Monday, October 31, 2011

Character Sketches - Get inside your character!

I've been writing some character sketches inspired by some of the crazy people I know purely from my imagination! (you know how that kid sees dead people? well, I see crazy people everywhere).

I've never actively done character sketches before. I start writing, the characters emerge, and then I go deep to figure out who they are and what makes them tick.

This process of doing the sketches up front is interesting and I'd encourage writers to try it out. I'm finding that my characters inherently contradict themselves with their actions, are flawed and their internal conflict is intrinsic. That's fancy writer speak for they are complex, flawed and vulnerable characters - what we need all our characters to be if they are to speak to the reader.

Check out Angela Ackerman's latest blog post on The Bookshelf Muse blog. The blog has a thesaurus of character traits and the latest post is about traits for a guarded character. I'd encourage you to check out her blog regardless, the thesaurus covers all aspects of writing.  

As writers we need to get inside our characters and see the world from their point of view. Think of yourself putting on big character driven goggles every time you write from that characters point of view so you can get inside their head and react as they would react.

If I did a character sketch of myself it would be of a writer who loves water sports but loathes getting wet, hates raw fish but insists on going for sushi, and who can survive for days in her writing sasquatch cave on nothing more than sour ju jubes and chai tea.  

What kind of goggles would your character wear?


Monday, October 24, 2011

Foreshadowing, eh!

Foreshadowing.jpg Foreshadowing

Foreshadowing, right!? Love it or predict it - every piece of fiction needs it. Usually, it is so heavy handed that you can predict the ending from page one.

This blog post could be subtitled: What I learned about foreshadowing from watching Coronation Street.

Yes, I've revealed a deep dark secret - I watch Coronation Street (and no, I'm not an 80 year old British Lady!) and have for decades!

I watch it for what I learn about writing. I can never predict where the plots are going, and I'm one of those people who can crack a plot wide open like a Jammie Dodger!

The foreshadowing is so subtle that you don't notice it until the climax and then you're like, 'oh, yeah, I remember this one bit of dialogue that referred to that.'

There was a huge plot line recently on Coronation Street (for my British bloggowers we're about a year behind in episodes here in Canada) where a nightclub blows up and a tram crashes into the street. The street is burning, people injured, people dying to be rescued, and a couple of characters leave the street permanently - if you know what I mean!

Was I on the edge of my seat with my jaw dropped? Yes. It was unexpected, but it was foreshadowed ever so subtly. There were a couple of bits of dialogue that referred to the gas being out in the kitchen of the nightclub and having to serve cold appetizers. For the episodes shown during the month leading up to the explosion, the tram noise was a little more prominent. A character would be in the kitchen pondering life on the street and in the background there would be the sound of the tram going over the tracks. Subtle, yet, effective.

Here's the scene.  


Think about how you use foreshadowing.

Monday, October 17, 2011

And the winner is ...?!

The winner of the inaugural John Spray Mystery Award is Y.S. Lee for her young adult mystery novel A Spy in the House.  Here's a blurb about the book from her website:  

Orphan Mary Quinn lives on the edge. Sentenced as a thief at the age of twelve, she’s rescued from the gallows by a woman posing as a prison warden. In her new home, Miss Scrimshaw’s Academy for Girls, Mary acquires a singular education, fine manners, and surprising opportunity. The school is a cover for the Agency – an elite, top-secret corps of female investigators with a reputation for results – and at seventeen, Mary’s about to join their ranks. 
Packed with action and suspense, and evoking the gritty world of Victorian London, this first book in the Agency series debuts a daring young detective who lives by her wits.

Ying has been my facebook friend for years. Congrats Ying! And congrats to the other nominees! It is an honour to have been nominated! 

The other nominated books received the John Spray Mystery Awards 'nominee' sticker like this one here on my nominated book Dead Bird through the Cat Door.

And just for fun, here's a pic of my demented Halloween decoration! Let the chocolate consumption begin! (in a couple of weeks).  

Monday, October 10, 2011

Sushi, Sour Ju Jubes & the Sasquatch: Why Writers Need Deadlines!

Good (productive) writing day:

Get up early and eat a bowl of steel cut oats with fresh strawberries and organic milk.
Go to an hour and fifteen minute aerobics class - get your sweat on.
Have a quick healthy lunch and a cup of tea when you return home.
Write for three hours.
Read your e-mail and peruse your ‘bookmarked’ agent and editor sites to keep up-to-date on the latest in the publishing industry.
Read a great work of literature for an hour (or a book in the genre in which you are writing) followed by a chapter of Donald Maass’ book Writing the Break out Novel.
Continue thinking about your characters as you prepare some fresh salmon with brown rice for dinner. You add the fresh spinach that your neighbour gave you from her garden and reminisce about the nice chat you had with her. You smile knowing that you’re not one of those writers who eschews human contact.
Go to bed early.

Next day: repeat

Bad (non-productive) writing day:

Turn off the clock radio one minute before it comes on because you’ve convinced yourself that you need more sleep and are too tired for aerobics.

Eat a bowl of steel cut oats with fresh strawberries and organic milk; add a good sized dollop of maple syrup.
You’ve watched the Oprah episode on visioning your dreams. So, you check your e-mail and curse when the four e-mails you have envisioned from editors and/or agents aren’t there. Curse wasting an hour watching the Oprah episode on visioning your dreams.

Delete all the ‘fwd’ e-mails sent from your middle-aged friends pertaining to fart jokes, jokes about various parts of the male anatomy, or inspirational messages.

Get up to check the mail box because you thought you heard the mail carrier and you should at least have a couple of rejection letters, if not a request for your manuscript, or a contract that someone miraculously mailed to you.

Surf, in detail, the agent and editor blogs you have ‘bookmarked’ to remind yourself of how high a percentage of queries get rejected (90%), and bemoan the fact that they just can’t see your genius.

Click on a You Tube video on one of the blogs to see a hilarious re-enactment of the writer/editor relationship.
Promptly e-mail it to all your writer friends with the note: ‘how true ;-).’
Realize that you’re wasting time and decide you need a snack before you can start writing.
Eat a colossal chocolate brownie and re-fill your mug with tea that is now the colour of coffee because it has been sitting in the pot for two hours.
Realize that you aren’t drinking from your lucky tea-writing-mug and go back to the kitchen to rectify that. By now the tea is stone cold. Spend two minutes watching the mug rotate like a figure skater in the microwave.
Convince yourself that randomly searching You Tube for silly cat videos is ‘marketing research.’
Have a lunch consisting of nothing more than sushi and sour jujubes.

Do a ‘google’ search on ‘massive sugar headache’ looking for a cure.

Was that the sound of the mailbox being closed? Check mail box again; it can’t seriously be empty- not with all the queries you have out there circulating.

Convince yourself that the mail carrier is holding your mail ransom and that he’s had it in for you since you didn’t shovel your walk that one time last winter.

Check again for the e-mails you’ve envisioned and delete the multiple e-mails, from your writer friends, that suggest you are spending waaaay tooooo much time surfing You Tube.

Curse off your writer friends and send that funny video to your regular friends, it will help them understand how frustrating it is to be a writer.

Finally, open the manuscript you are working on, and realize that what you really need is a nap because you can’t concentrate today.
Wake up from your three-hour nap to discover that there are no brownies left and the bag of chocolate covered jujubes is empty.

Put on a ball cap because you have bed-head. Pull on a sweatshirt, even though it is really hot out, because you’ve gone a bit Sasquatch since buckling down with your writing and you can’t remember when you’ve bathed last.

Pull the ball cap lower and avoid meeting the glance of the neighbour who told all the other neighbours that you’re a recluse – what’s her problem?

Go to the grocery store and buy ginger chicken, sour jujubes, sparkling water, and brownies. Forget to buy vegetables. Note to self: steal raspberries over the fence from your neighbour.

Go to video store and rent three movies that everyone else has seen but you never saw because you spend your life writing. Call it ‘plot research’ and watch all three.
Begin to wonder if you are like a character on Gilligan’s Island always trying to achieve an elusive and unattainable goal.

Crack open a bottle of wine because: sometimes you want to feel like a normal person and not a writer; the day’s a wash anyway, might as well enjoy the night; and you need to practice your pose holding a full glass of red wine for when they take your picture at your book launch.
Rehearse your pose by drinking multiple glasses of wine and call it ‘publicity research.’

Stay up too late watching re-runs of Reba and go to bed without brushing your teeth.

Next day: repeat.

This article, originally titled, “Why Writer’s Need Deadlines” ran in West Word Magazine – Writers Guild of Alberta, September-October 2009.

Quatchi Sasquatch Mascot for the 2010 Vancouver/Whistler Winter Olympics - one mythical hairy beast promoting world peace, friendship and athletic excellence! Woot! Woot!

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Spot the Katie

My niece, NY actor Katie Repman, did background work on two shows that will be on HBO on Sunday October 2nd. 

They are Boardwalk Empire on HBO at 9 EST, and How to Make It In America at 10:30 EST.

She may or may not have made the final cut so you'll have to play a bit of 'Spot the Katie.' 

Here's her pic so you know who you'll be looking for. 

Even if you don't spot her, they are shows worth watching!

I will have to watch the episodes on the-line after they air as I'm the only person who doesn't seem to have HBO *face palm*!

Here's the Season 1 recap of Boardwalk Empire. 

Season 1 Recap

And here's the season 1 recap of How to Make it in America!