Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Wednesday Writers Tips.. from unexpected sources

Today I'm going to share a book that is not a writers craft book, but a dictionary of sorts. It will probably be more useful to female writers. Although, if you're a male writer and haven't had a chance to get out with your bros very often, you may find it useful, too.

The book is: MANWORDS: Real Words for Real Men by Jeremy Greenberg "an internationally headlining stand-up comedian, author, blogger and joke writer". Designed to help men increase their man-vocabluary and fit in with the guys. Designed to give the reader a laugh. And unknowing designed to help the writer with colorful dialog for their colorful male characters. Or even their colorful female characters.

Chapters include:
1. I'm Not Hurt, I'm Pi--ed! (words that mask emotion--which is the feeling a guy gets in his stomach telling him it's time to start drinking). 
2. Chictionary (words about women--not that they'll help you understand them). 
3. Fuel Injectors, Firecrackers, and Fighter Jets (words for building stuff, destroying sh-t, and most importantly, doing a half-a--ed job). 

Further chapters cover "words to know when you wake up drunk", "important sex terms...", "words every man needs to talk about sports...", "words to know just so you don't seem like a puss", "words guys need for talking tech, social networking and texting", then words I won't copy down here that have to do with "body parts and bodily functions grosser than your grandma's goiter".

It's no secret that men have a shared vernacular that only other men understand. You know the words we're talking about; manly words that cause chest hair to spontaneously sprout, power tools to start up with just a glance, and cases of beer to disappear without a trace. Words that let men be... well, men. After all, you're a man and if you want to have a bromance with your wingman, tap out of a board meeting, or walk off an injury so painful that it knocks the wind right out of you, you need to know how to express yourself.

There are quite a few words and definitions in this book that I don't want to copy down here (I don't recommend it to anyone with a sensitive nature), but here are a couple I can:

BROMANCE (noun) a close friendship between two heterosexual guys which, even thought they talk on the phone all the time, and go clothes shopping together, doesn't make them gay. "Peter was involved in a very serious BROMANCE with a guy in his fantasy league."
PLAY-BY-PLAY (noun) the details; used to discuss topics that a guy's friends will either want to know everything about, or nothing at all. "Save the PLAY-BY-PLAY on how you met her, and give us the PLAY-BY-PLAY of how you ended up locked out of your apartment in your underwear."
You can find inspiration for your characters and your writing in unexpected places. It just takes looking around with an open mind.

Have you found a book or unexpected source that has helped you with writing your characters?

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Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Wednesday Writers Tips... Character inspiration

One way to make your characters more three-deminional is to give them the characteristics of those characters that have stood the test of time. The heroic characters of classic literature and myth. But how do you know all their nuances? Research. There are plenty of books that describe classic-types. I think I have at least two. The one I want to review today is 45 Master Characters, Mythic Models for Creating Original Characters by Victoria Schmidt.

The book is easily navigated. It starts with discussing Archtypes and why we should use them, the how to use the Archtypes.

"Archtype: Image, ideal, or pattern that has come to be considered a universal model. Archetypes are found in mythology, literature, and the arts, and are... largely unconscious image patterns that cross cultural boundaries." - Encarta

Section two lists the Female Heroes and Villains (Schmidt's own discovery of the Female Myth, after being told by her professors that there was no such thing, is fascinating), section three the Male Heroes and Villains. Following is Creating Supporting Characters, the Feminine and Masculine Journeys, Plotting the Feminine Journey, Plotting the Masculine Journey. The appendix includes worksheets.

Each Archtype's character is explained and then broken down to... What does s/he care about? What does s/he fear? What motivates her/him? How do other characters see her/him? Developing the character arc. Assets and flaws are also listed. Their villainous side is discussed, followed by examples of the character in TV, movies and literature.

Following is a list of the Archtypes covered in this book.

Female Heroes and Villains are:
   Aphrodite: The Seductive Muse and the Femme Fatale
   Artemis: The Amazon and the Grogon
   Athena: The Father's Daughter and the Backstabber
   Demeter: The Nurturer and the Overcontroling Mother
   Hera: The Matriarch and the Scorned Woman
   Hestia: The Mystic and the Betrayer
   Isis: The Female Messiah and the Destroyer
   Persephone: The Maiden and the Troubled Teen
Male Heroes and Villains
   Apollo: The Businessman and the Traitor
   Area: The Protector and the Gladiator
   Hades: The Recluse and the Warlock
   Hermes: The Fool and the Derelict
   Dionysus: The Woman's Man and the Seducer
   Osiris: The Male Messiah and the Punisher
   Poseidon: The Artist and the Abuser
   Zeus: The King and the Dictator

Reading the descriptions and examples you'll "see" your character in one of them, and once you understand that character type you'll be able to write a richer character.

Have you used Archtypes to help define your characters?

View more books on my bookshelf.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Wednesday Writers Tips... Crime & Punishment

I write contemporary romance. My sub genre is often called Sweet, Tender and/or Clean. So why do I have the book The Crime Writer's Reference Guide, 1001 Tips for Writing the Perfect Murder by Martin Roth in my library? Because, like all writers, I have an imagination. And I love letting my imagination go where it will.

Crime and punishment make for exciting plots. I have a trilogy in progress called Cottonwood County Sheriff's Office. It takes place in the same local as my current series, Cottonwood County Chronicles. I have another series, only the first one is done so far, called Mounties of Skagetts Rock

But what do I know of crime and punishment? I've never gotten a ticket (well, not counting the Failure to Stop when I was 20). I've never been arrested and have no close friends or relatives who have been arrested. I never set foot in a police station or sheriff's office or jail until I participated in a local TRIAD Law Enforcement Academy. (I've got the miniature sheriff's badge to prove it.) 

I've always had an interest in law enforcement. My grandfather was Captain of Detectives in Los Angeles when I was growing up. My uncle and his cousin were motorcycle officers. And my cousin's son (married to a law enforcement officer) carries on the tradition recently making Lieutenant. And Law Enforcement officers make great heroes. The desire to serve and protect are great qualities. They make great villains, too, when they go rogue. (So far, all my law enforcement characters are heroes.)

Therefore, I rely on research to build my crime and punishment worlds. The academy I attended was invaluable. The books on my shelf indispensable. The Crime Writer's Reference Guide is just that: A reference guide. It's full of lists, charts and explanations. Author Martin Roth wrote over 100 TV scripts and several best-selling books. This second edition has updated information by Rey Verdugo (Retired, Sgt.), top criminal investigator and technical consultant for film and TV. Here's bit from the beginning:

How to Avoid Common Mistakes
Even the best writers make mistakes. A recent book by an excellent mystery writer had a number of small, but sidetracking errors about guns.(...)Getting the details wrong is the most common error in crime writing.
Admit it! As writers, we often take dramatic license and convince ourselves that the reader or audience isn't going to know the difference. Not true anymore. Crime readers and TV and movie audiences are getting pretty sharp and will pick up on sloppy crime writing. It takes a little longer, but getting it right is well worth the efforts--for your sake, as well as for the people reading or watching your story. 

Then follows a list of common mistakes crime writers make. For brevity I'll just touch them.

Don't confuse ballistics with firearms identification...
Bodies are seldom outlined with chalk or tape...
Don't confuse "criminologists" with "criminalists."...
"Take him downtown for questioning" is cliché...
Use the right police codes... They differ in different locals...
Don't confuse bullets with cartridges...
If you write about a real city, find out the color of its patrol cars...
Don't have your investigator pick up a suspect weapon by inserting a pencil into the barrel...
Don't have your investigator put weapons and similar pieces of evidence into plastic bags...
Keep crime scene personnel at a minimum...
If your story needs red herrings, develop them so they are not easily dismissed by the reader...

Examples are pulled from the Los Angeles Police Department and the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department. Charts show police and judicial departments' organization.

The first chapter, Crime, includes: Crime and Motive, General list of Crimes, Crimes Associated with Politics, Crimes Associated with Business, Domestic Crimes, White-Color Crimes, Means of Escape, Acts of violence and more. 

Other chapters include: Criminals, Cops, Investigations, The Courts, Prisons, and Language (slang, legal terminology). Each chapter ends with "Where to Go From Here" with a list of more research material. 

Besides LAPD, the book covers District Attorney of LA, Cincinnati Police Division, Dept. of Justice, INTERPOL U.S. National Central Bureau, FBI, Immigration, Drug Enforcement, IRS Criminal Investigations, Coast Guard, etc., etc. It's an all-in-one reference source. It would take hours on the Internet to search all the stuff in this book. 

Do you write crime novels or scripts? Do you write contemporary romance with crime elements? What's your go to reference? 

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Wednesdays Writers Tips... Jump start your creativity

Sometimes we need a little jolt to get us thinking creatively. One way is writing exercises. Maybe that sounds too academic. How about writing games?

Take Ten for Writers by Bonnie Neubauer contains 100 exercises (that seem more like games) to "Generate ideas and stimulate your writing in only 10 minutes a day".

The book is fun and colorful with lots of graphics to stimulate your mind. Exercises start with a theme, or a scenario, then you pick a number between 1 and 10 and turn the page. On the next page is a list of idioms, word pairs, clichés, objects, events, and a whole lot more. You're then guided to use these elements in a short piece of writing.

For example, exercise #51 suggests that you staple three pages together. Choose a number from 1 to 10.  On the next page is a list of unending sentences numbered 1 to 10.
The choices for exercise #51 are:

  1. Hidden beneath the stack of...
  2. Like a pole-vaulter...
  3. The smell of turpentine...
  4. Not to point a finger...
  5. The rescue dog...
  6. It was a modest...
  7. The deep-sea diver...
  8. The chocolate sauce...
  9. Inhaling the...
  10. In the middle of Times Square...

The object is to start writing on the first of your three pages with the sentence you picked, and write to the end of the page even if it is unfinished, even if the last sentence is unfinished. Copy the last sentence to the top of the second page, then put the pages away for two months. Mark your calendar. After two months, without looking at page one, start writing from the sentence you copied to the top of page two and write to the bottom of the page. Copy the last sentence to the top of page three and put it away for two months. Repeat. There doesn't need to be any continuity between the pages.

Besides the exercises, there are also tips on each page for expanding on the exercise, or doing it with others.

Who knows, the germ of a new novel or short story might be born.

Do you have a favorite way to jump start your creativity?

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Wednesday Writers Tips... Resolutions or Goals

What's the difference between Resolutions and Goals? 

IMHO Resolutions are what you make on New Year's Eve when you realize you didn't achieve what you wanted over the last year and another year is now gone. The New Year is looming and you make yourself a promise to do better in the coming year.

But Goals are what you layout with much thought and planning, steps that will take you through the new year so you can achieve the greatness you know you possess.

I recently participated in a goal setting seminar. It was very intense and I still have a lot of work to do to refine my goals. I've been writing my goals in Evernote (I was just introduced to this nifty app) but being a visual type person, I think I need to layout a big piece of paper and use the brainstorm technique to finalize my goals.

One tip I learned in the seminar is to review your goals often. Put them up on your office wall, add them to your calendar, keep them near the top of your mind so you don't lose the momentum.

Another tip I learned was to set goals for your personal life as well as your professional life. In doing this I realized that my "annual resolution" to lose weight and exercise is actually very important to my professional and personal goals. Without good health and energy, it's a lot harder to accomplish those goals. So I put that at the top. Then I have my professional goals to write and publish x number of books, and grow my business this year. And don't forget relationship goals. Mine is to do more for my 91-year-old mother. She's far from being a frail little old lady, but she does need more help with shopping and chores.

What is one goal you can set that could help you accomplish all your other goals?