Worries and Conclusions

Confession time: in the past, I have worried about a lot. I worry that I don’t have anything worthwhile to say. I worry that no one will want to listen to me or follow me or buy any of my books. I worry that people find me uninteresting.

The thing is, I don’t feel worthy or qualified for the giant dreams I have. I want to reach people and care for fans and do events and all that fun stuff, but how do those dreams come true without people or fans who care about what I’m doing? It’s a dilemma. A catch-22.

I know this is a lot more personal than I usually get on this blog, but I think it’s time for me to change. It’s time for me to show you the side of me that isn’t self-confident, who doesn’t know what’s she doing or how she’ll make it.

I strive to be transparent because I know people respond well to transparency, but if I’m being totally honest, right now there are no people to respond at all. And it’s difficult, throwing things out into the void and hoping someone finds them and cares enough to dig deeper.

I don’t want to be the person who lives two completely different lives. I want people to know that what they see is what they get. I won’t hide myself to please others or to keep myself from getting hurt by them.

Which is why I’ve taken some giant steps toward that in the last couple months. If you didn’t know (and you might not), I am launching a new book in a new trilogy on June 1st, 2018. I’m terrified, but it’s happening. If you want to support by pre-ordering, you can do that here.

I have also started a YouTube channel. It’s a work in progress and I’m learning as I go, so if you have something you want to see or hear from me, please let me know. If you want to help me out by subscribing and/or liking my videos, you can find the channel here. I hope you don’t find me annoying or uninteresting.

As always, you can follow me on Facebook or Twitter, as well as Instagram! (That one’s new and I’m not great at it yet but I’m trying). You can also sign up for my e-newsletter to receive updates. That can be found on my website home page. Please help support this writer’s dreams!

Believe me, every time I post anything, I’m fighting my own fear. I want to overcome it all and be strong and supportive for you guys. For everyone who wants to read for a living or write for a living OR if you just really love books and writers. I want to meet you and hear your stories and keep bringing you all kinds of spectacular product and content.

With all that said, I’m going to try to keep this blog up way better than I have been. I’m intent on bringing you along with me on the journey to authorness. Stay tuned and join the tribe!

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What questions do you have about me? I’d love to answer!

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Did you like what you read today? Do you have questions, comments, or cat-killing curiosity about something? If so, please either comment on this post or visit the Contact page and drop me a note!

It was good to have you as a visitor today! Please drop by again, or become family by following the Write Knowledge. Thank You.

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The Power of Prose

Words are magical.

I mean, think about it. With a simple turn of phrase, we can make people see exactly who, what, or where we want them to. With one carefully placed word, we can turn a sentence from sweet to creepy or vice versa. There isn’t much that our words CAN’T do.

I know, better than most, that this puts a huge weight of responsibility on our shoulders. What if we choose the wrong word? What if the word we pick isn’t strong enough? What if we fail to make it come across as we see it in our head?

All valid questions.

The answer is: we never know if we’ll have the desired effect until we let others see our work.

I know, it’s a Debbie Downer. But, the good news is that there are things we can do to make sure we get our point across exactly as we want it to come across. Let me ‘splain.

For those of you who write Suspense or Thrillers, you’ll want to know how to heighten suspense in your scenes. Thankfully, I have a pretty good idea how Suspense works, so here’s my number one suggestion to create the suspenseful scene you’re looking for. Ready?

Use short sentences.

That’s it. The shorter the sentence, the more clipped the feel of the scene. And don’t just use short sentences in your narrative, throw some into your dialogue as well. Fragments are welcome in a suspense scene, because it inherently tells your reader that something is terribly wrong. (Despite what people think, anyone who paid attention in English during middle school subconsciously knows their grammar.)

For those of you who write Romance (or any sub-genre thereunder), you’ll probably want to know how to show your readers how sweet one or the other person is without being super cheesy. So, my number one advice:

Use body language.

“In my writing? Really?”

Yes. Really. Over half of the ways people express how they’re really feeling is in their body language. Do they have a nervous tick? Do they have a habit of reaching to push the girl’s hair behind her ear? Anything like that can add loads of layers to a scene and, ultimately, a story. This is one of those instances where “Show, Don’t Tell” comes in really handy. Don’t tell your readers he likes her. Show them by his actions. Just like real people.

So, you romance writers, go plug in your favorite Rom-Com and take notes on how he shows he loves her.

For those of you who write Historical, you’ll want to know how to keep your facts straight.

Google.

There is nothing better. Oh, and for heaven’s sake, please find out if the words you choose for them to speak were actually spoken in your time period. Please. I’m begging you. It’s a pet peeve of mine.

For those of you who write Fantasy…

Okay, I’m sorry, I’ve got nothing for you. It’s all in your head. As I am not a fantasy writer, I can’t give advice on the subject, except to say pay attention to your plot holes.

So, advice for the day, pay close attention to your genre and READ, READ, READ!!!

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What genre do you write and what’s your favorite part about it?

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Did you like what you read today? Do you have questions, comments, or cat-killing curiosity about something? If so, please either comment on this post or visit the Contact page and drop me a note!

It was good to have you as a visitor today! Please drop by again, or become family by following the Write Knowledge. Thank You

Keep Your Eyes Open

Okay, guys, I’m soundtracking this one. In 3… 2… 1…

Why this theme? For one simple, very good reason.

The best piece of writing advice I have ever gotten came from a book I read recently. What was this sage piece of wisdom? Let me share it with you: “Don’t look away.”

Three simple words that changed my story method forever.

Why, you ask? Because until that point, I had been looking away. Away from embarrassing moments. Away from painful moments. Away from moments that could make you cry they’re so wonderful or could make you cry for other reasons. I had been stopping before I hit reality. And what’s the one thing every writer must bring a touch of to their story? That’s right. Reality.

As writers, our first and most important job is to tell a story. But our second most important job is to not look away from those everyday moments that make life… well… life. How are we supposed to bring readers to their knees or make them swoon or laugh or cry if we look away before the full effect takes place?

I’m not just talking about when we’re researching, either. Yes, it’s good to watch an entire moment play out before you, but the whole point of keeping your eyes open is so you can write it accurately. What does the audience gain if you end a touching (thrilling, tear-jerking) scene before its full conclusion, or if you skip the parts you think are “too emotional”.

Answer: nothing.

I know it’s difficult to write and it drains you emotionally, but I beg of you to put in those raw emotions. That’s what makes your characters real.

Is she heartbroken? Show her sobs.

Is he angry? Show his rage. ALL of it.

Study body language and psychology. See what makes your characters tick and how they react to a situation that throws them out of their comfort zone. It’s okay to do this! You know why? Because the second best piece of advice I’ve gotten is: “Kill your darlings.”

Don’t be so attached or so fearful for a character that you just can’t hurt them. Reality, remember? Everyone gets hurt, that’s the horrible truth. Hearts break, people lie or miscommunicate, and everyone has bad days. Just look around you. That girl sitting in the corner Starbucks booth all alone? What’s her story? That busboy in the restaurant that you pay absolutely no attention to – Why does he work there? The mom with three little kids in the grocery store – Is she alone or did she choose to be by herself?

Why?

That is the biggest question you should ever ask yourself. Why do things happen around you? Why are people where they are at this moment. Listen for the stories and when you find them: Don’t. Look. Away.

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What’s the best piece of writing advice you’ve ever gotten?

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Did you like what you read today? Do you have questions, comments, or cat-killing curiosity about something? If so, please either comment on this post or visit the Contact page and drop me a note!

It was good to have you as a visitor today! Please drop by again, or become family by following the Write Knowledge. Thank You

Memorable Moments

Memorable moments in a book or movie are the things that keep people talking about it for years to come. My family and I divide them into two (unspoken) categories. 1: Great Scenes. 2: Quotables.

Great scenes are those moments in a movie or book where no one is speaking, but awesome things are going on. It’s the scene from Up! where you learn Ellie and Mr. Frederickson’s entire life story without a single word. It’s the tear-jerking scene in Becoming Jane where she leaves her true love so his family won’t starve. It’s the scene in Sahara where Rudy smuggles himself back over the border.

Scenes that make you laugh, cry, or throw things. Yet they usually don’t say a word. They are completely visual.

These kinds of scenes are important for movies, but they are SUPER important for books too! If you don’t have something that’s going to capture attention, people will stop reading/watching. And no one wants that.

An example from one of my works-in-progress:

Arkin runs across the brown, rocky surface, heading for the ledge on which Boden stands. A warrior leaps for him, but Arkin draws his broadsword and cuts him down.

Several more follow.

Boden leaps from his ledge and lands deftly on the ground before Arkin.

Swords entangle. Armor creaks as they battle.

Colors flash in the air behind Arkin, sparking and subsiding, quicker with every second.

Boden drops to one knee.

A round, shell-like disc falls from Arkin’s belt and clatters on the rocks at the same time the colors behind him become constant.

Arkin is pulled backward, through the wormhole. A small, bug-eyed creature on the ground is sucked up as well.

How do you create a great scene like this? I don’t have one specific answer. I can tell you that it should be detailed, and use emotion! Anger, hurt, humor. Great scenes are often those that break the tension surrounding people in the story. On the other hand, they can also be the scene that turns someone down a mistaken path. Maybe they get too angry at that best friend who’s telling them their boyfriend is an idiot. Maybe they don’t like to be told what to do, so they do the opposite and it’s entirely stupid. Whatever you choose, make it pivotal. Make it something your fans will talk about for eternity.

Quotables are just that. Quotable. Lines that we sit around and spout to each other, discuss, or even throw into everyday conversation. Some examples from other’s work:

“Please be a secret door, please be a secret door, please be a secret door!” (Door opens from wall) “Yay!”

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“I’ve got some bad news about your boat sir…” (explosion noise)

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“You think you can mess with my mother?” (As he’s totally beating the crap out of his arch nemesis)

I’ll admit, these are kind of lines mixed with action, but that’s because those are usually the best. Exemplar:

Arkin presses the button on the toaster down, and Emma applauds.

EMMA

                     You made toast!

She hugs his neck. Arkin tosses his head back and laughs. The sound fills the entire apartment.

(Background: he doesn’t cook. Anything.)

Making something quotable is the fastest way to get people to tell others about your book or movie. Why? Because if it’s quotable, they’ll quote it. Then their friends will ask what it’s from, and they’ll get the answer “This awesome book/movie about (your plotline here). Oh my gosh! You haven’t read/watched this? You should totally read/watch this!”

I’ll give you, it’s hard to just come up with something quotable on the spur of the moment. Usually it arises from the situation in your story. Yes, it can be hard, but it’s totally worth it. So what are you waiting for? Go write something quotable today!

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I want to know either your favorite quotable or one you wrote yourself. Ready?… GO!

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Did you like what you read today? Do you have questions, comments, or cat-killing curiosity about something? If so, please either comment on this post or visit the Contact page and drop me a note!

It was good to have you as a visitor today! Please drop by again, or become family by following the Write Knowledge. Thank You

Writers are Weirdoes

Is it just me, or do people think writers are really weird?

Point and case:

“…and then, (insert character name here) just turned on him. And I was like ‘whaaat’?!”

“Wait, who’s (character name)? I don’t know anyone by that name.”

“Oh, s/he’s my newest character.”

“…But don’t you control what they do?”

Silly normal person! They should know better, right? Which is why we have friends that are also writers because we can talk like that with them and they UNDERSTAND! This is why it is important to have those friends. (Also point and case, my friend Amy L. Sauder has a blog where she is asking her characters how to solve life’s problems. You should check it out.)

Another dilemma: our overexuberant love for notebooks and pens. We see the aisle, we get distracted, we come home with fourteen sacks full of writing tools. It’s a thing, and I know I’m not the only one who does it. I have it narrowed down to the best kind of pen and the perfect width of lined paper.

Still more writerly quirks: Our excessive and often unfettered adoration for all things both lyrical and well-writ.

To be honest, I can probably blame Shakespeare for this one. I love to write with big words and in Old English. I understand the meaning of words such as “anon”, “Heretofore”, and “wherewithal”. Seriously, I sometimes read Shakespeare’s plays for fun. Because I love them. Call me crazy, do what you will, but it’s true. (Shout out to “Much Ado About Nothing”, especially Beatrice’s “if I were a man” speech. And the “dear lady disdain” argument! Anyway, moving on.)

I’ll write about one more insane quirk. Here it comes… The things we’ll do for research.

“Why are you jumping out of a plane with a parachute full of holes?”

“… … … -shrug- Research.”

OR

“Is that a leech in your refrigerator?”

“No, don’t touch that!”

“Why?”

“Research.”

We are worse than Sherlock Holmes when it comes to research experiments. We will subjugate ourselves to terrible pain and sorrow to find out what it’s going to be like for the characters we love so dearly. Oh, and did I mention that the more you love that character, the more you torture them (and, by proxy, yourself)?

Some wacky (not as bad as the examples) things I’ve done for research:

1. Googled “how to make a bomb”, “how to make poison look like an accident”, “how to commit the perfect crime”… seriously, if anyone looks at my Google history, it will be questionable.

2. Stood on the edge of a table to see how it feels to be on the edge of a roof.

3. Used Nerf guns to try out a theory I had for a fight scene. (My brother was the guinea pig)

4. Played with knives in the kitchen.

5. Other extraneous questionable methods.

So, writers are weirdoes. So what? Be weird. Do the zany stuff that makes you stand out. One day people will speak of your genius! (Again, I’ve been watching Shakespeare)

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What crazy things have you done in the name of research?

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Did you like what you read today? Do you have questions, comments, or cat-killing curiosity about something? If so, please either comment on this post or visit the Contact page and drop me a note!

It was good to have you as a visitor today! Please drop by again, or become family by following the Write Knowledge. Thank You

Meet the Muse

Have people ever asked you how (or where) you got the idea for your story, and all you could say was “I honestly do not know”? Perhaps this is because you were visited by what we writers affectionately dub “The Muse”. “The Muse” is a helpful, often unexpected guide that shows us exactly the direction our story should go. Like a guiding angel for us writing-obsessed mortals known as “authors”.

As I’ve written and written and written and then talked to others about writing… and written some more, I have noticed some interesting things about “The Muse”. First of all, “The Muse” is almost always unexpected, as though we don’t think it can happen twice. Secondly, it usually comes in a “lightbulb!” moment where you suddenly know exactly what to write and how to do so. But the most interesting thing I’ve learned about “The Muse” is that it often comes in the form of each individual writer’s learning style.

For those of you who don’t know about learning styles, I’ll explain as I go along.

There are 3 major learning styles, and then variations that mix those three. “The Muse” can show up in any of them. I will use digital props to illustrate my point. (You’re welcome.)

“The Muse” #1 – Visual

Prop1 Prop2

(photos courtesy of my Pinterest account, the original owners are specified in the links there)

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If you are a visual learner, more than likely “The Muse” just visited you. A visually inspired person will see pictures, such as these, and immediately their brain will fly into action. “That’s my character!” “What if _______ did _______ there?” “I bet she’s looking at/for/toward ________.”

Congrats! I am proud to say I am one of these wacky people known as visual learners. I see pictures of film and think “What if?” Which generally leads to a fantastic new story idea that I can’t get down on paper fast enough.

If pictures are your muse, don’t fight it. Storyboard EVERYTHING! Trust me, it helps.

“The Muse” #2 – Audio

If you listened to this and immediately got a ton of story ideas for something really epic, “The Muse” visits you via what you hear! Be it a conversation overheard in a restaurant or a song that sparks a novel, you’re an audio learner!

Congrats again! I also belong to audio learners. (I am almost exactly 50/50 audio and visual.) When you hear a song and want to write a story based on it, don’t be shy! You won’t get sued. It’s “based on” not word-for-word.

My advice to you: soundtrack everything. Every time you’re writing have a playlist with music that fits the tone and message of your book and have it on shuffle and repeat. You won’t regret it, and it will actually make your writing better in the long run.

“The Muse” #3 – Kinesthetic

I will admit, I do not belong to this camp so it is hard for me to pin down what inspires you. I can hazard a few guesses though.

Since Kinesthetic learners need to be DOING something in order to learn (walking, dancing, tapping thier toe, rubbing their earlobe) chances are you’re inspired by actions in other people, or something you do yourself.

Exemplar gratis: Someone does an awesome parquour move and you think “what if my character did that in order to _________?” You’re probably Kinesthetic. You overlap into audio and visual depending on what you’re doing at the time, but you’re always cool and have a unique sense of how you see the world.

In conclusion, embrace “The Muse” and let it guide you. Don’t shy from doing things that help inspire the story within you. And always, ALWAYS, be yourself.

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So, which one are you? Or are you an example of a crossover? I’d love to hear your “Muse” experiences.

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Did you like what you read today? Do you have questions, comments, or cat-killing curiosity about something? If so, please either comment on this post or visit the Contact page and drop me a note!

It was good to have you as a visitor today! Please drop by again, or become family by following the Write Knowledge. Thank You.

What Did You (Really) Say?

Ah, miscommunication. It’s the heart and soul of conflict.

I chose this topic for this week because I’ve been reading this book (The Fire In Ember by DiAnn Mills) wherein all could be solved if they would just COMMUNICATE!!! But, you know what? I love it.

So, how do we build a world around our characters where they don’t communicate perfectly? And why not have them communicate well?

Everyone has a reason to lie about something. Yes, even you. Think about it. There is always one memory, one embarrassing moment, one part of your most personal feelings that you CANNOT express, even when you need to. This often leads to miscommunication.

If our characters are to be real, then they will miscommunicate. They’ll leave things out (important things), lie to each other to cover up a painful memory. All these things lend to A) Backstory and B) Conflict.

Think on this: If you haven’t told someone an important piece of information, how can you expect them to understand your ations?

If you haven’t told someone you love them, how do you expect them to know and reciprocate your feelings?

If you (or your character) hasn’t told someone that they’re scared for their life because an evil person is chasing them down for the fun of it, HOW IS ANYONE SUPPOSED TO HELP???

People miscommunicate by NOT communicating a lot of times.

Example: Guy sees girl (or vice versa) in a situation that, to them, looks like cheating or criminal behavior. Guy/girl doesn’t go to ask the other one what happened, just assumes they were in the wrong. Relationship suffers greatly.

If that character had just asked what happened, they would have realized the guy/girl was being threatened/played/taken advantage of. And when they finally do realize this (as they should to settle the conflict), they’ll kick themselves and possibly want to go shoot someone.

As humans, our biggest strength and greatest weakness is communication. Therefore, believable characters should have both strength and weaknesses in their social and communication skills.

Some examples:

In the movie Love Comes Softly, it isn’t so much miscommunication as it is failed communication. Marty doesn’t want to leave, but she doesn’t want to stay if Clark doesn’t want her, so she leaves a note in his Bible that doesn’t end up in front of his face. Because it was a stupid idea to slide the note into the book where it can (and did) fall out, Marty thinks he doesn’t want her. SO not the case!

In The Fire In Ember (DiAnn Mills, copyright 2011) the main character has been fed lies all her life. She’s too scared to really communicate why and she doesn’t think she’s worthy of anything. So, instead of telling people what she knows and getting help, she clams up.

A lot of stories depend on miscommunication to run longer than twenty minutes (for movies) or 50 pages (for books). Without something to figure out, we’d have no conflict. And we all know we LOVE conflict. We love watching the characters duke it out or shout it out and we love to see the bad guy get beat. (Except in the rare cases involving fandoms with crazy people who think the villain should have won.)

So, miscommunication. Use it. Love it. Keep it close.

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Did you like what you read today? Do you have questions, comments, or cat-killing curiosity about something? If so, please either comment on this post or visit the Contact page and drop me a note!

It was good to have you as a visitor today! Please drop by again, or become family by following the Write Knowledge. Thank You.

The Villainous Dance of Villainy!

I guarantee not many of you will catch the reference in the title, but it makes me smile, so I’m going to use it. It also fits with what we’re going to talk about today. Did you guess what it is? Yep, that’s right. We’re going to talk about VILLAINS!!! For those extraordinary people who prefer the term “antagonist”, it’s the same thing. The bad guy.

When I say “villain”, I guarantee everyone’s mind goes somewhere different. For some, maybe it’s Moriarty from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes series. For others, it may be a comic book character. For the majority of the crazy world out there, they probably instantly think “Disney”. Whatever it is that sparked in your head when I said “villain”, hang on to it. That is probably the bad guy (or girl) you love to hate, and we’re going to plunge ahead and talk about creating them.

But first, a random villainous quote from… a movie we should all recognize:

“I’ll get you, my pretty! And your little dog, too!”

Chills.

Anywho, the first thing I want to say about villains is that — even though they’re usually terribly evil — They tend to be pretty awesome. And, without them, we wouldn’t even have the books and movies we love so much. So, snaps for the villains!

(This is where you snap, it’s like clapping, only quieter)

I think one of the most important things that villains do is TALK! I mean, come on, who hasn’t looked at the page or screen and thrown up their hands and demanded “Quit monologuing, you idiot! This is how they always beat you!”

However, I’m more concerned with opening lines. (The good guy is supposed to beat the villain, so their monologuing doesn’t always concern me, just usually.) Okay, let’s run the reel for opening lines.

Professor James Moriarty (The Final Problem)

“You have less frontal development than I would have expected. It is a dangerous habit to finger loaded firearms in the pocket of one’s dressing-gown.”

Cruella De Vil (101 Dalmatians)

“Anita, darling!”

“How have you been?”

“Miserable, darling, just miserable.”

A villain’s opening words say a lot about what they are or what they are not. Many times, a villain’s opening words are quirky and offbeat, like Moriarty. Other times a villain feigns compassion, but you can always tell.

I put a lot of thought into the first words my villains say, because I want them to be memorable. I also want to immediately show the reader/watcher something about the heart of this character. Whether they’re motivated by selfishness, greed, lost love, or miscommunication, I like to clue the reader/watcher in on this.

Point #2 on villains–

WAIT! Another random villainous quote, from the movie Tangled:

“Mother’s feeling a bit… tired. Would you sing for me?”

That irksome woman.

Okay, Point #2!

Villains are dramatic, it’s in their nature (usually because they’re pretty narcissistic). So, aside from the obvious drama queen situations going on elsewhere, they need a grand entrance. They’re entrance introduces them for you, it shows the reader/watcher that “hey, this is the guy/girl to watch out for”.

My most recent villain entrance was simple, yet fully dramatic. The guy entered via a porch, silhouetted in the doorway. Effective, because then you can reveal him slowly.

My favorite movie villain entrance is probably the guy from the first Sherlock Holmes movie (starring Jude Law and Robert Downey Junior). They waste no time in letting you know that this guy is clinical. Creepy, but awesome.

More great movie villain entrances:

The Avengers

The Chronicles of Narnia: Lion, Witch, and Wardrobe

The Losers

National Treasure 2: Book of Secrets

Taken

There are others, but those are the good ones off the top of my head. Also, pretty much every Marvel movie ever. They’re really good at villain entrances.

Point #3

Take your time to flesh out your villain. Villains are humans, too (usually). They have weaknesses. They have feelings. They relate to people. Villains aren’t always monsters, sometimes they’re just misunderstood. They can be nice to certain people and evil to others. They can have normal lives outside of their day jobs. (The day job, of course, being villainy).

Random Villainous Quote! From Larryboy: The Good, The Bad, and The Eggly

“Maybe it’s diamonds, or rubies… or a fondue set! I love fondue.”

Your villain deserves just as much thought as your hero, and giving him feelings an quirks can actually make him likable. Yes, I said it. A likable villain. It sounds like an oxymoron, but really it’s not. If people dislike him too much, they may put down your writing. And no one wants that.

So, whatever direction you decide to take your villain, or whatever direction your villain takes you, remember to think before you publish. How do they walk, talk? What’s their backstory? How did they get to the point where villainy was their only choice? Or do they enjoy it?

Let me know about your most villainous villains in the comments below, or use the Contact page to email me directly!

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Did you like what you read today? Do you have questions, comments, or cat-killing curiosity about something? If so, please either comment on this post or visit the Contact page and drop me a note!

It was good to have you as a visitor today! Please drop by again, or become family by following the Write Knowledge. Thank You.

The Art of Illusion

You’ll hear me talk A LOT about how much more powerful it is to elude to something than to tell it straight out. To me, it’s almost as important as “Show, Don’t Tell” and quite honestly it’s probably technically covered in that statement. However, it seems some people just don’t quite get it. So let’s expound.

“The closer you look, the less you’ll see” is the theme of a fun little movie called Now You See Me. Most magicians use this trick. Why? Because it works. Magic is all about the art of illusion, and how do people refer to the best books and movies?

“It was magical.”

So let’s take the magician’s theme and apply it to ourselves, writers. There are several different things that demand a “far away” look when we’re writing. I’ll break them down for you and explain what I mean by “far away look”.

#1 – Character descriptions.

You know you’ve read an over expository character description before. “She had hair like… and eyes like… her teeth were… and her ears… don’t forget her hands… did I mention the exact clothes she was wearing?…” And suddenly we feel trapped inside a box. That’s not AT ALL how we pictured her (whoever she is).

When I write, I tend to give one or two traits of my character and leave the rest up to imagination. I’ve found I like this from other authors, which is why I try to follow their lead in my own writing. For example: my character Rosie Callahan, I only told the reader 2 things about her physical appearance. She’s 5’2″ and she has curly hair. I left the rest up to them.

I think you’ll find that if you stick to the important things about the character, like how they react to others and what kind of speech patterns they use, people will fill in the physical description without much help.

#2 – Back Story

I’m not saying don’t tell people what happened in the past, I’m saying expose it slowly. Have the character say something or do something that ELUDES to their backstory. They had a convict dad?

“I won’t be like him.”

Simple as that. And, yes, I’ve used that one. Another one I’ve used: The girl has a history of people leaving her without a word.

“Just… don’t leave without saying goodbye. Okay?”

Think through what your characters are doing. They deserve the thought it takes to weave their backstory in and out through their actions and words.

TIP: you have a backstory too, but you don’t tell everyone you meet. Everything that happened in the past is your backstory, and it reflects itself in what you do and say now, but not in an expository way. It is what it is, and nothing more. You don’t make a big deal about it. So why do your characters whine on and on about their past?

#3 – Relationships

This REALLY goes along with “Show, Don’t Tell”. The best advice I ever received on this subject was “loving someone means never having to say I love you.” SHOW that your characters love each other, or hate each other, or have known each other for a long time by what they do and say.

This all goes back to illusion. With vague answers and short flashes into the backstory, you’re giving the illusion of a full life behind the character, which in turn brings them to life. Why go into all that exposition when you can achieve the same thing by a simple flick of the wrist?

Remember, the closer you look, the less you’ll see.

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Did you like what you read today? Do you have questions, comments, or cat-killing curiosity about something? If so, please either comment on this post or visit the Contact page and drop me a note!

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38 Questions to Ask Every Character

You’ve probably seen a TON of lists of questions that demand “These questions NEED to be asked”. And what’s on them? Mostly stuff that you don’t really need to know to unfold a great character. (NO offense, seriously. I just wish people would stop telling me I need to know what kind of underwear my character wears.)

This list is different.

I know because I read all those other lists out there and picked the things that (I think) every writer should know about their character. Some of them are just for fun, but most really help me narrow down how I’m going to write a specific character. I thought it would be nice, while we’re working with character development, to share these with you.

They’ve helped me build characters, as well as stories. They dig deep into the character’s psyche, so you know where s/he is coming from. And they SERIOUSLY reveal character.

I will also share some of my favorite answers, after the list. So, without further ado, let’s begin.

38 QUESTIONS TO ASK EVERY CHARACTER

1. How old is s/he (physically AND mentally)?

2. Did s/he have a happy childhood? Why or why not?

3. What are their past and present relationships and how do they affect him/her?

4. What does s/he care about?

5. What is s/he obsessed with?

6. What is his/her biggest fear?

7. What is the best thing that ever happened to them? Worst?

8. What is their most embarrassing moment?

9. What is his/her biggest secret?

10. What is the 1 word that defines him/her?

11. What do you know about him/her that s/he doesn’t?

12. What music does s/he sing when no one else is around?

13. What is his/her favorite movie?

14. What is his/her favorite piece of clothing? Shoes?

15. Who is his/her favorite person?

16. What calms him/her?

17. Does s/he play any instruments?

18. What is his/her catchphrase?

19. What is his/her favorite excuse?

20. What is his/her favorite song?

21. What annoys him/her?

22. What is the most beautiful thing s/he has ever seen?

23. What is the worst injury s/he has ever sustained? (in the past)

24. Has anyone close to him/her died?

25. What would s/he wish for if s/he found a genie?

26. What is the most frightening handicap s/he could sustain? (in the present or future)

27. When and where was s/he happiest?

28. What is something s/he can’t resist?

29. What is something people misunderstand about him/her?

30. What is his/her favorite holiday?

31. What are his/her hopes and dreams?

32. What would s/he die for?

33. What would mentally destroy him/her?

34. Why would s/he defend a stranger?

35. What does s/he lie about?

36. Does s/he have a positive or negative body image?

37. What object will s/he never give up?

38. What can s/he do at the end that s/he can’t do at the beginning?

A lot to take in, I know. Let me explain how this works.

It’s OK to think outside the box. Sometimes the answer will just pop out of nowhere, sometimes you’ll really have to think hard to get to the heart of the issue. (P.S. This list is also great to help create backstory).

I’ll give you some examples of some of my characters’ answers. They’re…. interesting, to say the least.

We’ll start with a question where my character dropped a quote in my lap that completely answered the question.

Q: What is his biggest fear?

A: “I am in the desert… This. This right here is my biggest fear.” (He’s afraid of dirt.)

Sometimes, the way your character thinks about something will come out in their answer, or even the way they talk. Like this answer from a Texas boy character.

Q: What is the most beautiful thing he’s ever seen?

A: A Texas sunset by the Gulf beach.

Not how I would have put it, but characters do that sometimes.

Sometimes an answer can be as simple as…

Q: What is one thing she can’t resist?

A: A good churro.

Sometimes, your character’s answer will be symbolic. Usually of something in their own life. LIke…

Q: What is her favorite holiday?

A: New Year’s. New beginnings.

(Talk about backstory!)

Lastly, sometimes your character will give an answer that completely shapes how they see themselves, other people, or even the world.

Like this fragile flower:

Q: What was her most embarrassing moment?

A: Found boyfriend with her best friend. On date night.

Ouch. That probably shaped how she views guys and herself. Because of this, she doesn’t have great self-worth. Think about those kinds of experiences. Why the character is who they are.

Do that, and your characters will end up pretty amazing.

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Did you like what you read today? Do you have questions, comments, or cat-killing curiosity about something? If so, please either comment on this post or visit the Contact page and drop me a note!

It was good to have you as a visitor today! Please drop by again, or become family by following the Write Knowledge. Thank You.