Creating Characters, The Complete Guide

Creating Characters, The Complete Guide to Populating Your Fiction

From the Editors of Writer’s Digest, Foreword by Steven James

Book Review and Commentary   September 27, 2016

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“Because the character is in the plot, and the plot is in the character.” Wise words from Steven James in his foreword , a national bestselling novelist, with a Master’s Degree in Storytelling, and writing instructor for over 20 years. Good writers are always looking for the best tools to use to develop characters.  In Creating Characters, you’ll learn all kinds of tips and insights from a variety of experienced authors.

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What I liked best about this writing craft book is the variety of approaches to character development. This is not just one teachers view, nor one way to build your characters. We have over 20 authors’ advice.  A treasure.

Screenwriter and novelist Chuck Wendig gives you “25 Things You Should Know about Character.” How the character is your vehicle through the plot, finding the 3 beats for your character, finding the darkness inside, and more.

Novelist Joseph Bates discusses how  external motivation and internal motivation achieves the conflict for suspense.

Having some troubles with Point of View? Nancy Kress, author of 33 books, covers first person to third to omniscient POV and describes each in easy detail. This is critical in character development to get the right POV.

Do your characters know the difference between profanity, swearing, and vulgarisms? There are skills in handling all. Elizabeth Sims, prize-winning novelist knows first hand. I found this chapter very insightful.

James Scott Bell, best-selling suspense writer has got you covered on how to “Relate to Readers with a Lead Character.” How do you build sympathy for your character? There are 4 ways. How do you hook the reader on the first page? What are the rules for successful exposition? Bell has 3 you need to know and “do the iceberg” is one of them. I really loved this–so clear!

Literary agent Donald Maass will tell you what you need to know about creating a powerful three-dimensional villain that can also sway  readers’ hearts.

Award-winning author and novelist David Corbett will show you how to “Push Your Character to the Limits.” His pages on the role of contradictions is five-star. Jungian psychology, the Shadow, and subtext.

What about character arc? Oh this one  has 4 veteran authors showing you the path:  Joseph Bates, James Scott Bell, Jeff Gerke, Jack Smith. Everything from creating the character arc, to the arc within plot, to that critical moment of truth, and how to rethink the characterization using the direct method and the indirect method.

Highly recommended writing book, and I think good reading material before you start that next novel.

 

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My Recommended List of the Best Writing Books I’ve Read.

Dialogue, The Art of Verbal Action for the Page, Stage, & Screen, by Robert McKee  (book review here)
The Annotated Dracula (Bram Stoker), Annotated by Mort Castle (book review here) (Also The Annotated Jane        Eyre (Charlotte Bronte) Annotated by K.M. Weiland)
How to Write Like Chekhov, Advice and Inspiration,
Editor Piero Brunello and Lena Lencek  (book review here)
Steering the Craft, A 21st-Century Guide to Sailing the Sea of Story, Ursula K. Le Guin (book review here)
Writing Wild, Tina Welling (book review here)
Writing Down the Bones, Natalie Goldberg (book review here)
Method Writing, Jack Grapes (book review here)
Zen in the Art of Writing, Ray Bradbury (book review here)
On Writing, A Memoir, Stephen King (book review here)

Writing Fiction, A Guide to Narrative Craft, by Janet Burroway. All the basics of how to write: the writing process, show vs. tell, characterization, fictional atmosphere and place, story structure and plot, point of view, theme, and revision.
Story, Robert McKee
Story Trumps StructureSteven James
The Fire in Fiction, Donald Maass
The Art of Fiction, John Gardner (I reread this book once a year, it’s that good)
Making Shapely Fiction, Jerome Stern
The Art of Character, David Corbett
Getting into Character, Brandilyn Collins
The Secret Miracle, the Novelist’s Handbook, edited by Daniel Alarcon
Becoming a Writer, Dorothea Brande
The Faith of a Writer, Life, Craft, Art, Joyce Carole Oates
If You Want to Write, Brenda Ueland
Reading like a Writer, Francine Prose
Elements of Style, Strunk & White

Best Editing Books for Writers:
Self-Editing for Fiction Writers, Renni Browne & Dave King
A Dash of Style, Noah Lukeman
The Grammar Bible, Michael Strumpf & Auriel Douglas
Line by Line, Claire Kehrwald Cook
The Careful Writer, Theodore M. Bernstein
Fowler’s Modern English Usage, Second Edition, Ernest Gowers
Chicago Manual of Style
Words Into Type, Third Edition, Skillin & Gay

Comments are welcome, please!

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Filed under Book Reviews, fiction, horror blogs, short stories, writing craft books

The Magic of Sherlock Holmes

The Adventure of The Copper Beeches  by Arthur Conan Doyle (1892)

Tuesday’s Tale of Terror   September 20, 2016

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There is a magic in Sherlock Holmes stories, the atmospheric London fog, hansom cabs clacking over cobbled streets, the famous parlor at 221-B Baker Street with Holmes and Watson sitting before a cozy fire and a steaming teapot—or refreshing themselves with glasses of claret as in the The Adventure of the Dying Detective.

Today’s short story is The Adventure of the Copper Beeches. Violet Hunter is our heroine, curious and independent, but in need of Mr. Holmes’ advice when she takes a governess position at the country estate called Copper Beeches, near Winchester. Mr. Rucastle is an odd sort with a wife who carries a secret sorrow, and their savage boy who adores capturing little birds and bugs.

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“Crime is common. Logic is rare. Therefore it is upon the logic rather than upon the crime that you should dwell.”

The story unfolds like the tick-tock of a clock, so I won’t say another word. Although Holmes doesn’t exactly solve the crime, the adventure is suspenseful, with a touch of romance. Enjoy this 20-minute read.

Read the short story at EastoftheWeb.com 

Listen to the audio, read by Mark Smith on YouTube.com 

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The Science of Deduction by Sherlock Holmes: Forum, Hidden Messages, Case Files:

 http://www.thescienceofdeduction.co.uk/

The Sherlock Holmes Official Website.

The Blog of Dr. John Watson Official Website.

Need a cup of tea with this story? Settle back and enjoy this story along with a pot of “Sherlock Holmes” blend of tea (lapsang souchong, assam melody, oriental spice), which is ‘exotic and mysterious and perhaps a little bit insane, with a lingering hint of smoke’ at Adagio Tea Company. See Comment #1 below for link.

 

Don’t forget to view the INDEX above of more free Tales of Terror. This is a compendium of over 170 short stories by over 100 master storytellers of mystery,  supernatural, horror, and ghost stories. Join me in reading one short story every other week! Comments are welcome.

 

Other Reading Web Sites to Visit

Slattery’s Art of Horror Magazine

Books & Such   Bibliophilica    Lovecraft Ezine   Parlor of Horror

 HorrorAddicts.net     Horror Novel Reviews    HorrorSociety.com     

Monster Librarian     HorrorNews.net     HorrorTalk.com 

 Rob Around Books      The Story Reading Ape Blog

For Authors/Writers:  The Writer Unboxed

EZindiepublishing

 

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Greylock’s Sexy Chicken Tabaca Scene

Hello Greylock Readers and Fans,

I’ve been receiving lovely emails from readers of Greylock who have been asking about the “Chicken Tabaca” sexy scene and if I have a recipe. I do and I cook this dish a lot. Here’s a peek of that scene and the recipe.

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Here’s the scene set up: Alexei Georg and Lia Marrs are spending the weekend together on the summit of Mt. Greylock in the residence section of the Greylock Music Hall. They are totally alone on the mountain. After a few rocky weeks in their relationship, Alexei wants to reestablish himself with Lia, but she is not so sure she can trust him. It’s autumn, at sunset, and they are both absorbing the views from the mountaintop, anticipating their evening ahead. They are discussing time-travel. Alexei has his reservations about such an adventure … but little does he know that time travel will be his only answer to save his destiny.

 

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In the residence, Lia snuggled up on the cozy sofa. The rich greens and tans of the furnishings embraced her and she relaxed next to the wide glass doors overlooking banks of massy woods. Brown and red leaves blew over crags and ridges. Alexei was right about the sunset—the entire sky pooled with rose and purples, slim cloud-flakes, fragments of grey misted at the glass. “Love the view here. Halls of mists, Earl of wind, Master of light. You feel like God on top of this mountain or what?” Lia called out to Alexei in the kitchen as his Chicken Tabaca sizzled in a black frying pan. She opened Priestley’s Man & Time and flipped the pages.

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Alexei came over with two tumblers of whiskey and water. “I am the mighty mountain,” he sang deeply and handed her a glass. “Actually this mountain makes me feel quite small if you want to know the truth.”

“Hmmm. Look at this.” She pointed to a photo of Einstein. “Do you understand his theory of time-dilation?”

He sat next to her, picked up her hand and kissed it. “I like your hands. They remind me of wings. Time-dilation?”

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“I do think time-travel might be possible in our lifetime. The laws of physics favor it. The past are particles and the present are waves. Who said that? Where did I read that? I can’t recall now.” She said.

“Physics. What a blur that stuff is. I’ll never get it.” Alexei said.

drinkunnamedLia poked her index finger into her drink and swirled it around. “Watch. Pretend this liquid is empty space. My finger is a circulating laser light beam. Einstein said space and time are connected. Three dimensions for space, one for time equals a fourth dimension. If we can twist space, we can twist time, open it, and access it. I’ve simplified it shamefully. Boston Globe did a story on it last year: loops in time, ring lasers. I just love that stuff.” She sipped her drink. “Mmmmm, very smooth.”

 “Old Forester. If you could time-travel, Lia, where would you go back to?”

 “That’s easy. I’d go back to 1898 and meet Madame Curie. She had an astonishing intuition. You know if you could time-travel, you can’t act. You can’t change what time has already set in motion. It’s strictly for observation only. How about you?”

“Less lofty ambitions. Don’t laugh, but I’d go back to 1982 and observe my mother. I’d really like to see her in the house on Orange Street, hear her voice, see her on the front porch swing.” He cocked his head to listen. “Oh! The Chicken Tabaca,” he said, dashing to the smoking stove.

Had he not rushed off, she would have stolen a kiss. Was she falling in love with this man? No, no. Don’t do that.

 

Sunset faded into the night. A dome of stars slashed bits of light through the bedroom windows. Lia climbed on Alexei’s lap and read him passages from Anaïs Nin’s Delta of Venus, reinventing the text with her own desires and words. “…riding naked on my horse, the heat of the stallion’s hide burning my thighs and palpitating my ….”

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The rest of this scene I really cannot post on a public blog. But here’s the Chicken Tabaca!

 

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Alexei Georg’s Chicken Tabaca on Mt. Greylock

Ingredients:
Two breasts of chicken (with skin and bones)
¼ cup of olive oil
Sprinkles of garlic salt, smoky paprika, chili powder, salt and pepper

Let the breast of chicken come up to room temperature (20 minutes). On the underside, break the breast bone in three places with a meat hammer so the breasts lie open and flat (you can slice out the center and bone if you prefer). Pound slightly to flatten out so the breasts are spread even. Sprinkle both sides with salt and pepper, garlic salt, smoky paprika, and very lightly with chili powder.

Heat a large cast iron skillet over medium high heat. Add ¼ cup of olive oil into skillet. Place chicken skin side down in hot oil . Weight chicken down with either another cast iron skillet or a brick covered with tin foil. Brown thoroughly until a deep golden color. Turn over and cook on underside. Cook 10 minutes or so. Turn again if needed, until chicken is crispy and cooked through, about 20 to 30 minutes total. (meat will register 165 degrees F on an instant read thermometer).

Serve immediately with a beet salad, a really smooth Pinot Noir, and a side of much kissing. Enjoy!

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“Cappa’s latest is nothing less than a mind-boggling mystery … always keeping an elusive edge to her characters’ personas—a plot replete with all the wonderful trappings of a romance-laced mystery with unexpected twists and turns.”  U.S. Review of Books

 “A dark masterpiece. Rare and beautiful piece of writing by an author with an unpredictable and exceptional command of language and mood.” John J. Staughton, Amazon TOP Reviewer, FIVE stars.

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Filed under fiction, horror blogs, Mt. Greylock, murder mystery, mysteries, Reading Fiction, short story blogs, supernatural, supernatural music, supernatural mysteries, supernatural thrillers, suspense

Locked-Room Mysteries, Good and Grisly

The Murders of Rue Morgue by Edgar Allan Poe (1841)

 Tuesday’s Tale of Terror   September 6, 2016

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Who isn’t a fan of locked door mysteries? The clues or lack of clues in these stories make us think deeply and feel entertained at the same time in a mind-bending sort of way. I’ve been reading locked door mysteries this month and having a great time. Gaston Leroux’s Mystery of the Yellow Room, John Dickson Carr’s The Three Coffins, and The Adventure Of The Sealed Room by Adrian Conan Doyle & John Dickson Carr to name a few. The Golden Age of crime fiction gave us a long list of these murder mysteries with authors who know how to baffle was well as trick your perceptions.

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The #1 in our literary history is Poe’s The Murders of the Rue Morgue. A young woman’s corpse jammed up a chimney. An elderly woman brutally murdered by decapitation. Locked doors. Nailed down windows. Not a single footprint. And the famous C. Auguste Dupin to bring you along on this adventure. If you’ve never read this one during the ol’ school days, read it now. The audio is quite entertaining and a great escape for an hour. Don’t let the dry opening deter you (checkers vs. chess) that focuses on the process of exact thinking (analysis vs. intelligence vs. intuition). Poe is clearly leading our mental prowess to follow his path: truth is what remains, once we determine what is impossible. Are you up for a bit of creative insight?

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I listened to the audio of this story while following the text in an old Poe edition. Sitting by an open window on a gray sunless day, I could see the wind shaking the green leaves of trees. A glass of brandy, feet up, snuggled in … perfect.

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Read the short story The Murders of the Rue Morgue at Ebooks.Adelaide.edu

Listen to Librivox Murders of Rue Morgue on YouTube.com

For more about locked door mysteries stop by Mysteryfile.com 

Also, try Otto Penzler’s famous anthology of the best locked-room mysteries available on Amazon.

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Don’t forget to view the INDEX above of more free Tales of Terror. This is a compendium of over 170 short stories by over 100 master storytellers of mystery,  supernatural, horror, and ghost stories. Join me in reading one short story every other week! Comments are welcome.

  

Other Reading Web Sites to Visit

Slattery’s Art of Horror Magazine

Books & Such   Bibliophilica    Lovecraft Ezine   Parlor of Horror

 HorrorAddicts.net     Horror Novel Reviews    HorrorSociety.com     

Monster Librarian     HorrorNews.net     HorrorTalk.com 

 Rob Around Books      The Story Reading Ape Blog

For Authors/Writers:  The Writer Unboxed

EZindiepublishing

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Filed under crime stories, crime thrillers, fiction, horror blogs, Locked Room Mysteries, murder mystery, mysteries, Reading Fiction, short stories, short story blogs, tales of terror

Backstory When Creating Characters

How Important Is Backstory When Creating Characters?

To my fellow writers here:

Got 3 minutes to learn something interesting about backstory when writing? Are you stuck in too much research or stalled because you think  you’ve not developed a full history for your characters? Take a quick listen to Robert McKee’s advice.  It’ll get you back to the creative flow on the page.

 

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How Important Is Backstory When Creating Characters? August 30, 2016

Click the link:

How Important Is Backstory When Creating Characters?

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The Last Night of the World, A Ray Bradbury Story

Last Night of the World  by Ray Bradbury, published in Esquire, 1951

Tuesday’s Tale of Terror    August 23, 2016

 

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What would you do if you knew that this night was the last night of the world? Would you meet it with grace? Bravery? A last indulgence? Panic? Would you examine yourself for a good or bad life?

A married couple are sitting at the dinner table talking.

She asks …  “And when will it stop? The world, I mean.”

He replies … “Sometime during the night for us, and then, as the night goes on around the world, those advancing portions will go, too. It’ll take twenty-four hours for it all to go.”

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In this sci-fi story (I’m not a sci-fi fan but I really liked this story because it provoked deep thinking), people have the same dream on the same date in February about the end of the world. If you were the characters in this story, would you  believe the end was really coming? Or maybe, just maybe you might think it’s the beginning of a time loop … like in a parallel world?  Or maybe it was true that death will strike soon after closing your eyes this night.  What if?

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Reading time on this story is 5 minutes. Got 5 minutes and cup o’ joe? Wow, this is a compelling dive into everyone’s greatest fear of knowing you will be the last conscious beings when the world ends on a cold night on February 30. Yes, February 30!

 

Read the short story here at Esquire.com.

Listen to the audio drama at Behance.net.

Watch the Ray Bradbury Theater on You Tube

 

FOR THE WRITERS HERE: Lit Reactor.com has Five Ray Bradbury stories that will tell you everything you need to know about writing.

 

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Ray Bradbury, termed the “poet of the pulps,” said in an interview in the Paris Review, The Art of Fiction (2010) that he was “completely library educated. I’ve never been to college … I discovered me in the library.” He died in 2012 at the age of 91. 

Book Review: Zen and the Art of Writing, by Ray Bradbury.

 

 

 

Don’t forget to view the INDEX above of more free Tales of Terror. This is a compendium of over 170 short stories by over 100 master storytellers of mystery,  supernatural, horror, and ghost stories.

Follow my blog and join me in reading a short story every other week!

Comments are welcome.

 

Other Reading Web Sites to Visit

Slattery’s Art of Horror Magazine

Books & Such   Bibliophilica    Lovecraft Ezine   Parlor of Horror

 HorrorAddicts.net     Horror Novel Reviews    HorrorSociety.com     

Monster Librarian     HorrorNews.net     HorrorTalk.com 

 Rob Around Books      The Story Reading Ape Blog

For Authors/Writers:  The Writer Unboxed

EZindiepublishing

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Filed under fiction, horror blogs, mysteries, pulp fiction, Reading Fiction, science fiction, short stories, short story blogs, suspense, tales of terror

U.S. Review of Books: GREYLOCK

Latest Review of Greylock by U.S. Review of Books …

“Cappa’s plot is replete with all the wonderful trappings of a romance-laced mystery—unexpected twists and turns and plenty of red herrings. Greylock has the potential of being earmarked as another award winner.”

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Full Review

“But when you bury guilt it becomes a scorpion. The manifestation will sting and keep stinging you until you are a mess of shreds. And the scorpion wins.”

Alexei Georg finds an anonymous piano sonata hidden in his deceased father’s sea chest. Claiming it as his original work, Alexei names it October Sonata, and it wins him a prestigious musical award. Unfortunately a dark force is connected to the mysterious composition. Alexei leaves for Russia to record beluga whale songs for a new symphony that he’ll complete during his stay at Greylock Music Hall on Mount Greylock. Prior to his trip, Alexei leaves Carole Ann, his jealous and overbearing wife, for the beautiful Lia Marrs. While sailing the White Sea in search of whale pods, Alexei learns that Carole Ann has been murdered and he has been pegged as a prime suspect. Even though evidence is sketchy at best, Alexei has a bigger problem on his hands battling with the menacing force that constantly looks for ways to inhabit Alexei’s body.

Cappa’s latest is nothing less than a mind-boggling mystery. “The result of several years of research, writing, rewriting, and perseverance,” The award-winning author’s narrative is an interesting combination of classical works and whale facts that are tightly woven into a flurry of literature. While dropping mentions to Louisa Alcott’s Little Women and Anaïs Nin’s Delta of Venus, Cappa highlights quotes and titles (both books and movies) that reflect the works of the late great detective writer Raymond Chandler. Cappa includes a well-defined cast that is placed within the descriptive background of Massachusetts and the Russian White Sea. Cappa strongest writing component is in the way she utilizes dialogue, always keeping an elusive edge to her characters’ personas. Cappa’s plot is replete with all the wonderful trappings of a romance-laced mystery—unexpected twists and turns and plenty of red herrings. Greylock has the potential of being earmarked as another award winner.

RECOMMENDED by the US Review, August 2016

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Filed under crime stories, crime thrillers, fiction, horror blogs, Mt. Greylock, murder mystery, mysteries, Reading Fiction, short story blogs, supernatural music, supernatural mysteries, supernatural thrillers