writing

Hello Again

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It’s been over two years since I last posted.  So here’s a little recap.

For a while, I took a break from writing.  No inspiration was coming and I was struggling with some learning problems and writing was too taxing on my brain for the moment.

Then, I started outlining an novel idea I’d been having for about a year and wrote the first 50 pages of that story.  In December, I send those first 50 pages to Ellen Brock, an editor (who I really recommend). She told me it had promise but needed some major structurally overhauls.

Basically, this was the problem:

My main character was pretty pathetic and most of her ‘conflicts’ she created for herself and there was no clear motivation behind her actions.  

My antagonist wasn’t antagonistic enough.

This created a story without conflict and story without conflict is no good. 

So, I was discouraged for a bit.  Then I decided to revamp my story, but keep some of elements I liked most about my original story.  I forced myself not to write anything for at least 9 weeks as a I outlined and ironed out all my plot problems and figured out why my characters were doing what they were.   I cut some scenes, I changed some scenes.  I made some of the main characters more minor and took some away completely.  I also decided to write in third person limited with two POV characters instead of first person.

So it’s been about 7 weeks now, and I have a pretty good plot plotted out.  I have a list of scenes that follow the goal, conflict, consequence pattern.  My main character, Rebecca, has more personality and a definite reason for her actions.   It’s really amazing what focused time each day can do for a writing project!

So my next goal is to write my the first 50 pages of this story and send it to the editor again.  I’m hoping she sees improvement.  After that, I will continue writing (or re-plot if she feels that’s necessary). Of course I’ll be discouraged if she still sees flaws in my story, but I want my debut novel to be as good as it can be because you only have one chance to be a new author in the industry.  I want to make an impression.

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Rounded Characters

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Recently, I’ve really been struggling with finding my protagonist’s motivation and core need, two vital ingredients for likable, believable characters. I think that to find this, you must look at the character’s whole personality. Today, I tried a new approach for character development that worked very well: mind mapping.  I use a free software called XMind.  This created a picture of my protagonist’s complete personality: strengths, weaknesses, fears. To start, I put his name in the center.  Then, I made a main topic for each of his personality traits.  Then, I created subtopics off of the main topics.  These are examples of the personality trait or how it affects their life.

Example:

Main topic: strong

Subtopics: he likes to exercise, he’s a good leader, he’s calm under pressure.

 

Click to see my protagonist’s mindmap

Nathaniel Kapaun mindmap image

 I learned two things today. First, find your character’s motivation and core need before you figure out the rest of their personality, and second, use a mind map and a character development worksheet. This forces you to think about your character in two different ways, it uses different parts of your brain. 

My Writing Binder ~ Part 1

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I find it very helpful to keep a writing binder for each of my story ideas.  This keeps all my papers and notes from getting lost or wrinkled.  I divide my three ring binder into different sections ex. characters, plot, setting, research with page dividers.  I always have a regular lined notebook to write down random ideas or to brainstorm with my binder.

Here are the things that are in my ‘character’ tab:

colored betsy
This is an example of a character inspiration picture. This one was originally black and white, but I printed it out and colored her how I wanted her.
  • Each of my main and supporting character’s sketches.
  • Each of my main and supporting character’s inspiration picture so I can envision them more clearly.
  • K.M Weiland’s blog post on character archetypes.
  • Any other helpful blog posts on creating or developing characters.

Tomorrow, I’ll show you what’s in my ‘plot’ tab!

 

 

Creating Characters

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I know these are a dime a dozen, but I made a printable character development worksheet for anyone who is interested. Enjoy!

Character Sketch- Main Character

Character Sketch- Supporting Character

The Letter

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I wrote this short story for a contest on Fanstory.  The prompt was to write about a tattered, stained letter with no return address.

 

“Sir, your truck is fixed.  Also, I found this wedged behind one of the seats.”  The auto repair man handed the mailman a tattered, stained letter.

“Oh, thank you.”  The mailman replied as he stared at the letter wonderingly.  It had no return address.  How strange! It looked old. How long had it been lost?  Its delivery address was on his mail route.

The mailman dropped the letter into a stack of outgoing mail, even though he felt tempted to open it and read the mysterious message.  The next day he came to work and was assigned his mail bag.  He rifled quickly through it, looking for the letter.  It was there. When he arrived at the address on the envelope, he put in the mailbox.

The next day he approached the house where he had delivered the tattered letter.  He opened the mailbox to put the day’s mail inside.  The stained letter was laying there, with a post-it note attached to it stating in red letters: Recipient doesn’t live here.  A strong curiosity overpowered him.   I want to read it.  What kind of message would be inside?  It looks personal and old.

The next day, the mailman didn’t find the letter in his delivery bag.  Still intrigued by it, he rifled through a box that held undeliverable items. The tattered letter was among them.  He secretively put it into his pocket and left to begin the day’s work.   When his shift was over he drove to a nearby coffee shop.

He slid into a corner booth and mused about the strange letter in front of him.  The recipient wasn’t found. What could it hurt if I read the letter?  I know I’m not really supposed to, but my curiosity is killing me. 

Why didn’t the person include a return address?  Is it because they are wanted by the police?  Was the person too ashamed to write the return address, for whatever reason? What if this letter would have repaired a relationship, but it was never delivered?  Is it a murder threat, or a murder warning? Since it was never delivered what were the consequences? Was it some other type of warning that was never given? Would this letter have saved someone’s life?

He knew his mind was wandering as he sat examining the envelope. Why is it stained? It looked like someone had spilled juice on it, or was it blood?  He sipped his coffee and sighed.  Alright, I’m going to open it.  It will probably just get thrown away anyway.

He broke the seal hurriedly, knowing he was doing something that he shouldn’t. It felt weird to be reading a letter meant for someone else.  He took the paper out of the envelope.  It was somewhat ragged too.

It read:

April 18, 2007

Dearest Alexandra,

If your love is still as fervent as it was last June, meet me at the downtown Starbucks on April 26 at 8:00 PM.  I’ve never forgotten you and I still love you.  I’ll be there waiting. If you don’t come, I’ll have my answer: our love was simply a summer romance and nothing more.  But, if you do come, we can run away and start a life together.  The obstacles that parted us will not be able to stop us this time.  Do not, under any circumstances, let anyone know about this meeting.

Forever Yours,

Michael

The mailman stared at the letter.  The date showed that the letter was from seven years ago.  He had not guessed it would be a letter between two forbidden lovers.  I wonder how long Michael waited for her that night.  Is he still mourning her loss?  Or was he able to move on?  What were the circumstances that tore them from each other?  It may have been a good thing that this letter was lost for all those years.  It may be that Alexandra is now happily married and perhaps, has a child?  If she saw his note now, it could cause discontent in her.  It could reawaken her feelings for Michael.  On the other hand, what if Alexandra was never able to move on and is still mourning the loss of her beloved? 

 He pushed these thoughts away.  He put the letter back in his pocket and left the coffee shop. Fate’s a strange thing, that’s for sure.

Using Review in Word

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I found a great way to edit a novel or short story in Word.  I found it because a few days ago, one of my friends asked if I’d read a short story she was writing and give my opinion on it.  I was so excited to be able to critique someone else’s work.  I used review in Word to make comment bubbles to put my notes in.  This is helpful for either putting notes in someone else’s work and emailing it to them, or putting notes in your own work to look at for the next writing day.

sample page image
This is one page of my friend’s short story, with my notes on the side.

 

Here’s a super easy tutorial showing how to use review in a Word document. 

1. Open a word document.

2. Click on the tab that says ‘review’ at the top of the document.

review tab with arrow image

3.  Highlight the word or words you want to add a note about.

highlight word image

4. Click on the ‘new comment’ icon.

comment added image

To delete a note, first click the note, then click on the icon that says ‘delete’ next to the ‘add comment’ icon.

Viola! Enjoy adding notes into your Word documents:-)

Short Stories

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short story

Recently, I’ve been writing more short works.  Fanstory has helped me write more because of the daily prompts and contests.

I personally really like short stories.  They are good practice for novelists, because a short story is built similarly to a novel.  I’ve also used a short story to ‘get to know’ my character if I don’t have a clear idea of how they should be.  Short stories also make great blog posts, and if they are long enough, they can be a part 1, part 2, which creates suspense for your followers.   I found a blog post that works you through the steps of writing a short story, all the way from inspiration to the rough draft.

The author, Paul Alan Fahey, is an accomplished writer and has published several short stories and novellas.

This post was so helpful for me, and I now better understand how to create a short story.  I hope to write a short story soon and post it on this blog.