Why You Should Write Right Now

After another one of my books was published, a teen wrote me that they’d felt desperate and alone and said, “I finally feel like I’ve been seen. It helped so much. So much.”

I’ve been copyediting an anthology about self-love and it’s an interesting concept in the middle of our second pandemic winter when everything feels a bit impossible for some of us as we deal with the losses of friends, family, and income.

It makes me think a lot about how do we take care of ourselves when so many of our outlets aren’t there any longer.

How do we remember to take care of ourselves when we worry so much about things beyond our control, about a world that seems to need more and more from us while we’re sometimes barely hanging on?

That’s an especially big question for writers. I’ve had so many students and writers this year tell me that it doesn’t feel like they should be writing now because there’s so much pain and loss in the world.

But the thing is?

That’s exactly when you should. Our stories, even when they are fiction, even when they go unpublished, become a document for our time, they are our outlets and our bits of showing the future what it was like for us.

And the thing is? You want all the stories to be out there. Not just stories written by one demographic. All stories. Your story is part of that too. You get to write your own stories and to hell with people who tell you that you shouldn’t.

Silent.

No outlet.

No voice.

Is that what you want to be? During this pandemic stories are even more important. During the times when we confront inequities in our society, stories are even more important.

Your story.

It’s worth being out there.

During times of great distress, many people turn to storytelling or art or creating because that’s how they get through it, process it, and also how they end up influencing the world towards good.

A couple years ago I wrote a book and I got an email where someone told me that my book had saved their life. That’s hard to get my head around. It wasn’t a big, deep book. It was adventurous.

After another one of my books was published, a teen wrote me that they’d felt desperate and alone and said, “I finally feel like I’ve been seen. It helped so much. So much.”

That wasn’t my intention, but oh my gosh what a gift that kid gave me there

You can’t make a difference unless you give yourself permission to act.

You’ve got this. Go write. Go art. Go sing. Go create. The world needs more beauty and more thought in it. You can be a part of that. Channel your fear into passion. Channel your silence into a pursuit. Be true. Be real. And you’ll end up saving someone.


LET’S HANG OUT!

HEY! DO YOU WANT TO SPEND MORE TIME TOGETHER?

MAYBE TAKE A COURSE, CHILL ON SOCIAL MEDIA, BUY ART OR A BOOK, OR LISTEN TO OUR PODCAST?

JUST CLICK ON THIS LINK AND FIND OUT HOW WE CAN.

And to hear our podcast latest episode for DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE about cats on Tinder and other bad advice click here.

Our first episode of LOVING THE STRANGE is here. It’s about loving places for no logical reasons.

The visuals for our podcasts are all on Carrie’s YouTube channel. You can like and subscribe there, too!

Love Your Way Through It

Compassion and empathy makes you stronger. You don’t need to walk through this world with a big stick, scream from a bully pulpit or sermonize with fear. Empathy and kindness for even those who hurt you—or those who try to hurt you—only makes you stronger.

It’s really easy to get all wrapped up in status and ambition, to fall into the syndrome where you think the grass is always greener everywhere except your lawn, to be jealous at other people’s accolades or family’s or looks or luck.

            Shakespeare said that comparisons are odious. And that long-dead white guy was right.

            Comparisons make you feel like poop.

            I know that a lot of people try to make themselves feel better by comparing themself to others and find the others lesser.

I’ve had people do it to me all my life. I bet you have, too.

My husband before Shaun was a hospital CEO in a small, local hospital. I was volunteering to decorate for one of the hospital’s two annual fundraisers. I was up on a ladder wearing my favorite Snoopy shoes and jeans, hardly hospital CEO wife clothes, but good stuff for climbing ladders, hauling tables and putting out poinsettias.

My hair was its natural color and in a lopsided ponytail. I had no make-up on.

I’ll never forget these two wealthy ladies about two decades older than me loudly saying, “What does he see in her?”

            I tottered on the ladder a bit and the person helping me knew that I heard. It would have been impossible not to hear.

            “Don’t listen to them. They have miserable small lives and they’re jealous. Just jealous shrews,” the helper said.

            She might have been right, but it didn’t matter right that second.

I heard their words and for a moment they hurt me, but then I just felt so sad for them. How lonely their lives must be if they had to say that about me. How sad.

All I could do was love them when I thought about the hurt that they must have had inside of their hearts.

            Neither of those women probably even remember that moment, but I do, and I also remember that I made a choice.

            I could have luxuriated in that hurt instead of acknowledging it, seeing it, and then letting it pass through me.

            I could have lashed out at them and matched their pettiness with my own.

            But instead I chose empathy. I had the luxury and safety of doing that because I’m secretly pretty secure in who I am. I love myself even when I suck. I chose to love them when they sucked, too.

            A translation of Dhammapada verse 223 makes it so that  Buddha once roughly said, “Silence the angry man with love. Silence the ill-natured man with kindness. Silence the miser with generosity. Silence the liar with truth.”

Some translations use ‘overpower’ rather than ‘silence.’

Overpower the angry man with love.

            Love your way through it.

            Compassion and empathy makes you stronger. You don’t need to walk through this world with a big stick, scream from a bully pulpit or sermonize with fear. Empathy and kindness for even those who hurt you—or those who try to hurt you—only makes you stronger.

Let’s all be strong together, okay?


HELP US AND DO AN AWESOME GOOD DEED

Thanks to all of you who keep listening to our weirdness on the DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE podcast and our new LOVING THE STRANGE podcast.

We’re sorry we laugh so much… sort of. 

Please share it and subscribe if you can. Please rate and like us if you are feeling kind, because it matters somehow. There’s a new episode every Tuesday!

Thanks so much for being one of the 256,000 downloads if you’ve given us a listen!


LET’S HANG OUT!

HEY! DO YOU WANT TO SPEND MORE TIME TOGETHER?

MAYBE TAKE A COURSE, CHILL ON SOCIAL MEDIA, BUY ART OR A BOOK, OR LISTEN TO OUR PODCAST?

JUST CLICK ON THIS LINK AND FIND OUT HOW WE CAN.

And to hear our podcast latest episode for DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE about cats on Tinder and other bad advice click here.

Our first episode of LOVING THE STRANGE is here. It’s about loving places for no logical reasons.

The visuals for our podcasts are all on Carrie’s YouTube channel. You can like and subscribe there, too!

Shaun Takes Over and Talks About Character

            Hi! I know this is Carrie’s blog and you all look forward so much to hearing from her, but today I have commandeered it and I may do that once in a while because she is such an incredible woman and I don’t want her to be so overworked that her magnificence dulls.

An adorable Florida man who moved to Maine
Look! It’s Shaun!

By the way, this is Carrie’s husband. Actually, it should be Carrie’s Husband because that is the actual title I have come to be known by to a good portion of our friends. My birthname is Shaun though, if you didn’t already know, and I am okay with being Carrie’s Husband, because she is that crazy awesome!

            But I digress. I am not an author by any means and Carrie asked me to talk about something to do with writing, maybe a prompt. Ugh, my brain hurts already! So, I took a few minutes to mull over what I would have a hard time doing if I was trying to write a book (I have tried and many accolades to you writer folks.) and I came up with so many ideas it is embarrassing. But I got stuck on one and that is, character traits and/or development. Heck, maybe these are two totally different subjects to you, but as I said, writing is not my bailiwick.

            I thought, “I have no idea how to give words on a page human traits and make them feel real to people. How would I do that?”

Well, I decided that I would sit down and just think and reminisce about the people in my life who influenced me as a young person and who helped make me who I am today.

            My mother and father divorced when I was two years old and I never saw him again until I was nine years old when he came back into my life bearing my two-year-old half-sister. He and my mother eventually got married again, my mother adopted my half-sister. They had another child, my younger brother, and eventually got divorced again when I was in my early  twenties.

I never really liked my father nor did I mesh with his viewpoints on life, although as we both matured, we grew into a polite relationship of acceptance. In reality I just gave up on arguing with him and trying to make him see anybody’s point of view other than his own. Within this paragraph, there are hundreds of story possibilities, but I am only telling you this so that I can say that I was raised and influenced mainly by my mother and my grandfather. There were times when my mother and I lived on our own, with roommates (friends of my mother’s), and also with my grandparents.

Thinking about my mother, father and grandfather brings back so many memories, both good and bad, and to replicate their personality traits would be relatively easy because even as my memories seem to fade, memories of them are still strong and vibrant. 

           So, to make that supremely realistic character I am going to ask you to not think about those people in your life that are so easily remembered, but go beyond them and dig deeper. Think about someone whom you may have forgotten, someone who may not have been in your life long perhaps, but still left an impression, good or bad. We do need both kinds of characters after all.

Just writing this is causing me to remember people that I have forgotten. People who I didn’t otherwise know, but for a brief, chance meeting, but who still left an indelible mark upon me. Such an experience, possibly long forgotten by you, can help you create a character of difference or help you get out of a rut where you feel your characters are not deep enough or possibly seem to similar. 

            I don’t know if anything that I have written will be useable advice to you, but I can say that I have been thinking about this off and on for about four hours now and I have had a great time. Regardless of whether or not I have helped, I would recommend taking this thought journey! I am not one into yoga or meditation but just sitting quietly and pondering this I have basically run the full gamut of emotions and rejuvenated many memories that had faded from the forefront. Truth be known, my eyes are watery ,but that is just part of the process and sometimes I can be an emotional wimp. If there were no emotions involved, it doesn’t seem like a worthwhile experience whether you are trying to create a better character or you are just reminiscing.

            Carrie and I have spoken about character building, in many ways, on our podcast Dogs Are Smarter Than People and I would invite you to listen if you haven’t yet made that journey. There’s a link below.

            Thank you taking the time to read my ramblings and may you have a happy and safe 2021!

HELP US AND DO AN AWESOME GOOD DEED

Thanks to all of you who keep listening to our weirdness on the DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE podcast and our new LOVING THE STRANGE podcast.

We’re sorry we laugh so much… sort of. 

Please share it and subscribe if you can. Please rate and like us if you are feeling kind, because it matters somehow. There’s a new episode every Tuesday!

Thanks so much for being one of the 256,000 downloads if you’ve given us a listen!



LET’S HANG OUT!

HEY! DO YOU WANT TO SPEND MORE TIME TOGETHER?

MAYBE TAKE A COURSE, CHILL ON SOCIAL MEDIA, BUY ART OR A BOOK, OR LISTEN TO OUR PODCAST?

JUST CLICK ON THIS LINK AND FIND OUT HOW WE CAN.

And to hear our podcast latest episode for DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE about cats on Tinder and other bad advice click here.

Our first episode of LOVING THE STRANGE is here. It’s about loving places for no logical reasons.

The visuals for our podcasts are all on Carrie’s YouTube channel. You can like and subscribe there, too!

Ways to Battle Writer’s Block

Back in 2008, I had a big writer’s block and I wrote this on my LiveJournal blog And I think Some of you All might relate.


I know. I know!

I am the queen of WRITE NO MATTER WHAT.

I am the princess of WRITE EVEN WHEN YOU DON’T WANT TO.

But I can’t write. I write two sentences and then I lose it.  

I think I’m one of those people who can only write when they are happy. And I’m not happy. I am so far from happy.  I know I always seem happy, but right now I’m really REALLY unhappy.

Writer people out there do you have advice?

I need advice.


Please?


I initially friends locked this entry back in 2008 because:


1. I liked to pretend I’m not neurotic in case I ever run for office again.
2. I didn’t want my mom to call and ask me what’s wrong.

But, I think maybe it’s better for people to see how all writers can be insecure or have bad days and how some of us can be open about it (not that it’s better to be open about it… it’s fine to be whatever way you are), but more importantly how freaking amazing the Livejournal community was at giving .id

Look at how nice people were. You guys were all so amazing. Crud. Now I’m crying. Bad Carrie, bad.


LiveJournal isn’t a space I hang out anymore, but I still have things archived and it showed me all this great advice and empathy that was out there and that? That makes me happy and have faith even when the world tries to take faith away from me.


Advice #1

 I think today calls for a warm blanket, a comfy couch, and a really good book.

Hoping you feel better soon…..

This counts as “advice I give, and really should take myself, but usually don’t”:

Advice #2


Maybe you can give yourself a set amount of time–15 minutes, half an hour, nothing drastic–and set some kind of timer, and tell yourself that for that time you will write, no matter how awful it comes out. And then at the end of that time, if you still feel awful and it isn’t working, you get to stop for the day and do something comforting. Probably you’ll end up stopping, but maybe you’ll get something you can use in that short time. And if you don’t want to stop, if it’s starting to work, then keep going. The one thing you’re not allowed to do is to beat yourself up over whatever you do or don’t get done, because that won’t help at all.

I know it’s weird, but I have to make those kinds of bargains with myself all the time!

Advice #3

Get away from your computer? Just sit and visualize your story for a while–could be several hours. Take notes if you have to, but don’t hold the pen or notebook in your hand when you’re not HAVING to scribble?

Tea? Chocolate? Play with the animals?

Good luck–it’ll come!

Advice #4

My advice is to wallow.

I mean it.

Wallow.

Write about why life sucks right now…then delete it.

Be home alone and rant and rave.

Throw a tantrum–kicking legs and all.

Bawl.

Bawl some more.

Let the writing sit.

Seven months went by for me, and look. You are still here, LJ Land is still here, my stories are still here, my agent (bless her!) is still here… My friends are all still here. Now, I’m not saying you should take a break from LJ Land, no way! I’d miss you too much! I’m just saying, it’s okay. It’s okay to not feel like writing.

Relax. Let yourself ‘not write’.

It’ll be there tomorrow and the next day and the next….

HUGS!!!!

*hugs* and *chocolate*

Advice #5



Go watch some TV – an episode of something/a film you love, sad, funny whatever, it doesn’t matter. Give yourself and your brain a break. Then do the fool-your-brain thing – say you’re only going to write 100 words [or 50] and that will be it. Then pat yourself on the back for a good job done, and if you want to go for bonus wordage, then do the next 100. And tell yourself that it can be about anything.

And more *hugs*

Advice #6

This may cause your daughter to hate me forever and plot vengeance.

You need to dance. Put on the happiest song, (kudos if it’s a geeky, embaressing song) and dance in the living room. Revel in your geekiness and the groans of humiliation from others.

Don’t write. Read. Soak in hot, fragrant water. Drink/eat lots of chocolate. Visit your friends…the writing will be waiting for you when you come back. Till then, tons of HUGS and good thoughts, Carrie!!

Advice #7

Having emotions means you are not one of the sheeple.

If that doesn’t make yo smile, consider this: “The good writing of any age has always been the product of someone’s neurosis, and we’d have a mighty dull literature if all the writers that came along were a bunch of happy chuckleheads.” ~William Styron, interview, Writers at Work, 1958

If that doesn’t help, I suppose I could call and do the choo-choo thing and sing songs. But that’s really an emergency procedure.

Advice #8

Aw, Carrie! {hugs}

I’m a big believer in WRITE NO MATTER WHAT…unless you can’t. 🙂 I think there are times when I weasel my way out of writing because I’m being a slacker – that’s not cool. But there are other times that I take a break because I can feel inside that no matter how long I sit there stabbing keys, nothing worthwhile is going to appear on the page and in the meantime I’m feeling darker and darker inside (and not the good kind of dark, if that makes any sense).

Take a break (like everyone else suggested) – whether it’s for a day or a week or whatever. Be gentle with yourself. You’ll feel the whatever-it-is ease inside you when you’re able to sit at the keyboard again. Just make sure you’re paying attention and not coddling yourself *too* much. 😉

Last Thoughts

I hope one of those writers’ advice helps you if you’re here because of writers’ block. No one way will work for everyone. No one way will even always work for ourselves. Be gentle with yourself the same way you would be for the ones you love.


LET’S HANG OUT!

HEY! DO YOU WANT TO SPEND MORE TIME TOGETHER?

MAYBE TAKE A COURSE, CHILL ON SOCIAL MEDIA, BUY ART OR A BOOK, OR LISTEN TO OUR PODCAST?

JUST CLICK ON THIS LINK AND FIND OUT HOW WE CAN.

And to hear our podcast latest episode for DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE about cats on Tinder and other bad advice click here.

Our first episode of LOVING THE STRANGE is here. It’s about loving places for no logical reasons.

The visuals for our podcasts are all on Carrie’s YouTube channel. You can like and subscribe there, too!

Love Me! Love My Character! Writing Tips.

It’s the last of our posts about making characters (or at least the last one of r a bit). Check out the tags to see the others.

Orson Scott Card (citation down below) has a list of ‘devices’ that he says makes readers love characters. I’m going to run them down here, because I’m running out of time in my week! 

First off: Physical Attractiveness. 

  •  The hot factor.: If other characters are attracted to them, we will be too, he says. 
  •   Sometimes this can make your readers hate the character so be careful.  She/he shouldn’t be annoyingly attractive. That’s dull. 

You think I’m dull? 
No, Harry, never you. You eat have oat milk in your fridge, bananas in your freezer, speak English, Cantonese, and Spanish and are an amazing dancer? How could that be dull? 

Altruistic Awesomeness.

  •    – We root for the victim.  We also can eventually show how the victim is no longer a victim in our awesome story arch. 
  •   – We root for the savior. We want Petunia to rescue the dog/cat/alien/hamster/boy.  
  •   – We root for the sacrificer. It’s hard not to love someone who suffers to make the world better. 

I totally have the altruistic awesomeness down pat. 

The Doers

We root for the character who wants something, who goes after a dream. The bigger the want/dream the more we tend to root

The Bravehearts

We like the character who is brave, who takes risks to do what needs to be done (if those risks are morally cool). 

Those Who Have ‘Tude

How a character feels about herself or others impacts how we feel about the character. 

The Rest

We also tend to like characters who are clever, who volunteer, who are dependable.

And we also like characters with a little quirk – that imperfection or tic that makes them an individual.

Think about Ron in Harry Potter. He’s loyal as all heck. He takes risks to do what’s right (steals parents’ car, goes in off-limit places).

He is brave but he freaks about spiders.

He is smart in certain ways (outwits the magic chess board), but he is flawed too. He’s a bit jealous. He’s a bit insecure. He’s a bit lazy when it comes to studying.

Yet we love him. His flaws and quirks and reactions and choices make him adorable and one of the most loved characters in one of the most popular children’s books ever. 

Yes, it is I, Ron Weasley

Card also gives a quick run-down on what we don’t like in characters: 

  • Hurting another character on purpose, especially if the character likes causing pain
  • Killing someone for selfish reasons
  • Being self serving
  • Breaking promises
  • Super big words/formal speech in dialogue (We usually give this to the bad guys. I actually give it to a good guy, cause I’m a rule breaker like that)
  • Being totally psycho in a bad way
  • Attitude – whining too much, complaining too much, lack of humor, etc….

Resource

Card, Orson Scott. CHARACTERS AND VIEWPOINTS. Cincinnati: Writer’s Digest Books

LET’S HANG OUT!

HEY! DO YOU WANT TO SPEND MORE TIME TOGETHER?

MAYBE TAKE A COURSE, CHILL ON SOCIAL MEDIA, BUY ART OR A BOOK, OR LISTEN TO OUR PODCAST?

JUST CLICK ON THIS LINK AND FIND OUT HOW WE CAN.

And to hear our podcast latest episode for DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE about cats on Tinder and other bad advice click here.

Our first episode of LOVING THE STRANGE is here. It’s about loving places for no logical reasons.

The visuals for our podcasts are all on Carrie’s YouTube channel. You can like and subscribe there, too!


LIKE YOUR DAMN CHARACTER

So, we’re still talking about characters here and I’m going to go out on a limb here and say:

It’s important for people to like your main character.

Obviously, this isn’t always true. There are exceptions, but just in general, okay? You all can debate about it in the comments if you like. It might be fun. 

A big key to the reader liking your character is:

YOU LIKING YOUR CHARACTER.

It’s hard to write 75,000 words or even a picture book if you despise your main character. It’ll come through to the reader. 


Another big key to character likability is: THE FIRST IMPRESSION. 



That’s the big moment when the reader first meets the character.

So think about your reader and whether or not they are going to like a character that they first see picking their nose (some will/some won’t) or rescuing a bird (some will/some won’t) or jumping off a swing or telling off a teacher or moping in their room or playing in a sandbox.

This first impression is shallow.

It isn’t deep and it’s not enough to sustain the reader throughout the book, but it’s the first link the reader has to understanding the character. It’s important. It’s just as important as a lead sentence. I swear it. 

And it’s also important to remember that if that first impression is unpleasant (say you are writing a romance novel geared towards straight women and the male romantic figure is expelling gas out his rectum while studying ear wax when we first meet him (Note: This is gross not quirky.), it is really hard sometimes to overcome that first impression. You, as the writer, have to work super hard.

 Even if he looks like me? 
Yes, Fabio, even if he looks like you. Maybe even more so.

Finally, readers usually want to feel sympathetic to the main character. They want to relate to him or her or it. But they also want to be curious about that main character. The main character shouldn’t be EXACTLY like the reader, is what I’m saying. 

For the rest of these posts on character, check out the tags CHARACTERS, MAKING CHARACTERS or WRITING CHARACTERS. For other writing tips, just check out WRITING TIPS.


LET’S HANG OUT!

HEY! DO YOU WANT TO SPEND MORE TIME TOGETHER?

MAYBE TAKE A COURSE, CHILL ON SOCIAL MEDIA, BUY ART OR A BOOK, OR LISTEN TO OUR PODCAST?

JUST CLICK ON THIS LINK AND FIND OUT HOW WE CAN.

And to hear our podcast latest episode for DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE about cats on Tinder and other bad advice click here.

Our first episode of LOVING THE STRANGE is here. It’s about loving places for no logical reasons.

The visuals for our podcasts are all on Carrie’s YouTube channel. You can like and subscribe there, too!


HELP US AND DO AN AWESOME GOOD DEED

Thanks to all of you who keep listening to our weirdness on the DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE podcast and our new LOVING THE STRANGE podcast.

We’re sorry we laugh so much… sort of. 

Please share it and subscribe if you can. Please rate and like us if you are feeling kind, because it matters somehow. There’s a new episode every Tuesday!

Thanks so much for being one of the 256,000 downloads if you’ve given us a listen!



How to Write Awesome Characters

Hi! If you’re just joining us we’re talking about character this week. To find the posts about character, just look at the tags WRITING CHARACTERS or MAKING CHARACTERS.

So, in the comments of a blog I used to guest star in, a writer, Helen, mentioned that she once took a writing class and “the teacher said every character had to have a good trait, a bad trait, and a quirk of some kind. I’ve often wondered if that was good advice.”

I think that’s pretty simplistic, actually, no offense to that teacher. But it’s not bad advice. And it works as a fantastic base.

What Does Every Character Need?

  1. A good trait
  2. A bad trait
  3. A quirk
  4. A motivation (Yep. I added that in. Everybody wants. Everybody needs. Especially characters.)

Lots of times when teaching people to write, we try to reduce things down to a magic formula that is as simple as possible, because that’s kind of what people want: We want it easy.

And it can work. I mean microwave popcorn works. But is it as good as real popcorn, popped over a campfire? Um. No.

Writing is like that too. We can try to create characters (quirky or not) by going like this.

Good trait: Brave
Bad trait: Leaps without looking
Quirk: Collects phobias

Want/Motivation: To be loved

But that doesn’t really make a character real or whole or detailed or anything like that.

Also, people tend not to have just one good trait, bad trait, or quirk. These things shift and change.

People and characters are not static things that can be defined so easily.

Just try to define my character that easily. I dare you! 

I mean, I ADORED Harry Potter when I first read him, but sometimes he’s a bit of a pain-in-the bum when he gets all mopey and secretive and annoyed at Ron. Right?

Similarly, I love my daughter of awesome who is normally a sweetheart, but sometimes she’s a bit of a pain-in-the-bum when she gets all humans-must-not-chew-food-anywhere-near-me.

Choices Define Our Characters

When I talk at schools all around the country (pre COVID), I tell the students that character is determined by the choices someone makes in real life and in books.

Major characters have choices. Quirky characters have choices.

When the kids decide to follow the Cat in the Hat that forms part of their characters. When Harry feels empathy for the snake that’s jailed in the zoo that forms part of his character.

What else forms a character?

How they talk
How they feel
How they want
What they want
What they feel
What they say
What they do
How they act
Why they act
How they fidget
Why they fidget
THE CHOICES THEY MAKE!!!!! (This is the big one, honestly. That’s why I keep stressing it.)

The stronger those things are oftentimes the more real or the more quirky the character is.

Think about in Winn Dixie. That little girls wants so hard and how she talked and felt were so vivid that they not only make her character soar, they also make the book soar.

As authors for kids or even adults, we need to know the why and how of our characters (or we have to just trust the why and how depending on what kind of writer we are) and we have to work. It isn’t always simple and that’s good. Really good. 

Okay. More tomorrow! I have revisions to do.

Xo
Carrie



LET’S HANG OUT!

HEY! DO YOU WANT TO SPEND MORE TIME TOGETHER?

MAYBE TAKE A COURSE, CHILL ON SOCIAL MEDIA, BUY ART OR A BOOK, OR LISTEN TO OUR PODCAST?

JUST CLICK ON THIS LINK AND FIND OUT HOW WE CAN.

And to hear our podcast latest episode for DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE about cats on Tinder and other bad advice click here.

Our first episode of LOVING THE STRANGE is here. It’s about loving places for no logical reasons.

The visuals for our podcasts are all on Carrie’s YouTube channel. You can like and subscribe there, too!

HEAR MY BOOK BABY (AND MORE) ON PATREON

On one of my Patreon sites I read and print chapters of unpublished YA novels. THE LAST GODS and SAINT and now ALMOST DEAD. This is a monthly membership site (Hear the book chapters – $1/month, read them $3-month, plus goodies!). Sometimes I send people art! Art is fun.

On this, my second site, WRITE BETTER NOW, you can do a one-time purchase of a writing class or get two of my books in eBook form or just support our podcast or the dogs. It’s all part of the WRITING CLASS OF AWESOME.

It’s a super fun place to hang out, learn, read, and see my weirdness in its true form.

And I’m starting up a brand new, adult paranormal set at a Maine campground. You can read the first chapter here.

Carrie Jones Books is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com


How To Write Great Characters.

Lots of times when people review my books they call my characters…. Get ready for it… QUIRKY.

 This bird looks a little quirky here and I wish he were one of my characters, but he isn’t. He may be soon though.

Now, when I think of quirky, I think of my uncle Kilton.

If you are a man, Uncle Kilton will grab your bicep and check out your guns the moment he meets you. If you are a woman?

If you’re a woman … he guesses your weight. Now that’s quirky. It is also annoying, actually, but it’s definitely quirky.

If he can’t tell your gender? He’ll do both.

The quirkiness doesn’t stop there.

Uncle Kilton once ate a worm in his corn on the cob and said, “Mmm…. Protein.”

He chews pieces of grass and wears green maintenance worker pants with a white undershirt and flannel shirts. People call him Kilty.

He likes to rescue cats. He has about eighteen old pick-up trucks. He’s also built a telescope and is a millionaire. He has never gone on a vacation in his life.

So, compared to him I tend to not think my characters are ‘quirky.’ But it also gets me thinking about what makes our characters – characters. What makes them unique or quirky or flat or lovable? What makes them real?

The ultimate in quirk. 

This week we’re going to try to find out. We’re going to look at major character. Those are the characters the story revolves around like the CAT in CAT IN THE HAT or HARRY POTTER and RON and HERMIONE. In our books there are also minor characters and placeholders but I’m going to blow them off for now, which makes me feel both powerful and mean. Sorry minor characters! 

All these posts will be tagged MAKING CHARACTERS if you’re reading them after 2020.



LET’S HANG OUT!

HEY! DO YOU WANT TO SPEND MORE TIME TOGETHER?

MAYBE TAKE A COURSE, CHILL ON SOCIAL MEDIA, BUY ART OR A BOOK, OR LISTEN TO OUR PODCAST?

JUST CLICK ON THIS LINK AND FIND OUT HOW WE CAN.

And to hear our podcast latest episode for DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE about cats on Tinder and other bad advice click here.

Our first episode of LOVING THE STRANGE is here. It’s about loving places for no logical reasons.

The visuals for our podcasts are all on Carrie’s YouTube channel. You can like and subscribe there, too!

Writing Notebooks and When Daddy Died

Of all the tools I have as a writer, one of the most important is my notebook. And a pen, of course. I try not to write in blood. It’s messy and the police tend to look down on it. Handcuffs chafe. Even the bling kind.

But, honestly, all good writing is messy and bloody. That’s because good writing gets at essential truths. To get at those truths you have to dig. You have to work on your craft, and then do it some more.

When we talk about craft, we often talk about how to show and not tell, how to be sparing with the adverbs, how not to write “he felt,” “she saw,” and so on, and how to have gorgeous details and a plot with forward motion.

That’s all important.

But what is it that a writer can do to make her/his work really sing? What is it that makes her/his book different from all the other books about forbidden vampire love or struggling with an overbearing evil nemesis who is the head cheerleader?

It’s about the willingness to get messy.

It’s about finding the tools that allow you to delve into the messy area where you allow yourself to wonder: What is it to be human? What is it to have a story? What is it to be alive?

Those essential questions are the ones that make a really good story resonate. in your heart or mind.

They are the questions that bore into the work of Rita Williams-Garcia or a Sharon Darrow. They are the questions that make a writer a truth teller.

 And how do you get to those questions?

 One way is to have a notebook.

In her essay “On Keeping a Notebook”  (from The Writer’s Presence), Joan Didion writes about her own notebook writing, 

“It is a good idea, then to keep in touch, and I suppose that keeping in touch is what notebooks are all about. And we are all on our own when it comes to keeping those lines open to ourselves: your notebook will never help me, nor mine you.”

Didion

In my Judy Blume Diary, my first real notebook, there was an entry page at the end of each month. It listed things.

Favorite Book:

Best Thing that Happened:

Worst Thing that Happened:

At the end of June, I wrote under Worst Thing that Happened: 

Daddy died.

 
Those two words bring me back to trying to revive my stepdad who was collapsed on the white carpet of my Aunt Shirley’s Massachusetts living room. Those two words make my own chest tighten. Sirens get closer. People yell, “Carrie, back off. Get away.”

My mother screams and screams and runs to the other room, a panicked bird who has slammed into a glass picture window and she can’t understand why or what it is that is hurting her.

Daddy died

But those two words don’t bring those images to you. My notebook is not your notebook. Your notebook is not mine, but our notebooks are places where we as writers, as crafters of stories, can go back and remember. We can use these tools over and over again to recreate truth in form of story.

It’s a powerful tool… messy, yeah… but powerful. Kind of like life, right?

Elizabeth Berg wrote

When you are first starting to write, you don’t need to buy a whole lot of things. What you need most is a fierce desire to put things down on paper; and you need a certain sensibility, a way of seeing and feeling. These things cost nothing, and like many things that are free, are worth a lot – worth everything, in fact.”

Berg

Even if you haven’t just started to write, the desire, the sensibility, the notebook needs to be there. You have to be willing to turn the page, write down the words, delve deep, and get messy. Know your emotions. Know your characters’ emotions and put them on the page.

The notebook is a perfect tool for that. It might be a Judy Blume Diary, a spiral pad, a yellow binder, or post-it notes. It doesn’t matter. What matters is that it’s yours. It’s your place keeper so that you can remember the things that you can use later, messy or not.

Resources

The Writer’s Presence: A Pool of Readings. Ed. McQueade Donald and Atwan, Robert. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2003.
Escaping Into the Open: the Art of Writing True.
Berg, Elizabeth. New York: Perennial, 1999.


LET’S HANG OUT!

HEY! DO YOU WANT TO SPEND MORE TIME TOGETHER?

MAYBE TAKE A COURSE, CHILL ON SOCIAL MEDIA, BUY ART OR A BOOK, OR LISTEN TO OUR PODCAST?

JUST CLICK ON THIS LINK AND FIND OUT HOW WE CAN.

And to hear our podcast latest episode for DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE about cats on Tinder and other bad advice click here.

Our first episode of LOVING THE STRANGE is here. It’s about loving places for no logical reasons.

The visuals for our podcasts are all on Carrie’s YouTube channel. You can like and subscribe there, too!

HEAR MY BOOK BABY (AND MORE) ON PATREON

On one of my Patreon sites I read and print chapters of unpublished YA novels. THE LAST GODS and SAINT and now ALMOST DEAD. This is a monthly membership site (Hear the book chapters – $1/month, read them $3-month, plus goodies!). Sometimes I send people art! Art is fun.

On this, my second site, WRITE BETTER NOW, you can do a one-time purchase of a writing class or get two of my books in eBook form or just support our podcast or the dogs. It’s all part of the WRITING CLASS OF AWESOME.

It’s a super fun place to hang out, learn, read, and see my weirdness in its true form.

And I’m starting up a brand new, adult paranormal set at a Maine campground. You can read the first chapter here.

Secret Writing Advice

Do not sign up with a local internet provider who will allegedly embezzle funds from his employees’ 401k accounts and then disconnect the service, the server and the phone lines and then everyone (including your editors and agent and mother) will try to send you an email and they will get a message that you don’t exist.

No. Sorry. That’s not it. 

Although that is good important advice I wish someone had told me before it happened.

Below is my real advice and it’s not about computer fraud or even strictly about the craft of writing. Instead, it’s about the mind state of being a writer.

Yes, the mind state.

Yes, that sounds hokey.

MY ADVICE:

The thing is that sometimes writing is easy.


The thing is that sometimes writing is not… easy.

These are the days of writers. People blog. They text. They NaNoWriMo. You are one of those people. You know that it’s hard.

I know that it is not easy for me to be one of those people, a writer in the days of writers, and especially in these times of economic turmoil where people are getting laid off or fired and entire publishing houses are restructuring, trying to stay alive.

Let me tell you something about writers in these days of writers. 

Sometimes when we look at a page we see the world.

Sometimes when we look at a page we see hope. Sometimes when we look at a page we see nothing at all.

But here’s the big secret….

Writers matter. Stories matter. You matter.

It all matters despite the economy, or maybe even more so because of it.
It all matters despite the fact that the whole world can write and blog and text, or maybe even more so because of it.

So we lurch.

So we bother.

So we search our mirrors and our lives.

So we search in hearts and in actions and we make stories.

No matter what: We make stories.

So go on. Read and study, think and play, feel the truths that form solid hard in the gut and in the throat. Write your stories, blogs, texts, and poems and don’t worry if it’s Proust or gobbley gook or even if it will get published.

Worry will keep you from creating. And we all worry too much about too many things. Writing and the joy of creation should not be one of those things.

That’s my secret advice: Just write.

You owe it to the world and the world owes it to you.

LET’S HANG OUT!

HEY! DO YOU WANT TO SPEND MORE TIME TOGETHER?

MAYBE TAKE A COURSE, CHILL ON SOCIAL MEDIA, BUY ART OR A BOOK, OR LISTEN TO OUR PODCAST?

JUST CLICK ON THIS LINK AND FIND OUT HOW WE CAN.

And to hear our podcast latest episode for DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE about cats on Tinder and other bad advice click here.

Our first episode of LOVING THE STRANGE is here. It’s about loving places for no logical reasons.

The visuals for our podcasts are all on Carrie’s YouTube channel. You can like and subscribe there, too!