Writing Prompt – Fantasy

Create two characters who have been friends since they were kids. While in high school they begin planning a cross-country road trip for the summer after graduation. When they set out everything seems normal, but then they drive through a tunnel and come out in another time and/or world.

 

When To Use Semicolons

I recently did an editing assignment for an author who had written a romance novella. There were several places when she had used a semicolon incorrectly. So today’s grammar lesson is about semicolons, when to use them and when not to.

Semicolons act like commas, but with a stronger impact stylistically. They are used to separate two independent clauses with related thoughts or ideas. Example: “Some people like to write; others hate to write.”

Semicolons can be used with conjunctive adverbs or transitional phrases to connect two similar thoughts or ideas. Example: “In the old days people wrote with typewriters, but now people write with computers; as a result, the writing process is much simpler now.”

Semicolons should be used in sentences where a list of items is included in a sentence that already has commas in order to eliminate confusion. Example: “Writers have many different types of tools to choose from to complete their writing tasks, some more affordable than others, such as computers; pen or pencil and paper; tablets; and even smartphones.”

Semicolons can also be used to join long clauses with commas to avoid confusion. Example: “If you’re away from your computer you can use pen and paper, which is easy and convenient to carry with you; or your could use a voice recorder, which is relatively inexpensive to purchase and convenient to carry, to record your thoughts to write down later.”

Semicolons should be used in order to avoid comma splices (the linking of two independent clauses by a comma with no coordinating conjunction). Incorrect: The horse is white, the horse is dirty. Correct: The horse is white; the horse is dirty.

Incorrect: I like horses, however, I’m afraid of them. Correct: I like horses; however, I’m afraid of them. However is not a coordinating conjunction; therefore, it should not be used between commas.

Writing Exercise—Using Different View Points

Think of an event in your life that you remember vividly. First, write about the event from a 1st person perspective. Be as detailed as possible. You can even add supporting characters to your narration if you like. Next, write about the same event from a 3rd person perspective. Make sure your story has a beginning, middle, and end. Afterwards, compare how the two view points are similar and how they are different. Take note of how the different view points change how the story reads. Exercises like these will help you when trying to decide on your view point character and how to narrate your story.

 

Creating Three Dimensional Characters

I have recently been reading some books in the Regency Romance genre. Some I have found quite enjoyable, while others I have found to be a chore to read. One of the many things that makes a story fun to read is the characters. If we as readers can connect with the characters in the story, then we are more likely to finish the book and more likely to read other books by that author. So, as writers, how do we make our characters come alive for our readers?

First, they have to come alive for us personally as the writer. If we can’t visualize and feel some sort of emotional attachment to the character we’ve created, then our readers won’t be able to either. I recently received an email from a book reviewer that I had recruited to read and review a box set of Regency Romance books for another author. The potential reviewer backed out of doing the review because she said she couldn’t honestly give the books even four stars. Her main reason was lack of character development by the author, with a secondary reason of an obvious lack of proofreading.

Her statement was, “There are proofreading errors. I can’t visualize the characters due to lack of description; dark, fair, curly hair, ginger, brunette, stout, tall, mustache, glasses, etc. I did enjoy the plot.”

This reader is obviously well versed in reading romance. For some genres, giving a lot of details about appearance of characters is not really necessary so as long as you give enough detail to let the reader see and feel the character’s personality. However, if you’re writing in the Romance genre it is very important to give details about your characters’ physical attributes. This significantly aids the reader in forming a mental picture and becoming more attached to the characters that you’ve worked so hard to create. Plot is always important, but one dimensional characters will kill a plot. 

Writers should know the characters they create like they know their own family and friends. When you make a character, don’t just give them a name and a locale where they live. Give your characters a life. This is especially important for your protagonist and main supporting characters, even the villain. Sit down with your preferred writing tools and write out each character’s bio. What does he or she do for a living? How does he or she feel about the work they do? What is his or her personality like? What fears does he or she have? What are his or her strengths and weaknesses? Does he or she have any defining character or personality traits, like a nervous tick or excessive hyperactivity or mellowness? Is he or she shy or outgoing? Which foods does he or she like? Does he or she smoke, drink, do drugs? Is he or she generally an honest person, or someone who can’t be trusted?

There are dozens more questions you could ask yourself about the character. Think of as many as you can and write in your answer. As you go, you will find yourself becoming more and more familiar with the person that is your character. You will start to form an opinion of him or her. At this point you will start to figure out if this character is your protagonist, a supporting character, or even the villain.

Don’t forget to give your character a face and body type. What does he or she look like? Think about hair color, length, and texture. Does he or she have any scars? They don’t have to be on the face, either. What color eyes does he or she have? What type of nose, chin, ears, and cheek bones does he or she have? What shape face does he or she have? Is he or she tall or short? Fat or skinny? Is he or she fit and muscular, or out of shape? Do he or she dress well, or slovenly? Even if you don’t plan on writing in these features, it’s important for you as the writer to know them because it helps you better see the character you’re putting on the page. If your character is real to you, the writer, he or she will be real to the reader.

If you’re having trouble coming up with ideas for appearance, try looking in magazines for pictures you can keep as character references. You can also look on the internet. Or you could people watch, discreetly of course, and note down people’s facial features. If you Google search “face shapes” you will come up with a host of images with descriptions of facial shapes. You can do this for other features as well.

Two very good reference sources for writers that can be found on Amazon are How To Write Descriptions of Eyes and Faces by Val Kovalin and How To Write Descriptions of Hair and Skin by Val Kovalin. Links below.

https://www.amazon.com/How-Write-Descriptions-Eyes-Faces-ebook/dp/B0056HP0WA/ref=sr_1_fkmr0_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1478122509&sr=8-1-fkmr0&keywords=writing+descriptions+of+face+and+hair

https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=writing+descriptions+of+hair+and+skin

Remember, three dimensional characters have a face, a body type, a personality, and a family and life of their own. They’re not just a name on a page.

 

Finding Inspiration

Let’s face it, every writer has at some time stared at the blank page and agonized about where and how to start. So, today I’m going to write about finding inspiration.

Sometimes we get stuck trying to develop a character, or for some reason we can’t get the character we’ve developed to “talk” to us. Sometimes it may be the scene that we’re hung up on. And let’s not forget how diffucult plot can be at times. So what do you do when you’re in one of these situations?

Nearly every writer that I know and have talked to will tell you to keep a notebook with you at all times. Or if you’re more electronically minded, then keep a tablet or use the notepad on your smart phone to keep notes about anything and everything you see and hear that peaks your interest. As a writer, I have a tendancy to become a bit of an introvert and be lost in my own thoughts, and it’s usually about something I’m writing or want to start writing soon.

However, it’s very important as a writer to be observant of the people and things that are going on around you. A lot of inspiration can be found by people watching. Find a nice place in a public area to sit, and with notebook and pen in hand, start making notes about the people around you. What are they doing? How are they doing it? Can you decipher their mood? Are they interacting with someone else? What are the actions of the other person telling you about them and the interchange? If you can hear their conversation, perhaps take some notes on that, such as their tone, gestures when talking, or maybe note down something particularly interesting that was said. All of this can be used later in your character development and dialogue.

Now take a look at your suroundings. Are you indoors or outdoors? Describe where you are sitting. Make note of things like temperature, weather, decor and lighting if indoors, the atmosphere, and what emotions this place evokes in you. This can all be used later when describing a scene. And instilling the emotions that you felt into a character can make him or her more three demensional.

But what do you do if you’re at home sitting at a blank page and scratching your head? Much inspiration can be found through listening to music, watching TV, or reading a book, magazine, or newspaper.

When listening to music pay attention to the lyrics as well as the melody. Think about the feeling behind the song and the emotions it creates in you. Then think about how you could use that in a story and with your characters.

When watching TV, pay attention to not just what is said, but how it is said. Notice their facial expressions, gestures, and tone. Use these things when writing your characters to give them more depth and personality. Also pay attention to the plot of the show or movie. Could you rearrange it somehow to create a story of your own?

Magazines and newspapers abound with stories that can be used to make a slew of your own stories. Clip or tear out articles that seem particularly interesting and keep them in a folder. You can also use these to find pictures that you can base your characters on. And every writer knows that to be a good writer one must be a good reader. So read, read, read. And as you read, take note of key things that the author does that draws you in and use those same techniques to design your own story.