Finding Your Characters Voice

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Sometimes you know a character from the inside out before you even start writing.

You know their likes and dislikes, their flaws and strengths, their physical appearance, their occupation, what makes them who they are and why they react the way they do. You know what makes them tick.

But then there are those characters that you can’t quite figure out. Sometimes you need a little push to get them started.

That’s when Character Generators can be helpful. #charactergenerator

I used to think that character generators and name generators were “cheating.” I mean, I’m the writer, the creator, shouldn’t I be able to figure this out on my own?

I was struggling with the back story for a side character in my current WIP. He’s not a crucial part of the driving plot, so I couldn’t quite picture him in my head, at least not as of yet.

My daughter, who writes FanFic and creates OC’s for her manga drawings, complete with back stories, is always talking about the many anime/manga resources there are on the web. So I decided to give it a try for my fiction WIP.

I ran across this website: http://writingexercises.co.uk/random-character-traits-generator.php

I have to say, if you’re stuck on plot line, character description, naming your character, or even just need a writing exercise to get your brain moving again, this site is awesome! And it’s free!

By the way, I’m not getting a kick-back from them or anything, but I just thought I would pass it along to my writer friends.

The “Character Trait Generator” is my favorite to use. It generates random personality traits, grouped 3 at a time that you may not consider going together. But, just like real life, our characters are dynamic and more than two-dimensional. One example I pulled up was “cowardly, sensitive, reckless.” See what I mean? It’s easy, and it’s a great launching pad to get you thinking about making your character more believable and engaging.

Do you have a favorite Generator website that you reference often?

I hope it helps get you out of the tight spaces and happy writing!

Looking for “Me Time”

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I can’t complete a thought…wait…hold on…my son is asking me something…

As I was saying, I can’t complete a thought. Since I last was able to sit down and write, the day my husband got laid off, I have not been able to sit down and write again. Even this moment is a struggle.

My days have been spent working at my own job, supporting his job search, helping him polish his resume, filling out all the necessary paperwork after you lose a job, and getting things done before school starts.

Things have been a little hectic. After I get off work, I help him search online job boards and postings (which takes more time than looking through pinterest but isn’t nearly as fun), until it’s time to make dinner. Then after dinner and dishes, when I finally get a chance to sit down, my kids need me. They’ve been really good during the day…of course I have electronics to thank for that. And I hate to turn them away in the evenings after I’ve barely spoken to them all day.

Needless to say, there has been no “me time” to speak of.

Now, where was I going with this? Oh, yeah…completing a thought.

I’ve never experienced this sort of craziness before. Even when they were babies, I still managed to squeeze in a cup of coffee with a friend now and then. But the mental stress that we’re experiencing this past week is taxing.

I know this is a season in life. We’ll get through it.

The kids will be back at school in a few weeks, and we’ll start a routine again, which will actually be sort of comforting. I’m a routine sort of gal. I like things planned and predictable, and when they aren’t, I feel as though I have to be doing something to fix whatever feels broken. I forget to just breathe.

I’ve pulled away from a few people this past week, mostly because I don’t want “people” to get in my head. I know God has a plan, and I want to hear His plan and not the plans of others, though support is always welcome.

The end of this season can’t come soon enough. I just keep saying, “Don’t give up, give it up to God.”

When Things Don’t Go as Planned

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When my husband came home from work at 10:30 this morning, I knew there was trouble.

In the blink of an eye, things changed. He doesn’t have a job to go back to tomorrow, or the next day. We’ve become a statistic of this hard hit economy.

This isn’t the first time we’ve experienced a lay-off in our marriage. But it is the first time our kids will experience such a life altering event. I would be lying if I didn’t say I was stressed. We all are. I have faith that God will provide, and that everything happens for a reason, but it doesn’t make it any easier to explain to the kids…or does it?

The timing of this event is interesting.

We recently paid off some outstanding medical and dental bills that I mentioned in an earlier post. I also resumed working for an old employer which I didn’t see coming at all. #dontburnbridges

And we just bought a car (used, of course) last weekend, because the choice was either continue to pour thousands of dollars into keeping the old minivan alive, or trade it in for next to nothing before it completely died. Had we waited until this weekend, we wouldn’t have been able to buy the used car (without a job). #perfecttiming

Four years ago we moved across the country, and left everything and everyone we knew for this job that is suddenly no more. #cruelirony

I believe that God has a plan, otherwise it would mean He just went to a lot of work for our demise. I know He doesn’t work that way. I have a choice how I react.

Admittedly, the last few years, we’ve fallen away from church, not necessarily from God, but from involvement in a church. We haven’t been able to find one where everyone feels comfortable, and, honestly we’ve gotten lazy. We aren’t serving like we once did, and we can tell the difference.

I don’t believe God wants to punish us. I believe He wants us to rely on Him, to seek Him out, to lay our burdens at His feet. To remember who brought us to where we are.

So it’s up to us how we use this experience. Our kids are watching how we cope, where we go for comfort, and for strength.

It’s about time they see how their faith can make a huge difference. #countyourblessings

Teaching My Kids About the Election

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If you live in the US, and haven’t been under a rock, you know that this election year has been nastier than ever (on both sides).

My husband and I watch the news daily, and our kids are usually somewhere near watching and listening too. My parents never watched the news in front of me, mostly because it wasn’t on 24 hours a day, and they watched the 11:00pm edition, after I was in bed. I don’t remember much about the elections of my youth, but I don’t remember people being as divided as they seem to be the last few elections. My parents never “unfriended” someone just because their political views were different, and I don’t intend to either.

This election coverage has really provided for some teaching moments with our kids:

I want my kids to know that voting is their civic duty and not to be taken lightly.

I want my kids to know that it’s necessary to do their own research before they choose a candidate.

I want them to know they don’t have to vote for who is popular, or who’s winning in the latest poll, because most of the polls are skewed in one way or another, and are not a true representation of the climate anyway.

I want them to learn to choose the candidate that best matches their own principles and beliefs, and not based on their pantsuits or hairstyles.

I want them to be smarter than the media. I want them to be weary of news organizations (both print and broadcast) that steer their headlines in an attempt to grab ratings.

I want them to know it’s okay to disagree with their friends, or even their parents, and know that disagreeing doesn’t mean hating.

I want them to know that for every idiot they see on TV trying to divide us, there are thousands more standing in unity.

I want them to demand more from their news organizations, and that they have the power to change the world for the better.

I want them to know that voting does make a difference; that people fought and died for the privilege and to not take it lightly.

I want them to listen to how candidates answer questions, and that they can make mistakes too.

I want them to put their faith in God not the government, and know that He sees what’s going on, even when we can’t.

I want them to listen with their head but vote with their heart.

And I want them to ask questions…lots and lots of questions…until they get the answers they need.

End of Summer Confession

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As I’m reading other Mom and Dad Blogs, and seeing what full summers they had with their kids, I’m feeling like I failed at the whole summer thing. I started out this summer with the best intentions.

We were going to do things, and go places, and swim everyday, and have friends over all the time. We even made a list of interesting, and local, things to do.

Working out of the home and also not driving does make for a difficult situation some times. My kids are limited, and don’t get to do some of the activities their friends get to do, so I thought making a plan for the summer would help…yeah, it didn’t help.

I tried to get them to play outside, which can be tricky since we don’t have a yard, and also because my 14-yr-old daughter is having none of it. “Outside” is not her thing.

I had planned to walk to the pool (which is almost 1 mile away) and then we had weeks of rainy afternoons and then it got hotter than blazes. Now NO ONE wants to walk to the pool.

My son did go to Vacation Bible Camp for a week, thank goodness! And I made my daughter volunteer a few days a week at the library (but the shift is only 1 to 2 hours each day) just to get her out of the house.

But you know what they did the most? Here comes the confession part…THEY PLAYED ON THE COMPUTER!!!! (A picture of me pulling out my hair would be appropriate here).

To their credit, they did skype with friends while playing Minecraft, and my daughter chatted on line with friends (whatever happened to using a phone?) so that’s sort of playing with friends, I guess, right?

The weird part about it is that I really think they’re fine with how their summer is going. Anytime I ask them if they want to do something, the answer is usually “no.” Besides, that would mean changing out of their pajamas!

So maybe I didn’t fail. Maybe they did EXACTLY what THEY planned on doing all along. Maybe summer really has changed for this generation. Or maybe we’re just unmotivated.

I guess we’ll find out how their summer really was when they get back to school and they do their first writing assignment of the school year which is always titled “What I Did for Summer.”

Here’s hoping your summer was way more exciting than mine.

Looking for the New Family Car

auto-1143742We’re stressing and obsessing over finding a car …neither of which is good for the soul.

As I mentioned in a previous post, our latest hurdle to jump is our car dilemma.

Our car is 10 years old, and has been part of many family memories including driving us across country, taking us on numerous family vacations, and has been privy to many conversations (and arguments) along the way. But it’s bleeding us dry.

The repairs are getting closer together and more and more expensive, and we know it’s just a matter of time before we have to say ‘goodbye’ to our old friend. #goodriddance

Having just come out of a financial struggle, that last thing we want to do is start over with car payments. I don’t want to sacrifice our emotional comfort and our financial sanity to go into that pit again.

There’s lots and lots of car buying advice on line (probably too much). I ran across an article on Reddit about ways to pay for a used car and it made me laugh. First of all, it had to be written by someone in their early 20s.

#1 on the list was “some of us come from wealthy families, so ask your mom and dad.” Ummm…No! Not even an option for most people over 40.

There are also a lot of valid tools to use for estimating and finding the appropriate fit for your family. Edmunds.com is a great tool not only for finding a car, but for calculating payments, getting reliable car reviews, and getting further advice on the different avenues to take towards finding the right car for you and your family.

Needless to say, having not shopped for a car for 10+ years, at first I was frustrated with the whole process. Our wants are bigger than our needs. What we want is not necessarily what will keep our budget in check. #storyofmylife

Having the internet to scan through cars is something akin to pinterest. It can become an obsession…and it’s only the first weekend we’ve started looking.

I was also surprised at the lack-luster enthusiasm the sales people seemed to have. Granted, we aren’t buying the top-of-the-line, hot-off-the-assembly-line newest model, but our money is as good as the next guy’s. The last time I went car shopping, I remember being on the car lot no more than a few seconds before a sales person was right there to help us. Granted, today it was some 90 degrees outside with 150% humidity (I might be exaggerating), but still…we were there to buy, so get yourself out of the office and come help us!

Only 1 of the 4 salesmen we interacted with was polite or even bothered to pretend that he cared. Maybe he was still new and trying to impress his boss. But you can bet we’re definitely going back to that lot.

It’s only the first weekend in the potentially long search for the perfect fit and already I’m exhausted. My husband is upstairs taking a nap. And we didn’t even bring the kids with us!

Large purchases, though they should be fun, are never easy. I know the perfect car is out there. At least we can downsize and don’t have to take into account transporting things like strollers anymore.

Is buying a car something you see as exciting and fun or as a burden to get through?

Editing too soon

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I’ve completed 3 novels (not yet published), but they’re written and in various stages.

The first one (I call it my practice novel) tumbled out of me. It was practically effortless to write. It was born out of an idea I’d been sitting on for about 15 years, so it was more than familiar to me before I even began the first chapter. I knew the characters well, and I knew what they wanted and how they intertwined.

I was also naïve and had no idea what went into getting something published. I just wanted to write.

My second novel (the sequel to the first novel) actually became absorbed into the first novel. So again, I knew the characters. But after researching the chances of getting a first novel ever published, I set it aside…for now.

The third novel is currently out to beta readers to help me catch things I’ve overlooked. That one, I will try to get published, preferably in the traditional sense, but I haven’t ruled out self-publishing either.

I’ve just started my fourth novel, and it’s moving slowly. In part, because I’m now working part time and have to “schedule” my writing time around work, kids, husband, dinner, oh, and sleeping. For the first few novels I had the luxury of not working and could write all day long if the mood struck me. But then real life kicked in.

I think the reason this novel is progressing so slowly is because, well, I know too much. Please don’t misunderstand me, I don’t profess to come anywhere close to my published counterparts, not even a little bit. But I think I’ve read too much about writing.

I now find myself over-thinking my sentence structure and word usage instead of just writing. I know that the first chapter is rarely the “actual” first chapter, so I’m re-arranging the chapters in my head as I’m writing, and I’m only 7,000 words in.

I’m thinking too much instead of writing, and I don’t know how to get back to just writing. I can’t “unlearn” what I already know, all the research that I’ve done, and it’s messing with my process.

Here’s where I need some advice from my fellow writers: how do you block out your “inner editor” during the first draft? How do you ignore the compulsion to edit as you go? Or is there a way to use that to my advantage?