The Sun always Rises

You have the three of us today.  Hey, it’s Rey!

No, this isn’t a post about Hemingway (Linda told me my title was similar to the title of one of his books).  If you’ve been following our FB (The Triple Threat Investigation Agency) page, you know we’ve spent the week pretty much on the lanai.  Oh, we’re doing some work—whatever’s doable—and drinking lots of iced tea, which I personally hate.  Linda’s been busy creating new blends (keeps her busy, she says).  The latest concoction—fusion, as my BFF calls it—is lavender-fennel.  With sprigs of dill, no less.  It’s . . . interesting (and let’s leave it at that).

Besides watching some mind-numbing TV—you know, I kinda wish I’d opted to become a game-show model (I like the clothes)—and over-grooming the kids, we’ve been reading a lot.  Me Nancy Drew, Linda philosophy and English lit stuff (can you spell y-a-w-n?), and JJ everything and anything in the news.  Who’d ever have guessed life could be put on lock-down hold?

Given the hope-related posts on FB all week, we thought we’d stay on a similar theme and each provide a current favorite quote—one that’s kinda inspiring us right now.

Linda:   I have to go with Helen Keller’s “Keep your face to the sunshine and you cannot see a shadow.”  Clear and clever.  Never give into negativity or the dark side(s) of life.

JJ:   Winston Churchill said it succinctly well.  “The positive thinker sees the invisible, feels the intangible, and achieves the impossible.”  Remaining optimistic, no matter what adversity faces us, is tantamount to overcoming [any and all] obstacles.

Me-Rey:   As a part-time actress, I have to go with Milton Berle.  “If opportunity doesn’t knock, build a door.”  We—you, me—have the ability to make things happen.  Don’t ever doubt that.

Continue to stay safe, be smart, and keep the faith.  The sun does always rise . . . sometimes with breathtaking results.

Take care, dear friends.

While we’re Chatting about Characters …

Just wanted to touch upon character “depth and development” a bit more today . . . give more of that proverbial food for thought.

WPchrac4When it comes to detailing our characters (villains included), we want to provide:

♥  enough facts and features to paint a vivid picture    ♥  layers to create complexity and intensity.

We don’t, however, want to offer so many details and components that we deliver an abstract depiction, one that lends itself to an unbelievable and/or non-“seeable” person.

Consider the factors most relevant to your characters, those that make them come to life for your readers.  Do we need to know every facial feature?  Of course not.  Just those that impart details that build on—add dimension to—the character/villain.

For example, let’s take a gander at types of:

eyes – monolid, hooded, almond-shaped, close-set …

♥  Ronald’s sad kelp-brown eyes scanned the reception area.

lips – thin, wide, full, bow-shaped …

♥  Her perpetually pouty lips drew into a tight line when she noticed the ever-irascible Detective Smith had entered the lobby.

noses – fleshy, turned-up, narrow, flat, Roman, bumpy …

♥  The intern’s ski-slope nose had an odd jagged scar running down the left side.

chins – double, pointed, long, fleshy, scarred, pimply …

♥  Unable to meet Jason’s intense crow-black eyes, the man spoke to his strong square chin.

eyebrows – S-shaped, thin, rounded, tattooed, hard-angled, soft-angled ….

♥  Roger eyed the professor’s thin plucked eyebrows and absently noted how they seemed eternally arched.

What about arms, legs, body shapes?  There are so many options available!

♥  thin, slender, slim, short, flabby, zaftig, curvaceous, shapely, voluptuous, colossal, fat, skeletal, tiny, large, vast, frail, fragile …

What about the clothes and jewelry characters/villains wear . . . or don’t wear?  Telling or not?

♥  Sam Evans III zipped up his Alexander McQueen satin bomber jacket and glanced at his Luminox titanium watch.  His arc-shaped lips pulled into a frown.

♥  Lenny looked at his Timex watch and a loud sigh pushed past flabby lips.  Anxiously, he adjusted the collar of his loud-print polyester shirt.

♥  She tossed the diamond-encrusted watch onto the corner of the handcrafted desk as her slender frame sank back into the plush contour chair.

If you have an overabundance of attractive or secretive characters, take it further.  Attractive in what way?  Pretty?  Handsome?  Comely?  Secretive in what way?  Reserved?  Reticent?  Cagey?  What differentiates them?

Having edited numerous manuscripts, it seems that characters are often taken for granted by the writer.  He/she knows what the they look like, but the readers don’t because the delivery is lacking.  Hence my “nudge” for more selective—appropriate—word choices.

WPchar2Get to know your thesaurus.  It offers a wealth of alternatives to the flat and mundane.  Consider those words the colors you can utilize to paint your characters alive.

Clumsy Characters = Chaos

Perhaps a little dramatic a heading, but the fact is that if characters are described/portrayed in a vague or awkwardly constructed fashion, the result will lend itself to chaos, also known as confusion.

What’s makes for vague or awkward characters?

Those that have:

minimal descriptions  ♣  they all have eyes and are either male or female, but there’s not much more to let us know what they look like

similar descriptions  ♣  all have dark eyes and are tall

identical speech patterns  ♣  they utilize the same jargon/slang or sound the same

alike reactions  ♣  their eyes open wide with confusion or fear (regardless whether they’re detectives, criminals, boys, girls, teachers or waitstaff)

stereotypical personalities/appearances/mannerisms  ♣  they read like characters found in countless dramas, novels, soap operas

little or no depth  ♣  come across as vapid or weak (there’s no backbone or spirit, not even a hint of personality).

If characters come across as dull or lackluster, readers won’t be inspired to continue reading.

Make your characters compelling, appealing.  There should be “something” about them—something that attracts us to them as readers (or “viewers”, as we do visualize the scenes).  Or repels us.  If you’re going to have a villain, make him or her chillingly evil or sad, or compassionate—but memorable.

Think of fictional persons who’ve captured our/your attention: Columbo  /  Steve McGarrett  /  Alex Delaware  /  Jack Torrance /  Macbeth  /  Hamlet  /  Elizabeth Benet  /  Jessica Fletcher  …

WPpaint1The writer in me always likens the creation of a character to the painting [completion] of a canvas.  The final picture should captivating, powerful. 

Generally, we like [love] characters who are trustworthy and supportive, keep promises and play fair, and have objectives [and missions] we can relate to or empathize with, among many other attributes.  Additional likable qualities: they love animals, are helpful, stand their ground, and fight for unfairness [without complaint].  And it never hurts if they’re really good-looking and fit, funny/witty, and [relatively] brave.  Think: personality.  What makes a character tick?  What makes him/her resonate?  Think of everyday folks who have that je ne sais quoi.

That said, don’t go overboard and make characters overly good or villains excessively bad.  We all have failings, but we all have virtues.

Give your central character(s)—the protagonist(s)—an intriguing skill/talent or pastime.  Maybe your hero/heroine is a detective with a remarkable track record.  He/she has many friends, can fight well (has fists like a prizefighter) but only engages in a skirmish when absolutely necessary.  He/she is attractive, tall, slim, and fit/toned.  But so are lots of detectives.  So provide dimension.  Perhaps he/she scuba dives on the weekends and volunteers at a homeless shelter two nights a week?  Perhaps he/she takes cooking classes?  What’s your character’s history and background?  What motivates him or her?  Paint that detailed/vivid picture!  Give that character something to make him/her, yes, stand out.

And don’t forget to give your protagonists the odd challenges.  Let them feel and express feelings.  Dilemmas and issues occur in real life that feed on/off emotions; the same should hold true for fictional characters.

More on character development in the future.  Happy painting!


1 Point Here, ½ Point There

As a reviewer, I will deduct ½-1 point when I find a number of typos and errors/inconsistencies.  Thinking on it the other day, I questioned whether this was fair, given that it can really be the editor’s fault and not the writer’s.

But is it really?  As a writer, I do my best to catch all typos and inconsistencies in a manuscript, but given I’m human, I might not necessarily capture them all.  As an editor, I do my best to catch all typos and inconsistencies in a manuscript, but given I’m human, I might not necessarily capture them all.

The editor in me will honestly confess that it sometimes irks me when I receive a manuscript abundant with errors, some so glaring and numerous it makes me wince.  It suggests the writer completed one draft and didn’t give a fig about revising or editing.  Perhaps he/she knew there’d be an editor, so why bother or worry?  Who needs to sweat the small stuff, right?  The manuscript was completed; that’s all that matters.  That’s fine, I suppose.  But what if said editor is good but not great?  What happens then?

This brings me back to previous posts re the importance of proofing and editing our own work.  Most writers find it a tiresome if not daunting task, and I get that.  But consider it this way: it’s a valuable way [practice] to augment writing skills. The more we edit and rework—polish—the more we learn and develop.  And the less we have to rely on someone else to “perfect” our product.  There’s a certain degree of pride in that, don’t you think?

Today, thanks to world of e-publishing, anyone and everyone can be an author . . . which is wonderful, because traditional publishing of yesteryear made the book world a very difficult realm to break into.  Yet it can also lend itself to a certain apathy, where the standard of professionalism seems less critical (that’s another post, my friends).

Conclusion?  Deductions will continue . . . as will counsel re the virtues of self-editing and augmenting our skills. WPuihereA

T’is Time for [Writing] Resolutions

Given we’re a few days away from a new year (and, with any luck, a better one), t’is time to record resolutions . . . maybe?   They’re great for keeping us focused, not so great for keeping.  Am I right?  . . . Maybe?

Let’s focus on writing resolutions—as in resolutions for writers/bloggers.  There are way too many to consider, so we’ll keep ’em sweet and simple, and fairly straightforward.

The first one has to be, to quote Nike: just do it!  Write, write, write.  Post, post, post.  It’s the blessing, and sometimes the bane, of our existence.

Ensure you write every day; set a schedule.  If you were doing this professionally—and, hopefully, one day you will—you’d have to commit to a timetable.  Arrange one that works with your daily routine.

Challenge yourself this coming year.  Write something outside your comfort zone.  You don’t have to go for a novel; aim for a short story.  If you hate sci-fi, give it a go!  You may surprise yourself.

Learn to embrace—and love—editing.  You can leave it to a professional if you like (and have the $$$), but it’s a skill that can be picked up.  Just apply yourself.  Practice makes perfect.  Am I right?  No maybe this time; it’s a fact.  <LOL>

If you haven’t published or set up a blog yet, do so.  Find a publisher.  Publish an e-book. Create a blog; they’re easy and fun, and can look as professional or arty as you want (just consider your ultimate goal when you design it).

Mingle.  Meet other writers/bloggers.  You can do it on-line or via a real group.  Make sure you’re on social media so that you can connect—not only with fellow authors, but readers, and possible customers (who may partake of your writing skills or blog offerings).

Read.  Learn from others.  Study styles and approaches.  Get (don’t steal) ideas.  See what makes for “success”.

Support your colleagues.  Wouldn’t you want (and appreciate) encouragement in your quest?  Give back . . . always.  It’s a good thing.

Share.  Writing/blogging for personal interest is great.  But if no one reads your stuff, are you getting anything out of it?  . . . Okay, maybe.  Nothing wrong with personal satisfaction.  It depends on your ultimate aim, doesn’t it?

On that note, my aim is complete for today.  But I may be back with more.  We can never have enough resolutions, can we?  WPresolution1

Due Diligence = Writer’s Wisdom

Like many authors, the inbox of yours truly sees many promotional emails.  In fact, just the other day, I received an email from a happy-go-lucky sounding woman who offered to review my books.  She seemed lighthearted and friendly, and her services so suitable for an author’s marketing and profile-raising needs.  There was a fee of course, one that seemed quite reasonable.

After many (too many, LOL) years in the writing realm, I know better than to get suckered in, but her proposal did sound appealing.  Given the price, I was intrigued enough to consider it.  Thankfully, I did my due diligence, something I’ve frequently advocated people do before signing up for anything.

When doing what I like to call validation, I Google with “reviews for [insert name]” or a variation thereof.  Then I peruse several sites to get an overall feel for what’s what.  Lo and behold (and really no small surprise), I discovered that warnings had been posted about this individual—she’d solicited in past and was once again back in full swing.

Writer Beware is an outstanding site for learning about tricksters and frauds.  It’s been around for several years, founded in 1998 by Victoria Strauss and Ann Crispin.  In addition to providing details about scammers and schemers, they provide sage advice: WPbewareB

It’s debatable whether paid reviews are worth the money–even when provided by professional venues like Kirkus–let alone whether it’s worth paying a fee to some random amateur.”

Authors, don’t pay for book reviews. Even if the reviewer is competent.”

I also came across a wonderful, most helpful site run by Ruth Harris and Anne R. Allen, two publishing industry professionals endeavoring to assist “newer writers create their best possible work and launch it successfully into the marketplace.”

They also want to assist writers “avoid the pitfalls of this ever-more complex business, where unfortunately, a lot more people are making money from authors than for us.”

Their blog is chockablock full of valuable information, such as resources for writers.  Do check it out (and take a gander at the post on new writing scams in 2019).


Due diligence truly does equal [gained] wisdom.  No matter how great something sounds, always, always, always investigate.  Know what you’re “signing up” for.

Ho-Ho-Ho—Whoa! You Mean I Gotta Write over the Holidays??

The holidays are coming fast (don’t they always?) and you’re worrying (sweating) over how to find time to write with all the demands of the encroaching festivities and gatherings, vacations and visits, traveling and TV specials, eating and eggnogging.

First, set a reasonable (achievable) goal.  Whether you write full-time (you have my full envy) or an hour a day, decide how much time you can commit to writing while Santa and helpers scamper about.  Perhaps you halve or quarter the day, or only designate 20 minutes—whatever works, given those assorted and numerous obligations.  If the time component doesn’t work for you, commit to writing a page or three a day.  Then resolve to stick to that target.

Pinning/posting your writing goals is always a good thing; do it as a “reminder”.  They’ll help you stay focused and motivated, so make sure you look at them.  Often.

If you can get up a half hour earlier or stay up a half hour later and commit those 30 minutes to writing, do it.  If you’re not alone or at Aunt Martha’s, sneak into another (empty) room, the lanai or cellar, and do your thing.  Or perhaps you slip off to Starbucks with your laptop for a wee while and drink some fine java while words dance across your screen.

Ask your friends, Facebook and flesh-and-blood, to nudge you via a message, an email or text . . . or a hot-air balloon, if that works.  A little prod goes a long way.

Commit to events that you sincerely want to partake of.  Bagel-and-lox breakies are fun, not to mention nummy, but if you could better use that time to complete a scene or blog post, consider what’s [truly] more important.  Prioritize.

Another option?  Go old school and carry a notebook.  You may not always be able to open a laptop at a function (without appearing rude or reclusive), but you can always jot a few quick notes/ideas en route to the bar or buffet.WPhol

And you know what?  If celebratory moments rule supreme (or run rampant), that’s okay too.  Don’t beat up on yourself because you didn’t write.  You will again . . . because that’s who you are.  An untiring writer with much to share.

The Woman / The Man – But WHICH One?

Although this has been touched upon in past, it’s always worth repeating: recurring words and actions make for flat reading.

Some writers, particularly those new to the fold, appear to love using “the woman” and “the man” in gleeful abundance.  Sometimes, the woman and/or the man can appear six-plus times per page . . . and refer to not one woman or man, but to several.  But if the writer doesn’t “paint pictures” of what Woman #1 or #4 or Man # 3 or #10 looks like, the reader will likely engage in some serious head-scratching.

Randolph saw a woman holding a cane.  Another woman, standing behind her, held a shawl.

“Please show us where the solarium is,” the woman said.

The other woman nodded briskly.

The woman with the shawl appeared to be the other woman’s relative or caregiver.  “Is it that way?” she asked and motioned.

Randolph nodded.

The woman looked at him with her eyes. “You’re not much of a talker, are you?”

WPwomanneatoshopDOTcomNot an action-packed scene, is it?  In fact, it’s terribly blah, never mind difficult to follow.  But it’s an example of what happens when details/descriptions are not provided, if words are repeated, or if there’s a ton of telling but no showing, which translates into “flatter ‘an a flapjack”.  The eyes, subsequently, do this . . .

Don’t be scared to define characters.  Take baby steps, if necessary—adding a word or two instead of a sentence or two.  Determine how bare-bones sentences can be augmented; consider descriptive ones like these:

The stooped woman holding a silver-tipped cane appeared to be in her eighties.

A woman with a dented cane walked forward slowly; her face was lined and weary, suggesting a life of hardship.

A tall and slender woman, standing behind an older one, draped a woolen shawl over her lean arm.

Even if people appear for a brief period, there’s no reason you can’t provide names.  Let’s try something like this with the previous non-action example:

Randolph saw a short, elderly woman holding a cane with a heavily-veined hand.  Another woman, standing behind her, was unraveling a sizeable woolen shawl.

“Please show us where the solarium is,” the woman with the cane requested with a smile.  “Anna and I seem to be lost.”

Anna, tall and lanky, and handsome, nodded briskly.  She was obviously a relative or caregiver.  “Is it that way?” she asked and pointed a slim finger.

Still dazed from the fall, Randolph only managed a nod.

The older lady scanned his face and turned to her companion. “He doesn’t seem to be much of a talker, does he, Rachel?”

Both characters are now established and, should they appear later, can be referred to by name.  Always give thought as to how you might make your characters come alive.  Having flat folks in a story will make for arduous reading.

Breathe life into your story—make your readers want to keep reading.

You Say Ego, I Say Ergo

You know that “C” word that makes us cringe?  Yeah, that’s the one: criticism.  <shudder> We writers don’t do well with it; it’s a smack to the ego and, therefore, it hurts.

Some take it in stride, others puff up and get their noses out of joint (and refuse to listen).  We simply don’t want to have our work—our babies, imagination, creativity—commented upon.

As a writer, I can wholeheartedly attest to this, having been there many a time.  When I first started submitting to agents and publishers many years ago, rejection after rejection flowed in.  The odd unfeeling person offered harsh, unpleasant criticism … and it hurt [big-time] … and I didn’t believe it.  How could someone criticize my work (talent)?

<ROTFL>  A few were harsh, yes, but others were constructive.  And you know?  They were also right.  When I un-dusted those bottom-of-the-drawer manuscripts years later, I so understood what my “criticizers” were referring to.  At the time, nope, I was right; they were wrong and how dare they!  Truly, if I’d listened then, I’d have improved much sooner.  That’s okay though.  Lesson(s) most definitely learned.

The truth is, when we start writing, we do have much to learn.  We have to develop, and this only happens with time.  Reality check: talent/skill isn’t there the moment we first pick up a pen, er, hit the keyboard.  We can delude ourselves into believing we’re the next Hemingway, King, or Tolstoy and that’s fine for confidence boosting, not so fine for professional development.

Now, there’s bad criticism, someone blowing off steam or being cruel for the sake of it, and there’s good [constructive/helpful] criticism—someone serving to enlighten and “improve”.

If you want to be a serious long-term writer, seek criticism: join a writing community, take a workshop or seminar or three, belong to reading groups.  You need to hear it and, more importantly, you need to get used to it.  It will help you progress.

Recognize that views vary, particularly from your own.  With time, like ducks, we can let criticism roll off our backs like water.  It’s not as difficult to receive (though it may still make us cringe a little) and we begin to understand which comments we can use to our advantage.

As an FYI, when you receive a critique you disapprove of (hate, dispute), don’t argue or respond in the negative.  If you have a hankering to reply, walk away, return, and then simply thank the person for his/her input or review.

Yes, the ego can be a fragile thing.  But if you’re going to put your work out there, you have to cope with the “c” word.  So ….

♥  Take a few deep breaths and turn away.  Have a cappuccino, glass of wine, croissant, whatever brings you joy (solace).  Go back later—with an open mind. WPcritLongfordpcDOTcom

♥  Determine if there’s some truth there.  Take it with a grain of salt … and have at it.

♥  Remember that writing is subjective.  What you love, a person may hate.  Everyone has an opinion; none are the same.  So when you receive a negative feedback, acknowledge it.  Different strokes for different folks: a valid cliché.

If you’ve been crushed by criticism, realize it’s merely that: a person’s subjective analysis.  Take from it what you can, and move on.  Understand that it doesn’t make you a bad writer—you truly do have marvelous tales to tell and share—you simply need to improve here and there.  If we didn’t continually develop, we’d stagnate, never learn or grow.  I’m not sure that’s a good thing, do you?

Could You Repeat that, Please?

Well, maybe not.  There’s good repetition in fiction writing (which, as a literary device, can prove quite powerful) and there’s not-so-good repetition in fiction writing (which can prove boring and drive readers nuts).  This post will focus on the latter of repetition in fiction writing that’s not-so-good.  (Hmm, did that sound familiar?)

Private eye Gerald Macklin grabbed the Luger from the desk and hurried into the dim corridor.  He hurried in the darkness, trying to keep the weapon firmly grasped in his sweaty right hand.  A thud resounded on the first floor.  He hurried down the stairs and down a rear corridor, keeping a firm grip on the gun as he peered around the corner.  Seeing two shadows by the wall, he raised his sweaty right hand and aimed the Luger.

Not-so-good repetition is when a writer uses the same descriptive words in the same sentence or paragraph (or page) several times—without substance or structure.  This lends itself to redundancy, otherwise known as, yeah, repetition.

We want to create excitement, tension, emotion, conflict in our tales.  (Using the same words can do that, but this has to be done [effectively] well; we’ll touch upon this in another post.)  Overused words and phrases, however, weaken writing.  They tend to “weigh down” the story and contribute to the yawn factor.

Whenever possible, utilize descriptive words (verbs, nouns), but ensure they lend themselves to the intended mood.  Think: visuals, tone, ambiance.

Repetition equals flatness—so does “uneventful” text.  Not that you should attempt to modify or galvanize every word or expression, but give thought to being fresh and innovative.

Instead of:   said

Consider:   yelled, cried, declared, stated, uttered

Instead of:   laughed

Consider:   chortled, snickered, tittered, howled, giggled

Instead of:   white flowers

Consider:   snow-white roses, ivory tulips . . . or be very specific . . . Ox Eye Daisy, Black-Eyed Susan

Instead of:   Lawrence fumed angrily and walked into his boss’ office.

Consider:   Fuming, Lawrence stomped into his boss’ cramped office.   /   Lawrence stomped into his boss’ office and punched the desk.

Instead of:   The sound almost made him jump out of his skin.

Consider:   The shrill sound prompted him to jump.   /   A strident boom to the rear sent him racing into the darkness.

And back to our private eye example way above, let’s make it less repetitious and more interesting:

Private eye Gerald Macklin grabbed the Luger from the corner of his battered desk and hastened into the dim corridor.  Advancing quickly yet cautiously, he grasped the weapon firmly in his sweaty hand.  A loud thud resounded on the first floor.  A body?  Someone breaking in?  Or maybe out?  At the bottom of the winding stairwell, he dashed down another corridor and stopped breathless before Lincoln Ralston’s office.  Around the corner, by the far wall, stood two tall boxy shadows.  He aimed the Luger.  “Hold it right there!”

Besides using the same words/phrases repeatedly, avoid—dare I say it?—repeating details and/or history.  If you’ve provided information related to a locale or setting, don’t state it again a few paragraphs or pages later.  We had a good idea of what it looked like the first time.  The same holds true for characters.  If we know they’re chums as well as colleagues, have been partners for years, suffered a loss, or were born in another country, there’s little reason to state it a second (or fifth/sixth/seventh) time.  Establish the main [important] facts and embellish, as necessary, but don’t repeat them . . . and repeat them.

One last note, steer clear of clichés, which fall under the category of repetition.  Why?  Because they’re overused, trite.  We’ve seen/heard them <groan> repeatedly.  If a character uses them because they’re part of his/her persona, that’s one thing.  If the narrator/protagonist employs them—unless he’s Sam Spade, or being sarcastic or cute—you may want to avoid them.

See ya next week . . . when I post another weekly Wednesday post next week . . . uh . . . see ya.

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