What Your Character Reads

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You’ll remember reading some great stories in which the character is reading or recommended a book to read to another.

Authors do not peel off the list carelessly, especially if it’s a single book, author, or scene. These are chosen carefully to reveal something specific about the character, to complicate the story, or to foreshadow what is to come.

There are numerous books which mention other books or authors; however, I’ll example Charity, a short story by Charles Baxter.

In one scene a drug dealer has Othello open to Act 3. It’s unclear if the dealer is actually reading – he’s sitting in a dimly lit bar, running his finger down the page; however, the main character offers, “the handkerchief. And Iago” to identify the scene and illuminate the foreshadowing.

The story of Othello, and more specifically the scene, involves Iago as the master of a manipulation using the handkerchief as evidence of a betrayal.

This is not by some accident that Baxter chose the story and the scene. He didn’t grab at something out of the blue because he needed the dealer to be reading at a bar. He chose to use a scene from another classic text to complicate and foreshadow what is to come. However, the question becomes how does it layer the story of Charity?

I won’t tell you, but I highly recommend reading the story.

In one story, I had a character reading a book by Betty White. The book is fictional, but I wanted the character to be seeking an idea of normalcy as far from herself as I could get.

Presently, I’m working on a novel. One of the characters is rather shallow and cares about the appearance of things more than anything else. Another character is describing the home and I needed a coffee table book to reflect the first. I felt he would choose a book which matched the decor, but also shows him as worldly. I chose National Geographic’s Stunning Photography. He’s never even cracked the spine, he just wanted something beautiful to match the blue of his curtains and make him look good to his guests. I may change it, but right now I think it works.

Give thought to the choices in your work, even if it’s a book sitting on a table, passing from one character or another, or in a window. It’ll layer your work, giving more depth to your characters and the story.

 

Your Journal is Important, Especially Now

journaling

Journaling allows us to process our daily lives. It helps us see patterns that we are taking part in physically and mentally, and most importantly it allows release.

 

Don’t hold back in journaling. These are your private thoughts and they need voicing and validation. No one ever needs to read them – or you can turn them into a creative efforts.  Some of my students have begun painting, writing, or even baking to express their creative outlets.

 

During this time, my writer friends and I are journaling to keep track of an important time in history. Maybe these will be records of human thoughts and feelings during a very difficult time in our society – much like The Diary of Anne Frank.

 

Some are doing dream journals as well.

 

In a few years, this will be forgotten, swept under the rug, or rebranded. Our society, our children, and our grandchildren’s grandchildren will need real life, first person examples of what was happening internally and externally.

 

I teach topics that deal with slavery, suffrage, native American relocation stories. We read first person accounts. These allow my students to understand critical happenings in our society not from our history books who are written by the victors or the historians recording political acts, but by the people who went through and dealt with racism, oppression, and death our history has reaped on individuals.

 

Journaling seems more important now than it ever has before.

 

It can be anything you want it to be, look like anything you want it to look like. Let it be private and burn it later. Or share it.

Strangers in My Homeland

Every morning, the teapot whistles as dawn breaks over the apricot tree.

I’m not a troglodyte by any means, but broken laid the the coffee pot in a pile on the porcelain.

I open the curtains, then my laptop and set to work. I gaze off. The cat jumps on the table. I’m in her space, in the roundabout of her alone time; she lies her body on my keyboard.

The dog barks and a shadow falls in the driveway. I stretch to see. The dog rages in a riotous rendition of woofs and whines. I unseat myself and lean to see the stranger.

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Perhaps an unknown neighbor walking his dog.

And five minutes later, the same.

Five minutes later, the same.

 

I’ve bragged I know my neighbors. I can name them all, along with their occupations, breed of dog, or children’s ages.

But who are these strangers sauntering across my sidewalk? From another street, another block? Newly homed workers, students, families.

We are sudden friends when I’m outside, a wave and polite hello, and how are you?

 

The neighborhood decided to put stuffed bears in windows for the children.

The neighborhood decided to go on sign hunts.

The neighborhood decided to share extra fruit from their trees, oranges, lemons, apricots.

 

What will happen after? When we all go back to work? Will the strangers now friends become estranged once again? Or will we then, having walked the tightrope together, come and gather, share, and wish each other well from less than six feet, without our masks and our gloves?

 

The Likability of Unlikable Characters

I wonder if the new fad to make unlikable characters because people like them a myth.

I like detective stories, mysteries, among the other things I read. But in the last six months, I think I’ve read far too many stories with these types of characters:

The bad guy who kills other bad guys. Hasn’t this become a cliche? Or have I stumbled upon a pile of similar motifs?

The good guy spends his nights in cheap motels with young prostitutes doing blow. But, you know, he has a heart of gold because he doesn’t actually sleep with the ho; he just talks to them. At one point, it seems, he’s up for three days strung out on coke and coffee and is still able to critically analyze a scene and glean more than the other officers.

My suspension of disbelief has been suspended.

Why am I reading this book?

It’s richly detailed – in parts. It had a good enough beginning to get me interested. Also, I like to finish a book.

But I’m at the point, now, that I’m considering abandoning it. Too many issues for me to keep reading.

The characters names are similar or the same to well known famous book-to-movie characters. It makes it hard for me to picture anyone else but Tom Hanks.

Writing is hard. Originality is challenging.

Some people believe there are only so many stories. They are just told in different ways. But they have to be told in fresh, believable, even likeable ways.

I will read some books with unlikeable characters. But I have to like someone!

Opinions welcomed, please.

 

 

 

 

 

Successful Writing

Okay, so not bragging, but….. I’ve been hard at work….

voices of eve

The Healer’s Daughter in The Ear

The Healer’s Daughter is a departure for me. It marks a turns in my writing that came about just this year. It’s more mystical. Risky, maybe. A woman’s daughter describes her mother’s gift and discovers she has her very own gift, but will she actually use it?

The Healer’s Daughter will be featured in my summer release of How to Throw a Psychic a Surprise Party. It’s a book of short stories, all of which have a special or surprising twist.

 

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Friends, Lovers, and Liars in Home Renovation

Originally titled Deception, it didn’t find a home. In fact, the topic of lies and cheating offended one editor. I think it may have hit too close to home.  It, too, will be released in the summer release of How to Throw a Psychic a Surprise Party.

 

 

 

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How to Throw a Psychic Surprise Party in The Electric Press Magazine

The title story for the book of short stories. Inspired by a show in which I saw a television host throw a “surprise” party for a psychic. It struck me – How do you throw a psychic a surprise party?

This story may answer that question. Maybe not. How much empathy can you muster?

 

 

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Hunger and other poems as well as some photography in Voices of Eve

 

Not in the book of short stories. But well worth the read. Hunger is one of my favorite poems.

 

 

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Also in the book of short stories –

The Crier: In a time when emotions are unheard of, people need a release.

The Mirror People: Ever wondered what’s inside the mirror? You know there’s something, right? Here’s a woman who collects them – she knows.

Bowie and the Basket Case: Anna’s things keep disappearing and reappearing. At first she thinks she’s misplaced them, but then she’s sure she hasn’t!

How to Throw a Psychic a Surprise Party is available for Pre-order!

 

 

Procrasti-writing

I’ve begun procrasti-writing.Play At Work. Low Angle Of Dreary Female Freelancer Using Paper

That’s where you write, check social media, write, check email, write, look at the book sitting next to you, write, take your dogs outside. Writers know what I’m talking about.

I’m usually pretty good about sitting my butt in the chair and staring at a blank screen until the power to make words appear overcomes me.

procr1Writing is somewhere between a mystical experience and an un-tameable superpower.

Not really – it’s just hard work.

Maybe it’s the holidays, or the construction, or the baby-waiting game, but I am fighting inner-distraction at all angles.

I’ve also searched for church conversions on google. Don’t ask me why – it’s procrasti-writing. And Google is there allowing me to search anything my heart desires.

Remember the good old days, no internet, television turned to white noise at 2am, had to walk ten miles in the snow, uphill, both ways, then read books for actual research? And now, we sit at home, go no where, search google and amazon for random distractions, while not writing.

Ways to overcome procrasti-writing?

Use yoga techniques: When your attention procstrays, acknowledge it (close your browser), and come back to your breathing (which for a writer is writing).

Acknowledging that this Wednesday Writer Blog is a Thursday Procrasti-writing distraction, I leave you now to go back to my book.

Much love, readers and writers.

And Namaste.

 

 

Interviewed by Anda Stan….

Interview-Time-Guest-Author-Noreen-Lace-1280x480Hi, all.  I wanted to give you the link for the interview:  Check out AndaStan.com for almost the whole truth, a few little secrets, and some tips.

 

laughtIt was a very thorough interview – she poked me with a stick until I gave it all up!

 

 

 

 

 

Enjoy!

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Word Problems – a poem by Noreen Lace

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Word Problems

 

I hate when men write

soft poetry about their ex’s.

It’s easier to read the hate

than to let your mind wonder

“what went wrong?”

 

It’s easier to hear, I don’t love

you anymore,

than to hear I love you, but…

and the thousand buts

that say you just didn’t add up.

 

I mean she…

back to the poet with the soft poetry

and the lost wife.

He writes it, not to her,

but for himself,

to remind himself

of what he let go,

the additions he didn’t add in

when he was subtracting

all she didn’t have.

 

All the things he didn’t have

all the while he’s telling himself

he was right

to let her go

when he did

because things would have gotten worse

had they not parted before the math was done.

At least this way he can ruminate,

look back fondly and say,

 

we parted as friends,

Meaning,

I departed quietly to search for something more,

 

she just got hurt.

 

*originally published in the Northridge Review 2002.

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This was written long ago, while I was finishing graduate school. I think it’s still so relatable. One person is always ready to go before the other. One person walks away, the other crawls.  (But don’t worry – the one who crawls gets up, becomes stronger, and thrives!)

Much love, readers.

 

 

Writer Wednesday: Can the Can’t!

cantI don’t like the word “can’t.”

I don’t like people telling me I can’t do something. I’ve experienced some person  or another throughout my whole life telling me I can’t do this or I can’t do that. For too many years, I believed them.

Now, it just annoys me.

I made a goal to write six short stories in a month. Someone, another writer, said, “You can’t do that.” Their point: writing must organically develop from inspiration, forcing it unnaturally would create work which was unpublishable.

Three of those six stories have already been published. Can’t? HA!cant2

I spend time on photography, just because I like it. Unasked, another person inserted their opinion: “You can’t do that!” They had the idea that a person can only be good at one creative pursuit and I shouldn’t waste my time on another. I took up photography for the pure joy of capturing visual beauty, but I’ve had a number of photographs published now too!

Why are people so wrapped up in “can’t”?

Some people judge themselves based on how they know you. When you change or move forward or do something they never thought you would or could, it changes how they see you and, therefore, how they see themselves.

cant1Others have limited views of what they can accomplish and, therefore, what anyone can accomplish, so they believe their guiding you away from an upcoming failure.

Whatever their reasons, never let anyone keep you from spreading your wings, doing what you want, need, must do to achieve what you want.

Writers must be brave. Depart from the naysayers and live your fullest life. Travel. Love. Experience. Write. Try something new.

Do not listen to the “can’t”!

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Writer Wednesday: Bored? Good!

boredom2Chatting with my students, I reminded them I didn’t have google nor a cell phone and, if I needed to look up information, I had to walk to the library and figure out the card catalogue. (Of course, I added the obligatory “walk ten miles in the snow up hill both ways”).

One said, “Wow, you must have been so bored.”

I smiled a moment, thinking back. “Actually, I wasn’t.”

While I’m sure there were times I spent an afternoon whining about boredom, we learned to do things to entertain ourselves. And, well, mostly mine was writing.

I don’t think I’d be a writer today if I had a cell phone, a computer, and google. Play At Work. Low Angle Of Dreary Female Freelancer Using PaperI think I would be, like many people today, too distracted to focus on creating other worlds and investigating the motivations of people/characters.

I worry my students are too distracted to become the best people they can be or do the best work they can do.

I’m not a troglodyte by any means; however, will we ever be as productive as we can be if we don’t learn to look too quickly for outside entertainment instead of within ourselves to be creative?

boredomI guess I’m saying, boredom can be good for you. Daydreaming, thinking, and spending an afternoon lounging without distraction can be helpful to a writer. We need to allow our minds wander sometimes, see where they go; keep your mind from distraction, turn off the tele, the cell, the computer, and be inhibited by the lack – your mind will rebel and it will begin to create.