Who are you again?

Reintroducing characters that haven’t e been mentioned in  a while. It happens, someone fell to the wayside either unintentionally or by design. It’s been a while old friend, perhaps the reader might want a re-introduction.

It doesn’t have to be a full-blown head to toe and detailed recount of who they are and how they fit into things. I also try to keep the reunion casual and not a slap to the readers face. If I set a character on the shelf on purpose I have already decided to bring them back at some point. If I just sort of left them out and need to bring them back I do so carefully.

I have talked about this before, forgetting to include someone present in conversation. It’s awkward but it happens. The story gets going and they just don’t keep up.  This time I’m talking about the ones that I set aside on purpose. Minor players that can come back to cause… mischief.

Valery grabbed Anne’s arm and dragged her off to the side near the bar, but away from the crowd. “Tony’s adorable and hot.”
Anne rolled her eyes in response.
“Still?”
“Not in love enough I guess.”
“Anyway.” Valery grinned. “Jackson and I are heading out. They got along fine.” She looked at the two men head to head scheming most likely. “I’m glad we did this.”
“Me too.” Anne’s smile faltered. It wasn’t the same without Sasha. “So is Jackson a keeper?”
“Yeah.” Valery laughed. “Now I’m taking him home and keeping him up late.” She sauntered over with enthusiasm to an appreciative Jackson, they said goodbye and left with hands roaming each other.
“I like your friends.” Tony kissed her hand and smiled. “We should-“
“Anne.” A man said too loudly with an unhappy frown.
Her eyes widened at the unexpected sight of Valerie’s accountant. “Neil.”
Neil looked from Anne to Tony and sneered. “Dude, she’s just using you. She’ll let you take her home and be gone before the sheets settle.” He laughed. “Unless you’re a schmuck who wants to be used by a whore that will sleep with a guy she just met,” he glared at Anne.
Tony looked from the furious Neil to Anne who looked ready to puke or punch or both.
Neil shook his head. “She’s a no good one night stand slut, run now while you can friend.”
Anne closed her eyes, took a deep breath then opened them and looked at Neil. “You’re insane. I wont apologize for not returning the hundred calls you left in one damned day. It was a mistake, get over it.”
“You could have called to tell me that.”
“I told you before I left.”
Neil looked at Tony. “Like I said man, a no good slut who doesn’t return calls.”
Tony had heard enough. He clenched his fists below the table and met Neil’s eyes. “Well, that is interesting. We’ve been dating for a while now.” Tony smirked. “So it stands to reason that if Anne couldn’t be bothered to call you, I don’t think she was the problem.” Tony held up his hand to stop both Anne and Neil from speaking. “Furthermore if you’re going to accuse a woman of being a slut for sleeping with someone they just met, don’t forget to call yourself one, friend.” He grabbed Anne’s arm and dragged her to the coat-check.

It’s all fun and games until the one night stand from Starches comes back to ruin things. I introduced Neil as a potential love interest for Anne, but he just wasn’t right so I dropped him like a hot potato with no explanation. Yes I did that on purpose. I also didn’t bother to go into great detail about who he was or describe him thoroughly, I didn’t the first time either, that’s because he’s relatively unimportant. Things were going a little too well for Anne, so as the mean writer I felt it necessary to put a frown on her face. Nobodies perfect after all. I wonder if her skeletons will play well with Tony’s? Hmmm….

My advice about bringing a minor or extremely minor character back to stir things up.
Do it. As long as it fits and they can help make the story more interesting that is. The thing is if they are minor and not likely to come back, they can cause all kinds of trouble at no cost to the love for them, because they are… minor.

-Sheryl

The post where Neil appeared for the first of two times. Crazy things

Another fun post I particularly like: That is disgusting

The original post about dropping characters: What happened to that guy?

Copyright © 2016 All rights reserved
Enthusiasm

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Blood

It is inevitable when I’m writing that my characters are going to get into sticky situations. It is very likely that they will encounter or give up some of their own blood, sweat and tears to entertain my readers. I write a lot about emotions, feelings and the senses, because they are a major part of being human and alive.

I’m not a writer of the undead, be that zombies, mummies or vampires. I don’t write about lycanthropy in any form or paranormal nor the preternatural. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a huge fan of such fantasy, but I struggle with realism and can’t seem to venture very far outside of it… yet. Maybe someday, I do have some ideas rattling their cages in my brain.

So when I research or ‘people watch’ aka observe I try to compare every experience/action/movement/reaction etc. to how I have felt or reacted in the self and same situations(or near to) Then I think about how incredibly fascinating it is that people are so universally unique.

Recently I have been thinking a lot about blood. Yes, blood. Specifically how people react to it. In conversation, in movies, in real life, coming out of others and coming out of themselves.

Common reactions to blood on TV/movies
Grimace
Eye roll (Too campy)
Close eyes
Turn head away
Cover eyes/face
Turn off the TV or walk away

 These reactions are based on the knowledge that its not real. It also helps that if you’ve ever seen real blood in copious amounts Hollywood rarely gets it right.

Common reactions to seeing someone bleeding for real
Rush to help/Provide help
Turn away
Gag/vomit
Faint
Fear of disease/contamination
Panic
Crying
Grimace
Waving hands in front of self and shaking head
Fear of hurting the injured
Shaking from adrenaline
Calm in order to keep injured calm

Seeing blood is different from bleeding. From a little to a crimson mask from a tiny face wound to a bullet in the chest, bleeding can be tricky to write without overdoing it.

Common reactions to bleeding (Pain is not always a factor with blood)
Disbelief
Shock
Panic
Faint/Fainting
Shaking
Crying
Anger
Vomiting
Calmness (odd but true, some people just mellow out)
Disorientation

The idea is clear, either way blood = bad and blood = good.  Whenever tragedy strikes the heroes step up. They run toward the danger, the blood and those in need. However if there is blood, something bad happened. Duh right?

Like pain, a bloody experience is tempting for me to internalize, to shift POV and slip into my characters mind. Let’s find out what happened to Amber and why her head is bandaged.

 Amber laughed and spilled her drink on the floor as she retold the shrew in Sasha’s desk drawer story. She thought it was even better given Scott’s unscripted shrew comment moments before the discovery.
“It was magic, her screaming and blithering like an idiot.”
Amber’s audience held their martini glasses up in congratulatory cheers.
“I need to visit the loo.” Amber gulped the last of her martini and hopped off the tall chair.

Her foot slipped on her spilled drink and she hit the floor hard. She felt pain instantly as her head hit on the base of a chair at the table beside theirs. She cried out, the sharpness of the impact felt hot. Someone helped her sit up and she touched her forehead gingerly. She could feel the warm thick fluid streaming down her face dripping onto her light pink sweater. Like a suffocating fish, her mouth opened and closed in surprise. Amber pulled her hand away as others called for help. She was afraid and screamed, her shiny red fingers were covered in blood and she felt faint as her eyes fluttered.

That POV went all over the place. In her head, out, and back in again. Let me try a re-do, maintaining and external POV.

Amber wiped the tears of laughter from her eyes and sloshed her drink, spilling it as she retold the shrew in Sasha’s desk drawer story. It was even better after Scott’s unscripted shrew comment moments before the discovery.
“It was magic, her screaming and blithering like an idiot.”
Amber’s audience held their martini glasses up in congratulatory cheers.
“I need to visit the loo.” Amber gulped the last of her candy apple martini and hopped off the tall chair.

Her foot slipped on her spilled drink and she hit the floor hard. Her forehead connected with the chair-base at the table beside theirs, and she cried out.
Someone helped her to sit up on the sticky bar floor. Like a suffocating fish, Amber’s mouth opened and closed as she gingerly touched her forehead. Her fingers slid in the warm thick fluid as it streamed down her face and dripped onto her light pink sweater. Amber pulled her hand away while someone called out for help. She screamed as her shiny red fingers shook before her fluttering eyes.

Oh boy I definitely had to take the ‘feels’ and “ing’s” out of that first attempt, that was for sure. I also had to give Amber a little something for her nasty behavior, right?  I don’t care for the term “pumping” to me that implies gore. So I don’t use it, totally a personal preference.

My advice about bloody writing.
Don’t over describe blood with as many alternate words for red that you can find. Pick one or two and keep it simple. The word red works, and I only used it once.

-Sheryl

Here’s an older post or two

No “Filter Word” Parking Here

Are you inging too?

Copyright © 2016 All rights reserved

 Fish

It’s a personal thing

I learned something interesting recently. It is something I was already doing, however, now I have a better understanding of how to make it work for me. I’m talking about personal items. The things I keep around me reflect who I am and what I like. This goes for anyone and everyone including characters of a story.

Personalizing the space around a character can tell you a lot about a person in a very short time. It can give a person opportunity to exhibit a bit of personality. Things that are common but can be very personalized.

Personal things that can strongly suggest a personality or like/dislike
Keychains (Big opportunity here)
Photographs/Calendars
Jewellery
Clothes (Like a sports team or band concert shirt)
Tidy or untidy desktop
Scuffed shoes
Personalized pens
Nail polish/hair colour
Tattoos
Purse/handbag/wallet
Books
Handheld electronic devices
Ringtones on cellphone
Music
Car
Computer desktop wallpaper

Not going over the top, I’ll have Cal interact with three different people.

Cal walked into the office stopping at Ralph’s desk. Cal was the new guy here and paying attention was paramount. Ralph nodded at him pointing at the obvious phone to his ear. Cal smiled and surveyed his desk. Ralph’s Mexico calendar had the days crossed off with a big circle on the twentieth. A stress ball and an Acapulco coffee mug sat among stacks of files. He set the receiver down.
“How can I help you? Detective Thorn.” Ralph said his name like a question.
Cal smiled sweetly at the tired man. They had met three times already, though his apathetic attitude spoke volumes.
“Two more weeks before you go scuba diving in Mexico Ralph, I’m envious. Do you have the evidence report on Cowen that was sent to the Judge for me?” 
He had it, the question was would he give it to him right away.
“It can’t come soon enough Detective.” Ralph rifled through the stacks on his desk. “Well soak it up and do nothing important, only fun. You deserve a little R and R.”
“Oh, I plan on it, Detective.” Ralph smiled handing him the file.
“Thanks, Ralph I appreciate how fast you got this for me.”
“No problem.”

Someone like Ralph is unhappy about work, tired and looks forward to his yearly jaunt to Acapulco enough that Cal’s small talk about his trip would go a long way. Now compared to someone with a clean and tidy personal memento free workspace.

Cal approached Nancy next knocking on her open door and waiting for her permission to enter. “Detective Thorn.” She nodded at him to sit as she straightened her keyboard and put her pen back in the holder. “To what do I owe this pleasure?”
“I got a call this morning that Baylor Cowen got out on bail.”
“Most unfortunate.” She laced her fingers placing her hands before her on the desktop. “The judge is not on our side it seems.”
“What is it going to take to get her under investigation? The evidence was solid.”
“So was your fist Detective. A black eye and a greased palm were enough to get him out.” She tutted once. “That being said I cannot fault you, I would have enjoyed seeing that man go down. If you want to look into the Judge and her decisions, I’ll see it approved. Have Nunez start combing the records.” Her curt nod was his dismissal and he stood and left. ‘No nonsense Nancy’ he had been warned on his first day at the precinct to be straight up with her about everything.

The no-nonsense Nancy would not appreciate small talk and would respond better to matter of fact straight to the point conversation.

Cal stopped at the evidence room before leaving. Trish was biting the end of her Party-Harty pen and the faded club stamp was still visible on her wrist. She sat up straighter when she saw him.
“Good morning Trish.” She blushed furiously at his use of her name.
“Good morning Detective you’re here early.”
“How’s that new club you said you were going to on Saturday?”
“Oh Club Hyperbole? It was a blast, great music, glow in the dark shots and lots of hot guys.”
“Glow in the dark sounds fun.” He gave her a charming smile and leaned on the tall counter. “I have to go see a witness this morning.”
“Lucky witness.”
“Would you happen to have an original printout of the evidence from the Crowen Case? Before it was submitted to the Judge or Crowen’s Lawyers?”
“I sure hope so.” She took out her key-chain with a clear pink mini martini glass dangling from it. She unlocked the cabinet and rifled through.
“Lucky you too.” She photocopied it and handed him the copy.
He took it with a wink. “Thanks, Trish.”
“For you? Any time Detective.” She watched him walk away.

Flirty objects on or around a person might suggest they are open to or respond best to flirting or personal remarks. My only caution with this type of interaction would be to be aware of personality. While Cal is a detective and likely to see these clues, Sasha would not necessarily be so in tune. Not everyone is a sleuth or intuitive, and not everyone has the personality to pull each interaction off without coming across as smarmy or as an opportunist.

This is also a good way to give the reader a better insight to the protagonist through the eyes of another character say if they visit their home.

My advice about personal items.
I wouldn’t say to use them for everyone all the time, just if you need a snapshot into someone minor or when introducing someone new. Instead of the standard head to toe description with a telling of who they are and how they fit in, try showing who they are in a first impression style.

-Sheryl

Other posts

The FAB pencil

Labor of love

Who’s who in the grand scheme of things

Copyright © 2016 All rights reserved

Hyperbole
Record
Volume

Rejecting the rejected

BiaAtlas book update.

Well it has been 23 days since I started submitting my book to Literary Agents for representation. I got my first rejection letter from this round.  I am expecting them, after all not all agents are a good fit or are interested specifically in my genre (Even though they say they are).

A rejection letter isn’t the end of the world, I’ve talked about them before in the rejection letter.  I have to say I appreciate that they even sent one. Some agencies say ‘if you don’t hear from us within 8 weeks consider your query rejected’ or something along those lines.

Being rejected by someone or for something is a common part of our lives. Some people handle it like champs and move on while others on the other end of the spectrum dive into depression and struggle to overcome the hurdle. It also depends on how important the outcome would be and what the expectations were. How did I set myself up? To be hugely disappointed or go in knowing rejection is possible.

When and if I include rejection in my stories it’s not something I give too much though to. Why? Because I just didn’t think of it as important. Now I do. That is because it can, like so many other things I prattle on about, be pivotal to a story or character development.

So I’m going to write a fun part-chapter about rejection today.

Sasha meets Cal:

Sasha watched the handsome man approach, his dark brown eyes sparkled with interest. Anne and Valery ditched the moment they figured out he was interested in Sasha. Always interfering they giggled and snickered their way to a table to watch. He was tall, it didn’t take much to overshadow Sasha, but his height was coupled by a thick chest and broad shoulders. She did not want to be here, she did not want to be hit on, not tonight. She cast her tittering friends a death-glare as the man stopped and smiled down at her.

“I’m Cal.” He held his hand out.

Odd, this tall and impressive man didn’t employ the ancient tradition of weird pick up lines or cheesy invitations to buy her a drink.  He had a day’s growth of dark beard hair on his strong square jaw. Her inclination to touch his cheek brought a frown to her lips as she shook his hand instead. He was dangerous and far too attractive. Time to shut this down.

“Sasha.” She pulled her hand from his, picked up the lime daiquiri the bartender just set down.

“Nice to meet you Sasha.” Cal’s charming slanted smile made her palms sweat. “Christian Louboutin’s?” He gestured at her feet.

“Ah, yes?”

“You’ve been to New York?”

“No. I know how to shop on line like most humans.” She had lucked out and got them 75% off and a few others. Her size wasn’t standard so they sometimes had old stock. That they were last season or whatever they were labelled as didn’t matter one bit.  It is important for her to dress to impress for work and party. At home, she was jeans and a t-shirt kinda woman. Her suits and expensive shoes helped her land the bigger clients so she indulged on the designers discounts.

“You don’t look happy to be here Sasha.”

Again, no awkward pick up line.

“I’m not.” She dug deep to find her inner bitch. The sooner she got away from him the better. She would talk to one more guy as per the agreement with Valery and Anne, order them two more shooters each and leave as soon as they were drunk enough. “And this is not making it any better.”

“The gross frozen drink or my talking to you?” Cal tilted his head slightly.

“Both.” She glanced over at her friends who both gave her double thumb up as they sipped their daiquiris. She looked back at Cal who had followed her line of sight.

“Let me guess you’d rather be at home curled up on the couch watching a rom-com dousing your woes with a bottle of…” He smiled slightly and tapped his chin. “I’m going to go out on a limb here and say Norman Hardie Pinot Noir.”

Her mouth fell open, it was her favorite, and if she wasn’t drinking tequila shooters she would have had a glass or two.

“I’m not clairvoyant. You’ve glanced at the bottle behind the bar three times.”

“Oh.”

His unexpected charm was disarming.

“You’re planning on getting them drunk enough to ditch them aren’t you.” He smiled and tipped his glass toward her two friends.

“How could you know that?”

“Because Sasha you’ve been one to their three on drinks, you keep looking behind me at the exit and correct me if I’m wrong, but you’re about to tell me to get lost.”

Sasha took a deep breath and huffed. “I have to talk to you for at least five more minutes.”

He leaned closer. “Hmm. To get them off your back?” The scent of cologne wafted to her nose. The luscious blend of floral, spice and masculinity was subtle and not overpowering. If Sasha wasn’t so royally unhappy right now she might have considered being nicer to the very alluring man. Of all the nights he picked this one to stroll over all sexy, nice and talk to her. Not ‘how ‘bout that rain yesterday?’ or ‘what brings you to Starches?’ Real conversation was hard to come by.

“Well then I have four and a half more minutes. What do you do for a living?”

“Graphic design.” She dropped her eyes from his face and saw Anne leave to dance with a guy she’s flirted with since they arrived. Valery shrugged and mouthed ‘your turn’.

Rolling her eyes Sasha looked back at Cal. He would be an easy target for her built up anger, resentment and underlying sadness.

“Let me save you the trouble of the crap questions Cal. I’m a Virgo, I don’t have pets, I love my job, I don’t like dancing, terrible pick-up lines or small talk. I don’t like pushy men, or the bars they prowl in. I don’t care what you do, or who you are, what you do or do not like whatsoever. Since you voluntarily strolled over, I’m using you to fulfill a promise that I would “try”. I don’t date, ever, and before you ask, I’m not interested in women either.” She looked at her watch turned to the bartender and ordered six tequila shooters.

“Well at least you love your job.” He chuckled. “How ‘bout Piña coladas? Or getting caught in the rain?”

Her lips curled up slightly, he was trying to cheer her up and he was listening. Then the reality of the song hit her as she recalled the lyrics.

“I am into yoga and I have more than half a brain. I don’t appreciate cheaters or those that plan to cheat. I’ll say it again.” She looked at her watch before glancing at Valery as she finished her drink. “I don’t date, ever. Thanks for talking to me, but you can go now. Find some other woman to charm to bed I’m not interested.”

“You sure I can’t persuade you to talk more or maybe dance?”

“No you can’t.” She shook her head, picked up the six shots on the small tray with lemon wedges and salt and walked away to Valery.

Sasha has her reasons for rejecting Cal, this is her personal torment to overcome. I look at how rejection affected myself or others I know. It can be a wealth spring of opportunity to create conflict within a characters personal life. It can inspire struggle to overcome or depression and even anger. It can bring out the inner strength and determination they didn’t know they had.

My advice about rejection.
We can’t say yes to everything, even a simple no is a rejection. Use rejection to push a character forward or down. Or to showcase an inner struggle such as Sasha’s.

-Sheryl

Related posts

The rejection letter

No “Filter Word” Parking Here

Copyright © 2016 All rights reserved
Ancient

She’s a person not a cake

One thing that I learned that makes all the difference, is to make my characters real through details instead of the long dry head to toe description. People are going to imagine them their own way anyway so describing every single aspect is tedious and unnecessary. A girl who twirls her hair or a man who cracks his knuckles will be more memorable.

Cal is an attractive successful man, he sees two women at a bar, both pretty, one flirtatious and the other awkward. I want to show that Cal knows about style and quality. At this point Cal has already been introduced so there is no need to mention his appearance. BTW he is well dressed, tall and handsome. Typical for this type of interlude.

For example:

Cal watched the two attractive fit women at the bar. They were young pretty and an odd couple. The brunette had a bob cut and dark blue eyes. She wore too much dark eye makeup and ruby-red lipstick. She had a firm athletic body. Her long legs below her hiked up black Saint Laurent miniskirt, exposed her red lace underwear when she moved.

The other, the Blonde, wore sensible Dolce & Gabbana outfit and applied minimal makeup. Her tight pink shirt and casual black flair skirt fit her like a glove and she tugged at them awkwardly. She had pretty brown eyes and a small nose. Slim long legs and soft features. By far prettier than the brunette friend. She was dragged out tonight, the awkward smart friend too work driven to have fun.

The friend isn’t the only awkward thing there. Everyone knows what a woman looks like and if he’s interested there is a good chance they are attractive. Let me try that again.

Cal leaned casually on the wall as he watched the odd couple at the bar. The brunette looked over at him with dark blue eyes. The corner of her ruby-red lips curled as she tongued the straw in her drink and brushed the bottom of her short bob cut with her fingers. Too easy, with her black Saint Laurent miniskirt hiked up, proving her lace panties matched the over-applied lipstick. She was on the hunt.

Her modest friend however, the long-haired blonde in Dolce & Gabbana, would be worth the challenge. Again, she tugged on her tight pink shirt then adjusted her flared black skirt drawing attention to her strong legs. She frowned at her friend, following her gaze over to Cal. Her pretty brown eyes met his briefly before dropping to the drink in her hand. She was dragged out tonight, the overworked over achievers were bound to have something interesting to say and Cal was tired of boring easy women.

That may not be perfect, but it’s a lot better than the list of features before it. Believe it or not I recently read a book that did just that. The story stopped dead in its tracks for a paragraph checklist description of someone’s appearance. I try to avoid doing that.

My advice about describing physical features.
Try to work it into the scene instead of brow beating the reader with a dried up awkward list of ingredients. She’s a person not a cake.

 -Sheryl

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Mirror, mirror on the wall…

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