Linda S. Gunther, Author

WRITE - BYTES

Visit us each Friday for the next installment in the Write-Byte series

Like icebergs, 90% of what we really think and feel lingers inside us, some of it deep down inside. Occasionally we might expose 10% to others, maybe 20% or even push to 30%. This depends on a lot of factors which may include stress, trust, love, fear, sorrow and other elements of our human condition in a given window of time.

As impactful writers we want to gradually peel those layers on our lead and secondary characters. We take care not to expose the WHOLE ONION of a character at the start of the story. We intentionally peel that onion one layer at a time. Because then, we will DRAW IN the reader, give them time to breathe, time to digest each morsel.

In real life, when we meet someone for the first time and they spill their guts, tell us their entire life story with an ocean of details, we may feel somewhat wary or mistrustful. They’ve said too much in a few minutes and that can turn us off, make our head spin.  Same thing for readers. Give readers small chunks at a time. Allow them space to get to know the protagonist or narrator (in a memoir).

In a short story, yes, of course, you’ll peel those layers more quickly because you only have 1,500 – 5,000 words to tell the whole tale. In a novel or memoir, the word count will likely end up around 70,000 – 100,000 words. Personally, I like the 70,000 – 80,000 range. And with a novella, it will be even shorter.

Think about this: how did the character acquire his/her unique quirks and personality traits? They likely emanated from their experiences as a child, as a teenager, or as a young adult.

That leads us to the subject of backstory. Where, and when do we effectively use backstory? I’ve had writing coaches say BE CAREFUL on BACKSTORY. Don’t stay in backstory for too long. Keep your story focused on the forward-moving scene. I generally agree but NOT ALWAYS. It depends.

If I’m going to write backstory like I did in my suspense novel, DREAM BEACH, I only include the memory of a past experience that serves my overall plot. I might get INTO AN ACTUAL SCENE vs just telling the backstory. Hence, I write an actual FLASHBACK.  

For example, my protagonist in DREAM BEACH, Peyton McClintock, feels the way she does about her husband and her recent career decision partially because of a traumatic childhood experience she had growing up in Scotland. That pivotal event happened when she was 5 years old. Her mother disappeared suddenly one night and ran off with their small town’s professional photographer never to return home again. Needless to say, it was a significant emotional event for Peyton! And, worth the backstory (in my novel) as it solidly links to how Peyton deals with recent adult life dilemmas including a failing marriage and a business career, she’s never quite embraced.

I think as writer it helps to ask yourself: at what moment in time would my character reflect about something that happened in the past? It probably wouldn’t be in the middle of an intense action scene because that backstory will probably take the reader OUT OF THE ACTION in the forward-moving scene. You don’t want to lose the momentum you so craftily built.

Perhaps backstory is best used when a tough dilemma (trouble) has just been revealed for the protagonist but there are some moments of “calm” to come where the character might think back, dream, reflect or daydream about that life-changing event from way back.

In your edit process you will re-read the backstory you drafted and then you can decide if you need it at all or maybe opt to trim it.

There are great writers, popular writers who leverage backstory, and weave it in at just the right time. Writing this down helped me personally so I’m hoping it was useful to you as developing writers.

Highlights in bold italics above capture the core of this blog post!

Stay tuned for next week. Look for this BLOG every FRIDAY which will be posted at 9 a.m.

Next week’s WRITE-BYTES Blog post will focus on THE WRITER’S PATH.

We all have a voice. Without any doubt, when we converse with others, even strangers, we have a voice whether we are aware of it or not. And it’s not just our vocal cords making sounds. It’s our tone, our approach, our sense of humor or lack of it, our straightforward manner or the roundabout way we get to the point. Each of us has a “unique” way we come across. Nobody is exactly like another. Our “voice” comes out to the receiver not only in what we say and how we say it but also in our body language which as researchers say is between 70-80% of how we communicate.

In writing, we can’t rely on visual communications, only on what we get on the page.

When writing fiction, it may be easier to develop the “voice” of the protagonist or any other character in the invented story. We think of his/her character traits, personality, idiosyncrasies. Is she sarcastic? Is he flamboyant? Is she bold? Is he a trickster? Secretive? Open? And if we are an omniscient narrator in a work of fiction telling the story in third person, then we can get inside the head of every character and create a unique “voice” for the narrator as well.

If we write a memoir, that unique “voice” may be more difficult to find.  We don’t necessarily think about our own personal character traits. When we start, we may be too focused on just telling the story about what happened to us way back when.

How can you as a writer find your unique “voice” when writing your own memoir? Again, YOU ARE THE MAIN CHARACTER IN YOUR MEMOIR. Readers want to get inside your head, understand how you INDIVIDUALLY see the worldYour memoir is all about YOU and how you react to the events and experiences.

Here’s another list of questions to consider before writing a memoir. As narrator, how do I uniquely think about life? What’s my philosophy? What do I find amusing? What scares me? What makes me tick? What triggers my emotions (makes me sad, happy, disgusted)? What do I find exciting, silly, creepy? What vocabulary words do I like to use in conversation?  How do I see the day-to-day world they are in? What thoughts are inside my head when I wake up, go to work, get in bed?

If you do some of this work ahead and write out a list of these traits, then when you start crafting your memoir, that “voice” will have more of a chance of coming out in your words. What I believe works well is having some kind of list (as described in the questions above) BEFORE putting pen to paper or fingertips to keyboard! And as you write, your unique “voice” will undoubtedly become more defined and evolve!

One last thing, as I usually recommend in this blog, once you draft a chapter, read it aloud. See if you hear your unique “voice” shining throughAdd words that might sharpen it! Edit out phrases or words that seem to not fit with that “voice.” YOUR VOICE IS THE SOUL OF YOUR WRITING!

Highlights in bold italics above capture the core of this blog post!

Stay tuned for next week. Look for this BLOG every FRIDAY which will be posted at 9 a.m. 

Next week’s blog topic will focus on HOW and WHEN to USE BACKSTORY.

Readers crave characters that they enjoy being with through the best of times and the worst of times. What draws in the reader is when there’s big trouble for the protagonist in fiction or for the narrator in a memoir, and maybe as a bonus there’s maybe a twist or turn in the plot. The obstacles and challenges the main character faces may be caused by either a physical threat or related to an emotional letdown or personal dilemma. One approach for the writer is to open a chapter or even start a memoir with a dramatic scene, a CONFLICT. Grab the reader!

If writing in third person (as narrator of the story), the writer can move around from character to character to show diverse points of view (thoughts and feelings of each character). The caution here is not to have too many characters for the reader to track in the story! Alternatively, if writing in first person, the writer can show emotional tension but it will be only from the narrator’s personal point of view (how he/she sees it) which may possibly limit the writer. This is something important to think about when choosing point of view.

So what emotions are available to feature in the characters we develop? Some possibilities include: grief, happiness, jealousy, pleasure, impatience, playfulness, passion, possessiveness, shame, secretiveness, shock, anger, fear, shyness, suspicion, triumph, smugness, annoyance, dominance, love or pride. Of course there are many more choices than listed here. Emotions experienced by the protagonist or by any other character in the story are most usually connected to one’s personal reaction to other people in the story (mother, father, brother, sister, stranger, doctor, husband, wife, etc.). What are they feeling? What do they say? What inner thoughts do they have? How do they move?

In the memoir I’m currently writing titled A BRONX GIRL which is set in the Bronx during my childhood in the 1960’s, I show a lot of resentment and anger in my interactions with my mother. But my reflective narrator (the adult version of me) can see how one-sided I was as a young girl when it came to experiencing my mother. As writer, the more I show specifically how and why I was so resistant and judgmental towards my mother, the more I can hopefully bring readers into each scene and into the overall story. Of course, the other characters in my memoir (my brother, sister, Nana, estranged father and my mother) each have their individual emotional reactions to me and to each other; and I need to show these. DIALOGUE and PHYSICAL BEHAVIOR as well as my INTERNAL THOUGHTS as narrator can all serve to demonstrate the various positive and negative emotional connections between characters.

An emotional reaction can be seen even in a small gesture. That reaction doesn’t necessarily have to be shown through dialogue. It is even possible that the character having the reaction may not even be aware of it. But the reader knows because the writer has described what’s happening in detail! An example might be the protagonist pulling repeatedly on his ear lobe when he feels stressed or the young girl biting on her nails so much that her fingers bleed every time her mother screams at her.

Keep in mind that as you write your story, new emotions between your characters may surface. For example, your protagonist may love her husband very much but when she finds out he just received a big work promotion when they were both expecting her to be the one announcing her own job promotion, she might actually feel jealous of her husband. Her jealousy may be fleeting, last only a few minutes but on the other hand her jealousy may simmer, cause her to act out in other ways on a longer-term basis. The emotional reaction to her husband’s sudden career success can drive her behavior and what decisions she makes from that point forward.

As writers, our target is to develop an engaging story line but without plenty of emotional reaction between characters it will be a challenge to create a compelling, “turn the page” read.

Stay tuned for next week. Look for the WRITE-BYTES BLOG on this website every FRIDAY posted at 9 a.m.

Highlights in bold italics above capture the core of this blog post!

Stay tuned for next week. Look for this BLOG every FRIDAY which will be posted at 9 a.m.

Next week’s WRITE-BYTES Blog post will focus on FINDING YOUR VOICE AS A WRITER.

When writing fiction you conceive a plot, usually one you made up, or maybe related to something you read about that intrigues you so much that you decide to write a short story or novel based on that specific string of events or period in time.

Keep in mind that your imagination as a writer is not meant only for fiction. When developing a memoir your intention is to reflect your real life, maybe a specific segment of time in your late twenties when you lived in New York City.

If writing memoir is your target project you may think you don’t need to tap your imagination. But of course you do! You’re not going to remember every detail or slice of dialogue from your past. You’ll have to imagine what that conversation was like when you had it!  And to make your memoir interesting as well as move your true story forward you’ll need to make it concise, flow smoothly and embellish the events with color like you would if you were an artist creating a painting. That’s why we often refer to memoir pieces as CREATIVE NONFICTION! You basically combine as many inches of real life as you can recall with your brilliant IMAGINATION!

For example, you may blend two of your first cousins into one character. WHY would you do that? So that you don’t have an overload of characters in your true story which can be a problem for readers to track. This will also give you an opportunity to synthesize the variety of personality traits and quirks into one fascinating character.

I started my third suspense novel (Finding Sandy Stonemeyer) with an actual dream I had one night. I awoke from the dream and immediately wrote it down. I tried to include as many details as I could possibly recall, get it all on the page because I knew that that vivid dream could be a riveting opening scene.

For me, I get lightning flashes at the most unlikely times: on the grocery line, in the reception area at the dentist’s office, and especially while driving. I pull over, take out my iPhone and tap in my idea because again I know that if I don’t follow through fast and capture it, then those thoughts will be gone like the wind.

Another example: I might be in a restaurant and overhear a couple’s conversation and it’s the perfect dialogue for a chapter I’m about to begin crafting. I grab a napkin or cell phone and scribble down the highlights, the words used in their conversation, how the characters danced through their dialogue. Yes, I’m an eavesdropper.

Writing a short story, novel or memoir can plunge me into the state of temporary insanity. I just can’t stop thinking about my characters or my plot. I become obsessed.

Sorry, but as a writer you have to live with that downside. It’s the nature of the beast. But then you also realize that it’s because you are so passionate about your craft. A good thing!

So, how do you stimulate your imagination when you feel that your mind is empty of creative thoughts? One way is to go to a writing webinar where the facilitator offers you what are called ‘writing prompts.’ It may be an obscure prompt like: Write about something that scared you but then you found out later that the situation was harmless and you weren’t ever really in danger. Likely your facilitator will give you ten minutes or so to write. WOW!  You’ll be surprised at what pours out of you, and it will probably come from your imagination. I guarantee this kind of exercise will prove helpful and stimulating. And that stirring of your creative juices will spill over into your current writing project. And keep in mind that hanging out with other writers and tossing around plot ideas, themes, dilemmas, etc. can also be inspirational and serve to ignite your creativity.

Highlights in bold italics above capture the core of this blog post!

Stay tuned for next week. Look for this BLOG every FRIDAY which will be posted at 9 a.m.

Next week’s WRITE-BYTES Blog post will focus on EMOTIONAL REACTION AND CONNECTION BETWEEN YOUR CHARACTERS.

I’ve had coaches say, don’t stop to edit. Get out that first draft because you can tweak it later or re-write it but GET IT OUT on the page. In concept, I agree. You can’t edit something that’s not already written in some shape or form.

HOWEVER, for me, after I’ve written a few healthy chapters of a story I cannot help myself. I need to re-read it and do some editing. Grammar edits are easy, and you can ask an expert to do these later! But some degree of editing for crisp, clear, realistic dialogue between my characters just makes me feel better. At least I’ve accomplished some small improvements in my writing. Adding details that I don’t want to lose from my mind might be my focus. And if I don’t go back and include them now, I will lose them. So instead of making a bunch of scribbled notes to myself on changes I want to make, I JUST DO THE CHANGES. Also, when I do a quick round of editing, it sparks other ideas inside my head on how to move forward with my story and my characters.

If you’ve been writing for a while, you’ve likely heard these two terms used to describe writers: PLOTTER and PANTSER. A plotter is someone who plots out their story before writing it. Maybe they do a comprehensive outline of beginning, middle and end. They have a structure from the beginning. A pantser is someone who writes “by the seat of his/her pants” and shapes the plot and characters as they go along. I am a hybrid of these two opposites, and I believe that many writers are like me. Yes, we have a very sketchy outline. I use index cards to write out a few sentences about the first several scenes and maybe a few cards about each character I have in mind. And yes, even a few cards about the ending chapters, but not usually. This is all I need to get started on a novel.

And if I’m writing a short story or a short memoir piece, I likely take ONE INDEX CARD and jot down some ideas, a sketch. BUT THEN I JUST GO FOR IT. The pantser in me takes over.

Truth be told, sometimes I walk along the beach path with my iPhone in hand and in the notes section, I write an entire first draft of a short story or a chapter. That’s me! Walking stimulates my brain, my imagination! More about imagination in a future post! When I get home, I cut and paste and email to my computer, and then at least I have a first light draft in a word doc. Oh, and I always give it a working title. Often, I keep that title but sometimes I change it later. Some writers don’t title any piece until it’s done. That’s not me. I need an identifier that inspires me. I’ve productized the piece in my head. It becomes concrete and tangible for me. A defined TASK and GOAL! I used to teach Project Management, so this is how I work without becoming overly structured.

I believe that the key for writers is not to ruminate so much on what you’ve written that it STOPS you from moving forward with your manuscript. OTHERWISE, you’re entering THE DANGER ZONE. Constant editing and re-write can become a bad habit! And may lead to you taking years to write a story which some writers don’t mind. BUT I am a completer. I don’t like to have an unfinished product hanging around on my computer. And I must admit that I’ve also grown to LOVE EDITING, as long as it’s quick and in spurts. Because every single time I go back and do maybe twenty minutes of editing on a chapter, I improve the hell out of what I’ve written. NO EXAGGERATION here!

And if someone gives you feedback on a couple of little words you’ve written or how you opened a particular sentence, then WOW – be honored! Teensy changes in your manuscript can make a HUGE difference in tone, mood, meaning. This is why a regularly scheduled critique group (once a week) is like gold to a writer.

If you haven’t joined a critique group, think about it. And one that’s led by a writing coach is even more helpful.

Highlights in bold italics above capture the core of this blog post!

Stay tuned for next week. Look for this BLOG every FRIDAY which will be posted at 9 a.m.

Next week’s WRITE-BYTES Blog post will focus on THE WRITER’S IMAGINATION (Fiction and Nonfiction).

In a previous BLOG post, I discussed CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT, the importance of layering the main and key secondary characters with the good, the bad and the ugly. Because no one is pure! Now, I’d like to say a bit more about COMPLEXITY in your characters. That desirable element comes about and is apparent to the reader when the character struggles, has a personal conflict ‘on fire’ inside of them, one that is difficult to resolve. What I call A BIG FAT DILEMMA!

Today I watched a film on Netflix titled PERSUASION, based on the classic Jane Austen novel. Anne Elliott is the twenty-seven-year-old protagonist in this engaging story. The more she desires Captain Frederick Wentworth, the further she pushes him away. She broke up with him seven years ago when he was a penniless Navy sailor, persuaded by her mentor, Lady Russell to let him go. He ventured away to sea for several years making his mark as an honorable and successful Navy Captain. But Frederick is all Anne’s thought about for those long years apart, without ever contacting him. Now he’s back on shore. Instead of confessing her love, Anne keeps him at arms-length as a friend not a romantic liaison. She even pushes him into the arms of her cousin. WHY does she do this? Because the author has artfully created a COMPLEX character. Anne is torn inside. She’s confused. She feels guilty for many reasons. WE, AS READERS, STAND BESIDE HER and LIVE HER STRUGGLE. We watch her be uncomfortable, stumble and fall and pick herself up.

I have a fair amount of stage acting background and have performed in a variety of theater productions including some film work over the years, even studied Dramatic Arts at Oxford University (British American Drama Academy program through Yale Drama School) with premiere English actors like Brian Cox, Jeremy Irons and Vanessa Redgrave. That background helped me slide into writing stories and novels. I THINK LIKE A FILM MAKER. So, when I write, I roll the scene in my head as if I’m watching a film. It helps me create a piece where there is human struggle and complexity in my characters.

As a writer, how do you measure up when you design your character, even when it’s yourself as narrator of your memoir? What is the internal chatter going on inside the character’s head? And, when you manage to effectively describe those complex thoughts and feelings, are you “showing” them in actions of that character vs. too much telling?

Read that chapter you just wrote. READ IT ALOUD! Get out of your chair, print the pages and walk around the room reading it. Ask yourself the three questions stated above. Tweak your writing accordingly without ruminating so much that you don’t move forward with your manuscript. More about that DANGER ZONE in the next blog post.

Highlights in bold italics above capture the core of this blog post!

Stay tuned for next week. Look for this BLOG every FRIDAY which will be posted at 9 a.m.

Next week’s WRITE-BYTES Blog post will focus on THE DANGER ZONE IN WRITING: ‘EDIT’RUMINATION.

We all know what a “cliffhanger” is in television, in film and on the page of a good book. It’s something that takes the reader or viewer to the edge of the cliff but doesn’t take the plunge YET.

When we’re reading something that engages us, we hang on for dear life, wondering, speculating what is coming on the next page. It’s thrilling, an exciting ride and guess what, it doesn’t have to be related to a murder or something horrific in the crosshairs. It could merely be the character waiting for an important call where she finds out if she’s pregnant, or the character getting out of an elevator to ring a doorbell that might expose a cheating fiancée, his arms wrapped around another woman or that he’s alone and watching TV. The reader is there in the scene standing in the same space as the character. We, as readers are holding our breath. We understand what the character is feeling, how she/he is fearful, hopeful, maybe afraid. We are rooting for good things, but WE KNOW THAT AROUND THE NEXT CORNER, ON THE VERY NEXT PAGE, IT MAY TURN OUT BADLY for that character, the one we care about in the story.

HOW the HELL do you achieve that in your writing? Again, it’s the small details, the physicality of the character, the way she/he moves their body at that moment, the internal thoughts that run through the character’s mind when approaching the impending threat.

So, write your chapter and then read it back aloud. Ask yourself if you’ve created the tension you intended in that scene? If not, HOW can you create tension in the scene, even if it’s a mundane situation. HINT: It’s important to reveal the STAKES. In other words, what does the character have to lose if the next page doesn’t go well for him/her?

I don’t want to beat you over the head with this aspect BUT please take the opportunity in your writing to use this tool called “TENSION” when you can! Oh, and by the way, CONFLICT is also a high impact tool for capturing the hearts of readers. Conflict adds to the tension!

Highlights in bold italics above capture the core of this blog post!

Stay tuned for next week. Look for this BLOG every FRIDAY which will be posted at 9 a.m.

Next week’s WRITE-BYTES Blog post will focus on BOOSTING COMPLEXITY IN YOUR CHARACTERS.

When we read a book we love, when we’re hooked and can’t put it down, there’s a reason. Often the secret sauce the writer has plucked out of the air is indeed the depth of the character. I already mentioned in a previous blog that as a writer you want to not only feature the strengths or assets of the narrator/protagonist, BUT also their quirks, their downside, their weaknesses. AND additionally, I think you want to go deeper into what makes that individual tick.

There’s a process I’ve used in the corporate business world that can apply here. It’s called the ISHIKAWA (fishbone) diagram. It’s a methodology where you keep asking yourself WHY something continues to be a problem? If we extrapolate this problem-solving thinking to your craft as a writer, here’s what may be of value. ASK YOURSELF: Why is the main character in my story upset? Down deep, what is happening? Not only the surface or presenting issue, but what values, principles, beliefs are driving this character? And will that be discovered by the reader? In subtle ways, without knocking the reader over the head. Or in big ways, with a significant emotional event in the story.

AGAIN, how as the writer can you SHOW the underlying belief system of your character without just spelling it out in exposition? Is it something the character or narrator will do in the scene or chapter where the reader will be surprised and also understand what’s motivating the character at the deepest, most visceral level?

Okay, that’s a lot to digest and maybe I’m not doing a great job as a coach of describing this. So, here goes.

Writing Example:

She looked into the mirror and for the first time saw her mother looking back at her. Her fears of becoming just like her mother, a complaining shrew without a hint of sympathy for her own child, hit Tara like a “bullet” train. She had morphed into her mother, and it terrified her.

The passage above is not from an actual novel of my own, nor is it from any other author’s work I’ve read. BUT I think this baseline example shows what a few lines of writing can expose in terms of what lies beneath the character’s everyday surface reactions and thoughts. What’s written here cuts to the greatest fear, the albatross this character has been carrying around for years.

So, go deeper as a writer to expose those traumas, those things that frighten your protagonist or you as the narrator of your memoir. And do the same where it makes sense with one or two of your secondary characters.

Highlights in bold italics above capture the core of this blog post!

Stay tuned for next week. Look for this BLOG every FRIDAY which will be posted at 9 a.m.

Next week’s WRITE-BYTES Blog post will focus on DEVELOPING TENSION AND CONFLICT.

You’ve heard of show and tell and we’ve all enjoyed that process when we were kids. Bring something to class, hold it up for all to see and then “tell” them about it.

When you’re writing a story, whether it’s memoir or fiction, the best counsel I can give you is to SHOW vs tell. For you as the writer, this means that your goal is to share/divulge what’s happening through dialogue and action. If it’s a fast-moving action scene, then shorter sentences are recommended. If it’s a tragic scene, full of tension, write it cold vs hot. “Just state the facts ma’am,” and let the imagination do the rest. Believe it or not, the scene will be more powerful. If it’s a low-key scene, fairly mundane, then try writing it hotter, using a lot of descriptors to evoke the emotion the protagonist or narrator is feeling.

Most of all, have the dialogue between characters do the work in terms of what’s going on. When you simply tell the reader what’s happening, it is called narrative exposition. And sometimes it is indeed needed to set the stage for the reader, provide important information, go over history. But when you merely tell what’s happening instead of show what’s happening, the writing can fall flat, feel dull, get long, meandering and take the reader out of the scene; something you don’t want to do as a writer.

So, think about how you can SHOW more than tell. Write the scene first draft, then read it aloud to yourself. Maybe record it.  Re-write or edit the scene injecting more of the SHOW methodology. Force yourself to show what is unfolding through dialogue and action. See which version of what you’ve written you like better.

Ask yourself these questions: Is the scene drawing in the reader? Is the scene helping the reader connect to the feelings of the characters? Is the reader likely feeling the character’s yearning and desires? Does the reader comprehend the “stakes” for the character? MY MONEY IS ON THE “SHOW” vs the “TELL” version. Re-read a novel or memoir that you love by a writer you greatly admire. Notice how the author “shows” vs “tells.”

Highlights in bold italics above capture the core of this blog post!

Stay tuned for next week. Look for this BLOG every FRIDAY which will be posted at 9 a.m.

Next week’s WRITE-BYTES Blog post will focus on GOING DEEPER/ASKING “WHY” AS A WRITER.

If you’re planning to write a memoir, then your main character is YOU, and that means you are the narrator of the story. If you’re writing a suspense novel or any type of fiction, your main character is the protagonist. You can still write the story in first person if you so choose but you may also decide to write the story in third person. Whatever you decide, it’s a good idea to be clear on who is the protagonist or narrator. Believe me, readers can get confused. In other words, which character’s point of view are you featuring? That all being said, you could choose a style where each chapter is from a different character’s point of view (POV). But to be honest, most of the time I find that confusing or disruptive BUT not always!

So, now you’ve decided the above (at least for the first draft of your story), and you’re thinking about how to describe, define and color the character. Let’s think about physical description, quirks and here’s the most important aspect: LAYERS! Have you ever made a list of the pluses and minuses of a situation or dilemma? I believe that the same method applies to developing the main character and secondary characters in my story. Yes, I want to know what they look like BUT I also want them to be like real people. In other words, have good, bad and ugly sides to them. Remember most of us are different under stress. And NOBODY is perfect as the saying goes and that double-downs for creating believable characters. And, if you are writing a memoir, then I also recommend that you as narrator have FLAWS! Why not? The most perfect man or woman you’ve ever dated or married has FLAWS just like the rest of the world’s inhabitants! Don’t miss out on this point because it will give your character(s) DEPTH and LIFE. Yes, stay consistent with how that character thinks throughout BUT also remember that the point of your story is to show TRANSFORMATION. The character should change by the end of the story, somehow, some way!

MORE ABOUT THAT IN A FUTURE WRITE-BYTES POST!

PS: Be careful not to have TOO MANY CHARACTERS in your story. You don’t have to name everybody in your book, especially if that person appears once and not ever again. You can refer to them as the woman in red, or the ruddy-faced boy standing at the end of the line. UNLESS they are crucial to the TRANSFORMATION of the main or key secondary character.

Highlights in bold and italics above capture the core of this blog post!

Stay tuned for next week. Look for this BLOG every FRIDAY which will be posted at 9 a.m.

Next week’s WRITE-BYTES Blog post will focus on SHOW VS TELL.

Every story begins with a scene. Whether you’re writing a memoir or novel, or even a short story, as a writer your goal is to focus on intentionally setting the scene.

There’s a lot to establish in terms of the setting in a scene, especially in the opening scene of the story. Details matter. What the character or narrator sees and feels need to be highlighted, especially those things that will come around again and have significance, a broader meaning. Smells, textures, observations, what’s happening in the character’s body, their desires, their yearnings all add depth to a scene. Date, time of day, location, season of year, colors, sounds, all of these elements can be described. And let me say again: those teensy details, weird things that the character or narrator notices, quirky things, minor things can serve to capture the intentional desired mood and tone of the scene.

Think of your writing as a cinematic work of art, one that you are crafting as if you are standing behind the camera and shooting the scene as a filmmaker. Or maybe imagine yourself as a fly on the wall watching from the ceiling of the room, noting every element, even the way the shadow falls on the pale blue wall opposite the king-sized bed, how the sun creeps in on a late afternoon through the slats of the dusty window blinds and throws diagonal strips of light on the antique oak armoire. These details will peak the reader’s interest and even capture their heart. Keep in mind that you can always cut out excess details when you edit. But first, get it all down. Go with the flow. Walk the room and read what you’ve written as if it is really happening in that spot.

Highlights in bold and italics above capture the core of this blog post!

Stay tuned for next week. Look for this BLOG every FRIDAY which will be posted at 9 a.m.

Next week’s WRITE-BYTES Blog post will focus on DEVELOPING YOUR CHARACTERS.

I’ve been writing since I was a little girl but only in the last ten years was I serious about making it the primary focus in my work. I spent 25 years as a Human Resources leader and joyfully held positions in stellar high-tech companies in Silicon Valley. I was so wrapped up in my professional life, exhausted from the daily meetings and conference calls with Europe, Asia and across the east coast. Exciting? Yes. But that life left little time for any type of creative writing. AND THAT WAS SOMETHING I YEARNED TO DO.

The good news is that over the years as I grew in my career, I built a palette of transferable skills that link to the craft of creative writing. Designing and facilitating leadership and professional development workshops was my forte as well as my role as editor in chief of several global employee newsletters. I had an amazing professional career and even today I still consult with corporations and non-profits, and teach HR Excellence at a university here in Northern California.

So, I backed off from the rat race in Silicon Valley and over the past eight years, I’ve authored six suspense novels and three children’s books (published and available on Amazon and at other notable retailers).

Over the last year or so during the pandemic crisis, I explored a new path. I’m writing short pieces and to date have had over thirty stories, poems and memoir vignettes published in a variety of notable literary journals. Currently, I am writing a series of memoir stories about growing up in the BRONX during the 1960’s, the collection likely to be titled THE BRONX GIRL.

It took blood, sweat and some tears to develop as a creative writer. I knew that learning from others is the way to go! So, I participated in dozens of writing workshops with the experts, joined a few writer associations and engage in a weekly critique group with other writers. Having a writing coach and a steady cadre of colleagues to inspire me and provide me feedback is KEY to improving and honing writing skills!

I WANT TO SHARE WHAT I’VE LEARNED ABOUT WRITING!

So, get ready!

THIS BLOG will be dedicated to those out there who are INTERESTED in writing as a craft. Whether it’s fiction, poetry, nonfiction or memoir you are planning to write or you are in the midst of shaping a writing project, I am here to offer you my valuable WRITE-BYTES! Stay tuned!

Look for this BLOG every FRIDAY which will be posted at 9 a.m. on the spot.

My first WRITE-BYTES BLOG POST will focus specifically on SETTING THE SCENE in your story.

Stay tuned for next week!

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