Sunday ROW80 check-in

I’ll keep this one short. We’re planning to close on our new home this week, so soon my life will be a whirlwind of boxes and paint brushes as we move in, prep, and unpack. But last week was a slow week at my in-laws’ farm, spent writing and taking long evening walks. Looking forward to the new place, though. I’m most excited about my purple office, where I’ll write while sipping Earl Grey.

This week’s check-in…

Writing: It was a productive week. I wrote 5,208 new words in “Called by Magic,” not including any writing I did during revisions (as opposed to rewrites, which some of the chapters needed). I rewrote/revised five chapters total. The story is short, probably 10 chapters max, so I’m about halfway through the second draft! I also started a character voice journal for The Cabot Sisters series—“Called by Magic” is book two in that series.

Reading: I finished reading Rachel Hartman’s “Seraphina” and Roz Morris’s “Writing Characters Who’ll Keep Your Readers Captivated” and started reading “The School for Good and Evil” by Soman Chainani and “On Writing Romance” by Leigh Michaels.

A Round of Words in 80 Days is the writing challenge that knows you have a life. Click here to cheer on fellow participants.

What about you? Did you make any progress on your goals this week? Any plans for the upcoming week?

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Cover Reveal: “Alicia” by Gloria Weber

Alicia by Gloria WeberALICIA
by Gloria Weber
Published by Solstice Publishing
(Summer Solstice imprint)
Release Date: August 18, 2015

aliciapromostayed2Blurb:
Leon has decided it is better to remain silent and accused of Alicia’s murder than admit the truth. The truth, well… that’s so unbelievable it’s crazy.  Not that Detective Dorndorf believes a word that comes out of Leon’s mouth. Dorndorf just wants a confession and figures dragging Leon to the last spot Alicia was seen might just pry it out of him.  Will the detective’s plan work or will the truth come out?

Price: $0.99
To Be Sold At: Amazon and Solstice Publishing’s website

Bio:
Gloria Weber lives in Ohio with her husband, son, daughter, and many pets. She has been writing for publication since March 2006 with over a dozen titles published. Her favorite letter is L.

Website: http://gloriaweber.wordpress.com/
Twitter: @GloriaWeber ~ http://twitter.com/GloriaWeber
G+: http://plus.google.com/107706782152210234267/posts
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/GloriaWeberWriter
Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/GloriaWeber

Creating complex characters with author Celine Jeanjean

Today, except for a brief ROW80 check-in at the end of this post, I’m turning the blog over to Celine Jeanjean, author of The Viper and the Urchin, for a discussion of character development. Celine’s book is full of well-drawn and memorable characters, and she offers some good tips below for how to make your characters shine as well.

And now, over to Celine…

When Denise asked me if I’d be up for writing a post about creating complex characters, I was so flattered! With that in mind, I’ve put together some of the things I did while building my characters, in the hope that it might be helpful. I focused specifically on two aspects: voice and dimensions.

Voice:

assassin_fullThe Viper and the Urchin is told from both Rory and Longinus’ points of views. Rory is a scrappy urchin girl, while Longinus is a fastidious and snobbish assassin who’s afraid of blood. Since they’re very different, I had to make sure their voices were just as distinct.

The first thing I did was play around with their language by creating a list of curses, slangs, and general expressions for each of them. I find language can be really helpful in showing a character’s personality, as well as where they’re from and the world they live in.

Most of the expressions didn’t make it into the book in the end, because the right conversations didn’t crop up, or because I made up others on the spot, but I found it a very useful way to start developing each voice in my head.

Once I had a bit of a feel for their voices, I wrote a synopsis of the story as if each character was sitting down and relating the story to a friend. This was a great way to ‘practice’ each voice, and it also enabled me to get to know their personalities a little better. Would they tell the story in a few sentences or go into blow by blow detail? Would they take creative license and play down certain aspects and highlight others? (Longinus’ creative license turned out to be pretty extensive!)

Dimensions:

I found the three dimensions of a character as outlined in Story Engineering by Larry Brooks incredibly useful as a base from which to develop Rory and Longinus. For anyone who hasn’t read the book, the dimensions are as follows:

1st Dimension: the surface and appearance of a character (they way she dresses, quirks, the way she talks, opinions, tastes, etc. Basically anything that can be perceived by an outsider)

2nd Dimension: the reason behind the choices and behaviours that define a character’s appearance – or the reason behind the character’s efforts to control her appearance. Backstory, agenda, etc, fall into that dimension.

3rd Dimension: what the character is like deep down, beneath it all (their moral compass, their soul.) The third dimension is usually revealed when the stakes and pressure are high and it doesn’t necessarily align with the first two.

Thinking about the layers of a personality in that way was really helpful in finding places to add conflict. A classic way to do this is to have the third and first dimension clash: the cad who turns out to have a heart of gold, or someone with the appearance of a hero/good guy who turns out to be a coward or a traitor.

Another way of introducing contrast within a character is by looking at the idea that appearance is driven by a combination of what a character thinks about herself and what she wants others to see. Those two things can be aligned, or they can be in contradiction. Especially if said character holds conflicting views about herself (as a lot – most? – of us do.)

For example in my case, Longinus is incredibly ashamed of his fear of blood, and deep down doesn’t feel like a good enough assassin – so he overcompensates by trying very hard to come across as the perfect gentleman assassin. He’s arrogant and superior, partly because he genuinely believes himself to be the best alchemist in town, as well as the best-dressed man, but also because it’s a comfort zone for him. It’s easier for him to be arrogant than to face his failings.

I found that adding contrast and delving into the why behind the quirks and outer traits helps makes them more than just a superficial, amusing details – it helps make them part of a more complete personality. Especially in the case of a humorous character like Longinus – spending time working out the reasons behind his many personality quirks stopped him (I hope!) from veering into the ridiculous, and made him a bit more complex.

So there you have it — I hope it’s been helpful. I don’t pretend this is the best way to go about creating characters but it certainly helped me with mine. If you disagree or if you use different methods when working on characters, I’d love to hear!

About Celine:

Celine Jeanjean PhotoCeline Jeanjean is French, grew up in the UK and now lives in Hong Kong. That makes her a tad confused about where she is from. During her time in Asia she’s watched the sun rise over Angkor Wat, lost her shoes in Vietnam, and fallen off a bamboo raft in China.

Celine writes stories that feature quirky characters and misfits, and her books are a mixture of steampunk, fantasy and humour.

To find out more about Celine or just to chat, visit her on:

Website: http://celinejeanjean.wordpress.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CelineJeanjeanAuthor

Goodreads:https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/14128308.Celine_Jeanjean

Twitter: https://twitter.com/CelineJeanjean

Lastly, here’s my midweek ROW80 check-in

Writing: Wrote 4,008 words in Called by Magic. Did 45 pages of critique. Started a character voice journal for Called by Magic.

Reading: Finished reading Roz Morris’s Writing Characters Who’ll Keep Your Readers Captivated. Finished reading Seraphina by Rachel Hartman. Just bought The School of Good and Evil by Soman Chainani, so I might start that one today or continue reading The 10th Kingdom by Kathryn Wesley.

A Round of Words in 80 Days is the writing challenge that knows you have a life. It’s also a blog hop!

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Writing and the Fear of Success and Failure

Confession: I have 13—count ‘em, 13—works in progress at the moment. Thirteen stories vying for my attention, whispering in my ear, keeping me awake at night. That’s too many. Then my husband told me I needed to focus. A friend told me I was spreading myself too thin. They’re right.

So why do I have so many WIPs? I’m not really sure, but I think it might be fear. Fear that I won’t be able to get my stories where they need to be, so I keep drafting one story after another and not focusing. I’m productive, but I need to get some of these stories off my plate and into the hands of readers. After all, that’s where stories belong.

Is it a fear of success? Maybe I fear my work being out in the world, being seen by people. Or maybe it’s a fear of failure, a fear that I’ll put my work out there and won’t measure up. My guess is it’s both. After all, I’m human, and we humans are complex creatures.

So now I’ve decided to focus on just a handful of those projects. But choosing which one has proven tricky.

I once attended a voice workshop with Barbara Samuels, and one of the questions her voice worksheet asks is something to the effect of, “What story do you most want to write? Are you writing it now? If not, why?”

So I asked myself that question. I thought of books I’d read, books that thrilled me, books I wished I’d written. I thought of all 13 of those WIPs, and asked myself, “If I could only pick one, which one would it be?”

It was hard. I love all of these stories for various reasons. I love one character’s relentless strength, another’s quiet creativity, still another’s willingness to help others, even those who’ve slighted her. I love one hero’s Mr. Darcy-like qualities, another’s dedication to his responsibilities, still another’s earthy strength. I love them all, and I feel compelled to tell their stories as best as I can.

But that means getting something done, sending stories out into the world because I believe this quote:

“A writer only begins a book. A reader finishes it.”

–Samuel Johnson

So I ask fellow bloggers and writers to hold me accountable. After a great deal of thought, I’ve decided to focus on The Cabot Sisters, a series of six novellas, about 20K each. That’s what I focused on this week, and that’s what I’m going to work on for a while. Because fear can’t drive me to hop from story to story. I need to stick with something until it shines.

So there it is. Fear is a part of the journey. What I’ve learned is that productivity is the best antidote, but we also need self-awareness. I’ve been productive, but my husband was right. I’ve lacked focus. And that needs to change.

ROW80 check-in

  • Wrote 2,388 words in a series outline and character exercises for the Cabot Sisters series. I now have a full series outline, though there are definitely some holes that need to be filled in. But now I know where those holes are, and which questions are left unanswered. Not bad considering that I only had two writing days this week.
  • Critiqued 68 pages of copy for my critique partners.
  • Finished reading “Dialogue” by Gloria Kempton. It’s a good basic discussion of dialogue with a few good kernels in there, but I think I’m looking for something more advanced. I’m just under halfway through Roz Morris’s “Writing Characters Who’ll Keep Readers Captivated.”
  • On a non-writing-related note, we’ve officially moved out of our apartment. This week was a whirlwind of U-Hauls and boxes, and now we’re looking forward to moving into our new home in a couple weeks.

A Round of Words in 80 Days is the writing challenge that knows you have a life. It’s also a blog hop. Click here to cheer on fellow participants.

How many WIPs do you have going right now? How many is too many? How do you choose what story to focus on? Have you ever struggled with a fear of success or failure? How did you overcome it?

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Sunday ROW80 check-in: Bubble wrap and boxes

That’s pretty much what makes up my days at the moment. Packing and more packing. I’m getting excited about the move. I’ve already picked out the color for my office, a beautiful purple hue called “Handsome Plum.” And I’m choosing between Caramelized Sugar and Hot Chocolate for the living and dining room accent walls. I can picture myself sitting in my new study, afternoon sunlight streaming in as I sip Earl Grey tea and pound furiously at the keys.

We still have some clothes and dishes to pack, and most of the furniture to move, but we’re well on our way as far as packing goes. I’m worried about how our cats will handle living in a strange place for a few weeks. And I’m hoping they don’t pick on my in-laws elderly cat too much; I’d hate for them to gang up on her. And we have one kitty who’s blind, so I’m hoping he can navigate two new places without being traumatized. The dog will be fine. She loves my in-laws, their dog, and their farm, so she’ll be perfectly content.

I’m going to try my best to keep up my writing routine while we’re staying with my in-laws, aiming for 1-2K words a day and trying to prepare for the course I’ll be teaching in the fall. I won’t be able to comment on as many blogs or do as much social media since our Internet service will be slow and limited. If I disappear for a while, that’s why!

Writing progress: This week I wrote 4,828 words in the story tentatively titled “The Hedgewitch’s Charm.” I might rename it “The Hedgewitch and the Wolf.” It suits the story better, but I’m still playing with titles. I’m also thinking of rewriting it as a young-adult story. Right now the hero and heroine are in their late twenties, but I think the story might be more powerful as a young-adult novel. Before I move forward I need to make that decision.

Currently reading: “Visions of Magic” by Regan Hastings. It’s fast-paced and a really interesting take on witch-hunts, set in the modern-day era. Next up I’ll be reading “Seraphina” by Rachel Hartman. Has anyone else read that one yet? I’m almost finished reading “Dialogue” by Gloria Kempton and plan to start Roz Morris’s “Writing Characters Who’ll Keep Readers Captivated” next.

A Round of Words in 80 Days is the writing challenge that knows you have a life. It’s also a blog hop!

What about you? Read any good books lately? Have you ever changed a story from adult to young-adult or vice versa? If so, what challenges did you face? What swayed your decision?

Have a great week!

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Slow Going: A midweek ROW80 check-in

Photo accessed at stock.xchng

Photo accessed at stock.xchng

One of the great parts of being a writer, especially a fantasy/paranormal writer, is all of the fun research we get to do. I did a post a while back about researching taffeta, and for my latest WIP, “The Hedgewitch’s Charm,” I’m having just as much fun. So far I’ve researched aura colors, healing herbs, making poultices, and the best time (magically speaking) to harvest plants. I’m learning a lot, and I’ve had to rely on the Internet since all but a few of my books are packed up.

ROW80 progress…

ROW80LogocopyI’ve written a whopping 350 words so far this week, though I’ve made progress in other areas. I missed Monday due to a migraine, so I’m starting from behind anyway. I did manage to edit two chapters and send them to critique partners, so that explains my puny word count. (That 350 words doesn’t include anything I wrote or rewrote during edits, just new copy.) Hopefully I can get back to 1,000 words a day for the rest of the week. *knock wood*

I haven’t managed to read any writing books so far this week, so that’s another goal I’m hoping to catch up on.

We officially only have one week left in our apartment. Then it’s country living with the in-laws for a few weeks until the new place is ready. I am getting excited, picking out paint colors and planning home-improvement projects. Hubby has been busily measuring all of the furniture and using software to figure out how we can fit everything in. So we’re ready. Now it’s just packing and waiting…

Currently reading…

Just finished “The Viper and the Urchin” by Celine Jeanjean. I definitely recommend it. The characters are really well developed, and the story takes a lot of interesting twists and turns. I just started reading “Visions of Magic” by Regan Hastings. I haven’t formed an opinion yet, but it’s off to a good start. And it’s perfect timing, since hers is a story about witch trials, and my current WIP is about witch hunts, though the eras are different (contemporary for Hasting’s book, fantasy/medieval-esque for mine).

A Round of Words in 80 Days is the writing challenge that knows you have a life. Click here to see what fellow participants are up to.

What about you? What are you researching? Do you enjoy research, or does it feel like a chore? How are your goals coming along? Read any good books lately?

Strengthening Our Storytelling: Midweek ROW80 check-in

I’m always awestruck when I go to the symphony. The idea that a composer could hear all of those different instruments in his or her head and find a way to combine them all that’s both unique and pleasing just fascinates me. And then, one day, I realized that as writers we do the same thing.

As a writer, we can’t just be good at one thing. For example, I’m excellent at description, at bringing a setting to life with concrete details. But it’s not enough for me to excel at setting and sensory detail. I have to be able to make each character unique, to make my hero and heroine relatable and sympathetic, to create tension and suspense in every scene, to write dialogue that sparkles, a plot the surprises, a romance that makes the reader swoon. Just like a composer has to be able to write for strings and woodwinds and percussion, we have to be good at every aspect of the writing process or the story as a whole won’t work.

I try to pick a couple things in each WIP that I can focus on strengthening. For my current WIP, for instance, I’m focused on writing more compelling dialogue and upping the romance factor. I feel like in previous stories love has come too easily for my characters. In this story, I really want them to have to work for it, for the reader to wonder how these two will ever overcome the obstacles to be together. It’s still romance, so a happily ever after is a given, but I don’t want the road to the HEA to be all sunshine and roses.

ROW80LogocopyLastly, a midweek ROW80 check-in (short and sweet)…

So far this week I’ve written 1,389 words in “The Hedgewitch’s Charm.” This story is challenging me in so many ways, and I’m excited to see where it goes.

And I’ve read one chapter in “Dialogue” by Gloria Kempton.

A Round of Words in 80 Days is the writing challenge that knows you have a life. It’s also a blog hop.

What about you? What are some of your strengths as a writer? What aspects of writing don’t come as easily, and how do you strengthen those aspects of your storytelling?

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