Monthly Archives: April 2013

Why writing can be therapeutic..building up characters so I can take them down!

Blogging about the process…while I write The Kaleidoscope, a Novel of Unusual Circumstances – Entry 2

My main character, Harold, is the most complicated character, and he should be, because most of the book will be from his point of view- POV. And because of that, he’s the one whom I should pay the most attention to in preparing to write. Because I challenged myself to really get into his head, I have been studying how other authors do it.

To make it workable, I will concentrate on three major areas:

  1. Use details that resonate – sprinkling in small moments from Harold’s memories will make him seem more real, less cardboard
  2. Demonstrate motivation with feelings– people are emotional beings, and before we form words, we feel our hurts and hates.*
  3. Know a character’s backstory, shames, accomplishments, and what he WANTS, even if every detail doesn’t seem important at first.

I read a couple of novels recently that demonstrated these points really well. Tammy Greenwood’s “Two Rivers,” is a first person POV of a widower with a young daughter who becomes involved with a girl stranded after a train wreck. Greenwood’s depiction of Harper meets all the rules for writing a dimensional character. From the beginning, we’re drawn into Harper’s world:

Photo courtesy of Wanacommons - Kass Lamb

Photo courtesy of Wanacommons – Kass Lamb

“Once, a long time ago, I made a split-second decision that has made me question who I am, what I am capable of, every day since. And this instant, this horrible moment, has haunted every other moment of my life. I don’t think I am a bad man, but sometimes I just don’t know.” (Kindle loc 222)

Immediately, we’re into Harper’s head, feeling his angst and also, cleverly enticed by Greenwood to keep turning the pages to find out what happened so long ago. Conflict and mystery!

Some complain that deeply written character-based stories have little plot, but Greenwood’s able to handle both because her character’s thoughts and memories help to move the plot forward, adding dimension:

“On Christmas Eve we always stayed up until midnight. And just as my mother’s Windsor chimes rang out, my father would make a big show of going to get the Yule log (which was actually nothing special, just the biggest piece of wood on the wood pile), and my mother would ceremonially disappear into their bedroom. A few minutes later, she would come out Church in snowwith a handful of splinters from the previous year’s log, which she kept in a shoebox under her bed. This tradition, pilfered from her distant European ancestors, was meant to keep the house safe from fire and other demons. I hadn’t thought about the irony of this, one of my mother’s few but beloved customs, until this moment. I felt suddenly wrecked with nostalgia.” (Kindle loc 3771)

Harper recalls this childhood memory with such detail we feel as if we’re there with him…no! We feel as if it’s OUR memory. It would take me two more pages to list all the details Greenwood packed in here about her MC. You’ll have to read for yourself why this memory is another important tactic. By the way kids, did you spot the RESONANCE? Another important tool.

Another master at character development is author Joanne Bischof. In “Be Still My Soul,” bad boy Gideon finds himself in a shotgun wedding. (Bad boys are particularly tough to cast as main characters, but Bischof’s a genius at making us love and hate him at the same time. In this scene, Gid regards his life situation so we know how he feels about his dilemma:

Be-Still-My-Soul-3D-Cover“Whether he wanted to or not, he’d have to take responsibility for his family…The thought sobered Gideon, fueling the fire under his feet. He would have to find work soon. And a house. He could not offer his family much, not in eight months, but there would be a roof over their heads…Through his own blood and sweat, he would spend the rest of his days repaying an unseen debt. Apparently God hadn’t been satisfied with his sacrifices already. With his fingertips, Gideon turned his glass in a slow circle on the table.

Figures.” (paperback, p 135.)

*Each author paints an internal picture, never using the words “feel” or “thought” but actually walking the reader through the thought process.

To do that, an author skillfully shows, not tells using natural beats, action and emotion. “To convey feelings well, a writer must also utilize nonverbal communication, which can be broken down into three elements: physical signals, (body language and actions), internal sensations (visceral reactions) and mental responses (thoughts).” “The Emotion Thesaurus” (Kindle loc 93)

That’s talent.

Why does this work so well? There’s actually psychology involved!

In “Million Dollar Outlines,” David Farland explains that when reading fiction, our minds don’t separate what’s going on with a character and reality. It’s like we really get in there and feel the experiences. A surface treatment of “he anguished” or “worried about” wouldn’t provide the same response in us, the reader, as the two examples.

Another ingredient that’s important is conflict. Notice in both samples, each of the guys struggles against something. They’re not cardboard guys wearing the latest jeans and cologne, they have spiritual selves, railing against God in Gid’s case, or being chased by guilt in Harper’s.

Back to Kaleidoscope. Here is Harold’s character description, so far:

Harold XXX (no last name, yet) a 39 year-old divorcee, works in a bank processing commercial loan paperwork. His ex-wife, Georgia, left him for the Sparklett’s delivery guy, telling Harold he was boring and dull, and would never make anything of his life. Ruddy complected, he pays great attention to his appearance, pressed slacks and white button down shirts, laundered weekly. He also keeps his cubicle at work immaculate, and expects everyone else to do the same. He lives in an apartment complex within walking distance, across a city park from his work, making it convenient since he doesn’t drive (having failed every driving test he’s ever taken). Harold has a plan to win Georgia back; he’s convinced that if he gets a promotion he will once again earn her respect, but first he must correct all his officemate’s errors, which will prove his worthiness for the job visiting commercial properties to evaluate them for their loan status. But since he doesn’t drive…

Here are the books I’ve referenced in this post:

“Two Rivers,” by T. Greenwood

“Be Still My Soul,” by Joanne Bischof

“Million Dollar Outlines,” and “Drawing on the Power of Resonance in Writing,” by David Farland

“Building Believable Characters” by Mark McCutcheon

“Rivet your Readers with Deep Point of View,” by Jill Elizabeth Nelson

“The Emotion Thesaurus, A Writer’s Guide to Character Expression,” Angela Ackerman & Becca Puglish

What books would you recommend that drew you into the character? Books on craft?

What do you think of Harold so far?

*update! Kristen Lamb has a blog that you HAVE to subscribe to if you are serious about writing. Here is one she just posted on complicated characters. Creating Multi-dimensional characters. Must. Read.

 

The Kaleidoscope – a novel from Inception to Conception

The KaleidoscopeI’m asked two questions most often about my writing. One is, “how do you come up with story ideas?” and the other usually centers on the actual methods…translate: how many hours are spent planning, plotting and preparing before actually setting pen to paper?

Since I’m all about FRESH STARTS here, and I am beginning a new stand-alone novel, The Kaleidoscope, a Novel of Unusual Circumstances, (This is my working title, and as with everything else here, open for discussion.) I thought it would be terrifying  fun to post along the process as the story takes shape.

THE CHALLENGE

I’ve added some personal challenges (besides blogging the journey) to up the ante. I want to grow as a writer, and as I study from some terrific teachers, I will post what I’m reading and studying.

So please, join me as I take you backstage so to speak, as my idea becomes a finished book.

Practice, practice, practice.

Practice, practice, practice.

If you’ve written before, or heck, learned or practiced anything while others watched, maybe a new sport, talent or craft, you know how it feels to bare all. I applaud you for that. The accountability can be scary, right? But we’re all friends here. Can I get an amen?

Most writers are advised to do several things: take classes, go to conferences and join a critique group (and/or find a critique partner who isn’t related to you…or in your employ, LOL.) Check, check, and check.

I’m proud to say I have had some of the most awesome critique partners who speak truth in kindness. (Shout out to Rebecca Farnbach and her group; and Ashley Ludwig, Dona Watson, and Joanne Bischof!)

Joanne and Bev

L-R, Ashley, Joanne, me, Dona

I’m eager to get your input, so if you have a question, have read a great book or site that adds to the conversation, or even if you sense a wrong turn, see a misstep or catch me in a foul-up, please weigh in. I welcome your input and always covet your prayers.

And if you’re writing, I’d love to hear from you!

Beverly on Sissy

I used to show hunter-jumpers, and when my green horse got comfortable taking small hurdles, my coach would remove the pegs, and raise the top rail for a higher challenge. Literally, I am raising the bar on myself, and hopefully this preparation will bring me a clean round when it’s showtime.

 

Let’s Roll!

Here’s how I conceived of “The Kaleidoscope.”

One of the techniques I wanted to improve upon was to “deepen my POV,” to build believable characters who are dimensional and complicated. To write a book where the people begin to seem so real, you know their thoughts, childhoods, secrets and shames.

imagesThat’s good casting, folks.

You have to test a character’s chops to discover motivation, and one way is to offer them a challenge. So I searched for a method or idea to really scare the daylights out of my main character (MC).

01I used to work in the properties department of live theatre, providing handheld items for actors to carry, so props are special to me, close to my heart. I searched for something that would be used throughout the book to further the trouble my MC would face, something he would learn to love and hate. (Every story needs trouble in River City!) Beware, I will use a mash up of theater and horse riding metaphors, LOL. #selfediting!

I considered using a snow globe for my prop. Somehow the MC finds or becomes its guardian. But that bothered me for two reasons: a) it’s kind of cliché, overdone, and b) I also wanted the image revealed to be a secret, visible only to the viewer… so my MC would have to get to know the person better after they looked.

snowglobe purchased istockphoto

Snowglobes evoke winter, another reason I passed on using one.

Voila, I decided a magical kaleidoscope would work! (I’ll discuss exactly how the MC is terrified by it in a future post, but don’t worry, we’re not writing horror…um…I don’t think.)

Before I was settled on a ‘scope, though I also searched Amazon to see if there were many books using Kaleidoscopes as a motif, and found a few, but none using the plot device I plan. Perfect.

As you’ll notice, I haven’t identified what genre I am going for. Yet. But I’m beginning to see lines forming. Because I will attempt to write deep POV, I’m dabbling in literary fiction (with my little pinky), and a magical ‘scope, so the fantasy element is now there. (NEVER thought I’d write fantasy.)

I’ve been writing for mainly a female audience until now (THE SEASONS OF CHERRYVALE), and I wanted to really stretch myself, so I decided my MC should be a man.

I’ve been reading “Million Dollar Outlines” by David Farland, and he reminded me that by casting the MC as a man, I might attract more male readers. (More on this EXCELLENT book in a later post.)

Aaannd…not only will I no longer be able to fall back on “how would a woman think/react,” I will have to do my homework and pay attention when I write how a guy thinks.

Which is a perfect setup for the next post, which will cover some terrific books I read to prepare myself for laying down the groundwork for the plot, setting, characters and other tools.

To see the pictures I’m gathering around the casting and setting for Kaleidoscope, check out my Pinterest board.

I’d love to hear your stories of making fresh starts, thoughts about writing, or what new talent, hobby or endeavor you’re challenging yourself with. If I’m really inspired, I might enter you to win random giveaways from my overstuffed shelves.

Bev out!

Be sure to check out Christina Katz’ list of terrific freelance writing books!

 

Authors in Bloom

 Hello hopper!

The contest is now over, winners will be chosen, contacted and announced soon! Thanks for your participation, and please visit the bloggers you’ve enjoyed meeting, buy their books, tell your friends, and know we thank you for “supporting your local authors!” 

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Welcome to my corner of the world where I celebrate FRESH STARTSnew beginnings, and explore nature’s beauty in THE SEASONS OF CHERRYVALE series.

FRESH START STORIES, because everyone needs one from time to time.

What better way to start your own fresh start than by sprucing up your garden? Here’s my tip to boost your flowers, vegetables, succulents, or even houseplants, to their lushest growing season ever.

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Besides water, the correct amount of sunlight is crucial to nurturing growing things, so I am giving away a SUNCALC probe that will take the guesswork out of what you can plant, and where.

With the high cost of groceries, like me you might  be inspired to begin a vegetable garden. In FRESH START SUMMER,  the main character, Grace,  enjoys gardening, and then bikes around the CherryPath to see what’s growing in Cherryvale, where neighbors care, gardeners share, and God allows do-overs.

Fresh Start Summer2-1-1

Winner of the 2011 San Diego Christian Writer’s Guild “Nancy Bayless Excellence in Writing” Award

Named one of Real Simple.com’s Top 21 Great Summer Books, and a finalist in the 2011 Grace Awards.

Praise for FRESH START SUMMER – “Lovable–and some not-so-lovable–characters, a delightful setting, and a humorous voice all worked together to captivate in Beverly Nault’s Fresh Start Summer… Indulge yourself in a little hometown nostalgia, where friends close ranks to help and protect their neighbors. Novel Rocket and I recommend it as athoroughly good read.” Ane Mulligan, Novel Rocket (from Amazon review)

DSC_0103So, if  you have a pesky spot where the petunias pout or the wisterias whine, you can know if the problem stems from too much or not enough sun.

To enter to win the SUNCALC:

  • Like me on Facebook or follow me on Twitter (leave a comment here letting me know!) or
  • Sign up to receive my newsletter (2-3 times a year or when news breaks) or
  • Buy one (or more!) of my books (come back here and leave a comment so I’ll know to enter your name), or
  • BONUS: If you do one of the above, plus share your own experience with making a fresh start in the comments section, I’ll enter your name twice!
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SUNCAL takes the guesswork out of where to put plants based on”FULL SUN,” “PARTIAL SUN, and SHADE.

From Amazon’s description – It accurately measures the amount of accumulated light that falls on a gardener’s specific location of their property, providing you with the ability to match a plant’s light requirements (full sun, partial sun,etc.) with the actual light conditions as measured by SunCalc. All gardeners need to do is place SunCalc at the desired location, turn it on and 12 hours later return to read the results. Full Sun, Partial Sun, Partial Shade or Full Shade. A $24.00 value!  

Here’s the link you’ll need to continue on the hop:

Thanks for stopping by, and please check back often for new titles. 

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Other books in the series: Autumn Changes, Hearts Unlocked, and Christmas Bells

 

 

 

Kaleidoscopes: Tubes of many colors, where did they come from?

Kaleidscope

Sir David Brewster invented the Kaleidoscope in 1816. A combination of the words, kalos, or beautiful, and eidos or form, and scope or watcher, Kaleidoscope means “beautiful form watcher.”

Brewster’s first ‘scope was constructed of pieces of colored glass and other found objects reflected by mirrors or glass lenses set at angles, creating patterns when spun around.

In the 1870’s, American Charles Bush improved on the design, and began manufacturing them for mass marketing.

The kaleidoscope creates reflections of the objects inside the tube. If the mirror angle is evenly divisible by 360 degrees, the pattern will be symmetrical. For instance, a mirror set at 60 degrees will generate a pattern of six regular sectors. A mirror angle at 45 degrees will make eight equal sectors, and an angle of 30 degrees will make twelve.

From handcrafted or homemade, to mass manufactured, kaleidoscopes are enjoyed by all ages, collected, traded and treasured for their beauty and simplicity.

Sources:

http://inventors.about.com/od/kstartinventions/a/kaleidoscope.htm

http://www.kaleidoscopecollector.com – this site has a picture and interesting article about Brewster’s invention.

I’m having fun writing, The Kaleidoscope, A Novel of Unusual Circumstances, where the main character, Harold, finds himself the custodian of a magical scope that reveals much more than just colorful shapes! Here’s a Pinterest board where I’m gathering images of the characters and setting for Kaleidoscope. http://pinterest.com/bevnault/the-kaleidoscope-a-novel-of-unusual-circumstances/

 

 

 

Though My Heart is Torn, Book 2 in The Cadence of Grace Series

ThoughMyHeartisTorn

Joanne Bischof has done it again!

First, a litte about her newest masterpiece, Though My Heart is Torn, (Multnomah) which by the way is on my HIGHLY recommended list, and then a bonus Q&A with Joanne about what’s funny and challenging and coming next in her writer’s life.

Here’s a setup of the book:

Shy and quiet, Lonnie Sawyer has never kissed any boy, let alone the one who has mothers whispering warnings in their daughter’s ears and fathers loading shotguns. When just one kiss seals her fate, she finds herself wedded to a man who does not love her. Yet God promises that His eye is on the Sparrow and clinging to that hope, Lonnie takes one brave step in front of the other and the Lord’s blessings unfold in her life.

Handsome ladies’ man and bluegrass musician, Gideon O’Riley, has always wanted one thing–his own satisfaction. But as his heart softens towards his young bride with the strong, quiet, faith, he begins to yearn for more; longing to become the man she deserves and to better understand the God who has saved him from a life of destruction.

You don’t have to read the first installment of The Cadence of Grace series, but I believe you’ll want to! That said, do NOT expect this series to be your run-of-the-mill, lightly treading mamby pamby romance, no sir! Just because it’s set in Appalachia around the turn of the century, there’s nothing soft or sappy about it. Bischof once again had me up until the wee hours turning the pages, every chapter had me rushing to find out how the story would unfold.

Be Still my Soul covers

And just like the first book, Be Still My Soul, this one is also  exquisitely written, with beautiful and compelling details of life in the early 1900’s.

I’ve described Joanne’s writing before as some of the best out there today, and she does not disappoint.

Joanne

Joanne Bischof
Heartfelt Fiction

Praise for Though My Heart is Torn:

“Fresh and memorable as an Appalachian spring, Though My Heart Is Torn is heartrending yet hopeful, romantic, and riveting. Joanne Bischof delivers a deeply drawn tale of hearts broken and mended in the light of the Lord’s healing love. Lonnie and Gideon’s story is one that stays with you long after you turn the last page. Highly recommended!”—Laura Frantz, author of The Colonel’s Lady and Love’s Reckoning

And now, here’s a fun Q&A with Joanne herself!

BEV: You colored outside the lines with your hero, Gideon’s character and situation. Were you ever unsure whether your readers would accept him?

JB: I really was. He’s such a scoundrel in the beginning of Be Still My Soul, and to ask readers if they wanted to follow his journey toward redemption was intimidating. And then I was blown away by how many readers rooted for him in the end! I think so many readers could relate to their own experience of needing a Savior, or having walked the road with someone searching for that healing that can only come in Christ.

 BEV: Without giving away the major twists of the plot, I want readers to know your books are not our grandma’s historical fiction, and address a “what-if” situation that seems to have no possible satisfactory outcome. Is any of this based on something you’d heard of, or did you make it up just for the series? 

JB: I’d say that I pretty much just made it up for this series and because of the rarity of it all, it really made it a challenge to write. There were days I just wanted to scrap it all and write about something easier, but then I had to remind myself that if I could just get my characters—and myself—through this challenge, the outcome would be all the more rewarding.

BEV: Your stories grab the reader by the hand and heart, and don’t let go until the final page. Do you ever feel guilty for making the journey so compelling we stay up way too late and ignore our own families so we can finish?

 JB: Haha! Fun question! I have felt guilty a time or two when someone tells me that they didn’t go to bed until 1 in the morning or the laundry never got folded because they were too involved in the story. But it’s one of those moments that make me smile and I’m so thankful for all the readers out there who’ve picked up this series!

BEV: Your writer’s voice is so true to the era, how do you prepare to write historically?

JB: My real life often feels like a modern extension of what I write. Living in the mountains where I do, it’s not uncommon for people to grow their own food, or to bump into a man at the post office with dingy overalls and a long beard. It’s sort of every day for me. When I dive into my historical world, that old-fashioned setting is living right below the surface and it just feels natural to sort of pour all that onto the page.

BEV: Do you ever dream plots or scenes and use them?

JB: The only time that I can recall ever dreaming a plot and using it, was right in the beginning. I dreamt about an older couple who were feeling stretched thin with the farm work and with no living children around, the burden began to grow as the years wore on. That couple became Jebediah and Elsie Bennett from the series and I think they were just the couple that Lonnie and Gideon needed to find. Not because Jeb and Elsie needed the help so much, but more because Lonnie and Gideon had so much learning to do and this wise couple had plenty of love and wisdom to share.

BEV: What was the funniest thing that happened to you while you were writing TMHiT? 

JB: You know, something funny happened just the other day! I was actually working on the third book in the series and was working on a scene of dialogue between the two main characters. Somehow I had the hero, Gideon say, “Lonnie, I’m so sorry I didn’t love you as much as I should have in the first book.”

I had to stop and laugh at that oopsie! J

BEV: HAHA!! Oh. me…ahem. I know you have several plates spinning at once, from homeschooling, to writing and marketing your books, and everything being a wife and mom entails. If you were given the day off, what do you dream about being able to do?

 JB: That sounds just wonderful! I’m home a lot, so I think I would like to sight see. Visit one of the nearby country towns, or head to the coast. The thought of window shopping and just strolling around sounds heavenly.

BEV: If you could describe the Cadence of Grace in one sentence to someone who never read historical fiction, what would you tell them?

JB: The Cadence of Grace is a journey of the heart—a romance set against the backdrop of Appalachia, 1900.

 BEV: That’s lovely. What’s the most exciting thing about being an author today? What’s the most frightening?

 JB: The most exciting thing is being able to interact with so many readers. I love that we can get to know one another through blogs and Facebook. It’s such a joy to get to hear from them!  The most frightening is probably the challenges of the industry itself. Sometimes it can feel overwhelming, but then I have to stop and remind myself that God is in control. I just need to keep doing the best I can do and He will take care of the rest.

BEV: What’s next in your satchel?

 JB: Next in my satchel is another historical Appalachian romance. It’s about a school teacher and a coal miner that’s an unlikely romance story. My favorite kind! I don’t know if it will ever be published, but soon I’ll be working on that more and more.

Thanks, so much, Joanne, love having you here!!

Joanne and Bev

Joanne and Bev

Get in touch with Joanne on Facebook, at her website, and follow her on twitter @JoanneBischof and tell her Bev sent you!