Where do your characters come from?

This is one of the questions I’m always asked. “Where do your characters come from?”

It’s not a simple answer either. The character may look like a person seen on the street or in a store. They may have quirks that have been witnessed or created in the imagination. Often I start with a voice or an image. Then I do a character sketch. Sometimes that means I interview the character. Sometimes I just let my imagination run with it and invent their family history and back story. (Married? Divorced? College educated? Well read?)

When asked: “Do you ever write about your family?” The answer is: “NO.”  But, I do use phrases my family members say, especially the funny ones. Accidental eavesdropping in public places can provide choice dialog as well.

There are times when dreams provide ideas and images that can lead to some interesting characters, too. (So, keep a pad and pen by the bed.)

But it doesn’t stop there. The more you write about the character in the story, the clearer they will become in the mind of the author. Their voice and mannerisms will become unique. So, as you write that first draft, don’t worry that you don’t “know” the characters yet. You will. First drafts are for capturing the story, and edits will bring those characters to life. They will become so unique you will clearly see and hear them by the time you reach the end of that first draft. (Hair twirler? Nose picker? Face moles? Birth mark? Hair color?)

Make them physically clear for the reader. Make their voices loud and individual. Give them quirks, including clothing, habits, a job, dreams, fears and desires. Do they wear a special perfume or have body odor? Make it real.



Motivation & Courage Needed

I’m over at Author Expressions today talking about courage and motivation. Writers need lots of both, because writing isn’t for sissies. It’s a bit like child birth, really. Pop over and leave a comment. http://authorexpressions.blogspot.com/


Quote for today

“People on the outside think there’s something magical about writing, that you go up in the attic at midnight and cast the bones and come down in the morning with a story, but it isn’t like that. You sit in back of the typewriter and you work, and that’s all there is to it.” – Harlan Ellison”typewriter_

Artists, Scribes and Dreamers

I can safely say that writers, painters, musicians, artists of all kinds are “dreamers”.  We see and hear beauty in the world around us and in our mind’s eye and struggle to recreate it or share what we experience with others.  It isn’t always easy.

woman_reading_riverSometimes the things our muse shows us are very difficult to express in paint or words or clay.  Everything I ever made out of clay could be used as an ashtray or a doorstop.  I enjoyed painting for many years, but struggled to create what I was seeing or feeling onto a blank canvas.

While I have written stories since I was a child I really didn’t discover how magically you can create a world through words until I began writing as an adult.  Maybe it was because I was older and had more experience.  Maybe I am more confident than I was in my teens or twenties.  Probably some of both.  But I still dream about being a successful author and I like to dream BIG.

But there is another kind of dreaming that I wonder if other artists experience as I do.  The dreams you have while you sleep.  I sometimes see scenes and hear dialog during my dreams that I later put in my books.

child_sleepingIn my college psychology class the instructor said that dreams are random and come from the subconscious.  The latter I believe, the former, not so much.  Have you ever had a question or problem that you hadn’t solved before laying down to sleep, and when you awoke the next morning you thought of a solution?  That isn’t random, but that may very well be your subconscious working it out for us.

Just think of all the wonderful things that have been created by men and women over the ages.  Someone had a dream, a vision, an idea and made it reality.

I encourage you to follow your dreams and see where they lead.  That doesn’t necessarily mean you have to leave your day job or move to some exotic locale, it just means, make time for that creative part of your self to do its thing.  You’ll enjoy the journey and who knows, the results may be life changing.woman with flowers

No free lunches

Folks, there really is no such thing as a free lunch.  But I have to admit I love discounts, coupons, and sales.  If I feel as though I’m getting something extra I am that much happier with my acquisition.  I wouldn’t have nearly as many great books in my library if I hadn’t had a coupon or got them at the used bookstore at a great price.  How does that apply to writing, you ask?  It means giving your reader more than they expect.  More twists, surprises, mystery, things that will keep them reading. Giving them a bigger helping of fun!

kids_icecreamI got a call from a friend who said, “It’s all your fault I don’t get anything done.”  She was reading Patchwork Family and was having trouble putting it down.  That’s the kind of news authors want to hear from readers. That’s how I want to feel when I’m reading, as well.

reading_lotsWhat makes the book so hard to put down? Is the character multi-layered?  Is the plot unpredictible?  Does the tension keep increasing? These are the types of questions you need to ask yourself and share the answers with the author.  Is there a surprise?  As a reader, I like plausible surprises.  Personally, I don’t like loose ends.  I must be satisfied with the resolution of the conflict, but that doesn’t mean everything is tied up with a big blue bow. It means, things make sense and feel mostly resolved. 

snoopy happy danceGive readers more than they paid for…give them a GREAT read instead of just a good one. That’s my goal as an author. One more thing Readers: Be sure and leave a review when you finish a book, good or bad – they are helpful to other readers and to the author, too.

Furry Family

Many of my friends (and I) are animal lovers. We aw over puppies and kitties and all the fun videos out there. We post photos of our pets and love telling stories about the silly things that they do. They keep us company. They love us unconditionally. They protect us. They are friends. They are family. We are pretty goofy about our pets and spoil them fairly rotten. With a few exceptions they have the run of the house, because they live here, too, and have proven to be trustworthy. They want to please their people. We love our furry family and have had several dogs over the years. I hope you’ll enjoy your pets and if you can’t give them a good home, please find them one. All they need is a warm, dry place to sleep, water and food, and affection. Heck, that’s basically what all creatures need – human or otherwise. Here are some photos of some of the animals that have shared our home.

DSCN1329 maggie_sleepSONY DSCreindeerMatt12252011Ha. Just making sure you were paying attention! Enjoy the journey, folks.


Lazy Days of Summer – NOT!

You’ve probably noticed that I’ve gotten a bit behind on updating my blog. SORRY! A friend of mine recently wrote about the lazy days of summer and I wish that were true for me, but it’s not. It feels like I am busier now than ever before. UGH.

I’m not really complaining, but I am remembering the summers my sister and our friends spent at home all day. We’d ride our bikes to each others houses, to Woolworth’s for candy or something from the fountain, go to the neighborhood pool, play in the sprinklers, or just sit downstairs in the cool of the basement playing records and endless card games of war. Remember 45′s? Turntables?

dog in water

Those were lazy days. We slept in late and stayed up late, too. When you’re a kid you’re always dreaming of when you grow up and being able to do what you want. We didn’t listen when our parents said that it wasn’t true, because that’s the way it appeared to us. But being an adult isn’t all fun. We have bosses to tell us what needs to be done next. We have homes to repair and yards to keep up. Writers are always thinking about their stories so there’s really no “time off” from that either. Except maybe when we’re reading a good book. There’s laundry and grocery shopping, and all the chores home owners and families do.

I recently went to the mountains and visited a friend for a long weekend. It was a great time. The landscape was breathtaking. We got up early to hike, and went to bed early because we wore ourselves out. It was peaceful and fun. I didn’t hike the whole time, part of it was spent working on my newest manuscript. My knees were thankful. We ate when we wanted and someone else cleaned the cabin. Awesome!


That’s what I think retirement should be like, but again I may be suffering under a delusion, just like when we were kids and dreamed of being in charge. What I need to do is make my to do list shorter, take longer walks, and only do what is really necessary. I noticed with regard to laundry this week that’s exactly what I’m doing – it’s a mound on top of a full hamper. Oops. It’ll get done this weekend.

In the mean time I’ll dig deeper into the sock drawer and wear my jeans again. It is nice and cool, so….

Here are my plans: Read a good book on the porch swing or deck. Listen to favorite tunes when doing chores. And relax when the work day is over. Enjoy your summer, friends.


Buzz revisited

Buzz is the sound of lots of people talking, sharing ideas, telling stories, laughing, crying and just plain communicating.  In the advertising/marketing/promotional realm the buzz is the ultimate result (hopefully, if everything is done correctly).  So, how do writer’s create buzz about their novels, poetry, plays, short stories, etc.?  By talking about it.kid with a megaphone

We have to forget what our parents said about “not tooting our own horn” and blow that bugle loudly.  Tell everyone about our writing.  Share our enthusiasm for what we do.  Nothing is more appealing than a person who is excited about something they’ve done or seen or read.  Share it!

My favorite instructors in college were the ones that were passionate about the class subject.  Most people enjoy learning when the person sharing is having a good time presenting it.  When I read a new book that I like, I tell my friends, my mom and put a review on GoodReads and/or Amazon.  I read so much that it’s hard to keep up, but I definitely rate them, so folks know if I really liked the novel or it didn’t resonate with me.

Don’t you just love learning about: A great shoe sale?  A plant that is easy to grow? A cool new musician? A yummy new recipe that’s easy to make?  An awesome place to go to eat?  A movie that is really funny or romantic or filled with adventure?  A GOOD BOOK? Telling someone about all those things and more is…BUZZ!  Create it by sharing.  Won’t our momma’s be proud we learned to share?!