Conversations With A Self-Publishing Writer: 07/31/2015

CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT V

Some years back a dear writing friend of mine encouraged my writing efforts by giving me the book, Fiction is Folks by Robert Newton Peck.  The first line of his statement about this book will tell you why I’ve kept it within arm’s reach on my shelves. “Robert Newton Peck does not believe in writing stories or novels. He lets his characters write them…”  With that in mind let’s talk a bit more about the emotional connection between author, story, and reader.

As THE author, the characters you’re creating can’t help but share some of your DNA from eye color to emotions and emotional scars. However, it is best not to include so much of yourself in one particular character so that folks will recognize you. On the flip-side of that coin, is the blessing is that you’re able to understand the depth of emotion your various characters are feeling and reacting to—thus being able to write an excellent scene. Your readers will immediately identify with the authenticity you portray!  Fear NOT. Employing the emotion-card is an essential skill in writing for all genres—even non-fiction.

Here are a few basic ideas to remind yourself of as you enhance your characters.

  • First, ask yourself what YOU would feel in the midst of the situation you’ve placed your character in. Explore that avenue of thought into the depths. Fold a 3×5 card in half and make bullet-point notes the left side.
  • Second, consider what your BEST FRIEND might feel in the same situation and make those notes opposite the first ones. It is also helpful to repeat this discovery process as you imagine what other well-known-to-you people might do: Parents, Siblings, Spouse, Pastor, etc.

This one exercise will provide you with a multitude of keywords which will, in turn, trigger the development of multiple characters IN the book you’re currently writing AND future books.

  • NOW…do your RESEARCH! The book mentioned above (Fiction is Folks) is a good start and your local Librarian will help you find others. However, Internet research is a goldmine of information.
    • The online version of the magazine, Psychology Today, will offer you general as well as very specific studies on human emotion.
    • Wikipedia has an excellent definition on the topic of emotions in humans.
    • Lists of all the emotions of the species known as human are plentiful, and an excellent item to KEEP for the future.
    • Research the term “basic emotions,” and the term “complex emotions.”
    • Finally, talk (face-to-face) with a psychologist, counselor, or psychology/social work professor. The insights and words used in those conversations will fill several notebook pages and give you very useful phrases for your characters to speak.

Some time ago, I was asked WHY these emotion elements are so important. That writer was attempting to create logical, independent, thinking characters who really had no need for emotion. I happened to know that a favorite genre of fiction for that person was Science Fiction. So I asked, “Do the computerized robots or AI’s in those novels function well without emotion?” He paused. Then we began listing the robot characters. Without exception, each author had developed emotion into that character—thereby ensuring that readers would identify with them—feel sympathy for them—and enjoy reading.  SO…open the Kleenex box and fire UP those emotional outbursts. Emotion is the connective tissue that will hold every story together.  ⚓︎

RoyaleneABOUT ROYALENE DOYLE: Royalene has been writing something since before kindergarten days and continues to love the process. Through her small business—DOYLE WRITING SERVICES—she brings more than 40 years of writing experience to authors who need “just a little assistance” with completing their projects. This is a nice fit as she develops these blogs for Outskirts Press (OP) a leading self-publisher, and occasionally accepts a ghostwriting project from one of their clients. Her recent book release (with OP) titled FIREPROOF PROVERBS, A Writer’s Study of Words, is already receiving excellent reviews including several professional writer’s endorsements given on the book’s back cover.  

Royalene’s writing experience grew through a wide variety of positions from Office Manager and Administrative Assistant to Teacher of Literature and Advanced Writing courses and editor/writer for an International Christian ministry. Her willingness to listen to struggling authors, learn their goals and expectations and discern their writing voice has brought many manuscripts into the published books arena.

Conversations With A Self-Publishing Writer: 07/24/2015

CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT IV—Readers’ Perspective

How many times have you been reading a good book when suddenly one of the characters does something completely OUT-of-character?  Sometimes this is a planned plot-twist. However, too often, it is an error on the author’s part when they lose track of who their people are and how they will (hopefully) connect with readers.

In my research for writing class presentations, I came across a category of career fields that deal with leadership development. Wait. I know you’re already thinking WHAT do those folks know about developing writing skills and creating characters? Answer. ANY field of education that helps us appreciate PEOPLE (readers) can enlighten writers by giving us opportunities to understand ourselves and, most importantly, our Readers. Below are several pointers I’ve gleaned from the writings of Marcia Reynolds, coach and leadership consultant. I’ve adapted her conclusions to focus on the needs most READERS’ have to make the decision to buy your book and “follow” your characters.

  • Readers are Emotional book buyers. Are you providing them with characters who will touch them emotionally and lead them into the FAN category, buying your next book, and the next? Everything the human brain perceives is processed through the emotional center of our brains first.  Don’t miss this opportunity to connect with your readers.
  • Characters provide safe examples of both good and bad decision-making.  In a very real way writers become teachers of various methods of coming to a decision. Thus it is our responsibility to develop an understanding of “cognitive decision-making” and “human nature.” Consequences of choices are plentiful because the human brain is too good at rationalizing, justifying, defending choices and even denying them.
  • Writers need time to think and so do readers. While the author enjoys a good length of time to develop characters and their quirks, readers do not. They are absorbing the essence of actors in your story with every paragraph and page. If the writer doesn’t dedicate the time—make the decision to take the time needed to mull over multiple possibilities—Readers will end up confused and disinterested.
  • As the Director of your Band of characters you’ll need to ask yourself:
    • What does character “A” need to know before making a wise (or foolish) decision?
    • What foreseeable consequences do they imagine for themselves AND others? Or are they only focused on themselves?
    • Do they need only current circumstances knowledge or past experience?
    • Is there another character who has been in the same situation and would be willing to talk about it? Would character “A” be willing to ask?
    • Does your character struggle with fear of losing control, or fear of how others might judge them? Or is he/she already calling themselves an idiot for even considering the choice they really want to make?

Main Point in today’s blog is this: Authors must step into the role of leaders for themselves and their Readers. We need to walk and run and rest in the shoes of the Reader and be prepared to answer all their WHY questions about every choice our characters make—good or bad—right or wrong—selfishly or unselfishly. This is not as daunting as it sounds. If you need support, your publisher has excellent writing coaches and ghostwriters who can help.  ⚓︎

RoyaleneABOUT ROYALENE DOYLE: Royalene has been writing something since before kindergarten days and continues to love the process. Through her small business—DOYLE WRITING SERVICES—she brings more than 40 years of writing experience to authors who need “just a little assistance” with completing their projects. This is a nice fit as she develops these blogs for Outskirts Press (OP) a leading self-publisher, and occasionally accepts a ghostwriting project from one of their clients. Her recent book release (with OP) titled FIREPROOF PROVERBS, A Writer’s Study of Words, is already receiving excellent reviews including several professional writer’s endorsements given on the book’s back cover.  

Royalene’s writing experience grew through a wide variety of positions from Office Manager and Administrative Assistant to Teacher of Literature and Advanced Writing courses and editor/writer for an International Christian ministry. Her willingness to listen to struggling authors, learn their goals and expectations and discern their writing voice has brought many manuscripts into the published books arena.

Conversations With A Self-Publishing Writer: 07/17/2015

CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT III—Author’s perspective

Writer’s must turn on their Left-Brain, Logical Decision-Making, abilities when developing all aspects of their novel: Plot (actions/events), Setting (environment/atmosphere), Characters (all the lovely—and not so lovely—people). As the focus this month is building the characters in your work, the aptitude of each individual’s decision-making pattern—or process—is of key importance. No, we don’t need to be professors of psychology.  However, scientific studies on the topic of human thinking, and logic in relation to decisions have provided an excellent conclusion for our benefit: Decisions are 90% emotionally based! So no matter how logical one (or more) of your characters “think” they are, writers have the pleasure of incorporating their own combined Left-Brain/Right-Brain abilities to bring readers very identifiable people. ALL of the successful writers I’ve enjoyed reading and have personally met have this skill on an almost intuitive level. So relax. Many of the following point will read like a list you could have created.

  • Decision-making is basically problem-solving.  The Plot outline of your project will give you a list of problems and/or obstacles that your characters must resolve.  Make a “Decisions” file/page for each character and list each of these problems in a column on the left. Then, on the right side, give their response.
  • Consider the Pattern or Process of each character. Do they make instant decision without much (or any) thought?  Or do they diagnose the problem in great detail?
  • Is the character an information gatherer? This character might be addicted to “working” those 5,000-piece puzzles. They desperately seek every bit of data they can
  • Think about Information Overload. What happens to the thinking process when too much data is available? Does your character shut down—forcing a decision to be made without specific involvement on their part? Do they quickly assess alternative solutions—ranking them in feasibility order—before having all the facts?
  • Is there an Over-Reaction to peer pressure?  Some problem-solvers focus so intently on the vision or goals of individual people they work with that they totally miss the higher purpose for which their business, community, or group was established. That is when solutions become a paradox that leads to confusion. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, because writers can utilize this confusion in a wide variety of action/events that move the plot toward a satisfying conclusion.

Today, in social and psychological circles, writers (and many other artistic/creative folks) are being studied for their abilities to write utilizing both the left brain and right brain cognitive functions. The hypothesis is that by stretching our imaginations in creating complex characters of various habits, beliefs, education, etc., we are building “bridges” between the left side and right side of our brains. This blends the unique skill sets of left/right brains and makes it easier for the individual to think better and make better decisions. I’d very much like to believe that.  One of my close friends considers himself to be a very “left brain” person— a logical, analytical, linear thinker.  However, he also happens to be an excellent writer who creates scenes in vivid and emotionally-dramatic technicolor. It is interesting and even fun to speculate on these concepts. Yet I remain a believer in the uniqueness of each individual who comes into this world with a “gift-mix” all their own.

May your mix of writing skills and abilities continue to grow and bring great enjoyment to you and the reading world! Complete that project! Get it published TODAY!  ⚓︎

RoyaleneABOUT ROYALENE DOYLE: Royalene has been writing something since before kindergarten days and continues to love the process. Through her small business—DOYLE WRITING SERVICES—she brings more than 40 years of writing experience to authors who need “just a little assistance” with completing their projects. This is a nice fit as she develops these blogs for Outskirts Press (OP) a leading self-publisher, and occasionally accepts a ghostwriting project from one of their clients. Her recent book release (with OP) titled FIREPROOF PROVERBS, A Writer’s Study of Words, is already receiving excellent reviews including several professional writer’s endorsements given on the book’s back cover.  

Royalene’s writing experience grew through a wide variety of positions from Office Manager and Administrative Assistant to Teacher of Literature and Advanced Writing courses and editor/writer for an International Christian ministry. Her willingness to listen to struggling authors, learn their goals and expectations and discern their writing voice has brought many manuscripts into the published books arena.

Conversations With A Self-Publishing Writer: 07/10/2015

CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT II

2015-07-10 #1 Have you ever heard the term topographical mapping?  A simple/basic definition is: The detailed representation of both natural and man-made features of a specific land area where contour lines indicate increase and decrease of elevation. For the writer who is creating in-depth character elements this concept can be most useful. Many creative writing instructors suggest using a highs-and-lows format to develop the emotional peaks and valleys a character will experience, demonstrated in this illustration.

2015-07-10 #2However, it is my hope that serious authors will consider the visual elements of topographical mapping that offers almost infinite possibilities for character development—realizing the myriad of choices to be made all along the way—demonstrated by this topo-map of the island of Hilo in Hawaii.

Using this island image, and placing your characters IN the city of Hilo, can you see how many choices they will have in reaching their destination? And their selected path will depend on all the pieces of their personal life-development up to that point in time—where they have lived, who resided in their environment, what motivational seeds were set into them, and their physical abilities, capabilities and/or disabilities.

It is the job of the AUTHOR to know the WHY of each step your characters take. Here are a few questions to ask yourself while in these development stages.

  • Why is your character at that place at that specific time?
  • What is their goal?
  • Who else is involved—or will reap the consequences—of your characters’ choices?
  • When must they complete the process to reach their goal?
  • Where do they anticipate being (physically, emotionally) after their goal is reached?
  • What is the driving force behind this immediate quest?
  • What rational are they using to make each step?
  • What will happen if they fail?

We have multiple examples in the classics of book writing that teach us not only superb character development, but also the motivation of compassion: being able to put yourself in the other person’s place and understand why they act the way they do even if you don’t agree with it (To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, Boy in the Stripped Pajamas, by John Boyne, The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, Unspoken: A Story from the Underground Railroad by Harry Cole).

Before and during the days/months of developing your characters, I strongly advise reading one or more these novels.  And, should you feel the impetus to outline the development of a specific character, please do so. Allowing the superb writers to instruct us from the pages of their novels is a gift to ourselves that will reap multiple benefits. ⚓︎

RoyaleneABOUT ROYALENE DOYLE: Royalene has been writing something since before kindergarten days and continues to love the process. Through her small business—DOYLE WRITING SERVICES—she brings more than 40 years of writing experience to authors who need “just a little assistance” with completing their projects. This is a nice fit as she develops these blogs for Outskirts Press (OP) a leading self-publisher, and occasionally accepts a ghostwriting project from one of their clients. Her recent book release (with OP) titled FIREPROOF PROVERBS, A Writer’s Study of Words, is already receiving excellent reviews including several professional writer’s endorsements given on the book’s back cover.  

Royalene’s writing experience grew through a wide variety of positions from Office Manager and Administrative Assistant to Teacher of Literature and Advanced Writing courses and editor/writer for an International Christian ministry. Her willingness to listen to struggling authors, learn their goals and expectations and discern their writing voice has brought many manuscripts into the published books arena.

Conversations With A Self-Publishing Writer: 07/03/2015

LOOKING AT CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT

The basic elements of character development—one character at a time—holds these four essentials: What is the desire that motivates him? What obstacle(s) is in the way? What struggles must she go through in order to fulfill her aspiration(s)? What are the consequences to him and/or others?

Once you’ve answered these questions for the Main Characters—before you delve into these next steps—prepare files for each character and label it: Essence of (character’s name).  Here are several tools to use in building complete characters who will resonate with multiple Readers.

  • Research and collect several studies on motivation.  Some will spout the latest theories and others will give you a history of “the study of human motivation.”  Some will offer nuts-and-bolts clarity, other will peel information off the onion for you and then leave you with more questions than answers. And yet, each one will provide a nugget upon which you can build your unique, yet very human, character.
  • Draw a picture. Well, not literally, draw a picture although I’m sure there are several people reading this blog who are gifted in that area, too. The concept here is to create a visual representation of your characters. There is software in the world today that can produce very realistic facial composite and I’ve heard of some writers using them.  However, I consider magazines to be a good source and Web-Search-Images of various types to be the best tools for this piece. There are also several “Free Image” sites that allow access to hundreds of “people photos.”
  • Home is where the heart is. So, build a home for each character. Whether they are street-dwellers or mansion-moguls the author needs live there with them. As you will learn, much of human motivation comes from their environment past, present and planned for. Again, the Internet carries volumes of photos—interior and exterior—of homes around the world.  Which one(s) have your characters lived in?

The old cliché of walking a mile in someone else’s shoes is extremely valuable to the writer who is building characters from scratch—and the suggestions given above will guide you well. IF, however, you have a real person you’re writing about, that is a whole different process.  Here is what that looks like…

  • Research and collect ALL the information you can on that person—past and present—and then consider developing a file (your opinions) of the motivations that have activated their life choices.  Each event—from choice of sports to play in elementary and high school to marriage partner and career—will give you pages of information to draw from.
  • Select specific photographs of that person at their various stages of life. These will give you a visual representation of how life has treated them and how they responded to the challenges.
  • WHERE have they lived?  The Internet can help you here, too. Examples of cities and towns and even neighborhoods will be available for you to find by simply searching the addresses of the person you’re placing in your story.

I’ve heard this process—of discovering what motivates a character—labeled “forensic physiological mapping.” I don’t know how accurate that is, however, I do like the concept of mapping. Working this process will definitely build you a believable character! ⚓︎

RoyaleneABOUT ROYALENE DOYLE: Royalene has been writing something since before kindergarten days and continues to love the process. Through her small business—DOYLE WRITING SERVICES—she brings more than 40 years of writing experience to authors who need “just a little assistance” with completing their projects. This is a nice fit as she develops these blogs for Outskirts Press (OP) a leading self-publisher, and occasionally accepts a ghostwriting project from one of their clients. Her recent book release (with OP) titled FIREPROOF PROVERBS, A Writer’s Study of Words, is already receiving excellent reviews including several professional writer’s endorsements given on the book’s back cover.  

Royalene’s writing experience grew through a wide variety of positions from Office Manager and Administrative Assistant to Teacher of Literature and Advanced Writing courses and editor/writer for an International Christian ministry. Her willingness to listen to struggling authors, learn their goals and expectations and discern their writing voice has brought many manuscripts into the published books arena.

Friday Conversations With A Self-Publishing Writer 12/26/14

CHARACTERS VII

As the Christmas decorations start coming down, there is an element of wistfulness that remains.  Even though the reality of Peace on Earth is not yet fact, many have enjoyed the feeling of Peace and LOVE, and I join them in wanting to hold on to that.  However—as I conclude this year’s discussion on the characters we’re creating within our books—I must offer a few closing thoughts about the antagonist character.  That person is (after all) the balance, the weight on the opposing scale, for the hero of the story.  Yes, we certainly have many “opposing weights” in this world (in history and present times) to use as examples.  But rather than name-names, let’s simply look at components that make the bad guys, bad.

POWER.  History teaches us that this one element holds the key to corrupting the ethics of even the most honest and compassionate human being.  Abraham Lincoln is quoted saying: “Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.”

HATE.  Author Steve Maraboli provides an excellent description of this concept and how infectious it becomes.  Steve says: “Most haters are stuck in a poisonous mental prison of jealousy and self-doubt that blinds them….”  The picture of a “poisonous mental prison” is exactly the element that can help a writer understand the Antagonist character.

FEAR.  This emotion is often recognized by scientists as the “first emotion” in humans—associated with survival.  An old German Proverb makes it easier to understand: “Fear makes the wolf bigger than he really is.” So, when the antagonist fears the protagonist (and other characters) in your story, bad things stir within them, causing harmful acts.

CONVICTION.  This element is needed in both the antagonist and protagonist and allows writers to develop scenes ranging from subtle, quiet conversations to full-blown war.  Daniel Webster (the dictionary writer) said: “A strong conviction that something must be done is the parent of many bad measures.”  So true…especially when your antagonist character decides to blow up the bridge—killing 20-30 people—when a simple blockade would do.

Lastly, an antagonistic element that has been more recently recognized and defined is DISSOCIATIVE DISORDER.  When humans “disconnect” from society (family, community, etc.) all the characters in the story are adversely affected.  This character would suffer depression, anxiety and have a distorted perception of people and things around them.  Their own sense of identity would blur and become fragmented.  Today there is a whole career path in the field of Criminal Psychology, helping law enforcement deal with the thoughts and beliefs of “characters” that play a role in initiating and sustaining criminal behavior.

So it is, my writing friends, that as this year of 2014 comes to a close, I remind you of absolute need for BALANCE in story-writing.  Developing your protagonist and antagonist characters (as you “sit” them around the table) may possibly be your biggest challenge with the greatest reward.  Readers today love the detail and are more informed about the world and people who inhabit it than ever before.  That’s great…because writers have an ever growing “pool” of characters to use as examples in the blending of our “people-on-the-pages.”

May 2015 bring you new ideas, faster typing fingers, and just the right self-publisher to make all your dreams come true!

Royalene ABOUT ROYALENE DOYLE: Royalene Doyle is a Ghostwriter with Outskirts Press, bringing more than 35 years of writing experience to authors who need “just a little assistance” with completing their writing projects. She has worked with both experienced and fledgling writers helping complete projects in multiple genres. When a writer brings the passion they have for their work and combines it with Royalene’s passion to see the finished project in print, books are published and the writer’s legacy is passed forward.

Friday Conversations With A Self-Publishing Writer 12/19/14

CHARACTERS VI

Tis’ the Friday before Christmas, and I’m thinking of all the people I’ve shared Christmases with over the years.  What a marvelous group of people to know and remember…AND…what great examples for Character Sketches.

One of my Great-Great-Great Granddads was an Indian Scout and married a Native American woman from a traveling clan of the Cherokee Tribe.  It is also told that he was “small-town” Sherriff who “held no account” with those who might discriminate or treat others unfairly.

Another Great-Granddad was a livestock buyer and “knew his horses.”  I’ve heard that one day—around 1905 or so in the big city of Denver, Colorado—he saw a freight-hauler standing beside a pair of horses hitched to a heavy overloaded wagon and someone whipping them unmercifully.  Great-Granddad jumped from his own horse, grabbed the whip from the hauler’s hand and whipped him “a bit.”

My Great-Grandmother, and Grand-Aunt raised Doberman Pinchers, lived in a small mountain community and owned and operated “the best bar & grille in town.”  When we visited with them, my treat was to help open the bar for lunch by “tasting” a vanilla-malted-shake made in the blender that normally mixed “other” beverages.

My Mother has been gone almost 20 years now, and yet I clearly hear her voice and recall her year-‘round example of love and faithfulness toward family and friends.  She also held the belief of excellence in work, giving quality effort for her pay.  She was an accountant/office manager by profession and a mentor to business owners and coworkers alike.  I remember one of our conversations when she wondered “where” I got my inclination to be a writer.  “No one on either side of the family has ever been a writer!”  And yet, my Family Tree is ripe with intriguing characters and potential storylines.

SO…maybe it’s time for you too to pause and collect your Christmas memories.  What were (are) the personality traits that have remained most solidly etched in your remembrances?  Was there someone who seemed so carefree—talking about God’s love so much that you wondered if they ever experienced any hardship and later learned that they’d been abandoned at birth and grew up in awful foster homes?  Did you sit across the table from an ancient ancestor who looked like her face was etched in stone only to discover that she’d been runner-up in the Miss America Pageant?  Were you a little frightened by the homeless family your Dad met outside the bakery and invited to dinner—then saddened as they shared their “story” of a fortune won and lost overnight? christmas tree

What stories of humanity—of human nature—would the Christmas Trees tell?  Would they reminisce about that first St. Nick (circa 315) who dropped coins into the shoes of the needy?  Would they speak of the German woman—the mother of a son about to be conscripted into Hitler’s army who fled the city, then befriended three American soldiers and three German soldiers leading them to discover the true meaning of courage and the true spirit of Christmas? (True story: starring Linda Hamilton, 2005).

OH SO MANY stories to write about!  Have you started planning your next writing project?  NOW is the time.  Write—Re-write—Publish!  And, may all your Christmases be BRIGHT!

Royalene ABOUT ROYALENE DOYLE: Royalene Doyle is a Ghostwriter with Outskirts Press, bringing more than 35 years of writing experience to authors who need “just a little assistance” with completing their writing projects. She has worked with both experienced and fledgling writers helping complete projects in multiple genres. When a writer brings the passion they have for their work and combines it with Royalene’s passion to see the finished project in print, books are published and the writer’s legacy is passed forward.