Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Great Websites for Dealing with Bullying

Here are some great websites for learning how to deal with bullying.





Do you know of some other websites you would like to share?

Friday, October 28, 2011

Homeless Statistics Aren't Just Numbers, They Have Faces

        The numbers of homeless people continues to increase every year. In the 2008-2009 school year the Hearth Project identified 2,038 homeless students in Polk County, FL. In the 2009-2010 school year the number increased to 2,289. For the 2010-2011 school year it continued to increase to 2,453.

         We must never forget that these are not just numbers. Each of the 2,453 has a face. Most of the homeless are single moms with small children.

         My soon-to-be-published novel, Address Unknown, speaks to this issue and encourages discussion. Perhaps it will lead to more being done to assist those in this very difficult situation. That is my hope.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Tips for Young People Who Want to Write: Building Strong Characters

     To write strong characters requires that you know them well. One way to do this is to write out a description of your characters before you begin writing your story. This means your description will include how they look and act as well as details of their background. 

        Much of your description may not be used in your story, but it will help you to know them. By doing this, you will know how they will react to the various situations they face in the story. 

        Make sure each character has their own personality and they are "real" people. By this I mean that they have some good traits and some not so good traits. For example, none of us are perfect. Most readers want to read about someone who struggles through difficulties, not someone who is perfect and solves every dilemma easily. 

        Likewise, every villain should have some good qualities also. Most of us aren't all good or bad.

        Here is a list of some things to consider when  developing your characters. The list is far from complete. See what you can add to it. 

Birth place
Educational background
Physical description
Left or right-handed 
Siblings and your character's relationship to them
The culture in which they grew up
What their parents were like and your character's relationship with them.  

What else can you think of?

Knowing these details of your characters will help you to know how they will handle the challenges your story throws their way. 

Monday, September 26, 2011

Plot Development

        The question I am asked most frequently is: Where do you get your ideas for stories? This question is not easy to answer because there is no one answer.

        My ideas come from everywhere. From reading the newspaper, to observing what's going on around me, to my imagination, to dreams, to conversations, to movies, to...well, you name it. Once I get an idea, I write it down before I forget. 

        But an idea for a story is not a story; it is the seed from which a story might grow. 
How does one go about developing an idea into a story? Again, there is no one way to do this and everyone has a different technique that works best for them.

        Following are some ideas you might want to try:

Work Backwards--If you know how you want the story to end, try working backwords, developing the events that would lead up to the ending. 

Conflict--For a story to be interesting, the main character must have some conflict or trouble to resolve. His/her problem could be internal like shyness, or external, like getting lost in a scary forest.What problems can you create for your characters?

Link the Events--The events and characters you write about must be linked in some way. In other words, everything in the story must have a reason for being there that ties it to the story.

Suspense--Your writing should suspenseful, making the reader want to know what is going to happen next.

Make a List--Another way to come up with a story is to make a list of five events and/or people that are not connected. Now think of interesting ways to connect these events and people. 



        Suppose you list an old woman selling vegetables by the side of the road, a beautiful mansion with a gate around it, a fancy red sports car, a rich young girl, and a squirrel. 
   How can you combine these five things and people to make a story?

        Suppose the young girl is riding her bike when a fast moving red sports car swerves to miss a squirrel in the road, knocking the girl off her bike. The car doesn't stop, but the old woman comes to her aid. 

        The old woman manages to get her to the front door of the mansion. The door opens mysteriously and once they enter, strange things begin to happen. Or, perhaps, the driver of the car lives in the mansion. 

        You can take this anywhere you want--it's your story. 

        I hope this has been helpful. Have fun and write often.    

        What ideas do you have for developing stories?

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Putting Emotion in Your Writing

         We want our readers to relate to the characters in the stories we write. One way they do this is by feeling the same emotions as the characters in your story. 

        To help your reader feel that emotion, try this: the next time you read a passage that evokes an emotion within you, study that passage.
  • What words did the author use?
  • What sentence structure?
  • What kind of detail was included?
  • How was body language described?
Then try to write a passage of your own to evoke that same emotion.

        Also, you can learn by observing others around you. The next time you see someone become emotional, study the body language of that person and others around her.

         How would you write about that incident so that the emotion was conveyed to your readers?

        Remember--the more you write and the more you re-write (edit), the better writer you will become.

        Have you written a paragraph that contained emotion? Send it to me--I would love to read it.  

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Becoming a Writer


Do you think you would like to write well enough to have your writing published? If so, here are a few tips to get you started:
  • Write some every day. Like anything else, it takes practice to do something well. But writing by itself isn't enough. You have to learn to write well.
  • Have someone, preferably someone who writes better than you-a parent or teacher for example-critique your work
  • Don't take their critique personally, learn from it.
      Read books that have won awards and magazines that interest you. Notice how the author expresses action, dialogue, develops characters, begins the first page, and develops the story.

  • Observe. Observe. Observe. Observe life all around you, the colors, sounds, smells, how people interact, how we talk, how animals behave. Apply what you observe to your writing.

  • Keep a journal to record your observations and ideas. Keep your journal with you at all times so if a story idea comes to you, you can write it down. I write down all my ideas, interesting names, and anything that I might use in a story.  

  • Again, write every day, even if you don't feel like it. You never know when an inspiration might creep into your mind.

  • When you read something that causes you to feel some emotion, whether it be sadness, anger, or laughter, study the author's writing to learn how he made you feel that emotion. What words did he use? How were the sentences formed? Look at the details. Then, try to write something of your own that will bring that same emotion to your readers.
        What suggestions do you have for developing your writing skills? 

(Check back later, I'll be adding more suggestions on Becoming a Writer)

Monday, August 22, 2011

Some Research is Stinky

I strive for accuracy, even when writing fiction. Research is as essential as water is to mud.

Sometimes research doesn't work out.

I wrote a children's novel about a young boy's encounter with fairies. To make sure I got it right, I purchased a book online-My Life as a Fairy. The postage stamp size book was too small to read. I couldn't turn the tiny little pages with my mortal person fingers.

I placed an ad in the local paper asking for anyone who had seen or talked with a fairy to come forward for an interview. I received three responses.

The first was a woman who wore a long dress and seemed to glide when she walked. She didn't make a sound walking across a wooden floor. I'm not sure her feet touched the ground. Maybe she wore roller skates. She has conversations with fairies in her fairy garden every night. She invited me to spend the night with her drinking the fairy juice she makes in her basement and talking to the fairies. I graciously declined.

The second interview was with a big man, probably three hundred pounds. His arms were hairy and hair stuck out the top of the undershirt he wore. Colorful tattoes were plastered over his body. He had a soft, tiny angelic voice.

He claimed fairies had saved his life when he crashed his motorcycle into a tree. The little ones had come with their little wash clothes and bandages and magic medicines and had healed him. The medicine changed his voice into a fairy voice. With tears in his eyes, he said in his tiny angry voice that shortly afterwards he was asked to leave the Hellion Bikers Club.

The last interview was with a young woman who had been a fairy in a previous life. In fact, she was the queen fairy. I think this may have been true because she was bossy. She kept telling me where to sit which annoyed the other patrons of the coffee shop. "Sit there...no, over there, no..."

My latest attempt at research came from my book Address Unknown. The protagonist in Address Unknown creates an experiment for a science fair that causes havoc due to its smell. I needed to know whether or not his experiment really would cause such a stench. So I duplicated it in my back yard.

I placed leftovers from meals in small plastic containers like those for individual servings of yogurt. Then I poured in milk to fill each one and sealed them. I trembled at the potential for stink inside each of these innocent looking vessels. Then I placed them in the sun to bake and rot and ferment.

Ten days later I peeled off the first lid. The stench hit me like a bolt of electricity. I dropped the container and took rapid steps backwards. My eyes burned and I held my breath. I tried breathing by sipping air in through little openings I made with my lips.

With stinging eyes and scorched lungs, I trembled from excitement at opening the other five. I wrapped a wet towel around my face and held my breath. I reached for the second, keeping it at arms length. I ripped off the lid. The putrid smell penetrated the towel, my clothes, my pores. I fought the urge to run far, far away. I was elated.

I pulled off the third lid and thought surely I will die.

I continued taking little short whimpy breathes. Each breath was as painful as pulling a tooth. I forced myself to sip in the stinky air. Ouch...ouch...ouch

Quickly, without thinking, I yanked off the three remaining lids. I didn't know you could see smell. A yellow, ugly, wavy cloud rose and spread through the neighborhood.

Dog lovers know that dogs love foul smells and will roll, squirming with delight, on a dead rotted fish if they should be so lucky to come upon one.

Every dog within a three block radius lifted his muzzle to the heavens and howled. It was reported later that all dogs in the smell zone flopped on his back and wriggled in ecstacy.

I couldn't see out of my red swollon eyes and I had been weakened by the lack of life-sustaining air. I felt my way to the back door and quickly slipped into my house and into good air.

A few minutes later a white van pulled up. Two men in astronaut suits and holding some kind of smell meter walked slowly to my back yard-the meter pointing their way. I watched them pick up each container with three foot tongs and place them in hi-tech impervious urns. They drove off with never a word to me.

I was proud and filled with my own scientific prowess. I had triumphed.

Some day, I feel sure, the neighbors will speak to me again.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Have a Story Read to You

If you love stories I'll bet you would really enjoy having a famous person read to you. Well, guess what. You can.

Go to http://www.storylineonline.net/ and choose a story. It's a great service, it's fun, and you'll hear some entertaining stories read with expression and style.

Check it out. Have a great time.