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 How many books have you written (published or unpublished)?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.

 

Highclere

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?

Use A Personal Experience to Add Depth…


Bog – definition: a wet spongy marsh; a poorly drained acid area in which dead plant matter accumulates and sphagnum usually grows in abundance.

wellies_tcm9-281955This word took me immediately back to an event that happened to me when I was about nine years old. We were on vacation in a quaint cottage beside an estuary. Wellies (rubber boots) over bare feet, wearing T-shirts and shorts, my younger brother and I went fishing for crabs. The tide was slowly ebbing out exposing a muddy riverbed. We happily poked around catching small crabs and fish to put into our bucket for a while. Then I spied it, a huge crab near the center of the expanse of mud. I stepped slowly hoping not to frightened it away.

Just as the crab was in touching distance I sunk. Mud oozed over the top of my boots and dribbled around my ankles and in between my toes. My brother starting laughing as did I, until that is I tried to extricate my boots out of the mud. I was stuck fast. No matter how hard I tried I could not get out. Panic set in and my brother could see it. I screamed for him to get my Dad. Thoughts of the tide coming back in and my drowning filled my mind as I waited. It felt like hours of course but was probably only a matter of minutes before my Dad appeared. He laughed at first but when he saw my face, told me not to worry. He strode towards me, grabbed me under the arms and pick me out of my wellies. I protested about leaving them but he told me they were lost, he would get me a new pair.

This sort of experience can be artfully used in our writing. Personal events and their emotional effect can assist us in describing a characters situation. Maybe one of my characters is stuck – I can remember that feeling and expand it to suit the scene I am creating. Small details make such a difference. I can still remember how that cold mud felt between my toes and how it smelt. Depth in a scene draws our readers in – go deeper into your self to find those golden nuggets, the ones that make your writing superb.

Have you used a personal experience or memory to help with a scene? Care to share?

Your Hat, Your Class..?


Derbydefinition: 1) a horse race usually for three-year-old’s held annually; 2) a race or contest open to all comers; 3) a stiff felt hat with a dome-shaped top and narrow brim.

Man wearing bowler hat in 1916.
Man wearing bowler hat in 1916. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When I saw this word and it’s third definition, it occurred to me that a Derby is the same thing as a Bowler hat. So why the two names? During my investigation I found a great post. http://indiansummervintage.wordpress.com/2009/02/07/34-bowler-vs-derby/   – as it happens the Derby is the American name and Bowler is the English name for the same style of hat. It was interesting to read that the type of hat you wore denoted which class you belonged to. A status symbol of hats!

This snippet of information is one I will file away for possible future use. The mention of the style of hat worn by a character will characterize his status.

 

 

 

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Obviously we all know the most famous bowler hat images of many Magritte‘s paintings. They are clever depictions but at the same time slightly disturbing as we are unable to see a face.

I enjoy abstracts and post impressionist artist’s work the most but art is subjective and everyone has their own taste.

 

 

 

 

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Horse Racing (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

The other definition of horse racing, reminded me of a long weekend spent in Devon (England) with my brother and his friends. It was the first time I had actually attended a horse race, which is odd considering the nearest town to me growing up was Newbury, Berkshire. A well known race course and frequented by royalty and celebrities.

Our weekend in Devon was great fun and although I’m not a gambler I did manage to assist our host in winning. I chose the horse names and he placed the bets. We were treated to a very nice evening meal with his profits from the day.

Lurch – a character study…


Lurch – definition: a sudden swaying or tipping movement, a staggering gait.

I don’t know about you but my immediate thought is of Lurch from the Addams Family. Although he is not a main character he is well known and takes an integral part in the show/movie. I will use him as a character study.

Fester_lurch_1966Lurch is an imposing figure at 6 ft 9 in tall with a deep, resonating voice that seems to come up from his boots. As the family‘s butler his shambling, gloomy persona also gives the audience a sense of strict formality. His stumbling, slow gait gives us the impression that he is still coming to grips with walking. He does resemble Frankenstein’s monster in some ways, with a flat head topped with scant hair and one opaque eye but does not have the neck bolts. He is much more pleasing to the eye in his suit and bow tie.  Lurch can speak normally, however tends to use inarticulate moans instead, which are fully understood by the family members. We can only take the word of said family that Lurch can indeed be eloquent and vivacious. Although Lurch does not excel in his role as butler he is without doubt faithful to the Addams but is often the object of their jokes.

Although his size and strength can be a hindrance at times, Lurch goes about his duties as best he can and seems to take pride in even the most arduous of tasks. There is no question that he is loyal to the Addams family although he can be clearly exasperated by them on occasion. This is shown by the occasional dubious looks he gives some of their stranger activities, although he does share some of the family’s macabre standards.  However, his loyalty is rewarded by the family treating him as one of their own.

When Lurch is summoned by way of the hangman’s noose bell pull, we hear a loud gong-like sound and Lurch appears instantly with the immortal words “You rang?”  It seems that no matter where he happens to be in the house he can transport himself instantaneously to whomever called him.

This strange character does seem to have quite a strong paternal affection for both Wednesday and Pugsley, and looks after their needs from making their lunch to driving them to school to generally keeping an eye on them. Next to her headless Marie Antoinette doll, Lurch is Wednesday’s best friend. Lurch in turn is close friends with Thing, the disembodied hand. Surprisingly Lurch’s talent is in playing the harpsichord at a virtuoso level.

Have you got a secondary character you would like to share as a study?

My response to What If?


Misconstrue – definition: to construe wrongly : misinterpret. A great lead up to today’s word I might say…what is your view on Adele?

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My pal, Vikki at The View Outside posted this and I couldn’t resist. http://the-view-outside.com/2013/03/16/jane-ayres-asks-what-if/

I have taken the separate twists and made up a version for each. Why not share yours?

Version One : Adele breaths in his scent as the bus bumps along the road. She closes her eyes to recall every detail of their afternoon, full of hot passion. She will shower before James comes home from work but for now she can imagine Jake’s hands and lips upon her naked body. The bus jerks to a halt at Adele’s stop. As she steps onto the road she sees James’ car in their driveway. Why is he home so early? Where can she say she has been? Can she manage to get upstairs to the bathroom before he sees her? Jake’s cologne will be a dead giveaway as to her whereabouts.

Version Two: “Shit, I’ve missed it.” Adele looks around the bus station and spies the taxi rank. She’ll have to hope one of them will take her home and quick. “Hi, Can you take me to High Cross?” “High Cross, love? That’s a bit of a long drive. I’m off in twenty minutes.” “Please, I really need to get home and I missed the last bus.” “Well, how about 125 and I’ll phone the missus that I’ll be late?” “How much? That’s a lot more than usual.” “Well I’m the last driver for tonight and as I said, I’m off in twenty, well now fifteen minutes.” “Well alright then but can you hurry?” Adele sits in the back seat nervously biting her thumb nail. She hasn’t got enough money and hopes the driver will be understanding when he drops her off. Maybe she can promise to come back tomorrow with the difference? As the car broaches the crest of the hill Adele’s heart sinks. The lights are on at home. How will she explain her absence to James?

Version Three: “That’s daylight robbery, mate, I’m not paying that.” “Suit yourself, love. It’s extra after ten o’clock.” Adele swears under her breath and walks away from the taxi rank. She shivers, her light jacket is no protection from the night air. There’s nothing for it but to walk the three miles home. It will give her enough time to think up an excuse for her absence to James. Damn cell phone died over an hour ago. In her distracted mood she doesn’t see the shadow as the taxi’s headlights sweep along the wall. He’s been waiting for an opportunity all night. Bus stations are a favorite haunt. Perfect for stranded passengers. He waits for her to walk into the darkness. His soft soled shoes don’t make a sound. His next victim is oblivious to her fate.

Visual Reminders of Days Gone Past…


Today’s word – Gingham – definition: a cotton clothing fabric in plain weave.

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All I could see when I read this word was gathered gingham fabric across the kitchen sink window…isn’t that evidence of how strong images are? My next image was of my infant (elementary) school uniform, which was green and white gingham summer dresses or grey skirts and bottle green sweatshirt’s for winter.

So is gingham coming back into fashion now? I found a site, which has gentleman’s shirts in gingham – no more little girl’s with pigtails? I also found out that gingham is typically a colour and white not multi coloured like plaid. Once I starting delving into the history of gingham I found out it was first produced in 17th century England and the fabric shipped to the colonies. However, the original fabric was striped and only gradually became checkered. The most popular colour combination was blue and white. As for the actual name there are numerous possibilities to its origin. Ging-gang is Italian, genggang is Malaysian and Indonesia – take your pick. Whichever it is they all mean striped.

This fascinating post is worth reading – if you so wish. Lots of stuff I didn’t know about gingham. http://visforvintage.net/2012/09/11/gingham-fabric/

After reading all this it occurred to me that my image of gingham may not necessarily be true for everyone. I have it firmly set in the 1950’s but with the re-emergence of the fabric in later decades in other guises, it is quite possible that a younger reader would picture it entirely differently. So that makes for an interesting predicament, depending on the age of your readers and or the era you are portraying can significantly alter how the use of articles or items can influence your readers perception of where in time your characters are.

A point to consider and research when using iconic items, articles or music for that matter. All of them can evoke a different response in your reader.

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