Individual Arcs

I’ve recently explained the main story arc and it’s components. I touched on the smaller arcs within the main story. I thought I’d go a bit further into the little bits that make a story juicy, that make the characters real and seemingly come to life.

The individual story arc.

Each character with purpose in a story should have their own story. The closer to the protagonist or antagonist the characters are; the better the story they should have. Or they should have more influence at least.

This doesn’t mean every character in a story needs a full on arc of their own, that would be dreadful to write (IMO) let alone read.

This can feel daunting to think about but I’ll try to explain how I go about keeping it from becoming overwhelming.

The Main:  Sasha
The Secondary Main : Cal
Sub Characters:
Valery
Anne
Scott
Amber
Dale
Mr. Clifton (Boss)
Baylor (Antagonist)
Mystery character yet to be revealed (Main antagonist)

Sasha and Cal will have the interactive story arc. They are the main characters. Side characters with major influence will get bigger parts to teh story and a much richer story arc. Others will likely just fall within other story arcs as influential but not instrumental.

Sasha

Beginning: Pushover/victim – Gets attacked at work by bully, gets attacked by Baylor
Middle: Baylor pursues her as does another antagonist – she learns to stand up and save herself
End: (This part is not up for discussion yet)

Sub Beginning: Resistant to romantic relationships due to bad experience
Sub Middle: Slowly gives into Cal’s advances 
Sub End: (Cant let you in on that just yet)

Cal 

Beginning: Homicide detective moved to new precinct in search of Baylor
Middle: Keeps Baylor’s recent interest(Sasha) from him, then loses her
End: (A secret)

Sub Beginning: Is interested in Sasha romantically
Sub Middle: pushes her to face her past and move on
Sub End: (Hmm… a secret)

Valery

Beginning: Sasha’s pushy best friend/ boss that nudges her into the dangerous situation
Middle: Provides nervous and worrisome reactions to illustrate the seriousness of Sasha’s situation
End: Helps give big clue to help Cal… (The rest is a secret)

Sub Beginning: party girl with no desire for steady relationship
Sub Middle: Finds a man that keeps her interest and listens to her rant about Sasha being in trouble.
Sub End: (Still a secret)

Scott 

Beginning: Tries to get Sasha to have sex with him constantly
Middle: Gives Sasha a weird vibe. Also picks up on the fact she’s in trouble and helps Valery. Goes off the deep end over Dale and Amber and also Sasha’s rejection.
End:  Causes trouble.

Sub Beginning: He’s up to something
Sub Middle: Jealousy eats him alive. He’s definitely up to something
Sub End: (A secret too)

Baylor

Beginning: Attacks Sasha
Middle: Keeps attacking until he gets her – but is kept from harming her and is forced to hand her over to his boss (who is worse)
End: (This is a secret for now) 

Sub Beginning: na
Sub Middle: na
Sub End: na

I didn’t go through them all, and I didn’t actually give much away.  For my own notes its all filled in but with A LOT more detail. with interactions listed, what they specifically do to influence the story etc.

Now Sometimes I don’t have a sub-plot for a character or they don’t have much impact so they don’t get a lot of face time. Or I haven’t figured out how or if they will impact the story. I have gone back and added situations and scenarios after the story is written. This list is a guideline and not set in stone for me. Sometimes an arc falls flat and needs to be removed or changed to make it work again. For me keeping this stuff straight is just cautionary, I already know what’s going to happen, and sometimes even that can change if I’m inspired. There are times when I have a character that has a purpose but I still need to work them in… if they can fit.  I like to think of my stories as malleable so my mind is always open to possibilities. I often sit and ruminate, playing out what will and will not work.

My advice about individual story arcs.
Super necessary, it is so much more fun to read a story that has the supporting and sub characters actually influencing and interacting in the main arc than for them to be the ‘cheer’ section or the background noise.

-Sheryl

Other posts I wrote

(Insert description here)

Sound and selfish advice

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How did that sound?

When I read words I speak them in my mind’s voice. It’s fascinating when you read something that has the power of suggestion behind it changing the voice automatically for you. This can be an image or description or pre-dialogue dialogue tag.

Establishing a character’s physical image is as important as what they might sound like when speaking. Do they have a deep voice, high-pitched, nasally, squeaky or are they flat and toneless? Do they stutter, pause or speak with a rhythmic flow?  Do they have an accent or local dialect? Are they male or female? Working this into the story is as important as what color hair and eyes they have. I keep my accented people to a minimum. I have no trouble announcing their accent in narration or by a character flat-out commenting on it. I don’t hammer that home every time they talk though.

For example.

Dale leaned over to whisper in Amber’s ear, “Coast is clear.”
Amber got up to sneak off to her hideout to steal a moment of sanctuary from the world and Scott.

Automatically the voice is male and whispered. Same goes for shouting, yelling, or any other intonation that can be tagged to the dialogue.

Valery flopped back on the couch. “I doubt it.”
Jackson licked his lips and lowered his voice to a sultry tone. “I’m going to make you beg, then scream my name.”
“We’ll see about that,” Valery said as Jackson leaned in to bury his face in her neck.

Chances are, you applied the correct tones to the voices in your minds voice. This is why it’s important I’m careful not to drop the ball when writing. I’ve talked about the importance of dialogue and action tags to convey correct emotional tone before, but it is just as important to make sure the correct voice is heard as well.

Now for fun if you were to read  “The sun blazed its way across the azure sky. Scorching the Earth to a barren wasteland. It steals the last remains of water from the small lake; condemning all that depend on it to either move on or perish.”

Meh boring right? now try it with this dialogue tag.

Sir David Attenborough gestured around himself and took a deep breath before continuing his narration. “The sun blazed its way across the azure sky. Scorching the Earth to a barren wasteland. It steals the last remains of water from the small lake; condemning all that depend on it to either move on or perish.”

Unless you don’t know him, chances are you read that in a lovely Male British accent in your minds voice.

This effect is quite powerful when an image is shown near or within the dialogue or quote. A novel, however, is not a picture book. So it is up to the writer to paint the image of the speaker. Hopefully, it is done before dialogue starts or quickly during.

If a character has an accent or specific dialect stick to it. However, a word of caution, saying they speak in an accent over ad over or remarking on it in dialogue or narration is lazy and irritating if done too often. I have a character in BiaAtlas with a southern accent. I give her simple dialogue cues to remind the reader instead of bashing them over the head by saying ‘she said in her accent’. I’ve already established at the beginning she has a light melodic voice with a soft southern accent. So as the story progresses I make sure to include sayings, phrases, catchwords, slang and the very, very occasional narrative reminder.

A word of caution, even if I think I know enough about an accent or local dialect I don’t. I do research and lots of it.  It’s a fine balance too over the top and the reader will not respond favorably. If a word needs to be spelled phonetically to force the reader to read the accent, I’m super careful about that. It can become confusing and frustrating to read if it’s too much or too often. I’m personally okay with the occasional phonetic reminder, but consistency is key.

Not all characters need to have something remarkable about the way they sound. Male or female and young or old is often enough to get a reader through happily. This is another example of too much of a good thing can spoil the outcome.

My advice about assigning a voice.
Once you set up a character describe their speaking voice. If it’s unique or important to the story make that clear. The reader will establish their own version of the voice in their head and as long as they know who is speaking it’s more likely to be applied. Less is more in this case IMO.

-Sheryl

Other related posts

Speak up!

Don’t say my name!

What did you mean?

Tag! You’re it.

Copyright © 2017 All rights reserved

morgan-freeman-jpg

Disclaimer: Neither Sir David Attenborough nor Morgan Freeman said any of the words above. I wrote them specifically for this post and just for fun.

Hideout
Rhythmic

Bury

All that glitters…

I really do love writing the antagonists. The canvas is blank and they are delightfully unpredictable. However in that unpredictability must lay a facade of control. Writing bad is too much fun. But too much bad at once can become unbelievable. A person that does bad things or is inherently bad is generally manipulative, conniving, smart and willing to play a larger game. I look at the bad ones as multifaceted, fascinating and possibly the most complicated. They get the dark and damaging back stories, they are greedy and they are there to cause damage, wreak havoc and torment.

I like to progress my bad guys, give the reader a chance to learn to hate them, pity them and secretly cheer for them. To do that I make the situation frustrating. Ups and downs.

Dale pounded on Scott’s door, he answered scowling with gold glitter smeared on his left cheek.
“I”m not alone.”
“I don’t give a shit Scott. What the hell were you thinking attacking Amber? Have you lost your mind?”
“Come in, but keep it down man.” Scott stepped aside and closed the door behind Dale.
“Keep it down? You called her Linda? Amber is not Linda.” Dale poked Scott in the chest. “Amber is not and never was yours. You had your chance, shit you had many, many chances and you brushed her off. Explain!”
“I had some whisky shots and got a little frazzled.” Scott tilted his head cracking his neck. “She’s playing you.”
“Lucky for you Scott I calmed her down explained who Linda is and she pities you instead of hates you.”
Scott raked his hands over his face smearing the transferred makeup as Dale continued.
“She was terrified and for good reason. You do realize you could be charged right?”
Scott and Dale stared at each other. Dale’s fury grew and Scott’s slipped away in an instant. The gleam of his eyes shifted startling Dale.
“Ah man you know I’m sorry as hell. I am an ass. I’ll make it up to her tomorrow. I’ll apologize and I will make it right.”
“See that you do.” Dale turned, opened the door, paused and looked over his shoulder. “If you ever, ever so much as touch her or threaten her again there will be hell to pay.”
Contrite expression gone, Scott narrowed his at the door Dale slammed in his face. “Threaten me will you?” Scott raised a fist to the door. “That slut has you duped buddy. Don’t worry I’ll make it right alright.” He turned with a crooked smile to go back to the doe-eyed 19-year-old in his bed. She’s drunk and more than excited to lose her virginity to a hot and sexy total stranger on her birthday.

Down the rabbit hole we go. Now that Scott has it in his head that Amber is Linda there’s no telling what he’ll do. For me it’s important to coat my bad guy in disguise, to let their true natures shine slowly from behind their glittery masks. After all a bad person like Scott just wants justice and to be loved. Scot is not my stories main antagonist. Scott is what I like to call a story born bad guy. The one that evolves and causes problems. These are the kind that I sometimes pull into the next book and giving them a more prominent role. Sometimes I go with it and let them become a major player. It all depends on how the story rolls.

My advice about creating interesting antagonists.
Personally I say make them like-able and give them layers. Don’t out them right away, give them moments to shine before they do what they were written to do.

-Sheryl

Other bad guy posts

The jerk-face warrior

Yes… no… maybe?

But I hate that

Copyright © 2017 All rights reserved

Glitter

Becoming Bad

There comes a time in my story when I need to bring a character over to the dark-side. Generally if its someone who has been dabbling or leaning over the line for a while I’ll have something give them a nudge. Or I’ll reveal their true nature that was there all along just being hidden.

I like to carefully foreshadow a characters corruption with influential words or actions that betray their true nature or intentions. If I don’t do this it can leave the reader confused as to why they became bad or acted out aggressively.

This I find can be complicated or even hard to do if I become attached to a character or decide to lead them down the dark path even though they started on the light side as the character in my example did.

I personally like to give these flippers a rich story, something to get the reader interested in them but leery at the same time.

Amber wrenched open the door to stop Scott’s incessant pounding before it upset her neighbors.
“Stop it.” Amber scowled. “Come in already.”
Scott dripping from the rain wiped his face and teetered on his feet.
Amber closed the door. “Ugh. You’re drunk. Why are you here?”
Scott grabbed her by the shoulders “First Sasha now you. Why?”
“What?” Amber tried to pull away wincing at his sour breath.
“She turned me down now you are, are you playing some game?”
“Oh my God Scott. I’m with Dale, I’m having his freaking baby. Sasha just didn’t like you. I’m beginning to wonder if she saw something I didn’t.” Amber tried to pull away again. “Until recently that is. Let me go.”
“No! This isn’t how its supposed to be. I get the girl! Me, not Dale, me! If not Sasha then you at least.”
“Charming.” Amber shoved his chest and managed to get out of his grip. “Get out of my apartment. I. Don’t. Want. You.”
“Liar, yes you do. You want to have sex with me.” Scott said with a slur and grabbed for her again forcing his mouth over hers. Amber brought up her knee, wedged her foot against his thigh and pushed Scott away.
“You don’t know squat abou twhat I want. Get the fuck out of my apartment now.” She ran for her cellphone, her hands shaking.
“It’s not too late Amber. Dump Dale, you can get rid of the problem and be with me. You know that’s what you really want.”
Shaking and fighting back tears she eyed the door he now blocked. “I’m calling 911.” She held the phone up to her ear backing up toward the kitchen. Scott advanced too fast,  the phone from her hand and ended the call.
“Don’t be a bitch Amber, I’m just offering you what you want. I know that parasite isn’t Dale’s, I wont let you hurt him. Dale and I’ve been friends since university. Admit that you’re a slut, and I’m all yours.”
Amber turned and ran to the kitchen, grabbed a chef’s knife from the block and spun to face the wild-eyed drunk Scott. “Get out, get out, get out you bastard, get out!”
Scott held up his hands and backed up back down the hall as she advanced. The image of his ex fiancée with a knife in her hand calling him a bastard slammed into his mind hard. The impact, though mental, was like a physical blow. He stopped her then, he would stop her now… His face darkened, he lowered his chin and glared.
“You’re threatening me? First you tease me, then trick my best friend to have unprotected sex with you, fake your pregnancy to trap him and now you’re threatening me?” A crooked smile distorted his face. “I’ll make you pay for this Linda, you’ll regret crossing me again. Dale will see the truth in you just like Andrew did; you slutty little whore!” Scott hurled Amber’s cellphone at her face forcing her to duck as Scott left, slamming the door behind him.
Amber stumbled against the door sliding the dead-bolt in place and scrambled for her phone to call Dale. “Please, please pick up, please.” She wiped her tears as she collapsed to her knees on the floor.
Scott spat on the door and stumbled in his blind fury out to his car. He would take care of her just like he did Linda. “Treacherous bitches. Sleeping with my friends.” He slammed his palms against the steering wheel. “Nobody cheats on me.”

Sooo… Yeah Scott’s gone off the deep end, no surprise there really. Dangerous people become desperate and desperate people are dangerous. When I write someone loosing control I give it back to them quickly. An irrational bad guy isn’t as fun as someone who can regroup, plan  and carry out a dastardly plan. For Scott to tip the scale I gave him alcohol to lower his defenses and mess up big time.

My advice about exposing the bad guy.
Make it sudden, startling and abrupt. However make sure there is enough foreshadow that the reader isn’t scowling at the pages wondering WTF?

-Sheryl

Some other posts you might like

The jerk-face warrior

Two-faced phony-baloney

I swear! Or do I?

Copyright © 2017 All rights reserved
Squat

Snoopy McSnooperson

 

As people, we are raised with certain values, behaviors that slot us into socially acceptable norms. The simple things that separate us from good and bad. Using these behaviors in characters can be rewarding both good and bad.

Simple values that we take for granted such as privacy. Having that violated can cause fantastic conflict or inner turmoil for a character. It can also give a villain or antagonist opportunity to shine. Writing bad people is fun, fun because they can step outside the social boundaries and wreak havoc on those that don’t. They can do what the average person won’t.

Some examples of people who may violate privacy purposefully or accidentally:

A child who hasn’t learned to respect privacy
A well-meaning parent suspecting child of wrongdoings
A teacher who over steps their boundaries
A boss or coworker who snoops
A friend who feels slighted or isn’t truly a friend
A stranger stealing identity
A stranger who broke into a house/apartment
A friend or family member looking in a private place innocently 

Examples of ways to violate one’s privacy

Read a diary
Rummage through a desk/bedroom/closet/office
Go into a wallet, purse or bag
Break into/invade one’s home/car
look through a medicine cabinet
hack a computer
Peeping through a window, door or via hidden camera
Steal identity/impersonation
Read employee records without permission
walk into the bathroom on someone
Listen in on a conversation, phone-call or voice mail
Enter a room/house/yard/garage without permission
Reading someone’s mail/email/text messages or test results

Good intentions or not, breaching one’s privacy can be disruptive. I use this invasion as a way to foreshadow a character who may stray from the right side or who is already bad, but hiding it. Snooping people are interesting because they so casually break a rule of honor.

Scott’s eyes narrowed as he watched Amber and Dale leave for lunch together; giggling and teasing one another. There was no way she hasn’t had sex with multiple candidates. Why Dale? Scott intended to find out.
He glanced around. Most of the office was empty by now and so he casually made his way to Amber’s desk. He adjusted her chair as he sat and unlocked her computer. Clifton gave him access to the spyware that logged all passwords in the event of sudden termination. The information he was finding very useful these days.
“Alright, Amber what game are you playing?” Scott opened her browser history and quickly found her private email, opened it and started reading.
“Incognito does not mean hidden moron.” Scott mumbled to himself and shook his head as he opened one sent to her mom titled ‘unsure’. He started from the beginning and as he read a sly grin spread across his face.
“Bingo.” Scott quickly copied the conversation and sent it to a dummy email he set up earlier. He authorized another access so she wouldn’t be alerted when he checked her email from another computer.
“She’s not smart enough to figure that out anyway.” Scott set her computer back to how she left it and went back to his office to do some research. 

Unless two people are in cahoots on a privacy offense, an infringement is likely a solitary activity. What I like to do in this sort of scenario is leave a bit of mystery and have the perpetrator make a mistake (Yes Scott made one). One that may or may not be noticed later on. What I won’t do is have someone magically witness it without making that known at the time of the incident. There’s not much worse than the surprise revelation to the reader that Rachael witnessed the whole thing but it wasn’t mentioned until later. “Hey, I saw Scott on your computer yesterday.” Ugh. Incidentally having someone caught red-handed is also an abundantly wealthy source of drama. Just don’t use the cliché term “Red-handed”.

My advice about privacy and invading it.
It’s such a successful way to subtlety show characters true to nature, whether they resist the urge to peek at an email left open or blatantly snoop to read it, you can let the reader develop emotions toward the character.

-Sheryl

A post or two from a while ago.

Take charge already!
The secret’s out

My Posts From The Start

Copyright © 2016 All rights reserved
Privacy
Successful

Casual

TMI dude!

I was reading a story the other day and had a good chuckle. Not at the clever dialogue or humorous narration, but at what shouldn’t have been there.

It struck me that there is over usage of descriptions and there is over usage of action descriptions. They aren’t the same but they can both become overpowering to the point of ridiculous. The temptation to write a characters’ every movement is one of them. However, the unseen movements are sometimes the best because they are left to the readers’ imagination.

What I’m talking about is something I myself am mindful of. The urge to explain everything. Especially if a character is doing something specific like drinking, smoking, putting on makeup, grooming or eating. This is where the gist, is plenty. All that is needed is a good set up, maybe one more action and an end action. Like all scenarios within a story, they also need a beginning a middle and an end.
Let me show an example:

Scott leaned his back against the cool brick wall as Dale cracked open his ice cold can of Coke and took a large swig.
“So you’re okay with the whole Amber thing?” Scott asked eyeing the red and white logo with jealous eyes.
Dale looked at the can appreciatively then at his friend. “Yeah, I am.” He lifted the can to his lips again.
“Man, I don’t know if I would be. She’s a slut, she can’t all of a sudden be the good girl”
Dale sucked the residual liquid that was stuck in the lip of the can after chugging most of the soda. “I told you she was faking it to get your dammed attention.” He shrugged and tipped the can up draining the last of the drink. “Besides you know I’ve liked her forever.” Dale let out a long quiet burp muffled by the fist against his lips while staring at the empty can.
“So you two are a couple now?”
Dale grinned, crumpled the empty can in his hand and nodded. “Yup. The sex is amazing and she’s way better than you ever speculated.”
Scott grimaced. “TMI dude.”
“You’re just jealous that she doesn’t have a crush on you anymore, that she’s hot for me and that you missed your chance.” Dale tossed the crumpled aluminum into the recycling bin beside the garbage can as he walked toward the entrance.
Scott glared at the back of Dales head. There was too much truth to that statement.
(250)

Not only did the gratuitous descriptions of Dale’s actions bog down the flow, they were somewhat insulting. I think the reader understands the process of drinking a can of Coke. The drink wasn’t necessarily important to the story so if I’m honest it was descriptive filler. Sure, I found different ways to describe the actions but let’s see what happens if I treat the can of Coke like a mini story line and only mention it three times.

Scott leaned his back against the cool brick wall as Dale cracked open his ice cold can of Coke and took a large swig.
“So you’re okay with the whole Amber thing?” Scott asked glancing at Dale without turning his head toward him.
“Yeah, I am.”
“Man, I don’t know if I would be. She’s a slut, she can’t all of a sudden be the good girl”
Dale inhaled slowly. “I told you she was faking it to get your dammed attention.” He shrugged. “Besides you know I’ve liked her forever.” He let out a long quiet burp muffled by his fist against his lips.
“So you two are a couple now?”
Dale grinned, sucked the residual liquid stuck in the lip of the can and crumpled it in his hand and tossed it overhand into the recycling bin. “Nothing but net and yes we are. The sex is amazing and she’s way better at Bj’s than you ever speculated.”
Scott grimaced. “TMI dude.”
“You’re just jealous that she doesn’t have a crush on you anymore, that she’s hot for me and that you missed your chance.” Dale turned on his heel and walked toward the entrance.
Scott glared at the back of Dales head. There was too much truth to that statement.
(213)

I fall prey to showing redundant actions because I want the reader to be immersed in the scene, but I think confusing the need for scene descriptions with character actions causes this TMI (Too much information) problem. It also increases my word count and as a wordy person I need to watch that.

My advice about excessive action descriptions. 
The cliche, less is more, is so apt for this problem. Let the reader fill in the gaps; that’s half the fun of reading.

-Sheryl

Other posts

Inviting innuendo

Squeaky clean

Copyright © 2016 All rights reserved

Unseen
Immerse

Conver(Conversation)sation

I love dialogue, good dialogue that is. I try to keep it interesting and realistic. I like to avoid droning, dull, stiff and pointless conversations. But what if a wee bit of pointless is necessary? What if it could be a foreshadow or just fun?

After looking at trivial conversations and removing the repetitiveness of it, I look at the logic and make sure it’s not to dry. So the dialog is okay, but what if it’s still dull or not going anywhere? It’s time to pop a little extra something into the conversation.

I don’t do this often if at all. If I do, it’s for a foreshadow or to highlight the characters personality, history or inclinations. Sometimes to show a characters quirks. What I’m talking about is conversation within a conversation. We’ve all done it and all been witness to it. It happens more often than people realize.

For example:

“The workload seems double lately. Everyone’s on vacation all at once.” Dale wiped mustard from his chin with a paper napkin.
Scott shook his head. “I’m sick of covering for Sasha. Her vacation was over a week ago.”
Dale scowled. “It’s weird, frosty knickers didn’t mention to anyone she was planning a vacation.”
Amber looked up from her lunch. “You mean the impromptu vay-cay that just happened to be right after Clifton gave her the mystical pink-slip file?” She looked at Dales confused face. “Remember Troy?”
Dale nodded. “Yeah.”
“Mmm.” She swallowed the large sip; the straw flicked from her lips. “He got the file and a month later.” She slammed her palms on the diner table. “Gone.”
Scott shoved a french fry in his mouth. “Same happened to Gale and Peter too. Both fired after about a month.” He furrowed his brow while chewing. “Or quit. Not sure which.”
Dale tilted his head. “Huh. So where’s Clifton then? He’s M.I.A. too.”
Amber picked up her half eaten burger. “Ooh maybe they’ve run off together. A tropical tryst getaway.” She took a big bite, chewing while watching Scott think too hard.
“Valery says vacation.” Scott looked at his two friends. “But her behavior and tone say otherwise.”
Amber set her burger down, picked up a couple fries and dipped them in ketchup. “Probably because she know’s the ice princess and creepy Clifton are stooping it on the sly.”
“Frigid remember?” Dale stole a fry from Amber’s tray and she playfully swatted his hand. “She probably took time off for stress. Poor crybaby’s been wigged out and acting crazy lately. Miss glacier could use a good stiff one on hot sunny beach if you ask me.”
Scott thought back over the timeline as Amber and Dale laughed heartily. A vacation made sense. However something was niggling at his mind. Something wasn’t quite right.

Originally it was just a conversation about Sasha being gone too long on vacation and it coinciding with the boss Clifton’s disappearance. I added the side story about the file since at this point it hasn’t come up in a while.

It could be as simple as this:

Valery tapped her toe impatiently as Scott scanned his email. “No, sorry. I have no idea. It wasn’t sent to me. Clifton was the last to have the file.”
She huffed. “Great and he’s not reachable. I need that dammed file.”
Scott shrugged. “I know his passwords. I can unlock his computer for you.”
Valery narrowed her eyes at him.
“It’s no big deal, he asked me to log in about a month ago.” Scott nodded. “This HR guy came in for a meeting. Clifton was running late and wanted me to show him a list or something.” Scott shrugged again. “Guy was super creepy, kept looking at you and Alice and stroking his chin. Anyway he took a printout and left before Clifton showed up.”
Valery scrunched her eyes tight a moment. She was one to cling to rules and regulations as if they were law. “I really do need the file.” She gestured for Scott to go to Clifton office. “What if the password was changed?”
“Clifton is an idiot, ah…” He cleared his throat. “I mean, he never changes them.”

Subtle or not, a side conversation within a conversation can add a hint or foreshadow in a way that isn’t glaringly obvious. The side conversation can be pointless too, if that’s the case I’d make sure it’s humorous or showcases a characters personality.

My advice about conversation within conversation.
If you run into a conversation that needs a little something, like a small dash of salt in chocolate chip cookies. Without it they are too sweet. I forgot once and they weren’t horrible, but the cookies were definitely missing something. Stick a small side story or conversation in the middle of a conversation if it can help.

-Sheryl

Other Posts

Drunken secrets

One step forward and two steps back

Copyright © 2016 All rights reserved

 Cling
Fry

Roller-coaster Conversations

There is nothing worse than a drab, monosyllabic conversation. A parley with no point and no book gripping content. It’s like conversation for the sake of conversation. Page filler that is not going to get the pages turned quickly if at all.

I’ve mentioned before that conversations should have meaning to the characters and impact the story in some way to be effective. I’ve mentioned that showing emotion is important and so is including emotion in conversation.

The more personal the conversation the more emotionally charged it should be. I work hard to make that happen. On that note I like to throw the characters and the reader for a little emotional roller-coaster ride. No serious conversation or confrontation is limited to one or two emotions, they are fire, ice, steam and earthquakes from beginning to end. I try to have a point to the conversation, a reason for it’s existence.

This example of a roller-coaster conversation is a rough draft and not fully edited.

Amber crammed her hands into her jacket pockets and scrunched her shoulders against the cold breeze. Normally it wouldn’t affect her, but lately everything seemed to be different and not in a good way.
“That’s a mighty big frown. You didn’t like the show?”
Amber turned her head toward Dale. He was trying too hard. “It was okay. I just don’t think they deserved that huge standing ovation.” 
His brow nit and he sneered. “So why’d you join in then?”
She shrugged her taught shoulders. “Dunno, didn’t want to look like a jerk I guess.”
They walked in silence, each lost in thought and the tension thick between them. By the time they reached her apartment, Amber was shivering.
“You coming up?” She unlocked the door.

Dale nodded and followed. They agreed to talk after the show. It would probably be a waste of time like all their other attempts. They ended up hanging out neither wanting to actually bring it up first. The second Amber had her coat off she went to find a sweater then to the kitchen to make a tea.
“Want one?” She held up a box of herbal mint tea.
“No thanks.” He looked around at the overly clean interior, Amber may be a lot of things, but messy isn’t one of them. “Where’s Bea?”
Amber filled her mug from the hot spout from the water cooler. “At her girlfriends. I think she’s moving out bit by bit. She just hasn’t said it outright yet.”
“Why?”
Tilting her head to the side she dunked the teabag to a steady rhythm. “Why do you think?”
Dale stared at the bobbing teabag. “Right.”  He looked at her face. “So will you get a new roommate?”
“Yes.” She sipped the steaming tea. “In about seven months or so.” She laughed at his frown. “I can afford this place on my own no problem. I’ve been squirreling her rent away. Even on mat leave I can afford it fine.”
He followed her to the living area and sat on the couch bedside her as she pulled a blanket over herself and held the warm mug between two hands. “I’m screwed in the winter if I’m going to be this sensitive to cold.”
“My mom said you’ll be a furnace once you show.” 
She glared at him her cheeks flushing. “You told your mom?”
“I had to talk to someone Amber.” He rubbed his face with his hands. “You’re not the only one freaked out you know.”
Amber looked into her mug, a few flakes of mint leaf escaped the bag and danced at the bottom. “Great. Did  you tell her you knocked up the office slut?”
“I told her I got my girlfriend pregnant.” He held up his hand when her head snapped up and she opened her mouth. “But that we’re not serious and probably wont stay together. I thought it would be better for her to like you.”
“Thanks Dale.” She tried to smile and failed. “I think we can manage as friends.” She looked at him again when he snorted. “What?”
“Friendzoned. I don’t want to be just your friend Amber.”
“I know and I said I’d try Dale what more can I do?” She set her tea down on the coffee table.
“Try? Do? You’re not trying and you’re not doing anything Amber.” Dale shook his head and shifted sideways on the couch to face her. “I hate this, this.” He slammed his fist on the couch and she flinched. “Ugh. Do you think I like being the fool? The idiot that fell in love with a girl who only has eyes for the actual office slut?”
Her mouth fell open. Scott was perfect and she almost said so then closed her mouth. He wasn’t perfect by a long shot. 
“God Amber you said you wanted to see if we can be a couple but you’re not emotionally available. You’re in love with a shithead who doesn’t deserve the time of day from you.”

She replayed his words in her head while picking at a loose string on the blanket. Her infatuation with Scott was superficial. She looked up at Dale, his eyes dancing, his lips pursed and the muscles of his jaw working overtime. 
“Dale. I’m attracted to Scott. Less so lately, but I don’t love him as more than a friend or buddy or guy to have a crush on.” She blinked back unwelcome tears. “I don’t think I even have a crush on him anymore.”
“Then why not give me a real chance?”
Her eyes spilled over and she wiped her face. “I’m afraid of you Dale.” She wiped her face again. “Afraid you’ll make me love you then leave when it gets tough. Dammit I never cry, stupid hormones.”

Dale blinked at her. She did believe it, not because he’s given her any reason to, but because someone else had. Someone important. She had walls, big tall barriers that made her act and pretend to be easy going and happy-go-lucky regarding men and casual-sex relationships. It was all a facade. He shifted closer and pulled her into a hug until she stopped crying. “Want to know a secret Amber?”
She shifted back and nodded as he hooked a finger under her chin to force her to look up at him.
“I did a little happy dance inside when you told me about the baby and that you were keeping it.”
She furrowed her brow. “Why?”
“Because it meant one way or another you’d be in my life forever.” Dale leaned in and gently pressed his lips to hers, moving them lightly waiting for permission to continue. She moved her lips and set her hand on his bicep gently.  Permission given. He pressed harder and she opened her mouth to his. A low noise of approval escaped his throat when her tongue flicked across his bottom lip and met with his. 

In my opinion the better the ride, the better chance I have of keeping the reader at my theme park of a book. I wanted to show Dale’s commitment, Amber’s strife to change and that her transition is underway. I also wanted to give a bit more backstory to Amber and why she is who and how she is.

My advice about roller-coaster conversations.
Roller-coaster conversations are as enjoyable to write as they are to read. Emotional and pretentious characters can have the best unpredictable conversations. Let them be erratic and unstable, it’s really fun.

-Sheryl

Some other conversational posts I wrote

Hey! Its’ Interjection

Shhh… Don’t say a word.

Hold your tongue!

Copyright © 2016 All rights reserved

 Interior

Misunderstanding miscommunication

People are separate beings. They think and act independently. Often communication can be misinterpreted and it can cause some issues. I love this human flaw. When a person thinks and says one thing that is misunderstood by someone else thinking their own thing. 

They got their wires crossed.  I try to include things that make people more human. So why not misunderstanding miscommunication?  In a tense or heated moment it is easy for someone to say something that can be taken the wrong way by another. That’s what makes it fun.  I am however careful to make sure that the misunderstood communication is relevant to both sides. Side A must have a clear reason for saying what they do and why and side B must have a clear reason for understanding it the way they do and a solid reason for doing so.  It can’t be random and must be valid for both sides of the situation. These are scenes I often spend a little extra time on to make sure both are right and both are wrong. 

The outcome of such misunderstandings can be small or great. It can impact the story not at all or be the tipping point for a serious fall out or drama. From misinterpreting a simple direction that may cause catastrophic results to having one’s feelings hurt from a poorly placed comment, the options are endless and bountiful.

Tony and Anne left Starches without saying a word or looking at each other. Ann zipped up her coat in time for Tony to pull her out to the street. The second the cool air hit them he spoke. “How could you?” Tony shot the words at her like bullets.

Anne kept up with his fast pace, she didn’t have a choice as he dragged her by the upper arm. Instead of answering, she looked away. Neil wasn’t entirely wrong about her and now Tony knew.
“I asked you a question.” He said as they rounded the corner. Her apartment was just up the quiet street.
“I don’t know.” She didn’t, not the answer he wanted nor what he was really asking. He didn’t ask again as they walked in tormented silence.
He stopped outside her apartment. “You’re not an insipid woman Anne, you just stood there and let him say…” Tony let her arm go, looked up to the dark cloudy sky and then back to her. “How could you?”
Anne opened her mouth to answer then closed it. Blinking rapidly she dug her keys out and unlocked the door. If he followed or not she didn’t know as she jogged up the four flights of stairs. She opened her apartment door, threw her keys and coat on the floor, kicked off her shoes and ran to her bedroom.

Tony picked up her coat and hung it, and his, in the closet before taking his shoes off and following her. Her response was extreme, too extreme. She was face down on her bed sobbing, her entire body shaking. He climbed on the bed beside her and rubbed her back.
“Why are you still here?” Her face in the comforter muffled her words.
“Because I’m confused.”
She shifted and looked at his honestly calm and confused face. She sat up wiping her face with the palms of her hand. Her makeup nicely smeared.
“I don’t understand. Some loser calls you names, you stand there letting him and instead of defending yourself you explained your actions to him.”
She chewed her lip as he spoke.
“How could you?”
Her eyes widened. “Oh, you meant how could I let him insult me?”
Tony’s head tilted to the side.
Anne covered her mouth with her hand. “I thought you were mad because I ah…”
“Had a one night stand?” Tony chuckled. “Maybe fifty years ago I would be. Who hasn’t? So?”
She looked at her make-up smeared hands and he got off the bed to get a damp cloth. She was chewing her lips again. “Thanks.” She took the cloth and started wiping her face.
“Anne, I feel like I’m on repeat tonight. So?”
“Oh. Right.” She averted her eyes avoiding his. “Um I was embarrassed and…” She scrunched her face. “I was for the first time ashamed of myself.”
“Here, you’re missing it all.” He took the cloth and started wiping her face for her. “Go on.”
“I’ve never.” She swallowed hard. “Cared before.”
“Cared?” He finished and set the cloth on the nightstand.
“Of what others think of me. I do what I want, when and how I want. I don’t live by anyone’s rules but my own.” Anne sniffled and wiped a tear away.
“Why now?”
“You.” She looked at his face. His days beard growth dark and shadowing his jaw. “I cared what you thought.”
His grin made her furrow her brow. “Oh you care do you?” He shifted toward her forcing her to fall back on her hands. He moved over her smiling down at her scrubbed face. “So all this upset was because you cared what I thought? You were worried I would reject you?”
She nodded as he put his hand on her cheek and made her lay back.
“For having lovers before me?”
She nodded again. “I’ve never kept a guy around long.” She pressed her face into his palm. “I’ve never wanted to.” She swallowed hard again. “Before.”
“Well.” Tony lowered his face closer to hers. “That makes me feel special.” His lips found hers parted and responsive. His hand lowered from her cheek to the back of her head and neck. He would not rush this with her.

Anne stared into Tony’s steel-blue eyes mere inches from hers as her lips parted her breath shallow and warm.
“That’s how I know.” He brushed his thumb over her rapid pulse and smiled.
Anne swallowed and whispered. “Know what?”
“That you’re worth the effort.” Tony’s soft smile reflected hers. “From the first moment I touched your ankle you’ve responded to me like no other has. I knew I didn’t want to just be another guy you dated.”
“You didn’t?”
“Oh no Anne, I wanted to be the last guy you dated.” He gently lowered his lips over hers as their eyes closed.

Aww, sometimes a misunderstanding can have wonderful results. Tony and Anne have very little strife in their relationship, it’s also very new. They don’t know each other too well so it’s bound to happen that their communication doesn’t always connect. 

My advice about having misunderstandings.
They are awesome to include, just take the time to set them up right, and make sure both sides have reasoning. 

-Sheryl

Other posts I wrote

But I hate that

I swear! Or do I?

The FAB pencil

Copyright © 2016 All rights reserved

 Calm

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