Next week I’ll finish an editing class about, well, editing and polishing our manuscripts. It’s about the nitty-gritty of grammar, punctuation, and such! I’m a guest instructor of FF&PRWA, Future, Fantasy, and Paranormal
Saturday I’ll be presenting for the monthly meeting for Georgia Romance Writers of RWA. I’ll discuss creating characters you will love or hate but not forget when you reach The End.
March will be all about characterization, or showing instead of telling. Yep
Getting to Know Your Characters by Showing not Telling
Presented by: Mary Marvella
Fee: OIRW Member $25| Non-Member $35
Instead of telling about characters, show our readers. What our main characters think, say and do, that’s easy. But how do other characters react to out main ones? How do they treat our main characters? How else can we show?
Mary Marvella has been a storyteller for as long as she can remember. The arrival of the book mobile was as exciting as hearing the music of the ice cream truck. As a child of the South, she inherited the storytelling gene from her parents and her grandmamas.
Retired from teaching classic works of the masters, Mary plays let’s pretend with her characters. She has published 10 novels, 1 book on editing, and a collection of Christmas stories.
Mary tutors, and coaches writers when she isn’t working on projects as a freelance editor. She has always been a grammar geek who loved soaking up new knowledge and reading everything, including labels on cereal boxes.
Georgia raised, she writes stories with a Southern flair.
I posted this several years ago, but we tend to forget things, especially if they don’t apply to us.
Why should writers be concerned about the hearing problems of others? Because writers operate in a world with other people, and one day any of you could start losing your hearing.
It’s happened to me, and it often affects my interactions. You might know someone who hides a hearing problem or you might not be paying enough attention to notice. Some people aren’t aware they’re not hearing everything or that people with them aren’t.
For example, I was walking with two people at a writers’ workshop. Since I’m a klutz, I was looking down while we talked. One of the people asked me several times to repeat what I said. After a while he caught my attention and said he hadn’t heard much of what I was saying.
Tired but excited after a long and productive day Wednesday evening, despite having my jumped off twice, I backed into my garage. Folks who know me well know I DON’T often back up, so I had to work on that. I figured that would make it easier for someone to start my poor car.
The second I turned off the engine, I tried to restart it. It worked! Ten minutes later I went back out and turned the key. Silence! I had expected that! The battery was indeed dead.
Since I had nowhere to go for 4 days, I didn’t worry about the battery Thursday. However, Friday reminded me that I couldn’t go anywhere if I had an emergency. Hmmm. I sent messages to 2 of my former students, about the costs of batteries and the best place to get one, but neither responded, so I googled and found a place.
No brand names mentioned here. I could save by ordering online. Have you tried to order a car part online? The site even wants to know the color of the car and its parents’ names. Slight exaggeration. I ordered one at a store not far from me and made an appointment to have it installed FREE!
Next I called my insurance company to get roadside assistance again. Did you know you if you don’t have a stinking app, it takes 30 minutes to fill out the request? Maybe not that long, but it seemed like since I kept making mistakes. By the way, I had appointments with editing clients later.
Once I got a jump start an hour later, I checked my phone for directions to get my battery. By the grace of God, I caught that the store location was much farther than the one I had in mind. I had barely pulled out of my garage when 2 lights of death flashed on the dash! LOW tire pressure and LOW gas. Neither light was on Wednesday when I pulled into my garage. I could have asked the Roadside Assistance guy to check the tires, but NOOOO. He was long gone.
Driving like an old little lady, I watched those lights and finally gave in to look for a place to get the tires checked. Easy? NOT! I finally pulled in to a tire store and asked an attendant to check my tires. Smart man told me they were low. I KNEW THAT! He also wanted me to let him check for a nail causing the loss of air. I didn’t have time for that! I was already late for my battery appointment.
Of course, the low fuel light still taunted me, and I could imagine sitting on the side of the expressway with no gas, so I pulled into a gas station/convenience store close by. Can you guess what I did? What are we supposed to do when we gas up our cars? The second I turned off my engine I tried to restart my car. I could pray I didn’t run out of gas. It didn’t matter! The battery was well and truly dead.
Panic made me feel like a mad woman. I paid for gas and asked the clerk if someone in the store could give my battery one last jump start. Of course not! Since my trunk is full of boxes of books, I couldn’t have found my jumper cables if my life has depended on it. Picture a short, elderly woman begging men for a jump start in the sprinkling rain! I was not a pretty sight. Fortunately, a customer offered help and got me on my way.
FINALLY, I MADE IT TO THE BATTERY STORE. I had planned to go get the tires checked, but they weren’t low anymore, sooooo.
That evening I had two client conferences, both of which had rescheduled while I waited for my NEW battery, and made a little money! I admit that wasn’t exciting the way winning a trip is, but I’ll take it!
If you find yourself wanting to skim your own book to get to the wonderful end or if you want to just write “And more stuff happens.” and the get to the good parts.
Time for another course! Avoid that sagging middle readers skim. The course will involve ways to cure sagging middles in any story. Writers who don’t plot can find themselves painted into a corner or wondering what to do next. Even plotters sometimes find a story seems to be going nowhere. Sometimes the problems are solved, but the book needs to be longer. OOPS!So what can we do about that? Students and I will share ways to make scenes more meaningful and give characters problems that fit the situation and make those characters stronger for the new problems.I will give lessons/lectures about why stories need conflicts, small and large, internal and external, to keep excitement going and readers reading.Students will select slow scenes from their projects or create them so we can pump life into them with small or large rocks. I will give examples of problems based on the stories. We will brainstorm and share scenes on the loop each week.http://www.oirwa.com/forum/workshop-registration/ONLY $35 for a one month class!
I recently took a manuscript I had planned to update and load to create print books. The story was dear to my heart and filled with love and emotion. After both of my parents passed away and my marriage ended within one year, I needed to vent my grief, hurt, and anger. I did. I cried over my laptop keyboard.
That was all I needed to write a good book everyone would love, right? WRONG!
Some reviews said nasty things. “It was riddled with errors.” Say what? I skimmed for errors and only found some Southern spellings, like goin’ for going or doin’ instead of doing. I used Southern expressions. Surely they were the reason someone said there were so many errors she couldn’t read it. Maybe the reviewer was just being nasty. One reviewer even gave the book a 1. A 1? She liked the story, but it needed an editor and a proof reader. The nerve of that reviewer!
During this reading I found lots of things I missed. Some were about proofing, while others were mistakes caused by gremlins and my reading too quickly. If I can make mistakes and miss them with my knowledge and experience, maybe you could, too. We all have habits we need to break.
Hw meny tymes have you seen meems that misspelled wrds and omitt wurds and asked if you cud read and unnerstan them? Could you understand this question? I’m guessing you could. Now for the big question. WOULD YOU WANT TO READ A BOOK WITH LOTS OF ERRORS AND HAVE TO INNTERPRET THEM?
I taught school and read answers to essay questions by students of all levels, so I can figure out answers. I tutor and edit for students and writers at different levels, so I still figure out what they mean and use their errors to teach them. I would not read a book that had many errors or required straining my brain to read them.
Are you often tempted to skim books until you find the good parts? There are ways to save your readers from that temptation.
Clean up grammatical errors.
YES, you do need to use the correct punctuation, and, YES, there are rules. Learn them before you break them intentionally.
Read for weak verbs that don’t evoke images for your reader.
Watch ing verbs and how often you use was when other verbs would make your writing stronger.
Use dialogue that moves your story and involves readers.
Consider when using passive voice carries more impact or using active voice packs a stronger punch.
Never make your reader guess what you meant. Be clear.
If you tend to be verbose, learn when you need an economy of words. We Southerners know about verbosity and using five words when one or two would make our points.
Remember the Sci-fi, futuristic books and movies that had all learning virtual? Students used computers that presented lessons taught by robots or other AI. Disembodied voices came from nowhere to give commands or request information. That time might be closer than I had hoped.
Though I resist change, I got sucked in because one of my clients moved away and wanted to be able to take me with her kids. Skype permitted it! The students were home schooled and could have listened to lessons on line. They chose to “take me with them”, instead. I actually learned to enjoy working with them one-on-one. The family moved to Houston, and I went along on my laptop. We could still work on lessons and joke and laugh and get down to business.
The family moved to Canada, and we continued to work together. No passport was required. Then the boy got into college and, as you might have guessed, I worked with him when he attended college in Dayton and the girl in Canada. The girl and I made it through three years for her to finish high school and go to college in Canada.
Now a nasty virus is making it necessary to teach many students virtually instead of in person. Adults are meeting in groups through Zoom. After being stuck at home with a broken shoulder for 2 months I wanted to get out and hug folks! But we’re not supposed to hug. I still can’t meet my local students in person, and few of my networking groups meet in person. My local romance writers group meets on Zoom, and conferences meet virtually! Romance Writers of America and Dragon Con will have virtual workshops. How crazy is that? No costumes or wild parties? I could still wear costumes, but…
I sneak in a few hugs as long as folks wear masks and don’t kiss. One of these days, I’ll be one hugging glutton!
These days my laptop is my constant companion! No more chalkboards. No more classrooms for me.
Margo’s Choice, Women’s Fiction, builds tension based on character flaws.
Margo worries when she learns Jay, her EX, is coming back for their oldest daughter’s birthday. She doesn’t know Jay is retiring from the Marines and coming home to stay. Jay was her first love and her only love. Neither has remarried, and they still share a strong attraction to each other, but Margo is determined she will never fall for his charms again. He leaves her hurt and disappointed each time. Will she never learn?
“He sends cards and gifts for both,” Carol said. “The girls show me everything their daddy sends them.”
Margo’s response. “At first he sent cards and gifts for Rose. His mama sent cards and gifts for Dee, then she finally shamed him into doing it, since she was only a kid.“
Rose(Electra) and Dee (Deidre) have a lot at stake, too!
Electra is 20 and in college.
Electra couldn’t wait to see her dad again. He had always been so big and strong. He’d made her feel safe. Even last year he’d been able to hoist her over his shoulder, practically bench press her hundred and twenty pounds. That was after they’d run three miles. He’d carried her the last half mile and she’d nearly tossed her breakfast. At five feet five, she was no lightweight.
He’d be around all the time now, since he was retiring. At least he wouldn’t try to make rules and treat her like a kid the way Mama and her grandparents did. She’d soon be a college graduate and she’d be on her own. Sweet! Mama didn’t know Daddy sent her money every month. With that and her part time job, she’d paid for a car. Both sets of grandparents had given money toward her down payment. If he kept up the extra money, she could move into her own apartment soon.
She missed having her dad around. She loved the way her friends reacted to him and even pictures of him. The girls called him so-o-o hot and the guys said he looked cut. His muscles looked like they had muscles. For an old guy and a dad, he looked great, better than any football player or weight lifter she’d ever seen.
Why did Dad seem so strange about Dee? Everyone loved Dee. How could anyone not love her? She made good grades, didn’t get into trouble, and had no idea she was special. Dee never ratted her out, like about hidden piercings or tattoos or nights spent with a certain boyfriend who played in a band. Mama and the grandparents would shit a brick if they knew about him and the things she’d done with him.
Deidre is in high school and vulnerable.
Hell, her mom had married at twenty, and look how that ended up. No way am I getting tied down at twenty, even for Shark.
Deidre re-read her letters from her dad. Then she re-read each card. She’d printed her emails from him. They were all great letters but something made them different from the letters and cards he’d sent to Electra. Not once could she find the word love in any of them. Electra and Grandma M said men weren’t good at using that word, but she’d seen it in her sister’s letters from their dad. Now that he was coming home for good, she’d make him proud of her. She’d make him love her like he loved Electra.
She’d show him the manila envelope with her report cards and academic awards. This year she’d run track and done well, winning the last three races. Maybe he’d get her a car, too. She’d saved most of the money he’d sent for birthdays and Christmas and monthly allowance checks. Electra had guilted him into sending them extra allowances and laughed about it. Mama had no clue they had extra money
So much potential for growth and so much for pain!
Does your family go on picnics? We didn’t make a big deal of them. Mama packed sandwiches and took jugs of sweet tea when we went swimming. We did have coolers. Cups or glasses? Aluminum tumblers, I think. Who remembers? Our picnics didn’t look like this and mine don’t, either.
Day trips to the beach meant loading the ’37 Ford and later the ’50 Ford and heading out early from Augusta, Georgia and later from Macon. We 3 children and Mama would sleep most of the way. The last half of the trip meant girls begging for bathroom stops and Daddy pronouncing every gas station bathroom too dirty without slowing the car to check. Most of you won’t remember stopping by the side of the highway or a few feet down a side road or in the country and looking for the right spot to hide from view, but I do! No Porta Potty or outhouse to be found at a picnic spot. (That’s a topic for another blog.) Those trips meant smelling the pulp mill outside of Savannah and declaring we smelled ocean salt air thirty minutes before we got there and grins, giggles, and shivers of excitement with the first view of the ocean.
I remember brown bags with the food that was special because we were hungry and wanted to keep swimming. I’m sure there was probably a blanket, but my memory is sketchy there. I don’t remember potato salad or fried chicken or lunch meat. Maybe that’s because we were good with peanut butter or cheese sandwiches wrapped in wax paper.
Beach lunches were the same simple picnic food. Sometimes Mama packed a blanket. Other times, we used towels. Shivering, salty, sandy kids weren’t picky when they were hungry. Mama had her hands full getting us ready and out of the house with towels and food. Her picnic food wasn’t fancy, but we loved it. Potato chips were way better to kids than potato salad would have been. We preferred sandwiches to chicken salad.
The beach meant Sea & Ski! It meant fun and food with a bit of sand. It meant wet bathing suits under shorts and too much sun to make kids miserable all the way home.