Don’t Be the Stereotype. How to Hook Your Readers With Memorable Characters

So, when you read a book, and you remember a book, a lot of the time it isn’t the plot that you’re remembering. It’s the character that has held you enthralled.

Plots are super important, but it’s the character that things are happening to that really hold the plot together.

A lot of stories fail because their main character is… Well, he’s boring. She’s a bit blah. There’s nothing about them that stands out.

We remember the people who are larger the life. I know we’ve talked about it before, but it’s so important. Make your characters outrageous. Make them wild. We all love Captain America, but he’s not quite as memorable as The Hulk or Iron Man.

Dogs are Smarter Than People Podcast
How to hook readers with kick-butt memorable characters

Elements that Can Make a Character Larger than Life

Strength and Inner Struggle –

The Hulk is memorable because he has this intense inner struggle against his own rage and helplessness, but he also morphs into this huge beast with great strength.

Wit –

Funny characters are hard to write, but they are so memorable. Iron Man, Deadpool, whoever it is Chris Pratt plays in Guardian of the Galaxies – those guys are funny. We remember them more than Hawkeye (in the movies) because they are so funny. Plus, they’ve had stand-alone movies. Poor Hawkeye.

Self-Sacrifice –

The savior is memorable. That ultimate self-sacrificing hero like Captain America ends up being memorable even though his inner struggle isn’t all that. Why? Because he’s a higher form of hero. He’s good. He’s so good.

Sigh.

Dog Tip For Life: Don’t be the stereotype. Be authentic.

Writing Tip of the Pod: Don’t be afraid to build the biggest, coolest character you can build.

Shout Out – The music clips in this podcast are available thanks to Podington Bear’s generosity. The track is “Azzmash Reflash.”

Writing News

Next and Last Time Stoppers Book

It’s out! You can order my middle grade fantasy novel Time Stoppers Escape From the Badlands here or anywhere.

Please buy it so I can keep buying food for the dogs… and stuff…

37584945_10156714893329073_1974569355584733184_n

People call it a cross between Harry Potter and Percy Jackson but it’s set in Maine. It’s full of adventure, quirkiness and heart.

Moe Berg

The Spy Who Played Baseball is a picture book biography about Moe Berg. And… there’s a movie out now about Moe Berg, a major league baseball player who became a spy. How cool is that?

You should totally buy my book about Moe. It’s awesome and quirky and fun.

My Post copy 6

OUR PODCAST DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE.

Thanks to all of you who keep listening to our weirdness as we talk about random thoughts, writing advice and life tips. 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.

dogs are smarter than people carrie after dark being relentless to get published

Writing Coach

I offer solo writing coach services. For more about my individual coaching, click here.

Appearances

I’ll be at the Maine Literacy Volunteers Festival on September 8. It is in Augusta, Maine.

Don’t Be the Stereotype. How to Hook Your Readers With Memorable Characters

 
 
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Wednesday Writing Tips How to Hook Readers And How Not To Bore Them

The main element when we write a book is that we want our readers to keep reading. So,  I think I’m going to start what I like to call (Drumroll please) the Wednesday Writing Series About Hooking Your Reader.

I’ll be giving two hints a blog post. Let’s keep going!

TWO QUICK HINTS TO KEEP YOUR READER HOOKED ON YOUR BOOK

Let the reader identify with someone.

We like stories where we can quickly identify with the main character, or at least a character, pretty early on.

Think about all the BuzzFeed quizzes that ask, “Which Harry Potter Character Are You?” “Which Buffy Character Are You?” “Who Are You In The Wire?” “What Disney Princess Are You?”

It goes on and on.

We humans like to identify with characters who are in the stories we read or the video we watch. It’s like a nice pat on the back that says we aren’t alone, and it creates community.

Don’t Do This:

  1. Start with dialogue on the first line. It’s hard to care about the person speaking if you haven’t met them yet.

“Wow,” he said. “That is really it.”

Huh, the reader said.

2. Tell us stuff we don’t need to know.

So, in 1870 or something like that I had this great great aunt who allegedly stepped on a nail or something, not that it matters. Although, maybe it mattered to her, but yeah. I don’t know why I’m telling you this.

Neither does the reader.

3. Introduce 18 characters in the first paragraphs. It’s hard to remember who is who and who is important.

As Belinda walked inside the Timberland RV Campground in Trenton, Maine she waved hello to Lincoln, son-in-law of the owner, a retired man with a name like Jack or something, and then she waved to Debbie, Lincoln’s wife, who was riding on a golf cart with Charlene. Peggy was perched on the back with a blonde child whose name I think is Jackie…

Enough said, right?

4. And finally describe things just for the sake of describing them.

Timberland RV Campground descended into a slight hill, managing to split itself across two town lines. It was Trenton in the front and Ellsworth in the back and the back was where there were no trees surrounding the sites, just pull-in places for the giant RVs and motorhomes and campers and busses. I have no idea which is which. I’d never been in a campground before, but they had hook-ups at some of the sites for water and sewer, or just one, and electricity. There were metal fire rings and some people had fancied up their sites with flowers and decks and lobster buoys because… Maine.

 

You can find the other posts in this series by searching the hookingreaderstag.

Writing News

Next and Last Time Stoppers Book

It’s out! You can order my middle grade fantasy novel Time Stoppers Escape From the Badlands here or anywhere. The official release date was yesterday, August 7!

Please buy it so I can keep buying food for the dogs… and stuff…

37584945_10156714893329073_1974569355584733184_n

People call it a cross between Harry Potter and Percy Jackson but it’s set in Maine. It’s full of adventure, quirkiness and heart.

Moe Berg

The Spy Who Played Baseball is a picture book biography about Moe Berg. And… there’s a movie out now about Moe Berg, a major league baseball player who became a spy. How cool is that?

You should totally buy Carrie’s book about Moe. It’s awesome and quirky and fun.

OUR PODCAST DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE.

Thanks to all of you who keep listening to our weirdness as we talk about random thoughts, writing advice and life tips. 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.

dogs are smarter than people carrie after dark being relentless to get published

Writing Coach

Carrie offers solo writing coach services. For more about Carrie’s individual coaching, click here.

Appearances

Carrie will be at The Books-A-Million in South Portland, Maine on August 8. That’s tonight!

She’ll be at the Maine Literacy Volunteers Festival on September 8.

DiLAZJkXkAAHOHC

The Book Baby I Never Thought Would Get Published and the Human Baby I Never Thought Would be in the Army

 

Um… I got the third TIME STOPPERS book in the mail – the one that’s coming out super soon.

In sad news, I didn’t actually get to open the box of books, which is the ultimate writer happy moment because someone else did.

I know! I know! This means: 

  1. No unboxing video
  2. No glorious moment when I sob at the fact that I gave birth to a book baby

 

This makes me superstitious like: Why? Why didn’t I get to open my own box of books? Is this an omen? Does the universe hate me?

But here is the adorable book (Photo taken by the person who accidentally opened the book box and sent me the photo via cell phone).

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It’s super cute, isn’t it?

And I am now an anxious ball of freaking-out author, honestly because:

 

  1. I want people to notice that my book baby exists so that they can read it but also so that I can continue to have a writing career. Spoiler: You have to actually sell books to have a writing career. Sad, sad truth, I know.
  2. I am bad at self promotion.

 

And this book isn’t my normal book. It’s middle grade, not young adult. It’s the book that’s closest to my heart because it’s the book I wrote for Em when she was a kid. It’s the book that made me quit my job as a newspaper editor and get a MFA at Vermont College and become a writer in the first place.

 

Carrie Jones Dear Bully 70 Authors tell their stories
Em of Awesome

 

And last week, Em (who is no longer little) left after being home on leave and went back to Fort Benning. Her special task force has been deployed to Afghanistan already and I’m not sure if she’s going to be going, too.

Someone in her task force has already died.

I know you’re supposed to accept that possibility. I’m not good at accepting that possibility. And my heart breaks when I think about that soldier’s family.

Recently, a friend told me about a conversation that they overheard about Emily. It was basically….

“There’s this local girl. Her parents are pretty liberal. She went to Harvard. She’s beautiful. She joined the Army. By choice. By choice!”

“What?”

“Yeah, I know right? And she’s a field artillery officer now.”

And that conversation is basically about people’s preconceived notions about who joins the United States’ military and why. Here’s the thing: There is no one type of person who joins and they all don’t join for the same reasons. Some of the people in there are Republicans, some are Democrats. There are all races and religions and genders and IQs.

There is no one way to be.

Which is part of what this country is supposed to be about – the freedom to speak, to think, to assemble, to worship, a freedom of the press.

Freedoms.

And that’s what my Time Stoppers series has been about, too. Only in a kids’ book because that’s what I write.

Anyway, I dropped Em off at the airport that’s a couple hours away from where we lived and cried all the way home. I know! I know! I’m supposed to be all tough and brave and Army mom.

But I am not tough or brave or Army mom.

I have a hard time even asking for people to like and review my book on places like Amazon. But I do know that when people try to define an entire group/category as one thing or one thought or one demographic? I’m going to bristle.

It’s our differences that make us amazing. It’s our diversity that makes us stronger and pushes us towards progress. And I am so proud of Em for being brave and strong and putting herself out there in a world that currently doesn’t always value that. And I am so proud of the kids in this book series that I initially wrote for her. Because they do the same thing.

I hope you’ll read it.

I hope you’ll review it somewhere.

And I hope you’ll spread the world.

We all depend on each other, my friends. That’s the biggest truth out there. We all have roles (which can change) but together? We’re a pretty awesome team.

 

Writing News

Next and Last Time Stoppers Book

It’s almost out! You can pre-order my middle grade fantasy novel Time Stoppers Escape From the Badlands here or anywhere. The official release date is August 7! 

37584945_10156714893329073_1974569355584733184_n

People call it a cross between Harry Potter and Percy Jackson but it’s set in Maine. It’s full of adventure, quirkiness and heart.

Moe Berg

The Spy Who Played Baseball is a picture book biography about Moe Berg. And… there’s a movie out now about Moe Berg, a major league baseball player who became a spy. How cool is that?

You should totally buy Carrie’s book about Moe. It’s awesome and quirky and fun.

OUR PODCAST DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE.

Thanks to all of you who keep listening to our weirdness as we talk about random thoughts, writing advice and life tips. 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.

dogs are smarter than people carrie after dark being relentless to get published

Writing Coach

Carrie offers solo writing coach services. For more about Carrie’s individual coaching, click here.

Ebook on Sale for July – and July is almost over! 

And finally, for the month of July, my book FLYING is on sale in ebook version on multiple platforms, which means not just Amazon. It’s a cheap way to have an awesome read in a book that’s basically Men in Black meets Buffy the Vampire Slayer but with chocolate-covered pretzels.

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Appearances

Carrie will be at The Books-A-Million in South Portland, Maine on August 8. She’ll be at the Maine Literacy Volunteers Festival on September 8.

DiLAZJkXkAAHOHC

Is That Even A Joke? It’s All About the Subtext

So, um, a lot of the time during the podcast Shaun will say something that makes Carrie have these huge pauses because she’s reading the subtext underneath what he’s saying.

Honesty moment: Shaun’s subtext is usually naughty, which is totally okay because they are married, but Carrie has these brain hiccups when that happens because:

  1. She is from New England and grew up where people pretended intercourse didn’t happen and people made babies by sitting on unclean toilet seats.
  2. She is a children’s book writer, but not the cool cutting-edge kind that writes about intercourse and she’s worried about her branding. Just kidding! Sort of…

Anyway, Alicia Rasley said that in writing: “Subtext is like a gift to the astute reader—an additional layer of meaning implied by the text but not accessible without a bit of thinking. … Experienced readers aren’t confined to the text—what’s printed on the page—they interact with the text, fully participating with the writer in the making of meaning in the story.”

Sort of how Carrie interacts with Shaun during the podcast.

Writing Tip of the Cast: Not everything has to be super obvious. Trust your readers. Remember your book, like a podcast, is a conversation, not just a monologue.

Dog Tip for Life: Don’t be afraid of the subtext. Notice people’s nuance, the meaning under what they’re saying.

SHOUT-OUT

The music in this podcast is “Check Them In” by Ema Grace and her site is here. We’re able to use this amazing music, thanks to Ema’s kindness and the Creative Commons.

Writing News

The Spy Who Played Baseball is a picture book biography about Moe Berg. And… there’s a movie out now about Moe Berg, a major league baseball player who became a spy.

You should totally buy Carrie’s book about Moe. It’s awesome and quirky and fun. She’s heading to Houston, North Carolina, and Virgnia soon, just to talk about it. How cool is that?

My Post copy 6

OUR PODCAST DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE.

Thanks to all of you who keep listening to our weirdness as we talk about random thoughts, writing advice and life tips. 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.

Writing Coach

Carrie offers solo writing coach services, but she’s also teaching a Write! Submit! Support! (WSS) six-month class online via the Writing Barn in Austin. For details about that class, check out this link. For more about Carrie’s individual coaching, click here.

WSS-Testimonial-Mountains-1-300x300

And finally, for the month of July, Carrie’s book FLYING is on sale in ebook version on multiple platforms, which means not just Amazon. It’s a cheap way to have an awesome read in a book that’s basically Men in Black meets Buffy the Vampire Slayer but with chocolate-covered pretzels.

Screen Shot 2018-07-05 at 3.37.18 PM

Proof of the sale-nature of July.

 

Thanks so much for reading my blog! Please comment or say ‘hi!’ if you feel like it!

 

xo

Carrie and Shaun

Is That Even A Joke? It’s All About the Subtext

 
 
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Nena Has Seen Horrors

 

ANTIAGO, PANAMA — Nena has seen horrors. The wife of a member of a Santiago Rotary Club has seen it all and somehow the knowledge of human frailty and evil doesn’t diminish the light in her brilliant eyes or the passion in her advocacy.

When we enter a Santiago hospital and I ask her if she works here, she laughs.

“No,” she tells me. “I volunteer here. I volunteer everywhere. My husband. The man with the cane? He works here.”

Nena is from Mexico originally. She knows Spanish, English, Italian and Japanese. She is a Rotarian from birth, she says. Her father was a Rotarian. Her husband is a Rotarian. She is not an official part of the Santiago Rotary Club, which is about 26 members strong. Only one of those members is a woman.  She is still a Rotarian.

“There used to be five women.” She shrugs like this change in the membership dynamics is not much of a big deal.

She spends the day showing us the projects that the Santiago Rotarian men have accomplished, but also the projects that are propelled by the wives of the club, women who spend their times unofficially helping people while not being official Rotarians.

 One of those places she brings us is a home for children who are malnourished. Another is a home for children whose mothers are having difficulties. Some of them are orphans. Some of them are not officially orphans, but currently without parents. There are sisters whose father is their grandfather. There is Kimberly, 11, whose mother tried to kill her last year. Kimberly is sweet, perching on a coach, a desk, while the younger children frolic around her. She picks a multi-colored Beanie Baby bear and cradles it in her hands. She watches the Rotarians crowd in to meet her and the other children and hear how Rotary has helped them. She smiles shyly but quickly. I am instantly in love with her as she laughs as a Rotarian with spotty Spanish tries to figure out her age.

 “Her mother is in prison forever,” Nena says, voice quaking with anger. She tells us the story of another girl, eight years old, who she met in a hospital. “I saw her, saw the line on her belly and said, ‘This girl is pregnant.’”

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People scoffed.

But Nena persisted. “They said, ‘She hasn’t even had her first period yet.’ But I said, ‘She is.’”

They tested her and she was more than halfway through her pregnancy. Her mother couldn’t understand. It turned out that her grandfather watched her while her mother worked. Her grandfather had been raping her. He also sold her to his friends. He is in jail now.

“As far as I am concerned they should have cut off his balls,” Nena says.

Nena enters a home for children with troubles, children like Kimberly, those sisters, a little boy named Jesus, and Nena pauses to scoop up a baby, cradling him in her arms, cooing. She is justice and kindness. She is anger and action. She is love and grace and a million things all wrapped up in a small package of a woman that wears multiple pieces of jewelry at once.

The Bar Harbor and Ellsworth Maine Rotary Clubs and Nena visit schools and water towers that the Santiago Rotary Club has sponsored. We meet Jesus who folds his Ellsworth Blueberry Pancake Breakfast t-shirt into a precise rectangle, smiling at his colored pencils and coloring book. We meet school children who will have physical education class again simply because we have brought a few soccer balls. We meet Kimberly who smiles with love despite what her mother tried to do.

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 Ellsworth President David Wells hands out toys and t-shirts. Ellsworth High School student Josh Callnan inflates soccer balls with a pump that Dave Wheaton and Annette Higgins thought to bring. Retired professor, Sallie Boggs, is greeted by an eight-kindergartener simultaneous hug. Shaun Farrar is surrounded by children at each school he visits. The students gaze up and up at his 6 foot 6 inch frame with wonder, giggling as he asks their names.

“They think he is a giant,” one Santiago Rotarian laughs. “He is, actually.”

In a place where malnourishment is often an issue, growing so tall is rare. The Santiago Rotarians have made combatting malnourishment a priority creating five or six sites at schools where they hatch and raise chickens for six weeks, three times a year. The students then eat the chickens for lunch. Their parents take turns cooking, rotating throughout the year. The chickens that are not eaten are sold to buy more at an earlier stage in their life cycle.

Nourishment helps children have stronger minds and bodies. Rotarians, including former Santiago Club President Edwin Munoz, dispersed 10,000 dictionaries throughout Panama to give students access to words that will give them broader, stronger futures. `

Clean water is also important. Working with a Rotarian from Texas, the club has provided multiple water tanks to both residential areas and schools. The Texas Rotarian’s wife had died. When they were visiting Panama she had been saddened by the lack of running water in schools. School would have to be closed in the middle of the day so children could wash and get water off site.

“It was disruptive,” says their principal. “This is so much better.”

The Santiago Rotarians have even provided sewing machines to the local hospital so that workers could make hospital gowns and surgery garments for doctors and patients.

Hospital Director Doctor Rafael Andrade addressed the Rotarians and speaking both about the sewing machines and the wheelchairs that the Ellsworth and Bar Harbor Rotarians brought over said, “There is no word for this because it is something that comes from you’re heart. I hope that this visit is not your last time here.”

As the Rotarians visited the bowels of the hospital to see the industrial sewing machines, Nena said, “They have needs. The hospital – everyone – they have many needs. They want wheelchairs, too.”

 Rotary and Nena and the women like her keep picking away at those needs. When the home for malnourished children needed a physical therapy room, Rotarians from Panama and the United States stepped up.

“They needed a wall for the room. We built a wall. They needed another wall for a room. They built another wall. Piece by piece is how these things happen,” Nena says.

 And she’s right. It is piece by piece, volunteer by volunteer, wheelchair by wheelchair, water tower by water tower that change happens, that lives become a little bit better, that hope because reality. Change and hope, service and volunteerism are powerful things. It doesn’t matter if it’s little steps. All that matters is that it’s steps in the right direction. That direction is forward. That direction is to a better life. That direction is towards hope.

 

DO GOOD WEDNESDAY

Rotary International Makes a Massive Difference One Person at a Time

The problems that Rotary International members tackle in the world and the local communities can seem massive and overwhelming, until you realize that Rotary has 1.2 million members fighting for good, piece by piece, moment by moment, person by person.

I was lucky enough to be a part of a few wheelchair projects. This is a piece about one of those projects. To find out more about Rotary, check out www.mdirotary.org or www.rotary.org

Writing News

The Spy Who Played Baseball is a picture book biography about Moe Berg. And… there’s a movie out now about Moe Berg, a major league baseball player who became a spy. How cool is that?

You should totally buy Carrie’s book about Moe. It’s awesome and quirky and fun. She’s heading to Houston, North Carolina, and Virgnia soon, just to talk about it. How cool is that?

My Post copy 6

OUR PODCAST DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE.

Thanks to all of you who keep listening to our weirdness as we talk about random thoughts, writing advice and life tips. 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.

Writing Coach

Carrie offers solo writing coach services, but she’s also teaching a Write! Submit! Support! (WSS) six-month class online via the Writing Barn in Austin. For details about that class, check out this link. For more about Carrie’s individual coaching, click here.

WSS-Testimonial-Mountains-1-300x300

Writers, Go With Your Gut and Bring Out the Big Emotion

A lot of the times that Carrie works with writers, she notices that they are pulling back from the emotion that is happening in the story. Instead of allowing the reader to feel the terror of being kidnapped or the anxiety of moving to a new place or the desperate sorrow of losing a loved one, the writer skims over these emotional times with a simple moment of telling like, “John was sad that his dog died.” Or worse. “The dog died. John went to school.”

These are lost opportunities. They are also places where the story goes flat or in writer speak, “fails to resonate.”

A lot of writers, especially children’s book writers, are kind people and by default they don’t want to hurt their characters or dwell in any negative emotions. They are trying to protect their characters and the readers.

But those good intentions don’t actually help anyone.

The real world has pain. Our stories have pain, too.

We have to learn to deal with hardships. Our characters do, too.

And the emotion of stories, the ups and downs, are the ride that our readers are signing up for. They want to feel with us, be transported into others’ lives.

For example, Harry Potter had hardship after hardship and so did his friends. J.K. Rowling didn’t shy away from the hard emotions and hard times. She’d add in beats, moments of dwelling in those big moments of joy and sorrow. What Harry felt, the reader felt.

The premise of your story needs to do this, too. It has to have an emotional hook that makes you wonder and care right away. Again, think of Harry Potter – the story of the boy who lived, a lonely orphan who must overcome the evil wizard who killed his parents. Just thinking about the premise fills you with thoughts and wonder and worry and so many questions. The emotional stakes are so high.

Dog Tip For Life

Embrace your emotions. Think about what makes you snarl, yelp, wag your tail. Go after the ball. Go after the moments that make you feel good.

Writing Tip of the Pod

Um… again… embrace your emotions. Don’t be afraid to express real emotion. It feels safer to hide your emotion, but passion makes better life and better stories. Be passionate about what you’re writing and about how your living.

Dogs are Smarter Than People

Writing News

The Spy Who Played Baseball is a picture book biography about Moe Berg. And… there’s a movie out now about Moe Berg, a major league baseball player who became a spy. How cool is that?

You should totally buy Carrie’s book about Moe. It’s awesome and quirky and fun.

OUR PODCAST DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE.

Thanks to all of you who keep listening to our weirdness as we talk about random thoughts, writing advice and life tips. 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.

Writing Coach

Carrie offers solo writing coach services, but she’s also teaching a Write! Submit! Support! six-month class online via the Writing Barn in Austin. For details about that class, check out this link. For more about Carrie’s individual coaching, click here.

Shout-Out

The music in this podcast is “Check Them In” by Ema Grace and her site is here. We’re able to use this amazing music, thanks to Ema’s kindness and the Creative Commons.

Writers, Go With Your Gut and Bring Out the Big Emotion

 
 
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Worst Case Scenarios are Bad For Your Heart and Good For Your Writing

Shaun used to call me, “WC,” because he is evil.

No. Really. He called me that because I’m always thinking up the worst case scenario for every situation and planning for that, which is not a particularly healthy way to live.

But. . . it’s a pretty good way to write. The ‘what if’ element of any situation in real life can be expanded into a story. Throw a ‘what if’ coupled with a ‘worst case scenario’ into your story idea and you have really high stakes.

For the full podcast episode, check out here. 

In the podcast, we talk about William Shatner in a hot tub, pauses, and all the stuff you’re reading right now – but better.

But let’s talk about inserting WORST CASE SCENARIOS INTO STORY.

Like when Carrie wrote the Need series, she thought, “What is the worst thing that can happen to this girl forced to move to Maine from Charleston? Oh. How about her biological father is a pixie king who is kidnapping people to feed off them because he can’t control his hunger and need. Ah. That’s not bad enough. How about we throw in an impending apocalypse and she has to turn pixie to stop it?”

Story ideas can come from anywhere. Your own life. The news. Random stories of friends. Country music videos. But the story ideas that are heart-stopping are the ones where there’s a worst case scenario involved. Take a situation in your life and think, “Whoah, what if those people were cannibals?” or “Whoah, what if that cat was a secret Russian agent?”

Those ‘what if’ stories are the stories that make high stakes and high action.

Don’t be afraid of the worst case scenarios.

Writing News Carrie's  super excited about the upcoming TIME STOPPERS book coming out this August. This middle grade fantasy series happens in Acadia National Park in Bar Harbor, Maine and it's all about friendship and magic and kids saving their magical town. CARRIE’S BOOKS For a complete round-up of Carrie’s 16-or-so books, check out her website. And if you like us, or our podcast, or just want to support a writer, please buy one of those books, or leave a review on a site like Amazon. Those reviews help. It’s all some weird marketing algorhthym from hell, basically. Moe Berg OUR PODCAST DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE. Thanks to all of you who keep listening to our weirdness as we talk about random thoughts, writing advice and life tips. 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. Writing Coach Carrie offers solo writing coach services, but she's also teaching a Write! Submit! Support! six-month class online via the Writing Barn in Austin. For details about that class, check out this link. For more about Carrie's individual coaching, click here.

DOG TIP FOR LIFE

Expecting horrible things to happen isn’t healthy. Enough said. Eat bacon instead.

NO, SERIOUSLY, ASK YOURSELF THIS:

What do I need to change in order to get what I want? What do I have to change to make myself a better person? A more successful person? A person I want to be?

WRITING TIP OF THE POD

Making horrible things happen in your story is TOTALLY happy. Enough said. Extra tip: Bacon is not good for you nor is it good for pigs.

The music in this podcast is “Check Them In” by Ema Grace and her site is here. We’re able to use this amazing music, thanks to Ema’s kindness and the Creative Commons.

WRITING NEWS

Carrie’s  super excited about the upcoming TIME STOPPERS book coming out this August.

This middle grade fantasy series happens in Acadia National Park in Bar Harbor, Maine and it’s all about friendship and magic and kids saving their magical town.

Timestoppers3_005

CARRIE’S BOOKS

For a complete round-up of Carrie’s 16-or-so books, check out her website. And if you like us, or our podcast, or just want to support a writer, please buy one of those books, or leave a review on a site like Amazon. Those reviews help. It’s all some weird marketing algorhthym from hell, basically.

OUR PODCAST DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE.

Thanks to all of you who keep listening to our weirdness as we talk about random thoughts, writing advice and life tips.

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.

WRITING COACH

Carrie offers solo writing coach services, but she’s also teaching a Write! Submit! Support! six-month class online via the Writing Barn in Austin. For details about that class, check out this link. For more about Carrie’s individual coaching, click here.

Dealing With Failures, Quick Tips, Part Three

About 10 days ago, I posted on Facebook (Yes. I am still on Facebook. Don’t judge) about feeling like a failure.

It wasn’t a big depression or anything clinical, although a lot of people thought it was. It was more like a transitory moment caused by a career thing.

I actually bounce back pretty quickly from this stuff (the tiny glitches in life), but I know that everyone doesn’t and when I feel badly – Whew. I do feeling badly really well.

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Sparty Dog is my objective correlative here. 

One of the ways I deal with my own suckitude and my own sadness is that I try to figure out how to use my experience to help other people. I think my theory is, “If you are going to feel bad, do it for the better good.”

So, I posted about it. And I asked for tips about how people deal with those moments in their own lives, when they feel like they suck, like they are on the wrong path, when they are down.

So many people helped. So many people were beautifully willing to offer advice, and moments of their own lives.

It was awe inspiring honestly because they were just doing that because they wanted to help.

That’s a big deal.

They wanted to help.

They took the time to think and type and respond.

We are constantly barraged by bad news, by evil deeds, by acts that lack humanity and civility, and knowing about these things, these flaws in our society is important. But it’s also important to remember that so many people commit acts of kindness every day.

Always,  I’ve posted some of their advice here and here.

I’ve also posted it on our podcast and here.

But here are some more tidbits and advice and tips on how to feel better when you are having some down moments.

Just put one foot in front of the other and keep on keeping on. Help somebody else to.get out of your own smog. Pray. Ask for help and accept it gratefully. Reciprocate when you can. Don’t but telemarketed travel packages. (Trust me on this one.) Jeanne Bracken

My company uses the terms “fail forward” that I really enjoy. It’s essentially saying it’s okay to fail. We all do it. But you should try to fail forward and learn from your mistakes. Move past it by addressing it, resolving it and growing as an individual. – Michelle Ivall

And Matt Baya shared this fantastic infographic that he found on line.

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Failing is hard. We try to remember that it’s about the journey, about the joy of doing and existing and not about outside metrics of what it is to have ‘success,’ but sometimes even the most balanced of us falter. That’s okay. You’re okay.

 

Writing News

I’m super excited about the upcoming TIME STOPPERS book coming out this August.

This middle grade fantasy series happens in Acadia National Park in Bar Harbor, Maine and it’s all about friendship and magic and kids saving their magical town.

Timestoppers3_005

CARRIE’S BOOKS

For a complete round-up of my 16-or-so books, check out her website.

And if you just want to support a writer, please buy one of those books, or leave a review on a site like Amazon. Those reviews help. It’s all some weird marketing algorhthym from hell, basically.

Moe Berg The Spy Who Played Baseball
Moe Berg

OUR PODCAST DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE.

Thanks to all of you who keep listening to our weirdness as we talk about random thoughts, writing advice and life tips.

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 will be a new episode tomorrow! Yay!

Writing Coach

Carrie offers solo writing coach services, but she’s also teaching a Write! Submit! Support! six-month class online via the Writing Barn in Austin. For details about that class, check out this link. For more about Carrie’s individual coaching, click here.

Dealing With Failure – Part One

We talk so much about the lack of civility in current culture, but there is also this great thirst to help, to care, to make a difference. And that matters. It matters.

This week I failed at something in a business way and …. Well, it shook me.

To be fair, I am pretty raw and frayed right this second and my resilience isn’t at its peak. But for whatever reason, it shook me a lot.

I cried.

I didn’t wallow, but wow. I really wanted to wallow.

Instead, I posted on Facebook and asked people what they do when they feel like they’ve failed, when they are shook, when they are sad. How do they work their way out of it?

Note: My post wasn’t asking about depression, but a lot of people answered as if it was and those answers? They helped other people reading the post. That’s a big deal. And I am thankful for it.

People are giving. People want to help

I love that people were so incredibly willing to share their strategies for when they feel pointless, when failure seems too large. And I’m going to have a series of posts where I share these strategies because that’s the cool thing.

We talk so much about the lack of civility in current culture, but there is also this great thirst to help, to care, to make a difference. And that matters. It matters.

People want to help other people feel better, get through it. Remembering that matters, especially when you feel like you’re being annoying by not being perfectly happy. Nobody is always perfectly happy.

My friends’ and readers’ advice was beautifully varied, which only made it better because you could see the similarities and trends and differences in people’s coping mechanisms.

Some of those coping mechanisms involved apps.

“I’ve been there too this week if it makes you feel any better. My tips are to be gentle with yourself. Maybe take a long walk. I’ve downloaded a meditation app to my phone called Mind Space, and that helps me. A hot shower, some comfy pajamas and a cozy book. I like Rosemund Pilcher because she’s sort of soothing.” – Shannon Hitchcock, author

And another app was really popular. It’s called Calm.

“I use the app called Calm. It’s amazing and helps me with my insomnia and my anxiety. It’s got music and stories that help me relax and not stress out as much. It’s so awesome.” – Lindsey Schultz, photographer

 

And there with other people who deliberately moved their brains’ focus via distractions that were sound-based (like an app, but not), which was super interesting to me.

“I’m prone to having that feel like a failure reaction you describe. I turn on the tv or something that shuts my brain down for a couple of hours. That helps and It sounds ridiculous but I’ve noticed listening to people laughing on tv helps even if I’m not paying attention.” – Trish Madell, author

This sort of distraction and laughter is actually a thing that is often used to help with anxiety and depression. Yes! Yes! I know the trite saying that “laughter is the medicine” but there is truth behind that.

Laughter releases endorphins. Endorphins battle stress and make our immune systems tougher. Laughter connects us with others and makes us feel less alone. Laughter uses your brain’s whole cortex.

And for us creative people, humor actually makes us more innovative, we’re more apt to improv and make leaps in our thinking. How cool is that?

Do something that makes you laugh. For whatever reason, I always laugh at America’s funniest home videos. This seems stupid, and it’s a little embarrassing to even admit, but no matter how shitty I’m feeling, if I watch enough of them, I’ll laugh and pull myself out of the heaviness of the feeling of failure. On the other hand, I’ve learned to grieve some of my failures. Losing a book contract, for me, felt like such a failure. I tried so hard not to grieve it–to push through–but sometimes we need to grieve the loss and acknowledge the sadness. I’ve even had a friend send me a sympathy card for a book loss because it’s a valid loss, something worth crying about. Not every failure is, but sometimes I think we are too quick to assume we don’t deserve to feel bad.- Jody Sparks, author

So, for my first post in this series, here are the tips that came from my brilliant friends and readers

  1. Find a good app that makes you calm. Use it.
  2. Find the funny. Watch tv. Listen to laugher.

But what both of these things do is that they create a feeling of control.

When you turn on that app and use it to feel better? You are making the choice to feel better.

When you decide to watch something funny to feel better? You are making the choice again. You feel like you are in control, which is so incredibly different than feeling like a failure, isn’t it?

Writing News

I am super excited about the upcoming TIME STOPPERS book coming out this August.  And honestly, if you want to help me feel less stressed about failure and the writing world, leaving a review for the books and buying them? That is the best thing you can do for me.

Anyway…

This middle grade fantasy series happens in Acadia National Park in Bar Harbor, Maine and it’s all about friendship and magic and kids saving their magical town.

An imaginative blend of fantasy, whimsy, and suspense, with a charming cast of underdog characters . . . This new fantasy series will entice younger fans of Harry Potter and Percy Jackson.” –  School Library Journal

 

“Sticks the landing . . . The world building is engaging . . . between the decidedly wonderful residents and the terrifying monsters who plague them.” –  BCCB

 

“Amid the magic, spells, adventure, and weirdness of this fantasy are embedded not-so-subtle life lessons about kindness, friendship, and cooperation.” –  Booklist

 

“A wild and fresh take on fantasy with an intriguing cast of characters. Dangerous and scary and fun all rolled into one. In the words of Eva the dwarf, I freaking loved it!” –  Lisa McMann, New York Times bestselling author of The Unwanteds series

 

“Effervescent, funny, and genuine.” –  Kirkus Reviews

It’s quirky. It’s awesome. It’s full of heart. You should go by the first two books now. 🙂

 

 

 

CARRIE’S BOOKS

For a complete round-up of my 16-or-so books, check out my website. And if you like us, or our podcast, or just want to support a writer, please buy one of those books, or leave a review on a site like Amazon. Those reviews help. It’s all some weird marketing algorhthym from hell, basically.

OUR PODCAST DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE.

Dogs are smarter than people - the podcast, writing tips, life tips, quirky humans, awesome dogs
The podcast of awesome

Thanks to all of you who keep listening to our weirdness as we talk about random thoughts, writing advice and life tips.

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.

writing tips life tips carrie jones books
carrie jones books

Writing Heroes That Don’t Suck – Dogs are Smarter Than People Podcast

Who do you root for?

In your own life, this question is easy. We root for ourselves. A lot of the time we root for our friends, our family. We almost always root for the dog. I mean, even in Cujo, the horror-novel by Stephen King where the dog is killing everyone? A lot of us still root for the dog.

But when we write books?

We want to root for the hero. The hero is who we like. The hero is who we admire.

Sometimes though, that’s sort of hard.

There are moments in Harry Potter where we’re rooting for Hermione more than Harry because Harry’s being a butt face, stubborn, sulky and insolent.

But Harry’s a better hero because of that. We can relate to him and find hope in our own hero potential because he is imperfect. If imperfect people can be heroes, so can we.

So can we.

Here’s the truth.

Heroes aren’t perfect. Not in real life. Not in books. And a lot of the time people don’t identify with heroes that are too perfect like Captain America or Superman because their goodness seems so impossible. They’ll prefer Iron Man or Batman because they are flawed and moody or temperamental and snarky. It’s easier to relate to that lack of perfection.

This is not true for Carrie obviously. She’s all Cap all the time because she can relate to being imperfect because of her own self righteousness and savior complexes more than being imperfect because she’s moody, sulky snark. It’s kind of a problem, honestly.

But back to the point. Your hero probably shouldn’t be perfect. Perfection is kind of annoying.

HOW DO YOU WRITE A  HERO WHO ISN’T TYPICAL OR BASICALLY DOESN’T SUCK?

The same way you write everyone else.

Listen

Listen to people other than yourself, how they talk, how they think. Use your empathy to understand their character and then steal some of those traits and motivations for your own hero.

Tweak

Tweak the trope. Sure you have archetypes of messiahs/warriors/matriarchs/mystics, but go beyond the trope when you’re making your hero. She might be like Xena the Warrior Princess, but she can have a goofy Whose That Girl side like Jess. Give your ‘mystic’ trope a ‘matriarch’ profession like a lawyer or judge.

 

Think

Think about your own heroes – the ones in real life. What do they do that isn’t all that heroic? Talk with their mouth full? Wipe their boogers on the edge of the seat of the car? Use that.

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Dog Tip For Life

When you let go of your need to be the perfect puppy all the time, you get to chill out a little bit more. Chilling out is good for your heart.

Writing Tip of the Cast

We all want to be perfect. We aren’t. Our heroes shouldn’t be either.

Here’s the link to this week’s podcast all about this! And more…

 

 

WRITING NEWS

Carrie’s back from Book Expo America and super excited about the upcoming TIME STOPPERS book coming out this August.

This middle grade fantasy series happens in Acadia National Park in Bar Harbor, Maine and it’s all about friendship and magic and kids saving their magical town.

It’s quirky. It’s awesome. It’s full of heart. You should go by the first two books now. 🙂

CARRIE’S BOOKS

For a complete round-up of Carrie’s 16-or-so books, check out her website. And if you like us, or our podcast, or just want to support a writer, please buy one of those books, or leave a review on a site like Amazon. Those reviews help. It’s all some weird marketing algorhthym from hell, basically.

OUR PODCAST

Thanks to all of you who keep listening to our weirdness as we talk about random thoughts, writing advice and life tips.

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.

xo

Shaun and Carrie, Sparty, Gabby and Marsie (the honorary cat-dog)

Dogs are Smarter Than People the podcast
Gabby is not a perfect dog

We love her any way.