Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Writing from the Perspective of the Opposite Gender


by Melissa Kline

This is always an interesting topic and one that I probably get asked about the most as a writer of fiction from both male and female point of views.

Nearly half of my fiction is written from the male perspective. I can’t say that there was a grand a-,ha moment in my writing journey that provoked it, or that I intentionally set out to tackle the male mind. For me, the male voice flowed naturally into my consciousness with the idea of a new book. Granted, my early male characters are a bit on the girly side, though my practice improved over time.
 
When I was a teen I read many books written from the male perspective like The OutsidersThe Giver and Hatchet. I was drawn to the masculine voices within these books. I believe they helped me form a connection to the masculine side of my writing.

Although my process is mostly organic, I do have a few tactics to share that may help with this craft.

Don't get intimidated by gender. Think of your character as a “blank slate” per se.  When it comes down to it, we are simply writing about human beings. Everyone has emotions, feelings, experiences, talents, etc. What makes our characters who they are is how they react to these situations.  Strip your character down to the basics and look at who they are as a human being.

Add quirks, idiosyncrasies, mannerisms, traits and peculiarities that make them who they are. Male, female or otherwise, every character should have a well-developed voice and personality. While you are developing your character, add in trademarks that make them unique. This may help define more of those gender-driven traits.

Listen to dialogue from the opposite sex. Expose yourself to media, movies, books and television that star people who remind you of your character or the character you want to develop. How does he/she respond or react in various situations? Study the difference between genders and what makes them different.

Interview your character. This is a great way of getting inside the mind of any character. Come up with some basic interview questions or find a list of generic ones online and literally interview your character. Do your best to embody them as you answer the questions. What drives them? What are their “favorites”? What are they afraid of? You’ll be surprised at how much is revealed with this exercise.

Visualize and create.  If you’re struggling to understand what makes your character tick, try a different strategy: create! Make a vision board with images from magazines, printings, etc. of your character and their hobbies. What colors do they like? What are they into? What do they look like? If you’re a visual person, this can be very helpful.

How do you feel about writing from the perspective of the opposite gender? Is it difficult or easy? I’d love to hear your thoughts! J

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

FIRST PASS

by Kathy Cannon Wiechman

In June, my editor sent me a copy of my novel LIKE A RIVER to make a “first pass” to check for mistakes. There have been galleys and three more passes since then.

It has been a chance to see how the book’s design will appear on the page, how elements from the cover have been carried over onto the dedication page, the chapter titles, and even into the pages of the book. I think the designer has done an amazing job.
Cover artist for Kathy's book is Christopher Silas Neal
This was also a chance to view the book as a reader. I have always looked at it as a writer, and to some degree, I still do. But in the months since it went through copy editing, I have worked on a subsequent novel. My focus has been on new characters and new events. Even a different time period.

So I was seeing LIKE A RIVER through refreshed eyes. I was introduced to characters and followed their story. Yes, they are characters I invented and I wrote their story, but I was able to separate the reader part of me from the writer part of me. I have never quite done that before with my own work. It was an interesting experience, as though I was seeing these sentences for the first time.

Of course, I did know how the story ends. The element of surprise wasn’t there for me, so maybe it was more like reading a book for the second time.

Now I have put it aside and gone back to the new characters from the different time period. Soon it will be time for other readers to pick up LIKE A RIVER for the very first time. I hope they will enjoy it enough to want to read it a second time.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Looking for serenity

by Kim Van Sickler
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I was living with blinders on. At the same time I was blissfully content with my life, someone in my family was battling demons. Demons that threatened to tear my family apart.

I didn't have a clue.

Suddenly my schedule and assumptions and future plans were as substantial as week-old party balloons.

And as anyone who has weathered a personal crisis knows, sometimes you feel like you're staring into one of those distorted mirrors in an amusement park funhouse.
http://academic-jungle.blogspot.com/2013/10/funhouse-mirror.html

It's pointless to wish things back to the way they were. I've got to make the best of my here and now and weather on. Get used to the total lack of predictability in my life and learn to live day by day.

Learn to live the meaning of the Serenity Prayer:

Learn to really appreciate and never take my family for granted again. 

Stare those insecurities down and vow not to let the uncertainty diminish my resolve to live a meaningful life.

I may have had my legs knocked out from under me, but that doesn't mean I'll never walk again. 

I will. I might even run.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Inspired By The Essence Of Autumn

by Melissa Kline

My absolute favorite time of year is just around the corner. I am always aware of that slight shift in the atmosphere – the crispness of the morning air, vibrant color pallets emerging from the trees and a sense of slowing down.
 
There is no better time of year to write. This is the perfect moment to reflect on ourselves – what we’ve accomplished, where we currently are and hope to manifest. 

Do you have a story in the works? What would you like to wrap up or begin? Perhaps simply jotting down a “writing” bucket list is in order.

Wherever you are this season, make time to cozy up with a warm cup of comfort and carve out space for you. Take a walk through the falling leaves, enjoy time near a crackling fire or spend time in a pumpkin patch. Fall has so many inspiring elements to offer!
 
Aside from nature’s awesomeness, I’ve found that there are many writing organizations, contests and opportunities to connect with others in the autumn months. Here are just a few:


HALLOWEEN BOOK FESTIVAL: http://www.halloweenbookfestival.com/

HIGHLIGHT’S FOUNDATION WORKSHOPS: http://www.highlightsfoundation.org/upcoming-workshops/

WRITER’S DIGEST CONTESTS:

I hope you find some inspiration this season! Happy (almost) Autumn! J

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Garage Sale Gems: The People

by Kim Van Sickler

I had my first garage sale the other day.

The prep was just as painful as I thought it would be.

First there was all the cleaning and discarding of boxes and mounds of stuff. Did I really think that any of the kids would claim that massive decade-old microwave I saved for them? Why in the world didn't I throw away that obsolete vacuum cleaner that requires a bag and doesn't even stand up straight anymore? And those boxes of clothes stored in the barn? Looks like they kept the mice and voles warm over the winter. Here's what my tree lawn looked like on garbage day.

I know the garbage men were cursing me.

Then there was all the organizing of my life's cast-offs. Sifting through memories. Pricing them. Storing them until garage sale day when the items would be staged for maximum effect.
My garage pre-sale: chock full of crap that I nevertheless felt was worth something.

All of that sucked. But it was necessary. Purge-time could not be delayed any longer.

What I didn't expect was how much I enjoyed the garage sale itself.

Gorgeous weather helped. My friend Nancy and I parked ourselves behind our cash boxes at our folding table in the driveway and waited.

For the focused man who announced he was looking for antiques and decided in about 53 seconds that it was time to move on. At that rate, we figured he might have been able to make it to all 81 garage sales scheduled in our community that day.

For the man recovering from mouth and throat cancer with a mutilated face who graciously insisted on paying me a couple of dollars for some sort of tractor apparatus cover I planned to throw out. His beaming wife told us all about the dream workshop he built for himself that sounded like something from Popular Mechanics meets Good Housekeeping.

For the friend who dropped by with her two adorable kids to buy the bike cart that racked up countless miles and countless memories with my kids.

Photo: By far one of my best yard sale purchases!!!  The kids are loving riding around Willowick!!!  Thank you Kim Van Sickler!!!
Sarah is using my old bike cart to take her kids on neighborhood outings and to school.
For the family that lingered a little too long over by all of my pool supplies that were useless to me now that I didn't have my pool. They finally bought my Intel steps and gargantuan pool cover when I threw in every pool part I owned, then we had fun dismantling the ladder to fit in their car.

For the man who bought my son's bike, and then biked back over to tell me how much he liked it, thus allowing me to snag him to help me cart the stuff that didn't sell away. I guess I was good enough company that he returned later with his adorable six-year-old son, who grabbed his fishing pole and earnestly explained to me how it worked. This little whirlwind pinwheeled his way into my vegetable garden where he got a lesson on the veggies and herbs I like to grow and happily picked lettuce for his dinner salad, exclaiming that it was going to be the best salad ever!

Maybe garage sales are fun after all. Even if I only netted $383.

Have you ever suffered through hosting a garage sale? Do you like to shop at them?

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

My debut novel's out....Now what?

by Kim Van Sickler


Snatched in Gullybrook is the first of the four book's I've written that I've felt was ready to publish. More than ready. I'd spent nearly a year querying the book to agents and hearing back that the book was great...but too edgy. Yes, it's difficult to write a book about sex trafficking of minors as anything other than edgy.

Meanwhile, a human trafficking professor at OSU spent the past year urging me to publish the book so she could recommend it to the students in her massive open online course. I missed her last course. Her next one starts this month (August 2014.)

Did I really want to miss this opportunity again?

Uh, no.

I took the leap. I don't know what I'm doing, but doing it anyway. I enjoyed the publication process with CreateSpace. They were easy to work with, and any issues were resolved quickly and decisively. I loved finding Michael Di Gesu to create my cover art, Michelle Ziegler to develop my website, and Janie Sullivan and Kate Kyle Johnsen to edit my manuscript. Finding Dr. Jacqueline Meshelemiah, during the writing process, to guide me and inspire me. I've been contacting human trafficking organizations, registered to attend a September human trafficking conference, and encouraging book groups to read and discuss this difficult subject.

I decided to donate 10% of the profits I make to organizations that educate about human trafficking or rehabilitate/aid victims.

And I'm working on my next book so that I can take advantage of the momentum created by Snatched in Gullybrook, the first novel set in the sex trade industry and told from three interconnecting viewpoints. (See how I'm choosing to think optimistically, that the book will sell and readers will be looking for my follow-up novel?)

Here's the pitch for Snatched in GullybrookThree of Gullybrook’s teens are manipulated, then snatched from the local mall. In their new lives as sex slaves, Megan, Candace, and Sissy, strangers before their abduction, forge a bond with one another that becomes their lifeline.

I've got a giveaway going on Goodreads.

I hope you enter, or that you buy a copy of this book and become part of the "proceeds" I donate to human trafficking charities. I welcome your reviews on Goodreads and Amazon, and your recommendations to other readers.

I also welcome your advice. I'm learning as I go. This is a process. I'm in it for the long-term and want to do things the right way. What pearls of wisdom do you have for this debut novelist?


Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Stay Strong & Carry On

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by Melissa Kline

Stay Strong and Wings by Tirana-Weaving
www.deviantart.com


It doesn't matter how many books you’ve written, which articles you’ve had published, how many literary awards you've won or what you current “status” is as a writer – we all feel insecure and uncertain when it comes to our writing.

The above is a spin on a quote that has always stuck with me – because it’s so very true! I am on the verge of publishing a third novel and my insides are wiggling and jiggling with nerves. Will whoever read it like it? Is it written good enough? Does it make sense? Will others “get” it? What if there’s a typo? Or God forbid a ton of mistakes?

I could go all day with the ridiculous thoughts that run through my mind at the thought of sharing a piece of myself with the world. But at the heart of it all, I simply want to be accepted, understood, validated and celebrated – just like the rest of us!

I had no idea I wanted to be a professional writer for most of my life. Writing to me was fun, entertaining and a form of escape. It wasn't until after the completion of my fifth novel that I realized I wanted to share my writing with the world. I had been writing my entire life, but up to that point all of my novels were private. There was something that occurred while writing that fifth book - a metamorphosis. Since then, I have been very passionate about sharing my writing with others…but that still doesn't mean it is easy!
Melissa's book Storm was a finalist in the 2013 Next Generation Indie Book Awards
 Regardless of all of these complicated nerves, feelings and emotions, it is so very important to stay positive, keep pushing on and believe in you. Try not to take criticism from publishers, editors, peers and family so personally. Everyone is going to have a different opinion and advice on what you should or shouldn't do. Stay true to yourself and your own ideals. Most importantly don't ever give up! You never know whom you might inspire or impress.

There is nothing in the world more humbling than writing. Stay strong, my friends and carry on!