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!
The inspiration for Haiku can come from anywhere, even a walk though a familiar neighborhood.
I hope you enjoy these brief vignettes of summer.
They are fun to compose -- try adding yours in the comments.
Burnt grass, faded spots
Flowers hold their dying stalks
August heat hits hard
Lean back, feet in the sand
Red skin tingling and warm
Setting sun ends day
Sliver green patterns
Make reflections dance
Across the peaceful water
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!
Want to write? If you do, I found this very helpful blog post from Zen Habits. In it, he urges the reader to start writing every day. Which is not easy (believe me, I know!)
So here are the helpful tips:
1) Have a reason - having the motivation of informing, helping people or just getting that story out of your mind can help get your fingers moving.
2) Block off the time -- this can be hard as everyone is so busy and it's hard to save time for yourself. Remember #1.
3) Set unforgettable reminders -- as with any habit, if you remind yourself in a way that motivates, you'll more likely to do it.
4) Do it in short bursts -- it's easier to say "I'll write for 5 minutes" than committing an hour. I discovered this when I participated in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) a few years ago.
5) Be mindful, grateful, and focused -- don't lose your sense of wonder or gratitude for being able to express yourself, even if it is just for 5 minutes.
If you'd like to read the original article*, here's the link: http://zenhabits.net/daily/
Let me know if this helps you!
Thanks for reading ,
*this is not an endorsement of the Zen Habits course. I do enjoy his blogs, though.
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.
Insights on writing, characters, humor and other tidbits from the author of the "Scoops and Schemes" series of novels.
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