Tag Archives: Fiction writing

Ways to introduce minor characters in your novel-part one

Every tale needs a protagonist and antagonist, a hero and villain, a good guy and bad guy. But a tale also needs minor characters, maybe just a character in a barbershop, something to divert or give a change of pace, a set-up for what is to come. Consider this scene for my work-in-progress. My lead character, the good guy, is investigating a murder in a small town in 1927. He goes to a barbershop to get a haircut, one in which he will learn something from the barber that will help him in his search for what happened. But we might want to delay that a bit because you don’t want to cut to the chase, you want to give credence to everyday life. So here is a scene where I introduce a minor character.

When the second man got out of his chair and paid Delfare, the proprietor of the shop, I was told I was next. I looked at the man sitting by the window, about 5’8” with a bald head, maybe about thirty. He was wearing Levi’s, a green wool shirt with red suspenders keeping his Levi’s in place, his large blubbery gut sagging over the top of the Levi’s, covering his crotch like giant padding. He had to sit straight, his feet spread to accommodate what seemed to be emergent fat.

“Oh Hargrove don’t mind, do you Grover?” Grover shrugged his blubber.

“Grover is a fixture here aren’t you? He got in the way of a falling tree, thumped him on the head real good. Grover can’t work anymore. He gets bored, comes in here to partake of town talk. He gets bored every day, don’t you Groves?” Grover sighed.

The scene creates verisimilitude, it delays the heart of the scene, and every tale needs sidebars and small little diversions. And this seemingly innocuous character could play a pivotal scene later.  After all, he is hanging around a barbershop, hearing all sorts of gossip and rumors. It could be this innocuous character could play a big part later. And this is one way to set up the reader for what comes later, for they already know about Grover Hargrove.

You won’t find Grover in Silent Murder, but you will find my protagonist and what happened before he got to this small town.

 

coyotemoon_silentmurder

 

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How to prepare to write- for tomorrow

If you want to  get your writing off to a good start today then you should have prepared yesterday. In the e-Book I am currently working on I finished chapter three with Pamela slowly opening a door to an abandoned shack deeps in the woods. What is on the other side of the door?

I was wondering the same thing when I finished chapter three and was done for the day having written nearly 2,000 words.

So I wondered what will happen next, what do I write about tomorrow? Rather than do nothing but shutdown my computer for the day, I decided to make notes for tomorrow. That way I do not waste time wondering what happens next when I sit down to write tomorrow. I am facing two options. One, somebody or something is inside, or two, nothing happens. Sometimes nothing is good because the reader is expecting something. I already have a car by the side of the road; the car owned by a character Pamela and two others are looking for, thus the reason they go to this shack wondering if he, Dennis by name, is in the shack, and whether he is alive or dead.

It matters not whether he is there or not, the idea is to decide which, then what the characters decide to do with what they know, for there is always something to be learned even if Dennis is not there. But I won’t tell you what, that is not the point.

It is about preparing for the next day and you do this by deciding what you want the characters to do, or what you want to have happen. You only have to make quick little reminder notes, something simple, something to trigger your thinking and writing. So when tomorrow arrives and you read your notes, then you are off and running.

I currently have finished chapter three and have no idea what happens next, so I must leave you and make my notes.

On my Amazon page I have finished e-books. Here is one filled with wonderful paranormal horror stories. It has two four star reviews.

Cemetery_Tales_and_other_PhantasmsA-351x597

 

 

 

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The different madness of actors and writers

Actors and writers are the yin and yang of creativity. Neither are normal, nobody in the creative arts is normal; normal people get normal jobs, have normal families, and do normal things. Creative people are neurotic, they see things normal people see, but don’t think about until writers and actors remind them, then if the norm agree with what the creators see, they applaud, if they don’t agree, the reviews are bad.

Actors, like writers are introverted, but they approach creativity from a different angle. Actors need to be in the limelight, to have that klieg light shine upon them, hiding behind a character (one the writer creates), to escape who they are, be something they would like to be, at least for that play, movie, or TV show. No normal person wants to play dress up with makeup and prance around on a stage or movie set. It is said, even by many actors, that acting is unmanly, embarrassing in a way. Most actors prefer the stage because at the end of the play they hear applause. They get that immediate reaction; they like me-wait, no-they love me, I am accepted. My acting experience is limited. I remember only the panic attack before going on, and the laughter (it was intended). I remember little else. I didn’t like the feeling. It was not my element. 

The introverted writer, like the actor, hides his true self, not behind a character, but behind the words themselves. The writer is in the story somewhere, maybe everywhere, maybe here and there, behind or underneath the words; he is there lurking around. But he is far removed from the spotlight; allergic to lime, he is far from the immediacy of the audience, safe at his desk.

Both actors and writers are storytellers. The actor tells the story of his character, how he views things, by word, deed, or action. The writer tells his story using all the characters, seeing the whole, while the actor seeing primarily his role in the story. Both are drawn to ‘the word’ as actors look at the words they will speak and decide how to interpret the words, how the words will be used, revealed, spoken; the writer simply the architect builds layers of action, thought, conflict, and ideas though there is nothing really ‘simple’ about it.

 It could be said that actors take a bigger risk by being center stage, baring their soul to the audience, and while there is some truth to that, if the play or film doesn’t work they can blame the writer. Writers have nobody to blame.

 

coyotemoon_silentmurder

Here are some words to examine.

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The strange birth of Otis Oglethorpe

The birth of Otis came not from a woman, and not in the usual method. He sprang from my brain cells. You see, Otis is a fictional character and following is how he got his name.

The story takes place in 1927, so using a name common to contemporary times won’t work. As a writer you need to search and find a name that resonates with the time period. I could use a common name, ones used decade after decade like Tom, Dick, and Harry, but those names are kind of boring-sorry guys, nothing personal. If this were a King Arthur era tale, those names, of course, would not do. You see what I am getting at, so the first name that came to mind was Otis. To me it sounds like a laborer from another time period, or perhaps a farmer; Otis is not a name I hear much anymore.

I needed a last name and could not think of one, until that is, I sat down to watch a football game on television and the Nano-second I sat down, the name Oglethorpe sprung full blown into my consciousness. I had to go to my room and jot the name down, otherwise I would forget, and then I returned to the NFL.

There are many ways to name a character. If you are of the literate mind, you can name a character to reference something critics and those ‘in the know’ will pick up on; for example naming a willful adult male Sawyer after the Mark Twain boy named Tom. Often the references are quite obtuse, referencing a Greek or Roman God, something from Norse myth, or a stray cat.

If say you want to have character who is cold-hearted, the last name could be Winter; if you want a character who has a happy disposition, Sunny would work as a caricature for a female, but something more even keel would be Sonny, for both male of female. There was a famous NFL quarterback named Sonny Jorgensen, so the name works for a male as well. The name can fit the character of the character.

There are many things to keep in mind for a character, such as nationality, the sound of the name, and even length should come into play. To me Otis Oglethorpe has a rhythm to it, it flows off the tongue despite the awkward looking last name.

In my novel in progress this is how he is introduced in a first draft, no doubt to be revised:

“Otis Oglethorpe, about thirty with a lived in face, waded into the Skookumchuck River and washed the blood from his hands. Nothing he could do about the bloody sleeves, but he sank his arms to the elbows into the clear water anyway and scrubbed them, hoping to wash the blood away.

He thought about stealing a boat at Gig Harbor or there about, but decided to take the long way, driving from Shelton up towards Bremerton, before turning right and heading south through Key Peninsula until he reached Home. Many people honed in on Home, a beacon to the wayward thinkers of the world, the originators, the oddballs, the free thinkers, the loonies, and perhaps, a hideout for those on the run. He walked back to his dirty, dinged up Ford and drove off.”

Cut to a man finding a head on a grave. I think it fair to say readers will immediately suspect Otis of murder. But is he? Or just a red herring? That is a matter for another blog.

coyotemoon_silentmurder

 Otis does not appear in “Silent Murder” but the man looking for him is. You can find the e-book at Amazon

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Writers are liars

Let me be specific. While non-fiction writers and journalists sometimes make errors in research, get their facts wrong, or shade their story to suit their bias, overt or otherwise, I am talking fiction writers. They are all liars.

Their is no Huckleberry Finn or Tom Sawyer. No Sherlock Holmes or James Bond. There was no Ahab chasing a whale (didn’t he have something better to do?) and there is no Count Dracula with a neck fetish. All lies. None of it is true.

Jane Austen lied to you, as did Mark Twain, and yes even contemporary writers like Thomas Pynchon, Gillian Flynn, Roberto Bolano, Umberto Eco, Paula Hawkins, and every other writer in the entire history of literature. Al liars.

So why do we read these insidious devils who have trampled on one of the ten commandments? I think lying is one, but I’m not sure, I don’t pay attention to most of the commandments; but if it isn’t a commandment it should be. And while we are at it, there is nothing wrong with looking at my neighbors wife. Touching is out, but looking should be okay.

We read these liars, to get back to the point, because in reading these lies we see truth. For within the lies are emotional truths we recognize as our own; the experience we see that happens with the characters we recognize as our experience, even if the action is crazy. We might not be astronauts, but the feelings they have, the experience they have we can identify with. We can empathize.

Unlike Ahab, I will not chase a whale. I get seasick. But I understand his motivation; I know why he goes on the insane hunt. I will not venture to Dracula’s castle (yes there is one) for I have heard rumors about him and know to stay away from people who avoid the sun. I also know to use garlic and carry a cross. This is what happens when you believe the lie. It becomes real, you see.

So if you want to be a writer who wants to tell the truth of the world, then start writing lies. We all do. And it works.

My lies at Amazon

 

 

 

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why e-book errors are here to stay

The sentence below is an excerpt from a best selling author’s e-book. I will not, of course, out of respect, list his name. The scene has a woman in a car and a male approaching the car who has exposed himself, thus the term yanking.

“It seemed so absurd that she started to laugh, but she thought better of it as he strode up the door other car and began yanking in her direction.”

An obvious mistake here. Does the author mean the ‘other car door’ or does he mean ‘door of her car.’ It makes a bit more sense that ‘other’ should be ‘of her’ but of course that is my thinking.

I do not know if the author did the formatting, or his agent, or an agent’s assistant, or if it came from the publisher. No matter, because a proofreader missed it, and the author should have proofread. For all I know he may have and missed it. I found another error, but it is not my intent to point out everything I may find, but to indicate that errors are going to be found in e-books. And we must live with them.

Proofreading, especially by the author, is far more time consuming than the actual writing. In my case with my latest novel,  “Silent Murder” which is by no means an exception, I proofread in Word.doc six times, then sent the file to my formatter and once it was converted to Amazon friendly Kindle, I checked through my Kindle app and found more errors; usually a missing period or quotation mark, or ‘ instead of ” and so on. In the Kindle I went through another six readings, finding errors I never saw before. What? Where did this come from? How did I not notice?

It is brutal. There are digital gremlins. I am sure of it.

The point being in one of my reviews of an earlier book the reviewer mentioned a few grammatical errors, but they did not interfere with his or her enjoyment of the story. It still bothers me that the book has a few errors. But the author reaches the point when he/she has gone through the readings so many times, with time off in between to clear your mind, that one must let it go to keep what sanity you have left.

So I apologize to anyone who finds a mistake along the way. I did my best, but we live in a new world of story telling, and if best selling authors can publish e-books with mistakes and grammatical errors, then we must forgive. I wish we could all write perfect books, but readers and proofreaders who read a book before publication, along with the author, and those insidious digital gremlins, will miss something.

My website

My amazon page

 

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A peek into a writer’s madness

You have no doubt read, or heard, of actors who get so involved with a character they play that they take the character home with them, in fact becoming to a real extent, the character, and in the process losing something of themselves until the project is over, then moving on to have another character inhabit their being; particularly troublesome if the character they are playing is a dark, sinister, creepy character.

Writers experience this too, after all if a writer’s characters are to be real, the writer goes through what they go through, at least in his mind. He, like the actor, is inhabited by the thoughts, feelings, and actions of his characters.

I experienced this in a short story I recently finished called “The Unstained Couch.” It is a horror story, one in which I blended two separate story ideas I had. Because of the darkness of the tale that concerns a man who wakes up, finds a dead woman in his bed whom he does not know and goes into the kitchen to make tea, then later finds the woman is not in his bed, but gone, then reappears on the kitchen floor, and because the couch keeps moving every time he enters the living room, and because the couch, once a cherished piece of memory, now a hideously ugly reminder of the past, my mind went into dark corners, corners that were not pleasant. While the creative part of my brain was happily active in creating this weird dark tale, my emotions were not; they were conflicted, violent, murderous. I was acutely aware of both the creative aspect and the emotional aspect working side by side.

Now I understand how writers can go mad, now I understood what Thomas Mann meant when writing of the writer looking into the abyss.

I have yet to go back to the story and proofread and edit the story. It is difficult to return to a house that is haunted that you escaped from, so I must wait until I am ready. Madness lives on those pages, in those words, but I will embrace the madness once the residue clears from the present.

My sane website

Some other dark tales I wrote.

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