Archive for November, 2011


Genre? Where does your baby belong?

November 29, 2011

A book’s genre can be complicated. Often, people assume books are either written simply as novels or as non-fiction text. But they would be wrong. Books are categorized into lots of genres.

Next time you visit a library or a bookstore, notice the way they shelve non-fiction. There are usually sections on travel, religion, and history, just to name a few. Sometimes your book may have cross-over appeal. My non-fiction book: Soul Sunday: A Family’s Guide to Exploring Faith and Teaching Tolerance contains multicultural religious content, but is written for parents. Some bookstores shelve it in religion, but most toss it in parenting.

Fiction is a bit more complicated. Here are a few genres to get you started:


  • Romance
  • Fantasy
  • Science fiction
  • Realistic or contemporary fiction
  • Mystery
  • Crime
  • Historical fiction
  • Supernatural
  • Dystopian
  • Myth and fairytale
  • Poetry
  • Magical realism


It can be helpful to join an organization that specifically caters to one genre. Whodunit writers, for example, can meet for conferences and learn tools of the trade to improve their mystery. Identifying your genre and reading as much as you can in the same subject area will also help your own writing.





Got Plot?

November 24, 2011

My last blog concentrated on voice. I love voice. Developing snarky or surreal characters fuels my creativity. On the other hand, I’m not a fan of plot. Of course you can’t write a book without plot, so I’ve had to learn.

Best summarized, plot must follow five steps.

Step One:  Set-ups and Firsts

            What’s the problem?

Who? Introduce main characters

When? Time period

Where? Setting

Why do we care to read on?


Step Two:  Trigger Hook

            –A major incident, beyond control, high excitement

(ex. Think of the tornado in Wizard of Oz)

            –Hit it by chapter 2-4

Step Three:  Quest

            –a character must search for something or solve a problem

-protagonist must overcome a series of obstacles (and maybe fail a few)

Step Four:  Climax

-think: battle, injury, betrayal, fall, storm etc.

-protagonist is met by their final and most challenging obstacle

-add a twist and a surprise if you can


Step Five:  Resolution

-How has the character changed, evolved?

-How did the problem get solved?

-Remember to resolve all subplots

In the end, plot is really step number one, but stretched throughout the book. The tricky part is presenting the plot, without giving away the result, in chapter one. Outlines help and as always, so does rewriting. Write away!


Writing with Voice

November 7, 2011

Generally, writers fall into one of two categories: those who begin their work by either developing an intriguing plot or by creating vivid characters. In the end, a book needs both to be written well.

For the sake of this blog, I’ll focus on voice. What is it? Voice is the tone and personality of your character. Is your character sarcastic? Shy? Scared? Boisterous? You get the picture. The tone and personality of your character should shine in their dialogue and in their actions. Both, will create the “voice” you need to build a successful character.

When writing, google character profiles. You’ll find lists of questions to get you thinking about your people. Details make all the difference and can really add to voice. Here are a few ideas to get you started:


  1. Does your character have an accent? A stutter or a particular tick? What do they sound like?
  2. Does he or she have a bruise? Where and how?
  3. What is she or he afraid of? Spiders are a bit cliché, but everyone has at least one fear.
  4. What does this particular person crave? Do they allow themselves to eat it or do they only fantasize about it?
  5. Does your character were matching clothing? What about socks?
  6. How does your character feel about religion other than their own?
  7. If your character could own an exotic pet, what would it be and why?
  8. Pretend your character has a bed filled with stuffed animals. What would they name them? Brutus? Fluffy? Giovanni? Tic?
  9. What time of day does your character drink coffee? Black or loaded? Does your character avoid coffee and drink green tea?
  10. Does your character fit a particular cultural stereotype? And how does your character defy this cultural stereotype? Give them depth.

Finding voice must include tone. It must be complex at times, simple at others. Above all, a character must portray an identity that remains consistent throughout the piece. The more questions you ask, the more details you offer, the richer your character will become.