K- Know Your Characters…A-Z Challenge

“You never really understand a person until you

consider things from his point of view… Until you

climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.”

Harper Lee, To Kill A Mockingbird 

 

Welcome to the latest installment in my series of Motivations Quotes for Writers and Creatives working on a big project, especially writing a book. This is my theme for the 2019 Blogging A-Z April Challenge.

Today, we’re up to K, which must be around halfway. So, I can let out a loud cheer for getting this far, because I almost didn’t take part this year as I’m deeply immersed in working on my book.

I have a background in sales and one of the things they really used to hammer into us, was to know your product. As writers, we also need to know our product in addition to our craft and that includes knowing your characters and knowing them well.

One of the tools I’ve used on and off has been the Proust Questionnaire. The Proust Questionnaire was originally a parlor game, which was popularized although not devised by Marcel Proust, the French essayist and novelist. Proust believed that, in answering these questions, an individual reveals his or her true nature. As writers, asking our characters these questions can help us develop more interesting, dynamic and effective characters in our work.

If you’re interested in checking out the Proust Questionnaire, you can explore the Vanity Fair version Here.

Here are a few other quotes I found about developing characters:

“When writing a novel a writer should create living people; people not characters. A character is a caricature.” 
― Ernest Hemingway, Death in the Afternoon

“Plot is no more than footprints left in the snow after your characters have run by on their way to incredible destinations.” 
― Ray Bradbury, Zen in the Art of Writing

“Sow a thought, and you reap an act;
Sow an act, and you reap a habit;
Sow a habit, and you reap a character;
Sow a character, and you reap a destiny.” 
― Samuel Smiles, Happy Homes and the Hearts That Make Them

“I don’t know where people got the idea that characters in books are supposed to be likable. Books are not in the business of creating merely likeable characters with whom you can have some simple identification with. Books are in the business of creating great stories that make you’re brain go ahhbdgbdmerhbergurhbudgerbudbaaarr.” 
― John Green

Lastly, while I was trawling around the Internet in search of quotes, I came across this fabulous quote about knowledge, which kind of touches on developing our characters but I feel also adds an important quality to our writing:

“People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”
― Theodore Roosevelt

After all, if we really care about our characters and their wellbeing and what’s happening to them, that will draw the reader inside that vision which is what great writing is all about. It’s not just about us fulfilling our ambitions. Indeed, for the person paying good money for your book and not someone else’s, you don’t factor into the equation.

Do you have any tips for developing characters? What works for you? 

Thank you for joining on this journey through the alphabet and I hope you are feeling encouraged psychologically while hopefully also taking some action steps.

Best wishes,

Rowena

J: Journey…

Welcome back to my series of Motivational Quotes for writers and creatives working on large projects, such as writing a book. This is series is part of the Blogging A-Z April Challenge where we write our way through the alphabet to a theme. Today, we’ve reached the Letter J and I’ve chosen a quote which focuses on the journey. No doubt, you probably know it, but it’s always good to be reminded:

“The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.”

Lao Tzu

Over the last few years, the word “journey” has been seriously over-used and has lost a lot of its magic. However, just because the word is tired, doesn’t mean that the nature of a journey has changed what with its changes of scenery, challenges, ups and downs and inherent movement from a beginning, through the middle and to the end. Of course, this progression could well be chopped and changed around when it comes to writing about it. However, one of the important things about a journey is that it needs to be lived.

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I’m always intrigued whenever I see these snail markings squiggling through the local rock pools. Well, it actually looks like the limpets in the photograph have made that journey.  

The quote from Lao Tzu is one of my all time favourites, and I often remind myself that the hardest part about achieving anything is usually getting started and taking that first step. Somehow, it seems to get easier once you’re actually moving, gain momentum and are on your way.

This quote is also a reminder not to let the enormity of what lies ahead, defeat you. Just get started putting one foot in front of the other and you’ll get there eventually.

Keep Going!

Obviously, to reach your destination you also need to keep going long after you’ve taken that initial step. After all, we’re talking about a journey of a thousand miles. That’s a long journey. It’s not a journey of one step and you’re already there to reach out and grab hold of your prize.

Isn’t it amazing how much you can get out of that one simple sentence?!!

Very great wisdom indeed!

Best wishes,

Rowena

 

I – Inspiration: Motivational Quotes A-Z Challenge.

Welcome to Day 10 of the Blogging A-Z April Challenge. As you may be aware, my theme this year is Motivational Quotes and these are geared towards people like myself who are working on their first book and getting it published one way or another. Obviously, it’s a long road from INSPIRATION to PUBLICATION!

Today, it was a toss up whether to choose inspiration or imagination. While there is much common ground, there is a distinction. In the end, I had Roald Dahl representing   Imagination:

“There is no life I know to compare with pure

imagination. Living there, you’ll be free if you truly

wish to be.”

Roald Dahl

 

“And above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole

world around you because the greatest secrets are

always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who

don’t believe in magic will never find it.”

― Roald Dahl

However, when it came to INSPIRATION, there was Jonathon Livingstone Seagull:

“Instead of our drab slogging forth and back to the

fishing boats, there’s reason to live!

We can lift ourselves out of ignorance, we can find

ourselves as creatures of excellence and intelligence

and skill. We can learn to be free! we can learn to fly!”

― Richard Bach, Jonathan Livingston Seagull

It was a done deal. Inspiration it is!

Personally, I don’t have any trouble finding inspiration or with being inspired. That after all is the initial spark which gets the fire going. It’s keeping that spark alight once I’m further down the track, where I struggle.

I am starting to understand that process better now. While they say slow and steady wins the race and that you need to pace yourself, I find that it’s more a case of making quick and easy progress at the start and a lot more effort is required as you progress through your project and that you could well have less return as well, especially if you’re talking about pure word count. Understanding that process is helping me overcome some of the doubts which sets in when the going gets tough.

Just another thought…. much of what I read about getting that book done and dusted talks about word limits. Stuff like write 1000 words a day. However, what you don’t hear, is that not all words are created equal. Perhaps, one day you might only write one word, but that word will change everything. Perhaps, not only just for yourself, but also for your readers.

I am currently writing a compilation of biographical short-fiction built around our combined gene pool of persons past. With this, I’m not as concerned about word length finding an angle. Something which will touch and inspire people. I want to put my finger on the pulse if that makes sense. So, instead of generating thousands and thousands of words, I’m immersing myself in research plucking the story out piece by piece like a restorer and yet hopefully infusing that spark which will bring these people back to life. This is a spark which all of our characters need in order to engage our readers, who are after all, our audience.

What inspires me most about these characters is when they overcome adversity in some way and that’s what I want to share. That we are not alone. Not the only ones who have ever been through trials and tribulations, been in the wrong place at the wrong time. These is something universal about being human and that is very much part of and the inspiration behind what I write. I want to help others, and I also want writing somehow help me put bread and butter on the table because none of us can survive on air. We need an income.

So, what inspires you and your writing? What do you do when your inspiration wanes? I’d love to hear from you!

Best wishes,

Rowena

Help – Motivational Quotes A_Z Challenge.

Welcome back to my series of Motivational Quotes for Writers. This series is particularly geared towards writers actively engaged in working on a book, especially their first book. Although I have quite a few manuscripts hovering in limbo, I’m currently fully immersed in writing a compilation of biographical short fiction, which I think will be a good launching pad for the rest. Due to the massive amount of research and writing involved, I wasn’t going to participate in the A-Z Challenge this year. However, motivational quotes seemed like a theme I could dash off and I also thought I might be needing them myself. I wasn’t wrong.

Sop, today we’re looking at reaching out for HELP. Rather than focusing on a quote today, I’m turning to what must be the ultimate song on the subject: : Help – The Beatles.

That’s because what I wanted to say, is that it’s okay to acknowledge that cry for help within…the scream… and put your hand up. Ask for help whether that’s for psychological, emotional or practical stuff, or about writing and publishing matters.

The bottom line is, that whatever you’re struggling with, you don’t have to go it alone.

You have back-up. At the very least, you have the World Wide Web and it never sleeps.

Writing a top-notch book is like wrestling with cats with your foot flat to the floor trying to get somewhere. While so many people talk about writing a book, doing it is something else entirely and I haven’t got there yet. However, from what I’ve experienced so far, I know I should be treating it like a marathon, and yet it’s more like a very intense rollercoaster ride where all your neurones lit up at once, followed by inevitable burn out and loads of other emotions in between, especially self-doubt, which really should be appearing in the largest font size I can find in triple bold with flashing lights.

That’s also why I’m trying to pace myself better, preparing for the long haul instead of a burning sprint.

However, that’s not who I am, but I have to sleep and I still need to be Mum, wife and a functioning human being.

Where we live (in Australia), we have R U OK?Day. It’s our national day of action dedicated to reminding everyone that any day is the day to ask, “Are you ok?” and support those struggling with life.

Naturally, this is simplifying things and it’s a difficult question to ask. Moreover, the next question can be even harder and every bit like sticking your heart in a mincer. However, feeling a bit of discomfort is nothing compared to potentially saving a life or taking the edge off that horrible, angsty state of being. Indeed, just like knowing how to perform basic first aid, it’s something we all need to know. How to be there for a friend or even a complete stranger experiencing anything from the blues to extreme psychological distress.

The irony about the whole help thing, is that helping someone else has actually been shown to help you feel better. So, while you’re seeking help, it is good for you to also help someone else. You don’t need to do much, especially if you’re struggling yourself. However, something as small as a smile might help you both.

Before I head off, I’d really like to recommend one of my all-time favourite books: Daniel Gottlieb’s Letters to Sam: A Grandfather’s Lessons on Love, Loss, and the Gifts of Life.

When his grandson was born, Daniel Gottlieb began to write a series of heartfelt letters that he hoped Sam would read later in life. He planned to cover all the important topics – dealing with your parents, handling bullies, falling in love, coping with death – and what motivated him was the fear that he might not live long enough to see Sam reach adulthood. Daniel Gottlieb is a quadriplegic – the result of a near-fatal automobile accident that occurred two decades ago – and he knows enough not to take anything for granted. Then, when Sam was only 14 months old, he was diagnosed with Pervasive Developmental Disability, a form of autism and suddenly everything changed. Now the grandfather and grandson were bound by something more: a disability – and Daniel Gottlieb’s special understanding of what that means became invaluable- Book Depository

In an interview he was asked about how he stays positive, he replied:

Oh my goodness, I don’t stay positive. When I have pain, I suffer. When I experienced loss, I cry. As I age and my body begins to fatigue, I feel great sadness. But what I feel every day is gratitude. And this makes all the difference between a life of well-being and one of suffering. I feel gratitude that I am able to bear witness to nature, to see the beauty and smell the life. I’m grateful that I am able to breathe without difficulty, grateful that I love so many people so deeply. Grateful for my girlfriend, children and Sam. I could go on and on and on!”

Daniel Gottlieb

Anyway, that’s enough from me. What do you have to say about help? I’d love to hear from you!

Best wishes,

Rowena

There’s A Lady On Your Pillow…

Our son made the mistake of leaving his bedroom door open when he left for school this morning. When I went to close it, I noticed a black ball of fur quite at home on his pillow, let alone snoozing on his bed!

Lady Cropped

Lady wasn’t phased by my appearance at all. Indeed, instead  of showing any guilt or remorse, she simply rolled over wanting a belly scratch.

I have mentioned before that Lady tends to take her name much too literally, and even elevated herself further up the ranks. I have no doubt that she believes she’s a princess, and us humans are at her beck and call. Indeed, I have wondered whether she really thinks she’s a cat, especially when she becomes totally unresponsive when the ball or stick fly past.

However, there’s another side to Lady. She lived on a farm before she came here, and she’s a trained hunter. She’s not interested in balls and sticks because she’s after the live ones. That, by the way, is when she’s becomes rather “unladylike” and let’s instinct prevail. I have been horrified on more than one occasion when she’s not only rolled in a very dead fish carcass at the beach, but actually rubbed the stench deep into her fur follicles to camouflage her scent completely. She is a trained assassin. I’m just lucky she doesn’t eat humans.

So, now she’s back to being an ordinary dog again, asleep on her own blanket!

Hope you’re having a wonderful day!

Best wishes,

Rowena

Here’s a link to the Lady’s escapes after she first joined us: Portrait of A Lady

G: Goals – Motivational Quotes A-Z Challenge

Today, our journey continues through an alphabet soup of motivational quotes especially geared towards writers and creatives working on a big project.

Of course, all of us know that goal setting is important. Indeed, many of us also know that goal setting needs to be SMART:

  1. Specific
  2. Measurable 
  3. Achievable 
  4. Relevant
  5. Time-based 

Developing SMART goals is all about removing that fantastic dream-like quality from what you want to get done, and creating an actionable plan for results.

For many creatives, no doubt terms like goal setting and SMART goals sounds way too business-like and we’d prefer to go with the flow.

The trouble with not having a goal is that you can

spend your life running up and down the field and

never score.

– Bill Copeland

However, for me there comes a point where your credibility is at stake. Not just when it comes to other people, but also with yourself. If you’re not even striving towards your life’s goal, what are you waiting for? Life is short. Not only that, it can be shorter than you thought. After all, not everyone receives their full entitlement of four score and ten. Not that I want to be morbid, but I do live under the shadow of a nasty auto-immune disease and I’ve already slipped through the net a few times. That has made me think, but it hasn’t always led to action!

The greater danger for most of us isn’t that our aim is

too high and miss it, but that it is too low and we reach

it.

– Michelangelo

However, I don’t believe that goals need to be rigid and stuck in the ground like football posts. They can and do change, and it’s important to be responsive. Intuitive.

To be perfectly honest, this is probably something I need to put some more time and focus into. I have worked in small business and been to quite a few seminars and one of the big catch phrases for small business owners is about spending time on the business as well as in the business.

As writers, writing is our business. The same goes for artists, photographers etc. However, we still need to work on our business which includes things like goal setting, planning, keeping our desks and computer files sorted and backed-up. Having the best goals in the world doesn’t mean a thing if you don’t have the wherewithal to carry them out and see them through to the end.

Otherwise, they’re just dreams!

Well, so far I’m somewhat keeping up with the annual Blogging A-Z April Challenge again this year and am finding there’s much I need to action from these posts.

Best wishes,

Rowena

 

 

Beach Escape…

This afternoon, I finally managed to get down to the beach for a good solid walk, making the most of the glorious Autumn sunshine before Winter sets in, sending the sun packing off to the Northern Hemisphere. Of course,  many of you are actively trying to speed that process up. However, we Aussies are a resilient bunch. Although Daylight Savings Time officially ended this morning, we’re not letting Summer go without a fight. By the way, temperatures reached a high of 27 degrees today. Happy Days! It was actually perfect weather.

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I really needed to get to the beach today. As you might’ve read, I’m fully immersed in researching and writing my collection of biographical short-fiction. These stories are based on the numerous stories I’ve collected researching our family histories, and there’s quite a cast of characters with a vast range of tales to tell. Each story feels like a book in itself as I research the person, location and historical framework and in effect pour all these ingredients into some kind of crucible and then try to pluck out the essence. That’s what I use to write these stories. I’m not simply writing their life stories. At times, this process has almost a mystical feel, like I’m pulling a rabbit out of a hat. That’s despite the stories being meticulously researched. So, my eyes and mind are literally buzzing from loads of alt-tabbing between various sources, which is like having flashing lights flickering in my face. It can’t be good. However, now that I’ve finally found my genre and have two stories down and two on the way, there’s no holding back.

Yet, while 100% immersion and a mono focus sounds great from a writing perspective, I still need to eat, sleep, shower and make sure my kids are taken care of and get where they’re meant to be on time and on the right day. These things are falling by the wayside at the moment, and they’ll soon be directed to the microwave and the freezer and told to “insert here”.

Well, it hasn’t got to that point yet. However, this is why I consciously need to pull myself away. I can’t attach a snorkel and keep writing underwater. I need to take breaks and undertake a variety of activities, while still keeping my eye fixed on the prize.

So, it was really great to finally get back to the beach this afternoon. It was bucketing down much of last week. Then, on the other days, it was either too sunny or I’d miss the boat or I’d simply forget to go. I know that doesn’t sound very motivated, but I’m only human. I can’t juggle ten balls in the air and expect to catch them all…especially when I’ve so focused on the one! Still, I keep asking myself How hard can it be to go for a simple walk, especially when it takes in such breathtakingly beautiful scenery? What kind of idiot am I? Well, my only rationale is that even when you live in Paradise, you still need to deal with the every day.

Beach Invaders

We don’t usually get so much seaweed on our beach. I think the heavy rain last week is probably to blame. 

 

Just for your enjoyment, I lugged my massive Nikon DSLR with zoom lens along the beach and thought you’d particularly like to see some Surf Lifesaving touches. The red inflatable boat is known here as a “rubber ducky” and is used for beach rescues. Not sure if you’re familiar with the red and yellow surf lifesaving flags. These flags mark safe swimming area, which is also patrolled by the lifesavers or lifeguards. The flags are also a key feature of our Summer beaches and you might arrange to meet friends “in-between the flags”. Or, if you’re terribly short-sighted like myself, you leave your glasses and towel under a flag, ensuring you get back there before they shut up shop for the day.

While we’re touching on our local surf-lifesaving culture, we have a junior program called Nippers, where young kids gradually learn the ropes. Like all these activities, there’s a huge dropout rate as the physical demands and competitive aspects take their toll. It also takes a lot of commitment, and that also has a sense of heavy competition. Our lives are full to overflowing most of the time.

Both of our kids did Nippers for a few years, before taking up Sea Scouts and shifting their focus over to still water and in our daughter’s case, onto dance. As I am finding myself, it’s hard to maintain a diverse range of interests when you’re trying to conquer the world. Or, at least a particular field.

So, I’ll leave you with a few pics of the kids doing Nippers from years ago and you can imagine yourself down at the beach bright and early on a Sunday morning with the rest of us.

Best wishes,

Rowena