Today’s Writing Tip

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Giving your hero or heroine a fatal flaw is not always easy. However, it makes the person more human, easier to  relate to, and should, of course, contribute to the plot. Everyone makes mistakes, and your characters should, too.

This fatal flaw does not have to be some horribly immoral propensity toward evil. In fact, it probably shouldn’t be, unless you’re writing a horror story. Rather, it should be something that gets him or her into trouble. It will typically be taking some trait, even one that’s usually a virtue, to an extreme. Like being too honest. Or too organized. Or too outspoken. Phobias work well, too: Afraid of snakes. Afraid of commitment. Afraid of heights.

If you need more examples, take a look at some of your favorite characters from other stories, TV shows (especially sit-coms), or movies.  If you know anything about the character traits for the various astrological signs, there are clues there as well. For example, Virgo tends to be a neat-freak, Scorpio can be obsessive, Capricorn can be too ambitious, and Aries can be too aggressive, to name a few.

Such characteristics add depth, credibility, and interest which all contribute to making the people who populate your stories unforgettable.

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Meet Marcha Fox, Author of The Terra Debacle: Prisoners at Area 51

Many thanks to my friend and fellow author, Stephen Geez, for this guest post!

Stephen Geez Blog

What’s Your Learning Style?

Blog post by Marcha Fox

As I recall, there are three basic learning styles: Auditory, visual, and kinesthetic. I’m somewhere between visual and kinesthetic, so I’m delighted with modern media’s emphasis on graphics. Not being an auditory learner was a major disadvantage when I was a kid. Being ADHD made it worse, plus I had a last name that began with “U”, so was typically seated in the back of the room. Looking back, it’s no surprise I got mediocre grades because, more often than not, what the teacher said did go in one ear and out the other. The one and only time I got sent to the principal’s office was when my 4th grade teacher got mad at me for doodling during one of her lectures. Good ol’ Miss DePalma. Think of her as a young version of Sophia Petrillo on “The Golden Girls.”…

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#RRBC Spotlight Author, @startrailsiv

Many thanks to my fellow RRBC member, Marlena Smith for this guest post!

Life As I Know It

Hello, bloggers!

I am pleased to welcome this month’s RRBC SPOTLIGHT AUTHOR, Marcha Fox! Please help me support her during her exciting blog tour, as well as the entire month of October! (Visit the RRBC website for details!)


Fun with Words

If you’ve ever watched the popular TV show, “The Big Bang Theory”, you have probably seen one of Sheldon and Amy’s episodes of “Fun with Flags.” Well, here’s an author’s variation on that I’ll call “Fun with Words.”

I do have an ulterior motive, however. An expansive vocabulary opens up a world unseen; one that’s inaccessible without the words to express it. I’m one of those crazy people who will occasionally read the dictionary. I swear I’m not making this up. Besides, if I look up a word, I always read several other definitions while I’m in there. My dictionary is within arm’s reach whenever I’m on the…

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Today’s Writing Tip

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A large percentage of people own a pet. Including one in your story will not only make it seem more real, but can be a great marketing tool. What dog or cat lover isn’t drawn to a story that includes their favorite animal? Just make sure the critter has a personality and a name so it’s more than just a prop.

Anyone who has had a pet will tell you they have a personality. I even have had a fish that had one. How could I tell? Because it’s behavior was unique. I actually had a cichlid who definitely displayed unusual actions and amazing intelligence! I swear, I’m not making this up. Seriously. I have witnesses.

For those of you unfamiliar with this tropical fish breed, they tend to be quite aggressive and have a distinctive school pecking order. The poor guy or gal at the bottom of the chain is often harassed by the others, sometimes to the point of death. Thus was the case for one of mine, as evidenced by his chewed up tail and other wounds. To help him out, I put an excluder in the tank, which is used when the have babies or you introduce a new one.

This little guy gradually got well and one day I noticed he was no longer in the excluder; he’d learned how to get out. But that’s only part of it. He’d jump out, swim around the tank doing the fishy equivalent of “Betcha can’t catch me!” to his hostile tank mates, who would then chase him. But much to their surprise, this fish, whom I named Homer, would swim back to his excluder and jump inside, then peer out at the others in triumph, no doubt chanting “neener-neerner-neerer!”

I don’t know how I’ll ever fit a Homer equivalent into one of my stories, but you never know. Just make sure if you do include a pet that it has a name and fits into the story in some way, even if it’s only a sounding board for your protagonist.

Today’s Writing Tip

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Keep a character list that includes each person’s description, habits, motivation, and any other details that bring him or her to life. Refer to it as needed for consistency as well as new ideas for involvement in the story.

Especially when you’re starting a new story with characters who are just coming to life, it’s handy to have a reminder what you’ve done with them so far. Every characters should have a distinctive role in the story. If they’re redundant, then you don’t need him or her. Developing them can have other benefits as well, such as introducing new plot twists, or in the case of mysteries, red herrings.

Sometimes my favorite character in a story, either my own or someone else’s, isn’t the protagonist, but one of their supporting characters. Set yours up so they’d qualify for a virtual Academy Award for their performance in your novel.

Today’s Writing Tip

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Straight-line plots work well for short stories, but novels can use several subplots to maintain interest and build suspense. The more developed your characters are, the easier it is to find them. Once your characters come to life, they have a mind of their own and can say and do things that surprise even you. Don’t limit your muse’s ability to inspire you by insisting that your characters behave in a certain way or never do something unexpected. Just think: If it surprises you, won’t it also be interesting to your readers?

As an author, I love it when one of my characters essentially gets out of control. If I don’t know what will happen next, sure that suspense will translate to my readers. It add to the fun of being an author when you don’t know what will happen next, either. There have been times when my characters got themselves into such a mess I had no idea how they’d ever get out. So what did I do? I let them figure it out, and they always did.

 

Today’s Writing Tip

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Make your characters as different as possible, so they stand out as individuals. This includes their appearance, speech patterns, and personalities. For example, give each one their own pet phrases or expressions. If they all say the same one, even if it’s an expletive, it doesn’t distinguish him or her as an individual. Of course there are some expletives that are more popular than others, and thus pervasive, but if you’re original in some way, it adds a touch of creativity which most readers will appreciate.

Unique appearance that is distinctive and reinforces the character’s personality is helpful to the reader in keeping them sorted out as well. Gestures are another way, whether it’s rolling their eyes or dismissing a statement with a wave of their hand. A unique perfume or aftershave fragrance is another way to bring another sensory detail into the story. Pay attention to the people you know the best and what their individual habits are for ideas.

Today’s Writing Tip

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Some genres require more research than others. For example, writing an historical novel requires a lot to be accurate, unless you’re already an expert on that era. Of course, in that case, you already did your research. Other genres may not require quite as much, such as a basic romance. However, romances should be loaded with sensory details for all the senses. If your setting is in an imaginary town, choosing and researching a specific state or country can make it come alive. Who doesn’t love a book that makes you feel as if you’re there, especially some exotic place you’ll never visit in person?

I’ve said it numerous time before, the devil’s in the details. Being precise is what makes fiction convincing. When you specify street names, the colors of a spectacular sunset, or the make of the gun your hero uses to defend the world, it’s easier for the reader to visualize. Vague writing is weak writing. However, the caveat is to use the right details at the proper level so as not to bog down the story and cause your reader’s eyes to glaze over. That is what will separate a good author from a great one.

Today’s Writing Tip

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If you ever feel stuck in your progress as an author, go back and read some of your earlier work and see for yourself how far you’ve come. There’s always something you can learn and improve, attaining perfection illusive, but give yourself credit for what you’ve accomplished.

Writing is a skill which, like all skills, whether it pertains to physical prowess in sports or the mental gymnastics of mathematics, improves with practice. Your ability to express yourself and wield the words you need in way that makes you a powerful wordsmith lies in using the tools of your trade as much as possible. Practice may never make perfect in a subjective art such as writing, but it will help you develop your own style and ability to say exactly what you want with far less effort than it does as a novice.