The Character Sketch

 

20170206_141411_resized
Sticks of Personality

I am doing the 2017 Book Reading Challenge hosted by GoodReads.  Feel free to go over to the site and hop in on the fun.  I was going to try for 100 books, but then I realized I have things to do like work and sleep and eat and maybe pet my cat once in a while, and oh yeah, write my own book, so I went with fifty books.

So far, I have read thirteen and am really proud that I picked an underachievers number to keep my self-esteem higher than that of an eel in a snakepit.

I digress.

So far, some of the titles I have read include ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’ and ‘The Girl on the Train’ and ‘Slaughterhouse-Five’ along with some other swell reads.  I usually only read true crime.  However, as a writer trying to get her first book published this year, I have to read other genres.

I was reading Me and the Devil by Nick Tosches… but the main character yammered on too much and I got bored. I just put that one down and am now reading The Girl in the Ice which is listed as a gripping thriller. The writing is decent, and it is just now getting into some back story, but the POV is a flawed (it jumps back and forth in the same chapter at times). As far as the MC, she is screwed up which is good, because we’re all screwed up in some way. No one wants to read about a perfect person.

So my question is: Do you do a basic character sketch or a full detailed chart and backstory for them before you start bleeding at your desk writing? Or maybe you wing it and just feel them out as you go? I have always done a basic character sketch, but this time… this time I did sketches in more detail and it helps.

You can find blank sheets at Writer’s Digest.

Sketches help because as I write, I know which character would stop to let a squirrel cross the road and which character would run it over. I have tons of character sketch worksheets at home, but mostly use Scrivener, and I use real people.

Not like that! I use real people I see every day.  I ate lunch at a grocery store today (they have a lunch area, which is nice) and there were two employees sitting and talking at another table as I ate my salad, and skimmed my WIP for the second time this week. I listened to their conversation and peeked over at the woman real quick to see how she set her table for her lunch, her mannerisms, etc. You can read all the books you want about character traits, but the best way to get the real dirt is to go be among the people.

How do you give your characters character? 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Draft

draft-300x190

The first draft. The revised draft. The final draft.

I completed my second NaNoWriMo project in November 2016 and am happy to say I just finished the revised draft of the same manuscript.

What does that mean? First, it meant a lot of cursing, tears and wanting to drive to the Grand Canyon just to throw my laptop in there. Then I could come back home and set the hard copy on fire.

After I calmed down and figured out that hey, this is the part that makes you a writer, buddy ol’ pal, I exhaled and…

While in Scrivener, I looked for ways to format it and pretty up the cover page. And how do I label the chapters for an e-book and, and… I had to slow myself down.

Whoa there, pardner.

I jump the gun sometimes… okay, a lot. And this is one of those times I want everything to go as smooth as possible! I can’t forget to dot one ‘i’.

So, in November, I wrote the first draft and when I was done I printed it out and put it away… for two months. While it sat I decided to do other things and…

  • I read books.
  • I painted things.
  • I tried to walk my cat (and still have scars to prove it).

Then, I took my printed manuscript, grabbed a highlighter and a red pen (and a giant mug of coffee. OK… several) and old school edited. Afterward, I made the changes on the computer copy and then…

It sat for another two weeks.

Then…

I put the whole damn thing in Scrivener. Yep! Chapter by chapter, I put it in there and that is where I edited, rewrote, and deleted parts of this manuscript that I am so nervous and excited about.

I wrote three books before this one and wherever they are, they taught me a lot and maybe I’ll get back into them one day; maybe not.

This manuscript, though… this one is the best one so far and I cannot wait to go back in and polish it up nice and shiny.

Do you have any manuscripts that never made it past the first draft stage? How long do you let your first draft sit before editing?

 

 

Short Story: Cotton Balls of Justice

canstock16148835

(NSFW – Language) I had this dream last night.  Real trippy shit.  Cotton balls. First, I thought it was because I went to bed drunk again, but then I remembered I hadn’t had a drink or a drug for close to seven months. So I chalked it up to too much television. You know, the standby excuse for all bad things is always too much television.

I thought it was a dream until I woke up to the silent dancing of flashing red lights. I don’t live in Las Vegas, so I knew it wasn’t a two for one special at Whores and Spores – Barbie’s Bouncy House.

It was a fire truck, two police cars and an unmarked.

Huh?

I grabbed my pants off the floor, walked over to the window while putting them on feeling like some suave, g-money gigolo, but a glance in the mirror at my doughy, bulbous body and crop circle bald spot yanked me back to reality.

After I stumbled to the bathroom, images resurfaced in my foggy brain about last night as I reached for some aspirin and stuck my face under the faucet to wash them down my parched throat that felt like a cactus riding a cheese grater.  I can’t say I’ve ever experienced anything like that, but I was damn sure it was close to what was going on inside my gullet.

As I peeked through the blinds, I flashed back to the bar – I’m on the nine-ball league – and there was this dude there from a different team (he was way more bulbous than me) and I remembered everyone not liking this guy.

It turned out he was my neighbor and I asked him, “What house is yours?” after we found out we lived on the same street.

He answered, “Legit, the one with all the Marigolds in the yard.”

I felt my face change after he said that. I said, “Oh, you’re the one with the stinky flower fetish.”

And he just looked at me and took his shot on the table. Five ball, side pocket.

“Yeah, it keeps nosy fuckers away from my windows.  Legit, I got some mouse traps buried in there, too.  I feel like I can tell you that ‘cause you seem like an asshole, like me.”

“Who you calling an asshole, asshole? And why are you on the other team if you live on my street?”

“I legit just moved,” he answered and chugged his beer like some 80’s punk in an afterschool special.

He missed his next shot and then I ran the table on him.

Ran it until I got to that shiny black eight ball, or it could be a white and powdery eight ball, but in this case, it was black and shiny. Legit.

“You wanna wager a wager?” He asked as he whistled for the barmaid to bring him a shot of Christian Brothers.

“Uh, sure,” I answered with about as much enthusiasm as a neutered dog at a dog park.

He snickered and threw back his shot. “Ah,” he said and smacked his lips. “Twenty bucks on the nine off the eight ball.  You gotta legit call it and bank it at least two times.” Bang. Shot glass on the bar. Another whistle.  Another fill ‘er up. I noticed the barmaid with her crinkled nose and curled upper lip.

She didn’t like him either.

“Seems fair,” I said and chalked my cue. I measured with my stick; the angles; the warps in the felt on the table.  A song by Chicago came on the jukebox as I called the rails and the pocket, leaned down and drew back to take the shot.

“Wait!” he yelled and motioned for another beer.  I flubbed on the shot and came within a hair of hitting the cue ball. “Sorry. Continue.” He laughed.

Son of a bitch.

After I lost twenty bucks, I called it a night and walked home.  The key was in the front door when I heard an incessant buzzing like a nectar drunk gnat behind me.

It was my neighbor. Bzzzz.

That’s all I remember.

Now, the street is a blinky crimson and I’m peeking out the blinds like a paranoid crackhead.

What the hell happened? And what is with all the cotton balls on my floor?

My bedroom floor – usually caked with dirty clothes and semi-clean socks – was blanketed with cotton balls.

“What the – ” before I could finish, my doorbell rang.

Another peek through the blinds revealed two detectives on my front lawn.

“Oh shit, oh shit, oh shit. What the hell did I do?” I ran down the stairs to open the door and waded through a sea of cotton balls in my living room.

“Hi!” I beamed too enthusiastically trying to block the view of cotton balls.

“Sir, we’re gonna cut to the quick on this one. Your neighbor was found dead on his front lawn this morning.  Someone stuffed about five hundred cotton balls down his throat, and well, they stuck cotton in all his orifices.”

“I’m sorry?” I heard him. I had to hear it again.

“You heard me.  Someone shoved cotton up your neighbor’s ass.  We think it was you. We heard he was an annoying son of a bitch who never shut the hell up.  Is that accurate?”

“Yes. He was a prick.” I thought of my dream.  The cotton balls, the blood, the guy who wouldn’t shut the fuck up.

Shut up!  

“Sir, that was some evil shit you did,” the officer said and slapped me on the back. “The neighbors want to thank you.”

There was some faint clapping across the street.

“Good job!” Someone yelled.

“The guy apparently was a real asshole,” he continued and handed me a piece of paper.

“What’s this?” I asked.

“A citation for littering,” he said.

I said, “Is this a joke?”

“Have a nice day, sir.”

I closed the door behind me and pinched myself. What was I going to do with the rest of these cotton balls?

This story is a response to the Flash Fiction Challenge via Chuck Wendig’s blog: http://terribleminds.com/

 

Outlines – Do You or Don’t You

20170302_195213
Bacon Saves Everything

I finished my second National Novel Writing Month project last November.  My first one was in 2011 and no, I have no idea why I waited five years to write another 50,000 words in thirty measly days. I did, however, write a lot of other stuff in those five years.

That first NaNoWriMo novel is still sitting on my laptop, slightly edited but otherwise untouched as a stark reminder of everything to NOT DO when writing a novel.  And some reminders of what TO DO.

One thing you really want to do is work with an outline.

Outlines are good because they keep you on track. You might be writing a gun fight scene and suddenly you are going off on the layout of a cemetery for four pages and then ten pages after that a horse is duking it out with the town mayor (who is also a cat) and your plot line is buried right along with the bodies in the cemetery.

Oh, snap.

So, to keep yourself on the path of ‘write-eousness’ outlines help.

My outline for “Pendulum Rose” (my working title for my current WIP) started out simple and as I went I added more detail. Starting simple just so you have a gist of where you are headed is a huge time saver.

Example:

Chapter One

  • Jane wakes up in a field of marshmallow bunnies
  • She meets a strange man
    • he lives on a stick in a cookie field
    • he is directionally challenged
  • They walk down a crunchy road
  • They meet a large frog who wants to eat them
    • the frog is deeply insecure
    • strange man pocketed some cookies while taking to the frog

This is just an idea of how I outline (subject material is only an example).  Jotting down ideas works because, if you are anything like me, your memory isn’t what it used to be (we don’t need to go into the why of it) and you’re lying to yourself if you think you are going to remember what you wanted to remember.

Outlines are different than character sketches because outlines are a briefly listed detail where character sketches are detailed write-ups of the beings in your story. And yes, writing up a character sketch in an outline format is perfectly acceptable.

The only thing I write without an outline is flash fiction.  Flash fiction is such a short, compact story that writing an outline for it would take more time than the actual writing of the story.

There are a few ways you can outline.  One way is hardcore pencil and paper because hey, that’s just how you roll.  Two is Microsoft Word or another word processing program.  Three is Scrivener. I bought Scrivener last year because I got a discount through the NaNoWriMo website and while I am still getting a handle on it, the handles I am grasping firmly, are amazing.

Scrivener makes things easy because you can have multiple projects and inside each project you can have tabs, post-it notes and chapters.  To make sure you aren’t committing to something you might not like or need, you can download and try it free for thirty days. Check it out here.

However you outline, I am interested.  Do you use details?  Bare Bones?

Don’t forget to sign up for updates and if you need inspiration, check out my free writing prompts download here.

Copy That

Alright… While I work on my novel, I made an executive decision to continue pursuing a writing career in other ways and help out other writers.

This brings me to BAD WRITING.

 

images
Really, Snoopy?

Bad writing is all around us, my friends. Click on any content mill website and immerse yourself in the whimsical ways of writers who know not what they do (or maybe they know and don’t care) and get paid very little – if anything – to do it.

I am not good at selling or pimping myself (I am a writer after all) so my hopes of this self-petting not being painful are pretty vain.

I am already feeling uncomfortable and icky inside while I sit here trying to tell you why you need me in your life. *Excuse me while I bathe in bathroom wipes*

You need me because I am honest; I am reasonable; I won’t string you along. I won’t tell you it took two hours to do a job when it only took one.

Enjoy the rest of your week.

 

 

 

 

Realistic Goals for 2017 – Can You Dig It?

 

accomplishyourgoal-jm-600
You accomplish nothing when you aim at nothing.

 

Okay… we used to call them resolutions and that got us no freaking where.  Around 2012, I called them goals and I don’t know if I was the brainiac who thought it up or what, but it caught on and now people call them New Year Goals and hey… it works for me no matter who thought it up first.

Well, it works when I put in the effort.  Same goes for you.  I mean, I don’t know you, but if you are a writer, chances are you like the idea of things going as well as they went in Week One of Two of your project.  But then all hell breaks loose, the cat knocks your coffee over, the laundry is piled up and you aren’t sure if those are your kids or booger encrusted demons. You’ve got nothing accomplished save a pile of tissues inundated with your own tears instead of the tears of your enemies.

Usually, my goals are: save money, lose ten pounds, build a race car, travel to another dimension, communicate telepathically with my cat…blah blah blah… you know, realistic goals.  But one thing always gets in the way: ME.

76d7e0021af1aea2b403135b2c1b1e488579ffb22ddf035156c8c3773b51e7cf

How I do things:

  1. make outrageous, unattainable goal.
  2. fail to reach said goal.
  3. hate myself and commence drowning in a pool of chocolate, self-loathing and my own damn tears.

This year I do have some goals… mostly REALISTIC ONES but a few ridiculous ones at the end… you know, just in case.

One of my goals is to get published.  Yes!  Published as in an actual book with actual pages with actual words on them.

So this is how I set my goals THIS YEAR (and the last few years):

  • GET PUBLISHED
    • write a book
    • edit book
    • rewrite until a finished, polished work is complete.
    • research agents and publishers
    • submit queries
  • GET IN SHAPE
    • Commit to gym 5 days a week
    • 30 minutes minimum cardio 7 days a week
    • strength training 5 days a week
    • eat good foods/drink a lot of water (100 oz daily)
  • STAY ORGANIZED
    • if it doesn’t have a place it is dead to me.
    • throw out all junk mail/mail/inserts/coupons 
    • magazines: throw out all old issues (or donate somewhere)
    • clothes: throw out anything I haven’t worn in a year.
  • GET FINANCES STRAIGHT
    • Pay down all debt by paying $20 extra a month on payments
    • DO NOT use credit cards
    • Set up automatic payments on all bills (I am almost at 100% with this)
    • Keep separate checking accounts and STOP transferring money!
  • READ 100 BOOKS in 2017
    • No need for bullet points on this one, really.  My goal is to read 100 books this year no matter what.  All kinds of books: thriller/suspense (my fave!); memoirs (my other fave!); self-help; horror; romances (not really my thing, but I’ll give it a shot).
  • Also, win the lottery, buy a nice cabin in the woods and never have to work a regular job again.

I have faith in myself that I can do all this. The ones in boldface are the ones I really need to stay diligent with.  The one in blood red, bold, italic, underline is my MAIN NUMBER ONE GOAL FOR THE F**KING YEAR.  If I am not stressed about money and bills, I can focus on other important things.

Have you given any thought to goals for 2017?  How do you list your goals? 

A Love and Enamorment of Bugs

I’m not sure what percentage I make up of the global population, or the national population, hell, the population of my city of people who ‘love bugs.’  I know that it is a small population (except for maybe entomologists) of strange and odd folks and I am one of them.

maxresdefault (1)

When I was little, like most children, I was terrified of bugs.  More so, I was terrified of worms.  My mother would take my sister and me fishing and I refused to bait the hook.  Worms were slimy, shiny appendage-less aliens who wanted to suck my blood.

That was my theory.

I would scream if I saw a shad roach (water bug) in our kitchen (we lived close to the corner and sewer so we got a lot of them).  My mother nick named them ‘six dirty feet’ to make it a little more amusing.  Still, I hated those little shiny, black bastards and their damned feet.

Now, I can’t say I would welcome ‘six dirty feet’ of any kind into my home (shad roaches, cockroaches) because to me, those bugs represent dirt and dampness and my childhood and early years of my first marriage (things I would like to forget, thank you very much).

Spiders, stinkbugs, odd-looking bugs, caterpillars, moths, beetles, leaf bugs, cicadas… all those dudes. I love them.  I pick them up and inspect them.  I love Praying Manti as well, but I am also a stickler for superstition and will not disturb one unless it is unavoidable.  Still, my nerves get the best of me.

DSCN4655
Stag Beetle

Should I save a praying mantis or be doomed for all eternity? 

These are the types of questions that permeate my mind on a grand level.

But I digress.

We need bugs. The earth and all its occupants need six footed, eight footed, even thousand legged Hemiptera of all sorts because they help us more than we know.  They sustain life for other critters.  Honestly, everything on this planet helps everything else.

It’s funny… everything on this planet could live without humans, but humans could not live without everything on this planet.

Bees.

It kind of saddens me that so many people fear bugs and I think so many people fear bugs because they were taught to fear bugs.

Why are you afraid of bugs?

a) because they creep me out, man.

b) because they are ugly and gross.

c) I don’t know, I just am.  Isn’t everyone?

d) because my dad screams bloody hell and jumps around like a disco mouse when he sees one… and… isn’t that normal?

These are some common answers when asked.  I get it, I really do.  Bugs are creepy little critters that can show up in the darndest places and leave a person thinking, ‘how did you get here little guy?’ or grabbing matches and a can of hairspray and torching the whole place to the ground.

Is there an in between?  Yes, there is.   Freaking out over bugs is what a lot of people do… but before you go burning your house down or driving your car off a cliff, know that most bugs aren’t interested in you.  Some are, but the ones that scare the hell out of you most likely are not.

The only bugs that are interested in you are:

15645c67bdc0637ad73f7647e5de438c

Ticks, Fleas, Mosquitoes, Flies, Bed Bugs and Lice.  Four of these five live exclusively by drinking blood (flies eat other stuff).  These are bugs that I don’t like… these bugs are parasites that need a host to live but there are ways to keep them away from your person and your belongings.

So, good luck out there!  It is summertime which means lots and lots of buggies!  Keep yourself prepared for the pesky ones (in the picture above) and remember all the other ones aren’t interested in anything you have to do or say.