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What Determines the Course of Characters’ Relationships?

A question put to authors on Alignable asked what determines the course of their characters’ relationships. I responded there but thought the topic made an excellent blog post.

A lot of what determines the course of a character’s relationships has to do with the character’s psyche at the beginning and how they must develop by the end. When I studied psychology, the person-situation debate always fascinated me, so when I write, I consider who the character is and how they’d react in the situation.

art fingers foggy hand

Photo by Pedro Figueras on Pexels.com

The show Supernatural does this very well. Sam and Dean often react differently in the same situation because they’re different people. They evolve through the course of the fourteen seasons I’ve watched so far, but they remain true to their characters. Even Sam without a soul retains characteristics that make him Sam, and he behaves differently than Dean would in the same situation.

This topic came up as well when another author consulted me about two characters he had in one of his stories. They were both so similar they’d behave exactly the same way if placed in the same situation. This meant they were interchangeable, which, in storyland, makes one of them extraneous.

When I plan out my stories, often, the characters come first. This was the case in my novel Injury, which focused on an actress at the height of her career. The idea for it grew from an assignment my daughter did back in grade eight. She had to write a biography of a famous person, and part of the assignment required her to create a list of questions for that celebrity. One of the questions she listed was “If you could ask your father anything right now, what would it be?”

That question fascinated me, and I considered what it would be like to be a famous actress whose father had abandoned her. Then I thought about what it would be like if the abandonment story were a lie. Her whole self-esteem would’ve formed around the lie she believed, and now she’d have to change her self-talk to reflect the truth.

woman looking at sea while sitting on beach

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

In the novel, actress Daniella Grayson has always kept herself in the limelight, trying to get the attention of the father she believed abandoned her when she was five. Her past relationships were an unconscious search for a father figure. At the beginning of the story, Dani learns that her father’s remains have been found and her mother was arrested for the murder. Now she must reframe everything she believed about herself, her father, and her mother.

All my stories contain characters whose childhoods affected them and whose relationships molded them.

A prime example is The Hunted, which picks up the story begun in Storm Lake twelve years after Rachel and her brother encountered the monsters there. How Rachel has dealt with the trauma differs radically from how Jeff deals with it.

In Poison Pen, I have three main female characters, all authors, who must reframe their beliefs about themselves and their relationships after one of their colleagues (who is also the brother of one of the three) is murdered in the home he shares with his sister. Each main character had a relationship with the victim, and now he’s not only gone but his killer is still out there. This is a howcatchem rather than a whodunit, so the reader knows who the killer is, but the characters don’t realize he’s a member of their writing group. They all have a relationship with the killer, and the story explores how this murder influences all their interactions.

Poison Pen image courtesy of Patti Roberts of Paradox Book Covers

Poison Pen image courtesy of Patti Roberts of Paradox Book Covers

​In Gillian’s Island, an Ontario woman going through a messy divorce is forced to sell her island resort. She’s an introvert and must teach a developer from New York how to run the place when he buys it. There’s an instant attraction between them, but she labels him a playboy based on what she’s seen about him on the internet. She makes a lot of assumptions that affect her attitude and behaviour. At the same time, someone is sabotaging the resort, which complicates everything but also pushes them together.

purple crocus in bloom during daytime

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

In the Valiant Chronicles books The Experiencers and A Ring of Truth, the two main characters have been together in previous lifetimes but don’t realize it. I wanted to explore the idea that reincarnation exists, and its purpose is to fulfill destinies. The premise is that people keep coming back until they learn what they are supposed to learn to move to the “next level” or they complete some task they were supposed to complete.

To sum up: it’s all about the characters, who they are, who they will become, and what motivates them to behave the way they do and form the relationships they do. All of my stories explore relationships between characters because interactions with others are critical to character development.

Say My (Pen) Name

Readers, are you a fan of genres or a fan of authors?

It’s an important distinction and one that I contemplate more often since I published my books. What is my brand? Is it the genre in which I write or is it my writing style? What if I write in multiple genres? Can I keep my identity?

This morning I read the following in an article called “Marketing: Your Author Central Page” by Randy Ingermanson in his newsletter, The Advanced Fiction Writing E-Zine:

Many authors write all their books under a single name. That makes a lot of sense if all your books are related to each other in some way.

But if you write very different types of books, it might be better to write each type under a different name (or a different variation of your name). The reason is to avoid “brand confusion” in your marketing. When you have widely different target audiences, you don’t want to market all your books to all your target audiences. You want to market each book only to its particular target audience.

I’m sure that makes all kinds of business sense, but as a reader, I’ve always wondered why authors feel the need to go undercover like that. Eventually, they’re discovered and then their loyal fans flock to the newly discovered books. Why not skip the cloak-and-dagger stuff and admit you wrote the books?

Now I know it’s usually at the behest of the publisher, so I won’t blame the authors for this, but if, as Ingermanson says, you should market the book to the particular target audience, can’t you do that even if you keep your name?

Stephen King wrote novels under the name Richard Bachman. As soon as he was outed, the Bachman books sported the line “Stephen King writing as Richard Bachman.” His fans then bought the Bachman books in droves. Same deal with Nora Roberts/J.D. Robb. As soon as her fans discovered she authored the “In Death” books, they flocked to read them and now all the In Death books sport the line “Nora Roberts writing as J.D. Robb.” Ditto Anne Rice/A. N. Roquelaure.

As a reader, I find that annoying. If I love reading an author, I don’t give a rat’s ass what they write. If Nora Roberts wants to explore futuristic murder mysteries, as she did with the In Death books, I’ll read them. For God’s sake, I’ve read her Silhouette Romance books because she wrote them, and I don’t typically read Silhouette romances.

In my own experience with selling my novels, I’ve found there are two types of readers. One type will read anything I write, and they’re readers just like me. They follow the author, not the genre. The other type of reader will stick to the genre they prefer. They’ll read every single one of my romantic suspense novels, but they won’t read the SF thrillers or the urban fantasy (even if they have romance in them). The other readers in this category will read all my SF thrillers and horror stories but stay the hell away from the romantic suspense.

When I talk to potential readers at book signings and events, I’ll ask them what genre they enjoy reading. This helps me determine which of my books to introduce them to. All my books are under my name. I am my brand, and yes, I understand what Ingermanson says about brand confusion, but I trust my readers to eyeball my books and decide if the one they’re looking at is for them.

What I don’t want is to hide books from readers who will read a wide variety of genres and follow me, the author.

I recall thinking once that Stephen King could write about anything, even someone taking a shit (and he has), and make it interesting. I’ve since revised that opinion–Lisey’s Story and some of his later books had parts I considered boring–but the point is that I want to explore everything he writes regardless of genre. I’d prefer it if I didn’t have to wait for someone to out his pen name to learn he wrote another book. As a reader, this type of subterfuge annoys me.

Fellow scribes, how do you feel about this? Is it an issue for you? Readers, do you prefer authors who use multiple pen names for books they write in different genres?

Procrastinating with Innocence

I should be writing–not on my blog, but on my current WIP, which is a novel I’m plowing through for NaNoWriMo. I’m in the home stretch as far as achieving my goal for NaNo goes. I’ve hit 40,020 words and need only 9,980 more words to reach the NaNo finish line. That won’t get me a completed first draft–my novels typically hit at least 60,000 words. My longest, A Ring of Truth, reached over 90,000 words.

This is my long-winded way of saying I’m procrastinating, but it’s for a good reason. Okay, maybe not a good reason, but for a good excuse.

I recently finished reading Roald Dahl’s autobiographical book Innocence and find it lingering in my psyche. Dahl had an interesting life, though Innocence focused on his childhood years. I’m always fascinated by writers and their lives and how they became published authors. Dahl’s road to authordom was much easier than it is for most authors. The first thing he wrote was published and his career took off from there. Nice. I’m not jealous at all. Wink.

But that’s not where I want to focus. I’d like to share this quote about writing from the book. I find it if not inspirational then comforting, and any other writers out there might do the same, so I want to share before it slips off my to-do list (See? Good excuse, right?):

I began to realize how simple life could be if one had a regular routine to follow with fixed hours and a fixed salary and very little original thinking to do. The life of a writer is absolute hell compared with the life of a businessman. The writer has to force himself to work. He has to make his own hours and if he doesn’t go to his desk at all there is nobody to scold him. If he is a writer of fiction he lives in a world of fear. Each new day demands new ideas and he can never be sure whether he is going to come up with them or not. Two hours of writing fiction leaves this particular writer absolutely drained. For those two hours he has been miles away, he has been somewhere else, in a different place with totally different people, and the effort of swimming back into normal surroundings is very great. It is almost a shock. The writer walks out of his workroom in a daze. He wants a drink. He needs it. It happens to be a fact that nearly every writer of fiction in the world drinks more whisky than is good for him. He does it to give himself faith, hope and courage. A person is a fool to become a writer. His only compensation is absolute freedom. He has no master except his own soul, and that, I am sure, is why he does it.

I can relate to needing a stiff drink after a writing session. I’ve often wanted a shot when I’ve finished writing for the day. Sometimes I’ve wondered what it would be like to, as has been attributed to Hemingway, “Write drunk; edit sober.”

I don’t do it, of course. The pull might be there, and it feels like an enticing crutch, but the desire isn’t enough to make me grab that drink. I can’t imagine writing under the influence, and after I’m done for the day, I have so many other obligations to catch up on that I can’t sit down and drink. The point is, Dahl has put into words precisely the feelings I have some days when I’m faced with that blank page at the start of a writing session and the weariness that comes after completing it.

To again quote Hemingway: “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.”

It’s these revelations from famous authors that help me realize I’m not the only writer who gets creatively constipated.

I’m in the home stretch on my NaNo project. I need to get back to it. But this digression has helped brace me for the sprint ahead better than a shot of whisky could.

For those of you working on a NaNo project (or just plugging away at your personal writing goals), how do you find encouragement when your spirits sag? Did you find any reassurance in that Roald Dahl quote?

Sylva Fae Author of the Week Blog Tour

Sylva Fae

Sylva Fae

Introducing Sylva Fae

This week Mom’s Favorite Reads is featuring Sylva Fae. She writes children’s stories and loves beauty and nature. You’re certain to find her among the fae, listening and learning.

I first got to know author Sylva Fae in an online writing group and fell in love with her positive, gentle spirit. Her books are wonderful for young children, and my grandkids own more than one.

Mini Bio

Sylva Fae is a married mum of three from Lancashire, England. She grew up in a rambling old farmhouse with a slightly dysfunctional family and an adopted bunch of equally dysfunctional animals. She spent twenty plus years teaching literacy to adults with learning difficulties and disabilities but now lives in Cheshire, juggling being a mum, writing children’s stories and keeping up with the crazy antics of three naughty rabbits.

Her earliest memories are of bedtime stories snuggled up close to mum to see the pictures. It was a magical time, those last special moments before dozing off to sleep would feed dreams of faraway lands and mystical beings. She now wants to share that love of stories and inspire children to create their own magical adventures.

Sylva and her family own a wood and escape there at every opportunity. Adventures in their own enchanted woodland, hunting for fairies and stomping in puddles, have inspired Sylva to write stories for her girls.

Sylva published her first children’s book Rainbow Monsters, in 2017. She has since published four other children’s picture books, an anthology of Christmas stories, and has a short story published in the IASD charity anthology, You’re Not Alone. Two of her books have won Best in Category for children’s books at the Chanticleer International Book Awards. She also writes a blog, Sylvanian Ramblings, and enjoys doing developmental editing as part of One Stop Author Services. Recently, Sylva joined the editors’ team at Mom’s Favorite Reads and regularly contributes articles to the magazine.

Books to date

Books by Sylva Fae

Books by Sylva Fae

Rainbow Monsters – Winner of 2017 Chanticleer Little Peeps Award

Mindful Monsters – Shortlisted for 2018 Chanticleer Little Peeps Award

No Place Like Home

Yoga Fox – Winner of 2018 Chanticleer Little Peeps Award

Bea & Bee

Elfabet – Illustrated by Katie Weaver

Children’s Christmas Collection – With authors Kate Robinson, Paul Ian Cross, and Suzanne Downes

That Pesky Pixie – a series of stories for a story app

www.getbedtimestories.com/library/that-pesky-pixie

  • An Itchy Situation
  • A Stinky Start!
  • A Dastardly Plan
  • A Feast for a Fairy Queen
  • Three Pesky Pixies and a Monstrous Mouse

Contact Links

Blog                 https://sylvafae.co.uk/blog/

Amazon           author.to/SylvaFae

Facebook        https://www.facebook.com/SylvaFae

Twitter             https://twitter.com/sylvafae

Pinterest          https://www.pinterest.co.uk/sylvafae/

Book Links

MyBook.to/RainbowMonsters

MyBook.to/MindfulMonsters

MyBook.to/YogaFox

MyBook.to/BeaAndBee

MyBook.to/Elfabet

www.getbedtimestories.com/library/that-pesky-pixie

You can find a list of sites featurning Sylva Fae on Mom’s site.

 

Author Rescues Dogs from Kill Shelters

Paulette Mahurin is an international best-selling literary fiction and historical fiction novelist. She lives with her husband Terry and two dogs, Max and Bella, in Ventura County, California. She grew up in West Los Angeles and attended UCLA, where she received a Master’s Degree in Science.

Semi-retired, she continues to work part-time as a Nurse Practitioner in Ventura County.

When she’s not writing, she does pro-bono consultation work with women with cancer, works in the Westminster Free Clinic as a volunteer provider, volunteers as a mediator in the Ventura County Courthouse for small claims cases, and involves herself, along with her husband, in dog rescue. Profits from her books go to help rescue dogs from kill shelters.

Paulette’s first novel, The Persecution of Mildred Dunlap, made it to Amazon bestseller lists and won awards, including best historical fiction 2012 in Turning the Pages Magazine. Her second novel, His Name Was Ben, originally written as an award-winning short story while she was in college and later expanded into a novel, rose to bestseller lists its second week out. Her third novel, To Live Out Loud, won international critical acclaim and made it to multiple sites as favorite read book of 2015. Her fourth book, The Seven Year Dress, made it to the bestseller lists on Amazon U.S., Amazon U.K., and Amazon Australia. Her fifth book, The Day I Saw The Hummingbird, is now available for purchase on Amazon.

To learn more about Paulette, her books, and the dogs she rescues, visit her website.

Comment on this post and other posts in Paulette’s blog tour this week and we’ll enter your name into a draw to win a small prize. Find the complete list of sites to visit.

Guest Author Interview on Cheryl Holloway’s Blog

I’m honoured and thrilled to announce that I was asked to do an interview with author Cheryl Holloway on her blog. Please take a moment to read the interview. The link to it follows:

Guest Author Interview – Val Tobin

CH: Today’s Guest Author is Val Tobin. She writes stories worth losing sleep over by drawing on her master’s degree in parapsychology. Welcome to my blog, Val.

CH: How did you come up with the premise for this psychic/ghost thriller?

VT: Earthbound is a prequel to The Experiencers, book one of the Valiant Chronicles. Ever since I wrote about Michael Valiant, I wanted to know more about his previous victims and what led up to the events that occur in The Experiencers and A Ring of Truth. I decided to tell the story of one of the unjustly murdered, and to do it from the spirit world. This way, I could explore philosophical and theological themes. I’ve always wondered, if spirits exist, why don’t all murder victims try to expose their killers? What would cause them to let it go? What higher purpose might there be to events? What is fate and how does it fit in with free will?

Most of these questions don’t have answers, but fiction is a great conduit for exploring such ideas….

Read more on Cheryl’s site.

Thank you for reading!

Premonition, The Hunted, and Changed for Life Updates

Changed for Life

Changed for Life

Yesterday, I finished the first draft of a short story I was working on (a Valiant Chronicles prequel story featuring Carolyn and John Fairchild, for those who are familiar with the series). It’s called “Premonition” and is set in Mexico.

 

I’m about 3/4 of the way done The Hunted, which is the sequel to “Storm Lake” and a full-length novel.
Changed for Life, my nonfiction book, is moving at a snail’s pace. I’m only about 1/4 of the way through this one. The topic fascinates me, but it requires intense research.