Research Done!

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This idea has been rolling around in my brain for quite some time and I’ve decided to just do it! First step is planning. This will be a full length novel, I hope, with ten chapters and fifty thousand words. Whoa, that sounds daunting so how about I break it down to three hundred twenty or four hundred twenty pages. That’s a bit easier to handle. Breaking that number down even further each chapter of my book should be three to five pages. Hmm, I don’t think I’ll number the chapters.

Next I have to describe each chapter in two sentences. Don’t write down the details! For example, write Chapter One – introduce main characters – set the scene. Do not get bogged down in the particulars; quoting the old TV detective Joe Friday “Just the facts ma’am”. No embellishment is necessary at this point, you are just writing for yourself and this exercise helps get your storyline straight and firms up your main characters.in your mind. I’m amazed at how difficult it is to be disciplined in this phase. Really I just want to dive in and start writing but I truly believe that sticking to this format will help me succeed.

Once all my chapters are finished this way, I will start adding a few more sentences to each segment. But  I must still keep the sentences thin and easy to read with minimal descriptions. Basically at this point I have my main character’s name, her occupation and now I’ll expand by writing about her frame of mind and where she is at the moment. And don’t forget I have outlined all my chapters so am growing each one in turn.

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by Lucas Franca on Pexel

Starting with Chapter One, I can now focus on getting a feel for my novel. Are there any plot holes that need filling or chapters that feel like nothing is happening? Is my ending rushed? And most importantly, does my story excite me? If the answer to any of these questions is negative, then I have to go back and fix it.

It’s really okay if there are plot holes or slower spots. I’m giving myself permission to rearrange chapters and make plot edits right now. This is where I will fix problems that I found previously. Remember this is still my outline and shifting sentences around is relatively easy at this time.

Warning – this part is downright scary. Have someone read your outline like it’s a novel. Listen to their questions and comments. Don’t answer them right away but do answer them when you actually write the chapters. I think this is one of the hardest things to do. Trusting someone with my thoughts and ideas just makes me sweat. So many things are running through my mind, who do I choose, how do I choose? Oh boy! But this is necessary because I really want people to read my novel and I need the feedback.

Finally I’m going to edit my outline with any feedback provided. When the tweaking is done, I’ll send it back to be read again and edit some more if necessary. If I’m happy with the overall structure I’ll know I’m ready for the final step. I’m ready to WRITE THE DAMN STORY!!!

Who are They?

Whatever you’re writing about in your first novel, the characters in the story have to be believable. Personalities must come out early in the story so readers can relate to them and whatever is influencing them. This is, for me, the first step in creating my book. I am writing a romance so of course I have two main characters and a few additional ones who will also play a part in the mystery of the whole tale.

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Some teachers of writing advise you to develop a long background of detail about each character. This will help the writer know the character and how she will react under stress, happiness, anger or threat. As a writer, I’m not going to describe the family dynamics of each character, but I have to understand their motivations and therefore I have to know their culture, upbringing and family dynamics myself. I have to know how she will react to a situation, to authority, to a fellow worker. So I am now developing my characters and their personalities.

My characters therefore are no longer just a cast but are now thought of as people with personalities. It isn’t easy to develop these people and it is a good idea to write down all the little facets that make up the whole. So not only is my five foot nine inch, red haired heroine a strong minded woman with a bit of a temper, she is also determined to rise through the ranks and advance her career. Even though my readers don’t need more than a few details of why she thinks that way, I ought to have that knowledge because I know it will help me tell her story.

I already know what my characters look like but now I have to delve into their psyche. I need to know how my people think. What are her interests and passions? And what about his? The male characteristics need to be defined as well. Speech is another feature to decide. My female lead doesn’t speak in flowery language, she is a strong, young woman and I need to make her speech show that she is energetic and decisive. I also need to convey her softer side, because she does have one.

Her love interest, I did say this is a romance, is also a strong character and I have to figure out the dynamic between the two. Again it will be important to subtly point out their differences and similarities. After all how will the readers know about their attraction to each other if I don’t tell them through the many small ways people communicate, verbally and non-verbally?

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Photo by Asad Photo Maldives on Pexels.com

Next on the list of character development is the motivation for my characters. First on the list is Basic. This one involves survival, failure, curiosity, guilt, desire, and instability. So far none of these really describe my characters reason for being in the situation in which they find themselves although a couple of the qualities are certainly in the story.

Now I have Noble. Love, loyalty, humour, obedience, vengeance, inequality, and dissatisfaction are in this list and my people do have a few of these traits and feelings. Actually all of these words describe certain aspects of the personalities I am crafting.

Going on to Evil. Described as hatred, dishonour, pride, greed, revenge, lust, and jealousy. These traits will be used for a couple of my secondary characters though the two stars aren’t always sweetness and light and will definitely have some sense of a bad feeling.

Finally we have Fear. This has death, humiliation, pain, rejection, loss, regret and shame. These are pretty intense emotions but to some degree all characters will experience them. Every person will, at some point in a story, experience at least one of these.

I hope this helps you understand the work an author has to do to make the characters in any novel come to life. It isn’t an easy job and every writer starts the same way, with a basic storyline and the question who are they, these folks who want me to tell their story.

 

 

 

Camera Ready!

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photo by Christian Mackie on Unsplash

A few years ago, when I first started this blog, I was told that adding pictures to my blog would catch interest and make it easier to read by giving the eyes some relief. Okay but how the heck do I do that? I found that WordPress was pretty good at telling me how to add pictures but my pictures were sure not worthy. I’m not a photographer. I’m one of those people who knows what I like but there was no way I could replicate any type of visual art. So the hunt was on!

As I’ve said in a previous blog, Google is my friend, and I set off on the hunt for sites that had pictures I could use. There are thousands of photographs, called stock photos,  available to anyone, but there are some things to watch for. First, many sites will charge you for the use of a photo, so beware. Many free sites aren’t really free but do put out a few free photos each week. You can use these without charge, but the sites usually ask for your information. Of course it’s your decision whether or not to give it out but is really not necessary. Watch out for copyright infringement.

I’ve found two that are very user friendly. They don’t ask for personal information and there are many photos and graphics, sorted into categories, available to download. It’s fun sorting through for just the right shot and I confess I sometimes get distracted and spend a little too much time on the hunt. My two favourites are Pexel and Unsplash. Both sites have a “donate” button; it’s optional but they ask too that you give credit to the photographer who owns the picture. Often a credit comes up at the bottom of your photo when posted, but if not your blog site help tab can show you how to add a credit. Now I try to make sure that credit is given where it’s due and if you don’t see that caption on a picture on my blog, that means I took it myself!

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Photo by Omar Houchamil on Pexel

Yes, I am going to take pictures myself! I have already done a few; actually on a previous blog, Writing on Writing, the two pictures used there were my idea and taken by my husband. Neither of us are artistically minded but we try hard to follow the rules of photography. So what are those rules that I’m trying hard to follow?

  •      Take your camera everywhere. You can’t take pictures without it! Those pics you don’t like can be easily deleted.
  •      Get closer to your subject. You might think it’s good but a few feet closer can make it even better.
  •      Practice every day.
  •      If you photograph people, ask their permission before using their photos.
  •      Read your camera manual. It really has some good information.
  •      Beware of backgrounds. Or things to one side, like garbage cans. They just don’t look quite right.

And there you have it. I believe that pictures do make a lovely addition to everyone’s blog.

Loving Language & Words

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Language and words, two of my favourite things. As I told you in a previous blog post, I love to write and now I will tell you that I really love to read as well. What first attracted me to writing was likely the passion I had for reading. If a book could spark my imagination and pull me into the story, I would read until I had finished the whole thing. It was truly the use of language and words that hooked me. So much that, at the age of thirteen, I started writing stories myself. At that time I was really enamoured with poetry and spent a lot of time creating ballads. Still, I did well, according to my eighth grade teacher. Did anything really spur your interest in writing and reading?

But this blog isn’t about my love of reading and writing but more about using the right words and language. One thing that always frustrates me is the use of words to try and prove “I” am better than you. I once had a manager who would use all the so-called big words she knew when talking to us. It didn’t work well as she often didn’t pronounce the words correctly or use them in the right context. So many professionals deliberately use difficult language when they really do not need to do so. What springs to mind? Lawyers, insurance brokers and doctors are all guilty. I’m a nurse and many, many times I’ve had to translate into simpler language for the patient’s understanding. My point here is – use words that everyone can understand. Don’t be condescending, just be natural. Sometimes I’m accused of being too simplistic but when I speak in public I really want people to understand my presentation, not struggle to understand the words I use.

Onto the WORDS! The English language is really great. I can find synonyms for any word I want to use. For example the synonym for “synonym” is equivalent. Why do we use synonyms? To keep our speech and writing from being repetitive. Plain and simple, if for example, you want to describe something as very pretty, you can use beautiful, attractive, cute, appealing. The choices are many. If a word doesn’t seem quite right, if it doesn’t say what I think it should, I head to my thesaurus and I find the synonym. And I don’t need to own a copy of Roget’s Thesaurus, everything you need to know is now online.

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

And then there are some of my favourite words, homonyms. These are words that sound the same but are spelled differently and have totally different meanings. Most of us are familiar with the three homonyms there, their, and they’re. These are, I believe, the most misused words I see. Is their misuse caused by a decline in the teaching of English grammar? Maybe. I remember my son coming home from school one day so happy he got an A on an English assignment. He did it well but the word choices and spelling were atrocious. So I asked his teacher why she gave him such a good mark. Her answer was, she was looking for concepts and expression, the spelling or word choice didn’t really matter. Grrr!  Thirty years later, his spelling is much improved, largely due to his mother’s influence I’m sure.

I’m not perfect but I am proud to spell properly and use good sentence structure. But I believe the downgrade in our language and spelling, which seems to have happened over a short period of time, can be directly attributed to the increase of social media communication. In trying to text quickly or fit everything you want to say into the two hundred eighty character allowance on Twitter, people are using short forms and acronyms for many commonly used words and phrases. For your it’s ur, for please it’s pls, If I can’t fit a word into the space I need on twitter, I’ll rephrase the whole sentence. I just can’t really get comfortable not using my words.

So I will remain a fan of language arts and words and continue to try to use them appropriately.

 

 

 

International Women’s Day

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Friday, March 8 is International Women’s Day. The history of this day goes back to the early 1900’s with women from around the world marching and striking for peace, food and their right to vote. Now the day is still celebrated world wide, some countries have a national holiday, some totally ignore it and some just pay lip service. Here in Canada the day is acknowledged and women may march for a cause and some introduce a project that is close to their hearts like the shoebox project.

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Photo by energepic.com on Pexels.com

 

 


I describe myself as a woman, wife, mother, grandmother, and feminist. I firmly believe that women are equal in all ways. We are not superior to others but equal. I was fortunate to be raised in a female household. Dad died when I was nine and my mother remarried a couple of years later to a man who was in the navy so he was gone six or more months of the year. So myself, two sisters, my nana and my mum were all together in one house. My mother was totally female, petite, always in full make up and well dressed. But she could handle a hammer or screwdriver and built our TV stand herself and then built and replaced our wooden garage doors. We were taught we could do anything and encouraged to try many projects. I was athletic, excelled in English and history and did well in some sciences. The world was just waiting for me. I truly believe I was very fortunate to have the upbringing I did. We don’t need to tear down other women to achieve our goals but we do need to hold out a helping hand, ready and willing to lead the way. Because our goal is equality, we shouldn’t try to tear down men either just to achieve our goal of equality. Men and women must learn to treat each other with respect, each recognizing the other’s unique talents.

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This year, in Canada, our theme for International Women’s Day is Innovate for Change. There is a strong emphasis on STEM. Girls are being encouraged to study science, technology, engineering, and math. The female brain is equally able to learn these subjects and,  if their interest is there, study them and do well. Previously, women were discouraged from these studies, now they really are being encouraged. Women are being empowered. That’s not a catchphrase, it’s a truth. Our daughters, nieces, sisters are achieving empowerment when they are able to achieve a place in the decision making process, the ability to access opportunities available to them without limitations and restrictions. To achieve this we must celebrate the contributions of women and renew our efforts in achieving gender equality.

In high school, I was told I could become a nurse, teacher, secretary or housewife. I chose nursing and had a pretty good career. I mentored many new nurses, I stood up to the bullying system on behalf of myself and others, I taught a bit and I helped make my workplace, and others, safer. Secretly I wanted to study journalism and write, but for whatever reason I just didn’t have the drive to do it when I was that young. I believed nursing was my path and I was damn good at it. But I would have been a fantastic journalist. So to any and all who are reading this, encourage those girls and women to do the work that they know they can. Do the work they really want to do. Be FANTASTIC!!

Rights and Responsibilities

Remembrance Day has just passed; the day to remember why so many young men and women were willing to give their lives to defend our allies, to preserve our way of life, and to preserve our democracy. I really wish our citizens would think about these things from September on, especially during those years when municipal elections take place. So here is my rant about the latest city election. Please know this isn’t about me, it’s about an alarming trend across Canada.

First let’s look at what your municipal government (council) does. It provides local services, facilities, safety, infrastructure, libraries, parks, community water systems, local roadways and parking. Really this list just touches on the basics, there is much more done and your councillors are the ones who are easiest to reach when you need help with city issues. Council makes the final decisions on how your taxes will be used.

So my question is, why are municipal elections virtually ignored by the vast majority of the people eligible to vote in a city?  My city had a whopping 24.26 percent voter turnout. One quarter of the residents have decided who will lead, or setback, the city’s progress. Do folks not care how their tax dollars are spent or how their city is represented? Councillors are the politician’s who are closest to the populace. They make the everyday decisions about whether or not your neighbourhood park gets new, safe playground equipment, if the city bandshell is safe for entertainers, if a pier is insured so you can fish.

I’ve heard so many excuses for not voting, most are just ridiculous. Here are a few: -politicians are all a bunch of crooks. No we aren’t. I don’t lie, cheat or steal and neither do the people I worked with on council.                                                                                          -I thought you’d win anyway. Really? It’s harder to win without the votes.                       -The poll was too far from my house – It’s guaranteed that any candidate or a member of their team, would have driven you to the poll and back home again. We want people to vote!

All that said, what can we do to encourage residents to get out and vote? That is the big question. Some folks complain that they didn’t hear from or see a certain candidate. To that I say that it’s difficult to knock on every door. We did actually have two candidates who did just that and I have to tell you, both were very good candidates and neither got elected. There goes that excuse. Candidates are very accessible, there are info cards, lawn signs, lapel buttons, names, addresses and phone numbers are posted on the city website or available by calling the clerks’ office. We don’t all have access to your phone numbers unless a list with those numbers is made available through a political party or a realtor list.

To help voters, our city had six advance polls, in apartments of over one hundred eligible voters, special polls were held in the building lobbies. Nursing homes and seniors’ residences had special polls. On election day the polling stations were open for ten hours. Are there other things the city can do?

All these efforts are for nothing though, if people don’t go out and vote. So my conclusion is this. The residents of a city have to take some responsibility too. Take an interest in what your community has to offer. Our city offers the opportunity for folks to participate in consultations on just about all major projects and the budget. It’s important to get involved! I am a firm believer that it boils down to education. Formal or informal, it doesn’t matter. I’d like to see school groups tour city hall, what better way for those grade five or six students to get an awareness of civics. Continue that with the grade ten students forced to study civics for a half a credit. Encourage councillors and staff to visit schools to tell the teens about the importance of municipal government. They just might go home and have that discussion with their parents. Take the time to email your minister of education to tell the government to expand civics courses in high school.  Encourage your current or past councillors  to get out to service clubs, colleges, and universities, special interest groups, and new Canadians and talk about the importance of voting. I don’t think these things have to wait for an election year, we don’t get too much of a break between elections anyway.

We have to tell everyone why they need to vote. People need to know it is a Responsibility as well as a Right and they must know why. Complacency will cause our democratic system to deteriorate to a point of no return.

-m –Oh I thought you’d win anyway. Really

It’s a New Life

Once again I am apologizing for not blogging as frequently as I promised. I actually made a New Year’s resolution to blog weekly and, as with most resolutions, that one got broken too. I did have a good reason though and you’re going to hear all about it.

I retired from nursing six years ago. The work was becoming hard physically and mentally I felt it really wasn’t as challenging as it could be. I needed something different. I thought I would relax, do some writing, study the use of crystals in health and healing, maybe travel a little, further explore my interest in politics. I did run for political office, unsuccessfully but that was okay. The hubby and I had always wanted, we thought, to spend our winters in a warm place and of course be home the rest of the year. We did travel to Great Britain and had a fabulous trip. We bought a mobile home in Florida and a trailer in Ontario, did some sight seeing, golfing, learned shuffleboard, played cards, all the things snowbirds do, but things change.

We really weren’t satisfied with that lifestyle. When you have worked all your adult life, it’s very hard to make the switch. We missed our sons and their families. The grandchildren were growing up and we weren’t there to see it happen for half the year. Other than being warm all winter, the Florida lifestyle was not for us. Nor was the trailer life we envisioned having here in Ontario. I missed having my “things” around me, I missed my family, and I missed my friends. So we sold our mobile home in Florida and our trailer in Ontario and got ourselves a nice little apartment, easy to care for and once again I have what I need and want at hand. But as I said, things change.

We sold our Florida place in mid-February with the new owners taking possession on March fifteenth. Just after the sale but before we came home we heard that one of our council members had passed away unexpectedly. As I said, I had run unsuccessfully in the city election, three were elected and I came in fourth so I wasn’t sure if her passing would have any effect on me. I got a phone call a few days later from a private citizen to ask if I still lived in the city. Then after a few more days, I received a call asking that, if the city council decided to appoint someone for the last eighteen months of the term and if I was nominated, would I accept the appointment. Since I had long wanted to serve my city and it’s residents, the answer was an easy one for me. I said yes and was subsequently appointed about five days after returning from Florida.

Whew and that’s how I got to this point in my retirement. Things change and I have a whole new life happening right now. I love it! I am working again but I’m not physically exhausted. I’m using my brain, my listening skills, my public speaking skills, what I hope are my people skills. I am a bit obsessive-compulsive at work. I like a clean desk at the end of the day, accomplished not by just putting everything away but by answering the messages & solving the problems. I am trying to make my city just a little bit better and am thoroughly enjoying this new life.