shades reminded me that time was not waiting on me. So I got up and went for my walk. Fortunately, by the time I got to the park it  felt around 70 degrees and there was still a nice number of walkers/joggers to keep me motivated.

What does this have to do with writing, you are probably asking? Discipline. The same thing that gets you out of bed every morning, is the same thing it takes to get you in front of the computer to write something. Or to send out those queries or to read a book on writing.

I have to confess that I am still lacking in the discipline department. No, that’s not entirely true. Work and household duties sometimes get in the way of my writing. I do not spend as much time as I would like to, doing what I love. But I do write or engage in writing activities everyday. Whether it is for a client, for Livestrong or critting for my online group, I manage to squeeze in a little something everyday. And that, like exercise, is what counts.

I know that if I’m to eventually drop those two dress sizes by Christmas, as I plan to, I have to do what it takes to achieve that goal. In the same way if I’m to become a successful writer I must write every day.  So here’s to discipline. Do you struggle with discipline in any area of your life? Leave your comments below.

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     This morning I stepped out of my daughter’s house in Florida intending to run some errands, but the heat sent me scurrying for cover. Summer is here. What a contrast to a few months earlier when Floridians complained it was too cold. In Georgia where I live we enjoy the changing of the seasons, a  natural phenomenon that never fails to fill me with awe.  The lush foliage and vibrant colors of spring give way to a sea of summer green, then to the red, orange and brown of fall and finally the dry, naked branches of winter.

For those of us who are writers, we may encounter seasonal changes in our writing. Our prolific pages of heart-stopping poetry or prose may become scarcer and scarcer until we are suddenly staring at a blank page.  What happened?  Call it writer’s block or whatever you will, it’s not a pleasant experience. What can we do about it? Write! That’s the only answer.  But what can you write when your mind is as dense as a foggy morning in Georgia? Write whatever comes to your mind. If you are working on a novel, don’t think, just keep on writing. If you are working on an article, put it aside and start writing about … fog?  Why not?

When you do this a few things will happen. Your novel plot will move in a direction you never envisioned. Your characters  begin acting in ways you didn’t program them to act,  your article takes  on a new dimension and you gain a new perspective on … fog. But the best part of all is that your writer’s block will become dislodged and you will enter a new lush season of creativity. Try it!

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