Shootin’ the Breeze

Hey, it’s Rey.  The Boss is scrambling to get things done on “Forever Poi”.  Yeah, she’s still doing the final edit (time runs through that woman’s fingers like folks sprinting to a Black Friday sale).

Been a wee while since I’ve posted and I’ve been missing it.  Who’d have guessed that Reynalda Fonne-Werde would ever admit she wanted to write?

If you’re keeping tabs on the daily Triple Threat Investigation Agency FB posts, you know the three of us have been busy with some small cases.  They’re not as complicated or dangerous as the FP case (which seems to be going on and on and on—hint, hint, hint, Boss Lady, get it together), but they help us to keep honing P.I. skills and pay bills.

On a personal update front . . .

Linda’s thinking of entering a surfing contest.  I think she’s crazy, given she’s only been doing it for a short while.  Granted, she looks pretty amazing on a board, but anyone who can stand on one of those things for more than 30 seconds has my applause.  She insists she’s up for the challenge; I say she’s up for a hospital stay.

JJ debated visiting her sometimes boyfriend, Cash/Richie J, for all of ten seconds.  He sent her an e-ticket; she deleted it.  End of story.  For now.

I’m doing another commercial, this time as a singing cricket for Cracking Cricketty Crunchies.  They come in four flavors—regular (yukko), ranch, BBQ, and honey-garlic—none of which I’ve tried.  You couldn’t pay me to eat bugs, but Linda says they taste great and are nutritious—yeah, in a pig’s eye.  I’m also heading to Cali for a few days to catch up with actor friends this coming week.

That’s it, that’s all.  Didn’t feel like—hmm, what’s that word?—ah yeah, inundating you with editing or writing “snippets of advice”.  I’ll leave that to The Boss.

Enjoyed shootin’ the breeze with you.  Hope you did, too.

Aloha—e mālama pono.


Staying Faithful to Your Craft . . . and Self

Ever been in a writer’s funk?  When the likes or followers aren’t coming, no one’s commenting, it’s natural to ask [cry] why-yyyyyy!?  <LOL>  Okay, maybe I’m being like dear Rey from the Triple Threat Investigation Agency: melodramatic.

Still, you wonder.  Is it me?  What’s wrong with the blog?  Why didn’t he/she like the post or book?  Am I boring?  Not innovative enough?  Have I got what it takes?

This prompted an idea for a post: how to maintain writer confidence.  (I’ll confess [honesty is a good thing] that I’ve often struggled with it.)

The most important conviction a writer should possess is confidence.  Yes, skill and talent are vital too, but these can be developed with time and practice.  Sureness is a must.  With it comes positivity and optimism, which translates into enthusiasm.

When you believe in yourself and what you do, you have a take-charge attitude.  You look forward to developing and completing those writing projects.  . . . And how do we maintain/boost confidence?

Social media is a great place to start.  Join writing communities and post on them.  The exchanges—and subsequent support—are uplifting (to say the least).  It’s amazing how wonderful you feel when you’ve shared ideas and thoughts, offered and received gratitude.  On a similar note, see what fellow bloggers and writers are up to.  Post/comment on their sites, as you see fit.  Besides learning a few interesting and valuable things, you’ll make friends, to be sure.  The more you network, the more reinforcement you’ll receive.  Find the right [best] support for you.

Even when nothing’s flowing from those creative fingertips—you can’t seem to get into it—continue writing.  Keep at it.  Keep busy.  Keep it (return later and revise/delete as you deem fit).  Reflect on: why you write, what got you excited about it, why you’ve been doing it for as long as you have, who inspired you and why.

Some non-confidence moments may be due to the fact that we writers and bloggers tend to set [tremendously] high expectations for ourselves (I know I do).  So if there’s a stumble or tumble, boom (!) goes the assurance.  When this occurs, we need to carry on writing, no ifs or buts.

What about those discouraging moments when someone has something negative to say re a post or book?  First and foremost, accept the fact it’s going to happen.  Murphy’s Law.  Maybe the criticism is legit, maybe it’s not; consider the person it came from.  Even though the comment or advice is disheartening, maybe you can use it you can use it to your advantage.  If it truly sounds like sour grapes, ignore it.  I know, easier said than done, but negative comments are simply subjective opinions (one person’s treasure is another’s junk, something like that).

Take breaks to boost a flagging spirit.  Sitting at a laptop for 10-12 hours a day may work for some (heartfelt kudos to those of you who do), but some of us need breaks to clear thoughts, loosen stiff limbs, enhance mental thoughts.  Go and do something you enjoy, something that will make you feel good and detract from negativity.


Having a schedule helps.  Commit to a certain number of hours per day or week.  The obligation and focus will lessen any lack of confidence getting in the way.

Remember that you’re a writer/blogger and don’t question if you’re doing it right; just go for it and do it.  We learn as we develop (and we develop as we learn) and that’s awesome.  If we were great authors from Day 1, what would we aspire to?

Confidence enables us to remain focused on the craft.  The more we write, the more we discover and absorb.  When those down or doubting moments occur, go Googling.  Get inspired—be it through quotes, inspirational or spiritual videos and tales, fellow writers’ successes in overcoming challenges, or simple hands-on guidance re boosting self-assurance.

The life of a writer and blogger can be quite lonely, given the time dedicated to our passion—but we know this and it’s all good.  So when you’re ambling down that proverbial dark tunnel, recognize that—yes!!!—there is always a vibrant light at the end.

The Freshness Factor

Just shut down the other blog.  It had grown, well, kind of wearisome.  My heart was no longer in it and it probably showed.  There seemed little point in wasting my time, much less that of [potential] readers and followers.

lightbulbBThat got me to thinking about “staleness”—a musty, fusty blog isn’t much better than hard and crusty bread past its prime.  And that, in turn, gave me—woo-hoo!—an idea for the mid-week post.  Freshness!

There are many awesome-looking blogs out there, which is great . . . but not so great if said blogs don’t have the posts or content to keep people coming back (kind of like my former one).  <LOL>

If you’re posting regularly and your heart’s truly in it, make sure what you’re providing readers/followers is interesting, informative, and/or entertaining: think, yup, f-r-e-s-h.

There are many ways to keep blogs appealing [attracting], which could easily make for a five-part post.  Worry not followers and fellow bloggers—I’ve hung up the teacher’s cap for a wee while.  We’ll keep it short and sweet, and review a smattering of vital tactics.

See what others are writing to get a notion of what’s popular.  And here’s where “fresh” comes into play, again—if you’re going to follow suit, make certain you’re adding something new and noteworthy.  Regale, my friends, regale!

Change it up.  Consider adding interviews, facts and stats and charts, studies and analysis, photos and videos . . . have followers, friends and colleagues contribute . . . use bullets and numbered lists . . . the sky’s the limit.  Have at it!

Don’t be afraid to ask your readers and followers what they’d like to see.  Request suggestions.  Then, deliver!

Do some “spring cleaning”.  Free space.  Get rid of old posts that no longer have any value add.  The information may be out-dated or the writing not as crisp (we do hone skills over time).  On the flips side, some old posts may [still] be of worth.  Maybe they’ve been shared across many miles, literally, or they’re traffic drivers even now.  If you’re particularly fond of certain ones, rewrite them with new . . . fresh . . . spins.  Change or add visuals.


And when all that awesome freshness has been applied, [continue to] do this: keep generating [more and more] traffic.  Metadata (keywords and meta-tags) will net high search numbers, which could translate into [more] followers/subscribers.  Remember SEO or Search Engine Optimization?  It’s not as daunting as it sounds.  Simply put, SEO is boosting blog (or website) content so search engines show it as a top result for searches of a particular keyword.  We want to make it super easy for people to find us.  Do a little due diligence to obtain guidance—maybe start with checking out Google’s Keyword Planner.

Some [fresh] food for thought, I hope.  Happy [continued] blogging.

Copy . . . right?

In my blog and writing community travels, I’ve stumbled across some questions and concerns new writers have re copyright.

Given I’m about to [hopefully] finish “Forever Poi”, I thought a little post on the topic might not be a bad or boring thing.

Just for the record—and I’m no lawyer (though I sometimes kind of wish I’d pursued law as a profession)—copyright per Free Dictionary is “the legal right granted to an author, composer, playwright, publisher, or distributor to exclusive publication, production, sale, or distribution of a literary, musical, dramatic, or artistic work”.

If you Google the word you’ll come across scores of sites that offer information and guidance. Read a few to get a grasp of the intricacies.

Basically, though, as e-book authors we want to ensure that we’re protected against infringement or unauthorized use of our original books (like our hard-copy counterparts).

Good news: a finished e-book is actually automatically copyright-protected.  Per law, any work crafted today is deemed to be copyrighted once it’s created.  Maybe not so good news: it’s not going to help you if someone “borrows” your e-book concept, but it will if said [dishonest] someone uses your characters and/or other specific items.

Some sites will recommend registering your copyright and storing your e-book with the U.S. Copyright Office.  I’ve never done this, and I wouldn’t advise anyone not to—it’s a personal decision—but I’ve read that while there are some benefits to taking this route, it’s far from “the” route.  Check out the U.S. Copyright Office’s website for more info.

If you’re looking to copyright your e-book, you can find samples of simple copyright pages.  They’re all fairly similar, but I use a short and sweet one that Smashwords offers—here’s a model:


 Published by [Name] at Smashwords

Copyright © 2018 (Name in brackets)

Smashwords Edition

This book is protected under the copyright laws of the United States of America.  Any reproduction or other unauthorized use of the material or artwork herein is prohibited.

This eBook is licensed solely for your personal pleasure.  This eBook may not be re-sold or given away to other people.  If you would like to share this eBook with someone, please purchase a copy for every reader.  If you are reading this eBook and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased solely for your use, please return it to your favorite retailer and purchase your own personal copy.  Thank you for respecting the author’s time and effort in completing this work of fiction.

Disclaimer:  The persons, places, things, and otherwise animate or inanimate objects mentioned in this work of fiction are creations of the author’s imagination.  Any resemblance to anything or anyone, living or dead, in this novel is absolutely and unequivocally unintentional.

Hopefully, this helps clarify the sometimes confusing world of copyright a wee bit.


How it All [Kinda] Began

Forever Poi, the fourth in the Triple Threat Investigation Agency series, has taken much [much!] longer than anticipated.  But there were extenuating circumstances truly not in my control, so I’ll just count my blessings and offer gratitude to the Great Power that is that it’s nearly there.  Hurrah!!!!!


I went for another final edit (#23), but glad I did—found a couple of “flaws”.  You read and review, scrutinize and consider, yet you still don’t necessarily always catch those wily little buggers  As writers, we often see what we think is there and sometimes what’s not there.  This is a good reason to have someone else take a gander—new [fresh] eyes, that sort of thing.

I thought I’d go back and share when JJ, Rey and Linda seriously [or not] discussed the possibility of becoming Hawaiian private eyes.

And speaking of time, it was hard to believe that the Connecticut Caper—as Rey laughingly called it—had happened nearly a month ago. Yet in some ways, it felt like a year. The entire episode seemed dreamlike and distant.

I dropped onto the only piece of furniture I’d purchased for the Brentwood apartment so far: a beautiful two-piece leather sleeper sectional sofa that set me back a lot more than budgeted for. But it would serve as a perfect focus piece and last for years, and I wasn’t planning on being that extravagant with anything else. It rested to the side of a large deep-set fixed window with solid panel shutters. Sitting here, I could gaze four stories below onto a lush courtyard with two burbling fountains.

Christmas was around the corner and it felt strange to not have my nephew Quincy racing around, trying new seasonal recipes, or sticking Quincy-would-like gift suggestions in obvious places. The first week of December, Mom usually had the B&B decorated with lights, holly and ivy, and a couple of tinsel-trimmed Christmas trees. A stunning silver menorah rested on the dining room sidebar for Jewish friends and guests.

I’d made a move to California. Sold all belongings, put the Wilmington condo up for sale, packed clothes, and wondered what I’d gotten myself into besides a three-day weather-forecasting job at a local community television station. I’d have to find other work, of course, if we didn’t make money serving as professional sleuths (which I had doubts about), but it was a start. Rey was planning on getting the detective agency going in the next month or so.

Yes, that was correct: detective agency. Back at the Moone manse, as the three of us were packing and making promises to stay in touch, Rey had revealed a plan that she’d been considering since May-Lee had been wheeled away: opening a private investigation agency in California. To make her happy and keep me sane for the remainder of the brief stay, I’d said I’d consider the wild notion that seemed as probable as a Minnesota drought in January. But somewhere and somehow over the weeks, I’d decided maybe it wasn’t that wild after all.

Even Linda had gotten caught up in Rey’s enthusiasm. I wasn’t quite sure how to inform them about California’s strict licensure. They’d be devastated to learn they weren’t going to be private investigators any time soon. Among other things, we’d need a combination of education in police science, criminal law or justice, experience equaling three years or 6,000 hours, and to pass a criminal history background check. Oh yes, we’d also have to receive a qualifying score on a two-hour written exam. It was surprising that Rey hadn’t yet discovered that; or maybe she had and had simply refused to accept facts. In any event, at present, in addition to scouting offices, my cousin had signed up for a business course. Kudos to eager and determined Cousin Reynalda.

The drive back from Connecticut had afforded Adwin and I time to talk about life, goals and objectives, feelings and family. By the time we’d reached Wilmington, we’d decided that moving in together was probably not a great thing. We truly weren’t that compatible or in sync, and that was fine we both acknowledged. I loved Adwin, and he loved me, but in the grand scheme of things we weren’t really a romantic couple or marriage material; we were more of a buddy-bud duo. We’d remain in touch and he’d visit California, and I’d see him—and Fred—whenever I returned to North Carolina. We’d take the odd vacation together. Pledges were made and, with a bit of luck, they’d be kept.

I stretched bare legs onto the sofa, and sipped mango nectar from a bottle via a straw. It was thick and sweet and perfect for the sunny weather outside, and seemed to work well with little, decadent mouthfuls of a Red Velvet cupcake I was enjoying. I’d been off sweets since Connecticut—hadn’t wanted to see another cookie to save my life, but this morning, after a three-mile power walk, I’d dropped by Suzee-Sooz’s Cupcake Houz and bought the sinfully delicious treat that was nearly the size of a soccer ball. (Okay, a bit of an exaggeration, but not by much.)

“Hey you.” The door opened with a bang.

“Hey yourself and watch it. I don’t want to buy a new door, thank you,” I groused, watching Rey all but dance into the small L-shaped living room, Linda in tow.

Both were dressed in the same Chip & Pepper jeans and similar Aloha shirts. While Linda sported colorful Converse runners, Rey wore strappy sandals. I half expected them to have the same polish on their toes and fingers. Maybe they’d both been deprived of high school friendships and were making up for missed girly-girl BFF moments.

I looked back at the shirts. Hawaiian wasn’t Rey or Linda’s usual taste. Oh-oh.

“What’s up ladies?” I asked suspiciously, putting my drink aside but keeping the cupcake on my lap. I suspected I’d be needing sugar-enhanced comfort momentarily.

Linda closed the door and followed Rey. They leaned into the kitchen counter comprised of pretty pale blue and dusty rose ceramic tiles. I liked the cozy, bright kitchen, but why did I suddenly suspect I’d not be enjoying it for long?

Rey moved into melodramatic mode. “The licensing requirements to become private eyes in California are tough.”

“We’d don’t have the qualifications or background,” Linda affirmed.

Oddly, neither looked deflated or upset. I smiled dryly and said nothing.

“I know, you’re thinking that our detecting days are over before they’ve even begun.”

Not really, but I eyed Rey expectantly.

“They’re not!” she announced gleefully, hanging an arm around her friend’s shoulders. “Guess what?”

“I couldn’t even begin to,” I responded wryly, gazing from one to the other.

Rey grinned. “We’re going to become…”

“Hawaiian P.I.s!” Linda finished with a jubilant grin.

“Pack your bags, Jilly!”

The Red Velvet cupcake caught Rey in the middle of the forehead.

An index finger sporting neon blue polish removed some of the frosting clinging to her brow. She licked it and smiled. “Delicious. Mahalo.”

Should all go well, Forever Poi will be available around the beginning of August.

Aloha, my friends.


Moody? Me?

While more components re editing fiction could certainly be covered, I’m going to tuck away the teacher’s cap for a wee while.  Here’s one last [short and hopefully sweet] post: mood.

mood = attitude = disposition = state/frame of mind

Mood doesn’t relate solely to people, but also to literature (as well as other arts).  It establishes the general emotion of a story: every scene has its own specific feel and each one can certainly be different.

Depending on the storyline, to create friction and suspense, have various junctures where mood swings in one direction and then the other.  But don’t make those swings willy-nilly or you may have readers going “huh?” as they briskly scratch their heads.  Bear in mind: mood changes have to be logical and occur for a reason.

Mood, either positive or negative, can be used to describe someone’s emotions, how he/she feels.  It can also depict ambiance—of many people (group, team, organization), places and locations, and historical times and settings.

Many people:  Utilize mood to reveal how a group or crowd of people “feel”.  If a tense and angry political protest is occurring, the atmosphere might be depicted as anxious, fearful, or contentious (among other things).  Remember that phrase “mass hysteria”?  It could truly be “mass [anything]”, depending on what’s transpiring.

Places and locations:  Depending on the place and location, mood could be anything from serene and calming to frightening and upsetting.  A July 4th picnic in the park might prove pleasurable and relaxing while a coastline being hit with a Category 3 hurricane could be terrifying and traumatic.  Provide strong and clear imagery to paint an intense, graphic picture for readers so they receive a strong (powerful) sense and feel for all that’s taking placing.

Historical times and settings:  When you’re writing in a particular period, detail the temperament and attitude of people given the incidents, norms and philosophies of the times.  Anyone living in Europe during WWII, for example, would likely be apprehensive, worried, fretful, and fearful.  Potential world domination by a crazed zealot, never mind resulting atrocities, would certainly horrify and panic people.  The mood: somber and grim.

Because descriptions and words will create moods/ambiances, use both consciously.  Smells and sounds and visuals enhance all components (such as characters, dialog, and scenes), so utilize them appropriately.  Paint.  Create.  Show.

Mood is also a feeling in readers; it’s what a reader experiences or perceives.  It’s how you, as the writer, present the plot/storyline.  You establish a tone, which is the attitude of the narrator or POV character toward actions and events, and other characters—a-ha (!), another [future] post—and that tone, in turn, evokes mood.

Moods are countless.  You probably don’t need a list, but here are several that might serve as food for thought:

♦  happy   ♦  optimistic   ♦  funny / witty   ♦  idealistic   ♦  tranquil   ♦  resigned   ♦  downcast   ♦  delighted   ♦  appreciative   ♦  amorous   ♦  excited   ♦  relaxed   ♦  sad   ♦  dark   ♦  inexplicable   ♦  chaotic / frenetic   ♦  gloomy   ♦  pessimistic   ♦  agitated   ♦  bizarre  ♦  bitter   ♦  sour   ♦  resentful   ♦  cynical   ♦  sulky.  weekendblog

When editing, ensure moods are clear, suitable for the circumstances and characters, and serve the purpose for which you intended.

À bientôt, mes amis.

Need Me Some Inspiration

Almost there, almost done.  Today’s editing post is about motivation—what inspires and impels characters.

Once the draft is completed and you’re looking to review and edit, assess your characters more closely.  Our aim as writers is to draw readers into our stories, captivate them, and hold them throughout.  Solid character motivations will help do that.  When readers can empathize—i.e. understand what characters are going through—they’ll root for them and/or yearn to learn what transpires.

Do characters have personal motivation(s)?  Upbringing, pasts and experiences—and personalities—will affect morals and principles.  These, in turn, will influence decisions and ambitions, actions and reactions.  Characters [like us real-life folks] have reasons for doing what they do.

What about a baddie?  He/she has personal motivations, too.  In mysteries and thrillers, it’s often depicted as a desire for money (greed) and/or power (rational or irrational).  A baddie could be insane—but how did that madness come to be and how does it spur him/her into [crazed] action?

The ultimate question is why?  Why does a character do what he/she does . . .  why he/she pursues a quest, mission, goal . . . why he/she is seeking a certain outcome?

Someone from a rich family may have a fear of losing wealth; as such, he/she is driven (motivated) to ensuring that money is never an issue, no matter what it takes.  If he/she has to crush toes, set someone up to take a fall, or stab someone in the back, so be it.  Someone from a poor, broken home may feel a need to support others from a similar background; as such, he/she is driven (motivated) to assist, by volunteering, working for social services, belonging to the Church, or whatever source he/she deems worthwhile.

Is the motivation logical/believable?  Providing character background enables the reader to comprehend what motivates a character.

Being born with a silver spoon in the mouth could make Charles a benevolent, kind soul who aspires to help those less fortunate.  On the flip side, it could make Anton believe he’s entitled—to everything.  As such, he’s self-centered and goal-driven, and will walk over everyone and anyone who gets in his way.  Nothing wrong with basic scenarios.  But consider building on them.  Maybe Charles saw his father browbeat servants and workers.  Maybe Anton had a mollycoddling mother.  Maybe Charles traveled to a third-world country with his father in his teens and received his first taste of poverty.  This resulted in an overwhelming desire to abet people in need.  Maybe Anton traveled to a third-world country with his parents and was so overwhelmed, he decided he’d never lack for anything.

You don’t have to explain character motivations in exhaustive detail, but provide some particulars as to what pushes them; this will help readers understand what makes them tick and why the storyline is progressing the way it is.


Could motivation be unreasonable or absurd?  Sometimes characters are driven by things (experiences, events, phobias) that aren’t always logical or obvious.  From time to time, they’re impulsive, even reckless: they act out or do something that they may not normally do, given the event or scenario.  Play upon this to make that plot more intriguing and unpredictable.

Motivation could develop or change with the storyline.  In real life, our motives change with time or as an action/event occurs; why not have someone’s motivation transform courtesy of an unexpected plot twist or two?  Make them multifaceted or convoluted to add tension and edginess.

Motivation could be physical.  Perhaps your character is stranded in dense brush or on a deserted island.  Suddenly, he/she is compelled to find food and water, safety and shelter.  The loss of a home during a hurricane may result in the goal of seeking finances and/or a new location to start over.  Self-protection might provide impetus when a tough-assed thug confronts a character, knife in hand.

Consider the following when doing your edit:

  • Do your characters’ motivations show who they are?
  • Have you provided details as to where the motivations stem from (the “why”)?
  • Is motivation relevant to all of the main character(s)?  How is it different in secondary characters from that of main character(s)?
  • Do characters develop and/or learn as the plot progresses and, as such, do aims/purposes change?

Motivation could be singular throughout the story, depending on the plot.  If it is, that’s fine.  It can still change a character (he/she realizes something astounding, sees something new within, becomes softer or harder or vengeful).  Make that motivation clear early on and have at it: i.e. pull us in.  If you opt for multiple [changing] motivations, ensure they’re logical—that they transpire because of events and actions (and resulting emotions and reactions).

Hopefully, this post has provided some . . . inspirational motivation.


He/She . . . Who?

We’re nearly done with editing posts . . . just a couple more.  Today, we’re looking at fiction characters.

You do it, I do it—read fiction to escape.  But we can only escape if the characters and storyline/plot are appealing, exciting, fascinating, curious, attention-grabbing, ________________ (you fill in the blank).

As a mystery writer, I’m inclined to stick with this genre.  I love it.  And I love series with characters I’m drawn to [and root for]—like Alex Delaware and Stephanie Plum.

Our characters need to be believable, real, even if they lean toward crazy and/or over the top.  As such, we need to ensure we describe them well—not simply their appearances, but their likes and dislikes, actions and reactions, history and background.  Characters need to come to life on the page or screen.

After the completion of the first/second draft, we should have a good idea of what makes our characters tick.  If unsure, go back.

As you review each scene, contemplate the characters.  Maybe there’s only one carrying the scene, providing a narrative summation of an event or incident (check out the post re Point of View).  Maybe there are two, maybe more.  Regardless of count, make certain that he/she/they are serving a bona-fide purpose: i.e. creating friction and tension and/or progressing the plot.

Expose your characters through dialog, actions and reactions.  How they speak (nuances, accents, grammar) and function (act, work, behave) reveals a lot.  Provide idiosyncrasies and habits to make them seem lifelike and not clichéd or mechanical.

Back when, I shared how I keep tabs when creating my Triple Threat Investigation Agency stories.  I have a scene record and a character chart; in the latter, I literally log all details:

⇒  name   ⇒  age   ⇒  appearance (including scars, tatts, and so forth)   ⇒  family history; background   ⇒  likes and dislikes   ⇒  quirks   ⇒  hobbies   ⇒  habits    ⇒  favorite expressions   ⇒  significant moments or happenings (an occurrence in one book may later affect one in another book).

A character chart is good to have on hand, especially if you’re doing a series.  Variety is the spice of life, but consistency demonstrates professionalism (you don’t want Jake having grass-green eyes in one book and mud-brown in another, or having Bob love cats early on and later kicking one because he hates them).

When you’re editing and focusing on characters, consider the following:  blog3

  • Are characters believable and appealing enough to have readers want to continue reading?
  • Are they all motivated or driven?
  • Do they have weaknesses, fears, phobias?
  • Are characters different, distinctive?
  • Are goals and quests evident?
  • Do some have secrets and/or fervent views and opinions?
  • Does something shocking or life-changing happen to change one, or more?
  • Do secondary characters serving bona-fide purposes (or are they there for “decoration”)?
  • Are villains despicable enough to provide tension and friction, and challenges?
  • Do characters suit the genre, setting/location, and era?

Characters shouldn’t be flat or unspectacular.  Like scenes, they need to be painted with vibrancy . . . they need to be watered and nurtured like plants.  Readers need to see them, to feel for and with them.  To accomplish this, you truly do need to know your characters—and know them well.   wateringplant2

Remember, life is all about growing and developing.  We do.  So should your characters.

Setting the Setting

How about a look-see at settings today, given we touched upon scenes in the last editing post?

Setting relates to time and location/place in fiction—the “milieu” in which a tale transpires.  There can be ethnic, political, and communal components, as well as mood or ambiance.  Setting can be very specific (year and city) or it can be descriptive (a dilapidated warehouse on an industrial waterfront).

Settings can be a major facet of the story or merely serve as background, and whatever your choice, use description, dialog, actions and reactions to help establish it. wppic1

Don’t shy away from using setting as a conflict for your plot/storyline—a place could provide friction and tension given what is happening there at the time (a flood or earthquake) or serve as a source of obstruction (lack of people or resources during dire moments).

Example:  Despite the excruciating pain, Ted shakily tied another strip of cloth around his bleeding leg.  The nearest cottage was two miles away, through dense woodland.  To boot, heavy wet snow was falling more intensely now.  Could his young brother, Jason, make it safely there and back?

Time: the duration [of time] a story spans or the actual period (22nd century, Dark Ages, 1950s).

Ethnic, political and communal components may affect characters in different ways, considering the era, perceptions and sentiments.

A dark rainy night will impart a different impression or feeling than a bright sunny day.  An incident at Easter may be perceived differently than one occurring at Halloween.  Give thought to what sort of emotions you’d like to invoke in your readers and how you might do that through various and varying time factors.  Think about time passing by, running out, seemingly [or truly] standing still.

Don’t forget symbolic connotations: a sunrise can signify birth or rebirth; a brilliant sun and sky might represent hope or success (a positive factor); night could symbolize something mysterious or perilous, or unknown.

Example AKnowing the robbers were close behind, John anxiously rode along the raging river.  Jamestown wasn’t far off.  Hopefully, everything there was all right, given the unsavory group who’d visited last month.

Example BKnowing the stage-robbers were close behind, John anxiously urged his mount along the raging river.  Jamestown wasn’t far off, but who knew what he’d find there, given the vicious band of civil-war renegades who’d ridden through last month—then returned.

Location/place: where the story is set, such as a country or state, city or town, neighborhood or woodland, or even an alternative world.

While the location can be fictional—like planet Xaltoxon3B—it still needs to smack of realism.  Give thought as to how you “paint” that setting.   Add famous buildings and popular parks, lakes and rivers, celebrations (some towns have decades-old fairs and parades), distinctive culinary delights.

When a setting takes place in a particular country or historical period, remember that there are language nuances, traditional dress and/or uniforms, never mind different modes of travel (to name but a few).

Do your due diligence—get to know the location(s) and place(s) you’re writing about, even if they’re truly fictional (envision them).

Example ALarry and Jeena ambled along the park in the cool weather, feeding ducks and squirrels.  They stopped to watch a group of excited tourists take countless photos.

Example BEmbracing the brisk March weather, Larry and Jeena ambled along the Boston Common, feeding ever-hungry ducks and scampering squirrels.  Amused by eager tourists taking photos by the Soldiers and Sailors Monument, they decided to stop and offer local history.

Mood/ambiance/atmosphere: a feeling the story aims to convey (dark and mysterious, animated and fun, sad and forlorn).

Express mood through all features—narrative, dialog, actions and reactions.

Exterior factors—such as weather and climate, season and temperature—can influence events and incidents, and characters’ feelings or outlooks.  Christmas, for example, would normally be a happy time . . . unless your character had an exceptionally bad experience one year.  Nothing like adding twists and turns and flips to affect mood and/or add emotion (like excitement or tension).

Show, don’t tell.  Be descriptive, but not overly so that you create that snoozzze effect.  Provide details through dialog, too.  Mix it up.

Descriptions and details will give life to your settings.  Be vivid.  Ensure they’re clear, convincing and credible (even if they’re not real).

Example AWhistling, Johnny walked along the traffic-heavy street and nodded to passersby on his way home.

Example BWhistling a 90s boy-band song, Johnny sauntered along a litter-lined Brooklyn street and nodded to passersby scurrying to get out of the December cold.  Droning traffic and raucous music from various clubs and shops wouldn’t dampen his mood.  He could smell the cream-heavy mac-n-cheese and feel the cheer waiting at home.

Consider adding smells, sights, sounds, and tastes.  You can be subtle or calculated, detailed or vague—but ensure your “place” enables the story/plot to bloom and blossom.  As the artist, you have a vast canvas–the page.  Have at it, my friends. blogpostwed

Thank You, Jay!

I’d like to once again thank author (Watching Glass Shatter, Father Figure) and blogger James J. Cudney—Jay—for the review of The Connecticut Corpse Caper.  The first in the Triple Threat Investigation Agency series, it was originally written as a stand-alone cozy.  But the gals—JJ, Rey, and Linda—decided they wanted P.I. careers (in Hawaii, no less) and the rest, as the saying goes, is history.

Please check out This is My Truth Now, his awesome blog.  You’ll find insightful posts, book reviews, personal adventures and bucket lists, among other things.  And if you’re looking for some good reads, I wholeheartedly suggest Watching Glass Shatter and Father Figure.  You won’t be disappointed.

As stated in my FB post, he’s personable and sweet, and incredibly approachable.  I’m very thankful our paths crossed.