Tag Archives: Twitter

In a relationship? That’s fodder for a great story…really!

It’s kinda difficult to be in a relationship with yourself. Usually, you need 2 or more in the relationship to define it as such. Now before you get on Twitter and tell me the most important relationship is with yourself, hear me out.

I write romantic stories about men and women who find each other, suffer through hardships, and wind up living their happily ever after.  I was asked once, how do I think up the people I write about?  Well, here’s my dirty little secret concerning my writing: I don’t make my characters up completely from my imagination. I actually incorporate nuances, characteristics, speaking patterns, etc, from people I know, have met, or have seen.  I’m a huge observer. Part of my scientific educational background is in observation and methodology.  In lay terms, I’m a watcher. Voyeur is too skanky a word to use because there’s nothing sexually based about my people watching. And the people I watch the most are couples.

When I’m out at a restaurant, I’ll discreetly glance around me and see who’s together, what they’re doing, how they’re acting towards one another. I may see an older man and woman holding hands across a table, waiting for their drinks to arrive. Or, I may observe a younger couple each glancing down at their cell phones and not at each other as they wait for theirs. I’ve seen couples seated at a square table for four sitting opposite one another or next to each other. If they’re seated in a booth, same thing. Either across the table, or together in the same seat, the guy’s arm draped around the girl.

All of these behaviors tell me something about the relationship that I can use for my own characterizations.

Ever go shopping with your significant other? It’s a trip, that’s for sure. In malls, I make it a strategic habit to watch men and women shop together. Body language is a huge component of my writing, especially in a non-love scene. You can learn so much about a character by how one non-verbally responds to the other. Next time you’re in a shopping mall, check out the couples you see milling about. Are they holding hands? Arms draped over shoulders as they amble along? Are they talking? Is one person the main talker, with the partner nodding every so often giving the illusion of listening? Or is it a real dialogue where the two of them are responding verbally to one another? In a store, does the partner simply wait in a chair while the other shops or do they shop together, giving opinions, etc? Are opinions valued or poo-pooed away? Are complements given? Watch a man’s face the next time you see his woman modeling something sexy for him in a store and you’ll know exactly what I mean.

I was at a professional baseball game once and “listened” to a couple seated in front of me. They were on a first date – how do I know? The girl mentioned it as she and the guy were talking. She had never been to a pro-game before and he was explaining who was who on the home team.  Remember I said body language is key? Well, he was leaning into her as he spoke, and she to him as she listened, their shoulders touching often. He didn’t need to raise his voice to be heard because the noise level was good – not overbearing as it can be – so there was no reason for him to be so close to her just to be heard. They maintained eye contact throughout speaking. At one point during the game the home boys earned three runs on a single pitch. The entire stadium was on it’s feet, including the first daters. He grabbed her and hugged her in his exuberance and I swear I could see her fall in love with him before my eyes. The stadium could have been empty except for the two of them at that moment. I used that scene in an upcoming book of mine, First Impressions,  and I was giddy when I was writing it because I’d actually seen it played out in front of me.

If you’re a writer, your every  day experiences, the people you meet – even the people you know – are all fodder for you to use when you create your characters. Of course you never want to copycat a real person into a character – you’re setting yourself up for some serious legal action if you do! But there’s nothing wrong with a little cut and paste between people you know or have interacted with and your characters.

One final caveat: friends, loved ones, and family – please do not now LOOK for yourself in my characters when you read my books! You will never recognize yourselves if I’ve “used” you.

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Filed under Characters, Dialogue

I need more time and less interruptions…

I never seem to have enough time in a day to write the way I want to write.  Make that, write the volume I want to write.

When I’m in the zone, I can sit at my laptop in my writing loft for the entire day and not do anything else but compose. If I am uninterrupted by phone calls, tweets and email announcements, I can pretty much chug along for the whole day. The longest I’ve ever gone is a solid 12 hours with a bathroom break every 2 hours to rid myself of the Diet Mountain Dew I imbibed like it was water.

Kinesiologists will tell you I am probably doing severe  damage to my legs, spinal cord, and butt from sitting in a dependent position all day, and there’s probably some truth to that. When I do get up I tend to be uberstiff and need to stretch all my long muscles to keep them from cramping.

But after I see the volume I’ve typed – the page count that’s been birthed – I know I can live with some muscle cramps if it means I am producing good work.

I hate to be interrupted.

I. Hate. It.

Especially when I am going along a great clip and the dialogue is flowing like pearls from my lips – yes, I speak aloud my dialogue when I write to make sure it sounds correct and like english – the descriptions are all dead on and the exposition isn’t filled with purple prose and platitudes. The plot is moving forward, the characters are growing appropriately and learning from scene to scene.  It feels good, this sense of accomplishment I get when the pages are racking up. I feel like I am putting together a coherent story  that can be followed by the reader, and – hopefully – liked.

But then reality sets in.

The door bell rings and it’s the hot UPS guy with a delivery. The phone pings and it’s a caller I have to talk to, not a telemarketer I can ignore. Dinner time rolls around and I have to cook for the family, not make reservations again for takeout or going out.

Twenty-four hours seems like a lot of time to a writer, but consider the time used in sleeping, eating, working ( if writing is not your means of support) family obligations, and anything else that can literally remove you from your word program. After all that, 24 hours isn’t so much.

If I get a solid hour or two on a working day, at least it’s something. On my days off, I strive for much more.

Sometimes I hit that goal, most times, not.

So, since I can’t wring out more than 24 hours in any given day, let’s try this instead: I won’t answer the phone – in fact I’ll put my cell to silent and then just check on it periodically. I’ll get all the chores of daily life done first and then devote the rest of my freedom to writing. I won’t answer emails, troll Facebook, or update my Twitter feed while I am writing. I will let it all go sideways, and straighten it out when I am done creating.

Sound like a plan?
Yeah, a really hard one to carryout…..sigh….

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Filed under Author, Contemporary Romance, Life challenges

Branding and Marketing for Authors

At RWA 2014, one of the signature breakfast speakers this year was the marvelous Cindy Ratzlaff of Brand New, Brand You. She discussed – in vivid detail – her Social Book Marketing Strategy. Of course, I’m not going to go into extensive detail and list everything she said – you should click on the above link to get her full strategy – but I will hit the high points that resonated with me.

The most important aspect of this strategy is recognizing that you, the author, are the BRAND. You want to promote YOU. You are the creator of your books, but by promoting yourself as a brand, you capture reader and follower loyalty and get recognized by your name. Name recognition, like word of mouth, is a powerful product motivator for people to purchase what you are selling – namely, your books.

By utilizing FACEBOOK as a marketing tool you can develop what Cindy calls  “your ideal Tribe,” or the people who want to follow you.  Right now I have a regular Facebook page. I have “friends,” personal photos, etc, all the things you are supposed to have on the site to be socially connected with your friends and family. But, if you are a professional author and your name is your brand, you should have a professional Facebook page, devoted to you, the brand. Using myself, I would have a secondary page titled Peggy Jaeger, Author. On this page I would have all the information regarding my books – the ones that are currently out and in print and the ones that are coming up for publication ( Dearest God, are you listening to this?) Links to my blog, and my other sites would also be on this page so that anyone can find me and find out about me, the brand of Peggy Jaeger, Author. Apparently, Facebook is the number 1 social networking site, still. But your branding advertising isn’t isolated to just this site. Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Google+ even using You Tube, are all ways you can promote your brand.

Cindy’s lecture was fascinating. She described the scope and power the internet has in promoting yourself in ways that I don’t think I ever even considered, much less knew I could do.

Like everything else that I attended  at RWA 2014, Cindy Ratzlaff’s session will stick in my mind for years to come.

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Filed under Editors