Thursday, August 29, 2013

Chapter Three - Life is A Bowl of Toilets and I Feel Flush #humor @gingersimpson

Strangers in the Night

Oh, how I wish I still had a memory.  That's one of the first things to go as you age.  One day you're heading down the  hall and you suddenly realize you have no idea why...or even of your final destination.  The first time it happens is a horrible feeling, but soon becomes so commonplace you simply rearrange your life to accommodate those lapses in memory.  Some use a checklist before leaving home to make sure they don't burn the house down by forgetting to turn off appliances.  I don't bother because I can't count how many times I've made a list for the grocery story and get there without it.  I've solved the key finding dilemma by attaching them to my purse strap with a hook, and now the problem is remembering where I parked by car.  Thank goodness for the panic button on the back of the keyless entry or I'd still be wandering around in the parking lot at Walmart.

And...is there anything more embarrassing than running into people you don't remember, especially when they seem to know you quite well?  If the "strangers" are close to my age, I try to fish for tips on how we know one another.   Hopefully, they won't remember when they get home, anyhow.

I think everyone over fifty should have their names embroidered on their clothing in a highly visible area, and in large letters for those of us who left our glasses somewhere and can't find them.

Here's an example of what might be looming in our future:

Two elderly women were out for a cruise, neither could barely see over the dashboard of the large vehicle.  As they moved along the boulevard at a healthy clip, they reached an intersection where the traffic light was red.  Instead of stopping, the car went right through.

The woman in the passenger seat glanced back over her shoulder while mumbling, "I must be losing my my mind.  I swear that light was red."  

After a few more minutes they came to another intersection and red light and just as before, the car raced right through.  A little further down the street, it happens again.

Now the lady in the passenger seat begins to panic, but before she can say anything, her friend runs another red light.

Fearing for her life, the passengers turns wide eyes on her friend.  "Mildred, do you realize you've been running every red light since we left home.  You would have killed us both."

Mildred turned to her with a bewildered look.  "Oh crap!  Am I driving?"

******

Along with your memory goes you eyesight.  God was kind here because most people over fifty have lost some degree of vision, most likely to balance the shock of the body changes we experience.  Luckily, we don't have to wear our corrective lenses to bed or senior sex would come to an immediate halt.  If we saw one another with 20/20 accuracy, we'd probably consider celibacy a serious cure.

Senior sex, you say?  Studies show that most adults stay sexually active well into their golden years and actually enjoy the intimacy more than when they were young.  I have to admit, I'm trying only because I've read that sex can prolong your life.  I view intercourse as a monthly dose of exercise.  Why jog when I can make love and cause my heart to race just by trying to assume positions I favored in my younger years.  I've decided the "missionary" is my favorite at this stage of life since I spend most of my time praying for the torture to end.  The article stated seniors actually enjoy sex more?  I've come to the conclusion the study most likely was based on bedroom noises.  It's hard to decipher between someone lost in the throes of ecstasy and someone with the sudden onset of leg cramps.  Face it, at fifty or older, most of us just aren't as agile as we used to be.

I just don't want to be like the women in these jokes:

An elderly woman ambles down the nursing home hallway.  She stops in front of each old man along the way, rests on her walker, flips up the bottom of her nightgown and says, "Supersex?"

After stopping in front of four or five gentlemen and not receiving any response, she pauses before a newcomer who sits in his wheelchair.  Again, she flips up the hem of her gown and says, "Supersex?"

The elderly man gives her a quick once over.  "I'll take the soup, please."

OR

Eight-year-old Bessie bursts into the rec room at the retirement home.  She holds her clenched fist in the air.  "Anyone who can guess what' s in my hand can have sex with me tonight."  A yell comes from an elderly man in the back of the room.  "An elephant?"

Bessie thinks for a moment then smiles.  "Close enough!"

My gradual loss of vision and sex drive coincided with the spouting of long hairs on my neck and a few on my upper lip.  What's that about?  I had a hysterectomy, took hormone replacement pills daily, and now I'm growing a beard?  I don't know about you but I think my husband should be the only one in the house with whiskers or a moustache.  It's even more humiliating when I have to ask him to "pluck" me since I can't see well enough to do it myself, and he can't hear without his hearing aids.  I can't stand the look of rejection on his face when I clarify what I asked for, so I've taken to getting facial waxes at my local salon.  

I remember my first visit when I first read the menu and found they offered "bikini waxing."  I might have considered one if I had a bathing suit body, but a few stray pubic hairs really are the least of my concern at this point.  In my younger years I did do a little trimming here and there on occasion, but I never considered asking a stranger to do it for me.

I realize I'm touching on a very sensitive topic, but consider this a warning.  Be thankful you have what you have, while you have it.  One of life's best kept secrets is that the hair on your head aren't the only locks that turn gray, and worse than that, not only men develop male-pattern baldness.  Let me just say that baby girls may look cute out of their diapers, but there is nothing attractive about a graying, balding who-who.  The way gravity is shifting everything downhill, it won't be look before my boobs hid the problem anyhow...as long as I don't lay down.

Here's a few things you can count on after you turn fifty:

  • Time may be a great healer, but it's a lousy beautician.
  • There are three signs of old age...the first is memory loss...I can't remember the other two.
  • Your mind wanders.  Sometimes it leaves completely.
  • You are definitely old when you get the same sensation in your stomach from a rocking chair that you once got from riding a roller coaster.
  • Never read the small print.  Too much effort for something you won't like anyhow.
  • If you let a smile be your umbrella, you'll most likely walk around soaking wet.
  • There are two things you will do with greater frequency...urinate and attend funerals.
  • After a certain age, if you don't wake up aching in every joint, you're most likely dead.
Stay tuned for Chapter Four next time.







Wednesday, August 28, 2013

THE END by Rita Karnopp



     Everyone seems to be talking about the first page of a book . . . it must grip the reader – or face it the story is over. I recently wrote such a blog.  A few days later I asked myself, “What about the ending?”

     One of my editors told me, “You have a great sense of chaptering.”  My response was, “what?”  I had always called it ‘pacing.’  So what do we mean by chaptering or pacing?
 
     When I have a story in mind – and I have a ‘loose’ beginning – middle – and end.  I also decide how long the book will be.  I have to do this or I’ll end up with a one-hundred-thirty thousand word novel.  I’m not kidding.  So from the beginning I have to discipline myself and have a good grip on how long my chapters will be and also have a firm feel for how many chapters I will have.

     My formula is fifteen pages per chapter for a smaller novel (-65,000 words) and 25 pages for a longer novel (70,000+ words).  Why?  It just feels right for my writing style.  I’ve learned after fourteen books that for a sixty-four thousand word book I average fifteen pages (give or take) by the time I’m ready for a new chapter.  With me it’s instinct.  I know for some it’s a real challenge.  I think that it will be less challenging if you pre-plan each chapter to be a specific average page.  It keeps the story flowing with rhythm.  If my heroine gets the first chapter, the second chapter belongs to the hero.  So sets the flow of the chapters trading as each new chapter starts.

     This alerts my senses and makes me cognizant I’m approaching the middle – and why is that important?  It prompts me to create an exciting middle.  Those warnings about sagging middles aren’t just myths.  We need to introduce something exciting, a surprise, or a twist that makes our reader turn those pages at a fast pace.   

     It’s important to be aware of your chapter breaks.  You never want a reader to stop at the end of a chapter and think, ‘here is a good place to stop.’  Instead, your chapter break should serve as a building tool for suspense or revelation.  The reader just has to find out what is going to happen next.
     As I mentioned above, change of view point is a good tool for chapter breaks.  A change of place or time is another clever way to position chapter breaks.  Just make these exciting, fresh and/or mysterious.  A chapter break is an indication there has been a significant change, whether point of view, time or place, it serves to give the reader a slight chance for a breather.  Let them pause for a second and then make them gasp for more.  Look at it this way – it provides a chance for flow and pacing.
     Bear in mind you can’t have a gripping chapter break every time.  Why?  It’s too planned … to expected. When that happens, you lose the believability factor.  I hate gratuitous drama – if it’s not integral to the story – it becomes unnecessary and the reader will notice it right away.  We’ve all heard the comment ‘suspension of disbelief’ – always ask yourself would you believe what just happened!

     Bear in mind, chapter breaks do not always have to end in action.  It should end, however, when the reader anticipates an answer, or has a revelation, or even when there is the introduction of a new character that sheds a whole new light on a situation.
     Develop your own technique that works best for you.  Give your story a natural flow and pacing that creates chapters - from beginning to end - so exciting your reader can’t find a good place to stop.

A Page Straight From... #apagestraightfrom

Reflection by Kim Cresswell

Mason Bailey gulped down his third Glenlivet. “I didn’t kill her.”
How many times had Whitney Steel heard those words? Dozens. But never from the mouth of a United States senator. For all she cared, the man could drink himself to Mars, but not until she got what she’d come for. An exclusive.

Under the awning shading the Pink Flamingo Club’s patio, she took a sip of her lime daiquiri, and couldn’t help notice the way the mid-afternoon sunlight brutally magnified every line on Mason’s tanned face.

“Of all the reporters in Panama City, let alone Florida, why me? We cut our ties years ago.” And our losses, she wanted to say, but didn’t.

“I know I can trust you.” His gaze darted across the street then back to her. “Besides, we were married once. That should count for something.”

Whitney straightened. Anger coiled in the pit of her stomach. “Give me a break. For a year and a half, I thought we were married. Too bad your girlfriends didn’t know about our little legal arrangement.” Especially, your twenty something assistant.

“Damn it, Whitney. I didn’t ask you here to rehash our past.” He yanked a monogrammed handkerchief from his jacket pocket and dabbed the sweat from his forehead. “I need your help. I know why Carmen Lacey was murdered.”

Her eyes widened. Now they were getting somewhere. “You have my full attention. Are we on the record?”

Mason shoved his empty glass aside. “Yes.”

Her heart thumped with anticipation. This story would be the topic du jour for months. Her ratings at WBNN-TV would soar, and finally her colleagues would take notice and treat her with the professional respect she deserved.

For the past twelve years, her colleagues said she’d had a free ride because of her father, an award winning war correspondent, and her ex-husband’s political connections. This time she’d prove them wrong.

She rummaged through her leather bag, placed her digital voice recorder on the table and gave the record button a firm push. “For the record, Senator Bailey, did you kill Carmen Lacey?”

“No.” He leaned back in the chair and loosened his pinstriped tie. “It’s true. I was the last person to see her alive. But there’s more to this than you think.”


Brown eyes that once set her heart hammering now conveyed a chilling, hollow look. Was it guilt? 

Desperation?

No. Fear.

Uneasiness slid down her spine. She stopped the recorder. “Mason, you’re scaring me. What the hell is going on? It’s been over three years since we last spoke. Then, out of the blue, you beg me to meet with you today. I know the police don’t believe you killed that woman.”

“But do you, Whitney? Do you believe I killed her? I need to know. It’s important.”

Stunned by the urgency in his voice, she answered carefully. “Of course not. You’re many things, but you’re not a killer.”

“Thank you. That means a lot to me.” He reached for his empty glass and tapped his chunky gold ring against the side.

Whitney turned the recorder on again.

“Carmen was a scientist working for a biotech company in Nevada. ShawBioGen. Heard of it?”

“Who hasn’t? They were one of the first to clone animals in the eighties. Caused quite a stir. But I don’t understand. What does that have to do with Carmen’s death?”

He opened his mouth to answer.

The large window behind them dividing the patio from the main restaurant exploded. A storm of glass rained down, showering the patio.

There was no warning. Everything moved so fast, yet in slow motion as if part of a horrid nightmare.
Screams. Rushed, heavy, thumping footsteps.

A few feet away, a male waiter dropped the two plates of food in his hands. He froze.
“Get down!” Mason yelled.

Whitney dropped. She huddled into a ball under the table and squashed the side of her face against the patio stones. Amid the chaos, a gunshot echoed and the waiter ran for cover.

A bullet ripped through the man’s shoulder and spun him around, the force slamming his body against the restaurant door. He folded to his knees and howled out in pain.

More shots rang out. Debris spewed through the air. Food, glasses, plates. The sickening smell of deep fried food and scorched cordite assaulted her nostrils. She gagged.

Crimson snaked toward her hand. The warm, sticky liquid met her fingertips.
Blood. Lots of blood. But it wasn’t hers.

Her gaze snapped to Mason, lying on his back. Dark red blood pumped from a gaping wound in his chest, soaking his white shirt. She held her breath to keep from screaming.

He raised his arm and reached for her. “I swear—I didn’t kill her. I swear.”

“I believe you.” Whitney kept her head down and inched her body closer. She grasped his hand. “I do. Oh, God.”

Please don’t die. Her pulse roared so loud in her ears she couldn’t hear her own words. “You’re bleeding so much. Someone help us!”

Another bullet whizzed through the air and slammed into the bottom of wooden table leg.
Needle-like splinters from the wood slashed through her pants and drilled into her thigh like a hundred slivers. The pain knocked the breath from her. The world twisted and turned yellow. Darkness thickened and threatened to overpower her.

Can’t pass out…help Mason.

He gasped a ragged breath and shoved a key into her bloody palm and curled her fingers closed. “Don’t trust—anyone.”

She clutched the piece of metal. A knot wedged in her throat, one she couldn’t swallow. “I’m going to get help.”

“No—stay.” Blood bubbled at the corners of his mouth and trickled down his jaw. “They cloned…”
His eyelids slid shut.

“What Mason? They cloned what?”

Whitney lowered her head to his chest. “Oh, Mason, no.”


Now available in paperback at Amazon & Createaspace

Monday, August 26, 2013

Great Storytelling - Secret #3

And now we get Secret #3 from Steven James' March 7, 2011 blog – enjoy!   Rita

Secret #3:
IT’S ALL ABOUT ESCALATION.


At the heart of story is tension, and at the heart of tension is unmet desire. At its core, a story is about a character who wants something but cannot get it. As soon as he gets it, the story is over. So, when you resolve a problem, it must always be within the context of an even greater plot escalation.

As part of the novel-writing intensives that I teach, I review and critique participants’ manuscripts. Often I find that aspiring authors have listened to the advice of so many writing books and included an engaging “hook” at the beginning of their story. This is usually a good idea; however, all too often the writer is then forced to spend the following pages dumping in background to explain the context of the hook.

Not a good idea.

Because you’ve killed escalation.

This is also why dream sequences typically don’t work—the protagonist thinks she’s in a terrible mess, then wakes up and realizes none of it was real.

So, things weren’t really that bad after all.

That’s the opposite of escalation—and the death of the forward movement of the story.

Tension drives a story forward. When tension is resolved, the momentum of the story is lost. I’ve heard writing instructors differentiate between “character-driven” and “plot-driven” stories, but the truth is that neither character nor plot really drives a story forward—only unmet desire does.

You might include page after page of interesting information about your character, but that won’t move the story along; it’ll cause it to stall out. Until we know what the character wants, we don’t know what the story is about, and we won’t be able to worry or care about whether or not the character’s desires are eventually met.

Somewhat similarly, plot is simply the casually related series of events that the character experiences as he moves through a crisis or calling into a changed or transformed life. So you might include chase scene after chase scene, but eventually the reader couldn’t care less that one car is following another down the street. Until we know what the stakes are, we don’t care. A story isn’t driven forward by events happening, but by tension escalating.

All stories are “tension-driven” stories.

Now, to create depth in your characters, typically you’ll have two struggles that play off each other to deepen the tension of the story. The character’s external struggle is a problem that needs to be solved; her internal struggle is a question that needs to be answered. The interplay of these two struggles is complementary until, at the climax, the resolution of one gives the protagonist the skills, insights or wherewithal to resolve the other.

To some extent the genre in which you write will have expectations and conventions that’ll dictate the precedence of the internal or external struggle in your story. However, readers today are very astute and narratively aware. If you intend to write commercially marketable fiction, you’ll need to include both an internal struggle that helps us empathize with the protagonist, and an external struggle that helps drive the movement of the story toward its exciting climax.

So, as you shape your novel, ask yourself, “How can I make things worse?” Always look for ways to drive the protagonist deeper and deeper into an impossible situation (emotionally, physically or relationally) that you then eventually resolve in a way that is both surprising and satisfying to the reader.

The story needs to progress toward more and more conflict, with more intimate struggles and deeper tension.

The plot must always thicken; it must never thin. Because of that, repetition is the enemy of escalation. Every murder you include decreases the impact that each subsequent murder will have on the reader. Every explosion, prayer, conversion, sex scene means less and less to the reader, simply because repetition, by its very nature, serves to work against that escalation your story so desperately needs.

Strive, instead, to continually make things worse for the protagonist. In doing so, you’ll make them better and better for the reader.

All three of these storytelling secrets are interwoven. When every event is naturally caused by the one that precedes it, the story makes sense. As characters act in ways that are credible and convincing in the quest for their goals, the story remains believable, and the deepening tension and struggles keep the reader caring about what’s happening as well as interested in what’s going to happen next.

By consistently driving your story forward through action that follows naturally, characters who act believably, and tension that mounts exponentially, you’ll keep readers flipping pages and panting for more of your work.

 

Sunday, August 25, 2013

3 Secrets to Great Storytelling


March 7, 2011, Steven James wrote the below blog – and I’m Blog Hi-Jacking because it’s a great article I truly wanted to share.  I'll share Secret #1 and #2 and Secret #3 tomorrow.  I hope you get as much out of it as I did . . . and do!  It’s a keeper for sure!  Everything James says in this article are true – these are vital aspects of story craft.  Thanks, Mr. James!   Rita


As a novelist and writing instructor, I’ve noticed that three of the most vital aspects of story craft are left out of many writing books and workshops. Even bestselling novelists stumble over them.

But they’re not difficult to grasp. In fact, they’re easy.

And if you master these simple principles for shaping great stories, your writing will be transformed forever. Honest. Here’s how to write a story.

Secret #1:
CAUSE AND EFFECT ARE KING.

Everything in a story must be caused by the action or event that precedes it.

Now, this sounds like an almost embarrassingly obvious observation, and when I mention it in my writing seminars I don’t often see people furiously taking notes, muttering, “Man, are you getting this stuff? This is amazing!” But humor me for a few minutes. Because you might be surprised by how more careful attention to causation will improve your writing.

As a fiction writer, you want your reader to always be emotionally present in the story. But when readers are forced to guess why something happened (or didn’t happen), even for just a split second, it causes them to intellectually disengage and distances them from the story. Rather than remaining present alongside the characters, they’ll begin to analyze or question the progression of the plot. And you definitely don’t want that.

When a reader tells you that he couldn’t put a book down, often it’s because everything in the story followed logically. Stories that move forward naturally, cause to effect, keep the reader engrossed and flipping pages. If you fail to do this, it can confuse readers, kill the pace and telegraph your weaknesses as a writer.

Let’s say you’re writing a thriller and the protagonist is at home alone. You might write:

With trembling fingers she locked the door. She knew the killer was on the other side.

But, no. You wouldn’t write it like that.

Because if you did, you would fracture, just for a moment, the reader’s emotional engagement with the story as he wonders, Why did she reach out and lock the door? Then he reads on. Oh, I get it, the killer is on the other side.

If you find that one sentence is serving to explain what happened in the sentence that preceded it, you can usually improve the writing by reversing the order so that you render rather than explain the action.

It’s stronger to write the scene like this:

The killer was on the other side of the door. She reached out with a trembling hand to lock it.

Cause: The killer is on the other side of the door.
Effect: She locks it.

Think about it this way: If you’ve written a scene in which you could theoretically connect the events with the word “because,” then you can typically improve the scene by structuring it so that you could instead connect the events with the word “so.”

Take the example about the woman being chased by the killer:

She locked the door because she knew the killer was on the other side.

If written in this order, the sentence moves from effect to cause. However:

She knew the killer was on the other side of the door, so she locked it.

Here, the stimulus leads naturally to her response.

Of course, most of the time we leave out the words because and so, and these are very simplified examples—but you get the idea.

Remember in rendering more complex scenes that realizations and discoveries happen after actions, not before them. Rather than telling us what a character realizes and then telling us why she realizes it—as in, “She finally understood who the killer was when she read the letter”—write it this way: “When she read the letter, she finally understood who the killer was.” Always build on what has been said or done, rather than laying the foundation after the idea is built. Continually move the story forward, rather than forcing yourself to flip backward to give the reason something occurred.

One last example:

Greg sat bored in the writer’s workshop. He began to doodle. He’d heard all this stuff before. Suddenly he gulped and stared around the room, embarrassed, when the teacher called on him to explain cause and effect structure.

This paragraph is a mess. As it stands, at least seven events occur, and none are in their logical order. Here is the order in which they actually happened:

1. Greg sits in the workshop.
2. He realizes he’s heard all this before.
3. Boredom ensues.
4. Doodling ensues.
5. Greg gets called on.
6. Embarrassment ensues.
7. He gulps and stares around the room

Each event causes the one that follows it.

Your writing will be more effective if you show us what’s happening as it happens rather than explain to us what just happened.

With all of that said, there are three exceptions, three times when you can move from effect to cause without shattering the spell of your story.

First, in chapter or section breaks. For example, you might begin a section by writing:

“How could you do this to me?” she screamed.

Immediately, the reader will be curious who is screaming, at whom she is screaming, and why. This would make a good hook, so it’s fine (good, even!) to start that way. If this same sentence appeared in the middle of a scene in progress, though, it would be wiser to move from cause to effect:

He told her he was in love with another woman.
“How could you do this to me?” she screamed.

The second exception is when one action causes two or more simultaneous reactions. In the paragraph about Greg, he gulps and looks around the room. Because his embarrassment causes him to respond by both gulping and looking around, the order in which you tell the reader he did them could go either way.

And the final exception is when you write a scene in which your character shows his prowess by deducing something the reader hasn’t yet concluded. Think of Sherlock Holmes staring at the back of an envelope, cleaning out the drainpipe and then brushing off a nearby stick of wood and announcing that he’s solved the case. The reader is saying, “Huh? How did he do that?” Our curiosity is sparked, and later when he explains his deductive process, we see that everything followed logically from the preceding events.

Secret #2:
IF IT’S NOT BELIEVABLE, IT DOESN’T BELONG.

The narrative world is also shattered when an action, even if it’s impossible, becomes unbelievable.

In writing circles it’s common to speak about the suspension of disbelief, but that phrase bothers me because it seems to imply that the reader approaches the story wanting to disbelieve and that she needs to somehow set that attitude aside in order to engage with the story. But precisely the opposite is true. Readers approach stories wanting to believe them. Readers have both the intention and desire to enter a story in which everything that happens, within the narrative world that governs that story, is believable. As writers, then, our goal isn’t to convince the reader to suspend her disbelief, but rather to give her what she wants by continually sustaining her belief in the story.

The distinction isn’t just a matter of semantics; it’s a matter of understanding the mindset and expectations of your readers. Readers want to immerse themselves in deep belief. We need to respect them enough to keep that belief alive throughout the story.

Let’s say you create a world in which gravity doesn’t exist. OK, if you bring the world to life on the page and through your characters, the reader will accept that—but now she’ll want you to be consistent. As soon as someone’s hair doesn’t float above or around her head, or someone is able to drink a cup of coffee without the liquid floating away, the consistency of that world is shattered. The reader will begin to either lose interest and eventually stop reading, or will disengage from the story and begin to look for more inconsistencies—neither of which you want her to do.

All else being equal, as soon as readers stop believing your story, they’ll stop caring about your story. And readers stop believing stories when characters act inexplicably.

When I’m shaping a story, I continually ask myself, “What would this character naturally do in this situation?”

And then I let him do it.

Always.

Why?

Because the reader, whether he’s conscious of it or not, is asking the same question: “What would this character naturally do?”

As soon as characters act in ways that aren’t believable, either in reference to their characterizations or to the story’s progression, the reader loses faith in the writer’s ability to tell that story.

In a scene in my first novel, The Pawn, my protagonist is interviewing the governor of North Carolina, and the governor is responding oddly. Now, if my hero, who’s supposed to be one of the best investigators in the world, doesn’t notice and respond to the governor’s inexplicable behavior, the reader will be thinking, What’s wrong with this Bowers guy? There’s obviously something strange going on here. Why doesn’t he notice? He’s a moron.

So, I had Bowers think, Something wasn’t clicking. Something wasn’t right.

Then the reader will agree, Ah, good! I thought so. OK, now let’s find out what’s going on here. Rather than drive the reader away from identifying with the protagonist, this was a way of drawing the reader deeper into the story.

So when something that’s unbelievable or odd happens, don’t be afraid to let your character notice and respond: “I never expected her to say that,” “What? That just doesn’t make sense,” or, “Obviously there’s more going on here than I thought when I first found the necklace.”

If a character acts in an unbelievable way, you’ll need to give the reader a reason why—and it’d better be a good one. Remember: Always give the reader what he wants, or something better. If you don’t give the reader what he wants (believability), you must satisfy him with a twist or a moment of story escalation that satisfies him more than he ever expected.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Round-Robin Blog with Rita Karnopp #RndRbn0813

 Topic: Have you ever met a real-life character? Someone who was very different from your preconceptions, or someone who was just bigger than life, or whose lifestyle was so very different? A very eccentric someone? Tell about them (without giving real identities) in any manner you like. Did
they change your viewpoint? Did you use them as a fictional character?

Yes, I did meet a real-life character that I want to use in one of my books.  I actually worked for him.  He made over three million dollars a year . . . and that figure was going up each year.  He gave the persona that he was giving, heartfelt, never too big for his britches, and would always be there for me … if I needed him.  He was my mentor for life – and he would make sure I aspired for the best life could give me.

But… once I could no longer work for him – I never heard from him again.  Yep- that ‘I’ll always be there for you’ was surface deep.  You work your butt off and show me $$ results and I’m your best buddy.  Stop making $$ and ‘who are you?’  I sent him my first published book – and never heard ‘congratulations – I’m so happy for you!  Or ‘You did it!  I knew you could.’  NOTHING.  Yep… he was the person I truly believed in – and although I learned a lot about being positive and go after what I want – it still hurts to know he was superficial.


I am planning on using this character in one of my upcoming suspense books.  I wanted to use him in my current work, THUNDER, but he just didn’t fit in.  That is one thing about characters – they must fit into a story, or they’re useless or come across forced.

"Now click over to http://www.rhobinleecourtright.com/  and see what Robin Courtright has to say..



Thursday, August 22, 2013

Chapter Three - Life is a Bowl of Toilets and I Feel Flush #humor @mizging

Breaking Up is Hard to Do!

My granny always swore she could predict the weather by her aches and pains.  Of course, when I was young, I laughed at the idea, but now I wish I could apologize for doubting anything she told me.  I never realized I'd learn so much from that lady, and I hope even though she's been gone for a lot of years, she knows I really miss her and I'm not laughing anymore.

I had arthroscopic surgery on my knee years and years ago to fix a torn meniscus...my old softball injury.  For those of you who don't what it is that I tore, all I can tell you that that it's in your knee and if you tear it, you can't walk, and it hurts like a son of a bee-atch.  At the time the new and improved procedure was less invasive and repaired the problem, but wasn't without it's own pain.  I spent eight glorious weeks in a full-leg cast that weight as much as an anchor.  I slept on a lumpy roll-away bed at the foot of my usual, comfy water mattress because the excess weight of the plaster kept me sunk to the bottom and caused a tidal wave that tossed my husband out of bed every time I tried to turn over.

I'm sure my then husband was glad when I finally had the cast removed, but I'm POSITIVE the doctor was.  I must be listed somewhere as the most annoying person ever to wear a cast and the biggest pain in the butt.  I can recall at least six occasions where I showed up at his office complaining about that awful abomination.  (You thought it was going to say Obamanation, didn't you?)  Same thing, just a different kind of discomfort.

The day after I came home from the hospital, my then husband took me out to dinner to help me forget the grudge I had against the witch who slid into first base and took me and my knee out of the first game of our district tournament.  Let me describe how I felt.  If you picture stuffing your leg into one of those long cardboard rolls that holds wrapping paper, then try to maneuver gracefully, you'll have a fair idea of what it was like...but don't forget to add about fifty pounds to the mental image.

Sometime during dinner, I got a horrific cramp and stood up with speed so blinding, I knocked the chair over.  Of course the idea was to walk it off.  The spasm was forgotten when the entire cast shifted downward and rested like a razor blade atop my foot.  Talk about a cylindrical torture chamber!!  I demanded my then husband take me to the doctor and make him fix the problem.  At that time, I didn't realize the problem was ME!

The doctor used one of the handy little saws and removed the offending cast, but he immediately applied another fifteen layers of plaster.  Makes sense to me, doesn't it to you?  Add another three hundred pounds to an injured limb that's trying to heal.

That cast lasted almost a whole day and a half before it too shifted down and impeded my ability to walk.  I had already made numerous calls asking how to scratch an itch, how to bathe, and why my leg was sweating, so I wasn't in a hurry to visit his office again, at least not so soon.  I decided to take matters into my own hands.  Bad decision.  I limped to the garage, and using a pair of pruning shears, tried to make my own adjustment.

Did it work?  Well, it was no easy feat.  Remember I had my leg in a full-length cast so there was no bending involved except at the waist.  Do you have any idea how dizzy you get bending over for twenty minutes while trying to re-sculpt plaster?

I managed to carve a little arc about the top of my foot.  I was soooo proud of my ingenuity...until I tried to amber back inside the house.  My work was for not.  The cast slipped further down, and now the edges rested on the floor and made walking impossible.  I hopped back inside and called the doctor.

He wasn't impressed with my handiwork, but by now realized he had to fix the problem and make me go away for a while.  There had to be a solution besides amputating my leg,  He cupped his chin like Sherlock Holmes, and pondered.  I'm pretty sure somewhere in his mind was the old saying, "They shoot horses don't they?"

Finally, he had an "aha" moment.  A lighter cast.  What a concept.  So off I went to the casting room once again to "go under the saw."  This time instead of plaster, the tech applied layers of fiberglass, I'm sure praying the fix solved my dilemma and he didn't have to see me again anytime soon.  Too bad, it didn't.

This cast shifted easier than the other, and in two days, I painfully discovered that fiberglass cuts even deeper than plaster.  Sooo, back to the drawing board.

The doctor "threw in the proverbial towel" and left the problem in the hands of the casting tech.  I'm fairly sure his remedy didn't originate from medical school, but at this point I was ready to try almost anything.  He attached an actual garter clip to the top of the cast and gave me an elastic belt with instructions to put it on and latch the two together.  The whole thing reminded me of my days wearing a "kotex" belt, but off I went thinking I'd have no more problems.

WRONG!  The solution might have been ingenious, but it didn't work.  The weight of the cast, although lighter than the previous one, still slid down atop my foot.  The elastic belt (the clue being ELASTIC) simply stretched, cutting into my waist and adding new discomfort to the situation.  Now I had an rash around my middle, a curved spine to go with my limp, and looked like the Hunchback of Notre Dame.  Remember when someone gave you an "Indian burn" when you were a kid.  That's what my middle felt like.  Yikes!

The look on the technician's face when I showed up again spoke volumes.  He motioned me to the table and displaying knitted brows and his bottom lip sucked between his teeth, promptly put my foot into the cast to support the cylinder.  Why didn't they think of that before?  I'll tell you why.  Somewhere, someone must have known it was a bad idea.  Although I limped out of the office with a now fully-supported cast, little did I know that my severe claustrophobia would kick in.

For those of you who share claustrophobic feelings you can appreciate how awful this was.  First I tried relaxation techniques, picturing myself on a beach in Fiji, but anywhere my mind took me, that damn cast went along.  Thank goodness I had some Valium left in the medicine chest or I wouldn't have made it through the night.  I even made another trip to the garage, but found NOTHING that would cut through fiberglass short of a table saw, and I wasn't about to risk that.  I hobbled back inside, took another Valium and tried to relax.

At five A.M., I drove myself to the emergency room, and paced back and forth with the worst cramp ever.  Talk about a fierce Charlie Horse...wow, I had to get that cast off my foot.  I'm a foot jiggler, and unable to perform that ritual caused every muscle in my leg, ankle and foot to tighten into a painful wad.

I was so grateful to see that little saw again.  At this point I didn't care if I had to hold the cast up with my teeth, I just needed relief.  The doctor skillfully and quickly (not taking the amount of time I had to cut an arch in the cast) removed the fiberglass from my foot, then adjusted the fit of the cast by applying foam between my skin and the sharp edges.  Oh, I love that man to this day!  I managed to get back home before my then husband even knew I was gone, and I handled that horrid cast for the remaining six weeks.  You don't really appreciate freedom until the day the cast comes off for good.  Of course, after eight weeks, I had a choice of shaving my legs or braiding the hair, but that was a small price to pay for joy!

Just my luck...the very week after I had my cast removed, my youngest son broke his leg.  His pain was my pain, his itches, mine too.  Listening to him complain was like having my leg casted all over again.  I just don't understand how he got to be such a wimp.

Oh, this experiences is all a distant memory now, and just like Granny did, I've become proficient in predicting the weather.  My conclusion...try hard not to injure anything.  The repercussions last long beyond the healing process, and I've concluded that if I ever break or tear anything again, I hope they do shoot me.

*******

An elderly woman calls 911 on her cell to report that her car had been broken into.  In hysteria, she explains how someone has stolen her steering wheel, stereo and stripped the dash of all buttons. 

The dispatcher tries to calm her.  "Just sit tight ma'am.  An officer is on the way."

When the policeman arrives, he promptly calls dispatch.  "Disregard the theft call.  Mrs. Ramsey got in the back seat by mistake."

*****

I hope you'll continue to come back for more from LIABOTAIFF.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

CONVINCING AND CAPTIVATING CHARACTERS BY RITA KARNOPP

Our characters are a part of us.  We create them, yes, but they take on a life of their own as we write our story.  Well – I know many non-writers might question that comment and wonder if I’m not a bit left of center!  J

I invite my characters to go in their own direction – to respond in their own way.  In other words, I want them to be who they are.  If they are the swearing type – swear.  If they are self-centered or the type that wants to give the house away – so be it.

I always have a sense for who my characters are.  I’ve just started writing book number fifteen, a suspense, Thunder.  The background is wrestling – not exactly a subject or field I’m all that familiar with, but one thing I do know – the WWE is prominent in the Nothing But Nets program, providing Africa mosquito nets to prevent insect bites which may cause malaria. After reading that information – the ‘what if’ or ‘suppose . . . ’ started crowding my mind - you know what I mean.

What if this campaign had something to do with the murder of Blackfeet wrestler, Thunder (Keme), my hero’s twin brother?  Mingan (Gray Wolf) doesn’t believe his brother committed suicide and he is going to prove it.  Now I didn’t want my hero and his twin to be identical – I want them to be opposites – maybe not even talking to each other at the time of Thunder’s death.  Why?  It adds more conflict.

Let’s discuss this for a moment.  When I first started writing – it was difficult for me to add too much conflict.  Come on – I’m a Libra – l love harmony and the scales balanced.  Conflict just isn’t my thing.  So I started creating characters that were too nice, very few flaws, and were willing to resolve their conflicts as quickly as possible.  Dull!  Boring! 

Come on folks – our characters must be flawed! (Do you know anyone – anyone - who is perfect in real life?  I’d like to say that’s me – but in all honesty – it’s so far from the truth!)  Our characters must face some serious choices; whether they choose wisely or not – it must affect or develop the character.  We must see changes in our characters and they must learn something along the way.  Even our villains must face their demons – whether it changes them or not – that’s up to them.

Back to creating convincing and captivating characters.  What a character looks like is pivotal to a successful story.  His physical attributes and flaws are part of how he functions.  Say your hero has a lisp or a limp.  What if he is insecure about a hair-lip and he attempts to cover it with a mustache?  Did you know that is true about Stacy Keach?  See real characters have real insecurities and real baggage.  Bring out those flaws – they are critical in explaining what makes your character feel, respond, and or shut-down as he does.

We fall in love with his muscular bronze chest, his full lips, and we even are drawn to the way his black, shiny hair is braided and adorned with eagle feathers.  He’s a manly man and we want to follow him into the dark room, the tense training facility, and even into the bedroom – heck especially into the bedroom.

Again – remember to give him flaws.  Maybe he has a temper.  My Mingan has issues with non-whites ignorance of his Blackfeet heritage.  He has a chip on his shoulder.  Will he lose that chip – I don’t know – he hasn’t shown me what he’s capable of yet.  Will he fall in love with a non-white?  I’m not sure – Chloe wants nothing to do with him, especially since she was engaged to Thunder.  Will he allow her into his confidence and allow trust to develop?  Right now he thinks she’s part of the reason his brother is dead.  You see – I know that I want Mingan to find his brother’s killer and I’m hoping he’ll allow Chloe into his heart – but it’s going to take pages for them to consider the possibilities.  In the meantime they are searching for Thunder’s three year old daughter, Nuttah (My Heart), who disappeared the very day of Thunder’s murder.

Truth be told – I’m starting chapter two.  I have a good idea of my characters Mingan and Chloe, but how they develop and react during the story is up to them.  I’m sure they’ll make some mistakes – some costly – but life just keeps throwing them curves.  If it were a perfect world – it would truly be boring.

We want our characters to be loving, memorable and someone who can surprise us – in other words – they just might have a secret.  They must have a deep need or goal (Mingan needs to expose his brother’s killer) and the desire and ambition to go after the truth.  Our characters must keep us guessing, maybe shock us, and don’t forget we want to see some vulnerability.  I never want my characters to be predictable.  The conflict must sustain our interest from beginning to end.

Compelling characters are exciting, capricious, and take us where we’re afraid to go.  They often take us to places we wish we could go – and through their story, we experience the tension, the quest, and even the passion.

Consider this - you have an endless example of characters all around you.  Family, friends, foes, and even strangers.  Think about the character in your book – who do you know resembles this character you’re writing about?  Draw on that person – see them in your minds-eye and develop a well-rounded individual in your book.  This is a great way to make sure you cover all the good and bad traits for your characters.


Let’s not forget to tap the emotional side of our characters.  Does your hero have fears?  Not just fear of heights or fear of snakes.  What about the fear of loving, the fear of a loved one dying, or the fear your loved one will cheat on you?  What makes your character happy?  Is it the Cockapoo waiting at the door or the angora purring in his lap?  Both add personality and appeal. 

What is that underlying ‘secret’ that keeps your character from committing?  Maybe he didn’t listen or believe his brother – and now he’s dead.  Perhaps he has suspicions that his three year-old niece was in danger, but he dismissed them – and now she’s missing?  Guilt is a mighty strong emotion to give your character.  Others might be shame, the unwillingness to forgive, pride, jealousy, and even lust. 


We want our characters to take us places and feel with them and care. . . laugh with them . . . cry with them . . . fear for them . . . love with them . . . and when it’s all over . . . be satisfied with them when the journey is over.

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