Ask a male author about your male character traits or thoughts.

Amazon links to my stories: Autumn Breeze, A More Perfect Union, Double Happiness, The Wolves of Sherwood Forest, Neanderthals and the Garden of Eden can be found down the right side of the blog.

Sunday, December 1, 2019

Highlights of Show, Don’t Tell by Sandra Gerth

Sandra’s book is free on Kindle.

One of the most important quotes from the book for a friend at Writers Bloc is, “Combine emotion markers to avoid ambiguity.” She explains that using body/facial language can be ambiguous. She suggests combining body language, dialogue, or internal monologue to make it clear.

Sandra’s book is full of concrete changes anybody can apply to their manuscript.

Telling gives conclusions and interpretations, summaries, reportage, being abstract, giving facts, not that telling doesn’t have its place. Such as to cover unimportant details, transitions, repeated info, &/or events, pacing, context (to give), & suspense.

An author may slip into telling by the improper use of adverbs and adjectives when strong verbs are needed. Avoid linking verbs such as is/was, felt appeared. The slip occurs when using emotion words such as surprise, anger, amazement, confusion or filters such as saw, smelled, heard, felt, watched, noticed, realized, wondered, knowing and more. If this isn’t clear, you are not alone. I took each word, as if I were picking fruit loops out of the bowl and munching one by one. Best to read because my blog could not possibly cover this subject in a short format.

Here’s one less than obvious example:

Telling: His mom would arrive soon.

Showing: Mom would arrive soon.

Sunday, November 24, 2019

Top ten necessities for a successful romance novel

Top ten necessities for a successful romance novel:
1.      Typically, there is a cute meet (or meet cute).
2.      Ascending conflict (raising the stakes), internal and external
3.      Everybody needs direction.
4.      There needs to be an approximate equality between the couple.
5.      They need to show respect, if not up front then as the journey progresses.
6.      The journey should be both external and internal.
7.      Characters need goals, motivations, and conflicts, otherwise you’ll create stick figures.
8.      Often they must make a choice. They give up something to get something.
9.      The emotional attraction and fulfillment takes precedence over physical attraction.
10.  A story and the characters must have a purpose that should change.

Definitions and explanations:

A cute meet (or meet cute). This is most often the first time the hero and heroine meet. It could be an awkward situation or funny. They may need to team up because of it. Note: How can they fall in love if they are not forced together for much of the story? This togetherness is often labeled a romance trope, although connected quite often to the cute meet, it stands separate as a technique. According to Romance Writers of America, the top ten most popular romance tropes are:

·         Friends to Lovers.
·         Soul Mate/Fate.
·         Second Chance at Love.
·         Secret Romance.
·         First Love.
·         Strong Hero/Heroine.
·         Reunited Lovers.
·         Love Triangle.
·         Sexy Billionaire/Millionaire.
·         Sassy Heroine.

A trope in general is a word or expression used in a figurative sense, such as a figure of speech. A romance trope is broader to include plot elements, as listed above.

Ascending conflict: Often after the cute meet there is tension between the two. They might not like each other, but they had better have a good reason for dislike. Or they’re intrigued but there are so many things wrong with the idea of them as a couple or for one or both of them to change their lifestyle. Often there is an external force threatening them. This can be manifested in the form of a literal villain, friends with other ideas, ex’s, or any number of problems in their environment.

Everybody needs direction. On any journey, there are mentors, or at least close friends or family that give advice or support and sometimes bad advice. Of course, if the story is paranormal or mystical/religious, unexplained phenomena can happen. Very charming stories incorporate guardians (often strangers and much like mentors) along the way. Although these guardians are most often human, they can feel like signs or guide posts.

Approximate equality. She could be President of the United States and he a flower shop guy, but they both need to bring something of more or less equal value to the table.

They need to show respect, if not up front, then as the journey progresses. Note: Respect in the age of me-too, women’s rights, and the quest for equality is unfortunately a fairly recent must if writing romance.

Sunday, November 17, 2019

A white hot burn

Yesterday, at the RWASD’s annual literary event our speaker was Sherrilyn Kenyon, a #1 New York Times Bestselling author many times over.

She told us of struggle, homelessness, deep family problems both as a child growing up and married. She never said it, but it was obvious to me that she needed to show that she was good for something. In so doing, she validated a purpose both for her and others. I surmise that that “I’ll show them” attitude can propel writers to do their best. Sherrilyn also had an abiding and unrelenting love for writing which manifested itself in entering contests and submitting as a child, becoming the editor of her school(s) papers, expanding into multiple art forms within writing such as manga. She did describe a loving relationship she had with her brother who has since died. (You might call this the “Save the Cat” influence.)

I take from this that we need a fire in our bellies. It can be set by negative influences and/or a firm belief in ourselves and some sort of human love and support. Sherrilyn said of writing, that if you have a beginning, middle, and end, start writing! All the better if the subject of your story also burns white hot. For instance, if there is something that bothers you in the world, write it. Don’t be a afraid to express yourself, just make it smart and subtle. It is fiction after all. Show, don’t tell.

My father had always denigrated me saying I would amount to nothing, but my mom was my saving influence. I did amount to something!

Yet, it was not until my dying daughter whom I was a caregiver for and to whom I read my latest story. She made me promise to, “get a traditional publisher this time, dad,” because she loved the story.

Did you ever feel that if left to your own devices, nothing much would get done or that the project didn’t have that umph necessary? I have. Well, with Lani as my angel, I do not work alone. I achieved her goal for me (and fulfilled a dream of my own). I will have it published in 2020 with a respected publisher known for the genre in which I write…

Tell me what aggravates you and let’s see if there’s a story there.

Regarding my story, what aggravated me was and is white supremacists who demonstrated their idiocy in Charlottesville and elsewhere. By the time they demonstrated outside the White House (maybe fourteen to forty of them, they were met by four thousand counter-demonstrators (a true story.) This failure gave me hope and a story idea that burned my soul white hot until I with the help of Lani completed it.

Sunday, November 10, 2019

Out of the mist, I see.

Out of the mist, I see.

After all these years, literary fiction has been demystified for me. I was also not used to the term, Upmarket (see second list below). Thank you, Carly Waters for the following explanations. Carly is a VP & senior Literary Agent at P.S. Literary Agency.

Literary fiction:

1.      Is driven by craft & quality of language.

2.      Often has open endings.

3.      Blurs or bends genre expectations.

4.      Pace is methodical & slower due to emphasis on language not plot.

5.      Originality of thought where the aim is art.

6.      Often award winning.

Examples: The Goldfinch, Station Eleven, All the Light We Cannot See.

Upmarket fiction:

1.      Aim is thoughtful discussion because of accessibility to real life.

2.      Blends lines of commercial & literary.

3.      Appropriate for book club discussion.

4.      Accessible Writing.

5.      Quality writing tackling commercial plot topics or themes.

6.      Women’s fiction often falls in this category.

7.      Character driven.

8.      Universal themes everyone can connect to.

Examples: Water for Elephants, The Passage, The Time Traveler’s Wife, Labor Day, Maybe in Another Life, The Husband’s Secret, Me Before You.

Commercial fiction:

1.      Includes genres like romance, crime, thriller, mystery, sci-fi, & fantasy.

2.      Reaches broad audiences.

3.      The aim is to entertain.

4.      The writing is fast paced.

5.      Concise hook that is trying to solve a very specific problem.

6.      Creates a satisfying experience that readers have come to expect.

7.      Ending that close all open doors unless a series.

8.      Plot driven.

Examples: Hunt for Red October, A Perfect Life, A Walk to Remember, One for the Money, The Pelican Brief.

Now, with insight, my critiques in my critique group can be less tentative. I had always asked myself if the critique I was contemplating giving would not be based on the art and craft of writing, but on my understanding of commercial fiction. I would often hold my tongue unsure if my advice was solid. Now, with these lists I will be better able. I might even read some upmarket or literary fiction.

On a personal note, literary and upmarket has been creeping into my writing for years, without me realizing it. This will help me better market my future projects. The one I’m working on now is going to be published by a traditional publisher. Guess what, at some point, I’ll ask my editor, where she would place me. I know the answer will be genre romance NA, but I’ll like to see her take on how much bending I did. I promise it was not on purpose, LOL.

Sunday, November 3, 2019

Follow up on Damon Suede

Follow up on Damon Suede (from previous post).

His book is called Verbalize.

Damon strongly suggests setting scenes with action both interior and exterior. About half way through the book two sentences captured the essence of the book and could be used as a pitch or logline. He writes, “All too easily a character can simply start to yearn or gossip or interfere without an object, leaving them marooned inside their own head and heart. Result: passive beat, dead scene, inert character, boring book.”

What? “Object” above means something the audience (readers) can see. Set the scene with action. For instance, Humphrey spied a notice on the student board. It read, if there is no god, how can all men be created equal? Join us tonight at the student center for a discussion. He crumbled the notice. Not knowing why.

The paper is the object and Humphrey’s act, one of a conflicted young man was to push the doubts away by becoming upset with others. Luckily, Alicia, his guardian angel eventually led him out of the quagmire of amoral thought.

Damon Suede’s book is unusual is style, which this reader enjoyed. If you get it, strap yourself in for a wild ride through the mind of a genius.

Well, I wasn't just going to take Damon's word for it, so I reread Blake Snyder's Save The Cat! Strikes back. I needed a different perspective and one even more visual since Cat is on screenwriting. (actually the principles of screen writing can well serve the novelist.) On page 79 the author writes about theme and issues five points. The third is "What's on your mind? What statement, issue, or ax to grind finds voice in your characters?"
Compare, contrast, and get back to me. (Hint, the statement, issue, or ax is the object, IMO.)

Sunday, October 20, 2019

Recent Revelations

Recent revelations:

On Saturday, Oct 19, 2019 I attended my RWASD meeting in which HelenKay Dimon was the speaker.

She’s such a gifted best selling author and brought much food for thought to her lecture on beginnings, which she stressed applies to the whole story. I’ll share a little:

1.      Ground your story with setting, place, and tone, with tone being the most important. A story can start without the other two. The tone is the author’s voice. What are you trying to accomplish in the story. A consistent tone should carry through all the character changes to the very end. This sense of forward movement should also include hooks. Your theme should be felt ideally, subconsciously by the reader.

2.      What’s your book about? Knowing this guides your decisions about what kind of descriptions and dialogue fit.

3.      A hero or heroine should be compelling not necessarily likeable (especially in the beginning).

HelenKay Dimon is the outgoing President of RWA, a lawyer, and prolific novelist. Go to for more.

Damon Suede is the president elect for RWA and he tells a similar story in his lectures and books but with his own personal twists. First off, my publisher recommends Verbalize by Damon. But if you prefer first to watch a 45 minute intro of his book and the man go to Damon Suede Creative Pen and click on video. His pops up first.

The video is a wild ride through the artist’s mind, a genius, if you ask me. He’s gifted, loquacious and thought provoking. Get to know this talent. He wants you to use better and transitive verbs as if you were adding spice to a recipe among other points. Take the reader on a consistent journey of unified tone, voice, and theme.

He’s a firm believer in the value of listening to your story via audio aids as a way of validating its strength for the reader and making improvements based on what you hear. This means, he said she said may not be best. This, to me, is radical but I can certainly find ways to diminish the amount of he/she saids. I have ordered the book and will let you know if I got anything wrong and what else I learned. Start with the video.

His next book, Activate is a well crafted thesaurus of transitive verbs useful to any author who likes to spice his or her stories.

Saturday, October 5, 2019

Free ebook on writing by Sandra Gerth

Highlights of Show, Don’t Tell by Sandra Gerth, a free ebook that has won awards.

Red flags for telling:

1.      Conclusions

2.      Abstract language

3.      Summaries

4.      Backstory (there’s right place for this in the novel, generally later and spread in small pieces)

5.      Adverbs

6.      Adjectives

7.      Linking verbs (i.e was/were/is/are/felt/appeared/seemed/looked etc.)

8.      Emotion words (angry/surprised/amazement/confusion etc.)

9.      Filters (saw/smelled/heard/felt/watched/noticed/realized/wondered/knew etc)

To turn telling into showing:

1.      Use the five senses

2.      Use strong dynamic verbs

3.      Use concrete nouns

4.      Break activities into smaller parts

5.      Use figurative language

6.      Write in real time

7.      Use dialogue

8.      Use internal monologue

9.      Focus on actions and reactions

Avoid: Redundancies. Telling Backstory (use iceberg theory). Flashbacks/Prologues/character descriptions/feelings (don’t describe your characters all at once)—Reveal the character of a character.

Danger areas are large blocks of description. Make them dynamic. Describe only what your POV character would notice given his/her background, personality, and situation.

Avoid clich├ęs. Naming emotions instead of describing.

ABC Always be clear.

Eight ways to reveal emotion without telling:

1.      Physical responses

2.      Body language

3.      Facial expressions

4.      Dialogue

5.      Internal monologue

6.      Setting descriptions

7.      The five senses in moments of heightened emotion

8.      Figurative language. BE UNIQUE and AVOID AMBIGUITY

Telling in dialogue.


1.      “As you know” dialogue

2.      Creative dialogue tags

3.      Adverbs in dialogue tags

4.      Reported dialogue

Don’t overshow either on a macro or micro level.

Sometimes use telling for unimportant details, transitions, repeated info, repeated events, pacing, context, suspense, first drafts.