To Have a Gun or Not….

Taking a different direction for a blog post today.  As you may know, I live in the Deep South.  Guns are fairly common.  Most men, and some women, hunt on a regular  basis.  It really cuts down on the grocery bill! I grew up around riffles and shotguns, I was taught from a very young age not to touch them, they were kept looked up and away.  When I was in middle school my father took me to my grandfather’s house and taught me to shoot his first rifle.  More than anything from that day, beyond hanging with my Dad, I remember the nasty kick it had and the painful bruise it left.

I’ve never felt the need or desire to hunt and I really don’t like the taste of wild game.  For the most part, rifles and shotguns were the weapons I grew up around and there were very few accidents caused by guns.  For the most part…. but then there’s always that one person who thinks rules and safe practices don’t apply to them.

My best friend through most of my childhood was shooting fireworks New Years Eve.  Her older brother decided to shoot straight into the air in celebration of the new year.  That’s bad.  To make it more fun, he had a few beers first.  That is also bad.  My poor friend ended up in the emergency room with a bullet in her buttocks.  Needless to say, as 12 year olds, we had a lot of fun with that.  I’m sure that tale will end up in a story one day.

My friends brother broke 4 rules:

  1. Only idiots shot straight up in the air.  Gravity does still work.
  2. Drinking and guns never mix.
  3. Shooting at night is bad, I think in most areas it’s even illegal.
  4. Shooting in residential areas is illegal.

The older I get the more I hear about hand guns.  I never saw a hand gun until I was almost 30, no one I knew had one.  Except cops.  I’m not a fan of hand guns, you don’t use them to hunt so what’s the point.  For the most part, I associate hand guns with thugs and paranoid city slickers.  Not too long ago, I was at a Guild meeting.  I was the youngest woman there by 15 – 20 years.  We were sitting around talking and some how the conversation switched to guns.  I was shocked to learn that the majority of blue hairs sitting around that table were packing heat.  I made a mental note to call before I show up at their house at night.

Why am I bringing this up?  Good question, it sounded better in the car.

My protagonist in Dead in the Water and part 2 that I’m writing for NaNoWriMo, her name is Coco, must decide on if she will have a gun. These are mystery novels and being the protagonist, Coco finds herself in sticky situations.  She has mixed feelings about guns, and does worry that it will be used against her.  To add to the uncertainty, she questions whether or not she would actually shot someone.  So that’s where I am.  As I write for NaNo, my character must decide if she will have a gun or not.  We shall see…

CK

Character Flaws- Anger

I had a really fun time with my last post looking into the flaw of pride, so I thought we’d jump into anger, or what I like to call:

Klingon 101. 🙂

Anger is another one of those flaws that are easily seen in society as well as literature. It is also a flaw from which I suffer, I have a temper.  Thankfully, my hubby knows to put me in a corner and throw chocolate at me until I calm down.  Like most character traits a little isn’t necessarily a bad thing, and there are times when your character has the right to be angry.  A trait becomes a flaw when it begins to damage relationships.  Let’s look at Mr. Webster’s 1985 definition, Anger is

1.  a strong feeling of displeasure

2. rage

That’s pretty clear cut.  A normal display of anger would be a kid breaking your window with a baseball.  It’s expensive and time consuming to replace, but you don’t pitch a hissy fit and walk to the kids house and break all their windows.  That would be excessive.  If you are not sure about inappropriate fits of anger, just watch a 2 year old.

Most characters have more than one flaw and in different amounts. As writers we don’t tell the reader what flaw a character has, we show it.  There are many memorable characters that have anger issues.  My favorite was from Hissy Fit by Mary Kaye Andrews.  Keeley Rae Murdock had a very good reason to be angry. Truthfully, I read the book only because of the title.  Now, I am hooked. The Hulk has serious anger issues and expresses them by destroying cities and smashing people.  You get the idea.  Anger shows up in different ways.

Let’s look a a couple of ways anger can be expressed:

Bob has a problem with anger and pride.  He doesn’t have fits of rage, he simmer’s.  He has a fair complexion and a heavy set build.  When he’s angry his eyes enlarge and look like marbles.  His skin turns red and splotchy and his physical build seems to enlarge.  His blood pressure builds.  He becomes a walking time bomb.  Bob won’t throw a fit, but he will eventually erupt.  His anger is visible by the changes in his body and his demeanor.  He carries his anger with him.  I’m sure his doctor would tell him he needs to learn to calm down or meditate, lest he have a heart attack.

Mary is an expert at hiding her anger.  She goes through life never showing her anger.  She never raises her voice or blushes.  Instead, Mary keeps a mental list of everyone or everything  that has wronged her. She will get her revenge.  She’s still angry at her best friend in high school, Betty Sue, for stealing her boyfriend.  Periodically, she’ll take a mental inventory and review that list.  Mary writes the social column for the city paper, and every once and awhile secrets find there way to the column.  Betty Sue was divorced after photos of her and the pool boy got out.

Joe also has pride and anger issues.  He perceives himself as having the perfect family.  People in the community look up and respect him.  That was until his wife cheated on him.  He’s angry over the loss of love and respect from his wife, but he’s angrier over his perceived loss of standing in the community.  Those things only happen to other people.  His wife died in a tragic accident…or did she?

All characters are different and react differently.  So as you force them up a tree and throw rocks at them, think about how they react.  That reaction has mental and physical symptoms.  They can show up in unexpected ways.

I’ll leave it at that today, a storm is about to hit. (2 minutes after I wrote that a loud crash of thunder hit and the power went out. Taking this post with it.  Thankfully WP saves as I type.)

Row80

reading: still reading Downfall.  I am almost finished.  I am really enjoying the mix of suspense and drama with Christian faith.  No sappy romance 🙂

Writing: zip

Submissions: zip

Revisions: just finished reading my WIP, used a flashlight while the lights were out.  I can move into edits next.

I’m crawling along.  How are your goals?

CK

 

Character Flaws- Pride

Sitting in church Sunday I had a great idea.  I get lots of ideas at church.  Don’t go to another post, this is not a sermon.  Keep reading.  The sermon mentioned pride.  WOW.  That is a great character flaw.  It reminded me of a couple of characters in my WIP, Dead in the Water.

The characters we create should be 3 D, that means they must have flaws.  Don’t over do it and cross into melodrama, but they can not be perfect.  No one likes perfect.

Let’s look at pride.  (I promise not to hold up actual people as example)  According to the 1985 edition of Mr. Webster’s dictionary, pride is as follows:

(n) 1.  state of being proud  a. conceit    b. reasonable self-respect   c. delight from an act, possession, relationship

2. proud or disdainful behavior/treatment

3. ostentatious display

4.  a source of pride/best in class

5.  company of lions

6. a showy or impressive group

By the time I made it to #6 I had a vision of prancing peacocks.  For this post, I will ignore the last few definitions and concentrate on those related to characters.

Peacock Spreads Its Tail 5

Photo by  WEYENBERGH JACKY

Small amounts of pride are evident and even necessary for characters.  It’s called positive self-esteem.  Unless, your character is suffering low self-esteem, they will have some level of pride. Small amounts of pride are OK.  Left unchecked by humility, it causes problems.   The clique is easy, the husband that refuses to ask for directions and wanders aimlessly around the countryside waiting for some magic hand to point him in the right direction, or the mother who thinks her child is perfect and never does anything wrong.

Having gone to Sunday school my whole life, pride comes before the fall, has been drilled into my brain.  Unless you work in Washington DC and then you are rewarded for it.

What does this mean for our characters?

Pride usually starts small, being rewarded for good work.   Constant praise morphs into blind pride.  It can be based on achievement.  Here in the South it tends to be based more on gender rolls and college football.  Pride also comes from personal image, or their perceived image.  It doesn’t have to be how others actually see them.  A character who sees themselves as a pillar of the community and likes to show off his/her “perfect” life will take drastic measures to keep that image.

My MC is named Coco.  She was created out of frustration.  I was tired of reading cozy novels where the protagonist was tall, thin, gorgeous, and financially stable.  I wanted one to be more realistic.  Coco is a little short, and curvy.  She looks like I imagine most American women look.  She’s working on her second career after she failed at being a reporter.  She’s not visually perfect, but she does have a positive self-image.  Her problem with pride shows up in an unlikely place.  She get’s mixed up in a murder investigation and everyone tells her she needs to stop and let the police handle it.  This is where most Southerners have a problem with pride.  Now that people think she can’t do it she has to prove them wrong.  Her pride is wrapped up in her abilities, it also makes it hard to ask for help when you’re in over your head.  Of course, things don’t work out and she ends up in a dangerous situation.  I’m not telling any more, I hope the book will be out before I die.

Pride causes people to become arrogant, can put them in dangerous situations, and can alienate others.  It’s an easy flaw to give a character, because so many people actually have it.  Go ahead and tell me my biscuits are not as good as yours!   The fun is finding new ways to make that flaw evident.

What’s your favorite character flaw?

CK

 

 

 

Genres….. Faith!?

While cruising the library I noticed the little tags taped to the edges of most books: African American, mystery,fantasy,faith, etc… It’s that last one that got me.  I tend to like my religious books in the nonfiction section.  Mainly because Christian fiction tends to be saccharine romance and I don’t do romance.   Although, A Killer Among us by Lynette Eason, kept me on the edge of my seat.  The exception to that is Christmas novellas, but that’s another post. Photo by Nadeeshx Jayawardana

knowledge-first

Sorry, I lost track of my point.  Here it is:  What makes a book fall into the the Faith/Inspirational fiction genre?

According to Wikipedia, it is a book that…”celebrates God’s presence in out lives… and where God plays a significant roll in the outcome.”  Ok, that makes since.

Reason: My WIP is a cozy mystery that has a protagonist that is a Christian and therefore has a positive view of church and does bring up the Bible and or God in a positive light, but only on occasion.  My goal wasn’t to write a “Faith” book, it was to write a mystery set in a small town, one that reflected life in a small Southern town.  I have had the WIP read in a critique (not CC), a complaint was the reader felt the Christian references weren’t needed.

I know you can’t please everyone, nor do I want to.  I understand not reading something because you have an aversion to a particular topic, keeping with this topic, I don’t read books with an anti-Christian agenda.  It tends to make me cranky, but if the story is good I have no problem reading a book where the protagonist is not a Christian.  I’d say most books are written with no religious identity at all.  That’s fine.  The flip side is, I don’t like “preachy” Christian fiction.  Have I confused you yet.

My problem is: Do I change it or keep it?  I’m looking at the WIP with an eye toward publication, after I edit the crap out of it with a machete.  Publishing is hard.  Like all writer’s I want to be published.  Yet, being the independent type, part of me says to heck with those who shy away from Christian books.  Be true to the book and the character.  I don’t want to remove imagery from the book that is relevant to showing life in small Southern towns.  It’s just the way it is.  Nor do I want to add a message that’s not there to make it a true, “faith” book.

It’s really early this morning, and I am probably over thinking the issue.  I need more caffeine.

What’s your thought on the issue.

CK

The Writer and Pinterest

 

A word of caution, Pinterest is addictive.  It can really cut into your writing time.  I know.  Here I am and I should be working on my WIP.

When I started using Pinterest it was a way to relax after work and look at eye candy.  Great pictures and pretty colors.  Kind of like jelly beans, fun but you can’t eat it for dinner.  Then I noticed pins related to writing.  Writing prompts, plot, characterization, etc..  I was amazed.  It had never occurred to me to pin articles about writing.  Now I have 414 (and counting) pins on writing.

As I continued to play, I came across boards that were obviously about characters or stories.  WOW.  I can  create a board that reflects certain characters and include articles or research that goes along with the story.

This board is about a character from one of my short stories.  She’s old and cranky.  Her one obsession, besides telling people how they are doing things wrong, is collecting porcelain houses.  I settled into my chair channeled my inner hag and created a board with things Ms. Stallworth would love.

pinterest

Ms. Stallworth would never be on pinterest, heck she’d never use the internet.  But it was fun surfing the web looking for things that reflect her personality.

As mentioned above, I use Pinterest to contain research.  Recently, I researched gill nets, alligator meat, poisons from plants, and shot gun house floor plans.  I m still looking for a quick acting poison that causes vomiting but not death, but that’s another story.

This is a fun exercise after you know your character.  If you haven’t fully fleshed them out, I wouldn’t do this.  You run the risk of latching on to  a photo as inspiration, and it tends to limit your vision.  Pinterest, and Twitter, are the best tools in my procrastination arsenal, so beware.

If your main character was on Pinterest what would they pin?

CK

Character Development

The other night, while I was finishing up On Writing, a couple of new characters showed up to chat.  They were a little impatient and I had to set my book aside to get to know them.  I thought you might be interested in how I birth a character.  Trust me it’s like giving birth, but without the ugly stretch marks.

Sometimes I have a story idea, complete with characters.  Others, like now, I have a scene and a character or two.  I quickly wrote out the scene in my head, I didn’t want to forget it.   Sometimes my characters like to play a little hide and seek before they tell me their names. No problem, I just assign a letter to each character.   In full disclosure, the characters in the initial scene have changed.  Originally they were best friends, now they are sisters and best friends.

After I think, and ingest plenty of hot tea, I immerse myself in the characters.  I write out a case file.  I put every scrap of information I can think of in this file.  Every thing as trivial as hair color to favorite band and religious affiliation.  I add a simple family tree and finish with a description on how my character spends an average day. It’s important to include your characters temperament and how they react to certain situations.  Give them a past, fears, and dreams.  Your goal is to make them as ‘real’ as possible.

It’s important to remember not to focus solely on the positive.  Everyone has flaws, bad habits, and vices.  It’s so easy to love your character and want them to be perfect.  Seriously, no one wants to read a story about a 6ft blonde who is a perfect wife, mother, and CEO.  One who wears a size 6 in dresses and 38 D in bras.  Everyone will hate her.  Now take that 6ft blonde, give her split ends, freckles, flat chest or a little over weight.  We can see her as not looking perfect.  Add more flaws.  Let’s give her a habit of kicking her husband in the ribs when he snores and she is a terrible cook.  We like her more.  For good measure her boss calls her sugar and her kids think she’s weird.  That’s better.  Look, don’t get touchy I just wrote this character in 5 minutes.  She’s not fully formed yet.  It’s just an example.  Perfect people are boring. 

Some of this is pretty basic and others may seem a bit extreme.  I don’t go this in depth for every character or every story.  If I’m writing a short story I usually just write a quick description of the protagonist and antagonist.  But if I’m going to write a novel, I need to know my characters as well as I know myself.  To be honest, I really enjoy getting to know my characters.  Some writer’s may not need to go through this, but it helps me.  But then I’m a list maker and a planner.

Now, I have two characters, sisters.  They are different than I originally envisioned them.  The changes were for the better.  The problem I have now, they both want to be the protagonist. Hmm, just like sisters to disagree.

How do you create your characters?  I need a another cuppa tea.

CK