Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Watch what you say and how you say it

The last point I want to make concerning crafting a character is not talking down to your reader. It’s hard to give an example off the cuff, but you’ll know it when you read it. Your stomach will convulse and you’ll pull away from the story and want to just stop reading right then and there and most times you do. Why do you think writers like Meyers and Collins are so universally popular? Let’s look even further back at Ingalls and Dahl and Blume. Honestly, I enjoy their books now as an adult just as much as I did when I was a kid. And why is that? None of them, not one, talks down to their readers. And neither should we.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

The List

First off, Happy Thanksgiving to everyone. I hope ya’ll are enjoying turkey and some time with your families.  For the first year ever (but hopefully not the last) my husband, eldest daughter and I ran the Turkey Trot in Buffalo, NY. It is an 8k road run and was a bit of a stretch for me. But I did it and had a blast.
Now on to my scheduled post:
On Tuesday I hinted at what I’ve found to be a game changer for me as a writer and that it The List. This was something I learned along the way, but now apply all the time. When I sat down to write my first novel, which is in the 1st person, with 2 MCs, I found that they both sounded the same. They talked the same, they reacted the same, even though in actuality they were totally different people. So I took a break from writing for some much needed research time, only this time I was researching a person, or two people.
I’ve already told you I’m a visual person, so I had pictures of my 2 MCs already. What the list entails is the next step. What do they look on the inside?
The List varies from character to character and I don’t do it for all of them, only the most important ones.  Basically I study them; I decide things about them to the most insignificant detail. I make a list. From what they eat for breakfast to what they want to do with their lives, even down to the cologne/perfume they would wear. In essence, I got to know them. Think back when you first fell in love and you wanted to know every single thing there was to know about that person. The same is true with our characters; if they’re not real to us, how will they be real to the reader? If we don’t love them, then how will they?
This made writing them so much easier, because the flow was there. I didn’t have to stop and think if I was making Rachel sound too much like Joel because of course only she would react that way.
This method also brings with it some surprises. The characters start to do things you’d never expect, but in the end you can’t take it back, because the situations are just as real as them.
For those of you who are wondering: Joel eats Cheerios for breakfast, while Rachel picks up some Oreos off her bedroom floor.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Step Two

The next step before writing your characters is knowing your characters.
For me that starts with people watching.
Whenever I’m out I look at people, what they’re doing and how they’re doing it; mainly I’m observing all those nonverbals that make characters and people so memorable. That’s what I do all the time, but when I’m researching for a specific character I people watch in a specific way. Remember a couple of posts ago I said how I saw that tall guy and it helped me relate to Joel so much better? The same is true here. I people watch people who remind me of my characters. Now I know that won’t help much if you’re writing high fiction and your character is a fire breathing fairy (for example), but I still think it will. People are still people and that’s who you’re trying to relate to: people, aka your readers.  
Ask yourself what kind of person is your fire breathing fairy? Is he/she shy, or outrageous - kind or kind of wicked? Decide and then park yourself around those kind of people and have a field day, but make sure you have your notebook with you. You’re going to need it.
So what if you don’t know what kind of person your character is yet? Don’t fret, because on Thursday’s post I’ll bring out my single most valuable tool as a writer: The List.


Thursday, November 15, 2012

Here it is! My trailer for THE NEWSTEAD PROJECT! I hope you like it!
 (Sorry about not having my promised post about my presentation, but once I got this I just had to show it.)

Tuesday, November 13, 2012


I’m writing a presentation right now for a library tour I’m doing next summer to help promote my books and the topic is Crafting Compelling Characters.
The reason I picked that topic is because I feel it’s foundational to any good writing. I don’t care how good your story is, if I don’t care about the characters you’ve lost me.
So, I decided to try sections of my presentation out on all of you. (Nasty, aren’t I?) So please give your feedback and any additional ideas you may have.

Topic one: The Birth of a Character

Part one: The Physical

I’m a visual person, for me I have to have a picture of my characters close at hand to refer to regularly. For Joel, one of my MCs for NEWSTEAD, I went to the internet and typed in attractive male models. I was a little worried about what would show up, but surprisingly there wasn’t even enough to make me blush.  After I had one that fit the bill, I saved it under my favorites.

Now Rachel, the other MC, she came about a little differently. I already had a picture in mind when I created her. I was sitting in a local café and there was a huge poster on the wall of a beautiful girl who was being haggled by some obnoxious guys. I wrote down the name of the photograph and looked it up when I got home. It was An American Girl in Italy by Ruth Orkin, 1951. I studied that picture, what that girl must have felt like, her body language. Before I knew it, Rachel was born.

Thursday I’ll discuss more on the birth of a character, but I’ll get a little deeper than appearances.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Editing! Ugh!

I don’t know where all the rest of you are on your writing projects, or if you’re a writer at all, but here’s where I’m at. My first book is with the copy editor, but I’m going over it one last time (like the five revisions and twenty full edits weren’t enough) and surprisingly I’m still finding stupid things like a missing is in the middle of a sentence and your instead of you’re in a couple of spots.  I wonder how that’s possible. I’ve literally gone over it dozens of times, but they were there. Although this time I’m following someone’s advice and am reading it on my kindle. For some reason that made a difference.
And at the same time I’m doing some pretty major revisions of book #3.  Book #2 is currently pushed out of my mind as it waits for its turn with my editor.  I love revisions, they’re a lot more fun and a lot less frustrating than finding out you left out the verb in a sentence you’ve read a hundred times.  It’s funny, as I’m immersed in this process I find myself editing everything. I had to catch myself the other day from pointing out to someone that they’d used the same adjective twice in the same sentence. (hee, hee, did you notice I just did it too?)
Have any of you found any tricks that helped you with editing? Someone else told me to print it all out just like you would for your editor and do it that way.
If any of you are in the Lockport, NY area tonight, our SCBWI writing group is meeting at Panera at 7pm for some good coffee, sweeties, and encouragement for this often lonely road.
Take care,

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Reveal Day

Hello everyone! Here it is, election day (Yeh!), my birthday (double yeh!!), and the day I reveal my cover and Swag giveaway (triple yeh!!!)

Here it is! The lovely Swag available for free on my website melanieschulz.com- just go to the storefront tab and it will pop up. I also have bookmarks and will be giving ten of those with each cinch sac. I tried very hard to chose something meaningful to the story, so in the end I picked these, because it is in THE NEWSTEAD PROJECT that Joel begins going to school at Newstead.

Also for my cover reveal:
Isn't it lovely?
I know I also promised to show my trailer for the Newstead Project, but I'm waiting for permission to use the song I've chosen and I'm learning the hard way that things take way longer than I think they should. 
Now on to the post I'd planned to write today, election day. It's one of my favorite literary quotes on what it means to be an American:
The Declaration and the song came together in her mind and she thought: God is America's king. She thought: Americans won't obey any king on earth. Americans are free. That means they have to obey their own consciences. No king bosses Pa; he has to boss himself. Why (she thought), when I am a little older, Pa and Ma will stop telling me what to do and there isn't anyone else who has a right to give me orders. I will have to make myself be good.
Her whole mind seemed to be lighted up by that thought. This was what it means to be free. It means, you have to be good. "Our father's God, author of liberty-" The laws of nature and nature's God endow you with the right to life and liberty. Then you have to keep the laws of God, for God's law is the only thing that gives you the right to be free.
- Laura Ingalls Wilder, Little Town on the Praire
Have a wonderful day everyone!

Friday, November 2, 2012

Hello again

Hello everyone, I'm back from Florida, and can't believe I missed Sandy going down and coming back up. We're from New York, so we did get some extra rain and wind out of it, but not what those poor people in the city and NJ got. With that in mind, I'm postponing my reveal until next Tuesday, not that I don't have things ready, it just feels wrong somehow to make all my giddy announcements when so many of my fellow New Yorkers are suffering. So election day it is (also my birthday wink, wink). I hope all of you have a blessed weekend, and for all of you in that tri-state area by the coast, you are in my thoughts and prayers