Don’t believe your characters

I loved this post by . How many times have I used a character to retell the history of my hero or heroine? Tons…and each time, I fail to take into account the impact personality and memory biases would have on the tale. My character told the story exactly as it happened. That’s unrealistic.

It would be more interesting if my character forgot something, a part, that messed up the story. It would also be more interesting if they were biased against the hero and told an edited version of the story.

Reality says that even if they weren’t biased or had forgotten something, they’re not reporters. They’re people. They weren’t simply standing around waiting for the events to happen so they could remember them. They were busy living. They probably remember what they were doing that day more than what actually happened.

Ms. Fairwin mentions two main reasons against a character remembering things accurately.

Positive Emotion, “… positive emotion following the accomplishment of a goal—like feeling good after seeing your favourite team win at a sport—can lead to attention and memorybroadening. In other words, you’re more likely to take in and remember the details that are a core part of the scene—like the players as they’re battling it out for sports supremacy—and the background details—like the setting in which this heroic battle is taking place.”

Negative Emotion, “As with feeling positive emotion when pursuing a goal, negative emotion can narrow attention and memory to the core features of a scene. And it makes sense—if something causes you a negative emotion, like fear or anger, it’s likely a threat, and so you zoom in on the thing making you feel that way. The stuff around it is less important and so you’re less likely to remember it.”

Excellent tips. A great post and one that got me thinking of all sorts of possibilities for my book! A big thank you to Skye Fairwin for the inspiration!


Writing Part-time

I have a DayJob. Which means I write when I can. I squeeze it in when there’s time. I hope that the muse is inspired then, that there are no doggie emergencies or phone calls so I don’t have to run away halfway through.

That’s why I found this post by Ali Luke so helpful. How to make the most out of my writing time. 17 ideas. Awesome.

Number 8 works for me. If I leave home and go to a favourite coffee shop, there are no doggies to walk, no phones, no undone laundry. I can just write and I focus.

Number 15 was another issue. I’ve learned that I need to write first and do the Media/blog thing last. Otherwise, I won’t do write. My blog can be a monster that sucks away my time. I start reading other posts, checking in what others are doing, looking at other blogs and, before I know it, hours have passed and I have to get away from the computer. No writing has happened.

Number 16 is another really good one. I like to edit my work and that scene that’s flat and empty and numbing all at once can bounce around in my head while I do something else. Believe it or not the back of my mind is looking at it while I do something else. If I’m patient, my subconscious will keep looking until it comes up with a great idea for the setting, a comeback, a great way to present a character or a twist that will bring that piece of the book to life.

What about you? Do any of these work for you?

Do you need to unplug?

The more time I spend at the computer…the more time I spend at the computer.  Part of me always thinks that more time at the keyboard means productivity (and I think some of that is true) but should I also try to step away and look around once in a while?

I was pondering this when I read this great post by SEAN D’SOUZA.

He says: “Sit back and think about all the ideas that changed the direction of your life. And think of where you were at the time. Nope, still not in the shower. You were somewhere on the road, somewhere deep in conversation with someone or lost in a book.”

He argues that computers are “output machines. When we deal with computers we’re rarely getting input.” In other words, we won’t get inspired seated at the computer.

What works for him is “take a trip to the cafe. I sit down and then I let two hours pass while I doodle my way through my plan. It’s not like I have a plan, but the plan unfolds. As I sit, the plan takes on a different dimension.” Even if he’s busy.

I too go to my favourite cafe. I do this often. And I get inspiration from life. But I have to add, that I also get inspired by the amazing posts I read online. There are some good posts out there (ahem, like this one by Sean D’Souza). 

Still, I think there’s something to be said about balance. Perhaps I should lift my head from the screen once in a while. Who knows what I will see.

Right. I forgot. I live in Canada.

27 ways you may be (unknowingly!) misusing words

Okay, some of these I knew…some totally stumped me. What a great post by Stephanie Huesler and Timothy Pike! Thank you so much for the post, guys!

Dialogue tags

He said, she said…dialogue tags. We put them in during dialogues to tell the reader who is talking. Easy right? Hm. Not so much.

If you repeat them too often, it sounds monotonous and pretty artificial. That’s bad. If you don’t put them in, no one has any idea who’s talking any more. You’ll lose your reader and that’s bad too.

It’s tricky.

To try and avoid repetition, I once tried to replace the famous ‘said’ with something more…flowery. I got horrid things like: ‘sarcastically rebutted’. It wasn’t pretty. So, I started reading and seeing what the pros did.

Some work it in. Watch.

Here’s an example with the tags.

‘”Have you seen the man who works on the third floor? Who is he?” Anna asked sipping her coke.

“I have no idea,” Michael said, seating back on his chair and scratching his nose.’

Here’s an example without the tags.

Anna sipped her coke. “Have you seen the man who works on the third floor? How is he?”

Michael sat back on his chair and scratched his nose with gusto. “I have no idea.”

In the second example. We know who’s speaking, even if the writer doesn’t actually say it.

Did my example help or make things worse? No worries, here come the experts! 🙂

Jodie Llewellyn has a great post about dialogue and tags here.

Here are three other great links about dialogue how-to’s and questions I never dared to ask; scary things like hyphens, comas and ellipses.

A little humour goes a long way

I like to throw in humour when I write. I think it helps keep the reader interested. It can’t go into every scene (like if someone dies) but here and there it helps keep the book flowing. Also, the funny bits help me keep going when I’m editing…and re-editing and re-editing.

Here’s an example that might come in handy. We’ve all read posts warning us not to do this or that rookie writing mistake. True? This post by Joanne Harris is also about not doing rookie mistakes…but it’s funny. Ahhhh.

A little humour goes a long way to help make any post or book more readable.

On that note…did you read the one about the penguin?



Self-Editing tips

I always thought you had to go to the Beta readers to get true editing. Turns out, the author is the best first-editing tool.

But how? I’ve posted a bit about this before. There is macro editing (i.e.: does this turn in the plot make sense? Should the ending change completely?) and micro editing (i.e., comas, passive voice, etc.). This is about micro editing. Ten tips to help anyone write better. Even a blog post. 🙂

I really liked the tips and they are incredibly helpful because I’m in the middle of editing Amy’s Courage and man, alive! It’s not easy. (sigh). A big thanks to C. S. Lakin for the post!

Transition scenes

I always have trouble with ‘transition’ scenes; those times when the hero is walking to the heroine’s house or the heroine is driving somewhere or they’re going to sleep. I want to skip when they’re in transition or rush by it somehow because it’s boring but, if I try and rush it, you can tell. On the other hand, if I write down every detail (he tied his shoes, grabbed his coat, put an arm in, then the other arm, zipped his coat shut…) the reader will probably throw my book on the floor then stomp on it for good measure.

So, what do I do? Luckily, though I have no idea, others do (yeey!).

Janice Hardy has a great article on how to skip time. She shows (with small examples) different types of techniques on how to move ahead. Check it out here. And here is another on transition scenes.

Skipping ahead of time is one of the ways to tighten up a book and not drag the reader through boring parts. Janice Hardy makes it look easy. A big thanks for those great articles!

On self-doubt

I’ve thought about stopping. I’ve had days where I wondered why I thought I could do it in the first place. English is my third language. Third. I have an accent that shouts out loud it’s not my Mother Tongue. I studied Math in university. Not English. How could I ever be a writer?

Every writer struggles with self-doubt at some point. We all have those little voices in our heads that tell us the many reasons we can’t be writers. I’m not going to tell you that you can do it or that you can’t. But I can share what other authors have written on self-doubt that helped me.

Bryan Hutchinson wrote a great article on self-doubt. The quotes alone he includes are worth the read (at least for me).

This one by June Whittle is a great post with links to resources for overcoming self-doubt and also has a link for those of us who’re not native English speakers!

Jeff Goins talks about dreaming when others think you’re…well nuts. It’s a lovely post and really encouraging.

Jody Calkins has this great post on positive things you can do to shut up those negative thoughts.

I absolutely loved this one by Joanna Penn on persistence. She has great advice and tips for authors struggling with self-doubt.

Finally, Kelly Leitner did this great article on overcoming self-doubt and this one on the fear of writing.

As always, I hope these help you when you’re thinking of shutting the laptop for good. Hang in there. 🙂