Category Archives: Emotion

Stepping into POV

20130208-163533.jpgThanks for continuing to follow us through our February workshops. A special thanks to those of you who have been brave enough to share your work with us. We sincerely appreciate the opportunity offer up some of the things we’ve learned over the years, but also the chance to learn from you. If you haven’t yet, be sure to enter to win a 25 page critique from Month9Books editor, our very own Courtney Koshel.

“Some people feel the rain. Others just get wet.”
— Roger Miller

Today I’d like to talk about point-of-view, something that has always been highly important to me and something that has evolved in my writing over the years. For those of you who have read my stories, you know I like to dig my heels deeply into my characters’ hearts, set up camp, and then invite you in for a hot cup of coffee. It’s the best seat in the house.

There are three common points-of-view used in fiction: 1st person, 3rd person limited, and 3rd person omniscient. Two things usually dictate which one you choose: your writing style or your story. For me, first person is a choice I’ll make 9 times out of 10 because that’s how I connect to my characters and that’s what shapes the tone of my story. It’s a stylistic thing.

For others, it may vary from story to story. For instance, fantasy is often written in 3rd person because of the vast amount of world building that needs to be done, while Young Adult is commonly 1st person to create the familiar emotional intensity of adolescence in the reader. I’ll let you Google the many articles out there about which one is right for you, but no matter your choice, there are some common tips that mean the difference between watching the story play out on a mental screen and stepping into the character’s shoes.

Eliminating Filter Words

Courtney already gave us a wonderful post on filter words and in it she says, “They distance the reader from the story. It’s one extra step the reader has to take in order to experience action with the character.” There’s no better way to say it so I’ll leave it at that and encourage you to check out her post again for a list of common filter words.

Sensory Details

Including the five senses is essential in each scene yet it often gets overlooked. I think we’re so used to experiencing the world through them, we take for granted that without them I wouldn’t be able to feel the warm blanket over my legs right now; I wouldn’t hear the space heater running beside the couch; I couldn’t see the screen in front of me to type this, or taste the remnants of the Granny Smith apple I ate a few minutes ago. I could have simply said I’m typing this on my iPad in my living room but don’t the use of my senses create a much clearer picture?

Character Thoughts and Feelings

In any given moment, a person has an emotional reaction or thought about what is happening around them, or what happened earlier in the day or week or month. They have feelings about what other people say or do, or what might happen in the future. It is a rare moment when we aren’t reacting to our surroundings. Bring your character to life by giving us a glimpse into his or her mind and heart with internal monologue, skillfully included using the POV of your choice. Make us feel it too.

There are many ways to put readers behind the eyes of your characters but these are just a few. They say you don’t know someone until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes, and a novel is a cross-country trek. Bring us along.

In the comments, I would love to see a few paragraphs of your work-in-progress where you might need a little help with implementing these techniques. The ladies and I here to support you and speaking from experience, nothing helps your grow in your craft more than trial and error with an encouraging group or writing friends. 🙂

Photo by Newtown grafitti


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The Line Between Epic Love and Epic Failure

This is what epic love looks like.

“A writer is someone for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.” 
Thomas MannEssays of Three Decades

It’s that insidious moment when you entertain the thought of giving up. It would be easy, possibly the easiest thing you’ve ever done. The stroke of a few keys would erase the struggle, loneliness, the fight for just the right word, and scratching for the time to write.

Does the very thought sadden you?

I hope so. It breaks my heart. When a writer I know gives up, says that’s it, I’m not this story-telling, creative being anymore, I ache for them. I ache because I understand.

After a late night of pulling words like splinters from my head and the grief of revising a story about death after the loss of my grandmother, I woke up to another sick kid, a mess to clean, and a toddler that won’t quit. I wondered if I had room in my head for a creative thought. Writing is many things. But most often, it’s hard.

I also ache because though its hard, when I imagine not writing, it scares the hell out of me. I’m many things beyond a writer, but it is essential to who I am when I look in the mirror. I tell the stories, pen the poems, not only for a connection with readers, but to connect with myself under the various “hats” I wear.

When I was young and silly, I believed that real love meant you didn’t have to work at it. Okay, you can stop snorting now. It’s a fable, a fabulous fairy tale that takes more than it gives. Real love requires you to get up at three a.m. and clean up after the sick kid, reach a compromise with your partner, or write through the pain and words that unwind before you can commit them to paper.

Let me be blunt: Writing is hard and it takes more than passion and talent. It requires epic love. Epic love often necessitates epic failure.

Do you love what you’re doing enough to fail for it?

I’ve written a lot about fear. It’s something I know about. Fear of failure too often held me back. Now, when I haven’t opened up my document for a while, or find myself utilizing every avenue of procrastination, I take a moment to reevaluate. Sometimes, the beast requires me to saddle up and go for a ride. I’ve done some of my best writing while strapped down, chasing the clouds. Don’t quit because you’re afraid to fail. Ride it out, or change your perspective.

Change your perspective by making a change in your lifestyle. Be kind to yourself- go for a walk or savor the texture and taste of a piece of fresh fruit. When you do it, acknowledge that it’s something your doing for yourself.

Tell the truth. Let someone know- other writers or anyone supportive of your goals- and accept the reasons they give you for not quitting.

Ask yourself: Why do I write?

“I write to give myself strength. I write to be the characters that I am not. I write to explore all the things I’m afraid of. ” 
~Joss Whedon

I mentioned two of the reasons I write- connection with readers, connection with myself. I have other reasons. I write to teach my children what it requires to achieve a dream. I write because I can live, for brief moments, inside any world of my choosing. I write to show the people who’ve hurt me in the past that they have no power over me. I do it because the good writing days are better than sex, chocolate, and wine.

Yes, I’m struggling right now. It’s taken me five hours to write this post because life keeps interfering. For NaNo, I’ve only produced 10,931 words. I’ve had four hours sleep and I long for a nap or hot bath, but I have chicken noodle soup to make and a story to finish.

I refuse to quit.

If you’re walking the line between epic love and epic failure, don’t give up. I’m right here with you. Keep writing. We’ve got this.

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Even if You’re not Doing NaNoWriMo: A Challenge

It’s almost November, and for many writers, the beginning of a month filled with too much caffeine, frozen pizza, and questionable hygiene. That’s right–NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month. If you’ve never joined in the madness, you may want to look into it. But, just like everything else in life, it’s not for everyone, and that’s okay.

One thing I really love about NaNo is the sense of community and excitement. Those two things alone are so inspiring. And let’s face it, there’s something comforting about knowing there are other writers out there who are working toward the same immediate goal as you.

Some writers use the month of November to edit instead of draft. Some use it to finish a manuscript they’ve been holding on to for a long time, but have never gotten around to finishing. What I’m getting at is, even if you don’t want to participate in NaNo, I encourage you to use the 30 days to do something with your writing. Take advantage of the NaNo atmosphere and energy. Thousands of people do NaNo each year–make them your accountability partners for a month.

I have some hefty goals for the month of November. I plan on finishing my revisions on my YA horror novel and hopefully drafting another novel. We’ll see how much I get done, but I’m hopeful 🙂

What are your goals for the month of November?


Training Tools – Websites for Creativity

El grito de la gaviota – Seagull Scream by Dani_vr on Flickr

I’ve wanted to use that image since I first saw it. Not sure how it applies to today’s post, but hopefully it made you smile 🙂

I’m coming off my post-Olympic high. I miss coming home and watching elite athletes fulfill their dreams. I don’t know about you, but I found it inspiring. It gave me a warm and fuzzy feeling in my core. Those people worked hard, sacrificed, trained, and look where it got them. Writers aren’t that different. We have to go through a lot of the same things (but with more wine and chocolate and less laps and pushups).

Our minds are constantly being pushed, our imaginations stretched. We’re honing our craft. If you’re like me, you’ve pretty much given up sleep. Learning, we’re always learning. And what is this “free time” you speak of? Yet we do it because we love it. We have goals and dreams, and we won’t stop until we make it.

What does all this have to do with creativity? Well, as writers, creativity is kind of important to the whole process. I have a bookmarks folder titled, “Websites for Creativity,” and I thought I’d pass along some of my favorites. Think of them as training tools. (There, I totally tied this back to the Olympics 😉 Sneaky, right?)

Critters is a part of but for horror (here’s looking at you, Brian), fantasy, and sci-fi writers. How awesome is that? It can be hard to find critique partners for genre fiction; thankfully critters helps writers connect.

Creativity Portal – If you want to read articles about creativity, and I do this sometimes to better understand the creativity process, then creativity portal is a good resource.

Easy Street Prompts – Like writing prompts? Check this one out.

Six Sentences – This website invites you to tell a story in six sentences. Kind of interesting.

Plot Scenario Generator – This is one of my new favorites. The whole website is really good.

Five Free College Level Writing & Lit Videos – Who says you have to pay to learn?

InkPageant – A collection of blog posts for writers.

80 Journal Writing Prompts – I’m a sucker for journaling and writing prompts. What more could I want?

That should be enough to keep you busy for a while. What about you? What are some of your go-to sites for creativity?


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The Small Things

Image by Jenny Kaczorowski

As much as I love the plots, premises, arcs, and over-all storyline of whatever novel I’m reading, be it published or unpublished, there’s something I love just as much. The smaller details of a story.

What I mean by this is all the little things you as a writer add to your story to give it more personality. When we talk about fleshing out a novel, this is one of the things I think about, but these little things are also what give your story character and personality. It’s your novel’s freckles, the torn jeans it wears, the tiny house it shares with its too big family, and the kind of movies it likes. You know, the little things.

Sometimes it’s the smaller things that make me love a novel that much more.

You guys know I like being interactive and learning about all of you at the same time. So last week I tweeted and asked if one or two of my follower would want to help me out with this week’s post. What I asked them is to give me five things they like about their novel. But I wanted the small things because this is not about promoting a novel, this is just about sharing what you love with somebody else and what makes your story that little bit more special to you.

Below are the fantastic answers from people you know and some you don’t. Some of these writes will be published next year, some of them are in the middle of querying, one or two are still working on their novels.

After reading these wonderful reasons, leave us a comment and give us five random reasons you love your novel. I would love to learn more about you and what you’re writing.

– My MC wears purple Converse sneakers with her prom dress.
– She still makes wishes on dandelions.
– There’s a poster for Wicked, The Musical on my MCs bedroom wall.
– Writing the mother/daughter scenes were the hardest. They broke my heart a little, but the book wouldn’t be the same without them.
– I loved writing my version of the afterlife.

– It’s my first attempt at contemporary
– I love that Evan rides a classic motorcycle (I’ve always wanted to learn to ride).
– Writing a strong, sexy girl like Ginny has been a blast. It’s been even more fun to make her a lot more broken than she appears.
– Setting it in SC. I love the East Coast, and the South in particular. Having it on the beach and getting to mess around with the local history has been amazing.
– Retelling a classic was SO much more difficult than I ever expected, and way more exciting.

– The MC and her family used to perform in an exotic circus similar to the Cirque du Soleil.
– When the MC captures an escaped lab rat in her room, she names him Ratticus, because “To Kill a Mockingbird” is one of her favorite books.
– The MC’s love interest works in his mom’s cafe and tries to win over the MC by offering to make her a chocolate cheesecake.
– While trying to hide from security, the MC and her love interest are forced to hide in a tiny shower stall and use it as an excuse to flirt with each other.
– The last line of the book is one of my favorites: “Nope. It’s just a really big cockroach.”

– The damsel-in-distress scene: but here the one in distress is the hero and the one doing the saving is the heroine 😉
– My heroine has a ninja bike!
– The hero’s brother keeps hitting on the heroine right in front of the hero. It’s always funny.
– The fair scene: the hero takes the heroine dancing and she doesn’t know how to dance (she’s from another realm). He laughs because she’s a fierce warrior and kicks ass when it comes to fighting, but she can’t coordinate her feet and legs and arms when dancing (what he doesn’t know is that she’s nervous about being so close to him!).
– The heroine lost her older brothers and has a younger one that hates her. The hero also has a younger brother and they are always bickering. Without realizing, the heroine wants to fix the hero and his brother’s relationship.

– PDN Is told in dual point of view. I loved listening to both Aaron and Quinn while writing. It was fun getting different insights from both MC’s
– Marcus. He’s Aaron’s best friend and a supporting character, but I LOVE him. His voice came to me out of the blue and he makes me laugh out loud. With such a strong personality, sometimes it was hard to keep him from taking over a scene.
– Quinn’s decent into madness. Is she crazy? Are the demons that torment her real or figments of her imagination? As her nightmares slowly bleed into reality, she begins to question everything, even herself.
– *evil laugh* I put Quinn through so much in this book to see what she would do. I’m not one of those writers who has trouble putting their MC in peril. I know there must have been moments when she was like. “Hey! Can you cut me a break? Seriously?”
– Writing the creepy, dark, scary scenes.  I’m not allowed to go into any detail right now, but I managed to scare myself silly one night writing a particular scene near the end. Creeptastic!

Go on. Share with us what you like about your story. Can’t wait to read your things.


A Gift of Grief

“No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear.” – C.S. Lewis

“It’s so curious: one can resist tears and ‘behave’ very well in the hardest hours of grief. But then someone makes you a friendly sign behind a window, or one notices that a flower that was in bud only yesterday has suddenly blossomed, or a letter slips from a drawer… and everything collapses. ” -Colette

I’m writing this early. Usually, I’m up late the night before my post is due, frantically writing. But not this time. I don’t know what life is bringing this week. My life will be changing, along with that of my family. Things can go one of two ways, but regardless of the outcome, life will never be the same. I know you have no idea what I’m talking about and that’s okay.

Right now I’m dealing with the anticipation of grief, which is a form of grief in itself. My father is extremely ill. This week there will be one of two outcomes, he lives or he dies. That’s it. Two options and no in between. I guess the same could be said for all of us. We live or we die. However, we don’t typically think of our mortality in such a blunt manner.

People offer advice as a means of consoling. I’m being kind when I say offer, because it’s not something I can give back or turn down. I wish I could. I had someone tell me that I’m lucky I’ve had as much time with my dad as I’ve had, because some people never get that much. So I’m supposed to feel selfish for not wanting my dad to die? In the back of my mind I know it’s not meant that way, but my emotions are so raw right now. I know people mean well, but words are powerful. Another favorite of mine is when people tell me to take it one day at a time. How does one do that exactly? Everyday I watch him fade further away. He’s in horrific pain and there’s nothing I can do about it. Yes. Every single day is imprinted in my brain in excruciating clarity.

I’m a writer and more than likely, if you’re reading this, you are too. We should know how to express grief. We should be able to write with compassion and make grief pause, even for just a brief moment. But we’re human and grief is a subject that makes most people uncomfortable. So, let me help a little. The smartest writers and non-writers I know use two very simple words, “I’m sorry.” They don’t give advice or wax poetic. They acknowledge the hurt without resorting to cliches.

If you’ve ever written a scene of grief, I want you to take a look at it. I’m not an expert, but I want to share with you some of the thoughts and feelings I’m having right now. Here are a few in no particular order:

I can’t concentrate on anything. I try to read, but I stare at a page or the computer screen and have no clue what the arrangement of words is trying to convey. I’ve read about writers who use their emotions to their advantage and write amazing things. I can’t seem to do that. Every word is a chore. Every idea takes too long to process. Then I start worrying that this means I’m not a good enough writer, which starts the cycle all over again.

I’m confused. Everyone knows their parents get old, but less than a year ago, my dad was fine. Now he’s sleeping in a hospital bed, has to use a walker and is having trouble with his motor skills. Tonight, I watched him fall because I couldn’t get to him fast enough when his walker tipped over. Luckily, he fell back into his chair and didn’t get hurt. My mind can’t seem to reconcile my dad as an old man who needs help to stand. When did it come to this? He’s 62.

I feel guilt. I watch my mom, who has health problems of her own, take care of my dad with love and patience. This is affecting her health now. I should have been more successful in life and career. I should be able to take care of them completely, but I can’t and that slays me.

I’m overwhelmed. I hardly sleep through the night anymore, just as when my son was a baby. Only now, I listen for my dad. I let my mom sleep through the night and I stay awake, listening and waiting. When I do get to sleep it’s not restful because I’m always listening for my mom to cry my name when she goes to check on him. It scares me, but at the same time, I don’t want him to suffer anymore.

I’m nervous. If I deviate too much from the relationship I’ve had with my dad, will it make him suspicious? Instead, I try to keep cool and do what needs to be done without making him ask. I don’t want to embarrass him or make him self-conscious.

I hurt and am afraid. I won’t tell you how many times I’ve broken down while writing this. Seeing the man I’ve grown up with, always in awe of his strength and ability, reduced to a man barely able to stand on his own – it hurts in a place so deep. I can’t tell you what it’s like to think of a world without him. It takes my breath away.

I’m irritable. How dare life go on for everyone else when mine is falling apart? Irrational, I know. Life keeps going whether we’re a part of it or not.

I hope this helps you in some way. Write grief as true as you can. Don’t gloss over it, it’s insulting. Without going through the process of dying yourself, to lose someone or watch them fade is as close to feeling mortality as you can get. Write it.

Update: He made it through surgery 🙂



Posted by on August 20, 2012 in Craft, Emotion, Personal Experience, Writing


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