Tag Archives: Habits

NaNoWriMo…How to make it a habit

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Three days down, 27 to go. So, how are you doing?

In yesterday’s post, I shared with you that I thought the main impetus behind the NANOWRIMO culture was to get writers into the habit of writing every day. I believe that. I live that.  But that got me to thinking, what exactly does it take for something to become a habit? To become so ingrained within your psyche that you don’t even question why you’re doing it, you’re just doing it?

When I was in nursing school (a 175 years ago!!) I remember reading in one of my psychology courses that it takes 7 days to make something a habit and 21 days to break it. That always explained -to me at least- why it was easier to gain weight than to lose it!!  Think about it….

But I digress.

Since I read that first article, lo those many years ago, I’ve actually heard those numbers disputed. At the end of this post I’m going to list a few links you can peruse and decide for yourself what the actual number may be, but suffice it to say, habits don’t form OVERNIGHT. They take time, dedication, and concentration before they are so ingrained in your thought processes that you just do them. Without thinking about what you’re doing or saying, Or even singing.  Like when you hear a song on the radio over and over again ( do people still listen to the radio??? Heehee. I’m old) until you’ve got the words memorized. They become  a part of your unconscious thought processes.

Here’s something that’s fun to do with friends. Don’t even stop to think – just respond the moment you read what I’m about to write. Ready?
Trix are for ????

ChooChoo Charlie was an ?????

It’s fingerlickin’ ???

Between love and madness lies  ????

?????. There is no substitute.

Takes a licking and keeps on ????

How many did you get correct? If you said all, you need to know you’re probably in the majority and not just super smart. Sorry! But the reason you got them all (or most of them!) correct is because you’ve heard these slogans over and over and over and….you get the idea….again. The first rule of advertising is to make sure people remember what you’re selling. How do advertisers accomplish that? By repeating, reminding, and reinforcing the product name or slogan so many times over a course of time that your brain automatically shifts to it the moment you begin to hear the slogan or jingle. The slogan becomes, for lack of a better word, a memory habit. You know what’s going to be said as soon as you hear the first word or so.

Well, the NaNoWriMo challenge is a bit like that. You write every single day, no matter what, no matter where, until you’ve become so used to pushing words out everyday, you continue doing it even after the challenge ends.

Does that make sense to anyone other than me?? I hope so.

So…onward. Keep writing EVERY SINGLE DAY. No matter what, no matter where, no matter what time it is. You’ve got this. 3 days down already. Just keep pushing and moving through.

Here are some articles on making something a habit I found interesting. What I find really interesting is that a few of them dispute one another, but that’s just me!

http://jamesclear.com/new-habit

http://jamesclear.com/three-steps-habit-change

http://www.lifehack.org/articles/featured/18-tricks-to-make-new-habits-stick.html

And just because some people may not know all the answers to the above slogans/jingles, here they are:

Trix are for kids. (Breakfast cereal)

ChooChoo Charlie was an engineer. (GoodNPlenty candy song)

It’s finger lickin’ good. ( Kentucky fried chicken slogan)

Between love and madness lies  OBSESSION ( really lousy smelling perfume. My opinion. Don’t hate me.)

PORSCHE.  There is no substitute. (Ridiculously expensive male-menopause car)

Takes a licking and keeps on ticking. ( Timex watch slogan)

And here’s a little eye candy motivation to keep you going strong on the challenge….nanosuperhearos

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Filed under Author, Contemporary Romance, Life challenges, NaNoWriMo, NHRWA, Romance, Romance Books, RWA, Strong Women

Speak and they will listen..

Since I’ve been on the topic of mannerisms of late, how about we discuss how your characters speak and the idiosyncratic styles they each have? This is a fun topic for me any time of day or night.
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I’ve said before that I was born in Brooklyn, NY and lived in NYC for the first 27 years of my life. When I open my mouth and start to speak, you automatically can hear where I’m from. I have a tendency to drop the letter R at the ends of words ( which is why I refer to girls as sistahs), my “Th” sounds come out sounding like the letter “d”, so you’ll hear me say Dat for That. I speak as quickly as a lightning flash and use my hands expressively a great deal. All these verbal tags and mannerisms tell you I’m probably a New York kind of girl.

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Last year I was in San Antoni for the RWA conference. Most of the people who originate from that region and the ones I came in contact with at the hotel and in the city said “y’all” and “rightly so” a bunch of times in their adorable Texas twang.

Two weeks ago I was Las Vegas. Many of the employees in the hotel I was staying in were from the Philippines and addressed every person every time they came in contact with them as Ma’am or Sir. In their country this a severe sign of respect for the individual they are addressing.

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So, having shared this, some of the ways you can make your characters jump off the page to the reader and make them come alive, is to know how they speak.  Can you hear each character in your books speaking in their own style, or does every character sound the same to you? I read my dialogue out loud all the time just so I can be sure one person doesn’t sound exactly like another. Do your characters all use the same words and phrases when they speak? Again, this can get boring and confusing for the reader. For instance, doctors are highly educated people and use a certain vocabulary the average person doesn’t. You wouldn’t want your immigrant, unable-to-read-and-write character who is a patient be able to understand what a doctor is telling him. That just doesn’t ring true. Nor would a scientist and a four year be able to communicate on the same level. Unless of course the kid was a prodigy.talkingmeme

One of my favorite characters that I am currently writing is a ninety-two-year-old Irish immigrant grandmother who continually speaks in malapropisms. It gets her into some funny and outrageous situations, but it rings true when she speaks the words incorrectly, because she thinks they are correct.talkingmeme6

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So, if your character is smart, does she speak like she’s educated?  Did your hero come from the South, because if he did, he’d be polite in his conversations with people, saying “please”, Ma-am, and so forth. Got a Canadian in-law? Make sure you round those vowels.

All these special little touches will make your characters more attractive, honest, appealing, and most importantly to your readers, Real.

So…you know what’s coming. How do you make your characters sound all like individuals and not robots….Let’s discuss.

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Filed under Author, Contemporary Romance, Dialogue, Literary characters, research, Romance Books, WIld Rose Press AUthor

Ticks, Quirks, and Traits..oh my!

I had fun talking about character mannerisms the other day, so today I’m going to go a little more in-depth into the differences in mannerisms ( which has a sort of positive connotation) and ticks, quirks and traits ( which lean more to the negative side of the mannerism scale.)

Woman Biting Lip --- Image by © Jupiterimages/Brand X/Corbis

We’ve all known someone who had an annoying habit – like chewing gum incessantly while talking, eating, etc – or has a little quirky laugh after every sentence. I personally know someone who purses their lips at the end of every sentence. I always want to ask, “Did you want a kiss for saying that?”  But luckily have refrained from doing so. And every one of us has at least one person ( usually a teen or 20-something) in our lives who use the words “like, um, ya know” without end.

These little individual ticks quirks, traits and habits make the people in our world three dimensional and real, because, lets face it, they are! When you read a character like this, you believe them more because you can actually see their behavior coming to life on the page. Where this gets frustrating and absolutely annoying for the reader, is when the habit is mentioned every time the character is on stage.

Businesswoman looking away and twisting hair

I read a book recently that everyone who read it said was great. Good characters, great plot, sound ending. I hated it. Why? The main character was so flat and one dimensional I couldn’t get passed it. Plus, she had two character ticks that were mentioned every single time she was on scene – and that was almost in every scene of the book. She bit her bottom lip and opened her eyes wide when she was nervous ( which was the whole damn book!) Mentioning it once or even twice seemed more than enough, but every frickin’ scene? The part that really tans my hide is that this book got published by a major house.

Crazy.

So, enough ranting. The way to make your characters as believable and likable as possible is to make them seem real to the reader. We all agree on that, yes? It’s up to us, the writers, to decide whether to give the characters positive quirks or  negative ones.

Examples always work best for me, so here goes: ( and these are just some that I thought of. You could fill a book with all of them, truly.)

Negative habits, ticks, quirks: nail biting, lip pursing, sighing, leg shaking, toe tapping, finger snapping, gum chewing or snapping, frequent eye rolls, smirking, twittering laugh, nervous laugh, whining, poor use of language, frequent cursing, profanity in place of proper English and word use, interrupting others while they are speaking, hair twirling . You get the picture…think up some more of your own.

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Positive habits, ticks, quirks: frequent head nodding, intense smiling, frequent touching of the other person ( not in a sexual way), overly compassionate, cries at the drop of a pin, laughs at everything. Again, fill in your own here.

My point with this post was to get writers to recognize the things their characters do while on the page and to find that simple yet oh-so-hard balance of making them come to life for the reader. There is nothing that turns me off a book faster than one-dimensional characters, or those that are so over the top I can’t get vested in them because they are unbelievable to me as actual people.

It’s a fine line we ride as writers to make our characters as real as possible. Adding in individual mannerisms, etc, is a wonderful way to make the character pop to life. Too much of it though, is a reader turn off.

So ( you saw this coming, I know!), what are some positive and negative traits you’ve used for characters that worked, and which ones didn’t. Let’s discuss…..

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Filed under Author, Contemporary Romance, Dialogue, Life challenges, research, Romance Books, WIld Rose Press AUthor

Characters into real People, Part 3

Flaws, habits and idiosyncratic mannerisms. When you see these words do you immediately think of them as negative descriptions? You can, but you shouldn’t, because these are all facets of normal human behavior. And normal human behavior is what you want your characters to exhibit on the page. Unless of course you’re writing about lycans, vampires, or aliens from outer space that don’t exhibit normal human behavior.  And even then, I’m sure those subspecies have their own foibles, et al, indicative of their own, well, species.

Every person is unique, as is every character you develop. One dimensional characters are not fun to read, they are boring. Very boring. Ever notice that in every fairy tale from Sleeping Beauty to Cinderella to Snow White we never get to know the handsome prince who saves our girl from witches, evil stepmothers, and evil stepmothers who are witches? That’s because the storytellers didn’t want the guys’s true natures made known, because they’re perfect. Boringly perfect. Rich – they’re all Princes, after all, of huge kingdoms – handsome – because non attractive guys could never get a girl – and brave – they all slay dragons and fight evil daily. Nothing ever happens after the words And they lived happily ever after. You never hear about the fact that Cinderella now had to cater to her Prince and clean his castle, substituting one kind of indentured servitude for another; or that Snow White’s guy actually liked apples and didn’t want any other fruit brought into the palace – much to her chagrin. Apple pies, apple tarts,  apple butter yadayadyada. She couldn’t get away from them. And don’t get me stared on Sleeping Beauty’s guy and his unnatural predilection for dragons. No, these guys were all one dimensional. They basically had no substance, no occupation, other than to save our princess,  so we never heard about them after they did. ( My apologies to the Grimm Brothers who are probably rolling over in their five hundred year old graves right about now.)

So far I’ve talked about dialogue and speech patterns to try and  make your characters sound believable.  Today, I’ll talk about how to show they’re believable, and this is through they’re behavior.

We all know people who have little habits that drive us crazy. Tooth picking, throat clearing, feet tapping, you name it. I have terrible habits of talking with my hands ( raised in an Irish/Sicilian household- go figure) and for interrupting people. The first is okay. The second is absolutely annoying to people and I know that in my heart and mind, but I’m damned if I can do anything about it. What can your characters do to distinguish themselves, habit-wise, when you write about them? It doesn’t have to an annoying habit, like mine. It can be that your heroine bites her bottom lip when she is nervous, or your alpha male hero dislikes – really dislikes – being told what to do, and flares his nostrils when he is pissed. ( Sounds a little dragon-like, doesn’t it??)

By flaws I don’t mean one eye is smaller than the other ( like me!) but character flaws. Little bits of behavior, thoughts, and actions that tell you this person is not perfect. Far from it. For instance, your heroine is basically a nice person and always volunteers to help others, but just this once she really wishes you wouldn’t ask her to drive the meals on wheels car just because you have a hot date and she doesn’t. Two flaws here by the way : a little jealousy ( she has a date, your character does not) and a little pettiness.

Idiosyncratic mannerisms are little actions  particular to your individual characters that no one else in your story does. Again, I’ll use myself as an example. I check my watch. Often. Sometimes, every minute. This used to really annoy my father-in-law because he said it made it look like I had to be somewhere else and was just biding my time, and also that it was just plain rude. I totally agreed so I stopped wearing a watch. Now I check my phone. Often. Sometimes, every minute. My idiosyncrasy is time. I am consumed with it. No one else in my sphere is time obsessed like I am. I own that one.  Does your character snort when he laughs? Does she play with her hair, unconsciously, all the time? These mannerisms can be used to define your character and give them depth.

And if a character has depth, they are believable, and believable characters come across as Real People.

 

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