Friday, August 27, 2010

Self-Portraits on our MC's


I love them. Truly I do. But when I want to get to know them better, how do I go about it? Talk to them? Interview them?

"Hi, my name's Karen. I have seven children. And a dog."

Okay, that works. But what does that really tell you about me? My name and that I either love children or merely enjoy gaining lots of weight every year or so and then trying to get it all off again. (Yeah, right.) You can see I have a dog, but does that mean I'm happy about it? (I am, btw. She's a beagle--hence my obsession with Snoopy)

But you can see that there's more telling than showing in my intro, and surely not enough information to get a true picture of who I am. How I would react to a given situation. What sort of things annoy me. Are our characters facing the same difficulty in our story? Are we merely telling people about them or are we painting an accurate picture of who they really are? If not, how do we go about doing so?

First off, we need to know our characters. Truly know them. There are many ways to go about doing this, but here is one technique I learned recently that you can use to understand them better.

We're going to make two lists.

List ten things that describe your character, that if you were to change or eliminate that one thing they would no longer be the same person.
  • For example: "I am a mother with seven children." If you were to take away any one of those seven children, or all of them, I would no longer be a mother (in the same way). In fact, I would probably fall apart, but I digress.
  • Another example: "I have faith in God." Now I guarantee that if you took away my faith I would totally change as a person. I wouldn't act the same, pray the same (or at all), and my goals in life would change dramatically. So my faith is an integral part of me.

List ten things that describe your character that if you were to take them away or change it wouldn't truly change them as a person.
  • "I love popcorn." Okay, so maybe some of you would die or fall apart if you didn't get your daily or weekly fix. But can you honestly say that it would change your personality that much? Probably not.
  • "I eat chocolate for breakfast." I must really be hungry this morning to be using food as my examples. But the fact remains that if I didn't have chocolate for breakfast, I would probably find something else to eat. And in this case that's probably a good idea. :) I don't think it would redefine me though. Not like one's faith, or status as a mother.
I really enjoyed this concept; understanding that there are distinct things that make up an individual. And that by listing them, sometimes you can get a better idea of who that person truly is. You may never understand them fully, but you can use their traits, likes, dislikes, to paint a vivid picture of them and then use your story to build around them. In fact, you may find that you can add more life to your plot because of this information.

I mean, hey. What if taking away someone's popcorn truly resulted in a mental breakdown. And why on earth would that happen? that sort of thinking has the makings of a marvelous mystery. Maybe it's time to continue my list. :)

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Top Ten

Top Five things I WON’T miss when school begins:
  1. The deluge of cups and food all over the kitchen counters.
  2. Tripping over endless toys throughout the day.
  3. Excessive noise which prevents me from reading and writing effectively.
  4. Endless video games which adds to the excessive noise.
  5. Late night movies which yeah…adds to the excessive noise.
Top Five things I WILL miss when school begins:
  1. Having everyone make their own food–even though it destroys the kitchen.
  2. Watching my children play with each other and all the “new” toys they find buried within the toy closet.
  3. All the noise that keeps me company during the day and reminds me of why I’m a mom.
  4. Playing video games with my kids, and watching their smug faces when they beat me–fair and square.
  5. The freedom of getting up when I want to after staying up with the kids all night to watch a late night movie.
*sigh* Six more days until all our roles change, and my kids are a little less like kids and a little more like tiny adults. And me right along with them. My kids are already rooting me on, so maybe we can all find a way to keep each other sane for the next 180+ days. Wish us luck!

1 Comment

Shelli says:
I’ve got the same kind of ambivalent feelings going on. I’m excited for the kids to be out for the summer…and then I’m excited to have them go back in the fall. Let’s just say that I might be ready for a little me time!
Good luck with the new school year, for all of you!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

A post of EPIC proportion!

Okay, the last few days have been pretty epic with the WriteOnCon conference going on, but that's not the epic I'm talking about (yet). I'm talking about the book!

See, my son's a gamer. Well, so are my girls, but they're not the ones who gave me the book to read. "Epic?" I asked him. "I like the title, but what's it about?" He answered, "Think Guild Wars."

Ahhhh. That I've heard of. In fact, I have my own character. Does that make me cool? My family thinks so. It's pretty hot, actually. The character that is. The don't have time to both play and write (doesn't stop my husband from using my character--hmmm, should I be jealous?). Anyway, somehow Conor Kostick managed it. He's the author of the book Epic, which I had the privilege to just finish reading.

And what a read it was. Think Hunger Games. Haven't read it? Then think social climbing in a world where there's only one controlling entity that determines how, what and when you get things. Food, clothing, work, you name it. The whole society is run by Epic, a virtual game that determines your ranking in the real world based on what you do in the game. Earn a thousand bezant in the game? Spend it in real life.

The game was created to alleviate violence and allow people to work out their differences in the game. And for the most part it worked. Only a few random acts slipped through, and those people were thus exiled. Just like the main character's father. But he had a good reason, and it's one that compels our hero to join forces to end the game. Before it can end his own life.

Intrigued yet? I was, and I had long since stopped playing the game. But I love the cooperation it fosters in my children as they team up together and help each other out, because the death of one in the game usually results in the death of another. Just like in the book. So, as a mother I loved it. As a past gamer?


Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Why we need contests

I won.

4th place, that is, and you can bet that I've been flying high ever since I found out. I mean, I ran my heart out in high school and hardly won a race. This month alone I've won three different contests. And this one takes the cake!

Thank you Roni and Julie and all the wonderful sponsors who participated. You made a lot of people happy!

So what did I do to celebrate? Eat chocolate? Throw a party? No...I sat down to write. Before my luck ran out. Well...

Yes. You guessed it. *sigh* But at least it waited until bedtime. That way I could sleep off my disappointment and let night wash away my fears. Because, hey! I won a contest!

So what happened that burst my bubble so fast? I tried to write a query.

Yes, that's right. I was so excited about winning that I decided to do something hard. And then promptly failed. But that's okay. There's a reason they teach classes on these things, and why writers seem to dread them so much. I mean it's hard enough to write the book let alone shorten it down to a page. If I wanted to tell my story in so few of words I would have made it a short story instead. But alas, I wrote a book. A very LARGE book. Several in fact.

And one day I will see them in print. Other than in my own house, that is. And that is why I woke up this morning and started again. Just like I do everyday. I told myself I could do it. That it was worth it. That my only problem was that I was eager to share my story. My WHOLE story.

So I pulled out my pen. Pulled out my paper. And pulled out my pain, my protagonist's pain, and then what's the problem? Then smiled. I know her pain, and it's a lot like my own. And I know that just as I solved her dilemma so she'll help me solve mine. And together we'll see the light of day.

Just like I felt yesterday when I won. Ahhhh, the power of winning. So here's the deal. We need more contests. Me included. Only this time I'll be the one giving stuff away. Very soon. Because if there's one thing I learned is that we need hope. We need each other. And we need contests to help us remember that writing is fun! Exciting! And full of prizes...even if it's not full of good queries. But hey, maybe someday I'll have one of those too. You never know.

And neither will you unless...yes, you guessed it...unless you dair to try!

Friday, August 6, 2010

Contest alert!

Yes! It's a contest! Only, I'm not the one sponsoring it. This contest comes to you from Fiction Groupie! A fantastic resource for writers and aspiring authors. And just who is Fiction Groupie? What? You've never heard of them. That's okay, that's why I'm here.

Roni Griffin. She's the one you want. She's heading up a contest that proves to not only get you moving on the social network, but reward you with a chance to win one of many possible prizes. Check it out:

  • Hannah Moskowitz's Break
  • Lisa Desrocher's Personal Demons (ARC)
  • A query or first five pages critique from Fine Print Lit's intern, Gemma Cooper
  • A query or first five pages critique from Janet Reid's assistant, Meredith Barnes
  • A query or first five pages critique from agent Suzie Townsend
  • A query or first five pages critique from editor Brendan Deneen
So what are you waiting for? Head on over to to find out how to enter. Or click on the sidebar to follow the link.

Good luck to all of you!

A writer's nightmare

I stumbled out of bed, saw my husband off to work and plopped myself down in my usual morning spot. My computer. I booted up, checked email, sent a few replies and then logged into Google Reader. Ooooooo, look at all the pretty updated blogs.
Familiar, yet annoying screen comes up. “We’re sorry. That site has been blocked. Listed under blogs.”
What the–
Since when are blogs on our firewall’s block list? I mean, yes occasionally we’ll get in there to block something we don’t want the children on, or when we think they’re spending too much time on a particular area and need a gentle reminder. But me? The Mom? The writer? Who’s been at my system I wonder. I rubbed my eyes and tried again, thinking that maybe I hadn’t yet fully woken up. Surely the system didn’t just tell me all my favorites sites were blocked.
*click* Yup. No go. And what’s this? My social networking is blocked as well? AND you tube? *grrr* That explains my nonworking tweetdeck this morning as well. *opens firewall settings and clicks on six different buttons that didn’t used to be clicked*
Part of me is wondering if the site had gone wonky, the other part wonders if it’s a joke from my husband telling me I’ve spent too much time on it. Maybe But he knows full well that I can change the settings back if I want to, so I guess I’m just dreaming, or maybe having a nightmare. Maybe I should go back to bed and try again later. Like in 3 minutes when the network reboots with my “newly” clicked changes.
This begs the question though. How do our families feel about our writing? Is it a love/hate relationship? Or does your spouse or child push you onto the computer and tell you to write! Write! Write!
On the bright side the gravatars on my site starting working after all these months. Must have been something I clicked.

1 Comment

Jolene says:
Children are resigned. Though they’re used to their mother working on some kind of project or another. My husband LOVES it, but I know that at the end of the week, when I’ve spent nearly every night with my laptop on my lap, he’s ready for it to disappear for a day or two.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Children are an inspiration

Funny thing happened yesterday.
Yes, so funny it took me until today to write about it. But I was busy. You’ll see why.
So there I was minding my own business (yeah, right I have seven children and a dog–and had two little friends over as well) and was suddenly hit with an epiphany. Well, the epiphany came after a bit of thought, but it came all the same. I was contemplating my reason for writing (partly because of a conversation on twitter that annoyed me) and had a conversation with the Lord.
Why am I writing?
I mean, I love writing…the creativity…the stories…the things I learn when I write and read. But it takes so much darn time away from my family. And I wonder if the world even cares. Cares if I write. Cares about kids…
Your kids care.
The thought was like a warm bucket of water. I was hit with it, but it felt…nice.
You’re not writing for the world. You’re writing because you enjoy it. You’ve written a story with the older ones. Now what about the younger?
I took me a minute to digest my thoughts, and my conclusion was this. I had been collaborating on a number of stories with different children, almost naturally, according to their interests and affinity for certain genres. Oldest son helps with my spy book. Oldest daughter “owns” my country book. Second oldest daughter likes fantasy and had begged me to write one. So I did. I even thought about dedicating each book to said child, but I didn’t want to leave anyone out.
So the solution apparently was for me to write one for each one of them. Okay, DUH, write for my children. Even if the world never sees my books, my CHILDREN will. We will have forged a bond (binding if you will) that will live forever in our memories and even on our shelves. Even if it’s only in a 3 ring binder. And let’s face it…I love my children enough to write them each a story. Even the little ones.
The feeling was overwhelming. Yes. Write for your children.
So I opened myself up yesterday to discover what my next child’s story would be…and there it was! Just like that! I couldn’t write fast enough…my thoughts the same whirlwind of motion and E-motion. Yes, I start back to school in three weeks, but that doesn’t matter. My stories are for them. For life. For our time together. Each moment I spend writing “their” story means I’m thinking about them. And each time we talk about “our” book they know I’m focused on them.
So what about you? Why do you write?
I know I’ve asked this before, but since our lives are constantly changing, it’s possible that our reason for doing things will change as well. And in today’s busy and morally questionable world it’s important to evaluate what we do, why we do it, and who we’re doing it for.
And at least for me, I know the answer to all the above. And it feels write. I mean, right. Right?
Right. So I’ll write.


  • Jolene says:
    I write for the same reason I read. I love it and I love being in a different world than my own for a little while. Best of luck with your new story. I really think that the ones that just “come” end up being the best.
  • Monique says:
    I write because the past wants it’s story told again. There are new ears to listen.
  • Shelli says:
    I write because I was meant to write, and because it has given meaning to my life when CFS stripped everything else away.
    I’d love to write a book with my oldest daughter; we’ve talked about it before. Now we just need to find a topic we can both be passionate about.
  • Wendy Jones says:
    I write to keep my sanity, to keep my craziness, to keep in touch, to keep out-of-touch. I like your answer, though, too–I write for my kids. I write because I feel like I need to leave my mark somehow, and this seems to be one of the ways I’m able to do it. I write because I like re-living my life and living someone else’s.
    Why do I write? Lots of reasons, apparently . . .

Taking the Plunge

My daughter came home from band camp yesterday exhausted and feeling a little worse for wear. Yes, she was happy. Yes, she worked hard. But boy was she pooped. And they call band kids, geeks!


Who's stupid idea was that anyway? I mean, you ought to see the arms on my kids. And their legs? I could roll out pizza dough with those calves. Seriously, folks. So maybe it's just that they're buff AND can play cool music. Yeah, that must be it.

Anyway, I overheard D2 telling D1 about the pool party her section had a couple weeks ago, where she was feeling a little less than buff. I mean, at 5' 2" in an 8 ft deep pool, who wouldn't feel a little intimidated? But her friends were encouraging, supportive, and challenged her to let go of the edge and join in the fun. "Sink or swim!" they called, egging her on. Well, kids are really good at issuing dares, so in she went.

And proceeded to tread water. The entire time. Gotta love those buff marching legs.

After I got done laughing along I got to thinking about how not only was that so typical of life, but of writing as well. At least for me. I have desire, hope, and a longing to join in the fun. But I'm scared. Feel in over my head. And all my friends are telling me to go for it. To take the plunge. Sink or swim. There's no in between.

But there is. And my daughter just proved it.

Writing isn't a do or die. A sink or swim. Caught in a cage with a shark circling around you. Unless you're querying Janet Reid, of course. No, writing is a process. A love of words. A dive into the pool of ideas that is right there waiting for you to enjoy. And treading is allowed. Encouraged even.

But reading, writing, twittering, blogging...all those things designed to keep your mind active and help you in pursuing your publishing goals are also the things that can eventually wear you down. Make you feel tired, frustrated, but worried that if you stop you'll sink. Disappear off the radar and no one will even notice.

My advice? Get a friend. Get a group. People that will keep you in check as well as offer you encouragement and support. And keep in mind that we're not meant to tread water forever. Eventually we'd burn out. That you don't have to be writing 24/7 and querying twice as much.

I mean, some days my kids come home from marching band and just crash. They've worked hard, toed the line, and now they simply need a break. A chance to let their bodies recover, and quite frankly build their muscles.

Did you know that? That while you're resting your body you're actually building muscles?

I've experienced that in running as well. That every now and again I take a break, go a little slower. Let my body recover and then feel stronger for it. In swimming you can float. In writing you can engage in a retreat...a bath...or some other way to give your mind a chance to rest and recoup its strength. Then, when you're ready you may find yourself a little more prepared to dive in once again. To take the plunge, go a little deeper, and have a renewed sense of self to keep working on your dream.

So how do you do it? How do you keep from getting burnt out? What secrets do you have for navigating the waters of writing while keeping a hold on the rest of life?

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Don't worry...I've got your back.

Hahahahahahaha. My brother read my previous post while we were chatting online and he asked who he needed to come beat up before he got to the part where it said my "oven". We spent the next little while laughing and rehashing old stories where a threat to one family member meant a threat to all.

I should probably mention that there are 11 of us. Kids that is. We're a formidable presence wherever we go, not to mention our dedication to one another. And don't even get me started on my parents' abilities to defend their children. My Mom had a retort that would leave you speechless and Dad...well, let's just say that my history teacher never doubted my word again. In fact, I don't think he spoke to me for the rest of the year. (That was a good thing.)

And me? Well, I still remember the boy in PE who watched me coming down the field during soccer and yelled, "Look out, here she comes!"

Ha ha ha. I guess those ghastly tank tops we wore in track weren't so bad after all. Turns out they were great at revealing my shot-putting biceps and adding more "weight" to my threats.

So it goes without saying that we have a pretty solid reputation as a family. In a good way, of course. Unless you're the one making threats against us,that is. And the people we count as our friends? Yeah, we're there for you too, guys.

Another plus to the large family is always having your own personal cheering section. And that alone has the means to take the fear out of a lot of life's challenge. Even now.

My sister is the reason I'm writing again, and I'm forever grateful to her for her loving support and endless encouragement. Not to mention her degree in English that makes her the perfect sounding board and grammatical editor.

I think we all have it in us to be someone's answer to a prayer. As writers, as friends, as strangers who respond when the call for help comes. There's no end to what we can do, but do we must. Stand up for what's right and defend the just cause.

Call me determined, call me a tom-boy, call me whatever you want. Just make sure it's nice or my family is going to come pound your face. Seriously. My oven is shaking in it's wall socket right now. :)

So what about you? Do you have a family member or friend who is always there to help? Or are you the one people always count on to answer the call and come to their aid?

Yeah...that's what I thought. So go on. Make a difference. If you dair...