Grab a Glass or Cup

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There are many styles of glasses in the South. Some not quiet as famous as the canning jar. Although, I do have a set of them. The red solo cup even has it’s own song. I was going to post the video, but could only find the unedited version. I’ll let you google it on your own.

If you come to my house there are four types of glasses we use. Each has a distinctive purpose. Each has it’s on style. I do have a set of nice stemware, but let’s be real. That only comes out on holidays.

  • The Tervis cup. I don’t know if this is a Southern thing or not, but you can’t throw a mullet without hitting someone walking around with this insulated glass. It is the standard beverage holder in my house. We each have our favorites. Mine has Wolverine. They hold both hot and cold so they’re versatile. They even come with lids, perfect for a road trip.
  • The Mardi Gras cup. These must be caught in the wilds of downtown during Mardi Gras season. They can hurt when you get hit in the head, duck. Since they are free and easily replaced they’re perfect for outdoor use. My hubby likes to use them to put out grill fires. They don’t have to have Mardi Gras on them to work. Most small businesses and eateries have heir own version. When kids have friends over these are the cups we use.
  • The Jelly or canning jar. No I do not have any with a stem! When my girls were transitioning from sippy cups to real glasses I bought a case of these. The small jars fit nicely in tiny hands and were solid enough not to break easily. I think only three have survived. Larger versions can be found at every catfish shack and bar-b-q joint in the south.
  • The red solo cup. Otherwise known as the party cup of the South. If your coming to a grill party or birthday party, you will receive one with your name written in black marker. It’s quick and easy. These genius little cups have a dual purpose. They make great ice cream bowls! You’ve already got them. Why buy bowls? Granted they now sell plastic cups in many different colors, but red is the house color.

I know, you really didn’t need to know what’s in my cabinet. Drinking utensils are basic. We all have favorites. They fit our personalities and lifestyle. The same is true of the characters we write about. You probably won’t set out to write a character who only uses a canning jar, but if your character has a favorite drink it will influence the type of glass they use. If they have a penchant for drinking multiple cups of coffee each morning, they will have a favorite mug. I’m willing to bet it’s a big one too. If they’re always on the run, practically living in their car, then a travel cup or mug would fit them better than a cheap plastic cup.

It’s a small thing but it adds to the layers of your character.

What does your protagonist drink from?

-CK

 

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What Makes a Hero?

I’ve been binge watching the Arrow over Christmas. Just finished season 3, so I’m done until season 4 is on DVD. I guess I can get back to writing. The show made me wonder, what is a hero?

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I would use the google definition but it ticked me off when it said, typically a man!

According to Webster (1983):

  1. a mythological/legendary figure often of divine descent endowed with great strength or ability.
  2. a man admired for his achievements
  3. illustrious warrior
  4. one that shows great courage
  5. the main male character in a literary work
  6. central figure in an event.

Hmmmm, not sure I approve of all that! I’m not going to rant about the capabilities of women. I’m using Hero as gender neutral.

When I think over the mountain of books I’ve read over my life, certain types of heroes come to mind. This isn’t the scholars list of heroes, this is just how I see them.

  1. The Perfect One: The hero is perfect. He/she has no problem in making a decision. There is only one way. Everything is black and white and they never drift over to the dark side. I call this the Superman hero. Like Superman they never make a wrong or questionable decision. He never cheated on Lois Lane and sent Lex Luther to prison for his terrible crimes. These are great heroes when we are young, but as we grow they begin to seem flat and unrealistic.
  2. The Lonely One: The hero that remains alone, even after saving the world. He separates himself from the rest of society either because of the chaos he has seen or the baggage he carries. He/she is destined to be alone. Poor Frodo suffered this fate. He destroyed the One Ring only to return to the Shire alone. I assume you know how it ends after her returns. He didn’t get the girl, Sam did. It’s a bit melancholy but believable. You undertake this great quest, how do you return home and be happy? I don’t think it was just from the blade of Mordor. I think Frodo’s scars were mental as well.
  3. The Chosen One: This hero is the only one who can defeat the villain. No one else has the skill, ability, or prophesy to do so. These heroes are readily available on every YA shelf. Harry Potter is the chosen one…or is he? Sorry couldn’t resist. For whatever reason this hero must defeat the villain, that is his only purpose. The overall plot surrounds the ultimate battle.

    Heroes in waiting.

    Heroes in waiting.

  4. The Scholar: Not all heroes use their physical strength. Some use their mind. I love these. They’re smart. Take Hermione Granger. No matter what Harry was capable of, he could not have survived without the intelligence of Hermione. Brute force only takes you so far. Someone has to know how to break into the enemies computer system and unleash a nasty virus. Some may say this is the realm of the sidekick, I disagree.  They are heroes.
  5. The Misfit.  This one is popular in YA. The hero that is a total screw-up and only becomes a hero when tested. But even then, they make huge mistakes. They usually lack experience and are thrust into battle unprepared and must learn as they go. We cheer for these because we see ourselves in them. If they can be a hero, why not me? Percy Jackson comes to mind. Like the Perfect One, we outgrow these as well. Eventually this hero must grow and become something more.
  6. The Amateur: This isn’t your traditional Fantasy genre hero. The one I’m thinking of is usually found in the cozy mystery genre. The every man/woman. Usually a woman. She’s living her life and then out of no where someone dies. She’s tasked with the burden of solving the crime. No experience in law enforcement, just smart and nosy. Miss Marple comes to mind. She’s not a traditional hero, but she saved many from jail and others from murder. She’s persistent. This hero is consumed with righting wrongs and keeping the innocent out of jail. No super powers necessary.

    Knights in the woods.

    Knights in the woods.

  7. The Warrior:  We love a warrior. They fight the epic battle of good vs evil. They are the knights, soldiers, and samurai. They fight for the cause regardless of personal loss or danger. They are battered, bruised, and blooded. Good warriors have a dark side. They have seen and done terrible things in battle. But they stand true to the cause. Think about Beowolf, Lancelot, and Jamie Frasier. That last one is my favorite. It’s not uncommon for their lives to be tragic.
  8. The Anti-Hero: This is my personal favorite. They are dark, angry, and cross every line imaginable. They aren’t always a hero, sometimes they are the villain. Everything is grey. Every decision they make is based on their perception of the cause. In comics, Wolverine is the perfect anti-hero. I would place Professor Snape in this category as well. He even died not wanting the world to know he was a good guy. This is the hero that will kill an innocent, if it will stop a worse fate. They make difficult decisions other heroes would shy away from.  Anti-heroes have layer upon layer of back story and experience to play with. They keep the reader guessing.  In a world where the lines are continuing to blur, the anti-hero is becoming more relevant.

There’s probably dozens of other examples and types of heroes. These are the ones that kept me awake last night. My newest project is the tale of a hero. I am sorting out the character and the kind of hero she will be. It’s so much fun.

What is your favorite type of hero?

Who is your favorite hero?

-CK

 

 

NaNoWriMo Prep 101

NaNoWriMo

NaNoWriMo is just around the corner. I am signing up for my second year. I actually won last year, but it’s still sleeping on the shelf. I’m no expert on NaNo, but I thought I would share a few of my NaNoWriMo prep tips. I’ll include links at the end for websites with more information to help you along.

First off, I am a planner!

 

Planner Badge

If you don’t believe me look at this:

100_9619These are the scene cards for the 2015 NaNo Novel I am writing. I’m about 3/4 of the way through with the plotting. I don’t usually use note cards. Normally, I write a massive flowchart on art paper, but I’m not set on the sequence and want to play with it a bit. This is book 3 in my mystery series. The story takes place just before Halloween. You can expect plenty of small town high jinks. Originally, this was going to be a short story, but the characters disagreed.

I’ve also roughed out the character sketches for the villain, victim, and scapegoat. There will be more minor characters as I write but theses are the main new characters to my imaginary world.

My plotting/planning is a composite of many different processes I’ve read about. The Weekend Novelist Writes A Mystery by Robert J. Ray and Jack Remick  was very useful when I wrote my first novel and I use a lot of ideas from that book. Especially on characters. Another good resource I use is, How to Write a Damn Good Mystery by James N. Frey.

I’ve got my plot cards and my characters. Now what. On my calendar, yes I have an actual calendar, I have blocks of time marked off for planning my novel. Even though I have the bones of my novel, there’s still planning to do. Several characters have not shown up for work this week. I don’t know if they aren’t in this book yet or not. Because this is part of a series, I have to work on the series plot/character arcs. There are certain subplots that run through my novels and I have to make sure they show up in this one as well. That’s still on my to do list.

Let’s not forget research. I have a little more research to do on Iran, poison detection, and abusive relationships. Fun book!

Recap,

NaNoWriMo Prep 101

  • character sketch
  • plot main scenes
  • research
  • line up subplots

If you are participating in Nano, or thinking about it, here are some sites that may interest you:

NaNoWriMo–  this is the official site’s prep page

Writer’s Digest–  nice article on outlining vs not outlining

Write it Sideways– tips and resources

SurlyMuse– a hot off the presses post about prepping for NaNo in seven days or less

There you go, that should keep you busy for a while. If you are participating you can find me under the name: writechik!

What’s your plan for NaNo?

CK

 

Is it Sunday Already, Row80 check-in 1

I skipped the Wednesday check in, because we just started the round. It’s been a busy week. I started out strong with the writing goals but fell apart mid-week. I wasn’t feeling well and couldn’t be trusted to plot. That and I was stewing over character relationships. This is my first attempt at trying to write an abusive relationship and I don’t want to be cliche or flippant. Be sure to check out the other Row80 participants and share some positive feedback.

Mystic Brew finished it’s rounds of critique at CC. I think it went well.  I came back with plenty of ideas to strengthen the story. This one’s dark and nothing like what I have written before. It’s out of my comfort zone and needed honest feedback.

On with the goals:

Begin revisions of book 2 in my Dragonfly Mystery Series- nope
-Send out queries for Dead in the Waternope I have it on my calendar to start next week.
Plan 1 new short story- not even an idea of where to begin. Time to pull out some writing prompts

Edit/Revise Mystic Brew, I’ve started printing off the critiques.
-Finish plotting Book 3 in my Dragonfly Mystery Series- yes. I have a character sketch for the killer and victim. I need to focus on the scapegoat. Need to finish those and start the plotting this week to stay on track.
-Participate in NaNoWriMo and write book 3: 50,000 words- in November
-Read 8 books- (2)I finished Gator Bait and loved it. I also finished Code Blue by local author Joyce Scarbrough. Loved it. I started another book but didn’t finish it, lost interest.
-Be a good human and socialize online- yes, I networked on CIR and my Crime writer’s yahoo group as well as Row80, etc.. I did reach out to indie book reviewers about reading my short story collection. Don’t know if that should count.
-Be a good Baptist and join a Wednesday night group- no. It’s so hard for me to find a group. I love my church but I am not that social!
-Finish my daughter’s bedroom- We haven’t made any progress. Homecoming week at school. We have the shell for the closet built, the closet doors, and the bookcase. Still need to build the desk and build a wall.

 

How was your week?

CK

Change

photo by Sharee Jablonski

photo by Sharee Jablonski

Change has been the topic of conversation over the last few weeks. Change can be a good thing or it can be dangerous. Sometimes it’s both. This is not a commentary on current events, more of  historical insight.

Change is what moves plot forward. Whether it’s change going on around  or within the protagonist.

Change is good. Change is hard.

As we write, we need to consider how our characters react to change.

I hate change in my personal life. I like a schedule and I stick to it. When things come up and cause me to alter my preordained schedule …let’s just say it makes me grumpy.

How will your character react to change? Do they dig in their heels? Do they stomp around in a rage or curl up in a ball and cry? Do they smile and roll with it?

The reaction might depend on the type of change that occurs.

John may react differently to finding out his wife lost her job then if she is promoted but the job requires a move 3,000 miles away.

Another issue is motivation.

Why does the character hate/love change? What happened in their past that causes this reaction?

Did John move around a lot as a child? Military and missionary families endure change on a regular basis. That constant movement can lead to an adult who craves a single place to call home or one who has itchy feet and never lives in the same place for long.

All reactions to a stimulus are a result of motivation and experience. This is where back story comes in handy.

Change causes friction, friction makes the plot move along.

How do you deal with change?

CK

 

Plotting, part 1

Plotting 101

I’m currently plotting a short story/novella, using the same characters from the last 2 books I’ve written. I thought it would be fun to share my insane way of plotting.  I started writing this post 2 months ago, I’m half way writing the novella.

A few resources:

The Weekend Novelist Writes a Mystery by Robert J. Ray and Jack Remick

How to Write a Damn Good Mystery by James N. Frey

I don’t do it just like that, but I have used some of the techniques and added a few spins.

Today, I’m starting with characters. I’ve mentioned characters and character flaws before and you can find them here. Before I design my characters I start with an idea. It may be a scene, or just a statement, that sparks my interest. For this series we are using this idea:

Bubba Strong steals the Mardi Gras beads of power from the Krewe de Vile to protect us from world domination by the evil mastermind Rex King.

I admit, that’s not a very good story idea, but it works for today. Besides, Mardi Gras is fresh on my mind, and I’m toying with the idea of using it as the background for a story.
Just from that statement we have 2 characters. Bubba Strong is the protagonist and Rex King is the antagonist. At this point, I will use one of several, character questionnaires. The length and depth of the information will be determined by the length of the story. If it’s a short story, then I’ll use a very short questionnaire, just so I can get in the head of Bubba and Rex. Novels require much more information. You can find one here.
The point is, I need to know as much as possible about my characters to make them real. Did Bubba graduate high school/college? Does he have a girlfriend? Is he allergic to shellfish? Does he participate in Mardi Gras?
More importantly…How does he know Rex is an evil mastermind? Are they both in the same Krewe?

There must be something that links the two together.

Creating a back story for your characters will help flesh out these questions.

The same is true for the antagonist. But for Rex we need to know, what led him to the point of world domination? Why is he such a naughty boy? Was he always so distasteful?
These may seem like useless bits of information at first. But you never know when it may be useful for the story. For instance:

Bubba is hot on Rex’s trail when he gets sidetracked in New Orleans. Bubba has a severe allergy to shellfish. He stops at a hole in the wall for lunch. Rumor has it Rex was seen in the area. After studying the menu, he is careful to quiz the waitress before ordering the steak smothered in red eye gravy. Unbeknownst to him, Rex is lurking in the kitchen and tosses a handful of purred shrimp into the gravy. Poor Bubba is delayed in catching the villain, due to his unscheduled visit to the emergency room.

This kind of information can always be added to your characters back story as needed, after you start writing the story. It doesn’t all have to be written up front. Wiggle room is always a good thing.

Don’t forget the flaws

Character flaws are important, they are the spice you add for dimension.  I’ve mentioned this before. No one likes a perfect character. Each character needs a weakness and/or flaw. It makes them more believable and likeable. The same is true for your bad guy. There must be something in him that’s likeable. There must be some hint of softness. OK, maybe not. But even the worst men in history had something about them that led others to their cause. Call it charisma, power, or the pull of a tractor beam, there is something that attracts others to them.

Recap:

1. Give your characters a history.
2. Give them flaws, weaknesses, and something attractive.
3. We need a back story for the main characters that link the protagonist and the antagonist in some way.

I hope this is useful,

CK

Character Flaws: Discouragement

Sitting in church yesterday, I listened to a sermon on discouragement.  Thanks Pastor Alan for another blog post and ideas on character development and flaws. We all face discouragement in our lives, as a writer I face it several times a week as I send out queries.  Our characters should also face discouragement.

Mr. Webster defines discouragement as :

A loss of confidence or enthusiasm

Conflict is Good!

Really good stories have conflict.  We create characters that have a goal or desire, then we put them in trees and throw rocks at them. Yes, that’s clique, but I don’t care. How our characters deal with these rocks is what gives them believability and interest. The bigger the rock the better the conflict.

What causes discouragement?

I’m sure we all have personal rocks that have led to discouragement.  It’s different for each person, the same for our characters.   Imagine a large floor covered in dominoes standing on end. Each of these kicks off a string of dominoes…

  • Fatigue–  Regardless of the goal your character has set, they must actively try to achieve it.  Whether it’s potty training a toddler, trying to make partner in a law firm, or solving the murder of a coed on campus- goals take time and energy.  You prioritize life, squeezing out as much time to work on your goal as you can, to the point where you are worn out.  Does your character rest when needed? or Does he run headlong into the fog without regard to health and mental clarity? Their reaction to fatigue may determine how they deal with …
  • Frustration- I deal with insomnia, when I don’t sleep my frustration level heightens.  I grab chocolate and caffeine in hopes of staying sharp.  That just makes it worse.  Once, frustration has entered the mind of your character what does she do?  Do they chose a healthy outlet like going for a run? Do they get cranky and start yelling at people? Do they bury themselves in their goal, trying even harder? When frustration takes hold it doesn’t take long for …..
  • Fear- to set in. Your tired and frustrated, then the little red devil sits on your shoulder and whispers in your ear, “You’re not good enough.” How will your character deal with the fear of not obtaining their desired goal? They’ve been working toward it, they’ve planned everything out, tried every avenue, but it is still out of reach.  What do the shadows whisper to them when they sit in the dark at night? Do they give in to an addiction? Do they take it out on loved ones? Do they further alienate themselves from others?In the end this fear is about one thing…
  • Failure- We have all failed at something. We know the sting of not making it to the Spelling Bee, onto the football team, or rejected by love. How does our characters deal with it?  They will fail at something, they have to.  That failure will haunt them as they try to reach their goal.  It’s like I tell my kids, “Failure is a learning experience and it builds character.  No one likes to fail, but hopefully you’re smart enough to learn something so next time you’ll get closer.”

Discouragement is a common flaw.  Just look around the room next time you’re at a large gathering.  I promise you someone is facing it.

Whip discouragement !

At some point your character must face her fear, pluck up her courage, and get back on track. How many cliques can be in one blog post?  I hope there’s not a limit. Is there a trusted friend to talk to?  Does he go on a relaxing fishing trip to sort it all out?  Does she go out with the girls to lighten her mood?

Discouragement doesn’t go away by itself or evaporate overnight. It’s a process. There is a point when the character must turn around and continue toward their goal. Did Frodo give up after Sam left? No, he pulled up his furry feet and kept going to Mordor.

Tension and conflict make stories memorable and our characters more interesting.  But there also needs to be a resolution.

Do you have a character dealing with discouragement?

CK