Concrete Detail

Write like a reader, read like a writer and edit like a beast!

Lets get physicalThat title got you doing one of two things, raising your eyebrows with a sly smile on your face or humming a tune by Olivia Newton-John.  Maybe both!

When building characters we must at some point come up with an image of how they look.  In fact, it isn’t unheard of for writers to chose the actor they want to play the role.  Then use this image to help build the physical image of a character.   This happens to me later after I have taken some time to really examine the way my characters look.  I am not talking about the list,  you know, my protagonist is an athletic male, 27, six-foot-four-inches, thick brows edge emerald green eyes,  his face is often scruffed with a sexy beginning of a beard, deep black hair with rippling muscles of a Navy Seal.  His teeth are meant for toothpaste commercials but that sly crooked smile is what hooks a girl…

Okay, wait, what was I talking about?   You know what I am talking about. The list, the things we fill in at the beginning of a character profile sheet.  While important, and that is a physical description that most writers get through then stop.  However, let me ask you this when you are writing your characters do you take time to see him or her in your mind’s eye?  Do you study the way he/she stands? Kneel? Where do they put their hands?  How they carry themselves, do you think of how they sit?  Does he sprawl across the space he is in, in an act of dominance or perhaps because he has no choice?  Does he lace his fingers together and bring them to his lips when he is thinking about something, someone?  What movements can you pin to your character that will help tell their story?

May I suggest, when you are creating your characters, from the beginning, study them.  Write in the character’s file how he stands when he is interested in a woman, does he lean back or into a potential love interest?  When confronted with danger does he crouch down, reach for his weapon, throw himself into the danger?  How?  When he reaches for his weapon where are his eyes?  Try and describe the physical responses he has to these kinds of stimuli to the smell of good food, the smiles he does to charm someone then how does his body look when trying to charm someone, will he lean in, or lift his hands where are his hands?  Do his feet shuffle, does he lean against the wall and place his boot on the wall?   Does he cross his leg and rest it on his knee?  Looking at your character in this way can also help you to discover his personality.  Is he closed off?  How do you know?  Because he often has his arms crossed in front of him? Is it the way he tilts his head back often?

The idea in this exercise is that I am able to get a better picture of how to write my characters movements, my current protagonist often rubs her shoulder when stressed.  It is something her love interest will pick up on and eventually it will be something she becomes aware of when only he is around.  This can believe it or not build tension.

You need these movements to help establish your characters.  They will help your reader see in their mind’s eye what you do.  How do you find these tick, mannerisms and movements?  I can tell you what I do.  I go out, in public and observe people then I write down things.  Here is an example: He touched his lip pushing back his smile as he watched her cross the room. (I see this man as shy.)  If I have a character that is shy, I may add this to his “movement’s list” in his character file.  If I have trouble describing something that is happening I usually go to this list to try and find how he may react to a situation.

I hope this helps you in your quest for character development!  Get out there and find some movements you can use for your favorite character.

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When I begin a story, I have to start with a character.  Then something happens to my character.  What happens next is very important.  HOW will my character reacts to the situation I have placed him or her in.  Knowing how your characters react to situations is very important to a successful story.

I took a class in college several years ago, The Art of Storytelling.  Yes, that is a real class and probably one of the best classes I attended.  In this class, we learned how to best use our strengths when telling oral stories.  One of the things the professor introduced me to the way the Myers-Briggs Personality Test.  I was not surprised when I found out I was INTJ.  Well, not after I read what it meant to be an INTJ.

After taking the test I became very interested in the traits of each of the personality types.  I have learned to use the different types of personalities to predict ways my characters may react in some situations.  Or even more, how to make them act, unlike their natural personality bend.   Let’s face it if all your characters act like your personality it will be a boring book.  The hard part is better understanding how an ENFJ acts if you are not one.

Enter 16personalities.com.   While I was developing one of my supporting characters to my antagonist I needed to understand how this woman would allow the antagonist to essentially use her.  I turned to the information on this site to help me better grasp who she was.  It was very helpful in further developing the reactions she toward others when confronted about her involvement with the antagonist.

Take some time to dig into personality types.  When I create characters, one of the first things I do is a Myers-Brigg test on them.  I want to have diverse characters in my book.  Using personality types can help you as a writer develop a well-rounded character that will connect with your readers.  Sixteen personality types, that is a lot of material.   I have spent time on several personality sites but find that 16personalities stand out from the others.  They offer many opportunities on their site that can better your writing and yourself.  I also like that they have “named” the types like INTJ is called the Architect.  This allows a writer to take a quick glance and determine how they can see the character they are building.

You don’t have to stay in the types, but the truth is understanding how a personality type reacts normally helps to make your characters believable.

Check out www.16personalities.com

 

hobbiesGetting to know all about you.

Today is another of those writer peeks.  Well, partly.  Everyone is multi-pronged.  Writers have many things they do besides write.  For instance, I have started another blog to focus on the more artistic side of me– and by artistic, I mean the artsy crafty side of me. You can find it here.  Erika Hayes Artistic Detail

When I decided to start an art blog again I thought about how the characters we write need to have multiple sides. No one likes reading flat characters.    I have read a lot of books about how to write a character but I guess it was making this blog today that whacked me upside the head.   I am not only a writer, but an artist, a mom, a wife, a friend there are a lot of things that I do that if you only read this blog may never know about me.  I am an artist.  I spent over twenty years working in the paper arts industry.  You may not know that means, but it’s very cool. I know many people that read this blog read it because I mostly talk about writing and words. The thing is there is more to me than my adoration of the written word.

What does all this mean?  I learned something about character development today.  Take some time when you are writing a character, give them other interest.  It may be that your reader is exposed mostly to one thing about your character, and only see a peek of this alter ego.  However, when you are writing, giving your readers peeks into the other sides of the characters create a multi-dimensional character that is relatable.  I realized that if I take time to create a new blog (dimension) to my character, even if it only pops up once or twice in a book, it allows my readers to see that character as a real person.

Everyone has many different interests and one or two interest that really drive them.  Take advantage of that.  When you are working on your character, find out what their favorite candy bar and why.  Discover the hobby they enjoy is it cross-stitching? Do they take classes to better that interest?  Do they share that love with someone else or hide it.  Could it be he/she is nervous to let that part of themselves be exposed?

If you have a cop that is passionate about justice but also likes to hook-latch rugs it shows a softer side.  Maybe your supporting character likes to ice skate and that link can help them bust the case open.  It will help you, in the long run, to take some time and discover other aspects of the lives of your characters.

All from starting a blog on something I love doing in addition to writing.  *and yes I was a hardcore scrapbooker for a long time! but I mostly make cards now.  Add dimension to those protagonists and antagonist by taking time to discover more about them, create layers and you will be writing unforgettable characters.

Colour_mood_image

Let me begin by saying this is a personal piece, that I wrote when struggling with some frustration in my life.  However, the person telling this story is a character.  It does touch on some of the things I think we all as perfectionist er, uh, writers struggle with.  Whether a color or a word, this can be what if feels like to be trapped inside your own mind trying to find the right word.  This post is a bit longer than usual, but it is not something I can break up.  Please enjoy.

Ailment of Hues

by: Erika L. Hayes

It is the small window at the top of the wall that begins my journey every evening.  On it, a painting, that is muddled in the taupe chipped paint on which it hangs. It is the wrong wall. This painting doesn’t belong there, and it protests.   I stare at it in the evening.

It begins as I sit on my creaky steel chair and my feet rest comfortably on the edge of the bed.  Lifting my arms and pull the stiff muscles, they resist my movement.  I decide to stand, if for no other reason but to establish sovereignty over of my body. I bend slowly at the waist and demand that my muscles obey.  I touch my toes and repeat commanding my body to yield to my demands.

The leaves from the ancient maple, or maybe it is oak, dapple the tired bland taupe. If one watches long enough the yearning to break from the sameness could burn a hole directly through their being.  The sunlight plays keep away from the shadows and dances down the wall. My eyes follow it. As I come to a defiant mountain pose, my heart flutters because the light has almost found my nemesis.  It creeps along leisurely until they meet.

The click as the numbers fall it will be one minute later today that they merge.  The light and the unique fleck on the painting on the bland taupe wall.   I long to give the color of that fleck a name.  It is trapped somewhere between emerald and as best I can describe it, malachite.  This speck is exceptional. Placed there by the artist, and I am assured to drive me mad.  No other hue like it on this canvas.  No other likeness in all this world has I seen that matches this mocking stare.  I try to not look, I force my eyes to turn away.  Yet still I seek it out, my sovereignty is being challenged.  I search for distraction, but there is none. Only the bland taupe wall the light and that damned fleck of color exist now.

Turning again to the comfort of my bed.  I use the term “comfort” loosely.  It squeaks and protests my weight.  The mammoth stone that resides within its coils forces me to lay my head where my feet would rest, and my feet where my head belongs.  It wants me to see that damned fleck.  I pull the blanket over my head and feel the scratch of the coarse fibers on my face.  I whisper “Don’t look, keep your head about you girl.”  I pull my eyes tightly closed, huff and feel the tightness in my neck and shoulders.

I can’t breathe the carbon dioxide molecules are too thick. The heat pressing against my face, my neck, my sanity.  My arms throw the gray blanket from my face. I gulp in the cool air.  I feel the relief travel into my lungs.  I turn on my side.  I cannot look.  I know it wants to take my sanity.  That indescribable fleck. “I can’t give you a name,” I shout.   Your color is known only to God I reason, alas, the fleck is not appeased.  When I am released from this room I will run far and reckless from that damned flake of paint.

I examine again, looking for a twin, perhaps something to reveal its name.  No, it is only in that one place.  The canvas is surely a foot in length and I suppose an arm’s length in height.  I have searched the length and height, and that color, it is only there, in that fleck.  I wonder what I have done to deserve this fleck. Its cursed stare and unrelenting demand.  Identify me. It reminds me of my failures. Whispers them by name into space. Why am I unable to simply name the color?  The books I search have hundreds of names of colors, pick one I demand of myself.

When I first came to this room I would settle on calling it green followed by emerald, then sea green and so many more. Then in the wee hours, the fleck would seek me out. It would invade my dreams.  These names were common, mundane and the hue, it wanted its name.  I am trapped in this hell until I find the designation that can be accepted and will appease the thing that is unnamed.  I cannot seek the creator and beg for a name, to find my reprieve. I know not his name, he failed to sign the device of torture. Creator of madness, I give him a name, this creator of this prison in my mind.

I have sought to leave this place.  I have stood, turned off the light, then on, then off, repeatedly and find that it does no good.  I can’t walk through the threshold.  Funny, the word “threshold”, it holds me.  I cannot leave. Sure I am free to walk away but I cannot. If I do surely death awaits me.  All because of that painting on its bland taupe wall.  If only that fleck did not glare, and demand I name it.

People come and in an attempt and settle my turmoil tell me it’s simply green.  If only it were that easy.  This speck is not just green, emerald, sea, kelly, hunter, pine or any of her sisters.  It is unique.  It is like you, and even me.  There is only one speck like it in all the world.  I cannot name it. I cannot define it. I cannot say its name.

The burning in my eyes makes me drowsy, but I know sleep will elude me.  Always beckoning me to find its name.  Nowhere can it be found if only the maker would whisper in my ear the cursed name of this thing that holds me so tightly oft I cannot breathe.

My bed squeaks again and I turn, the light has left the speck darkening its hue. Leaving me to my task.  I will ponder the names until the light comes again to transform the hue on the painting on the bland taupe wall, praying for the release from the assignment in lunacy.

END.

Copywrite 2018

Enormity


If you didn’t know already, I read A LOT!  Like A LOT.  I love all kinds of stories but I am a huge mystery fan.  On several occasions, I have found words that I thought meant one thing and discovered it means something other than I thought.   I admit it, I thought this word meant enormous.  Imagine my surprise when I clicked on this word on my Kindle because I thought the author used the wrong word, to discover the actual meaning of the word. (Insert little-embarrassed emoji here.)  I was officially schooled.

I am very happy to share with you that Enormity doesn’t mean enormousness, but extreme evil.  As a mystery writer, (muhahaha)  I have added understanding to this word and you know it will soon appear in its correct usage.

Have a great weekend my friends!  Keep writing, keep reading, keep being that awesome you that you are!

e

Bemused


Funny thing about the English language, sometimes we have words that sound like they mean something and those words mean something completely different.   Today, we have another word that is commonly misused. I find myself bemused by some of the ways this word has been used incorrectly.

The most common misuse is when an individual uses it referring to being amused.  Then a second flawed usage is to ponder deeply.   In a speech, I once heard the speaker use bemused stating he was thinking deeply about something.  It was this speech that had me looking up the word.  It sounded out of place.  For good reason, it was.  I know I’m a weird person that really likes to know the meaning and origin of words.

I suppose those both of the inaccurate use of the word bemused are somewhat understandable, as one could almost hear the word amused or muse in the confines of the word itself.

What the word bemused actually means is, bewildered, puzzled or even confused.  I think this one is often used correctly, but may be surprised to discover how many people have the wrong meaning attached to this word.

The real question may be why do we care?  As a writer or non-writer, it is important to know what you’re actually saying.  Not to sound smart but to avoid offending or confusing others with the things we write and say.

Tomorrow will wrap up our week of commonly misused words and phrases.  If you have one to add please do add it to the comment section.  You all know I love my list.  I would very much enjoy adding another word/phrase.

 

Disintrested


Well now… I remember when I was perusing a book (a textbook) and this word was bold and imagine my surprise when I looked in the margin and found out the actual meaning of this word is unbiased, not uninterested.

Let me clarify, some of the dictionaries have adapted to the common understanding, of a lack of interest,  but the original word usage was defined as unbiased. I think in today’s world, that as our language is ever developing and changing to meet the needs of modern linguistic, we see words transform into what the common understanding of a word.

I hope you can enjoy the true meaning of this word disinterestedly.  *I mean that in the true sense of the word… haha see what I did there.

Have a great day friends

e

Peruse


I was taking a class in college and the professor mentioned he was offering a class on how to read your college textbooks to maximize your study time.  Hey, guess what, I went to the class.  While I was in the class he mentioned that we didn’t need to peruse the text but could simply skim the content if we used his method.

So, as you can imagine, I was there scratching my head.  I thought to peruse meant to skim or glance over quickly.  Apparently, I was not the only person.  Being the ever inquisitive human that I am, I raised my hand and asked him to explain, as I thought peruse means to glance or skim over.  He laughed and said, I use that word to see if people are paying attention.  He went on to share there are many words that are often misused, and peruse is one of those words.   This example was also to help his students to understand that even book writers use words incorrectly, and to be careful to NOT be one of those writers.  As you can imagine, I started keeping a list of words that are often misused.  This week I will be sharing some of the words on my list.

The exciting thing about learning about words that are often misused is REGARDLESS of your past, you can always start using them correctly. (NOTE: Irregardless is not a word, thus, will not make this week’s list. I am only sharing words that are actual words.)

I’d like to offer a thank you to Dr. Diaz for teaching me to appreciate the importance of being on alert of commonly misused words.

Dash-at-park

How she sees herself!

I moved back today’s scheduled post to share this lesson I learned from my dog.  I have mentioned in a previous post, that I have a service dog.  This is her.  Her name is Dash.  She does a lot of me, but this weekend she taught me a very important lesson.

We went to Flagstaff this weekend, for a family event.  We decided to stay a few days in the RV and I was able to spend time getting some writing done and enjoying the surrounding area.  My husband, Dash and I stopped a Buffalo Park for a hike.  When we got out of the truck, there was a beautiful Great Dane (I love Danes, I have owned three) that was just coming off the trail.  Dash put it in four-wheel drive and charged this enormous male Great Dane. We all had a good laugh.  Her little self was ready to take on that big dog, she didn’t even think twice.

We took our hike and as we were coming out, I wanted to get a photo of the Buffalo at the front of the park.  I put Dash up near the statue to get a fun memory. She of course complied, she is pretty sassy when the camera comes out.

Once we were in the car, I had to laugh because the photo (above) made me take a moment and see her as she sees herself.  She sees herself as a big dog.   She is never intimidated by the giants she faces.  I realized something.  I have giants like the Great Dane sized fear of failing as a writer.  It cripples me from time to time.  I look at this photo and look at my little Dash.  She stood strong and brave today.  The threat was null, that Great Dane was as sweet and gentle as a fly.  The truth is most my fears are null as well.

I need to take this photo and put me in Dash’s place.  I need to see my little self as the giant that will conquer anything.

I see that I may be a little writer today, but if I see my self as a giant, I will be.   #howIshouldseemyself  #don’tbackdown  #lessonsfrommydog  Thanks, Dash!

 

Fun-Words-for-Blog-Skeigh


I saved my favorite for last, and bring to you another word in the bottom 20% of word popularity today.  This is a word that was once used to describe me.  I love this word so very much because if I am going to be described as proudly spirited like a horse then I am in GREAT company.

When I was a kid, my parents moved us out to a 73-acre farm where we raised Arabian horses.  Let me be very clear.  I loved living there, I loved having horses, but I didn’t love caring for said horses.  In fact, my first published piece includes this loathing of horse upkeep.  I did learn a lot about what a compliment this word can be to a young girl.  We had a horse, her name was Bay Melody, now this horse was skeigh!  She was the horse that the young man compared me to when he used this word I had never heard.  I had no idea what it meant, so I looked it up (not on Google – the old fashion book dictionary).  I loved that the word origin is Scottish and the image it gave of a proud strong horse and I felt my self-esteem lift a few points as I read the explanation of this antiquated word.

I have it taped to my desk as a reminder of my spirit.  It is like that of that sassy, stunning horse we called Bay Melody was the horse that young man chose to compare me to that day.  Words stick with us, they do make-up part of who we are.  I can say with all sincerity that his choice of words that day helped me to keep my proud spirit.

#FUNWORDFRIDAY – I may need to make this a thing!  My list is too long for just a week.  I hope you have enjoyed some of the unique and mostly antiquated words I have shared this week. Keep writing, keep mindful!