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Backstory Basics

Here’s another great tip from over on K.M. Allan’s blog. It’s on the importance of giving your character’s backstory. This is one I can relate to since I’m in the process of fleshing out backstories for my MC and Antagonist on this re-write of my current novel.

K.M. Allan

One key to writing a book that connects with readers is including characters they care about.

Or hate. It can be characters they hate. Just as long as the readers want to follow from the first page to the last.

Follow-worthy characters come from awesome descriptions, dialogue, goals you want to see them achieve, odds to beat, or devastating actions to their consequences. Another layer to add to your characters is the one that makes them; their backstory.

Backstory Basics

Don’t Info Dump

While you should avoid info dumping any part of your book, info dumping the backstory rates even higher. Why? Because it slows things down. This is especially true in the first three chapters of your book.

The beginning of the book is when you should hook the reader, not bore them with how the MC grew up in a small town, got high grades throughout school, moved to…

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Why Are We Too Busy to Write?

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Credit: Guardian.com

I’ve been reflecting on being “busy” lately. It seems whenever I catch up with friends and family and ask how they are, most reply “busy” almost automatically.

Many of them also marvel at how I “find the time” to write in between all of life’s other obligations, and I tell them it’s not a big mystery. It is just a matter of simplifying and prioritizing what matters most to you. I also had – what I believed – to be a kinda sorta conspiracy theory that we’re being constantly told we’re busy by marketing companies.

Ever notice how many ads tell you that you’re too busy to clean or make dinner? Once you focus on it, you can’t un-hear it.

Anyway, in the spirit of NanoWriMo, I wanted to share this great little article by Oliver Burkeman over on The Guardian about “shadow work”, which gives a name to this constant state of “busy” we all seem to be in.

SPOILER ALERT: it seems the promise of technology and automation backfired a bit.

What do you think? Do you always feel busy, and struggle to carve out time for writing or other creative endeavors? Let me know down in the comments.

Have a great weekend!

 

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The Haunting of Hill House

_The-Haunting-of-Hill-House-Netflix

Watch it. Read it. Be terrified by it.

I’m doing both at the same time!

In a rare turn of events, I’ve begun watching the hit horror show “The Haunting of Hill House” while I read the book. This is normally a cardinal sin, as I’m one of those uppity “I want to read the book first” people.

I was convinced to double-dip because the show is different enough from the source material that one won’t fundamentally spoil the other.

So since this post is going up so close to Halloween, let me make a recommendation. If you haven’t found some solid horror this October, you just did.

If you need a good book, go read it. Shirley Jackson set the blueprint for the modern Gothic “haunted house” story. It is phenomenal literature, beautifully written, and oozing with dread. Plus it’s not too gory, for those non-horror folks who are turned off by that stuff.

If you need a new binge-worthy show on Netflix, watch it. Well-written, well-acted, and holy cow it’s scary! Just aces all around. Probably the best horror show to arrive on TV in the past five years.

So stop reading this and go read/watch Hill House now before your jack-o-lantern burns out and you’re left in the darkness.

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Colombian Donkey Libraries

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Every once in a while a story about books & reading comes along that I need to share.

This is one of them, and it restores my faith in humanity.

This guy has been traveling Colombia with his two donkeys for years, spreading the joy of reading to kids. This is a feel good story, and those “biblioburros” are even cooler than Bookmobiles.

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On Writing, Smartphones, and “Waking Up”

glasses

Something happened last month that has profoundly affected my creativity.

My smartphone broke.

Yellow jackets get pretty ornery around late summer (they sense their collective impending doom), and as luck would have it, I got stung in the hand while scrolling Twitter. My phone hit the sidewalk and even a fancy $3 case and screen protector couldn’t save it.

What does this have to do with writing? Everything, as it would turn out.

Enter the flip phone.

I’ve contemplated how much I relied on my smartphone for a while now. I used it too much, and research is showing the negative effects of technology overload, especially on creativity. I decided to switch back to a flip phone as an experiment, and the results were almost immediate.

This is what I found:

  • I’m perfectly OK without a smartphone. I have other computers/devices (GPS, laptop, etc) to access maps and information when I need it. It’s freeing to not feel “connected” at all times.
  • I AM BORED AGAIN. I realized just how long it had been since I felt boredom. I was literally programmed to grab my phone to “fill in the spaces”. Now that the flip phone only serves very intentional functions (calls, texts, email) my body and brain are literally retraining themselves to accept true downtime again. Walking around, standing in lines, all those things that prompted smartphone use are filled with contemplative thought and observations.
  • I realize how pervasive smartphones are. I’ve joked that I’m “awake” now, but being more present has allowed me to see just how often other people are on their devices. It is nearly constant. Kind of scary, but this experiment is about me, not about what others are doing.
  • My attention span is slowly returning. Deliberate, focused consumption of books, movies, and television (even a newspaper!) without the risk of distraction has made me realize the strange cognitive dissonance that “two screening” had caused. For the first few days I felt randomly distracted and jittery sitting through an entire movie. That is slowly fading, and I find myself contemplating what I give my attention to more deeply.
  • I have gotten so many more story ideas in these bored moments. Creativity appears to be expanding to fill those gaps.
  • I have more time to write. Those little (and not so little) pockets of free time are spent writing instead of mindlessly scrolling on a screen.

This endeavor is still burgeoning, but so far I’ve seen mostly positives for the trade offs in convenience. Will I ever get a smartphone again? I’m not sure. But for now I’m enjoying a newfound well of creativity, and only paying $20 a month for something that won’t break if it bounces off a sidewalk.