Archive for the ‘Writing’ Category

Every person you meet has their own story. Their story concerns how they were raised, what their life was like, previous jobs, and relationships. Characters are no different. A character should have a back story. The purpose of a back story is to give a reason for your character’s motives, habits, dreams, and even dislikes. When creating a back story, you will need to create not only the past of the character, but times, and experiences. The back story, however, is not a character history. Histories take a long time to build and structure. They could make up a story in themselves.

While a character history would be good, it takes too long to create. Plus, it is usually unnecessary for the purpose of writing a single story that concerns your character. A back story is a briefer compilation of key points in your characters life that brings him or her to a conclusion. That conclusion is the beginning of your story.

The things that people experience in the past can have results on how they act or react in the present. Almost everyone has secrets. These secrets will affect them, probably more strongly, than other past events. What is your character hiding in their past? What secret could affect them in the present (or future)?

To heighten the suspense of the past, or secrets, add pain. More pain means more sympathy, which in turn leads to more interest from the reader. To create an interesting past for your characters, the easiest way is to ask, “What if…?”

What if your character quit high school? What if they decided to become an exotic dancer? What if this exotic dancer is from a very high class family? What if the point of being an exotic dancer wasn’t for the money, but to spite that high class family? The what-ifs can go on as long as you need them to. And every what-if gathers into a specific spot in the back story: the character motive.

Using a back story, you can find reasons for everything from the motive, to behaviors, even to habits. Think along the lines of a counselor. They have to get their patients to talk, even face things that bother them, in order to move on to healing. Treat your character as a patient. Ask questions. Get them to talk. The farther you delve into their past, the more likely you are to uncover the trauma that starts them on their path. Like real people, how the character deals with that trauma determines their character traits.

Take a trauma where a child witnesses her mother’s death. If they try to run from the reality, they are more likely to run in the future. They may not want to deal with the real world and could end up creating an elaborate fantasy world that they escape to when things get too rough. This will lead to behaviors that include distancing themselves from others, the inability to connect with their emotions, or deal with other people’s emotions.

If the child becomes angry and lays blame on someone else, they are more likely to become aggressive. They will be prone to emotional outbursts and will have issues dealing with their, or other people’s emotions. If the child accepts the death as reality, they could end up being too realistic in their dealings with other people, becoming slightly pessimistic. If the child then has to support the remaining parent, the child misses out on their childhood. They will be more likely to be overly responsible and often refuse to “enjoy themselves”. Or they could end up blaming their remaining parent for the hardships that they are forced to endure. And so on.

When creating your own back story, keep your mind open to anything that occurs to you. Begin with an overview of the past. After the overview is complete, move inward, toward the trauma, while keeping an eye on cause and effect. Remember to add influences that affect the personality traits of the character. They will not be as strong as the story behind the motive. This is mainly because the motive impacts the character more than anything else. Also remember to use senses to backup the key points of the back story.

In the real world, our senses will pick up on something that will remind us of something in our past. So using senses during a traumatic event in your character’s past could end up being used in the story as a way to block the character from reaching their goal. Using the child who saw her mother’s death, you can add that the room smelled heavily of lavender. Lavender was the mother’s favorite flower. The father, in the attempt to make his wife’s passing easier, tried to bring her everything she liked most in the world. The end result would be that the child abhors the smell of lavender and serves as a reminder of that dreadful day. Now, every time your character smells lavender, she remembers the death of her mother.

Back story is a useful tool in discovering motivations and habits of your characters. You have to remember that character motivation is usually the driving force of any story. The character wants this or wants that, but in order to achieve their wants, has to complete a series of tasks. Character back stories give writers a chance to glimpse the character. They help to form the character more completely in the writer’s head. This makes the character more real when being written about and easier for your readers to connect to.

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I was reminded that I haven’t yet posted an introduction here. My apologies for the oversight. It wasn’t intentional.

To begin with, I’m Cat’s dad. I’m also a writer, currently focusing on informational articles that cover a wide range of interests. I also do quite a bit of editing of articles written by other writers (which definitely doesn’t mean that my own won’t have errors in them).

Most of my professional training is for either computer software technology or restaurant management and operations. The two aren’t very similar, but it just worked out that way.

When I’m not writing and editing, I’m likely to be out in the garden, out fishing or out camping. All of these are interests and I write about all of them on occasion. Other articles tend to be about wild animals and care, owing to the fact that I’ve been rehabilitating wild animals for nearly a half century. It wouldn’t be understating it to say that I have a keen interest in wild animals. This is something Cat has inherited and she is quite knowledgeable in regard to animal care, though she might deny it.

The first 12 years of my life were spent at Crater Lake National Park in Oregon. The love of animals probably came from that experience. For those who aren’t familiar with the park, it is a mountain national park with beautiful vistas, lots of plants and a huge number of wild animals. It also gets plenty of snow. There is usually snow on the ground about nine months out of the year and in the middle of winter, it is quite common for there to be snow banks in excess of 10 feet (over three meters).

I learned survival from an early age and that included snow survival, survival in the woods and plant lore. I took survival courses and also ended up teaching survival. Being an herbalist and in keeping with also being a survivalist, it is wonderful to learn about new plants that can be eaten or used for medicinal purposes. In fact, when we do get to go out camping, I like to supplement meals with wild fare, including mushrooms. (Yummy!)

I agreed to help keep a watch on Cat’s pages because she is going to college and working, too. My writing brings in a bit, but her income is the most that comes into the household, so I’m hoping that this relieves a bit of the pressure that is on her right now.

Incidentally, very little of my writing is first person, though this introduction is almost entirely FPS.

It is nice to meet everyone, and please don’t be afraid to say hello, ask questions or to make suggestions.

Here is a tip for anyone who writes: If you are writing your first draft, never stop writing until you are finished. You will lose the drift that you have and be completely unsatisfied with what you come up with when you come back to it later.

Yep, you guessed it, I’ve done it. I found out my mistake when I tried to finish up Cleopatra’s Journal. So now I am very unhappy with the ending. I am currently toying with an ending remake. But there is one problem. I forgot how I wanted to end it, and that is how I got into this mess in the first place. My suggestion, never stop working on your first draft. Even if you only write a few sentences or a handful of words, never ever stop writing until the first draft is finished.

The good news is that I am starting to get the feeling I had when I first started writing it. How? By working through the posts, one day at a time. I know that it’s considered an edit, but it’s still reminding me of what I was doing.

One thing that will happen in a rewrite, or edit, is you will start to think you are the worst writer on the planet. Yep, I’m there, too. I know that there are better ways to write some scenes, only… I can’t think of them.

I am starting to think that first person is not my forte. I like writing in third person, which seems easier. First person, you have to stick with the one person, no matter what. Noticing what they notice, without doing the whole “I looked at so-n-so…” is one of the problems I am facing. I keep thinking I need to make my character notice it first. But then again, I am still in the edit where she is alone, so everything does focus on her. I know I have less of a problem when other people are involved.

Just to let you all know, my edit has gained another 2k words by the end of day 4. The opening, or what I think of as the prologue, to the story dropped three hundred words to boot. Of course, I’m thinking of dropping the intro completely, since everything is reiterated later on.

That’s it for the update. Wish me luck.

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Kristen Lamb's Blog

Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Tim Simpson. Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Tim Simpson.

It’s been amazing and terrifying to watch the changes in our industry just over the past six years. For generations, there was only a handful of items a writer needed to do. Write a book. Query. Get an agent. Land a deal. Hopefully continue writing more books. Though this was far simpler, there was a horrific failure rate and most writers never saw their works in print.

In The Digital Age, we live in an exciting time. E-books have offered new life to many works that were simply a bad investment in the paper-based world (novellas, epic fantasy, poetry). Yet, with new opportunity comes new responsibilities.

We must understand the business side of our business. And, as someone who teaches at many conferences, I know that until recently it has been rare to find an in-person conference that offers training outside…

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This is absolutely fascinating if you are wanting to write seriously!

Kristen Lamb's Blog

Via Flickr Creative commons, courtesy of Tax Credits. Via Flickr Creative commons, courtesy of Tax Credits.

My degree is in Political Science with an emphasis on Political Economy. To earn this degree, I had to study a lot of statistics *UGH* and to be blunt? I agree with Mark Twain, “There are lies, damn lies and statistics.” Surveys and statistics are a science: number of participants, number of questions, phrasing of the questions, nature of the sample group, geography, etc.

Yada, yada, yada.

But somewhere in the numbers is some truth, which is why I asked one of our WANA instructors, Jami Gold, to do this guest post for me (and yes, she will be presenting at WANACon).

Sure we love to write, but I assume all of us are asking the BIG questions: Is there MONEY in writing? How do we make a GOOD living as writers? Money seems to be the taboo and we don’t want…

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Sorry for the short post. I finally wrote my final paper for one of my classes… took most of the last few days to write. I’ve been working hard on too many things. One of these days, I need to organize my schedule and not just let stuff happen. Anyway…. onward!

 

A couple of quotes that I like:

Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing. – Benjamin Franklin

When writing a novel a writer should create living people; people not characters. A character is a caricature. – Ernest Hemingway

 

Some more writing tips and links to inspire you.

99u: Insights on Making Ideas Happen 

Creative Writing Now

 

Really awesome tips here!

Margaret Atwood: Year of the Flood

Speaking of writing, which we did a lot in Tofino: I put these together for a friend, but maybe someone out there could also use them…

TEN EDITING TIPS: FOR NOVELS, NON-“EXPERIMENTAL”

1.The beginning. This is the key signature of the book. Sets the tone, introduces the leitmotifs. Are the people in it main characters? If not, how much do the readers need to know about them?

2. Charles Dickens said, “Make ‘em laugh, make ‘em cry, make ‘em wait.” He put “wait” at the end because it was crucial. (In any series of three, the third is the most important.) In terms I’ve picked up by playing with the boys: Drop the hankie early, but make ‘em wait for the opening of the kimono. Are you telling too much too soon?  (Suspense: a good thing, if not done too obviously. Who is this guy? What happens next? Don’t signal…

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Six Easy Tips for Self-Editing Your Fiction

Posted: February 16, 2014 by Cat Reyes in Writing

Edit your work with these tips. 🙂

Kristen Lamb's Blog

Original image via Flikr Commons courtesy of Mark Coggins Original image via Flikr Commons courtesy of Mark Coggins

There are a lot of hurdles to writing great fiction, which is why it’s always important to keep reading and writing. We only get better by DOING. Today we’re going to talk about some self-editing tips to help you clean up your book before you hire an editor.

When I worked as an editor, I found it frustrating when I couldn’t even GET to the story because I was too distracted by these all too common oopses.

There are many editors who charge by the hour. If they’re spending their time fixing blunders you could’ve easily repaired yourself? You’re burning cash and time. Yet, correct these problems, and editors can more easily get to the MEAT of your novel. This means you will spend less money and get far higher value.

#1 The Brutal Truth about Adverbs, Metaphors and Similes

I…

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These are worth thinking about. Forgive the language though (I would have bleeped it out, personally).

Thought Catalog

A lot of people think they can write or paint or draw or sing or make movies or what-have-you, but having an artistic temperament doth not make one an artist.

Even the great writers of our time have tried and failed and failed some more. Vladimir Nabokov received a harsh rejection letter from Knopf upon submitting Lolita, which would later go on to sell fifty million copies. Sylvia Plath’s first rejection letter for The Bell Jar read, “There certainly isn’t enough genuine talent for us to take notice.” Gertrude Stein received a cruel rejection letter that mocked her style. Marcel Proust’s Swann’s Way earned him a sprawling rejection letter regarding the reasons he should simply give up writing all together. Tim Burton’s first illustrated book, The Giant Zlig, got the thumbs down from Walt Disney Productions, and even Jack Kerouac’s perennial On the Road received a particularly blunt…

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YA genres 101: Cool stuff you won’t learn in school

Posted: February 13, 2014 by Cat Reyes in Writing

Here are what the current genres are for writing young adult novels. 🙂