Character Trait Entry: Guarded

Definition:

Cautious or circumspect; to withhold from a place of doubt, mistrust or fear

Causes:

Growing up in an abusive home; living in a volatile or uncertain environment; suffering a great loss or hurt in the past; exposure to the humiliation or the downfall of another; having a deep understanding of actions and consequences through experience
 
Characters in Literature: 

Lucius Malfoy (Harry Potter); Brimstone (Daughter of Smoke and Bone); Roland Deschain of Gilead (The Gunslinger/Dark Tower Series)

Positives:

A guarded character is both cautious and slow to trust, an ideal survival trait. Tested heroes (and villains!) who have proven themselves in battle or seen the darkness behind the light are guarded simply by reflex--they understand their life or the lives of others may depend on it. Guarded characters are information seekers--they do not make decisions lightly or in haste, and can make excellent leaders in difficult situations.

Negatives:  

Because guarded characters weigh situations before acting and are watchful for change that will end in a negative, spontaneity can suffer. These character types can be secretive or seen as moody and often have an under-developed sense of humor. Even people who are deeply embedded in a guarded person's life may feel that there is a wall keeping them from knowing him or her completely. Guarded people can have a hard time letting go and enjoying the moment, and they are tentative in giving themselves over to emotion. They question the motivations of others and sometimes this can spoil the moment when something is offered freely and genuinely.

Common Portrayals: 

Politicians, policemen, military personnel, criminals, prisoners of wars, battered women, abused or neglected children, leaders bearing sole responsibility for people that are at a disadvantage or at risk in some way

Cliches to Avoid:

The lone, tortured hero with no past; mentally ill patients mistrusting their doctors; paranoid governments unable to work together to settle on a critical life-or-death issue yet must for the plot to succeed; the character who becomes guarded because of a crippling romantic betrayal or loss

Twists on the Traditional Guarded:  
  •  With heroes, a guarded personality type is often accompanied with strong intuition, heightened observation skills and sometimes fast reflexes, all of which allow them to act quickly even though a guarded nature should say otherwise. Make it harder on your survivalist hero or villain by not giving them ultra-developed intuition or physical attributes that overpower the negatives of a guarded trait.
  • Place the naturally secretive or guarded character in a situation that demands trust and openness to succeed.
  • Guarded characters usually embrace this side of their nature, believing it to be a trait of survival. Why not create a character who does not like feeling that he must question before choosing and dislikes holding back before trusting. Let his quest to let go of his guarded nature become part of his character arc (but not via romantic elements).
Conflicting Characteristics to make your Guarded unique or more interesting: 

Lazy, reckless, impulsive, polite, charming, honest

Scary Books Worth Keeping

Coming June 2012!
I know, I know. It's Thursday, and this is SO NOT a weather entry! My apologies for that, but I read a guest post on Nova Ren Suma's (Imaginary Girls) blog from one of my YA favorite authors, Courtney Summers, titled, Books that Scare Courtney Summers. In the post, she looks at some of the books from her childhood that creeped the legwarmers off of her and it got me thinking about books that I've kept throughout the years.And besides, it's almost Halloween!

We all had a few books growing up that we read over and over, right? We hung onto them for years and when we moved away from home, some got left behind, some were donated, and some packed away. Add another move, maybe marriage, kids...more of those cherished books were pared down.

Yet some we still kept. The best of the best.

For me, I loved scary books SO HARD. Some I couldn't part with, not through moves, marriage and kids. And after reading Courtney's post, I dug them out of the bookcase to show you. Maybe you remember them. Maybe you read them too.

First up is the PRIVATE SCHOOL series. OMG, these were so awesome: a private school. Missing Teenagers. People who had the same eerie green eyes. And, yes could it be? ALIENS who were SHAPE-SHIFTING WEREWOLVES. A recipe for deliciousness.

Look at the covers! I remember the thrill I got when book 4 came out. I mean, the main character is in the pool WITH A WEREWOLF! Dear God, it was MG ecstasy, I kid you not. I devoured this series.

The next series that I adored was the DARK FORCES line. Now I had many of these books, but only 7 have remained with me throughout the years. The two that are imprinted on my mind most are The Doll and The Game. I must have read each close to 20 times. In one, a Psychotic possessed doll. YESSSSS! And in the other, an Ouija Board that opens the door to something that begins to take over the mind and body of the MC. This book series was like crack, I tell you.

Of the third series, I kept only two of the hoard of books I used to have. They were the TWILIGHT books (Yep, the Twilight BEFORE Twilight!) Both of these, Scavenger's Hunt and Blink of the Mind, were huge favs. One was about the deadly power of Premonition, the other a reliving of an ancient game...of murder! (dun-dun-dun) 

These were my first real foray as a MGer into horror books. They left a huge impression on me, so much so that now, *coughalmostthirtycough* years later, I still have them on my bookshelf. As I look at each cover, a swarm of memories hits me: reading in bed while I was sick; long car rides made bearable only by cracking open the pages of a book or three.

So, I turn this over to you...what books are still on your shelf after all these years?  How did they shape you? Scary or not, tell me about the books YOU couldn't part with in the comments. Or better yet, POST about them just as I have! Those old, special books deserve to shine one last time...don't they? :)

Soup and Layers

Well, it finally cooled off in south Florida. I actually broke out the long pants for an entire six hours. To celebrate the first chilly day of the season, I always make soup, and as I was adding ingredients every thirty minutes to my steaming pot of yum, I realized how similar it was to adding layers to a story. The first draft is usually the bare bones, skeletal--more scaffolding than a complete structure. But once you start revising, you add the layers that flesh it out and make it thicker, three-dimensional. There are a lot of things you could add to achieve this goal. Here are a few on my current revision list...

1. Subplots. These secondary plot lines add complexity and girth and are almost always directly tied-in to the main plot line. A romance that complicates the main character's objective (The Hunger Games); a mystery that is solved at a pivotal point in the story (Saving Private Ryan); a friendship that spurs the mc on in her quest to reach her goal (Wither). Each subplot should have its own complete and smooth story arc. Keep this in mind when editing.

2. Theme. Some writers start with theme. Others figure it out along the way. Still others have the entire first draft done before they realize what the theme is (hello, me). However you do it, it's crucial to at some point identify your story's main theme so you can touch on it from start to finish. Think of your theme as a secondary subplot, one that needs a full arc from beginning to end. Revisit it frequently to add depth.



3. Character Renovations. Without fail, I get all the way through my first draft and realize that my main character is missing something. I hate that. But that's what the revision process is for, no? To increase depth, add an endearing quirk, uncommon trait, or a fatal flaw to be overcome. For maximum impact, make the trait one that either helps or hinders the character's ability to achieve his or her overall goal. (Also, see this excellent post by Janice Hardy on layering with character emotion.)



4. Meaningful Repetitions. These include anything that is repeated throughout the story and, ideally, grows or changes with the story. Symbols and metaphors are good examples. Common phrases or sayings. Meaningful objects. Settings also apply: a favorite hang-out, the place your character goes when she needs downtime, a location that has specific significance or emotional importance. These repeated pieces are like touchstones for the reader, connecting them with the characters and embedding the reader more firmly into the story with each repetition.

Character Traits Thesaurus: Talented

Definition: a marked innate ability

Causes: a trait one is born with, exposure to many different experiences and activities, a certain amount of dedication to honing the ability (for it to develop into a gift)

Characters in Literature: Peeta and Katniss, The Hunger Games (art/cake decorating and archery); Sam, The Lord of the Rings (gardening)

Positives: Talents make people well-rounded; they add dimension. With so many talents to choose from, they provide innumerable opportunities for creating unique characters. It is their talents, along with their abilities, that make our characters valuable in group and social settings by giving them something to offer, whether they be practical (cooking, sewing, carpentry) or entertaining (singing, painting, acting) in nature.

Negatives: Talented people can come across as smug, disdainful, and over-confident. They are often envied for their abilities, and can easily become targets. Those with talents might wonder whether people are showing true interest in them for who they are, or only because of their abilities. As such, it's not uncommon for very talented people to be insecure, untrusting, and lonely.

Common Portrayals: artists, musicians, athletes, fashion designers, chefs, dancers, authors, actors

Cliches to Avoid: the high school trifecta (talented, good-looking, and smart); the spoiled, entitled Talent; tortured artists; the Talent who is so into his gift, he's completely out of touch with reality

Twists on the Traditional Talent: 
  • Talent, by definition, is at least somewhat inborn. The grain is talent is there, but it is nurtured into fruition by hard work and dedication. How about the talent who really doesn't have to work at it? This could provide some interesting conflict between him and his peers.
  • Instead of talent being inborn, place your character in a society where talent can be chosen. See where that takes you.
  • Talents are often strategically chosen to help a character achieve his goal. But what if a character's talent is what makes success impossible? 

Conflicting Characteristics to make your Talent unique or more interesting: lazy, dumb, mediocre, clumsy, cruel, dishonest

Weather Thesaurus Entry: Mirage

WEATHER and 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:  

A mirage is a refraction phenomena where a distant object appears displaced from its true position. Hot and cold air have different densities, causing light to pass through each differently. When masses of hot on cold air are layered, light bends, creating a 'rippling air' effect (think about heat waves that lift off a truck hood as the engine cools, for example). This layered air is what displaces or distorts the appearance of an object. A common example of a mirage is the illusion of water pooling in a dip in highway on a hot day. Another is when the sun appears perfectly balanced on the horizon. Hills or vegetation in the distance can seem near, yet as one travels they grow no closer, or worse, seem to get farther away. A body of water can appear in a dry desert and the distortion of light can make it seem as if people, trees or buildings wait in the distance. (If you click on the picture, it will take you to the source where there is an excellent, in-depth article on Mirages!)

Smell: N/A *

Taste: N/A *

Touch: N/A *

Sound: N/A *

* If the body is stressed via heatstroke, exhaustion or extreme thirst, the mind may implant the belief that smells, tastes or sounds associated with a mirage of 'safety' are real. One might convince oneself that they smell the salty sea brine of the ocean if that is what they seek, or hallucinate the sound of cars, the sight of building and people, smell of car exhaust of food cooking, etc 

EMOTIONAL TRIGGERS:

Mood: 

Mirages can add an element of something otherworldly to a scene, or a feeling that not all is as it appears. It works well as a foreshadowing tool to alert the reader that something else is going on besides the obvious. Using the symbolism of temptation and desire can be especially powerful. Take care in using this phenomenon in writing as the unusual nature of a mirage is odd enough to create a 'ripple' in the reader's awareness. If you want to make them think twice about what is happening (suggesting something unusual is afoot) a mirage is perfect. But, if you are simply looking for a weather element to enrich the scene, a mirage may not be the way to go because it holds such strong symbolism.

Symbolism:

Magic, desire, temptation, the unattainable, phantoms, strange visions, disorientation

Possible Cliches:

Seeing the mirage of a desert oasis as one is weakened by the elements

OTHER:

Mirages most commonly occur in hot, dry locations but can happen anywhere shifting masses of hot and cool air are present. Mirages have been seen both on land and at sea. 

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.

Writing Heroes: Laura Pauling

For a long time now, Angela and I have wanted a way to acknowledge the people who have helped us develop into stronger writers and who add to the writing community as a whole. As a new feature here at The Bookshelf Muse, Angela and I will take turns giving well-deserved recognition to some of the people who really make an impact...people who truly are Writing Heroes.


For my first hero, I picked Laura Pauling. As a matter of fact, when we first started discussing this series, I believe my words to Angela were I get Laura. It was like a fantasy draft, and I WON!

One of the things I love about Laura's blog is how very useful her information is. She keeps up with what people are talking about. Her posts explore topics that are timely for authors, and issues that are not often clear-cut. And she informs without telling you what to think. She puts the information out there in a way that makes you want know, want to learn more. As a person who values truth and the importance of figuring things out for yourself, I love that. I should also mention that Laura is active on twitter too, finding great articles and being a bright, supportive voice for all writers!

She also has excellent taste in books. When she reviews a book, it almost always peaks my interest, and let me tell you, I'm pretty picky. And when I finally get around to reading her recommendations (my TBR list is as bottomless as Hermione's purse), they almost always satisfy. For her taste alone, I salute her!

And lastly, I adore her because she's so freaking honest. When popular bloggers stick a virtual foot in the mouth, she talks about it. She pokes fun at the ongoing ambiguity of the writing world (do blog/don't blog, be honest/don't be a jerk). She admits to dancing in her pajamas to Lady Gaga. With the blinds open.

I am speechless. Speechless.

So all I can say is Thank you Laura, for being one of mWRITING HEROES. You inspire me, woman!

To pay it forward, Angela or I will give a 1000 word critique to each Writing Hero we profile. These writers can then choose to keep it for themselves or offer it as a giveaway on their blog! All writing heroes will also have a permanent link in our header!

So tell me Musers...do you know Laura? Has she helped you or your writing in some way? Please tell us in the comments and help celebrate this amazing WRITING HERO! 

Character Trait Entry: Witty

Definition:  a strong intellectual capacity marked by clever humor.


Causes:

Having a strong sense of humor or dry observation that is combined with quick thought; growing up in a home where intellectual or thoughtful humor was both appreciated an encouraged; having the ability to see the flaws and ironies in people and society and translating them into comedic observations

Characters in Literature: 

 Professor McGonagall (Harry Potter); Dr. Watson & Sherlock Holmes (same); Elizabeth Bennett (Pride and Prejudice)

Positives:

Witty people can make quick observations that can turn mundane situations or events into a laugh factory of hilarity. Quick-thinking, witty folks deliver quips which are both clever and eye-opening, allowing others to experience a situation's meaning at a different level, often through the lens of irony. Most people enjoy a quick wit, especially since these types are usually the first to make a joke, or they can add to an existing joke by adding another layer of witty observation, carrying the humor further.  Wit can be overt or dry, but it always has an ironic quality to it.
 
Negatives:

People with a quick wit can sometimes let their mouths get ahead of their good sense, offering humor when it isn't wanted or needed, or directing a joke toward a person, causing hurt feelings. Some people who get too enthralled with their own wittiness often veer into caustic wit and sarcasm, which can hurt or humiliate when directed personally. There is also the chance that a observation quip about a group or belief could touch on a sensitive subject unknowingly, causing offense to one of the listeners. A final, lesser negative would be how other people may feel their jokes are one-upped all the time by someone who is verbally clever.

Common Portrayals:

Comedians, sitcom actors, talk show hosts, political satirists, college professors, Court Jesters

Cliches to Avoid: 

Overly intellectual wit that becomes a private joke because it requires doctorate level of understanding to 'get it'


Twists on the Traditional Wit:  
  • I love a clever joke that I don't see coming. This is often difficult to bring about in writing without the pace or the dialogue dragging. Try bringing a longer range 'joke' into the storyline so it comes about organically, centering on a witty character!
  • Targeted irony is difficult to master without causing offense, because it often entails the person it's directed toward to laugh at themselves because of a belief or action they don't really give much thought to. Comedians pull this off all the time, but the audience is expecting to be targeted. Show the witty use of irony within a story, and have it work, but in a setting where those targeted don't see it coming.
  • Wittiness is something that most people enjoy and appreciate. Put your character in a situation where another character must be 'won over' to this type of humor.
 Conflicting Characteristics to make your Wit unique or more interesting:
Shy, Eccentric, Insecure, Proper, Serious, Lazy

Weather Thesaurus Entry: Dusk

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: slowly fading light; increasing shadows; what's left of the sunlight shining vibrantly red, orange, or yellow; everything darkening to purples, dark blues, and grays; remaining sunlight shining almost horizontally from the western horizon; swooping bats; fireflies (in rural areas); nature is returned somewhat to its pre-human state as people move indoors

Smell: food grilling on bbq's, bug spray

Taste: n/a

Touch: a cooling of the air

Sound: crickets and other night bugs begin chirping, frogs croak, outdoor 'people' sounds fade away (kids laughing, doors slamming, voices, music), distant sounds grow louder in the silence (dogs barking, cars starting)

EMOTIONAL TRIGGERS:

Mood: Dusk is the sign that the day is ending. It brings about a feeling of relief as the stresses of daily life begin the turn toward rest and relaxation. Many people feel calm and peaceful at this time of day. The weather at dusk, as at any time of day, helps to influence mood. A rainy, windy dusk may cause nervousness and apprehension as the stormy day turns to stormy darkness. Breezy, airy dusks may lift the spirits. And context, as always, is key. Dusk in many supernatural settings brings about a totally different atmosphere of fear, danger, and impending doom.

Symbolism: endings, transition, decline of life, fading away

Possible Cliches: use of dusk to signify a dying person's descent towards death

OTHER: Clean air usually generates orange and reddish light at dusk. When the air is hazy or dusty, the color is subdued to yellows and pinks. Also, though the terms 'twilight' and 'dusk' are often used interchangeable, many sources site dusk as being the latter, darker part of the twilight period that comes between day and night.

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.

Promoting Like a Pro Without Driving Yourself (or Anyone Else) Crazy

Today, I'm swapping posts with Donna Gephart, author of two published MG books with one more on the way. Donna is a smart, funny writer who heads my face-to-face SCBWI group in south Florida, and I'm so incredibly excited to hear what she has to say about promotion. When you're done being wowed by her expertise, pop over to her blog, Wild About Words, to see my post on Unraveling Story Problems.

**********************

      Now that I’ve sold three novels, I wish I could talk to myself when my first book came out.  I’d tell myself, “Stop freaking out!”  “People will read the book.  You will get amazing e-mails from young fans, teachers, librarians and old boyfriends.  You will even win a couple lovely awards.”  
  To you, dear reader, I say, “Do what feels comfortable.  Say, ‘Yes’ a lot.  Let people know about your book and about you as a speaker, then move on and write the next book.  If contemplating promotion gives you hives, think about the process as connecting and giving.”
        Here are some examples from my experience that may be helpful:
Gaining School Visits from Giving:
     When a friend told me a local middle school library was desperately in need of books, I gathered a bag of books our kids were not using as well as copies of my two novels and headed over.   
     The media specialist was friendly and enthusiastic.  When she found out I did school visits, she invited me to give a (paid) presentation to the entire sixth grade class (about 400 students) and sign books at the school’s book fair.
How Media Attention Can Snowball:
      A wonderful illustrator friend, Janeen Mason, suggested I contact her friend, Marilyn Bauer, who writes a local arts column blog.
      After Marilyn wrote about my book, a reporter from that paper read How to Survive Middle School, enjoyed it and wrote a review in a newspaper, saying my book was good for both children and adults.  
      A parent read that review and asked if I’d be the keynote speaker at an event they were planning.  I spoke to that group about surviving parenting a middle schooler and then sold books at the event.  (The payoff in connecting with other parents was greater than the generous check they paid.) 
  Another time, I wrote to a local reporter, telling her how much I enjoy her weekly “Meet Your Neighbor” feature.  I’d been reading and enjoying it for years.  The reporter asked if I’d consider being featured in the newspaper.
      Of course I agreed.  
      After that article came out, I was contacted by several area schools about author visits.
Don’t Blog in a Vacuum:
I’ve been blogging since 2007.  A favorite feature is my 6-1/2 list – a cleverly disguised guest blog.  Here are a few examples:
1.  Erin Murphy and author Audrey Vernick give great tips about how to elevate quiet books.  
2.  Cynthia Leitich Smith discusses How to Promote Your Book Like a Pro  
3.  Cynthia Lord shares tips on creating great school visits.
If you want people to follow your blog, follow and comment on other blogs.  Provide useful content, not just shouts about your own book(s).  Create guest blog posts because it’s a great opportunity to connect with new readers.  Thanks, Angela and Becca!
Your Book is Your Best Promotion Tool:
     When you hear the advice, “Write the best book you can,” there’s a reason.  Once your book comes out, it must stand on its own merits.  Take my word for it, you’ll be glad you spent that extra time revising.  
       My first book, As if Being 12 ¾ Isn’t Bad Enough, My Mother is Running for President! had a lot of support from Random House.  They flew me to Philadelphia to meet with influential librarians at a cocktail party during ALA.  They promoted the book in print.  They even gave out “Vote for Mom” buttons at a few large shopping malls across the country.
      With all that support from Random House plus all my promotional efforts, the book did NOT break any sales records.
        But instead of spending all my time and energy promoting that book, I did exactly what I was supposed to do.  I wrote the next book.
        ARCs of How to Survive Middle School were sent to reviewers by Random House.  That’s it.  I sent out an e-mail letting people know my book was out.  And not a whole lot more.
      Guess what?
      How to Survive Middle School got starred reviews right out of the gate.  It landed on the Texas and New York state reading lists and got picked up by Scholastic for book fairs and clubs.
     All that had very little to do with what I or Random House did to promote it.
     It was the book not than the promotion that made those things happen.
So, here are my 6-1/2 tips for you:  
1.  Write the best book you can.
2.  Spend as much time as needed to revise and polish your book.  
3.  Instead of thinking about what you’d like to get (book sales), think about what you can give -- your time, advice, expertise, etc.  
4.  Connect in ways that feel comfortable and meaningful.  Blogs, FB, Twitter, school visits, library workshops, articles for magazines – whatever works for you.
5.  Don’t be shy.  Let your friends, family and colleagues know about how excited you are about your new book.  Give out your business cards liberally.  Include your book and Web site/blog information in your signature line on every e-mail you send out.  
6.  If you’re introverted, get thee to Shrinking Violet Promotions.  
6-1/2.  Here’s the most important advice:  My agent reminds me of it every now and again.  Don’t get so caught up in worrying about sales and promotion that you neglect to do the most important thing for a long, healthy career:  WRITE THE NEXT BOOK.
Donna Gephart tries to remember to WRITE THE NEXT BOOK from her home in South Florida.  Her newest book, Olivia Bean, Trivia Queen, about a girl determined to get on the TV quiz show, Jeopardy!, comes out March 13, 2012.  How to Survive Middle School is in its seventh printing.  As If Being 12 ¾ Isn’t Bad Enough, My Mother is Running for President won the Sid Fleishman Humor Award.  Visit Donna online at www.donnagephart.com and check out her blog, Wild About Words.

Character Traits Thesaurus Entry: Worry Wart


Definition Characterized by extreme uneasiness of mind or brooding fear

Causes: raised by parents who worried about every little thing, having experienced many bad things in life, control issues, an over-active imagination, watching too much news, a pessimistic outlook

Characters in Literature: Piglet, Mrs. Weasley, Bard of Dale (The Hobbit)

Positives: Worriers see trouble coming so they are not often surprised by it. They are often able to plan for problems that others wouldn't foresee, thereby averting trouble. Their worry is sometimes wrapped up in the people around them, showing compassion and loyalty.


Negatives: Worriers not only see trouble that's coming, but also the trouble that never comes. They expend precious energy worrying about things that may or may not come to pass, and about things over which they have no control. Worrying is often the result of a trust issue--not trusting the person in charge, not trusting anyone else to take care of things in a satisfactory manner. Excessive worry leads to negativity, which is easily spread to others. It's draining to be around a worry wart for long periods of time.

Common Portrayals: overprotective maternal figures, hypochondriacs, conspiracy theorists, chaperones and nurses (historical fiction)

Cliches to Avoid: the doting, stifling nanny or mother; sniffling, hand-wringing worriers

Twists on the Traditional Worry Wart: 
  • Worriers are so often weak and timid. The worrying warrior or leader could make for an interesting character.
  • Because worrying is a negative character trait, it's usually assigned to background or support characters. A worry-wart hero would be one with a lot to overcome.
  • Turn worry into a positive by creating a character who worries excessively about others, but is utterly unconcerned with him or herself. 

Conflicting Characteristics to make your Worrier unique or more interesting: brave, ambitious, arrogant, charismatic, mean, curious, easygoing

Weather Thesaurus Entry: Vortex

WEATHER and 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:

Vortex energy is an unseen force but can be accompanied by wind in high, open locations. Debris (dust, dirt, etc) may stir up the air and anchored grass or weeds at the site may quiver by the force of moving air.

Smell: N/A

Taste: N/A

Touch:  

Most people describe a feeling of spinning both around them and inside them when standing in a vortex. Hair may lift on the arms and back of the neck, dizziness is common and some experience a sense of vibration or euphoria paired with a heightened awareness. If the location is at a high altitude such as Sedona's Vortex at Cathedral Rock, then winds buffet exposed skin and tug at clothing and hair.

Sound:

Natural, location-specific noise may appear amplified within a vortex location, sounding clearer and sharper. The sound of rushing wind can have a hollow and haunting quality to it.

EMOTIONAL TRIGGERS:

Mood:

The presence of a vortex within the setting can allude to the supernatural and the impossible. Characters may be open to experiencing something that is both complex and unknown or they may be closed to it, swarming with negativity and fear. Either way, tension is created through anticipation or foreboding. The reader too can benefit, for most have some knowledge of vortices as being unusual centers for energy, and this will increase the expectation that something out of the ordinary is about to happen.

Symbolism:

Intuition, Mother Nature; Mystery; a Higher power; Magic; Mysticism; Spiritual Connection; the unknown

Possible Cliches:

Vortices as portals to either Hell or an alternative universe; vortices & magic/spells/etc

OTHER: 

Vortices are found all over the world where concentration points of earth energy has electric, magnetic or electromagnetic qualities. Two of the most notable locations are the Great Pyramids in Egypt and Stonehenge in England. It is said that a Vortex power center increases the body's vibration, amplifying a person's own positive or negative energy (whichever is prevalent). People come to these places for spiritual clarity and healing or personal and spiritual growth. Visiting these sites almost always leaves a person with a sense of wonder and renewed energy.

Juniper trees are especially sensitive to Vortex energy. When in the proximity of this energy force, an axial twist appears in the branches. The severity of spiraling indicates the strength of vortex sites.

Some Vortex energy centers have been known to distort the appearance of distances between objects, bend light and create unusual effects on film.

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.

Writing Hero: Stina Lindenblatt

For a long time now, Becca and I have wanted a way to acknowledge the people who have helped us develop into stronger writers and who add to the writing community as a whole. As a new feature here at The Bookshelf Muse, Becca and I will take turns giving well-deserved recognition to some of the people who really make an impact...people who truly are Writing Heroes.

I can't think of a better person to start off with than Stina Lindenblatt!

Stina is a rock star blogger, YA writer, photographer and friend all rolled into one. I met Stina first online, and then discovered with delight that she actually LIVED in the same city I did. It was coolness on top of coolness. I quickly dragged her into a local Children's Writers group that would meet for lunch and swap books & writing news. In no time she became one of the most supportive writers I've ever had the pleasure of knowing, emailing me with links that she thought I'd like to look into, telling me about different people, courses and organizations that have helped her writing...and of course passing on the best YA books (NOTE: Stina's favs have copious amounts of kissing and romantic tension.)

One thing I love about Stina is that she's very passionate. You can see this in her writing (which is a pleasure to read) and from the way she isn't afraid to speak up for what she believes in. She won't shy away from discussing topics that affect writers, or take a stand on an issue. She's also incredibly focused on learning and invests her time and energy into reading about writing, seeking help to get her writing to the next level and taking advantage of opportunities that will help her reach publication. She knows a lot about the craft, belongs to both SCBWI & RWA and shares what she knows without hesitation, which I really, really admire. :)

Her blog, Seeing Creative, is an excellent source of writing ideas and information, and she has a nose for digging up great articles. I know there are a lot of 'Weekly Link Round Ups' out there, but Stina's Cool Links Friday is NOT TO BE MISSED. I hope that if you don't already follow Stina's blog you'll head on over and see for yourself how awesome it is. She also blogs at Query Tracker & hangs out on Twitter!

Thank you Stina, for being one of my WRITING HEROES. You inspire me, woman!

To pay it forward, Becca or I will give a 1000 word critique to each Writing Hero we profile. These writers can then choose to keep it for themselves or offer it as a giveaway on their blog! All writing heroes will also have a permanent link in our header!


So tell me Musers...do you know Stina? Has she helped you or your writing in some way? Please tell us in the comments and help celebrate this amazing WRITING HERO! 

Character Trait Entry: Funny

Definition: comical, causing amusement or laughter

Causes: Growing up in a family where one was expected to entertain younger siblings, being a fan of jokes and comedy; a desire to entertain, make people laugh or be in the spotlight; having a quirky & humorous outlook on life; exposure to comedians and entertainers

Characters in Literature: Fred & George Weasley (Harry Potter); Mia (Princess Diaries); Willy Wonka (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory)

Positives:

Funny people always lighten the mood or bring a positive spin to events, no matter how bad things seem. They can pluck the humor from any type of situation and make the people around them laugh. Having a joker for a friend means most experiences will be more enjoyable because they exude a sense of fun that feels good to be around. (Note: this entry excludes 'witty/sarcastic' humor as this will be addressed in a separate entry)

Negatives:

A comedic person doesn't always take certain situations seriously and may do or say something that, due to timing or circumstance, is inappropriate. Funny people can't always make a distinction of when enough is enough, and sometimes their sense of 'haha' goes too far and makes the people around them either embarrassed or uncomfortable. Some people also get lost within this trait, and feel that they need to always be funny or risk disappointing others. This can lead to losing a sense of who one really is, or repressing other traits and emotions that interfere with the ability to be funny.

Common Portrayals: 

Comedians, class clowns, nighttime talk show hosts, sitcom actors

Cliches to Avoid:

Pairing the funny trait with clumsiness; toilet humor; school/college pranksters; the single class clown, friends who have no endearing qualities or attributes other than to be the group's comic relief

Twists on the Traditional Funny:
  • Most characters KNOW they are funny--they work on it, live for it. Show us a character who is funny to everyone else, but doesn't find himself funny in the least.
  • Hilarious moments often occur when a character says or does something at an inappropriate time. Pick the most inappropriate situation you can think of, and create stakes where there are grave consequences if your funny character doesn't get the laughs.
  • Often a funny character shines because he's the joker of the group. Give him some competition and see if he rises to the challenge--you might end up with double the laughs!

Conflicting Characteristics to make your Funny Character unique or more interesting: somber, moral, analytical, proper, bossy

LinkWithin

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...