Stepping into the forest of my mind

Stepping into the forest of my mind
Just as every journey begins with a first step, every story begins with the first word.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Secondary Characters in Fiction or Memoir #AuthorToolboxBlogHop

Because memoirists can’t change what happened and who is involved in the particular memoir slice of life story they are telling, it’s all about what they choose to show the reader about the secondary characters in the memoir and what they choose to leave out. And whatever the memoirist tells or shows needs to be explained through the lens of the protagonist.

Secondary characters grow and change within the story arc of the protagonist in fiction or memoir.  You don’t want just plot puppets, characters used to move the story forward without any background or desires of their own. All characters think they’re the hero of their own story according to Lisa Cron in her Story Genius course. But when you’re crafting a story, you want the protagonist driving the change within the story, not the secondary characters.

In memoir, the other characters are real life people. And the reason why they are in the story is to amplify and support the protagonist’s transformational arc of change. The reader needs to get a sense of what the secondary characters are about and what their specific agendas are. They are real people with real lives. The memoirist can’t change anything about their real lives or she’s writing fiction—not memoir.

In my memoir about attending college as a mother of five, my husband and our children play an informative role in helping me and hindering me in my attempt at college. I felt like a specimen under a microscope with not only my own family watching to see how I handle college, but also my mother and siblings. I felt like everyone was waiting for me to fail.

            Like in many families, my five children are all different. But as the protagonist in my memoir, I not only need to distinguish each of my children for the reader, I also need to remember to include only what matters about their lives to the story I am telling, my journey through college, my understanding of what education is all about. When I talk about distinguishing each child, I don’t mean what they look like. I’m talking about their personalities, how they act, what’s important to them and how that affects me the protagonist in the memoir.

            For instance, my second daughter Michelle is the family brainiac. Every family seems to have one! But what does that mean to Victoria in the memoir story. It means that even at a young age, Victoria relies on Michelle as a family [and later college classwork] sounding board. But because Michelle is young and inexperienced in the beginning of Victoria’s college journey, Michelle still wants Mom’s attention, still needs to be individually noticed within the family.

Marie, the oldest, is special needs. She consumes most of Victoria’s time and is the impetus for Victoria to begin college. Marie can process only one thing at a time. Victoria has trouble remembering this and frequently becomes frustrated.

My husband Bill’s task in the memoir story is to be the voice of reason. He tries to get Victoria to stop and listen to others, a very difficult job as Victoria’s always short on time. He feels Victoria is consumed by her studies [true], thus taking too much time away from family, increasing his workload, and denying him “couple time.”
Bill’s job is to counter what father had said to Victoria. Bill needs to change what is ingrained in Victoria, that she’s not good enough for college/not smart enough for college. He, along with other secondary characters, chips away at Victoria's misbelief that she’s inferior to those who attend or attended college. Victoria can do whatever she sets her mind to—even if she needs to study/learn differently or take longer to do so, like Marie.

My son William, the middle child, is smart, but needs to be watched to be sure he does all his assignments. He’s laid-back, not high-strung like Victoria. During Victoria’s college years, he has a calming effect on her.  But he, too, wants his time with Mom.

The family is used to having Victoria’s time. She doesn’t mind. This is her life. But if Victoria wants to succeed in college, things would need to change because she still learns differently, like her daughter Marie, and needs to play catch-up with the more traditional college student.

            *Please feel free to offer comments or ask questions about my secondary characters. This helps me to move forward on my memoir.*

            Whether it’s memoir or fiction, each secondary character needs to have a specific personality, a reason to be, that benefits the main storyline. As the writer, you include only the facets of secondary characters’ lives that pertain to the story you are telling.

Once again, I’d like to thank Jennie Nash of Author Accelerator and Lisa Cron for helping me to understand these concepts in my memoir.

Thank you for visiting Adventures in Writing. Please follow my blog if you haven’t already and connect with me online. Leave your blog link in the comment so I can be sure to do the same for you. To continue hopping through more amazing blogs or to join our Author Toolbox blog hop, click here

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Write with Chrys Fey Guest Post

Today, I’m sharing my Adventures in Writing blog with a good friend and fellow writer from InsecureWriters Support Group, a knowledgeable and helpful group of writers.

Chrys Fey has a new release, and it is my pleasure to assist with its launch. Here’s Chrys to give you all the details.


Catch the
sparks you need to write, edit, publish, and market your book!

Write with Fey: 10 Sparks to Guide You
from Idea to Publication offers an abundance of data in one handy book. From
writing your novel to prepping for publication and beyond, you’ll find sparks
on every page, including 100 bonus marketing tips. You’ll also discover how to
write specific scenes and characters, adding depth to your work.

•        Spark One:
Being a Writer
•        Spark Two:
Story Essentials
•        Spark
Three: A Book’s Stepping Stones
•        Spark Four:
How To
•        Spark Five:
Character ER
•        Spark Six:
•        Spark
Seven: Publishing
•        Spark
Eight: Marketing
•        Spark Nine:
Writing About
•        Spark Ten:
Final Inspiration

With so much information, you’ll take
notes, highlight, and flag pages to come back to again and again on your
writing journey.



 Chrys Fey is the
author of the Disaster Crimes Series, a unique concept blending romance,
crimes, and disasters. She’s partnered with the Insecure Writer’s Support Group
and runs their Goodreads book club. She’s also an editor for Dancing Lemur

Fey realized she wanted to write by
watching her mother pursue publication. At the age of twelve, she started her
first novel, which flourished into a series she later rewrote at seventeen. Fey
lives in Florida and is always on the lookout for hurricanes.
Chrys Fey’s Links:


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Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Insecure Writers Want to Know: What’s Harder to Create: Book Titles or Character Names?

            For me, I’d have to say that book titles or short story titles are more difficult to create. Titles are the nicknames of story or plot. They are essential to grabbing a reader’s attention to purchase or actually read the story.

            Can I come up with a perfect nickname—or title—right away? Nope! Sometimes a title comes to me as I start to create a manuscript, but more often than not, the title changes by submission time.

            Titles need to be clear, concise, and direct to be of any use to both readers and writers. You want to make a reader stop and consider the subject or topic in your writing from the title. You are enticing the reader into your story, your pages, your book. Whether it’s fiction or nonfiction, titles need to encompass the meaning of your writing.

            *I realize some literary titles may not conform to these ideas.*

            Have you noticed that non-fiction titles are usually longer than fiction titles? I feel this is because non-fiction writers want to be clear about what is in their pages. Let’s take The Boys in the Boat, Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics by Daniel James Brown as an example. This historical non-fiction title lets the reader know exactly when, where, and what will transpire in the pages of the book. [It’s a great book, by the way!]

            I realize that many writers feel a short title is easier to remember than a long title. And that’s basically true, as long as the short title captures the essence of the story. Here are just a few titles I plucked from my shelf to show you how the titles encapsulate the story.

Louis Sachar’s YA novel Holes encompasses the main thrust of the story in the one word title. The reader [or maybe just me] immediately wants to know why the youth are digging all these holes in a desert. Is it just punishment or is there a deeper secret?

In Elizabeth George’s novel What Came Before He Shot Her, the whole story is literally about the days before the protagonist supposedly shot someone. In essence, it explains how the whole situation came about.

Celeste Ng’s Everything I Never Told You is thematically a story about communication. In it the reader discovers the inner thoughts and lives of the characters that, unfortunately, they can’t seem to communicate to each other in the story present.  

For my short stories, I tend to create shorter titles: Brotherly Love, Natural Instincts, and Emerging from Darkness, to name just a few. In those titles, the editor felt the story was encapsulated: brothers struggling to listen to each other; a protagonist understanding and thereby surviving in nature; a protagonist finally coming to grips with her past to be able to live her present.

In one of my non-fiction titles: Pedalers’ Express: Ocean to Ocean, the title tells the reader how [on bicycles] and where [from ocean to ocean] the journey takes place.  

            I could go on and on, but I’m sure you have thoughts on the purpose of titles and their construction, too. Please feel free to share them in the comments section below.

Thank you for visiting Adventures in Writing. Please follow my blog if you haven’t already and connect with me online. Leave your blog link in the comment so I can be sure to do the same for you.

This post was written for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group. We post on the first Wednesday of every month.  To join us, or learn more about the group, click HERE.  

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Going Beneath the Surface in Story #AuthorToolboxBlogHop

To go beneath the surface in your story, or shall we say beneath the plot, the writer needs to ask why what happens in the plot matters to the protagonist or the characters in the story. As Lisa Cron of Story Genuis fame says, the plot gets its emotional weight based on how it affects your protagonist who is in pursuit of a goal.

Let’s see how it works in two books I enjoyed.

The Boys in the Boat, Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics by Daniel James Brown is an historical non-fiction book told as a riveting story. The plot is about how these nine disparate, poor American college boys finally come together as a team to win the eight-oared crew race in the 1936 Olympic Games in Germany. [Eight oarsmen, 1 coxswain = nine American boys in the boat]
That’s what happens.
But who would really care if not for the why it matters to one particular boy in the boat, Joe Rantz. This book is mostly his story. Of course, Brown brings to life all of the crew members, the coaches, the boat builder, Joe’s family and girlfriend, the Depression, the Dust Bowl, and Hitler’s Nazi Germany.
What Joe has always wanted is a family who cares about him. The reader watches Joe’s attempts to get his father and step-mother to care about him, to be proud of him. And we feel Joe’s pain as he is abandoned again and again by his family.
We see his misbelief become a reality, that he can’t trust anyone to be there for him. The reader is part of his search for family and connection. And he finds it in rowing and realizing that he can trust his fellow crew members.

In fiction, John Grisham’s The Client works the same way. The plot is about the suicide of a mafia lawyer who knows about the mafia cover-up of a murdered Louisiana senator.
Okay, it’s about the mafia’s dirty works. Why should it matter to regular folks?
It matters because the protagonist, an eleven-year-old, street-wise but poor boy named Mark Sway, tries to prevent the lawyer from committing suicide.

Okay, so what?
It’s the backstory in any story that helps the reader understand why the plot matters to the characters.
Mark’s always wanted security for him and his mother and younger brother. He’s been taking care of them since before his abusive father left.
What happens in the plot matters to the Mark because he feels responsible for bringing a mafia threat into his family. A heavy load for an eleven-year-old to bear. Like any good story, problems escalate. Not knowing who to turn to, Mark retains a lawyer for his family with a dollar. Together Mark and his lawyer Reggie Love, a woman with her own complicated backstory, end up in a race to discover the body before the mafia moves the body.  
Again, this all matters to Mark because he doesn’t want his family to live in fear of the mafia killing them.

            I’ve only given a basic outline of what I’m trying to show here with the above two titles. It’s easier to show how the questioning system works with finished stories. It’s much harder to do this in your own work of creation.

In each scene, the writer needs to know:
What the characters go into the scene believing,
What they want, and
Why what is happening in the scene matters to them.

By the end of each scene, the characters need to change; their outlooks on the situation, their feelings, or their next moves, even if it is just slightly. Writers need to let the reader into the character’s head.

In the first scene of my memoir about attending college as a mother of five, Victoria is at school with her special needs’ daughter Marie. They are meeting with the guidance counselor from the high school to choose a curriculum for Marie.

Victoria enters the scene believing that she’s inferior to college-educated professionals, but if she can only get the counselor to understand Marie’s needs and what Marie wants to do in life [attend college to become a teacher], choosing the curriculum will be easy.

What Victoria wants in this scene is for the counselor to listen to Victoria. [Counselor ignores Victoria.]

Why what is happening in this scene matters to Victoria is because she is reliving her own struggle of trying to convince her parents that she desired to attend college, and Victoria, too, was told that she was not college material.

Victoria changes by the end of the scene [only slightly] by deciding, as a mother, to give her daughter the opportunity that Victoria was denied so long ago. Victoria allows her daughter the opportunity to at least try to attend college. [Counselor makes Victoria sign paper stating that if Marie fails high school it’s Victoria’s fault because Victoria wouldn’t follow recommendations made by teachers and the Special Education Department, people who are more educated than Victoria, who wanted Marie to stay in Special Ed classes.]

Writers of fiction as well as memoir need to remember that we never just give us the what in the story. We need to always dive into the why. In other words, when creating story, writers need to know the questions to ask of every scene, every character:
What happened?
Why did that happen?
What did the character do as a result?

If we keep asking why and where the feeling is coming from and what does it mean to that person, we can discover the true meaning of our story.

I want to thank JennieNash of Author Accelerator and Lisa Cron for helping me to understand which questions to ask for each scene in my memoir.
*As before, please offer any insight or comments you may have about my college memoir. Thank you! * 

Thank you for visiting Adventures in Writing. Please follow my blog if you haven’t already and connect with me online. Leave your blog link in the comment so I can be sure to do the same for you. To continue hopping through more amazing blogs or to join our Author Toolbox blog hop, click here

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Insecure Writers Want to Know: Does Spring Inspire You to Write More Than in Other Seasons?

            Ah spring, the awakening of nature! Or is it more a rebirth of creation? Writers, as well as other artists, create. If we think in terms of creation, writers create new worlds, whether they’re alien, paranormal, magical, historical, or contemporary. These worlds must be logical and the writer needs to understand them explicitly. Writers also need to populate any new world with realistic characters and create believable struggles and offer new insights. If writers consider the spring season as a time of new creation, then yes, it can be a great inspiration to begin something new.

Do I, personally, write more in springtime than in other seasons? I don’t think so. I try to write the same amount in all seasons—as much as possible. Notice the important verb in that sentence: try. My writing comes in many forms; i.e., blog posts, comments, and social media and e-mails, writing workshop presentations, fiction works in progress, and of course, my memoir about attending college as a mother of five.

I fret over each word, which is a real problem for me. In any one of those writing endeavors, I can run short on “what comes next.” The family can intrude in my space. And my personal realm as a writer can come crashing down without warning. Since this can happen at any time, I try to write as much as possible whenever I can.

The key for me is to ignore the internet, pray the family don’t find me, and not look out the window, not until I’ve finished at least some of the writing I have scheduled for the day.

Uh oh! My eyes just glanced out the window. The sunshine is kissing the flowers. You’ll have to excuse me. My lilacs are in full bloom. The Lily of the Valley needs plucking. Birds and bunnies call attention to themselves in blossoming apple and cherry trees and on sharp green lawns. Suddenly, my senses need filling. I’ll get back to my writing creations after a cleansing of my mind on a walk in springtime.  

Thank you for visiting Adventures in Writing. Please follow my blog if you haven’t already and connect with me online. Leave your blog link in the comment so I can be sure to do the same for you.

This post was written for the Insecure Writer’s SupportGroup. We post on the first Wednesday of every month.  To join us, or learn more about the group, click HERE.  

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

What is the Aha Moment in Fiction or Memoir #AuthorToolboxBlogHop

Lisa Cron, in her Story Genius course, states that your protagonist’s “aha moment” near the end of your novel is when the protagonist finally overcomes her misbelief. This is where your novel makes its point. A writer needs to know the point she is trying to make in her story to be sure each scene is focused on that point.

If I analyze my college journey experience, I notice that throughout my experience I am the mother of five children first and a college student second. My life has always been about the parenting of my children.

            This brought me back to how my parents raised me and my brother and sisters. It made me reconsider deeply my father’s words in the origin scene. You can find my post on origin scene here.   
“What makes you think you’re smart enough for college, Vic?”

Because Victoria struggled in her early education, her father felt he was saving his daughter from possible failure in life. Perhaps he thought he could save all his children from failure by choosing an easier path for them; a path, he thought, without unnecessary struggle; a path, it seemed, without a college education in it.

Victoria’s initial interpretation of the origin scene was that those who struggle in school should not go to college because they’d have a higher risk for failure.

But what if Victoria realizes near the end of her college journey that success in college doesn’t depend only on how quickly you learn but rather on your determination to succeed? Doubt and fear of failure are a part of life. Many people struggle to better themselves. Parents shouldn’t keep their children from attempting new and difficult goals solely to keep them safe from the risk of failure. We must realize our full potential, and to do this, many need to struggle; like Victoria does in her quest for a college diploma.  

Maybe becoming a parent myself solidified my work ethic. Perseverance matters in life. Those who struggle early in their education learn this as they move through life. Perseverance can overcome obstacles. Victoria learns this through her college journey. She learns differently. Others may learn faster, but Victoria keeps chipping away at education and understanding of course material to receive her Bachelor of Arts degree from an Ivy League university.

The takeaway message to readers could be:
Effort counts in life as in college.
Perseverance matters.
Don’t let fear and doubt keep you from your goals.

*In your opinion, which sentence encapsulates what Victoria has learned from the info I provided above?*  

While researching concrete evidence about what Victoria learned during her ten-year college journey, I came across two great TED talks:
Angela Lee Duckworth defines “grit” as passion and perseverance for long-term goals.
And Dr. Carol Dweck speaks of a belief called the “growth mindset” and how we can improve in learning.

            In memoir as in fiction, the protagonist needs to deal with her misbelief scene by scene by scene in order to earn her “aha moment,” that point in the story where the protagonist discovers that her misbelief is in fact a misbelief. This is usually an “internal realization” according to Lisa Cron in Story Genius, an internal realization that is prompted by an event in a fiction story or memoir. Thanks for reading.

And thank you for visiting Adventures in Writing. Please follow my blog if you haven’t already and connect with me online. Leave your blog link in the comment so I can be sure to do the same for you. To continue hopping through more amazing blogs or to join our Author Toolbox blog hop, click here.            

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Insecure Writers Want to Know: When your writing life is filled with rain, What do you do to dig down and keep writing?

Please understand that any time I’m struggling with my writing, it pours. Thunder and lightning included. Hail, many times. I mean the storm clouds just won’t leave me alone. My children and husband even scatter! It isn’t pretty. Eeyore has nothing on me.

But I try to convince myself that I’m not alone. Drenched souls don’t mind sharing umbrellas or fluffy beach towels. That’s why I treasure IWSG. I’d be lost without you guys!

The first thing I try to do is remain at my desk, fingers at the ready on the keyboard, eyes focused on the computer screen. I turn off any outside noise. If only I could find that hidden off switch on the children!
Then I attempt to inhabit the story or memoir situation, asking myself:
If I were the protagonist, what would I do?
How would I feel?
What would I remember to help me cope with the present day action of the story?
What meaning would the story action have for me?

However when the rain is really pelting me, it’s time to save my work and close the document. Then turn to other writers to learn. Mostly this means reading stories and blog posts, essays and how-to books, and listening to the writing gurus’ podcasts.
But in so doing, I try to remind myself that they, too, might have struggled to write their stories or posts or essays or memoirs or podcasts.

When I can’t see where to go in my story or memoir, I turn off the computer and take my brain outside. The weather doesn’t matter. I’m really just thinking and walking; looking at the real world to be able to make sense of my fictitious world or the past memoir world that I’ve lived. I’m taking my eyes away from the page; noticing the sky and the trees; smelling the flowers and the earth; listening to the song of the birds and my thoughts. I’m a concrete thinker. I need to understand the logic of what’s happening before I can transcribe it into story or memoir.

 As I return to my work and my computer, I consider any knowledge that I might need in order to move forward in the story or memoir. I’m talking about research here. And while I believe in the power of the library or any expert interviews you may be able to acquire, the internet is a fine place to begin a research campaign.
Now I don’t know about you, but I need to remind myself that I’m working here and not get interested in what’s happening on social media or suddenly want to discover what my favorite movie star is up to or the royals. I try to console myself saying it’s only because I don’t know where to go in my WIP. Yet, I’m a writer. There’s a time to play and a time to work.

Writers work incredibly hard to make their creation a reality. How do you climb out of the mud puddles of your WIP when you don’t know how to proceed? Humor me please. I’ve moved to higher ground and still I’m drowning trying to make sense of my college memoir.

Thank you for visiting Adventures in Writing. Please follow my blog if you haven’t already and connect with me online. Leave your blog link in the comment so I can be sure to do the same for you.

This post was written for the Insecure Writer’s SupportGroup. We post on the first Wednesday of every month.  To join us, or learn more about the group, click HERE.