Mandy Eve-Barnett's Blog for Readers & Writers

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Author Toolbox Blog Hop- Character Building

August 13, 2020
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Whether you spend time intricately plotting and creating your story line or let the story flow unbidden, one facet of all stories that must be created and created well are its characters. Your protagonist, antagonist and all the supporting characters have a ‘job’ to do. They must give our readers an insight into their personalities, their struggles, ambitions and fears. Characters build the ‘world’ you have set your characters within by showing it through their eyes, their thoughts and actions.

Every writer has his or her own methods, when it comes to the creation of a character.

  1. Name,
  2. Physical attributes
  3. Personality traits.
  4. Setting.

For example, Setting: an alien being trapped in a spacecraft, a monster hunting its prey or specific behavior traits for period pieces.

Physical features: This primarily gives our readers an image but more importantly an idea of their personality. A thin, acne-faced teenager will not automatically give our readers the idea of a ‘superman’ kind of personality but a muscle bound, athletic type could.

Name: a good starting point for our creation, but it is also a minefield. Research into real persons, living or dead should be foremost, unless of course you are writing about that particular person.

Accent: a character’s voice says a lot about their location and background.

Real people or not: We can base characters on people we know or a combination of several or from people watching – an author’s favorite pastime. As writers situations, overheard conversation and life in general is a constant source of inspiration.

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There are numerous ‘character development work sheets’ available on the Internet and it can be useful to fill them in for your main characters, if you have no clear ‘picture’ of them to begin with.

I tend to write the story letting my characters dictate how their story will unfold. In so doing the characters develop creating their own story. This tends to change the narrative from my initial perception.  In this way they may develop characteristics I had not considered or react quite differently to a situation from my preconceived idea. This method may seem harder than having a detailed description of each pivotal character, their backstory and emotional compass, but it is my method.

We ‘live’ with our characters for a long time and they become ‘real’ to us. This enables us to write the story with ‘insider knowledge’ of our characters backstory, their emotional compass and their ultimate goal. This knowledge becomes paramount during the subsequent drafts and editing process, giving us a well-rounded character and a believable one for our readers. In truth, the initial draft is the testing ground for our characters, and revisions make them well rounded and ‘believable’.

Character profile

How do you create your characters?

Recognize these characters? Remember how irate poor Wile E Coyote would become with Road Runner? No matter what he did he never succeeded in catching his ‘dinner’. Beep, beep would ring out as yet another ACME kit damaged the coyote instead of the bird. It was truly a lesson in perseverance. No matter how many times the speedy bird escaped the coyote he would try, try, try again. I actually went past a road sign to Acme on my way to Canmore one time and wished I could have made a detour just for the fun of it.

wile-e-coyote-roadrunner

The art of creating such lovable and memorable characters is what every author strives for. We hope our creations will stay in our readers minds long after the last page has turned. Character profiles and back story play a large part in ensuring our characters are well rounded and believable. We delve into their personality type seeking out traits and habits to make them react to their crisis situations in an authentic way.

Do you make up scenarios for people you observe? Have any made it in to a manuscript?

 

Without characters our stories would have no real impact on our readers. We write to engage and intrigue them and hopefully make our protagonist the character our reader cares about. If your experience is anything like mine, there is usually one, or possibly two characters, that make their presence known in no uncertain terms. They want the starring role in our narrative. These characters are usually more defined in our minds and are ‘easier’ to relate to, whether because of a personality trait or that they are more fun to write. When creating the protagonist and antagonist in our stories, we give each opposing views and/or values. This is the basis of the conflict that carries our readers along their journey. Each character, whether major or minor, needs to have flaws and redeeming features, motivations, expectations, loyalties and deterrents.

With such a guideline our characters become clearer. A lot of the details will never reach the pages of our manuscript but knowing our characters well makes for a more believable personality as they struggle through the trials and tribulations, we subject them to. As most of you know I am a ‘free flow’ writer so everything is by the seat of my pants until the editing starts. This is where I find character flaws or great character traits that I can correct or build upon. My characters live with me during the writing process and usually lead me in directions I had never considered – I’m sure many of you can relate to that. As these personalities gain strength they become more ‘real’ and that is the moment their true selves appear.

When creating characters we must remember to ensure that each character acts and responds true to their given personality. Character profiles are a good way of ‘getting to know’ our characters. For example this sheet.

character

Wordsmith’s Collective Thursday – What Motivates You To Write?

August 6, 2020
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What is your motivation for writing? There are as many reasons to write as there are genres. We may want to persuade, catalog or inform on ‘real’ events or topics but many of us (fiction authors) want to entertain. It is an author’s purpose, to bring to life a concept.

So let’s look at each scenario for motivation:

money

a) Money – we would all love to be a best seller and have fame and fortune like the ‘big’ names, such as Stephen King, J.K. Rowling and the like. However, we need to be realistic – firstly can we manage to get a publishing contract with a big publishing house? How many years are you willing to wait for that? If you use the self-publishing route how much of your time (unpaid) can you sacrifice for promotion? Should you give your work away? Is the income enough to live on? Could your writing supplement your lifestyle?

If you determine that the net income (we all need to report it in tax season!) is a nice bonus for a treat here and there, rather than your sole income – it will take the stress out of the equation.
success

b) Success – once again we should temper our expectations. Global sales are a dream we want to make real but maybe measure our success on more of a local level. Do you have your books in local bookstores, the library, offered at local events? The more you attend and promote within your own locality the more your ‘success’ becomes tangible. Articles in the local newspaper could have people approach or question you in regard to your being an author. Social media allows us to expand our locality, of course, but starting small will give you a firm basis from which to start. Never under estimate the power of word of mouth for promotion.

satisfaction-

c) Satisfaction – Although this is third on the list, I feel it is the most important of all, as having your words, ideas and stories readily available for people to read now and for future generations, is the penultimate success. Our narratives will be enjoyed and relayed long after we are gone. It is our legacy.

Obviously, in an ideal world, a mixture of all three of the above would be the perfect scenario.

What is your motivation?

What do you consider the most satisfying part of being a writer/author?

Wordsmith’s Collective Thursday – How Do You Choose Your Next Writing Project?

July 2, 2020
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With the final editing revisions sent to my publisher, I am thinking about my next story. As with many authors there is a never ending project pile. So how do you to choose the next one?

binding books bound colorful

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

There are several scenarios:

1. You have submitted one part of a series – your choice is reasonable clear – write the next book in the series. This can depend on when the manuscript has to be finished obviously but readers want the next one pretty quickly.

2. You are committed to writing a story for an anthology. Ensure you make the deadline.

3. A new idea has ‘popped’ into your head – it is always tempting to write the newest and brightest. However, can it wait? Maybe ask is it reflecting a current topic? Would it be best to get it published sooner rather than later?

4. You have several unfinished manuscripts pending. (This is my current quandary.) How do you choose?

The above options do give us guidance but if you are not committed to a deadline then what options are open to you?

a) Write the titles out and pick one out of a hat.

b) Ask your readers on social media to choose by voting.

c) Gauge the current ‘popular’ genre and write accordingly.

I have opted for b) and received a flurry of votes on Facebook and twitter, which was a pleasant surprise indeed.

suspense

The choices were – A western romance or a suspense novel. The suspense won! So I will delve into The Giving Thief for this year and into next.

person writing on white paper

Photo by bongkarn thanyakij on Pexels.com

Other News

I have gained a new freelance client for August. So I am looking forward to working with this author on her novel from August onward.

My steampunk novel, The Commodore’s Gift is now with my publisher and set for a September 2020 launch. Unsure at this point what that will actually look like or compose of but we will see.

Take care and stay well.

Author Toolbox – 8 Lockdown Tips for Writers in COVID19

May 21, 2020
mandyevebarnett


book on a white wooden table

Photo by Ylanite Koppens on Pexels.com

We are all feeling the repercussions of isolation, social distancing and lack of ‘normal’. It has affected everyone in a multitude of ways. For writers, who are normally ‘isolated’  in their writing life, there has been a change in atmosphere, inspiration, alone time and creativity. (Or lack thereof).

Whatever your normal routine, be it the impact of family at home, remote working arrangements or lack of access to resources, we can adjust.

Nano Blog and Social Media Hop2

Here are a few tips to try (or not):

  1. One of the best options I have found is a virtual writing time. A group of us ‘meet’ on Sunday’s for a couple of hours. And although for the most part, it is a silent meeting, knowing we are connected helps with motivation and makes us accountable. We share what we will be writing at the beginning of the meeting and then summarize what we achieved at the end.
  2. Outside time – this is vitally important to refresh the mind and body. It can be a walk, a bicycle ride and a hike. Whatever, works best for you within the confines of the social distancing parameters.
  3. Writing space changes. It sounds odd but even a reorganization, a new arrangement of objects, a vase of flowers – can make all the difference. Maybe write in a different area of the house.
  4. Reserve writing time. Make a commitment to write for a certain amount of time each day. As we all have favourite times of day to be creative – this can be before everyone gets up, when they are all asleep or maybe a time when you can be alone in the house. Don’t add to your stress by putting a word count on this time. It can be to write, of course, but also to plot, edit, note down new story ideas or even read some research.
  5. Enter a contest. This idea will either spur you on or not. To create something new can be a good way to engage your Muse. Even if you decide not to submit your work, it is a great way to spark your creativity.
  6. Online writing workshops. There are now lots of options for online workshops and courses. Maybe it’s time to hone your skills? I enjoy the monthly creative workshops my local writing group organizes. They are held on the last Saturday of each month. (Link here for May’s workshop: https://www.wfscsherwoodpark.com/event-details/creative-writing-workshop-online-3 )
  7. Writing prompts are also a great way to refresh the writing brain. There are a lot of sites and books available on the internet. Try a few, whether they are images, word collections or story starters. You never know where they might take you. Again my local writing group has prompts every Saturday, if you want to try. Link: https://www.wfscsherwoodpark.com/our-blog

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What have you found to help your writing during COVID19?

 

Creative Edge – Author Interview – Miranda Oh

April 30, 2020
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  1. When you wrote your first novel, Remember No Matter what, Chin Up Tits Out, did you know or plan the subsequent novels in the series?

I originally had a goal to ‘write a book’ but once I started to draft out ‘Remember No Matter What..’ I quickly came to realize I had much more to say than just one books worth.

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2. What was the inspiration for the stories?

Real Life is where the juiciest stories are picked from. I enjoy meeting new people and working on improving my connections. I tend to pick up the most interesting stories along the way, so why not share them.

3. How did you come up with the titles?

My parents used to coach us as kids to stand up tall, hold your shoulders back and stand confident, even if you don’t feel it. As the years passed on and teenager attitudes came along, so did the spicy one liners my folks used to keep us in line, focused on staying positive and always strive to move forward… in turn …Chin Up Tits Out was born, and to this day used in our household often.

4. Do you have a follow up in progress?

I am working on a second series, called Love My Lady Bits. It will be a trilogy jammed packed with real life stories from women around the world who have stubborn, unpredictable and often humorous reproductive systems.

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5. Did you purposely choose chick lit?

No, let’s say it chose me! HA – I just wrote out my story and then we plunked it into a genre. Chick lit is so all-encompassing, which allows me to write about what ever. I want to write about relatable things us women go through, make it less taboo and totally spin it and make it entertaining to talk about all of it.

6. Are you a romantic?

Old soul to the nines – yes! I love old romantic music, candle light environment all while sipping on a vintage bottle of red, star gazing… alone. He-he! Regardless if I am alone or with someone special; taking those moments in time to spread a little old school romance will only bring one good in life. – In my opinion.

7. Who is your biggest supporter?

My mom! Gosh darnit – I have zero shame about it too! She is right there with me through it all thick and thin. The best part of it, is that we are best friends too, so I not only have the support and role model of a pretty awesome mom, but I also have the support of a good ol’ pal and bff. I lucked out in the family department. I count my blessing every dang day!

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8. Are you a planner or a panster writer?

Plan, map, schedule – repeat. Although, once I am done planning, mapping and scheduling, when the writing starts it doesn’t stop. It is like a dam broke and all the water that floods out are the words. As I write more, this process evolves and becomes more streamlined. Just a wee spot OCD and type –A personality.

9. How did you being writing?

A big glass of wine, noise cancelling headphones and pure determination to get it out on paper. Simply put. I also had a story I desperately wanted to get out; so between the little liquid encouragement, and determination to share my story, the result was me writing my first series.

10. Where can readers find you and your books?

Readers can find my books on amazon worldwide. Type in Chin up Tits Out Miranda Oh and BAM my books will be right there. You can also visit my website at mirandaoh.com . Please give me a follow or a like on FB or IG (OhMirandaOh)

11. Can you share a funny story about the creation of your novels?

Oh yeah – I was writing a REALLY tough chapter during my 2nd book – When All Else Fails Chin Up Tits Out – I was sobbing – loud enough to disturb my roommates. So they banded together, pulled straws, and one poor sucker had to take me out for a drive and Starbucks run so I could calm down and refocus. Poor guys, by the time we got back home, I was way better. I had a smile on my face and whipped cream in my cup. Happy Girl!

Creative Edge

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