A Writer's Journey

There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.

Maya Angelou

Music expresses that which cannot be said and on which it is impossible to be silent.

Victor Hugo

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Book Review: Sisters Red by Jackson Pearce

In lieu of today's Writing Wednesday post, I wanted to mix it up a bit and since I just finished reading Sisters Red last night, I thought "Book review!". :)

I don't normally cover book reviews, partly because I don't have much time to read these days *kicks rocks* and partly because I haven't really read anything lately that grabbed me enough to go at it in length. But Sisters Red hooked me from the very first page. So without further ado...

By Jackson Pearce

Blurb from the author's site:

Scarlett March lives to hunt the Fenris– the werewolves that took her eye when she was defending her sister Rosie from a brutal attack. Armed with a razor-sharp hatchet and blood-red cloak, Scarlett is an expert at luring and slaying the wolves. She’s determined to protect other young girls from a grisly death, and her raging heart will not rest until every single wolf is dead.

Rosie March once felt her bond with her sister was unbreakable. Owing Scarlett her life, Rosie hunts fiercely alongside her. Now Rosie dreams of a life beyond the wolves and finds herself drawn to Silas, a young woodsman who is deadly with an ax– but loving him means betraying her sister and has the potential to destroy all they’ve worked for.

Twenty-five-year-old Jackson Pearce delivers a dark, taut fairy tale with heart-pounding action, fierce sisterly love, and a romance that will leave readers breathless.

One of the first things I noticed about this book was that it had both a prologue and an epilogue, which I loved. You don't see very many of them anymore because I've heard it through the grapevine that agents and editors generally shy away from them. "Frowned upon" is an understatement. But if done well, it can add just the right touch of mystery and just enough back story to hook the reader. Sisters Red did just that.

I've always loved fairytale retellings and this one did not disappoint. It took an age-old tale and wrapped it up in a gritty, action-packed, modern setting that young adult readers can definitely relate to. The story is told from two POVs (also something I loved) - each perspective through the eyes of each sister. Having the dual POVs allowed me to see each sister's internalization and gave me a better understanding of the conflict and drive they both had. They became endearing in their own ways, even though the sisters were stark opposites. Though I wasn't entirely thrilled with the use of present tense, I quickly forgot about my bias as the story surged forward. My mind shifted and adjusted to the tense well enough that it didn't take away from thoroughly enjoying the story.

The majority of the story moved at a steady pace, with one or two scenes sprinkled throughout that slowed down just enough for me to catch my breath. The development of the conflict unfolded at the right moments and even the romance element tied to the core of the tale. My only major gripe was that the ending came much too quickly for me. With the fantastic buildup to the climax, I expected more. Don't get me wrong -- I still loved the resolution and part of me even prayed for it as I desperately sat there turning the pages of the book in my hands. But there was too much predictability and when the reveal finally played out, it had lost the element of surprise.

Despite that snag, I'd still recommend the book to anyone and everyone who loves a good action-packed story -- with a little romance, intrigue, and nostalgia for the old fairytales thrown in. It wasn't without flaws, but I still loved it to the very end of the last page.

Final Verdict: 4 out of 5 stars.

For more information about Sisters Red or Jackson Pearce, please visit her site here.

And now for our regularly-scheduled pretty...

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Writing Wednesday: Character Archetype - Obliviously Evil

Today's post is another character archetype that I've seen in a number of shows, movies, animes, books, etc.

When we think of a villain in a story, it is generally assumed that they are the drivers of evil within the story. Of course there are those, like the anti-villains, who have that small, if not fleeting, dance with a moral compass. And then there're the anti-heroes, who generally have some of that evil ingrained to give them a multidimensional feel, but still have enough good to keep them at hero status.

Then comes the Obliviously Evil. This character is interesting in that according to THEIR moral compass, they are in the right. Most people have a good grasp of what is good and what is evil, though there is a large gray area in between. The Obliviously Evil skew those beliefs and what the majority population believes as good and evil may not necessarily be so in their minds. They plan, they act, they formulate ideas - all based on their own moral code that, in their mind, is the right thing to do based on what they mean to accomplish.

That also touches on character motives, which I'll hit on in more detail in a future post. A character's motives drive them to create their individual ideas, to plan those ideas out, and to execute them. They could be self-serving, but they could also be what they feel is for the greater good.

For a more in-depth look, check it out here.

Some may not agree with me, but one real-life villain that comes to mind when I think of this archetype is Adolf Hitler. He had an idea which he thought to be good and right and for the sake of the greater good of the future. He didn't believe what he was doing was wrong because it was serving the motive or purpose that, in his morality, seemed in the right. Of course, the majority of the world disagreed. Which makes him evil, but obliviously so.

Do you believe a character can be obliviously evil? Or do you think that deep down inside, they know what they are doing is wrong and they choose to excuse it by saying it is for the greater good?

And now for our regularly-scheduled pretty...

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Writing Wednesday: Character Archetypes - The Anti-Villain

This week's Writing Wednesday post continues the Character Archetype series I wanted to cover. Again, with a new batch of fresh characters I'm going to be playing with, I wanted to get a little more technical about what the different archetypes are so that I can have some sort of idea how to distinguish my own characters' places within the story.

Much like the anti-hero, the anti-villain goes against the typical character traits that would normally embody a villain. Where the anti-hero means to put a darker take on the squeaky clean hero, the anti-villain means to humanize the evil world dominating villain.

Most anti-villains are aware that what they're doing is not necessarily good, though they may be reluctant to dive completely into the "evil" and relinquish the part of themselves that still hold some sort of moral fiber. Or perhaps it could just be a small hint of cowardice to completely become the evil that they thought they could handle.

Prime example:

Draco Malfoy

Anti-villains could also have large gray areas in their moral code. In all other aspects, they would be considered the villains because they exhibit qualities normally seen in villainous characters (i.e. stealing, cheating, killing, etc.). But the gray areas are what sets them apart from a true villain. These gray areas may be fueled by love for friends and family, and/or loyalty to the same.

Prime example:

Jonah Prowse from Jericho

For a more in-depth explanation of the anti-villain, mosey on over here.

How do you feel about anti-villains? Do you think they make more effective villains than true villains?

And now for our regularly scheduled pretty...

Monday, October 17, 2011

Music Monday: Ludovico Einaudi - Nuvole Bianche + Blog Awards!

The first thing on the agenda is to thank Alexis for the awesomesauce blog awards below:

Now I'm supposed to find seven interesting facts about me, so here goes. Bear with my sleep deprived brain for a sec. *laughs*

1) My coffee drink of choice generally includes five, that's right - FIVE, shots of espresso. Usually peppermint white mocha or hazelnut. I actually have one in my hand at this very moment. *grins*

2) I am a complete night owl. Unless I'm severely exhausted, I can't seem to get myself in bed before midnight. I give new meaning to the term "burning the midnight oil". *laughs*

3) I have recently finished my first full length manuscript, which in a few weeks' time, will hopefully be turned from the vortex-inducing pile of heartfail to something shiny and pretty for eventual submission to agents.

4) Music is my soul. No, literally. I can't do ANYTHING without it. Write, work, drive, eat, even watch TV. I know, strange being I am. *laughs*

5) I have two of the awesomest critique partners and one very irreplaceable BFF/beta reader who are solely responsible for getting me to pull my shit together when I thought I couldn't write anymore.

6) I've recently become obsessed with zombies. I drop everything I'm doing just to watch an episode of The Walking Dead. #truestory I blame my husband. *laughs*

7) I can fully and efficiently function on two hours of sleep. How's that for insomniac power? *grins*

Passing this along to seven of my favorite blogs in no particular order:

1) Lori - You Are The Unicorn Of My Dreams
2) Corinne - Ode To Blogging
3) Sophia - Sophia The Writer
4) Krispy and Alz - A Nudge In The Right Direction
5) Jess - Jest Kept Secret
6) Jon - JonYang.org
7) Jeigh - WriterBrained

Go stalk, *ahem* I mean, visit them and see what makes them so stalkable awesome!

Our music selection for this week is a new favorite of mine. No lyrics; just a full 5 minutes and 59 seconds of piano lovefest. Enjoy!

Ludovico Einaudi - Nuvole Bianche

And now for our regularly scheduled pretty...

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Writing Wednesday: Character Archetypes - The Anti-Hero

Since I'm starting a few new writing projects, I thought it'd be fun to do a few of these archetype posts to not only shed a light on what a character archetype is, but to also help me figure out the new slew of characters I'm going to be playing with. *insert squee here*

First of all, what is a character archetype? In simple terms, it's the epitome or the gist of the type of character you want to embody. Keep in mind that archetypes are just a jumping off point. They can be tweaked depending on the type of story and what the author ultimately sets out to resolve at the end of that story. But what character archetypes do give us is a basic platform to build on the characteristics of a particular character we're going to create.

The archetype being covered today is the anti-hero. What is an anti-hero? The description from several sources I found describe him/her as the unconventional hero. They can display characteristics that are not generally seen as heroic, such as the preference to be a loner, having the tendency to be self deprecating, exhibition of darker personality traits, and/or disregard for common authority. Personally, I prefer these types of heroes to those that glean and shine brightly as they bask in the awe of general society. *laughs*

You can read a more descriptive take here.

Prime examples of anti-heroes:



The anti-hero usually has a warped sense of morals and their actions are fueled by these beliefs that what they are doing is for the greater good. They could also begin as a person who wouldn't necessarily be classified as good at the start of the story, but because of their experiences end up saving the day or making the great sacrifice.

Prime example (and also one of my favorites):

Severus Snape

Do you prefer the hero or the anti-hero? Why?

And now for our regularly scheduled pretty...

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Writing Wednesday: More on Dreaded Outlining

Today's Writing Wednesday post is brought to you by my outlining block. *laughs* I've only just recently started outlining my writing projects because 1) it gives me a clearer picture of the whole thing rather than just going blindly into each chapter with nothing to hold on to, and 2) because I'm a little scared to death, albeit excited, about beginning my new project.

I'm not a natural outliner. In truth, I'm actually entirely the opposite. *twitches a little at all the -ly's* So how does someone like me, who doesn't usually outline *and also hates it like I hate broccoli*, start an outline in the first place?

There's no concrete guideline, though some writing self help books would tell you otherwise, because all writers are different and they ultimately have to find what works best for them.

I usually start with breaking out a subheading for each chapter. After deciding how many chapters I have (generally twenty to start because it's a nice do-able, even number), I break out the documents into acts and determine how many chapters would need to go into those acts to fulfill the information needed to get through to the audience. If you really want to go basic, a three-act breakout would suffice (introduction, climax, resolution). I like to put in four acts just because the pacing changes slightly in each act (or at least that's the initial plan *laughs*). So...

Act One - Introduces the characters, the world (if world building is a high point), and the central conflict.

Act Two - This would be what I like to call the buildup. This is where the main events happen that would eventually lead to Act Three, the climax. A good chunk of my chapters will be lumped into Act Two because they are the events that propel the story forward to its pinnacle point.

Act Three - This is where the events from Act Two will hit their breaking point. The characters need to make a decision regarding the central conflict. The make or break moment, if you will.

Act Four - Now, if Acts One-Three were the appetizer, soup/salad, and main courses, this would be the dessert. The resolution. This is where all of the questions should be answered (unless it's a series) and where everything should tie out. The result should be satisfying and adds that little something that puts the reader at ease.

This post not only serves as a writers' tip thing of sorts, but also to help me get the writer gears in motion. Mid-post, my new characters had invaded my head space and started conversations of their own. *laughs*

If you think my methods are still a little too jumbled and full of malarky, you can check out these other links for great outlining tips:

Lori's blog
Corinne's blog
Jeigh's blog
Chris' blog here and here
Advanced Fiction Writing

And now for our regularly-scheduled pretty...

**image from darkgreencabochon

Friday, September 23, 2011

Fun Friday: X-Factor Snippet

For anyone who truly knows me - okay, even those that don't know me all that well *laughs* - it's not a big secret that I'm really into music. This, of course, includes any and all singing competitions like American Idol and The X-Factor. So, there I was...sitting on my bed, watching last night's two hour episode, rolling my eyes at all the cocky, self horn-tooting, wannabes...when this girl took the stage. Let me tell you, girl's got it going on. I had tears streaming down my face by the time the song ended and I wasn't the only one. But don't take my word for it...see for yourself. I promise you won't be disappointed. :D (p.s. You might wanna turn up the volume a bit *kicks crappy YouTube sound*)

Melanie Amaro - Listen (Beyonce cover for X-Factor audition)

And now for our regularly scheduled pretty... (another Disney edition! *grins*)

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Writing Wednesday: The First Draft Finish Line

Today's Writing Wednesday topic focuses on finishing that first draft. If some of you are like me, you fight the overwhelming need to revise as you write as opposed to just getting the whole story out first and then tackling the dreaded revisions after. This was the case with the first couple of writing projects I started and you know what? Those are the ones I never finished. After scoring a few awesomesauce critique partners for the current project I'm working on, I've learned that the revise-as-you-go thing really wasn't working out so well for me.

With their help, a new discipline in me was born. Visualize the story. Get a feeling for it. Get to know my characters. Help them fit into the story that I'm trying to convey. THEN FINISH THE STORY. After I've finished, then and ONLY THEN should the revisions begin.

Don't mind that it sucks the first time around. Push back the thoughts that no one except your mother who's obligated to tell you how awesomesauce you are will read the pile of crap you've just unloaded on that unwitting MS Word document. Or that grammar, syntax, plot holes, and general vortex-inducing mistakes are all over that bad boy.

Forget it all.


Keeping that very simple, very focused goal was what helped me to overlook the suckery of the first draft blues. I found this method worked better than my previous revise-as-you-go strategy because of two very important reasons:

1) All writers are their own worst critics and there will always be room to revise SOMETHING. This makes finishing that first draft milestone seem highly unreachable.

2) Stopping in the middle to change something may prevent further development of something already existing.

How do you know scene x wasn't going to work? Does the flow really work well if scene y was taken out, only to make sense because of a future scene yet to be written? I'm sure there are other questions that could totally point out how valid the aforementioned reasons are, but I'll try not to write a novella of a blog post.

What brought on this sudden clarity? This A-Ha! moment, so to speak? Well, besides my previously mentioned stellar CPs. *laughs*

I'm currently writing the last, yes folks, the LAST chapter of my current WIP. *insert totally excited girly squee here* And let me tell you, it didn't come without much ass kicking and chapter bribery *cough*LORI*cough* from my critique partners! But I'm on the horizon of a great milestone in my feeble attempt at trying out this I-wanna-be-a-writer business. My very first completed manuscript. Okay, not totally completed because the ridiculous amount of revisions is just beyond that horizon, but hey...let me enjoy the pink sparkly moment, will ya? *throws pink confetti just because*

How did you finally make it to that first draft finish line? Did you revise as you wrote or wait until the end?

And now for our regularly scheduled pretty... (Disney-themed! *grins*)

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Writing Wednesday: The Handy Book of Villainous Dialogue

Today's Writing Wednesday post was inspired by one of my critique partners, Lori, and some very well-worded critique for a recent chapter I had just gotten back (the title above was also a brainchild of hers and it was too awesome not to use *shifty eyes*). Anyhow, jumping right in.

One of the danger zones when fleshing out characters is the overuse of cliches and cliche-like dialogue. The heroes talking like heroes, the damsel in distress talking like damsels in distress, and the villains talking like, well, the villains. *laughs* This creates a one-layered depth to the character - something that would either:
a) incite some eye-rolling from the reader
b) make them stop reading completely because the characters seem so predictable or
c) wonder what the hell they're still doing reading something that feels like it's been overdone loads of times when they could be watching the new episode of True Blood instead.

All those aforementioned things = BAD

So how do you, as a writer, break those cliches so that your characters are multidimensional? Maybe insert a scene where the main antagonist shows a weakness that might make the reader sympathetic to their cause or to them in general? Or how about a quirk or a past indiscretion in the main character that isn't so heroic or even likable?

For example, instead of the hero jumping in to save the someone from a fire and then coming out unscathed with that heroic glow and ta-da! pose, they can stumble inside, maybe break a limb or two, go into a dialogue or monologue scene where their fears and anxieties would be displayed for all to see, and then stagger out after having saved whoever they were jumping in there to save. And holy cow, that was a long sentence. *laughs* Anyway, I digress. But you get the point, right?

Let me share the little snippet that got this train of thought rolling (and also made me snort out coffee that I was drinking at the time *glares at Lori for making me laugh while liquids were in my presence*):

"It is you who shall burn. Your God cannot save you once the Great Three have been awakened." William’s expression was triumphant, his sneer revealing long canines. "The time has come for a new order."

Don't laugh. Okay, I did, but yeah, don't laugh. *wiggles an accusing finger at all the laughing people* I already knew this was going to get some heat from my awesomesauce CPs just because of the very fact that I pictured a very sinister-looking, mustache-twirling cliche villain when I wrote this. Granted, this snippet was an excerpt from my first draft, but still. That character - SO not the sinister-looking, mustache-twirling cliche villain. At least not conceptually. But the way he came out on paper gave him that air of "one-layered dimension" and I can see how it would make someone blurt out "OMG, did he really just say THAT?". *crickets*

Moral of the story? Try to think out of the box. The villains don't have to all be completely evil and the heroes don't have to all be completely good. There's a battle between good and evil in all people (in my humble opinion) and that should show in all characters in some form or another. Which means, actions AND dialogue. I always try to read back dialogue out loud just to see how it sounds outside of my brain, but I do have my moments when the cliches sneak in there all stealthy and ninja-like. It's especially hard when you're trying to show that part of a character that marks them as either the protag or antag without going full out cliche.

How do you feel about dialogue cliches and have you ever caught yourself writing them?

And now for our regularly-scheduled pretty...

Friday, September 2, 2011

Fun Friday: nigahiga - Agents of Secret Stuff

Today's Fun Friday post is another nigahiga favorite. It's a little long, but I promise - totally worth the watch! Enjoy!

And now for our regularly scheduled pretty...

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Writing Wednesday: The Value of Critique

There are some people that can write without the need for an extra pair of eyes until the very end, right before submission. But even then, there are writers that go through the entire process alone, with only their own knowledge and their own views on the outcome of the manuscript. Others, like me, have those extra pair of eyes (or extra pairs, in my case) that see the process unfold as the manuscript evolves into what would eventually be the final version for submission.

Not to say that one way is wrong and everyone must go that route because with or without critique, it's really the work that speaks for itself and different people just have their own ways to get to that final product.

In my experience, I've tried writing on my own, without the extra eyes and extra input that another person can give. I don't have a degree in writing, English, or literature. The gist of my writing credibility when I first attempted writing a full length manuscript was summed up into a few creative writing classes I had taken and English courses from high school.

For the longest time, I was completely terrified of showing anything I had written to anyone for many reasons that I'm not going to get into here. I don't know at what point things had shifted, but I decided that I was going to need those extra pair of eyes.

I needed help.

I began using my social media experience to reach out to others who were in the same boat. I pored through blogs, and attended online conferences and webinars. Not only did I start gaining knowledge about the industry, but I also began striking up conversations with people who shared the same interests, who had the same ideas and experiences, and who could be someone that could help shape my attempt at a writing career for the better.

I started off with one or two people I had met at WriteOnCon and, eventually, ventured out to blog postings that helped to pair up writers with others of the like for the purpose of exchanging works for critique. It was one of the best moves I had ever made.

Not only did I make new friends, but I found writers who could take a look at what I had written and give me honest, no holds-barred input on what they felt could be improved. This experience with critique partners and beta readers also helped to thicken my skin (okay, I might still be working on this one...LOL *shifty eyes*). Their critique helped to see certain elements that I may have otherwise missed, or provide input that could potentially make the work much better.

Something to keep in mind about critique, however, is that all input is subjective. Every person has their own opinion of what should and shouldn't be. Of what is missing or what is glaringly obvious. The way the information is handled and filtered into the manuscript is all up to how the writer interprets and uses the information given.

I look back on the first draft of the very first manuscript I had written and sort of cringe. *laughs* But, I know that without that first attempt, I wouldn't have something to go back to that I could compare with how much better I've improved since then. Critique helps the writer to grow. It challenges the writer's current skills and help to shed a new light on things that might have otherwise been missed. It helps the writer to grow as a person and to take from it the good.

At least that's what it's done for me.

What are your opinions on critique? Do you think they're necessary for a writer's growth or do you think its influence does more harm than good?

And now for our regularly scheduled pretty...

Monday, August 29, 2011

Music Monday: Nice Guys - nigahiga

I haven't posted in a few...life's just been throwing me a bumload of stuff that I had to deal with. But I thought for today's Music Monday, I'd give everyone a supreme funny that I found on YouTube. Nigahiga was a channel I found via my brother (who's one of the most awesome people on this PLANET, but I may be biased) and the video is basically a parody on nice guys vs douchebags. Featured in the vid are Ryan Higa, Kev Jumba, Chester See, Dtrix, Cathy Nguyen, and Kina Grannis. If you like what you see, subscribe to their channels below.

Ryan Higa - nigahiga
Kev Jumba - kevjumba
Chester See - chestersee
Dtrix (Dominic from SYTYCD) - thedominicshow
Cathy Nguyen - lilcdawg
Kina Grannis - kinagrannis

Nice Guys - nigahiga version

And now for our regularly scheduled pretty...

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Tunes Tuesday: Katy McAllister - Worth Fighting For + CONTEST WINNERS!

In lieu of Music Monday because I was unable to post, I bring you Tunes Tuesday! Just as musical and full of win! *confetti* But before we get to my song of the week, I wanted to announce the WINNERS from my Writing Wednesday Dialogue and Pimpage Contest! *more confetti*

Winner for the dialogue contest: Lori Lee

Winner for the bonus entries: Samantha Rae

Email me at ThatGirlAni(at)gmail(dot)com to let me know if you would prefer the Amazon or iTunes gift card.

Thanks for all of you who entered and made my contest oh so fun! :D

Now for the music of the week...

Katy McAllister - Worth Fighting For


The sky is turning golden now.
Wish you were with me, now.
My body aches for you.
Feels empty since you left
Is anybody left, that isn’t broken?
Shattered, confused.

It’s not that I don't understand your side
It’s just hard to contemplate why this
Love so deep goes unanswered
I'm going places in this life
And I want you by my side
Do you remember that night

As you tell me goodbye
I see that look in your eyes
I never wanted you to break down
We found real love in this cold world
Isn't that what life's about
We can get away from this town

I know exactly how I hurt you,
There's nothing left but the truth
We can change this life
One step at a time.
I know there's so much more
Isn't that worth fighting for?

Its been so long I'm growing.
We've lost the only one who can fix me,
Now it's me who's breaking down.
I know you see me broken
But there's so much unspoken
Please give us hope.
Because I'll never let you go.

It's not that I'm forgiving myself.
It's just I'm going through hell.
To try and think of words to save me.

It's not so much I am missing you.
It's more like I'm so lost without you.
I'd give anything for you to just take me.

As you tell me goodbye
I see that look in your eyes
I never wanted you to break down
We found real love in this cold world
Isn't that what life's about
We can get away from this town

I know exactly how I hurt you,
There's nothing left but the truth
We can change this life
One step at a time.
I know there's so much more
Isn't that worth fighting for?

Honestly tell when you look at me
And don't remember everything
You're scared and that’s okay
I'll show you there’s a way
For us to truly be something happy

As you tell me goodbye
I see that look in your eyes
I never wanted you to break down
We found real love in this cold world
Isn't that what life's about
We can get away from this town

I know exactly how I hurt you,
There's nothing left but the truth
We can change this life
One step at a time.
I know there's so much more
Isn't that worth fighting for?

And now for our regularly-scheduled pretty...

Friday, August 12, 2011

Fun Friday: The Liebster Blog Award

It's a blog award kinda day! *grins*

I just got this frawesomesauce award from my original gal-boyfriend, Sophia. *squee and gives many thanks*

This award is intended to connect bloggers, specifically those with less than 200 followers. In accepting the award, I must:

- Show my thanks to the blogger who gave me the award by linking back to them.
- Reveal my top 5 picks and let them know by leaving a comment on their blog.
- Post the award on my blog.
- Bask in the love from the most supportive people on the internet —other writers.
- And best of all – have fun and spread the karma.

So here are five of my favorite blogs EVAR:

1) You Are the Unicorn of My Dreams - Lori M. Lee

2) JonYang.org - Jon Yang

3) All About Mom Sense - Christine Marie

4) Sirra Girl - Sirra

5) A Nudge in the Right Direction - Alz and Krispy

And now for our regularly-scheduled PRETTY...

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Writing Wednesday: Character Voice

Just a friendly reminder that there are still two days left on my blog contest for a chance to win either an iTunes or an Amazon gift card. CLICK ME to get in on it! ENDS FRIDAY, AUGUST 12TH!

Today's Writing Wednesday post discusses character voice. Why is character voice important to the story and how does it help to shape the story itself? Here are a few examples from one of my favorite literary characters of ALL TIME:

"I'm the most terrific liar you ever saw in your life. It's awful. If I'm on my way to the store to buy a magazine, even, and somebody asks me where I'm going, I'm liable to say I'm going to the opera. It's terrible."

"When I really worry about something, I don't just fool around. I even have to go to the bathroom when I worry about something. Only, I don't go. I'm too worried to go. I don't want to interrupt my worrying to go."

"Anyway, I keep picturing all these little kids playing some game in this big field of rye and all. Thousands of little kids, and nobody's around - nobody big, I mean - except me. And I'm standing on the edge of some crazy cliff. What I have to do, I have to catch everybody if they start to go over the cliff - I mean if they're running and they don't look where they're going I have to come out from somewhere and catch them. That's all I do all day. I'd just be the catcher in the rye and all. I know it's crazy, but that's the only thing I'd really like to be."

Can anyone guess whose very authentically crafted voice that is? *fangirls a little* All Salinger aficionados should know this, but for those of you that don't - that would be none other than the voice of one Holden Caulfield.

The way the character describes certain things, how they react to the environment around them, their speaking patterns, even their choice of verbiage, are all different ways to make the character's personality come alive.

The Catcher in the Rye was written in first person POV and throughout the entire book, you get an absolute sense of who Holden is. Every word, every action, and every reaction is all authentically Holden Caulfield.

So how does a writer, who I'm sure have their own voices that show through in their written works, construct a character so believable it's as though the character has a completely separate mind of their own? In my experience, only one thing can help (unless of course the writer is a complete natural at being five different types of personalities all at once and is not deemed verifiably loony).


Practice. Practice. And oh, did I mention Practice?

You hear pieces of advice everywhere:

-listen to dialogue in different settings from strangers all around you
-have a conversation with someone who embodies similar personality traits to the character whose voice you're trying to authenticate
-draw up a practice dialogue scenario between your working character and a "quiet friend" to get a feel for how they would talk with limited prodding
-pick a few topics unrelated to your WIP/manuscript/book, along with a few of your key characters, and let them have at it in a practice dialogue setting

These suggestions may seem silly or what have you, but they totally work. I'm still learning how to write distinguishable character voices; to get them to a point where someone could read an excerpt of dialogue or monologue and say "Ohhh...I know who that is!".

But I know I'm getting better.

Voice was something I struggled with when I started writing to the extent of how I'm doing it now. I look back to the very first story I attempted to write and the WIP that I'm currently working on and smile (you know, after the initial epic grimace face). *laughs*

To me, there is a substantial difference. I'm happy with the progression. I'm ecstatic that the practice I've put in and the proactive learning helped out, even if only by a small margin. I can see it. And really, isn't that what really matters? That we constantly improve, learn more, and continue improving?

For now, I'm pretty content with that.

How do you begin fleshing out your characters? What steps do you go through to personalize them, to give them the tools to take the reigns and come alive?

And now for our regularly-scheduled PRETTY...