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Three Things Thursday


I can’t decide if this is Three Thing Thursday or Three Things Thursday.

What do you think?




My latest idea in character development is using the 36 “love questions” to understand my characters better. You may have heard about this experiment in articles such as this one:

Basically, the experiment was to take two strangers and have them ask each other increasingly personal questions, then at the end, have them stare into each other’s eyes for four minutes. The developer believes that by doing this, he can make anyone fall in love.
Now, of course, there isn’t a particularly high marriage rate as a result, but most who participated reported feeling a deep personal connection to the other person. I would guess that this is because we often have superficial relationships and therefore judge each other on easily measurable criteria…looks, charm, wit, etc. But when we learn about the trials and struggles of another person, we realize how similar they are to us.
So, back to our characters. I answered these questions for both of my main characters. And what I discovered was that not only did I grow to love and respect them, but I realized what it was that they loved about each other.




Once in a while, if I’m “down” on myself about writing, I need advice, encouragement and perhaps a good laugh, from other writers. Just in case you need some encouragement, here are wise words from a few writers:
Adele Malott: “Writing is a job as much as an art. It can be a fun job, but if you have chosen writing as a profession, you must work at it by trying to learn something new each day, by attending seminars, by reading good writing, by using what you learn.”
Anne McCaffrey: “I wish someone had told me to stop trying to make myself the heroine of a highly unrealistic and, I’m sure, ridiculous gothic fantasy.”
Barbara Kingsolver: “There is no perfect time to write. There’s only now.”
Thomas F. Monteleone: “Finish every project (even if it’s a dog — perfecting the habit of discipline to complete projects is most important.”
Celeste De Blasis: “Be prepared for the postpartum depression that comes after finishing a book. I’d thought all I wanted to do was complete the story, but when I did, I felt so sad and lost that I thought I was going crazy. Now I understand that it’s just part of the process and is probably as much physical as mental — the letdown after a long period of living on tightly wound nerves and adrenaline.”


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Three Thing Thursday



Nine Things You Could Add to Your Scenes Today

  1. a family joke
  2. the names of your three favorite cousins
  3. your deepest, darkest secret
  4. your favorite song
  5. something you make up from nothing–like your own Proverbs
  6.  make up your own horoscope for you character that she always checks the day after (Ann Dee did this is the book we wrote. She is so danged funny.)
  7. Your own riddles that play toward the plot in some way
  8. I always add a tiny something from my core beliefs. When others, who believe the way I do, read the book, they can wonder about me.
  9. let your character do something you’ve always wanted to do




How To Take a Compliment
We are all “delicate flowers” (as my mother used to say) when it comes to critiques. Some of us get over it. Others give up writing. Some get better. Some get vindictive, lose their perspective and argue rather than critique.
What kind of “delicate flower” are you? Can you take a sincere compliment, without down-grading it to the point that your friend/fellow writer gives up trying to make you understand how good she thinks you are? Do your family members make you cringe if you read something to them?
And how do your characters accept or reject compliments? How do they know which are sincere, which are for nefarious purposes?
I often find when a person has some sense of self-worth, he or she can take a compliment with a simple “Thank you” without belaboring it. Someone who is less sure of himself/herself may react in a negative way, be derisive of the person who made the comment, plunge into depression, or what have you.
Think about this as you give “critiques.” Or get them. Or write a character into your story who needs building up, but gets torn down. How does he or she react?
Think about these things as you give critiques, as you write your characters.  How can you make “compliments” within your story which will wound or heal your characters?
When it comes to writing, I’ve found  the more I learn, the more I realize I don’t even know what I don’t know. There are so many things to think about, so many concepts to combine. We are literally creating worlds. We have to have an understanding of art and science, of human nature and psychology, of politics and government. To create our worlds, we have to know everything about everything. Then we have to communicate that knowledge in the simplest of terms. It has to be done in a way that the reader doesn’t even realize they’re learning it. We need to combine knowledge with storytelling, and weave them flawlessly together.
Sometimes it just seems impossible. The story I have in my head is never the one that makes it onto the paper. In my mind, the characters are living, breathing entities but on paper they become flat. That witty dialogue becomes stale words on a page, the brilliant descriptions are overwrought and unimpressive. Nothing is as it should be.
But I keep at it. Why? Mostly because I don’t have a choice. If I could do anything other than write, I would. If I could get these characters to just SHUT UP in any other method than writing them down, I would. But I can’t. So I continue on, held hostage by the voices in my head.
To be a writer is to be just a little bit crazy. I’m okay with that.

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Three Thing Thursday

#1 Boy, do I have a big surprise for my students!

I can’t say more than that. I’ll let you know what happens next TH.

Plus, the person we bought this home from failed to disclose a problem with mice.

We kept them very well-fed this past winter. I found that out when we pulled out our food storage in plastic, used-to-be air-tight bags.

I keep thinking about the old Beverly Cleary book The Mouse and the Motorcycle.

It’s not helping.



I keep going back to read Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones.  She was pointing out that you should read a good poem, like “To a Skylark” by Percy Bysshe Shelley, and you should do so aloud, reading it “the way he set it up and punctuated it, what you are doing is breathing his inspired breath at the moment he wrote that poem.”  Yes, even 150 years later (though now it’s even a little more than that).  Then she said, “This is why it is good to remember: if you want to get high, don’t drink whiskey, read Shakespeare, Tennyson, Keats, Neruda, Hopkins, Millay, Whitman aloud and let your body sing.”
It brought to mind how I never tire with reading Millay: I’ve read many of her poems to various classes and audiences. They always take my breath away, but loan me hers for just those few moments! Try reading GREAT authors’ materials out loud: see if they fit your breath, your mouth, your heart, your head.  Then discover how to do the same to your readers.
#3     I love musicals. I know some people think they’re dumb, because who breaks out in song and dance in the middle of the street? But I can’t get enough.

For me, musicals are not literally about breaking out in song with a full orchestral backup. It’s a method of communicating emotion in a way higher than dialogue. When the emotion of the scene goes beyond what words can say, they allow music to reach us on a deeper level.
With novels, of course, we can’t have the page magically start singing to the reader. (Although that would be totally cool. Publishers, get to work!)
So what do we do instead?
We find rhythm in words. We work in cadences. We have short sentences. Then we follow them up with longer sentences. Then we go for broke and whip out the longest sentence we can think of, hoping that we don’t lose the reader halfway through.
We use the pronunciation in words to create a feeling of musicality. We naturally inflect higher and lower on certain syllables, and we can use that inflection to create a roller coaster of prose.
This is when training in poetry comes in handy. If you haven’t ever studied poetry or tried to write with a strict poetic structure (think of sonnets) then there’s no better time to try. A deep understanding of the music of language can really help with your ability to bring emotion to a scene.

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Spring Break


Lately, I’ve been feeling like someone took the iron, got it good and hot, and ironed me out.


This kind of metaphor, what do you think it means? I’m feeling good or I’m feeling bad? I’m a better, starcher person with all my wrinkles ironed out or I’ve been flattened and burned and might not be able to get up again?

Sometimes things pop into my head, images, ideas, scenarios and I realize to me they make sense, I know the emotion that is tied to them but readers might not.

For example, sometimes I want to lay underneath a semi truck. Not really. But sort of. Then I realize, if I write that down, will people think I mean I want to be hit by semi truck? Because I don’t. At all. I think being under a semi truck would be warm and inconspicuous and you could eavesdrop and in real life it would not be good at all but in fake life, I think it would be nice and cozy? See? I’m weird. I’ve lost you. Because that’s not normal, wanting to lay under a semi truck.

We have to think carefully about the metaphors and images we use. Are they clear? Do they need too much explanation? (though that’s not always bad–sometimes that can show a character and make her/him different). The pictures we paint with our words have power. You just want to make sure you’re taking your reader in the direction you want them to go.

And so, lately I’ve been feeling I’ve been ironed out. Flattened. You guess what that means.



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Three Thing Thursday

I find I obsess a lot. About different things. Of late, I’ve obsessed about staying up too late watching TV. Which led to obsessing about sleeping in too late in the morning. Which further led to not getting enough done before noon — all my “plans” and my “schedule” were in disarray.
Do you do this? What do you obsess about? Can’t get it out of your head, even while you’re DOING whatever it was? For instance, today I was supposed to have put the rest of the Christmas boxes away in their closet, started cleaning up some other boxes out in the garage (I’ve lived here since June of 2010, and I still have boxes I’ve never opened since the move). I must get through the paper jungle I’ve created so we can get our taxes taken care of. I need to critique something for a friend. I’m not getting enough exercise. I’m so far behind on reading wonderful books written by friends, I don’t know how I’ll ever catch up. I’m writing blogs. Then I’m too tired, or out of ideas, or  have spent all “my time” before I got around to MY writing. The house is in as much disarray as my plans and schedule. What to do?
Write a list, prioritize each item:
     A: What must be done
     B. What should be done
     C. What could be done, if time opened up.
Who is the most obsessive character you write (or have written) about?  Did s/he get over it? How? If not, how did that hurt (or even help?) your character? Was he/she a list maker? Did that help? Or only add to the “not done” list?
Maybe we should all write about our obsessions. It’s evident: that’s what we care most about in the moment.
I’ve visited the Arizona Memorial in Hawaii twice. I can do nothing there but stand and weep. My tenuous connection to the Memorial is this: the bombs on Dec. 7, 1941, were landing just a few miles from where I lived. I do not remember any of it. I turned two the next day, to a ruined birthday party and party favors for me, my cousin and her cousin from her father’s side of the family — never given us: fear was so rampant, my mother was afraid to let us have the three little Japanese dolls she’d purchased. I have no knowledge of any of the people named at that memorial. But I feel a huge connection to them all the same.
I have also visited the Viet Nam Memorial Wall in Washington, D.C., once. I knew young men who were called up during those years. I’m not aware of any who may have died. I would have no idea of whose names to look for. But I don’t need the specific names: I watched an obvious vet rub for an image of a friend or relative’s name, dashing away tears every time he could no longer see what he was doing. I was almost positive that someone I knew had his name displayed there; or, at the very least, names resided there of people who were friends and relatives of other people whom I did know.
What details surround painful or exhilarating memories for you? Kennedy’s assassination? John Lennon’s? The picture of Neil Armstrong stepping onto the moon’s surface?  The day the Towers came down in New York?
Write down whatever details you know, the details which have stuck with you since being a witness to specific events. Which of your characters may have been touched by some of these events or something similar? How has it changed or marked them? How could details be changed to show how such an event affects your characters in a romance, a steam-punk story, a YA fantasy?
An old one from Cheryl:
I just watched The Great Gatsby again and I’m wondering about what makes it a classic. It’s not the writing, at least not for me. There are a few brilliant lines in it, but overall, it always felt too flowery. The characters aren’t likable either. Each are burdened with flaws that can’t be vindicated. 

I think the genius lies in the fantasy it provides. Everyone can relate to longing for The One Who Got Away. It’s such a romantic idea, to think that someone has been pining for you from afar. And on the other side, we have the quintessential American Dream. A young boy, dirt poor, who managed to rise up to be the greatest and the richest of them all.
And then there is the debate about soulmates. The definition of bravery. The concept of honor. Is it possible, after all, to rectify a mistake made in the past?
What do you think makes it a classic?

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Kyra Leigh…

Hello gang!


It has been a few weeks since I’ve posted, and a lot has changed.


I quit my job!
I wasn’t getting the writing done that I needed. Every single day I went to work, I felt more overwhelmed than before.
Usually I am a very happy worker bee, but this particular job really wore me down. {Not to mention there was a lot of sexism going on and it was a borderline hostile work environment}
Don’t worry, I found a new job.😉

Started a new novel!

I finished writing my third novel, and I am stuck in the middle of revisions. So you know what I did? I started something new. That I think I’m going to love. I feel very excited about this book! {“Book” is hardly the right word to use here..}


I moved last month and that took a chunk of my life away from writing. But now that I am settled {in the amazing town of Sugarhouse!} I feel like I could write all the novels in the world!
ALSO! I have Write/Art night every few weeks at my house. It’s usually on Mondays, but this week we are doing Thursday. All are welcome to come!


There is a boy….
And I like him.


That is all for now.

Happy Writing!!

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Today you should write about hope.  It’s raining outside and our backyard is full of yard toys and shoes and sleds and cups and chairs and bags and cardboard. I told my boys this morning that when a neighbor came to visit and saw our backyard, she started to barf all over the place.

Really? my oldest asked.

All over.


She was barfing here, over there, in the couch, on the piano, it was really sad.

They stared at me.

I stared at them.

Before they left for school, they went out and picked up a skateboard and a boot. It felt like a victory.

Write about the small victories that come from messes. That come from rain. That come from death. That come from trashy yards. That come from manipulating your children with vomit.

Every story deserves some hope.

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