Red Lettering

Stories will not be written easily. A story without a heart is dead, and the only place it will get a heart is from the author.

Archive for the month “September, 2014”

Get to Know Your Characters Challenge: Antagonist

Get to Know Your Characters Challenge

 

Good afternoon, folks. Today is the day that Get to Know Your Characters returns; hopefully with a better picture this time, and a more official way of doing things.

From this point on, Get To Know Your Characters has turned tri-monthly. Every three months, on the first Tuesday of the month, bloggers are challenged to write something about the specified character type from their novels (whether works-in-progress or finished) and post it on their blogs. The point of the challenge is to help authors learn more about their characters through writing prose, exploring situations in character’s past with their pen (or keyboard).

Those participating in the challenge write up their bit of writing, post it on their blogs (or in the comment section of this post, if they don’t have a blog or would prefer to not post it on their blogs) on or before October 16  (preferably before, but life can be life, so it’s best to have a “or”) and send me the link to their posts. Sixteen days after the challenge was issued, the blog post will go up here with my piece of writing and with a link to the post of every person participating.

The character-type for this month: Antagonist.

The way of doing things: Pick a topic from this list and write something 100 words or more and post it on your blog.  (Feel free to mix and mash topics, or do more than one, if you wish!)

  • Your antagonist is between three and ten. Write something that represents their life at that point.
  • Write about a year before the start of your novel.
  • Write about the first time your villain killed or ordered the death of someone (bonus points if you focus on how it made them feel).
  • Your antagonist and his/her best friend, brother or sister, or second-in-command are talking about something completely random of your choice, within the past year.
  • Write about when your antagonist moved into his place of current residence (then again, maybe I’m the only one interested in seeing the villain moving into his lair).

BONUS: Write about the day or night before your antagonist was born. It’s slightly random, but sometimes it’s interesting to explore what was going on at that time.

The Challenge closes on October 16, so you must have your piece of writing posted and the link sent to me by or before that date. You an email the link to me or post it in the comments here.  (If you do decide to post it on that date, it’s best if you get it to me before noon, that way I can be sure to have it when I post the blog post.)

Over the next sixteen days, I look forward to being able to meet your antagonists.

 

 

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Writing Prompt: 09-26-2014

Origin“The Return of the King” by “Ptelly (Michelle)” on DeviantArt.

Feeling inspired? Tell this story. I would love to see what you come up with! If you’d like to write something, you can post it in the comments, or move the prompt to your blog and leave a link in the comments.

[I really look forward to being able to read anything you write from this prompt, and I expect to enjoy it very much and for my readers to also enjoy it. That said, please keep everything as clean as it gets because otherwise I will delete the comment or link to your blog.”Only what is good for building up…” If in doubt, ask. My contact information is on the About page.]

 

Learning to Write Emotion

Learning how to write emotion

Emotions are difficult to write. It’s a well-known, author-universally recognized fact that, while a person can improve when it comes to writing emotions, while it can get easier, it rarely is easy.

A quick search of the internet will provide many tips on how to write emotions more effectively. Most of the things have been repeated over and over, so I’ll try not to repeat them here—especially since I just received a book I’ve been very excited about, and I need to keep this article brief so I can get to reading it.

We, as humans, learn primarily from experiences. Characters will come up against crazy things; things that most of us probably will never have to worry about (no portals opening at our doorstep, unfortunately). Of course, some of us will be able to go on epic adventures and, between fighting dragons and saving worlds, be able to take down notes, but most of us just have to learn from the emotion we have to deal with in normal life. A terribly boring prospect, I know, but our normal lives carries a surprising amount of emotion. All around us, day by day, we feel something. The trick is learning how to transfer the normal emotions to experiences we can learn from;  the problem being that most of us don’t usually decide, “Oh, I’m about to have an emotional breakdown. I just need to get my notebook and my pencil, and then we can begin…”

But then, would that be such a bad idea?

Many months ago, upon feeling strong emotion welling up inside of me, the thought entered my mind that, perhaps, I could write it down; it might be helpful to me. Yet as I pulled my journal from beneath stacks of other notebooks and binders, it was very present in my mind that I’m not much of a journal-er. A writer, though, is something that I certainly am.

So I set the pencil to the page and began to write it out as though I wrote a story. In third-person, I wrote about what was going on, but the names for the emotions I was feeling never entered my vocabulary.

“Her eyes felt heavy as though tears pushed at the edge of her eyelids. Not one to cry, she pushed them away. They formed into a cold, hard ball in her stomach, leaving a few in her eyes to hold down the fort.”

Just for the record, this isn’t an example of what good writing looks like. Instead, I’m putting this in here to demonstrate the manner I wrote it in; how I didn’t speak of what I felt, just the way I reacted to it. I wrote no apprehension, no sadness; I wrote how my emotions manifested themselves.

Now, just in case I need to figure out how it feels to write those emotions while working on a novel, I can go back to that page of my journal.

Learn from the way you feel things. When you’re angry, how do you react? Don’t forget that, and instead of telling us, “Shawn was angry,” you can tell us exactly how Shawn expresses anger.

People have specific reactions to certain emotions. If we decide to be technical, emotions are chemicals in the brain. Those chemicals affect how the rest of the body operates. While about half the time, we couldn’t really care about how our body is reacting when we’re feeling strong emotions, perhaps it would not only be helpful to writing, I’ve noticed that identifying certain areas of how you feel can oftentimes make you calm down. That, and the fact that when our brains cannot seem to keep track of specific things when they’re distracted with strong emotions. If you don’t write it down, you will forget.

And then, my other most-used tip when it comes to writing emotion, is Go where the emotion in the story takes you. Sometimes while you’re cackling evilly, your character will be dealing with tragedy, and you don’t want your emotion to transfer to your character. Perhaps, instead of your emotion transferring to the character, you might consider letting the character’s emotion transfer to you? Turn off distractions. Pound away at your keyboard (carefully; I got a new computer primarily because my keyboard was in pieces), stepping entirely into the character’s head. Focus on their heartbeat until your heart is beating in time with theirs and then, when you’re done with the scene, you may be absolutely exhausted and wonder if you’ll ever get out of the character’s head again, but when you look back over the scene, you’ll find that the emotion of the character might just shine through better than you expected it to.

How do you find ways to write convincing emotion in your stories? Are there any ways that you’ve found to be uneffective? Comment below!

Writing Prompt: 09-19-2014

Writing Prompt

OriginWell, Paint, actually. This time, it’s just something I made up; if you’d like to find the rest of my work, feel free to read my mind. 

Feeling inspired? I’d love to have you write something from this prompt! You can leave a response in the comments, or move the prompt to your blog and leave a link in the comments.

[I really look forward to being able to read anything you write from this prompt, and I expect to enjoy it very much and for my readers to also enjoy it. That said, please keep everything as clean as it gets because otherwise I will delete the comment or link to your blog.”Only what is good for building up…” If in doubt, ask. My contact information is on the About page.]

 

Guilty As Charged: Offering and Accepting Critique

Guilty as Charged - Offering and accepting critiques

When I started my very first story, it was partially because my sister, brother, and a neighbor were setting up a writing group. The four of us gathered in the girls’ room, perched on chairs with our stories, and read them aloud. We offered suggestions, noted where things didn’t line up, and basically did our best to critique the stories of the other three people in our little group.

We were pretty bad, but other than the fact that I haven’t stopped writing since, I have another reason to be thankful that it happened: when I first began writing, it was with the expectation of getting critiqued.

That, I am glad to say, is something I also have not lost. (Admittedly, I also gained large amounts of paranoia when I started writing and I haven’t lost that, which may or may not be a good thing.)

Over the years, I’ve decided that critiques are some of the best things for a writer of any age or stage in their writing journey. No matter how good you are at writing, there is almost always something that can be changed in your writing, or at least considered changing. A new set of eyes looking over work in a critical manner works wonders, and the critique of a piece of writing is a splendid way of learning. To give a critique helps to teach an author how to read to spot errors; receiving a critique points out specific problems in the writer’s work.

Unfortunately, all this assumes that the critic and the critiqued both handle themselves well. With either of them doing it in the wrong manner, it can make an incredibly helpful exercise into an event harmful to either or both.

Critiquing Someone’s Work

Before you start to critique something, do keep in mind that some people do not want a critique. Unless it’s requested, don’t assume that everyone wants your advice.

The most obvious thing here is probably the most necessary. You must respect the person whose work you are critiquing. Respect doesn’t mean that you agree with everything they have in their story; it means that you’ll avoid sarcasm at all costs, providing thoughtful, helpful feedback. Think of how you would feel if you were the one who bravely released your work into the public (or semi-public), only to get back “this is terrible. This is the list of all the worst places,” which then proceeds to list any and every mistake, every word dripping with sarcasm.

When you give someone a critique, the point is to help them grow and become a better writer, whether in a general sense, or whether it’s to help that piece of writing.  If you outline all the points that you hate, you’re being critical, but not giving a critique. Part of critiquing the work of another writer is offering suggestions. Instead of telling them that their dialogue is terrible, perhaps say, “Could you try this instead?” Do remember, also, that questions are sometimes best. It’s not your work, so while you might know how to improve it, it’s not your place to say that it should definitely be like you want it. People also tend to feel less threatened if you put a question mark at the end of your statements.

There are few things more encouraging than parts of critiques where the person giving the critique says, “I liked how you did this very thing, right here.” For a time, it’s nice to have people exclaim how very much they love your work, but when it comes down to it, it’s worth more to get a thoughtful, in-depth critique where you know someone really cares when they say, “I like this part a lot.” Even if you don’t particularly care for the writing, find something that you like.

And always remember to smile. Be polite.

Having Your Work Critiqued

As you would do if you were the one giving the critique, remember that respect is essential. You can’t take recommendations from someone who you’re already feeling hostile towards (as a side note, if you’re on tense relations with a person, going to them for a critique may not be the best idea). Take a deep breath and remember that, even if they didn’t like it, they took the time to carefully read and critique your work. If you don’t think that they’re old enough or experienced enough to critique your work, don’t automatically decide that you know more than they; read through what they said.

Then, you may move on. They will almost certainly have suggestions that you don’t like. They might have points where they misunderstood what you were trying to say and assumed something other than what you intended. Don’t get defensive. Carefully consider each of their suggestions and remember that they are only suggestions; they’re not necessary, but they’re almost certainly worthy of consideration if you want your story to be the best that it can be. Remember that they’re a fresh pair of eyes. Their suggestions are likely to be right. 

There may be a time when someone gives a badly done critique of your work. When that time comes, smile, thank them politely, and then you may proceed to ignore what they said.

In both cases, be respectful, be kind, and be professional. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Be careful when you’re critiquing someone’s work, and when you’re allowing your work to be critiqued, and don’t make any snap decisions or send hasty messages and responses.

Learn from the experience, whichever side you’re on. Grow from it, and become a better writer.

What experiences have you had with giving and taking critique? Have you found the experience to be helpful?

Character Interview: Bel

Happy Tuesday, readers. Today I have the pleasure of introducing to you Bel, from Beckah’s “Of Roses and Thorns.”

Character Interview - Bel

Aeson is an ordinary man, one of those who are randomly choosen each year; called by an enchantment to meet his death in the maze.

Rosa is a princess, ignored by most, quietly weaving and crocheting a magic chain to guide men through the maze.

Bel is a payment, a young girl working as lady’s maid to the princess so her father does not suffer. And in her dreams each night, she visits the maze.

The maze is a device of discipline woven of thorns, an arena…A  prison.

And at its center, is kept the Beast.

Hello, Bel, and welcome to Red Lettering! It’s a pleasure to have you here today. To start with, could you tell us a bit about yourself?

Bel: Hello, yes, well. . .*glances around quickly, and then smiles a bit uncertainly* I’ve never seen this place before in my dreams, and I got taken off. I was expecting to go somewhere. . .else. Is. . .is this part of the maze? No. Never mind. Why would it be? *smiles innocently*

Tell you about myself? There’s not much: I’m the eldest daughter of eight in my family, I’m fifteen, and. . .*shrugs*

I’m afraid it’s not part of the maze. But, since you brought it up… I’ve heard rumors about this beast the King keeps in the maze…What do you think of that?

Bel: *innocent smile is back* I don’t know. I don’t know anything about the maze—or anything in it.

Ah, of course you don’t. So silly of me to ask you about it. What would you consider your greatest hope?

Bel: I. . .*hesitates*. . .I hope to someday help a friend of mine. I can’t say anymore though, even in this dream. *Hurries on* You seem a very nice girl, and very kind, whether if I dreamed you up or you’re real somewhere, but. . . Who knows what the King, and the Noise, might hear?

Was there something else you wanted to know?

Unless I’m greatly mistaken, they won’t read it. But I shan’t make you answer a question you don’t feel safe speaking of; not at the moment, anyway. Have you ever danced before? Did you like it… or would you like to try it?

Bel: *slowly begins to smile* Yes, in a way. Not what people would call actually dancing, though? My brother Alano had this old lyre he’d found somewhere, and he someway or another learned to play a few songs. While he played, the rest of my brothers and sisters and me would dance. We didn’t know actual steps, but we spun and whirled together, laughing and breathless. This was before my Papa– before I came here. Anyways, yes, I’ve danced.

That sounds lovely; far more beautiful than balls or formal dancing. Dancing is about joy. When you have spare time, what do you do with it?

Bel: *Frowns* I don’t have spare time. Especially not now.

I see. Who do you admire?

Bel: The Princess Rosa, I suppose. I’m maid to her, as you know, and I get to see an—an interesting side to her. She’s very skilled with crochet. . .I admire that, and wish I could do what she can with a hook and the yarn she spins. . . .

I did know you were her maid… Though, I wonder if it would be possible for you–or for me– to do what she does. Just a thought. What is the first thing you can remember?

Bel: *Bites lip and considers* I can remember. . .a song. My Mama was singing it, I think. I can only vaguely remember the words—I only heard it that once. Mama was singing, and we were outside together, and some other people heard Mama, and. . .I can’t quite remember what happened, but there was some trouble. And after that, Mama didn’t sing the song anymore. Funny, I haven’t thought of that in. . .many years.

Old memories rarely come to mind without prompting. Though, if people got upset about her singing it…I wonder if I should apologize for making you think of it. Do you ever have a recurring theme in your dreams?

Bel: *Looks startled, and then suspicious* I have the sort of dreams everyone has, I suppose. Dreams. Ordinary. Random and curious. Nothing more.

No need to get defensive… They are, after all, only dreams, of course. Could you tell us about your family?

Bel: They are my family. What’s more to say? I love them, and I do all that I can for them.  . . .And I worry sometimes, how my brothers and sisters are getting along now that I’m here and that. . .well, what with Papa did.

That does make sense. These days, what makes you laugh? Smile?

Bel: My. . .*struggles to decide what to say*. . .my dreams. And the princess. We’re close, and I enjoy spending time with her. But. . .I enjoy my dreams more.  *Shakes head and looks around*I should go now. If—if this is the maze, then I should hurry. . .I. . .he. . .yes.

I should go. I’m glad to have met you, and that I dreamed this. *Smiles warmly before turning and rushing away*

Thank you for coming, Bel… I hope that we can meet again. 

“A fencer, a Librarian, candle-maker, jet pilot, and denizen of an enchanted castle—Beckah is none of these. At least, not yet. . . . Currently a high school junior, she lives with her family on their farm, where she is usually doing one or more of the following: reading, writing, mucking hog pens while wishing she was writing, agonizing over her roses, or laughing up her sleeve.

“She blogs under the name ‘ghost ryter’ at www.ghostryter.blogspot.com

Writing Prompt: 09-12-2014

Origin: “Into the Firestorm,” by Troy C. Whitman. I do not know this photographer or his other work, so be wary if you look him up.

Feel inspired. Tell this story–I can’t wait to see what you’ll write! You can leave it in the comments, or move the prompt to your own blog (do remember to credit the photographer; it looks like he had quite an adventure getting this picture), and leave a link in the comments.

[I really look forward to being able to read anything you write from this prompt, and I expect to enjoy it very much and for my readers to also enjoy it. That said, please keep everything as clean as it gets because otherwise I will delete the comment or link to your blog.”Only what is good for building up…” If in doubt, ask. My contact information is on the About page.]

Announcements

Announcements

Before you think it, I know what’s about to be running through your mind. “What? It’s Wednesday! Where’s the writing article? What’s going on?” 

Today, we’re taking a break from our normal routine for a couple of announcements. I wasn’t entirely sure that I wanted to make a whole new post for the few announcements that we have, but the thought of tacking them onto the end of the post was something I knew I didn’t want to do.

I’ve joined the Ravens and Writing Desks team!

You may be new to writing-like you started yesterday-or you may already be published, or you may be right smack in the midst of things. We hope to bring you encouragement, writing tips, ideas, and inspiration wherever you are!

I’ve been reading this awesome writing blog for quite some time, and now I have the privilege of being a part of it! You can check out the exceptional blog here.

 

Red Lettering is now on Pinterest!

“Brought to you by Red Lettering and dedicated to providing clean story inspiration for all genres.”

See Red Lettering On Pinterest

Registration for the Florida Christian Writers Conference, 2015, is now open!

Technically, this has practically nothing to do with this blog, but I thought that some of you might like to hear about it anyway. While I’ve never been there myself, several people who I know have, and they highly recommend it for beginning or published authors. There will be writing workshops, authors teaching, agents, and representatives of publishing houses there. See their homepage here.

And, well… This seems like as good a place as any to mention this.

Over the past couple of months, I’ve been nominated for several blogger awards by some of you awesome bloggers out there. I really appreciate it, but I’m afraid I’m going to have to say this now… I am no longer accepting blogger awards. I do half regret this decision, but since Red Lettering is a writing blog, and I simply cannot keep track of all of them, I think it’s really best for the blog. I was thrilled at every single one of them, though, and that you thought of me made my day.

Red Lettering Reached Fifty Followers!

50To be honest, I was completely shocked and amazed to find out that fifty people followed my blog. I never expected to have much more than ten, and to have fifty is practically a dream come true. Thanks, y’all.

The plan, ever since the beginning, was to have some sort of writing contest if I reached fifty followers. Now that I have, I find myself slightly unprepared… So I turn to you, faithful readers. What do you think? What sort of writing contest should it be?

Well, readers? What do you think of these announcements? Do tell in the good old comment box!

 

Writing Prompt: 09-05-2014

Origin“The Last Human” by Kari Christensen. I do not know this artist or his work, so beware if you decide to look him up. 

Feeling inspired? Write something from this prompt! You can leave a response in the comments, or move the prompt to your blog and leave a link in the comments. (Yes, folks. I like getting comments.)

[I really look forward to being able to read anything you write from this prompt, and I expect to enjoy it very much and for my readers to also enjoy it. That said, please keep everything as clean as it gets because otherwise I will delete the comment or link to your blog.”Only what is good for building up…” If in doubt, ask. My contact information is on the About page.]

Edit: One of my readers did look up his work and asked me to add in here that he does have some pieces that are questionable at best. 

The Obligatory Happily-Ever-After

You’ve heard me state that I write for hope. Some of you have, anyway; for those of you who missed it when I said it earlier— I write for hope.  That, I have found, is one driving force in all of my stories. Hope is not dead, and this world’s darkness is not all there is.

This makes endings massively important, and I’ve developed some very strong views about how endings should or should not work.

 

The Obligatory Happily Ever After

There’s a trend going around these days—beginning somewhere around Shakespeare’s time or earlier—encouraging depressing endings. “It’s more realistic,” they say. “There’s no happy endings in real life.

Indeed, being realistic in stories can be very good. These people assume one thing, though: that happy endings aren’t realistic. I know of many happy endings in real life, both in my life and in the lives of others. My savior died to rescue me, that I could live eternally, but He didn’t stay dead and evil didn’t conquer. My dad should have been in the building where a terrorist attacked several years ago, but a meeting he was in ran late so he didn’t get to work on time. There have been many happy endings to historical events, but most of you probably know those, so I shan’t go into them at the moment. Happy endings don’t necessarily mean the very end of a story. In most novels that you’ll read or write, the people will go on to live longer lives than the book shows, and yes, they’re most likely going to have troubles, but that doesn’t mean that their story hasn’t ended happily.

There are a million different kinds of happy endings, so to summarize, I simply define a happy ending as an ending that isn’t tragic. When I say I’m for happy endings, I’m in reality saying that I’m against tragic ones.

Let’s go back to the basics of tragic endings, folks. In short, what the writers is trying to make happen is this:

Step One: Make the reader fall in love with the character.

Step Two: Give the reader something to want for the character, something that the character desperately needs. (For example: a friend, salvation, survival, ect.)

Step Three: End the story with the opposite of what the reader wants. (For example: If your character needed a friend, have them betrayed by the one person they trusted and sink into lifelong depression. The End.)

Maybe that’s a little bit exaggerated; I don’t know. I’m not a huge fan of tragedies and so don’t read very many of them.

A little while ago, I accidentally came across one when watching a television show with the rest of my family. We had watched two seasons of the show with all of us, even the youngest, around. When a show came up about a man with an addiction to a medicine after he had hated himself for years when he ran from a battle, I wasn’t too concerned; in the past, they had done a show about a man who had an addiction to alcohol, and they had handled that fairly well.

The writer and director of the show very carefully made us like him before ending the episode with the man committing suicide. Thank you for the uplifting episode, writers.

When we end a story, there are two things our audience can take away from it. They can take away hope when the story made them smile and built them up, or they can go away feeling heavy and discouraged. 

What concerned me very much with that episode was what if someone who had that problem watched it?  The character had a problem which the writers, whether purposefully or not, told their viewers was hopeless. The television show was wide-spread, and there’s a large chance that someone who needed something to lift them up and tell them that there was hope in that situation watched the show and came away feeling shocked and altogether numb, asking themselves, “Is that the only way it can end?” 

It’s not the only way it can end. There is hope.

Whenever you publish something, someone will read it. Someone will be affected by it, and someone will come away changed.

Words change worlds.

When people go in to see a movie, or open a book and start reading, they let their guard down almost entirely. If you tell them something, they’ll believe it. If you tell them that this world is terrible and there’s not point to living, they’ll believe it; if you tell them that there is hope and death isn’t the end, they’ll believe it. They might not believe it immediately, but your words are going to change the way they look at life.

In particular, your endings will change people. What message are you sending?

I’m not saying to have your stories be all fluff and happiness. The world is broken. We are living in a terrible place and time, but there’s more. There’s more than tragedy and death; there’s life, too. At the end, when we draw everything together, it’s important to let your readers know that this world isn’t the end, the death isn’t the end, the hurt isn’t the end.

Words change worlds. And people. And hearts. How are your words affecting people? 

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