Saturday, June 30, 2012

Step three - Creating characters

Invite Your Characters Into Your Book!

You know the premise of your story, now it’s time to create a character bible for profiling each of your significant characters. Devote at least a page to each character and include the following:

Name and photograph. (Photo optional), but if you come across a picture of someone in a magazine or an old family photo that reminds you of your character, add it to the page for an effective way to spur creativity and flesh out character.

Physical characteristics. The basics of height, weight, hair and eye color, etc.

Age. Actual birth date if it’s relevant.

Personality traits and their source. For example, is the character lazy because her mother always picked up after her? Does he love baseball because it’s the only game his father ever played with him?

Quirks. Imperfections that make your character human, such as a tendency to hum when nervous; the more original the better.

Goals and motivations. What your character wants and why he or she wants it.

Conflict - list the obstacles, large and small, that the character faces in achieving his goals.

General story line. Draft a three to five sentence summary of the character’s story arc; this will be a character-specific version of your novel summary from step 2.

As an author you always need to know more about your characters than your reader ever sees. This allows you to create a multi-dimensional, internally consistent population of characters for your novel. Remember to keep your character outlines to one page per person so the process doesn’t morph from novel writing to scrapbooking! Although you may need to keep another list of tangibles about your characters, e.g. car, car color, home details, timelines of jobs, etc.

Dear readers,

This step is the most fun. Watching your characters take shape is a rewarding part of the creative process, and critical to the success of your novel. They say there are no new storylines, just new ways of telling them. And for a new way to work, the reader needs to fall in love with your characters!

Have a great week and an exciting fourth! 


Note: The Pyramid approach to novel structure was developed by Jess Lourey,

Friday, June 22, 2012


The Pyramid on a Point Method for starting your novel


That first sentence, or logline, you wrote in step one, is the foundation of your novel. I know it was hard to write. You probably rewrote it dozens of times before you were satisfied. But what a good feeling after it’s done! You’ve got a great idea and now you’re ready to turn that spark into a full-fledged novel.
You’ll use that first sentence to build from, laying the groundwork for an entire paragraph. It should include the status quo at the beginning of the novel, add what obstacles the protagonist encounters, and how the novel ends. You can use key names or phrases from your summary sentence as a starting point. Unlike a blurb advertising your book, this paragraph is for your eyes only since the ending will be given away.
Using the one-sentence summary step we developed for The Time Machine as an example for writing a logline, here is how it could be expanded.

            The book opens with the Time Traveler dining with peers in the late 1800s England, where he is trying to convince them that he’s invented a time machine. His guests are naturally skeptical. They arrange to dine again in a week, and when they return, the Time Traveler tells them he’s visited the future. He discovered two humanoid races remaining on the planet: the beautiful and childlike Eloi, and the subterranean, haunted Morlocks. He explains his idyllic time eating fruit with the Elois and exploring the area, followed by his discovery that the Morlocks raise and harvest the Eloi like cattle. He ends by describing his escape from the time period, including his burning of the forest, the wresting of his time machine from the Morlocks, and the loss of Weena, his Eloi friend. Distraught, he travels further into the future where he witnesses the death of humanity and the planet. Finally, he returns to the time period he left, providing an exotic flower from Ween as proof of his travels.

            Notice that the ending must be given away to make the paragraph work for you. You’ll be the only one seeing it and you’ll be returning to tweak it as you continue working through the seven steps. Revising as new ideas occur is an important element of writing.

Dear Readers,
I received a comment that these steps were being posted too slowly. I apologize if you feel that way too, but I believe there is value in looking at them individually and following along, applying them to your work. I usually post weekly, but I’ll try to get the steps to you on closer intervals.
Again, this approach was developed by author Jessi Lourey.
Thanks for visiting,

Monday, June 18, 2012



How to jump-start the process! 

Have a novel in your head that you secretly are dying to write and don’t know how to start? Are you a writer contemplating your next project, but stuck in low gear?
     Here is a simple way to tackle that first step toward making your next novel, writing project, or first attempt, a reality. The first step sounds simplistic, but it becomes your galvanizing point, prompting your novel to completion. It also works as a descriptor for your novel after it’s published.

1. Summarize your novel in one sentence.

     Sound easy? It isn’t. But it’s critical to rounding up all the ideas that have been whirling in your imagination and melding them into your final product. Think of all the steps and ingredients that go into making a banana cream pie. The result, the pie, only becomes a dessert on your table after all the steps and ingredients have been accomplished and would never have been there had you not opened the recipe book.
     A good one-sentence descriptor contains the essence of your story. Don’t pack too many details in that lone sentence. Leave out specific names or places: the idea is to be purely conceptual. If you’re looking for ideas, try reading the movie listings in your local paper. They’ll have short descriptions of  two-hour movies just as your one sentence will describe your novel.
     An example using H.G. Wells’ novel The Time machine: An English inventor travels thousands of years into the future, discovering the devolution of humanity where he had hoped to find utopia.
     Another from Jess Lourey’s November Storm: A newly minted Minnesota PI investigates a suspicious hunting accident, uncovering a brutal small-town secret.
     If you craft this sentence well, it will not only give your entire writing process a boost, but you’ll have a powerful selling line to use with a future agent or potential readers.

Dear Readers,

Last Saturday, I attended a workshop for writers put on by MWA, Mystery Writers of America. It took place in Waukesha, Wisconsin. The group of authors who put on the different classes repeat this program at different locations across the country. I attended it with a friend who’s also a writer and we both thought it was extremely beneficial to our writing. I recommend it highly if there is one in your area.

This step is one of seven from The Pyramid on a Point Method by Jessica Lourey. Her introduction to this simple process was the first class of the day.

I plan on continuing the steps weekly. Next week will be step 2. I hope you will find them as helpful as I did.

Thanks for visiting,

Sunday, June 10, 2012



(Slowdown on Twitter activity since Memorial Day)

      When my Twitter response emails (things like email notifications of RTs, Favorited tweets, Direct Messages and Follows),  took a long trip south on the Memorial Day weekend, I panicked. What was wrong? I frantically changed my browser, contacted Twitter, and checked all my settings. Nothing made a difference, and my normal email response traffic hasn’t returned. A friend of mine, another author, has had the same experience.

       Is everyone except us diehards out sun tanning, swimming and lying on a beach? Or maybe at weddings, graduations and taking the kids to summer camp? (Photo is how we spend summer here on the lake! Pontooning with friends or our dog!)

       I thought everyone stayed in touch these days with their Ipads and Smartphones. If they’re staying in touch it’s not on Twitter. Maybe only with friends?

       Are they buying eBooks for their beach reads on their Kindles? Sales haven’t dropped dramatically, but have slowed down.

       Please help me with this, Twitter friends! Anyone out there know what’s causing this phenomenon?

Dear Readers,

       I hope you’re all having a wonderful beginning to your summer. Unless of course, you live somewhere where it’s winter! We’ve had a couple super-hot days here in NW Wisconsin. I’m waiting eagerly for things to cool down.

Thanks for reading and for your contributions,


Saturday, June 2, 2012

Writer Critique Groups – Friend or Foe?

Writer Critique Groups – Friend or Foe?

A critique group is a lifeline for the new writer. It can assist him in forming good habits before poor ones set in. Without the aid of the group I belong to, my work would not have advanced beyond the sophomoric stage it was at four years ago. I’m a self-published writer, my suspense book She’s Not There is on sale on Amazon and has sold nearly two thousand copies since it came out last August. Would that have happened without the encouragement of my friends in the group? I’d never have gotten there on my own.
            One of our members, Donna White Glaser, author of The Enemy We Know, was the first of our members to ePublish. Her experience and assistance encouraged the rest of us to do the same. I think many would-be authors daydream about the kind of book they’d like to write someday, and that daydream never becomes a reality.  For me, being in a group made that dream come true.

Joining a writer’s group can benefit the new author in many ways:
1.     Improve style and quality of your writing.
2.     Improve grammar and punctuation.
3.     Act as a regular motivator, forcing you to keep up with your writing. Our group meets every two weeks and the members must submit 1500 – 2000 words to each member of the group.
4.     Support you on the journey to your novel’s completion.
5.     Members of the group share experiences with things like marketing, conferences, social media, contests and events.
6.     Gives you a regular sounding board for your work.

Our group consists of only five writers. We limit our meetings to two-and-a-half hours, so it would be difficult to have a larger group and still give each other’s work an in-depth critique.
There are other writer’s groups, larger than ours, who have no regular requirements, instead members share passages of their work by reading aloud, and readings are done on a voluntary basis. We had occasion to read a writing sample from a member of one of these groups and it was clear that a smaller group with regular submission requirements contributes more to writing quality. For a motivated writer, a smaller group provides the greater benefit.
Detractors of the writer’s critique group believe that it stunts creativity. This could possibly be true in the case of a very seasoned author, but in my opinion, the opposite is true. If my work is boring, the group is not shy about letting me know I have to up the creativity to hold their interest. 

Dear readers,
In an interview, when asked what advice I'd give a new author, joining a critique group is always my first point. Please let us know if you have experience with being in a group and how it worked for your writing. Always enjoy hearing from you!