Thursday, August 27, 2015

My 8 Necessities for Writing

I love reading about other creative artists' processes to get in the frame of mind for doing whatever it is they do. Writing, acting, singing, painting, etc. Everyone has their own unique method of preparing their minds and bodies for the work ahead of them, their own tics, their special visual necessities. Sometimes it's getting out into nature, or using a stress ball. One person may take weeks to prepare, another jump right into their craft without another thought.

Without further ado, here are my usual necessities when writing.

1. A Quiet Place

Right now my door is open, and I can hear a fan humming in the other room. I can't stand it. Excuse me while I close my door.

Ah, much better.

There are days I'm more sensitive to noise than others, today being one of those. Usually, to write my best, I need utter isolation and peace. And now my dog is barking. You can't control everything.

2. No food

If I'm planning to write, I might grab a snack and quickly eat it before I write a single word. I know a lot of writers who spread out chocolate and almonds to munch on while writing and always have a cup of tea or coffee nearby. My tea will go cold by the time I remember it. Food distracts me and pulls me out of whatever world I've launched myself into for that time. I grab the chocolate after I've finished writing.

( I do have to be careful not to neglect myself, however. Just today I was feeling rather sick while writing and realized it was coming up on two o'clock, and I hadn't eaten lunch yet. Ever since I took my lunch break, I haven't been able to get back into the mindset of my characters. It's all about balance. )

3. Scrunchie or hair tie 

I often forget I have hair. Then there are moments where every little wisp against my neck is a spider pulling me towards hell. I have to have something nearby to pull my hair back or I will go insane and not be able to focus on a single word.

4. Mirror

This may seem narcissistic, but it's a rather handy little tool. I have a little standing cosmetic mirror on my desk. I turn it so I can't see my reflection constantly (because of movement, not being distracted by my own looks. C'mon, people.), but if I'm struggling with describing an emotion or particular look on a characters face, I will look in that mirror and mimic my characters until the words finally come to mind.

5. Headphones

Didn't I say I needed quiet? Well, when the dog is barking and your mom is crafting in the next room and it seems a hundred jets are flying over your house, sometimes a little music is more soothing and constant. I turn it on the lowest volume and make sure to pick songs I'm familiar with so that the words don't distract me.

And other times, even when the house is silent, I just put my headphones in and don't listen to music. It's like wearing extra padding against your eardrums.

6. Pinterest

If I have a specific board for a story I'm working on, I'll pull up that board and leave it in the background of my computer screen, just as a little added inspiration. If I'm struggling on what scene should come next, I can then easily pull up the board and give a quick glance to see if anything pops into my head.

7. Thesaurus 

I know, I'm suppose to just write and worry about grammar and special wording later. But sometimes...I can't let it go. I get hung up on something very easily and until my mind is satisfied I can't move on. So I keep either my pocket thesaurus or an online thesaurus handy while I write, just in case.

8. Freedom

A moment to collect myself. Breathe in, breathe out. Me and the words. Unlocking the chains around my brain,  smashing the brick wall built around my mind. Freedom to be myself, to take risks, to write whatever I want. When I allow myself run with ideas, that's when I write for days on end and can look back at my work and be pleased.

How do you prepare, or what do you use to help ease you into the creative process?
Let us know in the comments!

Monday, July 20, 2015

Character Names List #4 : Names Ending in -ala

(I am aware the blog address is incorrect. My apologies, I'll pay better attention next time.)

Perhaps this list's theme seems a bit random. Let me explain.

I just treated myself to a ukulele. I visited a music store, decided I wanted and ordered a Kala KA-C Concert Ukulele. It arrived today, and I'm excited to start focusing my energy on something.

I'm going to want to name my new, adorable uke, because that's the kind of dork I am, and I thought why not rhyme it with Kala? Some of these names were new to me, and I've completely fallen in love.

(These are labeled as female names)

Adala -  meaning : just, honest, honorable ; origin : English and German

Amala - meaning : pure, hope ;  origin : Arabic Sanskrit

Cala - meaning : lily, beauty ;  origin : Old Greek

Dhavala - meaning : white ;  origin : Sanskrit

Fala - meaning : resembling a crow ;  origin : Native American

Hala - meaning : moon's halo ;  origin : Arabic

Ismala - meaning : God will hear ;  origin : Hebrew

Jameala - meaning : beautiful ; origin : Arabic

Kamala - meaning : light red ; origin : Sanskrit

Kanala - meaning : shining ; origin : Sanskrit

Mala - meaning : mighty in battle ; origin : Hebrew, Germanic, English

Manala - meaning : achievement  ; origin : Arabic

Nala - meaning : lioness  ;  origin : African - Swahili

Natala - meaning : born on Christmas ;  origin : English

Pamala - meaning : all black, all sweetness ; origin : Old Greek

Vala - meaning : singled out  ; origin : Germanic

Zahala - meaning : joy ; origin : Hebrew

Zala - meaning : one who is beautiful ;  origin : Slovene

Which is your favorite? Do you have your own favorite name ending in -ala? 
Let us know in the comments!

Monday, April 27, 2015

Book Review: Finding Me


After a tragic accident claims the life of her father and stepmother, Kelli Huddleston discovers hidden documents in her father's office that prove her entire life has been a lie.

Determined to find the truth about her father and her true family, Kelli embarks on a journey that will lead to new friends, hard truths, and challenging decisions destined to change her life forever.

I didn't recognize Kathryn Cushman at first, but when I looked up her website, I realized I had considered reading a few of her books before but never got around to it. I was excited to be testing the waters in this first novel I've read by her.

Finding Me is a trembling story full of disheveled priorities and barred love. A story full of anger and forgiveness, it is one that grips you tight and has you missing your oven beeping to announce your dinner.

While beginning this book, I thought I had everything figured out and thought that while it was an enjoyable read, it wasn't going to be anything special. However, don't be fooled. Cushman folded and twisted this story just enough to capture my entire focus, and soon I was reaching for the tissues and realized I had read chapters 8-50 of this book in one day.

Not to say it wasn't entirely unpredictable, but what I appreciated about this story and its characters is how subtly they've been crafted. The dialogue is easy and believable, the chapters are short but far from choppy, and most of the characters are so real you might just wonder if the author researched your own neighbors.

I thought the relationships were unique in this story. Kelli Huddleston has a mission and it is not to make close friends, and that stuck throughout the story. Even with the possibility of a love interest, a romantic relationship isn't taken far or even in the picture until much later in the book. It was refreshing to read a Christian fiction story that didn't focus on a romantic entanglement.

Considering the Christian side, as this is Christian fiction, I thought the author handled this element well. I've become fairly picky when it comes to Christian fiction, so I appreciate when a story sticks to its beliefs without treating the reader like a naive child. That being said, verbally proclaiming the "gospel message" wasn't the focus of this story, but rather subtly shown in the lives of those around our protagonist. We are shown both ends of the spectrum and the ending is wrapped up neatly with a beacon of hope.

As far as contemporary Christian fiction goes, I've really only read one author of the genre in the past five years, so I'm anxious to discover more of Cushman's work in the future.

Rating: 4 out of 5

Have you read the book? What were your thoughts? Let me know in the comments!

**I received this book in exchange for an honest review.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Book Review: Someday, Someday, Maybe

Synopsis taken from Goodreads: 

Franny Banks is a struggling actress in New York City, with just six months left of the three year deadline she gave herself to succeed. But so far, all she has to show for her efforts is a single line in an ad for ugly Christmas sweaters and a degrading waitressing job. She lives in Brooklyn with two roommates-Jane, her best friend from college, and Dan, a sci-fi writer, who is very definitely not boyfriend material-and is struggling with her feelings for a suspiciously charming guy in her acting class, all while trying to find a hair-product cocktail that actually works. 

... It's hard to tell if she'll run out of time or money first, but either way, failure would mean facing the fact that she has absolutely no skills to make it in the real world...

I saw Gilmore Girls for the first time over the winter and enjoyed the show, especially Lauren Graham's performance, so when I saw that she had authored Someday, Someday, Maybe, I knew it had to be on my Christmas List (thank you, Gommie!).

The coming-of-age story of Franny Banks accurately depicts the anxiety, self-doubt, and wonderment of transitioning into adulthood and discovering yourself. Franny faces embarrassment, naive choices, and denial, all with the good hanging right in front of her eyes. It's a frustrating, comical experience that reminds you to step back and examine life, then trust your gut and leap forward with your dreams.

The author created an excellent character to represent common struggles women face, both personally and in the work place. I often cringed for or laughed with Franny Banks, but at the same time I will say she wasn't developed enough to the point where I felt a connection. I'm assuming this is a slightly autobiographical novel, and I wish Miss Graham had put a little more of herself into the character.

The story had it's flaws. Honestly, I had a hard time getting into the book, forgetting it for long periods of time on my bookshelf before picking it up again. It wasn't until Chapter 14 that things started happening and I began to have interest, but still I was just coasting through it. The ending wrapped up abruptly, and I was left saying, "That's it?" and back on my bookshelf it went.

Graham certainly has potential as a writer and I would read another book by her with the hopes that she had cleaned up some of her prose and developed characters. This book falls flat, but it still had an entertaining protagonist and comical moments that had me laughing out loud. ( And the book cover is one of my all-time favorites ;)  )

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
(I will give a heads up that this book contains some language and sexual innuendo/situations)

Have you read the book? What were your thoughts? Let me know in the comments!

Friday, April 17, 2015

Writing and Depression

I've written many posts on techniques to get over dry spells in writing, conquering writer's block, where to get inspiration for stories and characters, etc. I want to do another encouragement post today, but I want to deal with something a step above writer's bock: Depression.

TRUTH: I have depression. I've struggled with it for 7 years. My depression stems from a brain injury, and for many years I didn't realize what it was.

How does depression affect writing?

1. Motivation. Depression sucks the energy from your body. In my personal writing, it's kept me from editing my fantasy novel draft; editing is hard enough itself, much less with a tired mind.

2. Stamina. Depression affects how long one can do something. I get tired easily, and that's not just a physical aspect. My brain often decides to "turn off" while I'm writing, saying "that's enough!" No matter how hard I fight it, once my brain clicks into off mode, there's hardly any chance of recovery that day.

3. Negative thinking. Another big one. Ever thought your writing was horrible, like you'd never become a great writer? I think this every time I go to write something. There are many times I avoid writing all together because I know if I get caught on one scene, one phrase, one grammatical issue, I will get so frustrated and depressed. That sounds drastic, but it's the truth. It's not me whining about my situation, it's not me pouting. My brain literally works differently since my brain injury, and in addition to the depression, I have a hard time working myself through or around problems.

4. Health. Depression and PTSD affect one's physical health. It's not easy writing when you have to take cold medicine that makes you sleep!

 Lately I've come across two ideas that have helped me to accept my writing once more, and I wanted to share those with you:

  • Write for yourself, not publication.   Publication has been my dream for years. When my depression halted my writing and editing, I realized my goal of being published wasn't going to take off for some time. I got depressed and stopped writing for quite a while. Then I realized my passion wasn't publication; it was writing. It's getting across a message. It is stories, characters, personal revelation. Once I stopped thinking that without publication there was no sense to keep going, I was able to connect again with my characters and gain back my confidence. Even if all my stories end up in binders lined up on my shelf, it'd still be pretty amazing.

  • No one else can write like YOU. I'm currently taking a course to improve my singing, and one of the tips I was given was to sing like myself because no one else has a voice like mine. I realized the same was true of writing; no one has a voice like you. Your stories are special. Your thoughts are unique. No one will view your story like you do.

    My guess is at least one of you reading this post struggles with depression, and if not clinical depression, you have had at one time or another severe doubts about your writing. So please remember your writing is worth it. Fight for your characters. Your voice is important. Pin these notes to your inspiration board and be reminded every day that YOU matter.

    Depression affects about 4% of the world's population — and that's just those who are diagnosed. Mental health is becoming a more recognized topic, between organizations like To Write Love on Her Arms and public figures such as celebrities stepping up to help destigmatize mental health, but still it's more than often hushed. Being an "invisible" illness, many people don't consider depression to be a real medical condition and don't understand how people can't just "get over it." If you think you or someone you love has depression, please reach out to someone, a parent, a friend, a doctor, and get the help you or your loved one needs. <3 

    Friday, April 3, 2015

    Fantasy vs. Contemporary

    My whole childhood was filled with fantasy. My parents indulged my love for fantasy (they were careful about what fantasy I read) and I grew up with it in my heart. I'm a firm believer in the part fantasy plays in the magical mind of a child. Fantasy helped me get through a lonely childhood and made me feel like I had a place I belonged. I spent hours reading, transported to lands unknown and making friends with centaurs and hobbits.

    When I first discovered a real love for writing, I was writing fan fiction (The Chronicles of Narnia, anyone?). I wrote fan fiction for about two consistent years before I took a break from writing fantasy only because I thought it might be immature (hello, awkward 15-year-old me). I wrote some historical fiction but still wasn't completely happy. Finally when I was 17/18 I went back to fantasy, this time creating my own characters and stories. I felt renewed in my writing and thought, "This is my niche."

    But life has a funny way of taking what you believe to be set in stone and turning it into mush before settling into a state of liquid gold.

    I finished my first fantasy novel draft in September of 2014, as some of you may know. I then began work on developing the next three books, taking a break from editing. I've recently gone back to the prequel's draft to start editing...and it's been a disaster. It's amazing how just one year can set your writing apart by leaps and bounds; I found that not only was my writing complicated and confusing, but I had way too many characters for the story's goal. I've since cut at least six characters, including deleting my main character and making a minor character my main character. I realized my book wasn't anywhere near completion, and I want to redirect the entire plot of the story.

    This often happens with first drafts, but it's exhausting and can be discouraging. I haven't given up on my story, but a lot needs to change before I can even start to think of rewriting.

    In the meantime, I've decided to start work on a contemporary novel that has been in my mind for about a year now. I practiced self control and only wrote scenes as they came to me rather than just jumping into a first draft. I have thought about it every day since coming up with the idea, have completed research, developed my characters to the point I feel like they are my friends (in the normal writer way, not creepy psychotic way I think), and have a solid idea of where I want to go with the story.

    When I started writing the first draft, I literally experienced shivers down my spine. I felt inspired, calm, confident even when I hit trouble spots. I've written three chapters using my special outline (which is basically making note of every little scene I want to include and in which order and from whose POV — I've hated traditional outlining since elementary school) and everything just feels right.

    Though I had many story ideas in the genre, I've never successfully written contemporary fiction because it felt awkward to me. I've always been comfortable with fantasy. To have that reversed has thrown me for a loop. I have no doubt my personal experiences have contributed to this, from getting my first job in 2013 and experiencing some "real-world" situations to my struggles with my mental health. I know what message I want to send through my stories, what characters I want to write. I feel like I can accomplish this best with contemporary fiction.

    That's not to say I'm not going back to fantasy at some point; I fully intend to write a fantasy series some day. All I'm saying is that if you're stuck, don't get discouraged. The right story will come along. It might be tomorrow, it might be ten years from now, but don't give up.

    I'm going to be entering part of this new story in a contest soon, so I will let you know how that goes! In the meantime, thanks for all your support on Twitter! It's been a fun week :)

    Wednesday, March 18, 2015

    Agent Peggy Carter: Strong Character or Predictable Shell?

    Agent Peggy Carter from the Marvel universe was one of the most highly requested characters to examine in my Strong Female Characters study. I admit, I wasn't completely familiar with the character, having only seen her in Captain America movies, so I also quickly caught up on the new TV show Agent Carter. (I haven't read any comic books, so if you were wanting me to draw from that, my apologies.) I might still disappoint some of you, but let's jump into it...

    Agent Peggy Carter

    Margaret "Peggy" Carter is an agent for the Strategic Scientific Reserve (S.R.R), the top secret Allied war agency during WWII. From the movie and TV series, not much is known about her past, which you could argue is consistent with her character; she is a woman of mystery, and hates revealing personal details unless completely relevant. 

    Her greatest struggle seems to be the gender politics after WWII. Having been greatly involved in the war, the men are now home, and her position has reversed. Instead of pulling her weight alongside generals, she is now pushed to "secretary mode" and spends her days taking lunch orders. She faces sexism with surprising grace, however, biding her time. 

    Despite the frustrations she faces at work, she still takes her work seriously and buries herself into it, perhaps a little too much. She is intelligent, observant, and wildly independent. At the same time, she is grieving. The TV show takes place after Steve Rodgers a.k.a Captain America "dies," and she pushes her feelings aside and in doing so pushes friends aside. She does eventually acknowledge her weakness, however, and mends fences. 

    She isn't a robot; she doesn't open up easily, but she still cares. Her friend is murdered; she cries. A colleague she disliked is murdered; she cries. She sticks up for friends when they are threatened, doesn't crack under pressure, and she takes care of herself.

     How does she appear to others? 

    • Mention already, there's the sexism in the late 1940s. To the recruits, she's a woman not to be taken seriously (which she quickly dissolves). 

    • To her commander, she is one of the leaders.
    • To her colleagues, she's viewed as a secretary, not a fellow agent. She's not "up to snuff." 
    • To Steve Rodgers, she's first an ally, someone who can relate to doors being slammed in one's face, and eventually she's a woman to be admired and loved. 
    • To her enemies, they soon learn she is not to be messed with. She packs a punch, has amazing aim, and can take down a group of highly skilled SSR agents with surprising ease. 

    "Not bad, for a girl."
    "I hate you all." 
    --Agent Carter

    Things that make us love her:

    • She is not a whiner; she takes care of the problem. 
    • She doesn't care what others think; she knows what she's worth and that's enough. 

    "I know my value. Anyone else's opinion doesn't really matter." 
    -- Peggy Carter, Episode 8 

    • She can do 107 one-armed pushups.
    • Appreciates people who have morals. 
    • She stands by her actions. 
    • She can see the value in others. 

    Now...what is WRONG with this character?
    A flaw of the TV show, Agent Carter, is that Peggy is a predictable character and the only woman in the SSR. Obviously this was done for a reason as focus the attention solely on her and the sexism of the day. However, this makes everyone — the character, the viewers — view her as "the only one for the job," which in turn makes the character appear hoity-toity, as though she is leaps and bounds above others. This contradicts other attributes we see, such as valuing others and herself (yes, it is possible to write a character who doesn't care what others think of her without making her appear self-righteous). 

    As mentioned before, she also has no background, at least none that was seen in the movies and entire TV show in which she appears. No background, no foundation, no connection. A character might be likable without background, but it's hard to take someone seriously if you don't know where they are coming from. 

    What was done RIGHT?

    She can be friends with other women. Many times these types of loner characters who are surrounded by men all day and defined simply as "tough" are depicted as unable to carry friendships with women. This is one place where Peggy Carter doesn't place herself above others.

    And again, though she tries to hide her emotions, we are still shown she has them. She loves, cries, worries, is frustrated, is impulsive, etc. This helps to balance the fact we don't know her backstory as these are emotions we can relate to. 

    What can we take away from this character? 

    Overall, Peggy Carter is an admirable woman with many good qualities, but in my opinion, she's weak as a character. 

    All of us want someone we can look up to. Give your character at least a few strong qualities that we can relate or aspire to, whether it's internal (fearless, patience, being completely comfortable in one's own skin, etc.) or external (stamina, incredible fighting skills, etc.). 

    Remember to provide background for your character. You don't have to go into great length in the story; you don't even have to reveal everything to the supporting characters. Glimpses here and there are good. Perhaps her father left her as a child. Maybe she had to retake the driver's examination test three times. The reason she's obsessed with eating healthily and exercising is because her friend died of cancer. A character without foundation is a pretty but empty shell. 

    If you are familiar with this character and have differing views, don't be shy to post your opinions in the comments. I'd love to hear what you think.

    Please feel free to give any other suggestions on female characters to study! Comment below or use one of these ways to contact me. 

    Thursday, March 5, 2015

    Books for Sale

    Hello all! I've just put some listings up on ebay (ah, how I love being unemployed). If you're interested, there are some books, but also a few tops and a DVD. Here's what I have for books :

    Though Waters Roar by Lynn Austin (I purchased this book off a sale rack myself, so there are some visible flaws to the book but the pages are in great shape. More details on the selling page). Christian Fiction

    Heartland Heroes by Andrea Boeshaar (this is a three-in-one book — they are always a fun read). Christian Fiction

    Unspoken by Dee Henderson Christian Fiction (One of my favorite Christian fiction authors)

    In Every Heartbeat by Kim Vogel Sawyer Christian Fiction (Another personal favorite Christian fiction author)

    A Draw of Kings, Book 3 of The Staff and the Sword, by Patrick W. Carr Christian Fiction

    The Death of King Arthur: The Immortal Legend by Sir Thomas Malory, a retelling by Peter Ackroyd. This book doesn't sugar-coat the myths, but it is good if you're introducing the stories to an older  preteen/young teenager who has a hard time otherwise with King James language.

    Most of the books are at a fixed price, but for the higher priced ones I do have the option open for people to send me a best offer for consideration :)

    I'm just going to include my seller page in case you are interested in checking out the other items. The clothes are in great shape and the movie is a fun chick flick.  Thanks everyone!

    Monday, March 2, 2015

    Character Names: List #3 — Slavic

    It's been a while since I've done a new character names list, but as I'm in the middle of research for my next post on female characters, I figured this was the perfect opportunity to create another one.

    I've recently come up with a new story idea, and a few of the characters have a Slavic background. My mind has been a little obsessed with the idea, so here is a list of Slavic-derived names. Perhaps you too shall consider adding a little Slavic history to a character in your story?

    **All of these names come from The Writer's Digest Character Naming Sourcebook, Second Edition. If you don't own this book, go buy it. It's literally an essential for any writer!**


    Ana - meaning : One who will be reborn;  origin : Russian (form of Anastasia)

    Dana - meaning : God is my judge; origin : Czechoslovakian (form of Daniel)

    Eliska - meaning : Truthful ; origin : Czechoslovakian

    Irena/Irina - meaning : Peace ; origin : Russian (form of Irene)

    Ivana - meaning : Gracious God ; origin : both Russian and Czechoslovakian (form of John)

    Jarka - meaning : Spring ; origin : Slavic

    Krasava - meaning : Beautiful ; origin : Czechoslovakian

    Lilia - meaning : Mauve ; origin : Slavic

    Marya/Marika - meaning : Bitter ; origin : Slavic (form of Mary)

    Milena - meaning : Favored; origin : Czechoslovakian

    Natasha - meaning : Born on Christmas ; origin : Russian (form of Natalie)

    Nesha - meaning : Pure ; origin : Russian (form of Agnes)

    Varya - meaning : Stranger ; origin : Russian

    Zenya - meaning : Well-born ; origin : Russian  (form of Eugene)


    Adam - meaning : Of the red earth;  origin : Czechoslovakian

    Adrik - meaning : Dark ; origin : Russian

    Casimir - meaning : Destroys peace ; origin : Slavic

    Cestmir - meaning : Forest; origin : Czechoslovakian

    Dimitri - meaning : Spring ; origin : Russian (from Demeter)

    Karel/Karol - meaning : Manly ; origin : Slavic (form of Charles)

    Miklos - meaning : Victory of the people; origin : Czechoslovakian (form of Nicholas)

    Misha - meaning : Who is like God ; origin : Russian (form of Michael)

    Reznik - meaning : Butcher; origin : Czechoslovakian

    Stefan - meaning : Crowned in victory ; origin : Russian (form of Stephen)

    Viktor - meaning : Victorious ; origin : Czechoslovakian

    Vilem - meaning : Resolute protector ; origin : Czechoslovakian (form of William)

    Yakov - meaning : Supplanter ; origin : Russian  (form of Jacob)

    Ziven/Zivon - meaning : Lively ; origin : Russian

    Monday, February 23, 2015

    Strong Female Character: Kate Beckett

    *There will be minor spoilers in this post for the TV show Castle * 

    Last year my family and I discovered Castle. It quickly became one of my top 5 favorite TV shows, and I fell in love with the characters. While I could rant and rave about each character individually (and maybe I will one day), we're here to talk about strong female characters. In particularly: Detective Kate Beckett.

    Detective Kate Beckett

    Katherine "Kate" Beckett is a NYPD Homicide detective, and the youngest woman in the history of the NYPD to become a detective. Instead of attending law school and accomplishing her dream to become the first female Chief Justice, she went into homicide so that she could solve her mother's murder. 

    How does she come across to others? 
    This is an important question to ask when creating a strong female character. How others react to her, work with her, and what they think of her are important clues into just how strong your character is. 

    For Beckett, she is viewed with respect. 
    • Her superiors consider her to be their best, and one even laid down his life for her. 
    • Her team, consisting of Detectives Kevin Ryan and Javier Esposito, would do anything for her, from covering for her when she goes off the books to going to no ends to save her life. 
    • Her partner, Richard Castle, bases the main character of an entire book series on her, eventually falling head over heels for her. 
    • Suspects in homicide cases soon learn she is not to be messed with, and as for her enemies, well let's just say if they make the mistake of underestimating her, they often don't end up in the best place. 

    How does she treat others? 
    Beckett will stop at nothing to get the truth. If this means roughing up some suspects, that's what she'll do. 

    She treats her superiors with respect but won't hesitate to voice her own opinions and fight for what she believes. She treats her team as equals, listens to their opinions, takes their advice. Though her patience is often tested, she eventually learns to accept and take the harebrained advice her partner, Castle, gives and comes to depend on his insights. She is kind to Castle's daughter, Alexis, and takes the time to meet with her as an older friend whenever Alexis needs advice. When it comes to the families of victims, she is considerate and gentle when breaking the news and talking about sensitive materials. 

    So who is Kate Beckett? 

    She is a detective, a daughter, a defender. She's not afraid to get her hands dirty and, as I mentioned before, will work nonstop to get the truth. She is smart, clever, talented, courageous. She's stubborn, driven, confident, and loyal. She's the kind of person on which you could always depend. She's funny, lovely, and strong, both mentally and physically. Being a cop, she's also a realist, as she constantly points out; she likes the facts, and there is always a reasonable explanation to everything. In all honesty, she's a total badass. But that's just one side, and in order to have a well-balanced, strong character, there has to be a darker side. 

    Beckett is haunted by her mother's murder. It once led her to a very dark place, and as we go through the series, she is practically forced back into following that path. It leads to mental struggles and physical pain, including a bullet to the heart. She is someone who is reluctant to reveal anything personal about herself and unwilling to show signs of weakness. When it comes to those she loves, she has a temper that will get the job done but in a bit of a graceless way. However, she pushes those closest to her away in order to remain in control and safe. 

    She has a vulnerable side. 
    • She is vulnerable when it comes to her mother's murder and lets people get under her skin. 
    • She's vulnerable when it comes to the man she loves. 
    • She suffers from PTSD after being shot and struggles with finding her way back. 

    Kate is also a prankster, a loving partner, and totally adorable; she once orchestrated an elaborate fake murder just to keep Castle from being bored when he broke his leg. After a near death experience, she quit the force because all she could think about was being with Castle. 

    Oh, and she also loves dogs, so that says a million other things about her as well:

    As this is a character on a TV show, I have to mention the actress portraying Kate Beckett as well. Stana Katic is an absolutely brilliant actress. I've talked about the "GIRL OVERBOARD" concept in my original strong female characters post, in which how many female characters are portrayed as over the top, annoying characters, drawing on strength from being better than anyone else. Though credit goes to the writers for creating such an amazing, deep character, a lot of the weight also falls on the way an actress portrays her character. Stana Katic is spot on; she portrays Kate with a sense of self-confidence that oozes strength and grace, yet knows how to keep her down-to-earth and real (her portrayal of Beckett going through post-traumatic stress had me shaking and bawling my eyes out, and as someone who has PTSD, it was the moment I truly fell in love with Kate Beckett). So bravo, Miss Katic, and I hope to see you portraying this character for a long time to come. 

    What can I take away from this character?

    Always remember to give your character a dark side. Perhaps there is true evil in her, perhaps it is more of an internal struggle. Maybe it is a secret, or a vulnerability. You can go strong or light depending on what you want the focus to be. Whatever it is, make it relatable and believable. Draw on backstory to ground your character. Balance!

     If you can't take something away from your character, no one else will either, and you'll have created an uninteresting character that readers quickly forget about. If you are a Castle fan, what do you like about Kate Beckett? What do you dislike? I'd love to hear in the comments what each of you take away from this character. 

    Please feel free to give any other suggestions on female characters to study! Comment below, on Pinterest, or email me. 

    Friday, February 20, 2015

    Review: Character Writer 3.1

    A while back I purchased the Character Writer 3.1 from The Writer's Store. I had been looking for different writing softwares when this popped up, on sale, and after researching it a bit I decided to make the purchase. I was hoping this software would be an amazing tool for developing characters because there's nothing I love more than sitting down and developing a new life for a new story.

    A month ago I moved, and ever since then have been sick and pretty much holed up in my living room, stealing my dad's comfy green recliner. The excessive time I've had to just sit and think produced another story idea, and finally I had time to really sit down and use that Character Writer. So here's what I found...

    When you first open Character Writer 3.1, you can immediately start filling in a character's basic information, from their name to their catchphrase and story goal. A file can be made for each story/novel you are working on, and within that file you can have a subfile created for each character.

    From there you simply keep hitting the continue button, answering basic physical appearance questions and then, my favorite, personality questions. This program takes you through the Enneagram personality-typing system to help you better understand just where your character is coming from. 

    After choosing a type, you then answer a series of questions based on your choice that will start making you reevaluate your character's background and story goal. You can also choose multiple disorders, from personality to psychotic to sleep disorders. You can honestly have a heyday reading about each disorder and applying different ones to your characters...just make sure you stick to what really fits your character, because it's easy to go overboard. *cough*

    After the psychology of your character is founded, then you can dig into background. What makes your character do what he does? What significant event in his past made her like this? You answer another series of questions, all different but set up the same way, before heading into dialogue and relationships. 

    If you have created more than one character, there is a relationship generator in which you can enter in a secondary character's type and see how he or she might react with the main character. It's a handy little tool to see just how these two people might clash or work together in real life. Here's an example from one of my own projects in which my main character, a type 5, is placed against his love interest, a type 8, and his sister, a type 9: 

    By this point, you've completed most of your character development. There are further pages to write out story beats, note sheets, specific scenes that come to your head, etc., but the meat of it is done, and believe you me, I'm always exhausted by this point. 


    While this program is extensive, one thing I would still recommend is taking a piece of paper and writing out your character basics first. Write a brief description of their background, their interests, what they want. It will make the process go by much faster and you won't feel the need to skip around or "come back to it later," and it will allow for more creativity when it comes to fleshing out details.

    The Character Writer 3.1 is an excellent tool for getting to know your characters deeply and solidifying their story in your mind; it's more than a character writer, but really helps you grasp where you want your story to go. After using this, I felt more prepared to write my novel. The program definitely works best for main characters, or any character you want to flesh out, but you can still use the basics to keep an eye on your secondary characters. 

    Overall, I'd give the program 4.5 out of 5 stars and would recommend it to anyone looking for help in developing better characters. If you're interested, you can buy the program here. Let me know if you've tried the program and what your thoughts are!

    (**Please note that I was not given a trial run from The Writer's Store in exchange for a review, but simply purchased the program on my own and wanted to post a review so other's might know about it.)

    Monday, January 26, 2015

    Short Story: "The Only Thing to Fear"

    I mentioned in my 2015 post that I had a short story published in a Christian college journal. I'm excited to announce that since it was awarded first place in the fiction category, it is now available to read online! If you're interested, the title is linked below to take you right to the story.

    The Only Thing to Fear

    She ran as fast as her legs would carry her, and the sound of her mother’s footsteps right behind faded as the whistle, silence, and boom overtook any other sound of the night. Whistle, silence, boomWhistle, silence, boom. The flaming light and black smoke were close as Helen made it outside and down the path to the shelter.
    Her hand reached for the door, but before it made contact another explosion erupted behind her, and for a moment she felt as though she were flying... 

    I hope you enjoy the story! If you're interested, the journal is also available in paperback to purchase for $10.00. Click here for purchase details.

    Friday, January 2, 2015

    Goodbye 2014, Hello 2015

    Happy New Year, everyone! I hope this past year was a good year overall and that you accomplished many goals, and here's hoping 2015 will be even better.

    I didn't succeed in conquering most of my goals, but this past year has definitely been a learning experience.
    • I completed a continuing studies course on writing through the University of Wisconsin-Madison and started a couple other courses on copywriting and screenwriting. 
    • I had some experience in online journalism writing for News for Shoppers
    • After taking a year since finishing the first daft of the prequel to my Drasia series last October to work on minor revisions and development for the next 3 books, I then began work on the first draft for book one. 
    • Elizabeth Liberty Lewis of Exhortations by Elizabeth was kind enough to be our first guest blogger with an insightful post about focus
    • I had the privilege to participate in a blog tour for Perry Elisabeth Kirkpatrick's book The Kitten Files: The Case of the Tabloid Tattler. 
    • I rediscovered a passion for character development and realized the weight a dynamic, fleshed-out character carries in a story. I could spend months just developing a single character…
    • Probably the most exciting moment of last year for me personally was I had a short story published in a college journal and won first place in fiction! I plan on sharing the story with you very soon. In the meantime, you can learn a bit more about the Doxa journal here

    I didn't accomplish many things I had hoped for this past year — I hoped to be farther along on my fantasy project, I had so much more planned for the blog than what got out, and I didn't read as much as I wanted. I got sick quite a bit this year (ah, the perils of working in a pharmacy), am preparing to move for the first time in 15 years, and I've had some other personal issues going on that have hindered my productivity.

    However, that is part of life; yes, you may be hindered from one goal, but a new opportunity will always present itself. So this year, I'm not making any new year's resolutions. I'm going to go where life takes me and take it one day at a time. This year is already presenting many new opportunities and circumstances, and I'm nervous but also excited to see where they will take me. How about you?

    Do you have goals for the new year, or are you taking a more relaxed approach? Share in the comments!