August 27, 2013

Using A Pen Name

There are a few reasons why a writer may choose to use a pen name. One is to remain anonymous (which does NOT mean you are deceiving readers). If a writer wishes to keep their true identity a secret (perhaps because they were in an abusive relationship or he/she is a teacher wanting to publishing something risque), they can create a pen name. That is one of the reasons why I have a pen name. The second reason why I use my pen name is because I want my name to be memorable, to stand out. To me, "Chrys Fey" is mysterious and magical. After all, the meaning of "fey" is magic.

Another use for a pen name is to distinguish between an author’s writing styles. For instance, say you have published a sci-fi series under one name. But you are working on another series that happens to be as far from sci-fi as you can possibly get. Perhaps you don’t want to confuse your readers with the clashing styles so you decide to publish this other series under a different name to warn your readers that this series is not like the other one. 

The only thing you have to remember when using a pen name is to mention you use one in your query letter, and that your pen name will be on your byline for your all of your manuscripts while your real last name will go at the top of each page for the header.

So, if you want a pen name, go for it! But take your time thinking of one. I spent a couple of years thinking I wanted to get published under another name until "Chrys Fey" fluttered into my mind like a magical butterfly with flaming wings. When it did, I knew instantly that "Chrys Fey" was the pen name I was waiting for.

QUESTIONS: Do you use a pen name or your real name when you publish? How did you decide? 

August 20, 2013

Writing About: Hospitals

While I was writing the last book in my series, I realized that my protagonist had gone to the hospital twice (but as a patient only once). Hospitals are common places for people to go to in real life, as well as in fiction. Writers lead their characters to hospitals for many reasons. If one (or several) of your characters end up at a hospital, and you suddenly find yourself scratching your head about where to begin, this article is for you!

There are four places in a hospital that you can set as a scene.

#1: Operating room

Describe what the operating room looks like: the sterilized tools set on a tray, the heart monitor, and the group of doctors and nurses in scrubs, masks, and gloves. 

What happens in the operating room? Conduct a little research to know what a doctor would do in the circumstances that you are writing about. Make sure you know the correct names of drugs and procedures. This can easily be done with the help of the internet, or a medical professional who will let you pick their brain. You don't even have to get real technical! 

Make sure to add dialogue. Have the surgeon give orders, and voice his/her worries while they are trying to save the patient’s life.

You don’t have to write about every single thing that the doctors and nurses do, but knowing how to end the scene is key. You can leave it on an exciting note where the reader won’t know if the patient survived, or you can bring the event to a close by bringing the patient's bleeding and heart rate under control.

#2: ICU/Hospital Room

What does the patient look like lying in the hospital bed? Do they have IV’s in their arms, a breathing tube or an oxygen mask? Do they have bandages on their limbs or visible stitches? Are they awake or unconscious?

Is a loved one sitting in a chair nervously watching their heart monitor, and praying the patient will wake up? Or are they offering the patient ice chips? Let your readers in on how they feel. Is your character desperately holding back tears, pacing back and forth, or joking with the nurses to lighten the mood? 

If the patient is awake, reveal his/her feelings about being hospitalized, and about his/her illness or injury. Does the patient have to stay in bed? Describe their agitation about not being home, and having to watch soap operas all day. 

There is so much that you can include in the ICU/hospital room scene in your book. Use as much detail as possible so your readers can feel as though they are right there with your character(s).

This is a picture of . . . my arm when I was in the ER due to heart problems.

#3: Waiting Room

Maybe you’ve never had to wait in a hospital waiting room, but I can bet that you’ve at least been in a waiting room in a doctor’s offices. Write about the uncomfortable chairs, the nude walls, the droning television, and let’s not forget the hospital stench! You know what I’m talking about . . . that sterilized smell that clings to your nose hairs.

Then reveal how your character is feeling while waiting to hear about their loved one. Tell your readers about their fears, their guilt, their worry, and whatever might be running through his/her head. In stressful situation, it's sometimes hard for our brains to process what is going on. Your character could be thinking about the pile of laundry they have to tackle, or they could be planning every step that they have to take to help their loved one.

Don’t forget to write about the moment when the doctor comes to speak to your character about the patient’s condition. And make sure to use emotion! Waiting rooms are bursting with emotions. How would you feel if it was your husband/wife, father/mother, etc. in the hospital? What would you do? Go there in your mind then go there in your writing. 

#4 Hospital Chapel:

First, explain why your character is going to the chapel. Are they religious, and need to spend time with the Lord to pray and find peace? Or are they searching for answers? Maybe coming to the chapel to speak to God for the first time?

Then let your readers in on every emotion and thought they have as soon as they step into the chapel. Do they feel a sense of security the moment they walk through the doors, or a deeper feeling of grieve as their fears are more real than before. If they pray, tell your readers every word they say or think. And when they leave the chapel, show the impact their time in the chapel had on them. Do they feel stronger or weaker? Do they have understanding or are they more confused than ever?

And of course, don’t forget to describe the chapel! Churches are so architecturally beautiful. Try to visit chapels in hospitals or look at pictures to get ideas.

A big thank you to Gina Stoneheart for writing about the Lady of Lourdes hospital in Camden, New Jersey, and letting me share it on my blog to bring some insight to others about what it’s like to be in a hospital’s chapel. 
"Once you plant yourself on one of the pews, cushioned in that churchly color of maroon red, you almost forget about all of the illness and sickness residing merely footsteps away from the Chapel. The altar literally sits directly below the statue of the blessed Mother. The Chapel is always open for patients, visitors and associates. It is a place of scripture, worship and prayer from which comfort, grace and blessing flow into the halls and rooms of Lourdes. My favorite part about having the Chapel located right in the center of the hospital is if I need to take a walk or stretch my legs after sitting with my mother for several hours straight, I simply take a few strides to the heart of Lourdes, and reflect as I gather my thoughts in prayer.  It truly serves as my gateway to a better understanding and affirmation that my mom's struggles will soon be lifted."
Recovery Room: You can also write about the recovery room where patients go after their surgeries. The only reason why I didn't mention this option as a potential scene is only because patients aren't here for long, and when they are . . . they are unconscious from the anesthesia.

You can also write about the cafeteria and doctor's lounges/locker room if your character(s) is a doctor. Watch E.R. and Grey's Anatomy to see what a doctor's lounge/locker room looks like.

For inspiration read my short memoir about my spine surgery: Woman of Steel (Scroll down to the bottom of page 5.)
TIP: If you're like a fellow blogger who commented and you're writing a story set in the future, I can't really tell you what the medical field will be like, but I imagine people will still act the same so you can still use these tips for your characters. But if you follow this link: you can see what a hospital room can look like.

SHARE: Your tips for writing about a hospital.

August 13, 2013

Chrys’ Writing Rules: Don’t Start Sentences With These Words!

The title of this post is misleading. I’m not really telling you not to start sentences with these words, because I start sentences with these words, every writer does. What I’m suggesting is that you limit how many times in a row you use them to start sentences.

I developed this rule after listening to editors and becoming conscious of my own writing, and decided it was a good thing to do for me. Do you have to follow it? Heck no! The only opinion that matters when it comes to your writing is your own. But I do encourage you to test it out, and maybe find your own limit.

Now here are the words:

HE/SHE: Using "he" or "she” to begin sentences is fine and normal, but using he/she so many times in a row can become redundant, a little annoying, and lazy. This is just my opinion as a reader and writer though. With my writing, I believe in beginning sentences in more ways than just with "she" to describe what is happening, or how my characters feel. Up to three uses is my limit now. I think three sentences in a row is a perfect cut of point, because it’s not excessive, and it still reads well. Can you write four sentences beginning with he/she? Sure! 

(This rule can also apply to the use of "I" at the beginning of sentences for first person.)

THEN: Now this is a word that you should know not to overuse. Beginning a sentence with “then” is great! And it is needed to create suspense, but using it to begin every other sentence is too much. With my own writing, I don’t even allow myself to use it more than once in a paragraph, and try to limit it to once per manuscript page. Instead, I find other clever ways to boost the suspense and action.

THE: I once heard an author say that beginning a sentence with “the” was a literary no-no. Well, I still begin sentences with “the”, and so do most best-selling authors. But ever since I heard that quote I have become more aware of it, and try not to do it often. If I see that I used “the” to begin a couple of sentences close together, I try to rewrite one of them. Do I always do this? No, I don't, because when I read the paragraph back through, it sounds great with back-to-back the's at the beginning of the sentences. But when "the" becomes obvious, that's when I put my thinking cap on.

QUESTION: Are there specific words that you limit the use of at the beginning of sentences?

August 06, 2013

Writing About: A Crime Scene

Trigger Warning: In this post is an image of a woman's bruised face. The bruises are not real.

There are quite a few crime scenes in the fourth book of my (unpublished) series, but even though all crime scenes are different, writing about them requires the same elements every time.

Sight: The most powerful element of a crime scene is what it looks like. Describe the detective’s first steps onto the crime scene starting at the crime scene tape. Is the crime scene in an alley, a hotel room, a house? What does the detective see first? A dumpster, a shattered lamp, a jimmied lock? Imagine that you are walking through the crime scene yourself and you’re seeing everything with your eyes.

Then when your protagonist is in the middle of the crime scene, all eyes are on the victim. Before you begin describing the scene around the victim, tell us what he/she looks like. This can start with their hair color, their clothes, the position they are in, and finally, the wounds on their body. You will have to know all of these details beforehand, so it is best to write out a profile for the victim to help you create a full description, and to make sure you don’t leave a single detail out.

This picture is NOT real! I am using it for visual purposes
to show wounds a victim can have. Also, to raise
awareness for domestic violence.
Image by Chrys Fey.

Finally, you get to dig into the crime scene. Along with knowing the victim before you write, you will also need to know how they died, even if you keep a few secrets. The method of murder most likely will affect the crime scene. For instance, if the victim was shot, there will be bullet casings, blood splatters, and maybe a bullet embedded in a wall or a piece of furniture. Does the suspect leave a message? Was the room/house destroyed? Describe everything, because a crime scene is 360 degrees!

Smell: What the detective smells is also very important, and crime scenes can be especially stinky. Does he/she smell decay, chemicals, gunpowder, or smoke?

Feel: The detective’s thoughts and instincts are very important. Reveal them! Also in the category of feel is the real sense of touch. Does the detective have to touch something? Describe the sensation, but make sure they are wearing gloves!

Hear: Sometimes a crime scene is silent, other times there can be hysterical loved ones, barking dogs, sirens, and/or a television tuned to a talk show.

Taste: I honestly don’t know of a crime scene where a detective will have to actually taste something, but fumes can settle on the tongue.

After you follow your detective through the crime scene, follow them out of it and into their steps to solve the case.

 TIP: Watch movies and crime shows for ideas.

SHARE: Your tips to writing a crime scene.