Approaching the Finish Line

A word map of Beyond a Dream

I’ve retitled my most recent novel once again to be a bit more fitting. I feel like I’ve been working on this book forever but by the end of tomorrow I’ll order a proof copy for myself and a few friends to read over for a final edit.

I’m really proud of myself for what I’ve done with this story but I’m also terrified that no one else will appreciate it. I feel like I’ve poured my soul into this one, at least partially, and really hope my readers (few as they may be) can connect with the characters.

I can’t wait to read it as an actual physical book so that I can get around to setting a publishing date. I’m hoping to get this done before the end of the year but who knows.


Your Characters Should Hold a Grudge

Your characters should be holding a grudge, possibly several of them. Not against you, of course, unless you’re George R. R. Martin, but against other characters. People that they could reasonably hold a grudge against.

I was thinking about how I owe some guy at my school named Nate a big FUCK YOU for something he did earlier last semester (deets here towards the top) and I realized that I am definitely the kind of person who holds grudges. However, my characters aren’t. They don’t remember that one time that girl got them detention in 4th grade for something they didn’t do or the time their “best friend” decided to ignore them for two year to join the popular kids. Now, just like not all people hold grudges, not all characters do. Some forgive and forget.

However, I think it’s much more fun not to have a character forgive and forget. It can give them motivation to do anything, really. Need your character to get to the next city over for the plot to progress? She has a grudge on an old bully and wants to go make him wash her car. Need your character to be caught by the hunky police officer she’s going to sleep with? Have her being caught egging the house of her ex. You know the one, the guy who stole her cat and cheated on her, not the nice one who wore sweaters. Sweater dude made nice pizza.

Grudges are a great way to add some depth to your character. Is Judy more relaxed but Sally is confrontational? Show that through a conversation about how Sally hasn’t forgiven her first grade teacher for playing favorites and Judy trying to talk her into forgetting about it. It can also add humor to a scene when Sally recounts how incredibly unfair it was that Timmy was given FOUR gummy bears but she was only give ONE. (And yes, these can be adults. Adults can be petty, and all characters need flaws.)

So, Nate, in honor of upcoming Valentine’s Day, here is my gift for you:


So now I don’t have to worry about flipping you off it I finally see you around campus, because all of my followers now know that I’m crazy.

What’s something one of your characters has held a grudge for?

NaNoWriMo For Newbies – Part 2 ½, Your Love Interest

As you can see, I’ve labeled this as part 2 ½ because I know that many of you aren’t writing romance. That’s fine. Tune back in for part three, but for those of you who want to put that spark into your writing, this is the place to be. (If you missed it, part one, the plot is here and part two, your MC is here.)

Alright, so your MC is going to fall in love with this love interest, who’ll be called Squishy from this point on. If you’re writing a romance, you likely considered Squishy when writing your plot from part one. However, you might not have. I didn’t:

My story is about a fun-loving girl who needs to keep her secret hidden in order to continue impersonating the princess until the real one is found.

Because there are other elements in my story, there’s no hint of romance in it. So we need another fill in the blank.

When MC meets (Squishy) he/she thinks (blank). Then, (blank) happens and they (blank).

That’s very broad, but here’s how I would apply it to my story:

When Wild meets Daviat, she thinks he’s boring and rude. Then, he’s assigned to guard her at all times, and they are forced to put up with each other.

Clearly, just from that sentence you can see a plot emerging. Wild is fun-loving, but Daviat is a stick in the mud. He guards her to keep her in line while she’s impersonating the princess, and you can think of all the situations where they could connect since they’re together 24/7.

Here’s another fill in the blank to be applied to the second act of your novel (or at least it shouldn’t happen in the beginning if you’re writing a romance):

(Squishy) proves his/her love when he/she (blanks) for (MC).

My example: Daviat proves his love when he runs away from the castle with Wild to protect her.

Once you’ve completed that, here are some general romance tips:

  • If your main genre is romance, you need subplots. You can’t have an entire novel of MC and Squishy falling in love.
  • Avoid love triangles, please.
  • No matter what genre you’re writing, your characters CANNOT fall in love instantly unless they acknowledge that it is way too sudden but they can’t stop it OR you’re using as a plot device in YA like, “Oh silly teenager you think you’re in love.” By taking out the slow progression of romance, you’re killing the genre.

Anyways, I hope this helped! Part three will be sub-plots!

NaNoWriMo For Newbies – Part Two, Your MC

So, you’ve got your plot. A basic one, at least. Now you need a character. I think it’s important to develop your character before fully developing your plot, because your character can change the plot. My nano novel was going to be about a girl who was a shapeshifter, but shapeshifting had to be her secret power that she was afraid of. Once I learned more about my character, I realized that Wild would think that shapeshifting was AWESOME. She would LOVE it. So I had to change her power, which changed the plot.

In my opinion, the best way to develop your character is to take as many character quizes as you can. Not the “Your Character is XYZ” type of quiz, but the ones that ask you tons of questions about your characters. Quizes for dating sites might work too. Here are some sample questions that you all can start with.

What is your character’s full name?

Wistar “Wild” Banister

Who are your character’s parents?

She was raised by a washerwoman and her husband along with her three daughters. Wild’s real parents are hidden to avoid possible spoilers, but I know who they are 😉

What does your character look like? (Tip: Never should this entire description appear in your novel in one area.)

She has short black hair and bright purple eyes. Her skin is very pale, almost white, and she’s a very dainty woman. She looks very young and has a slender nose and red lips.

Does your character have any quirks, strange mannerisms, annoying habits, or other defining characteristics?

She’s eager to talk to anyone new she sees, almost like a dog. She trusts everyone she meets and thinks that everyone has good inside of them. She gets annoyed when someone doesn’t want to do whatever fun thing comes into her head (like climb a tree or go swimming).

Has your character had his/her first kiss? Is he/she a virgin? Are they currently in a relationship?

No, yes, no.

Who means the most to your character (at the start of the novel)?

Quade. He found her when she thought she would die from loneliness. Granted, he’s the only person she interacts with, and if her dog was a person she’d probably pick her, but that’s that.

What is your character’s greatest fear?

That she’ll be lose control and end up completely alone again.

If your character could change one thing about him/herself, what would it be?

Wild wishes that she was just like everyone else, with a family and something to do every day other than run around with her dog.


I’ll leave you guys to find your own quizzes, because you might be able to find some tailored to your exact gender GENRE (I cannot believe I wrote gender, this is because the Amish people in Breaking Amish are wearing distractingly bright clothes). So go forth, flesh out your main character! You can do it for as many characters as you want, knock yourself out.

Next time we shall be talking about how to develop a love interest (so feel free to skip that for those of you not dealing in romance).

Part One is here.

How to Write Better Emotions

Alright, so I actually bought a book about this from Half Price Books, but I’ve only gotten to the second chapter when I no longer had time for it. I’ve never gotten back to it, but I think I got the gist of what the book was trying to say (It was categorized by emotion, so if you knew one emotion you knew the principle that the author would apply to all other emotions). So, here is how you write better emotions!

First, show, don’t tell. “Golly gee,” you might say, “literally every writing advice column ever has said ‘show don’t tell.’ Why don’t you guys shut the fuck up about it already?” Well, I’m sorry, but we’re not going to shut up about it. It’s an important part of writing! Very important! Like, as important as air.

Some people don’t understand the “show, don’t tell” thing, so I’m going to explain it. It’s very simple. You show us what is happening, you don’t tell us. I think people get confused because you’re obviously telling us everything, that’s how the book is written, but that’s not what is meant by this.

Telling: Alice was a very nice girl. Everyone said she was nice, but it embarrassed her when they told her so.

Showing: Alice loved baking, so sometimes she would bake just for fun and take the cookies down to the homeless shelter to share. Everyone at the shelter would tell her how sweet she was, but that made her blush. She just wanted to make sure that everyone had a chance to eat something baked with love.

See? That second one made me tear up a little. Granted, my allergies are really bad and are totally 100% behind the tearing, but doesn’t the second one make you like her so much more? The author isn’t saying “Alice is nice, ACCEPT THIS AS REALITY” like some authors do *AHEMCOUGHCOUGH* STEPHANIE MEYERS *COUGHCOUGH* but she’s showing you how Alice is a genuinely nice person. You believe she’s a nice person, because she bakes cookies for the homeless.

Now, see what showing is verses telling? You can’t make a person feel what you want them to feel when reading your novel if you’re just telling them what to feel rather than making them feel it.

Another example:

1. I was so sad. He broke my heart, now all I could do was cry. I would never be happy again.

2. I couldn’t eat, couldn’t sleep, couldn’t sit still. It was like someone had carved out a hole in my chest. My heart ached, and it felt like something was missing. I felt like my eyes hadn’t been dry since he’d left. Why did he leave like that? He was my something special, the person who made me better. Could I ever smile without him by my side?

I’ll leave you to guess which is showing and which is telling.

One way to practice is to write poetry with short verses. You’ll learn to convey emotion better just because you know you can’t write “I am sad” in a poem. Here’s an example of how it would help:

I’m alone for the last time in the prison of my bed,
holding the tool for my escape.
The silence of the night holds no comfort for me,
and my dreams are filled with terrors.
The house is crawling with the past,
their ghosts constantly haunt me.
I close my eyes for the last time;
maybe I’ll see them again in another life.

Not gonna lie, just picked a poem at random from my poetry folder, I wrote this recently and didn’t really look back at it, I was like “hmmmm, did I write this?” Dur. I’ll post the full poem tomorrow, but here is how that would look if you were telling it in prose.

I lie in bed awake, a knife in hand. I can’t sleep for the nightmares. The house is filled with reminders of the past, always reminding me of the ones I’d lost. I close my eyes and slit my wrist, hoping I’ll see them again.

Obviously, there isn’t so much showing verses telling happening here, but the first one is definitely better at describing, though it’d need some better translation to prose to avoid being purple prose.

That’s about it for the overall lesson, but I’ll list eight (because I’m too lazy to do ten) common emotions and examples of showing verses telling for each one.



T: I was so angry at him! How dare he?

S: My fist clenched and I restrained myself from hitting him. He didn’t deserve to be hit, nothing so tame as that. If he died a thousand times it wouldn’t make up for what he did. How dare he?



T: I was so confused. Where was I?

S: I looked around at the street signs. None of them were familiar. Was I supposed to go up First Street, or down Peach? I needed to get to get to Platform 9 ¾, but I’d taken a wrong turn. Where the hell was I?



T: I’m so excited! Pumpkin Spice Lattes are back!

S: I had to restrain myself from jumping out of my seat. I watched as the seconds ticked by, just a few more minutes now! I listened impatiently as the professor ended class, and shot out as soon as he dismissed us. Pumpkin Spice Lattes were finally back, and I was going to get one!



T: I was so jealous. That bitch had the best hair.

S: She thought she was so great, with her perfect locks and her perky smile. Everyone knew that she wasn’t naturally blonde. She couldn’t be. No one naturally looked that good.



T: I was so lonely. I just wanted a friend.

S: I hugged myself silently. The other kids played on the other side of the playground, but I sat alone on the cold bench. When I invited them to my birthday party last week they laughed at me, so I didn’t ask to play now. I just wanted a friend. Why’d they have to laugh at me?



T: She was consumed with a passion she’d never known before. She had to kiss him everywhere.

S: She kissed him deeply. She wanted to hold him forever, but she couldn’t stop moving; his tongue made her squirm against him. She had to kiss him everywhere. His name was on the tip of her tongue, ready to spill out as he moved inside her.



T: He was resigned to working in an office the rest of his life.

S: He stared at the blinking line on the screen. He’d typed up his resignation letter, all he had to do was print and sign it. He sighed. What was the use? He was too old to get another job, but too young to retire. Without thinking about it, he deleted it and closed the document. Another ten years in the cube farm wouldn’t kill him.



T: The old man was sad. All his friends were dead.

S: He sat on his porch and watched the children play. He had children of his own, and grandchildren enough to fill his house twice, but he missed the conversation of his friends. Tom from high school, Allen from the factory. He lived next door to Greg for thirty-two years, but they were all gone now, nothing but tombstones and memories. His friends were all dead, and he was counting down the days until he could join them.


If you want to improve your skills, take the telling portions of all of those and write how you would show those emotions. Feel free to make a blog post about it and link to it in the comments!