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Author Nancy J. Cohen discusses the writing process and life as a Florida resident.

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Posts Tagged ‘characters’

Increase the Chaos. Engage the Reader.

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on March 19, 2014

Increase the Chaos. Engage the Reader. by Julie Anne Lindsey

Chaos is one of my favorite things about fiction. This is especially true in a cozy mystery. I truly enjoy the insane amount of juggling required by the heroine. As a woman, I can relate to the pressure and frustration of handling too much- minus the murder investigation, of course – and it’s fun to see the scenarios unfold on someone else for a change. I can relate. It’s no secret women handle unthinkable amounts of responsibilities while maintaining the peace and meeting unreasonable expectations of others. We hold down the household, punch a time clock, volunteer in the community, date, please our family, entertain our friends and so much more. (We really are the more miraculous portion of our species. In my humble opinion). Which is why we all deserve a good book and a break from time to time.

As writers, it’s our job to connect strangers with a character we dreamed up. Chaos is a common ground we can use to our advantage. When I fall into a great new cozy or amateur female sleuth series, I immediately connect with the heroine if she’s got her hands full. I nod along and smile, thinking, man-oh-man am I glad it’s not me this time. My heart goes out to her. It’s hard keeping things afloat, and honestly, the chaos can be pretty entertaining when I’m not on the business end of things. Murder-Comes-Ashore-jpg

As I write each mystery, I want my heroine overwhelmed, well-liked and spread paper-thin. I want readers to feel the pull of hands on her time and person. So, as I plot and scheme a fun new investigation, I ask myself “What do I do every day?” and then “What do my friends do?” What keeps us so busy? The snowball method takes over from there because the short answer is we do too much.

Piling up the trouble is a great writers’ tool. It’s a fun and easy way to increase the chaos and pacing of a story. It keeps the pages going and stops the story from stagnating. I spend extra time on my outlines peppering in all the commitments my heroine, Patience, has to maintain in addition to surviving the wrath of a provoked killer and exploring the leads in her investigation, not to mention all the people she wants to please.

Add responsibilities to connect readers to your heroine. Give her problems they can all relate to, like family and romance. Those things are complicated. Messy. Real.

In my newest release, Murder Comes Ashore, I’ve piled up the everyday things that make a woman bananas. As my heroine pursues her investigation, (the crux of the story), she’s drawn away repeatedly by phone calls from clients, impromptu visits from family and a frustrating love triangle she’d prefer not to think about. She’s running from a killer, volunteering at the grade school and questioning birders about anything unusual they might have seen since the murder. Local law enforcement is running a parallel investigation and they get in her way, too.

Adding reality to the fiction anchors readers to your story. Who can’t related to a boss that expects us to show up on time? Or a sister who takes it personally if you’re five minutes late for dinner? The predicaments don’t have to be fantastical because they’re fiction. Take the things that make you the craziest and share them with your heroine. It is fun to move the burden onto someone else and it bridges the gap between you and women readers everywhere. Hey, it’s no fun when I have to fold laundry, check homework assignments and explain to my mom why I haven’t called all week, but when those things fall to a character, I smile because we share common ground. And us XX chromosome types have to stick together.

If you’re looking for a fun new mystery to cozy up with, I hope you’ll consider my new release, Murder Comes Ashore. It’s packed with chaos and a heroine who understands. Besides, who couldn’t use an island escape right now?

Murder Comes Ashore

Patience Price is just settling into her new life as resident counselor on Chincoteague Island when things take a sudden turn for the worse. A collection of body parts have washed up on shore and suddenly nothing feels safe on the quaint island.

Patience instinctively turns to current crush and FBI special agent Sebastian for help, but former flame Adrian is also on the case, hoping that solving the grisly crime will land him a win in the upcoming mayoral election.

When the body count rises and Patience’s parents are brought in as suspects, Patience is spurred to begin her own investigation. It’s not long before she starts receiving terrifying threats from the killer, and though she’s determined to clear her family’s name, it seems the closer Patience gets to finding answers, the closer she comes to being the killer’s next victim.

Amazon Barnes&Noble

About JulieJulie Lindsey

Julie Anne Lindsey is a multi-genre author who writes the stories that keep her up at night. She’s a self-proclaimed nerd with a penchant for words and proclivity for fun. Julie lives in rural Ohio with her husband and three small children. Today, she hopes to make someone smile. One day she plans to change the world.

Murder Comes Ashore is a sequel in her new mystery series, Patience Price, Counselor at Large, from Carina Press.

Learn About Julie at:

Julieannelindsey.com

Posted in Fiction Writing, The Writing Life, Writing Craft | Tagged: , , , , , , | 7 Comments »

When Your Characters Torment You

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on January 30, 2014

Characters can torment you, the writer, for a variety of reasons. Secondary characters may want to have their stories told. Main characters might whisper in your ear to tell their tale. And when you’re in the midst of spinning your web of deceit, the characters live within your head, unwilling to let you go.

Silver Serenade is an example of main characters who wanted their story to be heard. Rookie assassin Silver Malloy and desperate fugitive Jace Vernon are both after the same man, terrorist leader Tyrone Bluth. Silver’s assignment is to kill the man while Jace needs Bluth alive to prove his innocence. For Jace—a diplomat turned desperado and a crack pilot—bigger political issues are at stake that could lead to galactic war. For Silver, the issue is personal. Tyrone’s Marauders destroyed her family and her research. Revenge fills her heart, and she’s vowed nothing will stop her from her goal. Forced to team up in their pursuit, Silver and Jace realize that when they catch Bluth, one of them must yield.

4585894_med   Silver

These characters whispered in my ear to tell their tale until I couldn’t ignore them any longer. They’d been the subject of my option book after I wrote four scifi romances for Dorchester. As the market for futuristics took a dive, Dorchester turned down this fifth title. Years passed, and the cycle came around. Paranormals and its various subgenres made a resurgence. I finished Silver Serenade and sold it to The Wild Rose Press. Finally, their story was done.

Now I’m in the throes of torment again. I am fifty pages away from finishing Peril by Ponytail, my twelfth Bad Hair Day mystery. When I go to bed at night and when I wake up in the morning, the characters are swirling in my head. What’s going to happen in the next scene? Am I considering all the angles? Could I be forgetting to follow through on one of the suspects? Did I remember to have a funeral service for the first victim? What about his wife, who stands to gain a substantial inheritance from his death? Did we examine this motive in the course of the story? How will Marla and Dalton find their way through the maze of underground tunnels in the mine scene?

And always, there’s the underlying anxiety—Will I have enough to reach my word count?

I am driven to finish this story. The characters won’t let me have any peace until we’re done.

Does this happen to you?

Posted in Fiction Writing, The Writing Life, Writing Craft | Tagged: , , , , , , | 11 Comments »

Creating Realistic Characters

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on September 20, 2013

When Characters Stop Being Literal and Become Real
J.H. Bogran

On the dedication page of Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince, author J.K. Rowling dedicates the book to her daughter, proclaiming Harry is her ink-and-paper twin. In just one sentence, Mrs. Rowling demonstrates how real the characters are for her.

Every writer worth his salt knows that only when we believe and treat our character as real people, they will become so to the readers. Why? I could bet it is because our perception of the character seeps into them while we type them.    Firefall

I don’t pretend to preach to the converted, what I’d like to share today is the way I develop my characters, not that I think it is the one and only way to go about it.

After I decide the story I want to tell, I spend time developing a list of characters that I think are required to tell the story. The list includes the lead, lead’s love interest if any, the antagonist, and the secondary characters. I don’t waste time on the character with bit parts; I trust they will show up when I need them for a particular scene. Yeah, it’s kind of “if I build it, they will come.”

Two books that have helped me with characters and how to write them are Angela Ackerman/Becca Puglisi’s The Emotion Thesaurus, and the other one is Dynamic Characters by Nancy Kress.

The main characters get special attention, of course. I prepare a worksheet where I list name, description, personality, profession and extras. The first four are pretty self-explanatory. Extras can be tiny little things like if he/she smokes, or notes the appalling story of how they became the person they are at the start of my book.

For the physical description I cheat a little bit, if it can be called like that. I use people I’ve met, sometimes movie or TV actors, but someone to anchor me to what they look like and keep me from changing hair or eye colors between chapters. Their personality starts relatively empty as I’d like to leave room for the characters to grow. Of course, that character worksheet keeps getting revised while I’m writing the story.

The secondary characters are not as developed, but I keep a close watch on them as sometimes they come back with surprises, or they make appearances in other stories. For example, the doctor who treated my lead female character suffering from Multiple Personality Disorder in the story Love Me Two Times, turns out to have a younger brother. In the opening chapter of my new novel Firefall, Doctor James Martin is performing an intervention on his younger brother Sebastian, who is the lead character in that novel.

One tip I learned during a ThrillerFest class on craft imparted by Robert Dugoni was to give each character a unique trait. It can be anything from always chewing gum to a limp. The idea is that the trait would be big enough to make them appear better than two-dimensional.

The making of my character is far from a refined technique, but it works for me, so I’m sticking with it. They become real to me because I can picture them in my head.

I’m curious to know how others do it, so please leave a comment if you can. Thanks.

<><><>

About J. H. Bográn   JH Bogran

J. H. Bográn, born and raised in Honduras, is the son of a journalist. He ironically prefers to write fiction rather than fact. José’s genre of choice is thrillers, but he likes to throw a twist of romance into the mix. His works include novels and short stories in both English and Spanish. He’s a member of the Short Fiction Writers Guild and the International Thriller Writers, where he also serves as the Thriller Roundtable Coordinator and contributor editor their official e-zine The Big Thrill.

Website at: http://www.jhbogran.com
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/jhbogran
Twitter: @JHBogran
Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4307673.J_H_Bogran
Amazon author page: https://www.amazon.com/author/jhbogran

About Firefall:

After losing his wife and son in an air crash, former NYC firefighter Sebastian Martin is spiraling downward into alcoholic oblivion. Then his brother sets him up with a last-chance job investigating insurance fraud, but his first case takes a deadly turn as he crosses path with an international ring of car thieves. Sebastian ends up strapped to a chair facing torture at the hands of a former KGB trainee who enjoys playing with fire on his victims to get answers.

Firefall Buy Links:

Rebel E Publishers: http://rebelepublishers.com/about/our-books/firefall/
Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Firefall-ebook/dp/B00F6VYDE2
Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/355941

Posted in Fiction Writing, Writing Craft | Tagged: , , , , , , | 5 Comments »

Creating Vibrant Characters

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on April 16, 2013

This past weekend, guest speaker Joanna Campbell Slan told us how to create vibrant characters. First she mentioned four personality styles. Dialogue should reflect if the person is a tell versus an ask kind of guy. This sounds like me and my husband. He is ALWAYS asking questions. He’ll say, “Why is that man cutting his grass so early?” I’ll say, “I wonder why he’s cutting his grass so early.” See the difference?   Joanna Slan

Which comes first, character or plot? Start by developing your characters. Give them conflicts, differing viewpoints and reactions. Problems between them will create tension. Remember that if any strength is overused, it becomes a weakness. An example is the character who will get the job done, but at any cost. Or it can be the person who follows rules no matter what happens.

Give each person a habit and a telling detail that helps identify him. Also, pair a physical description with an emotional one for each character.

Have your characters work toward a goal. The four personality types will react differently. One group may ask numerous questions and want to know the rules. Another group may spend time getting organized and elect someone to take notes. Group three might just play around and have fun. And group four will be the ones who take charge and accomplish the task.

Joanna offered a lot more tips in this valuable workshop. This only touches the tip of the iceberg on what she covered. But keeping just these few bits of advice in mind is helpful.

Posted in Writing Craft | Tagged: , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Keeping Characters Apart

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on April 4, 2013

By Beate Boeker

Nancy asked me to share some writing tips with you, and I thought I would focus on one aspect that every writer encounters – how to keep people apart. In a mystery, you start with a few key people: The heroine or hero, the murderer, victim one, maybe victim two.

In my cozy mystery series, Temptation in Florence, I have both—a heroine called Carlina, and Inspector Stefano Garini who’s the hero.   Delayed Death

As I’m switching viewpoints between both of them, I think it’s fairly easy to get those people clear in your mind. At the beginning, I characterize them in turn by judging them through the eyes of the other. Here’s the moment when Carlina meets Garini for the first time:

Carlina dropped onto the sofa and looked at the Commissario who took a seat in the battered armchair to her left. His face was lean and thin, and his nose reminded her of a hawk. No, the resemblance with a hawk came from the eyes. They were light and hard and gave her the impression he could spot a detail at a distance of several kilometers. He didn’t look like someone who would understand a silly mistake or two.

Garini in turn discusses her with his assistant Piedro. I’ve made Piedro a bit slow, so much so that he only has to say one sentence, and you pretty much realize that this is the dumb assistant even if you have forgotten his name in the meantime.

“What was her name? Carlina?” Piedro asked.

“No. Caroline Ashley.”

Piedro frowned. “Everybody called her Carlina.”

“A nickname.” For an instant, Stefano saw Carlina’s pale face again. The freckles had made her look younger than she was. Her eyes reminded him of a cat, slanted and intelligent.

Piedro shrugged off the name. “She acted real nervous.”

“Yes, I noticed that too.”

So far, so good. You’re unlikely to forget the victim and the hero(s). However, as an author, you need to populate the scene with plenty of other people milling about in order to create enough red herrings.

Carlina is part of a huge family, and many of the members live in the same house which is split up into individual apartments. On the ground floor, to the right, we have her grandfather Nico, who was murdered. On the left is the apartment of her grandfather’s identical twin. His name is Teodoro Alfredo Mantoni. He’s the most senior man in the house, the patriarch of the family, so I made sure that everybody calls him Uncle Teo, instead of just Teo, and whenever he enters the scene, I mention something that immediately refers to his age – his rheumy eyes, the age spots on his skin, his white hair.

Each of the twins has seven kids, all adults with their own families now. I created this huge family on purpose, to have enough room for further novels. However, I do not introduce all of them in the first novel, to avoiding confusing my readers (and myself!).

Uncle Teo is married to Aunt Maria, who is not only exceedingly fat, but who likes to eat garlic in huge quantities. As soon as she makes an entry, everybody runs to the window or speaks through the nose.

On the next floor, we have on one side Benedetta, who is one of Nico’s younger daughters. Her two teenage kids (seventeen and nineteen) live with her. Her husband died some years ago.

At this point, I feared the eyes of the reader would already glaze over, so I gave each of the appearing persons one special trait. Whenever they appear, I repeat this trait to help my readers stay oriented. Benedetta is always using bright red lipstick. She’s calm and pretty normal in this exuberant family. Her kids both have bright red hair. The younger is Ernesto, the elder Annalisa. Annalisa is very much focused on herself, besides being a true beauty. Ernesto loves to play computer games. I assumed that if I mentioned the red hair throughout the novel as a sort of signal, my readers would immediately be able to place both Ernesto and Annalisa.

Across the landing is their elder sister Emma’s apartment. She’s getting married to Lucio in the first novel. Emma knows exactly what she wants, and she has fantastic legs. Lucio is extremely jealous and traditional, so I made sure to refer to this whenever they appear.

Another floor up, we have Fabbiola. She is Carlina’s mother, and her strand of henna-colored hair is the most typical thing about her. She also has a little habit of carrying around a cushion whenever she leaves the house, so she’s clearly a bit batty, but in a nice sort of way. Whenever Fabbiola appears, the cushion appears, too, and I think this is too eccentric to be forgotten easily.

Carlina is fiercely loyal to her family, and this loyalty is her biggest problem, not only when it comes to finding the murderer but also in her relationship with Garini, who has no large family at all and is the quintessential lonely wolf.

Besides these typical traits I keep mentioning throughout the novel, I gave the characters very different names, some long, some short, and I made sure I did not have them start with the same letter. (I slipped up on Ernesto and Emma, but it’s too late to change that now!). There’s nothing more confusing than a whole family that’s called Lea, Lou, and Liz.

I don’t have any animals in my novels so far, but if they appear, I will give them animal names, like Woof for a dog or Purr for a cat. This might not be very creative, but I once read a novel where the dog was called Sarah, and it threw me time and again. “Sarah followed him into the house.” All through the chapter, I kept wondering ‘Who was Sarah again?’ – until she finally started to bark.

In addition to the traits I keep repeating, I’ll remind the reader of each character’s relationship to Carlina as soon as possible in the course of a natural conversation. Here’s an example:

“Where’s father?” Carlina’s mother sidled along the pew closer to her daughter. Her long blue skirt twisted around her legs, and she pulled it free with an impatient tug.

“Ssshhh.” Carlina placed a finger on her lips and pointed at the altar where Emma and Lucio stood in front of the priest.

Fabbiola stood on tiptoe and brought her mouth to her daughter’s ear. “Why were you so late?”

In this short paragraph, I have mentioned the words mother, daughter, and Fabbiola’s name, so even the most casual reader should be able to place Fabbiola now.

If someone doesn’t make an entry very often, I often use a blunt question from a comparative outsider to help get everybody oriented. Here’s an example from book number two, Charmer’s Death:

Benedetta continued. “We met her in town because she was still at Giulietta’s.”

Who is Giulietta?” Garini frowned.

“Giulietta is a cousin once removed,” Caroline replied. “She’s also a hairdresser.”

Sometimes, when writing, it feels as if you’re overdoing it. After all, this is your world, and you know these characters intimately. But your readers may be distracted. They may have been interrupted when reading the book the last time, and you don’t want them to be confused as to who’s talking and what on earth the character is doing there.

I hope this little explanation helps a little and would love to hear your thoughts!

<><><>

Delayed Death (Temptation in Florence) by Beate Boeker

What do you do when you find your grandfather dead half an hour before your cousin’s wedding? You hide him in his bed and tell everyone he didn’t feel like coming.

Delayed Death
is an entertaining mystery set in Florence, Italy. When Carlina finds her grandfather dead on the day of her cousin’s wedding, she decides to hide the corpse until after the ceremony. However, her grandfather was poisoned, and she becomes the attractive Inspector’s prime suspect. On top of that, she has to manage her boisterous family and her luxurious lingerie store called Temptation, a juggling act that creates many hilarious situations.
BUY HERE: http://amzn.to/VMeCUz

<><><>              Beate Boeker
Beate Boeker is a traditionally published author since 2008. She now offers many full-length novels and short stories online. Several of her titles were shortlisted for the Golden Quill Contest, the National Readers’ Choice Award, and the ‘Best Indie Books of 2012′ contest.
Beate is a marketing manager by day with a degree in International Business Administration, and her daily experience in marketing continuously provides her with a wide range of fodder for her novels, be it hilarious or cynical. While ‘Boeker’ means ‘books’ in a German dialect, her first name Beate can be translated as ‘Happy’ . . . and with a name that reads ‘Happy Books’, what else could she do but write novels with a happy end?

Websitewww.happybooks.de

Facebook – Beate Boeker Author
https://www.facebook.com/pages/Beate-Boeker/153573758044433?ref=ts&fref=ts

Twitter - @BeateBoeker

Posted in Writing Craft | Tagged: , , , , , , | 19 Comments »

Writing the Military Hero

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on February 10, 2013

Have you ever thought about writing a military hero into your story?

If so, be sure to get your facts and lingo straight. At a recent Florida Romance Writers meeting, we had the good fortune to have as guest speaker a Navy Captain and the brother of one of our members. Let’s call him Captain X for the sake of anonymity to respect his privacy. His experience includes flying helicopters, missions over Iraq, and special ops support.     soldier

He explained (Disclaimer: All comments are subject to my interpretation) that Special Forces means U.S. Army and Special Operations Forces (SOF) refers to any service. In general, these guys are professionals, fairly introverted with quiet personalities, and very patriotic. Rogue agents like you see in the movies probably would be “PNG-ed” or deemed “persona non grata” in reality. A QRF refers to Quick Reaction Force. These are the guys who stand by in case “things go sideways.”

Captain X mentioned how you don’t really know how you’ll react until you are actually under fire. A brave man faces his fears and chooses to overcome them.

The Captain talked about Iraq and how he’d rather be there in the summer because it’s too hot for the bugs to come out. It rains in the winter and the powdery sand becomes like mucilage. Some of the wildlife includes camel spiders (“as big as a dessert plate”), no-see-ums, mice, and scorpions.

His helicopter had two pilots, two gunners, and a medic. He wore armor and a helmet with a boom mike. He says they never use the word “gun” but call it a “weapon” instead. They refer to members of the military as “teeth or tail”, i.e. going to war or staying behind. He says they are careful not to cause collateral damage in terms of injuring civilians. They’re allowed to say No to a mission if they deem it to be too dangerous in this regard.

This was reassuring to me. It’s nice to know our military officers’ opinions are respected and they’re not expected to blindly follow orders, the excuse for too many atrocities in the past. At least, this is one officer who makes conscientious decisions based on the information available. I hope there are many others like him out there.

Captain X also mentioned his deep respect for Vietnam Veterans, and from his personal experience, they are as brave and honorable as anyone who ever wore the uniform.

And if anyone wishes to support the service, please consider the Wounded Warrior foundations.

The writing lesson learned is to be true to the lingo if you write a military hero. Captain X’s talk was peppered with colorful language that probably wasn’t as bad as it is in reality. Honor is still important, and so is bravery. And when your hero raises his rifle, it’s a weapon, not a gun. Or better still, it’s a specific model weapon. So just as cops and other folks in our books have their own jargon, so do the military. Get it right.

My hairdresser sleuth has a particular way she looks at things. How about your characters? What occupations have you researched for accuracy?

Posted in The Writing Life, Writing Craft | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 12 Comments »

Collectibles

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on January 20, 2011

You can learn a lot about your hero or heroine from the knickknacks found in their living quarters. Perhaps your heroine presents a tough exterior but indulges herself by wearing lacy silk lingerie. Or your hero, who seems a sensitive type, harbors an assortment of evil-looking knives in his drawer. This one might work especially well in a mystery. For inspiration, check out those unsolicited catalogs you get in the mail or take a stroll through the mall.

What are some of the items your protagonist might collect? Books and/or magazines? Be specific. Are they fiction or nonfiction? What genre or topic? Are they strewn about the cocktail table for show, or are they askew on an unmade bed? Are the pages ragged, the corners folded in, or are they in pristine condition?

Maybe your heroine collects porcelain figurines. Are they animals, children, or couples embracing? What secret longing do they represent? Or your macho hero owns a collection of chess sets. What does this say about him?

Here are some other ideas: embroidered throw pillows, letter openers, music boxes, sports memorabilia, clocks, model airplanes. If art adorns the walls, are they watercolors, oils, or photography? What do the subjects depict?

Decorative plates, antique jewelry, and vintage clothing are popular items for collectors. So are fairy tale characters, wizards, angels, and unicorns.

Look at the items surrounding you at home and think about your hero’s domain. Why does he collect a particular item? Does it express a hidden desire, reveal a facet of his personality, or expose a secret sentiment? Even owning nothing of a personal nature makes a statement in itself. Have fun delving into the intricacies of your protagonists’ hobbies so you can describe the collection through their eyes. It will give an added dimension to your story.

Posted in Writing Craft | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Make Your Characters Stronger

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on December 1, 2010

How can you make your characters sound stronger when they speak? Think of the ways authoritative people talk in terms of their word choices and tone of voice.

Choose one of each:

1.A. “I think we should hit the beach at dawn. That way, we’ll probably be able to avoid the patrol boats.”

B. “We’ll hit the beach at dawn so we can avoid the patrol boats.”

2.A. “It is my belief that it would be best if we took the right-hand path.”

B. “Let’s make a right-hand turn.”

3.A. “I suppose I could agree.”

B. “I agree.”

4.A. “Oh, dear, perhaps this yellow dress would be more suitable. It brings out the highlights in my hair, and I do want Butler to notice me.”

B. “The yellow dress complements my hair, so I’ll wear that one. Butler has to notice me tonight.”

5.A. “I guess it would be all right if you borrowed my bracelet, but if you don’t mind, please see if you can return it tomorrow.”

B. “You can borrow the bracelet, but I’d like it returned tomorrow.”

If you chose any “A” answers, you’re making your character sound weak. To strengthen your heroine, have her sound positive and determined. Characters should focus on their goals, not on their appearance or performance. Avoid phrases such as I think, I guess, I suppose, dear me, maybe we should, It is my belief that, I don’t know.

Of course, exceptions to the rule do exist. Just make certain your character doesn’t sound wimpy when he speaks or has an introspection. Cutting extra verbiage can help. Aim for precision of speech, but avoid curtness. Remember that dialog should further your plot or reveal character. Phrases that reveal hesitation or self-doubt may indicate places that need revision unless you purposefully want your character to act this way.

Strong heroes appeal to readers, so take out your pen and get to work. Good luck!

Posted in Writing Craft | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 5 Comments »

SIDEKICKS AND RWA

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on July 29, 2010

I blogged today on Sidekicks as Secondary Characters at http://ffnp.blogspot.com/.  Check it out and leave a comment for a chance to enter my drawing for a $7 gift card to TWRP.

Attended RWA conference today: State of the Industry Talk with publisher Lou Aronica, keynote luncheon with Nora Roberts, and two panels today on paranormals and writing in multiple genres.  More details to follow when I’m home.

Posted in The Writing Life, Writing Craft | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

SEQUELS: CHARACTER GRIDS

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on July 9, 2010

For the first time in my publishing career, I’m creating a character grid to keep track of my characters. I’m doing this three-quarters of the way through book number two in the series because it’s essential for what comes next.

It wasn’t necessary for my earlier Bad Hair Day mysteries because those stories all featured Marla Shore, hairdresser and amateur sleuth. We, the reader, viewed everything through her eyes.

But the paranormal romance series I’m working on now features warriors from the stars who join forces with a special group of Earth women to prevent a coming cataclysm. Each book involves a different warrior and his destined mate. Book One sets the story into play and creates the world building elements. By Book Two, my characters have scattered and each one has a specific job to accomplish. When all the guys come together at the end of this story, I have to know what each of them has been doing.                                                                  

Have I confused you yet? It’s complicated, especially when you add my two villains into the mix. How are they reacting to the heroes, and what countermeasures are they taking? Figuring out this grid is giving me a headache, even though I have most of these details in my notes.

For those of you who write series with spinoff characters, what methods do you use to keep track of each character’s movements?

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