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Category Archives: Writing Tips

Character Author Sharon Clare Comes to Visit

Today, while I’Delve Deepm cruising the waters near Alaska :-), multi-talented author, Sharon Clare, is here to visit. Sharon runs really helpful workshops and is not afraid to delve deep into her writing. She also markets her books and others’ through an online game called Second Life. Her book store within that game is called The Book Nook and my book is for sale in that virtual book store. Truly innovative marketing. Today she discusses writing meaningful and memorable characters whose personalities intrigue readers. Please, readers and authors, feel free to give your thoughts in the Comments section below. And Sharon promises there will be an e-book available after her weekend workshop which she mentions below. (For all of you who can’t make the workshop!) Welcome, Sharon!

She’s Not All Bad, She Has Values!

Are you getting any of the following feedback from beta readers, contest judges, or agents/editors?

  • Flat, predictable or generic characters
  • Characters lack motivation/conflict
  • Characters are inconsistent and ring false
  • Dialogue all sounds the same
  • Can’t connect with, or downright don’t care about characters

Or do you just not know where your story should go next? If so, you may need help with characterization.

When we begin to develop characters to tell our stories, we want to build dynamic characters, real people with values and flaws, histories and dreams, secrets and strengths, characters who will not only change and grow over the course of the novel, but will help lead the way.

The character arc is an evolution. Your protagonist should not be the same person at the end of the story that she was at the beginning. She needs to learn a lesson or two after dealing with all the conflict you’ll send her way, so she may not be her best at the start of the story. She may be painfully shy and come off as arrogant or she may be bitter and have mother issues or she may be insecure with a need to control everything around her. Any of these qualities will make her interesting and may not endear her to the other characters, but you want to endear her to your readers despite her flaws.

So how do you do this?

Sharon Clare

Sharon Clare

In the opening scene, give the reader a glimpse of the heroine’s potential, the person she has the ability to become, (just one core attribute you can use to emotionally engage your readers). Share something she values deeply, something that makes her likeable, and show it early on, preferably in the first chapter.

In Susan Elizabeth Phillip’s, Breathing Room, the heroine, Dr. Isabel Favor, is America’s diva of self-help. Until her life falls apart. She’s accused of being the boss from hell, a total control freak, driven, demanding and difficult, and we see from her behaviour that it’s likely true. But the following short exchange between Isabel and the cleaning lady shows us another side of Isabel, a side that shows she values compassion.

Isabel starts off this dialogue:

“Speaking of hookers, did I tell you those two ladies who hang out by the alley showed up at the new job program yesterday?”

“Those whores’ll be back on the treat by next week. I don’ know why waste your time with them.”

“Because I like them. They’re hard workers.” Isabel kicked back in her chair, forcing herself to concentrate on the positive instead of that humiliating newspaper article.

Even though a few paragraphs earlier, Isabel couldn’t help telling the cleaning woman how to do her job, we see that despite her control issues, Isabel is a good person.

So along with your character’s imperfections, be sure to show what he or she values at the onset of the story.

Here are a few ideas for values taken from the more extensive list in how to use core attributes to emotionally engage your readers in the Delve Deep Into Character workbook:

Sharon's icon.jpg

  • spirituality
  • health
  • generosity
  • independence
  • morality
  • honesty
  • playfulness
  • ecology
  • security
  • cleanliness
  • leisure
  • romance
  • family
  • honesty
  • ambition
  • tidiness
  • compassion
  • diversity
  • self-control
  • freedom

Remember, values can show character flaws as well, but that’s a topic for another day, and an aspect of our weekend workshop!

“Look within—many characters are to some degree a projection of the writer’s own personality.”                                                                                            ~ NYT bestselling author Robert Dugoni

Know Yourself, Know Your Character! We invite you to join us for a unique intensive writing workshop where you will learn a cutting edge technique to delve deep into yourself as a writer, so you can…

Delve Deep Into Character: 7 Steps To Leap From Cliché to Compelling

Please find details of the workshop here on our website.

Sharon’s Bio is here.

Irene Jorgensen, Sharon’s workshop partner, has her Bio here. 

Coming in the fall of 2014–Soon!

The Loyalist’s Luck_cover_apr1.indd
John and Lucy escape the Revolutionary War to the unsettled British territory across the Niagara River with almost nothing. In the untamed wilderness they must fight to survive, he, off on a secret mission for Colonel Butler and she, left behind with their young son and pregnant once again. In the camp full of distrust, hunger, and poverty, word has seeped out that John has gone over to the American side and only two people will associate with Lucy–her friend, Nellie, who delights in telling her all the current gossip, and Sergeant Crawford, who refuses to set the record straight and clear John’s name. To make matters worse, the sergeant has made improper advances toward Lucy. With John’s reputation besmirched, she must walk a thin line depending as she does on the British army, and Sergeant Crawford, for her family’s very survival.

For All Lovers of Historical Fiction

Available Now: The Loyalist’s Wife, the first book in The Loyalist Trilogy!

by Elaine Cougler, winner of the WCDR 2014 Pay It Forward Scholarship

The Loyalist's Wife_cover_Mar18.indd

When American colonists resort to war against Britain and her colonial attitudes, a young couple caught in the crossfire must find a way to survive. Pioneers in the wilds of New York State, John and Lucy face a bitter separation and the fear of losing everything, even their lives, when he joins Butler’s Rangers to fight for the King and leaves her to care for their isolated farm. As the war in the Americas ramps up, ruffians roam the colonies looking to snap up Loyalist land. Alone, pregnant, and fearing John is dead, Lucy must fight with every weapon she has.

With vivid scenes of desperation, heroism, and personal angst, Elaine Cougler takes us back to the beginnings of one great country and the planting of Loyalist seeds for another. The Loyalist’s Wife transcends the fighting between nations to show us the individual cost of such battles.

Purchase The Loyalist’s Wife on Amazon here.

 

 
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Posted by on September 24, 2014 in Authors, Writing Tips

 

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How To Publish and Keep Control

IMG_2433_editedSo you write a book, and it takes you a year, and you think the next step is handing it to a publisher. That’s what I thought seven years ago. And then came revision, character arcs, economy of words, and a host of other writing no-no’s and must-do’s.

For five of my six years to publication, traditional publishing was absolutely the way I wanted to go. The marvellous books I’d read were published by the big houses, and I longed to follow that tradition.

Throughout all the conferences, workshops, online searches, critique groups (even one I started myself), and connections with writers, I dreamed of finding a publisher. I pitched, queried, rewrote and rewrote and rewrote. Somewhere along the way, however, I learned something else. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on June 11, 2014 in General, Writing Tips

 

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How Can You Justify Spending Money on a Writing Conference?

Last Friday I braved the drive to Ajax along the busy 401 past Toronto to attend the Ontario Writers’ Conference.

Should I go or should I give pass it by? I wondered. Especially since last year I paid my money but spent the weekend in the hospital. Nevertheless I signed up. I wondered about the wisdom of my decision the whole three hours and twenty-five minutes that it took me to drive the normally hour and a half route. Grrr. But I went and I met my friend, Sally, and we carried on.  Here are some of the things I learned in the full sessions and workshops I chose:

  1. Character, plot, setting. You can’t have one without the others. Of course we knew that but being reminded of the intricacies of each is always good.
  2. Authenticity. People want to know that the author knows what she is talking about.
  3. Whether to wiki or not depends on how crucial to the story the detail is. If it’s really important, go further than Wikipedia.
  4. Regarding research, you need to know ten times more about your subject than you actually use in fiction.
  5. Put setting details sparingly throughout the novel and not all at once.
  6. Pace revelation of detail throughout the book and only as needed to drive the plot or character development.
  7. Writing a good pitch before you start writing helps the writer consolidate just what the book is about. It’s also useful for that elevator pitch.
  8. Make sure the stakes are crucial. Why would anyone care about what is happening to your characters?
  9. For writers to write about what hurts allows readers into the story in an engaging way which captivates them.
  10. When you decide to write you are joining the human condition.

Of course meeting other attendees and reconnecting with those I’ve met before is always a terrific experience and luckily a lot of that happened. I connected with Terry Fallis who gave me great cover quote for The Loyalist’s Wife last year. He was the final speaker and once again connected on a professional level and on a more personal level with everyone there. The lunch speaker was Wayson Choy whom I had never met before. That afternoon I came upon him by himself in the anteroom and had a chance to express my appreciation for his knowledgeable and empathetic remarks to the crowd. Both of these writers have not let their great successes ruin them. They are most generous to those of us who haven’t scaled the heights yet.

While the conference did cost me quite a lot for its length I found it absolutely worthwhile. And the fact that every time we sat down again in the large hall my name was up on the screens overhead as one of the authors who published a book in the last year, well, that just was the icing on the cake. Oh. And a number of people knew my name when I introduced myself. That was fabulous. All in all the Ontario Writers Conference 2014 was a great break from editing and revision and gives me new energy to forge ahead on The Loyalist’s Luck.

 

Coming May 14, 2014!

The Loyalist’s Luck Cover Reveal

book two in The Loyalist Trilogy, coming in September, 2014

Purchase The Loyalist’s Wife on Amazon here.

The Loyalist's Wife_Kindle_1563x2500

Purchase The Loyalist’s Wife for your Kobo here

 
 

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7 Ways to Brighten a Writer’s Day

IMG_0768

A Big Job Well Done!

Today I feel like the spider who has finally completed this huge undertaking. You know what I mean.

We all have those large tasks which seem to take forever and which gnaw at our innards until we finish them. Writing a book is such a task. Oh, sure, it’s a rewarding job overall, especially when it’s finally published, but many days the hill seems just too high.

Last week I neared the summit of another book project, or at least one of several hills. And I felt like the industrious spider at left who toiled and spun until this fabulous web was done. What was my milestone?

I finished the rough draft of The Loyalist’s Luck!

Just like the spider and her web, though, I still have lots of holes to fill before the final draft gets sent. So I got to thinking about other ways to brighten a writer’s day because finishing a draft takes months and months and we need more high points along the way.

7 Ways to Brighten a Writer’s Day

  1. Finish a chapter on your work in progress.
  2. Find an amazing bit of research.
  3. Write a wonderful sentence.
  4. Read another great comment about your first book.
  5. Check your book sales and find they’ve doubled from last month.
  6. Speak at an event and sell lots of books.
  7. Finish writing your first draft of a new project. (This is so rewarding it bears repeating.)

Coming Soon!  Book Two in the Loyalist series:  The Loyalist’s Luck

John and Lucy escape the Revolutionary War to the unsettled British territory across the Niagara River with almost nothing. In the untamed wilderness they must fight to survive, he, off on a secret mission for Colonel Butler and she, left behind with their young son and pregnant once again. In the camp full of distrust, hunger, and poverty, word has seeped out that John has gone over to the American side and only two people will associate with Lucy–her friend, Nellie, who delights in telling her all the current gossip, and Sergeant Crawford, who refuses to set the record straight and clear John’s name. To make matters worse, the sergeant has made improper advances toward Lucy. With John’s reputation besmirched, she must walk a thin line depending as she does on the British army, and Sergeant Crawford, for her family’s very survival.

Watch for the cover reveal for The Loyalist’s Luck, coming very soon! And if you haven’t read the first in the series, here are links where you may purchase it.

Purchase The Loyalist’s Wife on Amazon here.

The Loyalist's Wife_Kindle_1563x2500

Purchase The Loyalist’s Wife for your Kobo here

 
6 Comments

Posted by on March 26, 2014 in Authors, Writing Tips

 

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Writing Wisdom from Marta Merajver

Come visit my stellar writing friend, Marta Merajver, on her site today. You’ll find me there, too!

 

Sign up for my email list to receive my quarterly newsletter, the next issue of which will be in February!

The Loyalist's Wife_cover_Mar18.indd

Purchase The Loyalist’s Wife on Amazon here.

 
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Posted by on February 3, 2014 in Authors, Writing Tips

 

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The Truth and Nothing But the Truth?

photo (9)-68_edited

Here is a painting which hangs in my office just waiting for me to take a break and sit at the table. I run my fingers over the crisp cloth and smile expectantly as I wait for the server to appear. Ah, a cool beverage, perhaps with a couple of berries or cherries or even mint leaves to garnish it.

Oh, but it’s not reality, you say, only a painting. That makes me wonder about just what the painter saw. Was the reality exactly like this? Or did the painter create his/her own idea of the truth?

Perhaps this started as a camera photo from which some clever person painted what hangs in my office. Were  young lovers sitting at the table, or an old man alone with his thoughts? Was there only one door and one building and the steps simple and square?

What we see here is the result of what our minds and our talents can do, whether with paints or words. The pink pops of flowers, maybe bougainvillea, might have been a broken down string of parched ivy. We don’t know.

We do this in writing, don’t we? Historical fiction is an excellent example. We strip out most of the story we remember and just use parts. Our rendition will not be the truth as far as reporting a certain incident but it will shine with its own truth in the context of our story. My great great great great grandfather is listed as having fought with Butler’s Rangers in the American Revolutionary War. Further research shows this may or may not be true. For The Loyalist’s Wife I have chosen to make it true. Of course nothing else about John Garner in the novel is true but the details of that war are.

A good rule to use in historical fiction is to stick to the actual events as much as possible but weave fictional characters into them in a compelling way. John and Lucy are part of the mass movement of loyalist settlers who fought for the British King and ultimately lost. They represent all the real people who may have had similar experiences but are themselves creations of my imagination.

I have added details to round out the picture, just as the painter who created my painting could have done. How have you used truth and fiction in your writing?

Sign up for my email list to receive my quarterly newsletter, the next issue of which will be February!

The Loyalist's Wife_cover_Mar18.inddPurchase The Loyalist’s Wife on Amazon here.

 

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Dogs, People and Guests

Once again the lovely, the intrepid, the unique Jessica Aspen is guest posting on my blog. She has written several books and does an amazing job of getting them out for the world to see. Because she writes in paranormal, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, but even an historical fiction devotee like me loved her books. They are shorter than HF but very satisfying. Check out the links below for more about this hard working writer.

As happy as I am to have Jessica here, I was a little worried when I read her title. Oh, no! Was this going to be about cleaning house? Rest easy, it’s not. And those of you who love pets will appreciate her lead-in. Enough talking from me.

Here’s Jessica!

Picking Up After Ourselves

10-22-2013 7-18-45 PM_editedI walk my dog nearly every day. Right now my usual walking trail has been flooded out, and so has the sign that says: “Please pick up after your dog.”

The post is held up only by a bundle of roots. The trash can and all the bags are gone, but the sentiment remains. We are expected to clean up after ourselves and our pooches even if the trail is gone. Even if there is no place to deposit the results. Even if we don’t want to clean up the mess.

Dogs don’t care what they do or where they do it. Okay, they have their own doggie rules and requirements but they do not coincide with our ideas of where it’s appropriate to do your business. So we pick up after them. It’s part of dog ownership. It’s part of dog life. We’d prefer they were like cats and use the litter box (or better yet, the potty) but they don’t. So we carry our little plastic bags and pick up after them so that the trails and parks do not become a health hazard.

It’s polite, and it’s the law, even if sometimes it’s inconvenient and we do it all as a matter of course. No stress, no whining, no yelling.

But what happens when I make a mistake?IMG_6120-1

Do I matter of factly clean it up with little to no emotion?

No! If I make a mistake there can be big time stress. Lots of whining. And hopefully no yelling.

I wail and whine and worry. I look at the horror of my mistake and wonder: What will people think? Will anyone notice? How can I hide it?

Everyone makes mistakes, but it’s how we deal with those mistakes that defines who we are. Okay, that sounds pretentious. (And it’s likely a quote from someone famous; remind me to look it up sometime.) But in every cliché there is a silver lining of truth. In real life we all make mistakes and if we get upset and don’t deal with them that can become a handicap.

Luckily, as a writer, I’ve learned that almost everything can be fixed. I have a handy tool in my computer. I can cut, paste, copy and erase. I can find a back-up file and reload the lost document. It’s all good. I can pick up after myself by picking myself up and starting over.

And sometimes, that’s exactly what it takes… starting over.

Sometimes the only fix is to pull on the big boots and get to shoveling. Clean it all out. And lay down a fresh foundation. So pull out your baggies and clean up after yourselves. No mistakes are bad, they all teach us something and they are almost all fixable in some way.

How do you deal with mistakes in your life? Does it depend on the size of it? Big mistakes don’t go away any sooner than little mistakes, sometimes they simply need more shoveling. How big is your shovel?

10-22-2013 7-28-38 PM_editedBio:

Jessica Aspen has always wanted to be spirited away to a world inhabited by elves, were-wolves and sexy men who walk on the dark side of the knife. Luckily, she’s able to explore her fantasy side and delve into new worlds by writing paranormal romance. She loves indulging in dark chocolate, reading eclectic novels, and dreaming of ocean vacations, but instead spends most of her time, writing, walking the dog, and hiking in the Colorado Rockies.

 

Author web links: (web, blog, twitter, facebook, goodreads, etc)

 

Website: http://jessicaaspen.com

http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5759763.Jessica_Aspen

https://twitter.com/JessicaAspen

https://www.facebook.com/JessicaAspenAuthor

http://pinterest.com/jessicaaspen/

Jessica Aspen’s non-spammy, new release email please go to: http://eepurl.com/zs4Sj

An evil queen, a dangerous man, and a witch, tangled together in a tale of Snow White…

 

Desperate to save the last of her family from the murderous Faery Queen, Trina Mac Elvy weaves a spell of entrapment. But instead of a common soldier, the queen has released the Dark Huntsman, a full blooded fae with lethal powers.

Caged for treason, Logan Ni Brennan, is ready to do anything to win free of the manipulative queen, even if it includes running a last errand for her…murdering a witch. The sight of Trina, ready to fight despite the odds, gives him another option: use the witch as a chess piece, put the queen’s son on the throne, and bring down the queen forever.

As the queen slides into insanity and her closest advisor makes plans to succeed to the throne, Logan secrets Trina away in the enchanted forest and makes a decisive move in his dangerous game of manipulation. But the gaming tables of fate turn on him, and when Trina’s life is threatened he discovers he risks more than his freedom…he risks his heart.

Dare to enter Jessica Aspen’s world of steamy, fantasy romance in her new twisted fairy tale trilogy: Tales of the Black Court…

 

Available now on Amazon.

 
9 Comments

Posted by on October 23, 2013 in Authors, General, Writing Tips

 

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