Tag Archives: character

An Interview with Country & City Girl – Barbie-Jo Smith…


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What inspired you to write your first book?It was time, plain and simply. I had been putting together information for ages and it was just time to clear off my desk! I’ve always written but I think I had more time to really think it out and organize the information after I retired.
How did you come up with the title?
When I write I often create the title first. This gives me a sense of grounding. The title of my first book is “A Country Gal in the City” and I am literally that gal. The book is a reminiscent collection of humorous stories and poems based on real life. I have lived in both city and country so the title is a natural. No matter how many other books I write, I’ll always be that country gal whose life bridges two worlds.

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Is this your first book? How many books have you written (published or unpublished)?
ACGITC is my first official book. I’m working on a second now. It’s called “Things Were Going Fine Till We Hit the Rapids”. For years I wrote columns in two specific magazines, “Our World+50” and “Cloverleaf Country”, and various newsletters, smaller publications. My work was also displayed as a museum exhibit for a year. I currently have my work published in 12 anthologies of Canadian writers. During my career years I did a lot of business and medical writing, so while I wasn’t published through traditional means, I have always been “a writ’n fool”!
Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
My books aren’t novels, but rather compilations true stories. I don’t write to give a message but if there is something in my writing, it would be to get out there and really live! Remember to be grateful for the good things in your life and more grateful for the harsh things. It’s during the tough times in life when we learn the most important lessons.
How much of the book is realistic?
As above, it’s all based on real people and real life events.
Are your characters based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
Yes very much so and they generally appear as themselves. In rare cases I change names and/or combine people or events to ensure privacy. One of the strongest characters is my late father, Ty Smith. He had a great sense of humor and was genuinely accident prone. The combination provided unlimited side-slapping situations. He always had a caper on the go. Really now, do you know anyone who could charm his wife into dangling him by the ankles out the upstairs window so he could patch cracks in the stucco?

If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
Yes, yes! I would change the format to make it read more easily and compliment the contents. In the next book I will include a table of contents, something which I totally forgot in the first. I’m satisfied with the artistic content but am considering a second edition that will just look and read better with a few more selections added in. Barring that, the next book will have a cleaner presentation. Publishing is an ongoing process so I’m guessing that you reach perfection after producing several hundred books!
Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
My goal is for them to see the picture I’ve painted with words. If they come along on the ride through the story and have a good time, then I’ve succeeded. If they throw back their heads and belly laugh, even better. My work reflects everyday experiences (well in most cases) that most of us have had, and I write those from a humorous point of view. I hope the reader will see that there is humor and fun in almost every situation.

kansas-roundup-27d47213.jpg.885x491_q90_box-0,325,3000,1991_crop_detailWhat is your favorite part/chapter of your book/project?
I’ve long suspected that I was born in the wrong century. I love the story about the cattle roundup. On one of those shindigs, you just work yourself down to a stump while having a ton of fun and laughs. It’s not for everyone and I’ve met some cows that would also like to skip the experience, but if you ever get the chance to participate …
What is your favourite theme/genre to write?
Humor.
Is there one subject you would never write about as an author? What is it?
Mmmmm! That a tough one. I think I could tackle almost anything, especially if it was research related, however if it required a lot of cruelty, really bad language or depravity, I think I might struggle a bit. If it had a higher meaning, that is, to be used as a reference or is written for a specific special interest group, then perhaps it would make the experience more palatable.
What book are you reading now?
I’m not reading anything right now. This is a somewhat vain attempt to keep focussed on my own writing. I’m not sure it’s working! However, when I want to escape I read mindless drivel that I can steam through in a day or so. There was a time when all I read was textbooks, even for enjoyment! I’m not so driven now, although I enjoy a good hematology text every now and then. I sound like a vampire!

Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?

Not at this time.
Do you see writing as a career?
I don’t think I’m disciplined enough to make a total career out of writing. I love it but I have a very busy life so I struggle with balancing all the things that I love to do. Now if someone gave me a huge publishing advance I’d strap myself to the desk and stay there until I finished the book or died trying.
Where do you see yourself in ten years?
Do you mean literally or figuratively? My husband and I have just moved to a village community in the country so I imagine we will still be here until they come to cart us off. Whether that’s in ten years, who knows. As for my writing, and I think that’s what you really wanted to know, I plan to have rounded out my technique and finished several books. I’m like a slow moving steam engine and I’m still building up that head of steam. Heaven help us when I reach warp speed! I’ve been incubating an idea for a children’s book series for years and I think I’d like to play with that next. However I also have an outline for a collaborative cookbook with my youngest daughter. There are lots of potential projects to keep me busy.
Is there anything you find particularly challenging in you writing?
Discipline! To produce you have to sit there and write. I do a lot of fooling around – coffee, get comfortable, look outside (my window looks out on a green area where wild things pass by), sip coffee, get comfortable again, quick glance outside (was that a deer), check e-mail, call up writing files, sip coffee, think and key I some words and ideas, sip coffee, glance outside (yes it is and there’s another one), now it’s time to use the washroom……… Eventually I get some writing down, but it’s a struggle. It’s obvious that I need to throw out the coffee pot and move my office to the basement!
Have you ever hated something you wrote?
Not hated. I just knew I could do better. I tried my hand at fiction one time and my writing group advised me to kill off the husband of the main character early in the story. I really let him have it in a very gory way and when I read it to the group there was literal wincing. I may have gone a little overboard! Actually I really like my writing. I may be the only one who does, but the important thing is that it gives me joy!
What book do you wish you had written?
I love the writing of James A. Michener because he researched so well and was an excellent story teller. You can literally step into the story and stay there. I would be proud to say that I wrote “Centennial”. My friend, Sue Hyde, is writing a book about the old west and it’s fascinating. I love the characters and how she crafts the story. Every time she sends me pages, I can’t help being drawn into the story and it stays with me for a long time afterward. That’s the sign of a good author. I hope I can do that for my readers.
What is your best marketing tip?
Be bold. Ask for the business. Go for it! I’ll sit on the sidelines and watch. I suck at marketing!
What genre is your next project? What is it about?
The same genre.
Can you tell us about your upcoming book?

Draft 1 cover iconHere’s the text from the book cover.
“Things Were Going Fine Till We Hit the Rapids” is a collection of short stories and embedded poems, all based on real life experiences. The title has a double meaning, because we can literally hit the rapids on a boat ride down a river and we can metaphorically hit the rapids on our journey down the river of life. Barbie-Jo writes with both sensitivity and hilarity, sharing stories from her life and introducing characters who whose antics and experiences will have you laughing out loud.
How do we find your books, blog and bio?
Through my publisher, Dream Write Publishing http://www.dreamwrite.ca, or dreamwrite10@hotmail.com or you can simply e-mail me at countrygal@sasktel.net.

Characters – The Hub of Your Narrative…


articlesWithout 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.

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This leaves us with the problem of developing our supporting characters with as much attention to detail as the main antagonist and protagonist. 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, this can be achieve mainly by utilizing character’s names, personality traits, appearance and their motivations. A name is a vital part of creating a mental image of our character for readers. The right name can give them a quick visualization of our character’s age, ethnicity, gender, and even location, and if we are writing a period piece, even the era. For example if I say the girl was called Britney, you would probably picture a young girl because of the association with Britney Spears. However, if a female character were called Edith or Edna, you would imagine someone born several decades ago. So you see a name is not just a name.

A burly man would be called something like Butch but not Shirley, unless of course you are going to tell the story of his struggle throughout childhood to overcome the name.  There are plenty of web sites available, which list the most common names for each decade and locations around the world.  These are great resources for writers, who require particular names for period stories or want to stay true to a certain decade.

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The use of a nickname will also give your character an identity, be it an unkind one given by a bully or one of respect or fear for the bully. You would expect Big Al to be just that, a large person, however, Little Mikey would be the exact opposite. Nicknames, or sobriquet’s can work very well in defining an ethnicity as well but care must be taken not to offend a person of color. Obviously there are certain words that were in common usage decades ago that are not politically correct now, so we need to be diligent in their use.

We should also consider giving our characters a conscience. Will the hero question his actions if they are extreme to his morals? Does the villain have a deep-seated angst? What motivates them? Some flawed characters can be difficult to write on occasion as they are far removed from our own personality (well I certainly hope so!) but with care we can accomplish a believable character.

How do you set about building a character?

Do you write out a full description of your characters?

Have you based a character on someone you know, a famous personality or mixed up several people’s traits to make a new one?

Story Ideas OverLoad – How Do You Cope..?


Many of us have numerous story ideas bouncing around inside our heads.
This may seem a good problem to have, however, too many ideas and no focus can be just as debilitating as staring at a blank page or screen. Symptoms can include indecision, procrastination, failure to meet deadlines, insomnia and anxiety.

The problem is how do we ensure these golden nuggets are not lost?  We endeavor to keep them by making frantic notes but musing over where they could possibly lead to can lead to devastating interruption to our current project. So how do we identify if this ‘new’ idea is worth pursuing?

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There are many strategies we can employ to decide on which are best to keep  – here are a few to try:

a) Leave the chaos of your writing space with pen and paper or recording device and go for a walk. Once you are in a new environment the most exciting and prominent idea(s) will stay with you. Write or record them and let your imagination flourish with them for a while.

b) Restrict your time on musing about new ideas by setting yourself a time limit. Even a ten minute burst of inspirational writing will ensure you get the idea down but not ‘waste’ too much time on it. Once it is written put it to one side and continue with your current project, safe in the knowledge the idea has been dealt with.

c) Take some time to really dissect the new idea. Can you envisage the plot arc, the ending, the characters? If the majority of the narrative reveals itself to you, then mark it down as your next project. However, if the idea is vague, do not pursue it – just jot down the outline and file it.

d) Utilize your passion when defining whether an idea is worth reflection. If it excites you or is on a subject you feel passionate about then it should be considered in depth.

e) Get yourself an idea board. Organize each idea into genre or categories and when a new plot, character or scene comes to you place it with the other components of that particular story.

f) Bounce your ideas off a few trusted friends or members of your writing group.

Have you tried any of these solutions?

Do you have a technique you can share?

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“The problem is never how to get new, innovative thoughts into your mind, but how to get old ones out.  Every mind is a building filled with archaic furniture. Clean out a corner of your mind and creativity will instantly fill it.”                         – Dee Hock

Famous Literary Homes – Which One Would You Live In..?


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Today’s re-blog feature lists famous literary homes, created as settings for the story to take place.

I have been privileged to visit a great number of castles and historic homes in the UK and each has its own character and atmosphere. One of these is Highclere Castle, which is now known for the setting of Downton Abbey (TV series). This magnificent building was literally down the road from where I used to live and we visited it for events regularly.

 

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In writing the actual setting is a character all of its own and requires careful description to enable our readers to ‘picture’ it.

 

Have you created a home for your narrative?

What inspired you to create it in the way you did?

Which one of these dwellings is your favorite?

Read the full article here:

http://flavorwire.com/456790/the-25-greatest-homes-in-literature/

Creating Monsters to Delight and Scare…


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On Saturday, my daughter and I enjoyed the Harry Potter exhibition at a local venue. The props made for the movies are exquisitely detailed, in fact, a good deal of the hard work that went into producing them is totally missed when we view the movie. The costumes are elaborate and beautifully sewn, with textures and accessories unseen by audiences. Wands, books, jars and all manner of other props have been painstakingly created for visual effect but lost during the action of the characters. Unfortunately, photography was not allowed in the exhibition. However, this chess piece was displayed at the entry desk. An interactive ‘pulling up of a mandrake’ was a highlight of the exhibition. Hearing them squeal was fun. After exiting the exhibition it occurred to me that when we create characters and scenes in our narrative, we have to carefully balance the amount of detail we reveal. Too much or too  little can lose the reader’s attention.

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After the Harry Potter exhibit, we discovered another ‘bonus’ exhibition entitled ‘How to Make a Monster’. There were videos and partially formed figures detailing and showing, the process of creating a monster from drawing board to fully automated figure. The creators experimented with colors, textures and patterns to find the ‘right’ look for the creature they were building. This process is similar to our own character development. We pick their hair and eye color, their personality type and back story enabling us to write a complete character.

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Monsters come in all shapes and sizes, human and beast. It takes skill and an understanding of how they think and react to situations that make them compelling. My vengeful witch in, The Rython Kingdom, was convinced she had the right to destroy for the imprisonment she had suffered. My Lord of the manor in, The Twesome Loop, thought his position entitled him to abuse those serving under him. Both characters are mean minded, evil and despicable, that is their attraction for our readers, who want to see them conquered.

A ‘monster’ in any guise has to be believable in the context of the narrative as well as have some sort of redeeming feature, no matter how small. A raging dinosaur might be protecting it’s eggs, any cornered animal will fight to survive, a serial killer has a compulsion or belief that their actions are permissible or they are driven to them. Take the TV show Dexter, he is a serial killer in disguise but still calmly kills people! His motive is to rid the world of murderers.

What is your most ‘evil’ character? What traits did you use to portray them?