Category Archives: Writing

Short and Flashy2 with Bonus Short Story

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Short Story Cartoon2

 

Short and Flashy may be the new in thing with writing and I’m so glad to hear it because I love writing short stories and flash fiction.  I found that out about myself when I was writing my first book, The Tower.  When I needed to have a brain change because I couldn’t find the words I needed to say for the book, I would write a piece of flash fiction or a short story so I could think about something else besides the book I was writing. It helped reset my brain.  It made it easier for me to come up with what I needed for my book.

Over the fast few years, people have read more of my short stories and flash fiction. I am assuming it is due to lack of perceived time to read.

Do you know what flash fiction is? In case you don’t, I will try to explain.  Flash Fiction is a complete story (has all the components of a story) in a limited number of words. They can be challenging to complete.

Think about how our reading world has changed since the computer came along.  The time was we had no choice but to go to the book store or the library to get our reading material.  Now we have small portable screens that let us have a book zipped to us over the airwaves.  We can get anything we want to read from Amazon including short stories which we might read while we’re sitting under the hairdryer or waiting in a doctor’s office.

According to Anne R. Allen, one of the authors of How to be a Writer in the E-age: A self-Help Guide, short stories make money and hold their value.  Kindle Singles often sell for the same as a novel-length book.  Ellery Queen and Woman’s World still pay top dollar for genre stories.

Short stories are great for practice.  Learning to write short stores can keep your writing from getting sloppy.  Having short stories in your portfolio might give you another book to publish or an opportunity to publish in a magazine.

I put the majority of my short stories in an eBook called Shirley’s Shorts and Flashes. The book was published on Amazon.  Publishing my work of short stories was something I didn’t want to pass up.  You may also have an opportunity to see what you can do.

Below you will find one of my short stories called Angie’s Secret.  Please comment with a critique and let me know the good and the bad.

Amazon link to Shirley’s Shorts and Flashes:  http://amzn.to/15HB87j


 

Angie’s Secret

 

“Are you going to tell him?” Mattie asked.

“Heavens no, this is my secret. I told you because you’re my best friend, and I know I can trust you.” Angie sat at the table with her cup of tea. She was pale around the eyes and mouth. “I am doing this on my own. I’m thirty-four years old, and I know this is the right thing for me.”

“It may be right for you, but girl you look like crap. Do you want another cup of tea?”

“Sure.”

Mattie went to the stove and brought the teapot back to the table. She asked Angie if she’s eating enough.

Mockingly Angie replied, “Yes, mother, I am. I can take care of myself. Stop worrying about me.”

“How do you think you’re going to pull this off when he barely lets you out of his sight?”

Angie thought of the days ahead as she sipped her tea. Her excitement showed.

Mattie looked at her, seeing the smile, said, “Ok, girlfriend, spill the beans. I want to know what’s making you smile.”

“I have to go home.”

“Angie, remember, no matter what, I’m your friend.” Mattie grabbed Angie, hugged her tightly.

“I’ll be in touch, and don’t worry,” Angie said as they broke apart. She walked back to her house. Her bedroom light was on. Crap, he must know I’m not in my room. I’ll walk through the front door as the grown woman I am.

After she entered the house, she almost made it to the stairs before she heard her father’s harsh voice.

“Angie, is that you?”

“Yes, father, it’s me.”

“Come here immediately,” her father, bellowed.

Angie walked into the library, ready for battle. Her father kicked back in the recliner, with a drink in his hand, asked, “Where have you been?”

“I went to Arlene’s for tea. I left your dinner on the table.”

“It was cold. You are one lousy cook.”

“Yes, father. I’m going upstairs to my room, goodnight, father.”

***

The clock advanced slowly, but 2 a.m. arrived. She pulled her suitcase from beneath her bed, took one last look at her room and left. Her father appeared to be asleep when she opened the front door. As she stepped out into the night air, she took her first deep breath of freedom.

She whispered, “John, are you here?”

“No, he’s not here,” her father said laughingly.

4 Tips for Creating A Fantasy Series Character

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HarryPotterHello everyone, I thought today I would share an article on creating fantasy characters. I love reading and writing fantasy. It literally will let my mind go to this creation of fantastic times, people, and creatures.

I’ve written one fantasy book, Princess Adele’s Dragon, which is a medieval adventure story, but I couldn’t count how many books I’ve read in the fantasy category. I love to read those three to five book series that continue to lead you down those wild and wonderful paths. I have to admit I have read all of Harry Potter and the Outlander series which are far more than three to five books.

You have thought of a subject for a new fantasy book. The first thing you have to do is ask yourself if your protagonist is better suited to a series or a stand-alone novel. In Princess Adele’s Dragon, I have two protagonists, Princess Adele, and Prince Anthony. This book could very easily be made into a series because of the storyline I used. The main conflict is resolved but other conflicts have been brought up that can be carried forward.

Secondly, figure out what kind of story arc you want for your series.  Do you want to focus on one problem or mystery per book, along with overarching character development? which means that the characters have more to tell. When you are writing book one you really don’t know how many books will be in the series.

Third, Carry character traits and quirks consistently from book to book. This is true of both your protagonist as well as the support characters in the story. If you can keep all your character details in your head, that is wonderful, but if you can’t make a cheat sheet.  Your readers will catch the mistakes you make.

Fourthly, write characters and books that you enjoy.  Just as readers love characters they can get to know and see, again and again, so do authors. My favorite books have characters that I can either identify with or would like to have a drink with.  All accept Hairy Potter, of course, he is too young.  I just want him to teach me magic. Write about what you like to read.

If you would like a free ebook of Princess Adele’s Dragon, just let me know along with your email and I will send you a gift code from Amazon.  http://amzn.to/25lUOYM

I hope you have a great week ahead. Blessings to all.   Shirley

Princess Adeles Dragon2

It’s Been Awhile

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I seem to lose track of time when my life gets in the way of my blog writing. I really don’t have an excuse. It just gets put on the back burner.

Where to start to get you caught up. My Granddaughter and her husband are living with my husband and me to help us and them.  Livie is growing by leaps and bounds inside her mom, so come November we will have a new Great Granddaughter. One of her cousins already has her nicknamed Liver. There’s something inside of me that hopes that does not stick.  Her full name will be Olivia Margaret Elizabeth. Margaret Elizabeth is named after my mother.

Lee’s cancer is gone and his voice is back to normal, praise God.  It has been a long road but he went through it like a trooper. I have to admit there were times I could have cheerfully removed his head from his shoulders but we both managed to persevere. Now he has to have a scan ever so often to make sure cancer stays away.

My book, Thomas Gomel Learns About Bullying, is still with the publisher. I have not heard a solid date when it will be published.  I am hoping by the end of this month but I have to remain patient. I have had a couple of very good prepublication reviews. I will get them posted before long.

Now I have to say something that bothers me to my soul. This has to do with our government and how they are treating the children and others at the border. This is nothing to do with whether they should be here or not but the fact that they are. It matters not what side you have placed yourself on, but the fact the children are not getting what they need. They are treated like livestock instead of people. I have visions of the Oklahoma feed lots packed with cattle waiting to be loaded up and hauled off to the slaughterhouse.

As a Christian, I find this heartbreaking and can’t understand how any man or group could treat people especially innocent children in this manner. I will continue to say a prayer for the children and the government that God has mercy on them.

Character Change Vs. Character Growth

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Hello everyone, I do hope you are having a great day.  To catch you up on my activities since my last blog write. I’ve sent Thomas Gomel Learns About Bullying to the publisher for approval.  I also did an upgrade on Princess Adele’s Dragon and had it republished in ebook form. I’ve kept myself busy writing and entering contests on Fanstory. After the article below I will be posting a short story called The Lake. I do hope you enjoy this week’s blog.  Until next time have a blessed week.    Shirley

PS. By the way, you can possibly win a copy of Princess Adele’s Dragon by following the link, especially if you like medieval dragons, kings, queens, and knights.

Link: https://giveaway.amazon.com/p/065f308c42ab7cba

 

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Main characters don’t have to change to grow.  They can grow in their resolve.

It is a common misconception among authors that the main character in a story must change in order to grow.  Certainly, that is one kind of story,  as in A Christmas Carol where Scrooge alters his way of looking at the world and his role in it.  But other stories are about characters overcoming pressures put upon them to change their viewpoint and holding on to their beliefs, such as in Field of Dreams where main character Ray Kinsella builds a baseball stadium in his cornfield believing the old time players (and eventually even his father) will come to play.  In the end, he is not dissuaded from what appears to be a quixotic plan of a misguided mind, and his steadfastness results in the achievement of his dreams.

It is essential in any novel or movie for the readers/audience to understand whether or not the main character ultimately changes to adopt a new point of view or holds on to his beliefs.  Only then can the story provide a message that a particular point of view is (in the author’s opinion) the right or wrong way of thinking to achieve success and personal fulfillment.

But not all stories have happy endings.  Sometimes, the main character changes when he should have stuck with his guns in regard to his beliefs and becomes corrupted or diminished or fails to achieve his goals  A good example of this is in the movie The Mist(based on a Stephen King novel) in which the main character finally decides to give up on trying to find safety from monsters and shoots his son and surrogate family to save them from a horrible death only to have rescuers show up a moment later.

Other times, holding onto a belief system leads to tragic endings as well, as in Moby Dickin which the main character, Captain Ahab (Ishmael is the narrator), holds onto his quest for revenge until it leads to the death of himself and the destruction of his ship and the death of all his crew, save Ismael who lived to tell the tale.

Though writing is an organic endeavor, when you make specific decisions such as whether your main character will change or remain steadfast and what outcome that will bring about, you strengthen your message and provide a clear purpose to your storytelling that results in a strong spine in your novel or screenplay.

Melanie Anne Phillips


 

 

The Lake

lake2The last time I saw Charlie, he laughed as we drove into Crystal Springs Lake. I knew we would have hell to pay for sneaking out, but I never imagined how this fun evening would end.

Charlie and I were friends from the first grade. We were neighbors, and as adventurous boys, we spent every second together we could manage. We were as different as two people could be. I’m quiet and shy, and Charlie was the fellow that drew people to him like June bugs to a light. Maybe it was his good looks with his coal black hair and that cleft in his chin. He was muscular, athletic and all the girls flirted with him every chance they got. He didn’t care. The only thing he wanted besides our friendship was the full football scholarship at Harvard.

We had a good time throughout school. As this was our last year at Grady High School there was a lot of pressure on Charlie to perform. He actually did it to himself, but if I tried to talk to him, he wouldn’t listen. “Charlie, you have to lighten up a bit. You can’t go on at the pace you’re going. It’s been weeks since we’ve done anything together. You study and practice football. Take time to relax. Quit worrying about that entrance exam. You have it aced.”

“Sure, I do, but it doesn’t feel like it. I feel like everything inside of me is about to explode. I have to keep pushing myself to keep the pressure down, but I’m ready for something different. I’ll listen to you just because you’re my best friend and I love you like a brother. What do you want to do?” Charlie asked.

I had to think of something we would enjoy together and take the pressure off of him. “I’ve got an idea. Let’s go to the lake after dark and go skinny dipping. We haven’t done that in a long time.”

“Are you crazy?” Charlie asked. “We haven’t been skinny dipping since we were twelve years old.”

“Yeah, I know, and it’ll be fun. Just like old times.  What do you say?”

We were both laughing, and Charlie said “Let’s do it. I want to be twelve again and forget all about school and football. I’ll be at your house at 7:00 and you can drive.”

“Sounds good to me. I don’t mind driving at all, and I’ll even bring us snacks and cold drinks. See you then.”

I left his room and went back to my house. I got everything ready and packed it in my car. Since my mom and dad weren’t home, I left them a note so they wouldn’t worry about me. Charlie was at my door promptly at 7:00.

It was a great drive out to the lake. We had the windows down and the radio up. We were laughing, singing and shouting at the top of our lungs as we drove to our spot. We were trying our best to be twelve-year-olds again.

It was dark when we arrived, but we didn’t care. We unloaded the car and set up our blanket right at the edge of the lake. It wasn’t the first time we had swum in the dark. I brought two flashlights, but we didn’t turn them on. We were happy. We liked this spot because we could dive into the lake. It was easy in and out of the water. We got rid of our clothes quickly and then laughed at each other as we stood there as naked as the day we were born.

Charlie slapped me on the back. “Are you ready? I am.” He backed up three steps and ran and dove into the lake. I jumped in feet first, as always. The water was cold and sent a shiver over my body. I didn’t hear Charlie laughing, so I looked around.  I didn’t see him. The lake was smooth as glass. I called his name. He never answered, so I climbed out of the lake slipped on my pants and got the lights. My hands shook so hard I had trouble turning on the lights. I shined the beams over the water, and I still couldn’t see him. I knew something was wrong.  I got my cell phone and called 911. I had a terrible time as I tried to get the words out to report Charlie missing.

I tried to sit but couldn’t stay still. I walked back towards the main road thinking I would meet the authorities. That was silly, it wouldn’t make them arrive any faster. I turned back towards the lake moving the beam of one of the flashlights around. What was that? I brought the light back to what looked like a sign. When the beam of light hit it, I got sick to my stomach. The sign read: No swimming until further notice. Alligator sighting today.

I’ve Finished, (sort of)

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One part of me is going hurray and celebrating but then another part is going, gosh, now I go publisher shopping and setting up more advertising. There is always something more to do with a book that is yet to be published.

Right now I am wanting Beta readers to read the book and give me an opinion on whether they would purchase the book or not. One part of my mind is going why wouldn’t anyone like a book that could teach them how to react and/or treat a bully at school.

I hear rave things about the book from my writing group, but then the devil on my shoulder starts talking and tells me it’s not true. They just say that so they can earn credit or because you said something nice about their writing. For me it’s a constant Dr. Jeckell and Mr. Hyde, depending on the time that you speak with me. I will persevere and this book will be published.

If you would like to read this book in word or PDF and give me an honest opinion, I would be happy to send it to you.  Just email me at shirley_mclain@yahoo.com and let me know.

Thomas Gomel FRONT

 

Here is a short story for you called “No Pain, Just Memories”

It’s rough being a girl, going through the teen years. Not a child but not an adult either. One minute you are silly with giggles. The next minute you are miserable with your heart feeling as if it’s broken in half. You’re not old enough to drink but you know that’s what a lot of people do when they have a broken heart.

My day started out so well due to the fact Mike called and wanted to see me. My heart was racing because I knew he was going to ask me to go steady. I could see the high school ring on my finger with tape wrapped around the shank to make it fit.

“Mom, can I go to town for a couple of hours? I want to go to Walmart to pick up some writing paper for school.”

“Have you got your ironing done? You can’t go anywhere until those clothes are taken care of,” Mom says in her I mean what I say voice.

“I’ve got two pieces left and they will be done before I go. Is it OK, can I go?”

“Alright, but you be home before you dad gets in from work.”

“Thanks, Mom,” I tried to keep the absolute joy out of my voice when I answered her. I get to see Mike today.

I hurried to finish the ironing so I could get ready for my anticipated visual idolization of Mike’s handsome face. He was such a dream. That blonde hair which fell into his eyes, oh those wonderful eyes with the longest lashes I’d seen in my life. They were so clear and such a bright color of blue. Even if I hadn’t loved all of him, I would love him for his eyes alone.

I managed to get dressed without changing clothes four times because I was in a hurry. I left the house in my old car that I drove back and forth to school that had a rotten floorboard. Even though the bus stopped at our front door, I was much too old to have to ride that bus with all those screaming, snotty-nosed kids.

I drove straight to the place where Mike was staying while he worked his summer job. I should’ve known something was wrong when he came outside instead of inviting me in as he’d always done before. I didn’t even get the hello kiss that was our custom. I had a fleeting thought something was going on, but I pushed it away.

“Hi, Mike. I got here as soon as I could. Mom made me finish my ironing before I could come to town.”

“Thanks for coming down. We need to talk,” Mike said. He walked me towards my car not saying anything.

When we got back to my car, I asked Mike, “What do we need to talk about?”

He looked down at me from those wonderful blue eyes and said. “I don’t think we should see each other anymore. My summer job is ending soon and I will be returning to school. Besides, there is someone else I want to date. I thought it was only fair that I tell you straight out.”

I kept my cool while he was talking but I could feel the tears begin to burn my eyes. I had the urge to scream, Who is the dirty, rotten, floozy that’s taken, my man? “OK, Mike, if that’s what you want. I understand. Thanks for being honest with me.” I got in my car as gracefully as I could and drove away. I didn’t get far before I was sobbing for my lost love.

As I looked back at that time, I wondered at how silly that young girl was. A girl’s first heartbreak is something she never forgets and an experience most of us have had to go through. I’m an old woman now and it’s as fresh today as it was then. No pain just memories.

I hope you enjoyed the story as much as I did writing it.  Have a blessed week  Shirley

New Book and A Short Story

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Thomas Gomel FRONT

I’ve got a new book coming out soon on Bullying. It’s called Thomas Gomel Learns about Bullying’.
It’s for ages 10 and above. I made up my own genre called educational fiction. Follow a young man through bullying at school and how it is dealt with. If you would like to be a pre-published reader, let me know. I want several people to read and edit the story to make sure it makes sense. Let me know. Shirley

Here is a 500-word story I wrote the other day called Happy Anniversary,

Happy Anniversary

My husband brought me to Tony’s place for a nightcap. Our night was perfect. I couldn’t https___i.cdn.tbs.com_assets_images_2017_04_two-broke-girls-s05ep16-pity-party-bus-1600x900-1600x900_091420160442wait to get home to ravish his hunky body. When we walked through the door, we looked around just to give our eyes time to adjust to the light. Mack excused himself leaving me to go to the bar alone.
I sat down two seats away from a woman I envied, and I didn’t even know her. Gorgeous from the top of her head to her manicured toes. We made eye contact which made me feel as if I needed to speak.

” Hi, how are you tonight? I’m Amanda.”

“Hello Amanda, I’m Jazelle. It’s nice to meet you.  Are you alone also?”

“No, my husband is with me.”

Unhappily Jazelle said, “My husband is away on a business trip. It’s our anniversary.”

“What a coincidence, it’s mine also. We can celebrate together. Cheer up. I’m sure you’ll have your man back in no time. Speaking of having your man back I wonder where mine is. He should be out of the John by now.”

We ordered two more drinks for ourselves, and I got another one for Mack when he got out of the bathroom.

“Jazelle, do you have a picture of your husband? I’ve one of Mack so I’ll hand you mine and you hand me yours. We’ll do a husband swap.” Both of us laughed as if we were doing a man swap. I pulled out my wallet, and she pulled out hers.  We both got our pictures out.

“Are you ready,” I asked, and we swapped pictures. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. I looked at Jazelle, and her face was white. We asked together. “How did you get a picture of Mack/Elliott?”

“What is this Amanda? You have a picture of my husband, Elliott?” Jazelle asked.

I couldn’t answer her, so I did the next best thing. I asked the bartender to please go into the men’s restroom to check on my husband. He gave me a “who do you think I am” look and left the bar.

“Jazelle, that is a picture of my husband and so is the one in my hand. I don’t know what is going on, but when Mack gets out of the restroom, I promise I’ll find out.”  We placed the matching pictures on the bar and picked up our drinks. They were put down empty.

“Excuse me, there ain’t no one in the men’s bathroom,” the barman said.

“What, that can’t be,” I shouted.

“Lady, I checked every stall. He ain’t there.”

“It looks like you’ve been abandoned just as I have,” Jazelle said. “Don’t you think it’s strange we’re at the same bar, with the same anniversary, with pictures of the same man? Something stinks here.”

“I think we should go to the police,” I told her.  “What do you think?”

We were out of Tony’s in a flash!

 


Recognized

Five Rules to Write By

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writing instructionHello everyone, I do hope all have had a great writing experience since my last blog. Today I am going to give you advice by Monte Schultz who taught at the Santa Barbara Writing Conference a few years ago. So here goes:

1. Use the English Language?  Earnest Hemmingway’s relative minimalism is not the last word on style. Some writers may preach that less is more, but that’s simply personal preference.  Elmore Leonard is not a better writer or stylist than James Lee Burke, nor is Hemingway better than Faulkner.  There just different.

2.  If you’re writing literary fiction, make something happen.  Interior conflict only goes so far in carrying a story forward.  On the other hand, genre writers ought to avoid characters that behave like robots.  Plot-driven fiction does not preclude interior reflection or character development.

3. Avoid characters who converse in a white space with nothing but their voices on the page.  Setting matters.  Don’t go overboard, but let your reader see where your characters are interacting.

4. Find first readers who care about your work and understand what you’re trying to accomplish.  Fewer readers are better than many.  If possible, have people read for different reasons.  For instance, I’ve always tried to find readers specifically interested in story, style, grammar or pacing.  Workshops can be helpful if you trust the readers, but beware of “art by committee.” The blizzard of comments and suggestions can be confusing and counterproductive, so trust in your own opinion best of all.

5.  make writing your life, not just a passing fancy.  Don’t imagine that publishing a novel will make you rich and famous.  Maybe it will, but probably it won’t. Don’t see writing as a career change.  Don’t give yourself six months, a year or two years to make it as a writer.  Think instead that once you put words on a page, you are a writer, and this is something that will fascinate, frustrate and fulfill you for the rest of your life.

Obtaining Writing Agent Attention

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agentGood morning, I thought today I would give just a few pointers on how to get a Writing Agents attention.  I know not everyone uses an agent but just in case you want on here on a few tips:

  1. Be authentic, show your true self, be energetic and sincere
  2. Build your platform now. Don’t wait until your book is published to start working to sell your book.
  3. Be knowledgeable and honest enough about yourself to showcase your best skills.
  4. Be Prepared with chapters to show, outline, your ideas for shaping your book.
  5. Be original, open minds, and “capture a fundamental sentiment that we hadn’t been able to articulate on our own” stated agent Rita Rosenkranz.

 

The following is an article posted by Rachelle Gardner in The Writer Magazine on why writers need agents. I hope you enjoy.

Many times I’ve answered the question of why you, a writer (singular), might need an agent (also singular). I addressed it in posts such as 10 Things to Expect from an Agent and Earning Our Keep. Agent Nathan Bransford gave a terrific rundown on what agents do, here and my client Jody Hedlund gave the perspective of a contracted, newly agented author here.

But today I want to answer a slightly different question. Why do authors, collectively, need agents (plural)? How does the existence of agents in this business help all authors?

You, as an individual author, may or may not require the services of an individual agent. But whether or not you realize it, whenever you deal with a publisher, you’re benefitting from the collective work of agents over the years.

For the last few decades, agents have been on the front lines when it comes to advocating for authors in their relationships with publishers. It’s interesting to speculate on the state of publishing contracts if agents had never been involved and authors had to fend for themselves or just take whatever the publisher was offering.

The economics of publishing are tough, and like in any business, publishers are always trying to figure ways to save money – or a least keep their money longer. Naturally, they come up with brilliant money-saving ideas that involve paying authors less. They try to lower royalty rates; they try to bump up the royalty breaks (i.e. raise the number of copies you must sell before bumping to a higher royalty rate); they may want to extend the length of time over which they pay out the author’s advance (a huge bone of contention right now between agents and a couple of the largest publishers); and of course, they sometimes try to pay lower advances.

Those are the simple things. The last couple of years have seen publishers and agents battling it out over e-book royalty rates and numerous other areas related to new digital technologies. And besides the money, there are other contract points that agents constantly work to keep fair for their clients—everything from option clauses to author copies to author buy-back rates and more. It’s complicated and tricky trying to negotiate all these points in such a rapidly changing publishing environment.

But over all the years and all the changes in publishing, agents collectively have had the knowledge and the clout to duke it out with publishers on a contract-by-contract basis, holding as much ground for authors as possible. For example, if you sign a contract on your own with a small independent publisher, and they offer you a 25% royalty on e-book sales, you have agents to thank for that, because at first, many publishers were trying to fold e-book sales into their regular royalty schedule, meaning you’d only be making 10% to 15% royalty. But agents have, for the most part, changed that.

An interesting nod to the importance of agents in the publishing process happened last month when Random House CEO Markus Dohle sent a detailed letter explaining the company’s new policy involving e-rights (which quickly became known as RH’s “retroactive rights grab”). To whom did Mr. Dohle send the letter? Literary agents.

As we continue into the confusing new world of digital publishing, authors are going to need advocates more than ever. You are going to have your hands full, trying to work your full-time job plus write your books plus market them. You won’t have time to become an expert on publishing contracts, too.

Just remember, if you choose to sign with a royalty publisher and stay agent-less, you may be missing out on the latest knowledge and expertise that will protect the value of your intellectual property; but you’ll probably also benefit from the work agents have already done in the last few decades.

Your agent doesn’t just work for you. Each agent is, in their own small way, protecting the rights of all authors. So love ’em or hate ’em, it doesn’t matter because if you’re an author, agents are your friends.

P.S. I imagine some of you will argue that it’s really the other way around—that agents need authors. Well, of course, that’s true. We need authors if we want this job. But if authors didn’t need agents, none of us would have this agenting job in the first place, so it’s kind of a moot point. When authors stop needing agents, agents will cease to play a part in the publishing industry.

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Different Strokes for Different Folks

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Different Strokes for Different Folks

Hello, everyone. I hope all of you experienced a great week. Today I’m giving you a blog that discusses how you can broaden your story and your readership from an article by Bharti Kirchner. This was originally published in the Writer magazine.

Why venture into unaccustomed territory when it comes to characters? In a globalized world, re regularly meet people.e very different from us in race, class, ethnicity, religion, politics or ideology.  Modern novels and memoirs, as mirrors of a society, increasingly depict this heterogeneity.

In addition to expanding our readership, a diverse character, whether the protagonist or a secondary character brings a broader voice to a story. In the case of the novel Tulip Season, protagonist Mitra meets a mysterious German man, and the contrast between the two adds an element of tension.  With dissimilar actions, attitudes and world views, backgrounds and upbringings, their interactions spark a great exploration of Mitra’s world.

Creating Authenticity: How do you get started writing about a person foreign to you? By immersing yourself in that particular culture of community through direct contact and by building relationships.  Armchair travel can also help, as can books, videos, movies, art, and the Web. Remember, in the end, it’s your story and it’s fiction.  You’re facing challenges no matter what.  “If you’re going to write fiction, you’re going to write about people who aren’t you,” says David Guterson, author of 10 books, including Snow Falling on Cedars.  “You should feel some healthy trepidation about that.”

Respect, openness, and empathy are keys to depicting an unfamiliar culture or perspective.  Here are additional tips and techniques.

First Impressions: What a reader first notices is how the character looks, dresses, sounds and behaves.  Bring the character alive with physical descriptions, but not too much and not all at once.  Allow readers to use their imagination to fill in the blanks.  Pay special attention to the rhythm of the spoken language.  A foreign born person might speak with an accent and fall back on native words as necessary.

A Character from Inside Out: You’re writing about individuals, and the methods you usually employ to develop a character of any kind still applies. Remember that all cultures have hopes, fears, and dreams, and it’s your job to portray that.

Does a diverse character have to be sympathetic?  Peter Mountford, the author of two novels, including A Young Man’s Guide to Late Capitalism, says no.  “Actually, I’m not sure he is very sympathetic because of the choices he makes,” Mountford says of Gabriel do Boys, the 26-year-old, biracial protagonist in his novel.  “He builds a lucrative career instead of abandoning it for love.  I feel for him, definitely, but a lot of readers struggle with him, and I suppose that is the key to writing “the other,” for me.”

Beliefs and Conflicts: Every culture or community holds common beliefs about marriage, family, money, status and friendship.  A character is likely to suffer moth internal and external conflicts when going against these beliefs and sometimes even when conforming to them.

Showing Universality: By wrestling with choices and obstacles, a diverse character, like any other, grows and changes.  In the process, he or she displays common human characteristics as fear, anger, joy and love.  Although I’m different, I’d feel much the same in the same situation, the reader realizes, and perhaps gets more involved in the book.

You can make a character accessible in other ways.  Show how he or she relates to friends.  Let him or her grapple with everyday issues like traffic.  An element of humor can also help.  We gravitate toward people who lighten our days with a joke or a funny situation.  It is in those moments that we let go of our differences and embrace our common humanity.

 

I hope this article helps to make your writing this week easier. The more knowledge we have the better writers we are.  Blessings to all.

The Workaholic (Short Story)

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Hello, everyone, I wrote this a couple of days ago and thought I would share it. It is a story about a man who let work rule his life. I hope you enjoy it.   Shirley

 

The Workaholic

 

James stood by the large picture windows, gazing over the open fields, to the purple-tinged mountains beyond. Darkness would be coming soon and with it a storm. He flinched as a crack of lightning split the murky sky. He turned and threw another log on the open fire, sending a flurry of ash into the air. He refilled his whiskey glass and took a deep sip. He savored the taste as it warmed his throat. He was trying to build up the courage to make that phone call he had been putting off all day. He reached for the phone just as it started to ring.

His heart began to pound as he grabbed for the receiver. The tentative nature of his voice was heard clearly as he murmured, “Hello.”

“Hello, James, this is Edmond from Buying Direct and do I have a deal for you.”

“What, oh hell, don’t call again,” he shouted as he slammed the receiver down. I’m not calling her. She is the one who left. His mind immediately went back to a week ago when he came home after being gone for two weeks and found her and the kids were gone. He was expecting his two-year-old daughter to start screaming “daddy” as soon as she realized he was home, and his five-year-old son starts asking to go out back and play catch. So much for expectations. What he got was an empty house with a note left on the dining room table. He’d memorized every word since he’d read it so many times.

James, I’ve taken the kids and moved out. I’ve tried to talk to you many times, but you kept putting me off or not listening at all. You can’t stay away from home for weeks and expect me to handle the house, the kids, the bills and that dog of yours. Don’t bother calling Mom’s because I’m not going there. If I want to talk to you, which I doubt. I will call you. April

After reading the note, James made his bar area his most favorite spot in the house. The drinking began the day he got home and has only stopped when he passes out on the couch. Normally he is fastidious about his appearance but not this week. He looks like a drunk on skid row. His facial hair now has six days’ growth, not to mention the hair on his head is greasy. He’s not removed his clothes since he walked through the door. They smell like body odor and wet dog scent and are very wrinkled.

The storm rumbling outside enhanced James’s angry mood. He couldn’t believe, after all, the years they’d been together, and as hard as he worked, she left. She can stay gone. I don’t need her, and I will fight for custody of the kids. She’s not going to get away with doing this to our family. James picked up his glass from the coffee table poured himself another glass of Crown Royal over rocks. He’d lost count of the number of times he’d filled his glass.

“Come here, Brutus. You will be my family. Won’t you boy? You love me don’t you? We don’t need her.” The Mastiff shook his head slinging saliva on the coffee table before he jumped up to lay beside James on the couch. James began to rub Brutus’s head and ears. “You’re such a good boy. You won’t leave me, will you?”

 

“You know, Old Boy, I have to go back to work on Monday. I don’t think I can go back to Raleigh and leave you here. I’ll give my boss a call tomorrow and tell him I can’t abandon you. I’m sure he’ll understand. There’s no way I’m leaving you here. She’ll be sorry she left us. You wait and see.”

The phone rang again but this time, James was too inebriated to care who was on the phone. He picked up the phone and slurred “Hello.”

“James, it’s April.”

“Yeah, what do you want?”

“The kids want to talk to you, but I can hear in your voice this is not a good time.”

“Why in the hell would you care what kind of time it is. You’re not here. You took them and ran away.”

“Sober up James if you want to talk to the kids. Goodbye”

The phone clicked, and she was gone. He didn’t even bother to hang it up before he laid down on the couch and passed out.