Five Ways to Help Your Favorite Authors

So, as you may have heard, Angela and I are in the process of publishing the next books in our thesaurus series: we’re so excited that The Urban Setting Thesaurus and The Rural Setting Thesaurus will be available for purchase June 13th!

The Setting Thesaurus Duo

Though we’ve been through this process twice already, it’s been almost 3 years since our last books were released, and it’s surprising how much has changed in that time. In some ways, we’ve had to start from scratch and re-educate ourselves about how the whole thing works. As we’ve looked into giveaways, marketing opportunities at Amazon, how to enhance author bios and profiles at various distributors, etc., we’ve discovered so many ways to maximize our marketing efforts. But we’ve also learned about some new things that we, as readers, can do to support our favorite authors. And because we’re all about helping authors, we wanted to share those with you.

 1. Follow your favorite authors on Amazon. The majority of authors have an author page at Amazon containing a bio, information about their books, author-posted videos and blog posts, and more. All of that is readily viewable by clicking on the author’s name under the listing for one of his or her books.

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But if you also follow that person on Amazon, you’ll receive an email notification when he or she releases a new book.

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This is great for you, so you can stay up to date on new books that you’ll want to know about, but it’s also helpful for the author because it’s a way for them to get the word out about about their newest publications.

2. Follow your favorite authors at Goodreads. Following an author at Goodreads reaps the same benefits as following one at Amazon: you’re able to access personal information about that author, read posts imported from the author’s blog, see all the books written by the author, and be informed of new releases when they’re published. To follow an author, type his or her name in the Search bar, click on the name anywhere it appears in the results, then click the yellow Follow button under his or her picture.

If you want to receive notifications about new releases by your favorite authors, you just need to turn that option on. To do that, follow these steps:

  1. Hover over your profile image on the top right of the screen.
  2. Click Account Settings.
  3. On the right-hand side of the page, click the little Edit My User Profile link.
  4. Click on Emails.
  5. Scroll down to the Newsletters and Other Mail section. Tick the box that says E

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3. Add upcoming releases to your Goodreads To Read list. This one is potentially awesome because many authors choose to host a giveaway of their new books leading up to their publications. So let’s say Stephen King is releasing a new book. If you’ve followed him, when he adds his new release to Goodreads, you’ll receive a notification. You will, of course, rush to add his book to your To Read list. Then, let’s say the King decides to host a giveaway of that book. If you have the correct notification turned on, you’ll receive a message about that giveaway. This is a great opportunity for both readers and authors; readers will get a chance to win a free copy of one of their favorite author’s new books while giving that author an opportunity to tell fans about new releases.

To turn on that notification, just follow the directions in the second bullet point above. But in step 5, go to the Comments and Action Notifications section and turn on the option to receive notifications when someone Lists a Giveaway with a book I added as To-Read.

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4. Ask for favorite books to be stocked at your library. Love affairs are born between readers and books at the local library. This is where I first encountered Robin McKinley, Shannon Hale, Garth Nix, and Anne McCaffrey, and I went on to buy most of their books. Visibility is difficult for today’s authors—especially for new authors, and libraries tend to stock books that are popular or highly marketed. So if you have a favorite author, get online and see if your local library carries a copy. If it doesn’t, swing by the reference desk the next time you’re there and ask the media specialist if they can order a copy.

5. Write Reviews. This one has been said so many times, but as a reader, I know how easy it is to forget to review a good book, so I think it bears repeating. With so many books on the market today, it’s hard for people to know which ones are worth buying. More and more, readers are turning to reviews to help them narrow the field. So when you write a heartfelt review at Amazon, Goodreads, your blog, or anywhere people are likely to see it, you lend credibility to that book and encourage people to take a chance on it. In a market where visibility is hard to come by, this is incredibly helpful for authors.

One thing that Angela and I love about the writing community is its eagerness to band together and support others. I hope these ideas help you help writers. If you have other ideas for how to support a favorite author, please add them in the comments section.

Also, I’m speaking at Elizabeth Spann Craig’s incredible blog today about using the setting to add conflict to your scene. Stop by and say hello!

Also, also, we’re currently testing out the Amazon Giveaway feature, ’cause we’re daredevils that way. Just click the links to enter to win one of 3 kindle copies of The Negative Trait Thesaurus and The Positive Trait Thesaurus.

Posted in Uncategorized | 10 Comments

Emotional Wound Thesaurus Entry: Failing at School

When you’re writing a character, it’s important to know why she is the way she is. Knowing her backstory is important to achieving this end, and one of the most impactful pieces of a character’s backstory is her emotional wound. This negative experience from the past is so intense that a character will go to great lengths to avoid experiencing that kind of pain and negative emotion again. As a result, certain behaviors, beliefs, and character traits will emerge.

Characters, like real people, are unique, and will respond to wounding events differently. The vast array of possible emotional wounds combined with each character’s personality gives you many options in terms of how your character will turn out. With the right amount of exploration, you should be able to come up with a character whose past appropriately affects her present, resulting in a realistic character that will ring true with readers. Understanding what wounds a protagonist bears will also help you plot out her arc, creating a compelling journey of change that will satisfy readers.

NOTE: We realize that sometimes a wound we profile may have personal meaning, stirring up the past for some of our readers. It is not our intent to create emotional turmoil. Please know that we research each wounding topic carefully to treat it with the utmost respect. 

IMG_1891Examples: Struggling throughout one’s school career due to 

  • a learning disorder (dyslexia, dysgraphia, processing disorders, etc.)
  • a behavioral or mental disorder (anxiety, ADHD, panic attacks, depression, bipolar)
  • medical problems that caused one to miss a lot of school
  • taking medication that interferes with one’s ability to focus or learn
  • having a low IQ
  • getting no support at home
  • external pressures that make school a low priority (working multiple jobs to provide for one’s family, suffering from malnutrition, being homeless, etc.)

Basic Needs Often Compromised By This Wound: love and belonging, esteem and recognition, self-actualization

False Beliefs That May Be Embraced As a Result of This Wound: 

  • I’m stupid.
  • I can’t learn.
  • I’m going to fail no matter how hard I try.
  • I’m no good at school/math/reading/etc.
  • There’s something wrong with me.
  • I’m worthless.
  • My parents won’t love me if I don’t do well in school.

Positive Attributes That May Result: charming, creative, disciplined, industrious, patient, persistent, private, proactive, resourceful

Negative Traits That May Result: apathetic, callous, childish, controlling, cynical, disrespectful, hostile, humorless, inhibited, insecure, irresponsible, jealous, lazy, mischievous, needy, nervous, perfectionist, pessimistic, rebellious, resentful, rowdy, self-destructive, temperamental, timid, uncommunicative, uncooperative, volatile, withdrawn

Resulting Fears:

  • Fear of others finding out one is stupid.
  • Fear of tests.
  • Fear of having to work with others.
  • Fear of being called on in class.
  • Fear of overreaching one’s capabilities.
  • Fear of disappointing one’s parents or caregivers

Possible Habits That May Emerge: 

  • Underachieving; setting low goals to avoid failing at larger ones
  • Giving up; no longer trying
  • Taking frequent trips to the bathroom or nurse
  • Skipping school
  • Being “sick” on test days
  • Not applying oneself so when one fails one can blame the lack of preparation
  • Pursuing interests where one excels outside of academics (sports, the arts, hobbies, etc.)
  • Becoming the class clown
  • Acting out in class
  • Charming one’s teachers to get out of trouble
  • Cheating on tests and homework
  • Working twice as hard as everyone else to achieve a measure of success
  • Withdrawing from teachers and other students
  • Engaging in self-destructive behaviors such as drinking, taking drugs, or promiscuity
  • Believing one will fail, and doing so (establishing the self-fulfilling prophecy)
  • Negative self talk
  • Bullying others (getting on the offensive)

TIP: If you need help understanding the impact of these factors, please read our introductory post on the Emotional Wound Thesaurus. For our current list of Emotional Wound Entries, go here.

For other Descriptive Thesaurus Collections, go here.

Positive & Negative Thesaurus BooksAlso, we’ve currently got a giveaway going at Amazon. If you’d like to score one of 3 kindles copy of The Negative Trait Thesaurus or The Positive Trait Thesaurus, just click the links to throw your hat in the ring!

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How To Turn Your Setting Into An Obstacle Course

As you can imagine, with only a month between us and release day for the Setting Thesaurus books, Becca and I are practically twitching with excitement. More than anything, we can’t wait to show how this versatile element of storytelling is no mere wallflower. No, the setting is a powerful tool, one with the ability to deepen characters, make a story more meaningful and compelling, and of course, juice every scene with emotion and conflict.

(And that’s just to start!)

chasmBecca and I are big believers in making the setting work hard in EVERY scene. A terrific way to do this is to turn a setting into a magnet for conflict. After all, the hero or heroine’s path to their goal should never be a leisurely stroll. Instead, we want bumps and upsets, a route paved with inconvenience and obstacles. A sunny walk through the park should have the storytelling equivalent of hot lava to navigate, a swath of man-eating grass, and heck, maybe even a zombie toddler or two stumbling around looking for their next man-sized happy meal.

Conflict keeps readers reading. It transforms lumpy gobs of description into a vivid landscape of activity. It creates tension–that tingly, uncomfortable pressure that builds in a reader’s chest as they worry about the outcome. (And as writers, we LOVE making them feel that!)

Not only do obstacles create tension and conflict, they also force our protagonist into a corner, providing the perfect opportunity for us to test their mettle.

CREATE A GAUNTLET OF CHALLENGES

There are many different ways to use the setting to stress the hero or heroine, triggering a response that shows, not tells, who they really are. Here are a few to sink your teeth into.

Inherent Dangers

danger close upAny setting has the potential to cause trouble for the protagonist. Whether it is Lego strewn across the family room carpet as your character breaks into a house to steal important documents, a river that runs deeper than it appears, or a driver texting rather than watching the crosswalk your heroine is on, danger is everywhere. Look to the natural environment your character is in and ask yourself, what could go wrong here? Then, if it makes sense for the story, set your character on a crash course with danger. Not only will this cause the reader’s pulse to race, how your character responds will show readers what they are made of.

Misfortune

flat tireOn the other side of the danger coin is plain old bad luck. Sometimes unforeseen events land in our character’s lap at the worst time, and guess what makes that happen? That’s right, the setting. From bad weather that makes travel difficult, to a car breakdown, to being in the wrong place at the wrong time and witnessing a murder,  misfortune creates mayhem. How does your character react–fight, or flight? Do they wallow, retreat, throw in the towel? Or do they shake off disappointment and regroup with a new plan?

Remember with misfortune, a little goes a long way. If you use it, ensure your event is logical for the setting and the circumstances so it never comes off as a plot device.

Physical Roadblocks

flood roadIn every scene, your character has a goal. Physical obstacles can be a great way to derail the protagonist’s progress or cause painful delays.

Whether the hero or heroine is stopped short by a locked door, missing car keys, a washed out bridge, or a forest fire caused by a lightning strike, roadblocks force detours. This challenge can showcase their creative problem solving and adaptability, as well as test their resolve.

People and Obligations

SecurityAh, people. There they are, all around your character–family, friends, strangers, enemies. Running into one at a bad time is no fun in real life, and can cause big problems in the fictional world. Did that nosy neighbor see something she shouldn’t have? Do the parents of your hero show up for a surprise visit just as his swingers’ party is getting underway? Does your heroine stumble upon a backwoods meth camp while out looking for her lost horse? People can be natural disruptors, messing up plans and creating complications.

This goes double for the people your character is obligated to. Real world problems stemming from relationships add realism while creating a quagmire of problems to navigate. Take the hero’s sister dumping her kids at his apartment because she needs to check herself into rehab. Caring for children when he wasn’t expecting to will create some stress, sure…but if he also happens to have his own demons to contend with, the situation can become dangerous. Imagine becoming suddenly responsible for two young children while he’s actively trying to dodge loan shark tough guys looking to collect an overdue payment. Now, the repercussions of his obligation is no longer a mere inconvenience. It could lead to a child being hurt.

The Little Things

spillIf every challenge and obstacle was some catastrophic event, we’d be tangoing with melodrama in no time. Luckily, little obstacles can be just as effective and remind readers of the real world. After all, who hasn’t spilled coffee on their slacks right before an interview, taken the wrong bus on route to an important doctor’s appointment, or discovered a broken tent pole only after completing a four hour hike into the mountains?  The little things are like midges biting at the skin, and how gracefully (or not) your protagonist bears the pain as things pile up will humanize him to readers and teach him resilience, something he’ll need if he’s in it for the long haul.

If you find your scene is flagging, try planting an obstacle or two in your character’s path.  Besides, whatever it is your protagonist wants most is something they need to fight for. Winning becomes so much more of a rush for readers when the protagonist has really worked for it.

How do you challenge your characters? What are some of the obstacles you’ve thrown in their path? Let us know in the comments!

Positive & Negative Thesaurus BooksOh and before I forget, Becca and I have 2 week-long giveaways going on at Amazon to get us all revved up for release day. If you’d like to snag a copy of The Positive Trait  Thesaurus or The Negative Trait Thesaurus (or both!), just follow the links to enter. Good luck!

And if you might be willing to help out with our launch week festivities, let us know. We’d love your help. :)

 

Image #2: heysalzmanngmailcom
Image #3: Stux @ Pixabay
Image #4: Sandid @ Pixabay
Image #5: Founry @Pixabay
Image #6: StevePB @ Pixabay

Posted in Characters, Conflict, Description, Emotion, Pacing, Setting Thesaurus Guides, Show Don't Tell, Tension, Uncategorized, Writing Craft, Writing Lessons | 10 Comments

Critiques 4 U

 

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Check us out on Goodreads!

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No, seriously. Check us out.

PEOPLE! Both volumes of The Setting Thesaurus are being uploaded for proofing AS WE SPEAK! These books have been in the works for almost two years and we’re so excited to be able to offer them to you this June. If you want to stay up-to-date on these publications and the ensuing launch awesomeness, feel free to sign up here.

CONTEST CLOSED!

In the meantime, now’s a good time to do some critiques, before the final weeks of craziness kick in. If you’re working on a first page and would like some objective feedback, please leave a comment that includes: 

1) your email address. Some of you have expressed concern about making your email address public; if you’re sure that the email address associated with your WordPress account is correct, you don’t have to include it here. But if you do win and I’m unable to contact you through that email address, I’ll have to choose an alternate winner.

2) your story’s genre (no erotica, please)

ONLY ENTRIES THAT FOLLOW THESE INSTRUCTIONS WILL BE CONSIDERED

Three commenters’ names will be randomly drawn and posted tomorrow. If you win, you can email me your first page and I’ll offer my feedback. Best of luck!

Posted in Uncategorized | 37 Comments

Emotional Wounds: Losing a Loved One To A Random Act of Violence

When you’re writing a character, it’s important to know why she is the way she is. Knowing her backstory is important to achieving this end, and one of the most impactful pieces of a character’s backstory is her emotional wound. This negative experience from the past is so intense that a character will go to great lengths to avoid experiencing that kind of pain and negative emotion again. As a result, certain behaviors, beliefs, and character traits will emerge.

griefCharacters, like real people, are unique, and will respond to wounding events differently. The vast array of possible emotional wounds combined with each character’s personality gives you many options in terms of how your character will turn out. With the right amount of exploration, you should be able to come up with a character whose past appropriately affects her present, resulting in a realistic character that will ring true with readers. Understanding what wounds a protagonist bears will also help you plot out her arc, creating a compelling journey of change that will satisfy readers.

NOTE: We realize that sometimes a wound we profile may have personal meaning, stirring up the past for some of our readers. It is not our intent to create emotional turmoil. Please know that we research each wounding topic carefully to treat it with the utmost respect.

Losing a Loved One To A Random Act of Violence

Examples:

  • killed by errant bullets in a drive by shooting
  • a bystander gunned down during a gang dispute (in a restaurant, on the street, etc.)
  • a robbery where the criminals leave no witnesses
  • dying in a fire that was deliberately set
  • a child or spouse who is killed in a school shooting
  • a loved one who is jumped by addicts who are delusional or hallucinating
  • being killed in a terrorist attack (a bombing, bio-terrorism, etc.)
  • a love one who steps in to break up a fight and is stabbed or shot
  • being fatally wounded after a mugging
  • becoming a target because of mistaken identity
  • being run over as criminals flee a scene or during a police chase
  • dying in the line of duty (police officers, swat, bomb squad, etc.)
  • being grabbed and used as a human shield
  • being killed as a message to others (hostages, etc.)

Basic Needs Often Compromised By This Wound: safety and security, love and belonging

False Beliefs That May Be Embraced As a Result of This Wound:

  • evil always wins
  • happiness is temporary; it is only a matter of time before what you love is taken from you
  • I should have been able to prevent it–I am weak
  • I am a terrible (spouse, parent, etc.) for not protecting (the victim) when it was my duty to
  • it is better to not love anything than love and have it stolen from you
  • the system is broken, there is no protection or justice for people like (the victim)

Positive Attributes That May Result: appreciative, decisive, empathetic, generous, hospitable, introverted, just, kind, loyal, merciful, nurturing, observant, passionate, pensive, perceptive, persistent, private, protective, responsible, sensible, socially aware, spiritual, supportive, wise

Negative Traits That May Result: addictive, antisocial, confrontational, cynical, hostile, humorless, impulsive, indecisive, inflexible, insecure, irrational, needy, nervous, obsessive, paranoid, pessimistic, prejudiced, rebellious, reckless, resentful, self-destructive, stubborn, superstitious, suspicious, timid, vindictive, violent, volatile, withdrawn, worrywart

Resulting Fears:

  • fear of being alone
  • fear of darkness
  • fear of letting a loved one out of one’s sight
  • fear of not being in control
  • fear of specific situations (that tie into the circumstances of the loved one’s end, e. g.: being afraid to drive if one’s loved one was carjacked)
  • fear of a specific race, gender, or person type/features (people with facial scars, people with a similar weight and build, etc.) as the attacker
  • fear of trusting people
  • fear of certain areas that remind one of the location one’s loved one died
  • fear of strangers and crowded areas

Possible Habits That May Emerge:

  • obsessively locking and checking one’s door and window locks
  • repeatedly checking in with loved ones when out of sight (texts, phone calls, checking on children throughout the night, etc.)
  • carrying a weapon
  • having a cell phone always fully charged and handy
  • refusing to go out, making excuses to avoid crowded areas or strange people
  • adhering to a specific routine that one deems as “safe”
  • forcing one’s remaining family to adhere to safety protocols (calling for a ride not walking, calling if one is going to be late, coming home at a specific curfew, etc.)
  • difficulty trusting new people, remaining aloof
  • visiting the grave site or area where one’s loved one died often (and possibly becoming obsessive about creating and maintaining a memorial)
  • drinking or self-medicating more (or developing a habit)

TIP: If you need help understanding the impact of these factors, please read our introductory post on the Emotional Wound Thesaurus. For our current list of Emotional Wound Entries, go here.

For other Descriptive Thesaurus Collections, go here.

Image: Aitoff @ Pixabay

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Six Rules that Keep Critique Partnerships Golden

A long time ago, two enthusiastic yet green writers met on an online critiquing site called The Critique Circle. They wrote stories riddled with hollow characters and cliched plots, but that didn’t stop them from becoming fast friends. Through practice, critiquing literally thousands of submissions, and spending untold hours reading and responding to forum conversations on writing, these two eventually learned a thing or three about the craft. Eventually, they even penned a few books with the word “thesaurus” in the title. Who knows, maybe you’ve seen one hanging out on a writer’s desk somewhere.

RWAPresenters_Angela_Becca_2016Here’s one of the BIG lessons these two scruff-and-tumble writers learned: having a critique partner can really shorten your learning curve. The eyes, knowledge and experience of another writerly human being can give the insight and distance an author lacks. Of course, it’s all about finding the right critique partners who are a perfect fit, and understanding how to best work together. Becca and I still are going strong well over 10 years after we first met, and there’s no one I’d rather hand my work over to than her. So please help me welcome author Dee Romito who has a few “rules” to make sure our critique partner relationships stay healthy and function as they should.

Six Rules that Keep Critique Partnerships Golden

Dee RomitoGood critique partners (affectionately known as CPs) are invaluable on your publishing journey.  They will be your go-to sources for questions, support along the way, and much-needed feedback.

I checked in with a few of my most trusted writing friends to get their thoughts on what makes a great critique partner. Here are six things you can do to be a helpful critiquer and what you might be looking for in a critique partner.

  1. Offer suggestions. Blunt comments are not the same thing as constructive feedback.

There’s a line between being honest and being helpful. Try to explain why you think a change should be made or make a suggestion as to how to improve it.

“Something I make sure I don’t do (or at least try not to) is to simply say I don’t like something. That is never helpful information. If there is something that I think is off, I try to explain why I think that. For example, ‘This sentence felt repetitive because you gave the same information above.’” – Janet Sumner Johnson, author of THE LAST GREAT ADVENTURE OF THE PB&J SOCIETY

“I once had a reader who crossed out whole pages of my manuscript and rewrote sections and, knowing how that made me feel, I will never change anything in anyone else’s document. I won’t even add a comma or correct spelling in the ms itself- I drop a note in the ‘insert comments’ instead.” – Jen Malone, author of MG and YA novels, including THE SLEEPOVER and YOU’RE INVITED

  1. Ask questions

If there’s something you don’t understand or you feel like something’s missing or unclear, ask about it. Writers are sometimes too close to their own work to see it.

“I really love receiving critiques where the CP has asked questions instead of making comments (example: ‘Do you think she’d be feeling this right here?’ instead of ‘I don’t like the way she’s feeling sad here- she should be mad!’)” – Jen Malone

“I like critique partners who ask a lot of questions. This always helps me think about different paths I can take a manuscript.” – Jen Maschari, author of THE REMARKABLE JOURNEY OF CHARLIE PRICE

  1. Point out what works, as well as what doesn’t work

This might sound like a no-brainer, but you need to make a conscious effort to point out both the weaknesses and the strengths of a piece.

 “My go-to critique partners aren’t afraid to tell me what I need to fix . . . even when they know I won’t be happy to hear it, but at the same time, they are nice. They point out the things they liked, too, and somehow this makes the hard stuff much, much, much easier to swallow.” – Janet

“I always try to point out things I love or that made me laugh, in addition to the things I didn’t connect with quite as much- I have one CP who highlights lines or sections she loves in green highlighter. For me, it definitely keeps my spirits up amid digesting all the things I need to address in revisions.” – Jen Malone

“Many times, writing can feel like pushing a boulder up a hill, so those hearts or ‘I love this’ comments or even a smiley face can go a long way to cheering me on as I tackle the bigger stuff.” – Jen Maschari

  1. Know what the author is looking for. Overall, line edits, voice, consistency, something specific.

At various points in the process, writers need different kinds of critiques. Know what the goal is.

“I make sure I know what the person is looking for. Did they want a big picture critique? Did they want me to fix grammar mistakes? That can make a big difference in how I read.” – Janet

“I always make sure I get a sense of what my critique partner wants first. What big questions do they have? Do they want me to look at the larger picture or do they want a sentence level look?” – Jen Maschari

  1. Offer to clarify, answer more questions, talk it through, brainstorm.

A CP is meant to be a sounding board and someone who can help you work through the sticking points.

“Now that I’ve worked on some co-writing projects and realized how much more quickly a plot/outline comes together with joint brainstorming sessions, I’ve recently begun asking my CPs if they would be up for helping at the earliest stages of something new.” – Jen Malone

“Sometimes I’ll send a few scenes out to get a first reaction or a sense of what’s working and what’s not early on.” – Jen Maschari

  1. CPs will go to you for your strengths. Know what they are.

Okay, so you might not know them yet. But you will. Do you notice every punctuation mistake? Do you find inconsistencies in manuscripts? Are you a plotting wizard?

 “I definitely choose my beta readers based on what type of critique I’m looking for. For example, when I send a second draft out (I never send a 1st draft, just fyi), I look for someone who is good at plotting and seeing holes and how to improve that. When I’m further in the process and need someone who is good at making smooth prose or catching detail errors, I choose someone who is good at that. I have found that they each have their strengths. And it always makes sense to play to someone’s strengths.” – Janet

“I have a CP whose strengths are my weaknesses- I tend to focus on dialogue and plot more than the interior character arc and she’s always making notes that say “But what is she feeeeeeeling here?”– I really need that push!” – Jen Malone

Final Thoughts

These ladies have definitely helped me along the way and were essential in fine-tuning my middle grade debut, THE BFF BUCKET LIST. I trust their feedback and value their opinions. Without a doubt, having critique partners has been one of the most important pieces in my path to becoming a published author.

Whether you’re just starting out and are in the midst of searching for critique partners or you’re a seasoned veteran, these simple reminders help make critique partner relationships ones that will last through many manuscripts, all the ups and downs, and hopefully, lots of publishing deals.

BFF Bucket ListDee has a new book out, a terrific middle grade called the BFF Bucket List, and a killer blurb:

Two best friends. Twelve challenges.

Can the BFF Bucket List save their friendship or will that get crossed off too?

(Love it? I do!)

If you like, follow this link for a closer look, or add it to your Goodreads list!

And do hook up with Dee online–visit her blog or website, hang out on Facebook or throw tweets her way on Twitter. She’s super friendly, is always around chatting it up, and would love to hear from you.

Do you have a great critique partner? What rules would you add to this list? Let us know in the comments!

Posted in Critique Groups, Critiquing & Critiques, Guest Post, Reader Feedback, Uncategorized, Writing Groups | 22 Comments

Emotional Wounds Thesaurus: Growing Up in a Cult

When you’re writing a character, it’s important to know why she is the way she is. Knowing her backstory is important to achieving this end, and one of the most impactful pieces of a character’s backstory is her emotional wound. This negative experience from the past is so intense that a character will go to great lengths to avoid experiencing that kind of pain and negative emotion again. As a result, certain behaviors, beliefs, and character traits will emerge.

Characters, like real people, are unique, and will respond to wounding events differently. The vast array of possible emotional wounds combined with each character’s personality gives you many options in terms of how your character will turn out. With the right amount of exploration, you should be able to come up with a character whose past appropriately affects her present, resulting in a realistic character that will ring true with readers. Understanding what wounds a protagonist bears will also help you plot out her arc, creating a compelling journey of change that will satisfy readers.

NOTE: We realize that sometimes a wound we profile may have personal meaning, stirring up the past for some of our readers. It is not our intent to create emotional turmoil. Please know that we research each wounding topic carefully to treat it with the utmost respect. 

518700076_9c1b9128e8_b

courtesy: Todd Huffman @ Creative Commons

Definition of a cult: a small, fringe organization (often but not always defined by a religious belief system) that espouses idealogies and practices believed by others to be dangerous or extreme. For the purposes of this entry, I’ve chosen to focus on people who were once ensconced in a cult but at some point escaped or turned their back on it.

Basic Needs Often Compromised By This Wound: safety and security, self-actualization

False Beliefs That May Be Embraced As a Result of This Wound:

  • I am weak-minded.
  • I’m an easy target.
  • My judgment can’t be trusted.
  • I’ll never be able to fully free myself from the ideas that were put into my mind by the cult.
  • All religions are out to brainwash and control people.
  • You can never really trust an organization’s stated motivation.
  • I’m a disloyal or selfish person (for leaving the cult and one’s family and friends).

Positive Attributes That May Result: analytical, appreciative, cautious, independent, industrious, persistent, persuasive, protective

Negative Traits That May Result: antisocial, callous, controlling, cynical, defensive, evasive, inflexible, inhibited, insecure, judgmental, nervous, paranoid, possessive, rebellious, resentful, self-destructive, subservient, timid, uncooperative, volatile, weak-willed, withdrawn

Resulting Fears:

  • Fear of someone sucking one’s children into a cult
  • Fear of organized religion in general
  • Fear of being manipulated or controlled by anyone
  • Fear of being on one’s own
  • Fear of having to make decisions for oneself
  • Fear of not being able to trust one’s own mind (due to the cult’s brainwashing)

Possible Habits That May Emerge: 

  • Avoiding or despising religious groups and organizations
  • Becoming controlling (in an effort to avoid being controlled again)
  • Becoming studious so one can make informed decisions and not be easily led by others
  • Avoiding organized groups (even those that aren’t religious in nature)
  • Difficulty making decisions for oneself
  • Difficulty recognizing truth from fiction
  • Withdrawing from others out of a fear of not being able to trust their motives
  • Being overly protective of one’s children
  • Being paranoid that one is being pursued by members of the cult
  • Suspecting others of dishonesty and deceit; being cynical
  • Worrying over the fate of loved ones still in the cult
  • Being overly cautious; avoiding risk
  • Distrusting certain aspects of the “outside world” that one was taught were bad in some way

TIP: If you need help understanding the impact of these factors, please read our introductory post on the Emotional Wound Thesaurus. For our current list of Emotional Wound Entries, go here.

For other Descriptive Thesaurus Collections, go here.

Posted in Uncategorized | 6 Comments

The Setting Thesaurus Books Are Releasing Soon…Will You Help Us?

It’s a great day here at Writers Helping Writers, because Becca and I can finally write the words that we’ve been wanting to type out for over two years now: The Setting Thesaurus books are coming. In fact, they are almost here, and we couldn’t be happier. The sights, smells, tastes, sounds and textures for two hundred and twenty-five settings…and that’s just the start. Take a gander at these back jacket blurbs:

Setting RuralThe Rural Setting Thesaurus:

Making the Story World Rich, Layered, and Unforgettable

Within the pages of a book exists a world drawn from a writer’s deepest imaginings, one that has the ability to pull readers in on a visceral level. But the audience’s fascination will only last if the writer can describe this vibrant realm and its inhabitants well. The setting achieves this by offering readers a unique sensory experience. So much more than stage dressing, the setting can build mood, convey meaning through symbolism, drive the plot by creating challenges that force the hero to fight for what he wants, and trigger his emotions to reveal his most intimate feelings, fears, and desires.

USE DESCRIPTION TO PLACE READERS AT THE HEART OF EVERY SCENE

Within this volume you will find:

  • A list of the sights, smells, tastes, textures, and sounds for over 100 settings revolving around school, home, and nature
  • Possible sources of conflict for each location to help you brainstorm ways to naturally complicate matters for your characters
  • Advice on the many effective ways to build mood, helping you steer both the character’s and readers’ emotions in every scene
  • Information on how the setting directly influences the plot by acting as a tuning fork for what a character needs most and by testing his dedication to his goals
  • A tutorial on figurative language and how different descriptive techniques can bring settings alive for readers while conveying a symbolic message or deeper meaning
  • A review of the challenges that arise when writing description, as well as special considerations that apply specifically to rural and personal settings

The Rural Setting Thesaurus takes “show-don’t-tell” to new heights. It offers writers a roadmap to creating fresh setting imagery that impacts the story on multiple levels and keeps readers engaged from the first page to the last.

Setting UrbanThe Urban Setting Thesaurus:

Drawing Readers in Through Emotion-Driven Imagery and Realism

Making readers care and feel like they’re part of the story should be the number one goal of all writers. Ironically, many storytellers fail to maximize one of fiction’s most powerful elements to achieve this: the setting. Rather than being a simple backdrop against which events unfold, every location has the potential to become a conduit for conveying emotion, characterizing the cast, providing opportunities for deep point of view, and revealing significant backstory.

MAKE YOUR DESCRIPTION WORK HARDER FOR YOUR STORY

  • A list of the sights, smells, tastes, textures, and sounds for over 120 urban settings
  • Possible sources of conflict for each location to help you brainstorm ways to naturally complicate matters for your characters
  • Advice on how to make every piece of description count so you can maintain the right pace and keep readers engaged
  • Tips on utilizing the five senses to encourage readers to more fully experience each moment by triggering their own emotional memories
  • Information on how to use the setting to characterize a story’s cast through personalization and emotional values while using emotional triggers to steer their decisions
  • A review of specific challenges that arise when choosing an urban location, along with common descriptive pitfalls that should be avoided

The Urban Setting Thesaurus helps you tailor each setting to your characters while creating a realistic, textured world your readers will long to return to, even after the book closes.

The Big Question: WHEN?

June 2016! We are shooting for the second week. We would like to give you a very specific launch date, but unfortunately our longtime formatter and designer has been struggling with health issues that have caused unavoidable delays, and while everyone is doing all they can to keep things on track, Becca and I can’t provide an exact date just yet. If you would like to receive a notification when the books are available, just leave us your email.

Regardless, we do need to move forward with the planning of our launch event, and we sure could use some help. Becca and I have come up with something very fun this time around, an event we hope all our writer friends will greatly enjoy participating in.

Writers Helping Writers Collection_6

Dear Readers, Will You Help Us During Launch Week?

To pull off this epic thesaurus celebration, we will need some supportive blogger friends who would be willing to donate some post space on their blog to the visibility cause. This post we will provide for you, can be scheduled in advance, and may go up any time during launch week that works best for you. Its purpose is to let people know about our big event so they can join in if they wish. And even if you don’t blog, it’s always nice to have people willing to share our posts online, too.  :)

In the past, we’ve hosted some pretty creative events, and this particular one I have had in the idea bank for years, waiting for the right time. So, if you are interested in possibly joining the Thesaurus Club to help with our SUPER SECRET LAUNCH EVENT, just fill out this FORM and I will email you about it. (This one is easy and fun, guaranteed!)

Becca and I are so pleased to bring you this set of books. The sensory detail within required a lot of travel, investigation, and time to collect. We hope these two volumes help you level up your sensory description to better pull readers into each moment, making your story and characters both compelling and memorable.

Want to sneak-a-peek at one of our entries? Just go here to see “Police Car.”

Posted in About Us, Setting Thesaurus Guides, Uncategorized | 29 Comments

Emotional Wound Entry: Growing Up In Foster Care

When you’re writing a character, it’s important to know why she is the way she is. Knowing her backstory is important to achieving this end, and one of the most impactful pieces of a character’s backstory is her emotional wound. This negative experience from the past is so intense that a character will go to great lengths to avoid experiencing that kind of pain and negative emotion again. As a result, certain behaviors, beliefs, and character traits will emerge.

homelessCharacters, like real people, are unique, and will respond to wounding events differently. The vast array of possible emotional wounds combined with each character’s personality gives you many options in terms of how your character will turn out. With the right amount of exploration, you should be able to come up with a character whose past appropriately affects her present, resulting in a realistic character that will ring true with readers. Understanding what wounds a protagonist bears will also help you plot out her arc, creating a compelling journey of change that will satisfy readers.

NOTE: We realize that sometimes a wound we profile may have personal meaning, stirring up the past for some of our readers. It is not our intent to create emotional turmoil. Please know that we research each wounding topic carefully to treat it with the utmost respect. 

GROWING UP IN FOSTER CARE

Examples:

  • Parents who passed away (and having no relatives in the picture)
  • Parents who were incapable of care because they were drug addicts
  • Parents who were incarcerated for a crime and their child became a ward of the state
  • Being surrendered to the state by one’s parents because they wanted their freedom
  • Parents who left the character at a young age and never returned
  • Losing one’s parents and having relatives but them being unwilling to take one in
  • Being found abandoned at a young age with no ID
  • Being taken away from one’s parents because of abuse or neglect
  • Being given up for adoption but never being adopted
  • Parents who give up their rights because their child is difficult or requires round-the-clock care

Basic Needs Often Compromised By This Wound: physiological needs, safety and security, love and belonging, esteem and recognition, self-actualization

False Beliefs That May Be Embraced As a Result of This Wound:

  • I am defective
  • People are inherently cruel
  • I am unworthy of love
  • This world only cares about people who are whole (if one has a disability, condition, or physical defect/challenge)
  • Blood is always thicker than water
  • I don’t know who I am
  • I don’t belong anywhere in this world
  • I will never have a family or home

Positive Attributes That May Result: adaptable, alert, analytical, cautious, courageous, disciplined, idealistic, imaginative, independent, introverted, just, loyal, mature, nurturing, observant, perceptive, persuasive, private, proactive, protective, resourceful, sentimental, thrifty, wise

Negative Traits That May Result: abrasive, addictive, antisocial, apathetic, confrontational, cruel, cynical, devious, dishonest, evasive, hostile, inhibited, insecure, jealous, judgemental, manipulative, needy, paranoid, pessimistic, rebellious, reckless, resentful, self-destructive, stubborn, temperamental, uncommunicative, violent, withdrawn

Resulting Fears:

  • fear of loving and losing
  • fear of rejection
  • fear of poverty
  • fear of pain
  • fear of the dark or enclosed spaces
  • fear of a specific trigger (if abused, tortured, punished, etc.)
  • fear of trusting and being betrayed
  • fear of hope
  • fear of getting attached to a person or place

Possible Habits That May Emerge:

  • keeping secrets
  • lying or making up untruths even when it isn’t important
  • telling people what they want to hear
  • being highly private
  • being highly protective of one’s possessions or close relationships
  • avoiding locations, activities and groups that have a strong family-focus
  • keeping a bug-out bag or secret stash of items in case one has to pick up and leave
  • steering conversations so they never get too personal
  • pushing people away as a defense mechanism
  • difficulty sharing certain things (which may act as triggers)
  • becoming fiercely loyal to the few one allows to get close
  • strong empathy; wanting to save others who are at risk (people or animals) and going to great lengths to do so
  • craving routine yet being unable to adapt to it easily
  • looking for exits, being watchful for danger or threats in a way others aren’t
  • a tendency to hoard certain things (money, food or items that act as symbols for what one was denied growing up, etc.)

TIP: If you need help understanding the impact of these factors, please read our introductory post on the Emotional Wound Thesaurus. For our current list of Emotional Wound Entries, go here.

For other Descriptive Thesaurus Collections, go here.

Image: TaniaVbD @ Pixabay

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

How To Share Your Protagonist’s Deepest Feelings With Readers

As writers know, the goal of any book is to make the reader FEEL. We want them to empathize with our characters, feel pulled in by the events and become immersed in the story. When a reader’s experience is emotional, it becomes meaningful, transcending mere entertainment.

Characters are the emotional heart of a story. Why? Because through them, writers can remind readers of their own emotional past.  It becomes an intimate, shared experience that bonds them together.

violenceSure, readers have probably never been terrorized by a serial killer, vampire or demon in their own lives, but they know what it is to feel terror. Likewise, a roguish yet handsome highwayman has likely not pursued them in a roar of love and lust, yet they know what love and lust feel like.

As people, we have an unending spectrum of emotional experiences. We know sorrow and confusion, humiliation, fear and pride. We have experienced satisfaction, confidence, worry and dread. As writers, it is up to us to convey these feelings through our characters so that our description awakens deep and meaningful memories within readers.

Showing what a character is feeling can be difficult for writers. Here are 3 tips to help ensure readers share the character’s emotional ride:

1) Prime your readers

depression1Spend a bit of time early on showing what has led to your character’s emotional sensitivity. Let’s say themes of betrayal are key to your book & the character’s ‘dark moment.’ If you alluded to a past betrayal by the main character’s mother in a scene before this point, then your heroine seeing an old toy from her childhood will become an instant trigger for those past feelings.

2) Focus on what causes the emotional reaction

Sometimes the best way to bring about an emotional moment is to describe what is causing the feeling. For example, let’s say Alexa likes Ethan, the boy next door. She is trying to work up the courage to show him she wants to be more than friends when she spots her rival Jessica at his locker. If you describe how Jessica touches his arm when she laughs, steps closer as he speaks, fiddles with her low necklace to draw his attention to her cleavage, etc. then your reader will feel that jealousy build even without showing Alexa’s thoughts or physical cues.

3) Think about how you might feel

If you are drawing a blank on how to show what your character is feeling, think about how the emotion you’re trying to describe makes you feel. Dig into your past to a time you felt embarrassed, or angry, frustrated, excited…whichever emotion is the one your character is currently facing. What sort of thoughts went through your head? What did your body do? Did you openly show how you felt through gestures and body language, or did you try to hide it?  Then, decide if some of your experience can be adapted to your character. Emotion is strongest when it comes from a place of truth.

For more tips on emotional showing, have a peek through your Emotion Thesaurus, or browse the tutorials and expanded Emotion Thesaurus (15 new entries) at One Stop for Writers.

 

Image 1: Republica @ Pixabay
Image 2: PDPpics @ Pixabay

Posted in Characters, Description, Emotion, Emotion Thesaurus Guide, Empathy, Experiments, One Stop For Writers, Show Don't Tell, Uncategorized, Writing Craft, Writing Lessons | 8 Comments