Monday, April 25, 2016

Body Language

Let Me Hear Your Body Talk

Body language can be an important way to make your writing become more three-dimensional, so readers can feel and see and imagine what your characters are saying and doing.  Movements and facial expressions can communicate many things to the reader – thoughts, emotions, ideas.  The movements can include props or other people, each one carefully placed to show something about the characters and the scene.

There is also psychology to body language.  One of the most commonly recognized posture symbols is the crossed arms over the chest, which can signal many things:  A person erecting a barrier between themselves and others; a resistance or defensiveness to what someone else is saying; even just that the person’s arms are cold (which can be further clarified by rubbing of the arms as they are crossed).

Every movement your characters make can be significant of something.  For example, if the hero is standing with arms crossed because someone is telling him something he is resisting, the other character can offer him a drink or a snack or even a handshake, removing the hero’s defensiveness by causing him to release his arms.  Such simple things can make a scene deeper and more touching.

Standing too close or face to face with another person can be considered confrontational or an invasion of the other person’s “bubble.”  People who are just “chatting” will stand farther apart, often positioned side by side or across a table.  This is often more true of men than women; however, other clues can be used to show to show if the characters are being confrontational or being careful not to be confrontational.

Eyes can be part of the body language description used.  Keeping eye contact is considered truthful, trustworthy and honest; however, if the person keeping eye contact is moving around, fidgeting, they may not be giving their full attention to what is being discussed.  Averted eyes can show anxiety disorder, disbelief, shame and other emotions.  Unfocused gaze, tilting of the head or both can indicate boredom or wandering attention.

There are a lot of books and articles about body language to be found in libraries and bookstores.  I also discovered a veritable treasure trove of Internet information on body language to help writers use the right movements, facial expressions and props to make your writing come alive (see below).  

Happy writing!


Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Good News to Share

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Thank you, blog friends and readers.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

What You Can Learn From Watching Movies

This is an article I wrote a while back - but Hellboy came on this weekend, so I dug it out to share.

I was watching a movie the other day – well, rewatching Hellboy, if you must know – and I realized something I’d noticed many times while sitting in a movie theater or in front of my television:  Movies can help you write a book.

How?  I guess I should explain.  I do a bit of screenwriting, too, so I can tell you, the structure of books and movies is very similar.  They each have a three-act format, and consist of plot points, a dark moment and a climax.  They don’t always have a denouement (kind of an epilogue or explanation of the ending), but a lot of them do.

At my writers meeting this morning, I was using the movie The Rock as an example.  When I watched this movie at the theater with my husband, we actually told each other “plot point,” “dark moment,” and such as the movie commenced, because it was an almost textbook format.  The movie was good and did well at the box office, so they must have done something right.

The movie begins with our main character, Stanley Goodspeed, at work and then home, where he and his fiancee discuss their relationship.  Stanley’s fiancee Carla tells him she’s pregnant.  And then the government comes to get him, to take him to San Francisco for a national emergency, leaving Carla at home.  Stanley tells her to come join him in San Francisco and they’ll be able to be together while they’re there, then he leaves.

Goodspeed’s life changes when he discovers Brigadier General Hummel has taken over the island of Alcatraz and is holding a tour group hostage, threatening to bombard San Francisco with chemical weapons if his demands are not met.  This emergency not only requires his expertise, it requires him to be a part of the team who will go in and try to stop Hummel (plot point).  And he’s going to need help.

Enter John Patrick Mason (a handsome Sean Connery), the only inmate to have ever escaped from the island, long held illegally by the FBI for stealing a microfilm of government secrets – like who really killed JFK.  He agrees to help, but uses the opportunity to escape his captors and Stanley (cause and effect).  Stanley tracks him down; Mason has gone to see his daughter, and Stanley sympathizes with him.   A bond is beginning to form between the two men (plot point).

They join an expert SEAL team to breach the island through the underground escape route Mason originally used to escape.  When the SEAL team is beginning to doubt Mason’s knowledge, he gets through a large, deadly fan because he has the cadence of its turns memorized by count.  Unfortunately, the SEAL team is killed (first dark moment), leaving the two men on their own.  Mason’s not sure he wants to continue, but Stanley’s moral character convinces him it’s the right thing to do and he reluctantly continues to help.  Stanley’s not convinced he can be an action hero and Mason knows the FBI lied about giving him his freedom, so they work at cross-purposes until they establish a base of trust (plot point).
In the meantime, Carla is on her way to San Francisco, which makes Stanley more worried for her and his baby’s safety.  The renegade Marines on the island with Hummel are trying to find him and Mason; they want to kill them and use a hostage to try to get them to show themselves (raising the stakes). 

Hopefully, you’ve begun to see the pattern in the movie.  I don’t want to ruin the end of it for you, but I can highly recommend it, if you want to watch it.  Books do the same thing.  They give you a protagonist (or two), make you care about them and the people and things they love, then add in a antagonist (or several) who want to keep the protagonist from succeeding at their goal.  You keep throwing obstacles in the protagonist’s way, make them seem almost insurmountable, and then help them overcome them.  Near the end, the dark moment is when the protagonist begins to doubt they can succeed.  Every book, every movie, every story needs a dark moment.  It makes a happy ending even more satisfying.

The most important thing to remember is your protagonist will overcome and save the day.  It’s essential to bring that closure to your reader or audience, or they may throw the book across the room or leave the movie in frustration.  It’s not to say your protagonist can’t have help, but they’ve always got to be THE ONE.  While Mason helps Stanley get to the end, Stanley is ultimately the one who saves the people on Alcatraz and the entire city of San Francisco, including his fiancĂ©e Carla.  It gives you a good feeling when he wins.

Watching movies can help a writer learn structure, plotting, character development and many of the other things needed to write a good story, so the next time you feel guilty sitting in front of a movie, remember, it’s research.  Just don’t forget, to write a novel, you have to actually write.

Get to that keyboard!!

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Thirteen Facts You Might Not Know About Daffodils

Did you know that many people believe daffodils symbolize hope? I’m with them. Golden petals inspire me.

Even though it’s April and the weather forecasters predict snow tomorrow, I’m excited because a few of my early daffodils are blooming. Daffodils are hardy. They’re one of the flowers that can withstand and even bloom in snow.  To me, that’s hope, which is probably why I’m a daffodil fan.
I’m betting you might be, too.  Here are thirteen other facts about them that you might not know.

1. Daffodils are part of the Amaryllis family. Sometimes they’re also called narcissus, jonquils and Lenten lilies.
2. But they’re mostly called Lenten lilies in Wales, where they are the national flower. In Wales, they say if you spot the first daffodil of the season, you’ll likely have a year that’s full of wealth. I wish the pictures of my daffodils have that effect for you.
3. Another rumor about daffodils is that they’ll bring good fortune if you receive a bunch of them.
4. But apparently if you’re given just one, it will bring you misfortune instead.
5. If you’re thinking about giving a bunch of daffodils, you should know that daffodils have a toxic chemical in their leaves and stems that can cause damage to other cut flowers you put them with.
6. This toxin, called lycorine, might be why deer and rabbits leave daffodils alone.
7. In addition, this toxin can irate a person’s skin. If this happens to you, you have a condition called daffodil itch. This hasn’t happened to me yet, even though I pick a lot of my daffodils. Hopefully, it won’t.
8. According to my sources, there are over 13, 000 different types of daffodils and they range in height from 6 to 20 inches in height.
9. Daffodils have leafless stems and each stem can have from one to twenty blooms.
10. Although most people grow daffodils from bulbs, the yellow flowers can also be propagated from seeds.
11. I’ve never tried growing daffodils from seed because I’ve found that if you leave the leaves after the daffodils have bloomed, the bulbs develop bulblets or little bulbs.
12. I also use bulb fertilizer because I really want more daffodils.
13. Several of my sources said that in Victorian times daffodils were a symbol of chivalry and that today gifts of daffodils are believed to ensure happiness.

That’s my wish for you. Please accept this virtual bouquet and we can share the happiness together.


Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Anxious for Spring? Thirteen Signs It’s Close

The Vernal Equinox, the day where sunlight and darkness are approximately the same length for the whole Earth was March Twentieth—it’s supposedly a sign of spring, yet there’s freezing rain and snow in the forecast where I live. I’m back to wearing my wool sweater in the house. Spring seems far away, so to booster my spirits I’ve decided to list other signs of spring.

1. Sunlight hours increase. It’s now light when I drive to work and when I return home.
2. Robins appear. I’ve seen several so far.
3. Buds swell. My roses and my raspberries have these!
4. Birds start singing. I’ve awoken to bird song the past week or so.
5. Days get windy. Check.
6. Green stalks from bulbs rise through the dirt. Yep.
7. Crocuses bloom. Here’s a picture of some from my garden.

8. Worms appear on the sidewalk. I haven’t seen this yet.
9. People stop wearing their winter coats. Unfortunately, in my area, we’re back to coats, gloves and boots.
10. Easter candies appear in stores. I like the chocolate bunnies.
11.  Grocery stores display white lilies and bunches of tulips. Check.
12, Eggs, vinegar and food coloring ads appear. And check.
13. The grass turns green. Hmm. Sort of.
What’s the weather like where you live? Can you think of any other signs of spring we should look for?


Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Thirteen Quotes to Celebrate March

It’s March already and in celebration I’d like to share these quotes.

1. It was one of those March days when the sun shines hot and the wind blows cold: when it is summer in the light, and winter in the shade. ~Charles Dickens
2. Reading is a possession, a march toward a possession. ~Italo Calvino
3. In March the soft rains continued, and each storm waited courteously until its predecessor sunk beneath the ground.  ~John Steinbeck
4.  The march of invention has clothed mankind with powers of which a century ago the boldest imagination could not have dreamt. ~Henry George
5.  By March, the worst of the winter would be over. The snow would thaw, the rivers begin to run and the world would wake into itself again.
Not that year. Winter hung in there, like an invalid refusing to die. Day after grey day the ice stayed hard; the world remained unfriendly and cold. ~Neil Gaiman
6.  Don't ever become a pessimist... a pessimist is correct oftener than an optimist, but an optimist has more fun, and neither can stop the march of events. ~Robert A. Heinlein
7.  March came in that winter like the meekest and mildest of lambs, bringing days that were crisp and golden and tingling, each followed by a frosty pink twilight which gradually lost itself in an elfland of moonshine. ~L.M. Montgomery
8.  My favorite literary heroine is Jo March. It is hard to overstate what she meant to a small, plain girl called Jo, who had a hot temper and a burning ambition to be a writer. ~J. K. Rowling
9.  One Christmas my father kept our tree up till March. He hated to see it go. I loved that. ~Mo Rocca
10.  When you become part of something, in some way you count. It could be a march; it could be a rally, even a brief one. You're part of something, and you suddenly realize you count. To count is very important. ~Studs Terkel
11.  Sometimes I get depressed about my age. In March I’ll be 26. If man weren’t measured in numbers, but rather letters, I’d be turning Z. And then I’d be dead. ~Jarod Kintz
12.   March on. Don't look in the rearview, just the windshield. ~Josh Bowman
13.  I don't take success and failure seriously. The only thing I do seriously is the march forward. If I fall, I get up and march again. ~Kareena Kapoor Khan


Sunday, March 6, 2016

Beginning Your Book...

A good opening will help make your characters and your conflict clear.

          These steps will guide your way to a better beginning, the chance to make your story un-put-down-able!  

1.    First, you need the hook to jump start your story.
2.    Then, you introduce trouble into the protagonist’s life.
3.    A call to arms – giving the protagonist a chance to fix what’s wrong.
4.    The protagonist refuses, which leads to …
5.    More trouble or worsening trouble that should have been fixed when the protagonist had his/her first chance.

We’ve talked about that first hook – you’ve made your reader wonder what’s next.  Here’s where you set the mood, introduce the character and make us want to read on.  This is where you determine the theme of the book – is it about love conquering all, good and evil, hope?  Try this site - - to help you find your theme.

Now, tell us about the conflict – or trouble – the protagonist will face.  During this, you’ll tell us the character’s desire and their hidden need.  The protagonist may not understand the problem or realize there is one at this point, but the reader should realize it immediately.

Then give the protagonist a call to arms, the offer of a chance to fix the problem or make it go away.  Here’s where you place the ticking clock that will carry you through the end of the book.  What is the urgency?  What will happen if it is not addressed?

The protagonist should not yet be ready to change – or doesn’t realize the need immediately.  The call to arms may be something they don’t want to do, or it may conflict with what they believe their desire or need is.  Because of this, they don’t take the call to arms.

Which causes trouble – more trouble than the protagonist originally started out with.  Here’s where we find out what the protagonist stands to lose, what the antagonist stands to gain, and how the protagonist becomes aware of the need to change or face the trouble/problem up front, whether the protagonist wants to or not.

By the time you’ve reached this spot in your story, your reader should be rooting for your protagonist, disliking your antagonist and hoping things don’t overcome the protagonist before he/she achieves their goal/desire/need.  It’s a lot to do – but you can do it.  


Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Self-editing and how to do it.

Hi, all ...
I'm sorry I've been MIA for quite some time.  I lost my husband very unexpectedly, and it's been a long road back. Hopefully I can start posting again here more regularly - although Sunday is supposed to be my chosen day.  But I decided to get my feet wet ... I hope you don't mind.   I've been doing a lot of editing lately and wanted to share some thoughts.

Some people think editing is just proofreading.  It’s a lot more, because you’re not only looking for typos, misspellings and random punctuation, you’re looking to see if your writing is publishable, are you too wordy, will someone care about your characters, and lots of other things.  No matter what you’re writing, you can always use some editing to make your writing shine.

I wanted to share with you some tricks and tips to help you do better editing on your current project.  Editing and tightening to make it concise and interesting and keep your reader on their toes.  That’s our goal – first, to make an editor NEED to read on, and then to make your readers care what happens in your stories and keep coming back for more.

One of my best tips to writers is find a writing group, whether an in-person one or online or however it works for you, and ask for help with your manuscript.  Fresh eyes are a wonderful thing – sometimes you get so close to your writing, you can’t see when things are not working.  If you’re an RWA member, there are critique groups in many of the chapters.  Most national writing associations have one.  If you’re kind of out there on your own, find people who love to read.  Try the library or bookstores – employees are great.  Many of them work there because they love to read.  Also, chains like Barnes and Noble now have book clubs, so you’ve got lots of options to have someone look at your work.  Not all of them are going to be “professional” editors like myself, but having someone read it and say “this part didn’t work for me” will help keep you on track. 

Here is a short list of things I watch for when editing.

Editing Checklist 

1. Did you start with a compelling hook?  What can you do to make it more exciting?

2. Is as least one of your main characters AND the conflict introduced on the first page of your story?  If it’s not, you’re probably not in the right place – begin where there is change.

3. Is there a good flow of action, dialogue and narrative?  And do you have enough dialogue tags and actions to show your reader who is talking when?

4. Is every page moving the story along without excessive description, character dialogue that says and means nothing or characters moving around a stage without moving the story forward?  Take out anything not needed to keep the story going.

5. Are the characters acting consistent with the way you’ve introduced them?  I’ve seen characters who one minute hate something – like pancakes – and two chapters later are having pancakes for breakfast.  That’s not the greatest example, but you see what I’m getting at.  Keep your characters in character – be consistent with their likes, dislikes, faults and features – don’t confuse the reader or you’ll lose them.

6. Have you identified your plot weaknesses and fixed them?  Does your story hang together, and can you explain it clearly to someone when you’re pitching?  This is very important, because at some point or another in your career, people will say, “Tell me about your story.”  If you’re not clear on it, they won’t be either. 

7. Are you using the five senses to build your characters, setting and situations?  Can you smell fear?  Maybe not, but a lot of people equate certain smells with places, people or even emotions, like hot chocolate when you come in from the snow or chicken soup when you’re sick.

8. Do your characters resonate with the readers?  You want them to want these people to succeed in what they’re trying to do, to overcome problems and to win in the end.  Make sure you give them an emotionally satisfying ride!