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

Before reading any further, take the next three minutes to watch this video. Get your laugh on, then watch it again and get your learn on. Not only will you be entertained, you’re going to learn something new because afterwards, I’m going to break it down!

DATE NIGHT! -THE VIDEO

(Video via Facebook share)

Hilarious, right? It’s the typical men see things differently than women story of a date through the eyes of two very different couples. The difference? The back story. Knowing what each character is going through before, during, and after a scene helps you, the author, know what experiences should be included in a scene and how to present them.

Remember those pesky and time consuming character outlines I’m always referring to? Well, here is how they work for the characters in this short video.

THE BREAK DOWN:

COUPLE A:

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.

 

COUPLE B:

HER POV: Most ROMANTIC DATE EVER!

Everything about the evening was different than being with any other man. First, he paid for a cab. Dinner was an amazing experience. After, instead of hailing a cab, they took the scenic route, walking along, holding hands, and experiencing the night life from another point of view. At his place, the romance continued with lit candles to set the mood, a very intense love making session that lasted longer than anything she’d ever experienced. And the best part, he didn’t pass out when they were done. They lay there wrapped in each other’s arms and talked all night.

In a nutshell, everything was magical and perfect, just what a girl could ever want.

 His POV: EPIC FAIL!!!!

It’s been a long day full of one frustrating event after another. Failure to pay his light bill lead to to spend money taking her out instead of having her come over. After paying for a cab, dinner was so expensive he could no longer afford a taxi cab home. He plays off the whole broke thing by suggesting they ‘sight see’ and walk to his place, (is this chick gullible or what???). No electricity leaves him improvising again with candles. Frustrated by the series of mind numbing fails, he has too much pride to say let’s call it an evening and tires to play it off by ‘making love’ when what he’s really doing is stalling for time to work himself up for that magic moment. By the end of it all, he doesn’t feel like finishing the act, but he’s literally ‘in the game’ and has to figure out how to play it off, because hey, Ms. Gullible is having the time of her life. Again, frustrated, pissed off, and ready for it all to be over, he can’t sleep which means he has no choice but to be subjected to Ms. Chatty Cathy.

This date sucked so much he probably would refuse to see her ever again.

Pad of Paper & Pen

 

 

 

Now, how does all of this tie into writing?

First, let’s review the definitions of Point of View and Perspective:

 

 

 

 

 

POINT OF VIEW: The position of the narrator in relation to the story, as indicated by the narrator’s outlook from which the events are depicted and by the attitude toward the characters

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

(Definitions via dictionary.com)

DETERMINING USE OF POINT OF VIEW:

When telling a story, you must know which character’s voice you want the readers to experience. If the entire story is being written from one character’s POV, then it’s simple. Everything that happens comes from them. If your story is being told from more than one character’s POV, then you must decide how much of is being told and from who’s POV. This can be done in several ways:

  • An entire scene or chapter is told in one character’s POV
  • A scene or chapter is told in split POV’s
  • A section, or portion (meaning more than a few chapters in a row or Part 1, Part 2, etc. of the manuscript) are told from various characters’ POV

Knowing the story your telling (story line) and what your characters experience and how those experiences will affect their decision making (back story) determines who’s POV is shared at certain points. The character’s reactions to their environment and scenarios they face will be based on that back story.

Of the four characters portrayed in the video, the best example would be Man B from the second couple. An unfortunate event (failure to pay his light bill) led to changing his date night plans (paying for cab, expensive dinner, walking home, candle light sex, aggravation to the point of failure to perform for an extended point of time, and sleeplessness). Lack of electricity set off a catalyst of events that when told from his point of view, led to the date from hell. His POV was much more entertaining than Woman B who saw things from a fairytale perspective.

Now, how does perspective come into play?

Come back tomorrow where I’ll break down that portion of the video, as well as share a scene from my bestselling novel, A Heart Not Easily Broken, where I demonstrate the use of perspective from three characters POV in one scene. Until then, Happy Writing!!!

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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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My First Big Speaking Engagement!

webflyer3 (1)

Are you an Aspiring Author or fan of The Butterfly Memoirs who resides in the Atlanta area? Well, this one is for you!

 I am pleased to announce that I am participating in the Author’s Workshop being held by The Virtuous Women, LLC and co-hosted by Barnes & Noble on August 17th where I have been asked to be the FEATURED AUTHOR! Talk about existed!!!

 But before I talk more about the event, let me give you a bit of history about The Virtuous Women, LLC.

 The organization was formed a by Dr. Beverly Harris-Coleman, a Special Education Teacher for the Dekalb County School System. What started as a sisters and sister-in-law spa day quickly turned into more. The Virtuous Women, LLC is a Christian organization that looks to empower, educate, support, and help create businesses and opportunities within the community. They hold monthly meetings and events to share valuable information with the the goal of building a better community, one family and business at a time. For more information about to find out about upcoming community events, visit the website and get registered.

 The theme for this months event is The Author’s Workshop. The goal is to provide encouragement to aspiring writers who are looking to become published authors.

 Have you ever wondered what it takes to publish a book? Then this event is for you! There will be ten local authors who will be sharing their stories about why they chose to write, what motivated their project, and what challenges they overcame to see their project through to completion.

 During that time, I will have some great giveaways, and if you have purchased a paperback copy of either of my books, bring it and I will me more than happy to sign it! Got a Kindle or Nook and like to collect author signatures? I’ll sign that too! Don’t forget your cameras! For more information about the event, follow this link. I hope to see you there!

The Virtuous Women, LLC

 

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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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How Important is Branding to an Unpublished Author or Published Author?

Website Author Banner

Branding, we’ve all heard of it. Products such as Tide with the large orange bottle, McDonald’s and those unforgettable golden arches, and then there is Chili’s and the green jalapeno pepper, to name a few. These and many more can be found in nearly every town, on TV, and on the web. Each of them has one thing in common: the use of color, shape, or item represents the company and products they sell.

How does this relate to an author, published or unpublished?

When a publishing house prints a book, the covers are unique to each book, but have you noticed that no matter how many books an author publishes with that line, the font of their name is (usually) the same? If the book is part of a series, regardless of what number it is, the main title will be the same, for example, the Harry Potter series.  The colors change from cover to cover, but the font remains the same.  This allows fans to find it when scanning the shelves of libraries and book stores. Think about it, do you read each and every name on the cover when looking for your favorite author, or do you allow your eyes to find the size, shape, and ever familiar font of the authors name to know you’ve found what you were looking for?

Did you know you don’t have to be a published author to develop your brand? I established mine before I began querying.

Let me tell you how…

In 2010, upon the advice of those around me, I started a blog. The point of blogging was to help me improve my writing skills. The experience taught me how to engage an audience and receive feedback and participation through comments. And while I was nowhere near ready to publish anything I wrote, I did build a following. The more I shared my experiences, the more people followed my blog. I also established connections via popular social networking sites, such as Twitter and Facebook.  Visitors to my blog connected with me online, and online connections started visiting my blog. It was months before I upgraded my online presence ‘picture’ from a downloaded image of a heart and book to being brave enough to show my face.  And wouldn’t you know it, the moment I put my picture up, my following on all platforms increased!

Without realizing it, my face became a part of my brand. No matter what social networking site I am attached to, you’re going to find the same picture, same name…easy recognition.

Next came creating a brand, or theme, for the books. The Butterfly Memoirs series is a Contemporary Romance novel that features interracial couples dealing with real life issues. I knew from the moment I started writing my covers would not have the typical Man/Woman embarrassing or half naked. I like symbolism in my stories and I carry that theme in my covers. The series covers will always consist of two main elements, a butterfly to symbolize the female character as well as the image of something that represents the male character in the book.

As for the series itself, I have a logo of a butterfly imprinted into a wax seal that says ‘The Butterfly Memoirs’ and my name, thus branding the series. So anytime you see my picture, logo, or book cover, you’ll know it’s me.

Though you may not be writing a series, you still need to build a brand for yourself and for your audience. Here are a few simple tips, and the best part, they don’t cost a thing!

Branding your online image:

Here are a few tips on taking an author picture without spending a lot of money. Remember, your picture introduces you to your readers. As they say, a picture says a thousand words!

  • Photography equipment: If you can’t afford a professional headshot, take advantage of the features of your digital camera or cell phone camera.
  • Setting: Plain back grounds or simple settings work best. The key is to engage with the reader, not have them wonder where you were when the picture was taken.
  • Wardrobe: Keep it simple! Use solid colors that compliment you. Keep away from strips and patterns because they are distracting. Ladies, keep that jewelry simple, guys, don’t forget to shave or tighten up that hair cut! (Of course, if grungy or over the top is what you’re going for as your ‘persona’, have fun!) *TIP: If you study my picture, you’ll see I wear a butterfly ring that is facing the camera and not away. I am pulling my book/series brand into my image. It’s subliminal branding!
  • Posing: Be comfortable! Don’t try some awkward pose that will translate pain in your eyes though your lips are smiling. Be natural, focus on the camera, and imagine you’re looking directly at your reader. Keep your mind clear…negative thoughts will translate through your facial features no matter how hard you try! Sell yourself!
  • Editing: When done, upload your picture and crop it to take out any blank spaces, once again, the focus should be on you. Readers want to know who YOU are. Off centered images with dead spaces are distracting as well as poor lighting.
  • Sharing: Now that you have your picture, share it with the world! Post it on all of your networking sites so readers will recognize you, no matter where they are! Most people recognize and remember faces before names. If you have one picture on Facebook, and another on Twitter, and yet another on Google+, fans will be unsure if it’s you. Keep it uniform! If at any time you change or update your photo, be sure to change it on all of your sites. **Ignore the urge to change it up every few weeks! Even though your name may be sitting beside the image, people recognize faces before names. Again, it’s branding! After all, McDonald’s doesn’t change the color or shape of their golden arches!**

Branding your style as an author:

  • Your writing style and the way you give voice to your characters is a part of your brand. Read books from two of your favorite authors. Notice how the authors writing style/voice varies from one another, yet, when you read more than one of their books, each of their stories have a similar tone, speech pattern, or even use of particular phrases that distinguishes their writing style from someone else’s. So should yours.
  • Interactions with fans on social media can make or break you. How many times have you come across offensive, political, or highly opinionated posts or tweets that have offended you or left you with a sour taste in your mouth about the commenter? Everyone is entitled to their opinions, but beware of using your social presence as a showcase for your opinions. Readers now have access to you online and will pay close attention to what you have to say. Make your post count. There are times to joke; there are times to be professional. There are times when your fingers need to be still on the keyboard and you avoid addressing a comment, even if it stings. The last thing you want to do is turn off a fan due to your political views or personal feelings. Instead, use your online presence as a way to build your fan base, sharing information about you, your books, and upcoming projects. Fans these days love author/reader interaction. As Indie authors, we have a chance to do what many NYT Bestsellers can’t…talk to our fans on a regular bases. Readers love it!
  • Make your online presence known. Websites are the home base of your brand, the place where a reader can be directed and learn everything about you. This can be done one of two ways: 1.) pay for a professional website or 2.) Take advantage of free website tools and build your own. Sites such as WordPress.com, Blogger.com, and Wix.com, to name a few, offer free blog hosting. (I’ve used all three, and WordPress, which hosts this blog/website, is by far the best!) All you have to do is create an account. This takes time and patience, but can be an educational and rewarding experience. Keep your site professional with links to all of your social networking sites, products (remember, your book is a product), and any merchandise (free reads, etc.) The more work you put into it, the more people will be drawn back to it to see what’s new. Don’t publish content and step away. Website maintenance and fresh information is a must in order to keep your readers coming back. Your website represents you 24/7, even when you are not online. Content should include: a picture, a well-written bio, (remember, you’re an author. It should be free of grammatical errors. If you have a poorly written bio, readers will hesitate to purchase your books because they feel they will be written the same way), all sales links and links to social sites where they can find, follow, or contact you. Your site should also include information about your books (book blurbs), and a sample of your work for them to read.

I know it sounds daunting and like a lot of work, and believe me it is! The point of all of this is you’re a writer and it’s what you love. In order to be successful, you have to put in the work. Marketing and discovering your brand is all about knowing who you are and how you want your writing perceived. By the way, I’m not telling you something that I haven’t done. Everything you see on this site was done by me and it took weeks! But it was well worth it! J

Have you heard of AuthorsDB? If not, you have to check this out!

adb_badgeRecently, I was directed to a website that offers free author promotions. In the digital age of Indie authors, it’s up to us to find ways to promote our work in order for our creative voices to be heard by millions of readers. I’ve signed up for a variety of sites, but this one in particular stands out from the rest.

Have you heard of IMDb (Internet Movie Data Base)? They are the biggest source of information regarding television shows, movies, and actors. AuthorsDB is the same, except that its a  Data Base for finding authors on the web. This site  not only allows you to post your biography, books, blurbs, and sales links, it also gives you the freedom to share every available social networking sites your connected to, list your publisher information, and share specific details about your books. The site also offers services for authors, contests, and even shares your information across the web via Twitter, Facebook, and the other major sites where readers can be found! Did I mention this service is FREE?????

Interested? Stop by and visit my page. And while your there, I’d appreciate your support in a book cover contest that is being held. I’ve submitted both covers, you can see the samples on the right hand side of your screen. Take a minute and cast a vote. I’d love the support! Don’t forget to ‘Like’ and ‘Share” the page as well.

Vote for A Heart Not Easily Broken Cover           Vote for Jaded Cover

I hope you find this tip helpful. Good luck with your book promotions!

MJ

 

 

#WritingTips- Use Your Microsoft Word Doc Tools to Make Writing Easier!

When my Muse wakes me up in the middle of the night, or I have an epiphany of a new scene to add more life to my manuscript, the first thing I do is search for any means of recording my thoughts. Paper and pen, notes on my iPhone, voice recordings if I’m driving, or sometimes I just grab my laptop, open up a blank word doc, and let my fingers fly over the keys. Then I file it away until I’m ready to work on it again.

I am a plotter with a hint of panster. I take my time when I write, letting my stories marinate as I decide what trials to put my characters through. I spend even more time discovering who they are. When my research is complete, my outlines written, and I’m ready to add dialogue, the last thing I want to do after spending hours bringing my story to life, is have to go back and reformat the entire manuscript before editing it.

Let’s face it, authors, the mere thought of the words edits, editing, or editor are daunting, especially if you are new to writing!

I remember those days! But, have no fear! Since then, I have learned when you put in the work, the editing process can run so smooth, it’s nearly as fun as watching your story come to life from the blank page!

Okay, okay, stop laughing!  Let’s keep it positive people! 🙂 I’m about to share a tip that will have you grinning from ear to ear! (If you had no idea about it, that is!)

Did you know there are tools built into Microsoft Word that can cut down the amount of editing you or your editor need to do if used while you write?

I learned this while working on my first manuscript, (A Heart Not Easily Broken), and my dear friend and fellow author enlightened me to these amazing settings. I can’t lie; I am NOT a tech savvy person. What I’ve learned to do with my laptop, be it building my webpage, (the one you’re visiting now), or surfing the web, all of this has been because of being pointed in the right direction by people who discovered these shortcuts and shared them with me, or by taking the time to keep hitting buttons and trying over and over again until I figured it out. In other words, HOURS of frustration mixed with patience, coffee, and chocolate!

Now it’s my turn to reciprocate!  If any of this is new to you, I hope you find this information useful, and that it makes writing easier!

***NOTE: The following directions and screen shots are based on Microsoft Word 2010. Similar functions can be found for 2007, though they will not be as detailed. For more advice, I suggest searching Google or YouTube for instructional videos on how to use your editing/proofing features.***

Unknown tricks to Word 2007 and 2010 to avoid unnecessary editing issues (AKA – Quick Access Tool Bar). Let’s face it, we all didn’t sit down to read the manual…

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Screen shot of the steps below. Daunting, but well worth the work!

Use of this function will allow you to set up Word to point out common editing issues as you type, allowing you to rethink your sentence before you continue, or make it easier to find some of the editing issues that make your writing passive. To customize this feature, follow these steps:

  • Open up a blank Word Document
  • Select the REVIEW tab at the top of your screen; Right Click and select CUSTOMIZE
  • Select PROOFING. (Here you can choose what kind of typing issues you want Word to ignore or point out to you).
  • Look lower in the box marked: WHEN CORRECTING SPELLING AND GRAMMAR IN WORD
  • Select WRITING STYLE, then click on the drop box, choose GRAMMAR & STYLE, then click SETTINGS. (From here you can have Word point out EVERYTHING!!! From punctuation issues, misused words, fragment and run-on sentences, to the use of cliches phrases, and so much more. Using this feature to help point out issues you need to correct before submitting your manuscript to an editor will make the editor quickly fall in love with you!)
  • Be sure to select OK before exiting to save your settings.

***By the way, once these settings are saved, they stay that way  for every document you create, until you go in and reset them.***

I touched on this a few posts ago when sharing tips for writing query letters, but again, putting this simple step into practice BEFORE you write one word will make the rest of  your writing experience pleasant.

The Universal Settings for your Manuscript (or Prepping you MS for Query Letters and you Editor)

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Your screen should look like this when selecting your font type and size.

Set your Font:

  • Open a blank document.
  • Select the HOME tab.
  • Choose TIMES NEW ROMAN Font with a 12 Point  size.
  • Save and exit

***Check these settings for each new document created! They do not always stay the same!***

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This is the easiest fix!

To Set Page Borders/Margins:

  • Select the PAGE LAYOUT tab.
  • Choose MARGINS.
  • Set to NORMAL. (1 inch border on both sides and top and bottom)

***This usually the normal setting, but it never hurts to make sure it’s set correctly. Technology is funny, and can revert back to the original settings  without warning!***

IMG_0439[1]

Set your page to automatic indent and line and paragraph spacing.

  • From the HOME tab, select PARAGRAPH.
  • In the INDENTION box, choose HANGING.
  • In the SPACING box, choose DOUBLE, and change the  AFTER PT to ZERO (O)
  • Check the box below to avoid  spaces between paragraphs
  • Select OK to save changes.

***Again, check this feature with the start of any new document. The default settings are not the same as what you need when writing. Any new document created will not have your new settings.***

 Other Advice:

Here are a few more things you can do to make your writing cleaner:

  • Make sure you have clean chapter breaks. In other words, when Chapter 1 ends halfway down the page, Chapter 2 should start on a fresh page. The final page of Chapter 1 should not have the first part of Chapter 2 .
  • Italicize words meant to stand out for emphasis, do not highlight or underline.
  •  When inserting a scene break in a chapter, use ### or *** to show the break in time, or the start of a new scene and/or location. Which ever one you use, stay consistent throughout the MS, do not flip-flop.
  • If you have already written you MS and have not used these settings, there’s no need to type it over again! Simply go to page one, hold down the CTRL + A buttons; it will highlight the entire manuscript, from page 1 to 1000+. Follow the steps to set PAGE MARGINS and FONT while highlighted, and it will fix all of your work. Be sure to scroll through in order to separate your chapter headings on fresh pages, or else, some of them may find their way into the previous chapter. Don’t forget to save and back it all up when you’re done!

I know, I know, if you are technically challenged, the whole idea of learning how to properly format your work is daunting. But believe me; editors appreciate working with authors who take the time to learn how to use their writing programs. It cuts down on the amount of tedious stuff they need to do to get your work up to par, and allows them more time to focus on the real work, the mind-numbing technical side. And who knows, less work may end up saving you money!

Happy Writing!

MJ

 

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

What You Don’t Know About Queries CAN Hurt You!

Recycle Those Old Manuscripts, Don't Trash Them!So, you’ve written your story and want to share it with the world. But first, you have to query.

What is a query?

A query is a presentation of your manuscript shortened into brief paragraphs in the effort to draw an agent/publisher’s attention to your work. A well-written query letter can lead to a request for more information about your project: a full synopsis, a request for the first couple of chapters, or the entire manuscript. The goal is to receive a request for representation (agent) or publication (publisher). But like writing, in order to tell a good story, it takes research and planning  in order to make the process flow smoothly.

So, what steps should you take?

First of all, research the agent/publisher you want to submit your letter to. No two agents or publishers are alike.

  • Agents:  Visit the personal pages of agents on the company websites. Most will tell you if they are looking new clients.  Some welcome new, unpublished clients, while others prefer to work with already-published authors. Some have a wish list with the types of stories or genres they are looking for. Knowing this before you waste time sending them your work saves time on both of your parts. Submitting a query of a Sci-Fi story to an agent interested in only Romance novels is asking for rejection.
  • Publishers:  Whether you’re looking to self-pub through a vanity press, Indie Press, or Traditional Publisher, you MUST read the submission guidelines. No two are alike. For example, one publisher may want your manuscript  typed and submitted in 12 point Times New Roman font, while another may request 11 point Calibri. (Yep, I had that happen!). If I hadn’t read the submission guidelines and assumed they wanted the manuscript written in standard Times New Roman, my manuscript would be ignored for not following their guidelines before they read the first line!

Prepare various files ahead of time to save time. While researching agents/publishers, make note of what type of file they want you to send. (Note: this is the age of digital. Gone are the days of only mailing your manuscript or query letter. Most require emails, not snail mail. ‘Snail mail’ –traditional mailing- can add longer wait time to getting a response to your request).

Here are the various requests I ran across:

  • Query letter– that’s all they want. Keep it short and simple, to the point.  Open with a hook that leaves wanting to know more. Talk briefly about your writing experience (if applicable) and where samples of your work can be found. Leave with a respectful and professional closing. Be sure to include correct contact information for phone, email, mailing. (Note: if including social networking information, know that they WILL research you before contacting you. Having an unprofessional presence online can cause them to lose interest, regardless of how great your story is.)
  • Query and Sample Chapter (s) or Pages In addition to the standard query, some want to sample your writing voice. Here is where having a strong opening to your story comes in. The first three chapters are your make or break it points in your novel. If an agent or acquiring editor can’t get hooked then, then they push your work to the trash pile and send the dreaded ‘rejection form’ letter. Create separate files for the following page counts: 5 pages, 20 pages, 50 pages. (or 1st chapter to 1st-3rd chapters).
  • Query and Synopsis The dreaded synopsis letter can take more work to write than the 350 page novel it’s being written about. The point is to share the highlights of your story, from beginning to, yep, the actual end…not the lead up to the end. They want to know how the story ends to decide if what happens in the middle is worth the time to read. Synopsis request can be as brief as one page, to as lengthy as 4 pages. Prepare a one-page, three-page, and four-page to have on hand. No need to pull hair out after writing a one-page synopsis and run across a request for a four-page and have to start all over again.
  • Query, Synopsis, and Full Manuscript:  Not many will ask for a full manuscript from the get go, but some do.  Be sure to have your manuscript completed BEFORE submitting it. Agents/Publishers want to see a finished product, not one that is incomplete. If they like what they see, they will want to jump on it. If they have to start working with you by giving you a deadline to finish the project, it could be a turn off.  As a rule, most manuscript requests come in the form of the following:*12 point Times New Roman font  *1 inch margins (all around) *double spaced (entire document, without space between paragraphs)

***Be sure to have your manuscript edited and as clean as possible. DO NOT SEND ROUGH DRAFTS! Try to have your work as close to professionally edited as possible. Not doing so and having blatant misspellings and punctuation errors can result in rejection of your work! ***

Once you have these things in place, you are nearly ready to start querying! With so many agents and publishers out there, it’s hard to keep up with what information was sent to which publisher and when. I suggest creating a spreadsheet to make note of the dates and information sent. If you don’t have time to make your own, visit QueryTracker.com. Create a profile, make notes of sent responses and request, as well as look up information about the agents/publishers you’re interested in. There’s also an area that allows you to view comments from others about their experience with those agents/publishers and turnaround time for responses.

The query process is time-consuming and a real test of your will and patience. The pay off; seeing your work in the hands of readers.  This is the time to grow thick skin. Prepare to get rejection letters, either as form responses or the very rare letter with actual feedback.  Take it with a grain of salt and look for the good part. No, I am not saying being told NO, is a good feeling, but sometimes it’s comical. I got one that said, “No, not interested.”…that was it, no hello, no Ms. Kane, nothing.  I laughed my butt off because it appeared that particular person was having a bad day.  I could only imagine what it’s like to trudge through a ton of emails day after day in search of a line that catches your attention. Just because they said no didn’t mean it was about me or my work. Remember my above comment: Wish List. If looking for the next hot book about Vampires is what is on everyone’s list, your next love story that’s about the average Joe won’t get a second look, no matter how well it’s written.

Don’t be afraid to explore your publishing options. If you don’t have the time or patience to look into self-publishing, then look at Indie Publishing companies.  They still request the same type of information as the big publishers, but you have a better opportunity to have your writing voice heard. The beauty of going Indie is being able to tell your story the way you want to without being told what you can or can’t write.

I survived the query gambit,  kept my writing voice, and ignored the negative responses that told me ‘no’. And now I am an Amazon Bestselling Author. 🙂

Here are a few links to articles on writing query letters synopsis. Good luck!!

MJ

eHow.com- Query Letter Sample Search

eHow.com- How to write a Synopsis Search 

Query Tracker.net  

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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