Do You See What I See?

Hello Friends! After a two-year hiatus, I am back blogging again. I have no clue what the topic is for this month, so I'm going to wing it.

I read something recently that caught my interest. The author, no I don't remember who, was talking about character description. Describing things is a weak area for me. I'm a dialog person. I could care less about the scenery. I want to know what's going on in their heart and mind. But, I know that readers need to see the story as well as feel it. Since it's still percolating around in my brain, I'll share my thoughts too.

How we describe our characters (and scenery) makes a big difference in how our readers perceive them. Brooding can mean contemplative or sulky. It can make your character seem menacing or gloomy. Stiff-necked can be stubborn, hard or arrogant. Character traits can be positive or negative, depending on what the author wishes to convey.

Rebellious, stubborn and pig-headed are not your normal complimentary words, but they can be in the right context. We wouldn't have the light bulb if old Thomas hadn't been a little on the stubborn side. You could call it dedicated. America would still have a king if we hadn't shown our rebellious independence and been pig-headed enough to fight for it.

It is important to give a complete description of what you are trying to show the reader. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. If you call your character beautiful, you need to show the readers why. Just beautiful doesn't cut it.

Here is an example:

     Coal's breath caught at the sight of Kelli. The morning sun's first rays caressed her face. Her squared jaw, which he had thought stubborn, now showed strength and determination. Silver-white hair glistened like the brightest moonlight as the breeze stirred its tresses. She smiled. He blinked. Her sea-green eyes radiated mischief mingled with joy.
     Until now, she had been just a neighbor. No more, heaven help him. She was a woman, all woman, overflowing with life and laughter.
     His eyes traveled down the length of her. She worked hard. It showed. Strong, but not muscular. Trim, yet soft and rounded in all the right places. Her giggle at his perusal resonated somewhere deep inside. She was beautiful, inside and out, and he was in serious trouble.

Like I said, descriptions are a weak area for me. I had to rewrite this several times. I'm still not sure I've got it right, but it is only an example. (That might accidentally end up in my book :) I could have added more about her size, her lips and whether she had freckles or not, but to me, Kelli's beauty comes more from within than without. 

Next time you describe a character, give it some thought. Try to convey what you sense as well as what you see. Anyone can be beautiful, handsome, brooding, sly, or catty , but we need to know why. Why are they beautiful? Why is he sly? How is she being catty? Make your characters three dimensional. Engage our emotions.  Make us love them or hate them. Stir our passions to keep us coming back for more. Write the pictures we need to see to make your story come alive.

I would love for you to send me an example of your character's description. Share with us how you get what you see in your head, down on to paper. I could also use a critique of my example. Feel free to tell me if I succeeded or not.


My Leather Novel Journals (Melissa Robbins)

       When Penny mentioned ways to store and keep track of all the materials and information, I thought, “Aha!”  I’ve wanted to show these to the WARA members, my leather novel journals.  Binders that keep track of all the material I amass on WW2 and my characters fill my shelves and are useful and practical, BUT not very pretty.  I wanted something I could use to combine notes, sketches, and photographs.  Something my characters could very well carry around themselves.  Yes, I could go out a buy a leather journal, but there was something about creating my own from scratch. 

               I got on YouTube and figured out how to bind books.  I now know what those bumps are on the spines of old leather books.  I picked up the real leather, embroidery floss, and drawing paper at the craft store (on sale).  The hardest part was making sure all the holes lined up correctly, but the process is relatively easy.  If you can sew with a needle and thread, you can bind a book.  

                The fun part was selecting all the embellishments that reflected my main characters.  Steampunk elements were perfect for one hero and I created the wings from various jewelry parts.  That book stays closed with a purse snap.  My second book reflects my hero and heroine.  The pocket watch compass and gold heart-shaped locket are items near and dear to their hearts. 

  Here is a page out of one of them.  I used the photo corners my grandmother used for her albums to hold a photograph of Veronica Lake who my heroine resembles.  I also included information about her, a sketch of her in her nursing outfit, and a list of all the parts of her service dress as well.  Summer and winter dress were different.  Don’t want to mix them up. 

               The book also contains copies of pilot logbooks and combat reports, pictures of pilots working and at leisure, scene ideas, and pretty much anything related to my stories.  

Sweating the Small Stuff – Keeping Track of Story Details (Penny Rader)

Had a snow day, so instead of being productive and writing, I procrastinated and worked on coming up with a way to keep track of story and series details.  

I've included snippets from several articles I found online.  I hope you’ll find something here that helps you, too.

Creating a Series Bible (Ken Hathaway)

May include:

  • The overall concept
  • Ongoing characters – main, supporting, villains
  • Powers
  • The setting
  • The rules of the world you’re creating
  • Gadgets and gizmos [if any] and how they work
  • What CAN’T happen in future storylines
  • Format
  • Series tone
  • Series theme
  • An opening story
  • Story suggestions

Creating a Story Bible: The Basics (RJ Blain)

Find a recording method that works for you.

Your story bible is like an onion.  You will build it layer by layer.

Writing down the facts

  • Every time you give a character a trait (eye color, personality type, build, skills, and so on) write it down.
  • Every time you describe a specific aspect of society, write it down.
  • Every time you introduce a religion or important culture tidbit, write it down.
  • Every time you introduce a major world event, write it down. (Include the date, what happened, and why it was that important in your ‘Legends and Lore’ type section.
  • Every time you introduce something you suspect you will need to refer to again, that is not a plot line or character development element, write it down.
  • Your story bible is a place for facts and important information, not for the story of your character’s life or your plot. If you want a journal for that, use a second one. You want facts and tangibles in this journal. This journal is to ensure consistency in your world and facts.

Creating a Story Bible [with a free template] (David Hewson)

His story bible breaks down into four different areas: Management, Characters, Locations and Research.

Easy Tips for Creating a Book or Series Bible (Angelique Armae)

  1. Gather Supplies
  2. Included ContentsCharacters
    • World
    • Clothing/Accessories
    • Research
    • Glossary

Can be a detailed as you need it to be.

Include all info on a CD and store it in your binder.

How to Keep Track of a Novel (Kay Kenyon)

Project notebook

  • Discover and develop story
  • Storyboard scenes
  • List “beats” of scenes

Scene list

  • At the end of writing day summarize what happened in scenes completed 
    • Clues dropped
    • Foreshadowing
    • New characters introduced
  • Her main method of keeping track of where she is in the story
  • Allows her to pencil in the margins – next to the right scenes – notes for changes that become necessary as the story evolves

Style sheet

  • Record every character name, place, piece of technology, special terms, odd spelling
  • Update faithfully as you write

A great big box

  • All loose-leaf things
  • End of day everything goes into box – clean office

A three-ring binder

  • Tabs for culture, language, history, religion, technology, flora/fauna, publications/books, politics, dress, military terms, rules of magic or science research points
Keeping Track of Details (Rachelle Gardner)

Create an Editorial Stylesheet
1. A list of important style rules that will be followed throughout the manuscript.
2. The book’s setting – time frame and location on map.
3. A list of the places and street names.
4. A list of all the characters with the correct spellings of their names.
5. Names of any animals in the book.
6. A long list of words whose spellings could be easily mistaken or challenged.

Keeping Your Story on Track with Style Sheets (Marg Gilks)

  • File Box
    • Index Cards
    • Tabbed categories with individual cards
  • Notes preliminary details decided on prior to starting the novel as well as details created or discovered during writing
  • Chronologies, timelines
  • Thumbnail maps

The Story Is in the Details (Margaret Daley)

So how do you keep track of all those details?

You need to keep track of them before you write the book/series, during it and afterwards. There are a lot of ways you can do it. I use charts I've created on Excel as well as a pad of paper I have for the story. Some people use different kinds of software programs that are out there (example: Scrivener). Others use spreadsheets or hard copies of what they need (example: putting the details up on a pegboard or in a notebook).

What do you keep track of? Some of the elements you track are your characters (everything about them from their appearance to goals, conflict and motivation), plot (main and sub plots–all details), setting, point of view, timeline of story, weather, logistics in a scene, questions that need answered in the story, research and anything else pertaining to your story.

Track of Your Characters: How to Write a Story Bible (Kit Frazier)

She keeps two Story Bibles

  • One as an extensive Master List
  • A shorter one for my Work in Progress
  • Keep an open Word document and save as “WIP Story Bible”
  • Table of Contents – the reason to make yourself a Story Bible
  • Indexes
  • Major Characters Heading
  • Minor Characters
  • Recurring Groups and Organizations
  • Settings – Large
  • Settings – Small
  • Systems
    • For example: magical, physical properties of your world, political systems of government, courtly etiquette.
  • Other Resources
    • General Histories
    • Timeline
    • Outside Reference

What Do They Know?  Keeping Track of Character Knowledge (Janice Hardy)

Janice uses a spreadsheet to keep track of the following:

  • What Do They Know?
  • What Do They Think?
  • What Are They Wrong About?
  • Keeping Track of the Truth


What do you think?  Any of these appeal to you?  Do you already have a system you care to share with us?

P.S. I apologize for the weird spacing.  Blogger hasn't perfected reading my mind.

It's a Matter of Heart

Jumping back into writing after about a 5 year hiatus, I'm relearning how to live with all those voices in my head. It seems once you open the door, they rush right in. They're loud, obnoxious, needy, and impatient! But I can handle it. I do have 4 teens after all. I'm used to loud, obnoxious, needy and impatient. It will take some doing, but I'll get them whipped into some manner of respectful organization. Once that task is done, however, there is another pressing problem. What do I write?

There's the half-competed women's fiction story of two best friends who Road Trip themselves out of their simultaneous meeting at the crossroads of life. There's the plotted out fireman story because, well, who doesn't love to fantasize about firemen? Another choice is the  love triangle with a twist--one of them is not really human. Or I could chuck all of that and start on the new Young Adult story that's been keeping me up at night.

Decisions, decisions! I think back on my pre-hiatus RWA conventions and try to recall the advice garnered from rubbing shoulders with all those editors, agents,and authors. Research the market. Find out what publishers are buying. Read in the genre you want to sell in. Discover the hot topics! It sounds like an awful lot of non-writing work when all I want to do is write, already!

Then, a voice from outside my own consciousness, whispers to my soul. Write the book of your heart. That's it! Every workshop I attended, every panel I listened to, every agent I pitched all ended their advice sessions with the same message--write the book of your heart.

Although I burn with envy at my published author friends, I know enough to understand that writing the book of their hearts is not a luxury they get to indulge in very often anymore. I long for, plan for, reach for the day I lose that luxury. For now, however, I'm still in that selective literary lap of luxury called writer's choice. Think I'll try enjoying it for a while.

So, in this month of hearts and flowers, I'm going to fall in love all over again! I'm ready for passion, romance, flirtatious rendezvous! The characters I'm currently in love with and the story that holds my heart is the one I will write. I hope, when the agents or editors see it, it will be the book of their heart, too.

What is a Failure? Who is a Success?

Success or failure depends not only on the goal, my friends, but also upon one’s perspective.  I know a family of very modest means.  The father, many times feels a failure of his life.
…has supported his family and not only keeps a full time job, but also runs a small window washing business with one employee.
…has managed to get two children through college without student loans.  They too have worked, but support and practical assistance was always there.
…has a house with two bathrooms, a piano, and is not located in a slum.
…has a wife that bakes, works occasionally as a substitute teacher and a couple of days a week when she likes as a bookkeeper.
…writes and performs music for love and money.
…has no family in jail or prison or rehab.
…has no family member suffering from lack of dental or other medical care.
…has made sure his family members always have a ride to where they need to be and usually they have a vehicle at their disposal.
…has no debt except his modest mortgage.

This family does not lead a charmed life without traffic accidents or broken bones, nor does it gain from legacies from deceased family members more than the odd bent fork or chipped plate.

Why does he feel he’s a failure? Because he doesn’t have a degree in a profession.

Is he a failure? Not from where I sit.  I see a man who is a poster child for success and a well-lived life.  He dines very well, his clothing is snappy, his house is well kept, his children are happy with jobs and live in their own homes. His wife is content with her activities, using her income to buy books, craft supplies, the occasional lunch with friends, and pretty well what her modest heart desires.

Am I a failure?  Is the fact I wrote almost a negative number on my novels last year making me a failure as a writer? Well, I thought so, until I realized that I have actually completed two novels and half of another. I have more story ideas to fill out other novels. I have completed two self help books of modest size.  There have been kind things said about my work.

Recently, novel number one, “The Proving Zone: Tory’s Story” was sent to a reviewer to be written to be included in a database for possible movie selection.  The review went horribly wrong.


Review quote, “It (The Proving Zone: Tory’s Story) is a homage to and blatant mixture of “Children of Men,” “The Hunger Games,” and “Battle Royale.” However, even though these comparisons were all fresh ideas and successful films, I question the originality of this story. It is one thing to add to the teenage drama phenomena, but it is quite another to rip off the concepts of other stories without introducing new and exciting elements.”

Then I realized that although my work had been utterly trashed and I had been skewered as a plagiarist of the worst kind, that I had actually been complimented, as the films mentioned were quite popular.  I have yet to see them or read the works that spawned them and I’d like to add, I WROTE MINE before those came out! Evidently the reviewer neglected to look at the copyright date….

So, in the eyes of one reviewer, I’m a failure. But, in my eyes, I have renewed confidence. Success or failure is a matter of perspective. Whether one or the other or neither,

I am a novelist.

Nina Sipes

Who writes occasionally as Blatant Appeal, Skippy Riedel, and a host of other alter-egos….

Sometimes You Just Have To...

What is it with February, anyway?  Sure, it's the month of hearts and flowers and candy, of dinner out with your sweetheart.  But if there's no sweetheart, or anyone remotely resembling one, there isn't a lot of significance in Valentine's Day.  And other than that, there isn't much else to the month, barring Presidents' Day, to speak highly of.  Cloudy skies with no rain don't float my boat.

Yes, I'm grumbling.  My To Do list, like Joan's, seems to be breeding as I sleep.  Get two things done on the list, then three more appear.  It started in January and is running well into February.  And there are still some from January waiting to be finished and marked off.

Writing?  Ha!  How about revising and polishing?  First a new book and now two books being considered for publishing.  While I don't mind the R&P, there are new characters trying to push their way into my conscious opposed to both my sub-and un-conscious mind, where they really should stay until I bid them to enter.  As Steve Martin used to say:  But NO-O-O-O-O!

On Wednesday, my youngest daughter and I took my granddaughter (her niece) to the zoo.  It was Payton's first zoo visit, and the weatherman had predicted a sunny and beautiful 60+ degree day.  Uh, no.  It was cloudy and overcast, with a bite in the breeze and 10 degrees lower than expected.  We didn't let that deter us.  We had a lovely (though tiring) time, and it was nice to take the day off...until arriving home to yet another To Do to add to the list.

Goals were set well before January 1, but the opportunity to work on them is affected by many people, some who really shouldn't even be involved.  But so be it.  I try to take each new "task" as a challenge, telling myself that I can do it, in spite of the metal shelf in the utility room falling over yesterday morning, the granddaughter dumping water, then Pepsi on the floor, just for the sheer joy of it this morning, plumbing problems, and the always-present family drama.  Four daughters=drama to the hilt.

But it's February.  That first rush of the new year has worn off, as we begin to settle into the rest of the year.  With 10 1/2 months to go, there's plenty of time to make it a good one.  Plenty of time to reach and maybe even surpass those goals.  Yes, it'll take some work, and hopefully a smaller list of things clamoring for attention, but anything is possible, right?

So whatever doldrums might settle over us, like dark clouds on a chilly, February day, sometimes you just have to SMILE, take a deep breath, and say, "Yes, I can do this, and it WILL get better!"

How long is it until April arrives?


It’s Still Supposed to be January by J Vincent

Well, it is.  If you could see my “To Do” list and goals to be met for last month, you would plainly see it is still supposed to be January.  But “supposed to be” laments are absolutely a waste of time.  I know that even as I find ways to procrastinate and am fully aware life’s peculiar twists can jump in and claim far too much of my time. So you's think I would be prepared or plan ahead.  (Huge sigh here!)

January set me back a pace.  Health issues as always.  Where would I be without health emergency 4,564?  I won’t bore you with details--even I am fed up by it all at this point.  Then we had two funerals in our extended family which entail taking food, wakes, and services.   

But the thing that ran the train off the track was when my sister convinced me we had to go to the Romantic Times Convention in May.  May is when my next Honour book, Honour’s Choice, is released.  My sister also signed me up to provide a promo item for Choice for the registration bags at the convention.  That’s only 1400 fluer-de-lis soaps with insert cards I’m making and bagging.
Add to Feb goal:  Order more soap molds--six and a time is not a good thing.

One positive thing about making the insert cards was that I learned how to make a QR --those odd square codes i-phones etc. scan.  The one I created takes the person scanning it to my author page on where they can purchase my ebooks.  It's on the back of the card I'm inserting with the circular soaps I'm making which are "replicas" of the coin used in the books.  On the front I've placed the book cover and tiny blurb.
 Add to Feb goal:  Upload Honour’s Debt to this

My sister is also paying for an ad in the May Romantic Times magazine for Choice.  Making the components for that ad taught me how to make transparent backgrounds and work with eps files.  There was a writing “skill” involved in the ad--making even briefer an already short blurb.   It also blew a week and several short term goals.
Add to Feb goal:  Remember to finish that last final check of Choice

While contemplating what else I needed to put on my list for February I realized why I didn’t complete my January goals.  I wrote down the wrong onesI’m not being entirely sarcastic.  I knew about the ad and that the deadline for it was the 24th.  “Construct ad” was what I put on my goal list.  This is a perfect example of too broad a goal.  If I’d considered all the things I needed to do I would have broken it into steps.  1) graphics 2) text 3) layout 4) draft.  That would have shown me I needed more than a day to do all this.  In addition I panicked when Vera dropped the Romantic Times Convention plan.  So instead of sticking to my goal of five pages for the BIAW (thank you for the encouragement Penny!) I only completed two and fell headlong into the compulsion of HAVING to get everything done at once for the convention, 

Foolish, I know, but it took me a few days to calm down and realize I had three months to make those 1400 promos for the convention, not three days!
We are in month two of 2013.  February.  I’ve mapped out a new list of goals for this month which are more detailed and thus, hopefully more realistic and obtainable.  They have already been readjusted to allow for some emergency time after I learned today (the 1st) of an unexpected doctor appointment and tests next week!  Always remember to leave room for the unexpected when doing monthly goals!

Have you set writing goals?  Are you on the road to meeting the goals for the month, six months, or year? How do you make adjustments when life interferes?