When Characters Say Too Much or Too Little

6 Sep

Announcements:

I have a couple announcements today. First, I would like to thank The Opinionated Woman’s Musings and Books for Fun for nominating ShannonAThompson.com for the Lovely Blog Award. I nominated six blogs on my Facebook page to keep it going!

In other news, P.S. Bartlett interviewed me, and we discussed my writing process as well as how my works differ from other words in my genres. Check it out by clicking here. I also did another interview with The Examiner, but I will be talking about that today. So let’s get to chatting!

… 

When Characters Say Too Much or Too Little

This is actually inspired from one of my latest interviews. If you haven’t had a chance to read my interview with The Examiner, here is the link, but in case the link doesn’t work, we spoke about topics in Take Me Tomorrow that I didn’t write about in great detail despite the fact that it is a huge factor to the setting, time, and lives of my characters. If you’ve read even the back cover of Take Me Tomorrow, you know there was a massacre prior to the story taking place. After the massacre, the State – a.k.a. the government body – enforced stricter rules on the citizens to prevent another violent uprising. That being said, Take Me Tomorrow is told from one perspective – a 16-year-old girl named Sophia Gray – and she doesn’t get into much detail about the massacre. The Examiner asked me why, and I explained in our interview:

‘I wanted to show more information on the massacre, but Sophia was very young and still is when the novel takes place, so it didn’t come naturally,’ Thompson says. ‘I thought about 9/11 when I considered the event. I was 10 when that happened, and it took me many years to finally grasp it or understand the importance of the event, but I definitely didn’t understand it when it happened. So I took that approach with Sophia.’

I would also like to add that if a sequel is published – which is up to the readers – the massacre as well as many other questions will be answered, but in terms of Take Me Tomorrow, readers are right. I didn’t explain it in great detail. But there was a reason behind my decision as well as many other decisions I made, particularly with Noah telling the story. Although he did in the original version, I had to cut his voice, because of many reasons – the main one being that it isn’t his story. It’s Sophia’s – but the secondary reasons revolve around his character. (Spoiler alert) When he’s on drugs, his voice makes no sense, and when he’s sober, he tells way too much information. Like way too much. Like the ending too much. Mainly because he can see into the future. But that’s another aspect entirely.

So where am I going with this?

Authors are often struggling with characters. We love them, but the characters – not the author – are in charge, which means they make decisions we don’t like, but we ultimately accept them because they are the ones telling the story. There are four instances that authors deal with in terms of characters, and those four things are listed below.

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Sometimes characters don’t want to talk

I’ve mainly had this problem with my dual-perspective novels. I’ll wait for the boy to talk only to realize he is just not interested, and then, I realize I am going to have to write the entire novel from one perspective. But – eventually – he pops up, and then, I have to go back and add him later. Worst case scenario, they never talk at all, and I struggle to find a way to get around it or to coax them out. But I’m sure many authors have dealt with this, even labeling it writer’s block. I like to call it character’s block – because it’s them, not me – and I wait patiently for them to get over whatever is blocking them. Yes, I realize these are people in my head, but trust me when I say – sometimes – they won’t even talk to me.

Sometimes characters want to talk too much

This is when authors start screaming, “Shut up! Just. Shut. Up. You cannot tell everyone who the murderer is on the first page. Idiot. Then, we don’t have a story.” It happens. Oh, it happens. A character wants to give away everything the second they get a chance to speak. But it can be an easier problem to solve. A simple, “Hold back a little bit.” can solve everything, but it is still difficult when a character insists on exposing information an author wasn’t planning on telling until the end. Most of the time, I bite my lip, listen to the character, and hope they have a reason. They normally do. That being said, I have had to censor a character here and there for giving too much away too quickly. We need some suspense, after all.

Sometimes we (authors) force it

When I say “force” – for once – I don’t mean this as a bad thing. Sometimes, authors get lucky. We find spots that we can slide information in without having to destroy our character’s honesty in the process. I am referring to characters finding newspaper articles or television sets explaining certain events that characters might not understand. This helps because an “outside” source can explain what is happening without the character necessarily being involved. That being said, we don’t try to create these moments. If they happen naturally, fantastic, but we also don’t want to rely on these at every moment we are tempted to do so. (Because we are oh, so tempted.) But this can often lead to info-dumping or other uncomfortable circumstances if authors aren’t careful.

Other times we (authors) don’t force anything

This is what happened with me in Take Me Tomorrow. I could’ve forced information in, found a way to blame the information on the surroundings, but I realized many things when I contemplated that: The State wouldn’t leave documents of the massacre laying around for a 16-year-old girl to get her hands on. (That’s why the only info she does receive is from her father.) The news wouldn’t talk about it, and even if they did, Sophia spends too much time out in the woods to watch the news anyway. She might be oblivious to some of the political situations, but she is 16. Not only is she busy being 16, but she is busy surviving in her environment. Worrying about her dad, Lyn, Falo, and Argos is more important than understanding something that happened when she was 12, even if it was only a few years ago. I also had to keep in mind that she wasn’t directly affected by it at all in terms of her comfort zone (her family and friends.) If she had been, I would’ve been looking at a different situation. So I left it out because Sophia would leave it out. That being said, she is a different person at the end of the novel, and she might figure these things out in the sequel if it happens. But refocusing on not forcing it: sometimes characters need to be true to themselves, even if it is slightly destructive to the story. I don’t regret not having this information involved because I know that I was true to the circumstances, to Sophia, and to the world she lives in. And that isn’t destructive at all.

Sometimes authors have to make big decisions, but most of the time, characters do that for us. We just have to accept it and do the best we can do with their decisions.

Have you ever had these issues with a character? Experienced character’s block? Ever wondered why a character didn’t say something earlier on?

Talk about it below!

~SAT

Author Announcements

4 Sep

Author Announcements:

Today, I wanted to share some important updates, mainly because it includes changes here right on ShannonAThompson.com, but it also includes an opportunity for your name to be mentioned during my next video on my YouTube Channel – Coffee & Cats.

So here’s the first bit of the exciting news!

I’m creating an interactive poetry collection. Every Friday, I’ll be posting a new poem on my Wattpad page, which you can visit by clicking here. My goal is to pick at least one of these poems per month to read on my YouTube channel – Coffee and Cats. That’s where you come in. Let me know which one you want me to read, and I might chose you to mention during my video. So far, I have three posted:

unnamedTo the thunderstorm I used to love,

Fukushima Daiichi

The French (History) Teacher

I hope you check them out and continue to help the collection grow every Friday. If you want to let me know which poem you enjoyed – or if you have questions about one – feel free to comment or message me on Wattpad or right here on ShannonAThompson.com.

Speaking of ShannonAThompson.com, you might have noticed the slight construction going on.

Since I hit 40,000 words in book 3 of The Timely Death Trilogy, I figured it was about time to create a Death Before Daylight page. I also created a page for my recently published short story, The Pink Scarf. Other changes include my “Tips” page. It has been taken down. It has been replaced by “Services” provided by The Author Extension Community, an open group run by AEC Stellar Publishing, Inc. We are now providing personal assistant work, content editing, and more to anyone interested, so click here to check out our services.

I hope these changes are as exciting to you all as they are to me, and I look forward to reading a poem chosen by you. I did want to take one moment to thank all of you – my publisher just gave me the news that my paperback sales are increasing more frequently, and I also got to see my top areas: So here’s a shout out to New Orleans, Atlanta, and Nashville. Keep on reading. :]

~SAT

Changing Character Names

2 Sep

Announcements:

The Examiner posted their 3-minute review of Take Me Tomorrow, stating, “‘Take Me Tomorrow’ is a fast-paced, character-driven thriller that drops the reader into the middle of a simmering American revolution guided by a well-developed but unknowing protagonist who’s as unpredictable and complex as the plot.” But you can read more about how the “rebel heart beats strong” by clicking here for the full review (or here for the novel on Amazon.)

I would also like to thank Deby Fredericks for nominating ShannonAThompson.com for the One Lovely Blog Award. I filled out my seven facts on my Facebook page (which includes a pretty crazy story about Elvis Presley) but here are my three nominees: Fiction Favorites, Joyce H. Ackley, and A Writer’s Life for Me.

Changing Character Names:

Now, I’ve talked about this briefly before in my post, Naming Your Characters, and I think it’s important to check that out if you’re struggling to pick out names. I explain how to consider history, time, culture, and websites to help you find appropriate, memorable, and symbolic names for your characters. But today, I’m going to go beyond that and assume you now have names. Even if you get a list of symbolic names that fit the characters’ needs, there is still some work that has to be considered. Most of the questions below are ones I have to ask myself, and most of the time, I have at least one of these problems, and – yes – I rename characters when that happens (unless there is a purpose, which I will get into below.) But it’s important to follow step one before continuing.

Create two lists with ALL of your characters names

All includes minor. It even includes that random girl at the coffee shop your protagonist called by name because he read her nametag. It includes that barista, even if you never see her again (or she dies the second she appears.) Why? We’ll get to that in a second. First, you need to make the two lists. One list needs to be an alphabetized list. When characters begin with the same letter, keep them in the same line. When I use Minutes Before Sunset, a small section looks like this:

  • James, Jessica, Jonathon, Jada
  • Luthicer, Linda, Lola
  • Mindy, Mitchel,
  • Noah
  • Pierce

The second list organizes your characters by importance. (It can get tricky, and this one isn’t exactly necessary, but it does help when you’re trying to rotate, cut, or change names and you know you have to sacrifice someone else’s.) Again, if I were using Minutes Before Sunset, that small section above would be very different.

  • Jessica
  • Pierce, Jonathon
  • Luthicer, James
  • Mindy, Noah
  • Linda, Lola, Jada
  • Mitchel

This might help later on if I wanted to cut an “M” name, and I saw Mitchel at the bottom. (He’s actually a student we only see once in Seconds Before Sunrise.)

Original picture by name berry.com

Original picture by name berry.com

But now that you have the lists, here are some questions to consider:

  • Are all of your characters’ names similar in sound?
  • Are all of your characters’ names similar in the beginning or ending?
  • Are all of your characters’ names similar in syllables?
  • If they are similar, is there a purpose behind it?
  • Have you used these names before?

Now, unless there is a reason – like two brothers having similar names because they’re named after the same person – then, these issues are…well…issues, especially if 13 or your 20 characters start with the same letter. But there is no reason to panic. (Even if you are attached to the names you picked out, it’s okay. I promise.) I know I have had almost all of these problems, and when I faced them, my cast of characters became easier to decipher and understand. In fact – here’s a fun fact – I write almost all of my novels with the exact same character names: Magatha, Laurel, Tyler, Anthony, “D” names for the male protagonist, and “S” names for the female protagonist are just a few of my habits. This almost always happens, despite the fact that the characters aren’t similar to previous characters at all. So I write my novels without worrying about it, but I force myself to go back and change everything later. Why does this happen? I have no clue. I think it’s just how my brain works. But I know that I can’t have the same names in every book (even though the name Noah appears in both The Timely Death Trilogy and Take Me Tomorrow) and I know I can’t have too many similar sounding names. For instance, in the original version of Minutes Before Sunset, the Stone brothers were named Brent and Brenthan. (Yes. That seriously slipped my mind.) However, in the published version, the Stone brothers were renamed Jonathon and Brenthan. I kept similar endings to retain the similarities I wanted for the brothers, but I changed enough so that they were no longer confusing. Do I still accidentally type Brent every now and then? Yes. It’s embarrassing when an editor finds it. But I change it and move on, and I fall in love with their new names, slowly realizing how confusing their similar names once were.

But – speaking of similar names – you might have noticed that there was a new name on the list I used from The Timely Death Trilogy. Jada hasn’t been seen yet. She will be introduced in Death Before Daylight. For those of you who are wondering, I hit the 40,000 word mark yesterday, so I’m about halfway through, and I have updated the progress bar on the right side of my website.

I’m looking forward to giving you more updates, but I’m also looking forward to seeing your writing tips! Share your experiences with changing names once you chose them below, and we’ll help others who are struggling to find that perfect fit.

~SAT

August Ketchup

31 Aug

August’s Ketchup

August’s Ketchup is here! For those of you just now checking in this month, I write “Ketchup” posts at the end of every month, describing my big moments, top blog post, the post I wish received more views, my top referrer, and more in order to show what goes on behind the scenes here at ShannonAThompson.com. I hope these insights help fellow bloggers see what was popular, but I also hope it entertains the readers who want “extras” for this website!

Thank you for celebrating August with me.

Big Moments:

#1 Clicked Item was Take Me Tomorrow on Amazon

#1 Clicked Item was Take Me Tomorrow on Amazon

The paperback of Take Me Tomorrow released! I love being able to hold it in my hands, but I love it even more when I know readers have their copies, too. I’ve even received a few photos on Instagram. (Eeeeee!) Thank you for reading my latest novel. I truly hope you’re enjoying it, and I’m unbelievably grateful to all of you who have read, reviewed, and shared Take Me Tomorrow. A sequel has been written, but it is up to you to get it released, so I’m crossing my fingers. :]

My short story, The Pink Scarf, was published in an adult anthology, Ashtrays to Jawbreakers. And it’s free. That’s right. Free. Just click here to check it out.

We also hit 200 ratings on Goodreads. 

Top Three Blog Posts:

1. What I’ve Learned Rewriting a Seven-Year-Old Novel: As many of you know, I’m rewriting November Snow – slated for release in November of 2015. It has been quite the adventure though.

2. For Writers: Exercise Your Body, Exercise Your Brain: Because we could all use an excuse to get up from the computer every now and then. (Specially for 30 minutes, 3 days a week.)

3. The Pros and Cons of Beta Readers: Just because two good people are in the same room that doesn’t mean they are good for one another.

The Post I Wish Got More Views:

Managing Multiple Projects at Once: Since I’m going through this right now – between November Snow and Death Before Daylight – I thought this was a personal and helpful post to share with others as they also go through it. Perhaps I’ll even talk about this more as I dive deeper into my current projects.

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Guest Post:

Top Productivity Tools All Writers Should Know About: Thank you, Ninja Essays.

Other Blog Posts Organized By Topic:

News:

Writing:

Reading:

My #1 referrer was Facebook

My #1 referrer was Facebook

At the end of the month, I also like to take a moment to thank all of the websites who supported me by posting reviews, interviews, and features. If you would like to review my novels or interview me, please send me an email at shannonathompson@aol.com. I always love speaking with new bloggers, writers, and readers! And I will share your post on all of my websites.

Reviewers:

(Take Me Tomorrow) Endless Reading, Bookish Lover Reviews, The Modest Verge, Death on the Road, Another Night of Reading, A Literary Mind, Honya’s Bookshelf, Trials of a wanna-be-published writer

(Seconds Before Sunrise) Tranquil Dreams, Tamara Morning

(Minutes Before Sunset) Mel’s Shelves, The Bibliophilic Book Blog

Interviews: eBook Review Gal

Awarders: Between the Lines

Since I talked about November Snow a lot this month, I thought I would pick out a snowy picture to represent this Ketchup post. Picture by MachoArts.com

August2014 ~SAT

 

Website Wonders

29 Aug

Announcements:

Before we get into August’s Website Wonders, I wanted to thank two lovely reviewers for sharing their thoughts on Take Me Tomorrow and Seconds Before Sunrise, book 2 of The Timely Death Trilogy.

Bookish Lover Reviews started us off by reviewing Take Me Tomorrow, “If you liked Delirium series and Divergent, this is something in between. It has great action with lot of twists and a little bit of romance but enough to fall in love with story even more. I recommend it to everyone. Please pick it up, because this book deserves bigger audience.” The full review gets into detail about romance and action.

Tranquil Dreams posted their thoughts on the paranormal romance, Seconds Before Sunrise, “There is nothing better than a novel that delivers a believable story with an alternate reality/fantasy world intertwined and while giving us a love story also gets us to wonder what happens next. Thats what Seconds Before Sunrise is.” But she gets more into detail about the personal struggles Eric and Jessica have to face in her full review.

If you’re interested in reading either of these novels, here are the Amazon links to Take Me Tomorrow and Seconds Before Sunrise, book 2 of The Timely Death Trilogy. Be sure to let me know about your review. If you want me to share it, I would be more than happy to. Comment here or send me an email at shannonathompson@aol.com.

Website Wonders:

Every month, I share all of the websites I come across that I find helpful, humorous, or just awesome. Below, you’ll find all of August’s Website Wonders categorized as so: Reading, Writing, Inspiration Art and Life, and For Fun. Between each category is a photo. If you enjoy these websites, be sure to like my Facebook page because I share even more websites and photos like this there.

Enjoy!

Reading:

What Classic Novel Describes Your Life? My life is described by J. R. R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. How about yours?

J.K. Rowling Releases New “Harry Potter” Story, Characters, and Song (Video)

4 Ways “The Giver” Turns A Beloved Novel into Just Another Dystopian Teen Movie: So sad. Just so sad.

10 Novels You Need to Read and Why – For Dummies: The neat part about this list is how different it is. It isn’t the “best” or “for moms” or “to enrich your life.” It’s just a list that changes constantly.

Kurt Vonnegut Quotes to Start Your Week: “Live by the harmless untruths that make you brave and kind and healthy and happy.”

Vintage Books and Anchor Books

Vintage Books and Anchor Books

Writing:

These Writing Tips from George R.R. Martin and Robin Hobb are just Epic

29 Words That Mean Something Totally Different When You’re a Writer: “Writing” means doing literally anything else.

Synonyms for the 96 Most Commonly Used Words in English: Maybe a list writers can use?

French Phrases: I found it sad that she called it pretentious, but I think this is a good list to go on if you’re looking to incorporate the French language into a story or character.

Title Wave

Title Wave

Inspirational Art and Life:

12 Amazing Tree Tunnels You Should Definitely Take a Walk Through: What would be a Website Wonders post without my obsession with trees?

16 of the Most Magnificent Trees in the World: You know… because I’m obsessed with tress.

She Creates Miniature Paintings on EyeLids…THAT is Talent: There are a lot of fiction references, too.

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For Fun:

10 Uplifting Stories that will Warm Your Heart.

2048 Game: It’s addicting. I warned you.

25 Awesome Furniture Design Ideas for Cat Lovers

Rescue Me Ohio

Rescue Me Ohio

Hope you loved these as much as I did! I’m looking forward to sharing August’s Ketchup during my next post. September, here we come!

~SAT

Books That Changed My Childhood

27 Aug

Announcements:

First, I would like to thank Between the Lines for nominating ShannonAThompson.com for a collection of wonderful awards, but second, I would like to thank the two latest reviewers of Take Me Tomorrow:

 The Modest Verge wrote, “The characters in this novel are just as complex, and just as complicated as The Timely Death Trilogy so if you enjoyed those characters you will love these. These are not just normal teenagers thrust into the unknown. These teenagers know that life can be upset in a single heartbeat. They know that lives can be irrevocably changed by the decisions or mistakes of a single person. This book is an adventure and I loved every single minute of it.” But you can read her entire review by clicking here.

Death on the Road focused on the genre in their review, stating, “It had a lot of action, was fast paced, discussed very serious things and made my first brush with YA dystopian fiction a pleasant one.” But you can read the entire review by clicking here.

Remember to send me an email at shannonathompson@aol.com if you want me to share your review of Take Me Tomorrow right here on ShannonAThompson.com! If you want to check out the novel, click here. I would love to share your thoughts.

Books That Changed My Childhood:

This was actually inspired by Cassandra Clare’s video Books That Changed My Life. I started compiling a list when…well, like any avid reader would say, it got a little out of control, so I condensed it down to times in my life, and I thought it would be fun to show the books that changed my childhood. Why is this important? I’m a big believer in going backwards. For instance, if you’re a writer and struggling with writing, I think going backwards to a time where you only wrote for fun can help remind you why you love writing in the first place. (But that’s explained in my old post Sharing Childhood Inspiration.)

So I’m sharing my list by starting at the beginning and stopping around age 14. That being said, I definitely can’t share all of them. I am only sharing the first ones that pop into my head, and I think this list would change depending on my day (which I think is the neat part!) I hope you share your lists below, too. So check it out. :D

1. Go, Dog. Go! by P.D. Eastman – This is the first book I remember reading, but it’s also the first one I carried around…oh, just about everywhere. This might have been the first sign that I would be obsessed with books in the future.

 2. You Choose Stories: Scooby Doo Mystery – The amount of amazement I had for these was unreal. I could read and choose how the story went? I didn’t have to just read? Oh. My world changed. I loved reading these over and over and over again just to see how much one story could change from one event changing. This might have been the first sign that I wanted to be a writer.

3. Goosebumps by R.L. Stine – Oh, the delightful horror I had reading these books. These were actually bought for my older brother, but I had a habit of stealing his things, so I ended up reading these, too. And I’ve loved horror and scary stories ever since. I cannot wait for American Horror Story to begin.

4. Nancy Drew by Carolyn Keene – I obsessed over these books. I loved the books, the computer games, and pretty much anything else associated with them.

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5. The BFG by Roald Dahl – Again, my brother had an influence on this one. It was one of his favorite novels, and he gave me his copy to read. I had a house bed, and I kept this book in my shutters for years, constantly trying to figure out what I loved about it. Maybe it was the bone-crunching.

6. Dear America series – I had an entire collection of these books. I was obsessed. I could learn about history and be entertained. This was a new concept to me when I was younger.

7. Magic Tree House series by Mary Pope Osbourne – It’s safe to say that Twister on Tuesday might have been the cause of my phobia when I was moving to Kansas.

8. Among the Hidden by Margaret Peterson Haddix – I felt like this was the first middle grade fiction book that didn’t hold back.

9. 1-800-Where-R–You series by Meg Cabot – Wait. So a girl gets struck with lightning and can find missing people? That’s…different…and totally awesome! Meg Cabot’s books definitely changed my perspective on fiction, specifically paranormal fiction and how unique it could be. She also includes badass women in her young-adult books. Who couldn’t like that?

10. Daughters of the Moon by Lynne Ewing – I’ve mentioned it once, and I’ll mention it again. I loved this series growing up. It was about four girls (the daughters of the moon) kicking ass, and it also revolved around mythology. Not only did this book further my obsession with the paranormal but it also reminded me of my favorite childhood show, Sailor Moon, and it reaffirmed my love for the type of fiction I grew up with.

Oh, how I want to keep going, but I’m probably stopping around age 14. Maybe I’ll continue this list with the books that changed my life as I got older. It will definitely include 1984, but that’s for another post. For now, these are the top 10 childhood novels that came to mind, but what about yours? Did any books you read as a kid influence your reading decisions as an adult?

~SAT

ALS Ice Bucket Challenge and Info

25 Aug

Announcements:

Endless Reading shared quotes from Take Me Tomorrow in her latest book review, stating, “Once the action starts it doesn’t stop. There are twists and turns that will keep the reader engaged.” Check out the full review by clicking here.

ALS Ice Bucket Challenge:

What Ya Readin’? nominated me for the Ice Bucket Challenge, so you can watch my video now, but I wanted to share some important information first.

From the ALS Association, “Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), often referred to as “Lou Gehrig’s Disease,” is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord. Motor neurons reach from the brain to the spinal cord and from the spinal cord to the muscles throughout the body. The progressive degeneration of the motor neurons in ALS eventually leads to their death.” The Ice Bucket Challenge is meant to bring awareness to ALS as well as encourage donations to the ALS Association. 

Donate here

Also, I nominate Raymond Vogel, Ryan Attard, and Amber Skye Forbes from AEC Stellar Publishing.

:]

~SAT

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