MJ on Writing: Viewpoint Tips and Tricks

WritingOne of the first things I learned about writing was the correct way to write a scene. After years of reading I had become accustom to what is known as ‘head hopping’. For those who may not be aware of what that is, ‘head hopping’ is where two characters point of views are shared in the same scene. This is not to be confused with conversation. I am referring to the scene starting with the heroine’s POV and then in mid scene, it switches to the hero’s POV, and back again or to another character without a change in the scene or start of a new chapter. Sound confusing? Imagine how it feels to a reader!

That style of writing is no longer accepted in manuscripts today, unless of course your one of the old school authors who were allowed to do it years ago. Chances are they haven’t been forced to change. In fact, I know they haven’t. One of my favorite romance authors who have been around for years still does it in every new book. But for the new author, agents and publishers are looking for a more polished style of writing, starting with characters whose POV’s are the only one featured in a chapter. Even if you plan to self-publish, taking these extra steps to polish your writing will make your work stand apart from the rest!

So how do you make this happen? Here are a few tips and tricks to make sure you stay in one viewpoint from the beginning to end or your scene! (I write in 1st Person POV, so I will write these examples in both 1st and 3rd POV when needed.)

Make sure your reader knows who is speaking.

The easiest way to have this done is by having them addressed by name by another character in the scene. Doing this in the first few lines of the chapter will let your reader know who’s speaking:

Example:

(1st Person)

“Hey, Sara, how are you doing today?” my brother asked.

“Things could be better.” I grimaced while holding my stomach.

Or

(3rd Person)

“Hey, Sara, how are you doing today?” John asked.

“Things could be better,” she said while holding her stomach.

As mentioned above, NO HEAD HOPPING!

Doing so destroys the tension your building by staying in one character head. You know the saying, ‘the right hand can’t know what the left is doing?’ When sticking in one POV, it’s the same way. If Phil has a secret that he is trying to hide from Bob, his actions and what he says should say that to the reader, but the reader can’t know that Bob already knows that Phil is guilty.

Example:

Correct:

Phil’s eyes darted from side to side in an effort to keep from looking Bob in the eye. There was no way he would admit to eating the last slice of grandma’s apple pie. He tried his best to ignore Bob when he asked another question, and continued to stare out the kitchen window.

Incorrect:

Phil’s eyes darted from side to side in an effort to keep from looking Bob in the eye. There was no way he would admit to eating the last slice of grandma’s apple pie.

Bob knew Phil was guilty, because he refused to look at him. It didn’t matter if he answered his question or not. He was going to tell grandma.

Phil knows he’s guilty, but tries his best to hide it. If we are only in his POV, he can’t know what Bob is thinking, only assume, or in this case ignore Bob all together. What he thinks Bob knows or doesn’t know is not important. You only want to share Bob’s thoughts if/when his POV is addressed in another chapter.

Describing your character from their POV.

Every now and then it’s necessary for a character to tell the reader what they look like, what they are wearing, or describe their expressions. You have to be careful their voice does not slip into the voice of another character that may be looking at them. Try some of these tricks:

  • Have your character stand in front of a mirror and talk about what they see, but don’t be technical (and it should be relevant to the scene!)
  • Use feelings and descriptions to guide your reader into visualizing what the character is trying to say about themselves.
  • Quote another character’s thoughts about their appearance.

Example: Here’s how my character, Ebony Campbell, describe herself in the opening chapter of A Heart Not Easily Broken: (1st Person)

I smirked (facial expression) before sipping my margarita. Yasmine’s light-skinned complexion, slender ballet dancer body, long legs, and B-cup 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. (Opinion of others)

And last but not least, select ONE character to focus on in a scene!

In other words, don’t split up your chapter into two different points of view. Extend the scene, or shorten it, with chapter breaks instead of scene breaks. Doing so will keep the reader from missing the POV switch at the break point, because sometimes inserting *** just doesn’t do it. Doing so generally means there is a change in the scene itself, not POV.

I hope this helps! For more tips on writing, check out my page with links to previous articles on writing. Until next time, Happy Writing!

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

Social Networking for Writers: Good, Bad, or Just a Waste of Time?

My iPhone Apps that keep me in the loop 24/7.

t My iPhone Apps that keep me in the loop 24/7.

Some people say good, other’s say a waste of time.  I believe it’s all in how you work it.

Nearly everyone one who has access to the internet has some type of social presence, be it Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, Google +, Linkedin, Instagram, Pintrest, and I am sure that’s just naming the most popular ones. My point is: readers are online. They chat about what they like and don’t like, what’s the latest trending topic, who’s got the hottest new book, and so on and so forth.

How can that benefit a writer?

No matter what type of new technology there is, nothing works as well as word of mouth. Well, think of social networking as the digital version of the age old form of publicity. The trick is how to use it.

I’ve read various blogs that say they feel it’s a waste: “All you do is try and sell your books to other authors, nobody is gonna buy because we’re all trying to get paid.”

True and false.

First of all, authors are readers, too, not just writers. We like to read a good book, discover an unknown talent, and be entertained. That’s why we write!

And yes, if you’re an unknown author, a majority of people you first connect with on social networking sites are other authors. Why? Because those authors have experience  – some more, some less than you – on how to connect with readers. Networking can teach you the ropes on navigating a new site, the best new advertising technique, where to find the best deals for self-publishing, or publishers who are looking for new material. Not to mention book signing events, (yes, even with eBook’s being the big thing, readers would still like to have their paperbacks and Kindle/Nook covers signed). But when connecting with these seasoned pros, don’t just go in for the help, talk to them, get to know  them, and yes, read their work, make an honest new friend. Support them and guess what…they will support you.Hold up, say what?????Yes, it’s true, other authors can and will help you! But don’t get it twisted, it’s a two-way street!

Networking with other authors is simple and not hard to do. Here are a few suggestions:

  • If you asked to guest post/interview/feature on an author’s blog, be sure to give them the information requested in a timely manner, drop by the post to comment, and, if you have a blog, be willing to reciprocate the favor in the future. After all, when they have you on their site, it’s exposing your work to their followers/readers. You should be willing to do the same.
  • When you have a chance to read their work, do so! Talk to them (via private chat/emails) about what they did when writing, discuss writing techniques. You’ll be surprised by how much you have in common when writing. Also, you may learn a few things not only about the writer as a person, but  something that can help you become a better writer too!
  • There’s nothing wrong with shouting out a fellow author or posting a good review if you really enjoyed the story! Remember when your mother used to say, “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all”? The same goes here to. Remember, you want to support your fellow author and in turn, encourage them to do the same for you. Spreading negativity will not only turn them off, but others as well.
  • Remain a professional at ALL times. Your online presence is your digital business card.  Know when to comment on a post and when to keep your personal feelings to yourself. Don’t get caught up in negativity, political, or social issues unless it pertains to your work. Remember, your looking to establish a fan base. Fans follow authors they like wherever they can be found. Possible fans will read your post/comments, etc. and decide whether or not they want to connect with you. Also, other authors your looking to connect with may decide to avoid getting caught up in your drama, therefore cutting you out of the loop. Giving off a negative presence can ruin your writing career, no matter how long you’ve been in the game.

Above all, remember….there are millions of readers, and thousands of authors. Nobody can put out a book a week, so expecting to hog all the readers is very unrealistic. Readers want to be exposed to new writing styles, and stories. Remember, if you write a good story, they will love your work, but while they wait anxiously for your next book, they want to read something else. Expose them to an author you like and they will appreciate you more for it.

And it’s not just something an Indie Author can do….

Take a look at the back cover of your favorite NYT Bestselling Author. Other than the ever popular critique review, you’ll also find comments and shout outs from other NYT authors. Now that’s what you call having each other’s back!

MJ

Guest Post: Minnie Lahongrais

Writing Divergent Lives

Divergent Lives JPEG One Page CoverIn July of 2011, I sat at my computer to write what I thought was going to be the story of a woman, born of Puerto Rican immigrant parents raised in El Barrio who was conflicted about the ideals she was raised with. I wanted to show how those ideals played out in the revolutionary times of the 60s.

The working title for the story was Standing on the Precipice. I thought I knew how the story would play out when I sat down to write it. I wrote the prologue as well as the first chapter in one sitting then printed that section with the intention of reading it on the train on my way in to work the next day.

The next morning, while putting on my makeup, a childhood memory came rushing back to me. I should have been asleep, but I was eavesdropping on my mother who was having a conversation with my older brother’s girlfriend when I heard this little tidbit:

“The baby died in utero; choked by its umbilical cord when its twin, in a hurry to be born, climbed over it and killed it.”

I was horrified because I knew the person she was talking about! I didn’t read that excerpt on the train that morning. Instead I played out several “what if” scenarios in my head.

“What if that child hadn’t died? What kind of life would it have had? What if the baby had been born with an abnormality? How would the family handle it? What if they gave up the child? What if they think the child is stillborn and it’s sold on the black market instead?”

While discussing the possibilities with another author one night, I decided on a title and release date. Both decisions were important in order to make an impact. Divergent Lives was born that night.

I threw out the prologue, made the first chapter the second chapter and wrote the ending. Now all I had to do was get there.

I began my research in earnest. I studied the differences between psychopaths and sociopaths but became frustrated because I found that both mental conditions could easily be confused for one another. I did find one tiny difference and settled on making these two main characters — the twins — sociopaths.

I studied Bolivia during the end of World War II.

I spoke with an OB/GYN who had knowledge about how things were done in the 60s. I met with a psychotherapist who practiced in the 80s.

I set about studying the laws governing drug sales in the 80s and spoke with real estate experts about amenities that were available in the early 00s in newly built condominiums.

I studied the growth of technology between 1990 and 2000 and I spoke with retired policemen about police procedures.

Once I had all that information in one place, I knew I had my work cut out for me. I was pretty excited. The thoughts and ideas ran rampant in my mind 24 hours a day. I couldn’t get them all down on paper fast enough and resorted to voice notes. Today I listen to those breathless notes filled with excitement in my voice and I can only chuckle.

I would rush home to write. What was once the first chapter became the second chapter, what was once the last chapter became the first and I continued on from there, writing consistently and steadily for almost a year. Then I hit a brick wall.

A year after starting this story, I was two thirds of the way through – I had a beginning, an ending and a big hole in the middle. I called my manuscript my “donut” and put it aside to ruminate on how I was going to close up that big ole hole. I put together a list of thirteen issues I needed to address.

I was getting ready to go in for surgery and I knew I would be convalescing for three months. I figured I could address those issues during that time. Wrong again. The first six weeks after surgery were pure hell. I couldn’t focus, I was drugged up, and my characters abandoned me.

I was taken off medication during the 7th week after my surgery and my characters came alive for me again. I finished the story over the next five weeks.

Divergent Lives is a psycho-thriller with decidedly deviant twists to a sociopathic theme. It tells the story of RJ and Adina who enter the world as fraternal twins, one raised by old-world, controlling immigrants in El Barrio, the other sold into a religious home filled with lies and scorn. Both are sociopaths.

Turns out, RJ’s got a secret that enrages him with the flip of a switch. Adina uses her sexual power to dominate every man in her life. They are on a mysterious trajectory to cross paths in New York City, where the end of their lives culminates in an apex of horror and carnage.

A quote, written by Marquis de Sade in “Dialogue the Fifth” from his Philosophy in the Bedroom aptly states the message I wanted to convey with this story.

“One must feel sorry for those who have strange tastes, but never insult them. Their wrong is Nature’s too; they are no more responsible for having come into the world with tendencies unlike ours than are we for being born bandy-legged or well-proportioned.”

Think about that. Are we to blame for who we are?

 Divergent Lives is available now on Amazon.com in the US as well as in the UK Additional purchase links for other parts of the world can be found on my website.

Minnie Lahongrais

Contact Minnie on the following sites:

Twitter

Facebook

My Website – Worldwide purchase links can be found here

Divergent Lives on Amazon.com

Email

Interview with Ebony Nicole!

I recently met Ebony Nicole on Facebook and was thrilled to find yet another writer from Atlanta. Every morning I log onto Facebook and see an encouraging word. It is inspiring to see someone take time out of their day to leave a word of encouragement for others.

Ebony author pic

Welcome, Ebony!

What inspired you to write?

My inspiration to write branched from my poetry. I have been writing poetry since middle school. Then in 2004/2005 I started my novel Destiny Is All I Need, I put it down for years. Then it 2011, I started writing Let God Forgive Him and that became my first published book. Writing has always been a part of my world, I just had to embrace my gift and share it.

What genre do you write? Did you choose it, or did it choose you?

I do not write in any particular genre, I would rather say I write about real life topics and put my own little twist in it. If I had to choose though, it would be Drama/Romance. (If that is a category) I’m still learning about Genres, it is still new to me.

What is your work schedule like when you’re writing?

My work schedule remains the same when I’m writing.  I do most of my writing while I am at work. But for the most part, I write whenever I FEEL it and that can be at any time of the day or night.

 

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?

My interesting writing quirk is Emotions, I write from what I feel most of the time. If it’s that, then it is from what I see around me and that is a driving force for me alone. Lately, whatever I see and hear ends up as a storyline for me. I cherish this because; I think that is the gift that is given to all writers. It’s our way of expressing ourselves through, Writers.

 

Are you a pantser or plotter?

I would consider myself a panster, I say this because everything comes to me and I flow from that. When I say “come to me”, I call it my gift that God gave me. So many thoughts, storylines, and titles come to my head, as any other writer and I just let it flow. Doing this allows the creativeness to flow and it’s not forced. This is the best way to write in my opinion, because once you get into that story, things are bound to change.

 

Are your stories based on experiences based on someone you know, or are events in your own life reflected in the characters/stories you write? Can you share and example?

I would have to say my writing is a combination of all of these.

My first book is based on a true story (Let God Forgive Him) my second book (Destiny Is All I Need) has some real life experiences with a combination of things that I have seen around me. I like to use that to my advantage, it always work in my favor. What better way than to use the things that you see around you every day?

 

Do you have any suggestions to help new authors become a better writer? If so, what are they?

I would advise them to be themselves in this writing industry; there are so many Authors that are trying to be like that next one. No two people will ever be the same; people will respect you and your work more, if you just let it flow. When it comes to learning, I was told to “Do my research.” Well, in my opinion, the best research you can do is through experience. Everything will pan out or you, once you are in it for a while. Some things will be harder to learn than others. Lastly, don’t allow anyone to mislead you, if you do not feel it in your heart, don’t go through with it. Everybody is not here to help you. It’s up to you to recognize the good from the bad.

 

Are you self-pubbed, indie pubbed, or traditionally pubbed?

 I am signed with a company but she still labels us as Self- published.

What are your current projects?

Currently, I am preparing to release my Poetry book, Penetrations of A Soulful Heart, that one will be followed by my Encouraging words book which, I titled Ebony Nicole’s Encouraging Words. By the time those are released, I hope to be done with my third novel, entitled You Can’t Weather My Storm.

 

Pink Publishing Sales Link     Twitter     Facebook      Google+     Blog/Website     Email

 

 

Let God Forgive Him-full cover

 

 

Let God Forgive Him

Based on a True Story”

Writer EbonyNicole

 

 

 

Touched

I was touched at a young age.

I still don’t know how I can live with this pain,

But I still love this man. 

I suffered through the most precious years of my life.

Trying to find my way and do what was right,

But all I could see was the pain inside.

Holding in tears that damaged pride,

Crying day in and day out as the world passed me by. 

No one knew of all this pain and hurt I had inside

As I did things out of anger or just because I thought I could. 

I even did shit ‘cause I thought it would make me feel good.

I didn’t have the guidance I needed to make it through another day,

Didn’t even have the courage to pray and say what my heart really wanted to

say. So, here I am, still lost and trying to find my way,

But, through it all, I must stand.

Never again will I be touched by another man.

 

Excerpt:

Chapter 1: Jewels’ Confession

 

“Mama, please, don’t make me go back there!” Jewels pleaded.

“Go where, baby?” Shelia asked her daughter.

“My daddy’s house,” Jewels answered as tears fell from her eyes.

She looked at her mother, but the words wouldn’t come out. Shelia opened the car door for her daughter, but she didn’t force her to talk under the condition she was in. All kinds of thoughts were going through Shelia’s head as she drove down Martin Luther King Jr. Drive, towards their apartment. Shelia glanced at Jewels every now and then to make sure she was okay. It had been a while since Jewels had lived with her mother.  Shelia was in the process of getting her life back on track after having been strung out on drugs. Shelia had made the decision to let Jewels stay with her father until things got better for her.  She was now in her second year of being clean and sober, so getting her babies back was the next thing on her list of things to do. Drugs had consumed her life at one point, but Shelia was now a perfect example of someone who had overcome her addiction.  She was showing the world that only the strong survived.  Pulling up to their apartment, Jewels followed Shelia’s lead but took slow strides with her head hanging down.  Shelia grabbed Jewels’ chin, forcing her to look up, and said, “Baby, hold your head up.”

Now headed up the stairs, Shelia noticed that Jewels had stopped walking.  She thought she’d heard her say something.

“Mama, he rapped me, and I don’t want to live with him anymore. Please, can I come back to live with you now?” Jewels said.

Shelia felt as if her legs were about to give out, so she held on to the rail of the stairs.  She could see the pain in her daughter’s eyes and knew she wasn’t lying.  Her hands shook as she attempted to make it up the stairs to unlock the door.  Jewels was crying, trying to think of a way to tell her mother how her daddy had raped her. She was eight years old when it had happened, too young to understand anything. Having to hold this secret for four years had damn near killed her, but this was the perfect time to tell her mama what had taken place. They both cried as Jewels poured her heart out to her mother. The next day, Shelia took Jewels to the doctor for a full check-up.  This was the beginning of a long journey.

 ####

 

Destiny Is All I Need

Destiny Is All I Need

Chapter 11

The Check-Up

Crystal

 

 

 

 

Excerpt:

“Who is your doctor, ma’am?” the dark skinned receptionist asked.

“Dr. O’Conner,” Crystal answered.

“May I tell him who’s here?”

“I’m Ms. Simmons. I have an appointment.”

As the receptionist paged Dr. O’Conner, she realized she had seen this woman a few times before. The receptionist wondered how many appointments one patient could have in such a short period of time.

Crystal didn’t wait for Dr. O’Conner to respond to the page. She walked straight to Dr. O’Conner’s office.  You would have thought it was her office the way she sauntered in without a care in the world. Happy to see that he was alone, she gave him a hug and rubbed her hand up and down his back. He returned the favor with no hesitation. The hug lingered on for a few minutes followed by a passionate kiss. They had been secretly dating since Crystal was released from the hospital. Destiny had been taking very good care of her and so had Dr. O’ Conner. To her, everybody had a purpose in her life, and she was more than happy with the attention. Crystal had never had sex with her doctor, but, right now, she wanted him to take her right there in his office. She made sure he knew that by slowly taking off her shirt, pants, and all of her underclothes. As they dropped to the floor, Crystal saw the look of shock on his face, but she was ready. Dr. O’ Conner locked his office door and followed her lead. After removing everything from his desk, Crystal got on top of it, laid back, and waited. Taking control, Dr. O’Conner kissed her from head to toe, caressing her body.  As she anticipated his next move, quiet moans escaped her lips. He teased her body. Her heartbeat increased. As she wondered if he knew she had never been with a man before, she started to panic.

After turning Crystal over on her stomach, Dr. O’ Conner was now ready to please her. While rubbing his fingers around her clit, he was surprised at how her body responded to him. She swelled under his touch. He continued until he heard the wetness of her pussy. He slowly inserted one finger, then two. As he made circular motions in and out, he noticed she was tight, real tight actually.

“Am I your first, Crystal?”  He asked.

“Uh…yes, is it a problem?” Crystal questioned.

Instead of answering, he increased the speed of the circular motions he was making with his fingers and grew more aroused as he heard how wet she was getting from his touch. This excited him more than anything, and he knew she was pleased by the way she moaned louder and squirmed around on the desk. After removing his fingers, he slowly inserted himself into her wet pussy. Crystal closed her eyes and whispered, “Go slow, baby.”

Then, she began to rotate her hips a little. This was a strange feeling at first, but she liked it.  She wanted him and liked the way he took his time with her. As they got more into it, she scratched his back as he rubbed his fingers through her hair. Neither wanted to stop, but they knew this wasn’t the time or place to really get down. Crystal wanted him to get back to work but not before his tongue showed her pussy some attention. With two orgasms down, slightly exhausted, Dr. O’ Conner gave her what her body was asking for. Now this, she was used to. As his tongue swirled around and around, she threw it back at him.  With her legs wrapped around his neck, she was loving this!  After orgasm number three, they brought the session to an end. Dr. O’ Conner gathered their clothes and invited Crystal to his personal shower. Entering together, they couldn’t keep their hands off each other. Half of his day was gone already, but he didn’t mind at all.

####

 

1st Person, 3rd Person, Omnipotent…Which One Are You?- Part 2

A few weeks ago, I shared information and examples of the three popular forms of point of view writing. If you missed it, follow this link.  
How do you know which one is best for you?
Over a year ago, when my writing journey began, my writing was all over the place as I tried to decide what POV to use. Nearly every author I read wrote in 3rd person. Some broke down each characters actions and thoughts by separating their voices with the use of chapter breaks. Others used scene breaks. Some did neither and head hopped.
 As a reader, none of the differences in their writing styles bothered me. As long as the story was good, and I was able to decipher the differences in character, I was pleased.
As a writer, I see things differently. 
Most writers, when starting out, strive to emulate the writing style of our favorite authors. Nora Roberts was my first introduction into reading romance, so I wrote the way she wrote.  What came out was what I thought of as a seamless flow of character(s), all thoughts and emotion in a scene. In other words, telling the story from the POV of all characters involved in the scene. There were no chapter breaks. There was no defining moment of a character POV changed. The scene progressed with the POV of all major characters involved.
The first book I read that used the 1st person POV was, don’t laugh, Twilight. I enjoyed getting deeper into the characters mind and seeing the story told from the way Bella saw it. Yes, it was biased and no one else’s personal opinions were understood beyond what she felt or imagined them to be, but after years of head hopping, it was refreshing. My favorite book in the series is Breaking Dawn where we were introduced to Jacob’s POV when Bella was unable to speak. Talk about exciting! ‘Hearing’ his crazy thoughts and not just being told by Bella what his actions were, we got to got to know his goals, motivations, and inner conflicts. Too bad we never got to see the same happen with Edward!
(I have no examples to offer when it comes to Omnipotent works because I can’t think of one, though I am sure over the years I have read a few. If I’m not mistaken, this form of writing is typically found in English literature. My understanding is that it is not a popular style chosen by authors today. I could be wrong, so forgive me if I am. )
It wasn’t until I attended a writer’s workshop that I truly learned how do decide what POV works for me. The instructor said this: take a scene, write it in 3rd person, then write it in 1st person. Read it aloud. How does it sound? Does if flow smoothly, does it sound rushed? Can you, the writer, identify with the character, does the voice sound natural?Which one do you feel the most comfortable writing? 
For me, it was 1st person.
Writing in 1st person allows me to experience my characters emotions and thoughts as if they were my own. With 3rd person, I feel as if I’m on the outside looking in, as if there’s a glass door allowing me to peer into my characters without knowing how they truly feel. My writing style allows me to step into the character’s skin, their clothes, and their lives. I feel their emotions as if they were my own. I taste, hear, see, smell what they experience. I become them to the point that when the scene I’m writing is a happy one, I am happy. If they are in pain or sad, I cry, literally, right along with them. At times I am so wrapped up in my writing voice that my family will walk by and as if everything is okay. It is then that I know I’ve truly channeled my characters voice. I never connected with my characters that way when using 3rd person. (can anyone say straight jacket? lol) 
I have heard many say 1st person writing should be for YA novels, not adult fiction, and definitely not romance. Why? Because 1st person stories are told from just one characters POV. If the plot is not entertaining and the supporting characters strong enough to interact with the leading character, readers can get bored, quick. My hat goes off to Janet Evanovich who seems to have mastered the single 1stperson narrative. Her Stephanie Plumb novels are highly entertaining, and her characters easy to fall in love with. The entire series is told by Stephanie Plumb alone. Her witty remarks, quick wit, mixed with the colorful cast make reading her latest exploits something to look forward too.
I found my writing style by taking the best of all my favorite authors and developing my own style of writing 1st person.
The goal of my stories is to show the depth of the heroine and the hero’s evolution as they progress through the novel. There’s no head hopping. There’s no confusion as to who’s speaking, or what they really feel. I use chapter breaks, not scene breaks to separate the two. And occasionally, when story calls for it, I introduce a third person’s viewpoint to break it up a little, but not just for the fun of it. Each character is planned and serves a purpose. My goal is that the reader is well aware of everything each of the characters have experienced throughout, good, bad, and the oh so fun in-between.
How does the publishing industry feel about the use of the various POV’s? Each genre is different, but since I write romance, I can tell you this: it’s frowned upon. During my querying process, I had an agent, who loved the story, tell me there were a few things she wanted me to change, but the biggest was switching from 1st person, to 3rdperson. Her reason, the Big Six wouldn’t take an IR/Contemporary Romance/Women’s Fiction story unless it was written in 3rd Person.
Wasn’t. About. To. Happen. 
The Butterfly Memoirs are about the character’s personal experiences as told by them, like a memoir. The definition of a memoir is: an account of one’s personal life and experiences; autobiography. It would not be the same written as 3rdPerson.
 Thin about it, do you write your diary in 3rd person?
I didn’t let that stop me. (By the way, a year later, as I prepared to query my manuscript, I sent it to the instructor whose writing class I took. She’s an author as well as an agent. After reviewing it, her comments were about technical issues. Never once did she say it should be changed to 3rd person).
The best advice I can give when deciding which POV to use when telling tell your story is this: learn the rules and use them. Discover which ones you can bend and bend them. Experience writing the scene from each point of view and decide which one sounds the best. Which one allowed you to channel your character the most? Then, tell the story the way you want it to be told. If it’s a little outside the box because you don’t want it to be the norm, go for it. Believe me, there are readers out there who feel the same way and will be happy to see support you.
My novel, A Heart Not Easily Broken, will be available September 20th. If you haven’t yet, read the first chapter. After that, grab a copy and see how the use of 1st person has worked for me!
Until the next time, Happy Writing!
MJ

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1st Person, 3rd Person, Omnipotent…Which One Are You?- Part 1

Deciding on the correct Point of View (POV) for your manuscript can be tricky.
One of the best analogies I’ve heard refereed to POV as the ‘camera’ in motion that shows the reader what is going on.

Who’s camera will you use?    

Do you stick with the traditional one person  POV and use the hero or heroine’s eyes? Do you allow more than one character to tell the story and see it from multiple angles? Or do you take on the role of narrator and tell the story from a distance allowing the reader to be privy to events the characters are unaware off?

And when you decide which character(s) have the spotlight, is their voice in 1st person, 3rd person, or omnipotent?
What are the definitions of each POV?

To learn more about each POV, visit the links to read more on About.com, Fiction Writing.

This point of view is from one character which serves as the narrator. Use of the words “I” or “we” distinguish this voice. It allows the readers to “see” and “feel” what this character sees and feels because you’re in that character’s head. 
This point of view allows for more than one character to tell the story. This is the most common form used in writing. Use of the words “he” or “she” distinguish this voice.
This point of view has a god-like quality because the narrator has knowledge of the thoughts and feelings of all the characters in a story.  It can become confusing since at anytime the reader can find themselves in the  POV of any character in the scene. If used, each individual voice should have separate scenes to avoid confusion.  Use of the words “he” or “she” are still used. 
Choosing which POV you use will change the voice of your characters and determine your writing style. My personal preference is to write in 1st person. I chose that POV for the voice of my characters for two reasons. First, my series is titled, The Butterfly Memoirs, which symbolizes the evolution of the characters as the book progresses. Since it is their story, or memoir, I wanted their voice to be clearly heard during the course of the events. My original manuscript was written in 3rd, but I found it impossible to portray thoughts and emotions to the depth I wanted without using the words “I” and “me”.
As an example of the differences in the POV voices, I will demonstrate with the opening lines of A Heart Not Easily Broken:  

In 3rd person: 

“This is the last time I wear this dress.” Ebony Campbell stated, a hint of irritation in her voice.
“Oh, please,” Yasmine, her best friend and roommate, leaned over and yelled.
The music pounding out of the nightclub’s speakers made it nearly impossible to hear her.
“Stop fidgeting. You look uncomfortable,” Yasmine added, winking at the bartender who handed them their drinks.
No matter how many times Ebony adjusted the hem of her dress, it was impossible to ignore the warm air tickling the backs of her thighs as people pushed past her in the crowded bar. It would take more fabric to keep her shapely derriere from involuntary exposure.

That was a simple change of pronouns: “I” to “Ebony”, and “me” to “her”, with a few additional action tags. I am so used to writing from ‘inside’ of the characters head that I had to change my mindset to make it work!

Now, here’s the same scene in Omnipotent:

“This is the last time I wear this dress.” Ebony Campbell said. Her irritation was evident in her voice.
“Oh, please, Ebony,” Yasmine, who was her best friend and roommate, had to lean over and yell.
The music pounding out of the nightclub’s speakers made it nearly impossible for them to hear each another.
“Stop fidgeting. You look uncomfortable,” Yasmine winked at the bartender who handed them their drinks. She really wished her friend would shut up and get with the program. 
No matter how many times Ebony adjusted the hem of her dress, knowing she would never be able to ignore the warm air tickling the backs of her thighs as people pushed past her in the crowded bar. She knew it would take more fabric to keep her shapely derriere from involuntary exposure.
I’ll be the first to admit that this point of view can be confusing! What was the difference? The use of pronouns was the same, “she”, “they”, except now the ‘voice’ is not just from Ebony’s POV. Yasmine’s thoughts/action would only be mentioned as an observation by Ebony if it was written in 1st or 3rd person. The POV character of the scene (Ebony) would have no clue that Yasmine was irritated by her comments…unless this was paranormal then she could be psychic and read her mind…..see what I mean? Confusing! 

Now here is the exact same scene in 1st person:

“This is the last time I wear this dress.” (No action tag needed. Her voice automatically tells you her mood)
“Oh, please, Ebony,” Yasmine, my best friend and roommate, yelled in my ear.
The music pounding out of the nightclub’s speakers made it nearly impossible to hear her.
“Stop fidgeting. You look uncomfortable,” she added, winking at the bartender who handed us our drinks.
No matter how many times adjusted the hem of my dress, it was impossible to ignore the warm air tickling the backs of my thighs as people pushed past me in the crowded bar. It would take more fabric to keep my shapely derriere from involuntary exposure.



Can you see the difference? None of the POV’s were better than the other, it’s all in how you want to tell the story and what voice you give your characters. 

How do you know which one is best for you? How does the publishing industry view writing in those POV’s?

Be on the look out for part two of the series where I will share a few more facts about the difference in point of view!

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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