Weather Thesaurus Entry: Fall

WEATHER is an important element in any setting, providing sensory texture and contributing to the mood the writer wishes to create in a scene. With a deft touch, weather can enhance the character's emotional response to a specific location, it can add conflict, and it can also (lightly) foreshadow coming events.

However, caution must accompany this entry: the weather should not be used as a window into a character's soul. The weather can add invisible pressure for the character, it can layer the SCENE with symbolism, it can carefully hint at the internal landscape, but it must never OVERTLY TELL emotion. Such a heavy-handed approach results in weather cliches and melodrama (a storm raging above a bloody battle, a broken-hearted girl crying in the rain).

SENSORY DESCRIPTORS:

Sight: Leaves change to yellow, orange, and red, and begin to fall. The fruit of many trees ripen and will also fall to the ground if not harvested. In some places, the grass begins to fade to brown. The rains lessen and the wind picks up, blowing fallen leaves over the roads and into drifts and ditches. Farmer's markets and roadside stands crop up with fresh fall produce: pumpkins, squash, apples, pears, corn. Football season is evident by the increased number of jerseys being worn and kids outside tossing the pigskin. Fall decorations make an appearance (scarecrows, hay bales, gourds, Indian corn, Halloween decor).

Smell: baking apples and pumpkin, cinnamon, crisp cool air, wood smoke

Taste: various apple and pumpkin baked goods (pies, muffins, cookies, etc.), candy corn

Touch: cool air (particularly at night), increased winds, chill bumps rising on the skin, the crunch of dead leaves underfoot, knobby pumpkins, scratchy hay bales

Sound: the sighing wind, branches scraping the house, leaves skittering over the road, geese honking as they fly overhead, an axe chopping firewood, a fire's crackle, the scrape of rakes piling up leaves

EMOTIONAL TRIGGERS:

Mood: For many people, fall is a welcome break from the heat of summer and reminds them that change is coming. As such, fall can bring about a sense of optimism. With Halloween and Thanksgiving firmly entrenched in the autumn season, fall often puts people in an anticipatory mood, knowing that good family times are right around the corner.

Symbolism: the declining years of life, aging, abundance and gratitude, nature's bounty

Possible Cliches: ?

OTHER: When describing fall, remember your location. The descriptions here are the typical ones, but many locations don't see these changes. In south Florida, hardly any leaves change color, and it doesn't really get cool until October or November, when the weather bounces back and forth between pleasant and hot. In cold climates, fall may be shorter than the calendar's three months, with the weather charging right into winter. Wherever your story takes place, be sure to research your setting to keep the details true.

Don't be afraid to use the weather to add contrast. Unusual pairings, especially when drawing attention to the Character's emotions, is a powerful trigger for tension. Consider how the bleak mood of a character is even more noticeable as morning sunlight dances across the crystals of fresh snow on the walk to work. Or how the feeling of betrayal is so much more poignant on a hot summer day. Likewise, success or joy can be hampered by a cutting wind or drizzling sleet, foreshadowing conflict to come.

Blogging Tips: Make Your Text POP

A lot of people wonder how they can create a Breakout Blog that will help build platform and connect them to their audience. This series on Blogging Tips looks at ways to maximize blog performance to reach these goals. 

We've talked about how good titles and the use of pictures can really help your blog post draw interest, and how short, effective posts can keep readers reading. But what about writing the text itself...are there any do's and don'ts

Here's a few things that might be worth keeping in mind:

DO:

Use BOLD to highlight key thoughts. This makes the main ideas stand out and can convert 'skimmers' into readers by showing the value inside a post! Less is more, however...if every other line is bolded, the effect is lost.

Short Paragraphs. Tighter paragraphs means more white space. Reading feels 'quicker', which is attractive to people who have only so much time to read blogs. It also indicates to new visitors that the poster can get to the point rather than ramble.

Use headings or bullets.  Adding a little structure to a blog entry with several points to consider will break the text up into bite-sized pieces AND show that the poster is organized and succinct.  

Make links stand out. When linking to other websites or older posts, make sure the hyperlinks are visible. People like links...they add value and provide a direction if a reader needs more information. Pick a link color that is easily spotted within the text.

 DON'T:

Choose a background that's hard on the eyes. Some blogs set their text boxes to 'invisible', allowing the design to bleed through. This can make posts harder to read. Ditto with poor color contrasts. If squinting readers have to practically make out with their monitor to read a blog's acid green text on the purple background...how often will they return? 

Use a font that is difficult to read. Fonts are fun and can personalize a blog. But fonts must be READABLE. If they aren't, deciphering posts can be a chore. Readers have a lot of other blogs to choose from, so we need to do everything we can to keep them at ours. :)  
 
Get too crazy with colors. I've seen blogs with each paragraph written in a different color, or even each sentence. Some blogs can get away with more text color because it fits the blogger's style--fun, laid back or whimsical. But if the blog functions as a resource/authority on a particular subject...the rainbow effect may send the message to not take content too seriously.  

Use tiny print. This can be a challenge, because the size of text is not always easy to figure out. Becca and I have driven ourselves mental when we notice that to her Mac or my PC, the text size appears too small or too large on a post. We have tried different things that sometimes fixes it, other times it doesn't. Do your best to make the text size large enough for people to read easily. If you're uncertain that what you see is what readers see, ask!

So...what are your Do's and Don'ts? Please list them in the comments! And if you ever notice anything about this blog that hampers your reading experience, please say so. Becca and I are all about learning and improvement, and we want your visits to be as enjoyable as possible! 

Find these tidbits on Blogging useful? Click on the label 'Blogging tip' to discover other little things that will make a big difference!

Character Trait Entry: Loyal

Definition: unswerving in allegiance

Causes: having experienced loyalty in the past and valuing it; having experience betrayal and wanting no part of it; love; a strict military or religious background where blind loyalty is expected and rewarded; a belief that the person, institution, or ideal espoused is more important than self

Characters in Literature: Sam Gamgee (Lord of the Rings), Lloyd Henreid (The Stand), Rikki-Tikki-Tavi

Positives: Most people value loyalty as a character trait. As such, a character who espouses this value will gain respect from the reader. Loyalty will lead people to do things they normally wouldn't do, and provides a means through which to advance your plot. The beauty of loyalty as a trait is that it can be paired with so many other qualities, giving you an endless array of choices for your loyal character (the wise or foolish Loyal, the proud or humble Loyal, the miserable or happy-go-lucky Loyal)

Negatives: Blind loyalty can lead a person to back someone even when they don't agree with them. When truth is on the line, this can damage a person's credibility. Loyals can take the idea so far that their loyalty overrides their ability to think for themselves. They take on the ideals and beliefs of the person they support, and lose their sense of self.

Common Portrayals: soldiers, yes-men in the business world, cult members, best friends, the mafia

Cliches to Avoid: comparing someone's loyalty to that of a dog, kissing the ring as a pledge of loyalty, criminals who choose prison or death rather than rather than rolling over on an accomplice

Twists on the Traditional Loyal:  

  • Instead of blind loyalty, show the conflict of a truly loyal person torn between supporting the one they love and adhering to another valued ideal (the truth, the law, another important relationship)
  • Loyals tend to attract other loyals. Make life difficult for your character by pairing him with someone who does not value loyalty, or someone who is equally loyal to an opposing person or ideal. 
  • How about a loyal character who has another, equally strong character trait that makes it difficult for him to be loyal? (see below)
Conflicting Characteristics to make your Loyalist unique or more interesting: greedy, selfish, independent, doubtful

Weather Thesaurus Entry: Forest Fire

WEATHER and PHENOMENA are important elements in any setting, providing sensory texture and contributing to the mood the writer wishes to create in a scene. With a deft touch, weather can enhance the character's emotional response to a specific location, it can add conflict, and it can also (lightly) foreshadow coming events.

However, caution must accompany this entry: the weather should not be used as a window into a character's soul. The weather can add invisible pressure for the character, it can layer the SCENE with symbolism, it can carefully hint at the internal landscape, but it must never OVERTLY TELL emotion. Such a heavy-handed approach results in weather cliches and melodrama (a storm raging above a bloody battle, a broken-hearted girl crying in the rain).

SENSORY DESCRIPTORS:

Sight: Forest fires can span a hundred feet or hundreds of miles. Thick, sooty columns of charcoal grey blot out the sky, and orange flames lick tall trees, engulf grassy fields and chew though dry undergrowth. At ground level, the air is clotted with smoke and ash and from above, flames paint a ragged line, decimating wooded areas. Animals flee before it, and little survives within it. 

Smell: Soot, ash, smoke, pitch, burning wood (cedar, poplar, oak, pine)

Taste: Grit, acrid ash, smoke that creates a build up of charcoal-like gunk in the mouth and lungs

Touch: Painful heat that will sear and blister skin, burn exposed flesh and char sensitive lung tissue with every breath if close. Ash falls like snow, and sparks fly, white hot stings wherever they land

Sound: The crackle of burning wood, the roar and snap of the flame, and the crash of timbers collapsing as flame engulfs everything

EMOTIONAL TRIGGERS:

Mood: A forest fire can create a sudden and devastating situation that heightens anxiety levels and pits characters in a fight for their lives. Fire leaves no prisoners--it burns, eradicates, kills. In the backdrop of such an event, all desires, conflicts and goals are forgotten as people train their energy on the only thing that matters--survival. 

Symbolism: A heavenly Scourge to wash the spirit clean through fire; Man vs Nature, an impossible foe; death

Possible Cliches: ?

OTHER: Forest Fires can happen anywhere at any time, but most occur during the dry summer months. Forest fire can be a product of man, or nature...however statistically most are caused by lightning strikes.

Don't be afraid to use the weather to add contrast. Unusual pairings, especially when drawing attention to the Character's emotions, is a powerful trigger for tension. Consider how the bleak mood of a character is even more noticeable as morning sunlight dances across the crystals of fresh snow on the walk to work. Or how the feeling of betrayal is so much more poignant on a hot summer day. Likewise, success or joy can be hampered by a cutting wind or drizzling sleet, foreshadowing conflict to come.

Tension-Filled Books

So, after my last post on tension, Christine Mandiloff asked for suggestions of other books where tension is used well. I had to think about this, but I've come up with a few that I think are fitting, for different reasons. Keep in mind, though, that tension is somewhat relative, and what I find riveting may be kind of...eh...to you.

The Hunger Games, Suzanne Collins
I'm pretty sure this one's universal. And the tension comes in a couple of forms. First, high stakes. I mean, it's life or death. When the stakes are that high, the reader is going to be on the edge of their seat. Secondly, unbelievable circumstances. Collins created such a uniquely horrific scenario in the arena that the reader can't not keep reading. It's like the car wreck that you can't stop looking at. And lastly, the stakes aren't just high once or twice or for a little while. Katniss's life is in danger repeatedly throughout the whole book.
Applications: 1. Make sure your character's stakes are high. 2. Make the situation as bad as you possibly can for your characters. Then, make it worse. 3. Keep threatening what's at stake and reminding the reader what's at risk.

The Book Thief, Markus Zusak
Tension is high in this one because of, again, high stakes. Survival or extinction. The fact that the story is based on the Holocaust, on real-life events, makes it even more gut-wrenching. Knowing that this kind of thing happened repeatedly to lots of different people makes you want the main character to succeed all the more. And lastly, the narrator. Um, it's Death. With a first-person story, you might be riveted, but you also know, pretty much, that the main character is going to make it. But here, in this environment where literally millions of people didn't survive, you just don't know if the main character is going to pull through. That kind of uncertainty for the character the reader has come to love is guaranteed to engage them emotionally.
Applications: 1. High Stakes. 2. Whenever possible, draw parallels between your character's world and ours. Tap into the emotions of historical events to make your story believable, engaging, and heart-wrenching. 3. If the main character's life is on the line, find a way to make the reader question whether or not she's going to make it.

Divergent, Veronica Roth
First--you guessed it. High stakes. Sometimes Tris's life is in danger (often in a brutal or violent manner), and other times, she's in danger of a fate that in her society is maybe worse than death: being outcast, Factionless. Roth makes it very clear what a big deal this is for people in Tris's world, so right off the bat, the reader does NOT want this to happen to her.
Applications: 1. Again, make the stakes high. 2. Make sure your reader understands their importance.

How To Survive Middle School, Donna Gephart
Ok. This humorous contemporary MG is miles apart from the preceding examples, but, like them, I couldn't put the book down. Why? Tension, in the form of a super-empathetic character. He's nerdy, and funny, and kind of clueless--in other words, he's vulnerable. He's like that kid everyone knew who was always getting picked on and no one stood up for him. I wanted to stand up for him. And it helped that the voice was crystal clear. David sounded like someone I knew. It's hard not to root for someone you know. Secondly, you could see from the start what was coming down the pike for poor David, and he had no clue. Sometimes it's good to keep things under wraps, but sometimes it's better to let the reader know just what's coming, so they'll want to run in and save the main character from himself. And last, while I wouldn't classify the stakes as high (though David surely would have), I would call them universal. Middle school humiliation and social exile. Who hasn't experienced that, or seen it happening first-hand?
Applications: 1. Create a truly empathetic character. 2. Give him a voice that, while unique, is familiar. 3.  Create universal stakes that the reader can relate to.

Character Trait Entry: Stubborn

Definition:

Unyielding; resolute  

Causes:

Stubbornness is a trait that can be positive or negative. Is the root cause pride, or is it determination or noble intent? Each puts a very different spin on a stubborn character, and will dictate their motives. A few possible causes for this trait: growing up spoiled & used to getting one's own way; control issues; a strong sense of right and wrong; fierce independence; an intense drive to succeed, win or be right; etc  

Characters in Literature:  

Nynaeve, (The Wheel of Time); Verruca Salt (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory); Katniss Everdeen (The Hunger Games) Random: OMG I CAN'T WAIT FOR THIS MOVIE /random

Positives:

Bull-headed characters pick a course of action and can be trusted to see it through to the end. Because of this, characters with stubborn streaks make good leaders, provided they can take council when needed. Stubborns apply this trait to their relationships as well, becoming fiercely loyal to those who win their affections. Stubborn characters with an unparallelled sense of morality will always fight for what is right, no matter the obstacles. A special note: all heroes have a stubborn streak, and the fact that they cannot be contained is partly what makes them great.

Negatives:

Stubborns do not always know when enough is enough, and can sometimes push people to the breaking point simply because of their inability to deviate from a standpoint or course of action once set. Some Stubborns struggle with adaptability and miss the forest for the trees because they view problems from one angle only. They may hold to a goal even when it is no longer prudent to do so and have a hard time letting others contribute or control. Letting Pride drive their stubbornness can provide challenges or cause relationships to crumble, bringing pain to everyone involved. 


Common Portrayals: 

 The resolute boss; a stubborn toddler; military leadership; lawyers

Cliches to Avoid: 

 The military general hell-bent on winning no matter what the cost; spoiled brat kids; villains who are stubborn to a fault and as a result, it is their downfall (that's the easy way out, IMO.)

Twists on the Traditional Stubborn:   

  •  Stubbornness is almost always a positive for a protagonist, helping them to have the drive to succeed. Show us a situation where stubbornness due to a strong sense of right and wrong causes him or those around him great hardship.
  • Protags and Antags need to have a certain amount of Stubbornness but the root of an antag's stubborn trait is almost always pride. So....show us a Villain who's stubbornness comes from moral or noble roots instead!
  • Flip a cliche. Write a story where the stubborn 'spoiled brat' actually uses her stubbornness for good. Or the stubborn military leader who really does need to win, whatever the cost.
 Conflicting Characteristics to make your Stubborn unique or more interesting:   Lazy, passive, thoughtful, proper, indecisive  

Weather Thesaurus Entry: Rainbow

WEATHER is an important element in any setting, providing sensory texture and contributing to the mood the writer wishes to create in a scene. With a deft touch, weather can enhance the character's emotional response to a specific location, it can add conflict, and it can also (lightly) foreshadow coming events.

However, caution must accompany this entry: the weather should not be used as a window into a character's soul. The weather can add invisible pressure for the character, it can layer the SCENE with symbolism, it can carefully hint at the internal landscape, but it must never OVERTLY TELL emotion. Such a heavy-handed approach results in weather cliches and melodrama (a storm raging above a bloody battle, a broken-hearted girl crying in the rain).

SENSORY DESCRIPTORS:

Sight: A multi-colored arch, sometimes bright and clear, sometimes faint and fuzzy. Rainbows can vary in size, from single and double ones that cross the sky, to smaller ones around waterfalls or even beneath the spray of a sprinkler. 

Smell: n/a

Taste: n/a

Touch: n/a

Sound: n/a

EMOTIONAL TRIGGERS:

Mood: Rainbows in the sky aren't something you see everyday, so the sight of one is like a gift. This is why some people feel happy, optimistic, or even lucky after seeing one. Rainbows usually occur after a rainfall, when the weather clears. Such a sight may remind viewers of a new beginning or a fresh start.

Symbolism: God's promise, diversity, gay pride, happiness

Possible Cliches: rainbows as signs of good luck, rainbows at the conclusion of a story to signify a happy ending, leprechauns and pots of gold

OTHER: The rainbow is basically what happens when water meets light; the light is spread out into its spectrum of colors so the observer can see it. Rain or some form of water (mist, a fountain, a waterfall, etc.) must be present, and the sun should be behind the observer when facing the phenomenon. When we see a rainbow, we are seeing the place where light and water meet. We can't see the water that is below the horizon, which is why the rainbow's arch always seems to stop there. The higher we are above the ground, the more the rainbow can be seen, as evidenced in this picture of a rainbow taken from an airplane. No clue why that would be relevant to anyone's story, but it sure is cool.

Don't be afraid to use the weather to add contrast. Unusual pairings, especially when drawing attention to the Character's emotions, is a powerful trigger for tension. Consider how the bleak mood of a character is even more noticeable as morning sunlight dances across the crystals of fresh snow on the walk to work. Or how the feeling of betrayal is so much more poignant on a hot summer day. Likewise, success or joy can be hampered by a cutting wind or drizzling sleet, foreshadowing conflict to come.

Frustration: Your Novel's Best Friend

You're thinking that title must be a typo, aren't you? It isn't, I promise. :) Frustration is awesome.

Sure, as writers, we want NOTHING to do with this emotion. Between manuscripts returning from critique partners with their guts ripped out to agent form rejections to a book review that compares our writing skill to that of a lobotomized hamster, frustration awaits at every turn.

We develop coping strategies to avoid it: pep talks before opening email. Chugging Diet Dr. Pepper by the six pack. Sucking on the sweet innards of M&Ms, pretending each one contains a Muse's orphan tears and gives us writing superpowers. *coughs* What, you don't do that? Erm, yeah....me neither.

So, on the keyboard side of things, frustration sucks. But on the page? MAGIC.

Frustration--that hair-pulling, chair-kicking delight--is what drives our novel. It juices our plot, makes our characters twitchy and unfulfilled, and glues the reader to the page. Keeping characters from their goals creates Frustration (AKA Tension, the Heartbeat of a story).

So while WE try to avoid this emotion, it's important we make sure our CHARACTERS don't.  In this state a character reveals who they really are. Frustration is emotional GOLD, forcing them to ACT, which pushes the story forward.  

Of course, no two people express their Frustration the same way, and neither should characters. Understanding their Emotional Range (how they express emotion and to what degree) is key to creating believable emotion. 

When up against a wall, a character might:

Retreat inward
Run from the problem
Try to manipulate/influence
Give up
Get angry
Vent out loud
Cry
React with violence
Feel depressed
Lay blame
Seek revenge
Take out anger on others
Berate themselves
Ask for help
Analyze what happened in hopes of understanding
Fall into a bottle, feed an addiction, drink orphan tears
Act like it doesn't matter
Bounce back & try again

Do Reactions Fit the Character? 

A hardened criminal character isn't going to ask for help or have himself a weepy moment. A skittish, shy teen isn't about to rant and rave in the middle of the school, and I doubt a Kindergarten teacher would whip out her AK-47 to get her rage on. These things don't belong in their Emotional Range.

Who our characters are at their core--their values, their sense of self, their confidence levels and insecurities--dictate how they behave. The hardened criminal is gonna get himself some revenge. The timid teen might blame himself or simply retreat inward. Our Kindergarten teacher would rethink the situation and maybe ask for help. Or jump back in because of the try, try again conditioning she promotes in the classroom. These reactions fit their personality types and so are believable to the reader.

Responses to frustration must evolve as the stakes raise, but stay within a logical range. Just like a thermometer, a character's reactions become more and more extreme as the novel progresses until the frustration causes them to explode. But, depending on the character, that explosion will come across differently. The teen might grow frustrated enough to break his silence and open up about what's happening. The criminal may become so blinded by revenge that he takes ludicrous risks, putting his freedom in peril. The teacher could sweep everything off her desk or even quit her job.  In each case, the reaction is extreme, but remains believable because it stays inside that character's Emotional Range.

So the next time you're frustrated as a writer, sit your butt in front of the keyboard and write. Pass it on to your characters and your book will thank you for it. :)

NEED SOME TIPS ON HOW TO SHOW FRUSTRATED BODY LANGUAGE? CHECK OUT THIS EMOTION THESAURUS ENTRY!

Character Trait Entry: Prejudiced


Definition: having a bias for or against

Causes: growing up in a family or culture that perceives a prejudice as right or acceptable, previous experiences that justify (in the character's mind) a prejudicial attitude toward a person or group of people, a desire for power or domination over said group of people, peer pressure, jumping to unfair or poorly-thought-out conclusions

Characters in Literature: Elizabeth Bennet (Pride and Prejudice), The Malfoys, most of Maycomb County (To Kill a Mockingbird)

Positives: The positive side of the prejudiced person is that they are often very loyal, to a group of people or an ideal (however misguided). It also takes a great deal of determination to stick to an idea that is patently wrong (as most prejudices are). These characteristics can be used to build empathy for a prejudiced character. Prejudice is also a great vehicle through which to create misunderstanding and conflict within your story.

Negatives: Prejudiced people think they're better in some way than the people they judge, and so come off as self-righteous. They dismiss people or whole groups of people and cheat themselves of possible friends, lovers, and mentors, and miss out on the knowledge and experiences those people would share. Another problem with prejudice is that it often occurs in groups, so those who are prejudiced have no one to tell them they're wrong. The group (mob) mentality encourages their bias, making it difficult for them to see the wrongness of their thinking and change their ways. 

Common Portrayals: the old South, white supremacists, Nazi Germany, judges and juries, crooked cops. I tried to also list groups of people who are commonly prejudiced against, but the list went on and on and on. And for every group that is misjudged, there's an opposing group doing the judging. So really, just about any people group can be the victim or purveyor of prejudice.

Cliches to Avoid: the backwoods hick, prejudice in the small town, prejudice described as ignorance or closed-mindedness (however true either may be)

Twists on the Traditional Prejudiced Character: 
  • The prejudiced character who is well-learned and highly intelligent instead of ignorant
  • Instead of applying prejudice against a race or nationality, have your character judge another based on a simple character trait (like Elizabeth Bennet in Pride or Prejudice). Your character might judge a shy person to be stuck-up, misjudge kindness for manipulation, or dismiss a popular person out of an assumption that they're superficial.
  • To my knowledge, the prejudiced person in literature is always portrayed as wrong. But what if the rest of society was wrong and the prejudiced person was right?
Conflicting Characteristics to make your Prejudiced Character unique or more interesting: apologetic, cautious, gracious, shy, curious, kindly, rational, wise

Weather Thesaurus Entry: Moonlight


WEATHER & Earthly Phenomenon are important elements in any setting, providing sensory texture and contributing to the mood the writer wishes to create in a scene. With a deft touch, weather can enhance the character's emotional response to a specific location, it can add conflict, and it can also (lightly) foreshadow coming events.

However, caution must accompany this entry: the weather should not be used as a window into a character's soul. The weather can add invisible pressure for the character, it can layer the SCENE with symbolism, it can carefully hint at the internal landscape, but it must never OVERTLY TELL emotion. Such a heavy-handed approach results in weather cliches and melodrama (a storm raging above a bloody battle, a broken-hearted girl crying in the rain).

SENSORY DESCRIPTORS:

Sight:  

The sight of the moon changes depending on time and phase of the moon. If the sky is clear, among the starlight the moon may appear full (a ripe, pale disk), three quarters full,  a half moon (a meringue cookie broken down the middle), or a crescent (waxing or waning, depending on the phase, like the end of a fingernail or a sickle shape). Cloud cover or fog can obscure the moon in a haze or make it appear to have a halo of light around it. Depending on the fullness of the moon, moonlight can cast definitive shadows and soft white light down on the landscape below, or little light at all. Occasionally the moon is visible during daylight hours and any moonlight is negated by sunlight.

Smell: N/A

Taste: N/A

Touch: Moonlight has no touch. Some liken it to 'cold' light, but technically this is because of the cool night air, not a quality of the moonlight itself.

Sound: N/A (A special note: wolves do not specifically howl at the moon. The roots of this belief come from Mythology and legend. However, wolves and other canines are nocturnal, so hearing yips and howls under moonlight is a common occurrence in the right geographical areas.)

EMOTIONAL TRIGGERS:

Mood: Moonlight can offer the sense of danger in a scene for many reasons. First, most activity occurs during daylight, and the evening hours are when shadows form, predators come out to hunt, and those who do not wish to be seen can move about. Also there is an air of forbidden energy with moonlight, as normal human sleep cycles occur during this time, and so to be active in moonlight goes against the natural order we've predetermined as a society. This creates mystery and intrigue. If people aren't tucked safely into bed during night hours, what are they up doing...and why? Because of these nighttime notions, romantic liaisons can also be made more powerful with moonlight, but take care not to create a cliche.

Symbolism: Moonlight symbolizes a spectrum of different things. One of the strongest is Romance and Forbidden love.  It also symbolizes individual freedom and purity, especially in the feminine sense, and figures into beliefs on fertility. Because the moon itself controls the Tides, moonlight is reflective and often linked to the flow and ebb of human emotion...making it a strong descriptive ally to enhance the emotional power of your scene!

Possible Cliches: Tying wolves or werewolves to the moon and moonlight; the undead & moonlit cemeteries; virgins being stolen away in the moonlight; lovers meeting in the moonlight

OTHER: As stated above, the strength of moonlight depends on cloud cover, season and phase. Moonlight appears stronger in winter because of the snow's ability to reflect. See the link above for more information.

Don't be afraid to use the weather to add contrast. Unusual pairings, especially when drawing attention to the Character's emotions, is a powerful trigger for tension. Consider how the bleak mood of a character is even more noticeable as morning sunlight dances across the crystals of fresh snow on the walk to work. Or how the feeling of betrayal is so much more poignant on a hot summer day. Likewise, success or joy can be hampered by a cutting wind or drizzling sleet, foreshadowing conflict to come.

Character Trait Entry: Manipulative

Definition:

An attempt to influence another's behavior for one's own benefit; to control

Causes:

Manipulators can fall into two categories--those who truly believe that they are doing a service to others (advising for their own good; helping them to reach their full potential; become 'better' in some way, etc) through influencing techniques, and those who are overtly aware of their ability and use it to get what they want. Some manipulators may not see their actions as being wrong, while others know it is but don't care. Reasons for manipulating others can be from an inflated ego, exposure to  conditional love (especially growing up), seeing certain behaviors reap reward;  a lack of self esteem; happiness derived from power; feeling validated through power and influence.

Characters in Literature: The pig Napoleon (Animal Farm); Melisande (Kushiel's Dart); President Snow (Hunger Games trilogy) and, not a book, but I'd be remiss if I didn't mention Dr. Gregory House!

Positives:

Manipulators are pragmatic and very good at succeeding at whatever they set out to do. They have a strong ability to read any given situation, and understand the complexities of emotion and how to use it to achieve a goal. They also can tackle situations with minimal emotion, or quickly negate personal emotions that stand in the way of what they want. Manipulators often insert themselves into positions or roles of influence and power, building on their skills to bring about a desired result.

Negatives:

Manipulators often think in the terms of 'collateral damage', meaning that they get what they want even if it means bodies are left behind. It can be difficult to trust someone who is manipulative, as there will always be doubt as to whether an emotion being shown is genuine, or an act. Most friendships are based on the power and influence exchange, not the ability to be open, honest and trustworthy with the other person. Manipulators will often avoid asking questions or get help because it makes them feel weak, but they will obtain aid through influence methods to get what they need.

Common Portrayals: Loan sharks; car salesmen; the popularity crowd; the head cheerleader or 'it' girl in school, the shrewd boss or co-worker.

Cliches to Avoid:  Conniving politicians, manipulation to gain acceptance as a plot device (Hazing, breaking the law for a gang initiation, etc); the popular & manipulative cheerleader/rich girl/prom queen-to-be forcing others to bend to her will in order to curry favor; beautiful women who use their looks to get people to do what they want; strong-arming military figures, underhanded governments, etc.


Twists on the Traditional Manipulative: 
  • Most Manipulators see themselves as being 'in the right' and so feel it's okay to manipulate in a given situation. However, sometimes incredible characterization comes out from people who are not born manipulators. Take Peeta from the Hunger Games...manipulating the Capitol audience during talk shows is something he does well, yet goes against his nature. Show us scenarios like this where the need causes manipulation to come out as a characteristic when it is not natural to do so.
  • Most manipulators in fiction are very intelligent and shrewd. Try pairing manipulation with someone of lower intelligence, or someone who sees themselves as influential but really...they suck at it.
  • Again, most cases of manipulation seem to come with strong intent and the character embracing their own sneaky or shrewd nature. Show us a character who knows they have a tendency to be manipulative or influential, but they fight against it from a desire to not be that way.
Conflicting Characteristics to make your Manipulator unique or more interesting: Shy, moral, impulsive, timid, honest

Weather Thesaurus Entry: Frost

WEATHER is an important element in any setting, providing sensory texture and contributing to the mood the writer wishes to create in a scene. With a deft touch, weather can enhance the character's emotional response to a specific location, it can add conflict, and it can also (lightly) foreshadow coming events.

However, caution must accompany this entry: the weather should not be used as a window into a character's soul. The weather can add invisible pressure for the character, it can layer the SCENE with symbolism, it can carefully hint at the internal landscape, but it must never OVERTLY TELL emotion. Such a heavy-handed approach results in weather cliches and melodrama (a storm raging above a bloody battle, a broken-hearted girl crying in the rain).

SENSORY DESCRIPTORS:

Sight: surfaces (car hoods, flower petals, blades of grass) covered in a thin layer of ice, a sparkling effect as the sun catches it--increasing as the air warms and the ice melts, leaf edges that look fuzzy or furry, thick spots that look like a dusting of snow

Smell: a clean, cold smell

Taste: ice

Touch: icy coldness that immediately crumbles or melts from the warmth of your hand, a crusty cushion beneath your shoes

Sound: brittle crunching as you step, a drip of melting frost, the tinkling sound of frost falling from high surfaces to the ground below, a still silence

EMOTIONAL TRIGGERS:

Mood: The first frost of the year usually occurs in the fall and hints that summer is over and cooler weather is coming. For this reason, early frosts can put a person in mind of upcoming changes, whether welcome or not. Frost also has a fresh, crisp quality that can elicit a feeling of rejuvenation. A landscape that softens and transforms all signs of human habitation can bring about a sense of harmony with nature

Symbolism: transformation, new beginnings and second chances, change

Possible Cliches: ?

OTHER: Frost most often occurs on clear cold nights. As a plant loses heat, its leaves cool. If the plant temperature is cooler than the air temperature, then moisture from the surrounding air condenses on the plant's leaves. If the leaf temperature drops below freezing, the water freezes and becomes frost. This occurs even when the air temperature is above freezing. Frost forms more quickly on colder surfaces, such as cars and grass, than it does on concrete or wood.

Don't be afraid to use the weather to add contrast. Unusual pairings, especially when drawing attention to the Character's emotions, is a powerful trigger for tension. Consider how the bleak mood of a character is even more noticeable as morning sunlight dances across the crystals of fresh snow on the walk to work. Or how the feeling of betrayal is so much more poignant on a hot summer day. Likewise, success or joy can be hampered by a cutting wind or drizzling sleet, foreshadowing conflict to come.

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