Tuesday, February 16, 2010

A Look At Characterization

Compelling stories usually have great characterization. Opinions differ on what holds a reader’s attention: a great story or the characters. Readers agree that they want characters they can love, hate, identify with and root for. So as writers, how do we successfully create such characters?

Do you have a favorite series character you think about often, as if s/he’s a dear friend? What makes that character draw you back over and over again?

Good characterization is tricky. As the author we have to know our characters well enough to paint strong portraits of their complex personalities. We have to make them believable, come alive for our readers.

How do you know you’ve done that?
Have you read a good story with lousy characterization—a story so incredibly strong and captivating that you got lost in the wonder of it and overlooked half-baked characters? Tell us about it.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Motivation Monday

I believe more in the scissors than I do in the pencil. ~Truman Capote

No tale tells all. ~Alexei Panshin

First, find out what your hero wants. Then just follow him. ~Ray Bradbury

It begins with a character, usually, and once he stands up on his feet and begins to move, all I can do is trot along behind him with a paper and pencil trying to keep up long enough to put down what he says and does. ~William Faulkner

I try to create sympathy for my characters, then turn the monsters loose.
~Stephen King

The best way to send information is to wrap it up in a person.
~Robert Oppenheimer

Characters take on life sometimes by luck, but I suspect it is when you can write more entirely out of yourself, inside the skin, heart, mind, and soul of a person who is not yourself, that a character becomes in his own right another human being on the page. ~Eudora Welty

Characterization is an accident that flows out of action and dialogue.
~Jack Woodford

Sometimes when I think how good my book can be, I can hardly breathe.
~Truman Capote

Friday, February 12, 2010

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Booksignings and Fun

I've been out of town. A writer-friend spoke to the Golden Triangle Writer's Guild in Beaumont, and held a booksigning for her first book. I couldn't miss it. Years ago (many years ago) I read Jane McBride's novel about searching for and finding her father. If memory serves me, we were briefly in a crit group together. I thought Jane's book was wonderful and was very disappointed when she didn't pursue marketing the book. I've thought of it often over the years. I guess Jane got sidetracked writing for The Beaumont Enterprise, and of course, that was a good thing. Otherwise, we would not be reading this wonderful compilation of her newspaper columns.

To me, the first 20 pages of Grace. Gratitide & Generosity are priceless. I loved reading the foreward written by her son and daughter. Obviously Jane's kiddos inherited her humor and her way with words. But can you imagine being the child (or spouse, for that matter) of a newspaper columnist? Yeah, I never thought of that either!

So meet Jane--journalist, columnist, author, master gardener--yes, you read right. This lady does it all, and has fun doing it. Follow the links to learn more about her, to read her blog on gardening and to order her book.

When Jane McBride's column first appeared in The Beaumont Enterprise on Father's Day, 1992, it was called Just Plain Jane. Through the years, family, friends and fans learned that Jane's words were neither plain nor just anything. From her Arkansas childhood with her beloved grandmother to her role as wife, mother and grandmother, Jane's weekly column captured ordinary moments in extraordinary ways, allowing readers to view their own lives through honest and heartfelt words on the pages of their newspaper. These essays, taken from more than 17 years of newspaper archives, explore stories of love, life and loss in her personal quest to live a life of grace, gratitude and generosity, not in spite of her experiences, but because of them. Through the years, the column s popularity resulted in many inquiries, always the same: When are you going to publish a book of favorites? This collection fulfills those requests. Some of the columns will make the reader laugh others might bring tears--but one thing is certain--Jane's words are sure to make a difference in the life of everyone who takes the time to follow her journey.

Order it HERE

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Teach Me Something about Pitching

Sometimes I really do like what I write more than I like what others suggest for what I write. Of course, I realize that doesn't mean I'm correct. I'm giving you free rein with my pitch here. Does it work or not? Rewrite it if you can do better or if you see weaknesses, identify them for me.

I've posted what I pitched to my agent (former agent) and what I included in the proposal to him. I've also included how he revised and pitched to the editors. I guess this is a perfect example of how we fall in love with our own words. Even though the agent used everything that really does happen in the book, it sounds so incredibly boring that I wouldn't buy it either. Comments?


Former classmates find forgiveness and love while investigating a crime from their past.

ALEX HAMILTON went to jail for eighteen months because of MIRANDA SMITH. Then he disappeared without a word to anyone. Twelve years later, Alex is back in Chicory, Louisiana with his eleven year old niece, KATIE, in tow. Other than that, not much has changed. He’s still innocent and he still has feelings for Miranda Smith.
And someone is still trying to frame him.


When a former classmate shows up to register his niece at the Christian school where Miranda is principal, memories of her reporting her suspicions about his activity during her senior year come alive. Yet as a hands-on principal she is often forced to work with him, leading to a budding romantic relationshiponly to have that threatened by hate mail and a bomb threat that again point to him. The relationship is saved when a jealous former classmate is discovered to be the cause of all of the incidents.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Motivation Monday (As if we in Louisiana Need it)

Who Dat... who dat say they need motivation on this day after the Super Bowl? The state of Louisiana is motivated--we made history. And that's one for the books!

And speaking of books, we're readers at our house. When my sister-in-law passed away back in May of 2009, my brother-in-law boxed up all her books and asked if we wanted them. Now, they live four plus hours away, but I've never been one to say no to boxes of books. And hubby and daughter are as bad as I am. We toted large boxes to the CRV, and daughter was rifling through them, calling out the names of authors and titles before we got too far out of town. That's motivation to write, isn't it? Just think of all the wonderful readers out there... waiting for our books.


Anyone who says they have only one life to live must not know how to read a book. ~Author Unknown

A good book should leave you... slightly exhausted at the end. You live several lives while reading it. ~William Styron, interview, Writers at Work, 1958

A good book has no ending. ~R.D. Cumming

Books serve to show a man that those original thoughts of his aren't very new after all. ~Abraham Lincoln

My test of a good novel is dreading to begin the last chapter. ~Thomas Helm

You know you've read a good book when you turn the last page and feel a little as if you have lost a friend. ~Paul Sweeney

Lord! when you sell a man a book you don't sell just twelve ounces of paper and ink and glue - you sell him a whole new life. Love and friendship and humour and ships at sea by night - there's all heaven and earth in a book, a real book. ~Christopher Morley

Friday, February 5, 2010

No Weekend Editing

All editing and ms. reading is put on hold for the weekend. Today, concentration has been on the Bayou Writers' Group meeting tomorrow: Business for 2010--contest and conference talk-- and a Q & A with author Pamela Thibodeaux.

Join us at Carnegie Library from 10-12.

If someone spent a great deal of money organizing a write-in, it could be done. ~John Ravitz

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Book Title: Our First Impression

Okay, so I’m starting with the cover sheet and analyzing everything about my work in progress. Guess what I’ve learned so far: I chose the wrong title. I came to that conclusion a good while ago—I was never completely happy with it— but today confirmation hit me square in the face. I walked into the library and there on the shelf, eye-level, was a book called Miranda’s Big Mistake. I can’t tell you what a turn-off it was. Not because the book is huge—488 pages—but because my gut feeling was that the book was too big for its title.

My book is called Miranda’s Mistake. A puny little thing compared to MBM.

I think both titles sound like children’s books or stories. Remember, we’re judging the book by its title here—that first impression.

Don’t say titles don’t matter because the publisher will change it anyway—I know that. Silhouette Romance changed my title from Love You Tender to The Groom Wore Blue Suede Shoes. Talk about crowding the bookmark! But that’s another story.

Titles are supposed to be our first hint of what’s inside those pages. Right? Shouldn’t we take more care in choosing them? Can they tell too much? Too little? Be 100% wrong for the story?

Miranda’s Big Mistake by Jill Mansell is funny-laugh-out-loud, and tear-jerkingly sad…” Yes, that’s what it says on the cover, and I have no doubt it’s true. Most of the Amazon reviewers agree. But get this: one reviewer wrote: “The worst part of this book is the title.”

Hey! I knew that from first glance.

If you want to read Miranda's Big Mistake by Jill Mansell and laugh out loud, go HERE to order it. And if you want to "meet" Jill and read a great interview with her, go HERE.(A little aside: Obviously, author Jill and I have much in common. I assume she likes the name Miranda and we both love Mama Mia and the fact that the guys can't sing. I could watch and listen to Pierce B. over and over and over again.)

Okay…back to business: let me hear what you have to say about choosing a title for your work in progress. Do you like short ones? Long ones? Do you change it by the time you get to the end of the book? Or Google to see if someone has the title already? Do you even care? I’m all eyes and ears here. Talk to me.

In the meantime, I'm going to put my revising away and curl up with Miranda's Big Mistake to see if the book really is too big for the title. :-) If the reviews are true, you'll hear me laughing.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

How do YOU Make a Weak Book Stronger?

First, To answer a question:
A couple of people have written privately to ask why I’m excited about 32 followers when there are so many blogs out there that have 432 followers. One even suggested my excitement made me sound a little desperate and over the top. To use a political phrase and one that sets my teeth on edge, the truth of the matter is, <-do you ever believe anyone who starts a sentence that way? Well, believe this: I’m always a little over the top. That’s just me. Plus, I’ve been blogging since 2007 and I’m just now blessed enough to receive 32. That tells me, I’m finally making a few friends. I might be saying something 32 people want to hear/read, or … I really do seem desperate and you’re all taking pity on me. After all, I did say I was gonna hold my breath until I saw 30 faces over to my right. I really do cherish my followers. I look at your little miniature faces every day, smile and often go to your blogs and websites. Thanks for following me.

And now to business: Revision
I’m taking my completed manuscript, originally called Miranda’s Mistake, geared toward the Christian market, and rewriting it (trying to) for the general market (often referred to as the secular market). My former agent sent the proposal out to several publishing houses and didn’t receive any interest. I don’t know if it was because my writing is horrendous, his pitch was horrendous, or the subject matter isn’t right for the Chrtistian market.

One comment from an editor sticks in my head: too much angst.

I come from a category romance background. Too much angst was always good. But that was back in the old days, so . . . do I cut the angst?

Another editor said: too issue driven.

Darn, I love issues. And I love reading issue-driven books.

My husband said: not enough tension/intensity on that first page, gotta yank them in. Okay, I’ve tweaked the first page as well as the entire chapter.

Some of you have critiqued portions of Miranda’s Mistake, and if it matters any, the first chapter did place second in an RWA contest.

Oh, doesn't matter? Oooookayyyy.

A Love Inspired editor said it wasn’t strong enough. I’m not certain what that means. I guess overall, it’s just a weak book/story.

So my question to you: Tell me how you go about making a weak book stronger? Where do you look for weaknesses? I suspect conflict, motivation, what else? All comments welcome!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

The Many Happy Faces of . . . ME

I'm so excited! I have 32 followers! And they're all soooooo special to me. What fun! What fun! I'm thrilled!

Can't you tell?

And now I can quit holding my breath. :-)
Thanks, followers! Love you. ~jess

Monday, February 1, 2010

Revision, Revision, Revision

I'm diving into the world of Revise, Edit, Revise. Not a fun world for me. I've gathered my resources: my Flip Dictionary for when I spot repetitive words that drive writers nuts. No one knows if using the same word several times within a paragraph truly makes non-writing readers crazy but we know how writers/critique partners/contest judges react. My Flip Dictionary always comes in handy.

Next, my GMC: Goal, Motivation & Conflict book by Debra Dixon. Always good to review because I tend to be short on conflict more often than not. My motivation is sometimes lacking too. I'm sure that comes from my own skewed personality. Sometimes I question my motives for doing things so why would my characters have more on the ball than I do?

Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Brown & King is a must.

And finally, Daily Devotions for Writers. I'm sure I'll need lots of inspiration as I muddle through a manuscript I haven't looked at in more than a year.

Last but certainly not least, I've discovered this GREAT blog that will be tremendous help. The latest post about setting had me jotting notes. Go HERE to check it out.

Okay, I've gathered my arsenal of writing aides, including my completed manuscript securely ensconced in a white 3-ring binder.

Next step: open it up and get busy.

P.S. I've come across an awesome blog that might replace my arsenal of writing aides. Take a look here and let me know what you think. This writer knows what she's talking about. Her examples are ones even I can understand! Check her out NOW!