The little Writer that Could

So I’ve been going at this whole blog thing for a good year now. YAY ME! Wait, has it been over a year? Has it really almost been two years? Nahhh. Maybe? I’ll have to check on that later. I took a break in the middle to ruminate on my depressing life and schtuff hit the fan but I came back, like a beaten but loyal dog. I guess that really says something about me since I never stick to ANYTHING.

But I did start this blog because I want to be a published author and that is still my end goal, even if life throws wrecking balls in my way. What’s life without a few random steel balls blowing through your path, am I right? (You’re welcome for the ear worm.)

Wow. That’s actually a good analogy for what I wanted to write about today. Wrecking balls in writing. I’m taking the next step!

Lemme ‘splain…

See, I’ve gotten over the initial fear of failure that had hindered me when I first started this journey. I was afraid of people not liking my stories or not caring what I have to say. I was afraid of not sticking with it, of giving up on it, of being WRONG about what I wanted. Not so much anymore. I’ve gotten used to writing on the blogosphere and putting my vulnerable self out there.

I’m starting to settle into a writing voice that sounds somewhat like me. My entries have mostly been consistent in that department though someone else would have to tell me yay or nay. I can’t really judge that for myself yet.

I’ve even gotten a little writing routine down for myself (a friggin’ miracle if you knew me at all). Get up, get kids breakfast, sit down and start an entry, get first daughter on the bus, come back for another twenty minutes and write, then walk second daughter to school, then come back and finish. I try to write until at least 10 am. Even more amazing is that I start to get anxious when I can’t write any given day or a miss a blog entry. It feels like back sliding and that cannot be permitted!!

I had never written a short story before and now I’ve written a dozen or more. I’ve even written ongoing stories, divided into parts. Bonus too is that I write stories I actually ENJOY re-reading. (That almost never used to happen.)

There are all mini goals I had set for myself early on and I’ve met them. I’ve gotten used to them and they no longer intimidate me.

Now it’s time to ramp it up.

What brought this on? Fame and money did of course. “Published” is the name of the game remember? NO, I’m kidding! Actually, I read an article on pinterest about writing (what else?) and I realized that I needed to break past the comfortable once again. The article talked about putting conflict in stories and using character development to solve their problems. Conflict sells readers. I am NOT a confrontational person by nature so this is a goal I know I’m going to struggle with.

I mean, I don’t enjoy reading stories with no conflict, obviously. Boring! So why would I write them? It’s one of those things I think takes time to develop in a writer brain. How much is too much? What conflicts are relevant to plot continuation? How does one narrow down the infinite possibilities to make a great read? My brain aches just thinking about all the details. But I’ll do it, dad gummit!

Another thing I really ought to start doing is outlining. I thought to be a complete panster writer before, just punching keys willy-nilly and letting the characters tell the story. But that doesn’t work because of the aforementioned problem of being a pacifist. And the fact that I get so lost in the details I completely forget why I’m even writing the story. I lose the forest through the trees. So having an outline, even a basic one, will help me keep track and remind me of the big picture.

To help with this situation I’ve decided to ramp up my iPod Shuffle Short Story or “iPod S.S.S.” entries. These are blog entries you might’ve seen sporadically on my page where I put my iPod on shuffle and write down the first 5 songs that pop up. I’ll analyze them, write down thoughts and feelings and then come up with a story for them, using the Plot Structure diagram to write the story. It stretches creative muscles in the way that I don’t like using clichés so trying to make a story that’s outside the box is a double challenge.

The next goal I want to set for myself is to be on my Facebook bakalove page more often to get a wider reader base. I mean, I literally only have to cut and paste what I write on WordPress over onto Facebook but I find that task exhausting some days. Probably cuz Facebook is exhausting with all the drama. And it sucks me in for HOURS catching up on all that I missed and IMing friends. Bleh.

It’s gratifying to know that I was right about the most important thing: The Journey. It’s rare that a person can write a best seller right out of the gate but it happens. The rest of us have to toil and do the hard work and sharpen ourselves against the stones of adversity before we can even THINK about publishing. We’re so vastly rewarded by this though! We’re building a solid foundation of creativity and logic so that we may succeed in any writing endeavor we choose.

We’re the Little Writers that Could!! CHOO CHOOOOOOO!!!!!!

I’m more glad than I am frustrated by my progress I think so it’s with a happy heart I end this blog. To be able to reflect on my progress, meet my goals, and make new ones is very humbling and encouraging.

I hope your goals are within reach as well! Keep chugging little Writers! ;*


Hey! It actually works!–writing advice

How many times have you been scrolling through pinterest or other blogs and seen this:

“The best advice ever given is to write every day without failure.” ~EVERYONE

Do you roll your eyes every time? I give a little impatient sigh like “Whatever. Give me the fast track secret to being published and successful.” But that’s it. That’s the not-so-secret key to success. Hard work and practice.

So boring.

I started this blog as a way to conquer my fear of failure and rejection. I knew I had to do SOMETHING to kick-start my dream of being a traditionally published author. Even if a miracle happened and someone gave me a book deal out of nowhere, what would I write? Drivel, basically. Because I wasn’t seasoned. I hadn’t found my writer’s voice yet or my genre or style. I hadn’t won NaNoWriMo in a few years. I stopped writing in my journal. The only thing I’d been writing is grocery lists and checks for bills. I had a few months where life got me down and I didn’t write. Lemme tell ya, those were the months I was hardest on myself.

But I didn’t give up. My blog was always in the back of my mind and the guilt of NOT writing weighed me down. I figured this was a healthy weight, annoying as it was, because if I didn’t feel guilt, then I wouldn’t care I wasn’t writing. I did care. I couldn’t give up on my dream, even when I was only clinging to it by a fingernail. So on the heels on “WRITE EVERYDAY” was another piece of advice that kind of goes hand in hand and it’s this:

“Write and finish, even if you think it’s crap. You can edit crap. You can’t edit nothing.” ~PEOPLE WHO KNOW

Maybe I was paraphrasing a bit but it’s the same thing, basically. This advice is a little harder for me to wrap my head around because I was always a “one hit wonder” in school. As in, I could have a paper due and would write it the night before and get an ‘A’ on it. It made me develop a bad habit of not editing my work. I’m working to get over that; another reason I started this blog.

Editing is just as important as writing. I’m not going to say more or less because they’re symbiotic. One cannot exist without the other. Knowing what to look for the first, second and third read-throughs, how to fix what’s wrong, and, most importantly, knowing when to STOP. I read a book written by a friend that had been edited within an inch of it’s life and I to this day haven’t been able to finish it. It was so dry and static it felt like sand paper for my imagination.

So yes, write your crap and then polish it into a handsome turd. Then pass it on to someone you feel comfortable reading it. Or maybe you DON’T feel comfortable. This is the third piece of advice I’ve found repeatedly:

“Find beta readers.”~THE BRAVE ONES

I’m especially cringing at this one. Having strangers read my blog and my stories is one thing. I could get a nice comment and I’d be thrilled! I could get a criticism and say “Thank you may I have another?” But family? Friends? Just shoot me.

I rarely let anyone close to me read my stuff. I started something on my blog called “The Mother Project” where I intended to send my mom a letter every other week with a picture and a short story I’d written with a note, just to keep her connected.  Shameful secret? I haven’t sent a single letter. That might change now that her life is a little more stable and there aren’t fires raging everywhere here. Ha.

That being said, I do have a couple reliable beta readers. My bestie Owen is a willing guinea pig and he’s got a sharp eye for editing. Mainly I just let him read though. I don’t know what to ask from him as an official editor. I’m mostly worried about content; making sure the story doesn’t drag or there isn’t a part that takes you out of the story. Making sure it’s a solid read-through. My other beta is my female bestie, Lizzy who follows my Facebook blog (that I’ve been sadly neglecting of late).

See, I have several people who WOULD read my stories but they’re not helpful in the slightest when it comes to giving me advice on how to improve my writing. They don’t want to give me an honest opinion for fear of hurting me or they can’t put into words what it is they need to say. (I myself have been on this side of the beta reading dilemma). So when I’m desperate, or really need an honest, critical opinion, I drag myself over to the King of Honesty.

My husband.

Everyone needs a Timothy. He’s not into main stream fiction at all, which is a good portion of what I write, so the content is lost on him. “Predictable”, “shallow”, “simple”, and “unrealistic” are some words I’ve been given in regards to content. Ouch. Ouch and ouchie.

Told ya. Honest.

But this acts as a two-fold blessing and I’m going to tell you why. He was given a task and he did it. “Read this and tell me what you think.” He’ll tell me how other people might see it too if it smacks too political or sensitive. He reminds me that even though my intentions might be pure, others absolutely will not see it that way. They’ll read deeper into it than I intended maybe and might tattoo me with prejudices I don’t personally bear.

That is the other part of the blessing/curse of having a brutally honest beta. You get toughened up. He makes me think deeper about what I put out there and he gets me ready to defend myself if such things as bigotry or racism crop up because of a piece I write. As a writer, you WILL be at the mercy of the trolls out in the world. They’ll try to rip apart your ugly baby stories and make you cry just for fun, like those bullies that smack your ice cream from your hand.

Be ready. Get yourself conditioned to rejection, to criticism, as early as possible. Learn to find a way to deal with it that’s healthy.

The last piece of advice is subjective because we’re all different kinds of writers. Some pants better. Some outline a story within an inch of its life. My journey thus far has been about experimentation and finding the right way for me. When I started the blog, I’d hardly ever written a short story. I tried to write one a couple of times and it turned into a full length novel. Then I tried to write several full length novels and so far haven’t been entirely successful at it.

“Learn to outline, even just a little bit. It will help you stay focused.~ THE WISEST OF THE WISE

So often I get lost in the details of a story. I worry so much about pacing and arcs and subplots that I forget the basic frame of the story. What is the purpose of writing this story? What do my characters want? What is the end goal? Having a basic outline of the story helps bring me back. It’s an anchor. Not to say it can’t be changed and rearranged but I think there should be three or four things that ABSOLUTELY CANNOT CHANGE or the basis of your story will be completely different.

So there it is. Four pieces of redundant advice that actually WORK. At least for me they have. Combined with the affirmations that YES I CAN DO THIS and I’M ALREADY A PUBLISHED WRITER, I’d say I’m in a pretty good place.

Give it a try.

Write. Edit. Read. Outline. Repeat as needed.





Goals, WTF? A look forward and back

Goaallllls! Oh GOAALLLSSSS!! Hey goals, Where the F*%k are you??! Olly Olly oxen free!!!!

Caution: the following is a depressing bitchfest about my life. But it’s an honest summary from a trapped housewife if you’re curious or have ever been here. 

I had goals once. Right out of college. They were glowing brightly in my minds eye and my path for the next ten years was loosely laid out. I left in plenty of wiggle room for disasters, travel, surprises, changes and opportunities. It was pretty basic too; nothing special or different than any other college grad.

Get a car and a part time job

-Go to college for Interior Design 

-Gain enough experience with a firm that I could start flipping houses

-Travel around the USA flipping and discovering awesome places and gaining life experience

-Maybe get married and travel internationally


Not too far-fetched right? Back in 2006 it didn’t seem so.

But then I got a marriage proposal to which I didn’t actually say yes to but then found out I was pregnant so yeah, of course I’ll marry you!

And then found out I had to move out of my mom’s house while four months pregnant the same weekend I was getting married and going on my “honey moon” (camping for three days). It was all we could afford.

I felt I’d been back slapped by the Universe at this point.

I tried doing the online college interior design thing while pregnant, hoping to be able to swing a routine around the baby.

I learned a costly mistake: I can’t do online classes. I have zilch self-discipline that cost me thousands. Yay life experiences? And then I got pregnant with my second child and had her ten months after the first, in my second semester of college. By this time I’d accepted I was doomed and gave myself over unwillingly to a life I forced myself into. I quit college and paid off my loans with taxes.

Then I just survived.

For the next ten years I didn’t give myself any goals. What was the point? I was the reluctant mother of two children, one of them autistic, and wife to an irresponsible husband who hated his work. Luckily that changed but we still lived on food stamps and government housing for the next ten years. My motivation was hanging by a thread and my marriage was falling into shambles.

And you’re reading this I bet and thinking, is there a point? Sounds like a big ol’ bitch-fest. (I did warn you.) There’s a point though, I promise. Well, a question really. A pointed question and here it is:

What kind of goals am I allowed to have? 

Me, the mother of two girls, the wife of ten years to a man I no longer love, and a woman with zero experience working to support my own life.

I keep getting asked by my husband, “What do you want? Where do you see yourself in ten years, in twenty, at the end of your life?” And I look at him like, “what do you expect me to say? I’m a wife and mother. It’s selfish to want anything else.”

What I’m really saying is, “I want independence, a life free of the burden of marriage, and to be happy doing something worth while.”

I sound like a dick and I’m basically being called one for wanting to end my marriage and break up my family. It’s “Unrealistic” apparently. (You have to understand that I live in Southern California on the coast which means I will NEVER make it on my own because the price of everything is way out of my meager budget. Independence here still means I need roommates; ones that can tolerate kids since there’s no way I’m forgetting my girls in the middle of all this.)

So I ask again, What goals am I allowed to have?

I thought I was playing it smart by replying to this with things like:

A truck (in case I need somewhere to sleep)

-A job or two

Annnnd that’s it for immediate life goals. Easy manageable goals; something even I can’t screw up. Of course I still have the bigger, less easy to obtain life goals like:

Becoming a traditionally published author

-Buying my own house on some land

-Adopting a Pit Bull from a shelter

Securing a financial future for my children

And I’m working on those goals! I am writing in my blog again, training myself to sit down and make writing a habit. I am getting my credit scores back up by applying for credit cards and making payments on time. And eventually I want to start volunteering again at my local animal shelter to quell the need for doggie kisses.

Is it so bad that these are my goals? Is it not enough?

Seriously, is this stupid? I need someone else’s opinion other than my own or my husband’s because we’re both entirely too toxic right now to see clear. Is there a book I can read that deals with this? Is there advice from wiser and more experienced readers I can contemplate?

I am so lost. I’ve never done this before. Haaaaalp.

Ipod S. S. S.– “Mind like a Diamond”

“Nobody’s Listening” Linkin park—— Anger, strength, truth, ignorance, pain, struggle, no fear (Musician, school activist, journalist, trans?)

“Diamonds” Rihanna——hope, love, life, energy, positivity, seeing true, rising up, being true, (Fan girl, stalker, sends him letters to fuel is fire,)

“Mississippi Bayou” Delta Bombers—— travel, shenanigans, purpose (Going to meet the idol?, girl needs her boyfriend to take her, )

“Firefly” Breaking Benjamin——- hope, reaching, go together, need/don’t want to need, kindred souls, (View of idol, inspired by diamond girl?, asked to meet her,)

“Misery Business” Paramore——- jealousy, possessiveness, bragging, cat fight, head games (diamond girl gets cat fished or is too late? or is she the victor and it’s her bragging? or is the guy a player? Does he want her as a writer for him?)


He’s brilliant. He channels my inner most thoughts and is not afraid to speak them. People LISTEN to him when he cries “Truth! Truth in the face of Lies!” Our shared truth. Because my letters reach him and we are the same. 

He’s calling for me. 

Her words echo through my mirror-lined head. Before it was a dizzying swirl of the same static thoughts. Her diamonds reflect in them now and bring me clarity. I’ve extended my hand to her. Will she come?

I’m going to go. Frank won’t understand but he doesn’t need to. He’s down for a road trip, always. BYOB and his truck will take you anywhere. Neither of us have ever been to New York. The ride was mainly country music and Frank re-telling his same old stories. I don’t dare tell him what’s on my mind. He’d never believe it but still. It felt too new and precious to say out loud. 

I’m here. Are you? How far away are you?

I’m coming.

We need one more fill up and then we’ll be in city limits. Led me through one last time. Let your Truth shine for me. I look down at the printed address on heavy card stock. It’s dirty, sweaty, folded and re-folded Should we ask someone? New York clamors like a hungry shark around bleeding fish. 

They’re gathering. All of them that just won’t do; that just aren’t you. Where are you? I’ll wait till the very last has gone, I swear.

I finally got the answer I needed. New Yorkers are hardly friendly. Frank grabbed one by the scruff of the neck and shook him like a naughty kitten until he pointed out the building to me. What a guy, right? I brush the dust off my skirt and adjust my fly away hair. I would dab on some perfume to mask the exhaust smell but I didn’t have any. 

I’m going up. Such a long and a short way. 

I’m getting antsy and this smile has been stuck to my face so long I’m afraid it’s frozen in place. These people don’t hear. They only see.


There’s a sea of women. An estrogen ocean. Frank whistled low and heads turned toward us, judging us, smirking and frowning and calculating. What have they made you do? I clutch my purse and try to cling to your words. Nobody’s Listening. You’re right, they only see stars and dollar signs. It’s not your looks that grabbed the spot light. We know that. I’m coming. 

I raise my arm and wait.

I hear a commotion outside while the others interview the 70th blonde haired, blue eyed girl. I stand up, heart and hope leaping wildly. They try to stop me from opening the door but I’m small and too quick. I dart out and on the fair end of the room, amid the colors, I see one black rectangle held in a deathly pale hand.

“Blind are you all. Vain are you. Naive are you, all of you as children die and politicians lie and eat your lives for dinner. They shut down and you cry. Stop feeding the drought. Get up. Rise up, you million against a few. GET UP! RISE UP! Shed blood not tears! Make them work with shame and blame and release yourself from fear.” 

My God I am so scared.

“You came.”

Yes, I did.

“It’s her,” he said to the bewildered cadre of people following behind him. He parted the feminine ocean like Moses through the Red Sea. “My Diamond in the rough. The one I was telling you about.”

I watched their eyes take in my jet black hair, ghost white skin, bright purple lip stick and triple eye brow piercing. At least I had on a skirt, even if it did make me look like Lydia Deets. 

“You want HER as back up singer?”

Our mouths dropped open in tandem and I broke out in a cold sweat. Singer? Me?

“No no. She’s my new song writer.”

He reached for my hand and I gave him the envelope. We waved it at them with a cocky grin. 

“The secret to my recent success. Hire her or you’re fired.”

Frank whistled. 

Should I stay or should I go now?

Hey y’all! How’s it going? Hot as the devil’s armpit here which means I stay inside to avoid getting skin cancer.

So here I am, back to writing. Finally. Maybe. Lots of shiet been happening in my life lately. Just about everything is topsy-turvy. CATS AND DOGS LIVING TOGETHER! MASS HYSTERIA! There are a lot of ruts I’m digging myself out of and when I got a moment to breathe I realized that writing has become one of them.

I predicted it though, didn’t I?

Apparently all my blog is good for is entertainment and not actual advice. At least not for myself. Haaaaaaa. Story of my life.

Well, as stories are won’t to do, a couple of them have been prodding me to get busy again. And not gentle Fluttershy pokes either. More like, the toddler-esque “Mom, mom, mom, mom, mom, mama, mama, mama, mama–” kind of deal. Annoying to the point of table flipping in irritation. I did try to protest and tell them I was going through a few crisis’ in my life and couldn’t be bothered. Do they care? Not a wit. Laundry and divorces and deaths can wait.

So like the slave that I am, I turn back to toeing my creativity back into these half-baked stories I left browning in the oven of my brain. Specifically Hourglass. But all I see are gaping holes, gooey insides, nuggets of greatness and crispy edges. Oi vey. How do I pick back up a story like that?

“How do you pick up the threads of an old life?” ~Frodo Baggins

I feel ya Frodo.

I guess this is why the Pros say not to stop until you’re finished. It’s difficult to edit a story that’s half written but that’s exactly what I discovered I would be doing with all ones I left behind. Editing, filling in and changing something that’s only a pile of ideas in a flimsy structure.

So what do I do? Do I finish the story I started and go back to edit it afterward? Do I keep digging the trench and hope that the blue prints I left for myself would suffice? Or do I throw caution (and advice) into the fire and re-make the recipe with better ingredients and fresh ideas?

I suppose every writer comes to this decision. Should I stay or do I go?

Given the propensity lately of me digging myself out of ruts, my first inclination is to go with the later. I have a good character base. It was always the setting I had issues with. Trying to come up with a cohesive world for my characters to romp around in. (Plus I have an obnoxious husband that questions every single detail and decision and has to have everything make perfect, logical, scientific sense.)


I feel like I have a good story premise. I have dynamic characters that aren’t too clichéd and a couple of sneaky villains. The setting is even pretty great with lots of potential. But we know that some of the best story IDEAS sometimes fall flat on execution.

So I think I’m going to stick with my current blue print and try to tighten it up and flesh it out more. I can always edit within an inch of my life after the full rough is done. (Cuz that’s the important part right? Finishing. Ha.)

I understand this might not be the case with every story. There will be times where I have to stuff it into a desk drawer, never to see the light of day again. I may even have to do it with this story. But I will try. I think that’s kind of the theme of my life right now. I will try. 

Jessie, the little red-head that could! Toot toot!

Slowly I am digging myself out of the trenches and getting back on solid ground, one crisis at a time. But there is some semblance of normal that I can cling to, such as procrastinating on my writing 😀 But at least I got something out today. That’s improvement.

Every decision is an important one because at least it’s a step in a direction. ANY direction. Backwards isn’t always preferable however breaking down and rebuilding is sometimes necessary. YOU have to make that decision. If it’s wrong, then make a different one. If you have to part ways with your story (or people or things or places) then do it.

Just make the decision and take the step.

How to deal with “Parting is such sweet sorrow”

Tragedy has struck in my life. True and horrible tragedy.

It hasn’t directly affected me but family whom I care deeply about. I couldn’t do anything for a while. Not write. Not clean. Not cook.

It wasn’t really from sorrow or shock as one might expect. Yes, I did feel sorry for the family affected of course. But I was more put into a stasis by the simple fact of I DIDN’T KNOW WHAT TO DO ABOUT IT.

I’ve never dealt with Death before. I was too young to have developed a relationship with any of my grandparents when they were alive and I haven’t made any elderly friends (or stupid drug addict friends or stunt devil friends) that would afford me the experience of feeling such a keen loss.

What do I do for them? Saying “I’m sorry” never seemed like a comfort to anybody. It made them cry harder in my limited scope of things. “How are you doing?” Is just a moot question and damnably tactless. I watched everyone else around me cry or get angry or be “efficient”; cooking, buying groceries, keeping an upbeat attitude, trying to distract with toys and games and movies.

What do I do? How should I feel? Feeling nothing makes me look like a soulless witch-monster. I can nod and smile with the best of them. I can offer shoulders to cry on and babysit to give relief. Those are actionable things that seem like “the right thing to do”. But it still doesn’t answer the question. How should I react to Death?

How should anybody?

Thinking about this I, naturally, applied it to my writing. (Come onnnnn you saw that coming! It’s always about writing up in the bakalove hizzzouuuuuuse!)

I’ve read about tragedy. I’ve cried over powerfully emotional scenes and the deaths of characters I grew fond of. Dumbledore’s death warranted a book thrown across the room at my door and denting the cover. The death of Prim in “Mockingjay” left me sobbing inconsolably until the end of the book. And eventually that was thrown as well. I still can’t read the end of “Where the Red Fern grows” without a box of tissues and a heaping bowl of chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream.

Is this how people are supposed to react to death? Ice cream binges, throwing things, and boxes of tissues? Is this how I was supposed to WRITE tragedy because it’s how I experienced it?

Somehow I think putting these reactions on paper would seem hollow and weak. (Unless we were talking about like, a teenage break up tragedy. Then it might seem apropos.) The simple truth is that I’ve never experienced true, heart-rending, soul sucking tragedy and I can only mimic the emotions until I do.

Not that I want to. I’m fortunate in some ways to have been able to mature as an adult before having to deal with Death’s cruel miasma. I’m sure I would be able to function as I should and keep it separate from my professional life. But not having this terrible experience denies me an important part of life. I can’t write the truth about something I’ve never felt. I can only echo it.

This is why going out and expanding your world is important, as a writer and as a human being. We need adventure and challenges and tragedy to fill us out and make us wiser beings. We need to soak it all in, to ruminate on it, to accept it within ourselves and then, for those of us that ARE writers, we need to pass it on. Tell the truth about it. Remember every cut of searing pain ripping through your rib cage and every gasping, panic-stricken sob. Remember the numbness and the vehement anger.

Write it down. Tell the truth, even if it hurts. The world and your readers need it.

The Devil is in the Details: more is better

People start new stories a myriad of different ways. Sometimes it’s a flash of a scene they see in their mind’s eye or the lyrics to a song that sparks some dialogue. A specific smell might trigger it or the way someone is dressed.

I don’t know if it’s true of everyone but I like to believe that writers have a stronger connection to certain parts of a story than others so when inspiration strikes, that strength comes to the foreground.

For instance, you could be thumbing through a magazine and see a beautiful cursive type font and suddenly you see a young woman from Jane Austen’s world penning a letter over a scarred and ink-stained desk, a tendril of copper hair escaping her severe bun. Or you can hear the distant refrain from some classical Russian Ballet soundtrack and then you’re meandering down cobblestone streets, carrying a basket of fruit and bread down an alleyway to take home for dinner and you look up to admire the cloudless day in between the white washed buildings.

One is character driven inspiration and one is world driven.

When I write, I tend to be more character driven. I love the process of picking out names and giving the blank slate mannequins different personalities. I used to be really bad at creating believable characters. I would pour into them sugar, spice and everything nice on top of all my personal hopes and dreams. Guitar playing? Yep, since childhood. Knows several languages? Bein sûr! Can run 5k marathons and hike Mount Everest–without oxygen? Cake walk! And that’s just the main character.

Yeah I know >< We all start somewhere. (Keep that in mind when you’re writing!)

I’ve since learned to spread those qualities out among the entire cast. I’ve also learned that they really do need annoying habits and quirks to make them believable. I created a character that pretty much hates everything except music and death. He’s my first anti-hero and probably the most extreme character I’ve ever created. I’ve also made a character that sacrifices so much of herself for other people that she never figured out what she wanted out of life and has to journey to figure it out. Another extreme.

It was some big personal growth for me realizing how one-note my cast was and fixing it, adding to it and balancing them appropriately. I was pretty proud! I could re-read my drafts now and nod approvingly. Yes, these could be real people walking down the street. Yay me! Gold star on my forehead!

I still have more growth that needs to happen though, naturally. I realized this as I was trying to go back to writing one of my NaNoWriMo stories, “Hourglass”. In a nut shell, I abhor details.

Lemme explain.

I had my three main characters set up in this story. They had names and personalities that played off each other. They had importance in the story and provided plenty of conflict. All seemed well until I came to a flash back. Ahh crap. This means I need to provide BACKGROUND. And here, my friends, is where my downfall is while creating my characters.

Background. History. Family. Childhood.

Now these things don’t seem like they’re important in most stories. Unless you’re writing a biography or writing a lot about the character’s history, you’ll only ever really write about key events from their past to explain their current behaviors. Minimal effort put into the background may seem sufficient. Plus, this is a lot of extra work, writing down background stuff that may never end up in the story at all.


I had an instance where my character basically had to go back and visit her husband in the past. She had to get answers from him that would determine her future actions. It is a rather pivotal scene that I’ve been stuck on for a long while because I never gave her enough history to augment this dialogue.

Creating history for your cast or characters can only benefit you in the long run. And the beauty of it is that you can make it as detailed or as simple as you like. If you don’t know how to start, there are tons of questionnaires out there on the internet. You can google it and come up with hundreds of results. There’s no shame in using them! There’s also no shame in changing details when you need to. Great aunt Mildred can become Great Aunt Tessie. Daddy could have died of leukemia instead of sickle-cell anemia. Favorite childhood snack could be popcorn instead of brownies.

The point of it is, to have the information on hand when it’s needed. Or even when it’s not needed. Often writers will have secrets about their characters that no one else is supposed to know, not even the readers, but sometimes they slip in anyway. Go for it! Details like that make them seem more alive and personable.

Plus, creating a character background allows you to be on-on-one with your cast. You can really get to know them, ask them questions and get answers. You’ll be able to know exactly how he/she will react in any given situation because you know them so well. They won’t act out of character when a bomb blows up their car or they’re passionately kissed by a stranger because you, as a writer, took the time to familiarize yourself with their personalities.

Yes. This is more work on top of everything else a writer is “supposed” to do but think of it as building a foundation. These details will build your stories brick by brick until you’ve created a mansion for readers to frolick through and enjoy.

Put in the work, reap the rewards!