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Or developing your story through interesting actors for fun and profit.



Picture yourself (no, not Lucy in the Sky...with or without Diamonds) walking through your favorite shopping center on a pleasant day. I'm assuming outside since malls are out of style. You're going to buy, perhaps, but you're not in the market for anything specific.


Now imagine (we're all creative people here) you walk past a shop window, and you see something that catches your eye. Advertisements for products that are displayed inside at a very reasonable price. So you go in, and look at let's say...oh, a new rod and reel or perhaps a French maid's outfit. Being modeled by a very attractive young woman. That should cover the range of interests. So you've committed to having a closer look. Now suppose the rod and reel have a picture of a cartoon character and are made of plastic. Or the maid's outfit is...not what you expected.


Oh, and for the sake of illustration, I'm including a picture of said French maid's outfit. Please have little Snirdley and Sissy Boo Boo leave the room. I won't be accused of corrupting youth...


So the fishing pole is useless to anyone over 5, and though the maid's outfit is being worn by a very pretty model...


Ok, enough about the fishing pole, we get that. But am I saying that a pretty model can only be interesting in something...prettier? From the cover of most novels you'd think so. What do you think?


You get the idea. Think back to Ford releasing the Edsel in the late 50's. I know, it's a history book item for me too no matter what people say. They spent millions on advertising...a very good campaign though it was overshadowed by the result. An unattractive car (take a look at the grille and see what it reminds you of...) that looks like it was put together by committee. It flopped and almost ruined the company.


You can't bamboozle the public with flash and no substance. Unless you are pushing pop music. More on that later...


What a slick cover and premise promise (hmmm...) you better deliver. Your delivery people work in your book. IF you've picked the right ones.


The way I do that is to correlate the character to a real person I've know. Alright, most of my characters come to me in dreams, but unless you have a friendly muse, you'll need an alternate plan. For example, in my book, The Arizoniacs, I needed a reprehensible character to play Frank's wife. (cue shameless promotion)



Buy this book buy this book buy this book buy this book buy this book buy this book buy...


Now, I've been married previously, and have to watch my step so I don't repeat that episode. Soooo, what I can't do is make the character too ex-wife like. Or current wife-like. So what to do? What if you'd seen this really creepy creature crawl out of the swamp, and wanted to write about it, but were afraid to offend the creature?


*The previous comment was not meant to represent any actual person, living or otherwise*


You take the characteristics your protagonist (many times the person you'd like to be) finds reprehensible and push them into this rotten character. That way, you can use life experiences to make the character real. It doesn't always work, the near-ending turnabout in the Arizoniacs (buy this book) actually happened, but people think its a far-fetched plot twist.

Oh well, just go with it...


But hold on there, they may be evil, but protagonists have feelings too!


Well, maybe not feelings like you and I, being sensitive types. BUT...do not make them cardboard! And yes, the term cardboard character is a cliche, but still valid. You must make them real. Remember, hardly anyone, even socio or psychopaths think they're evil. As much as you develop your protagonist to resemble a real person, so you must (you must also?) develop the antagonist. Otherwise, you have a cliche.


Not only that, but if the antagonist didn't have some interesting characteristics, everyone would just ignore them. It's like someone who gaslights or a classic manipulator, they have to at least fake it well enough to reel people in.


So I have to develop each and every character? That could take years!


It might. You know how artsy types are. But it doesn't have to. Think of it this way. You take a photograph of a group of people (or a group photograph, reminds me of my writing style) and if you have a good camera, only certain people are going to be clearly defined (get it?).

Those are the people central to the group being photographed. The poo-bahs, the beautiful people, the people who bribed you, with everyone else in support. Ah.....


If you developed every character, the work would be confusing. You need a filter, and that filter....is you. The more central to the story line, the more clearly (not in motivation, that could be hazy) they must be developed. A really good hint is to have someone who was gracious enough to honestly critique your book say...'well that certainly came out of left field!'


You want surprises, turnabouts, twists, and so on, but no absolute where the hell did that come froms! And writers do that, all the time. And it antagonizes readers. As neophytes, we can't afford to do that. Now watch somebody get noticed doing that...


You know the characteristics you want to write about. You have examples from your life. Put them together, to make an interesting and real actor in your book. Which brings up another good point. I picture my books as movies. That is a great way to visualize.


Next Week: Further developing characters.


We touched on it, making the antagonist interesting. In Martha Mitchell's Gone with the Wind, Scarlett is a really, really self-centered little twit. Smart, but a twit. With sickeningly sweet simpering when she wants something. But she sells the story. How does that happen? Tune in next week for all the answers. Same bat time, same bat channel.


Oh, and I use hyperbole on this blog. I'd certainly never (buy this book, buy this book) endorse, condone, (buy this book) or stoop to anything as reprehensible as subliminal advertising. I mean that.


Until next time, be safe, well, and above all, happy! (buy this book)



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Or how instantly change direction when something really important slaps you in the face.


People just don't understand. You have all these brilliant ideas bouncing around in your head, and despite your best laid plans, something hugely important blows a hole in your linear plan. Or...since we are all creative types here, it's more likely you DO understand.


When I teach a the university level (which is all I teach in. My brother the high school teacher didn't have as much flexibility) I'll have a class humming along, and out of the nowhere, someone asks a really important question. From that point on, the one student who had the chutzpah to speak up and give voice to perhaps most of the class who didn't understand something (or understood it differently) changed the lesson plan.


And that is a great thing!


What the devil are you talking about Mike? Just this. Like in a class, a couple of brilliant writers have messaged me with things I hadn't considered. They haven't joined a discussion here, yet, and that harks back to my younger days when I was invited to lots of parties, but no one ever came to mine... :o(>




Yes, to the point. I had a writer suggest a newsletter. Now being new to the marketing angle of writing, a neophyte, and someone who doesn't know what hell he's doing, I'm going to work on that. And, try to understand how it works. More later...


Suffice to say, putting your characters to work: a how to, is postponed until next week. Bear with me.


As another brilliant young writer told me, the most daunting thing she runs into...lots...is writers block. Being blessed with a wandering mind, that almost never happens to me. So I HAD assumed it was just an old cliche that people use to explain away a lack of discipline.


As I have said many times in my time running circles around the sun, I was wrong.


A student in the class just showed me the error of my ways, so I'm stopping to address that which is the hardest for all of us; explaining and fixing something we don't understand. For help, I did what all great scholars do...


I googled the problem. I was fascinated by some of the solutions.


On the Grammarly blog (please please please get Grammarly Pro! I'm not a paid endorser, but a true believer!) The first I saw out of the typical drink coffee, go for a walk, throw yourself down the stairs (kidding...please don't do that) advice was.... Do something you haven't done since you were a kid. Genius.


Think about it, you already know you're creative and don't think like other people. You have know-it-alls like me telling you to formalize the process and structure your writing. That, is an adult, non-spontaneous, rigid process. Works for me, but what if for many it actually stifles creativity?


In my book, Sagittarian Blue, two of the main characters have rediscovered the simple joy of stargazing and imagining patterns in what they see in the night sky. Kaito says to Lark..."gazing at the stars always gave me such a sense of wonder. Then, somebody thought we should learn about them in school, and it took all the magic out of it."


I wrote that, and didn't get it. Lark and Kaito had to open their minds if they were going to have the ability to accept a world altering truth. Star gazing was set up by the protagonist as the final step in their journey. You, me, all of us started writing because of the wonder of it all. The magic. Structure and planning doesn't lead to magic and wonder. We need to open our minds too.


But we need structure, unless you are a great free range writer with no intrinsic mental barriers. So maybe...there needs to be a disconnect between your formal, and creative approach to writing.


Now what are you babbling on about Mike??


Just this. What if writing the first draft is a two stage process? What if...you attack the structure formally first. All that involves is what you've already conceived. You have the idea, which is certainly going to grow and evolve as you write, and that is all that is needed for your outline.


THEN take a break, force yourself! Gather your thoughts. Let it roll around in your mind. Make it a set time, or not, and during that period you will not violate the sanctity of goofing off and not writing. Don't plan, but let the notions come and go as they will. Keep that pad handy, ready to record brilliance, but DO NOT make it formal.


I suggest mindlessly having a party with friends or family. Going on a bender. Like my wife, buy a stack of coloring books. Take a walk in a forest. Whatever still puts you in awe, connect with it. Get in touch with your inner child who was so full of wonder...


And will be again, every time you create.


Maybe writers block is nothing more than our inner kid-self rebelling against the adult we had to become to make a living. The paradox of freely letting our minds go to enable creativity, when we were told for years to put away such foolish things. Take the time to get the adult out of your system, and go play a metaphorical game of hopscotch. When you're ready, you'll know.


Writing is foolish. A waste of time when you could be doing the dishes or mowing the lawn. But I love it. I bet you do too.


Next Week: Putting your characters to work. I promise.


Unless a mind bunny comes along and I chase it down some unforeseen passage into a new world. Well, it worked for Lewis Carrol...


Take care every one. Be well and happy.









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Or how to not Bore your Reader into a Coma.


I'll bet everyone can do it. Pick out someone who is genuinely interesting, has led an inspiring life, has really funny things to say, and generally makes you glad to be around them. Strangely, I have even had a few positive phrases thrown my direction. A must have at a party, corny jokes, it must be the delivery, hey, whatever had that guy who used to whistle through his ears? Some people, the good ones are humble about it, seem to live large and project that to others.


This guy comes to mind...




Einstein wasn't just a brilliant, ahead of his time, paradigm breaking...he was interesting. How many other theoretical physicists can you name from the early 20th century? Or...ever?

I doubt that he ever put any thought into his appearance beyond being able to function in his world, that is until he realized the leverage it gave him. So likely without a whit of thought, he was so interesting that people who know nothing about physics (me) still talk about him a century after relativity.


In my book, the Time Fixers, the dual protagonists were physicists. With all the brilliant people in the field out there today (I like to read about it, even if I don't understand it) I mentioned only one person. Could he have changed the world as he did without being interesting? That is a subject for debate.


Pivotal Characters in Literature...and Their Impact.


So we know interesting when we see it. Now lets look at literary classics, particularly the ones that made a positive social impact. Let's start with Prince Hamlet, of course of Shakespeare's Hamlet. This is not someone you'd want to know personally, or at all. But even with having to wade through the archaic language, somehow you can't get enough. Why? Well....interesting. Nuts, but interesting.


Jane Eyre, of Bronte's novel of the same name, is described as 'poor, obscure, plain, and little.' She is also incredibly intelligent and steadfast in her principles. That makes a story which, on the surface, wouldn't hold much interest (for me at least), into an incredible find as she battles her circumstances. And other characters who are boorish and reprehensible.


Colloquially called, A Christmas Carrol, the novella by Dickens has enough interesting characters for a long saga. But what puts it over the top and drives the point home, is the little lame Tiny Tim Cratchit. We see the characters all going about their business in a really ugly (to me) historical period in which even the rich life doesn't look like much. But it's Tiny Tim, the innocent yet optimistic young lad with no chance at all who drives the point home. And although I didn't know it until recently, was the driving force in vastly increased social awareness and charitable giving when the work came out. Not bad for a novella.


That is impact anyone would love for their legacy.


Can anyone think of a more impactful book than Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin? Maybe, that's OK too, we're all creative types here. Of all the wonderful and despicable characters in the book, its Eliza Harris that drives the point home for me. She was out of this world courageous in escaping the hell hole world she knew when many of us might have knuckled under. She, to me, brings home the horrific and evil effects of slavery like no other. And she helped a generation see the light, and helped prepare them for the battle ahead.


That's great Mike, but I'm not writing a landmark classic filled with historical characters.


True enough for me as well. There is much to be said for slice of life, or incredible events erupting in the suburbs. But you get the idea. And I maintain that nearly everyone who sits at their computer has a point to make. And you see the impact interesting characters have. As I said earlier, nearly everyone can identify interesting people in their lives. What I've done, is take examples of those people I've known, change the identities, combine traits, and convert them into characters in my books. Strictly speaking, there is only coincidental resemblance to any person living or otherwise, as it says in the disclaimer. Because they never existed...but their traits did.


Maybe a good way to define the process is to think of uninteresting people you've known. I've always thought it curious that people can more easily identify negative characteristics in people than positive. Probably goes back to when we were coming out of the trees, and weren't supposed to look for the good in someone who may clunk us over the head and steal our meager food supply. So, compare and contrast. Go back to your tablet (electronic or paper, I recommend paper, so much more impressive with all the erasures and squiggles) and sketch it out. Interesting, uninteresting. By doing this, you'll begin to discover something that is right in front of us, but that we rarely recognize.


Now You're Developing Insight!


Previously, we'd talked about setting up a template for your story. If you'd ever done project management or organized on some level, that may come naturally to you. Characters are different. I was lucky. My muses came to me in dreams and told me stories about incredible adventurers who they urged me to write about. Its OK. I don't have enough money to make it worth my family's time to have me locked up.


Now on the one hand, you have your story outlined. On the other, you are creating a list of interesting attributes to load into characters. I should mention here, don't forget about the uninteresting ones. Overcoming legions of the dull makes a good fight for a protagonist. Here is your assignment. Play around with names, faces, images, and attributes. Its OK to have too many, in fact its a good thing at this point. You're going to pare it down, and you may just find that one of your characters would be a great fit...in your next book!


Its a different world folks, one that you are creating! You'll think differently, creatively. Be proud of that!


The invitation is still open folks. Come to my webpage, and let's talk about where you are, what questions you have, what works for you. My favorite classes to teach are those with open dialogue where I learn something too!


Next Week: Putting your characters to work.


*Sigh... That was my intention this week, but the subject is too big. A lot like me planning to do the landscaping, paint the deck, work on my writing, drink beer...etc, all in a weekend.

This blogging is a new chapter :o)> for me, I'll get better and we'll get there.


Come to think of it...the only thing I always accomplish is the drinking beer part.


Next week!








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