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.


It's Good To Be Back (Writing)!

Somebody asked me a few months ago if I had given up writing. I was shocked at that question and said no. But when someone else asked me that same question a few days later, I knew I had to get back into the game, back into the writing.

It's not as if I haven't been writing. I even had all the rights to my books, so I had to make sure to re-release those, and even self-publish the second book in the Sonika series. That one I finished early last year, and it was ready. It was just waiting for me to...what? Re-edit the first. (I re-edited everything else.  Once an editor, you know.)  So here they are.

The Sonika Stories are Introducing Sonika and the two short stories that follow up, both seasonal offerings, all together for the first time! It's available at Amazon:

Then there's Dreaming Beauty, the second book in the world of Sonika, where there are no super-heroes, but a man who finds a comatose woman awake in his dreams, and he has to find out why someone tried to kill her. You can find that at Amazon too:

So for the last two months, a new edition of this book and a brand-new book both! Boy, does it feel great!