Creating Characters – Part 2

Once you’ve figured out what your character’s name will be, and what basic personality traits they will have, it’s important to go deeper, and get an even better understand of “who” your character is. It’s helpful to keep a file, or even a separate Word document with all of your character information to refer back to.

Here are some things you may want to know about your character:

1.) When is their birthday?

2.) How old are they?

3.) What do they look like?

4.) Do they have a family? How many siblings? Are their parents still alive? Do they have any children of their own? Do they have a husband, or a wife, or a significant other, or a best friend?

5.) Do they have any enemies?

6.) What do the other characters like about this character?

7.) What do the other characters dislike about this character?

8.) What are they good at?

9.) What are they bad at?

10.) What do they do? Do they go to school, do they have a job? What hobbies do they have? What do they do for fun? What movies do they like? What books do they like? What music do they like?

11.) Are they optimistic or pessimistic?

12.) What are their favorite foods?

13.) What are they afraid of?

14.) What is their favorite color?

15.) Do they have any pets?

16.) What do they carry in their purse, pocket, backpack, wallet, etc.?

17.) Has anything bad happened to them in their life?

18.) Are they shy or friendly?

19.) How do they walk, talk, and behave that makes them different from everyone else?

20.) Do they have any bad habits?

21.) What sort of facial expressions do they make?

22.) How would they react to good news? To bad news?

23.) Why should we care about them, anyway?

The main thing to remember when creating your characters is to make them believable. Nobody’s going to believe, or even like, a perfect character. Characters need flaws, just like real people need flaws. It’s what sets them apart and makes them different. Find that one thing that makes your character different and run with it. Readers embrace imperfection in characters. It makes the characters more relatable, and everyone wants to relate in some way to the characters they’re getting to know.

As Steven Taylor Goldsberry says in The Writer’s Book of Wisdom, “We adore eccentricity. Most of the folks who populate the real world, never mind invented ones, distinguish themselves by being unusual.”

He’s right. Uniqueness is important. Use your imagination to create a character that people will remember.

Creating Characters – Part 1

Often, the most important part of your story will be your characters. Sometimes, you decide to base one or more of your characters on someone you know. This can be a great way to start. You already know most of the things about them, anyway – how they act, how they speak, what they would or wouldn’t do. But unless you’re writing non-fiction, you will probably have to come up with some of the characters on your own.

Deciding Who Your Character Will Be:

The first thing you must do when creating a character, is to decide on basic defining characteristics. Will your character be male or female? Approximately what age group will your character be in? Is he or she a small child, or a teenager, or a young adult, or middle-aged? Maybe he or she has just had their 100th birthday. Once this has been decided, you must decide what this character will look like.

Maybe your character will be tall, dark and handsome. Maybe not. Maybe he or she will wear glasses, or have blue hair. Maybe your character has a pug nose or bushy eyebrows or very tiny ears. Find that one thing that will set your character apart, and use it. Readers like your characters to have flaws. It makes them more believable, and it’s very important for your audience to relate to your characters. The success of your novel will depend upon this.

How does your character speak? Is his or her voice very low or very high? Does he or she speak in complete sentences or fragments? What words does he or she use often? You need to be able to hear in your mind what this character will sound like, because this will help you immensely with dialogue.

Each character needs to have his or her own distinct personality. Maybe he or she is one of those happy-go-lucky people who always has a smile on their face. Or maybe he or she is very shy and quiet. Your character could be very funny, or dry, or cynical, or romantic, or even some odd mixture of everything. Don’t be afraid to experiment. Try something, and if it doesn’t seem right, change it. Getting to know your characters often continues long after you’ve begun working on your novel, and sometimes, you’ll have a flash of insight and suddenly just “know” that your character has a fear of dogs, or an interest in aviation. Go with it. It’s easy to go back and change things if you need to.

Naming your Character:

Once you’ve figured out who your character will be, you need to name him or her. Try to pick a name that suits them. Often, naming your characters can be one of the hardest parts. But sometimes, you’ll just know. You know that the sweet old lady living down the street is named Betty, or the cute little baby in the stroller is named Davy. You don’t know how you know that, you just do. Sometimes, all you need to do is get to know your character a little better, and the name will just come to you.

Happy writing!

Clutter

Photo Credit: EvelynGiggles

I’ve always subscribed to the theory that a cluttered house makes for a cluttered mind, and vice versa.  I’ve been struggling with clutter for most of my adult life, and in the last year or so, have finally started to get a handle on it.  However, the fact that my husband is a minor hoarder doesn’t help matters.  He keeps EVERYTHING!  He has collections of things that most people wouldn’t even think about collecting (rusty screws, random chunks of metal, used lighters, dirty pens, etc.)  He has socks, boxers and tee shirts from his high school days – things with holes that he will never, ever wear again (I hope.)

His desk is strewn with unopened mail, piles of empty soda bottles and cans, food wrappers, and random junk that he is either seriously attached to or is simply too lazy to throw away.  (I say lazy, because there is a large garbage can literally INCHES from his desk.)  He has boxes of unidentified junk treasures lining the shelves in the basement that he has not gone through in years. Don’t even get me started on our two car garage that I have not been able to park in for two years.

So why am I suddenly so concerned with my husband’s clutter, when I’ve been living with it and dealing with it for almost 6 years?  Well, we have recently decided to sell our three bedroom house, which has been a huge source of financial stress for us in the last year or so, and downsize by moving into a two bedroom townhouse, which is much more affordable.  The house we have now is literally bursting at the seams with our stuff, and I’m a little concerned as to where we will put everything when our space is even more constricted.

This whole situation has forced me to come to the conclusion that “we” need to reduce “our” clutter by at least half.  So I’ve decided that the month of November is going to be “Decluttering Month.”  Now, I just have to find a way to get my husband on board…

 

Baked French Toast

Ingredients:

  • 1 loaf of French bread
  • 8 large eggs
  • 2 1/2 cups of half and half
  • 1/2 cup of maple syrup
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla
  • 1/8 teaspoon of salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon of nutmeg, divided
  • 1 ring of smoked sausage
  • 3 tablespoons of sugar, divided

Directions:

Cut (or tear) French bread and sausage into bite sized pieces – approximately 1 inch.  Mix together and place in a buttered 13X9 pan.  Whisk the eggs together with the half and half and syrup.  Add salt, 2 tablespoons of sugar, 1/4 teaspoon of cinnamon and 1/4 teaspoon of nutmeg.  Whisk until well incorporated, then pour mixture over the bread and sausage pieces, making sure all of the bread is soaked.  You may have to use a spoon or your fingers to make sure the bread is well saturated with the egg mixture.  Cover with aluminum foil and put in the refrigerator overnight.

When you’re ready to bake it, preheat the oven to 350°.  Mix together the remaining 1/4 teaspoon of cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon of nutmeg, and 1 tablespoon of sugar.  Sprinkle over the top, and bake for 45 minutes to an hour, uncovered.  Serve with maple syrup, or just the way it is.

 

Fabulous Fall

Fall is here, which means it’s time for raking leaves, warm scarves and sweaters, cozy candles and delicious treats.  Here are some amazing ideas and recipes for autumn:

Pumpkin Roll

Pumpkin Pie Croissants

Toasted Pumpkin Seeds

Decorating with Pumpkins

Glazed Pumpkin Spice Bread

Slow Cooker Corn and Potato Chowder

Source: bhg.com via Kiley on Pinterest

Candles

Pumpkin Cream Cheese Muffins

Porch Decorations

Pumpkin Dip

Baked Apples

Spiced Pumpkin Mousse

Outdoor Party

Source: busy-mommy.com via Kiley on Pinterest

Apple Cider

Decorating With Pumpkins

More Decorating with Pumpkins

Chai Tea Granola

Acorn Cookies

Source: etsy.com via Kiley on Pinterest

Acorn Wreath

Pumpkins and Candles = Beautiful

Source: lh3.ggpht.com via Kiley on Pinterest

Decorating with Candy Corn

Writing a Novel – How to Begin

When you begin to write a novel, you may already have something in mind. Maybe you’ve had a story in your head for months or years, just waiting to get out. Or maybe there’s a certain character you’ve been creating over time, and you’d like to create a story around him or her. Maybe you have nothing in mind, and have just always wanted to write a novel. Well, here’s your chance!

There are two types of novels: story driven and character driven. Story driven novels happen when you have a specific story you’d like to tell, and you let the plot set the pace of the novel and define the characters. Character driven novels are the opposite – you begin with a character or several characters, and you build the story around them, based on how you feel they would act or behave.

In either case, I believe it is important to get to know your characters very well.

If you don’t know how to begin and have no ideas for a story or characters, here’s the easiest way to start:

1. Decide WHO you want your story to be about, rather than WHAT you want it to be about.

2. Begin to define your character – what does he or she look like? How does he or she speak? What does he or she like? What is his/her name? Write down everything you can think of about this character. You can always go back and change things once you begin writing. This is just to give you an idea of who this “person” is.

3. Once you have your main character, you can begin to define your secondary characters. Decide what their relationship will be to the main character, and write down everything you can about them. Again, you can always go back and change things later.

4. After you’ve come up with a few characters, you may be starting to have ideas of what will happen to these characters. At the very least, you must have an idea of the type of novel this will be. Will it be love story? A mystery? A thriller? All you have to do now is start writing, and let the characters guide the story. The better you get to know your characters, the more you’ll realize that the story is already there, you’re just writing it down.

5. Remember to be true to your characters. If your main character is scared of the dark, you wouldn’t have her going outside at midnight to investigate a noise she heard. Your readers will pick up on this, and you will lose credibility with them.

Happy writing!

Southwest Cowboy Chili

Well, it’s officially soup season.  I came up with this variation of The Hungry Girl’s Southwest Surprise soup.  It’s a thick and hearty, yet super healthy meal.  Here’s what you’ll need:

  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 16 oz frozen corn
  • 3 cans of petite diced tomatoes
  • 1 can Italian diced tomatoes
  • 2 cans pinto beans
  • 1 can black beans
  • 1 packet taco seasoning mix
  • 1 packet fajita seasoning mix
  • 1 packet ranch seasoning mix

Start out by browning the ground beef in a large soup pot.

While the beef is browning, rinse and drain the pinto and black beans.

When the beef is browned, drain and add the bag of frozen corn.

Stir together and let cook for about 5 minutes.  Then, add the tomatoes.

Stir. Add the packets of taco seasoning mix, fajita seasoning mix and ranch seasoning mix.

Stir together and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and add beans.

Allow to simmer for 10 minutes.

Serve and enjoy!  Sometimes, we like to doctor this up even further with sour cream and shredded cheese and then eat it with tortilla chips.

Writing Every Day – Why It’s Important

Writing every day is so important. Not only is it a great way to improve your skills, it’s a good practice to get into because it keeps your creativity flowing. If you stop writing, even if it’s only for a few days, it’s really hard to get back into it. Writing can also be very therapeutic.

If you’re not working on anything in particular, it can be hard to think of something to write about every day. Journaling can be a very rewarding activity. Sometimes, writing about the mundane, boring things that happen to you on a daily basis can make them seem much more fascinating, and often, very funny. You may find it more fun to create a fictional journal about the life you’d rather be having. This can be a fun exercise, as well.

Writing prompts are also a great way to get your creative juices flowing. Shut off your thoughts and allow the prompt to guide you in whichever direction it takes you. You’ll surprise yourself. Most of the time you’ll write something you never knew you had in you, which is the best kind of thing to write.

I found this adorable little book called A Creative Writer’s Kit by Judy Reeves at Barnes and Noble. It contains a writing prompt for every day of the year. She suggests committing to sitting down to write at the same time every day for a certain length of time, whether it’s ten minutes, or two hours. And then actually do it. I agree, because it’s so easy to tell yourself that you’ll do it later, or tomorrow, or after you finish some big project you’re currently working on. That’s what separates the writers from the wanna-be writers. The writers actually write.

If you’d rather not buy a book of writing prompts, you can create your own. Anytime an idea for a prompt or a story pops into your head, write it down and stick it in a jar. Every day, draw out a prompt, and write about it. Prompts can be as simple as writing about making a turkey sandwich, or that tall, dark, handsome stranger you saw at the gas station the other day. Which brings me to people watching.
People watching can be a wonderful creative tool. Next time you spot any interesting looking strangers, invent backgrounds for them. Write what you think their lives must be like. You may even be able to use some of them as characters in a novel.

There are many reasons it’s important to write every day. You’ll always be able to think of a million reasons not to, but don’t let them stop you. Be a writer.

Cute Ideas for Kiddos

Source: yfrog.com via Kiley on Pinterest

 

Since I am a new mother to a 7 1/2 month old son, I am always looking for new ways to make my house more “kid friendly.” Here are some wonderful and creative ideas that I found on Pinterest.
Cute Rooms:

Source: roomzaar.com via Kiley on Pinterest

Source: None via Kiley on Pinterest

Source: google.com via Kiley on Pinterest

Source: etsy.com via Kiley on Pinterest

Source: tadashop.com via Kiley on Pinterest

Source: etsy.com via Kiley on Pinterest

Source: flickr.com via Kiley on Pinterest

Source: etsy.com via Kiley on Pinterest

Source: wanelo.com via Kiley on Pinterest

Overcoming Writer’s Block

Writer’s block. Every writer has encountered this obstruction of creativity at some point, and everyone has their own way of overcoming it. Some are proactive and try to find a way around it, while some step back and wait for inspiration to strike. As someone who’s tried it both ways, I have to be honest – people who wait around for inspiration to strike will often end up waiting a very long time.

Here are some things I’ve tried that have helped immensely:

1.) Tell yourself you only have to write a tiny bit. Limiting your assignment to one page, one paragraph or even just a few sentences can really take away the pressure, which is often what is causing your block in the first place. Anne Lamott, author of Bird by Bird, also recommends giving yourself short assignments. In her case, she only has to write as much as she can see through a one-inch picture frame, and no more. If you feel inspired to continue – great! If not, that’s okay, too. At least you’ve done something.

2.) Rituals. Many writers have rituals that help to get them in the mood for writing. Some put on music, or sip their favorite beverage, or have a special room for writing, or even go for a walk and think about what they’re going to write about. Whatever it is, it has to work for you. The first few times you try it, it may not have the desired effect, but after it becomes a habit, it often has the ability to gently coax you into the writing spirit. If not, try something else!

3.) Try rewriting a paragraph or two from your favorite book in your own words and using your characters instead of the author’s. The reason this works is that it gets you writing in your own voice and often inspires ideas for your own story.

4.) Write about something else. Take a day off from your story and work on something you’ve set aside. Sometimes taking a day to focus on something else will be just what you need to get back to your project.

5.) Write a description of one of your characters. Or all of them. This works great, because often you discover something about them that you’ve never thought of before, and this can add great plotlines to your story.

6.) Try a writing exercise. Most writing exercises are designed to draw out your creativity with the process of improvisational writing. I have found this to be very effective, and often, it can lead to ideas for future stories. One of my old college professors used to challenge us to a 15 minute “Quickwrite”. He would write a topic on the board, and then tell us to start. This forced us to write off the tops of our heads without thinking about how it sounded. We were not allowed to go back and read it or fix anything until the end. Some of the best writing was achieved in this way, because it forces you to drop your inhibitions. Try it!

7.) Change your scenery. If you’re used to writing in your dining room or your home office, perhaps a change of scenery is all it will take to raise your inspiration levels. Try writing while sitting at a café or on a bench at the park, or on a lawn chair in your backyard. If you don’t have a laptop and don’t like writing by hand, try the library. Most libraries have computers that you can use for free if you have a library card.

8.) Change things up a little. If you already have a writing ritual, and it doesn’t seem to be doing the trick anymore, maybe it’s time to change things a little. Change stimulates your brain, which results in an increase in creativity and a decrease in writer’s block. If you usually write in the morning, try writing in the afternoon or evening. If you usually listen to classical music, try listening to rock. Do something different, and see how your brain, and writing, responds.

9.) Never finish your sentences. Another little trick I’ve heard is to never end your writing for the day with a complete sentence. This will allow you to jump back into the same flow of writing as when you left off. This can prevent writer’s block because you’ll immediately know what to write and you’ll avoid staring at your computer screen for 20 minutes while you figure out what happens next.

10.) Realize that you don’t have to write the story in chronological order from beginning to end. Instead, think of yourself as a movie director. They shoot scenes in random order and then piece them all together to create the final product. Some scenes get cut, some get moved around and some get changed or reshot. You can do this with your story, as well. If the scene you’re working on isn’t working for you, jump to a different scene. You may change your mind and decide not to go in that direction after all, but the good news is – at least you got yourself writing again.