Tag Archives: story writing

Don’t Neglect the Background Characters

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“Are you ready to rock! Umm…Hello?”

Introduction

You’ve developed your plot, you have your characters ready to go, you’re secondary characters are standing in the wings, and your settings are all created. As you write your story, you feel like something is missing. Or rather, someone is missing. In the movie industry they are known as “extras”.

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“Wait, where are the others?”

When I wrote The Askinar Towers trilogy I neglected background characters in most of the story. Yes, there were also patrons in the Floor 17 Café as I had mentioned them; there were other citizens of the town of Rising Falls and the village of Greenblade Valley. But what I seriously overlooked were the people inside the towers themselves. Four towers are featured with a hundred floors in each, all-glass walkways that connect the towers, and elevators in each tower. Yet when my main characters went from one floor to the next or crossed the walkways, they didn’t pass anyone!

Oftentimes when we are writing our story we focus on our MC (Main Character), the supporting characters, the setting, and the plot itself. We overlook those bit players who round out the story. Even if none of them have names, there should be people present in various scenes. Just because your MC and his companions are driving from Phoenix to Tucson always keep in mind that there are others on the road with him.

 

“He was there, here’s further proof”

In book 1, Nexus of the Worlds, my characters are being chased by someone they refer to as the Robed Figure. Nothing could be seen of this individual; no hands, feet, or face. By the end of book 1 they learn that it he is a shapeshifter who prefers the nonhuman disguise of a raven.

In book 2 my characters find themselves in 1970s Washington D.C. in time for the presidential inauguration. The climax of the scene is on stage when not one but three people who look like President-elect William Franklin. The characters conclude that one of the three was the shapeshifter and to create further proof, I added the following scene…

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As the crowd departed from the steps of the Capitol building, a worried mother was trying to drag her daughter back to the car. “I’m tired of your little games,” she said.

“But, I swear mamma!” cried the little girl. “I saw the president turn into a large black bird and fly away!”

“You’ve been out in the cold too long,” the mother said. “We need to get you indoors.”

 

From this scene, featuring two extras, we see additional proof that one of the three presidents was indeed the shapeshifter. It may not have been necessary, but it added a little humor to an otherwise intense scene.

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“You mentioned them in book 1, where are they?”

In Vol. 2 of “Happy to Serve”, my current WIP (Work In Progress), the Floor 17 Café provides live entertainment sometimes on the weekend. At the very end of book 1, the maître D and new owner, Maurice announced that they were going to feature one 4th year student from the Academy of the Seven Spires each month to entertain and help them improve their skills and get them a gig or two to mention on their resume or letter of introduction.

I wrote the first draft of Vol. 2 last November and shelved the project for several months to attempt other writings. When I started to look over book 1 and then moved on to book 2 I got the motivation to continue the work. It was then that I noticed the omission of those 4th year students. I featured another guy, Vincent Singer, who was a 4th year student and then graduated, but I forgot what Maurice announced.

I created two new characters to fill this idea and even though they have names and bard skills, they are nothing more than background characters because they will be mentioned but not necessarily seen. That is where background characters can play a special role. Not only do you have a performer come in but you’ll have more characters in the scene to watch that performer. Perhaps one of them is an owner of another tavern who wants to book that singer for his own place. Maybe the singer’s mother is there and is upset because she believes her child is wasting her time performing when he should be on the farm helping with the chores. And so on.

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Three Simple Words and other suggestions

One of the easiest ways to get your readers to understand that there are others present in your scene is a simple phrase like, the crowd roared. Three simple words to let the reader know that your characters aren’t the only ones present. Whether they are in a stadium or a theater, this phrase will serve as a simple reminder that extras are present.

In Happy to Serve, the entire book is a series of blog posts from Chuck the Waiter. As entertaining as the characters and the storylines were I always felt something was missing. When I looked at real blogs a great idea hit me. I needed a comments section to have characters make reference to the post. In addition to the standard characters in the Floor 17 Café, I created a series of others who weren’t necessarily patrons but who worked in one of the towers and faithfully followed Chuck’s blog. I had Brenda the librarian who had trouble getting away from her work to visit; Teven, a Money Exchange teller who worked for the Askinar Towers Bank and Money Exchange; and a person known only as KittyKat98. She started out as a fan and by the end of the book she became an obsessive stalker. She will go on to appear in book 2 as the villain.

Some ideas for your own background characters would be: a guy who’s car broke down on the side of the road and is fixing a flat or talking to the tow truck driver, a mother coming out of a grocery store with a full cart and two crying children holding on to her jacket, a funeral procession going through as your MC is waiting at an intersection, a group of construction men taking a short break on the side of freeway.

As stated before, these characters don’t need names, and don’t necessarily need to speak, but their presence lends to the setting and prove that your MC and his companions aren’t the only ones present.

 

 Conclusion

For further ideas and suggestions of background characters, check out the Urban and Rural setting Thesauruses by Becca Puglisi and Angela Ackerman. We’ll look at improving your settings in a future article. What do you do to create background characters? Is there a phrase you use or have read that instantly signifies people? Share with me what you’ve used in the comments section below.

Happy Adventuring!

Chris

 

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Building Your Town ~WB2

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(World-building, part 2)

 Introduction

In our previous article we looked at an overview of World Building and some of the problems that I personally had with it. Grant it, you don’t have to include everything you read about in your world but at least have an idea how something works so that if a storyline comes along that would feature that portion of the world, you’d know how to handle it.

In this article we look at creating a town and what is necessary for it to function and I’ll share hardships of the first town I created. I’ll be using the word “locale” for an overall use of the setting. The population listed in each is my own guesstimation. I’m sure everyone has their own idea of how many people reside in each size of a locale. These descriptions are for a Fantasy or Medieval setting.

 

Village, Town, City

Before building, you must decide how large of an area you are creating. There are three basic sizes of locales: A Village, A Town, and A City. There are additional sizes but these three will suffice for the purpose of this article.

Village

Village

            A village consists of approximately 50 people and, depending on your story will have a larger town or city nearby. Villages will not have all of the amenities that are found in the larger towns; and most likely will not have any kind of elected official or mayor. Depending on your story, you might select someone to serve as Matron or Patron of the village which could be the eldest member of the village. It could also be the one with the most knowledge of the village or area in general.

Usually a village will have that country feel to it; featuring farmland, orchards, and a fishing hole. A fishing village will be near a large body of water with fishing as its main line of business. Not every village will feature standalone shops for people to purchase items. A shop generally is someone’s home where the business is conducted in the front room (with the family living in the back) or on the first floor (with the family living above).

 Town

Town

A town consists of approximately 500 people and is mostly self-sufficient. A town will have either a mayor as an elected official or a town council; sometimes both. Aside from having more people, a town will feature several businesses and even have a residential section. A town will also house a couple of guilds where people from villages, farms, and the general area can come in for meetings. A guild is an organization of people with similar interests. A Merchant’s guild will feature a place for all shopkeepers to get together and discuss the latest news and suggestions for improving business. I’ll feature guilds in another article.

City

City

A city is the largest of the three and usually has towns and/or villages nearby as suburbs. A city consists of 1500-2000 people and will feature a ruler such as a king or governor. A city council might also be included, plus law enforcement; city guards, possibly a night watch, and soldiers from the castle.

A city will also have various districts which make it more of a “melting pot” of citizens. You’ll have your residential sections of: Wealthy (merchants, royalty, etc.), the Working Class (bartenders, laborers, and families), and the Lower Class (thieves, outcasts, etc.)

The advantage of a city is that you have several businesses that feature the same service thereby bringing a little friendly competition or that they cater to certain individuals. For example, I have a tavern called Noblemen’s which caters to the upper class of a city. On the flipside, there is a tavern called The Hangman’s Noose which caters to a seedier clientele. And right in between, I have a tavern called, Quenchers which caters to the rest.

 

Business Suggestions

As you can see all three locales vary in size and naturally won’t house all businesses that are available. The smaller the locale, the fewer the businesses; or specialty shops that you would find in a bigger town. Here are some suggestions of businesses that can be featured in all three regardless of size.

Church

Church

There should be some sort of religious facility that people can come and worship. It can be a proper church building, temple, or a simple garden grove with a shrine. Even farmers and dairy owners would want to pay homage to a god of nature for crops or health of cattle.

Tavern

Tavern or Common Room

No locale would complete without at least one watering hole. This is usually the location where everyone will gather in the evening to socialize with their neighbors. A common room is more of pre-restaurant idea that centers on food service and less on alcohol. Some places will have both a tavern and a common room in the same building.

Healer

Healer

Call him a shaman, priest, or simply the local healer; a locale should have someone who can tend to those who are sick and in need of medicine. In a village, it would most likely be the Matron of the place; in a town, an apothecary (pharmacy) might be available; and a city would have all of these and possibly a hospital.

Some might ask why would a village have both a healer and a church? I mean afterall a priest is a healer, right? Correct! However, there might be people in the village that aren’t comfortable in dealing with a priest; especially if they are not of the same faith. A farmer with an axe wound would not want to listen to a priest attempt to convert him while healing him. This could make for an interesting conflict in the story too.

There are many other business ideas and I’ll provide links at the end for further help.

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This Town ain’t Big Enough

One of my earliest experiences as a DM (Dungeon Master) I created my first town called Tsangu. Don’t know where I came up with the name but I wanted some strange and Fantasylike. Anyways my first concept was that of a one-street Western Town; buildings on both sides of the street (maybe an alleyway between buildings) but nothing more. I wasn’t too familiar with towns and this came long before the internet was around. I don’t recall any of the names of the businesses except for one and it was called Nuthin’ for Sumthin’. It was a front for the local thieves’ guild and the business they ran was for looks and not for profit. The prices were outrageous as they weren’t expecting customers.

Since then I have slowly improved in designing towns and villages but that’s been possible with the help of the internet and mapping programs. For my current project, DWC, the main locale is the village called Caldera Falls. I have a few ideas of what is featured but haven’t quite worked out everything yet. The neighboring city is called, Ciudad (Spanish for ‘city’).

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What about a Shantytown?

Finally, I want to discuss a possibility for you that might help with story ideas. A shantytown is worse than the seedier district of a city. Shantytowns are instant locales that are created with a series of people and tents or wooden shacks. If you have a group of people who are suddenly homeless due to war or disease, they become a band of refugees who own whatever they can carry.

A local town can provide tents or scrap pieces of wood or cloth to help construct places to live. Food is whatever is brought with them or given by the locals and sanitary needs are virtually unheard of. This setting can help you to hide a thief who is on the run from the law, created sudden robberies in town, or create problems due to traditions or language barriers of the foreigners.

 

Conclusion

In my next article we’ll continue the discussion of town building and look at what the focal point is for your setting. Plus, I’ll make suggestions for some towns that you might haven’t thought of. In the meantime, share with me any of your problems you’ve had in creating towns or comments you might have in businesses you’d add.

 

Happy Adventuring!

Chris

Featured links for further assistance

DMG II (Dungeon Master’s Guide 2): This free PDF of the manual can help you in your creation. Chapter 3 gives you an idea of how to create a fantasy city including tables from which you can choose professions and trades for characters. Chapter 4 is about an old D & D city called Saltmarsh. This gives you all of the details of this town and you can get an idea of what you want to create.

AD&D 2nd Edition: (*Sorry for the nudity on the front cover*)This collection of 26 books holds every type of book a gamer could want plus valuable information for the writer. In the DMG, chapter 6 covers money and equipment which will give an idea of how much things costs and of what value certain item are.

 

 

Characters: What’s in a Name?

“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” ~William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet Act II, Scene II

 

Introduction

Sometimes one of the more difficult challenges for a writer is naming their characters. They want something that will define who they are, as a person, but also to make them stand apart from everyday people in real life. This week we’ll look at advice on naming your characters and where to look for ideas.

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Life Imitates Art

Regardless of how careful you are in selecting your character’s name, there is also a slight chance that someone in the real world has that very same name. One of the best examples I can think of is the American version of the 1954 movie, Godzilla, King of the Monsters. They brought in Raymond Burr to play news reporter, Steve Martin. Twenty plus years later, a young actor/comedian came onto the scene named, Steve Martin.

Naturally this is a coincidence and, just for the record, Steve Martin was born in 1945. I’m sure this never caused problems in general for Mr. Martin until, maybe, Godzilla 1985 arrived which was to be a direct sequel to the ’54 movie. Raymond Burr, once again, reprises his role as Steve Martin. By this time the comedian has gotten a foothold in Hollywood and perhaps some found it confusing to hear that the bearded Mr. Burr was playing, “Steve Martin”.

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Cast of Joss Whedon’s “Firefly” TV series. Courtesy of Wiki Commons.

Fantasy/Sci-Fi Names

Of course if you’re writing the Fantasy genre or even Science Fiction, there’s a slim to no chance that your characters will be the names of real people. People might name their children after your characters, which isn’t new, but it could be very flattering. On the other hand, no one would want to go to school with a classmate named Voldemort.

To use the TV series, Firefly as an example, there is always a possibility that there might be someone named Malcolm Reynolds or Kaylee Frye, but a slimmer chance with the names Hoban Washburne and Inara Serra. As we head further into our own future, some of these names will be as common as Joe Smith and Bob Jones.

 

How original should I be?

Speaking of Joe Smith and Bob Jones, some writers might ask, “How do I create original character names without being obvious?” The answer to this question varies based on the decisions of the author. If you’re writing a fictional story that takes place in our world and our time, you’re going to run into plain names such as Joe and Bob. To make them unique you can always add a middle name, a numeral; to show his name is passed down from generation to generation, or give him a nickname.

Character names are can be based on a region that he is born. For example, you won’t find many people in America named ‘Colin’ or ‘Basil’ but in Great Britain, the names are as common as George or Fred.

The same works in Fantasy settings; a character’s name might have more vowels in it, like natives of Hawaii, if they live in the Northern Territory; or they might have a similar prefix or suffix to their name to denote that they are slaves from The Wasteland.

My overall advice is to keep the names easy to pronounce and easy to remember. I read where one Fantasy author provided a pronunciation guide to go along with the book so you can properly pronounce the characters names. If you have to do this, I would recommend renaming the characters. The last thing I want to do is refer to another book just to know how to pronounce their names. I’ll give up the book long before chapter 2 in that instance.

In my own writings I have two characters whose names seem long and difficult but they’re pronounced the way they are written. One is a dwarf named, Pendergrass Snickersnee; and the other is a gnome-like character named, Finnbiddle Pilwicket.

Both look difficult at the first appearance but they are pronounced as they are written. So you see you can have Fantasy or Sci-Fi names that appear complicated but are easy to pronounce. If that’s not enough, you can always shorten a name to give him a nickname. I refer to Finnbiddle simply as Finn.

 

How do I choose names?

There are a variety of ways to choose names for your characters. Here’s an article from fellow author, Chris Andrews, and how he chooses names.

Name generators found on the internet are a great way to create names for Fantasy and/or Sci-Fi characters. I’ll post the links at the bottom of this article.

If you’re looking to name a character based on a certain meaning or a certain word, you can use 20,000 Names website. They have ethnic names from different parts of the world; both male and female, and the meanings of each name.

For example my character Ravenkeep in book 3 of The Askinar Towers trilogy has a pirate ship named, The Malandra. I found the word at this website and here is the meaning…

MALANDRA: Modern English compound name composed of Mal- (“dark, black”) from Malinda, and Sandra “defender of mankind.”

As you can see the word is a form of the color, Black which is also the color of the ship.

If you work a day job in addition to being a writer, sometimes they will put out a company magazine every month. Usually they’ll list names of employees how have been with the company for a number of years based on the state they work in. This is a great way to take someone’s first name and combine it with someone’s last name to create a new name for a character. In book 3, The Reverend Edward Hardwick was named after two employees of the company. I keep a stack of magazines on hand when I need to name a character and don’t always have access to the internet.

Conclusion

Try and be as original with your character’s names but not too original that it seems obvious or difficult that you have to put out a pronunciation guide. Try not to make it a huge chore either. As you’re working on your first draft, if you can’t come up with a name simply insert something (anything) as a marker then you can come back and replace it at a later time once you’ve had the chance to think about it.

How do you come up with names for your characters? Do you use generators? Names of friends? Or do they come to you in dreams? Share your experience in the comments below.

Happy Adventuring!

Chris

Here are some of my favorite name generator sites:

Seventh Sanctum: Characters Seventh Sanctum has a wide variety of name generators.

The Real Mormon Name Generator (Rum and Monkey) No disrespect but this puts out some great names that would be perfect for Fantasy stories.

Fake Name Generator This is for mainstream fiction. This not only gives you a random name but a street address, city, state, zip, birthdate, Mother’s maiden name, etc.

The Askinar Towers: Flash Fiction No. 5

Once again I am sharing some flash fiction that I wrote featuring a new character and taking place in book 2, “Sibling Rivalry”. If this were an actual part of the story it would take place towards the end of chapter 9. Enjoy and, as always, comments are welcomed!

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Edna’s Day Out

Edna Carlisle gathered up her things as she prepared to go down to the Askinar Towers Postal Service on Floor 10 in the Tower of Air. Her husband, Lester, was watering the plants in the apartment and then he was headed up to the Floor 68 Public Park to play checkers with his friend.

“Lester, are you sure you don’t want to come with me?” she asked him.

“Stand in line for an hour just to deliver two letters? No thank you,” he replied.

“The service is getting better. I was only in line for forty-five minutes last time.”

“A whole fifteen minutes less? I’ll call the radio station and have them broadcast it.”

“You don’t need to be snippy with me. I’d rather have someone to talk to while I’m waiting.”

“And I was your first choice? I’m flattered!” said Lester.

“Actually none of the ladies were available; I’ve already asked. You’re my last resort.”

“Isn’t that what you said on our wedding day?” he mumbled as he entered the kitchen.

“I didn’t hear what you said,” said Edna.

“Have a great day, my love!” he called out.

She left the apartment, walked down the hallway, and pressed the down button at the elevator. She only had to wait a couple of minutes before the doors open. She heard a door slam further down the hall as she got on board and a voice called out,

“Hold the elevator, please!”

Edna held the doors opened as a man in a white doctor’s coat appeared and entered the car.

“Thank you,” he said as he pushed the button for ‘16’. “What floor please?”

“Floor 10, the Askinar Tower Postal Service,” she replied looking at the young man. He pushed a button, the doors closed and the elevator descended.

“Are you by chance a doctor?” Edna asked.

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“Yes. Dr. Medulla at your service,” he said with a graceful bow. “I was making a house call on one Petunia Mayfair. She’s been suffering great headaches.”

“Poor little thing,” said Edna. “She’s tried everything to get rid of the pain. What did you prescribe?”

“Nothing. I simply removed the Altairian Brain Eater from the back of her head. She couldn’t see it because it was half burrowed into her skull. Its skin matched the color of her hair.”

“Brain eater? Oh, doctor your putting me on!”

Dr. Medulla appeared as if he going to correct her but decided it would be simpler not to tell her the truth.

“You’re right,” he said, “just a little doctor humor. I simply gave her a neck adjustment and the pain went away.”

The elevator arrived at Floor 16 and the doctor hurried off. The doors closed and resumed its travel to Floor 8.

“A brain eater? Land sakes, what these quack doctors will say to get more money out of you.” Edna was unaware that she was going to the wrong floor.

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At Floor 8 the doors opened to the Celestial Post Office on Space Station Minerva. Edna slowly stepped off the elevator assuming she was on the right floor. ‘They must have redecorated recently,’ she thought.

She stood in line behind a couple of people waiting to talk to a large creature covered in blue fur. For some reason she could smell pine cones but didn’t know why. To the left she noticed a young couple at the complaints window talking to a man in a three-piece suit. Everything seemed normal to her except for the blue creature.

“Next,” called the creature.

She looked over to her right and saw a bar called the Cosmic Parlor.

“Next,” called the creature.

Edna shook her head in disapproval. ‘Drawing the younger crowd to the post office with the allure of drink. I’ll have a word with the manager about this!’

“NEXT!” the creature bellowed.

Edna looked and saw no one in front of her. She walked briskly up to the blue creature behind the counter. She was about to protest when she realized the pine cone smell was coming off him, her, it. Edna placed the two letters on the counter. The creature snatched them into his paws and looked them over.

“These need to be processed through the Askinar Towers Postal Service,” he said. “Next!” The smell of pine cones became stronger.

“Just a minute, young man or whatever you are. I am in the Askinar Towers Postal Service and I want to you take care of these for me.”

“This is the Celestial Post Office on Floor 8 and although we process letters for the Askinar Towers, we can’t process these. You’ll have to take them up to Floor 10. Next!”

“What do you mean this is Floor 8? I asked the doctor to push Floor 10, that is what he did, and this is supposed to be the Askinar Towers Postal Service,” said Edna.

“Floor 8 is where you are. I don’t know any doctor who would push the wrong floor for you. You have to go up to Floor 10.”

“All of this is giving me a headache,” said Edna as she became lightheaded.

“You must have an Altairian Brain Eater attached. Come here!” He reached for her but Edna screamed, grabbed her letters, and then ran to the elevator.

Once inside she pushed the button for Floor 10, the doors closed, and the car ascended. She pulled out a small paper fan and frantically waved it in front of her.

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At Floor 10 the doors opened and she carefully entered the Askinar Towers Postal Service. A woman attired in pants suit walked up to her. “Good afternoon, do you need those letters processed?”

“What? Oh, yes!” Edna unclutched her hand and gave them to the woman. “Sorry about their condition, I just had a horrible experience.”

“You went to Floor 8 by mistake?” asked the woman.

“Yes, but how did you know?” asked Edna.

“You smell like pine cones. My husband, Larry, wears that cologne.”

“Your…husband?”

The doors behind her opened and the blue creature lumbered off towards Edna and the woman.

“Hi Honey, ready for lunch?’ He bent down and gave her a kiss as Edna crumpled to the floor in a faint.

 

            I hope you enjoyed today’s bit of flash fiction. Don’t forget to check out my trilogy, The Askinar Towers where stories like this take place.

 Until next time,

Happy Adventuring!

Chris

The Window of Opportunity

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Introduction

When Opportunity knocks I’m usually in the bathroom or at work and I’m almost always missing the visit. However last week, when it came along, I opened the window and shouted, “Don’t move I’ll be right there.”

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A Startling Announcement

On Wednesday I shocked my friends on Facebook that I was quitting writing for the time being as my books were going nowhere. However, this announcement was misunderstood as I didn’t announce it properly. I was getting comments about take a breather, sit back, and you can get going again. Only two or three people actually got the initial idea as I explained it further in the comments section.

What I meant was, since I no one was reading my books and reviewing them, I had nothing to gage my future writing on and therefore I thought, “What’s the point of continuing if no one will read them?” I have had a few sales of my stories but yet people tell me that they just don’t have time to read them. Really? My books aren’t that long or complicated. I have three short stories available that could be read in about twenty minutes or so.

 

What about Giveaways?

Yes, I have given my books away as a promotion for myself through other Facebook pages. The response I get from them is, “I have a lot of books on my reading list right now, but I’ll get to yours.” How many is ‘a lot’? I’m not trying to turn this post into a rant; I just want you to know the frustration I am feeling. Yes, I know all writers go through this. What irritates me the most is that I’ll support another author’s work; read and review it, but not receive the same in return. I get that you are too busy writing but how is it that you’re able to praise other writers’ works but not mine?

A New Opportunity

As I stated before I’m not giving up writing totally and to be honest I just couldn’t anyways. It’s a part of who I am. Even if I’m not writing things down on paper or on the laptop, I’m writing in my head. Since March 2016 I started writing poetry in conjunction with this site on Facebook called Peanut Butter and Poetry Jam. I was pointed out to me by a fellow writer and I decided to visit. I hadn’t written poetry since high school, about 30 years or so, and even then it was mostly sonnet-based verses.

The page is rather simple: an image is posted on Saturday and you have roughly until the following Wednesday to post a poem that was inspired by the image. From there it is voted on and the winner is announced on Thursday. My first attempt, The Green Blade Witch, actually got me the win. Not bad for being 30 years out of touch.

From then on the creativity that creates poetry was awaken within me and I participated almost every week. Then early last week I was told that the page had disappeared. I was heartbroken as I found something that, not only was I interested in doing, but something that could keep the writer in me writing. I contacted the administrator of that page and asked if one of us could take over. She and her associate were too busy to continue the page and so she handed it over to me! Thank you Opportunity!

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New Year, New Writing Possibilities

            With the new year beginning, this gave me the motivation to make new ideas come to life via the poetry page. So for now, this will be my muse for the next few months or so. I’ll still be working on my other projects; either by typing them on the laptop or just writing them in my head. But with this poetry page I want to turn things around for myself and head in an entirely new direction and see where this adventure will take me. I have have plans to publish a collection of poems that are Fanstasy-based and from there we’ll see where ‘the road not taken’ leads me.

Conclusion

Where is the New Year taking you? Are you on track in your writing life or has something occurred to encourage you to take another road? Feel free to comment and if you get the chance visit us on the poetry page over at Facebook!

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Happy Adventuring!

Chris

The Milestones of NaNoWriMo

 

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Sound the trumpets, the moment is here!

Introduction

As we closer to the time to begin our journey to 50K words, I thought I’d share some ideas of things you can do to help you to not only achieve the 50K words, but also to cross each word goal during the month. A variety of incentives to help you strive for those words each week.

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Start Your Engines

It’s Day 1 and the path to the end is clear. Well, it’s clear as far as the first day. As we stated before, sometimes real life can get in the way. Your first milestone is, of course, 1667 words. That’s how many words you need to write every day in order to accomplish the 30 Day trek. Now some of you Math Geeks will state that it is in fact 50,010 words long which it is but there’s nothing wrong with going over the amount.

Now you can celebrate your first days’ worth of work by having some chocolate or just getting up from the computer and share the news with your family. But the better thing to do is keep writing and strive for 5K so you have some padding when Life comes knocking on your door.

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5K Every 3 Days

This is the mantra I’d created to help us stay focused. This should be considered the first TRUE milestone as increments of 5K would be better suited as an accomplishment for your writing. Now would be a good time to get up from your seat and away from the computer for a bit. Go outside and walk down to your mailbox or, at the most, take a walk down to your local convenience store and grab a soda or coffee.

You can also take a moment to update you Facebook status to let your friends and family know that you’ve accomplished 5,000 words. In the long run this is a small amount but it is enough to create short story. Congrats and keep going!

☺ I just wrote 10,000 words! ♥

Congratulations you are 1/5 of the way there. This is quite an accomplishment for anyone who’s not a regular writer of stories. If you follow the mantra it should only be Day 6, or maybe Day 2 depending on how fast you are churning out the words. They say that Week 2 is the hardest on any NaNo participant as the excitement melts away and you realize that this is going to take longer than you thought.

People usually give up on their stories somewhere between Day 8 and Day 12 as the sense of reality hits them and they think, “What have I gotten myself into?” or “I don’t have time for this!” If this becomes a reality for you, just take a couple days off from writing altogether. Another thing you can do is strive to write just a paragraph a day until things readjust themselves.

To celebrate 10K, treat yourself to a couple of episodes of a TV series you missed to enter this challenge. I say a couple because, seriously, who can watch only one? Check in with your family making sure they are still alive and have food to sustain them. You might want to consider a shower if you haven’t done so yet this week.

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♫ 25K, I’m Halfway! ♫

You’re probably sitting there saying, “Wait, what happened to 15K and 20K?” That’s entirely up to you as you can do more of the same for the 10K and know that you’ve arrived at each milestone. I’m moving up to 25K as that is the halfway mark for this writing challenge.

25,000 words is quite an accomplishment! In my first NaNo, 25K was my intended goal for the 30 Days since I was new to the challenge. There is no shame in having this as your final goal especially if you find 50K to be daunting. Sure you “won’t win”, but you can see it as a personal victory and a self-satisfying achievement.

Day 15 is the halfway mark of the month and it’s just at the edge of the pending holiday season. Keep in mind that Thanksgiving falls on the 24th (2016) this year and that’s only 9 days away. Make plans to write accordingly so you don’t fall behind.

To reward yourself for the halfway mark, why not try a new restaurant that you heard about or actually take the time to cook a meal for the family rather than rely on those pre-made frozen dinners you created at the end of last month. Catch up with the family, make updates on your social media pages so people know you’re still alive, and overall, revel in the fact that you made it this far!

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Picture courtesy of NaNoWriMo.org website

35K-45K

For those of us who make it this far, we can actually see the finish line and it looks promising! At 35K you’re only 15,000 words away from completion; while at 45K, it’s only 5,000 words to the end. This is the time to rejuvenate your body for the final leg of the challenge.

Depending on how you’ve arranged things earlier in the month, you may be at this point before Thanksgiving or just after the day. If before, take the day off and celebrate with family knowing that in just a few more days you’ll have completed the challenge and can enjoy the remainder of the year. Help yourself to an extra piece of pie then get out and walk the neighborhood for a while. Take in the colors and smells of the season and primarily clear your head.

As the day comes to a close, jump back on the computer and write a couple more pages before bedtime. You can set up your story for the final push and utilize the whole next day to get there. Of course, if you have family staying with you, get up early and write as much as you can while the rest of the house is sleeping, and then plan to write more throughout the course of the day. Steal away to a local coffee shop and an hour or two, if you can, and keep writing. Just be wary of Mad Holiday Shoppers. That’s right, it’s Black Friday!

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The Finish Line—50,000 Words!!

Here we are at the finish line! You did it, you actually wrote a book and you can sit back and enjoy the feeling of stress melting away knowing that you completed the challenge. To reward yourself, take your family out to a fancy restaurant or a show you’ve been dying to see. Make an evening out of it and spend time with your family.

Apologize to everyone you may have offended during the month as you strive to reach the completion of this challenge. You may know it at the time but there are those who don’t understand why you’d subject yourself to such insanity. Don’t bother explaining it to them as they most likely will still not understand. However, you might invite them to the next challenge next year or if you do Camp NaNoWriMo, you can bring them along.

**Important Note** The Novel Validation (word counter) usually opens up on the 28th of November. Make sure if you use all 30 days that you give yourself enough time to get your novel officially validated so you can receive your certificate of achievement and earn that purple bar on your profile. It will close at Midnight and won’t be available to validate later on.

Conclusion

Now that you’ve completed the writing challenge, you can spend most of next month sleeping. Remember, this is only a rough draft and not a completed manuscript. If you took my advice about padding your story, you will want to remove those items. As we’ve stated in a previous article the reason so many people are against NaNoWriMo is that they assume that come December 1st people will be publishing their book…as is.

If you’ve shut off your “Inner Editor” during the month, I’m sure you’ve have tons on mistakes. This can be fixed during December, but personally I’d wait until January.

What do you do to reward yourself with each milestone completed? Share your comments below!

Happy Adventuring!

Chris

The Real Life Guide to NaNoWriMo

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Introduction

You manage to adjust your schedule at work, straighten out your daily routine at home, and even get your family to help out during your writing challenge. You’re all ready for NaNoWriMo when a knock comes at your door. It’s Life standing there and he has a box of new problems for you to add to November!

Whenever we seem ready to take on the writing challenge in November, Life always finds a way to come in and throw a wrench into the works. Here’s some advice to help you journey through the maze of November.

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The Family

One of the things you can do to really get your writing off the ground is to bring your family on board with your project. First and foremost, try and encourage others to join you in the frenzy-filled madness of writing for thirty days straight. If they decline, the next step is to help them understand why you need to do this and look for moral support from them.

Ask them not to disturb you when you are in writing mode but also to give words of encouragement to you especially when you are struggling. I read an article several years ago that a woman locked herself in a room with a computer and a bed and was in there for the majority of the 30 days. Rarely coming out; eating and/or a shower but she wasn’t aware of her family to the point that she noticed her one son had grown a mustache.

Personally, I would not recommend you avoid your family in this way; even if you have a spouse who’s willing to run the household while you’re writing. One of the great idea makers is real-life conversation and everyday events that can be harvested into writing fodder. Make sure you set aside some time to spend with your family so they still recognize you while you’re in your writing cave.

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Meetings and Appointments

We don’t always have control of our time when it comes to doctor visits whether it’s a checkup or a weekly counselor’s session. However, you can try to schedule these appointments as close together as possible and get them out of the way ASAP.

When an appointment is coming up, make sure you write a little extra to pad yourself for that day. Not every appointment will eat up much time but if little Johnny is rushed to the hospital from the school with a broken arm, you may find that a few days of writing will disappear while you tend to this emergency.

Naturally I’m not telling to ignore your family or obligations when it comes to these sudden changes, but stay ahead of your word count goal for any eventuality. And if you are a church-goer do not ignore your responsibilities for the purpose of writing. Your congregation might understand but not God Himself. As I mentioned before, get up 30 minutes earlier and get some writing in before the rest of the house gets up.

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Meals and That Holiday

If you are the cook in the household, you may find it difficult to do the evening meals for the family. Don’t just shove the yellow pages at your family and tell them to, “Figure it out for yourselves.” Pizza, on occasion, is nice but no one wants takeout every night of the week for an entire month.

One of the ideas that someone came up with was cooking several meals in advance and then freezing them so it can be thawed and reheated during November. This is a great way to make sure your family not only gets enough to eat but is eating healthier than what they’d get through a drive-thru window.

Another idea is to get your spouse to do some if not most of the cooking during this time and an even better idea would be to get the kids to help. If you have teenagers in the house this would be a perfect time to get them to learn how to cook for themselves. Recipes are readily available all over the internet as are cooking videos that give you tips and hints on how to prepare certain dishes.

Of course the biggest event of November is that holiday called Thanksgiving. It falls on the 24th this year (2016). One way to prepare for this is to have your story completely written before then. It’s not impossible but for some it may be more challenging. If you’re hosting the big dinner at your house, prepare as much of the food in advance before the day arrives. There are some grocery stores that sell an entire turkey dinner with all of the trimmings so that all you’d have to do is heat everything up in the microwave or oven. Check your area and see if this option is available.

Another idea is either have it earlier or postpone it until later depending on everyone’s availability that will be a part of your dinner. There are no rules written in stone that says you have to celebrate Thanksgiving on the actual day.

If you’ll be visiting someone else’s home for the meal, perhaps you can do some writing on the way over to the location. Whether you are travelling by car, train or airplane; you should be able to snag some extra words prior to the meal. Provided that your hosts understand your writing challenge, you might be able to get in some writing while waiting for the meal to be served. Don’t ignore them especially if you only see them once or twice a year. If you’re spending the weekend there, there’s always time to get some writing in on Friday and Saturday after the meal.

Conclusion

Whatever you do, do not totally neglect your family during the month of November. Spend some time with them, eat meals with them, and celebrate each milestone that you cross. We’ll talk more about this in an upcoming article.

What about you? What are your secrets to dealing with everyday life and writing? Share any hints or tips of what worked and what didn’t. I’m looking forward to hearing your comments.

Happy Adventuring!

Chris