Tag Archives: WeSeWriMo

A year of blogging: what did I learn about me, ME/CFS, and writing?

Happy 1-year anniversary to me…

A whole year has somehow gone by since I started this blog in a fit of bravado: do it, or forever hold your peace.

My first post is still true: the only thing I truly fear is being irrelevant. Only time will tell on that one, and finishing Pride’s Children and putting it up for sale.


I have a goal of finishing Volume I this year, and the other two by publication date next year (September). Goals are fuzzy little things, elusive hiders-under-the-sofa. Continue reading

Writing a scene spine for an emotional journey using cognitive behavior therapy principles

Readers look for patterns – writers have to provide them. If I give you a list of action, dialogue, thoughts of the pov character, and emotions, my job isn’t half-way done: and you will understandably say it makes no sense.

Somewhere in the course of polishing each scene, I come to the place where the spine for THIS scene, the framework or structure that will create/add/strengthen the pattern for the reader, needs to go from implicit to explicit FOR THE WRITER. For ME.

I’ve talked about such spines: dialogue, chronology, and action all serve as anchors for the writing, a way to provide unity for the mass of contents of all kind that I have decided needs to go in there somewhere. An emotional journey is the spine I need for the scene I’m writing Continue reading

Action anchors: one writer’s way around the dreaded infodump

The Writing Problem Defined: Backstory and Infodumps

I’m revising (okay, completely re-drafting) a scene (12.1) that started with Kary driving down the road, and then backtracked to all the things she’s done for two days (ie, into backstory). The scene crashed.

It started as a short thought about what had just happened. But then, because it had been a while since the character had had a scene in her pov, the backstory got longer and longer – all of it necessary, because this is also the last scene where some of this backstory can go before it is needed in the story.

And by the time it was all in, I had the dreaded infodump: a two-page block of musings and internal monologue that read like a summary of the past month’s soap opera. Eek! Continue reading

Freedom to write means responsibility

I realized a week ago that I am just as weak – and as strong – as I have been for a long time. Getting a bit more energy to function because of a fortuitous connection to an experiment with vitamin B1 (thiamine), the effort I’m making to walk properly again (to be blogged about eventually), doing a lot more posts during Web Serial Writing Month, and various interruptions from Life have been masking a fact I didn’t want to face: writing is hard work.

Me writing fiction is a delicate thing, easily destroyed, because I have CFS and because writing must have the best me I can manage, which means doing just about everything right: sleep, eating, exercise – and creating a routine which works for me and includes blocking the Internet until I’ve written as much as I can that day.

BTW – today is August 32, 2013.* Continue reading

Incrementalism: the art of fine-tuning change

I call incrementalism a basic principle of life: if you don’t work every day to make it better, it will get worse. ‘It’ can be anything at all.

Not all change can be effected by a sweeping pronouncement: “I am quitting smoking as of now.” “I will never think of him again.”

Instead, most changes fall in the category of ‘a little bit better’ or ‘a little bit worse’ every day. Continue reading

Use acting to find your writing voice

Writing voice is the prize: why we like particular writers of fiction and non-fiction determines what we read. Voice makes you salable.

The original question was: How to find your blogging voice.

But of course MY brain always goes from non-fiction to fiction, especially since I started blogging to have an outlet for my fiction, rather than my blogging leading to me writing fiction, so my fiction answer is longer, and it relies on something I never thought I’d use this way: basic training as an actor.

Voice creation/discovery

It is an odd question – how to find your voice – but most writers who read a lot have to consciously:

a) become aware that they are using voices from their reading, or from their teachers in school, or from wherever they’ve picked up ‘how you do voice.’

b) re-find their own. Continue reading

Plot twists and the Moment of Truth – a customer service analysis for writers

Novelists don’t think of themselves as being in ‘Customer Service.’ But we are – we are in business to satisfy our customers – readers – with our work: a constant stream of words, properly presented, for the entertainment and delectation of the person who honors us first with his money and then with her time.

We want to keep that customer satisfied. Basic customer service.

A satisfied customer will:

be happy he spent money to acquire our book for entertainment purposes

be happy she read our book

buy future books from us

tell other readers about our book personally, on a review site, on his blog – in positive, possibly glowing tones

become a true fan

possibly even become a friend.

In contrast, an UNsatisfied customer will, after throwing the book against the wall (TTBATW): Continue reading

Group characters, epigraphs, and Dramatica – a novel use

Dramatica was developed for screenwriters, and some of the features are much harder to implement in a script than they are in fiction, with its variable length and format. One of these is the concept I will call a ‘group character,’ and I will show how I implement a group character using epigraphs.

Most people consider a ‘character’ to be a single entity (say, a human, or HAL in 2001: A Space Odyssey) which behaves in a more or less self-consistent way, and either stays the same or changes in a character arc as the story progresses.

Dramatica has a goal: to help create stories which are complete, meaning the argument put forth by the author has been examined from all applicable points of view, and the author has made his/her case for the conclusion presented. Dramatica calls this kind of story a Grand Argument Story (GAS).  Continue reading

The art, science, and necessity of epigraphs in novels

Epigraphs are curious little pieces of text. Almost like roses made out of frosting, they feel decorative – and somewhat frivolous.

My dictionary on the Mac offers two recognized meanings:

an inscription on a building, statue, or coin.

short quotation or saying at the beginning of a book or chapter, intended to suggest its theme

In a novel, epigraphs are used in several places:

at the beginning of the book, a part, or a chapter

as a chapter title Continue reading

Consistent point of view (pov) in writing and revision

In the process of revising the scene I’m working on, I made my self a note:

It’s a credible draft, and everything I wanted to put in there somewhere is there.

But it lacks 1) a consistent pov – Andrew fades in and out

I took a minute to ask myself why I had this thought, and realized that it happens regularly: a scene feels as if the point of view is going back and forth from a general omniscient pov to the first or third person pov I’m aiming for. Continue reading

Showing character emotions – even more research sources – Part 3

(Part 1 is here, Part 2 is here.)

Putting the last touches on body language research:

The ChangingMinds website is a repository of learning about all forms of persuasion and influence.

I’m using the Changingminds.org website, which, in its mission to help people understand each other and change each other’s minds, has a wealth of information about emotions and all their interconnections, ramifications, and implications (* and ** – examples below).

Because novelists participate in the job of helping people understand each other, I have found this website invaluable for developing characters. Continue reading

Showing character emotions – more research sources – Part 2

(Part 1 is here.)

I check out what emotions need body language in my handwritten notes and my rough drafts:

I analyze what I have written: Andrew is feeling bad – after all, he didn’t think to ask Grant to keep it a secret – so he displaces his anger at himself by getting angry at Grant, who ‘should have known’ not to reveal Andrew’s business. Andrew projects his own guilt onto Grant. But Grant is a superior – the director in the film for which Andrew is one of the leads – so Andrew must suppress his anger and feeling of betrayal, and his own feeling of guilt. Continue reading

Added PRIDE’S CHILDREN – Chapter 5, Scene 6

This week’s post is Chapter 5, Scene 6 (1.5.6). This is the end of Chapter 5.

You are a quarter of the way through Book 1 – feedback appreciated!

***NEW: I’m looking for a few additional beta readers. Responsibilities? To read each full chapter as I finish polishing it, give me your feedback so I can make necessary changes before it gets posted.

You also get to see chapters before anyone else – but be aware I’m a slow writer (impossible standards, I think).

The chapters are as polished technically as I can manage before feedback, so I hope there will be very few typos or other kinds of errors.

Email me at abehrhardt [at] gmail, and let me know what your specialties are. None required. Writers welcome. I hope to attract a few NON-writers, too. No pressure, time or otherwise – this is a marathon, not a sprint. My plan is to have the whole story, all three books, finished and polished by Sep. 2014.***

PRIDE’S CHILDREN Table of Contents

End of previous scene, followed by the link to the new scene:

End of Chapter 5, Scene 5

“I mean it. Don’t come.” Bianca allowed the raven the last misshapen cube, watched her take wing, settle on a higher branch for the night. How much was it going to cost to untangle their finances? “Concentrate on whatever it is you need to get your documentary.”

“Walk me out?”

Your bags are packed? Cold fury made it easy to avoid a scene. She let him kiss her on the colonnaded portico, lit as brightly as a night set. ‘Always keep control, pet. Choose your time.’ Anyone watching would think she was mollified.

Anyone watching would be dead wrong.


~ ~ ~

PRIDE’S CHILDREN, Chapter 5 – …his feet part of iron and part of clay…, Scene 6

Copyright by Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt 2013.

What would you do with 20% more?

What would it take to make you happier?

People asked this question usually think of money. It is a cliche that most people do not feel wealthy enough – they think that if they had just 20% more money, they would feel secure and be happy.

And most people WOULD be happy – for a while. If they are very careful. If they don’t let their expectations and expenditures swell up to fill the larger abilities.

I may have been granted 20% more energy. Continue reading

Showing character emotions – research sources – Part 1

Nuance, nuance, nuance. The writer’s job is to cause emotion in the reader. Period.

Understanding emotions is the underlying motive for all storytelling, a skill necessary for humans to live in groups. A learned skill, with presets for understanding built into most babies. A problem for people who don’t pick up – or consciously ignore – social cues.

And one of the reasons, again, that there are few writing prodigies – and the few who manage to convey emotions in writing are handling very basic human emotions, not complex ones (IMHO). Continue reading