The Many Uses for Secondary Characters

So, no matter what you’re writing, you probably have some characters that aren’t as important as the MC(s), but they’re just kinda there. The awesome thing about these seemingly unimportant characters? They can become important. Remember, you’re the author. You can more or less make them do what you want. However, it does sometimes feel like the story has taken on a life of its own. 🙂

There are numerous uses for a secondary character. One of the best, they’re expendable. If you need a character to get killed off, but you can’t bear to do it to a main character, consider fashioning a secondary one for that purpose alone. *wicked chuckle* Make them likable, too. *wicked chuckle*

Anyway, another great use for your secondary characters is how they can subtly influence the plot to steer it in a desired direction. For instance, I once wrote a draft in which an SC caused the main character to end up in this particular situation, which was the climax. She did this unintentionally – it was her presence and what that brought about in the story.

You can also have one or two SC(s) create a subplot. However, be aware that subplots can be used to “kill some time” and not to move the story along. You pretty much want everything – or close to everything, at least – to move your story along.

HOW OFTEN SHOULD A SECONDARY CHARACTER APPEAR ON SCREEN . . . OR PAPER?

It depends on their level of importance. You may have them start out in the first draft as a secondary character and end up by the last draft as an MC. It happens. 🙂 But how often a strictly SC will appear depends totally on the way you’re using them in the story. Typically, these characters in my stories have very important roles, but remain expendable.

DO I RUN THE RISK OF DISTRACTING FROM THE STORY WITH A SECONDARY CHARACTER?

That’s always possible, but if writing a first draft, don’t worry about it. You can edit later. Just remember if you’re bringing in an SC, it is probably to build on or move forward the story.

And now, LET’S CHAT. How do you use secondary characters in your story? Have I left something out? What is your opinion on subplots? Pour yourself some apple cider – or coffee, if you prefer – and I’ll bring dessert. Healthy dessert, mind you. 🙂 Anybody up for carrot cake?

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Pinterest – Is it Good for Writers?

So, Pinterest is pretty popular now, and you have to admit, fun. But it’s remarkable how many writers actually use this social media outlet to connect with readers. Is it worth the time? I’ve been on Pinterest for quite a while now, and building up a following is a S-L-O-W process. Using this outlet requires a great deal of time. The more pins you save, the more diverse your boards, the more people you’ll reel in.

Plus, readers love to connect with a favorite author any way they can. I know I always love seeing a story through the eyes of its writer, and what they save on Pinterest is a good way to see that.

But that’s the reader’s side of things. How about the writer’s?

We’re writers. We’re people, I think. We’re busy. So, is the time that it takes to build up a foundation on Pinterest actually worth it?

As I’ve yet to publish a novel, I can only speak on this topic from two standpoints – an aspiring writer, and a reader.

AS A READER . . .

I look for an author I like on Pinterest. I devour whatever it is they have to say about their work through what they pin. In addition, when I know somebody has a new book coming out, I’ll look for hints on that story’s Pinterest board. 🙂

AS A WRITER . . .

I love it. Pinterest enables me to organize my ideas, share them with others – or not, as I often start a board as a secret board – and collect bits of inspiration for my WIP. See, I’m weird about my characters. I can’t see them. So Pinterest helps me nail down in my own mind what my characters might look like. That’s a serious plus for me.

THOSE ARE THE PROS, AND THE CONS ARE . . .

It is time-consuming. You don’t have to have a ton of boards, but the ones you have should be filled in so a potential reader can stay a while to explore.

If you’re dedicating a lot of your account to writing, you may want to consider having boards like “Character Inspiration” or “Writing Inspiration” or “For Readers.” Stuff like that, as it could help to bring in more people.

So, basically, I have found Pinterest very helpful and a lot of fun. Please share your opinion and experiences with us! It would be a huge help for us newbies. 🙂

By the way . . . if you’re interested in my new WIP, hop on over to Pinterest. I’ve just published the previously secret storyboard for y’all! Check it out!

Let’s chat. Let me know your experiences with Pinterest. (And don’t forget to drop by the new storyboard.) 🙂

How to Write When the Music Fades – Chronic Writer’s Block

When the music fades, write on, courageous writer!

But when the music fades, it can be hard to find a tune to write to. There are a million “best writing playlists ever” and a million blog posts with guaranteed keys to success in overcoming the fading music disorder, but . . . do they really negate the issue? Or is it something you, personally, must face?

Confession: The music faded recently for me. For now. You see, the WIP you may be familiar with, my YA portal fantasy, was a WIP. It is now RIP. For now. There are simply times when you have to accept the amount of work a story will need in its revising process, and I came to that point with the portal fantasy. However, I also realized that I did not have what it would take to rush into a second draft. It has been moved to the back burner.

And soooo . . . with that confession comes a little announcement. I am presently working on a new idea. Alas! I can’t divulge the details at this time. I must outline, outline, outline, and I must write, write, write! Stay tuned, because I’m eyeing my September “highlights and goals” post in just over two weeks for any *cough* official bookish *cough* announcements. But know, my friend, that I am marching on in the writing world, with or without the music, and I encourage you do to the same.

Everyone gives out tricks to the trade in overcoming writer’s block, but I think there’s only one thing you can really do when writer’s block turns chronic. Step back from your story and ask yourself what might be wrong with it OR what might be wrong with you. It isn’t always the manuscript. Don’t let that become an excuse to not writing. It may be sheer laziness. Yes, I’m being cruel! But believe me when I say I know how it feels.

In the case of chronic writer’s block, it may be the manuscript or it may be you. In my case, it was both.

So does that mean you’ll never read my portal fantasy? I doubt it. I believe in another year or so – maybe after I’ve finished this WIP, providing the outlining goes well in the next few days here – I will pick that story back up again. That’s the beauty of the moment when the music fades.

And so, when the music fades, write on, courageous writer!

Psst . . .  I will say, my critique partner has given the first chapter of this story idea a very good review. 🙂  Stay tuned.

WIPJoy and a Book Update!

We’re doing something just for fun today – and something for all of you waiting on news of my WIP, a YA portal fantasy entitled One Light Shining. You may have heard of WIPJoy, which has traditionally been a month-long social media thing for authors, but Katie Grace recently did this on her blog – thank you! – so here goes. I’ve handpicked some of the thirty-one questions to answer today with my WIP.

YOUR FIRST INSPIRATION FOR THIS WIP

I love answering this question. 🙂 Technically, the biggest sources of inspiration came through Torrent (River of Time Series – awesome!) and Defy (Blades of Acktar Series – epicness!) Bits of both of those stories greatly influenced the development of this plot.

3 BOOKS THAT GO NICELY WITH YOURS

Well, Defy, of course, but also Resistance by Jaye Knight and Lisa Bergren’s Torrent. Each have similar points to their stories, whether time travel or genre or themes of redemption and restoration and, of course, action.

WOULD YOU RATHER: GET TRAPPED IN YOUR STORY FOR A WEEK, OR HAVE YOUR ANTAGONIST ENTER YOUR LIFE FOR A DAY?

Oo, fun! That’s so easy. Get trapped in the story for a week. I mean, if the antagonist showed up here, I’d have to explain an entirely different world and time period. That would be . . . stressful. Besides, I don’t think he’d like my cats, and well, we just couldn’t have that, now could we?

A LINE INVOLVING A DECISION

First draft here, so you may not see this particular line in the final draft, but here ’tis. A couple lines, actually:

No one in their right mind – even half in their right mind – would consider this a valid plan. But she dragged her eyes to meet his anyway and forced her jaw to let a string of muttered words through. “What do you need me to do?”

CHOOSE AN IDEAL READING SPOT, FOOD, DRINK, AND MUSIC TO GO WITH YOUR BOOK

All right-y, reader, pay attention, because you’ll need this info when the book is finally out of my hands and into your hands.

Reading spot: On a front or back porch, I think, especially in the evening.

Food and Drink: Garlic bread and apple cider. What else?

Music: Ooo, Flight of the Silverbird.

WOULD YOU RATHER: HAVE TEA WITH YOUR ANTAGONIST, OR BE STUCK IN AN ELEVATOR FOR 3 HOURS WITH YOUR MC?

That’s so easy. Tea with the antagonist. I do not want to be stuck anywhere with my MC from any of my stories, past or future. Let’s just get that straight.

WHY DO YOU YEARN TO SHARE THIS STORY WITH THE WORLD?

Because words can change people. They can lift you up, give you hope, remind you that there truly is one light shining.

The main characters deal with a lot of challenges that I believe many people can relate to, self-worth being one of them. There are strong messages in this story of the consequences of one’s anger and the unconditional power of forgiveness.

This book tackles many day-to-day struggles without masking them. There is pain, and in turn, grace. There is hatred, and in turn, forgiveness. There is danger, and in turn, trust. And perhaps one of the strongest threads of One Light Shining – there are actions which seem beyond any redemption, and in turn, His love beyond all limits.

 

And there you have it! A peak into my WIP, One Light Shining. Book Update: I’ve officially begun the editing and rewriting I have to do this summer/fall, and it’s on track so far, aside from being totally agonizing. 🙂

Anyway, let’s get ready to do some reading, eh? Meantime, why don’t you take #WIPJoy on over to your blog? It’ll be fun!

 

Crafting Characters – the Protagonist

First, my sincere apologies for wandering so from this blog. A full explanation will be available at the closing of this post, so in the meantime, let’s chat about characters. They’re so important, you know. Especially your MC, your protagonist. Just like there’s a way to nail the antagonist of your story, there’s a way to nail this one, too.

SHOULD THE MC ALWAYS BE ON THE GOOD SIDE?

In short, yes. And no. You see, depending on where the plot takes your story, you may want this character to start out on the wrong side. Plenty of good books take this approach and, personally, I love it. However, let me caution you against the mistake I’ve made in the past – if you take this approach, outline ahead of time how the protagonist comes to “see the light,” so to speak. Logistics in this area are crucial.

So no, the MC doesn’t have to be on the good side all the way through. Though I wouldn’t recommend you end your story with him/her on the dark side. That could be a slippery slope. 🙂 Ooo, but say you had a trilogy and ended the first book that way . . .  Hmm . . .

SHOULD THE PROTAGONIST BE PERFECT?

Isn’t that what we all want? A hero? A fictional someone so infinitely better than us that we can wish we were like?

Sure, we do, but that isn’t life, and makes for a bit of a fluffy story. In fiction, we want life. Bring out the darkness, show it for what it is, make your protagonist a broken soul, but bring about victory at the end. That’s the whole point. Victory. Hope. Light at the end of the tunnel. Besides, a perfect-no-scars-or-mistakes hero who saves the day simply won’t be relatable.

God alone is perfection, and we cannot be. Neither should our fictional characters.

SO THERE Y’ALL HAVE IT!

There are, of course, many more ways to and no to craft a protagonist, but let’s save some for another day, shall we? These are good for starters.

And I’m back into blogging after a long absence. Explanation – I was insanely busy. We all were, what with harvesting the garden, milking the goats, harvesting the garden, setting up summer pastures, harvesting the garden . . .  You get the idea, right?

Now that we’re rolling a little easier again, you tell me something – what writing things and bookish things would you like to see on this blog? We share this writing adventure. We’re in it together. Let’s chat!

Books ‘n’ Strawberries – Such Fun!

Show of hands – who among you consumes books and strawberries at the same time????

Okay . . . maybe nobody. I mean, you’d hate to get strawberry juice on the book, so . . .  Yeah, but there’s a reason I brought up the both of them. I mean, yum.

Reason for the strawberries: We are going strawberry picking tomorrow. Yippee! We found what is supposed to be a real nice farm about an hour away, so we’re packin’ up and headin’ out to stock up for the long winter. 🙂 If you want to hear all about our adventure, I’ll be posting on the Diary on Saturday with the details!

Reason for the books: I just finished reading Athol Dickson’s The CureThat’s reason enough.

The Cure was a hidden gem and a rare find. And the ending . . .  Oh, the ending! But I won’t betray it, or skip ahead. This book is about a man named Riley Keep, former missionary and presently an alcoholic beyond all hope. At the end of his road, he discovers a packet of “medicine” with a note explaining it to be a cure for alcoholism. But sometimes the cure is more dangerous than the disease . . .

OH WOW, was this story a winner. I was so engrossed and so blown away. Athol’s characters – Riley, Hope, Bree, Dylan, and the list goes on – are incredible. So well-fashioned and so brilliant. His writing is doubly so. And the book just happens to take place in a coastal Maine town, so . . .

You cannot go wrong in reading this book. Amazing.

And so, without further ado, we’re off to pick strawberries on the morrow! It ’tis summertime, after all.

So, my friends, what are your plans now that summer is officially underway? What books are you reading? Do tell!

Writing a Synopsis – How to and How Not

Don’t forget to stop by my new blog, Diary of a Teenage Prepper, for fun homesteading updates!

 

It doesn’t seem like it would be that big of an issue, right? A synopsis just states what the book is about. No problem.

If only . . .

Today, let us delve into the tricks, the how-tos and how-not-tos, of writing a synopsis.

HOW-TO #1 – READ THEM

The best way to figure out how to write a synopsis is to read them. How much info do they give? How much do they withhold? Take note of key words and phrases. Is the title of the book incorporated into the synopsis or left out? Above all, does it make you want to find out what happens? All of these things are critical points of crafting a gripping synopsis.

HOW-TO #2 – PRACTICE MAKES ALMOST PERFECT

I can’t think of any synopsis that is “perfect.” They’re just blurbs, more or less, and perfection is vastly opinion, but anyway – #2. Practice writing a synopsis for your WIP. No matter the stage, write one out and read it over and over again, compare it with the ones you’ve read, read it to someone else. All of these things should help smooth out a synopsis for your work.

HOW-NOT-TO #1 – MAKING IT TOO LONG

I have heard it said that a common problem among authors looking to self-publish is a synopsis that is too long. Just remember, you’re giving the reader a taste, not the entire banquet. You aren’t writing a book report in which every detail must be disclosed. But for that matter, don’t make it too short, either.

HOW-NOT-TO #2 – THINKING IT’S NOT IMPORTANT

A synopsis, in my opinion, is every bit as important as, say, the cover or the first line. It is the invitation for a reader to pick up the book and read it. A synopsis is important. You don’t have to stress over it. Maybe try incorporating a few of these thoughts to get you started. I’ve even used the creation of a synopsis to help in my outlining, and believe me, it does help.

ONE-LINERS AND THE WHAT-IF QUESTION

A grabbing sentence to start off a synopsis can be a pretty great idea. So can a what-if question. After all, a creative what-if setting in a plot – “What if gravity worked in the opposite way?” “What if the sky was orange?” “What if humans were the size of ladybugs?” – can pull a reader in all on its own. So if you’re story has its own what-if, why leave it out when creating your synopsis?

And because she’s one of my favorite authors, I can’t resist sharing her fantastic what-if-question synopsis. Nadine Brandes wrote the Out of Time Series, and her opener for the first of those novels was entirely gripping. Here’s why: “How would you live if you knew the day you’d die?” Who can resist that? I don’t want to know the day I’ll die, so if this character does . . . well, I have to know about it. 🙂

TELL ME YOUR OPINION! What pulls you into a book? Is it the cover? Synopsis? First line? Last line? (I should hope it’s not the last line.) Let me hear from you in the comments! We’ll chat about bookish things.

Bookish Things – a Review of the Well Spring Series and an Update

Hello, friends!

Today we’re delving into the three-book series I recently completed reading, James Rubart’s Well Spring Novels. My review in short? I was left both amazed and refreshed.

James’ writing is more brilliant than anything I’ve read in a long time. While in structure I’ll say the dialog was a tad rough in spots, the stories were seamlessly crafted, and the characters beautifully created. Every character had something to overcome, something to face in their lives, and the author took them through that brilliantly.

But I’m skipping ahead. If you’ve never heard of these books, you’re likely wondering what I’m babbling about. 🙂

Okay, okay. So, book one, Soul’s Gate, begins the journey with Reece Roth, a man who has been trained to enter the souls of others and fight for their freedom. He will go on to train the “four” prophesied to battle against the enemy in ways never before seen.

These books are remarkable, and as I mentioned, brilliantly written. I was kept reading from the first page of book one to the last letter of book three, Spirit Bridge. It is not an easy feat for me to be sucked into a story. I was vacuumed into this one.

wellspring

And if the review wasn’t enough, how about that cover? Isn’t that cover just, like, crazy cool? I mean, if a cover alone could drag you inside the pages it conceals, that one does the job.

And now . . . for the update! Just a small note of no importance. 🙂  I’m currently reading Athol Dickson’s The Cure, and there was a gargantuan spider inside the house this morning. Uh, yeah, like baby tarantula size. We, like, freaked. It was swept out of the house and deftly squished in the driveway.

Ooohh, and in other news, my recent story done for Faithwriters took sixth, which you can read here. And you must read the winning story for that topic. It was fantastic.

And I suppose that’s about it for today. The next post will feature the second installment in our little blog series, the non-fiction musings of a goat herdess, and it bears just that name. Stick around!

And you must tell me, friends . . . what is your present reading venture??? Any gargantuan spiders crawling ’round your house??? Don’t be shy! Pour yourself a cup of tea – or coffee or, even better, apple cider – and let us chat.

Crafting Characters – Antagonist’s Apex

There’s a trick to crafting your antagonist. As much as it may seem like their only purpose is to throw a wrench in things for your MC(s) and be hated by the readers, that is not entirely true. The best way to nail down a solid antagonist is to give them a side that can be related to and felt for by the reader and by you.

Yep, I said it. If you can’t swallow that yet, that’s okay. Keep on!

EXAMPLES OF THE ANTAGONIST APEX

What I’ve called the antagonist apex is where the reader is brought to a point or a side of the character that makes them stop and grumble, “I thought I was supposed to hate him/her” because they’ve suddenly found him/her to be slightly less hateable than they thought . . .  Is that confusing? Here’s a good example.

 

HG
Martin Cummins as Henry Gowen in “When Calls the Heart”

In the popular frontier TV series When Calls the Heart (all you fellow “hearties” please raise your hand in the comments!), you will find one of the best examples of a remarkably solid antagonist. Henry Gowen, as portrayed by Martin Cummins, has so many different levels of character, good and bad, that it’s hard to keep up. He is seen as despicably evil at times and is completely despised, and as someone deeper at other times, someone with more on the inside than just greed.

Because of this, he cannot be universally hated. This makes him a great antagonist, and makes whoever wrote his character a really good writer. 🙂

WHY IS IT IMPORTANT?

This is one of the more, I believe, optional parts of writing. You by no means have to make your antagonist 3-dimensional, but it is highly recommended. Fill in the cracks – make them human. Give them a cause we can understand – not agree with, but understand. Give them a motivation that is clear and realistic. But above all, make them human. Give them qualities and depth that leave the reader – and maybe even your protagonist – feeling just a tiny bit sorry for them.

AND NOW . . . let me hear your opinion!

Have you had any experience with these things in the past, whether in work you’ve read or written? Do you agree or disagree with this approach to an antagonist? Do you feel the reader should despise that character? Why or why not? Don’t be shy! Let’s chat.

Is Your Story Made of Starlight Dust?

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Has your story captured the light of starlight dust?

Is your story one of starlight dust?

You know what that looks like. The special ones, the ordinary topics made extraordinary in ways that make a reader stand back in amazement. A reader may never be sure just what it was about that story that made it so special, it just had that . . . something.

It had your starlight dust.

Starlight dust is that one little sparkle that no other story can have – it is the fingerprint of you, the author. Starlight dust is what takes a topic so ordinary one might contemplate nodding off at the mention of it, and making it . . . beautiful.

A story that is lacking this fingerprint, this sparkle, is generally easy to spot. Your voice develops the dust. (Allow me some poetic license here – I know it’s called “star dust.” I’m just mixing it up.) As you grow as a writer, your personal voice behind the pen will become more apparent to you and to your readers. This can be where the starlight dust shines. It is yours. Something completely your own that may be recognized and remembered, depending on how brightly it shines.

You’ve been a victim of reading starlight dust all the time. Think back to the last book you read that you really liked. For me, that would be Winter HavenWhat was so special about that book for you? What was so special about Winter Haven for me? They had starlight dust. They bore the fingerprint and the voice of the one who wrote it. They were unique because of this, and I know for Winter Haven, it stood out because of it.

But don’t get too excited yet . . .

NOT EVERY STORY HAS THE STARLIGHT DUST

Sorry if I burst your bubble. Look, there are good stories and bad stories, in terms of the writing itself. I’ve recently worked on a story with no issue whatsoever – the outlining was good, the inspiration was flowing, and I wasn’t stuck. No writer’s block. Miraculous! BUT . . . the story was lacking. Something.

Through this odd predicament, and through the advice of my brilliant critique partner who saw the exact same thing in the writing of this story, I discovered starlight dust. I don’t know why some stories and manuscripts “have it” and some don’t. If you’ve discovered that for yourself, please let me know. Because this is very important to remember, the lack of starlight dust does not mean you’re struggling with writer’s block. I may once have believed this, but as I explained in this paragraph, it’s evidently not true.

Starlight dust is the voice and fingerprint of the author, and when it shines, it can make any story blazing bright and unique, but I don’t believe it is something that can be forced through a pen. I don’t understand where it comes from – maybe it is the result of you pouring your all into the words which spill upon the page – or why it isn’t always there.

How can you recognize its absence? Simple. Go over you story and see if something is lacking. You should be able to tell. If you can’t, get a critique partner or have a friend read it who isn’t afraid to give you an honest opinion. Then go back to the drawing board. Try rewriting a bit, or maybe do some more outlining. I can’t tell you how to fix the absence of starlight dust, since I’m in that position right now. Soooooo . . . this post may well be a part one. If I strike gold in figuring out how to solve the starlight dust problem, I’ll let y’all know!

🙂 (By the way, I have to give all the credit of identifying and naming “starlight dust” to my critique partner.) 🙂

Meantime, take a look at your work, and as you do so, ask a question:

Can you see the light of the starlight dust?