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Finding characters

Writer's don't have magical powers. Using skills we hone and sharpen we weave tales of enchantment that pull you onto the page and leave you spell bound, but we don't actually carry wands or sprinkle fairy dust. We are highly imaginative but we can't actually pull characters out of thin air.


So where do our characters come from? You'd be surprised.


Yes, I did say we can't pull them out of thin air but it sometimes does work that way. I'm not talking in circles.


None of us exist in a vacuum. It can be something as simple a laugh in the next aisle of a grocery store. You don't see the person but in your mind's eye, a character takes shape. They dress a little bohemian, maybe. They are vegan, rather, they want to be vegan but can't resist real cheese. They prefer cats over dogs because they relate to the cat's air of smug superiority. But cats don't like them. Their apartment manager doesn't allow dogs, even as a consolation prize, so they opt for a gerbil instead. A gerbil that hates them. It sits in the corner glaring at them through malevolent beady eyes.


You see what's happening here? You've never seen this person, but an entire world is building around that one sound you heard for less than five seconds. A simple laugh. But what kind of a laugh is it? Is person who is hated by a gerbil the kind of person to have a carefree laugh?


This is the life of a writer. We take elements of the world around us and build on it. Characters take shape out of it. The vapid hairdresser who can't remember any of her customer's names but can fix any hair problem known to man. Have I met her? Possibly. Maybe a tiny piece of her is buried somewhere deep in my psyche and is waiting to come out and meet the chatty barista- who just happens to be pursuing her law degree. Oh wait, that was a move, right? Or close to it.


A writer absorbs their surroundings like a sponge. The smells of an outdoor grill, the soft coos emitted by a happy baby, the riotous color of a farmer's market. Your character sitting in the depressing diner? Where did that come from? Remember that trip to Phoenix you took years ago and had to make that stop?


Every experience gets stamped in indelible ink on our memories. It's then filed by an chaotically organized brain that stands ready to pull them out at the slightest whiff. 


Nothing is wasted. The six senses are always reporting, the brain always recording. Life is always happening.


This is where our characters come from. 






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A Writer In Spring

Is there a more definite end to winter than a robin in the spring?
Is there a more definite end to winter than a robin in the spring? 

We're all too familiar with the rules of quarantine at this point. While the bands are loosening a bit, many of us are still spending the majority of our time close to home. In the interest of not going completely crazy, I started a few projects to keep me busy. Work, writing and family aside, I wanted to do something a bit different. So I started a bird feeding station.


It sounds fancy. It's really just putting out bird seed on the stump outside my office window. It's been great to see how many of the little feathered creatures have taken me up on my offer of free food. Really, they are incredibly generous little creatures. I have chickadees, cardinals, turtle doves and, of course, blue jays. 


You learn so much about the natural world. For instance, did you know that blue jays are known to be bullies? I've watched them gang up on the other birds and actually force the little chickadees to eat the seed off the ground. It's a negative stereotype that they don't have to live up to, but they whole heartedly do.


Now that spring as truly unpacked, the robins are here. Did you know that robins are also bullies? Yep. These little guys aren't all sunshine and rainbows. I have a theory that they know they are the heralds of spring and feel that gives them a right to push us around.


In addition to the birds, I have the squirrels and one scary skinny bunny rabbit. I won't mention the squirrels again. Our relationship has been fraught with friction and I'm still healing. But the little bunny has caught my attention. He eats off the ground but I'm fairly certain he's not eating seeds. I feel so bad for the little guy, I almost made him a cheeseburger. No really, this can't be healthy.


But this is life. In a few weeks I'll be starting my garden and I'm sure my relationship with the bunny will then be fraught with friction. He's not showing any interest in promising to leave my vegetables alone.


But this is nature in spring. All new beginnings and fresh promises. All bright eyed wonder and mysterious, tenuous hope. It's just a few birds, a couple of squirrels and one scary skinny bunny, but while I sit with my open laptop, it all serves as a reminder and inspiration. There's a whole 'nother world just under our twitching noses.



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Do you really need a sizzling romance to make your story great?

Some like it hot!!
Some like it hot!

What makes a good story? I've recently heard it said that a story isn't interesting if it doesn't have a good romance in it. I disagree. I mean, romance in and of itself is great but what of the chase? What of the mysterious subplot that slinks and swirls just beneath surface? What of the misdirection and miscommunication muddying the water and leaving your head swimming with questions?


Sure, in Pride and Prejudice the confusion surrounding Mr. Bingley and Jane made for a great plot but halfway through, when the romance was thought to be dead, the mystery remained. Everyone was left to wonder what went wrong.


Remember the race in Ben Hur? It was the epitome of good versus evil. Every turn of the polished carriage wheels, every clank of the horses' hooves pulled you to  to the edge of your seat. Would Ben Hur finally have his revenge against his one-time friend, Messala? Would his family ever be reunited?


What about Moby Dick? Could a man really avenge himself on a whale? Or Orwell's 1984? These plots centered around man's struggle against their environment. That struggle, that pitch and yaw, forced you to sit up, pay attention and bellow with the hero when things go dim for them.


So what makes a story great?


The characters.


It always comes back to the characters, even if that character isn't necessarily human. As a people, we crave hope. If the struggle glues us to our seats, the simple prospect of hope pulls us to the edge of it. It's that collective breath that we release when the hero just makes it. We sit there, our fingernails digging into the arms of our seats as the carriage races around the turn and a wheel collapses. To our relief, the hero finally makes it. This is their time. They can exact true revenge.


But they don't.


They show mercy.


We collapse, eyes wide, lungs full as we drink in this new turn, this new concept. Eventually we close the cover and sit with that tome between our clenched fingers ruminating on what we've just experienced. Is it plausible? We think maybe so, maybe not. In real life would we forgive so easily?


The thoughts stay with us. The characters, the moments, the laughter, the tears, these we remember even as we walk the dog, wash the dishes and check the mail.


And that, my friend, is what makes it a truly great story.


But that's just my opinion.





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It's finally happening! Azriel has a release date!

Azriel, tale of the Watchmen, will be dropping June 15,2021. Stay tuned for further updates.
Azriel, tale of the Watchmen, will be dropping June 15,2021. Stay tuned for further updates.
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