Monday, October 18, 2021

Emotional Depth

I’ve been trying to show emotional depth through dialogue for my protagonist and a secondary character who are crucial to the success of finding the protagonist’s kidnapped girlfriend. An author friend suggested that I think about the characters speaking to me and how I'd like that to sound.

I hadn’t thought about creating dialogue from that perspective. I try to look at the world through my main character’s ‘eyes,’ but when I tried to put myself in his ‘head’ and ‘heart,’ all I found was empty space. It's my job as a writer to fill those voids.

A basic tenet of writing is “know your characters.” I flunked that part. Back to the drawing board for more character development.

Update: I was working on a scene to add more emotion, and I guess I succeeded. My eyes filled with tears, and I sniffled. My dog came over to offer comfort.

Friday, October 1, 2021

Writer’s High

As a writer, you learn what times and conditions are most productive for your writing. I write best in the morning, before I distract my mind with emails, chores, and daily life.

I was thinking about my work-in-progress before I fell asleep, and it was on my mind when I woke in the morning. I scribbled seven pages on how to escalate the conflict for my protagonist’s love interest who escaped her kidnapper but is lost in the forest.

She hears a chainsaw, and she’s following the sound to where she’ll find people and rescue—but a ravine is between her and them. She’s injured and physically unable to climb down, across, and back up the other side, so she must find another way. I wrote such a high energy, physically active scene that I sprained my wrist.*

I’m on a writer’s “high” even though the pages are on top of a stack of papers that have yet to be typed into the manuscript.

(Dirty little secrets… After my first and second books were published, there were still scribbled pages of notes that hadn’t been typed up. *The sore wrist is really from yesterday’s heavy yardwork.)


Monday, September 13, 2021

Character Rights

Can literary characters file complaints for the treatment they receive from an author?

Case in point, Lynn Carter, the love interest in my current work-in-progress, is living a nightmare. She’s been kidnapped, injured on the job, and expected to perform dangerous feats of physical strength and endurance without the proper training. On top of that, she’ll disappoint many people if she doesn’t show up at the scheduled time to perform her maid-of-honor duties in a few days.

Admittedly, I am interfering with her personal activities for which she has pre-approved vacation time. And she wasn’t informed of the hazards of the plot and setting when she took the job.

I think Lynn filed a complaint with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. OSHA would never approve of the hazards in my book’s plot and setting. They left a message on my voicemail last week – something about a workplace inspection.

As the author, am I legally responsible for characters’ health, missed commitments, and any lasting psychological impact my plot lines might have on them?


Wednesday, September 1, 2021

Life Changes

The Bedroom (1889) by Vincent Van Gogh
When my adult son asked to move back home, I envisioned pushing the queen size guest bed into the corner so he could set up his desk and work - with the rest of his stuff in a local storage unit.

Nope. His vision was stripping the room bare of furniture, then refilling it with a king size bed, a king size desk, a small couch, and a 60-inch flat screen tv. Oh, yeah, and the monster speakers. (I may need to get hearing aids so I can turn them off when the volume from his room gets too loud.)

I’m actually looking forward to the move. I predict he’ll upgrade the internet on the first day. I have six online writer’s meetings a month, and either my screen freezes, or I get the dreaded “Your internet connection is unstable” message at least half-a-dozen times an hour.

I’ll get a live-in dog sitter for when I travel, and he’s looking forward to organizing my garage. What’s not to love? 


Sunday, August 15, 2021

Beyond Word Count

The word count for my current work-in-progress is hardly growing, and because of the way I write, I can’t look at that number for gratification.

I don’t write sequentially from the story’s opening sentence through ‘The End.’ I revise scenes I’ve written as I go along before I’ve completed the manuscript’s first draft. The day’s ending word count is often lower than when I began.

What the word count doesn’t show, though, is the impact the revisions have made to my story. I tweak the plot, develop characters, and strengthen scenes.

When I feel the need for authorial gratification, I read from the beginning and immerse myself in the story. I’m always amazed at the manuscript’s improvement, and I feel inspired to forge ahead.

Tuesday, August 3, 2021

Unusual Jobs

I took a literary side trip with a short supernatural piece I wrote for a themed anthology. In it, a character needed employment, so I searched the internet for unusual jobs. These are some of my favorites.

  • Dog food taster
  • Fortune cookie writer
  • Herb strewer
  • Hippotherapist
  • Iceberg mover
  • Marmite taster

But with the writing’s supernatural slant, I was hoping to find job titles more along these lines:

  • Alchemist
  • Astral projectionist for the Cannes Film Festival
  • Cephalopodiatrist
  • Ghost biographer (not to be confused with ghost writer)
  • Piranha dentist

Now that post-pandemic hiring is on the rise, I wonder how many of these job titles might be filled.

Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Letter from Jail

Detective Scott McGregor’s best friend, Ryan Talbrook, will be arrested in the first Lynn Carter cozy mystery. I tried to imagine what incarceration would be like and wrote this letter from jail.

Dearest Brother,

I am ashamed to admit I have been arrested twice in the past week and am writing this from an 8x10 jail cell.

The first arrest was for loitering in the frozen food aisle at the grocery store during this heat wave. My defense of being old and having trouble remembering what I was there to buy was not believed by the judge who had heard the same defense by the seven other customers picked up at the same time. (Three of them are in the cell with me. We’ve been sharing recipes.)

My second arrest was for biological terrorism using the US Postal Service. The main Portland P.O. sorting station was evacuated yesterday. They traced the return address of the stink bomb to me. I was charged with violating the Stilton Act of 1997 which states “no stinky cheese should be mailed through the U.S. Postal System without proper refrigeration.” How did I know it would take 17 days for the cheese (your birthday present) to travel from HB to Astoria? I’d included an entire tray of ice.

So, Dearest Brother, Have a Great Birthday! and if you can spare the time, please call the Feds and give me a (good) character reference. Although I can raise the bail, they won’t let me out on my own recognizance.

In other words, another year, still no present.

Your Loving Sister,

Inmate 727