Using Isolation for your Novel Characters

Waiting out Hurricane Irma with no power, and no phone service got me thinking about isolation. Humans are inherently social creatures. We seek the company of others. I was fortunate to have my husband with me so there was plenty of conversation, but also time to contemplate. We as humans need conversation, we want to be included in groups, whether it’s a sports team or a religious group or even a fabulous critique group. I thought about the long term effects of isolation to a person and how it could affect one’s character.

Psychologists say that socialization is critical for the mental health of children and seniors. There are two types of isolation: social and physical. Social isolation occurs when someone feels they don’t fit in. Bullying is a prime example as is the archaic practice of shunning. Physical isolation occurs if someone is tangibly prevented from interacting with others like in a kidnapping. People can both mentally and physically isolate themselves from intense fear like a survivalist who lives in the woods.

Social isolation has been used as a tool in many thrillers. Children who are bullied can become serial killers as in The Wilderness of Ruin, a true crime novel about Jesse Pomeroy, a boy who at the age of fourteen became a serial killer.  Adults can be bullied at work, leading someone to ‘go postal’. The Shunning by B. Lewis is a story about a bride shunned by the Amish.

Think about how isolation would affect you. If you suddenly ended up alone in a desperate situation would you shrivel up and cry or organize your thoughts to figure out a necessary strategy? Would you become increasingly depressed until you couldn’t function, or would you be so anxious you’d have a heart attack?

 

Studying how isolation affects human nature can be useful in plotting or as backstory for one of your characters. The effects of isolation can enhance your characters actions and motivations. Use isolation to increase tension, and heighten suspense to keep your readers turning the pages as fast as a hurricane.

Hurricane Irma Madness

The Tuesdays met yesterday before hurricane Irma headed our way. Melody is moving along with lots of emotion in her current WIP. Faran started a new story, sure to please all sports fans. I read a revised edition of the last two chapters of my WIP. Jonathan entertained us all with the wit in his next hilarious middle grade novel.

We are all in the midst of hurricane prep or driving out of the state to avoid Irma so the Tuesdays will not be postingfor a while. We hope those of you who live in Irma’s path stay safe and that your electricity returns quickly.

 

 

Wrap it Up Wednesday for the Tuesday Writers

The Tuesdays met at Jonathan’s house shortly after the rain stopped in West Broward. Parker, Jonathan’s dog, trekked down the stairs to greet us all and spent an extra amount of time checking out Faran who is back after a hiatus at summer camp.

Faran read the climax of a Y/A baseball novel he’s been working on. The pacing and tension were amazing. We were on the edges of our chairs feeling a whole range of emotion for the main character, his best friend, his girlfriend and the entire baseball team.

Cathy has a new character that just showed up in her novel. He’s wreaking havoc all over the place. The Tuesdays love the chaos he’s creating.

Melody’s chapter had her main character grappling with issues about a boy she likes. It related concepts regarding money and morals. Melody reflected the morality beautifully with a slimy smile on a character’s face.

I read a scene that I added to the climax of my work in progress. The Tuesdays liked the addition, but suggested relocating it.  We discussed moving it forward and adding to an existing scene to maximize the ramping up of tension for the grand finale.

 

Jonathan is cranking out another hilarious middle grade novel. Even though he has a short deadline with his publisher, he manages to continue to ace the funny stuff. The Tuesdays were excited to find a small fix for Jonathan’s WIP. We know it was only because he’d had a busy week hosting his launch party.

Stacie didn’t join us this week. She’s spending quality time with her daughter before college starts. We’re looking forward to seeing everyone next Tuesday.

Do you use a Checklist for Revision?

I’m in the process of revising my work in progress. I love revision because it gives me a chance to catch weak areas and deepen what I’ve written. I’ve always been a checklist person as well. I find them efficient and time saving. Here’s a revision checklist I’ve created for myself from the classes I’ve taken and how-to books I’ve read.                                         

Opening:

  • Does the story start with momentum or too much backstory?
  • Mood of Chapter 1 where I want it?
  • Strong first line and first page?
  • Is the main character likeable?
  • Is the hero in a situation that shows the conflict or what needs to change?

Plot and Structure                                                         

  • Do the main plot points fall at about ¼, ½, and ¾ of the way through the book?
  • Does the plot escalate?
  • Can I raise the stakes?
  • Does each scene have an arch?
  • Is the chronology correct?
  • Is there any point where a reader might feel like putting the book down?
  • Is there a symbolic death in the middle so the hero can rebuild?

Language

  • Watch for clichés in sayings or action that is too typical.
  • Check for dead verbs. (I use ‘moved’ way too much)
  • Look for boring, non-specific nouns that can jazz things up with better description.
  • Watch for accidental alliteration or places to use alliteration to intensify a situation
  • Check the exposition. Does it enhance mood or tone?
  • Does the dialogue have conflict with very little stage direction?

Characters                                                                    

  • Do the most significant characters each have an arch?
  • Can the reader feel the character’s emotion?
  • Is my main character’s dilemma too strong for him to quit?
  • Is there a strong reason the characters have to stick together?
  • Does the villain have the ability to kill my hero or crush his career, his health, his family?
  • Does my hero’s voice have substance? Does it fit the age, gender? Does it draw in a reader?

Theme

  • Is the theme evident?
  • How have I brought out theme? Recurring patterns, viewpoints, messages?
  • Does the theme come out organically? Does it feel lectured?

Endings

  • Does each scene end in the right place? Could it stop a paragraph or two sooner?
  • Can I split a scene to create a cliff hanger?
  • Can I make the ending of a scene stronger with more worry, a big decision, a strong statement?
  • Is the climax a do or die situation?
  • Does the resolution wrap up all loose ends and feel satisfying to the reader?

First drafts are a blur of ideas arriving on the page as fast as you can get them there. Revision is a calculated process with lots of checking and re-checking all the components that make up your novel. Slowdown in revision and enjoy the world-changing power and privilege of writing.

When you find a Personal Flaw in your Writing

Summertime makes it more difficult for all of the Tuesdays to get together because we are all taking time to get away and relax. Yesterday we were excited to have almost all the Tuesdays back together. The only one missing was Faran who is out until mid-August.

So what did we talk about once we’re all back together? Jonathan’s book launch coming up next month, of course! When a mysterious cuddle bunny showed up on the couch, it prompted Jonathan to decide that Faran should wear a bunny suit to Barnes and Noble in Plantation on August 10th. We all agreed that since he wasn’t there to decline, it was a fabulous idea.

When it came to reading, I did the chapter before the climax of my work in progress. The tension is ramping up at this point and the Tuesdays liked the pace, except when my character stopped to make a phone call. Even though it was a phone call of desperation, they said it slowed the pace too much. It was suggested that since the phone call shows a necessary act of desperation, that it be moved to the beginning of the scene, before things start getting really wild so that the pace can continue to accelerate.

It was also pointed out that my sidekick is way to calm dealing with horrific situations involving physical and mental health. This has been mentioned before and I have deepened the reactions of my sidekick, but notably not enough. The beauty of working with a good critique group for a long time is that we have all come to know each other’s backgrounds. It was pointed out to me that my female sidekick is behaving too rationally, like a nurse would in a similar situation. It was suggested that I let go of my nurse persona and let this character freak out like a normal person would in a similar situation.

This advice was presented in a way that helped me see not only what needed to be changed but gave me a long term view into watching for my own specific flaws when writing. I am eternally grateful to the Tuesdays for helping me grow as a writer.

Where do you go to get ideas for a novel?

Some people I know have ten plots for novels buried in the back of their brain waiting to be hatched. I have a couple of ideas of in the wings, but they’re floating around without any concrete development. Truth is that a magnificent fully formed book doesn’t just pop into your head. Where do ideas for novels come from?

The news is always full of bizarre stories that make me wonder about the lives of the characters portrayed in the incidents that end up being broadcast. Take the latest news about O.J. Simpson. With all of the things that have occurred in his lifetime, I could find myself mentally working in a character arc. Mystery Writers are always keeping an eye out for a juicy crime story or headline to flesh out and expand into a good book.

Experience can often lead to ideas for a novel. An epic failure or huge success can be fodder for your next work in progress. Many people start by journaling and expand on the components from there. Or you can eavesdrop on a conversation in the park and expound on someone else’s experiences. People watching in the park can give you some great ideas for characters too.

Reading can lead to ideas of what you might want to write. Perhaps you want to expand on a theory someone else proposed, or you feel they got it wrong and you want to tell the story a different way. Reading across many genres can attune you to new ideas.

Google whatever your heart desires, and see what comes up. Strange accounts, love stories, happy tales and bizarre capers are all waiting to be expanded. You can plot them out inserting your wonderful hero and dastardly villain while at the gym or driving your car.

Whatever your method, writing is a process. Even the most extreme plotters end up changing things as they go along. So pick a nugget of something you’ve heard or seen and get started on your next tale.

How Writers can use Podcasts for Book Promotion

Helping people live their true passion is Jaime (“Jemmy”) Legagneur’s mission, and she has found no more powerful tool than podcasting. By interviewing movers and shakers on her ‘Curve the Cube’ show, she offers real actionable nuggets to inspire others to go from being dreamers to being doers! Jamie co-hosts two other shows, is the organizer of the Palm Beach Podcasters MeetUp group, and is launching her own network, the Flint Stone Media Podcast Network.”

Thank you, Jaime for joining the Tuesday Writers.

Q. Not everyone is familiar with podcasts. Would you explain podcasts to our readers?

A podcast is the practice of using the internet to make a digital recording of a broadcast that a listener can download on demand to their computer or mobile device. Most are accessed via I-Tunes, not through traditional broadcasting channels.

Q. How can authors benefit from doing Podcasts?

Authors can use podcasts to sell their books and build their platforms. An author can find a show that has the type of audience they want to appeal to and reach out to the producer of the podcast. The author can then send in a request like a cover letter. Let them know who you are, your genre, a little bit about your book and why they would want to talk to you. Authors can also produce their own podcasts. For example, if someone writes a series that has a certain theme the podcasts could be about aspects of that theme.

Q. How could a not yet published author use podcasting?

A lot of people use podcasting to get their name out there. Musicians do it all the time. For an author it would be an excellent way to help build a social media platform so when their book is ready to present to an agent or editor, they can show that they already have a following.

Q. How can a writer prepare for a podcast interview?

Listen to other podcasts particularly some that are hosted by your interviewer. Communicate with your interviewer. Go over a list of pertinent topics to discuss. Ask if there is something they don’t want you to say, such as colorful language. Is there anything you don’t want them to ask? Remember to share information on how listeners can find you and your book at the end of the interview and to promote the show with your social media fans and friends.

Q. Is there anything a guest shouldn’t do for a podcast interview?

Don’t be late. Don’t insult the host or the show. Don’t reply to questions with straight yes or no answers. Remember it’s audio, they want people talking. Never oversell your book. A podcaster may drop the episode if you are harping on the sale or if the information given is not pertinent. And definitely don’t Twitter bomb with fifteen Tweets a day that have a direct link to the download from I Tunes.

Q. You said that most Podcasts don’t get broadcast. Can you give an example of some that do?

The KVJ morning show on 979 WRMF in West Palm Beach records all their shows. They post an ‘On Air’ package on their Facebook and You Tube pages when the show is over so fans can listen to them at any time.

Q. How did you get started doing podcasts?

I started a few years ago when the KVJ radio show in Miami was being disassembled from their radio station. I really like them and wanted to help keep them on the air so I started a massive campaign to promote them. There was talk about me being their promotional producer so I figured if I started podcasting, it would familiarize me with on-air media. I wasn’t happy with my current job at the time. I told myself if other people love what they’re doing, that I should too. KVJ ended up getting a morning slot on WRMF in West Palm Beach and the podcasting took off for me. Now I have episodes on the first and fifteenth of every month.

Q. What did it cost to get started in podcasting?

Initially, about $100. I had a computer already. I got a set of clip on microphones for myself and a guest for $60, editing software for $10 (which I don’t recommend doing), and the hosting was around $30.

 

Q. Are there analytics you use to measure effectiveness?

Absolutely! If you have the right hosting companies the analytics are right there for you. Stats can be broken down by region, by the type of device your listeners are using. You can dial into your stats to gear your podcast to a particular demographic or to people who listen to them on the go with their smartphones. Stats can help a podcaster gain sponsorships and advertising.

Q. How does podcasting differ from Periscope?

Periscope is live at the moment the person is filming. Podcasts are recorded and listened to on demand. Periscope has the visual element, like You Tube videos, people see the visual but don’t necessarily pay attention to the dialogue. When using a podcast it’s all about the words, so people tend to focus more on what is being said. It’s set up to be on demand so a person can listen at their convenience.

Q. What’s the most surprising thing you’ve found about Podcasting?

The power of it. To get a listener to say: “You’ve got me to curve my own cube.” When I went to Podfest last year I met this girl called Dr. D. Her show is called ‘The Sisters of Flow’. It’s about a woman’s monthly visitor. How bizarre is that? But what is powerful, is that there are cultures where the topic is never discussed. A girl who lives in a country or within a culture where there will never be any conversation on the topic can listen in and find out about her own body. That kind of information can be life-changing.

Thank you so much, Jaime for joining the Tuesday Writers.

You can find Jamie at: FlintStoneMedia.com. or her motivational site: CurveTheCube.com

 

 

 

What Song Makes You Happy?

Melody: This is going to sound strange, but the song that always makes me happy is Never Tell by the Violent Femmes. My sisters and I used to act out the song, to the point where we were tumbling on the floor and slam dancing during the crazy, cacophonous ending. Of course that was when we were younger and less likely to hurt ourselves. Country Death Song, also by the Femmes, is a close second. It’s so outrageous and wrong that it’s funny.

Faran: Definitely a toss up between AC/DC “highway to hell” and Ozzy Osborne “the road to nowhere.”

 

Cathy: Happy is a relative terms. I love the Fall Out Boy song called, “My Songs Know What You Did in the Dark.” It’s a song my husband covers with the band Private Stock, and I love hearing him sing it and how the crowd reacts. It’s also an awesome title.

 

Jonathan: There are so many songs that could fall under this category, but for the sake of the exercise, I’ll just pick one. This isn’t my favorite song, but it is up there. I’m saying Escape (The Piña Colada song). I love it, and it brings me back to my youth, when I heard that song a lot. The nostalgic aspect is huge here, but it’s also so catchy, that I can’t help but smile, when I hear it.

The song that always makes me smile is “Radar Love” by Golden Earring. My sister first played it for me on one of our sister outings. I fell in love with it, played it over and over again. I It was the one I danced to at clubs in Gainesville. And the song I requested at The Phyrst in Penn State. How can you not smile when you think of someone loving you so much that you two have Radar Love?

Joanne: One of the many songs that make me happy is “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” by Cyndi  Lauper. It reminds me of fun times in the 80’s dancing and singing it at the top of my lungs to my husband and friends.

Checking my Character Arc

I’ve been very careful to watch the arc of my protagonist as I’ve progressed through my novel, but haven’t paid as much attention to his sidekick. This secondary character is presenting an unusual solution to a problem that the main character has. Because it’s a different way of looking at things, I’ve struggled with how much information to trickle in and to tie a credible thread to the concept.

For months during critique, the Tuesdays have been saying things like “It doesn’t feel scary enough for the characters here,” or “It’s like the information is being given, but it doesn’t fit.”

 

I discovered that my issue was in the arc of the secondary character. I had not shown the underlying reason (guilt) for her to be doing all the things she was doing to help the main character. When I brought this tidbit out, the Tuesdays loved it. In our discussion afterward, I realized that I need to intensify the arc of my secondary character all the way through the book by planting hints in earlier chapters which will make everything fit in a better place. Woohoo!

I can’t wait for next Tuesday!

Down and Dirty with Story Structure

Elements of plot and structure have been a challenge for me. That theme continued when I read to the Tuesdays yesterday. I’m leading up to the climax of my story. I have the plot secured, but the structural tension at this part of the novel needs more work.

Although I have increased tension in this chapter, The Tuesdays want me to make it worse for my main character and his sidekick. They said show more fear in the sidekick, to the point where she is really freaked out. I have visceral signs of fear like shaking and sweating, but they said show it on all levels with more verbalization, action and reaction. Make the scenes scarier.

For part of my chapter, I had a drug deal occur at the dealer’s house. How naïve am I? That lead to a lot of discussion on the behavior of a drug dealer and what TV has taught us about how a dealer would talk, how they would act and where they would meet a prospect.

The Tuesdays also mentioned at this late point in the novel, I need to have my protagonist seeking out help more, not just have other characters show up to help him. I need to make my main character recognize his problem somewhat even if he has not clue how to deal with it yet.

I got a lot of large scale insight from our group’s critique this week.  As always, The Tuesdays framed their critique with the things they liked about the chapter. I knew there were parts of this chapter that didn’t feel right, but I wasn’t sure how to fix them. The great thing being part of a critique group is that others can help spot things that trip you up. I’m excited about making these changes. Thanks Tuesdays!