header('Cache-Control: max-age=259200'); Characters Archives – Kristen Koster
Jul 032016
 
A widow's dress with shawl and mobcap for a Colonial Days presentation in 5th grade.

That was 8 years ago?!?

Once again, I’ve been scrambling to finish a dress and it managed to pull me away from both writing and social media for a while. Long-time readers of the blog may recall the purple widow’s dress I made for a 5th grade presentation… good gracious that was 8 years ago!

Anyway, this year, we needed a dress in time for Anime Expo in LA for a cosplay of Eliza Hamilton from the Broadway musical. Over the last few months, the cast album plays here non-stop.

18th Century Gown (Simplicity 4092) for Eliza Hamilton for Anime Expo 2016

Simplicity implies “easy”, right?!

Simplicity pattern 4092 18th Century DressWe ended up settling on Simplicity pattern 4092 (AMZ affiliate link) and decided on the larger pictured variation.

We didn’t find any mint green fabric we liked at our local Joann Fabrics store, so I asked my friend who does a fair amount of sewing and she recommended fabric.com. Lots of pretty fabrics there and all the types and colors we were looking for. And then some. They also have a nifty feature where you collect virtual fabric swatches and then arrange them on a project board. That was VERY handy!

 

Simplicity 4092: Fitted BodiceI’ll be honest. I haven’t really done much sewing in the past 8 years. And the pattern we chose looked the part but was a bit beyond anything I’d done before in terms of complexity. I’d never done a fitted bodice with boning before. I’d never done anything like panniers before. So I blindly followed the directions on the pattern as written. Turns out I probably could have saved myself a lot of time if I’d just sewn down the cover that came on the boning and used it as the channels instead of marking and sewing the channels in myself as they’re not seen on the outside at all.

Simplicity 4092: Fitted Bodice and overskirtBut, I like learning new things, so that was a bonus and it’s done. The pattern for the dress doesn’t show it well, but the bodice and the overskirt are one part, and the underskirt is a second separate piece. This considerably lightened the load of what we had to work with at any one time and meant it didn’t pull as much against where we were sewing. Working with multiple layers of 5-6 yards of fabric means you’ve got a lot of fabric to juggle!

Lessons Learned

 

Simplicity 4092: Back view with Panniers from View A underneath

• A new sharp seam ripper is your friend. One with an ergonomic handle is heaven. Did you know that your laptop screen can be used as back-lighting to see where the stitches are easier?

• Directions, as written, can be confusing and numbered steps bear no relation to actual time required to complete. The fitted bodice & panniers took forever!

• Do NOT ignore the diagram for laying out the pattern pieces to be cut. (I knew this and should have supervised closer. We ended up short one panel of the underskirt with no extra fabric. It worked.)

• Fabrics that fray easily are EVIL. Fabrics that are slick and slip and slide easily are EVIL. This means that pinning carefully and extensively is recommended. Finishing all raw edges as recommended is also a good plan.

Simplicity 4092: Complete with underskirt• Proper seam allowances and straight seams matter. Otherwise you might not end up with the size you need (good thing for corsets!) or you’ll miss catching something and end up with a hole where you don’t want one.

Lessons RE-Learned

• If things are going together too easily, stop, stop and check what you’re doing. There is a big problem. If you can’t find the dot that’s mentioned on the pattern piece, check to make sure you and the directions are talking about the SAME pattern piece. These were also supervision issues.

Simplicity 4092: Eliza Hamilton - Work!• Sleeves can be put on the correct sides, the first time! Ok, we had to fix one.

• I can do a nice neat neckline using bias tape and slip stitching by hand when I try. Glasses are helpful for close work too. Who knew!?

• Check your hems before you sew ’em. I was much happier with the results this time around!

• I still hate putting in zippers, so we avoided a zipper this time, but grommets for lacing can be a pain in the butt too.

Simplicity 4092: Detail of using grommets and ribbon lacing instead of a zipper
• I have far more patience than either of my children.

• I am so relieved that I live in a world where sewing machines exist and the whole thing did not have to be sewn by hand. I’m not sure I would have survived. My friend suggested that maybe I was taking my first hand modiste research a bit too seriously. Ha!

So, in the end and even a day before they left, the costume came together and seems to be a hit at Anime Expo (Eliza and Alexander got interviewed by Cosplay America on Friday night! Pretty cool!) although I’m glad the heat has been dialed back a notch from last week.

Nov 012014
 

Some people think you need a machine like H.G. Wells’, or Dr. Who’s TARDIS to travel through time. Others believe all you need is to stumble into a faerie ring.

Me? I think all you need is a good book!
#fallbackintime
Today, the Historical Romance Network is celebrating National Author’s Day and the end of Daylight Savings Time today with a special #FallBackInTime event on Facebook and Twitter as well as Tumblr and Google+ to share their love of the historical romance genre. So if your social media is flooded with pictures of romance books, don’t grumble and ignore it, TRY one!

I had trouble picking just one book, so I chose Lynn Kurland’s A Dance Through Time because I felt it best fit the spirit of the ‪#‎FallBackInTime‬ hashtag. Time travel, thematic title and a great read! However, you can see from the shelves behind me, that my historical romance keeper shelf (6 ft bookcase, 40″ shelves, double stacked) is overflowing! Somehow, browsing through my kindle reader isn’t as fun as running my hand over the spines on this shelf.

The variety within the historical romance genre these days is amazing. From Medieval, Vikings, Scottish Highlands, Elizabethan, Georgian and Regency, Victorian, the Wild West and Colonial America, Edwardian, WWI, The Roaring 20s, WWII, to ancient Egypt and ancient China (GO read Jeannie Lin now!)! You can escape almost anywhere you’d like and find plenty more to read along the way.

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So, what do I like about Historical romance as opposed to other subgenres of Romance? I like the slower pace of life and the distance and perspective shift away from the craziness that invades my everyday life. Everyone in those long carriage lines as everyone arrives at the balls are patient and the drivers aren’t stupid or rude, they’re just part of the process. Unlike the drop-off lines at school where I swear I need a doctor’s note to show my kids that I’m not allowed to go in there because of the effect on my blood pressure. You’d think by high school these people would know what was expected of them and it’d be calmer and more orderly. Not!

Anyway, I digress…

I tend to read a lot of Regency set romances because I like the fairy tale aspect of the balls and the titled men. Oh yes, and the cravats! Mustn’t forget those! But honestly, I’ll read a bit of everything. I started out reading fantasy and science fiction in the very early 80s, and naturally also found my mom’s stash of romance novels. She read a lot of cowboys, Native Americans, Dukes, Earls and Viscounts. The worlds that historical romance opened up for me were very similar to the fantasy and science fiction I was reading, but also very different. There was a guaranteed feel good ending. The Happily Ever After. Now she also read mysteries and contemporary romances, but those didn’t spark for me then. I like mysteries, but they’re not my first choice unless they’ve also got a good love story attached!

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I hope if you don’t read historical romance, you’ll give it (another?) try! And if you read a book you enjoy, regardless of genre, post a review to help spread the word or drop them a note through social media and make their day. It’s a fabulous way to thank an author!

If you need a recommendation, check out my post: 13 Repeatedly Reread Books or my Historical Romance Shelf on GoodReads or check out my Interviews section!

Mar 012013
 
Favorite Books: My Historical Romance Keeper Shelf

A partial view of my Historical Romance keeper shelf. Click to enlarge.

This week my accountability group’s How I Write series asks, “What are your types of favorite books? Do you write those elements into your own? Or do you do something different? Why?”

I’m a pretty omnivorous reader. I’ll read cereal boxes if left with nothing better. If you saw how many books we have. Ok, so we have well over 300 linear feet of books (not counting the kids’) in our house. Oh, did I mention I need a new book shelf? Oh, right, my favorite types of books.

In looking across all the books I hold dear, there are three common elements that draw me to them: a coherent world I can escape into, an emotional journey, and a happy ending. This is one reason why romance appeal to me in general and historical romances provide a much needed escape from every day first world problems.

My Favorite Books Have a Coherent World

I love series that continue to build and add depth to the setting with a familiar cast of characters. I like revisiting old friends. It doesn’t have to be the real world, but one of the things I adored about Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonriders of Pern books were how closely tied together everything became the farther you got into the series. I love how a very minor secondary character can repeatedly show up, and each time we learn a little more about them, and end up stealing readers’ hearts. The idea of a coherent world is definitely one of the things I’ve been trying to do in my writing. The main characters from one will show up as secondary characters in another story. They frequent many of the same places which makes research easier and reusable.

My Favorite Books Take Me on an Emotional Journey

I like to laugh, to worry, to think, and yes, to cry over a good book. Now before you go thinking I’m a huge Nicholas Sparks fan, lemme tell you it has to be natural and inevitable, but it can never feel contrived or manipulative. That creates wall-bangers for me. Kat Cantrell is an up and coming author who does this well for me. Suzanne Enoch is an example of an established author who did this extremely well with her Lessons in Love Trilogy. Some days I think this will be my hardest element to conquer, but I’m going to keep working at it.

My Favorite Books Have a Happy Ending

There’s enough doom and gloom in the world. I read for escape. I want something that’s going to restore a little hope to the world and comfort and reassure me that certain truths are universal and the bad guys always get what’s coming to them in the end. I’m writing, historical romance, so duh! This element is non-negotiable for me in my own writing as well.

I don’t find it very surprising that these elements keep showing up. They’re pretty basic, but they’re also pretty universal in their appeal.

Now, if I just had more time to read, I’d go curl up with an old friend (a specific book or author) and tune out the world for a while.

YOUR TURN: What are some of the common elements in your favorite books?


And if you’d like to check out the rest of my accountability group, you can find their blogs here:

* Alexia Reed * Kimberly Farris * Danie Ford * Emma G. Delaney * Susan Saxx *

Kissing Games at LuvYA Today!

 Interviews & Guest Posts  Comments Off on Kissing Games at LuvYA Today!
Aug 282012
 

Click to read my KISSING GAMES guest post at Bria Quinlan's LuvYA blog.

A Guest Post on Kissing Games

I’m talking about the history of Kissing Games on Bria’s LuvYA blog today in celebration of Bria Quinlan and Valerie Cole‘s Month of Kisses and Kiss-Offs.

A Contest to Enter

Bria and Valerie have planned a whole bunch of fun ways to lead up to their KISS / KISS-OFF CONTEST and I’m tickled pink to be asked to join in! I hope you’ll stop by and check out the contest too, which opens on August 31st!

Aug 032012
 

Character Traits: Photo of a man reading a book.This week for our How I Write series, my accountability group was asked, “There was an article a bit ago about how readers take on character traits of a favorite character from the book they’re reading. Do you do that with your own characters? Do you find yourself doing something your character would do?

I have to admit I was more curious about the article than thinking about the question itself. I may have tracked down the original article or one very similar, and I wanted to include it here for reference, so you could understand where my thinking on this topic was coming from. The article, “Psychologists Discover How People Subconsciously Become Their Favorite Fictional Characters” by Christine Hsu ran at the site MedicalDaily.com on May 14, 2012 and focuses on the phenomenon of “experience taking”.

The article concludes that in order for readers to make the connection to the character, details that help readers relate to the character need to be shown earlier rather than later in the story. Gee, as writers, don’t we hear that  all the time? This effect is why, suck the reader in, keep them in the story and you might also have a temporary effect on the reader’s daily life. And we can hope it’s a positive one!

So… Most people talk about a writer’s characters from the other direction. What real life experiences and what parts of your life do you put into your characters? Which are the autobiographical parts? But this question turns that concept on its head. What parts of our characters that we’re writing, do we reflect back into our daily lives?

I suspect that a lot of my new found courage and willingness to step outside of my comfort zones is a combination of those two things. I want to be more adventurous and more social, therefore, I write about those types of characters and in turn maybe exploring their lives they have inspired me to venture out of the safe zone. Other than that, I can’t think of any specific traits or characteristics that I’m consciously borrowing from my characters that I write.

Honestly, I’m not sure I could consciously (and I suspect that’s a key word here) pin point any characteristics that I’ve adopted from characters written by other authors. Do I think I happens anyway? Probably. Both in fiction and non-fiction. I mean, part of our job is showing characters learning and growing after dealing with huge-to-them experiences and readers read for the emotional experience, putting themselves in the protagonist’s shoes.

I also remember my husband telling me recently about something he read and it might have been the NYTimes opinion piece by Annie Murphy Paul, “Your Brain on Fiction“. Apparently there are studies that show that when reading about someone doing an activity if it’s well described causes the same parts of the brain get used as when the activity is done for real. The article mentions relating words for smells to the memories in the same ways that actually experiencing the scent triggers. That’s pretty strong stuff…. vicarious experience is nearly equivalent to actual experience! Mind-blowing stuff. Makes you want to go read some more of those inspirational success stories, right?

If you didn’t go read those articles, I think you’ll find them interesting and thought provoking. The concepts should definitely make writers stop and think about their choices and whether they’re being morally responsible in their portrayals of their lead characters.


YOUR TURN: What do you think? Does it make sense? Think it’s a bunch of hogwash? What about the last book you read? Did you want to be more or less like the protagonist? Do you think you may have subconsciously picked anything up from them? Did you feel like you were vicariously along for the ride?

 

And if you’d like to read how the rest of my accountability group answered this question, you can find their blogs here:

* Alexia Reed * Kimberly Farris * Danie Ford * Emma G. Delaney

Jul 132012
 

This week for our How I Write series, my accountability group is talking about guilty pleasures, both in our regular lives and in our writing.

Guilty pleasures shouldn’t be ignored. Indulge in them, because there’s a good reason that you like them. It doesn’t matter that no one else gets why you like it. They don’t have to. What matters is that this activity feeds your soul, your muse or your happiness. Ignoring them means cutting off a part of what makes you, well, you.

Guilty Pleasures: Photo of several different dark chocolate bars. Notably from Chuao and Ghirardelli.

It may be cliché, but chocolate is ALWAYS a winner! The Maya bar has been there a while. Obviously not a favorite compared to the others, but it’s almost time to restock!

Everyday Life: Good Quality Dark Chocolate

I’ve always liked dark chocolate. But since my DH and I started following the Paleo Diet and gave up grains, potatoes, legumes and most sugar, we needed to find a treat that was indulgent, yet also had some benefits associated with it. One of the suggestions made was an ounce or so of dark chocolate for dessert. Preferably above 70% cacao to get the antioxidant benefits.

Most times we stretch this a bit and will go as low as 60% cacao for our favorite chocolate bars from Chuao (pronouced Chew-wow!). It’s a fairly local chocolatier with several shops in the local malls, but they are also stocked in our local grocery stores for slightly less. The first time we went in one of the stores they were trying out new flavors. One of those was a chocolate bar with potato chips in it. Oh, did I forget to mention that they’re a very artisan type chocolatier? They’ve got some really cool flavors: Honeycomb, Caracas (a pistachio/almond/hazelnut mix), and Firecracker (one with cinnamon and cayenne in it). Our favorite is the Caracas even though it’s Guilty because it has closer to 60% cacao, but Pleasure because it’s the flavor we like best and it’s not the worst thing we could be eating.

Our other standbys are Ghirardelli bars. They have an Intense Dark chocolate line that’s wonderful. This line ranges from Midnight (86% which is a tad TOO intense for us. It’s more of a gritty than a smooth feeling.), Twilight (72% – not too gritty and above 70%!), Evening (60% – below the threshhold for us except for special treats and we prefer the Caracas from Chuao if we’re going to go below 70%. However, our favorite Ghirardelli bar from the Intense Dark line has to be the Sea Salt Soiree. It has sea salt and almond bits in it, but I had to check the label a couple of times because it tastes just like pretzel bits. Perfect blend of sweet & savory.

There are a few other brands we like… one of them has a wolf on the wrapper and is very environmentally conscious that has cranberries and almonds—Yep, I’m being too lazy to go look it up, sorry!—but the Chuao and the Ghirardelli are our favorites. Our kids can’t stand dark chocolate, but that’s ok… just means we don’t have to share!

Writing Life: Dialogue, Introspection and Character Vignettes

If I can just get my characters talking to each other, I’m usually in good shape. I can always go back around and fill in what things look like, what they’re doing or what’s going on around them later. But once I get them talking, everything else drops to the background and I’m lucky if I get to put in minimal stage directions and blocking as I go. It’s similar to people watching, but more like taking transcription as you eavesdrop on the characters. Guilty because I tend to ignore everything else to run with this, but Pleasure because it’s fun, allows my sense of humor to play, and it feels like the word count racks up quickly.

The flip side of this is when the characters start thinking and want to hash everything out in their heads with long, rambling bouts of internal monologues. Any action stops dead in its tracks and all forward momentum comes to a screeching halt. However, this is where I learn the most about my characters and it seems to be a process I have to go through in order to work things out in my own head. The problem is when I can’t jolt them out of their heads and into their world and into conversations with the other characters. Guilty because it helps me in the long run, but Pleasure because once I get going, it’s hard to stop and redirect, especially if I don’t know where the story should be going next.

I love little set pieces. I’m currently doing a 100 words/day challenge to just get back into the joy of writing for writing’s sake. Of course, what did I naturally slip into? Yup, little character vignettes that may or may not see the light of day. I like playing with character and seeing what I can draw out in that limited space to give you a sense of the person from so little. Guilty because I should be focusing on my WIPs (works in progress) and the characters in them, Pleasure because it’s been fun! It’s different and there are no restrictions other than getting at least 100 words down on a page.

Guilty Pleasures: Black and White photo of a dandelion gone to seed.

Yes, this was taken blind. The exposure was way off and the original image is mostly black. It’s amazing the hidden gems you can find. Did I mention I LOVE digital photography?

Photography: Flowers & Intuitive Shots

With the 2012 365 Photo Challenge, I figured this would be a good section to include since I’ve definitely been indulging in a couple of guilty pleasures. I have such a wide variety of flowers in my yard here that it’s very easy to get good looking pictures without much planning or effort. One of the things I love to do is to shoot blind. By this I mean, I don’t always look through the view finder or at the screen when I set up a shot. The Guilty part here is that I know I should be stretching my eye and sense of composition beyond the easy stuff and the Pleasure comes in finding hidden little gems like a stray insect or bird I hadn’t noticed in the shot when I clicked the shutter and being surprised by what appears and works.


YOUR TURN: What are your guilty pleasures? In general or in your creative endeavors. What do you do just for the joy of it?

And if you’d like to read what the rest of my accountability group considers their guilty pleasures, you can find their blogs here:

* Alexia Reed * Kimberly Farris * Danie Ford * Emma G. Delaney

Jun 082012
 

Last week we talked about our Summer Writing Plans and it pains me to say that I haven’t yet managed to get started. Today was the closest I’ve come to feeling like I was on track. Our son promoted from middle school to high school yesterday, our daughter had finals, my car got clipped by another parent waiting to pick up the kids on Monday, and my husband had his wisdom teeth removed last Friday. It’s been a busy week! This week for our How I Write series, my accountability group is talking about Fictional Foodie Favorites. We were asked, “What would your main characters (hero and heroine) say are there favorite dish and why? Bonus if you share a recipe for the dish or if you have made it share a picture.”

My characters LOVE to go to Gunter’s for ices. It’s like heading over to Dairy Queen, Coldstone or a Ben & Jerry’s shop today. Something to cool you off and a social place to hang out while the weather’s warm. Marcia and Barrington end up there in Revealed. Hubert and Camilla meet there in Sweet Temptation. I’m sure others will probably drop in at some point since the ton had decided it was a place where a gentleman could take a lady unchaperoned and not risk censure.

Fictional Foodie Favorites: Drawing of people eating ices at a confectionery.

Over at Historic Food, British food historian Ivan Day has a comprehensive article on Georgian Ices that includes lots of pictures, drawings and several receipts (an old fashioned way to say recipes). Definitely worth a look!

We’ve become very bland in what we think of as acceptable ice cream and sorbet flavors these days. In the Georgian and Regency Eras, ices could be sweet or savory. Parmesan Ice? You betcha! Elderflower, muscadine, currant were just a few of the other varieties that sound so exotic to our modern ears.

It’s funny that my heroine’s are much less food conscious than the men in my stories. Although, I have it on good authority that Tabitha (Beneath His Touch) prefers her toast with a hearty dollop of jam. Marcia’s favorite has to be the muscadine ice, a sweeter white currant ice scented with elderflowers. She might not be very experienced with men, but she’s no stranger to sensuality.

The scent of spring rose from the bowl. She dipped into the ice and scraped off a dainty portion. Raising the spoon to her lips, she reminded herself to savor the first spoonful as long as possible. Subsequent ones never satisfied the same way. Cool, tangy crystals burst in her mouth releasing the delicate, subtle taste of summer. Marcia closed her eyes and leaned against the squabs while the world around her melted away like the ice on her tongue.

On the other hand, the men like Barrington and Hubert and even Ambrose in Beneath His Touch are something of foodies. Barrington doesn’t always know the proper terms, but he knows what he likes. Ambrose, well, lets just say no one would ever accuse him of skipping a meal and he appreciates the finer fare. But Hubert, he has a definite sweet tooth and very strong memories tied to food.

Hubert Langham, Lord Dendridge, strolled along Berkeley Square, his nose lifting to catch the tantalizing scents wafting on the easterly breeze. Gunter’s iconic golden pineapple beckoned him closer to the teashop. Soon individual aromas emanating from the confectionery were distinguishable: vanilla, caramelized sugar, fresh fruit. But the floodgates of his memories erupted with the rich, luxurious scent of chocolate. His mother had brought him here prior to his being sent away to school at a tender age.


YOUR TURN: What are some of your best food associated memories? What foods set your mouth to watering just thinking about them?

And if you’d like to read about how the rest of my accountability group answered, you can find their blogs here:

* Alexia Reed * Kimberly Farris *
* Angeleque Ford * Danie Ford * Emma G. Delaney

May 252012
 

This week for our How I Write series, my accountability group asked, “How do you develop your characters? Do you have a favourite kind/archetype?”

We covered part of the idea of character development before and my general method is in the post, Building Characters where I likened it to my daughter’s cosplay outfits. I skimmed the highlights, but that post has more info.

The BASICS
Deb Dixon‘s GMC — WANTS, NEEDS, CONFLICTS, OBSTACLES
Michael Hauge‘s Establishing Connections – likeability, skill.expertise, sympathetic, funny, jeopardy
Strengths/Weaknesses —
At Least 5 Whys —
Biggest Fear & how you will make them face it
Jodi Henley‘s idea of a Core Event

BELLS & WHISTLES
Tics, expressions, rituals, habits
Friends, possessions & pets

That all still holds true. Now, moving on to the section where I listed What I didn’t use.

Character Sheets — You’ve seen the ones: star sign, height, weight, occupation, model of car driven, all full of useless trivia that probably won’t make a difference in how your character will react to the things you need them to. Oh, and I always read them with much amusement considering I write historical fiction. I don’t think I’d find them very useful even if I wrote contemporaries.

Stereotypes/Archetypes — Ok, I TRY not to use stereotypes and I was re-introduced to the notion of using archetypes again this summer, but I’m not sure that I’ll ever dig too deeply in that direction as something to build a foundation on. Some people may find them useful, but I also think the temptation to slide back into stereotype is too strong for me.

Character sheets filled with useless trivia are still a no go for me. Most of it just isn’t relevant for the historical setting and I don’t feel like making one. I have been using Scrivener, which has character templates that are more flexible and include general information.

Role in Story: Hero
Occupation: Card Sharp
Physical Description:
Personality: Jack is a bad boy, appearing unreliable and capricious at first impression.
Habits/Mannerisms:
Background: Jack is a card sharp with the longest running winning streak at the game of Whist at the Stratford Club in London. He wants to make a name for himself.
Internal Conflicts: Jack is motivated by resentment and rebellion which keeps him from finding love and keeping it. He’s a bachelor who refuses to marry and keeps being left by his mistresses.
External Conflicts: Jack is driven by the thrill of winning and beating the odds. He wants to win back his brother’s losing for the week and keep his reputation because Amanda’s protector has accused him of cheating and offers a stacked deck.
Notes: Jack is used to playing Whist with his brother as his partner. He’s also distracted by the heroine’s beauty. He may lose his reputation and the girl. Jack realizes he’s always help part of himself back. He puts that on the table with Amanda as well, hoping to win her love.

Photo of a kid catching a frisbee. He's putting everything he's got into it.And in looking back at my stories after taking Tami Cowden’s workshop on archetypes for writers, I realized I do use them as a very rough base for personality and building conflicts, but it hadn’t been a conscious part of my character development process.

I think if I had to name a favorite hero archetype, it’d be the bad boy — or maybe the nice guy who’s been pushed to live up to his bad boy reputation. My heroine’s have also been stronger than they appear or are assumed to be by others, but other than that, they seem to be all over the map in terms of which archetype you’d label them as.

Another thing I’ve realized through photography and pushing my comfort zone there, is character matters so much when photographing people. Capturing it and using it to tell a story was a big part of what I was missing when I took pictures of people. For some reason, this seems easier with people I don’t know. Maybe because I’m freer to make things up? Anyway… this kid with the frisbee has a ton of character, doesn’t he?


YOUR TURN:How do you go about building the foundation of your creative projects?

And if you’d like to read about how the rest of my accountability group answered, you can find their blogs here:

* Alexia Reed * Kimberly Farris *
* Angeleque Ford * Danie Ford * Emma G. Delaney

May 182012
 

A photo of three Regency ladies.

Tabitha Gifford (Center)

This week for our How I Write series, my accountability group asked, “Could you be best friends with any of the heroines you’ve written. Is she/Are they someone you would hang out with? Why or why not?”

I don’t know about BFFs, but my heroines are definitely the kind of people I’d hang out with. In my head they’re all strong women who know what they want and don’t suffer fools lightly. On my current pages, they’re not quite there and a couple times I’ve needed smacked upside and asked “What were you thinking?”, but hey, we’ve all got friends like that, right? We love them despite their occasional bone-headed decisions or statements.

They definitely share some of my interests: gardening, music, solving puzzles, playing games, reading, horses. One thing we all seem to have in common is a liking for handsome blokes wearing cravats. Completely understandable, I think.

I’ve also spent about 5 years with Marcia (Revealed) and Tabitha (BHT) in my head. They’re probably my favorite heroines so far, although I like Althea from The Flower Queen’s Daughter (FQD) and Amanda from Jack of Hearts (JoH), but they’re definitely not as fully formed personalities, but I definitely want to get to know them better. I think Henrietta will also be one of my favorites as she really appeals to the tomboy I was growing up. One thing I know, I’d definitely like you all to meet them one day!

A photo of a Regency Lady.

Marcia Drummond

I’d need a time machine to go hang out with them, but isn’t that exactly what books are? Time Machines, rocket ships, portals to other dimensions, flies on the wall where we can’t normally go? I think it’d infinitely cooler to go hang out with them in their time period than this one. I suspect I’d have a better chance of fitting into Regency times, despite missing many of the modern conveniences like computers, internet, air conditioning and indoor plumbing. I think the social whirl would get to me and I’d gladly sit with Marcia on the sidelines and just watch.


This question was very difficult for me to answer because I have tended to have very few close female friends in real life at any one time. I was always one that hung out with the guys in school and even afterwards, working in the computer games industry, I was definitely in the minority. Barrington and I would have been best buds and Bolster too, just because with one, you get the other in the bargain. Isn’t it odd, that I say that, yet STILL feel Barrington is the one character I know the least about his backstory and motivations?

Cub Scouts and writing changed that balance for me. Cub Scouts gained me several close mom friends who were going through the same things, even though I was just as happy hanging out with some of the dads at events too. Getting more involved with writing and the community around it expanded my virtual and local circles to include some amazing women who are super supportive and even though I haven’t met all of them in person yet, I’m proud to call them all ‘friend’.


YOUR TURN: How do you push through things you don’t like to do and can you turn your weaknesses into strengths?

And if you’d like to read about how the rest of my accountability group answered, you can find their blogs here:

* Alexia Reed * Kimberly Farris *
* Angeleque Ford * Danie Ford * Emma G. Delaney

May 112012
 
Parts of Writing: Dialogue: photo of two people conversing.

Dialogue: Talking Heads vs Meaningful Conversation

This week for our How I Write series, my accountability group asked, “Dialogue, narrative, exposition, or description? What are your favorite parts of writing and why? Your least favorite and why? What do you do to make your least favorite parts more attractive or easier?”

Deceptively Easy Parts of Writing

When I am able to completely turn off my internal editor, my writing defaults to dialogue. I end up with pages and pages of talking heads with the barest indication of what’s going on around them physically. The other trap I seem to fall into is INTERNAL monologues where the character will go on forever about what they think of a situation or mull over what to do next.

The dialogue runs are fun, because it’s like eavesdropping on a conversation and taking dictation. The trick is tipping the balance from talking heads to meaningful conversation between realistic characters. The introspective runs… they’re usually a good sign I need to stop, figure out where the story is going next and how to get the hero and heroine back on the page together. When I’m stuck, if I can get them in the same place and get them talking, things usually get moving again.

The Hardest Parts of Writing

I think the aspect I’m currently weakest on is using body language to convey emotion and character. Showing character is usually a little easier, but I find myself drifting back to my online roleplaying game days and relying on a small repertoire of actions: smiling, nodding, eyerolling, and various methods of fiddling with hair.

In the first draft, I do a bare minimum of actions. They’re more placeholders to remind me of the mood at the time. I have to go back and layer in emotion and variety. This is often done by adding in thoughts and reactions as well as other physical actions.

Description is another thing I find is either on or off for me. Usually, it’s something I have to go back and add in, unless it’s part of initially setting a scene. Oh, and I suck at describing clothing. I may have researched a fair amount on it, but I’m definitely not a fashionista for either the 21st or 19th century.

Strengthening the Weaknesses

So…how do I take the things I don’t like writing as much or don’t come as naturally and turn it into something that works? I’m apparently still working on that. For me, I need to make several passes and concentrate on one aspect at a time. My current pass is turning wooden, rote actions into something meaningful for the story that paint a better picture of the characters for the reader. Reading aloud helps find the stilted phrases and roleplaying the characters makes this more entertaining for me and often brings pleasant surprises with it.

I’d say the best thing to do is run with what you enjoy and comes easy to get down the story bones, but don’t be afraid to go back and add in more details even if it takes a few passes to flesh out that skeleton. Critical reading (to see how others pull it off) and practice also makes it easier. I don’t know if I’ve been successful at strengthening my weaknesses, but I know my writing process is going to be a work in progress for quite some time.

A Different Lens

I knew I used that phrase a lot in respect to my writing, but it had never really clicked before, why. I’ve been using the phrase long before I got my dSLR camera last year, but I get it now. I’ve mentioned before that photography has always been present in my life between my grandfather and my father. I frequently had a cheap little camera in my hands growing up and got a SLR camera as my high school graduation present. I loved to play with light, natural objects, and rarely took pictures of people or buildings.

With photography, my weaknesses are definitely still in architecture and people. I very rarely luck out and get something I love. But then again, deliberate practice on these two subjects is not something I have done very often. I think where I succeed with these is when I’m able to bring in elements of nature or at least let go completely and don’t think about it so much. But deliberate practice to explore what works and what doesn’t has been a huge part of this for me. Somehow, working with strangers is easier than people I know, maybe that’s a self-conscious thing. Although that’s my husband’s brother and sister in the photo at the top.

Sometimes, I just luck out.


YOUR TURN: How do you push through things you don’t like to do and can you turn your weaknesses into strengths?

And if you’d like to read about how the rest of my accountability group answered, you can find their blogs here:

* Alexia Reed * Kimberly Farris *
* Angeleque Ford * Danie Ford * Emma G. Delaney