Friday, June 15, 2012

Do Your Characters Make a Good First Impression? Part One

As an educator of Sociology, I can tell you that sociologists believe we form lasting impressions of the people we meet within the first ten seconds. That's pretty fast, and I've found, often wrong. The impression, that is. But isn't it funny how that first impression sticks with you, hiding its sometimes nasty little face in the recesses of your mind, even after you've gotten to know a person, and realized that your first impression was wrong?

With our characters, it takes a lot longer than ten seconds, but it doesn't mean that the first impression is not important. As writers, we need to be very sure that our characters begin to initiate a good first impression, even if we intend to have that impression change later on. But "good" is relative, isn't it? Think about it... 'good' doesn't have to mean your MC is Miss Wonderful... it could also mean Miss Wonderful is actually a 16 year old high school witch... and not in the dictionary's definitiion of "witch," either. But your first impression could be 'good,' or perhaps a better word would be 'correct.' Keep in mind, however, that as your character grows and changes,  your readers' impressions of her will change, also, so don't mislead them with a too-far off first impression.

So... how to form that first impression? I think the very first thing you have to do is give her a name, because let's face it, people's names will almost always dictate how others perceive them... correctly or incorrectly. Now sometimes that means you have to do your RESEARCH...I know, that's a 4-letter word, but you better get used to it!

The reason for research? It depends upon what era you are writing about, and no, it doesn't have to be a historical novel as such. For example, some of the most popular names in 2012 are: For Girls: Emma, Sophia, Chloe, Madison, Taylor; For Boys: Mason, Ethen, Aiden, Lucus, Alexander. But go back just a few years to 1980: most popular names then were Jessica, Amanda, Ashley, and Megan; Michael, Matthew, Joshua, and Ryan. Even further back to the 1920's: Mary, Helen, Mildred, and Gladys; Robert, James, Edward, and Earl.

If your story setting is in the early 1900's, even up to about 1960, you are going to be hard-pressed to find a girl named Madison, or a boy named Aiden. By the same token, in today's world, you run the risk of having your novel put down by the first page if you name your MC Mildred. First names should be indicative of the era, without question.

Besides the era, another assumption your reader is going to make about the MC's name, right out of the starting gate, is that of Ethnicity. However, that is a post for another day! Part Two is coming up!

Until next time,
That's a wrap.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Blogging: Do You Sprint or Do You Marathon?

I am shamelessly taking this blog post from a wonderful blog by Anne R. Allen, who wrote The Slow Blog Manifesto. Anne begins her blog by saying that the average life of a blog is three years. I didn't know that, did you? I thought that once you started blogging, you just kept on until you had nothing more to say! And what writer does that happen to? LOL

To be honest, I've sorta fallen in love with this Slow Blog Manifesto, because it says what I've been thinking about for the whole time I've been blogging... and that is that you DO NOT have to blog every single day, and in fact, it's much better if you don't. That may come as a surprise to some.

I've felt many times like it was some kind of "requirement" of being a writer that you must blog, you must be on Facebook, and you must Tweet or Twitter or whatever it's called. I don't know about you, but I don't like feeling I am forced to do something when it concerns my writing. I would much, much rather spend time writing on my WIP that spend time posting something on my blog just for the sake of doing so, or going on Facebook to make some innocuous comment. Oh, and I DON'T Tweet, and hope I'm never forced to do so. For one thing, I'm much too long-winded when I do post to write anything coherent in only 137 characters!

But I digress. Are you a sprinter when you blog? Do you blog every single day of the week, or even 4 or 5 times a week? Really? Do you honestly...come on, now, tell the you honestly have something so important, something so worth while to say every single day that your followers will fall off the face of the earth if they don't read it? Hmmm...

Anne talks about "blather-blogging"... posting something every day because you've been told you HAVE to blog every single day. But you don't really have anything important to talk about, so you end up posting about how mad you are at your editor because she didn't go along with your last revisions. Your editor will read your blog, get mad at your comments, and refuse to work with you, so you'll end up not getting the next Great American Novel published.

If you spend all your time blogging, how much time does that leave you in a day to work on the above: The Next Great American Novel? Seriously, how much? Most writers have a day job: working outside the home, working inside the home raising kids and taking care of hubby, or, BOTH! Realistically, it's almost impossible to do all of the above, blog sensibly every day, AND spend time writing something interesting, entertaining, exciting, mysterious, frightening... you know the drill.

So all of this...the above... relates to the Sprinter Blogger, the one who blogs every day or at least 5 days a week because she or he believes that is the way to do it, and that you'll never be known or recognized for the great author you are if you don't do it.

Oh, all right...there ARE some people who can blog successfully every day, do it brilliantly, work an 8 hour-a-day job, come home and take great care of the house, the laundry, the husband,  5 rug rats all under the age of 10, and STILL find the time to write 3,000 words on her novel every single day. And I mean that sincerely. Almost. But I was never able to fit into that Superwoman outfit. It was always too tight, and all it did was make me squirmy.

So back to the Marathoner. This is the person who blogs once or twice a week, and does a thoughtful, thought-provoking, entertaining, educational, or humorous post each time. Any one of the above, or even occasionally, all of the above in one single post. This is the kind of blog that brings people back, time and time again, because they know there will be something of value on that blog. Besides that, if you only blog once or twice a week, the people who are really busy writing ( well, or being Superwoman) are going to come visit your blog much more often. Most people don't want or don't have the time to visit someone's blog every single day, especially if all they are talking about is their latest recipe or how their boss is really down on all the women in the office because she blatantly prefers the men .

Your blog is supposed to allow people to get to know you, what you write, and how you write. It lets them know who you are and how you think. It's not
supposed to be a substitute FOR your writing, but it you spend all your time blogging, it eats up your creativity so there's none left for that next Great American Novel! It's better to blog more slowly to get your message out, and have more people take the time to visit you, than to be a Sprinter with not a lot to say every day of the week. There's nothing wrong with being a Marathoner, and probably a great many things right about being one.

In fact, do you remember the late, great, pseudonyminous agent, Miss Snark? She always said that no matter how great the pressure was to "build a platform," a writer's job was to always put their writing first. "Your job is to write...Focus...Nothing replaces that." ( paraphrased from Anne R.Allen.)

Write every day. Blog once or twice a week. Be a Marathoner, not a Sprinter!

Until next time,
That's a wrap.