February 24, 2012

The Plot Thickens

We all have a plot. Family fights during my childhood, spine surgery when I was a fifteen, leaving high school, getting my GED, and pursuing writing are all events that have happened in my life. These events make up the plot of my own personal story just like the events that occur in a book, which connect the beginning to the end, are part of a story’s plot.

Now that you know how to start and end your story, you can begin planning the rest of your novel. I like to write, in a few words, what I want to happen in the beginning of the story at the very top of a piece of paper, and then a few words to describe the end of the story at the very bottom of that same piece of paper. When that is done, I fill in the rest of the paper with the events that link the beginning of the story to the end.

Don’t rush this process! You can’t hurry brilliance. The longer you think about your story idea, the more you will know just what you want to put in it.

Let your imagination carry you away to the world of your book. Greet your characters, get to know them, and picture their lives playing out in front of you. You know their beginning and you know their end. What happens to them in-between those two points? What do they do?

Is there a recurring theme in the books you read?

I have a thing for books about witches set in the modern world.

February 17, 2012

From Beginning To End

The stories of our lives begin the moment we are born, with our very first breath. Our childhoods and twenties are the beginning of our stories, and our thirties and forties are the middle of our stories. Our golden years make up the climax, and “the end” happens with our last breath.

Every day we live, we are writing our own secret book. And just like our lives, every story has a beginning, middle, and end.

The beginning of a book is obviously the beginning of the story. This is the time to introduce the characters (make the readers fall in love with them or hate them, depending on the character’s role). This is also the time to tell the reader what they must know to understand the story, such as the main character’s past.

The middle is where the reader knows all the characters and understands the story. This is the moment where the plot is building to the climax.

And the end is the grand finale where the story ends (happily, with tears, or with a shock!). Everything that has happened in the story now makes sense. You have brought the bad characters to their demise, and the main character has finally learned or conquered what he/she was set out to learn or conquer throughout the entire story. Or if you're writing a romance, the two main characters are finally and truly in love. The end is always the moment that the readers are waiting for with bated breath.

As soon as you get an idea for a story and have the fundamentals of your book down (genre, characters, setting, and tone) then it is time to feed that little spark and help it grow into a flame. Ponder your story idea. Listen to some music as you drink a cup of coffee. Heck, drink a glass of wine or a nice cold beer, and let the beginning and end of your story come to you. It will.

QUESTION: Have you read a book with a plot that kept you captivated from beginning to end?

Two books that I’ve read in the past year come to mind because I had practically devoured them. The first is “After the Night” by Linda Howard. This book has the steamiest romance scenes that I’ve ever read! It’s also very shocking! The second book is “Chill Factor” by Sandra Brown. Right from the beginning I was hooked. The suspense drove me nuts!

February 10, 2012

Get Ready, Set, TONE!

NOTE: This post has been revised slightly since publication. Images and formatting have been updated.
The mid-January air clawed at her cheeks as she wandered through the woods, not knowing where she was or where she was going. Her feet were numb from the white snow that devoured the land, and her breath came out in thick clouds. A cap of snow blossomed atop her head; cold flakes tangled in her dark hair and stuck on her curled lashes. 
Everywhere she looked she could see snow. The trees were white from root to branch, and gray cotton smothered the sky above. 
Maybe she got away, was her only thought as her frozen fingers clutched her winter coat. Her heart pounded against her shivering chest, and her teeth chattered from both the frigid weather and fright.
Why was he trying to kill her? She didn’t do anything! 
Exhausted from escaping near death, she laid her back against the trunk of a nearly-invisible tree and closed her eyes to catch her breath, which was becoming more and more labored, as if icicles dangled inside her lungs. 
Then a gloved hand slammed over her mouth.  

Two other factors that create story are setting and tone.


The setting can be any place imaginable such as New York City, China, or even Mars. But who says the setting has to be real? You can create your own town or a whole new world!

The setting can be a school (Harry Potter) or a hotel (The Shining). Some settings may include a date (for a historical novel) or a season. A romance novel can be set in July for a sweet and steamy summer romance, while a horror novel can be set in January for a scary and chilling read.

My short teaser in the beginning of this blog is set in the woods in the middle of January during a snow and ice storm.

For a new world, what do the residents look like? What makes them unique? What do their homes and cities look like? What are their jobs? What makes the world different from Earth? Give your character’s strange names and create new plants and animals. Even food. Then share these details slowly throughout the first several chapters.


The tone of a book is how you write (how the author feels). The tone for my teaser could be considered urgent and frightened.

While tone can come naturally as you write, other examples of tone are: humorous, serious, mournful, happy, guilty, and condescending.

Tone can also change throughout the story, much like our tones (aka attitudes) can change throughout the day.

Make the tone for each scene or chapter easily felt and identifiable. Give clues as to what the tone is with your character’s inner dialogue and physical reactions and how you interpret everything that’s happening.

A romantic tone can be light. You’d use bubbly or passionate words to achieve this. And you’d make it clear that your character is happy. Possibly in love. These scenes will ooze warmth.

A suspenseful tone can be heavy. You’d use dark words and shorter sentences to accomplish this feeling. You’d show your character in action and even fearful. These scenes will make readers sit on the edge of their seats.

Now get ready, set, TONE!

QUESTION: Do you gravitate toward books with a specific setting/tone?

I like books set in the winter season, and stories with dark tones.

February 03, 2012

Bring Characters To Life!

NOTE: This post has been revised slightly since publication. Images and formatting have been updated.

We don’t just read books for the plots but for the characters. We are following their lives, listening to their conversations, and even intruding on their most intimate moments. We befriend them and sympathize with what they are going through. Sometimes we laugh with them or we cry with them. Every now and then, we even fear for them. That is why you must treat the characters in your book as though they are real people in your life. (If they live in your head, they are as good as real.)

When you have a story idea, the next step is to build your characters. All of the characters in your book need personalities and quirks. Is one of your characters sweet and shy, or mean and dangerous? Bring it out in your writing. For example, a shy character can blush fuchsia, and a mean character can grind his teeth in aggravation.

I gave the butt-kicking female protagonist in my unpublished series many of my personality traits like my “god-like” anger and lack of patience, especially when she’s trying to catch a criminal. Could you give your main character a few of your charming (or less than charming) traits?

Your characters also need appearances. After all, you are creating people. Give them hair/eye colors and body structures, but be creative when you are describing them in your book and let your creativity for words shine. Don’t just give a character green eyes and blonde hair. Instead, say they have green eyes the color of fresh cut grass and 24-karat gold hair. (Of course, not everyone writes like this, and you don’t have to if that’s not your style.)

Project: Grab a few sheets of paper and a pen. At the top of the paper, write the character’s name and make a profile for him/her like so:


            Hair color:

            Eye color:

            Body Type:



Add any other relevant information, but don’t forget to have fun!

Other details you may want to consider when you’re creating your characters are their pasts. Does the past influence the story you are telling? Do your characters have fears and/or weaknesses that can come into play in your book? What are their flaws? You can't create perfect characters, because we are, after all, not perfect.

You also need to figure out your characters are going to do. What is their purpose? Their purpose can be as simple as being comedic relief to being the villain. I have a character in my series whose purpose is to be funny, witty, and sexy. But she also has an important role as the medical examiner.

QUESTION: Obviously, the characters we create are our personal favorites, but is there a character from a book (that is not your own) who you absolutely love?

I loved (and sympathized with) Melanie from Stephanie Meyer’s adult novel The Host.