Tag Archives: WU Workshop

Adam J Johnson: Defeating Doubt: How to Stop Holding Back

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When you found a true passion for writing, did you know it would be so hard? You love the creativity, crafting a story, but the business end of it seems daunting? That’s because it can be! You put your heart into a story, it’s your baby, and then you present it to the world. It might get rejected by publishers and editors might tell you to change it. People might even say you will never make it as an author. How can they say all that when you put so much emotion, so much effort into it? All the negativity can build on us and eventually get us to question our own abilities—even possibly believing what they say. Sometimes, unfortunately, it causes some to give up. This is our familiar friend, doubt. Doubt will always be there. It stifles creativity and kills success. So, how do we get past it? How do we become successful in the face of such a vile enemy?

Doubt is a natural coping mechanism. When we create and step out of our comfort zone, it’s a risk. We disrupt the safe state of our lives then doubt steps in to tell us not to take a risk because we are already comfortable—safe. While it may keep us comfortable, it also keeps us stagnant. The first step to defeating doubt is to acknowledge when it happens. When you hear that voice pop up saying, “I’m not good enough,” or “I’ll never make it,” identify that as doubt holding you back to keep you comfortable. We don’t want to just be comfortable, do we? We want to step out of our comfort zone because that’s where our current situation ends and growth begins. Stepping out of your comfort zone and denying doubt is the first step on the pathway to success.

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Once you’ve acknowledged that nagging voice of self-doubt, you can begin to fight it and change your mindset. When it pops up, replace doubt with positive rhetoric. Tell yourself, “no, I can do this” or “yes, I am good enough!” Self-talk is a huge factor in your overall mindset and success. A lot of you may think mantras or self-affirmations are silly or a waste of time, but they truly do change the landscape of your mind. When trying new things, it usually takes around 30 days for something to become a habit and 90 days for it to become a lifestyle. The same is true for your self-talk and its direct correlation to your quality of life. When you repeat to yourself, “I’m unstoppable,” or “I can make my dreams come true,” or any positive message that you need in your life, it starts to become a part of you. If you repeat that for 30 days, how do you think you will feel? How about 60? How about 90? You will start to feel unstoppable, you will start to feel like you can grab your dreams and make them a reality. The same happens to us when we let doubt have a defining voice in our minds.

Think about it, how long have you had self-doubt? How long have you thought that you aren’t good enough or even that you don’t have enough time in the day? Chances are, it’s been more than 90 days, meaning that mindset has become a part of who you are. Doubt has become a guide in your life. This is nothing to be ashamed of. As previously stated, doubt is a mechanism to keep us safe and comfortable. We are only doing what will keep us safe. So don’t be ashamed of the doubt because it’s present in all of useven the Titans of our craft suffer from doubt. The main difference is, they have conquered doubt, stepped out of their comfort zone and made the necessary adjustments to walk the road of success. Stephen King even fell victim to doubt. When he was an aspiring author he faced rejection after rejection. It came to a point where he let his doubt win and threw his newly-completed manuscript in the trash saying, “it’s no use, it will just be rejected.” His wife had so much faith in him that she pulled that manuscript out of the trash and sent it in for him. The manuscript that his wife sent in brought his first publishing contract. It was for a story you may have heard ofit was called “Carrie.”

So again, do not let doubt beat you into submission. Keep fighting it and stepping out of your comfort zone until you are successful because the key to success lies in each of us. Sometimes we just need a little push from someone who believes in us. If you don’t have that support, you need to be your own support, because if it is truly your dream then nobody can bring it to life except you. There are three simple steps to follow when overcoming doubt and freeing yourself from holding back.

  1. Identify negative self-talk
  2. Replace it with positive motivation
  3. Take action toward your goal.

Don’t think I’m offering you a quick fix for your self-doubt because that will only breed frustration and even stronger doubt. The road to defeating self-doubt is not an easy one or a fast one. You must constantly remind yourself that you ARE capable, you ARE good enough, and you WILL accomplish your goals. When you feel that doubt, that is the perfect time to take action. When you feel like you aren’t good enough to write that story, that’s when you write that story. If you think you shouldn’t send out a manuscript because they won’t accept it, that’s when you send out that manuscript. When you get into that positive cycle of challenging negative self-talk, replace it with positive. By taking action against the doubt, you will find yourself becoming more productive. You will find yourself becoming more positive. You will find yourself becoming more successful and ultimately, you will find yourself being a happier version of yourself.

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Thank you all for spending this time with me and the rest of the Admin team from Writers Unite! We hope you Live Limitless and not only chase but live your dreams!

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Writers Unite! Tips on Writing: Story Foundation

Mystery Genre Workshop Part Four: Tips for Writing Mysteries

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The first three parts of the Mystery Genre Workshop covered plot, characters, and the importance of creating the story’s location. Let’s review a few tips you should keep in mind as you write.

Know Your Ending!  

This will help you focus as you write the story and not lose sight of your concept. You may take a detour or two along the way, but write to your ending.

Hook Your Reader!

Make that first line or paragraph attention-grabbing, intriguing. Open with an action scene, introducing either your sleuth or your villain.

Make Your Reader Empathetic!

The reader must identify and care about your hero and want the same goals the character does.

Plot Your Plan!

Carefully plan your story (outline or pantser—on paper or mentally). Knowing where to place strategic points and keep the action going is vital.

Pace, Pace, Pace!

Take your reader on an action-filled adventure, increasing the tension as the story builds to its final climax. You must also provide scenes with little action to provide a place for your reader to breathe. A great tool to build tension, pull it away, then create more tension increasingly until the story’s final climax.

 Perfect Characters!

Humans are not perfect in real life, do not create a perfect imaginary human. Give your character flaws, both physical and psychological. Keep them real, give them family issues, scars, phobias. We all have them!

 Plant Clues and Water Often!

As you plot your story, always remember you are engaging your reader in a puzzle to discover who committed the crime. Provide clues early, be subtle but truthful about the real clues, be matter-of-fact about certain things. Misdirect your readers’ attention with red herrings—false clues—but make certain they are plausible.

 Location, Location, Location!

Your setting, the world you build for your story should serve as another character to drive your plot. Whether a gritty, noir environment or a quaint, seaside village, use the location’s characteristics to frame your narrative.

Protagonist, Antagonist, and Minions!

The closer a character is to the realization of the Protagonist’s goal, the more developed they should be. Give them dialogue when appropriate, something that makes them unique—a hobby, an addiction, plays a sport on the weekend.

 Stay on Target!

Your goal is to take your Protagonist from desiring to achieving a goal. Keep the narrative focused on the target, and that is realizing their goal. Any extraneous scenes that creep in your writing need to be thrown out. The mystery and the clues to solve it are all you should be concerned about it.

 Have Fun!

As a mystery fan, diving into a “who done it” and trying to decipher the clues and guess the culprit is enjoyable. As a mystery writer, my pleasure is from writing those clues and hoping to stay ahead of the reader and shock them at the end.  How much fun is that? Enjoy the process and your reader will as well!

 (Also, don’t use exclamation points as I did here, no more than one per book.  They are fun though!)

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For Writers Who Love Worksheets: 

Some writers love worksheets for plotting, character development, and world building. I never do any of this, but in case you do, here are some representative worksheets for your use.

 

Plotting Your Story:

https://evernote.com/blog/12-creative-writing-templates/

 

Character Development:

https://thinkwritten.com/character-development-questions/

 

World Building:

https://nybookeditors.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/World-Building-Worksheet.pdf

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Mystery Genre Workshop Part Two: Mysterious Characters

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When someone mentions “mystery novel” what image comes to mind? The cloaked Sherlock Holmes, the wax mustache of Hercule Poirot, the trenchcoated Columbo, the clever Jessica Fletcher, Clarice Starling’s strength, the gritty Harry Bosch, or— any number of detectives that leap from the pages of our favorite mystery stories.

Why? Simple, the writers and screenwriters made them memorable.

As discussed in the previous article on plot, many writing “experts” debate whether a novel is plot driven or character driven. I believe both must be present. An excellent plot will not save a poorly written character, nor will an excellent character save a poorly written plot. Writers need both.

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Attributes of Mystery Characters

What makes a strong and identifiable protagonist in a mystery story?

The answer is the same components that create any good character. The reader must empathize with your main character’s goal and become vested in the same desire to achieve the goal. The protagonist needs to be multi-dimensional, and that complexity can be obtained by providing the reader with recognizable attributes. Creating a complex and compelling protagonist and applying these traits to secondary characters as well adds depth to the story.

Let’s first talk about characterization, a process that displays the character’s persona.

Developmental Strategies

General Characteristics

  • Physical Description: Convey to your reader only what you want them to see. Do not assign a grocery list of hair color, eye color, height, etc. but weave descriptions into the story. Allow your character to have a flaw—a scar, a crooked eyebrow, an old sports injury that flares up at times. Perfection is not realistic.
  • Personality: Is your character open to experience or resistant, conscientious or untrustworthy, an extrovert or introvert, agreeable or disagreeable, neurotic or even-keeled?
  • Interaction: How do they behave with others? Do they relate to people positively or negatively, or do they feel superior or indifferent? Do they have a sense of humor? Are they at times sarcastic? Are people comfortable in their presence?
  • Mannerisms: Do they gesture when they talk, twirl hair through their fingers? Do they tap a surface with their fingers or a pen? Give your character a quirk. Annoying or appealing, mannerisms add depth.
  • Environment/Culture: Your character’s living conditions reveal a great deal about them. Are they tidy or messy? What kind of car do they drive or food do they prefer? Does your character have a passion for the arts, or sports, or reading or are they committed to their job?
  • Communication: How your character speaks brings them to life. If they have an accent use it (do not overdo jargon) to add depth. Vary their speech pattern from the norm when they are nervous or happy. Include the character’s inner-thoughts to bring intimacy between the character and the reader.
  • Names: A character’s name can be very telling. It can provide insight into their background, profession, or where they come from. Choose names that will provide insight into who the character is. A judge would not likely be called Junior in the courtroom, a prostitute Elizabeth on the streets.

 Sleuth Specific Attributes

While these attributes are also vital to other genres, a detective—professional or amateur—often possesses these traits.

  • Intelligence, excellent deductive reasoning skills.
  • Experienced and knowledgeable, either as a law enforcement professional or in the case of an amateur sleuth a comprehensive knowledge of some component of the crime.
  • Are often loners, misunderstood, not comfortable in social situations, yet only the reader might be aware of this aspect. They often do not trust others.
  • May experience a physical or psychological challenge, an addiction or phobia.
  • Often have an experience in their past that either disrupted their personal life or impacted their career.
  • Has a foil to play off, someone who is their opposite but not necessarily their enemy such as a by the book superior.
  • Possesses a strong sense of justice but doesn’t always play by the rules to achieve their goals.
  • Willing to risk everything to solve the crime even if their reputation is at stake.

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When considering a list of traits such as this, it is evident that creating a compelling character is a complex but worthwhile task. Readers are drawn to a story by the plot, but they return to read an author’s other book or series of books because they identify with the characters within and empathize with their desires. The attributes discussed can be utilized by characters in any genre, and all do not need to be present in every character, but the more complicated—and human—you make your protagonist, the stronger the bond with the reader.

Characters, whether in a mystery story or other genre, should want something so badly that they will risk all to achieve it. They carry burdens of secrets from their past they don’t want to confront, but those secrets make them vulnerable. When you can create a character that becomes a reflection of the hopes and fears of your reader, then you have achieved your job as a writer.

 

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Make Us Cry (How to Write a Love Story We’ll Never Forget)

With our second anthology in the making, I decided it would be a good idea to take a moment to discuss what constitutes a powerful story in our eyes. There have been so many great submissions already. I can say with certainty that our Romance anthology will be a strong and worthy sequel to our Fantasy Anthology, Realm of Magic, releasing August 1st.

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But if you’re not familiar with romance stories, or you’re not sure how to write your story to be a memorable favorite of the judges, let me explain the things that are gripping us so far.

We want passion. It’s romance, after all, and we are expecting to feel . . . a lot. Many have made us cry so far, some through happiness, some through sadness. Some have made us sit on the edges of our seats while we worried if the characters would find their way back to each other. These stories are powerful, and we won’t forget them any time soon.

I can’t help but consider a quote from one of the most passionate love stories I know. large

When it comes to romance, this about covers it. Take us on an adventure. Up the intensity. Add danger. Make us care about the characters. Make us feel the love between them. Let that love consume us. Make us cry.

It could be the rich history between two lovers, the intense connection they share after only moments together, or the numerous obstacles between them, but something has to pull us in and make us want to find out what happens next.

It could be the final moments between a couple as one says goodbye to his terminally ill lover.

Make those last words epic.

Or the shock and relief that floods over the protagonist as her husband walks through the doors of their home, proving he wasn’t in the fatal accident, after all.

Make their reunion put all other reunions to shame. Nothing past this moment matters to your characters. And the same should go for us.

Pick a heart-wrenching scenario, and play it to the hilt. Upping the stakes in this genre can be a lot of fun, but it’s also a useful tool in pulling your readers in and making them feel the intensity of the moment. If you don’t feel it, chances are neither will we, and neither will your future readers.

Is your story a happier one between two characters just starting to fall in love? That’s great. Intensify those feelings between them until we’re convinced they’re soul mates. If the love is real, your story will also be real.

Awesome job to the authors who have made us laugh, cry, panic, or smile. We can’t wait to read more, and we are excited to see this second anthology come to fruition.

Questions about our WU! Anthology and how to submit? Comment below.


Jessica Victoria Fisette is the author of The Soul Reaper series, Fragments, and The Aldurian Chronicles. Her hobbies include discovering the benefits of natural medicine, wine tasting, and trying new recipes in the kitchen. She likes to unwind by typing out a scene or two in her latest obsession or indulging in a good book. Having been passionate about writing since she was a little girl, she is constantly coming up with new ideas for future stories and creating unique, strong-willed—albeit flawed—characters to overcome the difficult obstacles she places before them. Having spent all her life in rural Southeast Texas, she appreciates the tranquility of country living and hopes to implement such a love for nature into her beautiful, ever-so-curious little girl.

You can follow her by clicking the links below. 

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The Fantasy Genre: Characters

The Fantasy Genre

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Fantasy Characters

 

“just because a mage wears the black robes does not make him evil.” 
― Margaret Weis

 

Fantasy characters. The moment we begin to think about them I suspect images of characters from our favorite books, movies, or cartoons begin to rise from our memories. Could be a witch or wizard, a dragon or troll, a superhero or an evil stepmother that reminds us of our favorite story. The question is not which character we remember but why. What characteristics of a fantasy character makes them memorable?

Fantasy stories are rarely simple. They are an incredible tale of the impossible told on an epic scale. With such a grand story there must be characters that are equally majestic. They form the core of your story and the conduit to complete the quest.

Overall, our main characters, the protagonist, and antagonist regardless of genre are the hooks we use to draw our readers into our realm. If we don’t provide a character that a reader can identify with the reader loses interest. In a fantasy, while there may be several main characters, the focus will always be on the one character who faces the ultimate conflict. Secondary characters also hold a very important role in the story. In addition to providing support for the main character, they carry subplot arcs to drive the story to its conclusion.

The Protagonist

The most important character in any story is the protagonist. If your reader does not identify with the protagonist, the quality of the story and other characters won’t matter. It is imperative to capture your reader’s heart for them to become engaged.

The protagonist is the hero, and in fantasy as in other genres, this character should possess the strength of soul and determination. Their commitment to the story’s goal and how they deal with conflict and obstacles in their path drives the narrative. Your hero should be flawed, hold secrets, be at times uncertain and afraid. The more human and ordinary the character is the more endeared they become to the reader.

Fantasy adds another level to the protagonist’s abilities, magic. Decide how your character will reveal their powers or skills or react to magic if they do not have powers. Is this quest the hero’s destiny or was he drawn in by accident? Does your character have a dark side, something that must be quelled to complete their task?

This is fantasy. Allow the magical tone of your story to flow through your protagonist.

The Antagonist

Ah, the evil genius. But should your antagonist be entirely evil? The answer is no. It is easy to assign only vile characteristics to a villain. Resist the temptation. As you give your protagonist flaws, give your villain some qualities that your reader can identify with as well. Remember, the villain thinks his motivation is correct. By giving your villain a reason for his evil ways, you bring depth to his actions. Weaving the villain into the lives of the protagonist and his sidekicks also strengthens the power of the antagonist to create greater conflict.

Secondary Characters

There will be sidekicks. There must be sidekicks. They provide a support network and are needed to show the human and vulnerable side of your hero. These characters may not always be physically with the protagonist, but they are an integral part of the story. In fantasy, the variety of characters is boundless and the more imaginative, the more interest for your readers. Think Muggles and Hobbits and dragons and begin to create.

Among the secondary characters you will find the following:

Best Friend: A single secondary character who is a confidant, loyal to a fault, someone, who would give their life for the hero. To create a stronger bond between hero and best friend add depth by disagreement, estrangement, competitiveness, or humor. Placing the best friend in mortal danger often provides the catalyst for the hero to grow and face the conflicts ahead.

Mentor: A classic figure in fantasy, the mentor gives guidance and educates the hero as he follows his destiny. The mentor, who may have magical powers or wisdom, could be someone familiar or a stranger, the relationship strained or close. At some point in the story for the hero to prove they have grown and no longer need their mentor, there could be an emotional parting of the ways.

Romantic Interest: We all love a good romance, and the fantasy genre is no different. A love interest also humanizes the protagonist, adding another layer to the hero’s vulnerability. Often a romantic partner can serve to challenge the hero to remain committed to the quest despite whatever adversities are encountered. Do not make the romance larger than life or it will overshadow the ultimate quest, keep the relationship grounded and real.

 In truth, these characters minus a magic spell or two, are characters found in any genre. The differences are often in the minute details. Be inventive, allow some characters not to be traditional. Never lose sight of the world you have created and allow your characters to reveal the magic it holds to your readers.

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Resources:

https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/tag/fantasy-fiction

https://www.jkrowling.com/

https://www.tolkiensociety.org/

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Deborah Ratliff is a Southerner with saltwater in her veins and love of writing. A lifelong mystery fan, her first novel, Crescent City Lies will be published soon and a second novel, One of Those Days to follow. She has also written numerous articles on writing. Deborah serves as an administrator for the Facebook group, “Writer’s Unite!,” with 41,000 + members from around the world.

 

Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/D-A-Ratliff-594776510682937/notifications/

Blog; https://thecoastalquill.wordpress.com/