What a Scene!: Four Ways to Improve your Scene Writing

What makes a scene engaging to your reader? I try to evoke at least two senses when describing a scene. Are there any smells? What does your character see? Is he or she touching anything? Does he or she taste anything? Don’t go overboard and bog your reader down with details. A little goes a long way. If you come up with a great description but already used a few, save it for the next time the character feels this emotion.

On top of solidifying what is around my character, I ask myself “If I were in this situation, how would I feel?”I then add in what my emotions would be like, or what I would be thinking if I were in a similar situation.

Also, if I want to describe a certain situation, I feel that emotion and describe it. For example, if I decide my character is angry, I remember the last time I was angry or think of something that makes me angry. Then I analyze what my body is doing. What does my face look like? I have a tendency to wrinkle up my nose when disgusted or angry, so I make my characters do this too! Did I ball up my fists? Are my teeth clenched? I also pay attention to my internal body settings. Is my pulse racing? Am I sweating (or would I be sweating in the situation I am describing)?

Now I’m going to throw a curve ball your way: Try to describe all this without using a form of the verb to be (like: am, was, is). Don’t say something like:

He was sweating.

It gets the point across but is boring. You can do this, but try to describe things using the verb to be sparingly. Instead shoot for:

The hot sweat trickled down his red face as he balled his fists up in anger.

Have fun with it! How many different ways can you describe the same emotion? Practice makes perfect.

To recap:

  1. Try to describe one or more senses (but no more than a few if it is a short paragraph. You don’t want it to get tedious to your reader).
  2. What does your character feel and what does this look like?
  3. Avoid the verb to be and try to use other verbs to keep the momentum going.
  4.  Practice, practice, practice!

November 2017

As November comes to a close, I am left reflecting on what a busy end of 2017 this has been! For my fellow WriMos out there, I hope that you are celebrating your victories today. It doesn’t matter if you reached your 50k, you should still be proud of trying.

I only made it about halfway, but am still proud of how far I got. I mean I work full time, am in grad school part time, and have a family and other priorities (ugg..like cleaning my house). Plus, even though I didn’t reach my 50k, I have done it before so know that I can. On top of that, I had a great start to my next book, Blue. I want to make this longer than my other works, and am working hard to develop a good quality novel. To date I have either written short stories or a novella. I’m ready to tackle the novel.

And with November’s end comes the release of Secrets & Shadows! This collection of short stories contains two new editions of “Uncle Jerry” and “His Game.” And it is my opinion that spooky stories make for great Christmas gifts! Please add Secrets & Shadows to your wish list, or go to Amazon.com to purchase it for a loved one who loves suspenseful stories.

This collection contains some great new stories I know that you will enjoy. “Eve” is a tale told from the point of view of an unreliable narrator. It will leave you guessing. In “1:11,” Ryan Keller learns that not everything is as it seems in his house. The winter tale of “Snow Queen” is my nod to the Lockport-born author, Joyce Carol Oates. Because of the US political climate, “The Day the Soldiers Came” is an interesting tale of economic upheaval and possibly an alternate reality. “Unraveled” is a story inspired by true events told by one of my mother’s teachers. And “The Twisted Plane” is a .5 prequel to my unreleased, unfinished series, Lowertown. This story takes place in Rockport, my fictional spinoff of Lockport, NY. In this story, David Robinson learns that the monsters that he sees on tv can appear in real life.

If you’ve read my works and enjoy them, please share it with a friend! I also want to thank everyone who has taken the time to read my stories. I really appreciate it. I also want to wish everyone a happy and safe holiday season!

Secrets & Shadows

Release News

Secrets & Shadows

I have exciting news! My short story collection, Secrets and Shadows, estimated release date is Black Friday, November 24th, 2017. This spooky collection of stories features newly edited versions of the formerly released short stories, “Uncle Jerry” and “His Game.” This collection has six never before released stories as well. Each story starts with a brief introduction on what inspired me to write it.

Meet Ryan Keller in “1:11,” a man who does not believe in ghosts or hauntings, but finds unexplained things are starting to happen to him. In “Eve,” a vengeful ex-girlfriend spins a suspenseful story filled with jealousy and lies. The United States’ economy crashes in “The Day the Soldiers Came,” leading to mobsters trying to muscle money out of citizens who decided to fight to protect their rights. “Snow Queen” is a strange, artsy tale inspired by Joyce Carol Oates.  Reality is questioned by James Glover in “Unraveled,” a story where a prank is taken too far. And in .5 of the Lowertown series (the prequel to a currently unreleased series), something strange is happening along the Erie Canal. “The Twisted Plane” features David Robinson (of the unreleased book two of the Lowertown series), a boy who learns that creatures of your nightmares are not only found on television.

I am really excited for this collection, and I hope you all enjoy reading it.

Six steps for a successful NaNoWriMo project

If you have never heard of NaNoWriMo, it is a celebration of national writing month. During the month of November, people who have a passion for writing shoot for a 50k word novel rough-draft to be completed in a mere 30 days. If you want to join in on the fun for the first time, or are a veteran WriMo, here are some tips that will help you make this November a success.

  1. Start with the basics. A great novel needs a great foundation. Brainstorm about your characters, what their problems are and how you want them to change. What will happen to them? What will your themes be? A simple “Good triumphs over evil” is fine,  but just knowing that that is what your story will show can help you to come up with plot ideas. An outline isn’t necessarily needed, but knowing the general direction of your story helps to move it along.
  2. Find a writing place that is free from distraction. Where are you going to write? Are there any distractions nearby that may derail your writing process? If so, you may want to rethink your writing spot. It doesn’t have to be in your house. You could set up shop in a coffee house. Most of them have wifi now, so you can write pretty much anywhere. But who says you need internet access to write anyway? I like to keep a dictionary handy. Yup. A legit printed dictionary. Why? Because sometimes if I pop up an internet window to get to an online dictionary I get distracted. “While I’m online, I’ll just pop on Facebook real quick…” That innocent little idea turns into googling how ice cream was invented and then I’m hours into my writing window and haven’t written a damn thing.
  3. Schedule yourself time to write. It doesn’t have to be daily, but in the case of NaNoWriMo, daily writing makes it easier to make your writing goals happen. Shoot for a half-an-hour after dinner. If you write for longer than that, great! If not, no biggie. There’s always tomorrow.
  4. Don’t make excuses to not write! This is most important. If you give yourself excuses as to why you shouldn’t write during your allotted writing time, then you will never do it. “Today I have writer’s block, so I’ll double up on my writing tomorrow.” Nope. Fire up that lap top or PC, open up your document, and start typing. If it sucks, worry about that later when you get to the editing phase. “But I have chores to do…” Do the chores after your  writing time is over. Trust me, my house is a disaster in November. People will deal. You have December to catch up on cleaning. There are only 30 days in November to complete your 50k writing challenge. Make every day count!
  5. Don’t forget to have fun! Remember why you started writing in the first place: you enjoy it. Have fun with your project. See where your characters go and don’t make anything easy for them. That will make it fun for your readers. Writing is a journey, and it is the journey that is fun, not necessarily the destination.
  6. Follow NaNoWriMo on Twitter or Facebook. They have great writing coaches to help you get motivated, so check out their pep talks on the NaNoWriMo website (https://nanowrimo.org/). There are even forums on their site for anything you could think to ask about. Also, there are other fellow WriMos out there who are wiling to help as well. Hit up the NaNoWriMo community for advice if you get stuck.

So don’t feel left out this November. Start brainstorming ideas, plan out where you will write and when, stick to your plan, and if you do get stuck, go to the NaNoWriMo community for help. There are some great WriMo motivators out there. Believe in yourself. And don’t forget to have fun!

Bring it November! This WriMo is ready. Who else wants to write a 50k word novel in 30 days? Let’s start this journey together.