Tag Archives: writing tips

Guest Post: Top Productivity Tools All Writers Should Know About

16 Aug

Shannon, here, for a quick introduction. A few weeks ago, I was contacted by Robert Morris from Ninja Essays. He wanted me to see the info graph Top Writing Tools of Famous Authors, and I am beyond grateful that he showed it to me. It is amazing. Seriously. Check it out by clicking here. But – onto the next part – I asked him to write a post for you all, and he agreed, so I hope you enjoy his post, Top Productivity Tools All Writers Should Know About.

Top Productivity Tools All Writers Should Know About

For writers, the usage of the Internet can go in two directions: it can either be a great resource for the work they are producing, or it can turn into a black hole that consumes their productivity by luring them with endless distractions. An average writer spends more than 50% of their time on the Internet nowadays. If you belong to that category, then you would surely want to be protected from the overwhelming interferences. The following list of tools will help you increase your willpower and start using the full potential of the Internet.

Anti-Social – Be honest: aren’t social networks the main culprit for your lack of productivity? Anti-Social is a tool that every contemporary author should start using (you hear that Salman Rushdie?). It will eliminate the temptation of checking what’s new on Twitter while you’re in the middle of writing a chapter. You can set the timer and become anti-social for the time planned for working.

Ninja Essays logo

Ninja Essays logo

Ninja Essays – How many times have you wished for an affordable, but effective editor who would get their work done as quickly as possible? Hiring a personal editor is quite expensive, but it’s also something that gives you constant headaches. At custom writing service Ninja Essays, you can put the torture to an end by hiring an online editor who will do an amazing job without spoiling your work with unnecessary “improvements”. The best part is that this is the most affordable editing service you could ever hope for.

There is another way to use this website for the sake of producing better work: you can hire MA- and PhD-holders in nearly all fields of study and get relevant information about the plot you are working on.

OmmWriter – Now this is a real writing tool! Wouldn’t you love to be able to focus while working on your computer and simply ignore all online distractions? This is the right software for you! As soon as you start using OmmWriter, you will limit the fruitless hours spent on your computer and you will start using your time productively.

Xero – As any other writer, you surely have a practical side and you like getting paid for your work. However, not many writers are capable of managing their finances well, so they need a little help from the outside. Instead of hiring an accountant, you can start using Xero – an online accounting tool that you can access from anywhere.

10FastFingers – If you want to increase your productivity, you have to become a faster typer. This tool will help you test and improve the speed of your typing with awesome (and free!) games. This is the best way to spend your free time and use the Internet with a good purpose. Although the games seem silly at first, they will definitely enhance your productivity and train your hands to follow the speed of your mind. You can switch between various typing tests to improve your accuracy and speed of using the most important writing tool – the computer keyboard.

The Internet has a lot of potential. Start using it!

It would be a shame for a writer to have access to Internet and waste its entire potential without benefiting from productivity-improvement tools. You can not only type your novels in a safe and clean environment that’s free of all distractions, but you can also use the advantages of technology for all other aspects of your career as a writer, including editing, accounting, learning, proper relaxation, and everything else you can think of.

The selection of tools provided above will help you use your time at the computer more effectively. You and your readers will notice the difference!

- Robert Morris

Why Bad Things Happen to Round Characters

9 Aug

Announcements:

In my latest interview with eBook Review Gal, I discuss my favorite types of self-promotion, my novels, and more! A small excerpt is below, but you can read the full interview by clicking here.

“What would readers be surprised to know about you?

I quit publishing for five years. I honestly gave up all hope, and it took me a long time to gain confidence in myself and in my writing life again. If it weren’t for the encouraging readers on Wattpad, I don’t know if I would’ve found the courage to return. Readers are powerful. They are the best friends of authors, so I’m eternally grateful for every person who has taken even one minute to check out my work or email me.”

Why Bad Things Happen to Round Characters:

I spend a lot of time on the blogosphere. I read book reviews, comment on discussions, and stumble upon opinions that make me cringe. But – alas – we all have these opinions, and I want to share one of mine today. Bad things will happen to characters. Their past will be messed up, their present will be tense, and their future will probably take a tumble every now and then. This is a sign that the story is eventful and the characters are round. (#SorryNotSorry)

So why am I saying this? (Okay. I’m sorry for using a hashtag outside of Twitter.)

I recently read a list of popular cliché complaints as fans displayed them on my Facebook newsfeed, but only one stuck out to me. The reader was tired of seeing “damaged” protagonists. For once, they wanted a character that didn’t have a past that affected who they were, and they were definitely sick of seeing two damaged people coming together as love interests

What…the…actual…

Okay. I’m going to glue a pillow to my desk, so when I slam my forehead against it, I don’t get a concussion. But – first – I’m going to write this article.

Bad things happen to everyone. I actually loathe the phrase “bad things happen to good people” because it is wrong. So horribly wrong. Bad things happen to everyone. Every. Single. Person. (Especially if they live a long life…and if they don’t live a long life, I think we can count that as something bad happening to them.)

I get it. I understand that people might not be complaining about bad things happening to characters, that they are, in fact, complaining about stories in which those bad things become the glue, the foundation of a relationship. I can see how someone might think that is encouraging unhealthy beginnings, but – let’s be real – and I mean REALLY real – bad things happen to real people. Why wouldn’t bad things happen to characters, too? Because of this, I’m including more reasons bad things happening to characters can be a good thing for a story:

1. Round characters = Relatable characters

Okay. So the equation isn’t that simple, but round characters definitely contribute to relatable characters, and round characters include past, present, and future. If they had a perfect life, there would be nothing to talk about. On the flipside, bad events can build character, which means it can round out a fictional character, and it can make a person more relatable and real for readers.

picture

2. When bad things happen to characters, it reminds readers that bad things can happen to them.

This goes back to the complaints surrounding an abundance of dead parents and siblings in fiction. Of course someone has died somewhere in the book. That’s because everyone dies, and – unless the book takes place in a magical, immortal universe – I better see someone who at least knows someone who died or the threat of death isn’t present.

This correlates with bad events. If nothing bad has ever happened to a character, especially an older character, how could they have any perception of danger? Of life? Of happiness? Call me the cynical one, but how can you truly appreciate sunshine if you’ve never had to be locked out in a thunderstorm? (Figurateively speaking, of course.)

And lastly,

3. Let’s stop describing characters and people as “damaged”

This is when my evil demeanor to comes out – how dare we describe people as ”damaged” (especially when their trauma is beyond them.) This phrase seriously sickens me. We’re all human. Everyone has damages, sure, but we aren’t damaged. We aren’t objects. We are people. By describing a person or a character as “damaged goods” we have placed that second word on them: goods. Which they are not by the way. Goods can be bought at a store. People, in an ideal world, cannot be.

If we see a character that has a traumatic past that means they are round. Sure, a character doesn’t have to have a traumatic past to be round, but they do have to have a past, and – chances are – something bad happened to them somewhere along the way. That means they have depth. That means they’re more likely seen as a real human being.

So what do we want? A round character that had hardships or a flat character that knows nothing of the world?

Just to clarify, I am not hating on characters that have had nothing happen to them. In fact, in Minutes Before Sunset Jessica states, “I knew nothing of death, and for some unexplainable reason, I was beginning to feel guilty for that.” Yes. She’s had hardships but not of that kind (in her opinion.) But my point rests in the future. If a character has had nothing happen to them yet, but then something happens in the book, they should react like someone who has never had to go through anything. I, personally, cannot stand a story where a character who’s never held a gun picks one up and blasts away zombies like it’s nothing. Sorry. But I’ve spent time in a gun range. I see how people react the first time they pick up a gun, and I would hate to see how they react if it was a life or death situation. But – back to the main point –

Bad things will happen to characters in their past, present, and future. Just check out a Disney movie and see how many of their characters have happy beginnings. (Spoiler Alert: not many.) And hopefully – somewhere along the way – these events will shape those characters into people we can all relate to, look up to, and explore with. Hopefully, those bad things make them human, and good things will happen, too.

~SAT

For Writers: Exercise your body, exercise your brain

7 Aug

For Writers: Exercise your body, exercise your brain

Exercise. The dreaded e-word. I get it. People are busy. Between working and managing a healthy diet, finding the time to go for a run is difficult, but – ::sigh:: – it is important for many reasons. Taking care of yourself is vital to maintaining a healthy brain…and (spoiler alert) that healthy brain can be the make-it-or-break-it point for a writer on the verge of insanity. I figured this out after I broke my sanity and had a sob fest in a public gym. (Cute, I know.) You can only sit in your plush rolling chair and stare at your computer screen for so long, and getting up and out might help you surpass that writer’s block you’ve been battling for three weeks straight. So here are three, helpful tips I wish I had that I think pertain to many people (but especially writers.)

1. Special stretches for people who sit at the desk all day

This is what I feel like we should all feel like when leaving the desk. (Definitely not what I look like though.) Photo from Huffington Post

This is what I feel like we should all feel like when leaving the desk. (Definitely not what I look like though.) Photo from Huffington Post

Yes. These exist. And they are lovely. (And really horrible if you accidentally attempt these immediately after sitting all day.) But I’m a writer. Other than standing by the coffee pot, I am sitting almost 24/7. Is it healthy? Of course not. So I ventured into the yoga-sphere with a mat in hand, and I found a few fantastic sites that I think really help. I’m not a professional, but I expect to fit into a shoebox by the end of the year. (Just kidding, of course.)

And if you’re feeling REALLY adventurous: stretch right at your desk by checking this article out: Stretching Exercises at Your Desk: 12 Simple Steps.

2. Cardio Exercise

I struggled with this one. I used to be a long-distance runner until my knees and ankles started falling apart. (Seriously. How am I only 23 years old?) So I stopped running for a long time. Almost one year. And I truly hesitated to get into anything else because I was already in pain, but – eventually – I had to admit that I was using my pain as an excuse, and I overcame it by researching exercises that were healthy for my body, including my back injury and legs. Now I go swimming and I use the elliptical more. I don’t run anymore, but I keep myself moving. (In fact, I’m heading to the gym right after I write this.) So here are some websites, but – remember – find what works for your mind and your body.

This does not count as exercise. I’m sorry. I really am. (Photo by Globe University)

This does not count as exercise. I’m sorry. I really am. (Photo by Globe University)

3. Eat Well and Relax (a.k.a. put the books down.)

I’m a serious workaholic. I stare at my glowing computer screen way too long, and I often give myself work nightmares. You know the classic show up to school naked nightmare? I have those with work, and I don’t even have a building I go to! I work from my house, and they’re still terrifying. In this case, I’m working too hard. I’m not allowing myself to rest. I don’t clear my brain or enjoy the sunset or just close my eyes. As a writer, this “closing your eyes” thing seems like a cruel joke. If you’re working, you’re using your eyes, and if you’re relaxing, you’re probably wanting to read for relaxation. But sometimes you have to force yourself to step away from the books. (I know! The horror.) But it’s true. Let your brain relax, let your eyes close, and drift away.

Basically, we have to remember to take care of ourselves. No matter the profession, work won’t be done well (or at all) if we continue to wear ourselves out. Let yourself forget the deadline in order to go for a little run. Pretend the deadline is chasing you on the treadmill if you want to. Just have fun. Enjoy the oxygen. Take a nap. And tackle your writing with a refreshed mind tomorrow. Who knows? Maybe we can change Twitter’s #writersblock to #writersyoga and free ourselves from those pens that are chained to the desk.

~SAT

Managing Multiple Projects at Once

3 Aug

Announcements:

I’ve updated my publications picture! You can see it around my website, including my pages: About Me and Novels.

update

Managing Multiple Projects at Once

Okay. So here’s the truth. I’m not an expert on this topic. Personally, I’m struggling with this right now. While I’ve never found writing numerous books at the same time difficult, I do find marketing one book while writing another difficult, especially when they are in different worlds entirely. Maybe it’s the way my brain wires cross. It just doesn’t work. It hurts my cranium. My mushy muscle master feels…well, mushy. So here are my tips that I’ve come up with for others who’ve struggled like I have.

1. Set aside a time for each project:

Maybe you spend the morning writing and the evening marketing. Separating the two can help keep your mindset in check, and eventually, you mind will adjust to expecting this schedule, so it will be easier to focus on what you’ve scheduled to focus on. I do this with work. When I wake up, it’s email time. When I eat lunch, it’s marketing time. When I finish dinner, it’s writing time. I even have my breaks scheduled, and those breaks help my mind flip over to my next task. Hardcore? Maybe. I’m on my schedule right now. I blog right after dinner and right before I focus on writing books. But it works for me, and it’s important to find what works for you.

2. If you don’t want to dance, get off the dance floor

What does dancing have to do with writing? A lot. Because this is a metaphor. If you just can’t get in the mindset of Project A because you’re still focused on Project B, that’s okay. Work on Project B, try not to worry about Project A, and move forward productively. If you continue to beat yourself up, you’re not going to get anywhere with anything. In this metaphoric world, you’re just going to stand in the middle of the dance floor, contemplating whether you want to do the jive or the twerk without realizing you’re at a disco. But who cares? You can dance however you want to.

3. Step Away, Clear Your Head, and Take Care of Yourself

I shouldn’t have to explain this, but I do because this is the biggest problem I – personally – have. I’m obsessive in nature in an unhealthy way. Seriously. I can admit this about myself. When I have a deadline I’m worried about, I forget to eat, and when I do eat, I don’t eat well. I drink too much coffee, and the tangles in my hair become so bad that Medusa’s snakes would be terrified of me. But I’m learning, and I’m getting better at closing my laptop, Weebo, before my vision gets blurry. I go to the gym, I buy a goddamn sandwich, I see friends, I laugh, and I don’t think about my books. I might have to force my book thoughts away, but it’s worth it because I am refreshed when I finally sit back down and get to work.

Speaking of which, I’m about to sit down to work on Death Before Daylight. We’re about 30,000 words into the content edits, and I’m hoping to have the manuscript out late this year or by early next year. But I hope you enjoyed these tips. If you have any tips for managing multiple projects at once, feel free to share them below! I could always use more help, and I’m sure all of us writers would appreciate the ideas.

~SAT

Writing Tips: Character Profiles

12 Jul

Lots of announcements today before I share my thoughts on creating character profiles:

ShannonAThompson.com hit 17,000 followers! This is truly amazing, and I cannot believe that we’re continuing to grow. I started this little blog without any expectations, but if I had started it with expectations – I’m positive you have surpassed even my wildest dreams. Thank you for your continued support!

Other than that, I partook in an interview with Lit Chic. You can read what I think the hardest part about writing is, but I also have a shout out for all of my readers :D So click here to read the entire interview.

And if you are just now checking in and you’re curious about The Timely Death Trilogy, you’re in luck:

Hines and Bigham’s Literary Tryst reviewed Seconds Before Sunrise (book 2) – Mindy says, “If you are a Young Adult fan and love a book that can make you feel like you are part of the story and part of a different world you have to read this trilogy. I know I love it!” But I have to share her favorite part of book 2. This excerpt happens when Eric is talking to his guard about Jessica and deciding if he should tell her the truth.

“I don’t know how she’d take all of this at once, especially without proof.”

“So, transform in front of her.”

“And give her a heart attack?” I couldn’t imagine her reaction. “No, thank you.”

“At most, she’d faint.”

Read her favorite romantic moment as well as the entire review by clicking here.

If you haven’t read book 1, My Library in the Making reviewed Minutes Before Sunset this week, stating, “One of the top reasons why I enjoyed this book was all the conspiracies.” But you can read the full review, including her favorite quote and favorite scene by clicking here.

Hope you check out Minutes Before Sunset and Seconds Before Sunrise! Your growing support is the ink in my typewriter. Without you, my words would be invisible.

Now, onto today’s post (thank you for sticking with me!)

Writing Tips: Character Profiles 

A few weeks ago, I wrote The Beginning of my Writing Process, in which I revealed many details about how I first start off creating a novel. In the comments, I found a fantastic question about building character profiles, so today – this post is dedicated to Taking on a World of Words. I’ll be discussing three key elements I focus on when building a character profile – something I do BEFORE I write a novel – and I will be using Sophia Gray, the protagonist of my upcoming novel, Take Me Tomorrow, as an example. If you are interested in reading my dystopian book, please email me at shannonathompson@aol.com for an ARC.

1. The Basics

I suggest covering these first when taking down notes because you don’t want to overwhelm yourself by trying to cover a vast amount of complicated information first. So – even though I know the complicated stuff first – I always begin taking my notes with the basics. This includes a small physical description, strong personality traits, and background. This is sort of like taking your driver’s license and adding your personality to it. If you like using pictures for inspiration, then grab some from Pinterest, and build from there. (And never be afraid to change things as long as you take note and edit it in your final draft.) Here’s an example of something you might come up with:

SEG

I don’t normally create photos such as that, but I wanted to show what can be done. Below you’ll find some information from my notes about Take Me Tomorrow. (I had to cut a lot of it to avoid spoilers, but this shows my organization process)

“Sophia (16) Sophia Elizabeth Gray

Physical: always wears her mother’s necklace, curly, brown hair, barely 5 foot, three small scars on her neck from Lily’s black cat, Saga. But she also has scars on her arms and legs from the forest.

Personality: loves running, close relationship with her father and Lyn, a stubborn heart. Prefers sweaters and jeans over dresses and heels.

Background: Born in Albany Region, moved to Topeka Region when she was seven, currently lives with her father, Lyn, and Falo.”

2. Timelines

Create a past, present, and future timelines. This is where things begin to get complicated, but don’t fret. Start simple – with everything you know – and make sure nothing contradicts anything else. From there, I would suggest figuring out things you don’t know (when did your protagonist meet their best friend?) Don’t forget: if you write it on your timeline that doesn’t mean you have to write it in the book, but it is safe to know everything and anything you can think of. I would even go as far as saying you should create separate timelines for each character while also creating one large timeline that shows overlaps between characters. Below is a VERY small example of Sophia’s past timeline. This includes the top five major events that happen before the novel ever takes place.

timeline3. Cover Everything 

I mean it. I know it sounds like a lot of work – and it is – but it will save you a lot of trouble in the end.  I create so many maps it’s ridiculous. I even have a “height’s map” which shows what characters would look like standing next to one another. Another example of a character map I had for Take Me Tomorrow is a map with every character’s home (past and present), and routes that they took from home to school to work (basically, anywhere they walked.)

Basically, you can never have too many notes. If you want to graph out the neighbor’s life who is never mentioned, then do it. In fact, you know the years that I picture Take Me Tomorrow to be in, but the actual years are never mentioned in the novel. Most of all, have fun! Never forget to have fun.

~SAT

goodr

Website Wonders

28 Jun

It’s that time again! Today is Website Wonders, and my next post will be June’s Ketchup. But I’m switching it up a little bit. Today, I’ll be sharing all of the websites I’ve come across this month that I think you’ll enjoy – but I’m also sharing a small excerpt of Take Me Tomorrow. Don’t forget to email me if you want to review it! I’m at shannonathompson@aol.com, and I should be receiving the review copies soon. I am also open to interviews! (Or just talking.) So talk to you soon!

~SAT

Below, you’ll find all of June’s Website Wonders categorized into these categories: For Writers, Publishing News, For Readers, Inspiration, and Humor. The excerpt is at the bottom, but I share all of these on my Author Facebook page throughout the month, so be sure to join me there if you haven’t already. :D

For Writers:

200 Words Instead of “Said” – I am a huge fan of the word “said” but many writers like to use a variety of words. A few readers left fantastic tips on my Author Facebook Page, including Amber Skye Forbes saying to use words like these like gems. I agree with her, but this article is great if you’re looking for those little gems to use.

Famous Writer’s Sleep Habits vs. Literary Productivity: Too bad my sleep habits aren’t anything like these.

21 Harsh But Eye-Opening Writing Tips From Great Authors: “Even the great writers of our time have tried and failed and failed some more.”

Publishing News:

Amazon Is Now Re-Stocking Some Hachette Titles: This dispute is on-going.

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For Readers:

What Your Favorite High School Book Says About You: I picked “1984” since “The Stranger” wasn’t on the list.

George RR Martin’s editor hints at eighth Game of Thrones book: An eighth book?!

Against YA: I responded to this horrible article this month here –> “Everything I Learned From Against YA and More”

14 Brilliant Pieces of Literature You Can Read in the Time it Takes to Eat Lunch: This article is a brilliant piece to read during lunch. I felt so lucky to find this. It’s a great list!

Cassandra Clare released a snippet from The Dark Artifices: Can’t wait!

10380902_696674780379706_7718344388191972223_n

A quote from Seconds Before Sunrise that Snydle quotes made!

Inspiration:

Spooky, Wild Scenes Straight Out of Grimm’s Fairy Tales: beautiful photos

Powerful Portraits of Brave People Revealing Their Insecurities: Other than the fact that this project is powerful and amazing and so many other words, I thought this would be a great exercise for writers to run through with their characters. What are there insecurities? Where would they write them down? How would they display themselves?

Under This Tree In Cuba, There’s A Secret World. Enter At Your Own Risk: Goes to show how much one tree can hide.

Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History: Great for historical writers!

The Top 10 TED Talks Every Woman Should See: I would like to add that these aren’t just for women. I think they’re great for everyone.

Humor:

The 20 Biggest Plot Holes In World History: Truth is stranger than fiction.

Which Member of the Justice League Are You?: I’m Batman!

Excerpt:

A little information first: the photo you see is from the Take Me Tomorrow Pinterest board. The boy is very close to Miles Beckett, a friend of Sophia’s. The scene you’re about to read is actually a part of a flashback of the first time Sophia met Miles when they were seven years old.

10486302_700440563336461_7589438558921574845_n“We’re going to be best friends,” Lily squealed, seeming younger than me even though I was told we were the same age. I couldn’t say anything to that either.

“You’ll really like it here,” Ms. Beckett said, giving a slight push to a young boy standing next to her. He had stumbled forward, but his gaze never left the ground. His curls were matted with gel, and his shirt had a collar. He looked like a child dressed in an old man’s suit.

Miles managed to tell me his name, while Lily exclaimed that he was her brother. Twins. I had never met twins before.

“I’m Sophia,” I said, glancing up at my father for social direction.

“You’ll like it here, kiddo,” he repeated Ms. Beckett’s words, playing with the glasses in his pocket. I nodded mechanically, knowing that his new job would keep him out of the State most of the time. I was stuck here, and everything was about to change.

Hope you enjoy the websites!

~SAT

 

The Beginning of my Writing Process

26 Jun

First, thank you so much for all of your fantastic birthday wishes! I can honestly say that my 23rd birthday was the best birthday I’ve had. It was a perfect day. (I mean, I had mousse cake AND coffee. What isn’t perfect about that?) My Amazon rankings even went up! So thank you for your support, encouragement, and friendship. A little smile can brighten a day, but kind words can brighten the darkest life. Your words illuminate my existence.

Cue the dramatic piano piece. (Or trumpets. I think trumpets might work for this.)

So a few things happened the past few days!

Steampunk Sparrow’s Book Blog reviewed Minutes Before Sunset. You can read it by clicking here, and you can check out the award-winning, paranormal romance on Amazon by clicking here. (But it looks like so many of you checked it out on Monday! In fact, AEC broke their record for their best day of sales on my birthday.)

Other than that, I heard from my formatter at AEC Stellar’s Publishing, Inc. the other day. She hopes to have everything done by next week, so it looks like Take Me Tomorrow is still releasing this July. Yip-eee!

That’s why I’m writing this today: below you’ll find an accurate description of the BEGINNING of my writing process. My entire writing process is rather complicated, but I can cover the beginning because I kept a lot of the original notes (something I don’t normally do.) Call me superstitious, but keeping notes once a book has changed feels like something that holds me back from allowing the novel to grow into something new. So I hope you have fun! (You might even see some sneak peeks.)

First Step: The Spark of Inspiration

This is VERY unusual for me. Most of my novels, including The Timely Death Trilogy and November Snow, are based off of dreams, but Take Me Tomorrow was inspired by a conversation my father and I had in a Starbucks one afternoon. I was 19, visiting home from college, and talking at a hundred miles per hour. (Now – that is usual.) We were talking about drugs (legal and illegal) when we debated about futuristic drugs. What would they be like? What could they do? And that conversation was the spark of Take Me Tomorrow – a story that is grounded in the future where a clairvoyant drug has been released and outlawed. (I’ll explain why my father and I were talking about drugs in step four)

Second Step: That Spark Turns into a Flame:

As an avid reader and writer, I spend enormous amounts of time in bookstores. In fact, I began spending so much time in my local Barnes & Noble that most of the workers joked about paying me because they saw me helping customers so often. One night, while brousing the bookshelves, I found this postcard. (I apologize about the quality, but the postcard is four years old, and it’s taped inside the notebook I share below.)

postcard

I was attached. It felt like mine before I ever even touched it. And it felt like Take Me Tomorrow. Here’s the funny part. At no point in the book will you see these characters or this scene. I can’t tell you if it actually even exists, but I can tell you that it resonated with me in a way that even I cannot explain. I bought that postcard and I found my notebook.

Third Step: Feeding that Little Flame:

tmtnotenookTo the right, you’ll see the real notebook I used to write ALL of my original Take Me Tomorrow notes in. You should know that I have to have specific notebooks for each novel. I can’t write about four different novels in one notebook. Again, call me paranoid, but I feel like it disrupts the energy of creativity if I’m writing in Take Me Tomorrow, flip one page, and I’m in another book all together.

Fourth Step: My Flame Becomes a Giant Fire

I have a confession about my first three steps. I go through them all of the time, dozens of times, and I normally stop right there. Why? Because I find out that I’ve been fanning the flame instead of allowing my passion to keep it running. But Take Me Tomorrow is obviously one of the exceptions. It made it to step four because I am passionate about the story and the topic. Why? This is the dark side of the flame. I am VERY passionate about drug use. I want to clarify that I am not talking about me taking drugs – illegal or legal. I am just talking about understanding drugs. This has to do with my past.

My mother was a drug addict. She died from an overdose when I was eleven years old. One day, I will share more about this. But ever since I was old enough to understand, I spent days researching drugs – especially LEGAL drugs – and how they affect people. Much of this research will be in Take Me Tomorrow, and that research is the gas on the flame. To me, finding passion in the story and in the research is vital to writing my novels. I can admit that I want to share so much about my past in regards to understanding drug use, especially how my mother became an addict in the first place, but it might take me a while before I open up about it on here. It’s a very personal topic to me. But that’s also why Take Me Tomorrow is so important to me.

Fifth Step: Taming the Growing Fire

This is the last step in the beginning of my writing process. Once I have enough research on the topics I want to write about and symbolize, I begin growing the story with characters, worlds, graphs, and more. These maps, graphs, and notes include character profiles, height graphs, a calendar, moving maps, scene maps, past timelines, family trees, and more. Just so you can laugh with me, I added one of my beautiful maps below. (What can I say? All of my artistic abilities reside in my writing. I cannot draw.) This map is taken directly from Chapter Five and Chapter Six. And you can read a sneak peek right below that: (the entire novel is told by Sophia Gray.)

breakin

“You coming with or not?” he asked.

Miles shook his head. “There’s a cop right there,” he said. “It’s too risky, even for me.”

Broden checked his arm’s splint. “Wait in the car, then,” he ordered blankly as if he had expected Miles’ reaction. “Run if anything happens.”

Miles didn’t budge. “You’re going by yourself?”

Broden shrugged. “I didn’t come this far to leave Noah standing there, now, did I?”

“I’ll go,” I volunteered before the boys could argue. Both of them gaped at me, and I repeated myself. “I drove you two here. I think I have the right to go to − wherever you’re going.”

“Sophia,” Miles sighed. “You don’t want to.”

Broden lifted his hand to Miles, “She can come if she wants.”

“What if you guys get caught?”

“Then, we’re all in trouble,” he pointed out, “whether she’s waiting in the car or not.”

Miles mumbled curses to himself. “I can’t believe this.”

“Believe it,” I stated, marching over and pulling the black beanie off his head. “Now, give me your jacket.”

I hope you enjoyed this! Please add Take Me Tomorrow to your Goodreads shelf, email me at shannonathompson@aol.com if you want to review it, and I will share your review right here on ShannonAThompson.com!

As always, with all my love, I hope I can inspire and help you in your writing journey by sharing my personal journey with you. Please share your writing process below! Is it different in the beginning than in the end? Do you make maps first or during the writing? Do you make character profiles?

~SAT

Writing Tips: Introducing Your Characters

20 Jun

Special thanks to The Leisure Zone for reviewing Minutes Before Sunset: “A great read. I absolutely enjoyed reading it and it does take your imagination for a ride…This is a great leading book. I cannot wait to read the following books.” Click here to read the full review or click here to check out Minutes Before Sunset on Amazon, only $3.89.

Also, you might have noticed that my progress bar is updated on the right side of my website! I try to update it every two weeks, but I am really looking forward to the release of Take Me Tomorrow and Death Before Daylight.

People are obsessed with firsts: a baby’s first smile, winning first place in a race, your first love, getting arrested for the first time. (Okay. So maybe not that last one.) But we do like firsts, and I think it brings up a topic writers don’t normally talk about or even consider.

What are your characters’ firsts?

No. I’m not talking about their first steps when they were a baby. I’m talking about the first time they appear in the story, the first time they talked, the first time they laughed, the first time they really opened up and showed some depth to their created soul.

So I’m going to share some of my characters’ firsts as examples while I explain how important their first line can be. This might seem like a stretch for many but consider the popular phrase, “You only get one chance to make a first impression.” But I really like the quote below, because I believe it applies to how your readers can perceive your characters’ first impressions as well:

quote-a-stunning-first-impression-was-not-the-same-thing-as-love-at-first-sight-but-surely-it-was-an-lois-mcmaster-bujold-214751

Characters are just like people except that we can decide exactly what that first impression will be. Maybe their first impression will be great and readers will consider loving them. Maybe everyone will hate them. You can do both, and that’s the beauty of it. You can even get really complicated and strive to have the reader love them while the characters hate them. But enough of my rambling. Below I’ll explain some first impression parts to consider with examples from Minutes Before Sunset.

First appearance:

This is important for the obvious, main reason: a first impression is largely based on how someone appears, how they act, how they think or talk. This “first appearance” can be an appearance a reader sees first or an appearance the other characters see first. Consider both of those moments carefully because you can set up how a reader might judge a character for a long time. For me – as a reader – I have become very confused when a character is introduced in a very violent or angry way when they suddenly become very nice seconds later. It’s like whiplash. Scenes like that make more sense to me when I already know the character. (I’m not saying it cannot be done. What I am saying is to approach first appearances with care.) Below are examples of characters appearing to the reader first.

In Minutes Before Sunset, Camille appears in the very first chapter. Although Eric is six, she is already his guard (and she is only nine!) We see her as soon as Eric’s father leaves him alone – and, unlike Eric’s father – Camille asks Eric is if he alright. This sets up their relationship as a caring one, but it also shows the responsibility Camille has to take care of the male protagonist. Fun fact: we don’t see Camille’s human appearance until page 21. I could go on and on about how their different identities appear at separated times, but she appeared as a guard first because that part of her life is more important to the story, to Eric, and to her.

First spoken line:

What a character says can define them just as much as what a character does. I find first lines to be good indicators on what we can expect from a character: are they funny? Angry? Bitter? Responsible? Yes, of course their personalities develop far beyond their first lines, but first lines normally happen at the same time as first appearances, which are usually important scenes, so first lines – by default – reveal extra insight, like if a character speaks with an accent or not. Moments like these then become defining factors. But I would say that you don’t have to take this literally. The first line doesn’t necessarily mean the exact first line. It can mean the first conversation they have.

For this example, I wanted to share a few first spoken lines:

Since I explained the first scene in Minutes Before Sunset, let’s look at Camille’s first line: “Eric.” Yep. That’s her first word. In contrast, Eric – as Shoman – first appears in chapter two, and his first line as a shade is “Camille.” One another’s names are the first things they say because it focuses on the depth of their relationship while insinuating how close they are on a regular basis. But if we wanted to look at Eric’s VERY first line – again, this line is spoken when he is six years old in chapter one – he simply says, “I’m fine.” It’s important to note that Eric is lying here, and lying later becomes a defining factor of Eric’s personality. On a lighter note, when we see Crystal – a side character – for the first time, she says, “Don’t answer that.” to Jessica after Robb begins flirting with her. Crystal’s first line not only shows how she can take the initiative, but it also shows her comfort with interrupting Robb, insinuating that their friends (or at least that they know one another.)

First time they interact with another character:

This can get tricky, because stories have dozens of characters and each one of them is going to interact for the first time eventually and – most of the time – it’s only the “first time” for the reader. Most of the time, characters have a past, so they aren’t speaking for the first time, but that’s also the point - the “first” conversation can show whether or not characters have a past as well as other things, such as a social ranking difference (sir, ma’am, etc.) and/or if their past is a good one. Are they friends? Are they enemies? Are they competitors? Do they talk or is this a rare instance? Considering these questions can help shape how one character approaches another one while also hinting to the reader about how they always interact – before and during the story.

In Minutes Before Sunset, we get to see two, very different types of first interactions. Since Jessica is new to Hayworth, the reader gets to be introduced to everyone just like Jessica does, but Eric isn’t new. Through his eyes, we see interactions that have history – a very dark history – and we see repercussions of that in his various interactions. For instance, let’s focus on the human identities in Minutes Before Sunset. Jessica first talks to Eric on page 36. They’ve been assigned as homeroom partners, and Jessica is trying to be amicable but Eric – obviously – does not have the same intentions. (Scene told from Eric’s perspective.)

“Hi,” she said, turning briefly toward me to smile. “I’m Jess.”

She laid out her hand for a handshake, and I pushed my chair against the wall. “I heard your name when Ms. Hinkel assigned you,” I said, opening the chemistry book left on my desk from the previous period. I was not interested in small talk.

Now – moving onto another scene to use as a comparison. Crystal – a girl who has gone to school with Eric since childhood – doesn’t speak to Eric until page 127, and the only reason they do speak is because Crystal is sitting in his seat. (If you haven’t read the books, spoiler alert: Crystal and Eric used to be friends until freshman year in high school until Abby – Eric’s previous girlfriend – died. Eric stopped speaking to everyone. Crystal and Robb take this very personally.) But here is the scene so you can see: (scene told from Jessica’s perspective)

“Hey.”

We both jumped, and our conversation halted as we turned around. In front of us, Eric stood inches away, and the teacher hovered behind him, crossing her arms.

“Er—Eric,” I managed, and Crystal stared.

“Hey, Jessica,” he said, turning his gaze to my friend. “Crystal.”

“Welborn.” She returned the acknowledgement with a cold tone. “Hey.”

His smirk faltered, and his lips thinned. “I hate to interrupt,” he said, swinging his hand over his shoulder to point at our teacher. “but I probably need my seat.”

Both of these “firsts” show Eric’s history as well as his emotional state, but the moments also reveal character traits of Jessica and Crystal. While Jessica wants to be nice at first, Eric isn’t interested, and the tension between Crystal and Eric is still present, despite the two years that have passed since Abby’s sudden death. However, this would be a good time to say that “first” interactions are just as important as how the characters continue to act and grow. Later in the story, all of these characters’ relationships shift dramatically.

So I hope you have a few places to start in regards to your characters’ firsts. You might even crack open a favorite book you’ve read just to see what those characters’ firsts were. They might surprise you. I know I had a few that shocked me.

Happy writing and reading!

~SAT

Writing Tips: Lovers

16 Jun

Writing Tips: Lovers

Read my latest interview by clicking here. I talk about fellow Indie authors who’ve inspired me, Take Me Tomorrow, and so much more!

The protagonist lover characters seem to follow these molds:

  • Gorgeous, mysterious, heart-striken male who cannot communicate his feelings until death is threatening separation, because of some past that has caused him to reject relationships in any form until he falls in love.
  • Stunningly pretty female who doesn’t seem to realize she’s beautiful, therefore causing her to be more desirable despite having no capabilities in regards to physical strength or mental strength. The only appealing part of them is their love and how they can support the male with their love.  

So I wanted to share three basic tips to deepening characters within their relationships, but the basic rule I follow is to show why they are uniquely beautiful in the inside and out to the narrator and to the reader. Let the “beautiful people” stand on their own beauty, let them define what “beauty” means to them, and create a beauty that is 3-D, that is rounded and deeply set inside of the characters’ hearts. This includes their unique features, gestures, speech, and more, but here are three examples:

1. Scars, injuries, birthmarks: 

Physical descriptions can, in fact, have a rounding out effect on a character, but these descriptions go beyond “brown hair and blue eyes.” For any character, scars and birthmarks can show a history written on their skin, but you can show this as an intimate thing between lovers. Maybe a lover is the only who has seen a scar or maybe everyone has seen it but the lover is the only one who knows the true story behind it. These little marks of history can be very telling. Someone may have beautiful eyes, but that time they fell out of a tree and broke their arm trying to save a cat tells about how caring they are of animals and others’ lives. It might even insinuate how they have a lack of fear of heights (or, perhaps, explain why they now do.)

Ex/ In November Snow, Daniel has a huge scar on his back, but no one knows what it is from until much later in the story. Serena isn’t the first to see it, but her curiosity about it showed a deeper concern for his past and health than other characters expressed toward him.

This reminded of Eric and Jessica from The Timely Death Trilogy.

This reminded of Eric and Jessica from The Timely Death Trilogy.

2. Gestures:

How do your loved ones show they love you? Think of the small things–the daily “How are you” can make all the difference. Maybe, in a time of danger, a lover would place a hand on the other to remind them they are present. It’s small, yet it tells so much. It says, “I am here. I am listening, and I’m aware that you are, too. I am here for you.” There is an endless streak of gestures – big and small – that people do to show how much they care, and gestures are a great way to define emotions in a relationship between people.

Ex/ In Seconds Before Sunrise, Eric automatically makes Jessica tea without asking her if she wants some or if she likes it. He already knows she does, but a part of him does this without even thinking about it because it comes naturally to him.

 3. Speech: 

Choose their conversations carefully. It seems to me, in young-adult especially, the characters are undyingly in love, yet they never have a conversation about their feelings, insecurities, and/or questions. They never ask the other what the other is thinking. I’m not saying that your characters necessarily have to do this literally. (Ex/ “Do you love me?”) I get it. There is normally a sense of tension in novels, so discussing love is removed for many reasons, so you don’t have to have a discussion about love, but let the lovers have deeper conversations. (Ex/ life, hobbies, past memories, etc.) Most characters – like people – will talk out loud, and choosing what characters discuss can define relationships early on – it may even define their relationship before they even realize they have one.

Ex/ In Minutes Before Sunset, in their human identities, Eric talks to Jessica without even realizing he is opening up about topics he doesn’t discuss with other people. He doesn’t act like it’s a big deal, but Jessica isn’t sure what to say because she realizes he doesn’t talk about it. On the contrast, Jessica tells Eric how she doesn’t like opening up to people. Ironically, admitting that to him was her way of opening up. She doesn’t admit this to anyone else. But in their shade identities, they both open up fairly quickly. Going back and forth between the two identities, their discussions become the main growing aspect of their relationship.

These are only three places to start, but there are endless possibilities to round out characters and their relationships with one another (lovers or not.) A great question for aspiring writers to contemplate is who their favorite book relationship included and why. Write down a list and figure out how to incorporate unique ways into your own stories.

How do you round out relationships? Who are your favorite lovers? Why? And if you’re feeling extra open, have you ever used real life inspiration for a fictional character’s love interest?

~SAT

Genders Aren’t Defining Features: Why I’m Tired of Seeing Female Characters Described as Weak and Male Characters Hardly Being Discussed at all.

14 Jun

First, thank you so much for supporting the eBook release of Seconds Before Sunrise on June 12. I wanted to remind everyone that you can get my latest novel for only $0.99 on Smashwords by using the code – BW58C – but you can also go to Amazon and various websites.

Secondly, thank you to Jonas Lee for showcasing me on his website.

And lastly, I have a disclaimer: Today is obviously going to be a heavy discussion. I am not going to pretend that I could cover every little detail that I wish I could discuss. I couldn’t. Not even close. And I was quite sad to see the amount of information I had to delete just to have a reasonable blog post instead of a practice dissertation. That being said, I do plan on sharing more in the future if you would like me to continue this conversation, but I want this to be a positive place on the internet to discuss this topic. From the research I share below, I know how this topic can become highly sensitive very fast. Bullying, stereotyping, name-calling, and other spiteful comments will not be tolerated. I would also like to apologize to those who do not define themselves as male or female. Instead of discussing specifics, I will be discussing the beginning of my research and how the most popular results reflected my frustrations with judgment in literature.

Love,

SAT

Oh, no. I pulled out the gender card. I’m going to be one of those hardcore feminists – (whatever that word actually means ::sarcasm::) – and yes, I will be ranting about the stigmas of today’s world. Watch as people come running, some with popcorn, others with absolute disdain.

What else is new?

It’s a sad fact that I even struggled to write this piece. I’ve been working on it on-and-off for weeks now, wondering what was appropriate, how best to word it, and where to begin, but I should’ve been asking myself one thing: why censor myself at all?

The publishing industry isn’t new to this conversation, so I’m not going to bother with specific character examples. No matter what kind of reader you are, I am sure you’ve heard the debates over various female protagonists being “weak-minded” or “submissive” or “incapable.” In contrast – yes – there are conversations about male leads, but I do not believe they are nearly as judgmental as the discussions that go on and on about female leads.

What’s my proof?

Since I cannot go on forever, I found these two lists:

Yep. The stats for judging females are tripled, if not more, compared to their male counterparts, and that is only one set of lists on Goodreads alone. Even more unfortunate is how much these conversations continue through the depths of the chaotic Internet waves, never-ending, always judging.

Before I continue, I want to clarify that I am not blaming any specific person for this trend. I am not attacking men. I am not attacking women. I am not attacking any of the participants on voting lists or the writers of the articles I am about to share. I simply want to discuss how we – as readers – are judging women in novels more harshly when we shouldn’t be judging any gender at all.

I decided to start where most Internet addicts go – Google – and I knew I wanted to focus on how male and female leads in literature are judged, so I read a few articles here and there when I kept coming across something along these lines: “Author A should be ashamed for creating a character like this for girl’s (or boy’s) to look up to.”

Every discussion generally came back to the author, including an author’s history, religion, or other personal information. As an author myself, this disturbed me because I am adamant that authors are NOT their characters. Yes, some use real-life inspiration but that does not mean that the author intends for a young girl or boy to look up to a fictional character so much that they start repeating their actions. It’s important for readers to separate themselves from characters. (Ouch. I know.) I love characters, too. Some characters I’ve read have helped me through many difficult times in my life, and they will always be close to my heart, but I wouldn’t dress in a green dress to fight demons and fall in love with my enemy just because Serena does that in Daughters of the Moon. And I doubt Lynne Ewing wanted my 12-year-old self to sneak out of the house to fight paranormal crime anymore than my parents did. I am not saying you cannot look up to characters. You definitely can. But there’s a difference in looking up to a character and allowing a fiction world to dictate your decisions in reality.

But I’m moving on from that—(I could talk about that all night)—I want to talk about the next piece of research I did.

What does it mean to be a “good” male or female character?

mint-male-symbol-hiThis is when I returned to handy-dandy Google. I’m about to share the results that bothered me, but I need to take a moment to clarify that this isn’t going to be about how to write that character that will never be judged.

A)   Every character will always be judged

B)   The results are what I’m focusing on because they show how we focus our judgment in gender roles.

Here are pre-typed suggestion results:

When I Googled “How to write a good male character”

  • Pre-Typed Results: How to write a good male dating profile came up first. (Followed by social media profile, THEN character, and then a personal ad)

When I Googled “How to write a good female character”

  • Pre-Typed Results: How to write a good female protagonist came up first. (Followed by female lead, villain, and THEN dating profile.)

It seems we are more nervous writing about a female character than a male character in literature. We’re also curious about villains and leads. But these did not show up in the top four for males.

As frustrating as this was, I continued to Google anyway. I wanted to see the articles. I wanted more insight. I wanted to see what authors “should” be doing and what readers think, so here are the top articles I found: (these articles are informative and amazing pieces. My point is NOT against them, but how we view writing female and male characters in general.)

I Googled “How to write a good male character” These are the first articles that pop up:

Here’s something you should know about me. I HATE the words masculine and feminine. Perhaps because I have constantly been told that I’m a rather masculine girl, “one of the boys”, part of the gang, a “cool” girl. This generally happens because I drive a manual, collect knives, and have seen more dead animals than I would care to admit. I hate makeup, and I wear combat boots every day. I’m used to it. Whatever. What I hate is that these things are “masculine” – that if I do it, I am “masculine” – but so are female characters. In fact, I was reading an article that told female writers to stop having their female characters driving sticks, because it is a lazy attempt to get her to seem deep.

What the actual hell.

red-basic-female-symbol-hiFirst of all, driving a manual isn’t deep. (I should know. I drive one.) It’s learning how to press an extra pedal and move the gears around. Second of all, whether a female is driving a stick or a male is driving a stick, it shouldn’t be seen as masculine or feminine or a blatant attempt to break some weird social stigma we deal with every day. Third of all…UGH. In this belief, there is no winning with female characters. You lose if you use stereotypes and you lose if you don’t because you’re seen as purposely trying to stray away from “realistic” expectations. (This is also where I would like to point out that there are many articles complaining about the various dystopian novels and their female leads being so capable with weapons… I don’t even live in “dystopia” and I have weapons. Try me.)

In case you want the other results, here are the top three articles I found when I Googled “How to write a good female character”

  • How to Write a Main Female Character: this article actually begins stating that female characters are the most complex characters, but I have an argument. We need to stop thinking of women as more complex than men. We’re human. We’re all complex. And a good character – no matter the gender – will be complex.
  • Overcoming Object Love: How to Write Female Leads Who Are People: The title sounds horrible, but the writer does tackle another issue: female characters being treated as “objects, objectives, or incentives.” But it’s terribly sad that we live in a world where we have to CLARIFY that woman are people, too, so female characters should reflect that. I definitely did not see anything close to this on the male results.
  • On Writing Strong (Female) Characters: Again, nothing against the articles. I just dream of a day where articles are based on writing strong characters without focusing on what gender they are.

Just a quick summary: when I research male characters, the results were directed on how women can write them as masculine, and when I searched female characters, I was exposed to objectification. Both of the results revealed gender stereotypes I disdain – both in society and in literature. This isn’t just an article about how we need to stop judging female characters. We need to stop stereotyping male characters, too. But here is my main question:

Can we please stop judging all of our characters based on their genders?

When we do this, we are teaching young readers that they won’t be safe – not even in fiction. That might seem extreme to some, but let’s look at the widely popular complaint: “That female character was weak because of x, y, and z.”

A weakness should never be based on the expectations of a gender, but I would even go so far as to say that we need to stop calling characters weak in general. One (wo)man’s weakness is another (wo)man’s strength, and sometimes, they are the same thing. That is the complexity in literature. That is the complexity of life. And gender shouldn’t devalue the moral ambiguity displayed in various novels in a world filled with so many genres and eclectic tastes. The physical description should be the last thing we mention.

Genders do not define us. They shouldn’t define our characters either. 

~SAT

men-women-holding-hands-hi

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