Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Writing a Racist Character

I have this character in my book known as "The Village Racist." Her name is actually Mrs. Hamilton and for a white person in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, her attitudes are perfectly acceptable.

Yeah, she's a racist, and she's probably the closest thing this story has to an antagonist. 

But how do you write a racist? Beyond portraying a bigoted attitude, snide remarks, inappropriate and lengthy glaring, and a sketch of her particular beliefs, how else can I show her exhibiting her particular ideas? Part of the work I have to put in on this third draft is making Mrs. Hamilton's role bigger, rounding her out. She's not a viewpoint character, so that's an added challenge to getting her across the page.

Sunday, April 21, 2013



A topic I see come up frequently on the AW boards is "What should I name my characters?" I even wrote about it once on this blog in relation to the names I was using for my trunked NaNo novel.

First names are one thing; but surnames are a whole other story. 

Monday, April 15, 2013

This is a quick little post to say that besides New York, there is no other city dearer to me than Boston. I went to college there. I can't even tell you how many times I've walked through Copley Square. Emerson College is about four or five blocks down Boylston Street. My first two dorms were in Back Bay.

So when they keep showing the footage from the finish line of the Boston Marathon today, I know that location so well. In a sick, twisted kind of way, I think I've become used to seeing horrific events unfold on television---Columbine (two days later, there was a bomb threat at my junior high), 9/11, Hurricane Katrina, Virginia Tech (I was in college at the time), Aurora, Newtown. But it never gets easier to hear about something else going so tragically wrong. And when it's a place you know, it's even worse.

My friends and acquaintances are all fine, by the way. I was watching the Facebook statuses roll in this afternoon.

A friend and I were talking about our "9/11 ptsd" coming through as we learned more about what happened in Boston. We both have friends there. She didn't want to take the subway home from work today after hearing about what happened. I kept hearing planes flying low overhead. Planes flying low make me nervous.

I hope that, at some point in the future, I can stop becoming jumpy at low-flying planes and backfiring cars and crowds, which I detest anyway.

But until then--stay strong, Boston. You're a tough city and I love you.

My New Characters

I'm now in the second hundred page batch of my story. There isn't that much to change in this hundred page increment, except for a little trimming, elimination, some sentence-level editing and incorporating new elements. 

In my last post, I mentioned that I have some new characters. They are definitely inspired by the research I've done, specifically into the lifestyle in Barbados in the late 1790s and the experiences slaves and free blacks went through then. Their plots are subplots, but they are important subplots and really do feed into the main story line in a much better way than a particular story line that I'll be cutting down in this draft. 

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Update: 100 pages of draft 3

So I finally (finally) reached page 100 of the third draft of the second incarnation of the Keegan Inheritance. Which isn't about an inheritance anymore, but anyway...

Page 100 in this draft was page 22 in the second draft. I added four new chapters in the beginning, to round out my protagonist's arc, to improve the structure of the novel, and to introduce some characters.

It sounds like a lot of front-loading, I know, but I think having that in the beginning makes the story feel more complete.

I have a few more characters, including two who have subplots.

Now, I'm looking forward to ripping up the former beginning of draft 2 in the next hundred pages.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

An Old Picture is Worth a Million Words

My great-grandmother Winifred and my grandfather, around 1941 or 1942.
Somehow, I have become the resident family historian and family tree compiler. I'm not sure how I declared myself into this position, but being the oldest grandchild on my father's side of the family probably helps.

Also--and this is my interest in all things historical coming through--I love geeking out over old photos and old maps. Just this past week, I found a website with a 1750 map of the city of Bristol and I zoomed in and zoomed out and took note of the River Frome and River Avon's course and where certain landmarks were for my novel, which takes fifty years later. But with such an old city, it seems unlikely that very much really changed. And I really wanted to find a map of Bristol before the work on the Floating Harbor began, as it changed the landscape of the city.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Tips For Setting Up a Blog

The mobile version of this blog
So you think you want to start a blog (or your friends say "You should start a blog" to you frequently). But you're not quite sure where to start. Well, I've had this blog for four years. I don't claim to be an expert or a professional, but I have learned a few things.

So here, humbly submitted, are my tips for setting up a blog. Keep in mind, these mostly apply to Blogger blogs.

First, some general tips:

1. Do try to have a topic in mind. Granted, I didn't have a topic beyond wanting to post my first "book" in a central place for my friends to read. But once that story ended and another idea had sprouted, it was clear that instead of posting the stories as blog entries, that the blog would be more about my process, my research, my life, and whatever else came to mind.

2. Temper your expectations. I'm an unpublished aspiring author. I don't expect a ton of views or comments. There are millions of blogs out there, so don't expect an overwhelming surge of views or comments the second you  start to publish. Building an audience takes time.

3. Think about your readers. Do you want complete strangers to read your posts? Do you want to keep your blog to a close circle of friends?

4. Yeah, blogging can take up a lot of time. In my case, my writing life is mostly focused around my book. The blog is my chance to write about other things and, frankly, as a stress reliever. Once you get going, you'll find that it really won't take up a huge amount of time.
And now, more specific things:

Monday, April 1, 2013

A Guide to Writing About New York

So you want to write a novel or a story about New York City, but you've never been there. You have no idea where to begin and you want to get it right.

I was born, raised, still live and will probably die in New York, so let me tell you a few things.
The 5 boroughs of New York City. From