Book Characters

One of the funnest parts of writing is creating characters. I don’t know that anyone remembers every character, but after spending so much time writing, an author will definitely remember all of them for all time.

In the beginning, a writer wonders what they look like? How do they respond to stresses? What makes them do what they do? Sometimes they change looks in the middle of writing the book. My favorite is: What recognizable quirky trait do they have? Do they always run their fingers through their hair? Do they bite their fingernails? Do they laugh awkwardly when they’re nervous? Many of my characters in past books were based on people I know, but it’s also fun creating a person out of thin air!

If my character isn’t someone I know, once I have a pretty firm grasp on how they look, I roam the internet looking for them. If I was casting a moving and everyone in the world could act, I would be the best casting agent ever!

 

witch dance cover

My coming book, Witch Dance, is about a late-thirties couple with two kids. The cast includes the wife’s childhood friend and his grandmother. Also in the story, is the grandmother’s friend.

The secondary story takes place 2000 years earlier with some indigenous tribal people in the same area.

The main focus of the book are witches from the same time period who make an appearance in current times and cause havoc for my late-thirties couple.

 

 

 

 

 

 

margaret speedwell

One of the premises of the book is the late-thirties woman is a doppelganger for one of the 2000-year-old Indians. So, you know she needs to look Native American. That’s pretty easy. Here she is:

 

 

emily and sarah

The problem started when I wrote her children as young blondes before I had a solid idea in my head about momma’s looks, and then my book-cover designer subsequently created the cover above with a blonde girl on it. Well, if momma looks Indian, where did these blondes come from?

 

 

 

Thomas Speedwell

I searched and searched for their lawyer daddy and found him here!

What a good looking family, no?

 

 

 

 

 

 

rich martin

 

Now for the woman’s childhood friend.

He is a newspaper reporter, never married, still lives with his grandmother, and I pictured him in my head as an uber-dork. How about this? Minus the typewriter…or maybe not.

 

 

 

 

grandma ivyHis grandmother is everybody’s favorite grandmother, whose house smells like cornbread and sweet tea. She has the most heartwarming blue eyes. This is Grandma Ivy.

 

 

myrtle

Her friend is named after a lady who lives down the road from me in real life. I’ve never met her, but I drive by her house on occasion and see about one hundred goats in her yard. One day, I mentioned the property with the goats to a friend, who said, “Oh, you must be talking about Myrtle Brooks.” The name stuck with me, and I knew I’d use it in a book someday.

 

 

 

Salina

Finally, I had to find a young Indian girl from 2000 years ago. Here she is:

It was so much fun casting my novel. I don’t know who any of these people are. I just stole their pictures from the Internet. If we ever make my new book into a movie, I’ll have to go back and find out who they are, because they definitely have a job!

I know you’re waiting for some pictures of the witches, but they seem to change shape/age/etc. frequently, so I couldn’t nail them down. Sorry. If we make the movie, they may have to be CGI.

Pick up a copy of Witch Dance (It’s on pre-order until release date 9/15 for only $0.99) and let me know if I nailed it! I’m sure I did!! And let me know if you find a pictures of my witches. 🙂

 

Witch Dance Pre-release

I’m so excited about my new book, Witch Dance! It’s in the final stages of editing and will be available for pre-orders very soon for only $0.99. I’ll post the link here as soon as it goes live. The official release date is September 15th and will be available in ebook and paperback at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, Create Space, Kobo, Sony, iBooks, and other online retailers. There will also be a blog tour and a Facebook release party, so stay tuned.

 

witch dance coverWitch Dance

Just south of Tupelo, Mississippi on the Natchez Trace lies a place of mystery called Witch Dance.

When Thomas and Margaret Speedwell took their twins to Witch Dance for a weekend camping trip, they never imagined they would be pulled into a vortex of witchcraft, tragedy, and karma. One of the girls goes missing; the other won’t say what happened on the other side of the hill.

The tragedy pulls together a cast of characters from Margaret’s childhood and beyond – Choctaw and Chickasaw Indians, Toltec ancestors, the extinct Hopewell tribe.

With the help of a childhood friend, a concerned newspaper reporter, and visions by a strange old woman, a two thousand year old mystery begins to unfold, uncovering missing children throughout generations. Who is taking them? Could it be the infamous witches of Witch Dance?

 

Agitations of a Writer: Grammar, Content, and Dog Stealing

All writers and editors live in a constant state of frustration. Each and every blog, social media post, newspaper article, etc. are filled to the brim with incorrect grammatical phrases, punctuation errors, and badly written content that make us shake our collective heads. We usually grit our teeth and walk away, but today is not that day. My writer and editor friends will surely feel my pain, and I hope the rest of you get a kick out of the frustration that lives in the mind of a writer. Disclaimer: For you PETA-type people out there, don’t get your dander up. This post is not about dogs. If the subject was purple Chevys, I would have written the same thing.

I read the following letter on a forum a while back. As a writer, I’m agitated by the grammar. The more I look at it, the more I’m frustrated by the content. I copied and pasted it exactly as it appeared, and I have wasted my entire morning ripping it to shreds writing a blog about it.

 

found_collar_black2__33877.1362773206.1280.1280_2“I have a community question, that needs to be anonymous.

There is a dog running around my street that is severely malnourished, to the point that you can see every single bone in ther body, and they have other dogs in small pens in their backyard. I have gotten the one wondering in my back yard with a bowl of food and water. Where can I call that isn’t a high kill shelter? I believe the dog is considered an aggressive breed, but he is the sweetest thing ever.” – Anonymous Liker

 

While this letter is probably written by a good-deed doer, and I am all for rescuing neglected and abused animals, the post has many issues one simply cannot overlook. Grammar is the least of its problems.

“I have a community question, that needs to be anonymous.” 

There’s no need for a comma in this sentence. Why would a question need to be anonymous? Oh, you meant the person asking the question wishes to remain anonymous. Oh.

“There is a dog running around my street that is severely malnourished, to the point that you can see every single bone in ther body, and they have other dogs in small pens in their backyard.”  

Where does one even start? This is a run-on sentence with two topics – the dog and ‘they.’ “You can see every single bone” is an exaggeration. It is not possible to see every single bone unless you’ve dissected the dog, in which case we have another problem. We understand the dog is skinny, but this exaggeration leads us to believe that nothing else you’ve written here is completely true either. I’m going to ignore the “their” typo, but who is “they” in the last part of the sentence? I’m thinking you mean your neighbors? Wait! If you know this is your neighbor’s dog, why don’t you take him home? Hang on to that thought for a moment.

I have gotten the one wondering in my back yard with a bowl of food and water.

1005-alternate-1-440x400Is this a different dog? Do you have THIS dog in your possession? This sentence has me wondering how you knew this dog was wondering. Was he sitting on your back porch in the pose of The Thinker? Oh, you meant wandering, as in roaming around. Why didn’t you say so? Was he carrying a bowl of food and water with him? (…which would probably be TWO bowls, but that’s neither here nor there.) Did you mean YOU had the bowl (singular) of food and water? I’m so confused.

(photo credit: Rodin’s Thinker, National Gallery of Art, exhibiting how I’m feeling at this moment.)

Let’s continue…

“Where can I call that isn’t a high kill shelter?”

I understand the question, really, I do, but I don’t understand how over thirty people responded to the original post with phone numbers and names of shelters, and not one person noticed that the writer had STOLEN her neighbor’s dog. The wish to remain anonymous now makes more sense.

I’ll mention the obvious here. This was posted on a forum, using the Internet, which has “The Google” as my elderly friend calls it. Just look up a number.

There should be a dash between high and kill as this two-word adjective (see what I did there?) is describing the shelter.

“I believe the dog is considered an aggressive breed, but he is the sweetest thing ever.” 

Finally, a sentence written correctly, but after the exaggeration and the fact that you’ve stolen your neighbor’s dog, I’m not inclined to trust your judgment. I may want to imagine you sitting next to a malnourished Rottweiler, but what I envision is a busybody old lady with a dirty poodle on her lap.

 

 

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Self-realization Meets Fiction

Soooo, I’m going on a personal level here that makes me super uncomfortable. But, what do they say? Truth is better than fiction?

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I’m working on a book where my married heroine is debating having an affair with a man she knew from her childhood. The angel on my shoulder doesn’t want her to do it, because I want her to be an upstanding woman with deep integrity who puts her husband and family first.

The devil on my other shoulder thinks it will make a great side story to an all ready intense book.

cartoon_devil.gif

 

So, I dug deep in my gut and examined my own standards to make the decision.

I’ve always said I wouldn’t consider an affair because I would never put my husband in an embarrassing situation. I have far too much respect for him to ever purposefully do that. But this morning, I had a revelation! I not only think and feel that for HIM – I have my own personal reasons for ME!

I come from an abusive past and find it hard to let people close to me. This includes men. I can’t open that door to trust and intimacy without a lot of emotional pushing and pulling. And that is definitely not a one-night fling sort of process.

Back to my heroine. If she feels like I do (and they always do, don’t they?), she wouldn’t have the affair, because she couldn’t be intimate with someone without first trusting them. Since the man knows she’s married, the relationship would be built on dishonesty. That’s a rocky start. The affair would go nowhere and the friendship would certainly end badly. My poor heroine. I don’t want that for her with all the rest of the crap going on in this story. Maybe we’ll stick with sexual tension and not let it progress farther. Let’s see if my personal beliefs come out in this story. If they do, you’ll know the truth about their origin. Shhh. Don’t tell anyone.

angel_and_devil_on_shoulder-t2

Of course, these characters always have minds of their own, so we may find her in a moment of weakness.

We’ll see what happens….

 

Redundancy – as in being redundantly redundant

6a0120a85dcdae970b01287770508e970c-piRedundancy: the state of being no longer useful or the inclusion of extra components that are unnecessary.

If there’s one thing that drives me crazy in amateur/unedited/poorly-edited writing, it’s when the writer insults my intelligence by being redundant. I know it takes months and sometimes years to write a book. I know it’s important that the reader understands the characters, their motivations, their wants and needs. I’m convinced some writers and editors don’t realize it only takes a few hours to read a book.

Case in point:

I just finished a story that contained a side-character: an old busy-body woman who lived in the town. The main character ran into this woman in the first chapter. Let’s call her Mrs. Beeman.

Mrs. Beeman owned a cat that was unfortunately stuck in a tree and the main character got suckered into helping rescue said cat. For the next six hours, each and every time Mrs. Beeman’s name was mentioned, I had to stop the progression of the story so the writer could remind me who Mrs. Beeman was and force me to re-live her tragic cat incident.

“Mrs. Beeman, the woman whose cat was stuck in the tree, entered the room.”

“Mrs. Beeman, who Billy had helped early that day when her cat got stuck in a tree, stomped out of the room.

“Mrs. Beeman, yadda yadda cat yadda, sobbed.”

I am not stupid. I know who Mrs. Beeman is.

Keep in mind, unless you’ve penned a tome as lengthy as “War and Peace,” it will only take the reader a few hours to read it. We can and do remember the characters and the names. We don’t need to be reminded over and over of who a character is. And, if we do need to be reminded, then you did not make their entrance as grand as you should have. Write all the details of your characters at our very first meeting. Once the reader has a solid picture of who this person is, you don’t ever need to remind us again. Ever.

Give your reader credit for having at least an iota of intelligence. Do NOT remind them who Mrs. Beeman is or mention her stupid cat who has nothing to do with the story. We got it.

So, did you hear about the day Mrs. Beeman’s cat got stuck in the tree?

Celebrate All Hallow’s Eve with a Shiver up Your Spine…and it’s FREE!

Happy All Hallow’s Eve to all of you ghouls and goblins.

Just for fun, I’m offering a Kindle copy of

The Legend of Stuckey’s Bridge

for FREE!

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Old Man Stuckey is the perfect accompaniment to a frightful Halloween week. He’s a little bit Dexter with a streak of Hannibal, but somehow, he makes me laugh.

 

Pick up a copy…if you dare! Sweet dreams.

Click HERE to go to Amazon October 24-28 and pick up a FREE copy! If you don’t have a Kindle, no worries. Click HERE to download the app to your tablet, computer, or phone.

 

 

3-step Formula for Writing Blurbs

xrory3.jpg.pagespeed.ic.NKcnIrcztY3-step Formula for Writing Blurbs

 

Technically, a “synopsis” is the summary you write about your book. A “blurb” is an endorsement usually written by someone else, singing your praises. But, neither here nor there, we know what we’re talking about. We want a short, snappy, sales pitch that makes our book sell. We want a summary that calls to the right readers. We want a description that makes money!

Where to start…

 

Let’s start with a simple formula:

Plot, Problem, Possibility.

1) What’s the plot of your story? We need a general description of the situation.

2) We need a problem (usually following the plot and proceeded by the word ‘but’ or ‘however’).

3) We need the possibility that our hero may overcome the problem.

Let’s insert a book we all know into this formula. How about Green Eggs and Ham?

Plot: Sam tries to get someone to eat green eggs and ham.

Problem: No matter what Sam does, he can’t accomplish his goal.

Possibility: After begging and pleading, someone finally tries green eggs and ham. Will they like it?

Blurb: Sam travels the world trying to entice someone to try green eggs and ham, but no matter what Sam does, he can’t seem to accomplish his goal. After begging and pleading, someone finally tries Sam’s green eggs and ham. Will they like it or will Sam be forced to continue his journey?

Many writers say to keep the blurb short and don’t give away too much. I agree with keeping it short. Don’t tell about the boat and the goat and the train and the rain. Subplots don’t sell books. But I don’t see a problem with giving away anything. Movie trailers always show the funniest or most dramatic parts. Think of your blurb as a movie trailer. It’s a sneak peek into the story and hopefully will entice the looker to buy. Did everyone skip the movies Titanic and Apollo 13 because we already knew the endings? No, of course not. Tell your potential reader whatever you want them to know, and give them the Plot, the Problem, and the Possibility. Do yourself a favor…include the blurb when you send your manuscript to your editor. He/she can tighten that mess right up!

…and lay off the adjectives. Don’t fill me with flowery crap, just tell me what the story’s about.

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Lori Crane is a bestselling and award-winning author of historical fiction and the occasional thriller. Her books have climbed to the Kindle Top 100 lists many times, including “Elly Hays” which debuted at #1 in Native American stories. She has also enjoyed a place among her peers in the Top 100 historical fiction authors on Amazon, climbing to #23. She resides in greater Nashville and is a professional musician by night – an indie author by day.