Category Archives: Character Development

Thoughts about how characters come alive.

My 250-Word Bomb

As In It Didn’t Even Make it Through the First Round of a Micro Fiction Competition

So, I’m just releasing my thoughts about this into words. Thanks for allowing me to indulging in this exercise with you.

At the very least, it has been a huge learning experience participating in the NYC Midnight writing challenges. The prompts and random genres are hard! But I was bit by the competition bug and have been compelled to torture myself in a few of these events where you only have a day or two to write according to prompts. I managed to score points for two stories in the flash fiction contest, but not enough to go to the third round. So, failing to even get an honorable mention in my latest endeavor put a big dent in my day yesterday.

Why am I whining? I’m not really. I have learned so much from these competitions, and the feedback from the judges is detailed and well thought out. I had the idea that I could share this with a few readers (if anyone is willing) to shine some light on what the judges say was lacking.

I was assigned Action/Adventure, Catching an Insect, and the word Clean to use in my story.

Now I admit, Action/Adventure is not my thing, though I had fun with it in my short story, A Leap Through the Elder Oak, which I shared for winter solstice. But I gave it a shot because I do love a challenge. I was pretty happy with the plot that popped into my head as I mulled over the prompts. 

The main issue was that the story failed to have a direct action scene. Oops. I’m fairly certain Action/Adventure needs a direct action scene. I thought dodging between skyscrapers in a squirrel suit was pretty direct, but that’s just me. Kenji might have been a little too contemplative for an action story. At least the judges said it was a compelling story despite the lack of direct action, and Kenji was a compelling protagonist. I’ll take it! 

Then they said I needed more backstory for the brothers. I get that. The judges were confused about the purpose of the story, was one brother good, one bad? Both bad? But backstory in 250 words? Hmmm. And I think my main theme was pretty clear. It was about family, so it didn’t matter if either of them were good or bad. One brother was desperate to save the other, and he risked himself to do it. Again, 250 words… how do you give them both a backstory plus the story in 250 words? Sorry. I’m repeating myself.

They discussed the idea that the omen of the moth could be bad, or it could be good depending on the reader. I’m okay with that. It’s what I intended. This lovely moth in fact represents portents both good or bad depending on the culture. I wanted to leave that up to the reader, whoever you may be.

Finally, they said the paragraph where I use the required prompt word “clean” could have been shorter, less descriptive to allow room for more backstory. But how the heck would “clean” fit in without Kenji looking around his environment? That’s a stumper, but that is probably the main reason why I need to work more at writing good micro fiction.

I asked a couple friends. One thought I’ve been mulling over is that my point of view might be confusing. It felt like it was always Kenji, but let me know what you think about that.

Well, here it is for better or worse. And thanks again!

I’d love any feedback to help me make it better because I never let my losing stories just die, and you might have the perfect idea how to get that backstory in. That would be a fantastic thing.

The Death’s Head Omen

Kenji suited up, knelt on one knee, propped his elbow on the other, then used his mini scope to confirm the coordinates. His target was locked in.

Jumping from a high-rise balcony in the dark to land on the roof of a warehouse three miles away was crazy. The wingsuit flight might kill him any number of ways. An accurate parachute landing would be a miracle. Doing it in the middle of a drug deal raised the stakes impossibly high.

But he would arrive unseen, and it was his best option to save his brother. Kaiyo would do the same for him.

Still, prickling sweat mocked him. Made him doubt his abilities. Kenji needed an omen. As the thought entered his head, a shadow flitted across his vision. A death’s head hawkmoth. Up here so far, and all alone? Like Kenji in his desperation.

Swiveling, he scanned his surroundings one last time. It was beautiful amid the tops of the gleaming buildings. Muted, like the outer reaches of space. Pristine. The glass wall behind him was so clean he could see through to the east end of the hundred and first floor.

He captured the portentous insect between cupped palms, absorbed its fluttering life, then spread his hands. It flew free. He aimed his body and did the same. Familiar excitement took hold, and the air currents gripped him as he hurtled twenty-five miles an hour between gleaming skyscrapers and flashing neon, zigzagging towards the only family he had left.

My Pod People Went on Vacation this Weekend.

A Little Harry Potter Themed Inspiration for my Pod People This Week in a WIP Warrior FB Challenge!

So what did I do instead of write? I stitched. I have been writing nearly every day for a year and a half. But I once enjoyed other crafts before the…

My Pod People Went on Vacation this Weekend.

My Pod People Seeded in My Brain by Aliens are Starting to Reproduce!

Art by Dom Qwek

Okay… so it’s not as scary as it sounds… It’s just the way my new year is shaping up.

I’m talking about my expanding world of developing characters, and if I’m honest, it feels closer to being invaded by a litter of 99 Dalmatian puppies frolicking and vying for a standout place in my stories than impregnation by horrific alien parasite beasts.

If you’ve been following this thread of musings, you know I’m fond of expounding on how my burgeoning characters mysteriously began showing up only a few short years ago when I inexplicably began writing fiction, which led me to conclude they must have been seeded by aliens who conspire to use the human race to produce their entertainment.

I say keep it coming, Pod Seeders!

But what I’m really talking about here are all the short story submission opportunities that seem to be due almost on top of each other. Do they all get together and plan it this way? Every magazine or competition I’m interested in has a deadline in February, pretty much all at once. But that just means my little podlings are popping out right and left from the deep recesses of my mind. I’m good with that. I hope the stories never stop coming, the characters never stop developing, and I always have too much to write. That is my idea of a good life. And that is what I’m looking forward to in 2023.

I’ll let you know around April if I survive the first quarter.

Now, if I could just get to that point where I didn’t have to spend forty hours of every week working for someone besides my Pod People… oh, what I could do with that time…

Happy Writing in 2023!

More Pod People Seeded in my Brain by Aliens – Being Taken Over is Exciting!

So long as they’re giving me something and not taking… Hmmm. Or are they? Well, what I don’t know won’t hurt me. Meanwhile, characters, aka my Pod …

More Pod People Seeded in my Brain by Aliens – Being Taken Over is Exciting!

My Pod People are Still Clamoring for Release. Stories Won’t Stop! Happy Winter Writing!

I Finished my first Writing Battle! What an Experience.

Click on the Writing Battle Website image above to check it out.

The excellent feedback from my peers will be invaluable. My story had some good points that survived consistently, and the parts that need work came through strong but clear, so I have a basis to make improvements.

I will post my story after tweaking the spots I agree need fixing. Because it was a fun story to write and utterly entertaining (to me anyway). And now I can make it better with all the great suggestions. Some feedback, I didn’t agree with. And that’s okay. It’s my story, and peer reviews are subjective. And I am so joining the next one!

My genre draw (you draw tarot cards for the genre, subject, and character – and can redraw and remix them up to a point before the deadline) was Cannibal Comedy, one I’ve never even heard of let alone attempted to write. Now, I’m very familiar with the nuances, though comedy is really hard! My story tended to be more on the dark side, using irony, and tongue-in-cheek.

My character was the ferryman, and the subject was a masked party. The story… The Passengers. Stay tuned.

At Least My Pod People Could be Immortal

So much of my focus and efforts go into creating my characters (aka my Pod People) and bringing them to life through the written word, that I lose sight of the fact that once they are out there, they might live in the world of mankind forever… or as long as mankind exists, and the digital content or printed copies stay intact and available… But I, as their creator, don’t even have the potential to last too many more decades, maybe not even too many more years… weeks, or days…? I’m at that age after all.

It makes me wonder if that is why I create them.

What do you think about that? Do you write stories so that a piece of yourself will always exist, so long as there are humans out there who might read them? I know we write for many reasons, but I think I will have to admit this is one of mine.

Artwork by Jay Carpenter

When I think about that idea more, it makes me realize my Pod People have the upper hand. I mistakingly believed it was me who had the power over them, but it’s the other way around. That’s okay, so long as they do their job and stick in the minds of my readers.

And they have their work cut out for them…

Artwork by Timi Honkanen

More Pod People Seeded in my Brain by Aliens – Being Taken Over is Exciting!

So long as they’re giving me something and not taking… Hmmm. Or are they? Well, what I don’t know won’t hurt me.

Meanwhile, characters, aka my Pod People, are bursting out of me and burgeoning all over the pages, and I now have two amazing Works in Progress, which I’m having a hard time putting down and seem to want to work on simultaneously. Anyone else getting some great new ideas for stories this summer? Let me know in the comments. Meanwhile, enjoy some quirky and intriguing alien artwork by William Louis McDonald

Art by William Louis McDonald

Bursting! Or Consuming?…

Just too many cool things going on here…

Now I Know Why My Pod People Aren’t Introverts… or Are They?

Many writers classify themselves as introverted because they are part of a select group of people who can create new worlds in their head, work in isolation for hours on end, and persevere to get every word just right all at the same time.

Louise Waters

Ms. Waters also writes:

Writing is hard. Not everyone has the capacity to create stories or articles out of thin air. More often than not, writing is an activity that requires solitude, which is why some of the world’s best writers are also introverts. As famous YA author John Green once said, “Writing is something you do alone. It’s a profession for introverts who want to tell you a story but don’t want to make eye contact while doing it.”

Is this why my pod people often start out as loners, then become part of a pack? Hmmm…

Having selected those snippets above that leapt out at me from researching on Google, it should be noted that Ms. Waters, guest blogger for Jennifer Kahnweiler, declares herself an ambivert.

am·bi·vert

/ˈambəˌvərt/

noun

PSYCHOLOGY

A person whose personality has a balance of extrovert and introvert features.

I’ve done a lot of those personality tests over the years during “team building” work meetings, at conferences, wherever. But, for some reason this short blog went a long way towards helping me figure myself out. Wait! I haven’t figured myself out yet? Am I the only one who’s still working at it in their 50s? Does anybody ever figure themselves out completely?

I would still be in the dark if I hadn’t started writing novels two years ago, and writing every day since. Because now this resonates in me, big time. I used to think I was more of an extravert. Maybe I was at some point. Now, I want nothing more than to tell stories from the place I’m happiest in. My solitude.

As in everything in life, there are no absolutes. I believe we all become something different at different stages of our lives, choosing different combinations that help us cope with our surroundings at any given moment. Sometimes it’s because we’re growing, sometimes it’s because we’re taking a step backwards. None of it matters so long as it gets us where we want to be eventually.

Camera shy guests

I’ll be putting this to practice over the next months with my fellow indie writers. My colleagues are happy to step up and let me interview them. However, I’ve been getting a pretty consistent message. Camera shy to the last! So, stay tuned to see which ones I can coax (including myself) into a video, or which ones are happy to chat with us in a blog. I’m just excited to see where this will go, and willing to be inspired by them however they want to share.

My goal with reaching out and talking with other writers and all kinds of creative people is to let all of you know that we’re in the same boat, struggling to become better writers, artists, crafters, creators… who want to learn and share what we’ve discovered.

Top resource for today’s blog

Jennifer B. Kahnweiler, PhD, is a bestselling author and one of the top global leadership speakers on introverts in the workplace. Her pioneering books, The Introverted LeaderQuiet Influence, The Genius of Opposites, and Creating Introvert-Friendly Workplaces have been translated into 18 languages. The Introverted Leader was named one of the top 5 business books by The Shanghai Daily.

Artwork by Ryan J Neal

My Pod People Get my Music!

Do you insert references to your favorite music through the lives of your characters? (I fondly refer to them as my pod people. After all, they’re extensions of my alien-seed-planted mind, so why wouldn’t they love my music?)

I love doing this. It plunges me into the atmosphere of my scene, and I hope it does the same for the reader. I have extremely eclectic tastes in music, so it’s a lot of fun peppering my writing with just the right note to insert at the right moment. Check out book one, Ursus Borealis, for a great scene with Andras and Selena, while she’s wearing a t-shirt with SRV’s beat up Stratocaster stretched across her… chest.

My husband and I were going down memory lane over breakfast and discussing the concert-going highlights of our youth. He has vivid flashbacks of “Terrible Ted” at the Sacramento Memorial Auditorium in ’79. Yes, decades later, he is still grateful for witnessing in person Ted Nugent leaping 15 feet off stacked amplifiers as they swayed precariously under him, landing in clouds of backlit smoke, while tearing out “the riff of all time.”

As we talked and he described it just today, I found this newspaper clipping and it reports it just like he remembers. Made his day. Who said music doesn’t leave a life-long impression? Of course, our parents did not in any way think this was music. “You’re going to see Terrible Who?” (Actually, I think that moniker comes later in his career. His personal life was as shocking as his music. If it still is… I wouldn’t know. But he’s still killing that riff.)

From the Concert Database

Granted, our combined excursions weren’t extensive, which makes the handful we managed to partake in more special. I think my highlight was David Bowie at the Oakland Coliseum in ‘83 for his Serious Moonlight Tour. We were smack in the middle of the huge field, and Mr. Bowie was a speck, but his penchant for drama came through… Bowie performing MacBeth… and singing? Oh yeah!

Photo by Paula Parisi

My Horror Story Pod People are Redeemable… maybe… they haven’t decided quite yet.

Or is it that they are tortured souls? No matter how dark the pod person is that was seeded in my brain by alien’s with questionable intent, I can’t seem to allow them to be pure evil. Is that a flaw in me, the creator, or just the way my pod people want to grow? Are the aliens in the universe trying to tell me something?

No matter the reason, my vampires, faeries, shifters, or megalomaniac aliens are a hell of a lot of fun to write.

Is there a rule that they must always be the monsters humans are driven to slay? Or can they simply be tortured souls forced into circumstances requiring evil deeds, always searching for a way out? An inspiration to the human struggle? I don’t think I’m alone in the desire to make my pod people redeemable. So many fabulous characters in fiction follow that path. So, I won’t feel guilty if my fingers push out a story over my keyboard with a light at the end of the tunnel… but the story isn’t finished yet…

Click here for a wonderful poem encapsulating the human experience by Dr. Marie Dezelic that I just happened to find in a Google search. A snippet follows:

In that lonely place where no other human can actually accompany him. He is never fully understood to the capacity he wants or imagines he can be.

dr. Marie dezelic

I am excited to share that I submitted my first attempt at pure horror in tiny bits for a 100-word horror short story submission to Shacklebound Books, a small press that publishes anthologies and collections in the science fiction, fantasy, and horror genres. Check them out. I have no idea if my three stories about vampire brothers will be accepted, possibly not dark enough, but I’ll keep you posted and share them when I’m able.

It was a totally fun exercise, never-the-less. Fingers crossed!

For my published stories populated with redeemable… maybe… monster pod people, click here. I’d love to know if you think they should have a light at the end of their tunnels.

My Pod People Don’t Like Mondays

How can I keep Mondays from being the imagination killer? It’s an awful feeling when that first alarm clock of the week goes off, and my pod people (otherwise known as my developing characters as illustrated in my previous blogs), who have been living full lives and acting out full scenes in my mind all weekend, run screaming into the shadows at that annoying claxon, cringing from the harsh light of the “day job.”

My ten-hour shift seems endless until I can return home and try to coax them out again. But they’re usually too traumatized from the violent interruption to their existence.

Every Sunday afternoon, dread for the Monday alarm builds like a weight on my shoulders. My pod people start milling around, searching for their best scenes, which means Sunday afternoons are my best writing day, all of us striving to get the most on the page before the Monday death knell.

Sigh… Enough of that. I’m going to finish my allotted 16 ounces of coffee, engage with the real world for ten hours, work hard, maybe go for a walk before it’s blazing hot, and be grateful for my three-day weekends.

For more Writer’s Life musings, check out my blogs. You can find my thrilling, fun fantasy romance adventures on My Books page. Have a great Monday!

Burgeoning Like a Pod

Close up on young pumpkin flower on dark blur background. Blooming. Bud. Burgeon. Vegetable. Courgette, squash, gourd. Farming, gardening. Nature. Plant. – 10 August 2020, Montreal, Canada

This week, I’ve been discussing the concept of creating characters like so many alien pods left to seed in my imagination by some random galactic force… Maybe the god of prose? In other words, faceless golems waiting to be molded by words on a page. It’s only the words that have the power to animate them, get them to act and interact with their fellow pods. But wow, when they take form and start living, there is no end to what they can do, the trouble they can get into, the bonds they form.

It occurred to me that I’m not so different from them. I was just as featureless when I started writing, until my pods developed, jump started my sluggish imagination, and gave me life. I had no idea when I sat down to write my first book that all these words were in me, all these pods waiting to sprout into characters with a myriad personalities.

Is this why they call us burgeoning writers?

When you sit down to your keyboard and a story comes to life, do you feel like a plant pod opening under the sun? Drop me a comment and let me know.


Just my random pod people ramblings…

I’d love it if you took a moment to check out my Books rich with so many pod transformations, characters I know you will love.