Oh Christmas Tree

Perhaps I should call this my quarterly blog, It’s been four months since I wrote that I was still writing. Well, as stated before, it’s been quite the year. The kids haven’t shut up, which is nice but it’s lead me down a lot of proverbial rabbit holes. From unplanned civil wars, to new bodyguards , to secondary characters becoming protagonists, my stories are doing well. And the year is coming to a close, which brings me to my newest Christmas tradition.

Last year I ran into the problem of wanting a Christmas tree but living alone and having no one to decorate with me. So, I began looking for ornaments that my characters would appreciate. Things to fill up the tree with sentiment and the apartment with a little holida cheer. But before I bought each ornament I had a few prerequisites

  1. It had to have significance to the story: An emblem that a character resonates with, or something that makes you think of the story.

    Michael chose stars to represent the Rangers

    2. It had to be something the character it represents would pick.


    Amina fell for Jack in Paris

    3. It had to be something people who knew the story would also understand.


    Brec’s known as the Ekian Fox

    The result is a tree that reminds me of my stories every time I look at it and draws the characters out of their boxes. Next year the goal is to find one for Hannibal. So far the only thing he wants to claim as significant is a sniper rifle.


Willamette Writer’s conference

Well, my bags are packed, the characters are eager for the road and Tomorrow I am off to the Willamette Writer’s conference.

Cameron is excited because it means road trip which means I will allow the rare Rockstar consumption..

Michael is interested in the classes about setting as neither of us are quite pleased with the steampunk world I have concocted for him.

And I’m pretty sure the Valorians are just pleased that my mind will be vulnerable with an overload of information so they will have an opportunity to hold the coup I have been valiantly holding at bay this past week.

So excited for this trip. Will have a full report upon my return.

It’s alive!!!

Well, at least I think so. It’s been several months since my last update I know and for that I want to apologize. A year ago I moved to a new city, a new job, a new home. The kids kept me entertained and on track for the most part but three months ago I had to say goodbye to my best friend of ten years. A twenty six year old Arabian gelding who aside from my characters has been the most loyal friend I have ever known. It hurt and coupled with several bouts of sickness I barely managed my daily word count let alone a blog post.

But the kids have been talking. Cameron went completely postal on me and made me write out a thorough *shudder* outline. Michael and Eva have roused from their slumber to begin their usual pleasant bickering, and Cameron’s little tag along Hannibal has begun to form his own niche with his own problems. (no matter how I tell him no)

And I’m back. I have several posts formulating, and for those of you who take the time to stick with me thank you.

I also wanted to take this moment to do a little shameless pitching. In two weeks The Willamette Writer’s has their annual writer’ conference and with everything that happened I’ve been unable to get the funds together that I need to make it work. So I have set up a gofundme page so that I can go to this amazing event.

( https://www.gofundme.com/2gfk67y4 )

I should have a post up by the end of this week, again thank you so much for sticking with me.

empty camera 796

One of my favorite pictures of my boys. I’m sure you can see how awesome he was.


Give ’em the chair

Several years ago I coined the term among my friends “Interactive Character Enhancement and Development” (ICED) to describe the various techniques we used to get to know our characters. Some of them are simple. Filling out a character sketch sheet is amazingly informational. Some are more complicated or time consuming. Making a playlist of music they like can lead to great conversations about why they like certain sounds. And some are techniques that have been around for ages and used by many different professions to start a conversation.

One such exercise is the Gestalt empty chair, lauded by psychiatrists and stolen by actors the empty chair is the simple exercise of placing a chair in front of you, imagining someone you wish to address and having a hear to heart conversation with that individual.

Sounds simple enough right? However when you have as many characters bouncing about your head as I do an empty chair is not enough to get them talking. And so I recently set about figuring out how to anchor them in place. I tried sitting like them but many of them have similar posture. I tried using a different chair but both Luithor and Brec like my medieval chair and Eva and Michael disagree on the best way to use the Victorian reproduction.

Then one day it happened. I found my anchor. I came home from work and tossed my heavy coat over a chair. When I returned to my room fifteen minutes later I caught the garment out of the corner of my eye and realized it was exactly as Cameron would have left his garment had he walked through the door after a long day at work.

Since that time I have collected a few articles of clothing that Cameron claims as his own. A pair of cargo pants, A nice pair of work boots, a hat I have owned for several years. When combined these items and placed on a simple kitchen chair they look exactly as if Cameron has laid out his clothes for  the next day.


Cameron’s chair

Try this, look through your closet. Find a few items your character may wear. If there is nothing visit a goodwill. Find  a shirt or a hat that they may like and purchase it. The next time you wish to discuss something with them throw that item over the back of a chair.

You’d be surprised what you may find.

Meet The Kids

A few months ago I spoke about the various types of characters and I’d like to take a moment to introduce you to one of them. Cameron, my little pain in the butt who has so entrenched himself in my life that my mind has been overwhelmed with politics, science and the absolute headache of having an ISTJ in an ENFP head. But that’s for a different post. Today I just want to introduce you.

Cameron Morgan. Age 25 in the year 2051.

One sentence synopsis: A young man learning to be a civilian discovers he has a child and begins to understand that the training he was given is exactly what he needs to save her life.

POV: first person.

The challenge with Morgan is to keep him from charging ahead. His first person writing gives him the unique ability to speak his mind and poke at the fourth wall, but sometimes I have to keep him from going down rabbit holes. All in all we have a good working relationship I think.



The Dichotomy of Characters

So November did not go nearly as smoothly as planned. I managed a measly two thousand words on Nano before some personal issues had me curled in introverted misery on the couch watching the first season of Hawaii Five-O eating chicken noodle soup and sleeping.

But enough about me. This blog is about my characters. Over the years I have had many different reaction to the way in which i interact with my characters. Teachers have laughed.  Neighbors have scratched their head in bewilderment and family members have admitted they didn’t know if they should be impressed with my imagination or frightened for my sanity.

My answer? It depends on which character I’m working with.

Every story has a cast. The people whose narrations and experiences move the story along. This cast can then be broken down into four categories of writer interaction. Characters, Voices, Kids and Trouble.

Characters: these are the members of the cast that a writer witnesses interact in a scene but once the scene or story is complete vanish without ever breaking the fourth wall. These are especially popular with puppet master writers as they tend to be cooperative.

Voices: Similar to Characters, Voices tend to stick to their own story. However, unlike their compliant compatriots, Voices have an opinion and they express with great insistence until a writer is forced to pay attention and shape the story in that direction.

Kids: Here is where most of my story casts fall. Like their namesakes Kids have no respect of boundaries. The fourth wall is nonexistant and nothing is sacred. Your life is their entertainment and they are the peanut gallery. However, this does have its perks as many Kids tend to be very lifelike to the readers.


I chibified a handful of my kids as revenge for their antics.

And finally Trouble. As you might guess looking at the progression Trouble are those Kids who become so in tuned to the writer’s world that they occasionally voice their opinion using the poor unfortunate writer as their vessel. Cameron is Trouble.

Of course this is not a strict guideline. One of the joys of being a writer is the fluidity of guidelines. Characters can become Trouble, and Kids can become Voices. The fun part is sitting back and listening to them, then using the information gained when they least expect it.


Types of Writers

There are many types of writers in the world. Some fully outline their stories and know exactly what will happen to who when. They are the puppet masters, fully capable of manipulating characters and stories to their heart’s delight. Some are more like companions on a journey. The Samwise of literature who know their characters and can aid them on their journey, gently prodding to get the outcome they desire.

And some of us feel more like Jiminy cricket. You know who you are. You try to be a puppet master and they ignore you. So you try to be a companion, and they desert you. You’re the conscience shouting “not that way!” and they are too busy falling down stairs to hear you.

They never listen.

I am a cricket. It seems no matter how I poke and prod the characters they always end up going the way they think it should go. This really hit home last year when I was working with Michael on his sequel.

Sarah: By the end of this chapter you will be in love with Eva.
Michael: why?
Sarah: because she’s your match.
Michael: she’s hot but I’d hardly call her my match.
Sarah: I say she is. now, at the end of this scene you’ll be in love.
Michael: Meh.

By the end of the scene, Eva hated him. I’m still holding my breath to see if those two ever make it together.

Momentos of life.

A wanted poster hangs behind my door. A test tube of loose leaf tea sits in my kitchen, beside a dainty flowered tea cup. A black stetson is tossed over the back of my desk chair.

a few things I've picked up for the

a few things I’ve picked up for the “kids”

These are mementos of life, but they are not my life. The wanted poster is dated 2040. The tea is peppermint, I prefer coffee. And I wanted the brown stetson.

However, after living lives with characters I have long since learned to listen when they attach themselves to an object. For Cameron the poster represents his history . For Eva the tea is comfort and quiet evenings. And for Michael his uniform is not complete without a black stetson.

These are items I may not have found by simply writing, but when I allowed my characters to accompany me outside of their world I learned far more than if I had grilled them over a computer screen. Like using Sudoku to strengthen your brain, or weight training for muscles, the more time you spend with a character the easier it is to know when they want something.

It may be something as simple as Lemon pie when you were hoping for peach or it may be earth shattering. When Cameron saw the wanted poster for the first time he cried. Tangible mementos of life. Unless a writer understands their significance a reader will never grasp their importance.