Sunday, April 28, 2024

Character Study: List of Grievances

Families and parents aren’t perfect, but you can use that information to strengthen your characters and make them more three dimensional. Write what you know.

Below is your character’s list of grievances.

Growing up in your family, what did you hate as a kid /teenager? Like?

What was a special memory of your childhood? A painful memory?

What made you angry?

Were you the favorite child?

Did you feel you were ignored by your parent(s)?

Who was your favorite parent and why?

Were your parent(s) unfair? In what way?

Did one parent spend more time with you or your sibling? How did that make you feel?

Did you have to help with chores or babysitting while your sibling could come and go with few restrictions?

Did you like your sibling(s)? If not, why?

Were you jealous of a sibling? Why?

Was a sibling jealous of you? Why?

Was your family the one who always had your friends over for dinner or sleepovers? If not, why?

My list may be depressing or even upsetting as you recall painful memories of your childhood, but the goal is to make you think about your characters, give them depth, give them a family problem or an emotional problem. What’s their backstory? Why do your characters do what they do?

Monday, March 25, 2024

Learn How to Stop Procrastinating

While trying to come up with an idea for this month's blog post, I was stumped. Roots dug deep into nothing. No fertile soil, only clay. I thought something exciting or noteworthy must have happened to me within the last few weeks that I could turn into a blog post. 

I spent time working on my novel in progress, but that's not different or interesting. I spent time with family and friends, shared meals with them and received unexpected compliments, but those events were not blog worthy, either.

Then I thought about all the stuff that I was ignoring. Cleaning, yard work, submitting pb manuscripts, updating pictures on our conference website, getting Christmas photos printed (to be framed and displayed), cleaning out my emails and texts just to name a few of the things that should get done. But I did not want to do any of those things. So I did what any writer would do, I picked up a book and headed for the couch.


That's when the idea came to me. My post should be about procrastinating. Why am I procrastinating? 

The article below explains why we procrastinate and ways to to stop procrastinating written by Dr. Itamar Shatz


Why People Procrastinate: The Psychology and Causes of Procrastination

What are you putting off for another day?


Tuesday, February 27, 2024

Remember Your Character's Love Language

Whether your relationship is a friendship or a long term commitment, identifying your partner’s love language will galvanize those bonds. In your writing, it will make your characters more 3 dimensional, more relatable.

Besides identifying your character's wants and needs, their goals and obstacles and their hates and loves, remember to think about their love language.

Affirmation. Simply stated, this is giving recognition. It may seem silly to thank an adult for picking up his own socks or putting his own dish in the dishwasher, but giving praise or recognition says his actions are appreciated.

Service. What have you done for me lately? Talk is cheap. If this is your character’s love language, they don’t want thank yous; they want deeds. Helping to bring in the groceries or fold the laundry means more to them than saying you love them. Show them.

Gifts. If this is their love language, they want to receive gifts, cards, flowers. Giving them something tangible says to them you care about them and you love them.

Quality time. Spend time with your significant other, but that doesn’t mean being in the same room, but doing different things. It means actively listening, eye contact and giving them your undivided attention. Put down the phone or remote and really listen to them. Hear what they are saying.

Physical touch. Touch can be anything from hand holding to more intimacy. Physical toughing is therapeutic. It lowers our blood pressure, reduces our stress hormones and releases dopamine and serotonin (the feel good hormones) and oxytocin (the bonding hormones). Physical touching tells our partners they are important and fosters feeling of safety and security.

What is your character’s love language?

Tuesday, January 23, 2024

Hook the Reader With Your First Line

The hardest part of writing a novel, or any piece of writing, may be the opening line. The first line must catch the editor's or the agent's attention. Once a book is published, it must compete with every other book in the store.

Who hasn't stood in front of a bookshelf, selected a book in a non-scientific manner (based on its title, jacket cover or even color), perused the back cover or the first few lines of the first page and rejected it?  For whatever reason, the book didn't resonate with you or pique your interest enough to make you parade to the register with said book in hand.


As writers, we’ve all stared at the blank page. Sometimes becoming painfully paralyzed by the importance of the first line, we developed writer’s block. A debilitating illness affecting writers by rendering them unable to construct sentences. (Throws salt over shoulder)


Let me ease your suffering. The rescue medicine is Seven Ways to Create a Killer Opening  by writer and Writer's Digest contributor Jacob M. Appel. He lists seven different ways to start your story or novel. Using one of his techniques might help your manuscript get out of the slush pile and into the hands of an editor or agent. And ultimately, one of the envied positions on a bookshelf near you. Good luck!


Monday, November 27, 2023

CWHV November 2023 First Pages

We were thrilled to have Sean McCarthy, agent and owner of the Sean McCarthy Literary Agency: Meredith Mundy, Editorial Director of Abrams Appleseed and the Abrams Preschool Program; and Beth Terrill, Editor, NorthSouth Books give their professional advice on our CWHV First Pages Conference.

Comments ranged from nice alliteration, liked the use of onomatopoeia, too many shifts in perspective, voice feels didactic and many comments on rhyme and character. There were also comments about conflict, narrative action, transitions, wrong format for age and /or subject, concept and 100 more opinions.

We broke for a delicious Panera lunch.

After the First Pages were concluded, Sean ran a workshop on pacing. Below are the topics: Pacing, Meet the Characters, Anticipation and Escalation of Conflict, Character Driven Action, Crisis and Resolution, Lasting Memory and Transformation. Sean discussed all of these in more detail.

We closed out the afternoon with a Faculty Q &A with Sean, Meredith, and Beth.

We want to thank our attendees for their continued support of the Children’s Writers of the Hudson Valley and for our faculty, Sean McCarthy, Meredith Mundy, and Beth Terrill for spending the day teaching us how to make our first page stronger, clearer and more inviting. Last but no least, we want to thank our hard working committee members for another successful conference.


Friday, October 27, 2023

Elements of a Successful Picture Book Defined

Even though picture books don’t have a lot of words, and the structure may seem simple, it surprisingly is not. There’s a lot more structure to a picture book than it appears. A successful picture book where the character has a problem should have these key elements or beats: a defined problem that the character has to solve, the rule of three tries and fails, character and emotional growth, a surprising and satisfying ending.

Using examples from a sample writing, Tracy’s post explains these beats in more detail.

Below is the link to a post written by Tracy Marchini, agent and author, on picture book structure.

Note: Not all picture books are character driven problem books, some are lists, or mood books, or inspirational, or humorous while others are concept books.

Monday, September 25, 2023

Workshops for Tugging on Your Reader's Heartstrings

Having characters pull on your heartstrings make them more relatable, more dimensional. When you’re revising and you’ve checked off all the boxes on your manuscript, plot, pacing, dialogue, setting, conflict, character, etc., and you’ve done this many times, but you still feel there is something missing. The answer could be there is no emotional arc or strong emotions for the reader triggered by any character.

Who do you want the reader to love or hate? Is there a character you want the reader to root for or feel sympathy for?

If you’re stumped on how to draw out the reader’s emotions and you’ve read more books on craft, maybe it’s time to splurge on targeted writing workshops. There are tons of workshops and conferences, many are promoted on social media or do a google search.

Once you’ve decided on a conference or workshops, check the workshop’s schedule to see how many workshops are being offered that day, are they mostly question and answer panels, lecture format, are there hands-on writing exercises, is there too much free time, etc.

Highlights Foundation is reputable and offers dozens of different workshops. The subject choices are many, prices affordable, lodging and food are included. Workshops can be in person, virtual or on-demand. I highly recommend them and have attended many.


The link below is for an on-demand course on writing for the emotional impact.


This link is for an article on the three basic emotions and how to create them in your characters.