It's Teacher Appreciation Week! Somehow that got me reminiscing about the handful of teachers that inspired and fueled my love of learning.
Sometimes we don’t like the teachers that challenge you – like the English composition teacher that forced me to fix my backward sentences.
Or the US History Teacher that challenged a quiet introvert to crawl out of her shell and debate historical impacts on current events.
And last but not least, the writing professor who said it wasn’t crazy if your characters followed you around and sometimes took charge of your stories. (Okay, it still sounds a bit crazy, but it's a common writing phenomena .)
Anyway, I wanted to thank them and all the dedicated teachers out there. A good teacher can really make a difference!
A big thank you to you all – wherever you are!
Do you have a favorite teacher that inspired you? Thank them in the comments!
Thanks for reading!
I just enjoyed reading The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown. The characters are well drawn, odd yet believable. Bits of humor added to the winsome way the story is told. Are you a Shakespeare lover? Do you have sisters? Then you'd probably like it.
Valentine's Day focuses on love, and especially romantic love.
So for those who aren't in a romance, it can be depressing. It was for Sophia. One Valentine's Day, she was newly divorced and working at a new job where she hadn't had a chance to make any friends yet. She walked by the receptionist only to see candies and vases of flowers. The woman in the cube next to her received a dozen roses. Then the guy on the other side spent hours talking about what his girlfriend was going to do for him (a bit too loudly so she couldn't help hearing).
So she wrote this post -- something for all of you who don't have a special someone, or whose special someone isn't around or isn't the romantic type.
It's also good to read if you're just looking for something uplifting . She titled it --
Things I love that have nothing to do with Valentine's Day.
1) Sunsets over water
2) Sunsets just about anywhere
3) Cherry tress in bloom
4) Birds chirping
5) Daffodils in bloom
6) The way babies smell when they've just had a bath
7) Going for a long walk in a quiet park on a warm spring day
8) And last but not least -- Pushing the publish button on a blog post!
Thanks for reading -- I have a hunch that she didn't get them all -- what would you add?
Have you ever read a story that didn’t have some kind of villain?
It’s tough to write a griping story without someone that provokes conflict. That makes it a challenge when an author like me has has a tendency to develop too much empathy for my characters to make them real villains. For example, Liza in Cinnamon Bourbon and Deception was supposed to cause problems but she had too much spunk and refused to cooperate. You’ll see more about her in the future, but for now, back to villains ...
Both bad and good characters need to exhibit a mix of good and bad quirks to make them interesting, but villains have evil motivations as well. Consciously observing and incorporating negative behaviors from real life as well as fiction helps to make my intended “villains” more viable and “heroes” more believable – and sometimes add a bit of humor.
Recent events have been great for this, so I’ve complied a list for my future use.
Which would make a character most irritating or untrustworthy? Downright unlikable? Take a look through the list below and vote by leaving a comment below.
1) Lying -- A character can get caught in a lie and then become caught in a web of further lies. This can be funny if it’s a silly lie -- many sitcoms are based on this. George Castanza was always getting caught up in his lies. But when a character an expert at lying, telling stories and distorting facts to another character’s disadvantage, they’re on their way to being a villain.
2) Denial and Blame Shifting -- Even when there is clear proof or recorded evidence, the characters lies without flinching. Nothing is ever the character’s fault. When caught in a lie or other situation where they are at culpable, they find a way to blame others. “No, sir, I didn’t kill the chicken”, he said, dusting a feather off his pants. “It must have been that immigrant you hired, I’ve heard people say he’s always eyeing the chickens.”
3) Never admitting they are wrong -- When denial and blame deflection doesn’t work, villains rarely admit guilt or say they are sorry, and if they are forced to, they say it in a way that’s really not an apology. “I am sorry – sorry I ever let him talk me into playing this game in the first place.”
4) Switching the Topic -- This is a sophisticated tactic where the character, in order to avoid having to answer for something they’ve done, will change the topic or reframe the situation. They attempt to confuse or humiliate other characters -- to keep them preoccupied, confused or put them on the defensive.
For example, a slight suggestion that changes the character’s original plan would be met with “you are always criticizing, big stuff” or “your face has big brown smudge on it”, or “is this like the time you told me to get off at the first stop?”.
5) Projecting -- This is a tactic in which the character accuses another of doing exactly what they are being accused of.
For example, a dishonest character may start a rumor to label another character as dishonest to deflect from their own lying. “I don’t know if it’s true, but I think Jimmy cheats at poker.” He said as he slipped the ace into his sleeve.
Or when they exhibit horrible behavior to someone and they are confronted, they’ll act insulted and attack the assertive character, accusing them of not being “nice”, claiming to be the victim.
6) Generalizing and Exaggerating -- The character can use words like “it’s a disaster,” “this is tremendous,” “we are in a big, fat, ugly bubble,” “it’s unbelievable”. He/she also loves to use the language of “everyone” or “many people” as in “everyone tells me she’s a witch” – a claim that is very difficult to prove or disprove or fact-check.
This trait can range from humorous to abusive, depending on how the character relates to others in the story.
7) Yelling and Interrupting -- A voice can be a tool of violence in a scene. A villain or bad character can use their voice a weapon in order to ensure that they are the ones heard most. They will confront anyone who tries to stand up to him/her by raising their volume. This is particularly effective on soft spoken or risk-adverse characters. If volume alone doesn’t do it, expert interruptions combined with some of the techniques above can confuse and even overpower the other characters.
8) Fear-Mongering -- A character can attempt to provoke fear, exaggerating the worse case scenarios, gross generalizations and misperceptions. This is a very powerful tactic of manipulation, as it is very hard to stabilize an atmosphere of terror. Think of characters that incite lynch mobs, genocide, or demonize people who are “different”. The worst villain incites the fear, but steps aside to let the mob do his dirty work for him.
9) Body Shaming / Belittling -- Body-shaming is a tactic that can cause another character pain. When directed at a vulnerable area, they may be too humiliated to speak, advocate, or appear in public. Belittling is psychologically making the person feel small or unworthy. It can be subtle: “Sure I’m interested in your little project”.
10) Physical intimidation – using size or proximity to another character to make them uncomfortable or threaten them. He leaned over her shoulder to see what she was writing, his thick hand resting heavily on her upper arm, moving toward her chest.
On the lighter side
All of these can be bad, but can these characteristics be humorous rather than abusive? When mixed with other good traits and used lightly, a character who lies, denies or generalizes can be funny, especially if they don't mean to hurt others. But it depends on their relationships. If the character has or wants real power over the other characters for evil purposes, combining several of these traits can result in a certified villain.
Do you agree? Please vote and comment below.
Thanks for reading!
Have you ever had to name a character, persona, or just wondered where authors get their names from?
I was just glancing through the "people you may know" on Linked In and noticed some unusual names.
With a little juxtaposition and creative license (don't want to use anyone's real names), I was very quickly able to come up with this list. See if you find any of these amusing:
Tina Learner -- Educational Software Developer
Digger Crabtree -- Garden Supply Consultant
Emma Askew -- Organizational Design Specialist
Justin Plumbs -- Architectural Site Evaluator
Dan Reeds -- Book Editor
Lotta Bile -- Internal Medicine
Casey Boils -- Dematologist
Guy Armstrong -- Personal Trainer
Crystal Flute -- Wine Taster
Ryder Whitehurst -- Funeral Home Owner
Carrie Champagne -- Event Organizer
Ida Ho - Executive Director, Potatoes are Us
Mary B. Frank -- Ethics Officer
If you can add to the list, please add in the comments!
Have a great day,
I decided to walk instead of drive to the drugstore. What I had to pick up wasn't heavy, and I could count it as steps in my exercise plan.
It's not a long walk, only about 20 minutes each way and there is a nice, wide side walk that frames a five lane street.
On the way back, I was walking the same direction as the traffic, so I couldn't see what was coming. I became aware of how fast the cars moved, how loud the traffic was, and how a narrow strip of grass was all that separated me from several tons of moving metal. This was especially true when a truck passed, waifing mechanical wind exhaust my way.
A horn blared and I jumped.
I felt very small, insignficant and vulnerable.
It made me wonder if any of the drivers had ever walked along the sidewalk -- or even noticed that someone was walking there. Turning my gaze away from the street, I noticed a small space of undeveloped land that still is a home for wild plants (and probably some animals, though I didn't see any).
Perhaps that is a bit like life. We can drive swiftly past so much of nature, so much of humanity, while fixed on our lanes of pursuit.
Or we can expand our point of view and for a short while, become pedestrians.
And the same with writing -- if you want a character to have an epiphany, or an unlikely change of view -- perhaps they need to be a "pedestrian" for a scene or two.
Thanks for reading! If you have comments, please post them.
The following is a character study that gives you some insight into one of the characters in my new book. Hope you enjoy it!
Silver could spot a loser from a mile away -- and one was coming his way. This definitely was they guy. The portly man meandering over to his Blackjack table, drink in hand, seemed familiar. Or perhaps he was just a composite of the many losers he’d seen in his years as a dealer.
The Gucci suit strained at the seams; dark hair slicked back; eyes like a zombie. Whether guy was here to gamble or pick up a chick, this was not his lucky day, for him or his suit. Word was that not only had he blown his stack of chips; he’d been rebuffed at least once by every unattached female in the casino – as well as by several female impersonators.
Silver thought that was humorous. You had to admire a guy with persistence. Sleaze oozed as gray suit swaggered up to his table and casually lowered himself into a chair next to a red head falling out of her dress. A lewd smile and a wink. The red head promptly picked up her chips and fled.
Gray suit shrugged, plump fingers setting down his two remaining chips. He wore a heavy gold cigar ring. “No fun.”
Silver pressed the button under the table as he shuffled the cards. The fun stops here, he thought as two men in dark suits and dark shades appeared. Or maybe the fun begins, Silver mused, depending on who you were. He always wondered why the enforcers wore dark glasses inside the casino.
“Come with us.” The taller one commanded, lightly touching a gray sleeve.
Panic flashed across the guy’s face, but only for a moment. He straightened and brushed off the bouncer’s touch. “Why? I’m a guest here.” He flashed his chips as if they were his number at an auction.
“Just a small matter the finance manager wants to clear up.”
Tiny beads of sweat formed on his thick face. For a moment, Silver thought gray suit was going to make a break for it, but he slowly stood up and pocketed his chips.
“Hold my spot for me.” He called back gallantly to the table, almost running into a slot machine. The bouncer steadied him and they proceeded towards the back office.
Silver smiled at the remaining customers at the table and began dealing the round.
Several hours later, a sliver Cessna Citation Mustang coasted down the runway of McCarran Airport, lights blinking. The plane had barely stopped when the door opened and a tall, silver haired gentleman appeared in the doorway.
“Thank you,” he waved to the pilot, impatiently waiting for the portable stairs. “Wait here for me. This shouldn’t take more than an hour, or I’ll call you.” His brow was furrowed, the look of a urbanite assigned to cleaning out pig stalls; he walked with angry precision down the stairs into the open the door of the waiting limo.
Arriving at the casino, the man was escorted inside to the back room; three men stood as he entered.
“So good of you to come. I’m Don, the manager here.” The first said, extending his hand. “Would you like something to drink?”
“Just tell me what the situation is.” The silver haired man commanded.
Don’s eyes widened. “Yes, please sit down.”
Once he was seated, Don began. “It seems that our friend here has exceeded his credit limit, then borrowed money on collateral that he doesn’t own. This is a problem.”
“I was just a little over my credit. I was on a roll, going to make it all up before they...”
The silver haired man shot a look at the man in the gray suit that made him stop mid-sentence. “It’s a good thing I was in LA. Otherwise I might not have come.” He turned toward Don. “I’ll bail him out -- On one condition.”
“Certainly. What can we do for you? We have many…”
“Don’t let him in any of your casinos again.”
“Done, sir.” Don nodded, “It would be a pleasure to comply with that request.”
They turned toward the man in the gray suit, who had sunk down in his chair.
“There are few people other than my family that I’d get up in middle of the night for. But we go way back. I’m bailing you out this time because you’re an old friend, but this is the last time. No more chances.” He paused. “Give me your word you won’t come back here … that you’ll quit gambling.”
Gray suit stared at the table, slowly nodding.
“Don, if you’d be so good as to call a cab for this sad specimen, I’ll be off. My driver is waiting.” Then the distinguished gentleman swept out of the room.
Don let out a sigh of relief, then disbelief as the man pulled his chips out of his gray suit pocket and waved them.
“I’ll just play these – might change my luck.”
This is a special preview for readers and not a part of the book. Does it make you curious...?
all the best,
It's election year -- political ads and news crowd the airways. As in any election year, you'll hear numerous references to the Constitution, the backbone of United States' government.
The Constitution is a remarkable document -- and so is the story about the personalities and circumstances that shaped its creation.
So, if you're interested in history, politics or characters, I'd recommend reading Plain, Honest Men - The Making of The American Constitution by Richard Beeman.
Beeman is a distinguished historian and his account of behind the scenes actions and compromises that shaped the Constitution is engrossing and engaging. In some places, it almost felt like reading fiction. It's excellent, unbiased and helps to understand the many complex issues that were faced by the founding fathers.
Add this one to your list of books to read!
The new novel is coming soon. But here's a taste...
Ray’s assistant let Sophia into his office and closed the door. He was faced toward the window rubbing his chin as he listened to the conference call blaring from the speaker. Hearing the door close, he turned gave her a quick wave and held up two fingers.
Sophia nodded and plunked down at the round table. She opened her notebook and pretended not to listen, tuning into the conversation while she relished the view. Because the corner office was on the 16th floor, she could see towering cumulonimbus clouds approaching across Lake Michigan, gigantic white puffs casting ominous gray shadows on the water.
Ray walked over to the phone on his desk. “Thank you, guys. I appreciate the update. Watch those quality numbers, I’d like to see them above the required range. I’m hopping off the call now, keep up the good work.” He clicked the phone off, made a note on his laptop then looked up and smiled.
“Think it will blow over?” Ray’s aquamarine eyes sparkled like the lake behind him. Sophia relaxed, noting his mood -- it was always more fun to talk with him after a call with good news.
Ray walked over to the leather couch. “Since I had my office re-arranged, I’ve gotten addicted to the view. It’s constantly changing — waves and boats when it's sunny, and if not, great cloud patterns. I can’t believe I worked with my back to the window before.”
“Perhaps you wanted to get more work done before?” She teased as she followed him to the couch, sitting next to him and crossing her legs carefully in her tight black skirt. The heel of new her beige pump slipped off and dangled, something her old shoes would never have done. Designer shoes were cheeky.
“No doubt.” He said casually.
It was actually the opposite. After a PR trip to Asia that turned perilous, Sophia had become a friend as well as his Account Exec. She knew Ray had instituted sweeping changes to his organization and life; the layout of the CEO office was just a visible indicator.
“How’s the family?” She prompted, knowing Ray loved talking about the two girls whose pictures filled every spot on his credenza. She’d also spied a new picture of Karen, his ex-wife.
“The girls are doing very well.” He paused. “I didn’t think you’d miss the new picture! And yes, you can consider me a success in your advice giving statistics. In fact, I’m now an official Soccer Dad.”
“Oh, don’t give me that astonished look.” He shook his head with a smile. “When you have kids, you’ll get to enjoy all sorts of activities you never imagined you’d be a fan of! Anyway, I see all of them every Saturday, and not just for soccer. Karen and I are officially dating again.”
Sophia eyebrows arched. “Like high school or college?” she asked playfully. “There's a difference.”
Sophia couldn’t resist her reporter’s need to dig, despite the fact that Ray often baited her by dangling information to make her curious before changing the subject.
I'm in the middle of reading a very good novel, "A Conspiracy of Paper" by David Liss. This engaging story is set in England in the 1700's and I'm enjoying the language and word choice that add to the authenticity of the historical setting.
For instance, he referred to a minor character as a sycophant. That's not a word I've heard often, but it describes a person who uses flattery to win favor from individuals wielding influence. This type of character is not unique to the 1700's -- they are still around. In fact, Sophia is tries to work with a sycophant in Book 3, but more about that later.
For more definitions of sycophant, click this link to the Free Dictionary
Insights on writing, characters, humor and other tidbits from the author of the "Scoops and Schemes" series of novels.
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