Saturday, March 25, 2017

Tips for Creating Well-Rounded Characters

Reviewing the surveys on my blogiversary post (which you guys can still submit answers to), you all asked for more writing tips. So here you have it: characters. Stick around for my newest #typewriterprompt ;)

I was scared to figure them out for Martin Hospitality and now? They're my favorite thing to plan! Here are some of the things I use:
I'm listing this one first, because it's one of my favorite things to do! If you're not familiar with the Myers-Briggs Type Indicater, learn more about the personalities here (there are 16). Figuring out what personality type my characters have is extremely helpful. It makes me think harder about them and once I've pinpointed them, all I have to do is type in their result on Pinterest and a plethora of "what they're like" pins appear. They're great for giving me new ideas and making sure I got the character's personality right :D

For example, I'm an INTJ or Introverted iNtuitive Thinking Judging. This pin sums me up so I'm pretty certain my personality type is correct.

I also love naming characters. I try to keep a running list of names going for my own sanity, because sometimes nothing perfect comes to mind. When I get really stuck, I research names. (And trust me, I do get stuck; it took me hours or research to name Gemma's next child.) Names have meanings and literally every person I have known in real life lives up to that meaning in some way.

I love the name Miriam, but it means "sea of bitterness or sorrow," "rebellion," "wished-for child," or "mistress or lady of the sea." Thus, an edgy MC in my pirate storyboard is named Miriam instead of my future daughter :) As with Miriam, names often have several meanings that can inspire plot bunnies.

Another way to name a character by meaning is to research foreign words. Google Translate has never been more helpful. "Hope" is amal in Arabic, nadezhda in Russian, and esperanza in Spanish. Esperanza actually gets used as a name.

Just please make names easy to pronounce correctly by sight. Kari is a simple name, but how do you say it? KAR-ee or KEH-ree? And maybe don't use twelve apostrophes. I get tired of reading names like L'af'ka'h. L'afka looks just as foreign ;)
Your readers will be able to keep track of your characters more easily if they are unique. J. K. Rowling has more characters in her story than any other I've read. But I can still name most of them, a physical feature, and a role they played in the story. Watching the movies may have helped me remember them all, but that's because I'm visual. That's still a lot of names!

In Martin Hospitality, I gave Gemma several friends while she's in Wichita. Hollie James is a vibrant, bubbly, cheerful character. But Ginger Martin could be described the same way. So I gave Hollie eccentric style, crazy driving skills, and a pet name for Gemma. Ginger is a sweetheart and a star baker who would hesitate before speaking her mind quite as freely as Hollie does :) Thus, they became very different characters in my mind. It also helped that they never shared "screen time" together.

Whether it's a speech tic, an item of clothing (asparagus green fedora*cough*), a nervous habit, eye color, or a unique personality ... you have plenty to make your characters stand out from one another. 
Every character has backstory even if it only gets mentioned in passing. Everyone's coming from somewhere. It's important when you form their character in the present, that you keep them consistent with their past. (This is one reason I love character charts that make me consider their past before I write.) Maybe it's their accent or ethnicity. Maybe it's something more fine print like having a certain reaction under pressure because of a past circumstance. What kind of education must they have gotten to have the kind of job you gave them?

It's important to think about these things because they become inconsistencies in the story if they don't line up. While there are ways around some standards (MINOR SPOILER EXAMPLE: Gemma worked at a law firm without qualifications due to Mr. Martin and a glitch.)
These are the best! If you haven't used character charts (sometimes called character sheets) to plan your characters, you are missing out! They're so much fun!! I have used this one and this one from Pinterest, but this one from Jill Williamson is my absolute favorite. It combines everything above. Obviously that last one is pretty in depth, so I only use it for my main characters: antagonist, protagonist, villain, any POV peeps, and any other characters I want to understand more. I love charts because they don't just make me think about the character more, they make me think about their role in the story and where they're coming from. Scribbling all that down on one piece of paper for reference is SUPER helpful! I've thought about designing my own, but that's been really hard ;)

Characters will make or break a book. Have fun with them!! They may sound like a lot of work, but it's not as hard as you might think once you get in there, and they're worth it. They've become my favorite part of planning a story. I'll wing everything else if I have to ;)

Aaaand it's the last Saturday of the month whaaat?! so I need to share another writing prompt with you!

What kind of characters does that bring to your mind? If you missed the reveal of #1-12, you can view them on my blogiversary post, or view them on this Pinterest board. Repinning them would be awesome (#typewriterprompt)! Thanks to all of you who already have ^.^ 


As an announcement: I just found out that I won all 5 of the indie awards I was nominated for as a part of Kendra's e-con!! What?! *screams* *tears up* Thank you all so much for voting! The beautiful badges are on my Shop page ^.^

Next Saturday begins the self-publication series you've all been waiting for!! Definitely submit questions to me through this survey if you haven't already! It's been immensely helpful for my planning.

Also, I blog over at Teen Authors Journal now on Thursdays and I am super proud of my latest post: 7 Writing Lessons from Beauty and the Beast. I would love it if you'd check it out (and share it around ;D)

Have a great weekend! :)

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Banishing Plotting // What to Plot & What to Not

With Camp NaNoWriMo just around the corner, everyone's scrambling to plot their stories. Maybe you don't ... need to.

I can already hear the cheers from the pantsers and the gasps from the plotters.

While I've always considered myself more of a plotter, my to-do lists began to look like this:

from Dreamstime

I would add things to my lists just so I could have the pleasure of checking them off (especially when I didn't finish some of the larger items).

At that point, planning things is no longer helpful; it was just a tool to make me feel productive, when in fact I was wasting my time and energy. In Michael Hyatt's webinar on productivity, he called "tracking obsessively" a "deadly sin."

I couldn't help thinking as I listened to him that this applies to writing. I have tried to excessively plot my stories and even when I succeed, it's not helpful in the end. I've learned all of this the hard way, and while it's bound to be somewhat subjective, perhaps it will help you weed out some unnecessary plotting.

1 // Characters

Characters are the foundation to any story, so it's very important to have these nailed down. A plot hole dims in comparison to a character with no backstory and depth. My favorite character chart I've found so far is from Jill Williamson of Go Teen Writers. If you need something a little in-depth try this and this from Pinterest.

2 // Trajectory

Especially since I don't plot my entire story in detail anymore, I think it's important to at least know where I'm headed. That's enough for me to get started writing and see where the process of actually writing takes me. This usually takes the form of a chronological sequence of scenes that have popped into my head.

3 // Game-Changing Element

It's nice to know what your plot twist and the climax of your story are before you start writing. That way, you can do foreshadowing and properly build the story around those elements from the beginning. Writing this down longhand in a notebook is usually the best thing for me. Revise it as you come up with developments.

4 // Setting

If it's in this world, this shouldn't take a whole lot of time. Decide what era, and at least what country/state. Do some research on that environment if you need to before you get started. The goal is not to be switching things around too much in the middle of a draft because that makes editing a real pain.

1 // Minor Characters

While you should definitely nail down your protagonist, antagonist, and anyone else you're going to use for POV ... that's about it. The pet dog, mother-in-law, and siblings #4, 5, & 6 have to be vital to the story. As long as you know what makes them vital, there's no reason you have to plan them out any more than that from the beginning.

2 // The Entire Plot

Trust me, I've tried this. I thoroughly outlined the first half of a novel by chapter. It was a stiff and boring outline, but it helped me think through a few little details. After I got past the first chapter, I wrote without ever looking at that outline again. A bunch of bullet point scenes and conversations is enough for me now. You have to be willing to let your mind and story take their own path once you actually sit down to write.

3 // Dialogue

Again, some bullet points of issues you want to be verbally discussed in your book is probably a good idea. That way you don't forget anything. But there's no reason to form a diagram of conversations, because you're not going to follow it. It's a waste of time. You just have to be careful not to give every reply as you instead of as your character.

4 // Themes

This is kind of a halfway one. It'd probably be good to know what one of your themes is going to be. In Martin Hospitality hospitality (generosity, kindness, etc) was a decided theme before drafting. I added stronger threads of grace, forgiveness, fear, finite-ness, trust, & courage than I thought I would once I began writing.

In short, don't overdo it. It's a waste of time if you do. Just make sure you watch for the things you didn't plan, so that you can find them and continue to use them in your story as you write.


What are some things you don't plot? Are you a plotter, plantser, or pantser?? (Obviously I'm a plantser).

Also! The Martin Hospitality Kindle e-book is on sale for $0.99 HERE through March 19th!

Thursday, March 16, 2017

E-book Sale // Indie E-Con

Hey everyone! I'm participating in Kendra's Indie E-Con which means the Martin Hospitality e-book is on sale!

Martin Hospitality is usually $14.99 paperback and $4.99 ebook. The e-book is on sale for just $0.99 all the way through March 19th here, so be sure to grab a copy while you can! The voting for the awards it's been nominated for begins March 20th, so give it a read and I'll direct you to the voting location once it's open.

You can find the other awesome books on sale right now on Kendra's blog.

Thank you! I can't wait to hear what you think :)


If you've already read my book, definitely stick around for voting and write me a review on Amazon and Goodreads! What do you want to see in book 2, Martin Crossings? I've begun writing it!

Saturday, March 11, 2017

A Vlog and Ramblings #3

It's a double-feature vlog and random information! Who can pass that up, right? Also check out who won the giveaway!

Brought to you by the lovely Ivy Rose, I was disappointed when I never managed to film the 3rd vlog and submit my link. Now we're onto the 4th round, but I decided to cheat. So I answered the questions for both installments in this video. Hopefully the quality's okay; I was trying out my new phone in my room (with bad lighting) so it's not great ;) But I answered the questions!

What did you think? You have until April 15th to submit your video to Ivy's linkup. As I mentioned in the vlog, you'll be entered to win a $10 Amazon gift card. If you haven't tried vlogging yet, it's worth a shot! Just go with it. I didn't even wear makeup this time because it was 9pm. Be you and people will love it :)

For the rambling updates bit, my cousin is coming to stay for Spring Break and all my college friends will be home this weekend so I'm trying not to freak out!! Pictures may spam your Facebook. Or we may have too much fun for pictures. We'll see ;)

I will be doing Camp NaNo this April. I'm actually beginning March 15 as a part of Ivy's NaNo make-up and I'm going to follow that all the way through the end of April with the real NaNo, if that makes any sense. Basically 6 weeks of NaNo to write 50,000 words on my next novel Martin Crossings. Hopefully.

I'm also trying to figure out what writing conferences I'm going to attend this year. Everything's so expensive for us poor indie authors *cries*

That being said, I have some free resources for you. I'm participating in this indie e-con this year, so if any of you would like to attend, definitely check that out! It will take place on Kendra's blog

Second, Michael Hyatt's webinars. He ranked high in Thomas Nelson and has really helpful webinars every now and then with applicable steps to success that you fill out in a nifty handout. He has one coming up this Monday & Tuesday called The 7 Deadly Sins of Productivity. Even if you can't make one of the live one, sign up so you get the recording access :)

And now for the giveaway winners!!

won the signed Martin Hospitality paperback

won the typewriter postcards and bottlecap magnets

won the watercolor notebook and postcard

Congrats, ladies! You should have an e-mail from me asking for your mailing address ;)

A vlog and rambling, just as promised. Hopefully you found some of that helpful and fun. Thanks for entering the giveaway! What random life updates do you have for me?

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Blogging with Zero Ideas

I'm not the first blogger I've heard worry about running out of topics to cover. This is the only topic that has popped into my head of a full 10 minutes of contemplation. The weekend snuck up on me. I have no excuses.

So what do you blog when you have absolutely no ideas. Nothing huge has happened lately. No themes struck you throughout the week. It's not time for a wrap-up. You don't have any tags. The creativity is dwindling.

The good news is, I think you still have quite a few options:
This should be a last resort. We want to hear from you if at all possible. Which is why I'm here writing this rambling post and admitting it's really hard this week. You can always take a hiatus, though, if you're feeling really done.
Even if you can't recall something you want to blog on, go looking. Maybe you want to do writing environment because so-and-so did or ask how collaborative fiction writing even works. (I have no idea; don't ask me.)
Making excuses is an option, too, but don't do it. If it's been really difficult for you to blog of late, tell people that! I've had very little creativity this week overall and more things on my plate than normal.
This always seems to make readers happy and it's not too difficult. Here, this is one I took recently.
Cool, right? I totally forgot I wanted to share it with you guys until I went searching for a recent picture! #storyofmylife
How has your week been? I really want to know. So feel free to share. Are you doing Camp NaNo in April?
People want to know how you're doing and it's okay to tell them. I've had horrible headaches this week (thank you early pollens), but I hung out at coffee shops twice, and I'm making macaroons with my sister and a bestie home from college this weekend so that's exciting. And I also had my second book signing yesterday.
No, not in your blog post. I meant about your blog post. What does God want you to write about? For me it'd probably be including Him more ... I feel like He doesn't come through as much as He should on here since He's the foundation for everything I do.
This is totally what I'm doing for this post, not even kidding. And it's coming together. There's nothing wrong with faking it a little. No one will know unless you tell them like I just did.


Hop on over to my last post if you haven't filled out my questionnaires and entered the giveaways! You won't want to miss them! Now I want to hear about you and how life has been :)