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5 Ways to Improve the Action in Your Story


Here’s a blast from the past. More ideas for firing up your imagination as we count down to November 1!

Hopes and Dreams: My Writing and My Sons

by Lillian Csernica on August 13, 2016

daffydil-figure-layouts-action-sketches_newspaper-art-word-text_picture23 http://www.drawinghowtodraw.com

Writers tend to be visually oriented. We see our stories playing out much like movies inside our minds. Whatever we can do to enhance the clarity of the images and information we want to convey to the reader will improve the strength of our stories. That clarity begins with making sure we can see exactly what’s going on.

Map out the key locations.  Start with just the distances between the major settings. If you want to get into topography, go for it. Bear in mind there’s a difference between miles on land and nautical miles.

Draw the important action. Draw one scene between two characters on a stage. You could also look down on the action, using an aerial view to keep track of items or characters outside of the protagonist’s sight lines. Split the page into four sections…

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Smorgasbord Posts from Your Archives – #PotLuck – Are Blogging Friends Real Friends? by Darlene Foster


I firmly believe that blogging friends are real friends. Shout outs to @Jazzfeathers, Bernie, Mary Lou, Pat, and all the new friends I’ve made during the A to Z Blog Challenge!

Smorgasbord Blog Magazine

Welcome to the series of Posts from Your Archives, where bloggers put their trust in me. In this series, I dive into a blogger’s archives and select four posts to share here to my audience.

If you would like to know how it works here is the original post:https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2019/04/28/smorgasbord-posts-from-your-archives-newseries-pot-luck-and-do-you-trust-me/

Children’s author and travel writer Darlene Foster is a regular visitor to the blog and has shared some amazing posts.  She gave me permission to explore her archives in search of more treasure. This week the pleasure in meeting blogging friends face to face.

©Darlene Foster.

Are Blogging Friends Real Friends? by Darlene Foster

You may have read on a previous post that one of the items on my personal “bucket list” was to meet my blogging friends in person. I am excited to say that I have met three recently.

During my last trip to Canada, a blogging…

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#atozchallenge Q is for Questions


by Lillian Csernica on April 19, 2019

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What makes an interview exciting? Great questions. I have the pleasure of answering some wonderful questions put to me by Deborah J. Ross, editor of Citadels of Darkover.

Read the interview here.

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#atozchallenge P is for Pain


by Lillian Csernica on April 18, 2019

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When it comes to writing fiction or nonfiction, pain is your best friend.

Does that sound strange? The truth of human nature is we respond with more sympathy to another person’s suffering than we do to good news.

Physical pain can be quite dramatic and effective on the page.  Lasting damage, such as blindness, loss of a limb, or even death takes sympathy farther into actual pity. That has its uses as well, but what we really want our readers to feel is empathy.

From Dictionary.com:

The differences between the most commonly used meanings of these two terms is:

  • sympathy is feeling compassion, sorrow, or pity for the hardships that another person encounters

  • empathy is putting yourself in the shoes of another, which is why actors often talk about it.

The emotional pain associated with such injury and loss is the key to engaging reader sympathy.

Inciting incidents in famous novels:

The Hunger Games — Katniss must volunteer to be a tribute in order to save Prim’s life.

The King of Elfland’s Daughter — For love of a mortal king, the title character abandons Elfland for the king’s human realm.

Misery — Bestselling author Paul Sheldon lies injured due to a car accident and is rescued by his biggest fan Annie Wilkes.

The Maltese Falcon — When Sam Spade’s partner Miles Archer dies while on the job with their new client Brigid O’ Shaughnessy, Spade must investigate.

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Good stories come from bad decisions. People who are experiencing intense pain, whether physical or emotional, are not in the best state of mind to make intelligent, well-reasoned decisions. The more pressure we put on our characters, the harder we make their struggles, the more our readers will empathize, become involved, and experience the story.

 

 

 

 

 

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I is for Instinct


by Lillian Csernica on April 10, 2019

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Today let’s talk about our creative instincts.

A lot of the creative process takes place on the intuitive level. I sit there in the creative trance, groping for the right word, waiting for my mind to zoom through all the possibilities until the word that feels right arrives. That one I grab and write down. There are times when I have to go look something up, especially if I want the foreign language equivalent of that right word.

Sometimes we come to a fork in the road. Which project do I pursue now? There are several business factors that will influence that decision such as contractual obligations, marketing, and agent advice. Many times it will all boil down to that intuitive push.

I once stood at that creative crossroads, torn between a medieval romance and a contemporary romantic suspense. I chose the latter, which prompted me to track down a martial arts star purely for the purpose of finding out where to get some of his promotional photos. (I like to work from photos of real people who resemble my heroes and heroines.) That led to a phone conversation that resulted in two screenplays.

It’s essential to feed the mind a strong and varied diet. If you’re going to have a compost heap in your imagination, you have to build it up, aerate it, turn it over, and let the natural processes achieve the decomposition. Only then will you get the transformed substance that will help you grow those prize roses or melons.

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My latest short story release is The Badger Epidemic in Next Stop on the #13. The key elements in the story are badgers, cholera, and steam trains. What could badgers and cholera have in common that could possibly bring them together in the context of Japan’s Industrial Revolution? Steam trains and telegraph lines.

Because I read so much, because I feed my mind so much history and folklore and strange news items, all of those ideas came together in a single short story.
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New Year, New Releases!


by Lillian Csernica on January 2 2019

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Happy New Year!

 

Two of my stories have found new homes which are now available.

In The Power Behind The Throne, Ti Song, Celestial Lady, First Daughter of the Emperor, longs for more than tea, embroidery, and a secluded life. When she discovers the secret of her brother’s success in battle, she knows it’s the key to her freedom.

 

 

 

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The Wheel of Misfortune has suddenly appeared on the streets of Kyoto, chasing Dr. William Harrington with lethal intent. With the help of the Abbot of Kiyomizudera, Dr. Harrington must go back to the early days of his career as a physician and right a wrong that has haunted him for ten long years.

 

Best wishes for 2019. May it bring us all much happiness and success!

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How To Prep for NaNoWriMo!


by Lillian Csernica on September 11, 2018

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Yes indeed, November is on the horizon. Whether you’re a planner or a pantser, it’s time to give at least some thought to how you’ll spend the 30 days of raw, unbridled, all out creativity that is NaNoWriMo!

This year my adventure takes on a new level of involvement. I am now one of two Municipal Leaders for Santa Cruz County. I’ve already been at work discussing write-in dates with the local librarians and making reservations at the restaurant where we traditionally hold our TGIO Party. And yes, there is also the Night of Writing Dangerously, NaNoWriMo‘s fantastic fundraiser!

I’ve participated in NaNoWriMo three times now, and I have won every year. I admit I am a planner, but only up to a point. When it comes to making the daily word count, there’s a certain amount of leaping off the high dive and just going for it. You get some amazing stuff appearing on the page when you just go all out, especially during word sprints. Those are great fun, especially when you’re sprinting as part of a NaNo group.

These are a few ways to get a good grip on what you want to write about. They are handy to fall back on even if you start off strong then find yourself losing inspiration partway through.

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SCENE CARDS

First, write down every scene idea you have. Remember, when you change location, time, or point of view, you start a new scene. Even if you have just fragments of ideas about one incident here and one incident there, write them down. 

Second, get yourself some index cards. I prefer 4×6 so I have plenty of room to make notes. These are the important items to  list for each scene. Opinions about these items differ, so your mileage may vary. If you want to get fancy, you can even color code the cards by character, location, Part One, whatever works for you.

A basic scene card includes these elements:

POV.  Antagonist. Goal. Obstacle. Disaster. Decision.

If I seem like a Luddite because I’m talking about paper and pencil vs. Scrivener, well shucks. I work better when I can handle what I’m working with. I can make a story map with my scene cards, take a photo of it, then move scenes around as I please. This works for me. We all have our unique process.

 

IMPOSSIBLE DREAM/UNBEARABLE DISASTER

Brainstorming is your friend. Your main character wants something, right? How many completely outrageous ways can you think up for making that happen? For guaranteeing your main character total victory? No holds barred. Go as far and as crazy as you can.

Next, think up all the nasty, gruesome, heartbreaking, evil, and totally unfair ways you can stop your main character from ever getting near that goal. Again, push as far and as hard as you can. Never mind logic or reason. Blow the roof off the place! Wreck the joint! Just make sure your hero or heroine cannot possibly succeed.

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THE 20 QUESTIONS APPROACH

Think up 20 questions that will tell you facts about your character that nobody knows. Maybe not even that very character! I’m not talking about the usual getting to know you stuff. Why does the taste of chocolate make your character sick? Do they prefer snakes or spiders? What happened to their favorite childhood toy?

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GO BIG, GO BAD, GO BALLISTIC!

Come at your story from a different angle. How far is your main character willing to go to achieve that goal? Never mind what a sane, law-abiding, reasonable person would do. I’m talking all-out, eleventh hour, John Woo stuff. 

But wait, you say. You’re not looking to write the latest Jason Bourne-type blockbuster. You don’t want your hero to rank up there with the cast of The Expendables. You’re writing a nice, mellow, introspective literary story.

More power to you. Bear with me for a minute while I explain why the methods I’m suggesting will work just as well for literary fiction as they will for a story that fits into the world of genre protocols.

In one of my many efforts to combat my clinical depression, I participated in a day program. My favorite therapist would begin his “class” by explaining that the work we did with him would only be effective if we committed to it 125%. Why? Because 100% wasn’t good enough. We had to reach beyond our present ability. We had to work harder, to stretch farther, to make a greater effort. Only then would we grow. Only then would we really change.

Think beyond the obvious possibilities. Go wild. Push harder and farther. Abandon the limitations of linear thinking. You will transcend the predictable and open up new options for what happens when your main character finds themselves at the crux of unbearable pressure.

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PROWLING AROUND PINTEREST

When my brain gets jammed, I like to wander around Pinterest. It’s a largely visual site, which is what appeals to me. The writing articles might hand you the solution to your dilemma. The costume resources are wonderful. The creepy stuff is fun to explore. If your mind needs a rest, go look at something soothing like birthday cakes. Halloween is coming. Pinterest is a gold mine of decorating ideas. Sometimes we need to take a break. Pinterest is a lot of fun.

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#blogchallenge: Fortune Cookie #30


by Lillian Csernica on May 30, 2018

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Today’s fortune says:

Keep your feet on the ground

though friends flatter you.

A LEAF ON THE WIND

PART II

The night breeze grew stronger, blowing Kathleen’s hair back and clearing her head. She found herself halfway to that weird heat shimmer. She slowed. Leaf moved on, taking three more strides with those long legs before he looked back.

“Kathleen?”

“Yeah, sorry. I just remembered my New Year’s Resolution. I don’t make life-changing decisions when I’ve been drinking.”

“You are nowhere near the legal limit for alcohol in your bloodstream. The food you consumed and the amount of time that has passed are both providing assistance.”

“That’s another problem.” Kathleen backed up two steps and crossed her legs. Why had she walked so far from the car? Stupid stupid stupid. “I need a bathroom.”

“People who camp in this area observe the custom of digging a hole in the ground.”

“Well! Too bad I left my shovel at home.” Like she had any intention of squatting with a total stranger nearby. “Wait a minute. How do you know that?”

“Simple observation.”

“How long have you been watching this area?”

For the first time that Hollywood-handsome face looked shy, uncertain. “It was a routine sweep. Then, one night, I saw you. Sitting on your blanket, drinking something hot, eating chocolate cookies and looking at the stars.”

“When was this?”

“Two months ago. It’s so dull, watching the readouts. The lower life forms go about their eating and mating and territorial battles. And the occasional humans wander through.”

“Like me. All by myself, watching for shooting stars.”

“I–” Leaf held out his hand. “I shared that lonely vigil, that quiet time where the only thoughts you want to hear are your own.”

Kathleen heard real truth, real pain, in that lovely voice. She pulled herself together.

“It’s late. I’m exhausted. I need a bathroom, and I’m not leaving this planet without packing at least one bag.”

“May I walk you to your vehicle? A woman alone at this hour is easy prey.”

That turn of phrase very nearly made the bladder emergency a harsh truth. Kathleen took three quick steps backward and bent to snatch up one of the empty beer bottles. She also grabbed her purse, hiking it up onto her shoulder.

“That’s very thoughtful.” She closed that hand around her phone, ready to hit the emergency call option. “Why don’t you hang back a bit and keep me in sight? That way you can yell a warning if you see anybody lurking.”

It was time to get out of here. Time to go home, lock all the doors and windows, and shut down all her wifi devices. Time to have a real life lock down until she was sure these beer-fueled fantasies had passed out of her body. Maybe she’d wake up with nothing more than a headache and a funny story to tell.

“It would be best if you allow me to take you home. We can retrieve your car later.”

With that, Leaf stepped up to Kathleen, cupped her face in his hands, and kissed her. The sudden rush of sensations left her off balance for a second. Leaf breathed in, sucking the air out of Kathleen’s lungs, then breathed out, blowing his breath into her. A warm fog of drowsiness enveloped her. She sank into the peaceful tide of unconsciousness.

END

PART II

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#atozchallenge: Y is for Yokai


by Lillian Csernica on April 28, 2018

youkai

tvtropes.org

The yokai of Japan are many and varied. They go from humorous to horrifying. Some arise from the animistic principle in Shinto. Others are born from the angry, vengeful passions of the human heart.

These are a few of the more unusual yokai.

 

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Dodomeki, the spirit of the pickpocket or thief.

 

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Oni-no-Nenbutsu, the Demon who chants Buddhist prayers

 

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From Ancient Origins:

The baku, otherwise known as the ‘dream eater’, is a mythological being or spirit in Chinese and Japanese folklore which is said to devour nightmares. The baku cannot be summoned without caution, however, as ancient legends say that if the baku is not satisfied after consuming the nightmare, he may also devour one’s hopes and dreams.

 

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yokai.com

This is the Kawataguruma, a tormented naked woman riding on the wheel of an ox cart that’s ablaze. If this reminds you of the wanyudo, you’re right. Apparently the Wheel Monk has a female counterpart who rolls around collecting impure souls and putting curses on people.

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#atozchallenge: W is for William Harrington


by Lillian Csernica on April 26, 2018

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William Henry Harrington was born in London to a well-to-do family living in Grosvenor Square. His father is a banker and his mother the type of woman who rules the social scene with an iron if genteel hand.

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viator.com

A solid education led him to Cambridge, and from there he became a Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians. His mild, cheerful manner and sincere interest in his patients’ health quickly gained him a reputation as a reliable, reassuring, and competent physician.

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victorianpicturelibrary.com

Given a choice between law and medicine, Dr. Harrington chose medicine for two important reasons. First, he finds the human body a fascinating subject. Second, studying vast tomes of legal precedent and going through the complex ritual of the courtroom hold no appeal for him. Relieving the suffering of the sick is a more rewarding pursuit than dealing with abstract legal squabbles.

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sow.blog.jp

Dr. Harrington is not totally altruistic in his motivations. He accepted the position in Kyoto because he knew the Far East to have a long tradition of effective if peculiar remedies based largely on herbal preparations. In London during the 1800s cholera epidemics and the prevalence of tuberculosis make a trip abroad, even as far as Japan, highly attractive. Dr. Harrington will do anything to preserve the health and well-being of his wife and daughter, Constance and Madelaine.

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