Tag Archives: Characters

Chapbook Release Today

My new Short Tales chapbook was released today on Kindle.

Now, everyone will get to know some of the pivotal characters in my novel Dreamie’s Box, which will be coming out this autumn. I’ve lived with these characters for a very long time and still came to know them much better through these short memoirs than I ever would have believed possible.

I ask that you take a chance, check it out, and write a review when you finish. You won’t regret it.

Dreamie Memior Cover (1)http://www.amazon.com/dp/B011ZJVGBG

 

At Home—Writers, Readers, and Characters

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If you’re a reader, you aren’t necessarily a writer. But, if you’re a writer, you’re always a reader. Between the two are the characters of whatever story is in view.

Writers may have penned their stories since childhood, as I did. Others come to it later in life. All read books early, and for many like me, the choice of reading material wasn’t dictated by genre or age group. At age ten, I was reading my mother’s lit book from high school. My favorite selection in it was Tennyson’s Lady of the Lake.

By age twelve I’d moved to Somerset Maugham’s The Razor’s Edge. Thirteen brought on the complete works of Shakespeare, thoughtfully provided by my father, who’d never read of word of the Bard’s work. Other masters from around the world followed the Bard. The one, though, that stayed closest to my heart was Omar Khayyam’s The Rubaiyat, which was later supplanted by The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran.

Because of the era in which I grew up, most of the main characters were male. I longed for female characters that went on quests, made serious decisions, etc. I’d long written my own heroines, but the desire to read those written by others kept the spark of writing alive for many years until such characters began appearing in books and films.

stock-photos-v2-004-008Now, this is my question for you. Whether you’re a reader or a writer, which types of female main characters do you prefer in books? Is she the gentle-souled, romantic who lives the good life, working hard to bring harmony to her world? Is she the Lara Croft type, who wades in, guns blazing, ready for any event and then some? What about the girly-girl, who’s more interested in her appearance at the next event, but who can’t change a light bulb to illuminate her surroundings?

It’s my belief that we all have a favorite type of female lead, just as we have a favorite male lead. The question is: what does that say about the reader?

For me, I like strong female characters; strong in personality and in body. Why? It could be vicarious in nature. I was always strong in both. I was the protector of weaker kids on the playground and the school bus. It was a role I took on voluntarily. I still do it to some degree.

stock-photo-2-011I crave the adventure and excitement of the hero’s journey, regardless of story setting or timeframe. I also enjoy the intellectual stimulation of who-done-its. Truth to tell, I’ll read just about anything that can’t move faster than my questing hands. It was a joke during my adolescence that there was a dictionary in the bathroom for my benefit.

What about those girlie-girl characters? If they’re being put into situations that require stamina, intelligence, and a Wonder Woman outlook, no problem exists. If she’s going to whine through the whole story, this reader lays down the book, never to return. Call it a personal quirk. Like most readers, for me to enjoy the story, there must be character growth along the plotline.

Now, after all this discussion of my personal preferences, have you taken a moment to compare yours? What conclusions did you draw?

Tell me, what type of female characters do you prefer and why do you like them? Leave a comment and tell me. I can’t believe I’m the only one out there with character preferences.

Above all else, readers enjoy reading for the sake of the mental pictures, the characters, and the possibility of learning something. Enjoy a story today.

At Home Out in the Cold

Heavy Forest Snow 1

The phrase is an old one—being out in the cold. It means being outcast, set apart, exiled. And what does this have to do with anything? Well, I think all of us feel left out in the cold once in a while. We might be the third wheel, tagging along with a pair of potential lovers who’d rather be alone. We might be the new kid in the neighborhood who can’t make friends because everyone is so clickish.

Don’t say you’ve never felt that way.

When it comes to writing, the phrase takes on a slightly different meaning for me. When you’ve worked with a set of characters for a long while, they become like family members, sometimes more. If, for whatever reasons, you abandon them for a lengthy stretch, coming back is like being that new kid who isn’t trusted because the others don’t know you anymore.

009I’ve always had an issue with rejoining any group of people whom I haven’t seen or communicated with for a long time. Extended family, who came onto my horizon once a year if I was lucky, fell into that category, too. When Mom, Dad, Brother, and I arrived at the grandparents’ house for vacation, I was the one who tolerated being touched by them, cajoled, and cossetted. Later, as other members of the family joined us, my reserve grew more pronounced.

I’d watch everyone from a distance, deciding if they were the same as when I last interacted with them. I listened to voices to hear the emotions filtered by the crowd. There was always a big crowd. By the end of the vacation, I was again comfortable enough with these people to join in freely and enjoy myself and them.

My long-established habit of “observe first and connect later” has stayed in place throughout the years. I take little for granted about relationships. And the same holds true with my story characters.

004-stock-photo-fI walked away from serious writing for several months. Oh, I continued to write, but it was all surface stuff. No thoughtful poetry, no deep relationships with characters, old or new, took center stage during my hiatus for burn-out recovery.

As a result, coming back to revision work on Dreamie’s Box—my women’s cozy mystery—has been both a challenge and a blessing. I had to reintroduce myself to these people of the South. I was forced to see them, warts and all, and decide if they’d changed in my absence.

And you know what? They had, just as I had.

My heroine is not as stiff and formal when I work on her now. Her story doesn’t need to include every tiny detail of her day. She’s more comfortable with the role into which she’s been pushed.

Dreame’s not the only one who’s changed. Subtle shifts have taken place; teeny additions are present to impose better pacing and minor clues. Red herrings are swimming by with regularity.

In other words, the whole thing is better, richer, more defined, and the characters have accepted me back into the role of observer without reservation. My sleep comes now with thought tangents to add to the mix the next day—tangents I couldn’t have seen before now.

My personal quirk has become an advantage in my work. Most writers talk about stepping back and giving a story room to breathe before beginning a revision. For the first time, I’ve connected with the joy of revising a story and the gratification of seeing what it was supposed to be rather than what I expected it to be.

At Home—Flash Fiction and a Character Theme

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First off, let me apologize for not showing up yesterday. After my critique group meeting broke up in late afternoon, I was unexpectedly called out of town and didn’t get home until the wee hours of the morning. After having only three hours sleep the night before, an early morning alarm wasn’t on my agenda. So now you know why I missed my own deadline.

So, with that out of the way, let’s get to it.

Flash writing has now found definition in our lexicon of fiction forms. As someone who tends to write long, this form affords me valuable writing training. It requires concrete/action verbs and nouns. It requires those two parts of speech also to do the work of adjectives and adverbs. It’s the ultimate in pick-up games for a fiction writer.

Contrarily, poets have less trouble with writing in this format. Why? Because they already use verbal shorthand when they put together poems. A one hundred word poem is very long and most poets don’t engage in storytelling of that length.

Have you come up against FF parameters and experienced other problems with putting together your little stories? If so, drop a comment in the box and we’ll go through them next week as part of our finale for the month. Until then, let’s look at a themed prompt and my example of one way to tackle it.

I’m using Character as my theme for today’s exercise. You can easily pull material from anywhere or about anyone to create your story to fit the theme. But what do I mean by Character?

Character as a theme

We all know what a character is, in a general sense. Every story has one, whether our stories are carried by telephone, newspaper, TV, etc. When you call a friend on the phone, your conversation is all about character when you pause long enough to think about it.

In today’s instance, character as theme simply means centered writing about a specific person, place, or thing and an aspect of story action affecting that character. It could take many forms and still be flash fiction.

Example 1: Poetry with a Character Theme

The Tangled Web

 

It began with a tiny thing;

A lie of that day’s convenience.

A first strand in the web you wove

To make yourself important, and

Disguise truth you could not bear shown.

 

More silk strands followed to entrap

The weaver in tales unforgotten,

By those brought to emotions ruined.

Thoughtless weaving. Strands delusions,

All make to tangle the weaver.

 

Go now into your web of lies.

Seek only new fools to believe.

© Claudette J. Young 2010

A deceiver of friends and family is found out and exiled (sort of) in this seventy-five word pronouncement of character. It tells the story of a conviction carried out against a defendant–found guilty of taking advantage of others, deceit, and mental cruelty.

Okay, that interpretation might stretch things a bit, but when I wrote it, those were the charges brought up in the trial.

Example 2: Memoir (From a longer piece posted here) Fictional character Dreamie Simple in “Dreamie’s Box.”

 I didn’t seek marriage. I protected friends and their families. Mother counted on that. Seventeen years with Martin was my sentence.

 Martin had secrets tangled up with my mother. He wanted respectability. I gave him that.

 Now I’m charged with his murder. Considering my actions, few would refute the possibility. I collected nearly a million dollars in insurance—a hefty motive. My own secret life, with a different identity, may convict me.

 I can’t defend myself. I laid out plenty of motives. Honesty is preferable, but naiveté is different. I learned the whole truth can put a needle in your arm.

This example is a trimmed down version which originally had 479 words. Trust me, carving away that many words isn’t easy. I almost pulled my hair out on this one, but it gave me yet another lesson in editing and revision, which is always beneficial.

The point is that this memoir of a novel’s character can serve in many ways. It allows practice in flash fiction. It gives the writer a use and practice in character development, and it works to serve as an editing and revision tool/lesson. Not bad for 100 words, is it?

Now, on to my flash fiction piece for this theme. I’ll do a short memoir piece for a character in a fantasy series that I’ve just begun to put together. It’s for one of the primary characters, Reibe. (Note how I have several uses from this one bit of writing.)

Composing an Apprentice

 I didn’t do anything wrong. I played my music. They asked me to.

 Am I responsible? Why do they grasp at me—call out for me? Did they all lose their minds?

 I want to go back to Riverton, back to the mill. Life was simple there. I worked. I ate. I slept. Not like here where everything and everyone is complicated. No one is unkind. In fact, they almost smother with kindness.

How can I understand these Theusans with their foreign ideas? I must work hard to become the trader I’m supposed to be? Mistress Cleone makes leaving impossible.

My character, Reibe, confronts his conflict of not fitting into his new role as an apprentice trader. He has another, perhaps greater, conflict though. For some unknown reason, when he plays his music (on a flute) those who hear him react in a way that frightens him, even as it confuses him.

The reader finds out that this new life isn’t as straightforward or simple as Reibe’s old life at the mill in Riverton. It doesn’t matter, in this case, what kind of mill that was.

The reader also learns that his new position places him with kindly people who have foreign ideas—immigrants perhaps. The introduction of Mistress Cleone also adds to the layers of the story and Reibe’s plaintive thinking. The implication asks the reader to fill in the blanks however she will. Readers are good at that.

And there you have it—my small story memoir in 98 words. I hope you’ll all experiment with this theme. Have fun with it. It can take you to unforeseen places. I’ll see you again here next week with the final bit of flash fiction for the month.

Happy writing, everyone. And don’t forget to share your story, if you wish, so that we might all share in your experience.

 

 

POV and Mindfulness

texture-003-001Today I posted on my other website (2voices1song.com) about mindfulness and application. In this case, the mindfulness dealt with POV (point of view) and character development.

Writers must consider this aspect in whatever they write. Yet, by using a more mindful approach to POV, the writer benefits personally, as well, on a daily basis.

When you get a chance, stop by and discover what I’m talking about.

I’ll see you all again tomorrow with the next installment of Flash Fiction on a prompt plan.

 

At Home with Personality of Flash Fiction

 Does flash fiction really have a personality? I think it does. It’s short—seldom written over 1000 words. It’s concrete in word use with few descriptors. It is also thought-provoking.

Flash fiction requires that the reader fill in blanks, to add personal touches to the presented story that fleshes out the raw and undetailed specifics given. That’s a definite personality.

And on that note, today’s prompt comes to us from Flashy Fiction Friday. Back in February, writers were asked to perform the following task.

PERSONALITY TRAITS

flash fiction pic

In a little self-discovery, choose three facets of your personality. Create a character for each, giving them names and descriptions. Now place them in a Doctor’s waiting room. One of the three is terminal. Write this scene.

Now you have the assignment I tackled for this week. As writers, we use our personal traits for characters all the time. But do we really dissect the traits we’re giving those characters?

I can’t say that I ever have until now. The character simply grows from one spark of “She’s a strong personality.” “He’s really into gardening, especially veggies.” Or perhaps something like, “She never trusted a person until they proved themselves first.”

I’ll bet you do much the same thing when you begin writing a story, or putting together an outline. Well, now’s your chance to put mind to inner speculation. What three facets of your personality will you choose to expose to the world?

Here are my three choices:

  1. Quick to begin a project, but slow to finish it.
  2. Strict, personal sense of honor
  3. Endless enthusiasm for learning about something new

Characters by trait:

  1. Terrence Carter—Handyman with own business. Overweight, balding, 52 years old.
  2. Chester Manners—Retired grandfather of five. Healthy and fit stone mason, happily married, and looking forward to first granddaughter’s wedding.
  3. Olivia Kaston—Seat-of-the-pants life of a photographer. Mid-thirties, slender, bouncy.

On The Bright Side

Chester Manners’ index finger throbbed. He wanted a painkiller.

From across the waiting room Terrence Carter asked. “What’d you do, Chester? Mash it?”

Chester shook his head. “Here for a prostate check, Terrence?”

Terrence’s face reddened.

“I’m sorry, old friend. The pain is fierce this morning,” explained Chester.

Olivia Kaston flipped magazine pages and chuckled.

“What about you, Olivia? You’re too perky to need a doctor,” Terrence said.

She glanced at the men. “Thanks, Mr. Carter. I’m here for my chemo schedule. The bright side is that I‘ve lived ten glorious years longer than Mom.”

 the end

One hundred words doesn’t allow for much personality sometimes, but I tried my best with this one. I kept these characters in the same order of presentation as in the tiny portraits above.

One thing I would say here, though. While I was writing this, which took me about an hour to get it under word count and in a form that I could accept, I realized that I liked these characters and that this could easily be a piece stretched into a full-blown short story for a number of different venues.

I enjoy having an exercise morph into something usable later. I encourage you to try your hand at this one. I hadn’t done it before—but then there are myriad exercises I haven’t tried before. I appreciated this one’s requirements. It helped me in many ways.

Please try it and drop your effort into a comment here or leave a link in a comment to where readers can see it.

Happy writing, all.

 

 

 

 

 

At Home Memoir—George Diggins—Part 3

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My dad taught me something when I was little. “Always look out for those who are weaker than you are, George,” he used to say. “Never take advantage of them or persecute them. They need your goodwill, not your judgment.”

Protecting others came early for me—in grade school. Later, when high school rolled around, there were times when leaning quietly against my locker signaled other students that they could approach me and confide whatever was troubling them. There were a lot of kids who stopped by to talk, including our current mayor. His story was the same as many. I just helped him to see how he could change its direction.

One of those who seldom stopped by was Dreamie. She would slow in her stride, glance at me, and smile. Just smile, and then walk on. She seemed to always know when I needed encouragement or recognition for what I was doing. I learned to cherish those smiles.

I’d come to her rescue on many occasions over the years. I still do. I’ve helped her do little projects around the house to make her life easier. I’ve kept her activities to myself. Even our dearest friend, Spicy, was left out of the loop. I’ve never felt bad about that. Some things she simply had no reason to know.

But Dreamie—she was something else. She seldom talked about her life or her marriage, except when she’d remark that Martin wouldn’t approve of something or that he’d scoff at something she’d heard. Nothing positive emerged from our discussions of marriage.

I don’t know whether she’s ever tumbled to the fact that I love her. She’s never so much as hinted that she feels anything but friendship for me. Time has taught me to be content with that much.

Time also erodes things placed in its path.

Martin’s murder has eroded too many things for too many people. A little cop’s voice in the back of my head tells me this mess is only going to get messier with time. Dams crack and break, washing away anything left lying loose. I wonder how many secrets are going to wash up on the banks of this town.

I have only one choice to make now—a choice between being a cop and protecting Dreamie from the secrets that she’s been holding onto all these years—secrets she doesn’t realize that I know.

 

Memoir & Backstory Blog Challenge,
2013 Participants:
(Read about the 2013 Challenge – click here)

Jane Ann McLachlan
Joy Weese Moll @joyweesemoll
Amanda M Darling
Katie Argyle
PK Hrezo
Stacey Rene
Claudette Young
Kay Kauffman
Leslie
Deb Stone    Twitter: @iwritedeb
Gerry Wilson
Susan Hawthorne
Satia Renee
Bonnie
Angie
Pearl Ketover Prilik
Terri Rowe
Talynn (starting 2nd week)
Rebecca Barray (occassional)
Lara Britt  (occasional)
Linda G Hatton (occasional)
Stephanie Ingram (Unable to join us now – maybe later)
Anastacia (signed up but hasn’t posted yet)

 

 

At Home with Martin Simple

This is the third installment for October’s Memoir Challenge, headed by Jane Ann McLachlan. As folks know, this month’s  memoirs are from characters in my novel “Dreamie’s Box.” Martin Simple is the late husband of my main character, Dreamie.

 *  *  *

Martin imageI don’t want to hear any jokes about “Simple is as Simple does” or “Martin’s simple so don’t ask him any questions.” I’ve heard ‘em all and most of them before third grade.

When you grow up with a name like that, you look for something in your life that isn’t simple. In a way, you become two people. The one everyone sees and thinks you are, and the one who really lives behind the mask, the one who has a plan that insures he gets what he wants—no matter what. I’ve been doing that since I was very young. I’ve perfected the act.

Besides, no one is really self-sacrificing. Everyone has an agenda. The trick is choosing how to put a plan into action and in the follow-through.

Why my mother had to be spineless is beyond me. Manipulating her was as easy as washing my face in the morning and getting dressed. I got what I wanted, when I wanted it. My agenda was firmly in place.

My mother was perfect for my Simple father. She never questioned his motives, his actions, or his agenda, even when he shredded her mind with his words and blatant infidelity. All she wanted was peace and harmony. To get that, she sacrificed her daily life. Even my sister came along at just the right time.

I remember when I was about seven and I came home from school to find her bathing Baby Monica. God, how I hated that kid. She had no business taking a place in our home, especially when I had to put up with her occupying a corner of my room.

Mother looked up at me from the kitchen sink, smiled, and asked, “Did you have a good day at school, Martin?”

My face grew tight, my eyes narrowed and glared, and my whole body went rigid. I’d been angry before but nothing like that moment.

She saw the change. I knew that. That’s when I learned that she would do whatever it took to keep peace and avoid a shredding.

Silence had the same effect as some of the words Father Simple used. She turned very solicitous. “It’s all right, Martin. I have days like that, too. Let me get Monica dried off and put in her play pen. Then I can make you a nice snack to make up for your bad day at school.” She almost groveled.

My superhero cape was hung on my shoulders in that moment. I had powers to say nothing and get treated well. I could slap my laser beam glare on someone and they’d do anything I wanted. That’s heady stuff for a seven-year-old.

The future seemed brighter after that. I could ignore the teasing and name-calling at school. I learned whatever it took to keep the power and nurture it. I knew I could become something greater than my Neanderthal father. I could be somebody people respected, the captain of my own ship, steering people where I wanted them to go.

Yes! That’s what I did. I planned for greatness, building my empire of investments and control where few would ever anticipate and fewer still would ever know. Flaunting power was for amateurs. Controlling lives in secret was far more fun.

October Fest: Character Memoirs At Home

 

Today begins a challenge for October from writer friend, Jane Ann McLachlan. It’s a memoir challenge with a twist. The recollections don’t have to be about our own pasts. It can be about another person, a fictitious character, done in prose or poetry, and done for fun as much as anything else.

I’ve chosen to do mine on characters from my women’s cozy mystery “Dreamie’s Box.” This is the first time I’ve sat down to place the characters in the past. When I’m working on a novel, the emphasis is always of back story and the movement forward.

By the end of this memoir exercise, done every other day throughout the month, my goal is to learn all I can about pivotal characters in my novel. My hope is that you’ll enjoy these characters enough to want to know their futures, as well.

Here’s Memoir Back Story #1

Tailor at work

My Name is Anna Belle (Spicy) Hutchins

Back when time began for me, I lived down the street from a little girl who became my best friend for life. We made a pact in Kindergarten that we’d never have another real girlfriend but each other. Kids do that.

My folks had a shop down the street from the school. Dad was a tailor and Mom took care of the office and helped Dad pick his fabrics and threads. He was color blind and she sorted out his colors.

I guess that’s where I picked up my sense of fashion and clothing. He and Mom would design the most fabulous outfits for me and he’d sew them up in the shop. They never bought fabric for my clothes. Dad used leftover materials from his commissions or second-hand clothing Mom picked up at rummage sales. I used to sprint to the shop as soon as school let out to see if something new had been added to my wardrobe.

When I was in third grade, Dad talked with my friend’s mother about teaching us girls how to sew. Dreamie’s mother was thrilled to think he was willing to spend precious time teaching us something so useful for our adult lives. Her words, not mine. I think what she was really thrilled about was the idea that it would make Dreamie marketable on the husband circuit. Mrs. Tucker was on her third—husband, that is.

Dad gave each of us a small sewing kit that he and mother had put together for us. In it were Several spools of different colored threads, all silky and shiny. A packet of needles in various sizes lay on the bottom with a sharp, slim pair of scissors on top. A measuring tape, thimble, and hem guide all had their places inside a sturdy, yellow cigar box.

Every afternoon when school let out Dreamie and I would get to the shop, breathless, to see what we’d be doing that day. It wasn’t glamorous, and we always ended up with pricked fingers. We would sit in the back, under my dad’s enveloping smile, and attach small pieces of scrap fabric to each other, making clothes for the dolls he’d gotten for each of us. They weren’t Barbie dolls, though there were similarities.

Each outfit had to be precise, measured to the individual doll, and sewn with the tiniest stitches we could make. We had to take care with color combinations—this was my mom’s contribution to our education. Above all, we had to take pride in our work and our accomplishments.

By the fourth grade, we’d graduated to designing our own clothes for our dolls. A corner of the shop had been set up as our work area. Dreamie always faced the north and I faced the south. I always said we were the anchors for the Earth’s magnetic poles and what we did determined how the world spun on its axis. It may have been childish, but we’d giggle and feel special about what we were doing at the time.

I was the talker. Dreamie listened to my passions, plans, aspirations, and newest schemes. She never laughed at me. She would nod and say “You can do anything you want.” For a long time I never understood why she sounded so wistful when she said that.

Then one day, the puzzle all came together. I’d walked home with her from Dad’s shop. Her mother was standing on the porch, watching for us. As soon as she saw us, she started signaling for Dreamie to hurry into the house.

“Come on, girl. Your father wants to spend some time with you before work. You’re late.”

I knew that Dreamie’s real father was dead and that her mother must be talking about the current man of the house. I didn’t know for many years why that sudden, instinctive chill rushed down my spine and stopped me in my tracks. I didn’t have to see Dreamie’s face. I saw how her body began to contract. This singling out for attention by her stepfather wasn’t a good thing.

“See you tomorrow, Dreamie,” I called as I waved goodbye.

Racing wasn’t fast enough for me to get home and my safe life. All the way home I prayed that nothing bad would happen to my best friend and that I could help her in every way I could.

 

If you’d like to visit Jane’s website for a list of all those who are participating this month and use the links for them, go to:  Participants: 
(Read about the 2013 Challenge – click here)

Jane Ann McLachlan
Joy Weese Moll
Amanda M Darling
Talynn
Pearl Ketover Prilik
Katie Argyle
Terri Rowe
PK Hrezo
Stacey Rene
Claudette Young
Kay Kauffman
Anastacia
Leslie
Deb Stone    Twitter: @iwritedeb
Gerry Wilson
Susan Hawthorne
Satia Renee
Lara Britt  (occasional)Jane Ann McLachlan @ http://janeannmclachlan.com/