There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed. – Ernest Hemingway
There is something to be said for those first moments of writing a new novel or short story, those moments when you simply let your fingers run free across the keyboard with no goal except to get the idea on the page. It is exhilarating. I wish sometimes that I could live in that moment forever. But I can’t, and neither can you if you want to get your work published.
There are many details to attend to after you get the skeleton of your new baby underway. Not the least of which is naming your characters. This may seem an easy enough task, a matter of preference, even, but it isn’t.
Let’s look at three different coming out stories, those of:
Florence and Bertha.
Pamela and Tammy.
Harper and Alexa.
In all three we have two young girls somewhere between fifteen and eighteen who are experiencing new love for the first time. Without knowing anything else about these characters, and before reading further, place them in a decade. Jot down some basic characteristics and features. Dress them. Decide where they meet. Continue reading “What’s in a name?”→
Are you a visual person? Do you find yourself looking for pictures on Pintrest of doppelgängers to the characters you are creating through words on the page? If so, creating a character vision board may be for you.
Generic vision boards tend to focus on sending a message into the universe about your desires and dreams. It is said that as far as the brain is concerned, this visualization is almost as strong as actually completing the thought or action presented. Hence, a vision board placed where you see it every day helps with positive programming and gives you a way to realign yourself with the song in your heart. Here are a few great examples:
These are great, and seeing them in action can give you ideas for your own boards as you apply the concept to your characters.
Turning the concept onto our characters
A vision board focusing on a character allows you to visually represent the background of that character in your work in progress in a way that puts the information in your face every time you look at it. This consistency brings him or her to life in your mind until you feel their reaction to every situation in a natural and consistent way. There is a bit of time involved with the initial creation, but the benefits of constant visualization is worth the upfront cost.
Here is an example of items you may want to include:
Planning out your board
Jot down your characters values, goals, and inspirations. Think about the family and where she fits into the unit. Does he have a past or present love life? What was his favorite food as a child? Does she drink, smoke, party? Is she in good health or poor, has she ever had a surgery or nursed someone through an illness, or is she a loner who is estranged from her family? Does he like music, tattoos, a particular television show? Everything is important. You need to know this person as well as you know yourself, even if the information never makes its way into the novel.
Making your board
For the board, old school is best. Remember, you want this in a place that you can look at each day. Poster board works well.
You will also need images. Lots of them. Pintrest is a great source if you have access to a good printer. Also think newspaper ads, magazines, handwritten quotes, coloring books, photographs, flyers, brochures, and items from a craft store. Use whatever speaks to you. NOTE: If you use photographs that are precious to you, make sure you put them on the board using acid-free, removable adhesive.
The character vision board may work done virtually, as well, as long as it is somewhere you look every day, maybe several times a day, as you absorb your character’s idiosyncrasies.
Putting it all together
This is the fun part. Some people like a messy collage board, and others like things lined up neatly in groups or rows. Some like simple and literal. Others like complicated and metaphorical. Decide what you want, and go for it. For added depth and interest, consider using stencils, tape, stickers, and other decorative elements. When you finish, find a place in your work space where the board/s will live until the WIP is complete. And, after the work is in out for others to enjoy, you may want to take pictures of the board/s to draw interest from potential readers.
The ultimate goal is to create something that resonates with you and puts you in the mood to visit your fictional world every day. Connection creates desire. Desire creates words. Words create a story.
Yesterday a had a conversation that went, in part, like this:
ME: Your idea is good, and your protagonist is quite original and fun. One thing I would recommend is to research commonly confused words.
HER: It doesn’t matter. The reader will know what I mean.
ME: But it does matter. If you want to be taken seriously in your craft, you have to learn which word is appropriate in any given sentence.
HER: That’s what my editor is for.
ME: You have an editor?
HER: Not yet, but publishers have them, right?
ME: That’s kinda my point. If you want a publisher to find the wonderfulness of your content, you cannot let him or her be bogged down by the errors. There are too many people with wonderfulness out there. Fix what you can before you query.
HER: [blank stare]
It didn’t get better. And she is not the only one I have had this conversation with lately.
I was recently picked up by Flashpoint for my first novel. Before this monumental accomplishment, I queried a group of publishers, listened to their feedback, tweaked and tightened grammar and content, and repeated. My attention to detail did not make my manuscript perfect. Far from it. I will still be reworking parts and following the guidelines of my editor, but it was as clean and crisp as I could possibly make it.
For my friend above, her glaring error on page one was the use of the word “there” when she should have used “their,” and on page three was the use of the word “advice” when she should have used “advise.” One may have been forgiven, but two in three pages? Not so much.
If you know that you have trouble with commonly confused words, do a word search in your manuscript.
To get you started, here are a few of the most commonly confused words: