A Fun Way to Learn How to Write From the Male and Female POV and Perspective- Part 2

Pad of Paper & PenDid you miss yesterday’s video share and breakdown on writing POV? If so, visit this link before you continue!

A Fun Way to Learn How to Write From the Male and Female POV and Perspective- Part 1

Now to pick up where we left of….

PERSPECTIVE: the state of one’s ideas, the facts known to one, etc., in having a meaningful interrelationship

(Definitions via dictionary.com)

Now that you have determined what character’s POV is will be used and when, it’s time to determine how much information will be shared by that character and when.

As the definition above says, perspective is the story according to what a character sees, hears, feels, and experiences. Character A can have a totally different view of the same events than Character B, as seen in the Date Night video.

Let’s revisit Couple A:

THE BREAK DOWN:

HER POV: The Date SUCKED!

Woman A was looking forward to a romantic interlude. She did her hair and make-up, took the time to prepare a meal, and set the table. She expected her date to arrive looking nice, probably bearing a vase of flowers, and taking the time to appreciate her appearance and the meal. Next would have come some small talk, flirting, and no doubt, some personal fun time.

What did she get?

A quick hug, no compliments on her appearance or the meal. Instead he made a beeline for the food, woofed it down without any conversation besides grunts that seemed to ruin her appetite. And when it came to fun time…well, let’s just say Mr. Happy was there and back again in less than 3 seconds, or as she said, before she could unhook the back her dress. And to top it all off, he finds his way to her bed and passes out from what has to be over eating and rapid blood loss to the brain.

His POV: IT was AMAZING!

Man A wanted exactly what he got: A good looking woman who cooked for him (free food), had nothing to say, and stood there long enough for him to get his rocks off. Oh yeah, let’s not forget the comfy bed. In his eyes, major score!! And he got to leave with his needs satisfied in time to watch the big game at home without interruption.

THE BREAKDOWN

The characters depicted in this portion of the video didn’t have a back story as Man B did, so there is no way to know how their previous experiences affected them. But what you do get is the perspectives of a man and woman who experience the same events.  She thought everything sucked, while he had the time of his life. All of this from the same scene.

How can you incorporate this type of storytelling in a scene in your novel?

This was a challenge I faced when writing my first novel, A Heart Not Easily Broken. My stories are told using First Person POV voice and feature the viewpoint of both the male and female protagonist. Each chapter is told from whomever’s POV tells the most important points throughout the story. There are a few times when a third persons POV is shared in order to present an outsiders perspective and introduce the back story of the heroine in the next novel, Jaded. There comes a point in the story when each of the characters previous experiences intersect into one scene. And in this scene what happens next comes from each person’s view point based on the information they have received and how they see things happening around them.

I hope this gives you a useful outlook on how you can incorporate Point of View and Perspective in your work!

Chapter 37

(Yasmine’s POV)

“Mmm, that feels good, don’t stop.”

Javan’s large hand moved slowly, massaging my back. Even though we’d made love twice, the feel of his hands on my body ignited me like the first time. “So what do you think about June?”

His fingers froze. “For what?”

I rolled over on my back. He looked delicious. His thick dreads hung loose and masked his face. My eyes tracked to parted lips that waited for action, his deep penetrating gaze heavy with desire. I bit my lip as my thigh brushed over his arousal.

I glided my fingers over a handful of locks as he leaned down and kissed me deeply. I loved the way our lips locked together. They felt like heaven and sin as his kiss moved down and worked my chin, my throat, and my breasts.

“Oh, no,” I giggled. “You’re not avoiding this conversation. What do you think about a June wedding?”

Javan regarded me with eyes so filled with desire he looked confused at the topic at hand. His head ­ both of them ­ were focused on one thing.

His eyebrows creased. “Yasmine, that soon?”

“Javan, that’s nine months away. There’s so much to do. I’ve got to find a place for the wedding and reception. We’ve got to come up with a guest list. I’ve got to find a dress for the girls and for me. And we’ve got to find someplace to live. Both of us have roommates so moving in together is not an option. And, oh, God, we haven’t met each other’s parents yet.”

The expression on his face was comical. “I didn’t think about that.”

“Yeah, baby, it’s work to get married. But once we are, the benefits are…” I grinned wickedly. “Let me show you.” I pushed him on his back and straddled him.

“I like this part.” His voice went deep as he grabbed hold of my hips.

Our tongues were fighting their private war when heavy banging on the door startled us.

“Didn’t you put the ‘do not disturb’ sign on the door?” His annoyance mirrored my own.

“Yes.” My employees knew not to disturb me unless it was an emergency. Such as the hotel being on fire. “This better not be about the computers,” I mumbled and climbed off Javan to grab the guest robe from the bathroom.

Javan lay in bed smiling. His thick biceps were pronounced as he shifted his arms behind his head.

The banging continued.

“Go get ‘em, baby.” He chuckled.

I reached the door, twisted the lock, and yanked it open. “What the hell do you…Brian?” He had a murderous expression on his face. “What’s wrong? Is Ebony okay?” I pulled the lapels of my robe tightly across my chest.

“No, she isn’t.” His lips were drawn tight, his brows dropped low. “Where is he?”

I was really confused. Brian should have been with Ebony, but she didn’t seem to be around.

“Why do you─”

“Move.”

I stood firm. “No, not until you─” Brian shoved past me and headed for the bed where Javan lay.

“Your ass is mine,” he growled.

*  *  *  *

(Ebony’s POV)

“Do you want me to call the cops?” Kaitlyn asked. She held her cell phone in one hand and gripped the door handle with the other.

I drove wildly, trying my best to catch Brian at the hotel before someone got hurt. I struggled to keep from running red lights.

“Come on, come on…” My palm ached from pounding the steering wheel.

“Never mind. The way you’re drivin’ the police will just follow us in.”

“Kaity, I don’t know what to do. This is all my fault. I should have said something as soon as it happened.”

“Why didn’t you?” I saw her turn to face me in my peripheral.

I glanced at her, then burned rubber the moment the light turned green.

“Honestly, I didn’t think she’d stay with him this long. You know how Yasmine is, always with a new guy every few months. Brian didn’t need the distraction while he was on the road. He would have dropped everything and come home; it would have ruined his career. Plus, I was scared he wouldn’t want me anymore.”

“That’s just plain stupid,” she said. “Why didn’t you tell me?” Another quick glance revealed hurt feelings on her face. “We’re friends, Ebony. I could have helped you. You shouldn’t have dealt with this by yourself.”

Another wave of guilt hit me. “Honestly, Kaity, I didn’t want you to keep it from Yasmine. It wouldn’t have been fair to you. I’m sorry.”

She reached over and gripped my hand. “And you were pregnant?”

I sighed. “I don’t know, I could have been. Before Brian left we had a moment…and well, both of us were willing to accept the consequences. The next night Javan raped me and didn’t use protection. It scared me. I thought about what would happen if I ended up pregnant and the baby was his instead of Brian’s. I couldn’t live with that, so I did what I had to do. And I hate myself for it.”

Her grip tightened. “God, Ebony, I am so sorry. Whatever you need, I’m here for you.”

“What I need is to stop Brian from doing something stupid and destroying his career. I’ve got to get to him. I need him.”

“I’m gonna call the police.” She placed the call with her free hand.

The lights of the hotel loomed in the distance. I released her hand to grip the wheel and pushed the pedal to the floor.

*  *  *  *

(Brian’s POV)

“What the fuck, man!” Javan scrambled naked from the bed and reached for his pants. He hopped around on one leg to get them on. Only the king-sized bed separated us.

My mind went all over the place taking everything in. The fact Yasmine gripped my arm and shouted at me was insignificant to the hum of anger that buzzed in my ear.

I took one look at the bed and felt sick to my stomach.

This was the same room where Ebony and I spent the weekend. The room she cried in the moment I opened the door.

And then it hit me, a full shot to the chest.

She’d made love to me after she was been raped.

How was that even possible? How could she want to be with me after that violent act? After having her will of what happened to her body stripped from her?

The hatred for the man I considered my friend for the past ten years blazed out of control. The logical part of my brain clicked off and went primal.

I scrambled across the bed, grabbed him, and threw him against the wall with force I prayed felt twenty times worse than what he’d done to Ebony. I held him in place and with my free arm, reached back as far as I could and pounded his face.

“Brian! Oh, my God! Stop, you’re hurting him!” Yasmine grabbed my fisted arm and put her full weight on it, slowing me down.

“You son of a bitch! How could you do that to her? Why?” I got a few more licks in and a kick to his groin before Yasmine managed to knock me off balance.

Javan slipped out of my grasp and slid down the wall, groaning and holding his sack. It wouldn’t be long before his jaw, eye, and lips were black and blue. The sight of blood pouring out of his nose and cut lip gave me a small amount of satisfaction, but it wasn’t even close to what I wanted to do.

“Oh, no, Javan, baby…” Yasmine pushed past me, ripping the sheet from the bed to blot the blood running down his face. “Brian, what the hell is wrong with you?”

“Whatever she said, the bitch is lying,” he spat out along with blood.

“Call her bitch one more time and you’ll be picking teeth off the floor,” I growled while I paced the room. I wanted to push Yasmine out of the way and get to him again, but there was no way I’d put my hands on her.

“What the hell is going on?” she shouted.

“Brian’s woman is a liar.” Javan struggled to get up.

Yasmine looked at both of us in confusion. “Ebony? What are you talking about?” When Javan didn’t supply an answer, she turned to me.

“He raped her.”  Saying the words again shot a pain to my stomach and chest. Anger like I never felt before flared before my eyes. I wanted to do nothing more than grab Javan’s throat and keep him from breathing.

Yasmine’s eyes flashed in disbelief.

Javan moved to get up again.

“Sit your ass back down before I put it down for good,” I warned.

Yasmine turned to him, an expression of confusion on her face.

“Your girl is a ‘ho. She wanted me to─”

I stepped over to give him another helping of personal justice, but Yasmine beat me to it by giving him something akin to a bitch slap. His head spun around, dreads swinging through the air as his head hit the wall. I wanted to punch his teeth in, but her slap sufficed for now. “Don’t talk about her like that. Why would Brian burst in here and say that? Did you rape her?” she asked.

I could not see her face, but her voice sounded pained.

“Because the bitch─”

Yasmine’s hand shot out again, but this time he caught it and twisted her wrist. She yelled in pain.

“Don’t ever hit me again, bitch,” Javan growled.

I got in his face in two strides. “Let her go,” I said through gritted teeth.

My hands fisted in a handful of his dreads as I snatched him up off the ground, thankful for the excuse to exact my revenge. He released her, shoving her away; she stumbled to the floor. Javan swung at me, his fist connected with my face and doubled back for my gut. Adrenaline pumped through my veins; I didn’t feel a thing.

His next swing missed as I dodged, leaned down, and rammed my head into his chest. I wrapped my hands around his waist and slammed him back into the wall. He pounded my back while I retaliated, throwing punch after punch into his gut.

“Brian!”

In the midst of the yelling, grunting, and crashing of hotel furniture as we fought, Ebony’s voice rang crystal clear in the room. I managed to turn my head enough to see her standing horrified in the doorway with Kaitlyn on her heels.

####

Thank you for stopping by! I love to make new friends. Got questions or comments? Leave a comment, or connect with me online!  If you’ve enjoyed this post, sign up for the monthly newsletter by following this blog!

MJ

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Finding Inspiration: Part Three- Characters Close to Home

Building Real Characters: How to Bring Them From the Page and Into Your HeartWriters find inspiration anywhere; at the grocery store, the bank, even the activities of driver sitting next to you at the red light, can get the muse flowing. Then of course there are my favorites: family and friends.

If you have a Facebook account, I’m sure you have seen the pictures posted by someone at least once a month that says: (in a nutshell): BEWARE, I’M A WRITER, ANYTHING YOU SAY CAN AND WILL BE USED IN MY NEXT BOOK.  I was at the bank the other day and had a lively conversation with my banker. Upon completion of my transaction, she asked me, ‘is this going to be in one of your stories?’ I laughed and said quite possibly.

It seems no matter how hard I try; my Muse is always working, always observing and cataloging the statements and actions of others, especially when it comes to my kids.

In the last few weeks, my children have shocked me with their ‘Remember when…’ tales. Being an only child, it never ceases to amaze me what  my four kids get into when they are unsupervised in their bedrooms. First, there was the ‘broken-glow-in-the-dark-stick incident’ that led to fluorescent yellow liquid being splashed over bedroom walls. (According to them, it wore off withing minutes, thus leading to doing it again in order to illuminate the room.  No evidence was left behind. Imagine my horror!!!) Of course a lot of sibling smacks upside the head, and then the sneaking to cut hair or trim their eyebrows disasters that ended with bad results. (Those I knew about, but it still makes me laugh to remember the results.) Funny stories that made my eyebrows shoot into the hemisphere and start to give the ‘you know better’ speech. But then I realized the issues happened months, even years ago. What’s the point?  All that’s left is ‘don’t do it again.’

Once the kids go about their evening activities, my Muse sorts through the information, while not inspiration for my adult characters’ lives, they make great character back story.

***Back Story: Insight into the protagonist nature or history through reflective flashbacks, scenes, or dialogue. This information is used to show how a character will react to certain situations.***

There are various ways to use back story.  Some authors like to use flashback during a scene or as a scene to show an incident that explains the reason for their character’s actions during the course of a story. (Think about the show LOST, whose episodes focused on the back story of a character’s life, decisions, made, and how they related to the present situation). In novels, the most common use is having a character allude to their past through dialogue, thought, or peppered in by the omnipotent voice. (Dialogue is the best way to share this information without slowing down your prose and boring a reader.)

How do you know what your characters back story will be?

By writing character outlines.

If you have  followed my blog, you know a large portion of my writing begins with focusing on deep character development. I love writing characters my readers can relate to either through their own personal experiences or someone they know. Creating well-developed back story can do that. Knowing where your characters have been, what experiences have affected them – good and bad – will give your characters a strong voice that makes them stand out.

Even if it starts from when they were kids.

In a nutshell, a well-developed back story lets you know your characters. Knowing and understanding your characters will explain their motivations. Motivations are what set up a plot. Reactions to plot twists/turns are what provide scenes. Scenes mixed with reactions are what create drama.

Whew!  Sounds like a lot of work, right? It is, but as with all things in life, you get what you put in. Taking the time to sit down and understand your characters will show in your writing. It will help you understand why they interrupt your writing, and no matter how much you want the story to go one way, they hijack your manuscript.

For more on writing character outlines and finding writing inspiration, visit my previous posts:

M.J.’s on Writing- Helpful Advice for Aspiring Authors

MJ

Character Descriptions – Creating a Picture With Words

Fat? Skinny? Tall or Short? What category does your character fit in?

Some of us have over-active imaginations which allow us to ‘see’ what a character looks like. Translating that picture in our heads to paper should be easy, right? Not always. What about when you have several characters floating in and out of scenes throughout the manuscript?

 How do you hammer out each description while ensuring none of them are alike? It takes planning, plain and simple.

One of my favorite things to do is have a working picture chart for each major and minor character for quick reference. I got this idea from a critique partner and I will never write without one again. My favorite place to look for character references are on the Internet, movies, and television. When developing a new character, I already have an idea of their physical attributes, the sound of their voice, and the way their body moves. Finding a picture I can study makes a world of difference when writing a full character description. If you only go by what you imagine, there will be things missing, such as, subtle quirks like the way a character stands, a twitch of the mouth, or that hidden mole. Your eye may not notice at first glance, but after studying a photo, you can add an extra layer of ‘life’ to the character.

Let me demonstrate.

In A Heart Not Easily Broken, there is a chapter where Ebony Campbell, the heroine, has the opportunity to study her future love interest, Brian Young, from a distance. He’s standing in her back yard trimming the grass along the fences edge with a weed whacker and not wearing a shirt.

Here’s the way that scene was written without having a visual reference to refer too (rough draft):

          Brian stood with his weed whacker, swinging it along side the fence. My eyes widened; the man was shirtless. The man had an incredibly strong looking back. His shorts hung off his hips and made his underwear visible, while a damp shirt hung from his belt buckle. Hmm, boxers or briefs? Sweat ran down his back to his shorts. 
          None of that compared to the way he looked when he turned around to one of the guys working with him. His body was free of body fat, with a little hair on his chest. Tight abs shown a ripple of muscles so tight I could barely see his belly button. 
          Brian’s tanned skin reminded me of a Greek statue, he must work outside a lot. His baseball cap was turned backward, hiding the blond curly hair I’d seen at the club. His damp hair hung below its edge, showing off his square facial structure and the angle of his nose. His blue eyes were bright.
          Brian was unbelievably sexy.

Could you visualize what Ebony sees? I’m sure you were able to get a decent idea. Brian’s working outside, he’s sweating, it’s hot, and Ebony’s attracted to him. But how about the version found in the book? (after a  picture reference, a thesaurus, a multitude of edits, rewrites, and an over active imagination!) This is what I finished with:

           Brian stood with his weed whacker, swinging it in a controlled arch along the fence. My eyes widened; the man was shirtless. The man had an incredibly strong looking back. His shorts hung loosely from his hips, exposing the top of his underwear from the weight of the sweat-stained shirt stuffed under his belt. Hmm, boxers or briefs? Sweat ran in heavy rivets down his shoulder blades, trickling to the already damp shorts. 
          None of that compared to the way he looked when he turned around to speak to one of the guys working with him. His long torso, free of unwanted body fat, sported a light sprinkling of blond hair between his pecks. A tight abdomen showed every cut of muscle I’d seen in high school biology textbooks. His abs were tight, his belly button nearly nonexistent. 
          Brian’s bronzed skin reminded me of a Greek statue, a testament of many hours spent working outside. His backward baseball cap hid the thick blond curls I’d seen at the club. The damp ringlets hung below its rim, accentuating his square facial structure and the shape of his nose. His blue eyes seemed to glow from deep within his skin. 
         Brian was unbelievably sexy.


Visual descriptive, right? Both had the same idea, but the second one took the time to describe every single detail Ebony saw. Because of this, the reader is guaranteed to feel one of two things, ‘wow, it’s hot, he’s sweaty, and could use a shower’, or since your deep in Ebony’s POV, your right a long with her thinking the sight of a hard working man tunes her on!

Perfect character descriptions do not usually appear while writing your rough draft. A Heart Not Easily Broken had so many rewrites and drafts I stopped counting at number eight, and believe me, there were still a few after that. But with each scene, I forced myself to take the time to write the descriptions of the characters in as much detail as possible. It didn’t matter who’s POV the description came from.

Since my books are written in first POV, one of the first things I had to learn was how to have a person describe themselves without it sounding clinical.

Here’s an example of Ebony describing herself physically when comparing herself to her best friend, Yasmine:

Not so creative writing (first draft):

          Yasmine’s light colored skin, skinny body, long legs and small breast suited her personality. There were times I wished my body was like hers. It would make shopping for clothes easier. I had a body like my Nana did when she was my age. If I looked at her photo albums, I looked just like her . We both had brown skin, shapely hips, big butts, and large breast. 

Oh man was THAT boring!

Now, here is the book version:

          Yasmine’s high-yellow complexion, slender ballet dancer body, long legs, and B-cups breasts suited her personality.  There were times I wished my body was more like hers, though. It would make shopping for clothes a lot easier. As it was, I had been blessed with the shapely figure my Nana called ‘bootylicious’.  According to her, and her photo albums, I looked just like her when she was my age, with caramel-colored skin, perfectly proportioned hips, a butt that drew major attention, and D-cup breasts, making it hard for a man to look me straight in the eye.

So much better, and (if you are a lady!) can probably visualize yourself as either character, right?

A word of advice: when writing a characters description (especially if being done from first person POV), it’s best to have them compare themselves to others, or stare into the mirror and describe what they do or don’t like, as a suggestion. Having them say, “I have long hair, brown eyes, and dark skin,” is not being creative. “My hair reached the top of my bra strap, my eyes were coals of molten like my mothers. I had her rich coco-colored skin, too,” sounds much better. Okay, I threw that one together, but hopefully you get the point.

So, with visual aid (come on guys and gals, searching for that perfect pic can be fun!), lots of imagination, and the ever handy thesaurus, you can write descriptive scenes, too!

Until next time, WRITE WELL!!!!

MJ

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Recycle Those Old Manuscripts, Don’t Trash Them!

I posted this status on Facebook last week:

New authors: Does you manuscript lack the ‘fire’ it needs to stand apart? Don’t give up! Never trash those original ideas! Set them to the side and try again. You’ll be surprised at how new ideas will begin to flow…you may even find yourself reaching for the original ms, pulling bits and pieces from it, and finding a way to make it shine! Old manuscripts are not necessarily bad ideas…just really well thought out musings!

Book 1-A Heart Not Easily Broken – completed: all notes and handwritten ms.

When I started writing three years ago, I thought my first manuscript was perfect. The characters were engaging, the dialogue witty and flowing… the story line engaging. Then I realized I didn’t know what platform I wanted to use, much less what genre I was really in. All I knew is I had a story to tell. I wanted it to be a coming of age story but still be a romance. The characters were 18-21, so the story was more Young Adult. Because of the subject matter of the book, sex scenes were necessary, but I didn’t want it to be labled as YA and didn’t want to remove the love scenes  because they were pertinent to the story.  After listening to advice from my ever helpful critique partners, I decided to step away from the story and try something new.

Book 2- Jaded-editing: Original notes, scenes, new outline, 1st manuscript draft.

The next writing attempt followed  characters who were in their mid- to late twenty’s, well established in their careers, and old enough to have as much sex as I felt comfortable writing about. The story line was completly different, and once again, I thought I had it nailed. Then I realized the characters were not real enough. I hadn’t put in enough effort to make them believable. I didn’t know their back story, didn’t have a history to pull from to make my characters three-dimentional instead of two-dimentional. After sharing the first chapter with close confidants and having them nearly bored to death, I forced myself to listen to their honest feedback. They said, it was missing description in the scenes, and didn’t grab their attention….I put that story aside as well.

Book 3 – Lonely Heart- wip:Notes from original ms and current rough outline.

After taking a writer’s class, I found my writing platform. As a result, I pulled out the original manuscript, (thank god I didn’t trash it like I started to!), focused on the heart of the story, and re-wrote it with older characters….after peeling back those ‘onion’ layers to discover who they were. As a result, I ended up with a much better story by ‘resurrecting’ bits and pieces of the original manuscript.

As I went through the previous manuscripts, I discovered various portions of the original stories can be recycled. I’ve enjoyed fitting the ‘pieces’ from the ‘old’ and and putting them together with the ‘new’. I’ve been able to do this without pulling out the original pages to refresh my memory of the tale being told.

Book 4- Nobody’s Business But My Own- planning:Notes, rough outline.

One thing I must point out: if you put down a manuscript and begin a complete re-write of the story, do it without reviewing your original work. Step away from the story for a few days, or weeks and let the old story line leave your thoughts. This is vital. Why? You don’t want to end up writing the same stuff over again. As an author, the concept or idea should be imbedded on your mind without having to read it word-for-word. Doing so will allow the story to emerge from a fresh prespective. Switch up scenes, events, and add in more conflict, goals, and motivations. Before you know it, the story comes forth, and you discover certain events, dialoge, or even partial scenes connect to your original manuscript. You’re original scenes can become back story to your current work.

Book #5-Untitled- planning: Outlines, notes, scenes. Book 6 is still buried deep in my head!

It’s amazing how your creative mind can work!

One thing you must remember: Don’t get impatient or discouraged! From what I’ve learned from my own writing journey, and all of the other authors I’ve had the opportunity to meet along the way, the average time it takes to write a good story is at least one year. It seems like a lot, but think about the steps it takes to write a story:

  • Create the basic plot. (goals, motivation, conflict)
  • Design the location, backdrop, or world for the story to take place.
  • Create the characters that will inhabit this world. (names, back story, goals, motivations)
  • Research jobs, topic for the story, etc., so the story can be as realistic as possible. 
  • Write a story outline. (rough draft/final draft)
  • Write first draft of manuscript.
  • Read first draft, then write second draft, and third, and fourth, as many as it takes to get it as good as possible.
  • Edit.
  • Read manuscript again.
  • Edit again.
  • Wait for your beta reader/critique partners to read and send back their thoughts.
  • Read/edit again.
  • Eventually get work professionally edited/proofread. 
  • And yep, edit again (I swear this step never seems to end!!!)
  • Eventually, when you look around, time has passed, and yep, a year has gone by! 
Now of course, everyone has their own way of doing things. Some are better, some are not. In the end, it’s all about the amount of work willing to put into your masterpiece. Sometimes its a matter of trial and error. One thing I can be sure of, and I’ve gotten this from self-published, indie authors, and New York Times Best Sellers, you never stop learning or growing as a writer. With every book you write, your storytelling improves. I know mine has. Writing and editing my second book has not been near as hard as it was the first time. Why? Because I’ve learned a lot and have implemented the techniques. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still hard work, but the rewards of seeing the evolution of my work are priceless!

Remember, with hard work, creativity, imagination, perseverance, and patience, a lot of patience…you’ll make that original story become great. Good luck!!

M.J.

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Protagonist and Antagonist Are People Too!

Protagonist and Antagonist are the basis of every story. No matter what genre you write, the way these figures are developed can make, or break, your manuscript.

Is your story a comedy, mystery, chick-lit, historical, paranormal, or sci-fi? Depending on the type of story you are telling, the amount of work needed to make these characters realistic is up to you. I write Contemporary Romance and Women’s Fiction. The subjects I tackle delve deep into character emotions and motivations. I also write in first person. So, the more work I put into getting to know my characters, the better I can bring my readers into their head and allow them to feel the emotions they feel. Understanding why a character makes the decisions they do – both good and bad – are best done when the author truly understands them.

For me, writing each character is like becoming an actor. I don’t sit down and just write what they say or do, I figuratively shed my skin, step into theirs, and let their words and emotions flow.

As Shrek said, “Onions have layers…Ogres have layers.

We have layers to our personalities. Some of them are obvious, such as our temperament, external wants, desires, and needs. Are those the only things that define us? Not by a long shot. An internal layer defines us as individuals and makes us who we are. We pick and choose who is allowed to see that deep inside, beneath that extra ‘onion layer’.

The same is true of our characters. What are the layers that make them who they are? What experiences made them change their outlook on life? What plot in the story is going to shake their world, make them question their core beliefs, and push them to change, or send them on that quest to find happiness? Before that can be determined, we have to know what mindset the character has before life knocks them off balance. If we don’t know these things, then the reader will not know, and your character will be one-dimensional.

That’s a lot to think about isn’t it?

What exactly does having those layers mean?

No matter how great a storyline you weave, if your characters aren’t real, then the plot won’t matter. Readers should be able to relate to them and feel the love, hate, fear, and joy they experience. The characters are what drive a plot, pull the reader in, and make them want to know what happens next, even if the plot stinks. The way the character responds to the situations thrown at them are what define them and make them relatable. Your reader should be able to look at the situation they face and think, “I would have done the same thing,” or “Are they crazy?” Those types of reactions are what draw them into a story.

Think about your favorite book. What was it about the story that grabbed you the most? Was it the characters reaction to the plot? What about their strengths? Vulnerabilities? What part of the character did you relate to most that made you invest countless hours of late nights staying up to finish a chapter, or sneaking in a few minutes to read while in the bathroom? Was the characters quality a focal point of the storyline, or something in a backstory that explained why he or she choose to react the way they did?

A few months ago, I wrote about building real characters, and shared the steps I take when developing mine. This time I’m going to strip away a layer and delve deeper into that technique. One of the best books I’ve come across is, The Writer’s Guide to Character Traits, 2nd Edition, by Linda N. Edelstein, Ph. D. This book helps writers distinguish personality types. The book is a hidden gem. It delves deep into the human psyche and breaks it down. The likes, dislikes, how they think, emotional responses, and so much more. The beauty of this book is that it is about real people. As you read the breakdown of each personality type, you will literally see yourself. Using this book as a base to develop your characters will make them more realistic.

I’m going to share with you a few of the character traits and descriptions listed. For more information regarding the external and internal facets of the personalities, I strongly urge you check out this book!

The Boss: They want to be in the limelight at home, work, or play. The theme in their lives is control of themselves and others around them.

The Conformist/Conventionalist: In favor of compliance to nearly everything around them.

The Creator: Life gets meaning from the ability to produce new ideas or products (very artistic)

The Dependent: Their world revolves around having their needs met by others.

The Loner: Life seems directionless. This person has little strong attachment to anyone.

The Man’s Man: This character is very one-dimensional.

The Passive/Aggressive: They try hard, but always feel misunderstood.

The Resilient: They have the remarkable ability to recover from life’s disappointments.

Do you see your character here? This is only a prototype of what your characters could be. Now you have to fill in those blanks. This is where the handy character outline comes in.

Are those creative juices flowing yet?

The key to all of this is time. Not everyone feels the need to delve this deep into character development in order to tell the story. That’s fine, because everyone writes in his or her own way. My intention is not to tell anyone how to write. I am not a master, nor am I a published author. My goal is to share what I’ve learned on my writing journey with anyone willing to listen. The method I use may not be for you. I hope that you will find something useful to guide you in developing your writing style, or at least give you the extra encouragement needed to get over that writing hump.

So, planners, pansters, what is your technique for stripping away those onion layers? Please share!

MJ

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I’m Getting Published! (or My New Years Resolution!)

No, I’m not getting published…yet, but I’m putting it out in the universe!

Have you ever done that? Wanted something so bad you think about it, dream it, and talk about it all the time? Has it ever worked for you? A few years ago my husband introduced me to that concept. I’ll admit, I am stubborn, hard headed, and often resist change and trying something new. Then one day I took his advice and did it. Man, talk about a life changing experience! As a result, I’ve experienced positive results so I can attest to the fact the saying is true: “Be careful what you wish for, you just might get it.”

That goes for both positive and negative thoughts. If you dwell on every negative thing that could happen in a situation, guess what, it will because that’s what you concentrate on. Why? Because you don’t take the steps to find a way to make what you want happen. Flip the switch from negative to positive and the results will surprise you. Changing your focus from what won’t happen, and putting your time and energy in what ‘will happen’ makes a huge difference. Determination to see your goal reached will help you succeed.

So, along with losing weight – isn’t that on EVERYBODY’S New Years Resolution list? – I’m thinking publication. Do I have my sights stuck on traditional publication? Mmm… not so much. The publishing industry is fickle; too much old school thinking. Today is a new day, literally. 2012 holds so many publishing options it’s not necessary to get stuck in the old ways. There’s E-publishing, Self-Publishing by way of ‘vanity’ publishing, or publishing by way of Amazon.

Decisions, decisions, decisions. I know I’m going to see my book on Amazon…now it’s a matter of how it’ll get there.

And here’s where patience and research comes in.
Since I’m putting all of my positive energy out there, let me share the list of things I want to happen this year, as far as my writing career is concerned:
  • Be published by a publishing company.
  • Sell a lot of books of course!
  • Be interviewed by local radio and television stations.
  • Participate in the Writer’s Conference in my city. 
  • Continue to make wonderful connections with other authors and readers.
Interesting goals, but all are attainable…if I set my mind to it and follow the steps I’ve learned along the way. Can’t wait to see what my end of the year blog will say. I will definitely follow up to see what I have been able to achieve.

But for now, I continue to push forward. The question I’ve asked myself since completing A Heart Not Easily Broken is this: My MS is done…now what?

One of the most valuable lesions I’ve learned from my critique partners is to not wait to start writing the next book, especially when writing a series. Why? First of all, no matter what publishing route you take, readers will want to know when the next book will be available. Publishers and agents will be interested in the fact your writing a series, because lets face it, series can lead to more sales verses stand alone titles. Before investing in you, and your product, they will want to sample the next book to be sure of the continuity of your storytelling as well as characters. It’s always best to have a second book available upon request. The last thing you want to do is be pushed for time to get something down on paper and have it lack the fire and spirit of the novel that caught their attention. Think about it: when you query, you never do it with the first draft of your story. You’ve gone over it with a fine tooth comb to tighten up the prose as much as possible. That takes weeks, months even. Publishers won’t give you that kind of time to see results. If you lose their interest, they will move on. Why give them that chance? 

I haven’t waited around. After taking two days of down time to clear my head and spend time with the family, I dived back in and started writing the second book in The Butterfly Memoirs: Jaded. This wasn’t the writing by the seat of my pants kind of writing. Completing my first novel taught me a lot about my writing technique, planning, outlining, and scheduling. As a result, it took me twenty days to write the first draft. That was ten days less than the thirty days it took to write the first book.

What did I do differently?

First of all, I took time during the second and third edits of the first book to work on the deep character profiles and story outline. I didn’t rush through the process, only took time to muse over the story as a way to take a break from the first book. Doing so allowed me to go back to edits with a clear head. Having the second books out line completed paid off. There was no down time needed to muse over my characters or decide what type of story I wanted to tell. The day before I started writing chapter one, I found all the pictures I needed for scene references, character references, and put my charts together. From there, I wrote, wrote, and wrote some more.

Another thing I did differently was write my first draft on my laptop instead of by hand. LOL, I heard the gasps out there. When writing my first novel, I used the old school method of writing by hand. As a result I have three-hundred and fifty handwritten pages of my first draft. I wrote like a crazy person, any and everywhere I had a chance. In my car at the red light, while waiting for the kids to come out of after school rehearsals, and yes, even in the bathroom. The second draft was done while transposing the work to my laptop. A third draft was done on the laptop.

This time around, I opted not to write the first draft by hand. Since this first draft was written on my laptop it cut down the places I could write. Writing at the red light was not an option, and doing it with the laptop in my lap in the car while waiting for the kids was not comfortable. So, I had to start a schedule.
Schedule, I loath, but I’ll be darned if my hubby wasn’t right. It really does work!

My mornings start with routine house leaning three days a week. That is followed with checking in on my social networking sites – shout outs, promotions, and making new friends. After that, I allow myself two hours to put in some serious work before the kids get home. After that comes evening family responsibilities, homework and dinner. After eight P.M., if I have a thought or a scene that wasn’t finished in the time allowed, I put in another hour or two. Ten P.M. is my cut off time. It’s time to give my brain a break, watch T.V., or go to bed.

Two days out of the week are dedicated writing days. Light attention is paid to house cleaning, and one hour of social networking. After that, it’s on. I enter my writing cave and stay there for hours, taking a break every two hours to stretch, eat, check in online, or lay down to rest my eyes and brain. By three P.M., I’m done for the day. After six hours of straight writing/editing I am usually pretty productive.  Depending on the depth of emotion of the chapter, or the material to be covered at that point in the story, I may write one to three chapters in a day, an average of thirty pages, or about seven-thousand words. That’s on a really good day.
Is my schedule perfect? Nope, and it’s not set in stone. But I can truly say for the last few weeks it has worked wonders. I’m not mentally worn out, my house is cleaner, and my family happier. Not to mention there are less burnt dinners. LOL! If I stay on this path, I’m sure I will find reasons to continue putting my positive thoughts into the universe and see the results I’m looking for.

So, what are your writing goals for 2012? What dreams do you wish to see fulfilled? What path are you taking to make it happen? I told you mine, now share!

Happy writing!

MJ

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Building Real Characters: How to Bring Them From the Page and Into Your Heart

I’ve read many articles and blogs dealing with character development. Each has taught me something I have used to aid me in making my characters real. Though I must confess, it is impossible to create a lovable character – or one you hate – without doing several ‘passes’ over your MS. But before you reach the writing stage, you have to know who it is your birthing into your ‘world’. Whether your genre is sci-fi, paranormal, or contemporary, the ‘world’ your character inhabits needs real people in it. Creating characters that are neither cardboard nor two-dimensional takes time. Just like getting to know someone in the real world, or cyber world,  if you spend as much time on Twitter or FB like I do.
So, how is it done?
Google character building and you will find tons of research articles to point you in the right direction. Today, I decided to share a few things that I’ve learned, as well as few tricks I’ve pulled from my own hat to make them even more realistic.

The Physical:

One of my critique partners showed me something one day that I could never, ever write without. She had a picture collage she put together of actors, actresses, and models that fit the physical description of the way she saw her characters. Not only is it a great way to actually ‘see’ your characters in the real world, it’s a great way to reference them without mixing them up with their sidekicks or other family members.

My favorite thing to do when writing is pull up pictures of my h/h side by side and look at them. I’ll imagine what expressions they’ll make while having a conversation, sort of like animators do when drawing a cartoon character. Bringing the characters to ‘life’ is so much better than just imagining them in my head without a visual reference.
Character Charts:
I’ve mentioned them before on a previous blog, (The Importance of Writing Outlines, Part Two), but there’s no harm in mentioning them again. Every writer knows the type of story they want to tell and can envision the types of characters that inhabit that world. But who are they?
Unsure of what traits to give your characters? This book by Linda N. Edelstein, PH.D is a great place to start!

My first attempt at writing a character chart focused on the basic information: name, age, height, weight, race, parents, you know the drill. Pretty much the average questions we all answer when writing a bio for our FB accounts. But does that say who we are? What our life experiences have been? What events in our lives make us who we are?

Nope. But we need these things in order to create real characters. Who is in their family? What was their first job? What are their beliefs? What would they be willing to fight for and can’t live without? What dirty little secret sits in the closet and threatens to ruin their life if anyone found out?
Being able to answer those type of questions – even if they are not relevant to your story – will help you fill in the blanks as you write. Establishing these things is like having the character sit next to you as you type and say, ‘Hey, I wouldn’t do that. This is what I would do.” Oh yes, that wonderful moment when your character interrupts your train of thought as you write a scene and hijacks it. Next thing you know, they’ve taken over and what you imagined would be brilliant looks like dog crap next to what they’ve shown you.
That type of moment can’t be found without having the correct tools to get to know them.
A year ago, I was pointed in the direction of this writer, Charlotte Dillion’s, website.  There I found the most detailed character outline chart I’ve ever seen. I’m sure we’ve all ran across them in books on writing, but this one, in my opinion, took it a few levels deeper. You have to check this link out: Character Charts. (Besides this character chart, she has a wealth of other writing information to share. Stick around and check it out.)
At first glance it’s a little daunting. When printed out, page, after page, after page of questions. My first thought was, “How am I supposed to answer this?” I knew then I had no idea who my characters truly were.  I spent the next two weeks getting to know my hero and heroine. I invited them to move in with me and my family (yeah, the kids thought it was kind of weird, but hey, they’re fictional, at least they didn’t need food or a place to sleep!) and spent a week getting to know each character. I interviewed them, learned about their family history, bad dating experiences, dream jobs, and things they hated the most. When the two weeks were up, I knew them as well as I know myself and could understand why they’d fall in love. I also understood how they would react to the issues I threw at them. My hero took one look at the original ending of my story and flat out told me he wasn’t a punk. I needed to give him some balls or else he was gonna walk. I took a look back at the interview we’d done, looked at his convictions, and beliefs and said, ‘Yep, your right. You’d definitely kick his butt.’ And from there came a perfect ending to their story. Okay, okay, now I sound like I have a multiple personality disorder. But lets face it, all serious writers are look over our shoulders for that little white truck with the ‘special’ white jacket that make you hug yourself from time to time, right????

Tip:If you find yourself stumped on how your characters would react in a situation, try researching astrological signs. It’s a great way to discover the way people react to different situations. I don’t follow them, but I have to admit it did help discover my characters. Also, try checking out psychology books that delve into typical character traits. The book I enjoyed was, Writer’s Guide to Character Traits, by Dr. Laura Edelstein.

Careers, Homes and That All Important Fragrance:
To get to truly know my characters, I had to do research.
Askhow.com was a rich resource for learning about what it took to get the job my characters wanted.  Google pictures of the house they lived in, geographic maps for the town, even Craigslist was a great source for ideas on what type of car they drove. Magazines with pictures of model homes, housing floor plans online, and my all time favorite, perfume and cologne samples. Yep, nothing puts you in the frame of mind of writing your h/h’s significant other than the fragrance they wear. I must say, Polo Black, by Ralph Lauren, is sexy and smells perfect for my first male lead. I think I’ve actually fallen for Brian after smelling that scent. I can only imagine how Ebony feels every time she sees him.
So, that’s a few of the things I’ve done to help my  along my writing journey. How about you? Got any tips, tricks or things you do that you will like to share? Leave a comment!
Until next time: Write Well!!!
MJ

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