Tag Archives: Hazel Hart

Character Creation: The Importance of Why

The Reasons for Telling Why 

Human beings are naturally curious about other people—either real or imaginary—and why they do what they do. Think about recent mass murders in Las Vegas and Texas. The question most of us ask is “Why?” We want to know what made a person do what they did.

“Why?” is asked about all kinds of behavior, not just in traumatic situations. We may ask why

  • someone continues to work for a company he hates
  • some people are hoarders
  • a person who is obviously ill doesn’t go to a doctor
  • a child misbehaves
  • someone robs a bank

If you say your character robbed a bank to get money, you have given a surface reason. Many of us need money, but we don’t even think about robbing a bank to get it, so why does your character? What is in his or her background that makes illegal activity an attractive option? Surface answers explain current behavior, but you must look for deeper reasons, go beneath the skin of the situation, to the heart and guts of the matter if you want to satisfy your audience.

Getting to Your Character’s Inner Self

You may be thinking you don’t have time to fill out one of those lengthy character profile forms. The good news is that it isn’t necessary to know every detail about your character’s past. You only need to know—and feel—those past events that are driving his actions in the story. To get to them, use the shortcut of the character interview. Imagine you are your character’s best friend, psychiatrist, or some other caring person, make a list of three or four relevant questions to ask about his or her behavior, find a comfortable spot for your talk, maybe have a coffee or other beverage, and get to know what makes your character behave in questionable ways.

Sample Questions

These questions are just to get you started. Fill in the blanks with events or actions relevant to the character’s action in the story.

  • Why is ___ so important to you?
  • When did you first realize ___ was necessary to your success or wellbeing?
  • What was your first (or last) experience with ____? How old were you? Who was with you? How did you feel? What did that experience teach you about life?
  • What is your greatest fear and what happened to cause that fear?
  • Who taught you about ____?

Additional sample questions

  • What do you believe to be true about yourself and the world? How and when was that belief formed? At what age? Who was there? What happened that left an emotional mark? How does that mark show itself in the character’s current story?
  • What secret do you keep and why? What would happen if others found out your secret?
  • Is there anything you regret not doing? What is it? Why do you regret your lack of action?
  • Is success even possible for you?
  • Is love possible or something you will never have?
  • What is the worst thing that ever happened to you? Where did it happen? How old were you? Who was there? What was said? How did you feel at the time? How did you feel later? What did you learn about life from it? How does it affect your beliefs about yourself and how you should behave in your current situation?

Recording the Character Interview 

Writing out the answers is the traditional way, but you don’t have to be traditional. You can make a voice recording in which you act as both interviewer and character, or you can make a video. You might even get a friend to ask the questions so you can concentrate on being the character.

If you are both the interviewer and the character, do not answer the questions from the writer mind, but from the character mind. Once the question is asked, you are an actor playing a part, sinking into your character’s heart and mind and answering the questions from that place of being.

The Benefits of Interviewing Characters

The interview is a quick way of learning what motivates the people in your stories. It helps make them real for you and for your readers. Try it, and let me know how it works for you.

 

 

 

 

Ellen Plumb’s Children’s Section

In today’s interview with Marcia Lawrence, we take a look at children’s books from the perspective of the owner of a new bookstore. Take a tour of her shelves and be amazed at all she packs into them. Then check below the video for a list of publishers that accept children’s book manuscripts, from picture book to young adult.

Given the costs involved with publishing children’s books, particularly those for the younger set, Marcia recommends finding a traditional publisher. To help author’s begin the search for a publisher, I researched a few that accept unsolicited manuscripts or queries with sample chapters. The links will take you directly to publishers’ guidelines.

The Publishers

Lee and Low Books specializes in multicultural themes.

Albert Whitman and Company publishes picture books, middle grade, and young adult fiction

Eerdman’s Books for Young Readers publishes picture books, middle grade, and young adult fiction and nonfiction.

Workman Publishing has several imprints, and publishes books for adults as well as children.

Arthur A. Levine, an imprint of Scholastic, accepts queries with sample chapter but not complete manuscripts.

Boyds Mill Press  publishes Highlights in addition to children’s books.

Before Submitting

This post on Chronicle Books Blog is from 2014, but it contains some excellent tips on what to do when looking for a book publisher. You may end up submitting to this publisher.

Good luck with your children’s book. Leave a comment if you would like to share your experiences in finding a publisher.

What Bookstore Owners Want

Yesterday, I had the pleasure to interview Marcia Lawrence, owner of Ellen Plumb’s City Bookstore at 1101 Commercial in Emporia, Kansas. Ellen Plumb’s opened September 6, 2016, and I thought getting to know something about Marcia’s book stocking/purchasing processes might be useful to authors looking for space on the shelves of independent bookstores. Check out her interview to learn more about book distributors, consignment sales, and the challenges an independent bookstore owner faces. Also, check her out on Facebook.

New Directions

new-directionsWhen I started this blog, I was teaching composition at a community college and envisioned the site as a place to answer students’ questions about writing. Now I have expanded the purpose of this site and added editor and writing coach to my services, so in the coming days, you will see new blog topics for writers at varying levels of accomplishment. Have a look around and let me know if you have questions.

Photo of Hazel Hart

If at First You Don’t Succeed . . .

I’ve tried blogging several times without much success, so when my relentless friend and writing buddy, Bonnie Myrick, told me about WordPress’s Blogging 101 course, I immediately signed up. After all, my current blog is all about writing to fit any situation, and blogging is a situation with which I need help. You’ll see what I mean when you read the history of my blogging attempts.

Darksideduo

If you go to the Blogging 101 Commons page and check my avatar, you will see @darksideduo as my username. That name is the result of a blog that never happened beyond the signup stage. Bonnie, my above-mentioned relentless friend, and I had published a book of dark fiction titled Dark Side of the Rainbow. Advice from those who were supposed to know about self-publishing said a blog was absolutely essential to our success. However, once we signed up, we had no idea how to use the blogging tools. We lived fifty miles apart and signed up on my computer, which meant Bonnie was not present to bug me, so now all I have to show for it is a username I can’t get rid of.

Seasoned Aspirer

If I could choose a new username, Seasoned Aspirer would be it. It was the name I used for my publishing company when I published books on lulu.com. It was also the name of a blog I had on GoDaddy. It was my longest running blog but suffered from infrequent posting and lack of publicity. I started a version of Seasoned Aspirer on WordPress, but I couldn’t figure out how to transfer the GoDaddy posts to the new platform, so I had to start over. Seasoned Aspirer is now about doing things I always wanted to do–travel, get healthy, and voice my opinions on a variety of matters. My daughter recently said, “Mom, you have an opinion on everything.” She’s right, but those opinions don’t seem to be showing up on my blog. Wait! I have to write and post them.

A Spirited Journey

A Spirited Journey was a short-lived blog containing research for my 1855 historical novel. I went through GoDaddy, and when I didn’t pay the renewal fee, the contents of the blog disappeared.

Keyhole Conversations

The most successful of my blogging attempts was another partnership with relentless Bonnie. That’s because she was in charge of the design of the site and the actual posts. Keyhole Conversations was a video blog where we posted interviews with other writers. Bonnie did the interviewing and posting, I did the camera videoing, editing, and uploading to YouTube. It was a lot of fun, but I moved to Emporia, ninety miles from Bonnie’s home, so doing the video interviews was no longer viable.

Write to Fit

While the actual web address is my name, the blog name is Write to Fit. In January 2015, I retired from teaching English at a community college. Shortly before that, I published Basic Sentence Structure, my first e-book in the Write to Fit series. The second book in the series, Basic Sentence Add-Ons: Phrases was published in February. The purpose of my blog is to build relationships with my readers, answer questions about topics covered in the books, and blog about writing as a series of choices, such as the best punctuation mark, word, or sentence to fit the audience and purpose of the piece of writing. While my target audience is beginning writers and college students, I welcome those who care about writing to join me.

 

 

Photo of Hazel Hart

Write to Fit Project Worksheet

Have a writing plan for each project
Whether an instructor has given you a writing assignment or you have come up with a project on your own, filling out a project worksheet is a good first step toward a successful outcome.

Fill in the basics
At the bottom of this post is my project planner for Punctuation Pointers and Pitfalls, the next book in my Write to Fit series. Notice that I entered a start date. For me, it was the day I actually started work on developing the idea, which included filling out the planner and  making a list of punctuation marks to discuss in the book. If your project has been assigned by an instructor, your start date might be the day you received the assignment. Of course, you know the importance of the completion date. Length is also important.  Whether you are writing a standalone paragraph of 150-200 words or a book, knowing how long something will be helps you begin to adjust the topic to fit the size of your project.

Of course, you can tell from the title of my book that I had already narrowed my topic to punctuation marks when I entered the project name. However, you may have a project subject that is vague, like “Civil War” or “Being a Parent.” If so, you will want to bring some focus to it when you fill out the topic and organization sections of the form. However, anything you enter can be changed as your perceptions of what you want to write develop over time. Later blog posts will go into more detail on narrowing topics.

Decide on an overall organizational method
Organization is the main method you will  use to present your topic to the reader. I have chosen definition and process as my main organizational methods. I will be defining the various punctuation marks and their uses. Then I will show how to use them. If you are writing about parenting, you might write a narrative (story) that shows someone being a good parent. You might write a comparison/contrast paper showing the differences in behavior between a good parent and a bad parent. You might write a cause/effect paper showing why someone parents children the way he/she does. Instructors will often tell you the organizational method required for the paper, so read assignment instructions carefully.

Make sure you understand the formatting requirements
Formatting involves what the finished project looks like on the page. Since I am planning to publish my e-book on Kindle, I must follow the appropriate guidelines. Amazon has made available an entire e-book  containing that information. If an instructor has given an assignment, the formatting requirements may come with the individual assignment or be stated in a syllabus or other course document. Since different instructors will have different preferences, make sure you locate and read the assignment formatting requirements carefully. Here are some examples of specifics to look for. Should you indent or not indent the first line of a paragraph? Should you double space the lines. Should you leave an extra line between paragraphs or not? What size and type of font should you use? What margins should the page have? How should you name the file and what file type should you use when saving? These are only a few of the possible formatting particulars you may be required to follow.

List intermediate due dates
Next, there are the due dates. Even short pieces, like paragraphs and essays, have stages of writing that require time for writing, reflecting, and revising. As it has been a week since I first filled out my punctuation book planner, I now see I should have broken down the rough draft deadlines into chapters, perhaps two per week. Without intermediate time limits, it is easy to procrastinate, so I will make those adjustments today.

Make note of other considerations
Depending on the project, you may have other tasks to complete. You may need to view a video, interview one or more people, or perform some other task. You may be asked to write for a particular audience, such as new mothers or high school students. Make note of such requirements in this section.

Write to Fit Project Planner 
You may download a blank Write to Fit Project Planner  to fill out and adjust to fit your needs. You may share the form with others, but please keep the copyright and website link at the bottom of the page. You or your friends may have questions you would like to ask me.

Write to Fit Project Planner Example

Project name: Write to Fit Punctuation Pointers book.
Start date: February 13, 2015
Completion date: May 5, 2015
Length: 50-60 pages

Topic: Punctuation marks and how to use them
Organization: Definition, Process, How to
Special formatting: e-book for Kindle

Due dates:

Prewriting: Feb. 18
Rough draft: April 15
Final draft editing: April 25
Final draft proofreading: April 28
Final draft formatting: April 30
Submission/Publication: May 5

Other considerations

 

 

© 2015 Hazel Hart