Stocking Stuffers for Writers: WORLD BUILDING

Jim the Photographer
*This is a repost from last year. Happy Holidays!


Stocking Stuffers is a series for the busy writer/blogger this holiday season. 

We know time is in short supply, so each day leading to Christmas, we'll offer 5 simple, smart tips on an important topic to writers, helping with craft enhancement, revision and social networking!




Today's Stocking Stuffer: Honing your mad WORLD-BUILDING skillz:

1--See your World as a Supporting Character. If you're going to create a brand new world, it needs to be memorable, clearly-defined and believable. Set a goal for yourself that your world will be as well-drawn as your characters, and your readers will be as enamored with it as they are with the people who live there. To do this, you have to...

2--Be Thorough. As well as you know your characters, you have to know your world even more. Before drafting, create a questionnaire that will address every important nuance of your world (religion, history, fashion, rules of magic, physical landscape, climate, etc.) A great place to start is Patricia C. Wrede's Worldbuilder page. You are the god of your world. You need to know every aspect of it if strangers are going to want to come and stay awhile.

3--Be Inspired by Real Life. You want your world to be cool, but some things may not need to be reinvented--gas lighting, ink and paper, the wind-up clock, wheels. If reinvention is going to be super-complicated and an existing something will fit just as well into your world, spare yourself and your reader the trouble. For the mundane, everyday things, keep it simple.

4--Story First. As awesome as your newly-created world is, remember that it's a part of the story, not the other way around. Too many fantastical elements will detract from the story. As with every other aspect of writing, choose your material carefully and edit with care.

5--Follow the Rules. Once you've decided what the rules are, stick to them. Just like any other element of writing, if there are inconsistencies, your reader will see through them. So make sure your world makes sense--to you and the reader--before dropping your characters into it.

The Bookshelf Muse Makes the TOP 10 Writing Blogs!

What an absolute thrill to be named one of the 10 Best Writing Blogs on Write to Done's annual list. Everyone who nominated us, THANK YOU!

And as always, our heartfelt appreciation goes to each and every writer who visits us here at The Bookshelf Muse. I hope we continue to be a part of your writing path moving into 2012!

There are many worthy blogs listed as finalists, so I urge you to check them out. One of the beautiful things about our writing community is the access to great information--now more than ever we have the tools to grow and succeed. :)

Stocking Stuffers for Writers: EMOTION

*This is a repost from last year. Happy holidays!*

Stocking Stuffers is a series for the busy writer/blogger this holiday season. 

We know time is in short supply, so each day leading to Christmas, we'll offer 5 simple, smart tips on an important topic to writers, helping with craft enhancement, revision and social networking!




Today's Stocking Stuffer: Honing your mad EMOTION skillz:

1--Know what you want the reader to feel. Everything you put your character through--good, bad, ugly...it's all to evoke a reaction from the reader. Be mindful of exactly what you want your audience to experience as you write. In order for the book to succeed, the reader must invest in the character's plight and root for them as they struggle.

2--Use everything in your writing arsenal.
 Emotions are best shown through physical action, but the choices you make with story elements and structure can also enhance the experience for the reader. Setting choices (day, night, the weather, a setting with emotional tie to a character) can affect mood. Challenging a character's strengths or revealing a weaknesses can bring out raw feeling. Description, wording, pacing, conflict, sentence structure...all of these can and should be used with intent to help bring about a specific reaction/feeling.

3--Be genuine, not melodramatic.
 With emotion more so than anything else, it's easy to go a touch too far. Always keep an eye out for proportion when displaying emotion, making sure the reaction is relevant to the situation, within the character's response range and most importantly, cliche-free.

4--Minimize thoughts, maximize action. Showing emotion through thoughts can be a slippery slope and can lead to telling/explaining. Showing emotion physically is difficult for a reason--it means having an intimate knowledge of the way your character expresses themselves. Strive for a balance of showing that leans more on action, with emotional thoughts acting as an enhancement. What your character does to express themselves will have more of an impact than what they think about the situation.

5--Emotions should lead to decisions.
 Always keep the story moving forward. A character agonizing over a choice will crank up the tension & heighten stakes, but too much will slow the pace. Remember too, often when emotion is involved, we make mistakes. Mistakes = great conflict!

Stocking Stuffers for Writers: DESCRIPTION

*This is a repost from last year. Happy Holidays! :)

Stocking Stuffers is a series for the busy writer/blogger this holiday season.

We know time is in short supply, so each day leading to Christmas, we'll offer 5 simple, smart tips on an important topic to writers, helping with craft enhancement, revision and social networking!




Today's Stocking Stuffer: Honing your mad DESCRIPTION skillz:


1--Engage all five senses. It's not just a dog. It's a wheezing, drool-dripping, greasy-haired dog who has recently rolled in dead rat remains, the smell of which requires you to re-swallow that last bite of omelet you had for breakfast. Now that's a dog.

2--Be consistent. Choose words that fit with your tone and describing character. A sad woman's hairbrush is heavy, rough, and drags through her hair like sickly fingers. The same brush in the hands of a child? Glittery, prickly, and made in Santa's workshop.

3--Make your descriptions do double (or triple) duty. A description of a room should not only tell about the room, but also about the person who lives there, or the history of the place, or what it's residents are hiding, or how a visitor might perceive it, or whatever else will add to your scene.

4--Similes and metaphors. These comparisons can pack a descriptive punch if you remember some important tips: keep them simple, make them fitting (to the character, tone, time period, audience, etc.), and don't overuse them.

5--Break it up. Don't tempt boredom by including long paragraphs of description. Sprinkle in the details a bit at a time, through narrative, dialogue, dialogue beats, a character's thoughts, etc.

Stocking Stuffers for Writers: DRAFTING

*This is a repost from last year. Happy Holidays! :)
Jim the Photographer


Stocking Stuffers is a series for the busy writer/blogger this holiday season.

We know time is in short supply, so each day leading to Christmas, we'll offer 5 simple, smart tips on an important topic to writers, helping with craft enhancement, revision and social networking!




Today's Stocking Stuffer: Honing your mad DRAFTING skillz:


1--Don't start until you have a road map. I can hear the pantsers screaming, but this applies to you too. If you are an outliner, outline. If you're a pantser, have a plan. Brainstorming means understanding the story you want to write. Know your characters, what their motivations are and most importantly, what your goal is for this novel. Make notes in a journal or doc. to reference--it will help you later if you get stuck. A road map means never facing the dreaded question: What should my character do now?

2--Drafting is not about quality, it's about storytelling. This isn't Hell's Kitchen, It's a first draft. All you need to do is transcribe the story in your head onto the page. Don't agonize over a turn of phrase, or how to convey the perfect description. Give yourself permission to use placeholders if needed (bland descriptions, cliched actions) to be reworked later during revisions. 


3--Create a mental shift. Drafting works best when you can shove everything else aside and just write. To do this, minimize distractions (put a movie on for the kids, unplug the phone, shut off your email) and create a productive writing environment. Choose a mental aid to train your brain that it's time to write: light a candle, for example, or draft the book in a color other than black. Whatever you choose, do this only when you draft and your brain will shift into gear faster.

4--Be consistent. Butt-in-chair, all the way. Make a contract with yourself to set aside so many hours per day or week to draft your book. If you struggle with procrastination, set up a reward system for specific word counts--something that has value to you. If you're brave, try Write or Die. If Twitter is your downfall, turn off the net or try a laptop somewhere without wi-fi.

5--Fight the urge to go backwards. This ties in with #2, but is oh-so-important. Too many writers get caught on the merry-go-round of fixing that their novel languishes forever, incomplete. Always write with the end in mind. If the plot takes an unexpected turn and therefore changes a storyline or event earlier on, don't go back and rewrite. Instead, make notes about the changes as a placeholder and then keep writing the current scene. This way you keep that creative flow and story pacing going. Come back and reinvent the earlier scene after you finish the book, when you have the time and focus needed to get it right.

Writer's Digest 101 Best Websites for Writers

I don't know why, but every year I end up missing the nomination period for this award, so when I saw an article about this on the blogging grapevine, I thought I'd do a post.

Most already know about Writer's Digest's 101 Best Websites for Writers. Each year, the list amounts to a treasure trove of useful content to all writers. I don't know about you, but I absolutely love seeing the gold stamp on blogs that I frequent!

So, if you have a favorite BLOG or WEBSITE that you would like to nominate, here's the deets:

Send an email to: writersdigest@fwmedia.com

Put 101 Best Websites nomination in the subject line

Write a brief note asking for WD to consider the site for inclusion in the 101 Best Websites list and make sure to provide both the NAME of the blog/site, as well as the URL.

The deadline for nominations is January 1st, and winners are announced in June. So, if you're like me and want to nominate some folks, there's still time!

Writing Heroes: Julie Musil

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.



Julie Musil has a knack for picking apart books to find out what makes them successful. This is an invaluable ability for writers, and since we can't read every book out there, it's nice when someone knowledgeable breaks them down for us. I've learned a lot about the writing craft from these posts alone.

I've also learned a lot about Julie through her blog. She's not afraid to be honest about herself. The few stories she's shared about herself and her family have endeared me to her because she is clearly an inspiring mom. She finds wisdom and inspiration in the smallest, everydayish things, and that is wisdom in itself.

And this may be a little goofy, but I am just blown out of the water by any blogger who responds personally to comments. It's so hard for me to do (as you all obviously know), and I think someone who accomplishes this shows a superior level of caring for and commitment to their followers. I know how special I feel when she replies to a comment of mine, and anyone who attends to others with such a sacrifice of time is a hero in my book!

So, thank you Julie, 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 Julie? 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: Generous

Definition:  liberal in giving; bighearted

Causes: Extreme gratitude for one's good fortune or health; a desire to share, lift up and help others; deriving pleasure through the raising of spirits; growing up in a strong, giving family or community; coming from an impoverished background or enduring hardship where the generosity of others made a life-changing impact on one's living conditions and attitude; a desire to pay back or pay forward

Characters in Literature: Santa Claus; Geppetto (Pinocchio); Fezziwig (A Christmas Carol)

Positives:

Generous characters are fulfilled by bringing comfort to others, hoping to add to their happiness and satisfaction in a meaningful way. They are satisfied with what they have as they view it as 'enough', and hold a high appreciation for their circumstances and the important people in their life. Generous people are content, and derive pleasure through giving. They often make good listeners, and are very observant. If they see a need, they step forward to fill it to the best of their ability, rather than wait for someone else to do it. Generous people are charismatic and inspire kindness and generosity in others through unselfish acts. They see giving as being a duty as a decent human being.

Negatives:

Generous people view the world through a positive filter, seeing the best in people. This can lead to nativity regarding the human condition, leaving them open to being taken advantage of by those without scruples. They can also be generous to a fault, helping others to a point where their own welfare suffers (giving away rent money to someone in need, offering to take on extra work that one does not have time for; giving time or expertize to charities or committees, leaving little time for family and self, etc). Generous people find it difficult to say no, and so often over-commit rather than risk disappointing those depending on them.

Common Portrayals: 

The kindly grandmother, the neighbor who provides for everyone on her street, the wealthy philanthropist, church pastors & ladies' groups; charitable organizations (the salvation army, etc)

Cliches to Avoid:  Having a 'heart of gold'

Twists on the Traditional Generous:  
  • An interesting bit of conflict with generous people is when they feel pulled in separate directions by opposing needs. Put your generous character in a position where they must choose who to help, and that inner turmoil at feeling that they are letting down the other party.
  • Generous people have dreams and desires too. What happens when a dream conflicts with the needs of others? Does your generous character sacrifice the dream for the greater good, or for once, choose self-fulfillment?
  • Consider an environment where a generous person is continually taken advantage of. How does it affect them--do they bend, or break?
Conflicting Characteristics to make your Generous Character unique or more interesting: Guarded, Impulsive, Conceited, Bossy, Reckless, Proper, Prejudiced

Weather Thesaurus Entry: Lightning

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: Blindingly white jags that fork and branch off of the main strike. Lightning can travel from the earth to the clouds, from clouds to the earth, or from cloud to cloud. Lighting strikes may occur singularly, with many seconds or minutes between them, or they may occur seemingly continuously for a period of time. Lightning may be accompanied by rain, wind, hail, and other storm conditions. It can also occur as what people mistakenly refer to as heat lightning, which flashes from cloud to cloud, makes no sound, and has no additional weather pattern. In reality, this soundless flash of light is actually lightning from a thunderstorm that is too far away for the thunder to be heard.

Smell: rain, an electrical/ozone smell, burning

Taste: heat

Touch: The surface of a lightning bolt reaches temperatures hotter than the sun, so a bolt can wreak serious havoc on whatever it hits. People struck by lightning express many different physical sensations, but the common complaint is burns at the entrance and exit points. Electrical burns can lead to a number of other problems: cardiac arrest, internal organ failure, infection, and brain damage, not to mention the injuries sustained when a victim passes out, falls down, or is thrown a great distance.

Sound: Thunder may follow lightning if it is within hearing distance. Other storm sounds may be evident, such as wind, rain, or hail.

EMOTIONAL TRIGGERS:

Mood: Lightning accompanies storms. As such, it often fills people with a sense of foreboding or impending doom. Lightning is insanely fast, its power and destructive potential beyond our ability to fully understand. It evokes fear, and awe, and the desire to seek safety and shelter.

Symbolism: power, nature, God or fate, punishment, the harbinger of doom, randomness

Possible Cliches: greased lightning, lightning never strikes the same place twice (which apparently isn't true), someone being as fast as lightning, lightning as the forerunner of an alien invasion, 1.21 jigowatts (okay, so that's not a cliche, but I do enjoy saying it in my best Christopher Lloyd voice)

OTHER: Lightning occurs anywhere you have thunderstorms. If a storm is over 12 miles way, you can see the lightning but may not hear the thunder. Roughly 7 out of 10 lightning victims survive, but they're usually left with lifelong health and psychological problems (understandably).

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. 

Guest Post: Keeping Writing Despair at Bay

Writer's despair. We've all experienced it at some point or another. We question ourselves, doubt...we wonder if we will ever make it, if our writing will ever be strong enough.

I've known a lot of writers who have left the path because this despair overwhelmed them. Each time it saddens me, especially when I've seen their work, and know first hand that with time and development, they are absolutely 100% publishable.

Today I'm guest posting at Janice Hardy's The Other Side of the Story about writer's despair. I hope you'll swing by and leave a comment on how you have worked through those dark moments so that anyone questioning themselves right now will have a road map that can help them move past their own uncertainty!

Character Trait Thesaurus Entry: Stingy

Definition: not generous; sparing or scant in using, giving, or spending

Causes: a frugal upbringing, lacking the basic necessities growing up, paranoia, distrust of others and their motives, a sense of entitlement, a lack of confidence in future events (the fear that some day, one will need every last penny), caring more for oneself than for anyone else, a desire to be financially responsible, a heart that is two sizes too small

Characters in Literature and Culture: Ebenezer Scrooge, the Grinch, Mr. Burns (the Simpsons)

Positives: Typically, Stingies have money. They may not give it to others, but they tend to not waste it on frugal spending, either. They are disciplined in the use of their money and determined to reach their budgetary goals. 

Negatives: Stingies are, well, stingy. They don't give to charitable causes, to those less fortunate than them, or even to friends and loved ones who might really need a break. They can be smug and self-righteous, looking down on those in financial difficulties, assuming that their misfortune is their own fault. They lack compassion and empathy. Stingies may have trouble truly connecting with others due to the deep-seated reasons behind their tightfistedness. Their selfishness tends to make them unlikable, and they often end up alone.

Common Portrayals: business owners, factory foremen, the elderly, bankers, feudal landowners, eccentrics

Cliches to Avoid: the crackpot miser with money stuffed in his mattress and buried in the backyard, the skinflint boss who fleeces his employees, the gajillionaire who lives in squalor because he won't spend even a nickel on basic necessities

Twists on the Traditional Stingy:  
  • People are usually stingy due to basic greed. Instead, give your Stingy an empathetic reason to be the way he is.
  • Stinginess is a negative, no doubt about it. What circumstances could you create in your world that would make stinginess a positive trait?
  • Because it's such a bad trait, a stingy hero will usually be cured of it by the end of a novel. But what if being stingy is necessary to achieving the hero's goal? What if he has to hold onto it in order to succeed, or better yet, to save others?

Conflicting Characteristics to make your Stingy unique or more interesting: compassionate, kind, wasteful (in other areas), popular, friendly, helpful

Weather Thesaurus Entry: Snow

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: 

Flakes can range from small bits of ice to large lacy pieces that float at a slower speed. Depending on the wind direction and strength, snow can fall on an angle, slight to sharp, or even appear to fly sideways in extreme winter blows or blizzards. If flakes drift straight down, there is an absence of wind current. A stronger wind will often tear flakes apart on the way, making the sky seem filled with snow crystals. Sunlight can appear muted during a snowfall as the sky is often packed with dense grey cloud. Within minutes to hours, a layer of snow will cover anything out in the open, frosting windows, weighing down tree branches and causing drifts to form against houses, cars and curbs. Snow has a smooth, clean look, and under sunlight or moonlight the crystalline nature will glitter.

Smell:

Snow has a crisp, ozone-like tang to it. 

Taste:

Most snow simply tastes like water, but it may carry a slightly bitter taste if in an urban area. However, often the taste is dulled due to the numbing of taste buds from the cold.  

Touch:

Snow varies from soft lacy flakes that melt the moment they touch exposed flesh to hard pellets that can sting chapped, wind-dried skin. Snow is extremely cold, and so in any quantity can numb and eventually sting. Exposure to low temperatures and direct contact can result in permanent frostbite damage. For more information on how the body reacts to freezing elements, go here.

Sound: 

Snowfall is usually very quiet with the exception of wind being present, or if the snow is in pellet form. With our busy lives, if the conditions are right and a person were to stop and listen, the absence of sound seems remarkable. However, if wind is present it may howl, tree branches will shake and pellets make a small pinging noise on impact with hard targets. If a person is outside during a snowstorm, they will also hear the rustling of their clothing and the sound of their footsteps compacting down into newly fallen snow. As it takes more energy to move in snow conditions, breathing accelerates and so the sound of breathing increases as well.

EMOTIONAL TRIGGERS:

Mood: snowfall can lighten the mood and bring back childhood memories and pleasant experiences of playing in the snow and being outdoors on a cool, crisp day. Snow is widely viewed as a beautiful act of nature, and the slow, silent drift of flakes will often reach into a person and make them stop and take notice. It provides an escape for a moment or two, and encourages the watcher to take it in. However, context is key. A man late for work who has to scrape snow off his car is not going to view snow in a light-hearted manner. A teen who is stuck with the chore of shoveling the driveway will not be happy to wake up to a white landscape. Always consider the POV character's attitudes, and filter accordingly.

Symbolism: purity, renewal, frigidity, sleep, hibernation, death, burying emotion, new beginnings, isolation

Possible Cliches: comparing snow to glittery objects (glitter, diamonds, sequins, jewels, etc), or likening it to frosting or sugar.

OTHER: Snow will only occur in certain climates and will melt at zero degrees. In some warmer climates where snow is not generally present, one can sometimes still find it at high elevations (mountain ranges, etc). If the temperature is warmer rather than cooler (above the freezing mark) than snowfall will be heavier and wetter.

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. 

Building a Following: 5 Tips that WORK


Hi guys--just a quick post to let you know I'm Guest posting over at The Incessant Droning of a Bored Writer today on how to build a blog following.

I know finding an audience for a blog can be a difficult, and it's especially daunting if you're new to blogging. When Becca and I started The Bookshelf Muse, we didn't know a lick about blogs but over the years we've learned quite a bit through trial and error.

Blogging has grown to be a passion of mine, so, if you blog and could use a few tips on creating a successful following, please check it out. And you can find all my other blogging tips right HERE.

Hope everyone is having a lovely week!

Writing Heroes: Adventures In YA & Children's Publishing

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 have to make my December pick the Ladies at Adventures in YA & Children's Publishing. I mean really, this blog is like getting to open a Christmas gift 365 days a year! Marina Boone and Marissa Graff really show their superpowers when it comes to helping others navigate the publishing industry with insightful posts and an incredible collection of writing worksheets. (If you haven't taken advantage of these diamonds, take a peek in their left hand sidebar!)

Of course, this is really only the tip of the ICEBERG OF AWESOME. They also offer reviews of all the latest and greatest YA books (plus generous giveaways), run a monthly 1st Five Pages workshop with the help of the ever-brilliant Lisa Gail Green and and AND create the most comprehensive Writing Round Up on the WEB with the help of Link Guru Clara Kensie. Yes I know it's a bold claim, but visit on any given Friday and you'll see it for yourselves! 

You'll also find M & M tweeting, FBing & Google+ing a treasure trove of helpful writing tidbits during the week. These girls are smart and savvy, and the success of their blog shows both creativity and a passion for the publishing industry. They care about writers, and want to see them succeed. It's people like Martina, Marissa, Lisa and Clara who make our writing community GREAT! I can't recommend this blog enough--bookmark it and add a valuable resource to your Writer's Toolbox. :)

Thank you Adventures in YA & Children's Publishing for being one of my WRITING HEROES. You inspire me, girls!

To pay it forward, Becca or I will give a 1000 word critique to each Writing Hero we profile. Team AIYACP  can decide who amongst them needs this critique or they can 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 Adventures in YA & Children's Publishing? Have they helped you or your writing in some way? Please tell us in the comments and help celebrate this amazing WRITING HERO! 
 

Character Trait Entry: Responsible

Definition: able to answer for one's conduct and obligations; accountable

Causes:

Situated as the eldest in birth order, or being an older child to whom parental child-minding duties for younger siblings are passed onto; being placed into a situation where others' needs and or survival is dependent on one's actions; an acute sense of right/wrong; gratitude for one's own circumstances or abilities to the point where moral obligation compels one to take care of others; a strong patriotic sense of family, community and country; growing up surrounded by strict rules and expectations; being raised under a bower of legacy expectation (such as belonging to the royal family; having parents who are influential government figures or even having a family-run business [store, corporation or farm] to care for and one day run)

Characters in Literature:  Rand al'Thor (The Wheel of Time); Tess Smith (I'm Not Her); Gandalf (Lord of The Rings)

Positives:

Responsible characters are the Go-To people when the chips are down. This type works hard to provide what is needed and can be trusted by others. This trait is strongly tied to morality, so no matter what else is going on, Responsibles will do what needs to be done in order to satisfy priorities. This character type will go without, sacrifice, and put others before themselves if it is for the 'greater good'. Responsible types are extremely loyal to those within their circle, be it family, friends, a community or a company they work for. They can be relied on to take their commitments seriously, and as such, make ideal leaders, caregivers and mates.

Negatives:  

Characters with this trait have it so ingrained that sometimes they are unable to let go of seriousness and have fun. It can be hard to shut off one's responsible nature, so guiding, parenting and moralizing is sometimes done without thought. This is not always appreciated by others, especially when frivolity or rule-breaking activities are involved. As such, Responsibles can find themselves excluded, or even vilified by people looking to stretch boundaries and find their own way. Younger people especially may see others with this trait as being boring and overly serious, not seeing the value until trouble arises and they need help.

Common Portrayals:


Parents; government officials; the judicial system; teachers; bank employees; historians; business owners; clergy members; doctors, nurses and hospital staff; accountants; school principals & school counselors; psychiatrists

Cliches to Avoid:   

The moralizing & over protective older brother; the parent or grandparent who cites hard work and dedication builds character; the co-worker who always does more than is asked and shows everyone else up; the kid who kisses up to teachers to gain trust and responsibility only to lord it over his classmates; the stuffy, tweed-jacket wearing college professor; the stern, by-the-book police officer; having 'the world is depending on you' type responsibility thrust upon a character who feels unequipped to handle it

Twists on the Traditional Responsible:  
  • Responsibility and morality go hand in hand, but what happens when the responsible character is providing for loved ones through an immoral practice? Give us a responsible thief, or a responsible con artist, showing us the war between what is right and being a provider.  
  • The conflict of responsibility and feeling unable to cope with it is a popular way to get readers to sympathize with a hero. What happens when a hero freely embraces his responsibility but still fails, and growth comes from acknowledging that he is not the type of savior others need?
  • Try the challenge of a hero who faces two types of responsibility that war with one another. What path does he take and why? What are the consequences? The closer and more moral the two types of responsibilities are, the more conflict it will create (ie: a father stopping a brutal mugging he witnesses on the way to a hospital or making it to his daughter's bedside before she dies)

Conflicting Characteristics to make your Responsible unique or more interesting: Free-spirited; Impulsive; reckless; Friendly; Witty; Shy

Weather/Earthly Phenomena Thesaurus Entry: Falling Star



SENSORY DESCRIPTORS:

Sight: A streak of light falling (shooting) across the clear night sky. The appearance of many falling stars at once is called a meteor shower. In this case, stars can shoot all different directions. They may fall simultaneously, one after the other, or with periods of time in between. 

Smell: n/a

Taste: n/a

Touch: n/a

Sound: Night sounds. Insects chirping and buzzing, wind in the trees, human sounds (doors opening, music playing, car engines), hushed voices and whispers, muffled footsteps, your own heartbeat. Also, see the setting entry Woods at Night.

EMOTIONAL TRIGGERS:

Mood: Falling stars happen so quickly; to catch sight of one makes the viewer feel blessed or lucky to have witnessed it. A falling star will inevitably lighten the viewer's mood and can potentially turn the mind to bigger ideas and wonderings: the universe, life on other planets, the existence of God, etc.

Symbolism: good luck, change, a fulfilled wish, hope

Possible Cliches: a long-desired wish coming true after witnessing a falling star; someone witnessing a falling star at the precise time they most desperately needed one

OTHER: Falling stars aren't stars at all, but are actually meteors. When they enter Earth's atmosphere, they begin to burn, producing the light that we see as they travel across the sky. Scientists claim that on a given night, numerous falling stars occur each hour. Meteor showers can last for hours or days, and often reoccur at the same time each year.

Don't be afraid to use weather and earthly phenomena 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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