Filtering Out Those Filter Words

Filtering Out Those Filter Words

I spend a fair amount of time talking about filter words. That is because they plague me without mercy. Some would say they are the hallmark of a bad writer, others would say even the best writers fall prey to them. So what exactly are they?

They are lazy words, extra words and useless words that creep into a sentence too often. They take the place of words with more literary value.

Here are some of the most common ones I find in my writing

  • Believe
  • Wonder
  • Thought, Think, to think
  • See, to see, saw
  • feel, to feel, felt
  • look, looked
  • Touch
  • Realize
  • watch
  • seem
  • note
  • That
  • Just
  • to be able to
  • hear, heard
  • notice
  • experience
  • sound 
  • Pretty
  • Here
  • actually
  • a bit
  • really
  • very
  • simply
  • rather
  • so
  • quite

There are lists aplenty online that have others and explanations. Basically, they can make a sentence stale and or repetitive. These little words can suck the life out of a sentence faster than you can say “I’m pretty sure I believe they seem to be actually very useless words.”

Here are some actual examples from my new story and how I fixed them.

Edna looked away from me and turned to her son. “You really have to stop bringing the stray’s home Tray, you’re not a boy anymore. I’m pretty sure you can’t fix this one.”

Fixed:

Edna released me from her trance and turned to her son. “You must stop bringing the stray’s home Tray, you’re not a boy anymore. You can’t fix this one.”

Not only did I chop out the filter words but I made Edna more of a bitch, which is good for portraying her character.

The next has a lot wrong with it.

Furious, Edna simply told me to sit and be quiet. I didn’t really get a chance to defend myself. I sat with a thud on the cheap chair that felt very lumpy and looked at my phone wondering what to do. I realized she doesn’t seem to understand and doesn’t want to listen to reason. 

That needs some rearranging and fixing for certain.

Here it is fixed;

Furious, Edna pointed at the lumpy cheap chair.”Sit and be quiet.”
She didn’t give me a chance to defend myself. I sat with a thud and scowled at my phone like a sulky child. What do I do? She doesn’t understand and won’t listen to reason. 

That’s better and gets to the point.

Filter words are best found in editing if they are highlighted. I do this all the time. I also highlight overused words like I, me, myself, said, ate, eat, drink, smelled etc… Overused words are easy to find as they are a type of filter words. I explain how I search and find them in Well colour me silly.

Not all filter words are bad, sometimes they fit into the sentence perfectly and belong there. Sometimes, rarely, but if I find myself excusing too many of them, I go back(Change their colours) and look at them again. It can be as simple as deleting them or as complicated as rewriting a sentence or even paragraph. It’s worth it.

My advice about filter words
Find them and then find a better value than them. They are easy to find once you start looking and you will be better off without them.

-Sheryl

Copyright © 2017 All rights reserved

No “Filter Word” Parking Here

Well colour me silly

Mercy

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Word Counts By Numbers

I often talk about word count. It’s a big deal for me because I’m wordy. My newest book, Prophecy, is not a wordy book! Yup, that’s right I managed to keep it within industry standard.
According to Wikipedia, these are the classifications are Novel, Novella, Novelette, and short story.

Classification Word count

Novel 40,000 words or over
Novella 17,500 to 39,999 words
Novelette 7,500 to 17,499 words
Short story under 7,500 words

I talk more in-depth about this in Stories Classified

These are the basic classifications of what a book is by word count. Novels are 40,000 +, so what does that mean? Well simply put each genre and subgenre have their own word count limits. This number varies greatly and seems to change the range values.
Professional editors and publishers told me that when in doubt, get it or keep it to mid or bottom of the range. (For the first novel)

Science fiction between 80,000 to 125,000
YA (Young adult) 45,000 to 80,000 (Midrange is best for this genre)
Horror 80,000 to 100,000
Historical fiction/romance 90,000 to 100,000
General Fiction/Literary Fiction/New adult 75,000 to 110,000 words max 70,000 is considered too short for a first-time author/published novel.
Science Fiction and Fantasy 100,000 words to 115,000 (Some say 125,000)
Mystery novels 40,000 to 80,000 words. This is a genre of disagreement on numbers; I’ve seen the recommendation for a thriller or mystery 90,000 to 100,000. I would keep it midrange or close to 80,000 to be safe.

Now I bet someone rushed to a shelf to pull a book or ten down to dispute the numbers. There are always exceptions to the rules (The lucky ones or not a first novel) or they are older books from older standards. Times are tough and the market is flooded with new authors looking to have their books published.

So what about… let’s say, Harry Potter? Some of those young adult books were well over the limit. Yes, they were but not the first one. In addition, JK struggled for years to get it published. Once she gained the footing in the industry and had a book under her belt, she could increase the word count without worrying about the limitations.

The limits are guidelines and they can be ignored. I learned from my own experience that it’s not wise to disregard time-tested advice and limits set by those who will actually be judging your work and deciding if it’s worth their time.

Now back to my new book. It is a TREAT to revise and edit a book without the gloomy cloud of ‘cut, cut and cut’ over my head. I’m not worried about trimming the fat (Hopefully, it’s not there).

It is currently at 73324 and I have room to fix and embellish some scenes without sweating the numbers. For the first time, I have to add words, which is super exciting for me. I still have to finish the filter word edit, but I’ll talk about that another time.

My advice about Word Count
While it’s important to keep your word count within the limits it’s more important to make every word count. After all, we want to keep the reader’s interest.

-Sheryl

Other Word Count related posts

The “word count” down.

Redundantly Redundant Redundancies

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Interest
 

Distracted By Distraction

Time is always an issue for me. Finding it to write and really get into it. Somedays I can plug along and find the simple errors others I can dig in and really get to the meat of some problems.

I’m in the middle of BiaAtlas re-write and it’s going well. My word count is coming down slowly but steadily.

When I’m writing there are several things that can cause me to become distracted or lose focus. Not all of them are bad and often they can be a reminder to take a well needed or deserved break.

Other people – It’s important to remember there are real living people in the world 😉
Television
The weather
My own thoughts – yes this is a real problem sometimes
Other projects (I have a new storyline I’m in the beginning stages of plotting)
Sleepy or tired – sometimes it’s just hard to stay focused on anything.
Work – this one is a necessity… but still…
Cleaning or chores
Reading

There are other distractions that I don’t have time for and have suffered for it such as video games and Facebook. The bottom line is there will always be distractions and I don’t freak out about them. I’ve talked about this before but I think if I’m being distracted there might be a reason for it.

The funniest distraction is the distraction by distraction. When I’m distracted simply by thinking about being distracted.

When I sit and start to work on editing my book it can be overwhelming. I’ve been through it countless times, I’m probably missing things right in front of me because I’ve been through it countless times. I have a plan for that and I’ll dive into that plan in a later post once I’ve done enough research to explain it properly.

For now, it’s one objective at a time seek out and destroy superfluous text and simplify. I’m on the hunt for repetition of ideas, phrases, comments, actions, descriptions, and anything I’ve mentioned more than once.

I will keep at it and keep my self-inflicted symphony of distractions to a minimum while addressing the important ones, the ones that tell me I need a real break. After all, a distraction is only a distraction if we need to be distracted.

My advice about distractions
Don’t ignore that you’re being distracted and figure out why it’s happening. Maybe take a break or do something random to reset your attention. Distractions are not always a bad thing.

-Sheryl

Other posts

Squirrelly concentration at best

More is less, and vice versa.

My Posts From The Start

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Symphony

Those Dependent Clauses

What oh what do I do with sentences that can’t stand-alone? I’m talking about Dependent clauses. What is a dependent clause? It is a group of words with a verb (Conveys action) and a subject. Unlike Independent clauses that can stand on their own, dependent clauses don’t express a complete thought and therefore they’re not a complete sentence. They must be joined to another clause to avoid making a sentence fragment.

Dependent clauses are often indicated by the presence of words such as; because, before, after, although, since, whenever, though, even if, while, even though, whenever, wherever. They often contain conjunction words such as; Nor, yet, but, and, or.

Example:

Because I lost my umbrella.

Because? Why? What? This is a sentence fragment if it doesn’t have a clause explaining what happened.  So it should be joined with a clause explaining or justifying the ‘because’.

Because I lost my umbrella, I got wet from the rain.

‘I got wet from the rain’ is an independent clause. Joining a dependent clause with an independent clause assures thought is expressed and it is now a sentence.

Dependent clauses can become more complex if we add subjects, objects, and modifying phrases:

Dale, who likes eating salty snacks, ate some potato chips.

Dale is the subject. ‘Who likes eating salty snacks’ is a dependent clause that modifies Dale. It contains ‘likes’ and ‘ate’ which are verbs. The potato chips are the object.

There are three types of Dependent clauses. Noun, adverb and adjective.

Noun –  They describe a thing or a person. Such as; living creatures, objects, places, actions, qualities, states of existence, or ideas.
Adjective –  They a describe noun such as; good, big, blue and fascinating.
Adverb – They describe a verb, adjective or adverb. Such as; quickly, silently, well, badly, very, really. (Don’t forget, a lot of filter words are adverbs)

Dependent Adverb Clauses

Adverb clauses will modify verbs and begin with subordinating conjunctions (join clauses, sentences or words. Like these; and, but, when.)

  • When the baby arrives
  • Because I can’t wait for the train
  • Since you don’t have enough time
  • Whenever you go to play
  • As if she knew what was going to happen
  • Until the tide turns
  • While children continue to learn
  • Supposing that he really wanted to stay
  • Before the cheese gets moldy
  • Although I never tried it
  • Unless I have the right combination
  • How he got the job
  • As the cars were moving
  • If you can rest on Sunday
  • No matter how you look at it
  • Than his friend can

Dependent Adjective Clauses

Adjective clauses modify nouns and often begin with a pronoun, (They replace a noun with words such as; I, you, he, she and some.) and sometimes with a subordinating conjunction.

  • That I gave him
  • Why the cake was terrible
  • Who is dumb
  • That was a deal
  • When the flowers bloom and grow
  • Which is located downstairs
  • Where I went to play basketball
  • Whom we met before the party
  • Who live by the office
  • Whose singing is always amazing


Dependent Noun Clauses

Noun clauses can act as a noun and name a place, person, thing or idea.

  • How he would get there
  • Why she did that
  • That you are talking
  • Whomever I like
  • If the ice-cream is on sale
  • Whoever stands in line
  • Who let the rooster in the henhouse
  • What he expected
  • Whether he can drink that much
  • Whatever makes you comfortable

Dependent Clauses In Sentences

These highlighted dependent clauses could easily be found accidentally on their own pretending to be sentences.

  • What Amber did.
  • After hours of revision.
  • While Scott was at work.
  • Why Scott said that.
  • Whatever is necessary.
  • That was in my desk?
  • Nobody wanted to drink it.
  • That you took.
  • Whenever I go to the movies.
  • Where I was hired.
  • Whom I have for Math.
  • Since nobody offered.
  • Whereas Dale has only one.
  • If you can explain why.
  • Until the bar closes.
  •  Whoever has the better layout.

Corrected Dependent Clauses

  • What Amber did was not very smart.
  • Dale finally finished his project, after hours of revision.
  • While Scott was at work, the neighbour’s dog peed on his door.
  • Amber can’t figure out why Scott said that.
  • Scott will do whatever is necessary.
  • “Where is the natty purple inked pen that was in my desk?
  • After Scott coughed on the coffee pot, nobody wanted to drink it.
  • That set of car keys that you took belong to Dale.
  • Whenever I go to the movies, I will sit in the middle.
  • The place where I was hired is on Main street.
  • The teacher, whom I have for Math, is a total jerk.
  • Since nobody offered, Dale didn’t get any cake.
  • Scott has two lovers, whereas Dale has only one.
  • If you can explain why, you can borrow the car.
  • You may drink beer until the bar closes.
  • The job goes to whoever has the better layout.

My advice about dependent clauses.
They are usually found during editing and revising. When read aloud they sound unusual or incomplete. They are easy to fix and when they are, it makes for easier reading.

-Sheryl

Other interesting posts.

Well colour me silly

Talking to myself

Copyright © 2017 All rights reserved

My Posts From The Start

 Natty

Wisely Perpetrating Gullibility

As a novice writer, I have had to learn many things. I have had to do a lot of research and listen to advice of all sorts and from all sources. Unless the information is coming from a credible source, and I mean completely legit, I don’t generally take things for face value. Some may say that’s jaded but the truth is, it is experience. There is an abundance of false information disguised as fact on the internet. That same false information is perpetuated by mouth and email by those that don’t fact check and are willing to believe the first thing they read/hear/see.

This willingness to jump and believe the sensational hogwash is often referred to as gullible. Funny enough that word is not actually used often to describe these duped people. Someone gullible enough to just take things for face value would take great offence to be labelled something so insulting. With social media it is easier and easier to fall for lies and ‘jokes’ because more and more people are believing these methods of information dispensing is legit and policed. No none of it is.

There are four types of people in this scenario, the apathetic, the wise, the gullible and the perpetrator. All three have a place in the world and both can easily jump into a story and create interesting backstory or friction between characters.

The Apathetic: These people just don’t care one way or another. They see everything as mildly entertaining/lame/boring/unimportant. This person can be frustrating because of their lack of… well… anything. They don’t care and don’t not care. Ugh. DOOOOO something interesting already!

The wise: They think and question everything using common sense and instinct to determine if what they see/hear/read is real or fabricated. These people are often the champions the ones to point out the scam and educate others. They are the hero’s that save the word from miss represented information. While often good, if taken to the extreme a know it all can earn a sucker punch to the jaw, real or imagined.  😉

The Gullible: Latches on to anything sensational and excitedly rides it as gospel truth. They can range from the fanatical who will actually fight for what they deem believable, to those that when told it was false they laugh embarrassed and let it go. “Ha ha, silly me. I can’t believe I believed that baking soda and vinegar in a bottle will fill a balloon with helium.” (No, I didn’t but a lot of people did and still do. My 8 year old even saw that as false but a 36 year old ran out to buy supplies.) Then on the other side of the spectrum. “The Trump gets a new heart transplant from children every 10 years to live for ever. It’s true! I saw it this morning. There was a picture and everything.”

The Perpetrator: This type of person sits giddily and takes joy and pleasure from creating believable forgery information. Seriously, they will create/say/do anything to see if people fall for their fabrications. These people are smart, even generous, devious and even evil. These are users and abusers, the bad people in disguise or under the radar. “I wonder if I say the newest study *create study* says you can regrow your hair using a mix of raw eggs, two day old dog dung and mashed beets slathered on your head for an hour, if anyone will do it?” *Giggles and gets to work.

There are so many ways dishonest people with the tendency to want to harm others can carry out their compulsions these days. Are they just silly teens getting off on causing a little chaos or serial liars that live off the high of knowing someone somewhere fell for their made up fiction disguised as facts? I see potential for friction between characters, potential for evil to get a foot hold and use the gullible. Foreshadowing gullibility is as easy as someone stating they saw truth in the absurd and someone else countering their claim with words, action or even a ‘are you serious’ facial expression.

My advice about falsely presented fact.
Trust your instincts and if it seems to good/crazy/scary/weird to be true, fact check and source check. Adding these behaviors into a character or two could be interesting. A gullible person can easily become an unknown pawn in some perpetrators dastardly plan. Can the wise see and stop it in time?  Oooh exciting?

-Sheryl

Other posts people liked a lot

KISS your writing

She’s a person not a cake

The FAB pencil

Copyright © 2016 All rights reserved

Trust

I’m ‘that’ kind of writer

That. Holy moly is that a filter word or what? Yes, by gum that it is.

That is a word that shows up for no apparent reason other than that it litters our daily dialogue. That is a word that many others say that needs to be addressed. That’s the whole truth, that I know to be true. I did that search that out of curiosity. Surely that’s not a word that I over use right?  1239 incidences of that. That cant possibly be used that inappropriately can it? Or as filler? Nah. One day down and I removed 187 useless that’s and an additional 287 words that tagged along for fun. Huh. That’s insane that is.

In a document of 123820 words that 1239 isn’t so bad.  Well that is bad when I’m burning the candle at both ends, trying to get that word count down below that mark of 120000. And generally that is a filter word, so if that’s not necessary, it should go.  Sometimes I find that it’s easier for me to determine how necessary that word is by reading that sentence out loud to myself.

For example:

“I don’t think that this is a good idea.”(9)
“I don’t think this is a good idea.”(8)

“I thought that I would need a match to light that candle.”(12)
“I thought I would need a match to light the candle.”(11)

Girls love that about him.(5)
Girls love about him.(4)  – No that ‘that’ needs to stay see not all of them are clutter.

Sasha said earlier that day that Cal was a jerk. (10)
Sasha said earlier that Cal was a jerk.(8) – Better and this would work
Earlier Sasha said Cal’s a jerk.(6) – Much better, I would go with this.

They were told that they would be tested.(8)
They were told they would be tested. (7)

I get that writing is a reflection of yourself and that your voice is your own. I’ve heard others say that by taking out words that they use regularly or normally that their writing style is being compromised by that. I have learned that how I write is how I write. I learned that when I write better, that it’s still me, only better. That’s simple right? (67) (10 that’s)

FYI this is how I would fix that one (Not that I’d put that many that’s in that to start with). Oooh that is kinda fun to do that on purpose. Anyway… back to removing that and the useless words that that brings.

I understand writing is a reflection of yourself and your voice is your own. I’ve heard others say by taking out words they use regularly or normally, their writing style is being compromised. I have learned that how I write is how I write. When I write better, that it’s still me, only better. Simple right? (56) (2 that’s)

Okay so I would probably trim that up more but for this purpose that made my point. I didn’t take all of the ‘that’ out either.

I have used 87 incidences of ‘that’ in this post of 642 words (not including the title or feature image). See how easy that that is to interject a that or two? I know you noticed because I pointed that out from the beginning.

My advice about that.
Take a second look, you might not need that that after all.

-Sheryl

For fun, I looked at my blogs and here are the eight that had ‘that’ in the title. I’m not going to link them all, WP doesn’t like that, I’ll link the first three.

What happened to that guy?

That sounds complicated

Ghosts that write stories

It’s funny you said that…

That is disgusting

The ‘been there done that’ people

Did you smell that?

That sounds right

Copyright © 2016 All rights reserved

 Candle
Filter

It’s really very unnecessary

I’m back to redundant words, they take up a lot of my time when revising. Really and very take the stage. Just like up and down, very and really very often have an entourage of unnecessary words tagging along for the free ride. I know when I’m using these words that I’m getting wordy and to slow down. I go through what I originally wrote and take a good look at what needs to be changed.

Generic spell check programs will catch some of them, but not all.
For example:

The very blue sweater was really loose on Sasha. (9)
Sasha’s blue sweater was loose. (5)

See? Same point, four words less.

Cal was very late. He was really going to get a lecture from the Sargent this time. (17)
Cal was late. A lecture was imminent from the Sargent this time. (12)

The temptation to say it’s ‘very’ anything is really strong. 😉

She held her hand up. It was very dark, too dark to really see her hand in front of her face. (21)
It was too dark to for Sasha to see her hand in front of her face. (16)
Or
It was too dark to for Sasha to see her hand before her face. (14)

When I search for the redundant words or filter words I only search one at a time. That way I can focus on what I need to fix. Usually I find other things to fix and other words to remove along the way.

My advice about the very unnecessary and really redundant words.
It is really very easy to plunk extra words in, it’s really very unnecessary so just don’t do it. Get that search/find feature going and nix the redundant ones.

-Sheryl

Related posts

Read, revise and repeat. The shampoo process of editing.

The “word count” down.

Copyright © 2016 All rights reserved

 Original

Details, details, details

A book or story is full of details. A persons description, their back story, their habits and their environment. I’m talking about environment or setting if you prefer.

Now I could go into a long spiel about describing objects or the area around the characters, the in’s and outs of under and over describing things. Or how to make an object important like in the Fab pencil.  That’s not what this is about.

I like details, the little things that make the reader comfortable whether they are aware or not. My book takes place primarily in one location. This location is set up in a very specific way for a very important reason. Function. In future stories this facility is revisited and I can’t have it changing unexpectedly.

So I carefully mapped it out. Just like a world map of a made up place like middle earth, but instead it’s a map of the building. It’s detailed right down to maintenance rooms and off limit areas. The placement of rooms and areas is important to the interaction of the characters and for situations that happen in future books. They are not major events per say, but they are purposeful.

I’ll be honest, I made a simple mock-up using Lego to start. It was perfect for scale and to get a real feel for the actual space. (Lego rocks.) I then used a basic publishing program to draw it out in overhead 2D or a blueprint if you want to get technical. It was a long process but it helped me get a solid feel for the building layout. It also allowed me to give my readers a very clear image for their imagination.

This was important for me. At first I wrote from memory, what I imagined it to look like. Then I revised and found them walking through a door that would lead them into the showers not the cafeteria. Oops. While it might not be noticeable it might register as odd and ruin the mental imagery for the reader.

Every environment or setting gets a map of some sort. Not to necessarily be published with the book, but for me to make sure that the window in the living room stays on an outside wall and not opening to the bathroom by oversight. I have to be careful, nobody wants to see Joe go pee while watching the price is right.

My advice about using maps.
I highly recommend them, even if its a rough hand drawn sketch of Sasha’s house, if a scene takes place there and I want to go back later I’d rather refer to the map instead of flipping back chapters to find where the refrigerator is and if it opens left handed or right.

-Sheryl

Related posts

She’s a person not a cake

Where did it go?

Switch it up, and swap it out.

Copyright © 2016 All rights reserved
Careful

KISS your writing

Keep It Simple Stupid.

AKA don’t be pretentious, if I had to look up the meaning of the word Honorificabilitudinitatibus to put it in my story, chances are most everyone else will too. If I litter my story with words to sound super smart I’ll sound like a jackass.(That’s my opinion.)  I’ve set more than one book down for this reason, not because I didn’t know what the word meant, but because, seriously? Big fun words have their place, I use them wisely or the reader won’t think I’m so wise. That’s not to say they don’t belong, but if it’s overrun it can be frustrating to read and borderline insulting.

For example:

Sasha stood before the group holding up the two layouts. “This is deleterious to our reputation. Neither are erroneous however, neither are optimal either. Both are nugatory to the client. We must commence by consolidating these two non-ostentatious layouts into one agreeable layout. We will have to ameliorate everything expeditiously, leveraging our proficiencies to implement the client’s prescribed parameters.” (55)

 Uh… yeah, what she said… and… close book. 

Sometimes big words have their place, we’re not in kindergarten. I Write for the audience, the readers. A fourteen year old may know what Commensurate means but is the word necessary? Can’t I just say equal?

Sasha stood before the group holding up the two layouts. “This is the kind of work that will destroy our reputation. Neither are wrong however, neither are optimal either. Both are of no value to the client. We must start by consolidating these two unimpressive layouts. We will have to improve everything expeditiously, using our skills to carry out the client’s request.”  (62)

 Better, but she’s still sounding a wee bit pretentious. Now if word count is an issue (and it always is for me) and I wanted to simplify this further I would do this.

Sasha held up the two useless layouts to the group. “This level of work will destroy our reputation. Neither is optimal, so we need to consolidate them. We’ll need to work quickly and actually meet the client’s requests this time.” (40)

I would have never written it like the first attempt. I did that to illustrate that the insertion of overly pretentious words can alienate a reader.

My advice about keeping it simple.
The thesaurus is great and useful, but remember to write for your audience not to “impress” or make them feel stupid.

-Sheryl

Related posts

Hey! Its’ Interjection

Accommodate and contain perplexed

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Border
Simple

Who’s who in the grand scheme of things

When I create a character such as Sasha, I build them up from the bottom to the top. It’s called backstory From their childhood and any traumas or lack of, all the way through life experiences to their present day. They need moments that define who they are, incidences good, bad and mediocre to sculpt their persona. Coworkers, strangers and friends that come and go or stick around are important. Family however are the most important. Whether they have none or too many members needs to be established. Family shapes who we are and should play a part in my characters life as well.

I create family trees for everyone. How important they are depends on how deep, the roots and branches go. The mains and prominent villains get the biggest trees or the ones with the most details. Each family member has a small bio whether it’s used or not. A vague reference to Uncle William being the family drunken mess could play a big part on my character Sasha’s views and behavior toward drinking. Perhaps he scarred her with a particularly bad episode so is leery of ever getting drunk enough to lose control. Maybe Grandma Jillian was a remarkable woman who struggled through one adversity after another and solidified Sasha’s strength and determination in life. Was it her great uncle, who threw her high in the air scaring her and missing once that caused her fear of falling? It’s important to know who they are and what role they play.

Is it always black and white or set in stone? No, I’ve changed family members to fit the story to led a moment or two to influence Sasha. My point is that without a history, without friends and family influence or lack of a person is empty of life experience. She had a family but her friend Anne didn’t, she grew up alone bouncing from obscure relatives to foster homes. She has issues and they show in her interaction with Sasha. Are they in your face, holy crap she’s damaged interactions? No that’s not realistic. People brood and often hide their feelings only letting shreds out. Mystery is tantalizing and even if its small it will foster the readers interest in the character.

How far do I go back? Usually one generation beyond use(I’ve even gone forward one preparing for the future). If she only ever mentions her Grandparents then I’ll go back to the great grandparents and their children. Not all branches are full or finished if its completely unnecessary. If Sasha’s grandma mentions she had two siblings but I talk about a third that might be noticed. That is why I use family trees. Even for the bad-guys especially if they come in to play even a little. Mine are created in an excel spreadsheet, each member has a description. Height, age, birthday, build, eyes, hair and skin color. Ethnicity and languages they speak and job. A brief bio on their history if necessary. I add to this and edit all the time. Maybe it wasn’t uncle William but Uncle Paul instead. It really depends on how I want to progress the story.

Each tree is important, for each book I have a small forest of trees big and small. For BiaAtlas I have three main family trees and I’m careful to maintain accuracy.

My advice about family trees.
Don’t look at it as a chore. It is the opportunity to build depth into your story and characters. It may or may not be needed but it helps me keep who’s who sorted out and provides a wonderful source for potential drama or character growth.

-Sheryl

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