Tuesday, May 31, 2011

What A Character

Everything I write is very character-driven. The more I know my characters, the more attached I get to them. The more attached I get to them, the more I want to write their story. There are times, though, when I’m working on a story and I find that I’m just not in love with my main character yet. That’s when I know that this character I’ve created is just not that fully formed.

If you’re facing this challenge, consider these questions and try to answer them so you can get better acquainted with your character and fall so deeply in love with them, that you just need to write about them.

What is your character’s gender?



Eye color?


Weight/body shape?

Emotional level?




Marital status?

Best childhood memory? Worst childhood memory?

Family life?

Biggest goal/desire?

Biggest obstacle that challenges character from attaining goal?

Best friend?

Worst enemy?

Favorite comfort food?


How would your character act on a romantic date?

What is your character like in a romantic relationship?

What kind of friend is your character?

What does your character hate about themselves? What does your character love about themselves?

It also helps me to think about my favorite characters and jot down why I like them so much. Here are four of the most memorable characters I’ve read about.

Flavia de Luce from Alan Bradley’s The Flavia de Luce Series
In this detective fiction series, eleven-year-old Flavia is courageous, sharp, hilarious, and an aspiring chemist. I laughed out loud several times reading The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie. She outsmarts everyone—from her older sisters to her kidnapper, Flavia takes intelligence to a whole new level.

Jane Eyre from Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre

Jane Eyre is one of my favorite novels. What I love and admire most about Jane is that regardless of her difficult past and her suffering, she is never portrayed as a damsel in distress.

Alice from Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

Although Alice displays a superior attitude considering her wealthy upbringing and social class in the Victoria era, her curiosity highly appeals to me. Her logic often clashes with the madness she finds in Wonderland, so the identity journey she goes through is also one that a reader can easily connect to, regardless of the novel’s fantastical setting.

The Little Prince from Antoine de Saint-Exupery’s The Little Prince

The little prince is an extremely noble character of high caliber. What I love most about him is his child-like character that can clearly see the flaws and weaknesses of adults.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Say Goodbye Already

Like anything else in life, your novel has to end sometime. Some of my writer friends know exactly how they plan on ending their novel before they even begin writing it. Their outlines will actually have the final line written. My other writer friends never know how they will finish their novels. While I don’t necessarily know the exact final line, I generally do know how my story will end, so that I know what I’m working towards.

Typically, there are five kinds of endings:

1. The lead gains their objective

2. The lead loses their objective

3. The lead gains their objective but loses something more valuable

4. An ambiguous ending

5. The lead sacrifices their objective for a greater cause

Sometimes, if I’m really stumped as to how to end a short story, novel, or screenplay, I look to writers I admire and flip through their works to their endings. Here are some of my all-time favorite last lines:

“You must go on, I can’t go on, I’ll go on.” (Samuel Beckett, The Unnamable)

“Yes,” I said. “Isn’t it pretty to think so?” (Ernest Hemingway, The Sun Also Rises)

“It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known.” (Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities)

“Are there any questions?” (Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid’s Tale)

“He was soon borne away by the waves and lost in darkness and distance.” (Mary Shelley, Frankenstein)

“Don’t ever tell anybody anything. If you do, you start missing everybody.” (J.D. Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye)

astly, she pictured to herself how this same little sister of hers would, in the after-time, be herself a grown woman; and how she would keep, through all her riper years, the simple and loving heart of her childhood; and how she would gather about her other little children, and make their eyes bright and eager with many a strange tale, perhaps even with the dream of Wonderland of long ago; and how she would feel with all their simple sorrows, and find a pleasure in all their simple joys, remembering her own child-life, and the happy summer days.” (Lewis Carroll, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland)

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Research Sites For Writers

A big part of being a writer is having excellent research skills. Depending on what I’m working on, I usually gather information from interview sources, research journals, and yes, the Internet. The Internet constantly proves to be an easy source, because of its accessibility, but simultaneously a challenging one considering the prevalence of content mills.

I have looked into search engines that filter out content mills to enable a more credible research process. Here’s a list of my top three:

is a simple search engine that filters out low-quality content.

is designed as a Q and A resource that many respected experts participate in. If someone on the site has not answered your question, you can just add it.

Wolfram Alpha
is a computational knowledge engine with a goal to build on scientific achievements and knowledge to generate clear results. This engine is geared towards more objective research and factual data.

I hope these sites help increase your productivity! In the meantime, feel free to share some of your favorite research sites.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Food For Thought (And Other Writerly Needs)

If you have a long day (or night) of writing ahead of you, you may discover that eventually, focusing on your work becomes pretty challenging. Just when you need to sustain your energy to continue creative thought, you may experience some fatigue. Although I’m a coffee fan, I do try to fuel my body with energy-sustaining foods for those long writing and brainstorming sessions.

While working, your brain uses lots of power as it relies on memory, creativity, and energy. To enhance my work, I generally consume complex carbohydrates such as whole grain rice cakes (fuel for the brain), omega 3 fatty acids such as nuts (to enhance the building blocks—building highways within your brain to carry information), and anti-oxidants such as vitamin C and E (to preserve the brain from free radicals).

These are some snacks that I reach for to sustain my energy without making me crash:

- almonds

- avocado with a squirt of Dijon mustard
- bananas

- pumpkin seeds

- apple with all-natural almond or sesame seed butter
- oatmeal

- celery and carrot sticks with hummus

And, here’s a treat for you! It’s a delicious recipe from Teri Gentes, who’s a good friend and a gourmet holistic chef/nutritionist. Enjoy this dish to keep you fueled and focused for a solid writing session.

SunButter Pita Breakfast Pizza

1. Begin with a 4-inch Pita Break Breakfast Pita such as Muesli or Morning Grain
(All natural and preservative free

2. Spread evenly with 1½ tsp of SunButter (Crunchy, Original and Organic)
(This peanut-free, real food seed butter is rich in Vitamin E, thiamine and iron) (Product of the USA)

3. Drizzle with 1/2 tsp of all natural local honey
(Unrefined, un-pasteurized honey contains trace minerals and enzymes beneficial for your health)

4. Sprinkle with 1 tbsp Ruth's Chai Goodness Cereal
(More Omega 3-rich than flax, more calcium than milk and a fabulous source of protein and fibre. )

5. Top with a generous sprinkle of cinnamon.
(Helps reduce blood sugar levels, lowers triglycerides/HDL, a digestive aid, anti-inflammatory, anti-fungal, anti-bacterial)

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

7 Famous Rejected Writers

There is a lot of rejection in a writer’s life. It’s easy for rejections and form letters to discourage you to the point of giving up. Here are some of the most iconic writers who were rejected repeatedly—but kept writing and became best-selling authors.

J.K. Rowling submitted Harry Potter to more than ten publishing houses who all said no. Bloomsbury, a small London publisher, accepted it after the CEO’s eight-year-old daughter begged her father to print the book.

Stephen King’s novel, Carrie, received more than a dozen of rejections. Once published, it was this very novel that enabled him to quit his day job and write full-time.

Louisa May Alcott was told by editors to stick to teaching.

Meg Cabot, best-selling author of The Princess Diaries, keeps a bag of rejection letters.

Beatrix Potter had to publish The Tale of Peter Rabbit herself.

John Grisham’s first novel, A Time to Kill, was rejected by a dozen publishers and several agents before Wynwood Press finally published it. After The Firm, The Pelican Brief, and The Client became bestsellers, A Time to Kill was republished by Doubleday in hardcover and then by Dell Publishing in paperback, making it a bestseller.

Judy Blume received rejections for two years. According to Ms. Blume, she would go to sleep at night feeling that she’d never be published, but she’d wake up in the morning convinced she would be. “Each time I sent a story or book off to a publisher, I would sit down and begin something new,” she said.

And that’s only a tiny few of well-known writers who constantly faced rejection. It’s comforting to know that the road isn’t always smooth…even for the best.