Apr 26

Creating Your Main Character – Hit a Home Run

Writing main characters.

Contributed by Linda Wilson

Bases to cover while creating your main character:

First Base: Make your character interesting

Give your character a flaw

A flaw, according to Webster’s, is “an imperfection or weakness and esp. one that detracts from the whole or hinders effectiveness.” A flaw, according to Kristen Kieffer, is a problem your character doesn’t recognize that is getting in the way of a happy, productive life. In Kieffer’s article, “The #1 Key to Creating a Relatable Main Character,” is a list of “REAL flaws, personality traits or characteristics that hold [your character] back from being the person they need to be in order to achieve their story goal and/or defeat the villain.” To give you an idea, I have included a partial list of flaws. To find the complete list and more of Kieffer’s helpful information, please refer to the complete article.

Cowardice
Anger issues
Pride
Selfishness
Egotism
*Self-doubt

My character’s flaw in my WIP: She is riddled with self-doubt, which comes naturally to me, as an extreme lack of confidence was one of my major flaws as a youth.

Give your character a quirk

What characters come to mind because of their quirks? Beatrix Potter’s Peter Rabbit is curious and mischievous, which gets him into trouble; A.A. Milne created a ravenous hunger for honey in her character, Winnie-the-Pooh, who couldn’t fit through the rabbit hole.

What is the difference between a character flaw and a quirk?

Webster’s defines a quirk as “a peculiar trait: an idiosyncrasy.” Two examples, in a nutshell: Batman is self-taught, and has made himself “the most brilliant and capable man he can be, and he uses gadgets and tools to appear otherworldly to his enemies.” (1)

Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes: has extreme powers of observation; the power to detach his mind; and he keeps secrets.

Flaws and quirks help make your character interesting. Watch out for a too perfect character: Readers can’t identify with your character if she is too perfect. Sure, she has challenges, but if they’re overcome too easily, your reader will be bored.

Second Base: Give your character a worthy goal

In another Kristen Kieffer article, “How to Craft a Killer Character Goal for your Hero,” Kieffer makes a distinction between your character’s ambition, or what she desires, “something they believe will quell the dissatisfaction they feel in their lives,” which is what, evidently, many authors believe is enough of a goal; with “a specific and actionable goal that will lead your character into your story’s juicy conflict.” This article walks you through the process of “taking your character’s ambition and turning it into a powerful story goal,” and even says it’s simple!

Kieffer offers a list of key questions you can ask yourself to help define your character’s goals. Here are two:

  1. How is my character dissatisfied with their life?
  2. What does my character believe will bring them true happiness or contentment?

A second list is helpful in nailing down your character’s goal. Here is what I came up with for my character, using Kieffer’s list as a model:

  1. She wants to go home to city life, is tired of the country.
  2. She’s stuck in the country due to car trouble and needs to figure out a way to leave.
  3. Here her goal changes: She realizes she can’t leave until the car is fixed, has been asked to help someone in trouble at the inn where she’s staying, and doesn’t want to leave until she solves the problem.
  4. She does everything she can to solve the problem.
  5. She solves the problem and is ready to go home.

If you are struggling with these issues, I recommend these two articles. Kieffer has helped me identify weaknesses in my story and has given me a way to strengthen those weaknesses.

Third Base: Give your character a special love interest

An analysis of your favorite stories can reveal elements you want to include in your own stories. Personal favorites are mysteries, thrillers, and adventure stories. For me, the story falls flat if there isn’t love of a dog, a horse, a romance, or my favorite: love between two friends.

Cover your bases with these tips and you will be well on your way to hitting a home run in creating your main character. Hit the ball out of the park and you can do it again and again in many new ballgames.

References:

(1) http://fandomania.com/100-greatest-fictional-characters-1-batman/
http://www.sherlockholmes-fan.com/sherlock-holmes-biography.html

This article was originally published at:
http://www.writersonthemove.com/2017/11/creating-your-main-character-hit-home.html

Children's author

Linda Wilson, a former elementary teacher and ICL graduate, has published over 100 articles for adults and children, and six short stories for children. Recently, she has completed her first book, a mystery/ghost story for children 7-11 years old, and is hard at work on Book Two in the series. Follow Linda at https://www.lindawilsonauthor.com.

Children's ghostwriter

Let me take a look at your notes, outline, or draft. I’m a working children’s ghostwriter and rewriter. I can turn your story into a book that you’ll be proud to be author of.

Shoot me an email at: kcioffiventrice@gmail.com (please put Children’s Ghostwriter in the Subject line). Or, you can give me a call at 834—347—6700

Let’s get your story in publishable shape today!

Or, if you’d rather give it a shot and do-it-yourself, check out my book, FICTION WRITING FOR CHILDREN. http://karencioffiwritingforchildren.com/diy/

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Feb 16

3 Tips to Help Launch Your Writing Career

Get your writing career started.

Your story begins with an idea, an idea that has come from one of your own experiences or someone’s experience that you’ve observed.

To write your story, you first need to do your homework: read up on writing for children, read other authors’ books in your genre, take courses, go to conferences, join a critique group, etc. Write on a regular schedule and you will learn, through trial and error, what works and what doesn’t work on your road to publication.

Sounds easy, doesn’t it?

Oh, but there’s so much more. My own writing journey is a lot like a discovery I made when I became a Girl Scout leader. I went through the training, read the manual, and prepared myself to do whatever I could for the girls in my troop.

What I didn’t realize until later was how much the Girl Scouts would do for me! I learned many crafts and how much work goes into making lasting, worthwhile crafts. Our troop spent a lot of time outdoors, and together we acquired a lifelong knowledge of skills and a love of nature. I could go on.

The same happened when I started writing: becoming a writer has done so much for me I could fill volumes.

Here in a nutshell, are the hallmarks of what I have learned.

Tip #1: Decide Where to Begin

When the urge to write takes hold of you, take some time to decide the direction you will take.

Nonfiction is an excellent place to start. You can learn the ropes while finding an easier path to publication than fiction. Editors are always on the lookout for good, solid nonfiction articles.

Fiction is a world unto itself and much needs to be learned. Resources abound in your local area and online. Take advantage of them and soon you will be on your way.

Exploring your feelings and beliefs, I have found, goes hand-in-hand with your writing journey.

Tip #2: Decide What You Care About

Build your stories around the things you care about the most. You will be doing three things:

Bringing out what you’re interested in passing on to the next generation.

Giving yourself activities to share during school, library and organization visits.

Promoting what you stand for as a person.

Here is my list of what I care about most, and how I’ve strived to incorporate the topics on my list into my stories.

Family: Every children’s story is a family story—the type of family determined by you, the author.

Friendship: So important in childhood, my stories reflect what being a friend means.

Nature and the Outdoors: Much of the setting in my stories takes place outdoors. I strive to make this appear a natural, integral part without giving away my desire to spark an interest in my readers to get outside to play and explore.

Athletics and Staying Fit: Lots of running, biking, and sports are in my stories, showing some characters as fit, while showing others struggle who are not so good at athletics.

Music: A few references to music are made—really, snuck in.

Hobbies: Also shown as an integral part of my stories. Learning the importance of having a hobby is a gift I received from my dad, who had several serious hobbies. I would like to pass on the place a hobby can have in a person’s life.

These last two go without saying: Appearance and the Importance of Surrounding Oneself with Positive Friends, snuck in as part of the story.

Tip #3: Sure-Fire Ways to Become a Success

If anyone had told me how much goes into writing for children before I started, I wouldn’t have believed them. I have learned that there are certain qualities that will help you succeed:

Desire: Essential to keep going through the ups and downs of your writing journey. I let writing go for a few years to go back to teaching. As soon as I left teaching, BOING, up popped that writing desire, a part of me that I know now will never die.

Perseverance: An editor once told me she has observed that the way to succeed in writing is to persevere. The writers she knows who have stuck it out are the ones who get published.

Write for Yourself while Thinking of Others: Ask yourself what your reader wants: a good mystery, a story that reflects a need, an exciting adventure. Then write that story for him or her.

Above all: Have Fun! Have you ever heard that when you go to a party, if the hostess is having fun, the guests will have fun, too? The fun you have writing your story will electrify your readers and keep them coming back for more.

This article was originally published at:
http://www.writersonthemove.com/2018/02/3-tips-to-help-launch-your-writing.html

Children's author

Linda Wilson, a former elementary teacher and ICL graduate, has published over 100 articles for adults and children, and six short stories for children. Recently, she has completed her first book, a mystery/ghost story for children 7-11 years old, and is hard at work on Book Two in the series. Follow Linda at www.lindawilsonauthor.com.

Children's ghostwriter

Let me take a look at your notes, outline, or draft. I’m a working children’s ghostwriter and rewriter. I can turn your story into a book that you’ll be proud to be author of.

Shoot me an email at: kcioffiventrice@gmail.com (please put Children’s Ghostwriter in the Subject line). Or, you can give me a call at 834—347—6700

Let’s get your story in publishable shape today!

Or, if you’d rather give it a shot and do-it-yourself, check out my book, FICTION WRITING FOR CHILDREN.

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Jan 26

Editing and Revisions – Do a Verb and Word Check

Do a verb and word check.

Contributed by Linda Wilson

No revision is complete without a thorough check of the verbs in your manuscript.

You want to make your verbs clean. You want to make your verbs sparkle. And if you love words, as I do, it won’t be a chore to highlight each one, take a moment to decide if it works or not, and then either keep it or change it.

My quest to make my verbs sizzle and pop has blossomed into contemplating nouns, ridding my manuscript of most adjectives and all no-no adverbs, and what’s been the most fun: rephrasing many parts of sentences, indeed, often changing entire sentences. I’ve even found inaccuracies I’ve somehow missed. This is after a thorough sweep of my project by more than one expert editor!

Lesson learned: the buck stops at the author. No one else can fine-tune your work the way you can and no one cares as much as you do.

Use the “Find” Function in Word
I’m on the Rs. That’s right, almost done. My process:

Click on the "Find" function in Word
Type in the word in question
Click on "Find in"
Click Main document
Word will give you the number of this word that you have used
Click Highlight All
Go through the text and decide whether to keep or change the word
Use your own and online dictionary and thesaurus 

I split the screen in two, one side a tally of the words I am working on, and the other, my manuscript. My tally sheet is eight pages long: the words are listed in one long column in order to use the “alphabetize” function. My goal is a minimum of three to avoid too much repetition, unless the word is repeated for characterization purposes or simply works best.

The List

The list I’ve compiled for this post consists of the most troublesome repeats: the first number is the repeats first found, the second is the whittled-down version. The latter number shows the actual number of those words used now. Some words, such as ran and sat, are part of bigger words and don’t count as being repetitive, and are listed in the first number, but not the second.

down 146:15 (Yikes!)
dropped 24:5
fell 19:8
glanced 31:4
grabbed 28:3
headed 12:3
holding 14:3
hurried 7:6
just 49:6
kept 20:4
let/let’s/letting 89:11
look/looked/looking 46:5
minute 24:8
moved 21:7
peered 12:3
picked up 17:5
pointed 28:2
pulled 33:7
ran 95:10
reached 27:8
rose 13:7
sat 35:10
stood 53: Eek!
took 55: Help!

A Few Examples

Too many "slips": A boy slipped in next to the woman. v A boy peeked out from behind the woman. 
Too many "slids": He ignored them, continued to the next hive, removed that frame,--v slid that frame out,--and inspected it. 
 . . . and placed (v slid) the silhouettes in the back seat. 
Too many "lowereds": While dabbing at the inky black hair sticking out from under her hair band, sunglasses still lowered, she eyed Jess. v While dabbing at the inky black hair sticking out from under her headband, sunglasses now hovering somewhere around the groove between her nostrils and her upper lip, she eyed Jess.

Whittling Down the Words

How did whittling down these words change my manuscript?

The wording often changed, and often the word in question was deleted altogether.
I found the most delicious verbs and alternate thought patterns that feel fresher than my original wording.
Some changes came in the form of adding more actions by the characters and showing more emotions. The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer's Guide to Character Expression by Angela Ackerman & Becca Puglisi is the main resource I'm using, though Google searches are a big help, too. 
Zeroing in on a sentence or phrase allowed me to find ways of using alliteration and figurative language more.
Found opportunities for more feedback from characters to each other and to the main character.
Weeded out superfluous words.
I believe my language is much more colorful now.
Has helped to tighten scenes.
Caveat: It has gotten more difficult to find fresher words as I draw closer to Y (no Zs, yet anyway).

The Finish Line

This pursuit has become a game: How many interesting words can I collect and jot down for The List? When I’m finished, I plan to print the pages, cut them so only the column of words is showing, and tape the columns together on fewer pages for easy access for future projects. Funny how collecting words like this hasn’t struck me until now after many years of writing. But I’ve got the bug now and I can see the writing on The List: it will keep growing and growing and growing!

This post was originally published at:
http://www.writersonthemove.com/2017/09/tips-on-revision-do-verb-and-word-check.html

Children's author

Linda Wilson, a former elementary teacher and ICL graduate, has published over 100 articles for adults and children, and six short stories for children. Recently, she has completed her first book, a mystery/ghost story for children 7-11 years old, and is hard at work on Book Two in the series. Follow Linda at www.lindawilsonauthor.com.

NEED HELP WITH YOUR CHILDREN’S STORY?

I’m a working children’s ghostwriter and rewriter/editor. Let me take a look at your notes, outline, or draft. I can turn your story into a book that you’ll be proud to be author of.

Shoot me an email at: kcioffiventrice@gmail.com (please put Children’s Ghostwriter in the Subject line). Or, you can give me a call at 834—347—6700

Let’s get your story in publishable shape today!

Or, if you’d rather give it a shot and do-it-yourself, check out my book, FICTION WRITING FOR CHILDREN.

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Please Share!

Nov 10

One Last Edit – Rethink Before Submitting

One last edit

Contributed by Linda Wilson

Can you look through your completed book without making any changes?

I tried it after thinking I had finished up the basic editing and even the polishing. There couldn’t possibly be anything more to “fix,” thought me. Wrong. I found more changes, important changes, many changes.

Throwing caution to the wind, I gave up all notions of completion and continued, alternating between rummaging through additional passes as the need occurred to me with my pinpoint-sharpened #2, and then laying my book down to rest for short periods of time. My conclusion? The persistent question: When will I ever be done?

What do I need to re-think?

While in the throes of this quest I decided, what the heck, what’s one more pass? I came up with: What do I need to re-think?

It turned out to be the most revealing edit of all. It resulted in a title change, removal of a subplot (that was BIG, but I had to do it), addition of a character (that was fun), rearranging some of the scenes and re-checking the arcs, making sure someone or something didn’t fall off the face of the page. Each character arc, including arcs in each character’s dialogue, and each event, had to be followed from beginning to end. If I hadn’t done that particular check, pearls of the necklace I had begun to string would have fallen off before the clasp could have been attached. Nightmares could have resulted. I could have wound up with another fire-engine red I, another school daze Incomplete, only this time from an editor and not my teacher (if I should be so lucky!)

Take One More Look

  • Go back to the theme card you prepared before or during the writing. Make sure the main theme shines through and ask yourself, Do the minor themes bolster the main theme?
  • Check the structure one more time. Is it solid?
  • Does each character have an arc? Each story part introduced have follow-through to the end? Follow each one all the way through to make sure.
  • Is your main character’s flaw/need evident in the beginning and satisfied/solved from what she’s learned by the end?
  • Have you done a scene check to make sure there isn’t any section that might work better elsewhere?
    Is there any character or scene that doesn’t move the story forward?
  • Is there anything to add to strengthen any part, or any weak part to delete which will strengthen the story?
  • Is description kept at a minimum (in a children’s story)? Is the story told through dialogue and action?
  • If it is a mystery, make a list of the clues, red herrings and reveal to make sure everything is covered.

Do one last fact check.

If you grow weary of so many revisions, give your story a rest and come back to it later. One of my writing instructors once told me, you don’t write a book, you re-write a book.

When at first I thought I was done, I had to disengage from disappointment when finding so many glaring errors. This must be the armor people talk about that writers must grow and wear, and perhaps why people admire authors so much. For the fortitude and single-mindedness it takes to do the seat-time, on and on, until we are finally satisfied with the finished product, whatever it takes.

Being sure of your work is a must if a writer wants to produce a sparkling, page-turning, humdinger of a book!

This article was originally published at:
http://www.writersonthemove.com/2016/12/one-last-edit-re-think-before-submitting.html

Author Linda Wilson

Linda Wilson, a former elementary teacher and ICL graduate, has published over 150 articles for adults and children, and several short stories for children. She has recently become editor of the New Mexico SCBWI chapter newsletter, and is working on several projects for children. Follow Linda on Facebook.

Children's ghostwriter

Whether you need editing, rewriting, or ghostwriting, let me take a look a your children’s story. Just send me an email at: kcioffiventrice@gmail.com. Please put “Children’s Writing” in the Subject box. Or, give me a call at 347—834—6700

Let’s get your idea off the launch pad or your outline into a publishable story today!

Or, if you’d rather give it a shot and do-it-yourself, check out my book, FICTION WRITING FOR CHILDREN.

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Jul 21

Deep Point of View

Contributed by Linda Wilson

Do you write romance novels? Historical fiction? Mysteries? Whatever your genre, you strive to create a close personal relationship between your main character and your reader.

To shed light on this topic, at a recent New Mexico Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, SCBWI Regional event, Kimberley Griffiths Little presented the workshop, “Close Third Person or Deep Point of View, DPOV.” Kimberley has written many Young Adult novels, such as Forbidden, Banished, and for Middle Grade, When the Butterflies Came and The Time of the Fireflies. Also, as Kimberley Montpetit, she has self-published The Executive’s Secret, Unbreak My Heart, and many other books.

As Kimberley described DPOV, it is capturing your main character from the inside out. What she “knows, sees, hears, feels, experiences—filtered through her world. DPOV creates an immersive reading experience. In DPOV we see more of who the character is.”

Add to that a writer’s greatest prize: DPOV is how you gain THE VOICE.

Boot out the Narrator

I received one of the first drafts of my first book back so fast from a beta reader it wasn’t funny. There were few notes, few edits. But in huge letters on the first page she wrote: “GET RID OF THE NARRATOR! Then send it back to me.”

Oh my, was I in a world of rewrite! I think all authors would agree that finding that voice, showing and not telling the story, nixing the narrator, takes practice and experience. Also, I’ve talked to writers who agree that even in later stages of revision, “telling” and “the narrator” crop up and have to be banned. It has certainly happened to me. Examples offered at the workshop:

Narrator: She wished she could whisk back in time and redo the last few minutes.
Without the Narrator: Too bad life didn’t come with an undo button.
Narrator: He had to think hard about what to do next.
Without: What should he do next?

DPOV in Action

According to Kimberley: Become your character. Live inside your character’s mind and heart. Immerse yourself by staying in your character’s point of view. Take your reader on a journey through your character’s experiences. Want to see how? Here goes:

Shallow: Desiree’s skin prickled with pleasant excitement.
Deep: Shadows loomed. The place reeked of ancient secrets. Desiree’s skin prickled.
Shallow: He could see the tip of the dog’s nose peeking out of the closet.
Deep: Barry stepped through the door and entered the room. “Aha! There you are!” The tip of the dog’s nose peeked out of the closet.

DPOV is not italicized. According to Kimberley, italicizing thoughts takes the reader out of DPOV.

With italics: Jane looked out the window. Wow! Look at that sunshine and dew sparkling on the roses. What a perfect day for gardening. I’d better go get my tools.

She went to the garage and scanned her shelves. Now where did I put my gloves and trowel?

Without: Jane looked out the window. The dew on the roses sparkled in the morning sunlight. Wow! Would there ever be a better day for gardening?

Humming, she hurried into the garage. Her gaze searched the wooden shelves. Where had she stored her gloves and trowel?

Avoid “Pitfall Words”

Do a search in your manuscript and look for “pitfall words:” Think, Know, Feel, Realized, Caused, Made. Focus instead on the senses and play-by-play action in the NOW: Touch, Taste, Smell, Sight, Sound, Emotions.

Word No-No’s that create narrative distance:

  • Saw, considered, made, caused
  • She felt: watched, thought, realized, wished, decided, wondered
  • Avoid prepositional tells: with, of, in
  • Beware the IT Trap. It’s vague—(What’s vague? The It Trap! There, that’s better!) What does IT mean? Namely, that substituting “it” instead of specific nouns and descriptions isn’t nearly as dynamic.
  • Choose power words

Workshop Tips Served up on a Platter

  • Overuse of “to be” verbs
  • Don’t summarize: Write the scene
  • Share from the inside out rather than a “watcher’s” perspective
  • Research physiological reactions
  • Write moment-to-moment
  • Break up long description with an action; break up internal dialogue with action
  • Don’t name the feeling—Show the feeling by physical effects on the body, thoughts in keeping with that particular emotion: ASK HOW YOUR CHARACTER WOULD REACT
  • Everything can’t be written in DPOV. Your reader sometimes needs distance to relax, such as your character reflecting and telling friends.

A word of thanks: Experienced and successful authors like Kimberley and others in our New Mexico Regional SCBWI chapter, who take the time to attend meetings and events and share their expertise, are appreciated by our members. To learn more about Kimberley, visit: kimberleygriffithslittle.com

Linda Wilson, a former elementary teacher and ICL graduate, has published over 100 articles for adults and children, and six short stories for children. Her first book, a mystery/ghost story for children 7-11 years old, will be published in September 2018. Currently, she is hard at work on Book Two in the series. Follow Linda at www.lindawilsonauthor.com.

Need Help With Your Story

Whether you need editing, rewriting, or ghostwriting, let me take a look at your children’s story. Just send me an email at: kcioffiventrice@gmail.com. Please put “Children’s Writing” in the Subject box. Or, give me a call at 347—834—6700

Let’s get your idea off the launch pad or your outline into a publishable children’s story today!

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Jun 09

Writing Tips From the Book, Story Genius

Rejection - OUCH

Contributed by Children’s Author Linda Wilson

As SCBWI meetings, critique group sessions, and so much more offered by our local New Mexico chapter go, the subjects at two recent meetings couldn’t have been more helpful.

This month’s post offers highlights from a meeting that presented and discussed Lisa Cron’s book, Story Genius: How to Use Brain Science to Go Beyond Outlining and Write a Riveting Novel, Before You Waste Three Years Writing 327 Pages That Go Nowhere. Have you been there? This author must confess that I have, in spades. Next month, watch for highlights from a workshop on Author Visits, presented by Caroline Starr Rose, author of May B., Blue Birds, Jasper and the Riddle of Riley’s Mine, Ride On, Will Cody! and more.

The Third Rail
Cron begins in the Introduction, by explaining what it takes for a ms to succeed and why so many fail.

“The reason that the majority of ms’s are rejected—either by publishers or readers—is because they do not have a third rail . . . And so they write and rewrite and polish an impressive stack of pages in which a bunch of things happen, but none of it really matters because that’s all it is—a bunch of external things that the reader has no particular reason to care about.

Story is about an internal struggle, not an external one. It’s about what the protagonist has to learn, to overcome, to deal with internally in order to solve the problem that the external plot poses.”

The Third Rail drives your story, and the presenters at the meeting stressed, can save you lots of drafts. Some major Third Rail points:

Two Weeks Well Spent
My WIP, a MG mystery and my first book, has been held up due to editing and revisions I’ve continued to make for over a year after I thought it was “ready.” This is after the ms had been reviewed by three professional editors, in various stages (I had a lot to learn). In past posts, I’ve emphasized making sure your ms is “ready” before submitting, and one way to make sure is to have a professional editor review it. So, when I made the acceptable changes suggested by my editors, the ms should have been ready. I had to go with my gut, though. I knew it wasn’t.

Fast forward to a year later—to NOW. When I went to the SCBWI meeting, I had planned to submit my ms that week. But after hearing what the presenters had to say about Cron’s book and taking a peek at my ms, I knew I had more work to do. It took two weeks.

My two-week revision started by using a handout provided by the presenters taken from the Story Genius book, “Plotting: Scene Card Template: What is the Point?” I made a copy of the template and stapled it onto a card, as it appears here:

On 3×5 cards, I made a note in each section of the template from each chapter, using the template as a guide. Conclusion? The story didn’t change, but my mc’s inner struggle strengthened, which made the story richer, explained the plot better, and helped clarify vague parts.

Worth the Time and Effort
Story Genius offers much more than could be covered in this post. I plan to use the ideas offered to begin writing Book Two in my MG mystery series and believe it will save months of edits and revisions. I recommend this book as an important addition to your bookshelf.

This was originally published at: http://www.writersonthemove.com/2018/06/tips-from-lisa-crons-book-story-genius.html

Children's author

Linda Wilson, a former elementary teacher and ICL graduate, has published over 100 articles for adults and children, and six short stories for children. Recently, she has completed her first book, a mystery/ghost story for children 7-11 years old, and is hard at work on Book Two in the series. Follow Linda at www.lindawilsonauthor.com.

Children's ghostwriter

Let me take a look at your notes, outline, or draft. I’m a working children’s ghostwriter and rewriter/editor. I can turn your story into a book that you’ll be proud to be author of.

Send me an email at: kcioffiventrice@gmail.com (please put Children’s Ghostwriter in the Subject line). Or, you can give me a call at 834—347—6700

Let’s get your story in publishable shape.

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Apr 28

Tips on Adding Flashbacks to Your Story

Writing in flashbacks

Contributed by children’s author Linda Wilson

A flashback is a literary device that momentarily departs from a story to a scene in the past. A flashback can be as brief as a sudden thought, a dream, or a memory. Flashback can help give your story depth, and make your main character more interesting. As Diane O’Connell, author of The Novel-Maker’s Handbook, put it on her blog, “Used wisely, flashbacks can add richness, emotional resonance and depth to your novel.”

“Flashbacks can thicken plots, create dynamic and complex characters, reveal information otherwise left unspoken, or surprise the audience with shocking secrets. A large part of a character’s essence can be found in the past and the memories which resurface over time.” https://literaryterms.net/flashback/ (Helpful examples of flashbacks can be found on this site as well.)

“Using flashbacks wisely” is the key. If you’d like to try using flashback in your story, follow these tips and read the articles suggested at the end of this post, and you’ll be good to go.

The Good News First

When a flashback scene enhances your story:

A scene that depicts an incident from your protagonist’s childhood could shed light on her current situation and help your reader understand her better.
An incident that occurred before your story began, in a far-off time and place, could enhance your story present.

What has driven your character to act? Something that happened to her in the past? Flashing back to that incident could help explain her motives.

Now for the pitfalls:

The biggest disadvantage of flashbacks is that they happened in the past. Not in story time.
Flashbacks need to be done effectively to avoid removing your reader from your story.

Tips for Effective Flashbacks

Never start a scene with a flashback.
Have a flashback follow a strong scene.
Keep flashback brief.
Make sure the flashback advances the story.
Use flashbacks sparingly.
Orient reader at the start of a flashback, in time and space, and transition back to the story present.
Tenses: for past tense, use past perfect and simple past; for present tense, use present tense in the entire flashback, and resume story in present tense.
Transitioning: Make transitions clear. Use the above tenses to guide readers in and out of flashback.

The following flashback, as Nancy Kress wrote in her Writer’s Digest article, does a good job of transition. It’s from Thomas Perry’s mystery novel Sleeping Dogs. Protagonist Michael Schaeffer, a former hit man, has just come upon the site of a multiple murder:

All his old habits came back automatically. At a glance he assessed [everyone’s] posture and hands. Was there a man whose fingers curled in a little tremor when their eyes met, a woman whose hand moved to rest inside her handbag? He knew all the practical moves and involuntary gestures, and he scanned everyone, granting no exceptions. He and Eddie had done a job like this one when he was no more than twelve. Eddie had dressed him for baseball, and had even bought him a new glove to carry folded under his arm. When they had come upon the man in the crowd, he hadn’t even seen them; his eyes were too occupied in studying the crowd for danger to waste a moment on a little kid and his father walking home from a sandlot game. As they passed the man … (From “3 Tips for Writing Successful Flashbacks,” by Nancy Kress.)

Flash Forward

The opposite of flashback is a glance at the future, or the flash forward. Example:

The light flashed so bright, Emma had to shut her eyes. She couldn’t know that once she took even a peek, she’d be seeing a ghost.

Flashbacks and flash forwards might come more naturally to you than you might think. While reading a few chapters of my current WIP to my husband today, I was surprised to find a flashback, written before I did my research for today’s post. So, now that you know how to slip these literary devices into your own writing, if you haven’t tried them yet, you might experiment with them as a way to enhance your own writing. Just keep one guideline in mind: use flashbacks and flash forwards sparingly.

Please note: My post “Live Author Interviews,” Part II from last month’s post, “Tips on Author Interviews” will be appearing soon.

Sources:
https://www.writersdigest.com/qp7-migration-all-articles/qp7-migration-fiction/3_tips_for_writing_successful_flashbacks
https://literaryterms.net/flashback/
http://www.writetosellyourbook.com/blog/2011/01/21/writing-effective-flashbacks/

This post was originally published at:
http://www.writersonthemove.com/2018/11/tips-on-adding-flashbacks-to-your.html

Linda Wilson, a former elementary teacher and ICL graduate, has published over 150 articles for adults and children, and several short stories for children. Her first book, Secret in the Stars: An Abi Wunder Mystery, a mystery/ghost story for children 7-11 years old, is hot off the press and will be available soon. Currently, she is hard at work on The Ghost of Janey Brown, Book Two in the series. Follow Linda at https://lindawilsonauthor.com.

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Sep 09

Creating Story Characters? Avoid These Common Mistakes

Guest Post by Linda Wilson

Many characters inhabited the early drafts of my WIP: a MG mystery. Like many of my characters’ counterparts—kids—I assigned each character a “friend,” following the example I’d seen so often of kids going around in “packs.”

What fun I had! The snappy dialogue! The endless opportunities to showcase what was on everybody’s mind! And oh, the ballooning plot–sensational! Until along came an editor who, with utmost gentleness and understanding, gave me a reality check.

Each Set of Friends Morphed into One Character

Whoa! Cut! My editor suggested I settle on one character for each set rather than have two: one sidekick for the main character, not two. One antagonist, not two. One little brother, not a little brother and his friend. I edited out the “doubles,” the “extras”, and though it was painful eliminating the “friend” appeal I had created, it did clean up the story—a lot. But there was still work to be done.

Each Character Must have a Role

In narrowing down the number of characters in my story, a few things happened.

– Though my MC’s sidekick lacked other girlfriends, their relationship became stronger.
– There were fewer distractions; that held true for the antagonist and the little brother, too.
– And then . . . I was told that the little brother would have to go. She knew this would be difficult for me. I loved this character dearly. I had rounded him out so well and he was funny. But that wasn’t enough.
– So, I gave him a role. In the beginning he plays a prank on the main character. For the rest of the story, he faded back into the background. Still not enough, she said.

Each Character Must have Follow-Through

Now it’s your turn to make sure your characters have roles throughout your entire story. You do that by creating a story arc not only for your main character, but for each one of your characters.

To use the bigger role I assigned to my little brother character as an example:
– When he first appears, he brings up the mystery.
– Early in the book, he plays a prank on the main character, which is directly related to the plot.
– A little later, he teases her about the prank.
– Still later, he takes part in one of the main character’s adventures.

And two things were added to top it off near the end:
– He possesses a secret of his own that he brags about to the main character and her sidekick, which is eventually revealed, and . . .
– He receives a surprise of his own.

Writing instructors describe the creation of characters’ story arcs in different ways. The one that has stuck with me is to view your characters’ story arcs as strings of pearls that run throughout your story.

One way you can accomplish this is to highlight your characters’ actions with different color highlighters to make sure they are not forgotten in any section of your book. While creating the story arcs for my characters, I found the dog in my story had disappeared for about thirty-five pages. I went through that section and added him in where he fit, and when he was gone from the story, showed an explanation for his whereabouts. This must be done for each character. And, for recurring items such as a key, a flashlight or a locked door, items I had to check and re-check to make sure mention of them was accurate.

A Word about Multiple Points of View

Editors say that new writers should shy away from attempting multiple points of view. They say it takes experience and skill to pull this off. A good example applies to an adult novel from Audible I recently listened to, which was told in two sisters’ alternating POV’s. There were problems. First, their names were similar, perhaps because they were sisters. I had difficulty jumping from one to other and felt confused about who was who.

The other problem was that unfortunately, I didn’t care about the sisters. The author hadn’t, in my opinion, spent enough time allowing me to get to know each of them. I almost didn’t finish the book because it became tedious rather than enjoyable.

One of my writing instructors dislikes multiple points of view because of this problem. She believes in having one main character that you as the reader can get to know, love and “get into her head” so that you experience what she experiences throughout the book.

Personally, I find novels told in multiple POV’s refreshing. I’ve enjoyed sinking myself into more than one character. But I agree with my instructor: it has to be done right. And as a beginner, I don’t plan to venture there until I have a lot more experience under my belt. But I do plan on highlighting my characters’ arcs and making sure they have ongoing roles tied to the plot.

Author Linda WilsonLinda Wilson, a former elementary teacher and ICL graduate, has published over 100 articles for adults and children, and six short stories for children. Recently, she has completed her first book, a mystery/ghost story for children 7-11 years old, and is hard at work on Book Two in the series. Follow Linda at http://lindawilsonauthor.com.

This article was first published at:
http://www.writersonthemove.com/2018/04/avoid-these-common-mistakes-in-creating.html

Be a children's writerBeing a writer, like being any kind of artist who creates something from nothing, is an amazing ability. It’s almost like magic. And, you are in control. You decide what to create. The only limit you have is the cap on your imagination.

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Jul 15

Series Writing – Is It For You?

Is it for you?Contributed by Linda Wilson

How big is your children’s book idea?

In fiction, it might cover generations as in Philippa Gregory’s Cousins’ War and Plantagenet and Tudor Series, or growth of the main character which occurs in Nancy Drew mysteries. Have your pick of nonfiction topics that can blossom into a series from a single topic; series such as The Magic School Bus and the Body Works series; My Messy Body, My Noisy Body, etc.

If you’re like me you might start small, believing your idea will be covered in one standalone book. That’s good, as we know your book needs to be submitted as a standalone. My desire to expand my book idea into a series (I am currently working on Book 2 while Book 1 continues to be primped and prodded) developed in ways I have since found to be common.

Why Turn a Perfectly Good Children’s Book into a Series?

That’s easy. You’ve got to:

– Fall in love with your characters, especially the main ones, who have so much more life to live that you can’t possibly stop now.

– Write in a genre that lends itself to series, such as mystery, ghost stories, romance, westerns, historical novels, fantasy and sci fi.

– Believe that series sell well and publishers like to buy multiple books because series attract readers.
Know that the groundwork in the first book will work again, and again, and again.

Authors who write series promise readers that the fun doesn’t have to end, that there’s more excitement to come, more adventure and world’s to explore, more of these lives to be lived.

Karen S. Wiesner, Writing the Fiction Series: The Complete Guide for Novels and Novellas, quotes author Thomas Helm and has her own advise:

– “Author and reader dread the end, which is the test of a good novel. Why not expand it into a series?”
– Love reading series, from childhood on. If like me you love reading series books, then you thrive on the familiar feelings series provoke.
– Enjoy the setting of your story and look forward to expanding on it so your characters can explore worlds, far and wide.

The list is never-ending.

If you’re already writing a series or are contemplating writing one, then your heart of hearts already knows why you want to make your book into a series. For me, this desire developed. In the beginning, going from writing short stories to writing my book was more of an undertaking then I ever could have imagined. One of my biggest challenges was keeping track of the story! What was happening where and to whom! In a nutshell, structure is what saved me. For one way to build story structure, go to March 28, 2013 for a post on “The Tent Pole Structure“:

What? Turn my Masterpiece into a Series? Not!

Before delving into the mechanics of series writing, which will be discussed in future posts, let’s take a look at some of the ways to avoid the pitfalls, for there are many. You will find a way to make the pieces fit together. A way that works for you.

It’s a good idea to:

– Make an overall outline that shows how each novel relates to the others.
– Have an overall plot plan as well as a plan for each novel.
– Be organized. Know where your series will end. Plot a timeline to keep track of events.
– Choose a central conflict or premise for your series that “is the main tension or unknown that needs to be solved.”

In Harry Potter, the central conflict is the protagonist’s unfinished business with the villain, Lord Voldemort. In Tolkien’s Lord of the rings Trilogy, the central conflict is between the world-dominion-seeing antagonist Sauron and the elves and hobbits who desire peace and freedom from tyranny.” http://www.nownovel.com/blog/how-to-write-book-series/

Keep track of the details and connecting threads among the novels in order to maintain continuity.
Plan for the passage of time and how your characters will age.

You might wonder What am I getting myself into? I have, many times. But to help me decide what to do, I did a simple Google and Amazon search and found terrific information from the wonderful authors who have shared what they’ve learned. Once I nail down my research, I will share the resources I have found in the next few months as I continue to explore this topic.

Linda Wilson, a former elementary teacher and ICL graduate, has published over 100 articles for adults and children, and six short stories for children. Recently, she completed Joyce Sweeney’s online fiction courses, picture book course and mystery and suspense course. She has currently finished her first book, a mystery/ghost story for 8-12 year-olds, and is in the process of publishing it. Follow Linda on Facebook.

This article was originally published at:
http://www.writersonthemove.com/2016/09/is-series-writing-for-you-part-1.html

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Jun 10

Villain or Antagonist – Is There a Difference?

Difference between a villain and antagonist

Guest Post by Linda Wilson

Is a villain and an antagonist one and the same? Sometimes, and sometimes not. First stop, the dictionary definitions:

Mwa Ha Ha

A villain is: 1. a cruelly malicious person who is involved in or devoted to wickedness or crime; scoundrel; 2. A character in a play, novel, or the like, who constitutes an important evil agency in the plot.

Second, a peek on Google by searching popular villains in children’s literature (which was wicked, good fun.) A few all-time favorites:

Miss Trunchbull, the headmistress of Crunchem Hall Primary School, in Roald Dahl’s book and the film, Matilda, is the tyrannical educator who terrorizes her students with creative, over-the-top punishments.

Cruella de Vil, originally the character from the Dodie Smith 1956 novel The Hundred and One Dalmatians, who kidnaps Dalmatian puppies for their fur.
Captain Hook, from J.M. Barrie’s play Peter Pan, is a “callous and bloodthirsty” pirate. Note: In Disney’s animated film Peter Pan, Hook is more comical than the original villain.

The Not-so-Dastardly Antagonist

An antagonist is: 1. A person who is opposed to, struggles against, or competes with another; opponent, adversary; 2. The adversary of the hero or protagonist of a drama or other literary work: Iago is the antagonist of Othello. (Definitions from Dictionary.com)

And now for examples of popular antagonists in children’s literature—a little harder to find. This is where the words villain and antagonist get blurred. Examples found on Pinterest include the Evil Queen in Snow White, The Evil Step-Mother in Cinderella, The Wicked Witch of the West in the Wizard of Oz, and so on. Villains or antagonists? You decide.

Does the Difference Between a Villain and an Antagonist Even Matter?

Summed up:

A villain is evil, through and through. His motivations are evil and his actions are evil.
An antagonist opposes the protagonist. She causes conflict with the main character.

Where the Rubber Meets the Road

In my WIP, I have crafted an antagonist. I wanted to make sure he isn’t simply a one-dimensional character. Through research and reflecting on personal experience, I think I have found a way to make him quite an interesting, and I’m hoping compelling, fellow. Below, I have used the term “villain,” but I think the same holds true for your antagonist.

Understand your villain’s motives: Make her as detailed and nuanced as your main character. Achieve this, and you’ve uncovered one of the most important keys to a compelling story. Where to begin? Get personal. Mine your personal experiences and the people you have known and expand from there.

Find a model: Your villain can be based on someone you know, a celebrity, or someone you’ve seen on TV. I’m guessing most women have had a catty gf at one time in their lives, someone who wouldn’t be considered a friend, and may have even done mean things to them. I’ve had two incidences that I know of (luckily, I’ve been spared from knowing any more than that!), one in early grade school and the other as an adult. At the time these incidences occurred I was devastated. My adult experience took me about two years to get over—after two years I said Enough! and finally was able to let go of the hold the experience had on me.

Describe your villain as carefully as you’ve described your main character: Add to your villain’s persona a drooping eyelid, a telltale scar slashed across his cheek, or something that connotes this character’s dark side.

Conjure up how your own misfortunes made you feel: Keep these feelings in a notebook. If your model is a stranger, watch how their misdeeds make the protagonist feel. Show these feelings in your story. Caveat: Little did I know that later I would be able to draw on the bad feelings I experienced to help me empathize with what mean words and actions can do to my characters. And also, how my experiences have helped me craft my villains.

Nail down your villain’s motivation: Was it something bad that happened to her in the past? Did he do something, such as steal something small, find that he enjoyed the thrill of living on the edge, and try for bigger and better spoils?

Show that your villain is fearful of something: J.M. Barrie’s Captain Hook, from his play Peter Pan, had two fears: the sight of his own blood, and the crocodile who pursues him after eating the hand cut off by Pan. In Roald Dahl’s book and the film Matilda, Miss Trunchbull is very superstitious and has an intense fear of ghosts, black cats, and the supernatural in general.

Show that your villain has a good side: Each article I researched made the point that portraying your villain as all bad risks creating a cardboard character. He will be more human if he has some good qualities. J.K. Rowling does this expertly in Harry Potter. Lord Voldemort was once a student at Hogwarts, just like the series’ hero.

Show that your villain is likeable: In Mark Twain’s book, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, according to Cliffs Notes, thirteen-year-old Huck Finn’s “literal, pragmatic approach to his surroundings and his inner struggle with his conscience that make him one of the most important and recognizable figures in American literature . . . He is playful but practical, inventive but logical, compassionate but realistic, and these traits allow him to survive the abuse of Pap, the violence of a feud, and the wiles of river con men.”

Have a clear idea of the conflict between the villain and the hero in your story: How does your hero thwart your villain’s main goal? At your story’s climax, your villain and hero need to confront each other alone. Make the stakes as high as possible by ramping up the obstacles the villain has thrown in your hero’s path.

Follow these guidelines and read more detailed information on the creation of your villain/antagonist by consulting the list of articles below that contributed to this post:

https://www.pinterest.com/ofallonlibrary/villains/
https://www.nownovel.com/blog/how-to-create-a-great-villain/
https://jerryjenkins.com/what-makes-a-good-villain/
https://diymfa.com/writing/villains-vs-antagonists

Linda Wilson, a former elementary teacher and ICL graduate, has published over 100 articles for adults and children, and six short stories for children. Recently, she has completed her first book, a mystery/ghost story for children 7-11 years old, and is hard at work on Book Two in the series. Follow Linda at www.lindawilsonauthor.com.

This article was originally published at:
http://www.writersonthemove.com/2018/03/villain-or-antagonist-whats-diff.html

Being a writer, like being any kind of artist who creates something from nothing, is an amazing ability. It’s almost like magic. And, you are in control. You decide what to create. The only limit you have is the cap on your imagination.

Check out Karen Cioffi’s 250+ page ebook (or paperback) that gives you all the basics of HOW TO WRITE A CHILDREN’S FICTION BOOK. It’s newly revised and includes information on finding a publisher or agent and marketing your books.

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