That Was Random

In my last post, I mentioned a run in with a man who was so abrupt and rude it almost threw me for a loop. I maintained my composure, but it got me thinking.

I tucked him and his behavior away for a potential character and I couldn’t stop thinking about him. His outburst was random, and in my opinion unprovoked. However, if I look closer his behavior was probably normal or at least justified in his opinion. So why was this so important?

Characters.  

Character building is not just about what happens to a main character throughout a story but how to build one before putting any of them in. I’ve mentioned before that I like to give every character, minor or major, a history. I give them a past that determines how they are now. A back-story. 

Writing a random run in with a random person in a book can be tricky. If it has nothing to do with the story or the protagonist’s journey then it will be superfluous. However making it meaningful is just as tricky. If it’s blatantly obvious then the reader won’t appreciate it. If however I can make it part of the story and meaningful while keeping it totally random then all the better.  

My example is loosely based off another run-in with a man this weekend at the local farmers market. 

Amber checked her watch and took a deep breath. Ten minutes in line for the store to open. It took forever to figure out a birthday present for Dale and this store advertised they were getting the newest fit-bit in stock a week before the others.

The doors opened and she stepped forward. There were seven people ahead of her. She knew this because she counted them at least a hundred times out of boredom. As she got to the entrance a man in a Tommy Hilfiger jacket stepped in front of her.

“Hey.” She called out to the man. “Get in line dude.”

He turned and smirked at her with his beady brown eyes and graying stubble covered chin. 

“I am in line and I’m in a hurry.” He turned his back to her without a trace of remorse or anything resembling human decency. 

With fists at her side, she pressed forward. She went right to the counter and the man was just handing out the boxes to everyone as they approached.  She took hers, went to the accessory wall, and found the one she was looking for. She reached out for the last blue zipper accessory so dale would have options and a hand snatched it before she could.

She looked to see Hilfiger jacket man laugh and walk away. Normally she would scream and make a scene outing the jackass for what he is. 

“Karma will get him.” Amber muttered and took the dark green zipper accessory. She was buying a gift for Dale the least she could do was follow his mantra.

Karma had been more than a bitch to her so she knew damned well that you get what you put out. Pursing her lips, she headed for the checkout. There were two open and she got in line. If she was lucky, she could get to work on time. She inched forward until she was next.

“Next.” The cashier called out. 

Before she could approach, Hilfiger Jacket man stepped around her and took her turn. 

“Oh you smarmy little shit.” Amber uttered under her breath. “Karma, karma, karma…” She whispered as she got to the other cashier.

Luck was still on her side as she got to her desk before Valery strolled up.

“Good morning Amber, you look better today.”

“Thanks. I feel better.”

“I need to ask you a favor.” Valery smiled kindly. She approved of Amber’s new persona. She was working hard to make up for her selfish ways. It wasn’t a secret that she was pregnant. A single woman with no talk of a boyfriend, it was no wonder her stress was so high. 

“Sure boss.” Amber smiled back. “What can I do?”

“There’s a man in my office for an interview. I double booked and I have a man in Clifton’s office. Can you take the one in Clifton’s?” Valery asked and held out the interview questions. 

“Sure.” Amber jumped up and took the question sheets as Dale peeked around his cubicle and tried not to grin. 

“Be brutal they’re applying for the new assistant position and will be working directly under you.”

Amber nodded as Valery walked away. She gave a giddy squeal as Dale gave her double thumbs up. 

“You’re right about Karma Dale. I could have been a total bitch to some ass-hat this morning, but I let him be a miserable jerk and minded my business.”

“And now you’re getting an assistant. Go.” Dale waved her off and she went to Clifton’s office quickly. 

Amber opened the door and walked in to sit in Clifton’s chair. “Good morning Mr…” She glanced at the sheet. “Kyle Travis.”

The man stood and held out his hand to shake. His face paled as she smiled. Mr. Hilfiger jacket recognized her from earlier. 

Amber shook his hand. “Let’s get started shall we?” She sat as sweat beaded on Kyle’s forehead and he took his seat.

The original run in was a man who kept budding in front of my husband and I as we waited our turn at the market. It was very frustrating. Now I didn’t give him an interview, but he was so random and owned his rudeness that he made for great character fodder. Tucking these random run-in’s away for reference later, is key to good writing in my opinion. I take from what I experience and embellish, twist and maneuver it to fit into my story in a random and fun way. 

For Amber her journey is about becoming a decent human being. What she does now that she has this man by the proverbial short hairs will determine how far she’s come. It was nice to have her not pop off and take the high road. 

My advice about random run-in’s.
Write them down for future use. Inspiration comes from life and there is no better inspiration than a total jackass who gives you a great template to work with.

-Sheryl

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Copyright © 2017 All rights reserved
Trace

Karma. It really is a B*tch

Rumors are a part of life. People gossip, people believe it and others just love to embellish what’s already there out of pure fun. The most powerful kind of rumor are those seeded with truth because they ring true on some level. The more believable the more powerful a rumor can be.

When I write rumors into my stories, I give them a base. A rumor needs something to work from, something that might make them believable. Back story or foreshadowing early on or at least a chapter before the rumors fly. I do this because most rumors start as fact, true or not someone takes that tidbit and runs with it, morphs it and makes it extravagant and tantalizing.

Purposeful rumors are ones set adrift on purpose with a goal in mind. Usually that goal is to hurt someone, tear them down or maybe just make them feel bad in retribution. Sometimes I might write someone telling a rumor with the goal of flushing out the gossipmongers. Since rumors are realistic, they are easy to come up with.

Accidental rumors are the kind that are secrets overheard. They can be the weak-willed telling all with little provocation or someone accidentally blurting it out because they just suck that much.

No matter how you slice it, rumors can cause tension, upset and all kinds of juicy drama. And sometimes, just sometimes rumors are true.

“Karma.” Amber mumbled at the screen. Her frown etched deep on her face. Karma. The word slammed her mind like a battering ram. She deserved this and was only now seeing just how awful she truly is. The words “office slut” kept auto-correcting every time she typed her name. She had no idea how to fix it. She opened her mouth to ask Dale then closed it. Out of curiosity she typed his name and it auto corrected to Baby Daddy. She deleted it, took out her phone and texted Dale asking him to fix it and put a password on her computer.

With shaking hands and a pale face, she opened Scott’s door.
“Did you do it?”
“Do what?” He asked eyes narrowed.
“Did you change my auto-correct?”
He sighed. “I have no idea what you’re talking about. There are rules about messing with other people’s property here and unlike you I abide by them. And honestly, I have better things to do than tease you. I can see how upset you are and you are a friend. I’m not that big a jerk.”
There was enough truth in his eyes for her to believe. “Okay.” She turned to leave.
“But.”
She looked at him sharply.
“Amber the rumors are flying and fast. Who did you tell?”
“I was going to ask you. Only three people know and Dale and I wouldn’t say anything.”
“Like I said, you’re a friend and so is Dale. I respect you two too much to be a total ass. Someone must have overheard us.”

Amber nodded and left his office. He’s petty and selfish but gossip was never his thing. Not really. Snickers and heads turned away a smidge too late. Everywhere. Double glances and covert stares. The office was infested and so fast. Plagues had nothing on this. Her cellphone buzzed and she read the text from Dale. “Fixed. Password is where you told me. WTF? U tell?

She bit her lip and replied. “No. Scott guessed.” She looked at Dale’s response. “He didn’t do this.”
Amber made her way to her desk. Rachael looked at her smugly and Francis barely hid her giggle before turning away. Amber sat at her desk numbly and entered her new password “Russo”. She looked at the ad she was to proof next. It was from Francis on Birth control. Amber looked across the open office as Francis shook her head barely containing her merriment. Karma. It really is a bitch.

Can’t say she didn’t have it coming. Rumors are fun to write and fun to play around with in the wonderful world of my writing. I hate rumors for real they carry too much power and consequence for both ends. This wouldn’t have worked if I hadn’t had Amber picking on Sasha and being horrible in general. To give the rumor credit she needed to be the type of person who a, deserved it and b, is likely to be what they say, the office slut. Even if it’s untrue, she made it likely.

My advice about rumors.
Real world, no. Written world of our make-believe, oh yeah! Get your bully on! Terrorize your characters.

-Sheryl

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I swear! Or do I?

Copyright © 2016 All rights reserved
Abide

Turmoil of the innermost kind

Emotions are the essence of who we are. They are easy to write internalized and hard to show. I’ve been showing one at a time and probably will with more. But what happens when someone is in turmoil? When their emotions fly but they can’t express them verbally or externally? I don’t write in first person so this can be tricky to express. For this show and not tell excercise it’s all about what a character does do when they can’t necessarily express their true emotions or thoughts.

Sometimes a person has too much going on and those around them add to the chaos generally unaware. While Sasha is dealing with her own abundance of problems, Amber, her tormentor has to deal with her own.

Amber’s hands shook as she rinsed them in the warm water. She looked at her tired reflection, frowning at the worry around her eyes.  “What are you going to do now?” Blinking back tears, she took several deep breaths before returning to her desk.

“Hey Ambs, feeling better today?” Dale chewed on the end of his pen.
She sat slowly. “Sure.”
“I’m back to myself too, wanna do lunch? Scott has a lunch meeting thing.”
She rubbed her sweaty palms on her skirt. “Yeah sure.” Biting her lip, she turned to her computer. The unfocused screen too bright. There wasn’t anyone to talk to, nobody to confide in. With a sideways glance at Dale chatting away on the phone, she drummed her fingers on the desktop.
A slight smile etched the corner of her mouth. “Maybe it could be a good thing.” She mumbled and closed her eyes. “Yeah right and hell is a tropical vacation.”

Amber opened her eyes to see Rachael approaching with a stern posture. She had made her point and everyone stopped picking on her.

“Hey Amber, you okay?”
Amber opened her mouth to snip and smiled instead. “Sure Rachael. What can I do for you?”
With a raised eyebrow, Rachael held out a glittery pink card. “You’re the only one who hasn’t signed Alice’s congratulations card. If you want to chip in on the gift that would be nice.”

“Gift?” The word echoed in her head as Amber took the adorable card with a cartoon baby on the front.
“I’m picking something up at lunch, we’ll give it to her before she leaves today. What a wonderful thing. Isn’t it exciting?”

“Exciting?” Amber read over a few comments, all well wishes, happy comments and words of joy. It sounded like a good thing and not the end of the world. Smiling she wrote a small meaningful congratulations and swallowed hard as she handed it back. “How much?”

“Um, whatever you can spare is fine.” Rachael tucked the card in the envelope skepticism easy to see.

Amber dug out her wallet. Dale was openly listening now with rapt interest. What if this was her? Would anyone bother with card for her? Amber held her breath and handed her a fifty.

“I’ll get you change.”
“No.” Amber waved her hand. “It’s fine. I could do with some good karma.”
“Thanks.” Rachael turned and left quickly.
“You know that’s not how it works right?” Dale smirked. “You can’t ask for good karma, you earn it.”
“Whatever.” Amber clenched her fists staring at her screen.
“Besides if you want to make up for the crap you pull you’d need to give at least fifty thousand more.”
“Shut up Dale, or you fly solo for lunch.”
“Russo’s?”
She avoided looking at him as her eyes misted and she nodded. Russo’s was fine, the food was good and the atmosphere quiet enough.

Poor mean Amber right? Even the bad guy’s are human. I think it’s important to make even the most disliked people somewhat likable. Even if during her only moment of kindness she was being selfish. An interesting side story is always welcome IMO so I generally include them in my writing.

My advice about inner turmoil.
Be careful with the POV, stick with one and try not to jump in and out of character’s heads. It can get disorienting.

-Sheryl

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Copyright © 2016 All rights reserved
Echo

Time to take out the trash

Today I received an email asking for advice. I have been blogging and sharing my experiences and all that I’ve learned and am still learning about publishing my book. My posts have come about from; research, advice, instinct, common sense and a whole lot of hard work. Getting a book published traditionally is a daunting task and a lofty objective. It is however, the path that I know is the one for me. I have and will face many rejections from Literary Agents, I edited and revised my book to a point a professional said it was clean and well written. It may require some additional tweaking but I was told this could be done after a publisher takes me on that it is minor.

The temptation to get quick/instant results and venture into the world of self-publishing or vanity press is strong. However after a lot of research, and I mean a lot, I will take this route as my absolute last resort. Does that mean self or vanity press publishing is bad? No, but it is the last resort for me. Vanity press and self-publishing companies don’t actually call themselves that, but they do ask for money upfront for their “services”. Research the company and see what reviews they have before you decide anything.

Many great authors faced and still face rejection. One of my all-time favorites just recently had a book rejected and was devastated. She has had her books published since 1977. Thankfully, she is seeking alternate routes and publisher to get her book published. I can’t imagine how this felt for her to be so accomplished and then told “I don’t like it enough to publish.” Yiikes.

Scary? Sure. However, nothing in life comes easy; the best things are fought for. The harder I work the better I feel about my book. I have spent countless hours working on it and polishing it up. I can’t just give up on it and I won’t. I have my mind set on traditional publishing and my heart, instinct and common sense all agree.

Believe it or not, this is a level of tenacity your protagonist should have, even the antagonist. They should be driven and focused. If the protagonist ever gets to a point where they want to give up, give in, or even take the easy way out, have someone or something inspire them back into action and back on course.

It was near impossible to focus on work. It was true her designs have been edgier lately. Darker, mysterious and full of danger. The clients were eating it up. Sasha generally kept her office door open, and could hear the laughter of Amber and Scott. Her mind immediately jumped to the conclusion that they were laughing at her.
“Wow.” Sasha rubbed her temples. “I must really be letting them get to me to think that.” She stood and went to find Rachel to see if she was done proofing.
It meant passing the attention whore Amber who was milking a small head wound as if her head were severed and re attached.

“Hey Rachel.”
The young woman looked up at Sasha, relief instant in her eyes. “Oh Sasha.” She smiled. “I’m glad it’s you. That last advert was perfect. I couldn’t find any errors or anything missing.”
“Thanks.” Sasha narrowed her eyes at Dale who was in earshot. He made a show to roll his eyes. Rachel glanced his way then back at Sasha, her tension back. Sasha leaned closer to Rachel.
“Why were you glad it was me?”
“Um.” Rachel’s eyes flicked to Dale again. “No reason. I just wanted… Um to tell you in person that I found no error in your design.”
Sasha stood straight. “Okay thanks Rachel, my office is always open.” She nodded and turned toward Amber who artfully touched her head to draw attention to her bandage. A snarl set on Amber’s lips.
“Nice try. FYI Karma is a bitter medicine.” Sasha smiled brightly and nodded as she passed the malevolent woman.
Sasha had changed all of her passwords and put a security program on her work computer to record any attempts to log in. Sasha needed a plan. It was time to take out the trash. She needed a way to rid the office of Amber and Dale. Scott could stay or go, without Amber and Dale’s influence she suspected Scott would settle down. His recent bout of crazy was completely out of character for him
.

While a small moment of renewed determination from seeing others affected by her workplace-adversaries and Sasha might just be starting out on the right path… Maybe.

My advice about determination.
Don’t let the easy path tempt you. Take the time to figure out which way is best for you as an author. Regarding your characters, give them the same obstacles you face in life with a little more drama and flair and let them flourish or fall.

-Sheryl

Related posts on the path to publishing.

The not-so-direct path to publishing.

The rejection letter

The blurry lines of opinion and advice

Copyright © 2016 All rights reserved

Lofty