Saturday, December 26, 2015

A Whole New World of Abbreviations

Since I come from a navy background, I know what it's like to live in acronyms and abbreviations. As I drift further and further from the active use of military jargon, my husband has to spell them out for me (when I bother asking; sometimes it's not worth it). When I dove into the writing world, I discovered a whole new language.

So if you are new to writing (as in putting it out there in the publishing world), here's a few terms you need to learn, especially if you are on twitter, where every letter is prime real estate.

Beta: A second reader. Betas typically read large chunks for coherency and big picture and answer a few questions that are nagging the author, such as: Do you understand the system of magic? Is Character X likable? Whose side are you taking in this argument and why? Are the kissing scenes cheesy? Is it predictable? Betas should be used at several stages of novels, IMO (sometimes just for that boost of encouragement you need), because they can tell you where things need to be fleshed or cut in earlier drafts. But when you're polishing your final draft, you need to have a couple fresh beta readers who have never seen any parts of your book. Preferably not a close friend- someone once removed is good.

CP: Critique Partner. A person you exchange work with with the agreement that there will be brutal honesty and seam ripping as necessary. They can be in or outside your genre (both kinds are helpful), harsh or nice as you want, and big or small picture as you need. But in all situations, their goal is to make your writing the best it can be. This person is often another writer, because as a writer, they know what to look for and they often have the same goal as you: publication. What makes a good CP is an entire blog entry of its own. And CPs can become friends, but it's best for the relationship to start with a professional vibe.

NaNoWriMo: National Novel Writing Month (November). The goal is to write 50,000 words of a first draft. Remember most novels are about twice that length when finished.

Comp/Comp Title: Comparable title. Two (three at most!) familiar titles or stories that can give an agent or reader a good feel for your story or show the audience you intend to appeal to. Closely related to Concept Pitch.
TIP: Do not just pick mega-bestsellers (like Twilight or Harry Potter) or obscure titles (unless an agent is known to be a fan of something, and it's an honest comparison) or stories that are radically different (like Jurassic Park and The Fault in Our Stars, though this can work IF THE COMPARISON IS LEGIT). You may have completely different ideas based on what inspired you, so ask your beta readers what they were reminded of. I got consistent answers of Jane Eyre and Mulan on my manuscript, so that's how I pitched it.

MS: Manuscript. Unpublished book.

MC: Main Character

LI: Love interest

LT: Love Triangle. Two characters fight for the love of a 3rd.

POV: Point of View. The character the reader sees the scene through.

Protag: Protagonist

WC: Word Count. The number of words in your manuscript. Three good resources on where you should aim for your genre are herehere, and here.


Q: Query. A letter to an agent saying "Hey I wrote this story, and I am looking for someone to represent me to publishers. This is what it's about... would you like to read more?"

EQ: Electronic Query. The vast majority of queries are done over email.

ER: Electronic Rejection. The vast majority of rejections come over email.

Form: Form Rejection.

Pass: A rejection from an agent or editor. A nicer way to think of it, though, especially since many things are subjective and they have to really love your work to pick it up, since they'll be working on it for months with you.

PR/Partial: Partial Request. An agent or publisher asks for more than what you provided in the query (because some want the first 3 chapters or so with the query). Often 50 pages.

FR/Full: Full Request. An agent or publisher asks to see the whole manuscript.

R/R or R&R: Revise and Resubmit. An agent does not offer representation, but suggests edits and invites you to resubmit to them afterward. Since all manuscripts will need some revision, this is often a test to see how you are to work with. Some people don't take criticism well!

Slush: The pile of unsolicited queries each agent has. It has a negative connotation, but from what I've seen, 70+% of agents are gained this way.

Pitch: A carefully chosen set of words you use to describe your book to convince someone they want to know more. There are several levels:
  • Twitter - Done in 140 characters or less, often for Twitter events or ads.
  • Concept - Also called High Concept. An "X meets Y" or "Z in ABCLand" that sums up the story. For example: "Jaws in space" describes the movie Alien.
  • Elevator - Verbal, can be said in 30 seconds or less.
  • Conference - Verbal, can be said in 5 minutes or less
  • Query - Written, 2-3 paragraphs. 300 words at most. Go here for the best gouge on construction.
  • Synoptic - Very long, written or verbal, and covers the entire plot. Would be used on someone who would never read your manuscript or on someone who will decide to buy or not buy based on the pitch and an adviser's opinion.

These words get mixed up: Category and Genre. In some ways they are interchangeable or closely linked, but when separated, here is the main difference:
Category is age/sex/scope based.
Genre is topic based.
Ergo: Young Adult Fantasy - The Category is Young Adult, the Genre is Fantasy
   Or: Women's Contemporary Fiction - Women's/Contemporary Fiction
Category is often left off if it's Adult/General audiences (For example, Sci-fi is assumed to be adult unless specified as young adult or middle grade).
Genres can combine, ie: Contemporary Fantasy, Sci-Fi Thriller, Historical Romance
TIP: Narrow it down to two at most when pitching. Make your decision based on what section and shelf you would put it on in a bookstore. Reading "My book is a sci-fi thriller drama romance with paranormal elements" makes agents' eyes roll back into their skulls.

Categories/Genres and their (twitter) abbreviations, plus an example, some of which could also fit in other genres
A - Adult (age of protag is 25+)
YA - Young Adult, (age of protag is 12-18, may age up in series) The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
NA - New Adult, (age of protag is 18-22ish), usually set in college years, often a romance, Losing It by Cora Cormack
MG - Middle Grade, (age of protag is 9-14) My Big Fat Zombie Goldfish by Mo O'Hara
CB - Chapter Book, (for children) The Magic Tree House Series
PB - Picture Book, The Cat in the Hat by Dr Seuss
WF - Women's Fiction, very broad, but generally appeals to women, but not necessarily a romance, stuff by Nicholas Sparks
CF - Contemporary Fiction, Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
SFF - Sci-Fi/Fantasy (please note while SF and F are often lumped together, they are distinct)
SF - Science Fiction, The Moon is a Harsh Mistress by Robert Heinlein
EF - Epic Fantasy, The Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan
UF - Urban Fantasy, City of Bones by Cassandra Clare
DYS - Dystopian, Divergent by Veronica Roth
SP - SteamPunk (a branch of Sci-Fi), The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen by Alan Moore
PF - Paranormal Fantasy, Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater
PR - Paranormal Romance, Twilight by Stephenie Meyer
HR - Historical Romance, Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
HF - Historical Fiction or Historical Fantasy, The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara or The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh
MR - Magical Realism, The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman
AH - Alternate History, anything by Harry Turtledove
TT - Time Travel, Outlander by Diana Gabaldon
H - Horror anything by Stephen King
NF - Non-Fiction






Friday, October 30, 2015

Ghostbusters and the 4 Archetype Characters

Since it's all Halloween and stuff, I thought I'd use the opportunity to use one of the greatest movies of all time as a sterling example of the four basic personality types.

Don't forget there's variation in there, usually of the introvert/extrovert flavor.

Source: Columbia Pictures
Let's just go left to right in the picture.

Egon Spangler is the token NT Rational: the nerd, the scientist. Always calculating, questioning, and over-thinking. Emotionally inept (unable to see the secretary's crush on him). Relies a lot on technology and is always inventing things.



These characters are typically nerds in movies, but keep in mind while there is truth to this, the most important thing is they are asking the big-picture questions and answering everyone else's questions with precision. They don't have to be scientists- they make great military strategists.


Ray Stantz is the NF Idealist: "The heart of the Ghostbusters." He is easily swept up in the ideas of others and has the enthusiasm and optimism that just makes you want to hug him.



Ray naively denied his divinity (after trying to reason with Gozer) and is the one who thought of the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man because a happy, harmless childhood memory "just popped in there." While Idealists are known for being emotional, Ray shows they aren't totally wimpy either.


Peter Venkman is the quip-master SP Artisan. He sweet-talks Ray into a 3rd mortgage to pay for their business venture, and he has almost all the comebacks we love. Generally smooth under pressure (except when he was slimed) and lies like a carpet whenever he wants something.



Venkman was the prime motivator of the plot, the show-man. Ray and Egon wanted to catch ghosts and thought it could be done, but it was the Artisan who made it happen. And also the Artisan's big mouth which got them in trouble with the EPA. In the end, it's Venkman who convinces the mayor to take a chance on them by hitting the politician where it matters most: "Lennie, you will be the responsible for saving the lives of millions of registered voters."


Winston Zedemore , the down-to earth SJ Guradian joins the team last, as a hire-on to help with the workload. When interviewed he's asked if he believes in a bunch supernatural stuff and his response is, "If there's a steady paycheck in it, I'll believe anything you say." He's less knowledgeable than the others, but he doesn't want to know more- he just wants a job. He's a bit of a square, but he's a dependable guy.


When they're all in jail, while the others are discussing the outlandish situation, he may believe them but thinks they're all crazy for preparing to explain to the authorities.

In fact, that jail conversation is a perfect example of all the types.
Idealist Ray: We gotta get out of here. We gotta talk to a judge or something.
Guardian Winston: Wait a minute! You're actually going to go before a federal judge and say some moldy Babylonian god is going to drop down on Central Park West and start tearing up the city?
Rational Egon: Sumerian, not Babylonian.
Artisan Pete: Yeah, big difference.
Guardian Winston: No offense, but I'm gonna to get my own lawyer.


So it should be interesting to see how the new movie plays out. When you go see it, look for the same characters. It's the interplay of the four types- and that everyone in the audience can identify with one of them- that made the original work so well.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Getting the Call

It's been a few months now, so I can look back on getting an agent with a calmer perspective. There is sooooo much more to this story, but I'll try to zoom in on the more relevant events.

Last May I'd been querying for, officially, about seven months. Right at the beginning I got a partial (passed a week later) and a full (but was warned it would be a long time before the agent would have time to read it). In January I realized I'd queried too soon, and my manuscript needed a major make-over. Plot and pacing were pretty good, but some of it was just so clumsy.

So as the first round of rejections finished rolling in, I pressed pause and went back perform surgery on my baby. I rewrote about half the scenes and cut 12,000 words (though I let about 8000 back in after they promised to be better). Then I sent it out to a group of beta readers. The feedback was overwhelmingly positive, and there were several good suggestions. Just before I was done polishing it, I heard from the agent who had an earlier version, saying she was ready to start reading soon, and since it had been so long, she wanted to make sure it was a) still available and b) the latest revision. I risked looking like a total noob and asked for extra time to finish what I was working on.

Two weeks later I took a deep breath and sent out a round of queries and 2 full requests (one to said agent, another that had come in a February earlier). Almost immediately I got another full request. Can you say dizzy?

But the literary world is a cruel one, and a week later rejections started rolling in again, including on the new full. Fewer were form rejections though, and that was a good sign. I girded my loins and sent out another round, then that evening I got a quick note from that one agent (from the very beginning) saying she was starting in the next couple days so I would hear from her soon.

(Can I just throw out here that I REALLY appreciated those progress notes? It is agonizing to have a manuscript- or even just a query- out for weeks or months and after all that time of wondering if they are liking it or hating it, it turns out they haven't even had a chance to look at it? Agents are busy, and their actual clients come first, and I totally get that, but that knowledge of their status is lovely.)

So several days later I'm riding in the car to a local USNA alumni luncheon. I'd spent the week prepping another batch of query letters because we were moving soon, and I thought now was the time to send them. I figured the wait would be easier if I had school ending and packing and driving and unpacking, etc to distract me. My phone buzzed with an email, and I pulled it out to look. Groupon.

As I dismissed the notification, I remember thinking that someday, someday it would be an email from an agent saying "I want to see more" or "I want to talk." It would happen when I was least expecting it, but someday it would happen. I put the phone down and sighed. Someday.

My phone buzzed with a new email. I swear this is true.

It was from that first agent, the patient one. In the notification, I could read the first lines of message: Dear Erin, You kept me up all night reading, I'm very upset with you. Now I have to go back and read the story again...

I may or may not have stopped breathing. I slammed the phone back down on my lap, like when I was 13 and called the radio station to win Paula Abdul tickets, and they answered with "You're caller number nine!" and I panicked and hung up.

No. Effing. Way.

I stared out the windshield for a minute (I will always remember where we were on the highway). Finally I mumbled to my husband (who was driving). "I just got an email from an agent."

"Really, what did it say?"

"It says..." I picked up the phone and opened the message. It was short, but clear. "She wants to talk."

The rest of the day was pretty much an out of body experience. The only part I remember was two hours later I got a phonecall from my son's teacher about a tantrum he'd thrown. Talk about whiplash. But I was still so high I don't even think I was mad.

I don't remember setting up the call. I don't remember writing pages of questions to ask. But I must have done both of those things because less than a week later I was on google chat with a printout in front of me and a deer in the headlights look on my face. Don't let her know you're crazy.

She put me right at ease. She said the nicest things about my story. She suggested a revision point in the plot, which I liked, but she offered rep without it.

Then it was over. It took me another day to be able to start emailing all the agents who still had my query. Manuscript requests and very nice step-asides poured in. It was right during BEA (not to mention my house was being packed up and 3 of my kids celebrated birthdays), but at the end of two weeks I had a choice to make (and also a couple more who asked for extra time). Since I had so much going on I couldn't take calls right away, I extended it a little. Patient agent was patient.

Then I waited another day or two because writing my own rejection letters was freaking hard (and I was driving a van full of kids halfway across the country). And I went with the first agent, the patient one, the one who had a great revision idea, the one who requested a full way back 7 months before and so was one of the first to give me hope that this book might become a real thing- Valerie Noble.

And she still has to be patient with me, because I always have so much going on in life outside writing, and I can never, ever leave things alone. I never finish a revision but two days later I'm like, "Wait! I need to fix something else!" I already warned her she has to be prepared to cut me off like a bartender with a drunk sorority girl. You're done. Go home and sleep it off.

Anyway. There's still a long way to go on this journey, but now, even four months after signing with Valerie, I am as stoked as I was when I read that fateful email. Every day I'm like




YEEEEEEAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHH!!!

Friday, October 2, 2015

Mood Swings

So anyone who writes knows the process is fraught with alternating manic joy and crushing depression. This has been going around the internet, and it pretty much sums it up:



Here's another, sweeter and fuzzier take:







It's pretty obvious what you should do in your high-as-kite moods: Write. Pour the sweat of your brain into your notebook, computer, voice recorder, cocktail napkin- whatever's handy.

Write. Write like the wind! Because inspiration and enthusiasm are at hand.

Write! Because it won't last.

A stiff breeze will blow you off that mountaintop. Sometimes these swings are triggered by feedback we receive, sometimes we do it to ourselves. Either way, that's when your brain goes:




And you step back and wonder if there's something horribly, unfixably wrong with your writing. You know something needs to be fixed or changed, but you don't know how to do it or it seems an enormous task... You're in a valley looking up and the mountain you've got to climb looks even higher from down there. You start wishing for a flash flood to come down and carry you away.

So what do you do?

No, really. How do you handle this?

PLEASE TELL ME!!!

(I'm asking for a friend)


You could wallow in it and self medicate, which, frankly, is often the most appealing option.



You could get out and exercise, even though your will to live is pretty much gone.



Some people would say write: Either tackle the problem or write something else. I've got two problems with this. First, maybe you're not ready to fix this problem. Maybe it needs to stew in your brain for a while. You may only get frustrated trying to get somewhere when you don't have it mapped. Second, writing can be hard when your brain is fixated on something else. You might produce crap (or nothing), leading you deeper into the pit of despair.



You could try listing all the positive things you've heard.



That only goes so far because what do those people know? They were your friends, not professionals. I'm sure they only said those things because they didn't want to hurt your feelings anyway. At least, that's what your brain responds with.



You could give your brain a break and just do what you want. For me, that usually means some form of carbs and watching or reading Jane Austen.



There's always kitten therapy.



Anyway, I'm fresh out of kittens and carbs aren't really a good option for my weight gain of late. I already exercised this morning and it's pouring rain so a long walk is not in the cards today.

I seriously want to know: How do you deal with the downs?

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Plot or Pants?

They say there are two types of writers: Plotters and Pantsers, and inevitably in their career, a writer will get asked which they are. A plotter outlines every scene before writing- sometimes the whole book before they even start. A pantser creates a character than then just writes, though they may have an idea what direction they're going in.

So which am I?

My response is that of the Queen of Hearts, because this is my blog, and I ask the questions here.

Do you play croquet?

Credit: Disney
The only appropriate answer is "Yes, Your Majesty."

Then let the game begin!


Credit: Devon Rowland

I have wickets. If you've ever played the standard 9 wicket game (there are other versions), you might see where I'm going. The diagram below shows the path the balls travel: start at the bottom, get to the top and return down the other side.





Seems pretty simple, and it is. You work your way along, and when you get the ball through a wicket, you get another turn. 

But anyone who's played knows that's not how it happens. If your ball collides with another player's, the person who initiated that contact has a choice: either take two more hits in the direction they want to go, or take one hit after a knock-off. In a knock-off, the player holds their ball down with their foot and whacks it with the mallet, transferring the energy to the other ball and sending it off in another direction. This can be used by teams to get each other ahead or to knock your opponents off course.

I sort-of outline and I sort-of start writing and see where it leads me. The wickets are my set scenes, the ones that must happen (or even just the things that must happen). Sometimes I even write them out first- they tend to be my favorites, the ones I'm dying to write.

SIDENOTE: Some writers insist on going in order when they write, and there's a definite advantage to this. It keeps you consistent in your story because there's always things that change as you go along. However, jumping around can allow you to write what you are really inspired with at the moment and can help if you are feeling blocked or unenthusiastic. Also, having a future scene set can keep you from getting too side-tracked and help you learn about your characters and how they act under duress... but it can also lock you into a less interesting path.

You can even label your wickets with the parts of a hero's journey: Introduction, Call to action, Crossing the Threshold, First Challenge, Temptation, Setback, Dark Night of the Soul, Final Conflict, Triumphant Return/Continuation. Whatever.

Here's the beauty of my analogy: you don't have to take a direct path. You can take longer to travel between some of them. You can get side-tracked by other characters and you can be rocketed forward by other characters. YOU JUST NEED TO HIT YOUR WICKETS. In order.

Now set your wickets, place your ball, pick up your mallet, and write!

Credit: Disney


Friday, September 11, 2015

Avoiding the Mary Sue/Gary Stu

I came across this today, and I thought it was fabulous:

TEST: Is your character a Mary Sue?

Go to this site and answer a bunch of questions to objectively analyze your character.

I'm proud to say my two main characters passed with flying colors - yay! - though I lost points because my lead girl looks a lot like me (or did, when I was 17) and has a couple of my habits and likes/dislikes. I figure that's okay for one character, after all, I'm a bit of newby. It's a good thing to keep in mind, though, as I continue writing.

Friday, July 31, 2015

Where Am I?

I just got this site up only to abandon it for over 2 months (so far). So WTF, Erin?

I have 2 main reasons:

1) It's summer 2015. For me that has meant: Moving out of a large house and into another one 1500 miles away while renting out the previous house. I had help from friends and family in taking care of the kids, but there were so many things I had to do by myself, most of them frustrating to the point of screaming, others boring as hell for 10 straight hours.
-I had no/sporadic internet at the new house for the first 2 weeks, plus the 2 weeks before of taking apart one house and traveling.
-Acclimating to a (sort of) new area- we lived here 10 years ago, and in a very different part of town.
-I have 5 children at home who are registered for no camps or activities (because moving is expensive and we also weren't sure where we would be until May). These 5 children also need to be registered at 3 different schools... some needed more vaccinations and/or yearly physicals from a doc in this state (and insurance only pays for one per year and every doc is booked for months). Some have already started sports conditioning with their school's team. Some need new glasses.

So yeah, busy.

2) I am scared sh*tless right now. Because right at the beginning of all this chaos I got an offer of rep. I'll spare you the details of the weeks that followed, but I ended up having to make a choice between offers. So this means:

-I now have an agent. I have someone who believes in me and is excited to bring my book to print. It's one of those things you fantasize about but somehow never really expect to happen. Especially when I look at other writers who have been working for years and I feel like I haven't paid my dues. Maybe I haven't. Maybe I still have years of trying ahead of me.

-We will be going on submission in a few months. That means months of waiting and being rejected again, sometimes after getting a "maybe" and then waiting a long time and making changes. It may mean paying my dues to the writing world in hearing over and over, "You're not ready yet." Because what if I'm not?

I don't know that I'm pessimistic by nature. I just don't want to get my hopes up. In the last year I've read a lot of stories about writers who made it right away, writers who made it after struggling for a while, and writers who struggled and struggled and ultimately had to start over. I honestly don't mind being that last kind, I just wish I knew ahead of time how long this was going to take. 10 years? Okay, ten years it is, let's get started, it's going to be a long ride.

But here's the thing about this process: I can't really talk about it because it may hurt me. I don't want the editor reading my manuscript to know how long I've been submitting or how many rejections I've had or what other paths I may still have open to me.

Part of my silence is personal; I don't want to share the details of this journey until I know it has a happy ending. Part of it is because publishing is a small world, and if I vent or over-share, it can hurt my chances.

But rest assured, I do have things going on with this book.

Wonderful things.

Amazing things.

Hopeful things.

Terrifying things.

And someday I will tell you all about them.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Sources of Conflict: Introverts vs Extroverts

This part of an intended series on personality conflicts and how they manifest in characters.

Let's kick off the series with what's easy and obvious: Introverts and Extroverts.

Introverts are typically thought of as the people who say little or nothing, and extroverts talk all the time. They are so much more than that. Some introverts can be quite talkative and some extroverts rather quiet. Judge them more on how they relax.

Introverts need time to collect themselves before and after dealing with other people, especially strangers. They think before they speak, and you can be pretty sure if they are contributing their idea to a discussion, they've thought it over a few times before opening their mouths.

Extroverts seem to pull their energy from other people, meaning after the party, they are rounding up people to hit the bars with them. When they speak, their ideas are often not fully formed, so never assume the first thing they say is what they have concluded. Sometimes you can just ignore the first few sentences and focus on the end.

In friendships and love, we are often drawn to the opposite of ourselves here. Introverts wish they had the easy social graces of extroverts, and extroverts like speaking for others and drawing shyer people out. They also appreciate being allowed to talk without being interrupted. But by the same token, introverts can be drawn to other introverts because they make so little demands on them to speak, and likewise extroverts don't want most of their conversations to be one-sided.

Here are few examples of where they can be frustrated or downright hostile with each other:

Introverts

  • Resent being ignored or steamrollered by those who speak first, especially when they dominate discussions with half-baked ideas.
  • Resent their initial contributions being dismissed as a "working idea" rather than one that has been considered from several angles.
  • Dislike being talked at when they have not adjusted to their new surroundings or a change of pace.
  • Hate being interrupted, prefer brainstorming sessions to have an orderly rotation of speakers.
  • Hate being made to give their opinion or idea before they've had a chance to think it over.
  • Dislike the implication they are angry or upset merely because they are not talking.
  • Dislike the assumption they are upset or excited because they are talking.
  • Need personal space.
  • Need time to adjust and also to decompress.
  • May have trouble enjoying a vacation if it is in a strange place. The second time around is better.
  • Come across as cold because so much of their communication is written, and verbal communication has more modest tone and body language.
Extroverts
  • Resent people who stare at them like they are idiots while they talk.
  • Often need to develop their ideas out loud, drawing on the contributions and body language of those around them.
  • Decompress by interacting with others.
  • Often interrupt with an idea or response that can't be contained until their turn to talk, but don't do it out of malice.
  • Hate being made to hold in their reactions.
  • Hate their ideas being dismissed as undeveloped.
  • Prefer to seek out people to communicate- no email for them, thank you very much.
  • Worry when their companions do not speak for long periods of time.
  • Hate their passion being dismissed as just another thing they are loud about.
  • Want to go new places, get restless with routines.
So you can make your characters pick on each other or give in to each other over many of these issues. There are many other factors which go into these differences. For instance, a structured introvert is going to conflict more with a flexible extrovert, but a flexible introvert may find some common ground with a structured extrovert. Always remember we (and our characters) are sums, not just parts. It's like colors: red is hot and green is cool, but add yellow to each and the former becomes cooler and the latter warmer.

I'll close with a true story of Introvert/Extrovert conflict:

A lovely, tiny, bubbly extrovert lady was married to a tall, serene, introverted man. They both had similar jobs and ranks, working in military medical administration, and when the wife needed jaw surgery, she had to stay home from work for over two weeks.

When her husband came home every day, he needed to decompress and have some time to recover from dealing with people and phone calls all day long. The wife had been trapped at home alone for hours- she couldn't drive because she was still on narcotics so she could sleep- with no one to talk to and was antsy and needed talk talk talk. For the first couple days, the husband was nearly attacked by his wife as he came in the door, until he got an idea.

Because her jaw was wired shut, he started offering to share a smoothie or milkshake so they could talk over their day while having a snack. He would grind up her pain meds and dump some in her drink. Then he listened patiently to her for 10-15 minutes before she would start to feel tired and apologize and say she needed to lie down for a bit. He would pat her on her shoulder and say, "That's alright sweetie, we can talk later." And they would, after he was recovered from his day and ready.

And yes, they are still married.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Hell for Each Personality Type

I'm super busy right now, but wanted to share this- it's fabulous!

The Definition of Hell for Each Personality Type

Mine (INTP) was spot-on:

You are eternally condemned to researching an extremely vapid topic using wildly inaccurate methods, mostly involving interviewing people who have no idea what they’re talking about.

**shudder**

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Introversion vs Extroversion

So this is often the most obvious difference between people, you can spot it in strangers across a room or nail it within a few minutes of conversation. There's some debate among psychologists whether this is the most or least important part of person's preferences. Dr. Keirsey said it was the least important, but Susan Cain argues in her book, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Won't Stop Talking, that it is the most important trait. So who's right?

I'm going to have it both ways. Because I can.

Dr. Keirsey was right because he was referring to the difference between temperaments and types. The difference between an ESTJ and an ISTJ is much more minor than the difference between an ESTJ and an ENTJ or ESFJ or ESTP.

The STJ part means they are detail-oriented, concrete thinkers who make decisions based on facts more than emotions. The E/I part refers to how they create and expend energy in those ventures. Extroverts gain energy from other people, while introverts recharge their batteries by being alone. So an ESTJ is a commanding organizer and an ISTJ organizes heavily behind the scenes. Both are workhorses.

Compare an ESTJ to an ESTP and you have two very loud people who are both concrete thinkers who make decisions with their head rather than their heart. But the ESTP is a very reckless personality which jumps from task to task without finishing what he/she started. A job left undone is unforgivable to an ESTJ. ESTPs are also prone to exaggeration and showmanship... the original snake-oil salesman. HUGE difference.

ENTJs? Highly abstract in their thinking- they see the big picture much better than an ESTJ, and they are comparatively socially inept. ESFJs? Much more touchy-feely than ESTJs and prefer to get along and have everyone contribute and share rather than to get things done right. They'll make things into a social event rather than a business meeting.

So in that sense, being an introvert or extrovert is the least important difference.

Susan Cain argues your entire life is decided by whether you are an introvert or an extrovert. (By the way, she's not very nice to extroverts in her book; she has a pretty clear bias. Otherwise her book is fascinating.) Her point has merit because E/I is how you present your inner self, and truly, more than half of life is showing up. If you show up and sit in the front row and speak your mind, you're going to get more attention. So an ESTJ and an ISTJ are both likely to show up and be qualified, but it's the ESTJs who are going to volunteer to take charge of the committee. Their ideas will be the first heard and the loudest articulated, and therefore often the most often used.

And that can make all the difference in the world.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

You vs. Your Main Character

  Writers put pieces of themselves and people they know in their characters. They can't help it. Sometimes that's the scariest factor in giving something to a friend for a read. Will they see more or less of what you put in there? Will they wonder if you really think of yourself that way? What if your main character is just enough like you your friends assume you are representing yourself, and then shake their heads when there's a divergence? What about when your spouse reads about the love interest and finds someone completely unlike themselves? Will their feelings be hurt?

  My main character looks a lot like me, and there's a simple reason for that: I know what it's like to be a scrawny, slightly freckled, flat chested (but heavy-hipped) bookish girl who hates onions and likes to punch things to blow off steam. It makes a lot of things easier to imagine and articulate- I know how clothes fit on that body and how hard it is to do anything with fine hair- but there the similarities end. She is not me.

   It's important to create main characters who differ from you in several significant ways, and looks don't count. I'm talking personality. For one thing it gives them permission to act in ways you would not. My main character is so much kinder than I am, for example. She has a gift for sarcasm, yes, but she uses it differently than I do. She's braver than I am and follows her heart rather than her head in many cases. She feels where I think. She acts where I hold back. And most importantly, she is not a manifestation of what I wish I was.

  The biggest danger, I think, in making yourself the main character is you tend to create situations you've never experienced just to show the world how you would handle it. Funny thing is, most of the time you are wrong about that. You're not that good, and everyone around you won't react in awe and adulation. It doesn't take long for your MC to be come a MarySue/GaryStu. I'm looking at you, Richard Rahl.

  Making a character after someone you know is equally dangerous, especially if they are a friend who will read it someday. I'm assuming here if you create a character after someone you hate in life, you don't give a damn what they think. When it comes to friends, though, you may mean something in a complimentary way, but they may not perceive it as such. Your portrayal may be spot on, and that might be worse unless you've worked it out with them beforehand. It's like the Magic Mirror Gate from The Neverending Story: confronted with their true selves, most men run away screaming.

  How do you avoid hurting feelings when wanting to pay tribute to a friend, especially if they have been so helpful in your writing? First off, ask them. Some people would delight in being a bad guy or a passing character begging for bread in the town square. They may make that decision easy for you. Second, stick to more minor characters. Then you don't have to bring them out constantly and develop them. Third, make them completely different from your friend. Swap genders if you can, and/or make them the opposite in looks and personality. That way they never have to look for themselves in any character. It could be safe, though, to make someone look like a friend if it's a hit-and-run character we never see again.

  My MC's love interest looks nothing like my husband because I don't want anyone looking for similarities. (Ironically, in personality, I am more like the love interest than the main character.) Perhaps this is more of a risk with female characters than male ones, but when it comes to those you have an intimate physical relationship with, watch out for making them think you wish they were more like your love interest. Here it might be a good idea to develop said character with their input, if only so they can see the process.

  But back to yourself in your characters. If you are a beginning writer especially, so many things can be easier if you write from a point of view similar to your own. I have no problem putting a bit of yourself in your hero, but draw the line. Your MC can look a lot like you, but make one significant detail different. In a slightly symbolic move, my heroine's eyes are gray, not blue like mine, to remind me (lest I forget) that she is not me. She sees the world differently than I do.

  Besides, no one wants to read about me. I'm boring.