WisRWA Calendar

Apr 05
2019
WisRWA 2019 Write Touch Conference
Mark your calendars for the 2019 Write Touch Conference April 5-7, 2019 at the Milwaukee Hyatt in beautiful downtown Milwaukee. The conference will feature Maya Rodale as keynote speaker, and Lisa Cron as one of the headliners.

Registration is now open. Click the events tab for more information.

Meeting Times

Dec 08
2018
Wausau
11-1 at 2510 Restaurant, Wausau, WI

Wausau WisRWA Celebrates 2018 Accomplishments

See the calendar tab for more details.
Dec 17
2018
Milwaukee
6 PM at 2321 W Cumberland Court, Mequon, WI

Holiday Party

See the calendar tab for more details.

WisRWA Newsletter



Writing Craft

The Internet is Not Forever, and Other Useful Social Media Advice

Picture of Social Media Icons

“The internet is forever.”

Wrong. We’ve all heard this warning. I say it to my teenage daughter all the time. But this so-called helpful advice is not only not helpful to you, if you’re like most people, it’s probably detrimental to your success on social media.

Unless you’re talking about nudie pictures, (public service announcement: don’t post nudie pictures on the Internet) letting your social media strategy be guided by the fear that any of your posts will ever be fascinating to the whole world for all time is kind of like planning your three-year-old’s career as an NBA superstar. Sure, it happens to some people, but the odds of it happening to you are just so (to be polite) ridiculously small. And, in fact, your biggest problem is much more likely the opposite: getting anyone, anyone at all, to read and care about what you’ve posted.

My day job is social media marketing, and I spend a lot of time doing it. So, from my experience, let me suggest some better, more helpful advice.

  1. Use fewer words. You know people do it. You probably do too. You see a wall of words, lengthy and dense, and you move along without reading it, even if you know it’s probably interesting. tldr is an abbreviation the kids use these days for “too long; didn’t read.” The attention span of the average social media user is approximately a nanosecond. Or less. Even if your high school taught the 12-sentence paragraph, as you’ve long suspected, your high school was wrong. Keep your sentences and your paragraphs short. Use lots of white space. And, lead with your important thoughts, so your readers see them before they stop reading.
  2. Go back and cut out a few more words.
  3. Don’t post without explanation. Tell people why you’re posting this picture, or sharing this person’s post. You’ll engage with them more if you let them know why you thought they’d like something or find it interesting. Social media is a chance for your readers to hear your voice, maybe understand a little of what you’re thinking, maybe respond, and to feel connected with you. So, connect.
  4. Avoid “saminess.” And, yes, before you say anything, that is a real word. Probably. Social media platforms all have top-secret formulas for deciding who, and how many people, will see which posts in their feeds. This is called your post’s reach. One of the things most heavily penalized is saminess. Same pictures. Same words. Sometimes you need to repeat yourself, promoting a new release, for example, but it’s important to find different ways to present it on subsequent posts.
  5. Vary the types of posts as well. Promotional posts typically get the lowest reach, but are the most important to you as an author. Build up the size of your audience with different types of posts, such as interesting informational or educational posts that your readers will find useful, and engaging posts that touch their emotions. No, it doesn’t all have to be your original content. It can be shares. And yes, sometimes this means kitten pictures and hamster videos. These kinds of posts help you connect better with your followers. And then, when you do promote, there will be more people to see it, and they’ll be more inclined to care.
  6. Avoid “selling words,” or be prepared to pay. Using words such as “on sale” or “sale price” or “to purchase” or “for more information” flags the top-secret formula that you’re advertising something. Posts with selling words have the lowest reach, because the platforms want you to sponsor or boost these posts (i.e. pay for them to be delivered to more people’s feeds.) Sometimes, that’s actually a good idea. You get to choose how much money to spend. The amount you’ll pay to get a decent reach is gradually rising, but this is still a relatively cheap way to advertise. Plus, boosted/sponsored posts let you reach people beyond those who have liked or followed you. For your first experience, start with a small amount of money, maybe five or ten bucks, and experiment with how it works. Pay attention to audience selection. You can choose your audience by age range, gender, geographical area and interests. The more you filter your audience, the smaller it will be. On the other hand, the more you filter your audience, the higher the likelihood that your post will be seen by someone who might actually be interested.
  7. Use pictures with every post you can. For many people, posts without pictures might as well be invisible.
  8. Pick the platforms that suit your style or appeal to your preferred market. There are too many to use them all. Google “social media statistics” to find out which platforms are currently popular with which gender and age group. Then get started. If you don’t yet know which ones suit your style, then just pick a popular one and try it. Feel free to change your mind after you’ve gained some experience with it. Follow other authors, and pay attention to what they’re doing, especially if you find a post engaging, or it gets a lot of likes, comments or shares, which means other people are engaged by it. If it’s working for them, give it a try.
  9. Don’t worry about making every post perfect. Take some chances, and find your voice. Just as in writing, where we have to turn off our editor on the first draft and just write, let yourself make mistakes starting out on social media. If you’re embarrassed later by something you’ve posted, you can go back and delete it. If you notice a typo later, you can go back and edit it. There will be awkward first efforts. Post anyway. That’s the best way to get the hang of it, and to develop your social media style. Remember that early on, not many people are paying attention to what you’re doing anyway, so try things. You’ll make mistakes. Take that as a given, and do it anyway.
  10. Likewise, don’t wait for the perfect topic. It’s great to post big exciting news of success, signing an agent, scoring a contract, finishing a manuscript, or releasing your next book, but you don’t wait for big news to post. Readers are interested in behind-the-scenes glimpses of the writing process and the life of a writer. It might be where you’re at in your current book, the amazing fabric you found at the quilting store, what you’re currently reading, something you learned at a workshop, an interesting post you saw on someone else’s feed, or even the color of the sky outside your window. The important thing is to provide content that someone would care about. Not sure yet what that is? Don’t worry about it. Give it your best shot. Let yourself make mistakes. You’ll figure it out. And remember, as long as you haven’t posted nudie pictures, the internet isn’t forever. It won’t be long before your awkward misfires (or even your perfect, golden flashes of genius) are buried under hundreds of subsequent posts, deep down the rabbit hole of your timeline.

by: Kristin Bayer

By night, Kristin is a playwright, and an aspiring romance author. By day she’s a digital marketing consultant and a mom. Find her at her website or on the bleachers at her kid’s game.

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13 Ideas to Inspire Creativity

Box of Crayons

Ever have a deadline and have no clue how you’re going to meet it? That painful moment that seems to last ten years where your brain refuses to engage in thought and you’re left idea-less. I was there just minutes ago when I realized it was my turn to post and I had no topic and no clue what I’d write, so…

I decided to look for help. I googled ways to inspire creativity. Here are 13 ideas to jump start creative thoughts.

  1. Be grateful. Think about all the blessing and beauty around you.
  2. Carry a notebook. Jot down thoughts, so that when you’re seeking inspiration you can thumb through and find it.
  3. That’s a good idea if you’ve started carrying a notebook and have written in it, but if you haven’t, you could doodle.
  4. Or you could color, if you have crayons.
  5. Keep the box of crayons out after you finish and see if you can come up with new names for the colors.
  6. Speaking of colors, go somewhere you can see blue—i.e. gaze into the sky, or skip a stone across a lake or find a blue room you can sit in for a while. Apparently beholding the color blue triggers creativity.
  7. Take a nap.
  8. Play a kid’s game like Checkers, Chutes and Ladders, Sorry, or Go Fish.
  9. Take a walk.
  10. Do something else you love. For me that might be admiring flowers. Here’s one of my favorite lilies.
  11. Help someone.
  12. Just start. Don’t judge the result until you’ve got plenty to judge.
  13. Seek out other creative people. Ask them to share ideas with you. This is my favorite tip and I know you guys are resourceful. Do you have any suggestions for me?

Sources
http://writetodone.com/201-ways-to-arouse-your-creativity/
https://www.themuse.com/advice/8-brilliant-ways-to-inspire-creativity-on-your-lunch-break
http://www.chopra.com/ccl/7-steps-to-inspire-creativity-within

Brenda Nelson-Davisby: Mia Jo Celeste

Mia Jo Celeste comes from a family of writers and English teachers, so it was no surprise when she chose to pursue both careers. You can find out more about her on her website or on Twitter.

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How to Avoid Writing Burnout

We all know about writer’s block, yes? That nagging problem where all of a sudden the words and ideas stop flowing. Usually after a day or so, the ideas start flowing again.

No, I’m talking about a real burnout where everything seems to have run into a solid brick wall. You see, I’ve been writing constantly from the mid-nineties, and crafted some interesting stories, if I do say so myself. This time, even the characters were complaining. Nothing was working in the plot, and it didn’t make sense. I was trying to force it to get another book finished.

I took a deep breath, and decided to give writing a rest for a while. Taking the summer off seems to have rejuvenated me a bit. I was getting ideas on how I could rework the manuscript.

I hope this isn’t a permanent thing, but just a glitch of some sort. After all, I’m a few months away from seventy. Nothing on my body is working the way it’s supposed to.

If this happens to you, I would go with the flow. Maybe it’s your brain saying, “I need a vacation.” Ship your thoughts off to someplace else, like a good book, and kick back and relax.

by: Ilona Fridl

Ilona Fridl has eight books out with The Wild Rose Press. She is a member of RWA since 2002, and is active in the local chapter. Also a former student of All Writers in Waukesha, Wisconsin. She lives in Southeastern Wisconsin with her husband, Mark.

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Write Touch Conference Registration is now OPEN!

Milwaukee River Walk at NightRegistration for WisRWA’s Write Touch Conference opened on the 1st of October. Our biennial event promises to offer something for every genre fiction writer. No matter if you’re starting your 1st book or finishing your 25th book, we’ve planned a conference to meet all your wordsmithing needs.

#WisRWA19 will be in downtown Milwaukee at the Hyatt Regency. We will be celebrating Daring and Decadent Storytelling with Lisa Cron, Maya Rodale, Angela Ackerman, Becca Puglisi and Mel Jolly.

From April 4th to Sunday April 7th 2019, we may have to brave the finicky spring weather in Milwaukee, but we’ll be able to enjoy the camaraderie of fellow writers from around the state and hobnob with literary agents and editors from around the country.

For me, enjoying Milwaukee comes naturally since I was born and raised in the city. I’m comfortable around lots of concrete buildings and bridges that wind over the Milwaukee River. I also happen to love the challenge of one-way streets when driving. Once upon a time, it was almost safe to walk barefoot down Brady Street.

In my humble opinion, Milwaukee is a beautiful city. It’s not too big. It’s not too small. It’s walkable. There’s a lot of good food, many fun happy hours and a rich history with its diverse community.

Author Tricia Quinnies holding Amy Reichert's book, The Coincidence of Coconut CakeSo for WisRWA conference-goers, I’m more than happy to be your personal tour guide of Milwaukee. The best way I know how to do this is with, of course, a book recommendation.

The Coincidence of Coconut Cake, by Amy E. Reichert is a terrific book that takes place in, you guessed it, Milwaukee. Ms. Reichert gives her characters the chance to explore the best of the best in Milwaukee, and readers can go along and enjoy the ride. It’s a sweet and delicious read that will introduce you to Milwaukee.

So let’s talk about Milwaukee…

I have a copy of The Coincidence of Coconut Cake that I’d love to give to someone. Just be the first one to comment about Milwaukee below to kick start the conversation and my copy will become yours to keep.

Bonus: The winner can get it autographed, since Amy will be at #WisRWA19!

Don’t forget to sign up for the conference. You can do so by clicking here. See you April!

by: Tricia Quinnies, Write Touch Conference Coordinator

Tricia Quinnies* writes contemporary romantic adventures. She sets her stories around Wisconsin to spin in her home state’s rich and quirky history. Her characters are known to walk the shores of Lake Michigan or the beaches of Lake Geneva. They dine in supper clubs, bowl in Door County and sip on a brandy old-fashioned, or two.  Of course, the characters in Ms. Quinnies’ stories are Bucks, Brewers and Packers fans.

Just Desserts, Ms. Quinnies’ first book was published in 2014. It’s the first in a series and set her on a new adventure in self-publishing. She is a freelance writer. Her features about local families are published monthly in the Bayside Scene, a news magazine published by Best Version Media. She is a member of WisRWA (Wisconsin Romance Writers of America) and Red Oak Writers.

*Pronounced, “Quinn-Is.”

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Promotion Thursday – September 2018

It’s Promotion Thursday for March. Check out where you can find our WisRWA authors this month.Promotion Thursday - October Edition

Helen Johannes is over at Coffee Time Romance & More sharing her writing advice.

 

 

 

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A Thinking Writer’s Love

A heart coming out of a headMany years ago, when I had published just one book, I attended an RWA conference for the first time. Of course I was awed by the many writers with long lists of books and awards, with the appropriate fame to go along. You know, the fan girl persona so many of us get at RWA events.

One of these star authors, a woman I admired for her novels and promotional accomplishments, spoke at an informal session, where several panelists were trying to define the ingredients of a good love story.  Let’s call my celebrated star Fiona, in case she’d want anonymity. The conversation snagged on the lack of  romances made into films.

“I know why,” Fiona said. “Because love happens in your brain. It’s no action movie theme.”

Then she broke into laughter. “Let me tell you a story,” she went on.  “A few weeks ago, I needed to have a new computer connection installed in my office.  The workman arrived and started crawling around on the floor under my desk.  Then the phone rang, and it was an interviewer from a major newspaper. I didn’t dare ask her to call back.  So I sat near my desk and answered her questions, all about the emotional side of love stories and how the brain is the primary sex organ.  I finished the interview and hung up about the time the workman crawled out from under the desk, his tasks completed.

“’Listen, lady,’ he exclaimed, “I don’t know about you, but my brain is definitely not my primary sex organ!’”

The entire room of romance writers erupted in raucous hilarity. You can be sure I have continued to read almost every book Fiona publishes.

But this topic is still worth considering for every story we try to write. How does an author express her characters steps along the way toward that goal we all seek, a meaningful and reciprocal relationship? The inner dialogue, the outward evidences of passion, the evocative looks of concern…we must make them come alive in the mind of the reader.  And it all happens in the brain! And must be related in words and reflected in conflicts that force those characters apart…to make life-changing choices that enable their love.  And how are those choices made? Why, in the brain of course.

A few years ago, I read five or six novels in a row that used the word frisson (French for shiver, usually a thrilling one) to describe “that” feeling. By the third or fourth time I read it, the word just irritated me.  But I think I used it once too, and I hope my readers didn’t have the same reaction.

I wonder if Fiona’s computer installer would describe the reaction of his primary sex organ as a frisson?

What do you think? Is the brain the primary sex organ in your WIP?

Victoria Hinshaw has been published since 1983. Her latest short story will be released soon in From Florida With Love: Moonlight and Steamy Nights, an anthology produced by the Southwest Florida Romance Writers, Vicky’s winter chapter. Visit Victoria at her website, at her blog or on Pinterest or Facebook at Victoria Hinshaw – Author.

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Fuzzy Genre: Figuring Out a Market for my Story

Write what you know, right? Then it’s only natural I’d choose psychic phenomena to weave into a plot line.

I’m fascinated by weird stuff—those who foresee the future, life after death, reincarnation. I’ve savored several psychic reading appointments in my lifetime. I’ve experienced the ‘awe’ of Long Island Medium Theresa Caputto up close at Treasure Island Casino. I’m glued to her reality television show and take copious notes. On top of this, two friends in my immediate locale actually have a psychic gift. How lucky is this, huh?

Drum roll: My romantic suspense manuscript is completed. Or is it?Romantic Suspense Silhouette of a couple

I submitted the first fifty pages and the synopsis of Roll Over, Play Dead to a publisher for a critique that I’d won at auction at the Milwaukee WisRWA conference. She liked it. Really liked it, but commented from what she’d read, I had not written a romantic suspense but more of a cozy mystery. Would I be interested in reformulating my manuscript into a cozy?

With that nibble, I said yes! And then said to myself (and others in my Chippewa Falls chapter), exactly what is a cozy mystery?

From a little research, I found it’s similar to the old Columbo television show, or to Murder She Wrote. One main character (amateur) solves the crime. Clean language for the most part. No sex.’

Ack! What? No boy meets girl with interest in his eyes? Or a psychic medium that is attracted to a hunky male cop, but her life and her goal don’t work with his? No fun under the sheets? A cop who can’t say much more than ‘darn, we lost him?’ Not realistic in my mind. Not what I enjoy reading. Not what published author Ann Simas writes. Her books are the best.

Re-writes, Peggy. Back to editing this manuscript to hone in on the growing love relationship, adding more conflict and characters, more herrings and a little sex.

There’s gotta be a fuzzy genre publisher somewhere—or a market that offers the reader an amateur sleuth who gets entangled in romance along the way.

Maybe I should ask a psychic.

Peggy StrandBy: Peggy Strand

A former reporter/editor-now retired-Peggy Strand is editing her completed romantic suspense featuring a psychic medium, a detective, and a ghost dog who gives clues like treats for humans.

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Fleshing Out Characters: Using an Unusual Resource

Astrology researchI generally have a good handle on my characters before I begin their stories. But there comes a point during my writing and/or plotting that I’m looking for details about the character, something to help me focus their personalities or flesh them out. That’s when I turn to  Linda Goodman’s Sun Signs and Love Signs.

Yes, they are astrological signs books. But, this article is not about creating characters based on their astrological signs. I simply find Linda Goodman’s descriptions inspiring. Often times, I even get physical features from her writings.

EXAMPLE: Linda describes Librans as being “full of curves, rather than angles.” Or they have a “bright lilting laugh” and “that Venus smile has enough candle power to transfigure even plain or downright homely features—literally, not figuratively.”

Descriptions like that inspire me. How about if you got a plain-Jane heroine? Now you have an idea how to make her beautiful.

Pisces she describes as having eyes that are “liquid, heavy-lidded, and full of strange lights” and “you’ll usually find more dimples than wrinkles.”

She writes that Scorpios have “husky voices” and Aquarians have a “marked nobility of profile”.

LOOKING FOR SOME CHARACTER TRAITS?

How’s this for a common romantic hero whatever his zodiac sign? “Don’t expect this man to bare his soul when he first meets you. Cancerians never confide in strangers, and there are certain things even their best friends don’t know.” Sound like a mysterious hero to you?

Check out a few more.

There’s an “inner core that belongs only to him.” “Love is not a strictly physical relationship with this man. He hears more, sees more, and feels more through his senses than others do. This man uses the word “if” like a smoke screen. “If I loved you, we could….” Your heroine will have to learn to “blot out the word if.” I don’t know about you, but I think I just fell in love with this guy.

Anybody got a character who goes around patching things up between others? Check out a Libra for details.

Is your heroine strong and independent? Might she have a secret regret that she wasn’t born a man? Don’t let that secret desire fool you. This girl has a slow seductive walk. She looks “seductive in jeans, jodpurs or baseball shoes. And she’s the one with the husky voice.”

BLEND CLASHING PERSONALITY TYPES?

Zodiac symbols

Take a lesson from the Scorpion female who “can’t excuse weakness in a man.” She looks for “ambition and courage.” She “wants a mate who can dominate her and make her proud.” Pit her against a Pisces male sign who never “recognizes that the tide is at its flood even when it sloshes over [his] feet” and you’ve got trouble. It isn’t that he’s weak. “He may just linger too long on a fading, silver star, and miss the bright sunlight of success.” Yet, Goodman’s Love Signs book lists these two signs as a successful mating.

Why? The powerful attraction of opposites. They’re both generous to a fault, but he with everyone and she with only family and friends. She talks everything out. He’s not about to reveal anything until he’s got it all worked out.

Even though it will be hard for these two to be completely honest with each other, they will quickly guess each other’s games then pretend they haven’t guessed. Leaving something unspoken adds a mystical quality to their lovemaking.

NEED A PLOT POINT?

Surprise. The scorpion may come on strong, believing she can swallow this poor little fish…but whether in a contest of wills or one of surprise, the fish will spring the last surprise. Could this be a black moment?

Above all, these two characters are “infinitely aware of each other,” even when onlookers would swear the two didn’t notice each other. I consider that infinitely aware part the key to a sensual romance.

This is just a sample of how I use Linda Goodman’s Sun Signs and Love Signs to inspire me in my creation of characters I hope my readers will fall in love with.

Now, I encourage you to go forth and search out your own odd resources for fleshing out your characters.

Headshot of Barbara RaffinBy Barbara Raffin

Blessed with a vivid imagination, award-winning author Barbara Raffin creates stories and adventures where she can explore her love of words and the human psyche. Whether a romantic romp or gothic-flavored suspense, her books have one common denominator: characters who are wounded, passionate, and searching for love. Her current work is a contemporary/contemporary suspense series about the St. John Siblings and their friends.

 

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Creating a Hero or Heroine that Captivates Readers

A strong, vivid hero or heroine

I don’t know about you, but I read fiction for the characters and the adventure those characters go through. Like most readers, I want vivid heroes who draw me into their situations and, often when I don’t get into the main character, I put the book aside. But how do writers create those attention-grabbing heroes?

Here’s what some of my favorite writing experts have to say.

  1. First, don’t create a wimp. Follow Jack Bickham’s advice from 38 Most Common Fiction Writing Mistakes. “Fiction writers too often forget that interesting characters are almost always characters who are active—risk takers—highly motivated toward a goal. Many a story has been wrecked at the outset because the writers chose to write about the wrong kind of person—a character of the type we sometimes call a wimp.”
  2. In The Key: How to Write Damn Good Fiction Using the Power of Myth, James N. Frey, a writing instructor and author, suggests that heroes have certain qualities that attract readers. Main characters must have courage. Either they start with it or they develop it along the way.
  3. Fictional heroes need to be clever and resourceful.
  4. Also, a compelling hero or heroine has a special talent. Something he or she can do better than anyone else in the story. We’re attracted to competence. We tend to pick doctors, mechanics, restaurant chefs and, yes, even fictional heroes because they perform a skill or set of skills exceptionally well.
  5. Like the previous examples, the heroine in our novels might use her unique talent to make a living and be proficient at her calling.
  6. An appealing hero is also a person who lives by his own rules. He strives to do what’s right in his mind even if others in the story don’t understand him.
  7. An effective main character is the focus of the action and the story. She must take the lead in whatever case she embraces.
  8. In Thanks, but This Isn’t For Us, Jessica Page Morrell, a best-selling author of many books on writing craft, echoes this. She says, “Heroes take charge, take responsibility, and take risks … they’re people of action who speak their minds, kick ass and take names, and, most important, who act when in real life we’d be cowering, or wetting our pants, or scrambling for an exit.”
  9. Further, she goes on to state, “Heroes dare to be wrong.”
  10. Equally important the large-and-in-charge heroine—at the center of the story, should be flawed. She or he has been wounded in the past. Perhaps he’s lost a loved one, been injured or lost his faith. He’s vulnerable and in need of healing. He has an event or a series of events in his past he’s got to work through. This brokenness fuels his current goals, makes him human and enables readers to identify with him.
  11. The hero has to grow and change throughout the story. Often, he strives to become less selfish or self-centered.
  12. She may even sacrifice herself for the good of others. Frey believes that the most compelling heroines motivated by idealism at some point in the story.
  13. Lastly, Frey suggests that the hero should be sexually potent. As Frey puts it, “Creating a mythic character without sexual energy is like bringing the burgers, the buns, and the charcoal to the barbecue, and leaving the matches at home.

I love reading stories that feature intriguing characters and I hope these tips will help you when you write your next tale. Also, if you’ve found the suggestions useful, I hope you’ll consider checking out the resources quoted in this article for further study.

  1. Sources
    Bickham, Jack M. 38 Most Common Fiction Writing Mistakes. Writers Digest Bks., U.S., 1998.
    Frey, James N. The Key: How to Write Damn Good Fiction Using the Power of Myth. St. Martins Griffin, 2002.
    Morrell, Jessica Page. Thanks, but This Isnt for Us. Jeremy P. Tarcher, 2009.
    Image Source: Wikipedia

Mia Jo CelesteMia Jo Celeste comes from a family of writers and English teachers, so it was no surprise when she chose to pursue both careers. Recently, her novel Other Than became a double finalist in the 2018 Prism Contest in the Historical/ Steampunk and Best First Book Categories.

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An “Image System”— Plot or Polish for Deeper Fiction, Deeper POV

Movie directors and cinematographers work with Image Systems to deliver a story and character that entertain and offer meaning.

For those of us writing novels, creative nonfiction, memoir, and short stories, working with an “image system” can “deepen” or improve crucial aspects such as Point of View, characterization, momentum, and theme. Some writers also use an image system as a plotting tool.

Picture of a landscape with a polaroid in the middle showing perspectiveImage System tip 1:  Play with light and shadow more to create special effects and emotion.

  • Check to see if you have too many chapters or scenes starting with a sunny morning or ending with the character going to sleep.
  • Check to see how many scenes are always in the same lighting. Could you vary things more? Use more night-time scenes?
  • Does your character note the light/shadow differences as they enter buildings, rooms, alleys, and other realms?
  • How might darkness or bright light shock your character? Or scare them? Or energize them? Or bring them new knowledge?

Image System tip 2:  Create better and more accurate distance and visual perspectives, as well as sound and smell perspectives.

  • Are you monitoring and varying your close-up camera shots versus long shots?
  • What can your character really see or not from where she or he stands? Do you mistakenly describe eye color but your character couldn’t possibly see that detail from thirty yards away?
  • Smells work the same way. Your character can’t smell a bakery from twenty yards away on a busy street clogged with car exhaust. Within five feet they might be assailed by the cinnamon smell.
  • Sounds have logic as well. At how many feet or yards away do certain sounds appear for your character? How do concrete buildings in a city muffle sounds? Remember that ice, water, and air temperatures affect sounds. Readers will love it if you are accurate about these things.

Image System tip 3:  Contrasting textures signal emotions.

  • The sense of touch is a rich, strong sensation often left out of early drafts of manuscripts, except for that pivotal first touch by lovers perhaps.
  • What information does your character get via the sense of touch of other things, or even via looking at various textures?
  • What texture holds the key to their happiness? Or makes them sad or take action?
  • What texture brings your character fear? Or pain? Or soothing calmness?
  • Where does texture appear in each of your scenes and chapters? Do a “texture outline.” Movie and stage sets are filled with well-designed and chosen textures because we innately feel them as we watch; in novels, the description can take us even deeper and help us experience an emotional reaction via textures old and new.

Image System tip 4:  Interior versus exterior—create momentum. 

  • Movie directors use a constant mix of indoor and outdoor shots. They know the audience becomes bored if five or ten scenes in a row take place indoors, for example.
  • How many of your scenes take place in the interior (or exterior) all in a row or in total for your manuscript?
  • Momentum suffers when characters are in the same place for too long and too many scenes. Readers grow tired of the sameness.
  • What about novels where most or all of the action takes place in a single room? Even that can be exciting if you exploit the concept that there are quadrants in that room and each of those four sections has different values of light, shadow, color, texture, temperature, smell, sound quality, and possibly even taste differences.

Image system tip 5:  Objects matter in every story and help you sell.

  • Directors say that all movies are about the pursuit of an object.
  • In the now-classic novel Plainsong, author Kent Haruf gave teenage Victoria a red purse. What does it symbolize? Haruf did a nifty thing by giving that purse a symbolic, simple plot all its own.
  • Our own novels soar when we imbue an object with symbolism and emotion.
  • What is the object that “matters” in your story?
  • Objects with special emotional or plot meaning usually appear on the cover of a book because marketers know they resonate with readers.

Christine DeSmetChristine DeSmet is a writing coach and instructor with University of Wisconsin-Madison Continuing Studies. She also teaches an online course in novel writing. A past Golden Heart winner and finalist (3 times), her books include three in the Fudge Shop Mystery Series (Penguin Random House) set in Door County, Wis., and the re-issued light romantic mystery novellas When Rudolph Was Kidnapped and Misbehavin’ in Moonstone (Writers Exchange Publishing).

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