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Miscellaneous Mutterings

How to write compelling characters

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Friday, 24 September 2010

So, I'm surfing through my blog roll and, as one blog roll leads to another, I stumbled upon Elena Johnson's site and this:  The Great Blog Experiment.  I'm still not entirely sure how it works, but I do know that Friday, September 24 (Gasp!  That's today!) we're supposed to blog about writing compelling characters.

Now, I'm a fledgling writer, wet behind the ears, still a long way from quitting my highly rewarding day job as a homeschooling mom, but...but, I'm an avid reader and, believe you me, I have a thing or two to say about compelling characters.

My big thing?  Dialogue.  Your characters must speak believable magic and music to keep my interest.  Here are a couple of suggestions to help you to write inspiring, memorable characters.

1.  If you haven’t already, spring for a pack of those spiral bound index cards, you're gonna need 'em.  And a fountain pen.  Ok, you don’t need the fountain pen, but they sure are writerly, aren’t they?

2.  You probably already do this, but you must know your characters and a good tool for developing them is people watching.  More than watching, listening – it’s okay to get up close and eavesdrop.  Chances are your characters are composites of people you know or people you've seen, heard, were frustrated by or fell in love with.  What are they saying?  How are they saying it?  How can you say more than that with fewer, deeper, thoughtful words.

3.  Record all those, "Doh!  I should have said," moments.  Maybe you missed the boat on the clever quip, the snappy retort, the spit-your-coffee-on-the-keyboard one liner, but your character doesn't have to.   Think movie script - the lines we love to quote.

4.  Read!  Read lots and read like you mean it.  Take notes; how does your favorite author do it?  Emulate.

5.  Get into character.  Remember all the people watching?  The gum-popping waitress, the terse clerk at the DMV who rolled her eyes when you forgot your checkbook - be one with the clerk.

Lastly, don't be afraid of dialogue.  It's not easy to write, but you can master it.  For me, dialogue is what makes or breaks a reading experience.  If your characters aren't clever or cleverly painted, I won't care about them. 

A great resource on crafting effective dialogue is Gloria Kempton’s book, Dialogue, from the Write Great Fiction series

Now, get busy.


Hello, again, Hello!

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Monday, 20 September 2010

Yep, I’ve been off the blog wagon so long now that I don’t even know where to begin.  I’d been waiting on a Joomla upgrade, which my husband said he’d do for me, as well as a blog face lift – which my husband also said he’d do for me.  Unfortunately, he has to take care of his paying customers, first, so, if I continue to wait until I can debut a new blog then a whole lot of things could happen, like the Rapture or a government shut-down of the internet or a solar flare that wipes out all ability to electronically communicate or a meteor might fall into my lap as I sit on the sofa and I’d have neglected to share all this important stuff and your life would be utterly incomplete.


We can’t have that.


With that in mind, it’s time to flex this stiff, atrophied writing muscle and see what a little exercise might do.   This might take a while.


Speaking of writing:  National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo or NaNo) is coming up again in November.  I have an idea and, as you may well remember, that’s really all you need to get a novel started.   A coffee IV drip, 2-3 hours less sleep per night and 2000 or so words a day for 30 days is all you need to get the novel finished.  My last year’s “winner” is right where I left it last November.


Oh and I’m on the author list at HSBA Post - home of the 6th Annual Homeschool Blog Awards.  Check it out when you get a minute.


Speaking of homeschooling, we started our school year in mid-August and have been moving forward at a respectable pace.   Alex is in 7th grade, Chris is in 5th.   We’ve added a goodly amount of work to the schedule over past years.  In addition to Tapestry of Grace for history, literature, geography and worldview, we’re using Saxon math, Introductory Logic, Latina Christiana, Michael Clay Thompson’s language arts products (more on that, later) and various resources from Robinson Curriculum.  Oh, and Heart of Wisdom Bible study stuff as well as Bible Study Fellowship (BSF).   That’s the lot of stuff that I’ll be reviewing and discussing over the next several months.


What else?  Oh, on God:  I’m back in BSF this year for their new Isaiah study.  Not only that, but I’m back in leadership in the school program.  Honestly, it’s really nice to be back.  Several of the ladies I served with a couple years ago are still there and I missed their presence in my life.  God is good.


Well, this was a random dump of a post.  Maybe now that I’ve stuck my big toe back in the water, I’ll be ready to come back full swim…er, swing.


Tossing in my hat

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Wednesday, 25 June 2008

You know how it is; you sit down to Google ostrich feather dusters and before you know it you've followed a link to a link to a link to a link that makes you stop and forget why you sat down in front of the computer in the first place.

Today I found this contest on "A Resting Place."  The blogger, Melisa, and her husband recently launched their internet store called Rekoncile Design.  Talk about trash to treasure, these two have been busy recycling peoples' castoffs and transforming them into functional works of art.  If you are in need of some new design ideas or simply love to shop, check 'em out.

Oh, and enter the contest quickly - it's over on June 28th.


Shout out to my sister, The Doctor

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Sunday, 08 June 2008

That's right! My little sister received her PhED yesterday. 

Congrats, Lynda!  I'm busting proud of you!

I've always tried to deny she is smarter than me, but now she has the papers - and a title - to prove it.   Hey, Sis...I mean, Dr. Sis, when do you expect the movie version of your dissertation will be released?


Subway Hits Homeschoolers Below the Belt

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Tuesday, 27 May 2008

Across the web of homeschool discussion groups to which I belong, there's been much ado over the apparent discrimination against homeschoolers by Subway's decision to exclude our kids from their latest essay contest.  Read the rules, NO HOME SCHOOLS.  The contest is co-sponsored by Scholastic books, an organization which has, in the past, included homeschoolers in their contests and promotions.  They certainly show up at our book fairs and conferences! 

Here's the deal:  the grand prize is $5000 of athletic equipment to be donated to the winner's school.  What the promoters intended, presumably, was that the prize would not be awarded to an individual family, but rather to a school for the benefit of a large group of kids.  I can dig that.  What would I do with all that equipment, anyway?  My garage is already unusable as vehicle storage because we're collecting dust samples on all kinds of old athletic equipment, like a Nordictrack and a Bowflex, which make great hangers for extension cords and jumper cables, by the way.

I suggest we Christian homeschoolers do something totally radical...Christlike, even.  We write each organization nice letters telling them how much we love their products, how disappointed we are that they did not include homeschoolers, what we think they could have changed in order to include homeschoolers and still honor the intent of the prize distribution and, finally, how we will continue to enjoy their products and look forward to being included in their next contest.

My point is, I think the exclusion is not an intentional stab at homeschoolers, but is a big, fat PR gaffe.  Let's be smart about it.  Writing letters pointing out the spelling errors in the rules list and promising to boycott is what the world would do.  We can do better than that.

Whaddaya think?

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