Monday, May 31, 2010

I Love You but...

No matter the genre, no matter the medium, every writer loves their characters. I understand that. However, for there to be a story, a writer must give their little darlings challenges to overcome. I saw a movie this weekend which was ultimately unsatisfactory because, in my opinion, the writer failed to do this.

Now, this writer had some hurdles to overcome. The characters he is writing have become iconic, which would be limiting in its own way. (An issue I'd be thrilled to tackle, by the way.) But his biggest problem (I believe) is that each character had already been given their 'happily ever after'. Everyone was happy. How do you mess with that - remembering that these characters are beloved world-wide?

This movie is a comedy, which means you know everything is going to turn out fine. But before that ending, let's get a little messy. Let's take away something that one of the characters has always taken for granted and see how they deal with it. Let's have a character make a potentially disastrous choice. Let's throw a few bumps in the road. There were moments when some characters dipped their toes into the puddle of trouble, but they quickly removed their toes before trouble occurred. The result? Dullness, disguised by really good shoes.

The movie served as a good reminder that even though I love my characters, I have to throw them under a bus. I have to let them face their fears. Maybe they overcome them, maybe they don't - but at least they grow.

The end is called the end because the characters have finished that stage of their journey. They're in a different place than they were at the beginning. Give me a happily ever after, but let me have a few minutes of worrying whether I'm going to get there or not.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Fun Friday

These hilarious rules were sent to me a few days ago. All of us who live with cats will understand. Have a great weekend.



Always accompany guests to the bathroom. It is not necessary to do anything. Just sit and stare.

Do not allow any closed doors in any room. To get door open, stand on hind legs and hammer with forepaws. Once door is opened, it is not necessary to use it. After you have ordered an "outside" door opened, stand halfway in and out and think about several things. This is particularly important during very cold weather, rain, snow, or mosquito season.

If you have to throw up, get to a chair or bed quickly. If you cannot manage in time, get to an Oriental rug. If there is no Oriental rug, any quality carpeting is good. When throwing up on the carpet, make sure you back up so it is as long as a human's bare foot.

As often as possible, dart quickly and as close as possible in front of the human, especially on stairs, when they have something in their arms, in the dark, and when they first get up in the morning. This will help their coordination skills.

Always sleep on the human at night so he/she doesn't move around too much.

When using the litter box, be sure to kick as much litter out of the box as possible. Humans love the feel of kitty litter between their toes.

Every now and then, hide in a place where the humans cannot find you. Do not come out for three to four hours under any circumstances. This will cause the humans to panic (which they love) thinking that you have run away or are lost. Once you do come out, the humans will cover you with love and kisses and you will probably get a treat.

Whenever possible, get close to a human, especially their face, then turn around, and present your butt to them. Humans love this, so do it often. And don't forget guests.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

10 Writing Mysteries

10. Why do the snappiest snippets of dialogue always pop into my head as I'm dropping off to sleep? I've tried keeping the trusty pad of paper next to the bed. The dialogue dissolves as the first bit of ink sinks into the paper.

9. Why isn't my writing as polished on the page as it is in my head? Obviously, I have a leak between my brain and my fingers. Drastic measures may be necessary.

8. Why didn't I include a lovable monster in my plot? No, I'm not writing a fantasy. What's your point?

7. Why can't my self-editor ever go on holiday? I'll pay. Seriously.

6. Why is it when I have hours in which to write the writing refuses to come, but when I'm busy doing something else, I'm writing constantly in my head? Do these pieces get written down? See question #10.

5. Why hasn't someone invented the 'instant book' pill? Take this pill with the beverage of your choice (hint: wine is always good). Type.

4. Why isn't there a National Writing Day? Note: This is not a day for writing, but a day where writers are taken out for lunch and worshiped generally. A little worship never hurt anyone. Maybe a small statue.

3. When I tell people that I write mysteries, why is their usual reaction to widen their eyes, do a head tilt and make that high-pitched 'really?' sound? It's FICTION, people. I'm not going to pull out a gun or thrust poison down your throat. At least, not here.

2. Why do good-writing days only last for a day? What about the good-writing week? Or month? Note: If you enjoy this type of week or month, it's safest not to share this information. See question #3.

1. Why, even though I have all these questions, do I continue to write? Accept it and move on.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Writing Mysteries

It all starts with this...

and this...

Who could look like this...

The road they travel never looks like this...

But more like this...

The method of murder might be this...

Or this...

But your detective is not usually lucky enough to encounter this...

But there is always plenty of this...

Some clues will lead to this...

So they keep traveling along this...

And eventually they will have this...

Which will be backed up by this...

They'll know their solution is this...

So they get out this (real or symbolic)

And capture their this...

who might just look like this...

All the plots look like this...

Which will bring us to this...

But you know around the corner, there will be this...

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

10 Signs You're Almost Finished

10. You can't remember the actual number of drafts you've written.

9. You question the placement of every event.

8. Although you're still in love with your main character, you're ready for a break.

7. Your writing seems tight one day and sloppy the next.

6. You're convinced this is the worst thing you've ever written.

5. You're hopeful this is the best thing you've ever written.

4. You're sure you've tied up all your plot lines, but you know in your heart there's one still out there...dangling.

3. You're on a first name relationship with your thesaurus. (Roget, my dear, come here!)

2. You're amazed by the conflicting urges to, on the one hand, cherish your manuscript, but on the other, to throw it up against a wall.

1. The next book has evolved from being a small whisper in the back of your brain to a screaming banshee in the front.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Victoria Day

The third monday in May is known as Victoria Day - and is a holiday here in Canada. To celebrate this long weekend which has become the unofficial start of summer, here's a trivia challenge about this long-lived queen.

1. What were Queen Victoria's given names?
Victoria Alexandra
Alexandrina Victoria
Victoria Charlotte Augusta
Georgia Charlotte Augusta Alexndrina Victoria

2. Who were Queen Victoria's half brother and sister?

Mary and Edward
Victor and Augusta
Alexander and Elizabeth
Charles and Feodora

3. Until the age of three, what language did Queen Victoria speak?


4. Why was Queen Victoria never left alone when she was a child?

Her mother feared that Victoria's uncles would try to kill her in order to become king.
She was afraid of being alone.
Her mother was extremely overprotective.
She was afraid to have her mother out of her sight.

5. Who was Victoria's first prime minister?
Lord Melbourne
Tony Blair
Winston Churchill
Lord John Russell

6. Who did Queen Victoria want to put her into her coffin?

Her sons.
Members of her family.
Her previous, still-living Prime Ministers
Her men-at-arms.

7. After Prince Albert died, what did Queen Victoria wear for the rest of her life?


8. Queen Victoria had nine children and they all married into royal families which gave Britain ties to almost every European nation. This caused Victoria to be known as:

The Grandmother of Europe
The Queen who Reigned for 63 Years
The Godmother of Europe
The Iron Lady

9. What reigning monarch is Queen Victoria's great- great granddaughter?

Queen Mary
Princess Anne, the Princess Royal
Elizabeth II
Princess Diana

10. What previous monarch did Queen Victoria find extremely vain?

Queen Mary I
Queen Elizabeth I
Queen Mary II
Queen Anne


1. Alexandrina Victoria

Georgiana Charlotte Augusta Alexandrina Victoria was the name first proposed for Queen Victoria but the Prince Regent who would later be George IV refused to allow his name, George, or his daughter's name, Charlotte Augusta, to be used as a name for the young princess. Victoria was named Alexandrina after the Russian Czar, Alexander I. Queen Victoria's mother wanted Victoria to come before Alexandrina but the Prince Regent said that no name would come before that of the Russian Czar. After a long debate the Prince Regent told the priest who was baptizing Queen Victoria that the baby's name would be Alexandrina Victoria. Queen Victoria's mother thought it an insult that the princess should only have two names. As a child Queen Victoria was called Drina.

2. Charles and Feodora

Charles and Feodora were Victoria's mother's, Princess Victoire of Saxe-Coburg's, children from her first marriage to Prince Emich Charles of Leiningen.

3. German

Princess Victoire did not like any of Queen Victoria's uncles and preferred to keep Victoria away from them. Victoria spoke German until she was three years old when her uncle the future King Leopold of Belgium told Princess Victoire that if Victoria was to become England's Queen she would need to speak English and be English. He said that Victoria could not show any signs of being anything but English, or the English people would not accept her.

4. Her mother feared that Victoria's uncles would try to kill her in order to become king

Princess Victoire was afraid that any of Queen Victoria's uncles would kill Victoria just so they could be King when George IV died. If Princess Victoire could not be with Victoria she had one of her maids of honor stay with Victoria.

5. Lord Melbourne

Victoria's first prime minister was Lord Melbourne. They became close friends and he helped her learn her role as queen. Because of her loyalty to Melbourne, the queen supported his party, the Whigs, early in her reign. Later her husband, Prince Albert, persuaded her that the monarch should not favor any particular party.

6. Her sons

Queen Victoria left elaborate instructions for her funeral. Among these were that her own sons would lift her into her coffin. This was done when she died.

7. black

Victoria mourned for Albert the rest of her life. She wore black every day and had his rooms kept exactly as they would have been if he had still been alive. Victoria even had hot water brought to his dressing room each morning for shaving.

8. The Grandmother of Europe

Because it was Victoria's children that linked almost all of Europes royal families together, Victoria became known as the Grandmother of Europe.

9. Elizabeth II

Elizabeth is the daughter of George VI who was Queen Victoria's great-grandson. George VI was the son of George V who was Victoria's grandson. George V was the son of Edward VII who was Victoria's son.

10. Elizabeth I

Queen Victoria had dolls of all of the previous reigning monarchs. Upon being told that after Elizabeth I's death 2,000 dresses had been found, Queen Victoria threw down the doll of Elizabeth I and tore up the doll's skirt. Queen Victoria remarked that she no longer liked Queen Elizabeth because she must have been extremely vain to have owned 2,000 dresses.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Fun Friday

Here's a list of actual English subtitles used in films made in Hong Kong.
  • I am damn unsatisfied to be killed in this way.
  • Fatty, you with your thick face have hurt my instep.
  • Gun wounds again?
  • Same old rules: no eyes, no groin.
  • A normal person wouldn't steal pituitaries.
  • Damn, I'll burn you into a BBQ chicken!
  • Take my advice, or I'll spank you without pants.
  • Who gave you the nerve to get killed here?
  • Quiet or I'll blow your throat up.
  • You always use violence. I should've ordered glutinous rice chicken.
  • I'll fire aimlessly if you don't come out!
  • You daring lousy guy.
  • Beat him out of recognizable shape!
  • I got knife scars more than the number of your leg's hair!
  • Beware! Your bones are going to be disconnected.
  • The bullets inside are very hot. Why do I feel so cold?
  • How can you use my intestines as a gift?
  • This will be of fine service for you, you bag of the scum. I am sure you will not mind that I remove your manhoods and leave them out on the dessert floor for your aunts to eat.
  • Yah-hah, evil spider woman! I have captured you by the short rabbits and can now deliver you violently to your gynecologist for a thorough extermination.
  • Greetings, large black person. Let us not forget to form a team up together and go into the country to inflict the pain of our karate feets on some ass of the giant lizard person.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

The Useful Dragon

There was a blog post a short while ago warning writers "Don't Fill Your Plot Holes with Dragons". (if someone finds the link, let me know and I'll add it). The writer made excellent points about realistic and unrealistic ways to deal with plot holes.

Just for fun, though, think of the advantages of using dragons.

Your character needs to be in a different location. Don't worry about climbing into a car or taking a train. Call a dragon.

Your main character is in danger with no way out. After cursing at yourself for writing yourself into a corner, remember your friendly dragon. Let him appear and scare the skin off of whatever is imperiling your character.

It's a cold night and your character is freezing. Hello, dragon! A bit of fire, if you please. Problem solved.

Your character has a deep secret, which you alluded to many times, but never actually figured out what it is. Solution? He has a pet dragon.

The dialogue drags. Talk about the dragon.

You discover your main character is, in fact, rather hum-drum. No one with a dragon is hum-drum.

Your main character needs a sidekick. How cool would a dragon sidekick be?

Your plot needs more conflict. The dragon can turn nasty.

Best of all?

Your main character is stuck in a deep hole. Oh, dragon??

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Being a Writer

So, you want to be a writer...

and (let's be honest) you'd like to be the author of this...


It's not this...
Or this...

It's not even this...

It's this...

But after a great deal of this...

And a touch of this...

You will end up with this...

Which will become this...

Or even this...

You must trust, someday, you will end up with this...

Or even this...

And who knows? Maybe you are the next...

Why not?

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

A Conversation

Writer: It's raining.

Conscience: And your point is...?

Writer: I don't feel like writing.

Conscience: And this should be important because...?

Writer: It won't be any good.

Conscience: You don't know that. You've just got to hunker down and do this little thing.

Writer: But...

Conscience: But what? What's your excuse now?

Writer: (looking annoyed) Excuse me?

Conscience: See, that's clever. Write it down.

Writer: I didn't mean to be clever. It just came out that way.

Conscience: Even better. Now get writing.

Writer: But I should be...

Conscience: Stop. Let me guess. Doing the laundry. Baking. Cleaning the house. Clearing out the filing cabinet. Repainting the...

Writer: Okay, okay I get your point.

Conscience: Another clever remark. Are you writing this down? You'll forget.

Writer: It's just...the book.

Conscience: Which book? You could be talking about many things here. Yours? Someone else's?

Writer: The book I'm reading. It's so well done. The plot, the characters, the twists... I'll never write like that.

Conscience: No. You write like you. Accept it. Build a bridge and get over it.

Writer: Easy for you to say.

Conscience: (smiles)

Writer: Stop smiling. You're not the one trying to feel their way to the end. You're not the one rewriting chapters. You're not the one moving things around. You're not the one tearing their hair out because it's just not good enough.

Conscience: How do you know it's not good enough? You don't. Get it out there and see what others think. You might be pleasantly surprised.

Writer: Or not.

Conscience: (shrugs) Or not. You don't know. Are you a writer?


Conscience: Then...write. Call me when you get out the chocolate.

Writer: Why?

Conscience: No one can be good all the time.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Filling in the Background

No story exists in a vacuum. Unless you're writing about the adventures of a gaggle of newborns, all your characters had lives before this particular plot happened. They had loves and disappointments, successes and failures. Each of them has a past. When and how do you let your reader know their stories?

Firstly, you have to know their pasts. Each writer does it their own way; some fill out questionnaires, some write mini-biographies, some just let it fly and let the character reveal themselves as the writing progresses. I seem to fall in between the latter two, I do know a fair bit about each of my characters, but as I write there are always surprises.

Secondly, how do you fit this backstory in? No one in real life will shake your hand and then proceed to tell you their life story, unless copious amounts of alcohol are involved. You learn about people over time or when certain instances occur. The smell of cookies may remind someone of their grandmother baking every Wednesday morning - or it could remind them of the scorched aroma that emanated from the oven every time their Dad tried to bake. Maybe these memories have affected their behaviour - one could have guilt that they don't bake, while another could have a fear of hot ovens. Who knows? But that cookie smell just opened the door a little wider and your reader just learned something new about your character.

There were days in your characters' lives before "Once upon a time." Give yourself time to fill in the blanks. What were their hopes? What made them happy? If they're in an unhappy relationship, there must have been a time when it was happy. What is their normal routine before you throw the events of your plot at them? And, bless their hearts, how do they react to life-shaking change? I would imagine discovering a dead body would give most people pause. So would discovering your significant other has been 'significant' with someone else.

I try to remember that no one changes overnight. It takes time. In real life, 'aha' moments are few. I try to write situations where my characters can reveal their backstories a smidgen at a time. Even best friends keep secrets from one another - and, as I've discovered, so do characters from their author.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Fun Friday

A small lesson on the importance of punctuation. As a group on Facebook says: "Let's eat Grandma" or "Let's eat, Grandma": Punctuation Saves Lives."

Punctuation Parable

Dear John,

I want a man who knows what love is all about. You are generous, kind, thoughtful. People who are not like you admit to being useless and inferior.
You have ruined me for other men. I yearn for you. I have no feelings whatsoever when we're apart. I can be forever happy - will you let me be yours?


Dear John,

I want a man who knows what love is. All about you are generous, kind, thoughtful people, who are not like you. Admit to being useless and inferior.
You have ruined me. For other men, I yearn. For you, I have no feelings whatsoever. When we're apart, I can be forever happy. Will you let me be?



Thursday, May 13, 2010

The Refrigerator

There is one in every house. Sometimes, there are two. Some are small, some are large. Some have drawers and some have orifices that spew ice and water.

The refrigerator. You were told it's a place to keep food fresh. They lied. It's a place where food goes to die.

You fill it every week with milk, cheese, salad ingredients and tubs of yogurt. There are jars of pickles and jam. But death lurks.

In the back.

If anything makes it to the back of the fridge, consider it useful as a lethal weapon. I had a jar of pickles (with one pickle floating ominously in the murky liquid) that stayed in the back for months. Literally, months. It may have been longer, but I refuse to say. When I finally got rid of it, I'd swear it winked at me.

Then there are the mysterious containers; those opaque food-savers you bought thinking they'd be so useful. What evil creature lurks within? Beware. It is possible when you lift off the lid that slimy green hands will reach out and pull it back on. I tend to stay away from containers I can't see into. My logic is if I'm going to conduct scientific experiments, I may as well see what's going on.

Writers have refrigerators unique to them - it may be a desk drawer, or in your document list, or in a file cabinet, but it's that place where you've stashed that project that you'll get to later, or the one you got frustrated with.

At the bottom. You have to bend down (literally or figuratively) to get at it. Food makes you reach back, writing makes you reach down. Significant? Symbolic? Perhaps.

Gather your courage and reach down. Take it out. Open the lid. Yes, it might truly be a disaster - but you just might have invented penicillin.

You'll never know if you don't lift off that lid.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

First, an Idea...

It all starts with an idea...

Or maybe, you've got lots of ideas...

It might have started with this...

Or this...

But if you write mysteries (like me), it probably started with this...

It might take place somewhere like here...

Or here...

Or even here...

But that little idea has grown into this.

So you write and you write and you write...

Somedays you'll end up with this...
And some days you'll feel like this...

But sooner or later, this...
Will have turned into this.

And then you get this...