When characters become directors

As I near the end of my novel, I have to go back to change some things to make the end events come out right. I changed the occupation of one character to lawyer so she could take care of some legal matters in the resolution. It’s funny, but several times my characters seemed to override actions I had planned for them, causing my plot to change. Hmmmm!

I’m amazed when that happens. The other day, two of my characters—one of my favorites—died. I struggled with whether the protagonist should die. Once I thought I should kill him off, then thought I wouldn’t. I thought about putting him in an insane asylum. I thought about having him see his wrongs and change into a good man. It can happen!

I was just typing away, and all at once something happened, and he died! Then another character ended up dying with him. Wow! I didn’t know that was going to happen. I didn’t plan it. Now I have to go in and deal with all that emotion.

Once, one of my characters got lost and I had no idea where he was. It took a few days, but I did finally find him.

I have decided how to end my story. I just wonder if my characters will allow me to end it my way. They may change some things, but maybe not too many. In one of my previous works, the end was almost totally different than I had planned.

Do you think I should override the characters and insist it be my way? I wonder.

No cursing in my novels

thiebaud-faix-1178408-unsplash My book will not have cursing in it. If someone curses, I say, “He cursed.” I don’t use actual curse words. That’s my preference. Others say they want their stories to be realistic, so they use curse words. As a former teacher, I’ve seen and read many books by popular authors who use no cursing in their books. I don’t curse, and I don’t like cursing. I’m not offended by it; I’m actually seldom offended by anything. Just because I don’t like something doesn’t mean it offends me. My feelings are this: I want anyone to be able to enjoy my writing. Those who curse and those who don’t. If I add cursing in my dialogue, I’m alienating a group of people who don’t want to read books with cursing. If I don’t use cursing, I’m not really alienating anyone. I asked a group of students if they preferred books with cursing or no cursing. They said it doesn’t matter. What matters is if the book is good. But I have had students who didn’t like books with cursing. It’s a matter of preference and sometimes morals. I do feel that what we read and hear affects us and the way we speak. As a parent, I never wanted my children to be exposed to vulgar language. I wasn’t exposed to it as a child, and I never had issues with cursing or vulgar words being part of my language. I worked at school this week, and as I stood in the hall watching junior high students go to class, I heard the vilest language come from the mouth of a cute little blonde girl. I think this is common nowadays. How sad. How do you feel about realistic dialogue? How do you feel about the use of cursing in books you read?

Dialogue is the bomb!

Writers who advise other writers say make your dialogue realistic. Every person doesn’t talk the same, so your characters shouldn’t either. Boy, that gets challenging.

I’ve worked to give my characters different voices. When the people who live in a certain area speak, they speak simply and use slang and bad grammar. When my characters who are educated and professional people speak, they use less slang and more proper language.

Now I’m returning to the manuscript to do some layering. I’m giving one character a slang-word: Dadgum. I’m giving the main character the ability to sing and play music very well. The antagonist loves to hear him play and sing and has a favorite song he requests. I had to do a little research to find good guitar songs. That was fun. I heard songs I’ve never heard before.

Editing is hard work. I have so much to do before this book is done. Lord help this writer!

Thank God for lists!

Do you ever have a problem repeating words while you’re writing? I sure do. I’m aware that when I finish writing this novel (Where the River Goes) I’ll have a ton of work editing and rewriting it. A lot of it will be searching out and killing those repetitious words and phrases.

I’ve found a website that helps me avoid using repetition so much as I write.: http://www.wordhippo.com.  I love this site! I keep it running while I’m writing so I can refer to it often with a click of the mouse. Another resource I’ve found helpful is Pinterest. I search for something like ‘writing a novel’ and tons of information is available to help me be a better writer. I have three one-inch binders full of helpful articles, word lists, name lists, etc. I use constantly.

I organized my binders by using dividers to section off topics such as plot structure, character development, conflict, story structure, layering, and on and on. Great writers seem to enjoy sharing their knowledge with us lesser writers, and I’m glad. I benefit so much from their shared wisdom.

I also save information about publishing, book signings, and marketing. I’m like a sponge when it comes to learning more about my craft. Because I’m a retired English teacher I do okay with grammar, but there’s countless articles to be found for those who aren’t. Grammarly can help, but it isn’t always right.  

I have lists of body language and facial expressions I use constantly. I find these imperative to help me express what is going on with my characters. I also have lists of attributes, values, careers, and other things that come in handy.  

Thank God for writers willing to share their knowledge, for lists, and for binders.

Holiday writing

I sure am enjoying writing over the holidays! My novel is coming together nicely as I start working on the climax and nearing the end. I have to do some layering, going back to add scenes and amp up the plot. Some of my characters need added depth. I’m not sure they have a realistic balance of strengths and flaws to make them believable. Especially the MC.

I have to check descriptions. Probably I’ll have to add some. I’m sure I’ll have to add emotions to scenes. I always have a little trouble with that. I know I need more suspense. Wow, I have work to do! And I haven’t even started working on ridding the story of filter words, repetitions, passive voice and being verbs.

I’m hoping to finish the story in the next couple of months. Then to start edits before I submit it to beta readers. I’m happy that a couple of writer friends have volunteered to beta read it in addition to some others I have.

Here is a scene I wrote the other night. I’d love it if you’d make a comment about it.

A group of angry men gathered under a tree in the Johnsons’ yard. Anger boiled over onto the women who served meatloaf and scalloped potatoes. It boiled over onto rowdy children who played chase around trees and stumps and through and around the legs of the adults.

                “Wade, you said yourself we caint keep doin’ nothin’. Nobody else’ll help us. It’s up to us to fix things around here.”

                “You got that right, Josiah. I’m sick of the law ignoring us. They don’t care when it comes to river people.”

                Other piqued voices joined in and everyone was talking at once. A man near the center of the crowd raised his hand and shushes spread through the group until all was quiet.

“Pa Eli is speaking,” someone said. All eyes turned toward the small, grizzled man.

                “Folks, anger and bitterness will get us nowhere,” he drawled. Heads nodded, and he continued. “We gotta consider the truth, and we gotta have a plan.” He perched on a tall stump and contemplated his audience. “The truth is, people who got no rights are interrupting our lives and taking what’s ours. We’ve asked for help and got nothing. We gotta take matters into our own hands.”

                Fists pumped the air and affirmations articulated the mood. Once more, all grew quiet when Pa Eli opened his mouth. “One thing we gotta remember—people, good and bad, have value. We have to be careful to protect the innocent.” A long hesitation punctuated the importance of his statement.

“Our creator gave us soul to balance us. We have emotions to stir us, a will to move us, and a mind to guide us. We don’t need to get all riled up and act stupid. We have to use our brains to get us going in the right direction.”

Christmas

What a wonderful time I’ve had today celebrating Christmas with family. First, dinner with my in-laws is always enjoyable. We share good food and good conversation, then load up with leftovers to eat later.

This evening our kids and grand kids came to the house. We open our gifts from each other, eat, then play games. We laugh a lot as we play and tease each other. My grand-son-in-law taught us a new game tonight called 4-on-the-couch. It was challenging and a lot of fun. Of course, no matter what we play, we have fun.

We made too much food, though. Meatballs, Mexican cornbread, Tamale dip, candies, and more. Tamale Dip is easy to make and good for any event.

Here is my recipe for Tamale Dip.

  • 1 can tamales
  • 1 can chili, no beans
  • 1 can Rotel
  • ¼ pound Velveeta

Remove paper from tamales and smash them. Keep the juice. Add chili and Rotel. Chunk up the Velveeta and add to mixture. Heat until cheese is melted. Serve with Tostitos chips, corn chips, or whatever you prefer.

I’m trying!

Active voice or passive voice? That is the question, and the answer is always ‘active’. That’s my problem. For some reason, I habitually use passive voice, which makes it more work for me when I do edits and rewrites. Grrr! Sometimes I don’t see the problem sentences until someone points them out, and I’m forever grateful to those who care about me enough to do that. Oh well, we all have our weaknesses, don’t we?

Look at this paragraph from my WIP, Where the River Goes. Do you see the lazy writing?

Kade had been standing to one side, listening. He walked over to stand beside David.“Well,” he drawled, “at least you got one thing right.” He put his hand on David’s shoulder. “This boy is rich. He’s rich in ways you’ll never know. He’s rich with integrity. He’s rich with values that would never allow him to harm or harass anyone for any amount of money. He’s rich with family and friends. And you need to thank God above that I’m with him, and he’s my role model. That keeps me from hurting you.” He turned to David. “Come on, family and friend. Let’s get out of here.”

Now, doesn’t this sound better? Tighten up those sentences. Stop being lazy!

Kade stood to one side, listening. He walked to David’s side. “Well,” he drawled, “at least you got one thing right.” With his hand on David’s shoulder, he smiled. “This boy is rich. He’s rich in ways you’ll never know. He’s rich with integrity. He’s rich with values that would never allow him to harm or harass anyone for any amount of money. He’s rich with family and friends. And you need to thank God above that I’m with him, and he’s my role model. That keeps me from hurting you.” He turned to David. “Come on, family and friend. Let’s get out of here.”

I’m trying hard to structure my sentences right the first time instead of facing the job of rewriting them later. I’m learning to avoid using ‘that’ and ‘so’ and other unnecessary filler words. Man! This writing is hard work! Fun, though, don’t you think?

The outline debate

Often writers debate over whether to outline or not. I won’t debate over it. I don’t care what method you use when you write—to each his own. I have published three novellas and didn’t outline any of them. I just started writing and wrote until I was done. About a third of the way in I sketched out a semblance of an outline to sort of know where I was going. However, my characters seemed to change the story, so I’d have to periodically change the outline.

This novel is different. It’s based loosely on a story from the Bible, and I tried to write it from the hip (panster it, if you know what I mean), but I got nowhere fast. One day I sat down and outlined the whole story. I tried using Scrivener, but I haven’t learned that program well enough to make it work for me. Maybe someday. Once the outline was done, I started writing and still haven’t stopped. (Except to eat, sleep, go to church, and other necessities. You get it.)  

My characters still change the plot scenes and I have to revisit the outline a lot, but initially, the plot remains the same. However, I have altered the ending. I intended to kill off a couple of the main characters, but they had a different idea. Guess they didn’t want to die. But who does?

I find it amazing that my characters take on lives of their own. They seem to determine what happens to them and sometimes I feel I have little control. It makes writing fun. I told someone the other day, “My character is lost in the woods and I have no idea where he is.” Their response was priceless. I did eventually find him and take care of him.

I almost dread the long editing process, but I’m excited about getting this book finished. I hope when I read it through it all makes sense without a lot of rewriting. Oh well! I’ll do what I have to do.

What genre?

I’m working hard on a novel, and someone asked me what genre it is. I don’t know! How do I figure that out? I want it to be a romantic suspense, but I don’t know if it has enough romance to be romantic or suspense to be a suspense. So then, what is it?

I wrote a middle-grade novel about a girl who takes off to find her grandpa who disappeared. She has all kinds of experiences as she treks across the country. On top of that, some strangers are after her. So, is it an adventure? Or is it a mystery since she doesn’t know where her grandpa is, why he disappeared, or who is after her?

Then I wrote a YA novel set in the 60s about a girl with a bunch of brothers and a dad with a double standard. She runs away to join a hippy commune. I don’t think it’s an adventure. It isn’t a mystery or suspense. Not romance. Not paranormal or thriller. A character is in the Vietnam war and there are hippy characters, but I don’t think it has enough history to call it historical fiction.  Drama? I guess. I don’t know what else.

I read articles about how to identify the genre of a book, and most books are easy it seems. People write fantasy, thrillers, horror, and romance. They write cozy mysteries, paranormal, crime, and historical romance. So, I’ll just call my books realistic fiction. That’s what they are. Maybe someday I’ll write a romance or mystery, but for now, I’ll work to make my story more suspenseful and more romantic.

Marketing my book.

Last weekend the writers’ group to which I belong had a presenter speak about marketing. In three hours, he had time only to scratch the surface of what we writers could do to market our craft. He discussed building a platform and a brand. It was interesting and informative. His main point was ‘get your name out there’. Make friends. Build relationships. Network, network, network.

I get it. I need to get out of my shell, off my butt, and promote myself. But I hate that! I don’t want to do that! I have a writer friend who wants to do all the writing and illustrating and let ME do all the work of publishing and marketing. I DON’T THINK SO! Of course, like me, that’s what most writers would like.

So, I did a few things the presenter recommended, like fix my tags to include more things such as my website address. That wasn’t so hard, was it?

Then I did something else I loved. I’m in the middle of my novel, and my main characters are having a baby. So—I had a contest on my Facebook author page. Suggest a name for the baby, and if I pick the name you suggest, you win a free, autographed book. One of mine (obviously). I ran the contest for one day, and I had a great response. I chose a name (actually two names) which I announced in a post, announced the winners, and private messaged them to tell them how to choose a book. Guess what. They want to wait for this book!

Now all these people know I’m working on a novel and they feel somewhat invested since they helped me find a name. The two winners are excited about getting a free, autographed novel. Hopefully, they’ll tell their friends, and so on. The word is out! Today, I ate lunch at a local restaurant and with a big smile, the waitress asked me if I decided on a name. YAY!

I’m on the way. I’m building my platform. I’m getting my name out there. Now I’m trying to think of another way to get more people invested in my book. Bless my soul, I’m marketing!