Outlines, Plot Twists and Google Maps

I generally consider the whole ‘pantser’ vs ‘plotser’ debate to be a Shrodinger’s Cat dilemma–we plan and pants simultaneously (and yeah, at various points in the process, the book might feel dead and alive at the same time depending on whether or not you’re looking at it). Truth be told, the pantsing/plotting happens recursively as well. You can start with an outline for your novel (if you have a publisher and a contract, you’ll have had to at least come up with this much). Depending on your style, you may have outlines for every chapter, even every scene. Hell, I heard about someone who had a 60K ‘outline’ for a 90K book (which made me think what he really had was a 60K first draft). Whatever floats your boat. But just remember ….

At some point, you’re going to run into construction cones, ‘bridge out’ signs and the mother of […]

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At Least She’s Pretty

I started reading a new book the other night. It was a science fiction tale of soldiers fighting with advanced weaponry that the real-world army can only dream of, against an enemy determined to take them out at any cost. For a page or two, we were doing fine… until the author started introducing more characters. There was the beautiful soldier headed into combat who made sure to perfectly coif her hair. A technician who didn’t seem to know that she was beautiful. There was the lovely-even-without-any-makeup woman of color, proud and unflappable in the face of a life-shattering injury. And of course the adorable pixie dream girl who somehow has the physical strength to take down a man four times her size.

There were men, of course. A compactly built, stern-faced sergeant, a hulking asshole and the skinny genius kid. And the main character, of course, who, as of […]

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Writing Workout

I love to lift weights with my husband. But doing the same exercises every week becomes dull awfully fast, and the surest way to kill enthusiasm for an exercise routine is to let it get boring. The same truth holds for creative exercise. Sometimes sitting down and putting your hands on the keyboard isn’t quite enough to wake up your muse. Today I’m going to share a few nifty exercises for you to try next time there’s a wall between your brain and the empty page.

Dictionary Open up a dictionary and find a word you’ve never seen before. Read its definition. What does it say to you? Is it frightening? Amusing? Confusing? Good. Now using that thought, try to come up with a short story featuring that word. You don’t need to write the whole story (unless you’re inspired!) Just scribble yourself a few lines.

For extra-credit, see if […]

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The Same Old Song

Several years back, I swore to myself (and to my husband, who was trapped in the car with me and unable to avoid hearing my rant) that I would never, ever sit on a panel called “Strong Female Characters” ever again. I had just been on one at a con, and while the discussion was perfectly reasonable and the audience attentive, we were rehashing the same old crap that’s been said thousands of times. And none of it changes anything. A panel called “Strong Female Characters” tends to affirm the often unspoken rule that white heterosexual male characters are the norm, and women are somehow different.

The same problem lurks with all sorts of commonly scheduled panels on diversity. Another that bugs me is “Writing the Other”. In an ideal world, a panel about writing the other would focus on how each of us is both different and alike, and […]

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Who Do You Want To Be?

Last week I read an entertaining article from Barnes & Noble’s SFF blog about the ten characters John Scalzi identified with most vividly, and it set me to reminiscing about my own wishes when I was a kid. As I’ve mentioned before, I used to hang out in the marsh near my house, hoping that if I stayed quiet and still long enough, the faeries would show up and take me to their world of magic and wonder. Alas, it never happened, so I had to start creating worlds of magic and wonder on my own. But when I read, I often feel the desire to be one or two of the characters created by my favorite writers, in the same way Scalzi talked about. So I figured I’d share a few of those with you today. I hope that when you’ve finished reading my choices, that you’ll comment with […]

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Character Development – Show Me – Jane and Beast — PART TWO

Yep, it’s Thursday! I’m baaaaaack!

And yes — Dark Heir is out and doing well. 🙂

If our main characters are to blossom, then they have to have a function and the weapons to accomplish the goal you, the writer, sets for them. Function: Jane is necessary to stem the vamp war with the European Vampires, a war she knows nothing of when the series starts. Weapons: She has the desire, developing skill sets and the family she is building to fight evil. When she realizes that her friends and godchildren are potentially threatened, she also has the desire to fight.

So if look at characterization from the standpoint of strengths and weaknesses, we can easily take a character—any character—and show them developing by simply letting the plot points challenge the character’s weaknesses.

Last week we looked at Jane Yellowrock’s traits, so this week let’s look at them again, […]

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Character Development – Show Me – Jane and Beast

Hey Everyone! Long Time No POST!

Back in (gasp) January 2009, I wrote about character development and how I created and developed Thorn St. Croix for the Rogue Mage series. (That was about the novels BloodRing, Seraphs, and Host ) But I can’t find where I ever did a post on how I created Jane and Beast in the Jane Yellowrock series. New book, DARK HEIR, coming out April 7th, By the way.

If you’ve ever heard me on a panel or teaching a seminar on character and character development, you’ve heard me say (probably ad nauseam) Your character has one great strength and one great weakness. The weakness makes the conflict worse, the strength and developing strengths saves the character and resolves the plot’s conflict. This is called the marriage of character development and conflict.


There are specific, identifiable parts to strength and weakness Characterization…. These are called […]

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