Monday, August 30, 2010

Unlikable Chracters

I'm currently reading a good book with a totally . . . unlikable character. So far, almost finished, and there's not one thing I like about the character.




In fact, this unlikable character, at least for me, totally pulls me out of the story every single time I have to read from this character's perspective.

I hate being pulled out of a story. Hate! It!

I'm pulled out of the story every single time I must endure this character's perspective.

Thankfully, the perspectives are just a bit here and there, but . . . I'm still jarred out of the story.

Now, there are characters I don't like, that I hate - The Dursleys and Dolores Umbridge from the Harry Potter series. Oooooh, Dolores made me grind my teeth, but . . . she never pulled me out of the story. She never made me skip passages of narrative because her character was so unlikable.

I'm not even sure the character in the current book I'm reading is necessary . . . other than to irritate me, which some people (probably my sisters - ha) would say is a good thing.

What about you? How do you deal with unlikable characters in books you are reading . . . and writing? How unlikable do you make them? Do they serve a purpose?

As for me, yeah, I have some unlikable characters. Sometimes they are needed as a balance, a counterpoint to the hero/heroine.

If no obvious purpose is served, then what's the point?

If the unlikable character pulls the reader out of the story time and time again, what's the point?

Thoughts? Answers??


Wednesday, August 25, 2010

WiP Wednesday

So, right now I have two Works in Progress (WiP).

The first is the rough draft that is currently in the distance stage - that is, I can't begin editing until I've created the necessary distance. Okay, I've pretty much failed in that endeavor. I have added things here and there, but nothing . . . too major, well, just a bit major, maybe! Ha!

Still, I haven't delved into the major edits of the post Rough Draft phase . . . yet. That should happen this weekend.

The second project is Book II. I'm working on this a bit, but not wholeheartedly . . . at least not at this point.

At this point, I have the introduction - crime, motive, suspects, detectives introduced - done, and a start to the rising action. I'm almost 50 pages into the project, maybe 5,000 or so words.

The whole reason I'm even working on this project is the off chance that, with the way Book I ended, an agent (woo-hoo) might ask Well, what else do you have planned for these characters?

So, a bit of pre-planning on my part, combined with a driving need to write now, meant I needed something to work on beyond the editing phase of a project.


Monday, August 23, 2010


I've given you what you thought you wanted, but it's not enough.

Cinderella wished for happily ever after. She married her prince and found out that happily ever after only happens in fairy tales. . . and her current life isn't a fairy tale.

Cinderella's current life is one of adjustment, fear, longing for a past she is only just beginning to remember, and for a future where love exists outside the spell of a fairy godmother giving Cinderella what you thought you wanted.

Michelle effortlessly creates a world ouside the Disney-fied (nope, not a word, but I'm using it) imagery so closely associated, and a bit beyond the Brothers Grimm's intentions, with the classic fairy tale. From a palace filled with darkness and shadows, blood on the floors, to burnt out villages, to 'dark maroon ground' that 'spreads itself straight to the edge', and a 'watery horizon in the distance churned', and . . . so very much more.

Gone, and not in a bad way, are the glittering visions painted forth in the Disney version of Cinderella. Here is a realistic world where both light and darkness exists, and where the darker depths of humanity shine forth as those in power play out their games of power, oppressing those they fear, and embracing the past so fiercely they cannot set their feet on a path toward a different future.

You must control your future now. It is a choice.

The above words are spoken by Eolande, Cinderella's fairy godmother, and define the journey Cinderella takes throughout the pages of Cinders.

Life is about choices - good, bad, or indifferent. Cinderella makes all of these, some with devastating consequences. In the end, magic aside, a spell broken . . . or not . . . Cinderella must face her doubts, her indecision, and forge a life that is enough . . . for her.

I loved this book. Okay, there were parts I didn't love. I love the fact that Michelle created a compelling, entirely fallible woman. I loved Cinderella (the character). I hated her. I empathized with her.

Cinderella doubts herself. She struggles with who she wants to be, who she has become, and who she might become.

In the end, Cinderella must face all the decisions she made, the reasons she made them, and decide what the future holds for her. Whatever she might have wished for, whatever her fairy godmother granted her, the next steps in her life are entirely up to Cinderella: You must control your future now.


You can get your copy of Cinders by Michelle Davidson Argyle at Amazon. It is also available in Ebook format on Kindle or at Smashwords.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Friday . . . Update

Yes, I've been a wee bit absent from blogging this week. Such is life sometimes.

I finished Cinders by Michelle Davidson Argyle. Check out my review here, which also contains links to where you can purchase this great novella. Oh, and technically, the review should have posted yesterday, and not Monday, except I started the review on Monday, finished it yesterday, and didn't pay attention to technical aspects like when it would post. Yes, even I fail in the technology department from time to time. So, if you missed the review, go here and check it out.

As you know, Inspiration decided to strike this week on Book II of a potential series. No, nothing like Robert Jordan's ginormous Wheel of Time series. This will be a cozy mystery series with all the books being stand-alone. Still, from a license plate, Inspiration struck and I've worked out the first few chapters. Okay, this was easy enough since I've developed a format for the books, and the beginning chapter sequence will remain the same for all the books. So, it really wasn't that hard.

I think I mentioned that I have the following for the next book: the victim, the motive, the suspects, and, of course, the detectives. Woo-hoo. Now, I just have to get to all the good stuff that leads up to The End.

That will happen in time. I plan to start the editing phase of the first book next week. I've been trying to maintain a distance before starting the editing. My goal today is to finish the notations on the Table of Contents regarding the timeline, and then Monday I'll dive into the editing full force. Once first draft editing is done, I'll send it off to my beta readers to get their opinion. Woo-hoo.

Have a great weekend.


Wednesday, August 18, 2010

License Plates

I got your attention, didn't I? Come on, admit it!

What the heck do license plates have to do with writing? Well, in my delusional little world, quite a bit . . . at least since yesterday afternoon on the drive home from work.

TN License Plates have the following format: ### (mini image of state) 3 Letters.

So, in the boredom of sitting in traffic, I've been known to attempt to come up with words based on the three letters on the license plate. Example: ### HXG. Well, easily enough, I can come up with the word HeXinG. Woo-hoo. Yes, I'm easily amused. So, for quite some time, while stuck in traffic, I look at license plates and attempt to come up with words. Most times I succeed, some times I fail.

Well, yesterday, brilliance struck and I thought, what if the three letters were initials? Voila! Inspiration strikes. She (Inspiration that is) is quite clever at times.

I began to look at the letters with renewed interest and - BAM - two new names for some future project, and a - hopefully - endless supply of names in the future. Woo-Hoo!

Now, in using the letters HXG, I could come up with Henry Xavier Goldblumstein. Okay, maybe not the best name, but the ones I came up with yesterday were, well, genius.

Speaking of yesterday . . . as you know, I've finished the rough draft of my cozy which is probably the first book in a series. Well, I hadn't - until yesterday - had a clue what Book II, III, or whatever might be about. I'm still too focused on Book I . . . which is as it should be. Still, I might need a bit knowledge about Book II, etc., once I query and an agent asks "Do you have plans for future books?" Ha!

So, yesterday, I - thanks to those handy-dandy TN license plates - came up with three names for Book II, the crime, the victim, the motive, and the suspects. Woo-hoo.

Now, back to you, dear readers . . . what clever tricks do you have for coming up with character names?

Friday, August 13, 2010


Happy Friday!

I wasn't planning on a post today. Nope, not at all! I was going to sit back and relax today. Why? Because it's going to be 110 freaking degrees with the heat index. I'm not going outside!

So, I planned on doing a bit of this, a bit of that, and a whole lot of nothing today. I'm allowed. Okay, not as often as I'd like, but today . . .

Then again, the best laid plans of . . . well, I'm sure you know the phrase.

Have I mentioned I love my Table of Contents for my latest project? Love! Love! LOVE!

You see, this handy-dandy Table of Contents has come in, well, handy. Ha! Not only does it show me the course of the novel from beginning, middle, to The End, it has also allowed me to map out the - ta da - timeline (like how I weaved in the title of the post) of the novel as well.

As I've pointed out before, the contents looks something like this . . .

Chapter Title .........bunch of dots ............... page #

It's simple and precise. I've been known to notate in the ...... bunch of dots ...... about things that I need to do in specific chapters. Very handy indeed.

Well, today, in mapping out the actual chain of events, I've done this . . .

Chapter Title ....... Early July ................... page#
Chapter Title ....... few days later ............ page#
Chapter Title ....... August

Isn't that clever? I amaze myself sometimes.

So, not only can a Table of Contents help track the progress of a novel, it can also help you - me - map out the span of time of the novel. Woo-hoo!

On that note . . . have a great weekend and try to stay cool.


Wednesday, August 11, 2010

WiP - Update

Sorry, been a bit absent this week. Just life in general and not enough pre-planning on my part. Go figure.

So, my current cozy project - rough draft DONE - has been simmering in my mind as I put the necessary distance between rough and first draft stage.

Okay, I haven't given it a ton of distance. I've tweaked things here and there. Nothing major, mind you, just some things I knew I needed to add - a plot point here, an explanation there, and that's been about it, until . . . Sunday afternoon.

On Sunday, I began the read-through of the first draft phase. I'm not making major changes . . . yet. I'm going more for the is this story flowing, does it make sense, and what is missing phase of the, well, edit phase. Ha!

My Table of Contents is coming in quite handy. I'm putting check marks next to each chapter as I finish the read through and minor revisions. Woo-hoo!

Who knew a Table of Contents could be so beneficial? It helps me track where I've been, where I'm at, and where I'm going! Woo-hoo!

So, for the most part, this week is about reading my rough draft and making notations of what the heck, oh no, seriously, and other such stuff that stops the flow of writing or, well, just doesn't make sense. It's also about correcting glaring mistakes. Somehow, in the obsessive flow of writing, I changed one of the major character's names. Okay, it was only in one sentence, but still . . . Ha! So, I'm reading, notating, and waiting for the next phase where I seriously begin the editing process as I polish my little piece of coal into a sparkling diamond.


Friday, August 6, 2010

Chapter Titles

As I might have mentioned, I love my Table of Contents. I love staring at all the chapters, the fruits - so to speak - of my labor.

Now, Scott Bailey posted some chapter titles from his current WiP, so I figured, why not do the same.

Yes, Robyn, I'm stealing ideas from somebody. No, not stealing, just borrowing a bit of genius.

Now, here are some of the titles in random order
  • The Bitch of Belle Meade
  • Dinner with Mumsy
  • The Married Detective
  • Sensory Overload
  • The Moral Soapbox of the Hopelessly Deluded
  • Afternoon Tea with a Crazy Man
  • The Pink Pigeon
  • Detective Abworks Loses His Patience
  • Not the Cleverest Idea in the Universe
  • Pandora's in a Mood
  • Confession is Good for the Soul
  • It's Raining Men

Now, in chronological order, at a glance, at least to me, the chapter titles tell something about the story. Heck, even out of order, at least to me, the chapters tell a story.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Don't Write Every Day

Yes, I'm a rebel. There are many schools of thought about writing. Two of those schools are: write every day and don't write every day.

I graduated from the second school . . . just in case you were wondering.

So, in defense of not writing every day, I'm going to let author James Scott Bell explain the philosophy instead:

Don't write every day.

I'm a big believer in word quotas. Some of the earliest, and perhaps still the best advice I ever got, was to set a quota of words and stick to it. I used to do a daily count. But a thing called life would intrude and I'd miss a day. Or, there were times when writing seemed like playing tennis in the La Brea tar pits, and that'd be another day I'd miss.

Such days would leave me surly and hard to live with.

Then I switched to a weekly quota and have used it ever since. That way, if I miss a day, I don't beat myself up. I write a little extra on the other days. I use a spreadsheet to keep track and add up my word count for the week.

I also intentionally take one day off a week. I call it my writing sabbath. I find that taking a one-day break charges my batteries like nothing else. Sunday is the day I've chosen. On Monday I'm refreshed and ready to go. Plus, my projects have been cooking in my subconscious. The boys in the basement, as Stephen King puts it, are hard at work while I'm taking time off.

I also advocate taking a weeklong break from writing each year. Use this time to assess your career, set goals, make plans - because if you aim at nothing, there's a very good chance you'll hit it.

Okay, now for my thoughts: woo-hoo!

Oh, you want more? Geesh!!

I love this advice. I followed this advice even before I was officially given this advice. I'm ahead of the game. I'm a trend setter. Okay . . . maybe not.

Word Count - in my most recent project, I set a weekly (M - F) and a weekend (S - S) word count. There were days I couldn't meet the daily goal, but I always made up the words. Did I mention I achieved over 60,000 words in less than two weeks. This was an anomaly, btw. The words just flowed like crazy and I went with the flow.

Writing Sabbath - Tuesday is normally my writing sabbath. Why? Well, during the television season, that's NCIS night. I love NCIS. It's one of the few shows I watch.

There are writers everywhere who follow the write every day adage, and others who follow the don't write every day adage. Neither way is correct for every writer. Every writer is different. What works for one writer might not work for another writer, and vice versa.

As writers - as individuals - we need to learn what works best for us, and follow that path. Nobody but you (or me, in this case) the writer truly knows what works best for you. Nobody.

In writing, as with life, follow your heart and instinct and do what works best for you.


Note: the above italicized material comes from the September 2010 edition of Writers Digest and the article: 10 Experts Take on the Writer's Rulebook - p. 28.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Table of Contents

This whole writing experience of the last two or so weeks has been . . . interesting, to say the least.

The latest voyage into the Realm of the Unknown is . . . The Table of Contents.

Why? Oh, stay a while, and let me tell you why . . .

For this project, my chapters all have nifty little titles. I don't normally title my chapters. Okay, one time in the past. One time out of so many projects isn't a problem, or anything . . . is it?

So, this project has nifty little titles for each chapter.

I decided to create a Table of Contents. Not as easy as you think, though Word does have nifty little menus and videos that helped me along the way. The neat thing: if I add or delete a chapter, I just hit 'update' and - voila - updated (ha) Table of Contents. I've done this a few times already. W00-hoo!

Okay, back to the post and hand and the reason why . . . I'm absolutely loving this table of contents thing.

I printed it out - it's so pretty - and I stared at it quite a lot this past weekend. On one hand, I'm proud of what I accomplished. The Table of Contents shows my hard work. On the other hand, the Table of Contents will help through the editing phases. I've already made notations next to some of the chapter titles about things I need to add. I also, as previously mentioned, have notated on the ToC (for short) the different areas of The Basics.


Nifty Chapter Title ..............................................................................................................................3
Nifty Chapter Title ..............................................................................................................................7
Nifty Chapter Title ...........(add photo of three suspects) ............................................................12

Okay, you get my point. For me, on this project, the Table of Contents is not only an outline of my story, a chart of the five stages of The Basics, but also where I can make notations throughout the editing process of things I need to change. Or, if I need to move a chapter earlier and/or later in the novel . . . move this chapter to this point.

Has anyone out there ever done the same thing? Have a created a fancy new - and very helpful - editing tool? Have I completely lost my mind? No need to answer that last question! Ha!

Okay, off to stare at my Table of Contents a bit more!


Monday, August 2, 2010


Today, I'm going to talk about Cozies. No, not tea cozies, though, with a bit of irony, tea does play about in the cozy I'm going to talk about, which is . . . the sub-genre of the mystery genre.

I just finished writing my cozy last week. I didn't know I was writing a cozy. Sorry, not up on the hip and happening language of the mystery sub-genre. All I knew was I wanted to write a mystery. I did just that.

Perhaps instinct guided me. Perhaps it was something else. I don't have a clue. All I know is I wrote what I did and it - amazingly - turned out to be, well, a cozy.

First - some basics about cozies: set in a benign environment, little violence, few gory details, amateur sleuth, and mystery solved.

Okay, that's very basic. For a bit more in-depth discussion go here. Now, anything from this point forward references back to this site.

Elements of the Cozy Mystery:
  • no explicit sex
  • no gore or violence
  • no graphic language
  • amateur sleuth
  • centers around a puzzle or whodunnit
  • local setting

Now, in my normal fashion, I'm going to discuss each point in relation to my recently finished (woo-hoo) rough draft.

No Explicit Sex - my characters aren't romping around in the bedroom. Okay, one of them is, but . . . I don't provide any explicit details. I just let you - the reader - know that the character is doing the big nasty.

No Gore or Violence - in Cozies, the gore or violence takes place off the page. Such is - somewhat - the case with my mystery. Not totally, but close.

No Graphic Language - okay, this point doesn't get checked off. My story takes place in the here/now, not some quaint, English village in the 1920s when people didn't cuss like there was no tomorrow. This is one rule I'm bending. I'm allowed to bend a rule here and there. It's my delusional little world after all.

Amateur Sleuth - I have two of those. Woo-hoo.

Centers Around a Puzzle or Whodunnit - there is a murder, after all.

Local Setting - yep, I have that based covered as well.

Did I mention I did this without having a clue how to write (or that I was writing) a cozy mystery? Seriously, no clue at all. I just wrote, the words flowing in a torrent, and then on Friday I researched word-counts for mystery novels (btw, cozies come in between 60 - 70K, and my rough is complete at 60K - coincidence? I think not) and came across the term cozy, which I then researched. Again, I find it very odd that, pretty much, without having a clue, I wrote this rough draft in the first place.

Back to the setting - many cozy mysteries are set in a small town or small section of a larger city. Uh, yeah, big check mark for that one. In addition, the story may center around a tea shop. Uh, give me another big check mark for that one. Yes, there is a tea shop in my novel. This happened a little over half way through the novel. There were no plans for a tea pot when I started this project. None. At. All.

Coincidence? I think not. Instinct? I don't have a clue. I'm not about to question why I was able to insert the majority of elements of a cozy without knowing such elements were a requirement.

Perhaps my years of watching all the British mysteries instilled these concepts into my subconscious. I don't know.

I'm just finding it a bit odd that I have the required elements and the word count. Very. Odd. Indeed.