Using educator skills to build fictional characters

Cheryl Carpinello, our Choices WOW! Women on Writing book tour guest today has used her years as an educator and observation skills to create characters her young readers can relate to. Author of Guinevere: At the Dawn of Legend, Cheryl shares how using the traits of her students helped her build believable characters for her award-winning fiction.   Being an Educator Helps Me Build Believable Characters By Cheryl Carpinello Writing characters that readers can identify and bond with is difficult at the best of times. When writing for young readers, I transport myself back to my classroom where I watch my students working and discussing. I wander the school hallways and observe students’ interactions with each other and with other teachers. Doing these exercises helps me develop characters that my readers can relate to and see pieces of themselves. As an adult writing for ages 9-15, it is important that my characters come across true. Kids are really amazing and at t … [Read more...]

My thoughts about the film The Wife (spoiler alert!)

The new film, The Wife, with Glenn Close and Jonathan Pryce, brought up a lot of memories of my writing career. Early on in her studies, Joan Castleman, the character Glenn Close plays in the film, was told she could get nowhere as a female author. It was the year 1958 – the same year I started college as a journalism major. Castleman, already recognized for her writing skills, says she couldn’t live without writing. I too was hell-bent on having a career in writing though I was discouraged as well. My father made it clear I should study to be a teacher – after all that’s what girls in my generation did – or skip college altogether and become a secretary. Of course, the Castleman character in movie and I were on totally different paths in our writing. My forte was journalism; hers was fiction. I persisted and got a job right after graduating from college at a fashion trade magazine, which I quit after three weeks because my male boss verbally abused and harassed me. A few w … [Read more...]

What’s next in my writing life

Since I’ve finished – at least in my estimation– revision ten of my novel, it’s on hold. I want to hire a professional editor it go through it, but I haven’t made that happen yet. I’ve asked a young woman who worked with me on my memoir, but her life is so busy with children, she hasn’t given me a yes or no yet. I’ll wait another week or two and then go on to Plan B. In the meantime, I’ve gone back to writing small stones – I’ll post a couple that I’ve written this month below And I’m working on my poetry. I completed the April poem a day challenge put out by Robert Lee Brewer over at Writer’s Digest. I also write to his weekly Wednesday prompts. And this not usual for me – I’m editing some of my existing poems, getting them ready for submittal. (I’ve heard somewhere that if we haven’t received at least 100 rejections in a year, we haven’t submitted enough. That I’m editing poems is the unusual part for me. I usually write them, and then only with quick word or two changes … [Read more...]

Fiction: another way to erase stigma

My guest today, Joanell Serra, explores the idea of reducing the stigma of mental illness by openly describing the mental illnesses fictional characters experience. That is to say, being open and communicative about mental illness in fiction and/or real life helps reduce stigma and paves the way to recovery rather than hiding some pretty grotesque characters in corners as was done to Miss Havisham, in Charles Dickens Great Expectations. With that in mind it is easy to understand that the characters in her debut novel, The Vines We Planted, are deeply portrayed and very well written so that they can work through the many emotional and challenging issues they encounter in her book. Please help me welcome Joanell Serra during her WOW! Women on Writing book tour. Can we reduce the stigma surrounding mental illness through fiction? by Joanell Serra When we think of characters with mental illness in fiction, there are many extreme examples to choose from: Billy Pilgrim from V … [Read more...]

My Name Is Wonder by Ronald Chapman

It is may pleasure to showcase another book by Ronald Chapman during his WOW!Women on Writing blog tour. Ronald's latest book, My Name Is Wonder: A Tale of Adventure, will have you thinking from the first page until well after you’ve closed the book. This beautifully written novel chronicles the transcendent adventures of a little goat with big dreams. Join Wonder and his wise cracking guide, the mysterious crow Mac Craack, on a journey through the scenic landscapes of the American Southwest and into the heart of a mindful presence. Along the way, you’ll meet an unforgettable cast of creatures, each with an important lesson to teach. Praise for My Name Is Wonder: “…a book for the ages, with profound truths simply stated. First there was Jonathan Livingston Seagull and then Yoda—Now there is Wonder…” - Beverly Molander, Minister and Radio Host of Activating the Power of Yes “…an exploration of human nature and into the allegorical realm that shows us how t … [Read more...]

Review of Ronald Chapman’s A Killer’s Grace

I'm pleased to have read and written a review of Ronald Chapman's book A Killer's Grace in time for his WOW!Women on Writing virtual book tour. Today, September 1, is the publication of the book's second edition.  As you'll read, A Killer's Grace is a wonderful work. I hope you'll all get your copy (see the links below). You won't be disappointed. *** My Review of A Killer’s Grace A letter from a serial killer awaiting execution changes New Mexico reporter Kevin Pitcairn’s life. His investigations into the content of the letter drag him into his own dark past, that of a never-convicted murderer and an alcoholic. His journey draws the readers of A Killer’s Grace by Ronald Chapman into the doors of Alcoholics Anonymous and the close relationships Pitcairn made there, his love for Maria Elena who stays by his side even when she disagrees and fears his involvement with the serial killer’s story, how walking with his dog companions in the early morning hours calms him after … [Read more...]

Memoir or fiction? That is the question!

David W. Berner, my WOW! Women on Writing guest today, and I have something in common. After writing memoir we both turned to fiction—stretching ourselves, as David says, as writers. We both took a true story, settings, and characters and made up things—let our imagination have its way with us—to enhance the story's effect. My fiction book—though not ready to be published yet—takes off in a whole new direction from the true facts. My family members would definitely know the people and places I write about, and might even have a problem with the way my fictionalized version of our family history turns out.  Well, I'll deal with that when the time comes. I applaud David for using his wonderful memoir, reporting, and teaching skills to become a successful fiction writer. His first fiction work: Night Radio: A Love Story, has already received rave reviews. Thank you, David, for being here at Choices today and telling us about your journey into fiction writing—a stor … [Read more...]

Theep and Thorpe – what a great title!

When my Facebook friend, Lillian Nader, announced the release of her book Theep and Thorpe, the title so intrigued me I had to learn more. With that I asked her to be my Choices guest and tell our readers how she conceived and wrote her new book. Thank you, Lillian, for accepting. I'm so pleased to introduce you and your book here. My BIG Announcement! by Lillian Nader I am so happy to announce the release of my book, Theep and Thorpe: Adventures in Space, on March 25, 2016. It is available now in paperback at Amazon.com. It’s a book for young readers and for those who are young at heart. The kindle version will also be available soon. The Story Behind the Story. The concept of Theep and Thorpe began many years ago when my artist friend, Angelo Divino, created images of two space beings. I asked if I could write about them and he said yes! Their names came to me first as I pondered the idea of how space beings might communicate. I decided they would know one another by their … [Read more...]

Susan G. Weidener finds writing as a way of healing

I am so pleased to have Susan G. Weidener with me today on her second stop of her WOW! Women on Writing virtual book tour. The third book of her trilogy, A Portrait of Love and Honor, was just released, and I'm happy to say, I read it and loved it as I did her other two books, Morning at Wellington Square and Again in A Heartbeat.   Here Susan tells us how writing is healing for her. I can totally relate. Writing has been my healing balm ever since my son's death in 1999. But enough about me. Here's Susan. Writing As a Way of Healing By Susan G. Weidener In the Bible, Lot’s wife ignored the angels’ warning not to look back when she and her family were fleeing a devastated and rotting Sodom. We all know what came next.  As she glanced over her shoulder, she was instantly turned into a pillar of salt. For many, this story became a cautionary tale. See? This is what happens to a curious woman who looks back at her past. The story of Lot’s wife is a favorite … [Read more...]

How technical writing helped me write memoir and fiction

I fell in love with writing in grade school and took journalism and was on the newspaper staff in high school. I attended the University of Wisconsin as a journalism major, then transferred to UCLA my senior year to complete a degree in English. Because jobs for women journalists were few in the 1960s in Los Angeles, I began a long career as a technical writer and editor, proposal manager, web designer and content developer in the aerospace industry. And I must say that was a great choice because my job paid very well, and I’m still able to work from time to time as a consultant years after I officially retired (I’m just about to embark on a four-month job to help a group of engineers write a proposal to the U.S. Air Force). Plus, I’ve been able to transfer what I learned as a technical writer over to my memoir and fiction writing. Here are six things I learned: Plan before you write. I had an outline before I started my memoir and a list of scenes that guided my f … [Read more...]

Does NaNoWriMo make sense for me or not?

I’d love to get involved with the NaNoWriMo challenge to write 50,000 words of a novel in thirty days, but I’m not sure it’s right for me. I’m almost finished with the first run through of my revisions based on my beta readers’ comments on my existing novel and plan to be complete in time to start the challenge on November 1. However, I don’t know if making major revisions and rewrites rather than writing a new novel qualifies. I know the warning not to edit as we write makes a huge amount of sense and definitely slows down our writing. Take my advice for those of you in the challenge. Just keep you fingers moving. Don’t stop to think. Just write. However, my situation is totally different. I’ve already written my first draft and even spent hours and hours revising and editing it. Now it’s ready for another major revision. As I’ve marked up my hard copy with my yellow marker and red pen, I’ve identified places to cut, to add, to rearrange, to carry thro … [Read more...]

Mary Gottschalk asks: Is it memoir or fiction?

The subject matter of Mary Gottschalk’s guest post really hits home for me. I turned to memoir based on a traumatic incident in my life after a 30-career in technical writing, and now I’ve embarked on a novel based in part on factual events. I agree with Mary. I would not have attempted a novel had I not had the memoir writing experience. I hope those of you working on both memoir and fiction will learn as much as I did from Mary’s piece. Also, in welcoming Mary to Choices, please join me in congratulating her on just releasing her novel, A Fitting Place, in May of this year and publishing her memoir, Sailing Down the Moonbeam in 2008. Is it a Story or an Idea? By Mary Gottschalk Because the inspiration for my first novel came from an incident in my own life, I’m often asked why I chose to do A Fitting Place as a fiction rather than a memoir. Another frequent question—since I have published both a novel and a memoir—is which is the “better” vehicle for a story that … [Read more...]

Proust’s Thirty-Five Questions to Ask Your Characters

I’ve been reading the Write Practice for several months and always find the posts informational and provocative. I was particularly taken with today’s post about delving into the lives of your novel’s characters. I’m in the midst of the first revision of my novel and I’m looking for ways to round them out. Marcel Proust’s Thirty-five Questions to Ask Your Characters will definitely help. Here’s his list, written in the late nineteenth century. By the way, his answers sold in auction for €102,000 in 2003. 1. What is your idea of perfect happiness? 2. What is your greatest fear? 3. What is the trait you most deplore in yourself? 4. What is the trait you most deplore in others? 5. Which living person do you most admire? 6. What is your greatest extravagance? 7. What is your current state of mind? 8. What do you consider the most overrated virtue? 9. On what occasion do you lie? 10. What do you most dislike about your appearance? 11. Which li … [Read more...]

"It’s always a fiction"

My writing teacher and mentor Jack Grapes sent out the email reproduced (in part) here over the weekend. I am in complete agreement with him that our sentences are always fiction. We cannot recreate the past except through writing our own version of the facts. In my memoir, Leaving the Hall Light On, I wrote down the truth as I remembered it. Some of the sentences I wrote about my truth were not as my husband remembered, but since it is my book and not his version, he is okay with it. I’m not distorting his version. I am stating my own. Anyway, please read Jack’s comments below. By the way, I took his method writing classes. I recommend them to you all. “NOTES FROM UNDERGROUND, NOTES FROM OUTER SPACE: RE: David Ulin's review in Sunday L.A. Times, "Critic's Notebook: What is Fact, What is Fiction." http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/news/la-ca-david-ulin-20120219,0,1862704.storySad to say, once again the subject of fact and fiction, fact and non-fiction, or fact … [Read more...]