Edit. Edit Again. And Again!–Monday Meanderings

It seemed to take “forever” but, finally, the proof of  The Sin of His Father arrived. As I plunge into yet another edit, I’d like to share a few suggestions to help in the editing process.

Though these apply, for the most part, to prose fiction, I hope there may be some suggestions for those of you writing in other genres.

Set your manuscript aside for a while (weeks or months) before revision. The distance will give you better perspective when you return to what you have written.

Look for echos–that is to say unintentional repetition of words or phrases. Sadness hung in the air like dense fog. I could see that she was sad, is an example of an echo.

Read your writing aloud to yourself and/or another. This process promotes the discovery of grammatical, syntactical and spelling errors.

If you choose to change point of view within the text, make sure that you have provided the reader with a clear distinction between characters. Use spaces or chapter changes to shift point of view. Or use an omniciscent narrator.

Lose adjectives or adverbs whenever an active verb or noun achieves your goal. Consider the following two sentences that deliver the same message:

She felt very afraid.

Fear crept in and overwhelmed her–her breathing quickened.

Which do you think better engages the reader’s emotions?

This next  suggestion may surprise you: reread your manuscript in its entirety (chapter-by-chapter or scene by scene for short fiction) but start at the END. This technique enables you to identify unresolved story lines, chronology issues and other inconsistencies. When I applied backwards review to Winter is Past I found that I had changed the name of a secondary character somewhere along the line–the kind of thing that happens when you’ve worked on your novel over a longer period of time.

While doing your backward review, double-check to make sure that every scene has a goal and propels the plot forward.

These are but a few of the things I look for. I hope these are helpful to those of you who face the daunting task of making it better. 

Image: Jackson Paul Baer

Image: Jackson Paul Baer

Have a good week–whichever stage of the writing process you’re working!

The Writing Process

Photo: The Writer Wizards

Photo: The Writer Wizards

(Note–this post is from my Website, Victoria C. Slotto. Would you stop by and follow me there–and tell others about it? Thank you!)

Welcome to The Writing Process I.

 In preparation for the upcoming release of The Sin of His Father, I’d like to share some insights into the process I followed in writing this novel.

My hope is, of course, to arouse some interest in the book—but also to offer suggestions to those of you who are writing books or short stories of your own, or who are considering jumping into the world of the writer.

I thought I’d begin with character development. There are many ways to approach this important step in writing a novel. In writing Winter is Past, I did nothing in way of preparation. I just sat down and wrote.

I suppose, subconsciously, the protagonist, Claire, became something of an alter-ego. Like me, she had a kidney transplant. She worked as a hospice physician—while I was hospice nurse. Likewise, her husband, Josh, bore many characteristics of my husband—a nurturer, a gourmet cook, a gardener.

There was a problem, however: both characters fell flat—Josh, scrubbed clean of flaws and Claire, weak and unsympathetic. It took a lot of insightful critique, offered by my writing buddies, as well as numerous rewrites, to achieve any depth.

In retrospect, I wish I had done it all differently. I wish I had planned, outlined. I can’t begin to imagine how much time I could have saved, how many edits and rewrites I could have avoided.

As I began the process of outlining The Sin of His Father I chose a much different approach to my characters. To begin with, I “created” a male protagonist—a bit daring for a woman, someone who had no brothers and who had minimal interactions with men.

Using Myers-Briggs Character and Temperament Types), I developed detailed profiles of every major and secondary character. These character types are useful in that they are predictors of how a person is likely to respond in a given situation—though a certain amount of the unexpected is desired.

The protagonist, Matt, is INTP—that is, introverted, intuitive, thinking and perceptive. (The opposites are extroverted, sensate, feeling and judgmental) In my next process note, I will explain a bit more about these characteristics and give you a peek into how I envisioned Matt.

Resource: Please Understand Me: Character and Temperament Types by David Keirsey and Marilyn Bates


Location, Location, Location–Monday Meanderings

Today I’m sharing a short story I wrote in 2007, about 3 years into my first novel. Like all new creative writers, I’d read a plethora of books on the writing process, attended writing conferences and tried my best to provide myself with the closest thing to a MFA that I could expect at 50-something.

Taking to heart all the advice offered by the “experts”, I tried to do it perfectly. Little-by-little the reality dawned on me that every writer has the freedom and the need to discover what works best for them. The theme of this story is part of my experience; the details are pure fiction.

Photo: distraction99.com

Photo: distraction99.com

Location, Location, Location
A Short, Short Story

Becca grasped the aquamarine notebook in her trembling hands, reached for pen with its padded surface and took in a deep breath. “I’m ready,” she announced to Nimble, her rough-coated Jack Russell Terrier. “Where’re we going?”

She’d prepared for this moment for days—no, years. The time had come to embark on her life’s quest. After all, she was about to turn fifty.

Longhand would flow through her fingertips, unfolding onto the paper. True, there’d be the drudgery of transcription, but writing is an art form and like the sculptor with clay, she longed to touch the medium of her creation.

After she hooked Nimble to his leash, Becca hopped in her Neon and headed off into her future. “You’re my lucky totem, boy, my muse.” The dog cocked his head, nipping at her words.

When she arrived at Rancho San Rafael, Becca spotted a picnic bench beneath the boughs of a spreading Oak. She stopped, unloaded and retrieved the virgin journal from her backpack and opened it.

Closing her eyes, Becca strained to conjure up the brilliant storyline that had visited her at two in the morning. Before she’d put her pen to paper, a pigeon in the tree above her delivered an enormous pea green dropping that splattered on the pristine page. Becca yelped and tore the first few sheets from her tablet, crumpled them and slam-dunked the wad into the waste receptacle nearby. She stomped back to her car, Nimble in tow, and didn’t write that day.

Nimble nudged Becca before seven the following morning. She awakened slowly. The story-line had reappeared and hovered just below the surface of her consciousness. She grabbed her pen and diary in a desperate move to recover her thoughts, but the canine whined to go outside and pee. Becca hauled herself from bed and opened the door for her dog. The tale scampered out with Nimble. She returned to bed and ensconced herself beneath the downy comforter. If I don’t stir too much, maybe it’ll come back. But nothing happened.

She grabbed her pen and paper, propped she up in bed and began to write, just for the sake of writing but Nimble’s whining pierced her concentration. Becca set aside her work and peeled back the covers to let the dog back in the house. A relentless cramping gripped her trapezius and she had to admit that writing in bed didn’t work either. Another day passed without a written word.

The following morning the phone jolted her from sleep. Becca croaked a drowsy Hello.

“It’s eight thirty, her mother’s voice informed her. “Tell me I didn’t wake you up–aren’t you writing? I’m not subsidizing extra sleep!”

Becca hesitated. “I’ve got a problem. I don’t know where to write. Monday, I tried the park and yesterday, in bed. I can’t find the right location and I refuse to be stuck in an office. Any ideas?”

“I’m paying bills for three months so you can jump-start your book, not a minute more. I expect results.”

“That’s only thing I want, Mom. Honest.”

“Then check out that little coffee shop down the street from you—the one with the easy chairs. Maybe that will inspire you—it’s a very artsy location.”

“I’ll go there today, great suggestion!”

Becca arrived at ten o’clock. The smell of coffee assaulted her. The crowd was sparse. She paid for her latte, sprinkled a dash of cinnamon on the froth and made her way to her nest in an overstuffed chair by the unlit hearth. She scrounged for her supplies, opened the notebook and poised to scrawl. The plot remained vague so she titled her work THE NOVEL, printing the letters in upper case.

The opening line’s got to grab their attention, she reminded herself. She wrote in cursive script that would’ve done the nuns proud: The morning started out calmly enough. Angela could not fathom the unfortunate turn of events that awaited her on that July afternoon.

A young couple meandered over and sunk into the love-seat opposite Becca. She watched as they ogled one another, oblivious of their surroundings. Sexual tension shimmered and invaded Becca’s space, dissipating her focus. Gathering her belongings, she relocated to a table toward the front where the sun’s glare bounced off the front window, causing her to fumble in her purse for sunglasses. Becca penned a second sentence.

Two women entered the café, choosing seats nearby.

“I don’t know how much longer I can stand William,” the younger one stated. “He doesn’t pull his load and nothing I do is good enough for him.” And on she rambled.

Becca attempted to ignore the tirade but couldn’t. She downed the tepid coffee, seized her gear and went home. That day she cleaned out the garage.

In the days that followed Becca continued her hunt. She drove to the library, but couldn’t settle in the lumpy chair. The daily story telling for children, now out of school, distracted her. The reader’s singsong voice and conspicuous pauses grated on her nerves.

Returning home, she arranged a low plastic mesh chair in a corner of her yard. Nimble tormented her with his ball and pull toy. Bees swarmed and mosquitoes buzzed. She spent most of the time swatting.

Then Becca rearranged a corner of her office and dragged an abandoned rocking chair from storage. She fetched a pail of soapy water and spent the afternoon scrubbing off the cobwebs. She caressed the ancient pinewood with lemon-scented polish. The cushions were beyond redemption so she shopped the next day to replace them. That night she added two paragraphs of description, but the plot remained fuzzy and she didn’t know where to go next.

“I’ll read a how-to book on novels,” she told her dog. “That ought to get me going.”

Five weeks passed. Baca’s Mom invited her for a stay. “Maybe you can work on the beach—it’s peaceful there.”

Becca booked her flight, packed her duffel bag and left Nimble at the canine hotel. On the plane she studied character development and point-of-view. “Angela’s a Pisces,” she said aloud, startling the overweight man in the middle seat. Point of view continued to confuse her.

Every morning Becca packed a PBJ and hauled her macramé bag to the shore. Ideas flowed like molasses. Her skin crisped and wind fought battle with the pages. Guilt forced her to observe this ritual with compulsion. At the end of a two-week labor she’d delivered three chapters and returned to Reno. The coast had left her dry.

Nimble greeted his mistress with frenzy. Separation guilt had dampened Becca’s creative energy and she succumbed to his need for walking and swimming in the river. Three weeks evaporated.

“How far have you gotten?” her Mother asked at the end of two months.”

“Six chapters.”

Silence answered Becca, reinforcing her escalating panic.

I’ve got to do something. Becca tossed the wretched notebook on her desk, booted up the computer and began to copy the manuscript. As she transferred the written word onto the keyboard a miracle occurred. She typed the six chapters, accomplishing a first rewrite in the process, but couldn’t stop. Her fingers dashed across the letters of the alphabet, directed by a higher power. The next day she returned and the days after that. Nimble remained psychologically tethered to her side. Each afternoon, at precisely two o’clock, she’d take a break and reward him with a walk along the Truckee, then hurry back to her computer.

Becca shed her concern with location. She dragged her journal to a jazz concert and added pounding music to a passionate love scene. She drove to Tahoe and in her car transported serenity to a moment of intense communication. On a bus she described the blur of buildings as a backdrop to a clandestine encounter then tuned out conversation in a restaurant or Baskin Robbins. Or tuned it in and added it to her story.

“The place for writing is right inside me,” she announced to her Mother, towards the end of her sabbatical. “The first draft is finished. I’m letting it sit for a few weeks, and then I’ll do my rewrite. In the meantime I’m working on a short story that I started at a basketball game.”

My wish would be that this may help at least one reader setting out on the daunting task of writing creatively.

I’m spending my time grappling with the technological aspects of self-publishing my second novel. Sorry I haven’t been around to read much, but I still try to visit those who comment and to read some of the wonderful work you post.  Have a good writing week. Live it to the fullest.

Playing with Poetic Form–Monday Meanderings

Today I’m sharing a post from Heidi who blogs at http://biggerthanalasagna.blogspot.com/ A few weeks ago, Gay Reiser Cannon, hosting dVerse Meeting the Bar, gave us the challenge to create our own form. Here, Heidi sends a Thank You to Gay, along with a brief explanation of her response. It’s so much fun, I thought I’d share it. Thank you, Heidi and Gay.

An Open Thank You to Gay Reiser Cannon

Dear Gay,

For the April 10, 2014 dVerse Meeting the Bar post, you challenged us to create our own form.

I created the Geburstag, which uses the writer’s birthday to determine lines and either word or syllable count. In my comments, you wrote that it would also be a good ways to write poems for other people using their birthday. Your challenge and comment opened a whole new way of celebrating my friends for me. I have been using it for birthdays and to commemorate any other special day. (I don’t know if my friends like it as much…) But it has been such a fun way for me to remember and appreciate people who are important to me. I just wanted to thank you for the cool inspiration!

With Gratitude,


If you’d like to read Heidi’s original post with a sample of her poem, find it here.

I hope you’ll give it a try. Maybe you’ll share it in comments or by adding a link in comments. In the future, perhaps we can deal deal with some more ideas that this prompt generated.

And here’s mine.

Photo: David Slotto

Photo: David Slotto



smooth jazz on a warm night in the california desert



i heard

smooth jazz

played under stars, palms and a silver slivered moon.


i dream of desert skies dancing to saxophone riffs,

drums, a bass guitar,

tasting your kisses.

Gay Cannon Gay Cannon is a Published poet, (she majored in English Lit.) author of children’s stories, musician and lover of music, artist and lover of art, figure skating judge,- covetous of dancers, founder of Stars FSC in Dallas (she minored in Political Science) supporter of the arts, an aesthete but not an atheist She’s a loyal friend, mother of three, grandmother of eleven. She loves to travel, meet people, go to museums; She loves good food and good conversations. She tries to find the music in people’s voices and the poetry in their souls.

Photo: Gay Cannon, Published Poet Photo taken from dVerse Poets

Photo: Gay Cannon, Published Poet
Photo taken from dVerse Poets

Writing Critique–Monday Meanderings

Two People - Business Meeting

Since the first writing conference I attended (2004, I believe) I have been involved in writing critique groups. It was for that conference that my work was first accepted for work-shopping and I was sure that I had arrived. A well-known published author led the two-day process and there were about nine of us who submitted work to the other members of the group for critique. It became a turning point for me as a writer. I came to accept the fact that my novel was not quite as brilliant as I perceived it to be.

A few of us from that group went on to meet on a regular basis. Since then I’ve participated in several other critique groups. Here are a few things I’ve learned that have been helpful.

  • Don’t submit your work before you’ve completed your first draft. It is important for you to have a clear idea of your story line before opening it to critique.
  • As a group, decide on guidelines at your first meeting. How many members will you have? Will you submit your writing before the meeting? Will you read work aloud at the meeting? How many manuscripts/how many pages will you discuss? (Don’t forget a “group” may be as few as two people).
  • Be sure to balance your positive and negative feedback. Your goal is to build up one another, not destroy. One time a fellow-writer told me, “I would never read this novel.” That discouraged me to the point that I gave up working on it for a few months until I figured out that she was trying to tell me that the prologue was a turn-off.
  • Give specific advice. For example, instead of saying “This moves too slowly,” try something like “Consider using active verbs instead of passive voice,” or “That long sentence drags down the narrative–maybe if you wrote that paragraph in a few clipped phrases it would be more suspenseful.” Avoid general statements such as, “That just doesn’t work.”
  • Learn to listen to suggestions without trying to defend yourself. One group that I have been a part of had set the rule of “silence” until all critiques had been given. But take good notes while you listen. I bring a copy of my manuscript and jot down helpful advice in the columns.
  • Understand the differences between genres. If you write literary fiction, for example, don’t expect the same complexity of characters from your friend who writes sci-fi. And visa versa.
  • Don’t revise immediately after your meeting, except for grammatical and spelling errors. Definitely do not make significant plot changes. Remember, your story is YOUR story.
  • At the same time, be open to suggestion. My writing has been much enriched by plot twists or questions posed by members of my critique groups. Ask clarifying questions if needed.
  • There is a time for critique and a time to write. Understand what works best for you and realize that your needs change at different points in the writing process.
  • And finally, be grateful to your fellow writers. It was through this process that I have met some of my dearest friends. Don’t forget to celebrate one another’s successes!

While these insights apply to fiction writing, it’s possible to extrapolate and apply them to any genre, including poetry and non-fiction.

Happy writing. Enjoy the process.

Novel Excerpt–Characterization

Excerpt (Chapter 2) from “The Sin of His Father” introducing the protagonist’s former girlfriend. Monica is an important, although secondary character. I would much appreciate any critique you may be willing to offer.

The scent of oil paint permeated the two-bedroom apartment that was a twenty-minute walk from the Art Institute of Chicago. Monica Bertolini didn’t notice—this was how home smelled to her.

While chaos reigned in her studio, the small living room was an illustration of perfect order and balance. In one corner, on a small desk, Monica had piled stacks of paper in neat towers. One held a list of ideas for non-fiction articles. Another, short fiction, which she needed to edit and submit. A file folder contained handwritten outlines and random scenes, in no particular order. Someday she hoped to merge these into the idea for a novel that floated around in her brain. She’d framed the borders of her darkened monitor with Post-It notes in brilliant pink—testimony of works in progress and things to do, but she hadn’t looked at them in days.
The north wall of the room boasted a library of books: fiction, non-fiction, writing how-to’s, art history and techniques, and general reference books. Monica had arranged them by category, in alphabetical order by author.

Through the bay window on the west wall of the room, Monica saw Lake Michigan. Today the water was still and silver-cold. The sky, too, was gray, even misty. Maybe she should paint this landscape that matched her mood in every detail.

In the adjoining room an unfinished canvas lay propped on an easel. Orange and cerulean blue paint danced in cacophonous colors and screamed at her in taunting ecstasy. One evening, in abjection, she had smeared a palette knife of black paint in a thick wavy line down the middle of the canvas. The result only heightened the drama. She abandoned her work for now: she couldn’t paint and wouldn’t write. Not since Matt had told her he couldn’t see her anymore.

When her father called from Maine the previous evening he’d inquired about her work. She tried so hard to mask her depression, but when he had been unable to pin her down, he’d questioned her directly. She’d never been able to lie to her parents, especially not now. It was a miserable thing to be so dependent on them and their money. They’d encouraged her and even paid for her education. A dual Masters of Fine Arts, in writing and painting, was no small accomplishment, no small investment. She knew that, and everyone had promised her, as she had promised herself, that she would be a success. But now, she just couldn’t force herself to pick up a brush or a pen.

Monica believed that Matt loved her, and knew that she loved him. Her vision and hope had been pinned on the knowledge that they would spend a lifetime together. Hadn’t he spoken of marriage and kids? Had she heard it wrong, when he dreamed aloud of moving to California? “I’ll get work in Hollywood,” he’d bragged. “They need plenty of private eyes there, stalking all those cheating husbands.” Not that he’d lacked for work in Chicago.

“You can do the art scene there,” Matt told her. She remembered his exact words and the hum of excitement in his voice.
So what had happened that caused him to call it off?

The Chicago Tribune lay folded in her lap. Half of the headline blurted out something about the presidential campaign. She couldn’t take much more of that—it was still almost a year away. She tossed the front section to the floor and began digging for the Horoscopes when the name Maxwell, in bold print caught her eye. Above it, in a smaller font, Monica read the name of Matt’s mother: Ellen Margaret.

The heaviness that had hung over Monica’s heart lifted, replaced by a sharp stabbing pain. How could they reduce Matt’s mother to a narrow column, only eight lines in length? Was that what a life came down to? Monica reached for the phone and hit the speed dial she still had set up for Matt, but ended the call before the first ring. Matt didn’t want her to be a part of his life anymore. She knew that for sure now—he hadn’t even told her about Ellen’s death and the woman was not only his mother, she was Monica’s friend, and he knew it.

It’d been barely a month ago that Monica had spent the afternoon with the frail lady. She’d pushed Ellen’s wheelchair around the spacious grounds of the nursing home then Monica had parked her beneath the branches of an ancient elm tree and fed her some ice cream that she’d toted in a cooler. Over the months that Monica had been dating Matt, the two women had become close. Recently, Ellen couldn’t endure longer outings and had a hard time remembering details of their visits for long after the event, but she had no confusion about Monica and how the girl felt about her son. Their common love for the enigma that was Matt cemented their own relationship.

A distant conversation played through Monica’s mind.

“You’ve got to understand him, Monica, me dear,” Ellen had said in a lingering brogue. “He’s never had a man to show him the ropes.” Back-lighting had glistened through the outline of Ellen’s disheveled hair, framing a weary face.

“What do you mean, Mrs. Maxwell?” Monica had asked. It seemed to her that Matt had learned his roles pretty well. He was thoughtful, anticipating her every need. He was romantic—flowers and little notes, sometimes written on paper towels or, once, the margins of the page of a phone book. And as far as lovers went, he didn’t seem to need much modeling in that regard. But then, Ellen wouldn’t know that, would she? Monica blushed at the thought.

“What do you mean?” Monica prodded again.

“I think he’s afraid.” Ellen blew the words out between wheezes. “He’s just afraid of love. I pray he doesn’t hurt you.”

As they’d made their way back to Ellen’s room, down the long, florescent-lit hallway, a song from long ago played in the background and carried the woman to another dimension. Monica had left the woman with her reflections and walked slowly toward her car.
A Mass of Resurrection will be held, she read, at ten o’clock on Wednesday…. Monica decided to go. Maybe Matt wouldn’t want her there, but damn it! Ellen was her friend.

Linked to the writing prompt I offer at “Into the Bardo.” Please stop on over and browse.

Monday Meanderings–Writers Helping Writers

There is a saying I heard when I was nursing—something about nurses devouring their young. And, unfortunately, I saw it all too often. New grads would hire on, idealistic and full of enthusiasm, only to find not only a lack of support, but sometimes a subtle sabotage that made their incorporation into the world of healthcare both disappointing and fraught with the potential for failure.

Photo: Dawn McKay

Photo: Dawn McKay

Why? Were those older nurses who held diplomas rather than a BSN threatened? Perhaps. Although I found more often (and zeroed in on this for my thesis in graduate school) that nurses often come from dysfunctional/addicted family backgrounds (read: born caregivers) and replicate the behaviors of their family of origin in the work place. I suppose the same applies to many other professions as well.

Writing, full-time or on the fly, is essentially a lonely profession. Sure, some of us might drag those laptops into a coffee shop or library. But to really write, most of the time we must wrap a little bubble around ourselves and hole in.

I have found, however, that I need other writers. I need their friendship, their feedback, their encouragement and their ideas. I need their “Congratulations” when I have a success, and their
“Don’t give up,” when the rejections pour in. Sometimes I need a kick in the butt when I’m feeling sorry for myself, or a pat on the back when I bring the umpteenth hundred revision to the table.

So how can we reach out to one another? What can we do to help one another become better and happier writers? I’m going to toss out a few things that help me (or have helped me in the past). And then I’m inviting you to add your suggestions in the comments, if you would.

♥ Join a writing group—writers who meet (in person or on-line)on a regular basis to read and critique manuscripts, share ideas and maybe a glass of wine, talk about projects, celebrate success. Each group is structured by the members to achieve their goals—a subject for a future post.

Photo Edits: bkedits

Photo Credit: bkedits

♥Visit writing blogs (based on your genre), read and comment. Join blogging communities that share your interests; participate in prompts, or offer your own prompts.
♥Recommend good books, authors, periodicals, websites or blogs. Share your finds with your writing friends, whether these sources are about the art of writing or, perhaps, a novel with exceptional writing that will inspire.
♥Attend book-signings, buy one another’s work, write on-line reviews, host an on-line or local book launches; interview a newly-published author on your blog.

Photo: David Slotto

Photo: David Slotto

♥Suggest agents that you run across in your searches if they are a fit for your writing buddy, or refer them to your own agent.
♥Share your personal marketing successes and disappointments. Don’t let your writing friends make the same mistakes you did, or miss opportunities that could give them an added boost.

The nursing profession has evolved, I hope. New grads are assigned long-term mentors to help them achieve their goals. Why would anyone want to see a newbie fail and even leave nursing when there is such a shortage?

True, there is no shortage of wanna-be writers, but with the advent of so many new publishing platforms, there are options for all of us to get our work out there, if that’s our goal. And there’s the satisfaction of just helping each other to write well, to improve our craft and to enjoy the process of putting pen to paper.

How have you reached out to other writers? What kind of support have you found most valuable? I hope you will add your ideas to the comments. Thanks for joining. Have a happy productive week of writing.

Monday Meanderings–Character Development in Fiction

Photo Credit: Pinterest

Photo Credit: Pinterest

A while back, I attended a writer’s conference session about character development. The speaker suggested using astrological signs as a means to create believable, consistent characters. My knowledge of astrology is scant, but I tried to apply it to the characters in my first novel, Winter is Past. The results weren’t what I’d hoped for.

When I worked in the area of nursing education, human resources and spirituality, I had the opportunity to delve into Myers-Briggs…a personality evaluation tool that assesses behavior based on four areas of response: Introversion versus extraversion, Intuitive versus Sensate, Thinking versus Feeling and Perceptive versus Judgmental. The latter may not be so self-explanatory but I use the example of my parents: my dad would be ready to go somewhere 20 minutes ahead of time, while my mother would change her mind a few more times about what she wanted to wear. Think: structured versus easy-going.

I returned to my draft manuscript, and applied the Myers-Briggs, using this tool to help me re-create the major characters with the result of more consistent, believable players. For my second novel The Sin of His Father, I wrote out character profiles before I even began to write, again using the Myers-Briggs. It has made it so much easier.

Photo Credit: vivalamanosphere.com

Photo Credit: vivalamanosphere.com

There is an old book called Please Understand Me that explains all the possible profile combinations and how they play out in real life. If you can find it, it’s been a godsend.

I’m addicted to The Learning Company‘s Great Courses, university level programs presented by the highest quality professors. One of the courses, The Art of Reading is taught by Professor Timothy Spurgin of Lawrence University. The lectures are well-organized, clearly presented and as applicable to writers as to readers.

An important point from the lecture on characters addresses developing round characters. The concept of a round character, as opposed to a flat one, was presented by E. M. Forster in his book, Aspects of the Novel. Simply put, a round character is one who will capture the reader’s interest because of his unpredictability, his complexity and the changes he undergoes during the course of the story. And this is key: “The test of a round character is whether it is capable of surprising in a convincing way.” (Forster)

While a protagonist needs to draw the sympathy of the reader, he should have some character flaws. Inversely, your antagonist should have something that makes him, if not attractive, at least capable of being understood. Just like us–no one is all good or all bad.

As you write, reflect upon your own reaction to the key characters in your manuscript. Are you able to identify with them to some degree? Are there things that, if you were that person, you might be ashamed of or want to change? Are there events or reactions which are surprising without being totally out-of-character (unconvincing)? Is your character someone you would want to know, or avoid?

One thing I find helpful when writing fiction is to base my characters on a composite of people I know or with whom I have been acquainted. You can even take someone who is in the public eye. I try not to use one person because I would never want anyone to say to me, “That’s me, isn’t it?” My mother once thought a character was her because I set a scene in a room in her house! And this secondary character was not, initially, a nice person.

I hope this brief reflection on characters will be helpful to those of you who have an interest in writing fiction. In a future post, I’ll share a character development worksheet that I prepared for  a character in novel #2 to give you something to hang your words on!

Happy writing; enjoy the process!

A Season for Growing–Monday Meanderings

Even though the calendar tells me it’s still spring, our weather doesn’t seem to have received the message. The temperatures are in the high 80’s and 90’s and the garden is coming alive with new growth. True, the irises are fading, the roses are behind time because I pruned them too late, most weeds have been tamed but the leaves on our trees are fully unfurled, there are green cherries taking in the sun, and the tomatoes my husband started from seed while we were in the desert are already giving us little green globes of promise. Oh, and then there’s the birds! The orioles and hummingbirds have now arrived home in full force.

Photo Credit: V. Slotto

Photo Credit: V. Slotto

Just so, I’m hoping to cultivate some new growth on my blog. When I first began blogging, it was my intention to include some inspirational essays–a desire, no doubt, related to my own introspective aging process. In addition, for a year or two, maybe longer, I enjoyed offering writing prompts–for both fiction and poetry. As I became (happily) more involved in poetry communities, especially as a monthly contributor to dVerse Poets’ Pub, I slipped into the languid waters of poetry and allowed other interests to wash away for a while.

Photo Credit: D. Slotto

Photo Credit: D. Slotto

Now I feel it’s time to reclaim those two original ideals. It is my hope to be able to add a Monday feature that will offer a reflection, a writing prompt, perhaps an occasional interview or even book review…whatever happens. When there is a prompt or an invitation to discuss, I will include a Mr. Linky and respond to comments and/or return visits.

I chose Monday with the thought that those who drop in to read my dVerse poems for Open Link Night might scroll on down for another shot of inspiration. I would love to see you there and welcome your thoughts today, in comments.

Photo Credit: thewritingpenn.com

Photo Credit: thewritingpenn.com



light and dark
merge into one,
brighten the forest,
eclipse the dawning morn.
Do you understand these words?
I am a woman; you’re a man.
I am a Christian; you don’t believe
in anything you cannot see or touch
or comprehend in terms of science.
Together we are Everyman
who seeks to taste the meaning
of a life unfolding
in obscurity.
Come with me, then.
taste beauty,


Sun Drenched

Sun Drenched (Photo credit: Digimist)

Posted for Meeting the Bar at dVerse Poets’ Pub where I have the pleasure of hosting today. The prompt is BALANCE. I’ve written this as an Etheree, a form in which line one has one syllable, line two has two and builds in like manner to ten syllables and then diminishes back to one. The pattern may be repeated as often as you want.

Hope to see you at the Pub! It’s open in just 42 minutes!