Use Places You’ve Lived to Enhance Your Story

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You don’t need to use the actual place, but you could use the memories:
• something you saw (good or bad)
• a specific feeling you had (exhilaration, fear, sadness)
• a general feeling you had (ominous, out of place, homey)
• a person you met (friend, enemy, boyfriend)
• a particular setting within the place (a cabin, school, ship)
• an event (reunion, festival, lost)

List the places then let memories from each location flow. Write them down. Does one fit your work in progress in some way? Would it add flavor to the plot or a character? Humor to your story?

I’ve lived in sixteen places. I’ll pick four as examples of what I’ve learned from them.

Significant Memories from Places I’ve Lived

 

Baltimore, MD – As a preteen, I saw from the family car a wailing, bloody-faced man running alongside a big car, his hands clutching the window rim. The car sped up and the old man fell to the pavement. I felt horror. I was also frustrated that I’d never know the story behind the event. Were the men inside stealing his car? Were they getting rid of him by abandoning him? This memory warned of the frustration readers experience when the author doesn’t tie up loose ends.

Petionville, Haiti – At ages seven to ten, I lived on a mountainside overlooking Port-au-Prince in a gray stucco house with a red metal roof.

image by Efraimstochter

The tropical island was wonderful – fiery orange flamboyant trees, warm temperatures, big lizards, our parrots and donkey, aqua water, hibiscus flowers, international school, the merengue dance.

Haiti was mysterious – paths through the forests to nearby villages; frenzied Mardi Gras celebrators dressed in costumes dancing in our yard; a dead chicken hanging from a tree in the middle of the woods near an extinguished fire; our cook screaming because a Voodoo doll was pinned to her outside door; rats bumping and banging inside our metal roof during a deluge.

Haiti was dangerous – revolution, corrupt election, rise of Papa Doc, Papa Doc’s violent Tonton Macoute thugs. A Haitian looking for the Spanish embassy drove up our road and stopped at our house. Blood covered the seat of his pants. People were dead and wounded in the back of the police van he’d hijacked during an attack on his family.

I’m drawn to tell a fictional story about a little girl who saves an Arab boy whose Father’s jewelry business comes under a Tonton Macoute raid. The time hasn’t been right yet.

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Norfolk, VA – During a rare snow, my father built me an igloo. After I’d hounded him, I was afraid to go inside when frostbite threatened my fingers and toes. I will never forget the pain from my thawing appendages. I used this experience in Gift of the Magpie.

That same winter, my sister, two friends, and I fell through the ice on a lake. Our wet heavy coats worked against treading water. When we tried to get out, the ice caved. I was so exhausted, I decided to give up and drifted under. I learned about the will to live.

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Guantanamo Bay, Cuba – As a high school teen, I lived on the five-mile-square Naval base. During the Cuban Missile Crisis, my mother, brother, and I were evacuated on the USS Upshur with little in our suitcase. We returned three months later. My three days aboard ship with friends trying to avoid a sergeant and cleaning toilets was an adventure.

The next year, after threats from Castro, the base admiral sealed the pipes from which we received water. We went three days without water until a water tanker arrived. I learned to appreciate water.

Use the events and feelings in places you’ve lived to enrich your stories. Click to tweet.

What place taught you something that you could use in a story?

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Suddenly unemployed, Allie Masterson returns home to Cary, North Carolina where she caddies for her father on the PGA Seniors Tour. There, she encounters a man who possesses an alluring gift of reading the contours of the green. Fascinated with his uncanny ability, Allie is excited to meet the Green Whisperer—until she discovers that the easygoing caddy is actually Shoo Leonard, the boy who teased her relentlessly when they were kids. Despite Allie’s reservations, when Shoo is faced with having to overcome a hand injury, she agrees to use her sport science degree to become his trainer…and then she falls for him.

 Shoo Leonard is grateful to Allie for her singular determination to get him ready for the PGA tour, but he isn’t ready for anything more. Still raw from a broken engagement and focused on his career, he’s content to be her fist-bumping buddy…but then he falls for her.

What seems like a happily-ever-after on the horizon takes a turn when Allie decides she’s become a distraction to Shoo’s career. Is it time for her to step away or can The Putting Green Whisperer find the right words to make her stay?

Tips for a Leading a Writers Workshop: Part 2 – Preparation

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If you have a passion for effective writing concepts, consider turning them into workshops you can share with others.

Here are tips to help you prepare a successful workshop.

6 Tips for Preparing a Writers Workshop

1. Start presenting at small venues and move up to conferences.

I started giving workshops at my local writers group. After each presentation, I honed the workshop and slides from what I learned. I moved on to workshops at libraries and then to one-day writers conferences. For a large writers’ organization, I’m leading a month-long online workshop.

To develop a workshop’s content, try writing blog posts on the topics you want to cover.

2. Restrict the number of topics covered to what easily fits the presentation’s time limit.

Err on the side of finishing early. Build in time for questions, exercises, and unplanned tidbits.

I have a workshop that offers fun techniques to improve scenes. The first time I gave the presentation I ran out of time, partly because I thought I had ten minutes more than I actually had. In preparing for a second workshop on this material, I realized five techniques were too many. One was more complicated and less fun than the others. I cut that technique. The improvement supported the saying, “kill your darlings.”

3. Include examples and stories.

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Many participants need applications to understand principles. They enjoy hearing stories that support ideas. Stories are a welcome break from stretches of listenig to information.

During lunch for one engagement, I told the woman beside me I’d appreciate feedback on the maiden launch of my presentation. She said, “Don’t cut any of your stories.”

4. Prepare slides that don’t overwhelm participants.

Limit word count on a slide to 40 words. Break up a 120-word slide into three. To send participants a cohesive document later, turn the slides into a document that puts dot points on one topic together.

For detailed teachings, include examples.

Provide simple tables, graphs, or screenshots to show a process’s steps.

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To break up the monotony of words, choose photos that complement your points. Make sure your photos belong to you or come from sites that give permission to use them. I use free images on Pixabay.

Slides should have plenty of “white” space. Make backgrounds a light neutral color. It’s easier on participants’ eyes than stark white.

5. Offer documents participants can review at home.

Convert slides to a PDF or Word document to email later to those participants who request them. During the class, supply a one- to two-page handout to jot notes on.

I recently attended a writers conference. Packed into seventy-five minutes, each workshop offered rivers of information, principles, tips, and examples. I tensed trying to listen, process, and take decent notes. When the presenters promised to send the slides or handouts to us, I relaxed, listened intently, and jotted a few supporting notes.

6. Besides practicing, time your presentation.

I time talks at least twice to learn how much time they use. After I start my stopwatch, I speak calmly and slowly. If there’s not sufficient time for speaking, questions, exercises, and extra tidbits, I tighten my presentation. Knowing I have plenty of time for my talk is huge in how calm I am during the workshop.

Part 2 – tips for leading a writers workshop – preparation. Click to tweet.

What questions or workshop preparation stories do you have?

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Amanda Larrowe’s lack of trust sabotages her relationships. The English teacher and award-winning author of middle-grade adventure books for boys has shut off communication with friends and family to meet her January 2 book deadline. Now, in the deepest snow accumulation Richmond, Virginia has experienced in years, Camden Lancaster moves in across the street. After ten years, her heart still smarts from the humiliating aftermath of their perfect high school Valentine’s Day date. He may have transformed into a handsome, amiable man, but his likeability doesn’t instill trust in Amanda’s heart. When Cam doesn’t recognize her on their first two encounters, she thinks it’s safe to be his fair-weather neighbor. Boy is she wrong.

Wounded Heroines as Strong Female Characters

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I’ve heard readers dislike weak female characters. Recently, I published, “Show Your Character’s Wounds?” Together, these ideas may confuse writers. They may ask: Can wounded heroines be strong female characters?

Strong Female Character

First, I’ve compiled a list of traits I believe belong to a strong female character.

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♥ is multidimensional

♥ perseveres and endures; progresses forward in hope

♥ is independent but knows when to seek advice or help

♥ rises to challenges, whatever her environment is

♥ is intuitive, book smart, common-sense smart, or all three

♥ has at least one competency

♥ empathizes; helps others or contributes to society

♥ makes choices

♥ stands up for what she believes in

♥ is flawed but grows

♥ has inner strength to face trials and survive

♥ is essential to the story through her strengths and weaknesses

♥ is the lead; other characters support her

A Heroine With Wounds

A wounded heroine can meet the above criteria, but her wound has caused a flaw. It’s key she outgrows that flaw or doesn’t allow it to paralyze her.

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For many wounds, The Emotional Wound Thesaurus by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi gives “OPPORTUNITIES TO FACE OR OVERCOME THIS WOUND.” I list three wounds and give examples of what a strong female character does to show she’s overcome her past wound.

 

HOME INVASION. When Ann was a child, a thief entered and stole precious items from her house. Early in the story, Ann obsesses over recovering a family heirloom after learning the sale was shady. Now, a fire demolishes Ann’s possessions, including the heirloom. But saving things never enters Ann’s mind while she rescues her daughter. As she hugs her daughter, she sees the heirloom as insignificant. Ann’s wound becomes a scar.

PHYSICAL ASSAULT. When Ella was a teen, a man attacked her. Leery of men’s intentions, Ella doesn’t go out with men alone. Then, she double-dates and enjoys Eric’s company. After dating Eric several times alone, her trust develops. She accepts a client’s dinner invitation to discuss business. He becomes drunk. At her car, he makes advances. She tells him to leave. He persists. She grabs his arm and warns him she’s learned how to defend herself. She asks if he wants to suffer the pain she’s ready to inflict. He staggers away. Ella learns there are safe men, and she can stand up to others who aren’t. Her wound shrinks to a scar.

A PHYSICAL DISFIGUREMENT. Kate has eye pupils shaped like keyholes (coloboma). She doesn’t mind people asking about her condition and is glad to explain that from birth a tissue piece is missing from each eye. What bothers her is when people won’t make eye contact or fail to listen to her because they’re focused on her pupils. Now, she teases her new boyfriend about his noticeable cowlick. He sighs and says, “I was waiting for you to go after my cowlick.” Kate realizes she’s no better than the people who frustrate her. Kate’s wound fades into a scar.

Wounded heroines can be strong female characters. Click to tweet.

How might a strong female character overcome being bullied in her past?

COOKING UP KISSES – has earned an Amazon #1 bestseller ribbon in two categories!

Five scrumptious e-book romance novellas, all for $0.99 or free on KindleUnlimited. Here’s the link.  Here are the blurbs:

 

 

 

THE INVISIBLE WOMAN IN A RED DRESS BY ZOE M. McCARTHY

Candace Parks lives a passionless life in Richmond. The computer programmer returns to the empty family home in the Blue Ridge Mountains solely to evaluate her job, faith, and boyfriend. Her high school crush, Trigg Alderman, who barely remembers her, visits his Gram next door. Sorting her life out? How about nothing of the sort!

 

LOVE ON A DARE BY MARY MANNERS

Alana Mulvaney’s life is in a holding pattern. Consumed by day-to-day operations of the family business, Alana has no time for fun or romance. But a little fun and a whole lot of romance is just what Alana’s sisters have in mind when they learn childhood friend Donovan O’Reilly has returned to town.
Donovan O’Reilly has loved Alana Mulvaney since he moved in next door to her at the age of five. But he broke her heart when he was forced to leave town, and now that he’s returned home to Winding Ridge he has a second chance to prove himself. But is it too late to earn her trust…and her love…again?

HUMMINGBIRD KISSES BY DELIA LATHAM

Toni Littlebird believes that when she meets the man God created for her, she’ll know—and she’ll love him in that very moment.
But then Dax Hendrick roars into Hummingbird Hollow on a noisy, crippled Harley, stinking up the air and chasing away her beloved hummingbirds. One look into the intruder’s eyes and her heart sinks. He’s “The One.” She’d been right about knowing, but wrong about something far more important: She will never love this man!

HEARTS ON THE HARBOR BY ROBIN BAYNE

Cara Peyton is content with her life, her trendy Baltimore bookshop is perfect for her. But when her ex turns up to remodel the store, asking for a second chance, she’s torn and unsure about risking her heart again. Can he convince her to trust him, and God, before the job is finished?

 

 

HIS VALENTINE PROMISE BY DORA HIERS

Another Valentine’s Day and Quinn Randolph prefers to spend it with her sweet rescue lab. Who needs men and their broken promises? Especially Pierce Karson’s! Years ago, his desertion shattered her. Now he’s trying to steal the property she targeted to expand her florist shop! Pierce only wants to belong…and for Quinn to choose him. His Valentine Promise…