I’m sure you all can identify with this. Years ago I started something that rolled on its own beautifully and only needed an occasional push. This blog is that thing. Then the contributors started being published and happy and busy. One by one, they dropped off the list of contributors. Continue reading
Creating believable characters is hard and showing how they change emotionally during the course of the story, harder still. Sometimes I feel like I need a degree in psychology to get it right.
In my last two blog posts I discussed character arcs, also known as the internal journey, or in the vernacular, emotional baggage. We all have it, but often it’s human nature to bury our heads in the sand and not think about it too much. However, examining our own inner psyche and the journey we have made through life, may help provide us with a better understanding of the characters we create.
Dara Marks, in her book The Power of the Transformational Arc, maintains that in order for a writer to be successful, they not only have to know their story, but also know themselves. She says:
“A natural story structure is one that reflects the true nature of the human experience.”
Or as Aristotle put it “Drama imitates life.’
One of the first things I learned about story structure was that every character should have a goal, and this in itself is a reflection of the human condition. Psychologist Abraham Maslow describes humans as “wanting animals”. As soon as we get one thing, we move on to wanting something else. To show how we prioritise these different wants, he developed the Hierarchy of Need.
At the bottom is the basic need for food, shelter and safety, we then move on to want love, self-respect and finally, self-actualisation. In character-driven fiction, it is these latter needs that often form part of a character’s inner journey whilst action movies may focus on more basic needs, such as safety.
Whether a story is character or plot driven, our characters will face obstacles which will force them to make decisions. But sometimes it’s difficult to know which path our heroines and heroes should take. Whatever they choose to do, it must be believable and consistent with the background we have given them. That’s when it can be helpful to draw on personal eperiences.
At birth, inherited DNA aside, we are pretty much a blank canvas. It is what happens next that creates character such as parenting, upbringing, schooling etc. All these factors will influence the type of person we become, how we respond to adversity and the decisions we make. Our characters need to evolve in the same way.
My favourite TV programme at the moment is First Dates where single people of all ages and background are looking for love. Some talk about their parent’s bitter divorce, a cheating ex, or tragically, a loved one who has died. These experiences have made them reluctant to open their hearts because they fear being hurt again and to love makes us vulnerable.
If we can similarly understand our own vulnerabilities and where they come from, it may help make us become better writers and in turn, create believable characters.
Maslow says: “human motivation is based on people seeking fulfilment and change through personal growth.”
It could almost be a line from a writing craft book.
Lizzie Hermanson is a wife, mother and talented procrastinator. She writes contemporary romance when her cat isn’t hogging the keyboard and loves Happy Ever Afters. Find her @lizziehermanson
Writing blogs can be difficult. Often we are talking to ourselves because the audience doesn’t hit the like button or comment or even breath loud enough to let us know they are there. But lucky for us, WordPress keeps stats of how many people viewed our posts. Maybe I don’t mean lucky. Continue reading
One day when I was in college, my English professor informed me that my writing was atrocious.
Unless I figured out a way to get laid, I would fail his class. This seemed somewhat harsh, but dedicated young student that I was, I determined to make Prof. Smith proud.
Recently I published my first newsletter as an author. I used Mad Mimi which was pretty user friendly once I got the hang of it. I had always wondered if authors actually need a newsletter, especially if we’ve already got a blog set up. Someone explained that when you write a blog post, your followers get a message letting them know you posted. They will need to go and click on your link to read your post.
With a newsletter, they’ll get an e-mail from you, and once they open it, BAM, there’s your message with everything you want to tell them. Of course they can choose to skip the email, but the important thing is it eleminates a step. I like to look at it like this: Option 1 – the mailman comes to my door and tells me that Macy’s is having a sale on dresses. Maybe he even shows me a photo. But I’m in the middle of preparing dinner which means I have to stop and go to Macy’s to look at the dresses. In option 2, the mailman comes to my door with 3 dresses from Macy’s. I can pick one right then and there. Tada!
Creating my newsletter was hard work, but it was also kind of fun. I included fun fall facts, tree trivia and some interesting information about fall foods which supposedly increase penile blood flow (someone get back to me with the results).
While I love promoting my book and the upcoming release of Forbidden Kisses, I wanted to include something extra in my newsletter – exclusive content which isn’t available anywhere else.
After all, if you’ve read my blog posts or visited my social media sites, you already know I have a kick-ass military romance which is available now for pre-order. So I wanted to include information you may not already know.
I’ve decided that 4 to 6 issues per year is frequent enough for my newsletters to go out. I have subscriptions to a number of online newsletters, but I find it annoying that some of the subscriptions send daily issues. Sometimes I get more than 1 issue per day from the same organization. That’s too frequent for me.
There is a feature I’ve seen increasingly on blogs and e-mail subscriptions and it’s a big pet peeve for me. And while I don’t judge those who include this feature… okay, yes I do… a little, I can’t see myself including it in my blog or my newsletter.
Imagine if you’ve been seeing an amazing guy or girl and things are getting serious. Today they’ve invited you to come over. Let’s say they have a 1-hour lunch break today instead of 30 minutes and they’ve asked you to stop and pick up some condoms on your way over. You make your purchase, get to the door and ring the bell. They answer immediately, completely nude, but instead of making the most of those 60 minutes, they shove their new pet hamster in your face as soon as you step in the door. “Hey check out my hamster. Look what he can do. Feel how soft his fur is. Look how he eats his carrot.” What the heck! That’s not what you came for. This is how I feel when I visit a site that has a big pop-up message in my face BOOM – as soon as I log on. Can you at least give me a chance to view the information I came for first?
I was working on something recently that gave me the option to include a pop-up message that would appear to my viewers, and if so, how soon did I want the message to appear. The choices were 1 second, 3 seconds… are you kidding me? Why would I ambush them with an offer which may not even be relevent to the information I’m providing? Let them at least have the opportunity to get what they came for – what I invited them for.
You can include a pop-up message if you want to, but please give me a chance to come in and get settled.
Anyway, my newsletter doesn’t have pop-up boxes BOOM – as soon as you open it. You won’t get an issue on a daily basis. I have quarterly issues. And hopefully you’ll find the content entertaining and interesting, like excerpts I haven’t shared anywhere else and the complete Forbidden Kisses music playlist. See for yourself!
From our table I watched Ethan’s performance. His eyes locked on mine as his song started. When he sang the first line in acapella, my heart laughed, danced and cried. The music started and the audience cheered. UB-40’s version of Can’t Help Falling In Love featured a slow reggae beat that everyone wanted to move to. I watched, transfixed as he sang to me. Me. He was singing to me. Was he saying he was in love with me?
Ethan was beautiful and so darn sexy as his hips rocked to the reggae beat. He sang and danced like he could feel the music. As if it flowed through his body the way it did mine. His eyes, his movements and his words seduced me.
Thanks for reading. I’m by no means an expert on creating newsletters, but I’d be happy to help you get started if you have questions.
Now that you’ve finished reading, feel free to take a look at these:
I love throwing caution to the wind, finding new ways to tick off a writer. For fun. My views are skewed, I admit. Have fun. Needle anyone (authors, editors, agents, publishers -well not too much. OK some). Pardon my blog. Or don’t. Continue reading
Happy Publishversary to me! No, I didn’t coin that word, credit goes to a reader. I’m just borrowing it. Twelve months and three books later, here I am, an actual published author with a wonderful extended family, that includes readers, fellow writers, editors…the list goes on. I’m grateful and appreciate everyone that has become a part of my extended family.
And get this…next year, I actually start making public appearances. I’ve already booked three events. Gasp!
Back on July 21, 2014, my first novel The Scale was published. To my surprise, people actually bought and read the book. My first novel.
Now, you may ask why the surprise?
Well, here’s a list for you:
- Minka has major self-esteem issues
- She secretly pines for her twin sister’s fiancé
- She’s rather on the selfish side (At least I think so. Others might disagree)
- Then enters Jason—I’ll leave it at that (If you want to know what happened, The Scale is currently on sale for $0.99 until the end of August)
So what have I learned during this journey?
Well, people I may never meet have become my extended family. The amount of support I received when my father became ill and since passed away was out of this world.
Be kind and genuine. Social karma and relationship serendipity goes a long way. No one wants to feel like they’re being sold to or only cross your mind when you need publishing advice.
Build your own platform—this is all about long-term marketing, building your brand and a platform for your books. A big part of that is having a polished, interactive website. Always refer readers back to your website. Amazon, Facebook, Twitter, and all other social media are great as well, but they don’t belong to you. Rules are always changing and one day any of these social media tools may not be around.
This is my current website: www.mikajolie.com but it’s still getting a makeover. Check it out and let me know what you think. While there, sign up for my newsletter so we can stay in touch.
When it comes to writing, as you write your first draft say yes to every new idea, this is not the time for self-judgement and being critical. Let your creativity flow! As my old English teacher used to say, don’t try to fix things as you write that first draft, it’s like trying to run and tie your shoe laces at the same time.
If your reader has to check the thesaurus every few words the meaning, power and beauty of what you are writing will be lost. By all means use an expanded vocabulary in your creative writing but show a little restraint. Readers want to fall into your writing, get lost in the world you paint – too many archaic words will get in the way. Though I must admit I have a thing for words like “Pulchritudinous”, “quaffed”, and “tincture”.
As for outlining—I am the worst! I say do what works for you. Some writers start with careful planning; others begin with a feeling or a single sentence and let it grow like crystals on a string. Sometimes work appear organically. Both methods work for different types of creative writers. Find what works for you!
Oh and there’s that whole marketing thingie…that may have to wait for my next publishversary.