Sunday, May 31, 2009

Dressing your characters

I find myself glossing over what my characters are wearing in scenes. There's an opportunity to give away subtle secrets about your characters here. You can let your readers know, not only what your characters are wearing, but how they are wearing them. A person can wear a pair of jeans, but are the jeans worn smartly, really, does anyone know what that term means--really. Perhaps, wealth, pride, good taste, gives a rip.

Or the jeans might have holes in the knees, think Allen Jackson. Also think sloppy, trendy, laid back.

There are some crime novels where the main character wears nothing but name brand, Italian, three-thousand dollar suits and yummy silk ties. Where their fellow detective are rumpled in their, off-the-rack from Sears, ill-fitting suits and wrinkled ties with red sauce stains.

That brings up ties. Are they red power ties, brightly colored ties that match the pocket scarf? Or are they, like above, wrinkled and spotted.

Shoes? Well, it's not something I'd mention unless the detective with the expensive, name-brand shoes will soon be walking through muck. If he thinks about his ruined shoes, or complains about entering, said muck, due to his shoes, that suggests a bit about his personality.

Women are fun to dress, well, smart professional suits, or just slacks and a button-down shirt. Seductive, or stiff, fancy dresses that plunge at the neckline and come up short in the hem. I'm thinking, racy, or slutty. What fun, yet how hard if you're not schooled in popular fashion trends yourself.

Don't forget accessories, for men as well as women. You can't miss with the man who wears an earring, a fist full of diamond rings and flashy bracelets, pimps or mobsters come to mind. The Rolex screams wealth, or thief.

For a woman, she either wears god-awful pendants, or hearts on delicate gold chains. Wears sneakers, or stelletos. And don't forget about piercings. Those speaks volumes about your character's, well, character.

Here's a list I got from Writing4Success Tipsheet, Tipsheet No. 145 March 2009 where you'll find another perspective and more ideas, and a pretty good source of information.

Some suggestions for lists:
Designers/Brands/Bargain Stores. (See below.)
  1. Clothing Catalogues from companies that specialize in hiking/camping/fishing/extreme sports/everyday sports/outdoor activities.

  2. Colours. (Be creative about the way you describe colours. Think like an artist: be accurate. Take a tip from the copywriters who look for ways to invoke a colour in the reader's mind. For example, not 'orange' - but 'pumpkin'. Not 'warm brown', but 'copper'. Not 'red', but 'ruby, or 'crimson', or 'scarlet'. Not 'blue', but 'cerulean'. You can come up with creative descriptions by relating colour to food: 'At first he thought her shirt was black, but then he saw it had a purple tint, like an eggplant'.)

  3. Fabrics. (To know what different fabrics are called, look for ads from craft stores/fabric stores. Note how clothes are described in catalogues. Look for reviews of fashion shows - how do they describe what the designers came up with?)

  4. Shoes. (So many of them! Joggers, sandals, flip-flops or thongs (depending on which country you're from), stilettos, polished leather shoes, loafers, boat shoes... again, look for catalogues from different stores.)

  5. Cut and style. (Do clothes flow, pull tightly, or stretch? Do they fit your character or not? Are they comfortable - or will your character wear anything to be fashionable or accepted, whether they feel comfortable or not?)

For a good resource, if you, like me, are a little short in the fashion sense, go here. Shop a World of Catalogs You'll also find catalogs for home decor as well as almost anything else your characters might need.

I hope this gives someone out there some help. I've learned a lot just talking about it, as usual. I never mean to come off as an expert. A lot of times, I'm writing about subjects that I need help with and I find writing about it and doing some research on subject, helps me as well.


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Saturday, May 30, 2009

Trees can speak

One of the hardest things for me, as a writer, is to compose a description. I'd like it to be one that draws the reader in, like they see it, smell it, feel it, hear it. It's not enough to simply say, "The trees were green and the air smelled like pine.

It's a start. A tree can be described as majestic, Douglas Fir, sentries of the forest, etc. They can't speak, can they? Well, yes, they can. They can whisper, howl, creak, snap, groan, weep. There branches can rustle, sweep, spray pine needles, drop cones, harbor creatures, etc.

Light can dapple and dance, moonlight can peek between branches, lead the way, illuminate red eyes in it's glow.

Tree surroundings can smell like almost anything you can imagine. The scent of pine needles, putrid smells of dead creatures, urine, excrement, fish, mold, moss, dirt.

Before you write a scene make a list of possible sensory information. You don't have to use them all, but you'll be proud of what you come up with.

Here's an excerpt from my book:
In the woodlands east of Portland Oregon, two boys and a dog named Bridget journeyed through the familiar forest in search of a fresh fishing hole. The sun shone through the trees in splotches of dappling light that played and danced with the movement of limbs from trees so thick, it was a wonder any light penetrated to the ground. It did little to dry the carpet of soggy pine needles that sloshed beneath their feet, emitting strong pungent orders of mildew and moss with every step.

Okay, it needs work, but you get the idea


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Monday, May 25, 2009

That's Freedom, Let it Ring


This young man was my dad. His name was Alva William Deos. He was in the Navy, fought in WWII, raised a family of proud Americans, Worked, hard, in a sawmill most of his adult life, lived through the Depression, knew how to have a good time. He died in 1984, August 11th.

You never think about your parents dying, not when you're just starting your own life. When my father walked me down the isle on my wedding day, he had tears in his eyes. I'd never seen my father cry before or after. They are suppose to be there, always, our parents. It was an impossible day the day he died. It wasn't suppose to happen, not ever.

Today is Memorial day and I wanted to remember this great man. I miss him so much, just remembering him here, now, brings tears to my eyes.

Here's to all the veteran of all the wars that have gone before. These are scary days when our leader should be supporting our troops. When parents should remember to teach their children to stand and put their hands over their hearts when they see a flag in a parade.

In case you can't read the caption on this picture, is says, "The only man standing, is the man in the wheelchair." It makes you want to cry, doesn't it? It should.

The man in the wheelchair, like my father and all veteran who fought and won the freedom that allows those around them to disrespect the flag, should be honored. That's freedom, let it ring.


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Friday, May 22, 2009

It's A L I V E

It's true. When you write a book, it's a living, breathing thing. No moss ever grows under a WIP. It never stays stagnant. It seems to go through growing pains. It often needs surgery. Then a little medicine to ease the pain. It goes through stages, from infancy, to adolescence, to adulthood. It's always a good idea to keep old drafts, but keep in mind, old drafts sit and age. They don't breath, they don't change, they don't keep up with the times. It's probably best to stay with one draft and feed only the one. Making copies and working on the new copy will kill the original as surely as if you'd lit a match to it. I'm not encouraging lighting that match, just in case, but remember, if you must go back from a copy to an original draft, you must catch it up.

That brings me to another subject, Back up your work regularly. I have three flash drives, one at home, one I carry with me, and one I keep at work. I'm not too faithful about keeping all copies in sync. That's my bad, but I'll never completely loose all of my work. You know that sinking feeling when your computer quits on you. Back it up.


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Monday, May 18, 2009

A Rose by Any Other Name

What's in a name? Most people don't like their name. My theory is, as children our parents overused them with hostility. It's not old news that the use of a first, followed by a middle name is never good.

There are certain names that best describe a young child. Two come to mind, and this is just my opinion. Cory and Tyler are two names that should be changed at twenty years of age. I just can't take a thirty-year old man named, Cory, seriously.

I work for a Doctor's office. We have one patient whose name is, Precious and another whose name is Promise. Apple is bad enough, but just when you think it can't get worse, someone comes up with something else that seems outlandish. I guess if you hear these names enough, they become easier on the ears.

And what in the world is wrong with giving a name a normal spelling? Remember, it's the kid who is going to have to deal with misspelling, mispronouncing, and misunderstanding when they grow up and Mommy's not there to correct the poor witless receptionists, who, red-faced, tries to decipher the spelling. Beware, those people will often be called by their sir names. God forbid the person has a difficult last name. What can you do?

I know there are worse names, like Bud Light, Dick Head, Cris P. Beacon. You have to wonder, you just do.

All of this is leading up to how important it is to name the characters in your book appropriately. Your main characters must have good strong names. If they don't, then there should be a good story, why, and a strong nickname. So it's been said. But in actuality, if you develop your character's personality, as in real life, people will accept any name you give them, even Apple.


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Sunday, May 17, 2009

I know Nothing

It's true, I know, basically, nothing. I don't even have a large amount knowledge on lots of things. I do know a little about a lot of things and I read a lot, but not about much that will give me enough knowledge about anything in particular. So when I keep hearing, "Write what you know," I'm in a quandary.

Put out the effort? Not on your life. I'm much too old, so I'm going to interpret the admonition this way. I'm going to write what my gut tells me. By that, I mean I'm going to use my life experiences and observations to make the reading experience real. I wonder if that's not what "Write what you know" really means?

I remember what it's like to fall in love. Who doesn't, it's the most amazing, all consuming, feeling in the world.

I know what it feels like to have a broken heart. I don't know about anyone else, but that's a feeling that stayed with me for over . . . ahem . . . never mind.

I remember the thrill of childbirth, the love for a child is a different kind of love, a feeling that goes straight to the soul.

I've been angry in my lifetime. I've even been in such a rage where I actually saw a red curtain shimmer before my eyes.

I know what physical pain feels like. It's a wonder we all grow older.

I've laughed, cried, had sex, vomited, thrown fits, been jealous, hated, been disappointed, proud, dismayed. I've been so frightened, I thought my heart would burst.

The list goes on and on. And what I haven't experienced, I can imagine. I go to movies and watch TV, play video games, watch friends and loved ones.

Well, gee, I guess you could say, "I could write a book on what I know."

Aw ha.


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Tuesday, May 12, 2009

It's only the First Draft

You know, it’s not so much the first words of a new project that are daunting, but it’s the fear of writing them. Of course if you just start plugging away, pretty soon you’re on the second chapter. Here’s the deal, It’s a first draft.

When I started my first book, still a WIP, it didn’t matter to me if I ever got published. Well, I mean, what am I saying? “WOW,” it would have been huge. But at the time, the only way to keep from getting discouraged was to tell myself, “I just want to write a book. When I got down in the dumps about it, I told myself, “I just want to write a book.” When a critique took the wind out of my sails, I told myself, “I just want to write a book.”

When I finally finished it, the first time, I was thrilled. When I wrote the words, “The End,” It was an amazing feeling. Then started the rewrite, then another rewrite, then when I thought I was on the last rewrite, here comes another one. Finally, I had to put it down and start the book I’m writing now.

My point is, it’s a draft, it will change a number of times, so what the heck. There’s no reason to just stare at a blank page. Get to writing, already. This is more to myself than to anyone else.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Skip Speaks out

Hi, My name is Skip Reynolds and I'm a co-star in the upcoming book,Bum's Rush, by E.A. McKenzie. She's a great author, by the way. though she's been dragging her feet finishing this novel. Sorry E.A.

Psst, You have to wonder if she knows, herself, how it's going to end. But, hey, we've all been there. Life gets busy, then there's writer's block. Don't believe anyone who says there isn't such a thing.

Anyway, I play a sixteen-year old, homeless orphan who stutters. Can't say two words together without it becoming a production. I had to learn sign language in order to communicate. After my mother dies, I go through a series of foster homes. I run away from the last one because the mom was mean and abusive. I don't have anywhere to go, so I take to the streets of downtown Portland and befriend an old bag lady. Her name is Lilith and she's as loopy as a corset, if you know what I mean. She kinda smells, too, but you get used to it. It's kind of sad the way we part company.

So, I'm panhandling in the plaza when the story begins. A shot rings out. Everyone starts to run. So do I, but a man, Jack Troy, the star of the novel, is in my path and falls into my arms. Yeah, he's been shot.

I'm scared, and now I have this man's body trapping me to the cement. I finally claw my way out and start to run when I notice the guy is still alive. I almost leave him there to bleed out. But my mother instilled some values in me. I apply pressure to Jack's wound and save his life. I run off when the cops get there because they want to arrest me for assaulting the mean foster mom I mentioned above.

Later, Jack and his friends go through a lot of trouble to rescue me. I almost shoot one of them with Lilith's gun, but . . . I'd better not say more. It's corny, but Jack is my hero.

Some pretty bad stuff happens after that, and, well, Jack's brother, Ancel, gets hurt because of me. Jack kind of turns on me for awhile. E.A. says she had to do that. She insists there has to be conflict in a story. Well, there's plenty of that, I can promise you--lots of tension and excitement--love too. You see, Jack meets my school councilor and falls for her, but I can't say much about that without giving too much away. E.A. does a good job writing a discrete love scene between Jack and her.

In the end . . . Oops, I just got the look that means to shut up, Skip. I hope E.A. lets me blog again. This was really fun.


Skip Reynolds

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Monday, May 4, 2009

It's All Good

My little netbook really worked good on my trip to Oregon. With just one little click to optimize the battery, I was able to get ten hours off it, which really made the flight go fast. And the best part is, I got a lot done on my book. I've almost completed the first draft of the end of the novel.

The first draft of the end of the novel, hmm. The first half of the novel has been repaired and revised many times as I went along. But in an effort to reach the end, I had to neglect previous chapters.

When I get back to the first chapter, I'll find some nice surprises throughout. Also some disappointments, I'm sure. This time through, I'll be looking for inconsistencies, time-lines, punctuation, spelling, etc. Once I get to the end, and start reading from the beginning, I'll pay more attention to my characters, bring them to life, make them three dementional and unique. They'll have more experiences, feel things in their hearts, with their fingers and, unfortunately, they'll be physically hurt. It's the way of life for fictional characters. They'll see, hear, and smell--some will smell, literally.
I'll strive to give the narrator a vacation, give the characters back their thoughts and let them act out a little, maybe show humor. They will be disgusted, contemptuous, irate, confused, offended, loved, misunderstood, bad and good. I'll be paying closer attention to stronger verbs and more sensitive to emotions. When I make the final preparation for submission, the story should pop off the page and walk into the hearts of the readers. That's all I can ask for.

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Saturday, May 2, 2009

Did you miss me?

I've got a lot to say. I've been between Hood River, Oregon and Portland, Oregon all week. No small feat since I live in Omaha. So most of my family and some of my husband's family was involved in moving my mother out of her home. She's in assisted living now and was anxious to get the place sold, But we got it cleaned out in three days and turned it over to the new owners. Good job to us.

My husband's family, mostly, live in Portland. It's always fun getting together with them and we make a point of trying to connect with everyone while we're there. It leaves little time for us; however, because we're always on the go. So we were looking forward, not to the very long flight home, but to getting home and sleeping in our own bed. As everyone knows, there is no place like home.

We won't be going home tonight after all. The plane was late which would cause us to miss our connecting flight. It's not so bad. The airlines put us up in a motel near the airport and gave us a coupon to eat on them at Sheri's. So they dumped us in the middle of nowhere, where nothing is, and no way to get there. We took a walk. Across eight lane roads and around long blocks. We hit pay-dirt when we found a Plaid Pantry. Woo-hoo, we bought a bottle of wine and some chips. That and wireless internet service, who could ask for anything more. Tomorrow night, if all goes well, we'll be sleeping in our wonderful bed.