Summer Writing Mini-Workshop: Character Matters

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Jezebel wasn’t always a prostitute, Mary wasn’t always the mother of God, & Santa has a life beyond Christmas. https://sarahleastories.com/2015/12/29/writers-digest-wednesday-poetry-prompt-333-theme-exhaustion/

We all transform under the right (or wrong) conditions. Carbon turns to diamonds, water turns to ice, trees turn to paper. A transformative character is more interesting than one who is impervious to change.

Never overly describe a character. Include a few, pertinent details, then allow the readers to use their imaginations to fill in the rest, because nothing slows a story’s momentum than for readers to have to laboriously build a character in their mind according to the writer’s exact specifications.

It’s fine to write a fiction book with an agenda in mind, but never be more passionate about the agenda than the characters.

Authors are no longer limited to one character’s perception when they write from the first-person point-of-view. You can pull a “Picoult” (i.e. Jodi Picoult) with each chapter being told from a different person’s P.O.V. Just make sure the characters you use to tell the stories are equally compelling.

Draw up character profiles, even for short stories. A thoughtful reader will notice if one of your characters has blue eyes at the beginning of the story, & brown eyes at the end.

Every character has habits, or quirks, that make them memorable. The same goes for dialect & certain expressions they use. https://sarahleastories.com/2014/02/17/quirks-make-a-character/

 

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#Fiction Friday: #Novelines from the Book

Mormoni

Catholicism was the older sister of Mormonism: The Catholics had their pure nuns, touched by none, the Mormons their women, touched by one.

David’s face was bathed in beams of light, looking like one of those angels on Christmas cards. It was his face that eclipsed the moon.

I called God as my witness that night at St. Mary’s, that David & I would be static characters in the dynamic play we were being written in.

Though we were all invited—we could not enter heaven unless we brought the temple recommend, or invitation— which is how Brother Wiley put it.

The scent of the man David was like incense to my soul. I breathed him in. There was a very visceral part of me that wanted to take him in.

Even as Mother & David belonged together, so did David & I, in our own way—in a way the 3 of us together never could.

The man I thought was Jesus told me He’d been waiting for me all my life, & led me up the aisle like a bridegroom—the moonlight, my veil.

Sweet spices permeated me as His spirit entered. The olfactory sense was the closest thing to omnipresence a mortal could impose on another.

This rapture didn’t spirit me up to Heaven, but rather, gave me a sense of belonging on earth I had never felt before.

Writer’s Digest Wednesday Poetry Prompt #449: Learning (Blank)

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Learning Survival

She had lost almost everything once,
and so she lived
everyday
as if there was someone
or
something
out there,
ready to take it all away.
And because she took nothing
for granted,
she never procrastinated—
always feeling that if she wasn’t ahead,
she was behind.
It was so easy to forget things,
for so much was on her menu
that was added to daily.
Yet she found that by living this way,
although
physically and mentally—
yet never spiritually—
exhausting,
made her better,
her quality of life better,
for she could eat what she wanted sometimes.
Yes, she’d rather work 60 hours a week
and lose her sanity,
but preserve her security,
however temporary.
And the time that she wasn’t working,
trying to make it all happen,
she spent enjoying that which had not yet
been
taken
away.

http://www.writersdigest.com/whats-new/wednesday-poetry-prompts-449

Sweet Little Nothings

Leave your phone behind

He was a blond seeking a brunette,
scrolling through the gorgeous arrangements of pixels
with impressive stats,
but the day he was separated
from his virtual connection to the world,
he found a deeper connection in the one woman
who was everything the others were not—
whose essence was incense to his soul,
whose taste was strawberry coulis to his lips,
& whose voice was warm to his ear.

Summer Writing Mini-Workshop: Writing Truths

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The basics of journalism (the 5 W’s & 1 H) apply to fiction, as well. If we don’t know who, we won’t care about the rest.

Write long, & then cut it down. It’s easier to have plenty of material to work with than it is to have to “pad something out” to reach the word count threshold.

It is better to take the time to write a new story than to butcher an existing one to fit in a certain word count.

Your characters don’t have to be realistic, if they are representations of real ideals (such as in Ayn Rand’s “The Fountainhead”).

Writing an analysis of your short story can help improve succeeding drafts, enriching it with symbolism (& making sure all the elements make sense).

Writing is an art, editing, a science.

You will learn more from one character in real life than you will in 140 on Twitter.

If you can’t remember the characters’ names in a book, it wasn’t a very good book.

Plot-based books often get read once whereas character-driven novels get read again & again. Character matters.

A minor character can have a significant impact on a major one.

You don’t have to write linearly. If you have a scene in mind that you’d like to go ahead & write, do so. It doesn’t matter how you put the puzzle together, only that it makes sense when it’s finished.

Don’t self-publish until you’ve had your manuscript professionally-edited. Just. Don’t.

#Fiction Friday: #Novelines from the Book

Mormoni

It had always been David who had made our house the kind of home the Church said a home should be—the second most sacred space, next to the temple.

“For where two or three are gathered in My Name, there am I in the midst of them,” Jesus had said, & so, the Mormon missionaries paired off like Noah’s Ark, except in a sexless, same-sex fashion.

His faith had been proven—his sacrifice hadn’t required the forsaking of his own life—only the forsaking of a chance at a life with me.

David appreciated the natural world as much as Mother & Caitlin did the spiritual, whereas I was caught somewhere between the two.

Man had been given dominion over all earthly creations (rather than God, who had dominion over all the heavenly ones).

Though we were surrounded by people, we were the only two people in our world—in the world, but not of it.

I sensed a change in my & David’s relationship, but I could not define it. It had matured. I was no longer his stepdaughter—I was his equal.

Christmas in the Deep South was twinkling lights for snowflakes, spray-on snow on windowpanes, & the Hallmark yule log flickering on a screen.

Writer’s Digest Wednesday Poetry Prompt #448: Chore

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Hymn of Motherhood

(for all the “Tullies” out there)

For Mama Mia,
motherhood was a never-ending spin cycle—
of scraping dried spaghetti off plates
or off the floor,
wiping spit-up from faces,
throw-up out of sheets,
& sometimes poop or pee,
& even poopy pee.
It was poop in the bathtub.
It was cooking hamburger casseroles for dinner
& baking cupcakes for play-dates.
It was cold cereal & spilt milk
& crying for no reason
& laughing for the same.
It was yelling for a multitude of reasons.
It was vacuuming the rugs
for the creeping crawlies in onesies
& the toddling twos in their missing left socks.
It was reading the same stories over & over—
like binge-watching Groundhog Day
limiting her own screen time to set an example,
& sharing her chocolate to show that sharing was good.
It was hiding in the bathroom to check her e-mail or
in the closet to nosh on a frozen white chocolate KitKat
& not feeling guilty for saying no when she needed a dose of
I Love Lucy to unwind.
It was letting them see her read books,
so they would know she did it for herself
& not just for them.
It was giving them what they needed,
but not always what they wanted.
It was making time to play with them
& knowing when to leave them to their own (non-electronic) devices.
It was saying thousands of “I love yous” before
getting even one back.
It was sticky hands & dirty feet & boogies God knew where.
It was one dish left of a set.
It was showing them the world
but not showing the world, them.
It was teaching them about Heaven &
the God who created it in a way
they could
understand.
It was trying to keep their memories alive
of those who’d loved them,
but they would never remember.
It was putting locks on doors, cabinets, cupboards.
It was trying to remember so much &
having to be so aware.
It was a life sentence of worry.
It was not believing in spanking,
& yet,
promising never to spank again.
It was comforting after disciplining.
It was, when Daddy pissed her the hell off,
letting her temper freeze over when it wanted to boil over.
It was forgiving Daddy for pissing her the hell off.
It was remembering the day when she used to look at harried mothers,
feeling sorry for them,
& knowing now that she had become what she had once vowed
she would never become.
It was a constant unscrambling of the brain.
when interrupted because of the need for attention.
It was a distracted drive through life &
staying up far too late to get some alone time.
It was yearning for her pre-baby body in her post-baby life,
wondering why the silhouette in the mirror disappointed her,
for she’d been running,
it seemed,
since the day they were born.
It was everything she had ever wanted &
more work than she had ever thought it would be.
It was teaching them all the things they really needed to know
before they ever got to kindergarten;
it was learning to know when to ask for help
so that she could care for herself as well
as she cared for all of them.

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http://www.writersdigest.com/whats-new/wednesday-poetry-prompts-448