Today’s Writing Tip

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Once a story gets rolling, writer’s block is rare. If you get stuck, perhaps you took a wrong turn somewhere with either the character or plot. Forcing a character to do something s/he resists can be a good sign that the character has come alive. In this case, you can often turn him or her loose to see what s/he wants to do. New plot twists can come out that will surprise even you! If you don’t know what’s going to happen next, you can bet your readers probably won’t, either!

If your plot hits a wall, taking a break to do some research will often open things up again.

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Today’s Writing Tip

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It’s essential to understand the concept of point of view (POV), which is the character through whom the story is being told. This can be one of the most difficult concepts for new writers to grasp.

The basic categories are single, multiple, and omniscient. Single is used for a first person narrative, but not always. It can also be used for a third person story that only goes into the protagonist’s head. Multiple will get into more than one person’s POV, but in separate sections or chapters. Omniscient gets into everyone’s throughout the story. This can be confusing and is also least effective in connecting your reader with your characters.

Today’s Writing Tip

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Want to write memorable fiction? Then CAP it! Influencing three areas of the brain will do just that. C=Cognitive (facts) A=Affective (emotions) P=Perception (senses) In this case, 3 strikes and you’re remembered!

Facts, even if they’re about the setting, add depth and imagery to your story. If there’s a particular profession involved, learning about what it entails is also beneficial and adds credibility to your character as well as potential plot twists.

For a story to “stick” with your reader, emotional involvement is essential! Which stories can you name that brought you to tears, either due to compassion, sadness, or even laughter? How many can you name that didn’t?

Employing the five senses is also recommended. We live in a world where all of them are used and define our environment. The sense of smell is particularly powerful, whether it’s the aroma of food cooking, autumn leaves, or vehicle exhaust in a crowded city.

This also applies when you’re giving a talk. In fact, I got this idea from a Toastmasters magazine that addressed how to make your speeches memorable.

Today’s Writing Tip

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Using speech to text features can be a great boom to some storytellers or bloggers, especially if you can say it far faster than you can type it. However, be aware that proofreading the result is essential. If you don’t, you may find various unsavory mistakes, such as heroine reduced to heroin as well as various other nasties due to the profusion of homonyms in the English language.

This, of course, requires that you be familiar with them yourself so you recognize when the wrong one is used. One of the most popular ones I’ve seen misused, even from experienced writers, is shutter (noun, outdoor window protection devices) instead of shudder (verb, to quake or quiver).

Today’s Writing Tip

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Spellcheckers are great, but have several limitations. In most cases, if what it encounters is a real word, but in the wrong context, it won’t pick it up. For example, it’s a common typo to write “then” instead of “than” or “you” instead of “your” (one of my personal favorites). Since both are legitimate words, they’ll be missed.

If you know what your most common typos are, search on those words and make sure they’re used correctly. If you do this each day as you finish writing, you won’t be overwhelmed.

Today’s Writing Tip

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Sometimes the hardest part of writing a novel or story is getting it started. If you feel stuck, work on developing your characters individually. This not only can get your creative juices flowing, but inspire new ideas of how they fit into the story and contribute to the plot.

Every story should start with a premise, which can usually be stated as a “What if?” statement. How that is developed will be further explored in a basic outline, which can lead to a chapter outline.

This is not a necessity. All authors develop their own style, not only of how they put words on the page, but how their story gets written. Some maybe start at chapter one, page one, while others may write the epilogue first, or jump all around as their muse dictates.

Don’t force yourself into a modus operandi that doesn’t feel comfortable. Trying them all when you first start out, however, will help you find what fits your style. Once that is identified, you’ll discover your own ways of overcoming writer’s block.

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.

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.