Mrs. Sparkly’s Ten Commandment Award

Today I got a very pleasant surprise.  The lovely Vikki at The View Outside nominated me for an award I’ve never seen before – the Mrs. Sparkly Award.  Looksie.  Isn’t it pretty?

To accept the award, I have to answer seven questions about me and nominate 15 other bloggers (that’s the fun part).  Okay, so here goes:

Describe yourself in 7 words: loyal, caring, sensitive, creative, independent, strong-willed, stubborn

*What keeps you up at night? thinking about finances and my kids

*Whom would you like to be? me, only financially set with a few published novels  under my belt.

*What am I wearing right now? khaki capris and a teal spaghetti strap shirt.  Oh, and underwear.

*What scares you? physically, palmetto bugs and cockroaches.   Emotionally,  something horrible happening to my kids or grand-daughter.  I would flip out if anything happened to any of them.

*What are the best and worst things about blogging? My favorite part about blogging is meeting and connecting with visitors.  The idea of communicating with people all over the world in a single post thrills me.  I’m always looking at my map to see who visited and from where.  It brings home to me that we are all one planet, one people, no matter where we live.  The worst part is feeling my blogs are boring or that I fail to connect with the people I am excited to see visit.  It upsets me sometimes to see I had X number of visits a week and not one person signs up to follow.  It makes me feel like I’m letting my potential audience down, like what I have to say isn’t worthy.  But I enjoy it so much, so I keep doing it.

*If I could change one thing about myself, what would it be? stop worrying so much.

*Slankets, yes or no? No to slankets.  I’m a chenille blanket/robe kind of gal.

*Tell us something about the person who nominated you.  Vikki is supportive, funny and full of information she is willing to share with others.  She turned me on to the Insecure Writer’s Support Group, and while I have yet to post anything, I’ve enjoyed reading about other writer’s struggles and fears.  It makes me feel not so alone.  I love Vikki’s posts and she seems to always be up and cheerful.

Now for the fifteen nominees to receive the blog award.  There are so many great blogs out there, so if I miss you this time around, I’ll get you the next.

L.C. Smith

Katy Upperman

Kourtney Heinz

Victoria Writes

Julie Catherine

Julie Reece

Lori Freeland

Elizabeth Anne Mitchell

Jamie Ayers


rachel coker

The Write Transition

Magic in the Backyard


Kristina Stanley

“Throw out the visual garbage. It’s stinking up your manuscript!”

This is part 3 of my series, How to write a fantasy novel.

As with all novels, you have a Main Character (MC) and what I like to call minions – secondary characters who help or hinder your MC’s movement forward.  Even though you’re writing fiction, these characters need to be fleshed out, well-rounded and most importantly…real.

There are several things to think about before writing.  Whose view point are you going to write from?  Is it going to be 1st, 2nd or 3rd person?  Is your MC a male or female?

For me, I know instantly whether my MC is male or female.  I can hear the voice in my head.  I also know if the character is young or old and I have an idea of the setting.  These concepts, however, are just the framework.  I need to find and build the substance, the interior. This can prove to be challenging.

I know in my earlier post I talked about outlining; however, I’m not a huge outliner.  I tend to formulate my ideas and plot, do a one or two sentence ‘outline’ of where I’d like to see the story go in each chapter, but for the most part I sit down and write.  When I write short stories, this seems to work ok. My characters come alive and they take me on wild journeys.  Revisions are   easier to work through, probably because the stories are less than 10k words.  Novels on the other hand…not so much.

I thought I had really good character development with my novel, In the Shadow of the Dragon King (“Dragon King”), until I submitted it to a publisher.  Man, was I in for an awakening.  Here are some of the line comments:

“Terms such as the one in bold portray the character as significantly older than 15.”

“He’s [David] been portrayed as a bit of a spoiled rich boy. We’re not lead to feel any compassion for him at all. It’s important in the opener to give us as much a feel for the truth of the character as possible.”

[after the MC uses the word ‘darn’] – “Later, David does swear, and the mix up of this type of language and the latter makes him feel much younger than 15.”

Obviously, my character needed work.  He was inconsistent.  He wasn’t fleshed out enough and he wasn’t likeable.  Back to the drawing board I went.  David is now 17 and the language fits much better, and, according to beta readers, he’s much more likeable from the beginning.  The readers are now invested, but it didn’t happen by simply re-writing.  I followed the advice of many famous authors.  I created character sketches and profiles.

What does one put in a character sketch?  Anything you can think of.  You have to know your characters inside out and upside down even though you may never tell your readers half of it.  What does (s)he do during the day?  What does (s)he do for fun?  Who is his/her best friend?  What color eyes does (s)he have?  What are the character traits?  What toothpaste does (s)he use?  Is (s)he an ice cream or cereal junkie?  I found, for me, doing a character sketch helped out a lot.  I didn’t do this for all my characters, only the top four – David, Charlotte, Eric and Trog.  I found it easier to pit them against each other as well as have them support each other once I knew their strengths and flaws.  You can read David’s and Charlotte’s character sketches here and here.

Another thing I learned that can be a death sentence for your manuscript is focusing on details too much and not on the plot.  When I wrote my first draft of Dragon King, I thought it was important the reader know what color eyes my characters had, their hair color, their size and what sort of clothes they wore.  I thought it got the reader into the scene, gave them visuals.  After all, when you meet someone for the first time, you notice things like that, right?  Unfortunately for me, it took an editor to set me straight.  She wrote on my manuscript in big red letters, “Throw out the visual garbage. It’s stinking up your manuscript.”  Throughout the 367 pages, she’d crossed through the extraneous descriptions, both related to character and setting, that needed to go.  It was painful to see my manuscript bleeding profusely, but I have to admit…she was right.

Something else she explained to me was to make sure the character’s personality traits or life events mentioned define our characters.  These things must move our characters forward.  They must have some sort of role in changing who they are.  To quote:

“Your characters must grow.  They must be different in the end of your novel than they were in the beginning.  Something significant needs to occur so the characters learn more about themselves and each other.  Find your character’s weakest trait, his worst nightmare, and focus on making his every action a step to overcoming that issue.  Make me want to help him.  Make me want to reach into the story and give him what he needs to succeed.  When you can do that, you know you’ve written a well-loved, believable character.”

I’m still working on that piece of advice.

Tomorrow, I’ll talk about developing your villains.  They’re not as nasty as you think they are.  They only seem that way.