Lies, Secrets, and Scars Create Better Characters

A simple character profile is flat. But his lies, secrets and scars create an emotional journey that turns your story into a book readers can’t put down.

Lies, Secrets, and Scars Create Better Characters

Hello,

This is a post I found interesting in relation to the morals, values, or other belief systems of characters that can make a story more of a gripping read.

This also discusses how to detail these areas within a story and how this can help drive the story along.

Hope you enjoy it and find it useful.

Does the Idea of Promoting Your Book Make You Feel Queasy? – by Lizbeth Meredith

on Jane Friedman site: At every writer’s conference, I see fledgling authors roll up their sleeves when told well-established truths on writing: Writing is important. Make it a priority. Schedule time for writing every day, or as regularly as possible. But when they’re exhorted to market their books? Pearl clutch. While a small group of […]

Does the Idea of Promoting Your Book Make You Feel Queasy? – by Lizbeth Meredith

Hello everyone,

Interesting article about promoting your book and how important it is. Even as important as writing the book itself.

The link above takes you to another site, Chris the Story Reading Ape https://thestoryreadingapeblog.com/, which then has a link to the article. Although Chris’s blog is wonderful, if you want to skip that and go straight to the article, click here https://www.janefriedman.com/does-the-idea-of-promoting-your-book-make-you-feel-queasy/

Where to next?

Hope you’re all well.

I am coming to the end of a very productive Short Story Course (https://www.writers-online.co.uk/writing-courses/courses/short-story-course-first-edition/). The course covers various areas, including ‘Shaping Your Characters’, ‘Narration and Dialogue’, ‘Writing Style’ and more. I’ve been paired with a tutor, Lesley Eames (https://lesleyeames.com/), who has been helpful and provided some very useful feedback. Several things she has advised will stay with me for as long as I write.

Amongst those things was something that makes so much sense but has never been advised to me before. That is:

The tag for dialogue is part of the sentence.

More than likely, that sounds standard to most, but it’s new to me. After the dialogue, you put a comma before the ‘he said’ or ‘she said’ part. I’ve never been told that or come across it before in feedback or otherwise. It makes sense, but I find it strange it’s never crossed my path. One of the many benefits I’ve seen from doing a course on the craft of writing. I never want to stop learning things like this.

I’ve made plenty of notes and devoured all the feedback that Lesley has provided me. But she commented just before I started my current and penultimate course unit, ‘The Writer at Work’, which covers the writer actually doing the work. She said:

This will be the penultimate assignment in the current course, but it’s possible to book some extension assignments if you feel it would be helpful to continue to receive feedback on your writing. Alternatively, you might consider the challenge of a new course such as Fiction, which deals with longer stories, or Crime Writing. Another possibility is to submit work under the critiquing scheme.

             This got me thinking, where to next?

             I’ve always wanted to write a story or two using all the experience I’ve gained from working in the banking sector, which is around 18 years now. The ideas have always been there. But, as I enjoy writing Fantasy and Sci-Fi related stories, I didn’t know how to mesh the two together. And I preferred to write Fantasy and Sci-Fi that in no way involved my working life and to keep things separate. I’m not sure why, but I think it may have been a way of keeping my two worlds apart.

But then, an idea emerged.

This came about when I started to write my journal. The idea revolves around the banking industry and magic. I’m still working it out, but I’m enjoying it, and I’ve started to write it each day on my writing note app Evernote. Well, it’s now almost every day, but it’s moving along nicely.

I am making notes on the story as I go, which isn’t the usual way I like to work, but I’ll stick with it now. If you’d like to know more, see my previous post for more details(https://johnrsermon.com/2021/09/25/a-journal-to-start-and-stop/).

             This idea got me thinking about all the other ideas I’ve had and more so the ones I’ve turned into stories of varying lengths. And what to do with those stories in particular. The one part of Writing Life that alludes to me is being published. I won’t lie; seeing my name on a book I’ve created being published on any scale would be a dream come true. But, how do I accomplish this?

             This thought pushed me to sign up for another course, ‘How to Make Money from your Writing’. I’m hoping to learn a lot from this and take a big step in my writing life. 

             With this in mind, what further writing education have you done? Can you recommend any writing courses?  Please comment below. I’m interested to hear from you.  

A Journal: To Start and Stop. 

Hello,

As you may have guessed, this post is centred around the art of the journal. If you have any tips on how to maintain the habit of completing a journal regularly, I would really like to hear from you.

So, I’ve been looking for a way to keep myself writing and help keep the ideas flowing. I like to think my idea radar is on point, but the more help the better. I’ve been taking regular morning walks before work, which have become a wonderful habit. The walks are helping the ideas come to me and they are mostly linked to my current WIP. Evernote (https://evernote.com/) lets me jot all of them down as I go. No worries there.

However, recently I have struggled to be as creative at home. As I work from home all day and use the same monitor, and work at the same desk as I would for my writing, I am reluctant to sit down in front of it to write in my free time. This blog post is from my laptop unplugged and moved to my kitchen table. And sometimes outside on my garden table. To try and solve this particular issue, I decided to jump into something I have been considering for a few years now;

The noble art of the Journal. (Or Journal-ing. Journal-isation? Jounal-isting?)

I first settled on the notebook I wanted to use for such an endeavour (see above), bought it and then…struggled to find anything to write in it. I’ve tried to write something every day but some days, I just don’t feel like updating it.

From the updates I have managed, they’ve been very therapeutic. I’ve also unearthed a gem of an idea (I’m a bit biased, but I think it’s decent). It’s an idea that allows me to merge the knowledge I’ve gained from my working life in the banking sector with the type of story I want to write. A present-day Sci-Fi and Fantasy type endeavour. This idea has also allowed me to get into another habit, writing every day. Evernote comes to the fore once again for this one. I write in the morning, so my day starts off on a high. I’d fallen into the habit of doom scrolling across the internet when I woke up. Now, I feel more energised. In more control of my writing. I’m focusing on what I can control instead of what is gone and beyond it. However, this stopped my journal updating progress.

I put this Journal related dilemma on Twitter and got a decent response. One response from ‘Marion Cleborne and the (Hopefully) Final Edits – @MarionCleborne’ said to try a one-sentence diary or one paragraph, which is an excellent idea for where to start. As well as this, I was given good advice about making this a habit and taking it one step at a time. Twitter is good sometimes, isn’t it? Thank you to @iamedterry and @reesepateluk as well for their help with this. 

In conclusion, I’m taking this Journal one step at a time and trying to build a new habit. And also had the side bonus of pushing me to write every day in some shape or form. Long may it continue.

If you have any tips on how to maintain the habit of completing a journal regularly, I would really like to hear from you.

Have a nice day.

The Bigger Picture (Part 2)

He woke up as his head flopped down onto his chest. He rubbed his neck as he adjusted in his seat, accidentally kicking the pizza on the floor. The clock said two in the morning, and he checked his phone and multiple messages stared back at him. His phone rang.

‘Hello mate, hey congratulations and all that,’ Robert said as he answered.

‘Thanks, mate. You didn’t answer any of our messages before. You usually respond quickly. I was getting worried. You, okay?’

‘Yeah, mate. Well…’ Robert hesitated as he searched for the right words in the dark. He stood up and walked towards the lines of moonlight that stretched across his carpet before moving closer to the window and staring out through the blinds. ‘That date from Friday didn’t work out.’

‘Ah. No worries, mate. They’ll be more where that came from. What was the reason this time? You know what, who cares—her loss. You’re a good guy. Her loss.’

‘Thanks, mate. And Happy Birthday, by the way. Forgot to tell you last week,’ Robert said, standing up a little straighter.

‘Not a problem. You’ve wished me the best for other years. I don’t think much of turning thirty-five anyway. You did a few months ago, how was it?’

‘Average at best.’

‘See? Anyway, I’m off to bed. I’ve only had one drink mate but, I love you. I’ll speak to you later.’

‘You too, mate. See you later,’ Robert said, putting the phone down. He looked at the dark screen in his hand before looking back out at the moon. He glanced around his front room before throwing his phone onto the settee, closing the blinds, and going to bed. (282 Words – Part 2)

*

The next day he came downstairs and frowned at his phone on the settee. He pocketed it and went into the kitchen.

Later that day, he was working on his laptop when a ringing tone came out of it. He flinched before realising it was a video call. He answered and adjusted his laptop and the camera as he did so.

‘Hello son, how’s Sunday treating you?’

‘I’m good, Dad. Since when did you learn how to use video calling?’

‘Since your brother taught me a few weeks ago. Can you hear me, okay?’

‘I can, Dad. Coming through loud and clear.’

Robert chatted with his father, struggling to know where he should look (at my face? at his face? somewhere in between?) before his Mum joined in. Closely followed by his brother. The conversation settled into a rhythm that brought a small smile to Robert’s face.

‘We should do this every week. What do you think, Rob?’ his brother said.

Robert stuttered. ‘Why? I’m only a few miles away from you all?’

‘So? We don’t get to see you that often anymore.’

‘Sure. Weekly video calls sound good. Or even just conversations via massager would be fine. What do you think, Mum and Dad?’

‘Sounds great. I…,’ said Dad.

‘No. I can never get those things to work,’ interrupted his Mum. Thus began a long conversation about how she thought video calls work against how everyone else knew they did. At times Robert just sat back and smiled. (546 words)

The rest of Robert’s day moved along at a smooth pace. Leaving his phone in his bedroom to charge, he cleaned his flat from top to bottom and did all his washing and ironing to cover the coming week.

Later that evening, he sat down at his dinner table to eat his reheated takeaway. As he got halfway through, he remembered his phone was upstairs. After retrieving it and sitting back down at his table, it buzzed and buzzed for around ten seconds. Several messages greeted him, all referencing a night out from his friends. Robert hovered his thumb over the keyboard and began to type.

“Just us five. Not been on a night out like that in ages,” one message read. Robert hesitated and then continued typing.

“No other halves then?” He sent the message and then quickly started to type a second message, “Because I’m not that bothered if” but did not have time to send it as more messages came through.

“Just us five. Like it was in the beginning?” read another message.

“Really? Okay. Great. I’m looking forward to it. I mean, I look forward to our usual nights out with other halves included,” Robert sent. He smiled as they ignored it, and the buzzing kept on going as a plan began to form.

“Cool. Meet at seven o’clock in the pub on Friday,”

“Looking forward to it,” Robert responded. He went back to his food before his phone buzzed again, and he glanced down mid-bite. Caroline’s name flashed up. He scanned her message, which was made up of several excuses and half compliments, before deleting it and messaging another friend to see if he was free for a call. As his friend replied, he rang him and smiled as he answered. 

The Bigger Picture (Part 1)

Robert just managed to get the last train home, and once he reached his stop, he jumped off and ran the mile to his house to get out of the rain. After throwing his sopping wet coat on the comfy chair opposite, he planted himself on his settee. He took a deep breath and looked at his phone. His thumb hovered over the send button. Is it too soon? Did I come across too desperate or needy? She seemed to enjoy the date, didn’t she? He thought. Before he could send anything, his phone buzzed in his hand. Two messages flashed up; one from a friend and the other from his date, Caroline.


‘Sorry, mate. I’ll look later,’ Robert said. He opened Caroline’s message, and almost as soon as he did, he sat back with a thud and let out a sigh.

‘You’ve met someone else? We just went out? Did you meet someone on the tram home?!’ he said. He messaged back and threw his phone onto the floor before putting his head in his hands. His phone buzzed again, and he almost flew out of his seat to pick it up.

‘Congratulations,’ he said, with an empty feeling hitting his stomach as he sat on the floor. He looked blankly at the picture he had been sent of his friends’ engagement. He flopped his head back against the settee and stared at the ceiling.

*

The following day, he woke up early but left his bed late. As he eventually rose for the day, the clothes from the previous night had dried where they lay on the edge of the bed. As he put the now dry clothes back on, wondered what the stale scent was before realising it was him, or rather, his clothes. He shrugged at that and the pile of work shirts on the floor before cleaning his teeth. He opened his front door and squinted at the sun light as he stepped outside to go for a walk.

The heat was light and calming on the back of his neck as he approached a small park and found a bench. He settled in and took out his phone and called his mother.

‘Sorry, Mum. I meant to call you a few days ago,’ he said. She accepted his reason, and they chatted for the next ten minutes.

‘So, how did your date go last night?’ his Mum said. Robert shifted in place as he contemplated the question.

‘Oh…it didn’t go so well. I don’t know what happened,’ he replied. He then went through what had happened the previous night. He took a deep breath partway through to stop his bottom lip from quivering. ‘That was my tenth date in three months, Mum. The reasons are getting numerous and off-putting.’

‘Never mind. I’m sure you’ll meet a nice girl one of these days. You’re a lovely boy.’

‘Thanks, Mother.’

They chatted for ten more minutes before she had to go. Robert could hear a door opening and a few voices in the background before the phone went dead. He slowly put his phone away and sat back on the bench. Over the next few hours, he rested his hand on his pocket over his phone. Several times he went to take it out but resisted. He people-watched and observed different couples out of the corner of his eye as they walked by. He smiled and turned away each time. The clouds over head started to darken and he stood up to head home.

‘Six o’clock? So be it,’ he said. He ordered a takeaway not long after getting home. He settled onto the settee and his eyes widened as he realised the data on his phone was not switched on. He smiled as he turned it back on, but the smile faded as his phone became quieter with each passing second.

He idly scrolled through his phone’s gallery until he frowned at a picture of a couple with one pushing their hand towards the camera. He gasped as he remembered. He sent a response to his friend, saying he was happy for him and them both. A few separate conversations started up across the messaging group, and his thumb hovered over the keyboard to respond. He glanced at it and could see his name in some of the messages, but he did not answer.

‘What am I watching? Where is the remote?’ he said. The doorbell rang, and he retrieved his pizza. He settled back down again and devoured one slice before putting the box of food on the floor.

Possible Perfectionist

I think I’m very close to being a perfectionist. About 100% as per the graph below:

I’ve known this for a while, but I don’t always apply the 100% to everything I do. Just the essential things in my life like my fiancé, family, and friends. And my writing

Anyway, I’m currently in the middle of an Assignment as part of the Short Story Writing Course I’m completing. This was purchased via The Writing Magazine (https://www.writers-online.co.uk/writing-courses). So far, I’ve worked my way through five sections of the eight that make up the course. Those are First Principles, Shaping Your Characters, Characters and Plotting, Narration and Dialogue, and Writing Style. Each has its own assignment, and you’ve got as much time as you need to complete them. Well, not all the time, but they are pretty casual about the timescales but recommend getting into a routine while doing the course to help you gain the most from it. 

The latest section, Writing Style, has set an assignment to write in 1,000 words a story that builds a strong sense of atmosphere and/or place. When I was given this assignment, I’ll admit it seemed a bit daunting to me and a little bit scary. I had a rough idea of how I would do it, but I wasn’t sure if I’d ever done it before. But I must’ve done. Right?

I’ve finished First Drafts for Novels and Short Stories so far in my Writing Career and created the atmosphere I needed to tell my story correctly. So, why am I scared now?

Not sure, really. I think it’s because I’ve never sat down and just written a piece that only focuses on creating a sense of anything. Let alone atmosphere and/or place. I knew that I had to come up with some ideas, but what to use?

In my previous assignments, I’ve used such scenarios as manager-team member conflict (Conflicting Characters – Characters and Plotting) Friends living together (Narration and Dialogue – Three-Way Conversation). Still, I didn’t want to just revisit these as that seemed too easy.

Then, it hit me. I really enjoy writing fight and battle scenes, so why not use this? The sense of atmosphere within a battle (I imagine) is strong and can change (again, I imagine) quickly. I settled on my scenario for my assignment, now to write it.

That went quite well. I crafted a piece about a soldier fighting demons as part of an army. Looking like they are on top, only to have the demons retreat as a bigger foe, one they are even petrified of, came into the picture. This allowed me to change the atmosphere from happy and carefree (Winning the battle) to fear and dread (Probably going to lose the battle) midday through the story.

I considered rewriting the story and focusing all 1,000 words on one sense of atmosphere. But I preferred the challenge of conveying the shift in atmosphere partway through—about halfway to be exact. Then I considered changing it. I always edit my assignments, even though I’m looking for feedback, so if I didn’t, it would be fine.

But, I’m a writer. I’m not wired like that at all.

And thus, began weeks and weeks of edits that have become never-ending. Now, I’m aware this is part of my writing life, and that’s fine but, how far should I go with an edit for a Writing Course Assignment? Or should I just send it off and see what happens?

This leads me to a question.

Whilst completing a short piece of writing for submission (1,000 to 2,000 words) to be submitted, would you send the first draft of your assignment or edit it before submission?

10 Things All Writers Need to Succeed (Before They Even Start Writing)

4. A goal. It doesn’t even have to be an ambitious goal.

10 Things All Writers Need to Succeed (Before They Even Start Writing)

Hello,

This is a re-blog of a post from a while ago (Feb 2020) that I found very useful.

It’s a straight forward list of things you may need to be a writer.

Hope you find it useful.

Have a good day and thanks for visiting.

Inspiration in Pictures.

Hello everyone,

Hope you’re well.

During this pandemic, I have felt many different emotions, as I’m sure you all have during this strange and challenging time. I have found that having a routine set around my working-from-home life has helped me to manage these feelings and keep things in perspective. My wonderful fiancé also helps along with my family and friends, who I am more grateful for than ever. My routine is to go for a walk in the morning before work and go for a walk after work. Not ground-breaking I know, but extremely helpful all the same. Each walk allows me to prepare for the day ahead or wind down from it. I have immensely enjoyed my morning walks. During the colder months of December and January, I have got to know the streets, parks, and short cuts near me a lot more. These surroundings have formed the basis for my latest two WIP’s. The idea for each WIP has come from the following pictures I have taken whilst taking a morning stroll:

These pictures were taken after taking a second look at each scene, and an idea popped into my head.

The picture on the left, just beyond the farthest set of trees, is a football (soccer) pitch. In the current situation, no football has been played on there for a while. However, as I studied the picture at home, I wondered, could a football match be taking place behind the white fog? And what would the story be behind that? That wondering brought about one of the current WIP’s. The story of a set of footballers, all just having a late-night kick about, who tragically died when a plane crashed into them some fifty years previous. Every anniversary of this tragedy, they play a game of football behind the fog. But this year, it will be different. They will have a spectator this time in the shape of a man who has become very curious about the fog. And a man in need of a distraction. 

In the picture on the right, I captured this scene because I thought I caught a glimpse of something moving inside the fog, right down the street and beyond the last house that can be seen. I then wondered, what could be hidden in the fog? And what would the thing be doing? This became my second WIP. A man, taking his morning walk, spots a colossal monster inside the thick, white fog. The next time the fog returns a week later, he tries to confront the beast. Only, the beast has other ideas.

I have finished writing both stories, and it has helped me get back into a rhythm and a new routine for my writing. My writing frequency has been all over the place during the pandemic, so I’m happy that I can get some kind of normality back into my writing.

This leads me to ask:

Have you ever taken a picture and written a full story off the back of it? Or, has the picture filled in a plot hole in a story that had held you back from progressing? I would be keen to hear your stories on this. 

Stay safe and have a nice day!

Identifying showing and telling: Thinking in layers to understand reader experience – by Louise Harnby…

Are you storytelling-telling? Too much told narrative can force the reader to experience a story through extraneous layers that add clutter rather than clarity. Here’s how to identify one type of told prose and write with more immediacy. Continue reading HERE

Identifying showing and telling: Thinking in layers to understand reader experience – by Louise Harnby…

Hello,

Here is a handy and straightforward article I found regarding the difference between showing and telling in your writing.

Click the link above for access to the full post. I hope you find this useful and thank you for visiting. Have a good day!