Saturday, June 18, 2011

Easy Way to develop characters for your stories and books--writers!

Ok, we’ve all heard it before: “A good story starts with interesting characters.” And, we know it’s true. But, when I was developing the people (peeps) in my new novel, I found it difficult to keep the characteristics and quirks of each one in my memory, as I wrote about the events in their world. I first created a spreadsheet to list the key points about each one, but it grew so large and detailed that it was cumbersome and clumsy to use. Then, I tried using an index card for each one, but kept losing them amidst the other notes, pages, and files. Then my daydreaming mind led me to a new approach.

Character Notes

Name: Gina Blair Residence: Egegik Alaska Career Goal: Graphics design Wants to be own boss
Age: 33; bleach blonde; brown eyes, 5’8” Birthplace: Miami FL Business Name: Visual Voice Smoker, beer drinker, likes to party
Marital Status: single
Daughter: Amy 3 yrs.

Job: Waitress @ Igloo Truck Stop; night shift Mother: Flo; Father: John; live in Miami Has love-hate relationship w/parents
Zodiac sign: Capricorn Education: GED Learned graphics design via online courses Internal dialogue:” I never catch a break”
As I was thinking about one of the characters in my novel, who is a writer, I found myself wondering what her website would be like (since I’ve recently been working on my own!). I decided to create a mock website for her, (mainly because that seemed more interesting than developing yet another type of character chart!). As I developed the public persona for her website (how she would sell herself and her books on the site; what she would say, etc.), I found my imagination taking over. I became excited to think about her favorite color, her likes and dislikes, and how that would play into her website design. I decided to lay out the web page to capture the public side of her on one side of the page, and the more personal details that I needed, on the other. In doing that, I found that she became more real to me. It became easier to visualize her as a person, to ask questions about her story, her life, and what she might struggle with. Although I limited by mock website development to the Home Page, additional pages could be created to provide more detail.

Once the mock websites were completed for each of my main characters, I attached them to a folding cardboard display, that I sit on my desk when I am writing, and fold away in my story box when I am not. (I keep a plastic box for each story or book I’m working on, marketing ideas, etc.) I like this approach so much that I found myself imagining websites for the locations in the story. In two weeks of working with the mock websites, I developed the main characters, the setting locations, and the outline for the novel, and generated story ideas for other books to follow!

I’m always looking for new ideas on how to make writing easier and more fun, so I thought other writers might be interested in this approach, which I call “Painless Peeps”.

Mock Web Site

New Agent Seeking Submissions

New Agent Alert: Stephanie Sun of Weed Literary
Posted by Chuck

Reminder: Newer agents are golden opportunities for new writers because they're likely building their client list; however, always make sure your work is as perfect as it can be before submitting, and only query agencies that are a great fit for your work. Otherwise, you're just wasting time and postage.

About Stephanie: Stephanie Sun of Weed Literary is a graduate of Boston College, and she joined the agency in 2009 after working at Bedford/St. Martin's, Tor/Forge, and Trident Media Group.

She is seeking: Her interests are diverse and she enjoys reading commercial fiction (middle grade, young adult, debut, and upmarket fiction), commercial nonfiction (narrative nonfiction and memoir) and books dealing with sports or pop culture (blog, food, and music). "Weed Literary does not handle the following: Picture books, mysteries, thrillers, romance, military."

How to contact: "We prefer queries to be e-mailed to info (at) Please keep letters to one page and do not send attachments unless they are requested. If you prefer snail mail, please send, along with an SASE for our reply, to: Weed Literary, LLC, 27 West 20th Street, New York, NY 10011."

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Writers Digest Short Short Contest!

hort Short Story Competition

We're looking for fiction that's bold, brilliant...but brief. Send us your best in 1,500 words or fewer.

But don't be too long about it—the deadline is November 15, 2011.

First Place: $3,000 and a trip to the Writer's Digest Conference
Second Place: $1,500
Third Place: $500
Fourth Through Tenth Place: $100
Eleventh Through Twenty-Fifth Place: $50 gift certificate for Writer's Digest Books

* The names and story titles of the First-through Tenth-Place winners will be printed in the July/August 2012 Writer's Digest, and winners will receive the 2012 Novel & Short Story Writer's Market and 2012 Guide ti Literary Agents. Plus, all First through 25th place winners will receive a free copy of the 12th Annual Writer's Digest Short Short Story Competition Collection.

Jump Start your writing!

Just like a car needs extra juice when it’s running low, we as writers need to jump start ourselves.
That may mean getting the extra juice or power from another writer or another source.
It’s time to

• Go to those blogs you subscribe to—the ones that bombard your email with updates-yep, those little blurbs that you so often delete!

• Go to the bookstore—the smell of printed words and the vision of other authors work is enough to inspire and invigorate

• Go to the car—drive somewhere, turn the radio up and sing along—a lyric in a song may be all it takes to inspire an idea

• Go to the journals—you remember, those books where you wrote down every thought –no matter how nonsensical? Sometimes a fresh look inspires a new ideas

• Go to one of those unfinished projects—the ones we toy with for months and years on end—pick it back up, you might see a new twist, a new approach, a new voice.

• Go to the treadmill or the sidewalk—get moving; sometimes moving your body moves your mind and it definitely increases your energy!

• The message is GO!

Do something!

Let me guess—you don’t “feel like it”? Do it anyway!

As they say in 12 step circles “Fake it till you make it!”

No one EVER has enough time to do everything they want , if it’s something you desire, you will create the time. Otherwise, it’s only a wish, not a career.

Are you going to wish on a magic bottle?
Or JumpStart yourself into action?
Are you a writer or a wisher?

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Sex Education in Schools--effective at what????

Back in 2007, the late great Mahatma Basmati began one of the most intense threads in the history of the Citizen blogs regarding the absolute failure of Abstinence ONLY sex education in America. The link is HERE

At that time, the state of Massachusetts decided to forego millions of dollars in Federal sex education money, because big-government social conservatives placed language in the legislation that forced school systems to adopt an Abstinence based curriculum.

We now have the benefit of 20/20 hindsight, we now know the results of that controversial decision as the CDC today released data detailing teenage birth rates by state within the United States for the year 2008 (latest year available).

The results were unequivocal: Abstinence ONLY education does not work, and Abstinence centered sex education is not nearly as effective as comprehensive sex education.

The results of live births for white women for selected states in 2008:

United States Average-27.2 of every 1000 white teens gives birth
Massachusetts-Comprehensive Sex Education-13.7 of every 1000 white teens gives birth
Georgia-Combination Abstinence ONLY and Abstinence Based Sex Education-38.5 of every 1000 white teens gives birth
Tennessee-Abstinence ONLY Sex Education-45.2 of every 1000 white teens gives birth
The results of live births for black women for selected states in 2008:

United States Average-64.2 of every 1000 black teens gives birth
Massachusetts-Comprehensive Sex Education-39.4 of every 1000 black teens gives birth
Georgia-Combination Abstinence ONLY and Abstinence Based Sex Education-66.7 of every 1000 black teens gives birth
Tennessee-Abstinence ONLY Sex Education-77.7 of every 1000 black teens gives birth
The results of live births for hispanic women for selected states in 2008:

United States Average-81.8 of every 1000 hispanic teens gives birth
Massachusetts-Comprehensive Sex Education-71.2 of every 1000 hispanic teens gives birth
Georgia-Combination Abstinence ONLY and Abstinence Based Sex Education-139.6 of every 1000 hispanic teens gives birth
Tennessee-Abstinence ONLY Sex Education-174.8 of every 1000 hispanic teens gives birth
The link to the CDC report is HERE (PDF file, adobe reader required)

It's a shame that the ardent "abstinence only" crew of Denise Connor, BPR, Retd Army MAJ, Paul Perkins and PentaPenguin no longer post here.

Abstinence ONLY sex education does not work.
Abstinence BASED sex education appears to be inferior to comprehensive sex education.

Listen to Sarah and she will tell, how Paul Revere rang his mighty bell.