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In response to the twenty or so people who knew I was gone.

Interesting thing this blogging. I really never expected it to be a main driver in my ultimate goal, selling books, but to say the results are lackluster would be a gross understatement. No, selling books isn't my ultimate goal. Well it is, but only as a mechanism to supplement my retirement income and give me a plausible reason to write even more.

It could be that if I ever make it to big-time land, these musings and discussions could be a window into the mind of ole Mike, even if years down the road. In that vein, I'll press onward and see if there isn't something of value I can impart now. I did you know. Helped a couple of people working through various issues on twitter, even referred one to a previous post. We do what we can...

Anyway since I am where I am, I had to concentrate on my primary occupation, working in support of a Department of Labor grant and teaching a class. Had a big launch of a program that was truly my creation, quite proud of that. Students will be deriving a benefit for some time, since it is based on organizational skills. One of these days if I build an audience, I'm going to use my platform to promote what I believe is a very valuable set of programs...all at no cost to the student!

So Mike, now that you're back, anything worthwhile to say?

I thought I'd get back to character development. I've read some snippets of other writers work online, and I have to say I'm....amazed. Some are actually quite good, and others be charitable, not so good.

Part of the problem from my perspective is that the writing seems stilted and unnatural or at the other extreme, banal. Another issue is what I call comic book style writing. Long ago, comic book writers forgot they were supplying simple tales for kids.

Panel illustrations with over-reaching or abstract meaning or dialogue really surpasses the limits of the medium. Add that to television writers, then film writers who put out junk that caters to the bottom rung of intellectual pursuit, and you have generations of readers who have no idea what real writing sounds like.

Why Mike you over-inflated skunk, did you have a bad day at the office?

At the office, particularly in leadership positions, I would listen to any problem (I called them opportunities) anyone had to bring up. With a caveat. You had to offer a potential solution.

And perhaps its not a problem. Maybe the world has evolved (or devolved) to the point where inspiring yet realistic dialogue isn't desired any longer. In my book, What Watches and Waits, I had two hillbilly type characters who ended up being possessed by really nasty demons. My daughter took one look at the banter between them and others, and only had one word to offer. Really?

Yep. I wrote in official stereotype. But I've been around basic characters like those two, and their conversational abilities really weren't far off the realistic mark. Besides that, I didn't want to develop them any further, because people who don't have an education aren't interesting to me. (perhaps up to the two snob level now) So I maintain, for what they were, and their place in moving the story along, the dialogue was adequate.

Let me clarify. My parents, who didn't have college educations, enabled my siblings and I to achieve at a high level. Without them, or if they'd been less self-sacrificing, our journey would have been exponentially more difficult. Add to that the fact that a high school education in their day would have given you more useful information than many bachelor's degrees today and you see how wise they could be. But people without educations typically don't have social leverage. I want to write about people who do.

They were significant as a plot mover, but the reader had no idea until much later. Your main characters don't have the luxury of speaking in snippets or unrealistic manners unless you are writing parody. Even then a little goes a long way. Everyone has a basic set of emotions, that evolve and change over time depending on life experiences. Language has to convey all meaning in a literary work. Unlike movies or television, it is all you have to develop your characters on a personal level.

Oh come on Mike, the narration can set the characters!

My answer, maybe. But in my mind you can set a person up to be x, y, or z, but if the characters words don't follow you've broken an unspoken contract with the reader. Yes, yes, of course you could be illustrating a dichotomy, but that is an outlier. Kind of like my example of Hemingway's The Old Man and the Sea is a tale only a few could write. It truly is the same for complicated character set ups. Err on the side of Geraldine's what you see is what you get. (bonus points if you get that reference)

People don't just use research for location and historical accuracy. They have to do it for unfamiliar personality types and cultural factors. My next installment in the Arizoniacs is going to take them to England, and there is no way I can get that right without first hand observation. Now if I could only write off a trip like that...

My point is, there is enough bad writing in films and television. As novelists, we have a duty to step up our game. If we do it right, our works could be relevant long after we're a footnote in societal history. I'll keep trying anyway, even if it turns out that I'm the outlier now...

Enough for today, please help a non starving artist by buying my books, and enabling me to continue. Otherwise I'm going back to practicing guitar everyday. The neighbors really don't want that...

Next Week:

Let's continue with character development, or if you have another subject you'd like to cover, let me know. You have post-graduate level education at your beckon call...

Until next week, be well, happy, and good to each other...

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Once Again, I had to be Dragged...Kicking and Screaming. But I like it!

Once upon a time, a very long time ago... Yep, my college years, the first ones anyway, are far far behind me now. It's hard to believe that I'm older than people I knew as a kid who passed away with me thinking they were old. And I thought David Bowie was kidding when he said 'watch out you rock and rollers...' And wow, have things changed.

Particularly the publishing industry. Back then, if you weren't picked up by a publisher (you could submit directly in those days) you either didn't publish, or went vanity press. If you went vanity press, you were always looked on as that pathetic creature who didn't know they were.

You were an object of shame and disgust...

It would have been better if you'd held up a gas station. No...more like...found change in the pay phone slot and stuck it in your pocket while acting nonchalant like. As mom always said, you may think you got away with it, but you'll have to explain yourself one day. I had dreams where I was ready to walk through the pearly gates, and St. Peter says...'whoa whoa whoa! I see you pocketed 35 cents back in 1972! I'd keep you out for that, but we just banished your uncle Leo for doing a book with a vanity publisher!'

OK, I added that last. That will probably go on my record too.

Today the vanities are still around, a few anyway, but if we aren't picked up by now an agent and therefore no publisher, we can self publish. HOORAY! Stick it to the man, I'm getting my book out there. Oh, it's been on KDP for two weeks and hasn't sold. What's this? I can advertise there, and as soon as people see it, off she goes to the stratosphere!

And Then Your Book Doesn't sell. Now What?

Part of the reason you wanted to be a writer is the perceived lifestyle. You know, vine covered cottage near the coast, moseying into the village pub where adoring fans and locals would fawn all over you and congratulate you on your genius. Of course there was another enjoyable aspect. Going out and promoting your book to teaming throngs once again basking in their adoration.

Only with self publishing, that doesn't happen. If you're lucky, really lucky, you might make enough to support your beer and fishing habit. But don't count on it. Yet even for that to happen, you have to market yourself. And your books. And for sensitive souls like us, that is the equivalent of putting on fishnet stockings and finding a comfortable lamp post from which to sell your wares. Bad enough, but people like me would starve with the attention we'd generate. Woof.

Well, I Guess That's it Mike. Yet Another Chapter in Life that Didn't Work Out...

No no no. Hang on a minute. You see, there is a platform out there where you can connect with all sorts of writers just like you. Or even successful ones! It's great! And the name of this lifesaver for our ambitions is....Twitter! All people do is say stupid things and get in trouble. Nope, I am an artist, I shall not hawk my books like so many day old fish...

Look, I was the same way. Like when I had to be dragged kicking and screaming into philosophy class. There is much to be learned, and the people you find there are willing to help. Yes, like any tree that bears fruit (like the metaphor there?) it must be pruned. Some people, even creative ones are just not happy, and lash out. We help where we can, but as I illustrated in my book, The Time Fixers (shameless plug) a difficult person who lashes out must make the move to where we can help them. We can't do it by ourselves.

But the other creative people, the vast majority, with all their backgrounds and experiences, will help if you ask. Because creative people are sensitive souls at some level, and they remember their journey. They'll help you on yours.

To be fully transparent, I haven't seen my growing followers list translate into sales. That is because Twitter isn't the be all and end all. I've always said that if you want something in life, you don't go stand in a line with everyone else. So you'll want to keep your eyes open. Being creative, you may be the person who discovers an unguarded door to publishers (or agents).

Just remember those who helped you, or see the value in an up and comer. I always hated how some execs will fight their way up through the company, reach the top and brag about their journey, then pull the rope up after them. Don't be that person.

I love Twitter, and the community I'm latching onto, because I've met wonderful people and learned some astonishing things about getting your work out there. Not everything will fit your situation, but that's OK. Part of learning this craft, particularly today, is discovering the whole process for yourself. I can't help but think that is going to benefit us down the road.

And maybe, that road will lead to a vine covered cottage by the sea.... :o)>

Be like this guy. Persistent. He never seems to be getting anywhere, but appears to be having one helluva good time!

Next Week: I'm not sure. How about a suggestion from the crowd? Otherwise, I'll pick back up on the writing process, like scheduling your work time.

Until then you creative, wonderful people, take care, be well, and most of all, be happy!

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And it won't be featured in any of your books. Or will it?

You're working hard to pick the right characters (if you visualize, actors) for your book. You want the right fit, temperment, motivation, perhaps even physical appearance. How in the world do you go about that? You don't have any experience creating such a complex creature, designed to function in a world you've constructed!

Hold on there Bessie. You've done this since you first started caring about what your friends think. (if you ever did.) What do I mean? It's you! Think about it, the world you've constructed? Your education, friends, spouse or significant other, job. Yep. That's the world you created. To function in that world, you have constructed a person, a leading character, actor if you will. You.

Alright, so most of us don't live lives where Marilyn Monroe clones regularly sit on Santa's lap and act shocked. Although...that could make an interesting secret life... No, the you you've constructed has to work well in your life, or you'd be in a constant state of conflict. And...yes, we do get that from time to time. But being overly intelligent creative types, we don't let drama rule. Right...

Fine Mike, we create ourselves yada yada cum bah ya....What does that have to do with making people out of whole cloth?

Just this, besides you, you have friends you observe, whether you do so intentionally or not. I'll bet you can see characteristics in the people you know that manifest certain ends. If you're nosy, you might even try to manipulate their behavior for their own good. Most likely they'll tell you to buzz off, and there is no fun in that.

BUT...when you create a world in a novel, you can manipulate to your heart's content. (get it?) A novel isn't just an exercise in art, but a chance to explore concepts, demonstrate how your core values play out against life challenges. A laboratory if you will, to experiment with people to show what happens when they don't listen to you. And a chance to get back at all the skunks who made your lives miserable along the way by making them rotten antagonists that are thinly veiled versions of their miserable selves.

Remember to point out the disclaimer at the front of your book.

The lesson here, you can forgive, and should, but a little artsy roasting over the coals is just the thing in case the slugs ever developed a conscience. (insert evil laugh)

Sounds like anger issues Mike, but the GIF is kinda scary, soooo, let's move on.

It's all good folks. You have the framework of the story. You know what each chapter (if not, go back to previous posts) will accomplish. So what people need to be in the scene (visual again) to get you to your station? Becoming clearer isn't it? It's that simple. Think of yourself as a conductor on a train.

I like old movies, particularly British ones, where the conductor goes along collecting tickets. If Little Billy Snodgrass isn't going to move the scene to its final stop, chuck him out the window. Metaphorically speaking. You will have to go back and pick him up later on, for the scene where he goes over Niagara Falls in a sardine can, but won't it be fun chucking the little brat twice in one book!

You are the conductor, and you are making sure each player is ticketed (by you) because they are helping the train get to its destination!

OK Mike, we see you have anger issues and were annoyed by some kid on a crowded flight, but it is beginning to make sense...

That's all there is to it. Remember, pare down, then do it again. Minimal is better. While crowd scenes work in actual movies, in books they only cloud the action. Everyone must have a vital role to play. No tertiary characters!

Remember a few weeks ago when I referenced the novella, A Christmas Carol by Chas. (love that abbreviation, like Bros. for brothers. Quirky type. But hey, I'm a novelist!) Dickens? Lots of characters in that work. And EVERY SINGLE ONE is vital, and sticks in the readers mind. If they don't have a huge bearing on the plot, they create atmosphere. And150 + years later it still works...really well.

Now last week, I said Martha Mitchell wrote Gone with the Wind. What a maroon! What a chucklehead! Everyone knows its Melvina Mitchell! So now you can stop sending me nasty messages. I appreciate the feedback, but ad hominem attacks are not warranted.

And not be a smart guy, but I looked it up! There are only TWO N's in nincompoop!

Next Week: Time for something completely different.

With apologies to Monty Python, I want to talk for one post about the experiences I've had in Twitter. I had to be dragged kicking and screaming into it as a marketing tool. Much like Philosophy class in my post grad. But you know...hard as it is to believe, I may have been (gasp!) wrong. More next week!

Oh, and I just figured out what the lady in GIF number one was shocked about. She asked Santa for a date with her all time writer crush (me) and found out lady in GIF number two was pretty possessive and wanted me all for herself...

And then I woke up.

Until next week all you wonderful creative people, be well, happy, and good to one another!

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