Staying True to Your Character

That moment when you’re rewriting one of your books and you realize that your main character has done something so out of character that you’re forced to rewrite the entire scene and it changes the book. Sigh…

That just happened to me. I don’t know why I didn’t catch it during the last rewrite, but this time when I came across it, it was so obvious. I had to change it. Catarina Orya Costaine, the main character in the Ordinaries series, would never do that. So, I changed it and am pleased with the new direction the book will be taking.

Here’s my take on characters. Your characters are human, right? Even if they aren’t, they’re still comprised of traits that are neither good nor “evil” and they all have traits that are either likable or not. All your characters are a little bit of everything, no matter how bad the “bad guy” seems or how good the “good guy” seems. That’s all a matter of perception. Ask the bad guy if he’s a bad guy. He or she will probably say no.

As writers, we all want characters who are believable and someone the reader will like. In order to make them believable or “real”, we sometimes have to let them make choices and do things that aren’t that likable. Sometimes, we have to let the good guy do something wrong or make a difficult choice that has no good outcome. We HAVE to let them, otherwise you end up with superficial characters that always do the “right” thing at the right time. I, as a reader, find that both annoying and boring.

Don’t be afraid to let them make a decision that you don’t want to let them to, as long as it stays in tune with who they are. The good guy doesn’t always have to be good and the bad guy doesn’t always have to be bad. We are all a mixture of “good” and “bad”. Let the readers see this with your characters.

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It Happens Like That

For me, writing has always come easily for me. I can sit down and typically hammer out anywhere from 3500 to 8000 words in a single day. The most I have done is almost 14,000. Even when I’m struggling with the plot, I can still hammer out the words and work myself out of the issue I’m having. For me, it happens like that. The words just flow. Sometimes not well, but that’s what rewriting and editing is for. The first draft is to get the story out of my head and onto what used to be paper, but is now a computer screen. There are times I miss hand writing my stories, but my wrist and hand don’t miss it one bit.

For my husband, he has brilliant story ideas but often stares at a blank screen trying to form what he wants to say. For him, it’s a struggle to get 500 words a day. That’s most days. And then, there are days where he can get over 3000. There are days where we stay up way past our bedtime because he finally found those elusive words and I don’t want to be the one to call it quits for him. I know what it’s like to want to just keep writing and writing. For him, it happens like that.

My point of this is that each writer is different, even those who write together. Each writer has their own process. Their own method. Their own way of doing things. Yes, we often compare ourselves to other writers but that’s to learn from them, to learn to do things our own way. It does a writer no good to mimic another. We can learn from other writers of how to do something that we, ourselves, struggle with but we all must find our own way of doing things that works for us. Otherwise, and this is from experience, writing is no longer a joy but a chore.

The two things we have taken away from writing and being self-published authors is:

1.) You have to write for yourself and in your own way. You can’t constantly compare yourself to other writers who seemingly can write a book in a month or less (that’s me) and you struggle to get one a year (that’s my husband). Your story is different from theirs. Your method is different, too. Writing is unique, even if the story is similar to another story out there. And trust me, there are millions of stories out there. There are going to be similarities, no matter how hard you try. You just have to learn to live with it.

2.) As a writer, you never stop learning. You never stop learning how to improve your craft whether it’s from writing or reading. You learn what works and what doesn’t work. What areas of writing you need to work on. Character dialogue. Scene building. Making each character different from the others. Plot. Ending a story. The list goes on and on. Writing is something that is always going to improve, which is why it’s important not to give up. Even should we continue writing until we’re ninety years old, we’re still going to have something new to learn. Writing is a learning process that never stops.

It happens like that.

Writing Update

The first major edit to New Beginnings, the final book in the Hartland series is finished. It is now going to the Alpha reader who will let me know if anything needs to be fixed. I sure hope not, but as always will wait to hear what’s said. Of course, it will be with a rapidly beating heart. Any time someone reads something I wrote and tells me about it, there is a mixture of excitement and fear. Will they love the book? Will they hate it? Will they think it’s one of the worst books they have ever read? I hope to find out the opinion in a few weeks. And then of course, there will be probably a few more edits before we send it out to a couple of beta readers.

Since this is done, we’ve resumed work on the first book in the Ordinaries series. I started rewriting it in first person as it works better. As such, I have added over 3000 words from where I was when it was in third person. I am only a quarter of the way caught up to where I had left off on the book, unable to write any more on it. I wasn’t liking the way it had gone. The story was good but I knew something needed to change, so that was when I started fiddling around with the book and discovered that first person worked so much better with it. This book is actually the first real attempt at first person. I have tried in the past a few times and gave up pretty quickly. Apparently, what I needed to do to try out first person was find the right story. I have found it and it is moving along swiftly now. Hopefully, I will be able to keep up the momentum.

Book 2 in the Magna Luctus series, is plucking along slowly but slow progress is still progress. I don’t remember the word count we’re at on at the moment, but I know it’s over 30k. The first book in this series is still in the needs editing stage. There are some major edits that need to take place. We’re waiting to do these edits once the book series is done. So much is happening in this series, we wanted to write the entire thing before changing anything in any of the books.

And a different note, my husband bought be a different laptop over the weekend. The one I was working on had gotten squished under the recliner a few months back. It had cracked the screen and the hard covering of the computer. There was also something rattling around inside of it. I worked with the computer this way for a few months, irritated with it because it would randomly shut itself off. I would end up losing a few pages of work because of this annoying development. Fortunately, we no longer have those recliners. My back hates recliners but when we first moved to Savannah all we had was what could fit into a KIA Soul, which isn’t much, and the recliners were what we could afford. Now, we have a comfy couch which my back likes a lot better and cannot squish my new computer. Yay on both accounts!

With patience, things will improve. Your attitude will improve or worsen depending on how you choose to look at the situation and the world. For the moment, after spending months in a horrible mood and depressed, I have chosen to look at the good things in life. Things are certainly not perfect. They never will be, but I have come to realize that everything does happen for a reason, even if we cannot fathom what that reason is. Sometimes, we’ll never know what it is, but regardless, it changes nothing. Things still happen and we still have to deal with those things. What we do have control over is how we deal with them. We can choose to let them break us or we can choose to let them make us stronger and wiser.

I’d like to leave everyone with that thought for the coming week. Have a great week and remember to let the little things go!

Weekly Writing Update

I know this is coming really late in the week, but we’ve been busy. There are only 68 pages left of New Beginnings, book 5 of the Hartland series, left to edit. It’ll go through a few more edits but this is the major edit where things tend to change. It’s also the edit where we discover whether someone’s appearance keeps changing, such as hair color or eye color. It’s happened to us before. So far, in this book it hasn’t. I think we’ve gotten better about this.

For the first book in the Ordinaries series, we’re 33k into it and I decided to redo the first part of it as I want the story done in first person instead of 3rd. I was playing around with it a few days ago and realized it worked better in first person. So there’s that huge change. It’ll set me back a little bit but I think redoing it in the first person perspective will actually help advance the story as I’ve been stuck on it for a few days now.

And for book 2 in the Magna Luctus series, we’re still hovering over 30k. Haven’t made too much progress on this one, but more story ideas have been coming to us and we’ve had to hammer out a basic story plot for each of them lest our scatterbrains forget about the story. This has happened far too many times to be comfortable with which is why we’ve deemed it necessary to sometimes pause our progress on stories to get these out of our heads and in a workable condition for the future.

I’d also like to report that my back is doing better as long as I don’t overdo it. The horrible pain incident reminded me that since we’ve moved to Savannah, GA I haven’t exactly been keeping up with my daily routine of stretches and going on walks. I’ve been attempting to do this more often in an attempt to eliminate most of the pain. It’s definitely been reducing it.

And yesterday, it snowed here in Pooler, GA. I was so excited to see snow again. I really missed it from when we lived in Casper, WY. It made me more eager to leave this town behind. I can’t wait to get back to where it snows occasionally. Watching the heavy snowflakes fall was so peaceful. I smiled most of yesterday because of it. I probably could have written more had I not been watching the snow so much, but I wouldn’t change it. it’s the little things in life that you tend to enjoy more, and for me, it was the snow yesterday.

Everyone have a great rest of the week and enjoy the weekend. We’ll be continuing to work on our stories.

Reading The Iliad

About 8 months ago, I’m admitting this with a bit of shame, I started reading this book. I really really wanted to since I hadn’t read it since high school, so about 18 years ago, give or take. I had forgotten how difficult it was for me to stay focused on this book. I read it in record time back in the day only because it was assigned to us and I was an overachiever. Now that it was by choice, the reading process was slow and I kept finding other things to read that I found more interesting.

At least it’s done and I won’t have to read it for a few more years ago, until I want to delve back into it. Now, let’s see if my husband can read it faster than I did… It won’t take much!

I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday.

Changes

So about a month ago, we discovered that I had a gluten insensitivity. We ended up having to change our diet. My husband decided to give up gluten so that it’s more simple for us in meal planning and we can have the same meals together. Also, there’s less of a chance for cross contamination. After having had a new diet for about a month, I’ve noticed a few things. I have finally started to lose weight. I haven’t changed my portion sides or anything. My body feels so much better and energetic. My pain levels from my back issues, having had to have a spinal fusion 2 years ago, and having arthritis in it, has gone down considerably. I was also having a lot of digestive issues, mostly of not being able to have a bowel movement, being bloated, and entirely uncomfortable and in pain. That has disappeared completely. That’s probably too much information for some people, but I just want to let those know who may be experiencing the same things that they aren’t alone.

Because of these changes, my mood has improved considerably as well. Since moving to Savannah, GA and losing my amazing mother-in-law, I’ve gone through a bit of depression. It’s not easy admitting, but, honestly, I think everyone goes through it from time to time. Where nothing you do makes you feel right. Where doing the things you use to love make you feel nothing. This was writing for me as well as other things. When I was writing, I didn’t feel the passion I use to about it. I think it’s one of the reasons I struggled with the final book in the Hartland series as much as I did. Now, I just have to edit it…. Boo!

During this time, when I should have been there for my husband who lost his mother in a car accident due to a woman texting and driving, I wasn’t there. Not really. I was barely there for myself. In fact, my husband pretty much had to come home from work and cook our meals and clean the house. There were days, where I did these things. These were my good days.

I don’t know how he did it, but that just shows you what someone will do when they love you. I’ve been there for him in the past when his father died, or when he’s lost his job, and other set backs. I beat myself up for not really being there for him a lot during the last year. There was a lot of change to adjust to. That is, until recently when he pointed out a few things to me. In a marriage, sometimes you have to take care of the other person and be okay with it. Jeff is a truly amazing man and I am better with him by my side than I would have ever been alone or with someone else. We often feel that we were meant for each other. We balance each other out quite well.

We’ve had our rough patches in our marriage. I think most married couples do. It’s impossible to agree on everything all the time. The thing is, we’ve stayed with one another through it all. We’re in for the long haul! We’ve been married 12 and a half years now. We’ve seen each other’s strengths and weaknesses and we still love one another very much. We hate being apart from one another.

I’m leaving this post with a little reminder for everyone, even for myself. Remember┬áto be kind in life. You have no idea what the other person, the one who may have annoyed you or did something you deemed stupid, is going through. Be kind. Be patient. Be understanding.

Life Experiences

There’s this saying about writing what you know and it’s true. Even when we write about what we don’t know, things we’ve made up, there are certain elements to the writing that we bring to it through our own life experiences. Many writers make a character loosely based on someone, sometimes several people, they know in real life. I know a few of our characters have several character traits from multiple people, which, in turn, makes them, their own person.

The reason I wanted to talk about life experiences is because my husband and I have regretted moving away from Casper, WY to Savannah, GA. We don’t like it here. We tried so hard for the first couple of months, but it just isn’t for us. I want mountains back. I do not like the swamp. Yes, Savannah, GA is a swamp, no matter what anyone says. Some would think its beautiful, and it is in certain aspects.

There is one aspect here that I cannot get use to and that’s the smell. The stench that some days smells like someone farted in your face. Other days it smells worse. The worst part is that it comes and goes, so there isn’t really a way to get use to it. There can be several days in a row where it doesn’t stink. And then, there are days where you go to a movie and when you come out, the outside smells so horribly it nauseates you. That’s something I can’t get use to.

The beach life, for us, is not worth it. I know this is going to sound odd, but we don’t really care for the beach that much. It’s only okay. That, right there, is something we would have never known had we stayed. Nor would we have been able to experience the heat down here that seems to oppress you. We’ve experienced extreme cold by living in Bismarck, ND. I guess it was time to try the humid heat. Not a fan. Now we know for a fact and learned something we can add into our novels.

The people here are okay. They aren’t much different from the people we left behind in Wyoming. They talk about southern hospitality, but I don’t know if that truly exists anymore. There are just as many rude, inconsiderate people here as there were back in Casper. Probably more, since the metropolitan population of Savanna is roughly 384,000, and the population of the entire state of Wyoming is 585,000.

My point is (if you’ve stayed with me this long) is that although we regret moving here, we wouldn’t have ever had the experiences we’ve had. We would have never seen a person trying to squeegee off ice on a windshield (one of the few times there’s ice down here). That one had us giggling for quite a while.

It’s these experiences that have shaped us. Being here has given us several fantastic ideas for one of the series we’re working on. I don’t think these ideas would have come to us had we stayed back in Casper. That’s kind of the point though. Our paths are set before us. We can choose which way to go. Sometimes these choices don’t always work out in our favor. Sometimes they do. It also depends on how you choose to see life. For us, we choose to see life as a learning experience, as a way to improve ourselves.

Our writing might have taken a hit after we moved here, a little over a year ago. Part of that is because my husband’s mother was killed in a car accident due to a driver texting while driving. The other part is we decided to let ourselves be miserable while here because we didn’t like it. Because it didn’t work out like we had hoped it would. We have another year ahead of us to allow us to pay off some bills, so we have a few choices. 1.) Stay in the same mood and do nothing, waiting for time to pass. 2.) Write and enjoy ourselves and try to enjoy our surroundings. 3.) Or continue to absolutely hate it here and delve into writing to forget the outside world. We have made a vow to attempt number 2. Out of the options, it sounds like the best one. That’s the thing. We have control over a lot in our lives. It’s all in the way we choose to see things. So, today, choose those life experiences. Choose to look at things in a new light.

For the other writers who need a reminder: Remember that life experiences bring life to writing. These emotions we have felt have helped us delve deeper into some of our characters. The things we have seen help us with story development. Everything we go through in life, both good and bad, help with our writing. Don’t fear going out and having life experiences, even if they don’t work out like you planned. Without them, what would writers have to write about?