Book Writing

Prompt: The Anti-Hero

The following is a tutorial and prompt for Writers in the Grove by Lorelle VanFossen and Patti Bond.

“Casting someone who people love to hate is absolutely critical.”

Bravo-TV’s Real Housewives producer Andy Cohen spoke on CNN’s “Why Donald Trump is the Perfect Real Housewife:”

If reality stars are going to make it big, they’ve got to amp up the drama – and by drama, I mean totally insane behavior.

Donald Trump is the perfect Real Housewife — the perfect villain — in the sense that some of us cannot stop talking about how much we freaking hate him. We can’t stop retweeting his deranged rantings. We cannot stop fact checking his obviously false statements. We cannot keep looking at each other — whether in real life or on a comments board — and asking, Can you BELIEVE this guy!?

In short, we cannot look away from the specter of Capital “C” Crazy before us, even if we shove an entire basket of deplorables over our heads. If Trump had a “Real Housewives” tagline, it might be, “Hate me all you want. I’ll be back for more.”

This is not a discussion about politics, but a look at a fascinating type of character often found in fiction as well as the real world: the antihero. Antiheroes are fascinating and compelling characters, and often set in the fine line between hero and villain.

The article offered a shortlist of reality TV casting requirements, which define well the concept of an antihero.

  1. 1s the character willing to say or do just about anything to be famous?
  2. Is the character polarizing among other characters and viewers?
  3. Is the character highly charismatic, yet highly offensive?
  4. Is the character predictably unpredictable?
  5. Does the character live in their own world, out of touch with reality (delusional)?

Like watching a car accident or train wreck, we can’t tear our eyes away from them. This is what makes a good antihero character for television, film, theater, or fiction. (more…)

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Writer’s Toolbox: Geometric Shapes

It went “Zip” when it moved
And “Bop” when it stopped
And “Whirrr” when it stood still
I never knew just what it was and I guess I never will.

Chart of Geometric Shapes from Playbuzz.The Tom Paxton song made famous by Peter, Paul, and Mary, as well as John Denver, describes a thing that defines description, a child’s toy that was amusing all the same.

When it comes to describing the physical shape of an object, we can’t get away with just the sound effects. We need the words.

The basic geometric shapes are:

  • lines
  • curves
  • angles
  • triangles
  • square
  • rectangle
  • pentagon
  • pentagram
  • hexagon
  • octagon
  • polygon
  • circle
  • arc
  • ellipse

Then we add variations on the above. These are geometric shapes based upon lines and planes, but what about solid figures or 3-dimensional shapes?

  • cube
  • cylinder
  • rectangular prism
  • pyramid
  • tetrahedron
  • octahedron
  • polygon
  • sphere
  • cone

What shape is a carrot? Do you know? Is it a triangle? No, it’s an inverted cone. Is the sun a ball? Yes, it is a ball, more specifically, the sun is a sphere.

The words you use to describe a shape may be technical or playful, finding similes to represent their shapes, such as “he was as thin and lanky as a much-used toothbrush.”

Did you know that there are some personality tests that use geometric shapes to represent a person or personality?

From “Geometric Shapes: Simple and Unusual Personality Test,” if the triangle is your preferred shape:

This form symbolizes leadership. Main ability of triangles is to focus on goals and deeply and quickly analyze situations. A Triangle is a very confident person who wants to be right in everything. Triangles find it difficult to admit their mistakes, are easy to train, and absorb information like a sponge. Their career gives their life meaning.

Here are some charts and web pages to add to your writer’s toolbox to help you define the geometric shape of the objects, and possibly the characters, in your writing. We’ve also included some lists of words to describe the shape of objects.

Writer’s Toolbox: Describe and Critique Art

Mona Lisa - Leonard Da Vinci - Wikipedia.Your characters head for the local museum or art gallery. Their eyes are filled with wondrous sights. Colors, patterns, shapes, textures, renewing their spirit, giving them the beauty they crave in their life. Or boring them to tears as they’ve just been dragged to another thing-they-don’t-wish-they-had-to-do-in-order-to-save-a-realtionship-or-get-sex.

Either way, it helps to have words to describe and critique that art.

Describing artwork is one of the fascinating uses of language, in any language. How does the writer capture a painted expression, a twisted sculpture, an abstract painting? Could you describe the Mona Lisa with the right words to make the magic of Leonardo Da Vinci’s portrait explain why it continues to attract millions of visitors eager for a glimpse of the woman’s face with a lack of expression?

Interior with Girl Drawing - Pablo Picasso.Artwork is encountered in most books in some way, a photograph of a suspect, a painting on a wall, a quilt, lacework, or arts and crafts item that tells us more about the character, place, or solves a mystery. How do you describe it to not only let the reader see see it, but also choose words that match the tone, scene, time, and owner?

In general, use the following tips for presenting a work of art, though how you choose to describe it and use it in your writing is your personal, creative decision.

  1. Identify the artwork type and medium (canvas, photograph, painting, sculpture, drawing, etc.).
  2. Identify the artist (if possible or relevant).
  3. If a well-known piece, name it.
  4. Describe the objects in or subject matter of the artwork (field, flowers, sunset, ocean, person, portrait, sky, furniture).
  5. Describe the colors, lines, patterns, shapes, and textures.
  6. Describe the first impression of the artwork, what your character or your reader would see at first glance.
  7. Where is the light source? Is the source from the sky, electric, natural light, artificial light, and light direction (top, under, side, backlit (behind)).
  8. What are the sensory qualities, the mood and visual effect, of the work?
  9. Why is it placed in this this particular spot?
  10. Why did the owner buy it?
  11. If the artwork has sentimental value, what is it? How does that help with the character development and backstory?
  12. If the artwork has financial value, what is it and why is that important to your story and character? Did they buy it only for investment? Or to support an artist they found interesting? Or maybe a relative trying to be an artist? Or is it part of their nest egg, saving for the future, betting on the artist? Would they sell it? When? Why?
  13. How does it fit into the rest of the room, building, or scene? Would the character seeing this, if they didn’t own it, think it fits perfectly there or not?
  14. What does this artwork tell the reader about the character or place?
  15. Many people interpret and respond to artwork differently, some with contrasting viewpoints. How would your characters respond? The same, differently? Would they each have a different reaction to the artwork? Does that add to the conflict?
  16. If important to the story, interpret the artwork from the perspective of the artist. Why did they create this? What was their inspiration, motivation, and goals to do so? This might reflect back on the personalities and backstory of your characters.

To help you learn more about learning how to describe arts and arts and crafts, we’ve put together some resources.

Here is a YouTube video for writers on how to describe art.

The following will help you describe artwork and critiquing it to help you flesh out the experience of your characters.

Novel Writing: Storyboarding and the W Plot Chart

Mary Carroll Moore is a popular published author offering educational information on writing and publishing your novel. The following video covers creating a storyboard for your novel using a 3-act structure, specifically the W Plot Chart, helping you find the 5 most important points in your novel.

The following are articles and resources covering more about the W Plot Chart and 3-act structure.

Writing Your Book: Worksheets and Templates for Writers by Jamie Gold

The amazing prolific writer and educator, Jami Gold offers a wide variety of Worksheets for Writers in Excel spreadsheets, documents, and Scrivener templates. We’ve mentioned this collection in our NaNoWriMo articles and tips. These are precious gems you need in your writing toolbox.

These forms are essential for developing and writing your book, be it fiction or memoir. These worksheets and charts will help you structure your story, develop characters and scenes, and gives you a checklist for all of the things you need to have to make your book a success.

Download these and save to a master toolbox folder for your writing on your computer. To use them, make copies and rename them to the project you are writing as well as the date. You will use many of these over and over again for everything you write.

Are We There Yet? How Long Does It Take?

Ever wonder how long it takes to travel?

This is more than an answer to “Are we there yet?” It is a challenge that faces ever writer when their character leaves the comfort of home or work and must travel to another location.

If traveling by foot, how long does it take? By car? By bus? By train? What about by horse? The time spend traveling across the same difference changes with the mode of transportation.

The folks behind The Writer’s Handbook found a chart that answers some of these questions if you are considering traveling by horse, sea, foot, or pigeon. This is a great tool to add to your writer’s toolbox.

Another travel time chart to keep in your writer’s toolbox comes from Lapham’s Quarterly.

What about calculating for traffic congestion? It might take you 30 minutes to get to Portland, Oregon, in the middle of the day, and 3 hours to travel the same distance during rush hour. There is much to think about when you take your character traveling.

Here are a few more examples:

  • A healthy person can walk 3-4 miles an hour on flat and even ground (36-48 miles a day possible)
  • A healthy person can walk 1-2 miles an hour on rugged terrain, less if off-trail
  • By horse on roads or trails with level or rolling terrain – 40 miles per day
  • By horse through mountainous terrain on roads or trails – 20 miles per day
  • By horse through hilly grasslands with no roads or trails – 25 miles per day
  • By horse through rugged mountainous terrain with no roads or trails – 10 miles per day
  • By horse during Roman Era on roads or trails with level or rolling terrain – 20 miles per day
  • By horse during Roman Era on level or rolling terrain with no roads or trails – 15 miles per day
  • A wagon can travel 15-25 miles a day depending upon size, horses, path, and load
  • A league is 3 miles, the distance someone could travel in one hour.

Other tools to help you estimate travel times include:

This is just the tip of the travel time iceberg. What about travel by train? By skateboard? By bike? By helicopter? By skiing? By air balloon?

It’s your imagination traveling with your character. Add their travel type and estimates to your writer’s toolbox as a guide to help you estimate travel times.

Writing Your Book: Plots and Stories

Tameri Guide for Writers by C.S. Wyatt and Susan D. Schnelbach includes “Plot and Story,” a fabulous breakdown of the basics you need to know about crafting your plot and story.

A plot is not a story, nor does every story have a strong plot. Good writers know the importance of both plot and story, especially before they dare to write a story with a “weak” or “thin” plot. Any plot can feature a love story; that illustrates the difference. Plots are events, stories reveal how characters react to those events.

The study of crafting a successful book goes back thousands of years, and stands the test of time as millions of books have been published covering billions of topics all on this timeless structure of storytelling. Your story has a beginning, middle, and end, but where do you take the reader along that structure?

This guide goes in depth into plot and story structure to help guide you on the path of developing a story that takes the reader on the journey with you.

Joseph Campbell Foundation

The Joseph Campbell Foundation recently released a new website filled with events and educational information about the famous author, Joseph Campbell, author of The Hero with a Thousand Faces, The Masks of God, Historical Atlas of World Mythology, The Power of Myth, Myths to Live By, The Inner Reaches of Outer Space: Metaphor as Myth and As Religion, and so many more, many of these considered text books on writing on mythology, religion, culture, psychology, and history.

The foundation was established to continue his vision through educational. They offer a wide range of conferences, workshops, and work with academia to further his work.

If you write on mythology, science fiction, religion, or really want to dive into world building culture and character, his works are a must read on your list. Check out the new site and subscribe to keep up with their activities and events.