Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The Most Accurate Reproduction of the Temple of Vesta

Today, the temple of Vesta is just a hole in the ground and a few columns. It's hard to picture exactly what it looked like, especially since all the reproductions conflict with each other. Which one is the most accurate?
Roman historians took pretty good notes on what the temple looked like, but there's still room for interpretation. The best source of knowledge, IMO, comes from the numerous Roman coins featured the temple of Vesta on their backs. Since the coins were made while the temple still existed, they are the most accurate images we have.

Using the coins and the research I have already done, I was able to figure out which of the reproductions I believe is the most accutate. I hope you have as much fun reading about it as I had writing about it.

As you can see, there are subtle differences in each of these pictures. The roofs are all different. Some have a grate surrounding them, some don't. Some are tall and narrow, others are squat. Some have doors, some are just open, and a few even have three doors.





Here are a few coins I found. You'll notice the roof is unanimously one level. Some of the reproductions have a second level that is subtle enough that it wouldn't show on a coin, but picture 5 is clearly out of the running.

All the roofs have something on the top. Somethimes it looks like a statue, though it's hard to tell because it's a different shape on all of them. None of the reproductions have this. Most likely, the coins are actually depicting smoke coming out the top of the temple.

I've always thought the fire was bigger than most pictures make it out to be (about the size of an average camp fire). This would have to be the case for the fire to produce that much smoke. This prooves 2., is innacurate, and probably 4.
The roofs also have some kind of decoration coming out of the sides. Only temple 1. has that.

I can't tell whether the temple had one door, three doors, or no doors. I always pictured it without a door, which is what it looks like on the coins, but that's probably just too much detail to put on a coin.

I read the temple had a grate around it, which cancels out #5., but I also know it has a wall behind that grate because the wall still exists, which cancels out #2.

With all this evidence, I can conclude that....

Number 1. is the most accurate reproduction.

Click here to see more pictures of Vestal Virgins on my Facebook page.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Perhaps Using Two Pen Names is a Good Idea

Don't forget about the Inspiration Collage Blogfest. It's going to be a lot of fun!

All my life, I’ve been passionately opposed to having two pen names. I can compile a list of reasons:

1. I want my real name to be behind everything I write. That way, I can proudly own all my work. 2. It’s hard enough to have one writing career, so imagine how difficult it would be to develop two separate platforms. 3. If I only put my name on half my work, people will wonder why I write half as much as everyone else. 4. It feels like I’m being sneaky, like I’m trying to trick my readers into thinking I’m two different people. I’m not fooling anyone with my hidden identity. I’m not Batman.

Yet against all odds, I find myself considering it. Never say never.

In the beginning, it was hard for me to think of my name as a brand. I am me, no matter what I do, so why would I pretend not to be me? But an author once told me if you build your brand name properly, your readers will buy your latest book without even knowing what it’s about because they know they'll like it.

A second pen name doesn’t mean you’re hiding; it tells people before they pick up your book what they’re going to get out of it.

This idea really clicked for me last time I went to Victoria Secret and bought something from their Pink line. I know perfectly well the same people who create Victoria Secret also create Pink. It’s not like they’re being discreet; the two stores are connected.

The difference is that when I walk into the Pink section, I know what kind of clothes I’m going to see. There will be brightly-colored, somewhat casual bras, pajamas, and swim suits. When I walk into the Victoria Secret section, I know I’m going to find classy and expensive lingerie and perfume. If they combined stores I wouldn’t know what kind of clothes I’d find when I walked in, and if I didn’t know that, I wouldn’t go.

For the past few years, I keep coming up with ideas that aren’t “my style.” I write plot-driven historical fiction about real people (the Vestal Virgins, Marie Laveau, Joan of Arc). The random books I think up are very unusual character-driven romances (the conjoined twins, the ghost love story, and one where a woman goes back in time to take care of her husband when he’s a kid and he's a refugee fleeing a war).

I don’t know where the Amazon one fits in, but I won't use three pen names. Let’s not get crazy.

I know publishing one of these random not-my-style books will hurt my career. People who like reading about the Vestal Virgins will not like the ghost story, and if they read a book of mine they don’t like, they won’t trust my name brand. They’ll move on to another author whose work they always enjoy.

Whenever I come up with an idea I know will hurt me, I always tell my husband, “I thought of a book to write, but I’m not going to. It’s weird and it’s not my style. No one will want to read it.” Then I decide to write it anyway. Perhaps I just have two styles.

I don’t know if I’ll go the second-pen-name route, but for the reasons I've mentioned, I see the value in it.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Books I Read in March

I'm a little behind on my reviews, aren't I?

Sister Queens by Sophie Perinot

Margaret and Eleanor were sisters. They were also queens at the same time; one of England, one of France.

The plot certainly peaked my interest! This novel takes sibling rivalry to a whole new level. It has romance, unrequitted love, scadalous affairs, war, motherhood, bravery, and finally, it shows readers the importance of having a good sister.

Villette by Charlotte Bronte

After a tragedy leaves Lucy alone without family, she becomes a teacher at a French school where she lives a solitary lifestyle until she meets two men who could change everything.

Bronte's skill is stunning; the way she depicted loneliness was so vivid, it made me feel the character's emotions more deeply than I've ever felt before. Problem is, I don't particularly like feeling lonely. While Bronte's masterpiece Jane Eye consumed me from page to page, Villette was long and difficult to get through.

Livvy is awesome! I read this five years ago when I first started doing research for Sacred Fire (which takes place during the Second Punic War), but it was too much to handle. Sometimes you have to start writing before you know what research you need, so I wasn't sure what to look for.

This time around, I had a great time following the battles, cheering for Rome and booing Carthage, and reading about the great victory after their near destruction. It was easily the most interesting period in Rome's history, I believe. I was inspired to add several scenes to my novel after this reading. Thank you, Livvy!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Why I Should Never Write in Public

Today is my last day at work. The next two weeks will be spent packing and moving, and on June 1, Andrew starts his new job as an engineer... and I start mine as a stay-at-home writer.

It still doesn't feel real!

I used to get most of my writing done during lunch breaks and the occasional downtime at work. For many reasons, writing at work was a great thing for me. I had no choice but to sit at a desk in front of a running computer all day, and if I didn’t write during my breaks, I wouldn’t have anything else to do.

There were a few embarrassing downsides to writing away from home. Some of my writing habits seem odd if you don’t know what I’m doing.

For example, when I have trouble describing a character’s expression, I make the same expression on my own face and describe what I did. I do the same thing with gestures. While writing at work, it was very difficult for me to keep from shrugging, gasping, or raising a skeptical eye brow at my computer.

(Oh my gosh, I totally just raised a skeptical eyebrow as I’m writing this.)

I was friendly to my co-workers, except between 12:00 and 1:00. If someone ever tried to interrupt me during my oh-so-precious lunch hour, heaven help them.

When I ran image searches, I couldn't always predict what kind of images would come up. Many times I've run what I thought was an innocent search and had to close the browser, look over my shoulder to see if anyone saw, and delete all browsing history.

The worst was when a scene in my book made me emotional. I’ve choked back tears at work on more than one occasion. When I finished the rough draft to Sacred Fire, I was so happy that I walked around the office with a huge grin on my face all day long. I also get mad at my book sometimes, and no one knows why I’m suddenly so grumpy.

From now on I can be as odd as I want. I can't wait.

Only eight days before the Inspiration Collage Blogfest. Don't forget the sign up!

Sunday, May 20, 2012

A Clip of Me Playing Roller Derby

I've played roller derby with the Mississippi Brawl Stars for almost a year now. It's a fast, aggressive, all-woman sport on skates. I love it!

Here's a clip from our game last Saturday. I played decently enough to share it. I'm the one in the purple with the star on my helmet and the red fish nets. My derby name is Cleofracture and the number on my jersey is 48 BC. (If anyone can tell me why I picked that number, you get a cookie.)

Below is a play-by-play.

0:01 There's a group of girls (the pack) in front of two girls (the jammers). The goal of the game is for the jammers to make it through the pack, then loop around and do it again. You get a point for each girl you pass. I'm the jammer: you can tell by the star on my helmet.

0:11 The opposing jammer and I approach the pack and try to get through. The other team tries to block me while my team tries to get them out of the way and block the other jammer at the same time.

0:14 I do a hip-whip where I grab a player's hips and use them to accelerate forward. Only I accidentally did it on an opponent, which is illegal on so many levels. I can't believe I didn't get called for it.

0:16 The opposing jammer breaks through the pack. She's in the lead.

0:24 I break through the pack. Now I have to loop back around and do it again to score points.

0:27 My husband is audibly happy for me.

0:44 I approach the back of the pack while the other jammer is trying to break through the front, but my team mates are in her way.

0:52 I pass three people and get knocked down. I have scored three points. I have to wait for the girl who knocked my out of bounds to pass me because it's against the rules for me to get back on the track in front of her.

0:57 The other jammer is still trying to get through. One of my team's blockers gets her out of bounds; however, since the blocker falls, the jammer is allowed to reenter the track in front of her.

1:10 The opposing jammer breaks through the pack a second time, and since she's in the lead, she calls off the jam. The ref blows the whistle 4 times, signalling that the jam is over.

Wrap-up: Even though I didn't break through a second time, I passed by all the opposing players at least once while trying to get through, so we had the same number of points.

Friday, May 18, 2012

How Shame Plays a Part in Writing

I had a crazy idea for Nanowrimo to do either this summer or November. It’s so far outside of my style that I have no intention of getting it published. It’s just a fun exercise.

I have a dilemma, though. (Beyond the fact that I’m supposed to be revising Sacred Fire.)

The book would be about the Biddenden Maids. According to legend, they were conjoined twins from a rich family who lived in England during medieval times. I’ve read its normal for Siamese twins to get married, so I thought one of them could marry a man the other didn’t like. The other would later fall in love with him (of course), and this would cause chaos.

That’s what I call a messed-up love triangle.

When I heard about Siamese twins getting married, I wondered the exact same thing I’m sure you are all wondering. Don’t lie. You know what I’m talking about.

As I’m going back and forth on whether or not to write a novel that will spend a significant amount of time in the bedroom, I’m reevaluating my standards. Some of my readers might remember I have yet to take a firm moral stance on how much sex is okay to put in books. It shouldn’t be too graphic, too vulgar, or too gratuitous, but what does that actually mean? How much do I personally believe is too much?

Since I don’t plan on anyone seeing this book but me, I did consider throwing moral caution to the wind and writing whatever I want. But that goes against my philosophy that you should never write something you’re too ashamed to stand by.

I first developed this philosophy in a college creative writing class. One of the students read a poem he wrote about sexual frustration. I actually thought it was good. Sexual frustration is something we all go through, and I appreciated his openness in talking about it. At one point he described peeking through his window blinds watching the college girls go by and wishing he could be with all of them, which I found hilarious because I’ve seen guys doing that.

What I didn’t like was how in the last two lines, he drastically changed his stance and said he actually wanted to fall in love and be with only one woman. Obviously I think that’s the best moral choice, but it told me he was too embarrassed by his piece to fully support it.

I told him, “Look, if you want to be a pervert, be a pervert and stand by it, but if you’re ashamed of this, you shouldn’t have written it.”

In retrospect I probably shouldn’t have called him a pervert in front of the whole class, by I believe in what I said. Never write something you’re ashamed of, and never be ashamed of what you write.

If I decide to write this conjoined twin story, I will write it asking myself, “Do I have the nerve to support this, or will it embarrass me?” Because once I write it, it’s mine, and I’m not going to hide what’s mine.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Four Tricks to Writing Great Romances

I adore a good love story and abhor a bad one, but what makes a love story good or bad? Lots of things help - quality writing, avoiding cheesy lines, not having stupid characters who screw their lives up for the sake of drama.

But there's more to it than that. Some romances are so wonderful that no amount of bad writing and cheesy lines can make readers put them down. Some love stories do more than make me swoon; they touch me so deeply that they stay with me forever.

What makes them so special?

Writing romance is a complicated process, to be sure, but I had a few epiphanies that really helped me.

Epiphany #1

Someone once told me anger is a secondary emotion. You only feel anger after feeling something else: disappointment, hurt, betrayal, frustration. Before you can soothe your anger, you have to get to the root of the initial emotion that caused it.

I believe love is a secondary emotion. Before you can love another person, you have to feel something else: admiration, respect, comfort, interest, amusement, attraction, trust. We don't spontaneously love people. Our love is caused by definable reasons.

The worst love stories, IMO, are the ones where the characters fall for each other for no reason that I can understand. They meet, they have a conversation, and they're dedicated to each other for life. (In some books, they even skip the second step.) In order for a love story to feel genuine, readers need to know why the characters are drawn to each other.
Epiphany #2

Keep in mind to show not tell. This will do two things: 1. Save you from melodrama. No one wants to hear a monologue about how a girl will do anything for some guy, but we do want to see her make sacrifices for him. 2. Make readers fall in love with the character too. If you can make your readers want to be with your MCs by demonstrating an attractive personality, you've practically won the battle already.

Epiphany #3

Don't rely on physical attraction. It sounds obvious, but I'll tell you why: physical attraction is the only emotion your characters can feel but your readers cannot. A movie can get away with having a dumb story when the actors are sexy, but readers can't see the people in your books.

Readers can love your characters for every other reason under the sun, and you can stimulate temporary sexual attraction by writing steamy love scenes, but readers will never lust after a character in a book.

Epiphany #4

There are some stories where the characters make eye contact and up pops this miraculously eternal relationship, but despite how ridiculous it is, we still ache for the characters to be together. Take Romeo and Juliet, for example. Romeo sees Juliet walk through a room and they decide that very night to risk their lives to get married. It's stupid, but in rare instances, we love it.

My theory is that in most of these cases, it's their dedication to one another that keeps us going. My favorite love stories are about characters who will do anything for the person they love, no matter what the sacrifice.

In this Shakespearian play, many of the lines Romeo gives Juliet have religious connections; this demonstrates to us that his dedication to her is equal to a worshiper's dedication to God. That's the kind of love people should have toward one another, and that's the kind of love that draws us along through the play, right up until they each decide to die rather than live alone.

This dedication is the only reason the first Twilight book worked for me. I think Edward is bossy and controlling, and I hate how quickly she up and decides to be in love with him, even though he's nothing but a stalker and a jerk. Still, I enjoyed it. I admit I got warm fuzzies when I read that line: "I was unconditionally, irrevocably in love with him."

I know her love for him is absurd, but I can't help it. That's an amazing line... I wish I had thought of it first. It's that unconditional, irrevocable love that made me want to finish reading that book.

I'm sure there are many other tricks to improve love stories, but if you can at least use these four, you'll be well on your way to writing a great romance.

Monday, May 14, 2012

First Loves Blogfest

This just might be the biggest blogfest I've ever participated in! Today is the First Loves Blogfest, hosted by Alex J. Cavanaugh, in which you post the first movie, first song/band, first book, and first person you've ever loved.

Participating in this blogfest has brought back some great memories!

Book: Dealings With Dragons

This was the book I read as a kid to convince me that reading was fun. After I finished it, I loved dragons so much that I read every dragon-related book I could get my hands on, and I decorated my entire bedroom with dragon pictures and figurines. I still think dragons are pretty awesome.

Music: Barenaked Ladies

I'd bought many albums before this one -- Spice Girls, Backstreet Boys, Weird Al -- but this was the first album I truly loved. My friends and I would sit in front of the stero with the lyrics in our hands, singing along to these songs for hours. 

Movie: Cinderella

My mom says I used to watch Cinderella with my brother first thing every morning. That's funny because it's probably my least favorite fairy tale princess now. I hate the helpless ones who need to be saved, and I hate how the prince falls in love with her just because she's pretty without getting to know her. When I was little, I just liked the singing mice.

First Love: First Boyfriend

I met my first boyfriend when I was a councelor at cub scout camp. He was not one of the cub scouts... why do people keep asking my that? He was another councelor. I go for the sweet ones, and was as charming as it gets. I remember my cabin didn't have a front porch and my bunkmates and I had to climb a step ladder to get inside, so one weekend he and his brother lugged wood from a nearby camp and rebuilt it for me. *heart melts*

What are your first loves?

Random Act of Kindness Blitz

The more I interact with the writing community, the more I grow to love everyone in it. (Yes, that means you. I love you. Don't blush; it's true.) These people comment on our blogs, re-tweet our posts, and chat with us on forums. They give us the advice and support we need.

Take a second to think about all the writers in your life who have influenced you. Every critique partner, beta reader, blog follower, and mentor. Every author who's ever offered you advice when asked. Every friend who's ever listened to your story's plot and told you it was a good idea. 

My guess is we can all come up with a long list of people to thank.

One of these fantastic people for me is Becca Puglisi, a great beta reader I had the pleasure to work with last year. I adore her blog, The Bookshelf Muse, and I'm psyched about the book she's coauthored with Angela Akerman, The Emotion Thesaurus.

I'm also excited about the event they're hosting to commemorate the release of said book. In honor of the writers in our life who support us and pull us forward, they're hosting a  TITANIC Random Act Of Kindness BLITZ. And because I think kindness is contagious, I'm participating too!

For this fantastic event in honor of what will be a fantastic book, I want to blitz another one of my many amazing beta readers. It was very difficult to choose which one, but I'm going to give it to Kris Waldherr. Not only has she read several revisions of Sacred Fire, but she took me under her wing at the HSN conference and has since given me invaluable advice about the publishing world. She's my mentor, and she's a great friend.

Check out her website and her deliciously quirky book, Doomed Queens.

I'm supposed to give the recipient of the RAOK a gift to show my appreciation. I decided not to do a writing-related gift because she's more experienced than me, so I'm going to knit her an awesome hat.

Do you know someone special that you'd like to randomly acknowledge? Join in the celebration and send them an email, give them a shout out, or show your appreciation in another way.

Becca and Angela have a special RAOK gift waiting for you as well, so hop on over to The Bookshelf Muse to pick it up.

Friday, May 11, 2012

The Gossip Methods of a Historical Fiction Writer

As soon as I decided to write historical fiction, the way I gossip changed. 

Whenever I hear a piece of gossip, I always ask the person where they got the information. I then analyze the reliability of that source and the likelihood of the information being altered.

I've offended quite a few people when they tell me stuff and I ask, "How do you know? Did you see it? Who told you? Where did he hear if from?" 

I also take into account the characteristics of the gossiper; the accuracy of her memory, her tendency to exaggerate, any malice she might hold toward the gossipee, and what benefit lying or twisting the truth might serve.

I put more value on information that I hear from two or more sources. When I hear the same story from two people, I can look at the differences and similarities of the opposing viewpoints.

I also like hearing the story from the same person twice to see if the story has evolved over time (it almost always does).

Once that's done, I consider possible motivations of the gossipee. No one can know another person's intentions unless they hear it from the horse's mouth, so when people tell me the reason behind actions, it's always conjecture and rarely factual.

The motivations I consider range from the most simple to the most complex, from the most innocent to the most sinister. I then narrow down the options using the knowledge I have of that individual and isolate the few most likely scenarios.

Once I feel satisfied with the version of the truth I feel is the most accurate, I remind myself that since I rarely have enough evidence for a definitive conclusion, I could be completely off base.
I rarely spread stories about other people, but when I do, I always cite my sources and give my opinion on the validity of the source.

Et voila! That's how I gossip, and that's how I write historical fiction.

Don't forget about the Inspiration Collage Blogfest. It's going to be a blast!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Status on my Revision

Sometimes when I’m writing or revising a scene, a voice suddenly screams in my head, saying this:

Hell, yeah!

I tell you what, there is nothing like writing a scene and realizing it works. It’s exhilarating, like adrenaline and pleasure and self-satisfaction running through me all at once. It doesn’t happen all the time, and it doesn’t mean the writing is as wonderful as I think, but deep in my gut, I feel ecstatic. Do you ever write a line that feels so good, you drool on your keyboard?

I felt that way today for the first time in months (the first time since I decided to rewrite Sacred Fire one more time). Revising often feels like taking a perfect painting, tearing it into pieces, and using the fragments to make a collage. I’ve spent the last three months “tearing” my book apart: shifting things around, taking things out, rewriting, hitting my head against my desk, that sort of thing. It felt like an awful mess until today I took a step back and saw a picture forming. Shapes are almost recognizable again.

I scrolled through a few chapters, peering at my computer screen, and thought, “This is actually working. Holy cow.” I want to print my book out just so I can give it a hug.

It’s times like these when silly things like sleep and eating just don’t seem all that important. All I want to do is finish this thing.

I’ll be honest, when I first decided to rewrite my book again, I was pretty skeptical. The only reason I decided to do it was because my writing mentor spent six hours swapping emails with me, insisting I could make it better while I argued that it was as good as it was going to get. At the end of the day, I wrote to her, “Fine! I’ll rewrite it.” She wrote back, “Yay!”

I spent a good week or two moping and fantasizing about how different my book would have been if I had it to do all over again. Then I spent a good month or two making lists of things that needed to change and ideas that might fix the problems. (When I got to 20,000 words of notes, I realized I was procrastinating. A lot.) I still remember the day I opened my latest version of the book – it was a polished, meticulously edited document titled “to send to agents” – and made my first change.

Here we go, I thought.

I still have a ton of work to do – months and months of it – but it's working. It's actually working!

Monday, May 7, 2012

Describing My (lack of) Profession

Now that I'm getting ready to move to a new place and quit my day job, I have a dilemma: when people ask what I do, what will I say?

To understand my position fully, you can check out my post “Why I Don’t Tell People I Write.”  I’ll have no trouble introducing myself as a novelist after I get published. Right now, however, I have to deal with the pep talks, the not-so-subtle scoffs, the patronizing head pats, the bad advice from non-writers, and of course the dreaded question: “What have you published?”

These reactions were rough enough when I had a job. I don’t know how to explain that I’m a full-time non-paid unpublished writer.

I tried telling people I'm still figuring things out, but then they want to know what my degree was in and help me brainstorm possible careers. I considered telling people I'm a homemaker, which is true, but it sounds lame when you don't have kids. I also thought about saying I'm unemployed, but then people will try to help me find a job and I'll have to explain that I'm willfully unemployed, which puts me back at square one.

I seriously considered telling people my husband and I want to have kids right away, even though that's the lamest reason of all. It sounds like I sit at home twiddling my thumbs all day, waiting for my husband to come home and impregnate me.

I decided to tell people the truth: "I'm going to stay home and work on a book I'm trying to get published." It sounds easy, but every time people ask me what I'm going to do when I get to Hattiesburg, I always chicken out. My gut reaction is always the same: I say, "I don't know." Seriously, brain?!? Why?

It's weird how I feel so inclined to be secretive. I have a guess as to why. You see, I’ve met people who sacrifice everything for a career everyone else knows isn’t going to happen. I remember the sympathetic looks we give such people when they aren’t looking.

Creative people are often delusional. Everybody knows it. Nobody says it.

I don’t want others to see me as the extravagant dreamer who’s headed for disappointment. The one who will eventually realize she wasted years of her life when she could have put her energy into something real.

I can’t make every person I meet read chapters of my book before judging me. I also can’t explain to every person I meet that I'm not wasting my time because getting published is completely beside the point. I'm not giving up my career to do this; this is my career.

A friend of mine is in a similar situation. When people ask her husband where she works, he tells them she doesn't have a job.

"So she's a student?" they ask.

"No, she's not going to school," he answers.

"She's a stay at home mom, then?"

"No, we don't have kids."

"Is she... disabled?"

"No, she's fine."

(Long pause.) "What does your wife do?"

At this point, he looks them in the eye and says, "Whatever she damn well pleases."

That's what I should start telling people. It sounds better than "I don't know."

I finally bucked up and told someone what I was doing, but only because my husband was staring me down trying to make me stop being modest. I told the man how I hesitate to say I'm a wannabe novelist because I'm afraid people will look at me differently.

"There is nothing wrong with that," he said, adamantly shaking his head. "You don't have to answer to anyone but yourself and God."

I like that.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Collage of Inspiration Blogfest

I have 300 followers? Huzzah! This is a cause for celebration, and tradition dictates that I have a blogfest. Hmm... what should I do this time...

Most of us have little "helps" that inspire the books we write: pictures, videos, songs, etc. For this blogfest, we're going to compile them for the world to see.

I made a Facebook page for Sacred Fire once just for the fun of it. It has an album of my trip to Rome, interviews from YouTube of people talking about Vestal Virgins, pictures of models of the Roman forum… I even found a skit someone did making fun of vestals, which I thought was hilarious. I love it! A friend of mine did something similar for her book on Pinterest.

Your mission, should you chose to accept it: create your own "collage" of inspiration. It could be a Facebook page, a Pinterest board, a website, a page on your blog, or whatever you're into.

Sign in on the linky list below. On June 1, post about the blogfest and be sure to include the link to your collage on your blog. If you like what you've done, you can post the link on your blog permanently. You can do multiple books (but please only one link per book).


Pictures: these can be of a book cover you made, the location, actors who look like your characters, yourself, or anything else that inspires you.

Videos: These can be interviews, documentaries, movie clips, or even yourself talking about your book.

Music Videos: Any song that makes you think of your story.

Links: These can be to other websites, or to blog articles you’ve written about your book.

Your query, first chapter, or an exert from the book

Lists: You can make a list of books that are similar to yours, research books you’ve used, places your characters go, or anything else you can think of.

Here's my Facebook page for Sacred Fire if you'd like an example. You have to expand the timeline to see everything, since the page is old. I also made a Pinterest board for Fierce.

Happy collage-ing! I can't wait to see what people create.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

The Ol' "Show Not Tell" with Characters

The advice "show don't tell" has been given a million times, but it deserves to be given a million times more. Not only is it one of the most essential elements of writing fiction, but it is also one of the most difficult.

Take characters, for example.

I read a hist-fic that startled me when half-way through, the MC made a confusing comment about another character. It was along the lines of "he was a such-and-such kind of man." He hadn't done anything the entire book that would make me attribute that particular quality to him. The author needed to demonstrate the quality through the character's actions.

"Isn't that silly, though?" you might ask. "Why does the author need to waste precious room in his novel showing everything when he can just tell you?"

Two reasons:

1. If you tell me a character is a certain way without showing me, I will not remember. I can recall actions and behavior at the drop of a hat, but if you use one word once to describe a character, you might as well not have mentioned it at all.

Take another book I read as an example; after finishing this particular novel, I skimmed through the beginning and found a list of characteristics used to describe a character when she was first introduced. It was nothing like the character I had built in my head. I had completely forgotten about that description and was only going off of what I saw the character do.

2. It doesn't take as long as you might think to show who a person is through his actions. Everyone talks, right? During your dialogue, you can easily slip in clues. Instead of writing "She was a nervous person," you could write, "She said hello to me, though she seemed distracted as she glanced around her, wringing her hands." Voila.

Allow me to demonstrate how effective showing can be:

I once read a hist-fic that had the classic love triangle: two men in love with the same woman. Whenever the woman mentioned the guy she liked in front of the guy she didn't care for, his eyes would darken, his jaw would tighten, or he'd change the subject. Whenever she was around both of them, he tried to distract her and pull her away.

The book was almost over when the author needlessly wrote, "He was jealous." I thought, "That came as a surprise.... not." It was so obvious that coming out and saying it sounded ridiculous.

If you want to write about a nervous or a jealous character, ask yourself how a nervous or jealous person would react to every single thing that happens in the novel. You can't say your character is kind, for example, if she never does anything kind for someone. If your character gets angry easily, make him hit something.

You don't have to go out of your way to show us who a person is. Once you get the hang of it, it'll come naturally.
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