Sunday, 12 March 2017

3 Essential Scenes That Reveal Character

Character

char·ac·ter
ˈkerəktər/

noun

1. the mental and moral qualities distinctive to an individual. "running away was not in keeping with her character"
synonyms: personality, temperament, nature, disposition, mentality, makeup

Yes, let's talk about character! In previous posts I've discussed how to make your character jump off the page, and how to create believable villains. But today we're focusing on how to use certain scenes to reveal your character's...well, character.



1. The Monogram Scene
Imagine your novel being played on a stage. In the beginning of your story, give your main characters a scene or two that defines them as individuals; make them interesting enough to entice the reader to follow them through the story. These scenes must show who that character is at their very essence. 
Think of key words that describe your character. How can you show this? 


In NIGHT SHIFT, the protagonist, Daniel Gale could be described as vulnerable and lonely, but he also had a good sense of humour.
To help show this I have Daniel meet one of the clerks right after he gets hired.


Daniel didn’t feel insulted; he knew how scruffy he looked. He grinned, showing off his dimples. Flirting felt awkward, but he couldn’t ignore the lightness in his chest. “Actually,” he said, “I’m doing night security.”
     “Oh.” Her smile dropped. “Nice knowing you.”
     The air had cooled. “Sorry?”
     “The new night guards never stay for long.” She glanced around the area, and then leaned in so close he could see the sparkles in her eye shadow. “It’s like this,” she whispered. “Weird stuff happens at night.”
     “Weird stuff?” Daniel repeated, raising an eyebrow.
     “Unexplained phenomena after hours.” 
     “Like?”
     Her eyes grew wide. “Strange noises, furniture being rearranged, displays messed up, lights going on and off for no reason.”
    “Sweaters unfold themselves?” he said. “Sounds terrifying. I hope I survive.”


Hopefully it shows him for what he is, a lost young man who remains hopeful this last chance might be the one he's been waiting for.






2.  The Momentum Scene 
Build that anticipation! Momentum in your story is created by your character making a decision and acting on that decision. The scope of the decision doesn't matter, it could be big or small. However, it is imperative to use this scene as your character's time to show their nature. And because your character has made a decision, this changes the plot and should create more obstacles for their goal. This is all about creating tension, moving the plot forward, and building momentum.  
In this scene from NIGHT SHIFT, Daniel is doing rounds after hours on his first shift, trying to convince himself the strange occurrences aren't ghost related. However, one moment becomes to real to ignore and he makes a rash decision. 

Daniel’s breathing slowed down. He twirled the keychain around his finger a few times, trying to think clearly. It must be those day-shift jerks, he reasoned. He looked at his digital watch—they only had four hours left to scare him into quitting. Daniel cracked his knuckles and summoned some of his bravado from his hockey days. Bring it on, he challenged.
    Strutting back to the piano, he grabbed the flashlight, trying to guess what their next trick would be. He was halfway to the elevator when the lights went out. He worked the flashlight switch, and then jiggled it up and down, but it didn’t work. “Shit,” he whispered.
Without warning, loud piano music cut through the silence and filled the empty room. Daniel’s heart threatened to explode. Someone or something was playing his mother’s favourite song—the piece he’d tried to play. He tossed the useless flashlight and ran to the elevator straight ahead.
Daniel’s outstretched hands made contact with the iron mesh. His fingers grabbed the edge of the gate as he swung into the blackness. But his feet never landed on the elevator floor. His legs just brushed against the greasy cables where the elevator should have been.



3. The Glimpse Scene
As a reader (and a writer) I need to find the character relatable, something that makes them real. Sometimes characters can seem too perfect, or too evil, or too...well, conceived by someone's imagination.  
And if a character isn't believable, the story won't feel authentic, thereby decreasing the reader's interest, they simply won't care what happens. This is why the glimpse scene is so important. It gives the reader an inside view of the character's humanity.  
It doesn't matter if your character is a superhero or a work-from-home accountant, there needs to be a human connection. To do this, show their fears, secrets, desires...all those things that make us human.



This glimpse scene in NIGHT SHIFT helps show Daniel's grief.


His backpack lay in a heap at the end of the bed. He pulled it over and rummaged down to the compartment close to the bottom. Carefully folded and dry in a plastic bag were several white handkerchiefs. His father had always carried one.
“If it weren’t for handkerchiefs,” his father once told him, “I wouldn’t have met your mom.”
Daniel sat on the hotel bed wishing for that moment back. Instead of brushing off his dad, he would have asked to hear the story about how his parents met. Years later, after the accident, Daniel would lie awake at night, making a list of all the things he never knew about his mother—even trivial things that never occurred to him. What was her favourite movie? Favourite colour? Favourite food? Did she like milk or sugar in her coffee? And what was the name of her favourite perfume?
He never asked his father these questions—it was too painful and the words felt clumsy in his mouth. As the routines of school and work gave a semblance of normality, Daniel quietly filed each one away, waiting for when his dad was ready to talk. But that time never came.
Daniel picked up a handkerchief and ran a finger over his father’s embroidered initial. It was something tangible that reminded him he had once belonged to a family.
 

Here are some quick writing exercises to help you get into your characters head.
  1. List as many bad habits you can think of (even some of your own). Is there a way to give one of these to your character?
  2. What does your character do when no one is looking. Sing? Dance? Make diabolic plans with homemade voodoo dolls?
  3. Take a few minutes to write a long list of key words that describe your character. Then cross out all the uninteresting ones until you have only three or four. How would you show those characteristics?
  4. Think about how your character was living before the story takes place. Is there a decision in their past they regret?
I hope this was helpful! Happy writing!


Monday, 6 March 2017

Read An Ebook Week!

Who wants a free ebook? Who wants many free ebooks?

You're in luck, my friends!

The 2017 Smashwords Read an Ebook Week promotion is taking place now from March 5-11 2017. All week long readers can browse the special Smashwords Read an Ebook Week catalog by coupon code levels and categories. After 11:59pm Pacific time on March 11, the catalog disappears.


How it works:

Click here for my Smashwords author profile. Both NIGHT SHIFT and BLACK FRIDAY are FREE to download this week. When you go to the checkout, use the promo code 'SFREE'.




Happy Reading!

And if you enjoy a book, please consider leaving a review on any buying sites such as Amazon or you preferred social media. It really makes a difference to the book's exposure. Plus, it warms the author's heart and encourages them to keep writing. So, yeah...reviews matter.



Saturday, 4 March 2017

The Secret to Never Giving Up on Your Writing


Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency

I'm madly working on a secret project right now!

Okay, it's not that secret, but it makes it sound all mysterious and forbidden and I want to grab you by the suspenders so you'll keep reading.

Anywho, I've been trying to get a chapter written each day because I hate writing, but it feels amazing to have written, you know? I guess you could say I have a 'love hate' relationship with writing.

But the other day I realized I had gotten into the habit of thinking the same two destructive thoughts each time I opened my laptop.

1. I would look at the word count and think, There is no way I'm going to make this into a novel! Too much stuff has already happened and I have no plot left. (Maybe I'm trying to convince myself I'm almost finished) *evil laugh*

2. Then I would worry the story didn't have enough action. I need a fight scene, I'd think. Where can I fit in a fight scene? And what's going to be the next plot twist?

You can imagine how much I was able to write with that miserable frame of mind. *tsk tsk*

But...THEN! (light bulb) I started watching Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency (based on the books by Douglas Adams) and had my mind blown! It's hard to describe exactly, but basically a bunch of weird stuff happens to four different groups of people who have nothing in common, but they're all connected by the most bizarre circumstances. The main theme Dirk kept relying on was that everything is connected and nothing is coincidence.

At the end there's an explanation you'll gladly accept because you've grown so attached to the characters you really think they exist and you want a happy ending for all of them.

*Ahem*

More importantly—besides being entertained—I came up with a story telling slogan to keep me typing; Everything is connected and if you keep moving forward all the random stuff will eventually meet and it will be awesome.

Say it with me.



So that's what I think of now when I open my laptop. All the other stuff I can't figure out will eventually make sense...it always does.

What do you do to help you through slog through a writing project?


Monday, 13 February 2017

4 Cliffhanger Ideas for Chapter Endings


Hook: a device designed to catch people's attention.


It's important to keep your reader's attention (that's right, make them stay up past their bedtime!) so I tend to put all of my cliffhangers at the end of the chapter as opposed to mid-way through. This keeps the reader invested in the story and the characters. If not, they'll lose that immediacy of what's happening in the now and will be reaching for that bookmark.

Don't let that happen!

So here are a few ways to keep your reader in the moment and wanting more.

1. Important Decision: A crucial choice your character has to make that will affect the direction of the plot. It's even more enthralling for the reader if we know either choice will result in some form of disaster.  




In this example from Asp of Ascension, the main character is desperate enough to believe the one person she trusts the least. 

      Terry's patience grew thin. "What am I supposed to do?" she demanded.
      The line was dead quiet except for Dr. Mullaca's steady breathing. Finally she said, "That should be obvious, girl. If you want to save your father, you have to find that missing asp!"



2. Physical Danger: When your character is in a life or death situation where there is seemingly no way out.

But of course there's a way out! There's a hundred more pages, so the reader really, really, wants to know HOW that's going to happen.



In Butterflies Don't Lie, the main character (through a series of bad decisions) ends up falling off a sailboat in the middle of the ocean. Too bad she can't swim.

I stumbled forward, groping for the safety stay, but I was already moving too fast. I tumbled headfirst over the edge and hit the water. The last thing I remember seeing was Blaine’s shoulders. He was turned away—as always—with his back to me.

3.Unexpected Revelations: This is one of my favourites, otherwise know as the plot twist! Something occurs in which the character (and hopefully the reader) discovers something so shocking that it changes the direction of the plot.




In Night Shift there is a particular 'holy crap' twist that I'm quite proud of, but I can't put that one here because I don't want to spoil it for future readers. So here's another example of an unexpected revelation in the book that changes the motivation for the character and even switches the track of the plot.

When he finally looked over, tears were running down Mary's cheeks, her lips quivering. "Daniel," she said, still pointing to the picture of the blonde woman. "This is Virginia."


4. Hinting at a Mystery: Keep the reader guessing. It's also more satisfying if the answer to one mystery creates more questions for the reader.


In Girl on the Run, the main character's inner monologue alludes to a secret guilt. At this point we know she's suffered a loss, but we're unaware of the full disaster.

     I used to care about provincial records and even the Olympics, but not anymore. Those were things I not longer had, and no longer deserved. I put my hand on my stomach, on the heaviness that was always there. A reminder of what I'd done and what I'd lost.

What ideas have you used to hook readers at the end of your chapters? Please share your own chapter endings in the comments section. And remember to add the title so we can find it at the bookstore!

Sunday, 29 January 2017

The Last Goodbye





Cody, our lovable and loyal cocker spaniel, died yesterday. He was twelve.

We adopted Cody two and half years ago through Litters N' Critters, a non-profit animal rescue organization. He slipped into our family like he'd always been here. And although we were the ones who chose him, it was clear from the beginning that he owned us. And wherever we went, whether it was to the cottage or a walk in the park or the annual Father's Day Run, he came too and it made those events more endearing.

As a senior dog, Cody wasn't jumping over fences, but he could suddenly be full of energy whenever a neighborhood cat dared to come into the yard. He enjoyed good health until a few months ago. His last visit to the vet determined his liver was failing and he was anemic. With the help of Dr. Croft, we decided to treat him with palliative care to keep him comfortable as long as we could. 

Cody loved to nap, loved to eat, and was known for his lack of speed, so the ability to see whether or not he was unwell was a little hazy most days. Yesterday though, it became clear that the time to say goodbye had come.

Other than adopting him, it was the most important decision we could make on his behalf.

Dr. Croft and the rest of the staff at Halifax Veterinary Hospital were gentle and kind. The entire process was very peaceful. We said goodbye to Cody as a family, staying with him to the end.

I'm crying as I write this and feeling a little strange as well because there are so many human tragedies in the world that deserve tears and grief. However, anyone who's ever loved a dog can tell you it's a special kind of loss. And Cody was a very special kind of dog. 

I want to tell you a little bit about him... 

His favourite pastime was napping.

Anywhere,



Anytime,



And on anyone.




He loved to eat. His favourites were apples, carrots, peppers, and as a treat, bacon! He would stand in front of the fridge, just staring, hoping it would open on its own.






He was exceptionally good at helping me proofread.




He had a great sense of humour.




He loved eating all the fruits and vegetables in the garden.





He loved playing in newly fallen snow.




Easter was his favourite time of year.





He loved the beach.





He loved visiting my parents at their home in Chester. 





Adam loved him.



Ruth loved him.




And Ken and I loved him. A whole bunch.




But no matter how much love we gave Cody, it always felt like he loved us back more.
Even though we only had him in our lives for a few years we have so many wonderful memories of Cody that we'll remember forever. We miss him and are sad that he's gone, but we are also happy that he is at peace now.



Thursday, 29 December 2016

My Year in Writing 2016

Most of us would rather wake to find that this year (especially the heart breaking loses) was only a bad dream.



However, this exercise of writing my 'year in review' post has become a bit of a tradition, so let's get at it, shall we? 

FYI, here are my posts for 2012, 20132014, and 2015.

According to my post from last year, these were my goals for 2016...Psst I actually accomplished two things from this list.

1.Write a combined novel for both Kelsey (BUTTERFLIES DON'T LIE) and Jesse (GIRL ON THE RUN).

2. Skate on the Oval more.

3. Somehow get chosen to be a parade marshal.

4. Outline third novel for The Nefertari Hughes Mystery series.

5. Find the agent who is the right fit for my secret project.

6. Learn how to knit socks.

So how did I do? Here we go...


JANUARY

I receive the final version of NIGHT SHIFT from the editor and complete the (last ever!) revisions for this story. I apply for an ISBN from the Library and Archives of Canada. This is the first official step in self publishing NIGHT SHIFT and I'm scared to death. I then send a creative brief to the cover artist, Emma Dolan who also did the outstanding look for ASP OF ASCENSION.

My contemporary romance, THE RIGHT FIT (written under a pen name) reaches one million reads  on Wattpad. I think it might be time to try submitting to agents. 

Most popular blogpost of the month is Seven Characters That Will Strengthen Your Story.




FEBRUARY

THE RIGHT FIT is featured in Cosmopolitan.com. I participate in #pitmatch on Twitter and receive four requests by agents.

The final cover comes in for NIGHT SHIFT and I am overwhelmed by how perfect it is!



Along with millions of other viewers I tune in to watch the mid-season premiere of The Walking Dead.

I begin the very sharp learning curve of formatting a novel for Createspace. I make a lot of mistakes and learn what 'bleeding edge' means.

I send in the final edits for the second book in the Nefertari Hughes series, DIADEM OF DEATH to Fierce Ink Books.

I attend the Books Start Here campaign for local publishers and writers and am lucky enough to meet Lesley Crewe.


Most popular blogpost for the month is Cover Reveal for NIGHT SHIFT.



MARCH

Set up blog tour and contest for NIGHT SHIFT.

Rejections trickle in for THE RIGHT FIT.

I'm honoured to be invited to speak on a YA author panel at the 2016 Atlantic Books Shortlist Announcement.

Don Aker, Vicki Grant, Shauntay Grant, Me ;) and Youth Collection Development Librarian, Ashely Nunn-Smith. 

Most popular blogpost of the month is How to Deal With Author Jealousy.



APRIL

I send BLACK FRIDAY (Night Shift series #2) to the amazing Penelope Jackson for editing and cross my fingers that she likes it. 

THE RIGHT FIT reaches over 4 million reads on Wattpad!

I do a guest spot on community radio with Suzanne Rent. We talk about writing, self publishing, and what it means to be a local author.

Set up a blog tour and contest for ASP OF ASCENSION to build interest for the sequel (DIADEM OF DEATH).

Most popular blogpost of the month is Once Upon A Time, Season 5, Episode 17 Her Handsome Hero.






MAY

Since I didn't manage to snag an agent, I submit THE RIGHT FIT to a few publishing houses that accept unsolicited queries.

Send out emails to book stores that carry my other YA novels regarding taking NIGHT SHIFT on consignment.

Attend the annual New Book Bash hosted by the WFNS and Woozles bookstore. It sounds violent but it's to celebrate the books from children's authors across the province. I was there to show off GIRL ON THE RUN and ASP OF ASCENSION.

The Canadian Children's Book Centre pick GIRL ON THE RUN as one of their 'Best Books for Teens for 2016'.
Yay! Way to go, Jesse!



Most popular blog post of the month is Bad Writing Advice From Non-Writers.



JUNE

Receive final edits back for BLACK FRIDAY and work feverishly to make it sparkle. 

See the cover for DIADEM OF DEATH and I dance in the kitchen. Start to organize a reveal and contest on my blog.

Most popular blog post of the month is How Yoga Saved My Writing. That's me on the rock doing my best not to fall into the water.






JULY

My 16 year old daughter has her wisdom teeth removed. We take advantage of her drug induced state and film her while she tries to talk. It still makes me laugh

NIGHT SHIFT is now in select Chapters/Indigo bookstores across Nova Scotia.



See the cover for BLACK FRIDAY and I die because it's that friggin' amazing.

THE RIGHT FIT reaches over 5 million reads on Wattpad!!

Things are going along swimmingly, and then...

Two weeks before DIADEM OF DEATH is due to release I receive news that Fierce Ink Books is closing immediately. Sadly, this means 'Diadem' will not be published. I cancel the cover reveal and explore my options of taking back the rights and perhaps pursuing self-publishing.

Most popular blog post this month is Cover Reveal for HEAR THE WOLVES by Victoria Scott.





AUGUST

I binge on the OLYMPICS and cry every time a Canadian makes the podium.  

I attend the first Indie Author Fair in Halifax. It was a great opportunity to meet other independent authors and of course, buy books. Plus, I reunited with my grade 6 teacher, Geraldine Tuck! She's an author now too. She's so beautiful, this woman never ages.



I receive an offer of publication for THE RIGHT FIT from The Wild Rose Press. The editor sent a lovely email about how she loved the characters and how the story made her swoon, then cry, and then laugh and swoon some more. And I realize this is the editor who is meant to have this story.

The editor who worked on DIADEM OF DEATH mentions the series to another publisher he freelances with. Lucky for me and my characters Blue Moon Publishing is keen on the story and offers to publish the Nefertari Hughes Series. 

BLACK FRIDAY is now available as ebook and paperback!



Most popular blog post of the month is BLACK FRIDAY Cover Reveal and Contest



SEPTEMBER

Have a magical time attending Beauty and the Beast at Neptune Theatre.



Outline the third book in the Nefertari Hughes series! I have a title, but I think I'll keep that secret for a bit longer.

Begin a new contemporary romance set in Halifax.

I discover Call The Midwife on Netflix and quickly fall in love with Sister Monica Joan.

And Holy Hannah, look at the tomatoes from our garden. So so so delish.



Most popular blog post of the month is 9 Easy Ways to Add Conflict To Your Story.




OCTOBER

Receive the editorial letter for THE RIGHT FIT and I'm happy to see all the suggestions resonate with me and I'm excited to make the book even better.

Start work on press package for Blue Moon Publishing including book club discussions for both books. I learn ASP OF ASCENSION and DIADEM OF DEATH will be released together in April 2017!!!

Most popular blog post of the month is Deus Ex Machina.



NOVEMBER

Send out blurb requests for DIADEM OF DEATH. For the record, asking for author blurbs is one of the least fun parts of being a writer. However, I'm lucky to have some lovely authors in my circle.

Finish the contemporary romance set in Halifax!

Send in final edits for THE RIGHT FIT.

Had a short but wonderful trip to Liverpool and London to visit with family. And yes, I'm the kind of person who takes pictures of her food.



Hal-Con 2016 offered me the chance to get to hear Maggie Stiefvator, Courtney Stevens and Brenna Yovanoff talk about the changing landscape of YA. And I just want to say that Maggie and I look great, we could be part of a rock band or something.



Most popular blog post of the month is Ten Things Writing Has Taught Me.




DECEMBER

See the cover for THE RIGHT FIT and I smile because it's all swoony and romantic looking.

Book signing in Chapters where I get to hand out candy canes and chat up passer-bys about books and such.


Halifax gets a HUGE snow storm, but that's okay because we're all cozy inside. My dog, Cody claims his territory under the tree.


Most popular blog post is Novel Spotlight: A and B, by J.C. Lillis.





Hey, were you keeping track? Which goals did I accomplish?

Write a combined novel for both Kelsey (BUTTERFLIES DON'T LIE) and Jesse (GIRL ON THE RUN).
Erm...no. But I'm always thinking about them if that counts.

Skate on the Oval more.
Okay, I did skate more than the year before. You'll just have to trust me on this. 

Somehow get chosen to be a parade marshal.
Damn. I'll keep trying though.

Outline third novel for The Nefertari Hughes Mystery series.
Yes! Unlock achievement.

Find the agent who is the right fit for my secret project.
I didn't get an agent, but I did get a PUBLISHER. So I think that's worth two points.

Learn how to knit socks.
Nope. However, I did find someone who knits socks and sells them at the Farmer's Market every Saturday.


Goals for 2017

1. Outline and hopefully write sequel for GIRL ON THE RUN. See above.

2. Write third book in Nefertari Hughes' series.

3. Meet another famous author and get a picture with them!

4. Go to a writing convention. Seriously, I've never gone.

5. Make new friends. Why not?


What are your writing goals for 2017?




  










Saturday, 24 December 2016

My Christmas Wish For You




What I think when I get a book shaped Christmas present.



Happy Christmas to you and those you love. I hope the gravy turns out and that you get lots of books!


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