Category Archives: writing

Writing charismatic characters: Guest post by Elizabeth Corrigan

April 15th 2014

I am uberstoked to have my publishing sister, Elizabeth Corrigan write a guest post as a stop on her Raising Chaos blog tour. She is the author of the urban fantasy series, Earthbound Angels. In Oracle of Philadelphia (Book One), Elizabeth introduced us to Bedlam, a charming and unforgettable chaos demon. And I’m pleased to say that he’s the main attraction in Raising Chaos (Book Two). [With respect to Elizabeth, I think Bedlam would be the kind of guy you’d love to date, just not the guy you’d want to marry.] Elizabeth has written an insightful post on how Bedlam became this magnetic, alluring character despite his many flaws. Take notes because the best characters are the ones you wish you knew in real life and I’d really like to have some sangria with Bedlam.

Raising Chaos (Book Two) in the Earthbound Angels series

Raising Chaos (Book Two) in the Earthbound Angels series

Writing Charismatic Characters by Elizabeth Corrigan

I’ve gotten a variety of reviews of Oracle of Philadelpia. People love it, hate it, or fall somewhere in between. But the lovers and the middlers often have one thing in common: They adore Bedlam. People have told me they want to date him, or at least be his new best friend. I gave one friend a poster of the Raising Chaos poster, and she said it rendered her husband irrelevant in her affections. (She was kidding. I hope.)

On some level, I find this puzzling. For one thing, Bedlam would be really annoying in real life. The demon of chaos is lazy and irresponsible, and my editor insists on describing him as a “man-child.” Yet somehow his wit, good looks, and almost complete loyalty to Carrie win everyone over. But I’m still pretty sure no one would actually want to date him. Even Keziel, the woman who’s been in love with him for centuries, doesn’t want to spend much time with him. And Carrie wants him around, but she is infinitely patient and has had 3200 years to get used to his foibles.

The other reason I’m confused is that I never intended Bedlam to be such magnetic character, or for him to take over the book the way he did. I added him because Carrie need immortal friends, and I gave her an angel and a demon, for balance. I didn’t even think I was being all that imaginative when I made him. But somehow he grew into a character who’s taken over the whole series.

So how did that happen? How did Bedlam change from a flat character concept into a well-developed and beloved character? I think I used the same process with him that I do with a lot of my characters—trying to see the story from their points of view. Oracle started out as Carrie’s story, but at some point, that version felt incomplete. I needed to know what Bedlam was doing when he left Carrie in the diner, both when he was angry with her and when he was just wandering. At one point there was an extra chapter from Bedlam’s point of view—and one from Gabriel’s as well—but extraneous POVs were removed during editing. Looking at the story from Bedlam’s viewpoint really made me see Carrie’s actions from a different perspective and, I think, made the ending more poignant. A side occurrence was that Bedlam’s motivations and actions became more compelling to me than Carrie’s were, and he jumped into a central point in the narrative.

Thinking in Bedlam POV makes it easier to get into his headspace when I’m writing his dialogue. Bedlam doesn’t think before he speaks. His thoughts are tumbling over each other—in conversation with each other, as we find out in Raising Chaos—and he just lets them come out. Consequently, I let his words pour out of my fingers and into the computer. Much of this is blather that I need to go back and edit into meaningfulness, but it’s usually accompanied by crystals of insight into Bedlam that are often unintentionally humorous.

Some parts of Bedlam are very deliberate, though. Specifically, the randomness. Often when Bedlam says something truly bizarre or out of the blue, it’s not something that came to me. I have to tell myself, “Think of something random!” and hope something good comes up. Usually it does. After all, it’s not too hard to think of anything.

I use Bedlam as an example here, but I do the same thing with all my characters. I invent them as vague concepts, then try to see the world from their perspectives. Some, like Siren and Bedlam, are pretty easy. Carrie is a little harder but not too bad. Michael I have to pay a lot of attention to, and I’m still trying to get into Gabriel’s head space.  Does this then correlate with character charisma and likeability? I’m not sure. Certainly I like Siren and Bedlam best, but Gabriel and Carrie have their fans, and I’ve had people ship Carrie and Michael. (People have also hypothesized a relationship between Carrie and Lucifer. I’m not sure what that’s about.) Regardless, I hope I succeed in making the characters come as alive to the reader as they do to me.

Elizabeth CorriganElizabeth’s website 

Find Elizabeth on Facebook

Follow Bedlam on Twitter @BedlamFTW !!

Follow Elizabeth on Twitter @ercorrigan

Add Oracle of Philadelphia and Raising Chaos to your shelves on Goodreads.

Buy Oracle of Philadelphia and Raising Chaos on Amazon, BN.com, iTunes and Kobo.com

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I can’t breath; I can’t write; I’m too pregnant

April 5th 2014

I’d like to think I’m not a whiny, pregnant lady. I mean, I’ve been strong. People ask me how I feel all the time and I say, “Good, thanks.” I try hard to keep my visible discomforts to myself, and reserve the biggest complaints for my husband (because let’s face it, he deserves it). But I’m eight months pregnant and this is my third baby and I’ll be 35 years old in ten days. There are days when I’m so tired (like today) where the idea of emptying the dishwasher seems comparable to climbing Mt. Everest. Just last week, baby girl’s foot was up in my throat giving me wicked heartburn. My poor boys are sick of eating cheese quesadillas and fruit because it’s the fastest meal I can do with minimal effort and even more minimal cleanup.

Truth is I am not just overwhelmed because I wake up three times a night to pee or because I can’t breathe when sitting down. I feel like I can’t write. My brain is mush. My body is huge. I’d rather browse Etsy and comment on Facebook than think. And I feel so guilty about it. Because I have the time. My kids are in bed by 8pm. My husband is content watching the myriad of crime shows on the DVR. He’d be fine with me disappearing for a couple of hours to work. I could be writing and I should be writing, but I’m….wait, Braxton Hicks contraction…sigh, tired.

I’m taking a mystery writing class online and I have a piece due before Tuesday for critique. I have a little bit done, but I need to work on it for a few hours. Critiques are too valuable to pass up.

Someone tell me it’s okay. That I’m too pregnant and I deserve to cut myself some slack.

I’d blog more, but I’m just too tired………

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Requesting a blurb: update

March 14th 2014

A few days ago, I emailed a blurb request to a much admired author (and blogged about it here). Unfortunately, I received an email today from the author and she is unable to do it. Although it’s a disappointment, she did write me a very kind email explaining why she couldn’t commit to a blurb — it’s a matter of time. In general, authors are typically working on multiple projects at once. Some might also be employed full-time. Not to mention they have family obligations. I totally get this, even if I am a little bummed. Of course, I am no worse off than before AND I learned how to write a pretty good blurb request.

I am so appreciative that the author took the time to respond. (One author friend of mine said her blurb request went unanswered.) This author is definitely a class-act.

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Requesting a blurb

March 13th 2014

Yesterday I wrote a blurb request email to an admired author. Next to writing a query letter and synopsis (and my novel), it was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to write. For some reason, all my decades-worth of writing experience flew out the window when I had to sit down and articulate why I wanted this particular person to read my novel and offer a brief comment on it. And it’s not like I didn’t have anything to say. But at first it sounded like this….

I loved your debut novel and the ghost and the romance and I felt this connection to my own work which also has this impossible romance between a girl and a ghost, oh and did I mention my book is also set in the past, in the 1990s, and I loved your historical setting and it was so creepy and I just think you’re amazing and I hope to write another novel with the same tone and mood and and and…gibberish.

For me, authors are celebrities, except with their shit together. Whenever I’m at a book signing, I find myself gushing and sounding ridiculous. With this particular blurb request, I needed to make sure I came across as professional and sincere and sane. I wanted the author to truly understand how much her work meant to me and how much I enjoyed reading her novel. Also, I consider our books to have many similarities. Enough to be on the If-you-liked-this-you-might-also-like-this list. I couldn’t imagine a more perfect author to blurb my book. I can only hope she agrees. From what I’ve read, authors are flattered to be asked for a blurb request. After all, they all started out as unknowns. And while the blurb request does nothing for them professionally, authors are happy to help out fledgling writers. We’re good people that way.

I couldn’t find any templates online for writing a blurb request and I stumbled on the order in which to organize my letter. Do I introduce myself in the first paragraph with a ..”I’m Kimberly Giarratano and I’m a YA author..”? Do I just lead right into gushing? Unlike a query letter that has a common structure, the blurb request email seems to have no identifiable protocol. I think if you include all the important elements and they flow nicely, you’ll be okay.

(Check out this guest blog post on requesting blurbs, written by Lauren Baratz-Logsted. It’s on Nathan Bransford’s blog and was written in 2009. I found it incredibly helpful.) The following are some tips for writing a blurb request.

  • Follow proper procedure when submitting a blurb request. In my case, the author’s website specifically said all blurb requests had to be emailed to the author’s agent. Not the author directly. Good to know and easy to do.
  • Make sure you have good reason to request a blurb from this particular author. Are your books in the same genre? Do you have a shared audience? Do you admire the author’s career?
  • In your request, cite specific reasons why you loved their last novel or their collection of work. Was there a specific character that stayed with you? Did you love the setting? What themes resonated? Etc, etc.
  • Don’t forget to briefly summarize your own novel (I almost did).
  • Include your publisher and publication date.
  • And ask them how they would like to receive your book, ie Word Doc, ebook, galley. (I didn’t do this. I decided to wait for a reply first before presuming they’d want the novel right off the bat. Not sure on etiquette for this.)

I emailed my blurb request yesterday and got an ‘out of office’ reply. I’ll just be hanging tight in the meantime. But I’ll keep you all apprised of what happens.

I can’t end this post without a big thank you and shout-out to my dear friend/editor/YA-expert-on-retainer, Jill, who helped me edit my letter. She has a wicked eye for comma misplacement and word choice.

Has anyone ever written a blurb request? What was the outcome?

Do you have any suggestions for authors struggling to write one? Please, feel free to sound off in the comments below.

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Why I Write

March 10th 2014

My incorrigible, writer friend Stephen Kozeniewski tagged me in a blog hop. And while I typically bemoan these, I agreed to do it because, hey…it’s free content! and because he’s relentless.
Even though it’s not yet Passover, I will be answering The Four Questions…of Writing.

1. What am I working on?

I’m working on two novels actually. My first work-in-progress is a dual POV YA ghost story/mystery set in present day Key West, Florida. This book is fun to write and I’m loving the cast of characters I’ve created. Plus, Key West is one of the ten most haunted cities in the U.S. so the setting works perfectly. My second WIP is a YA historical mystery set in 1955 in Upstate NY in which an Argentine immigrant stumbles upon the dead body of her soon-to-be stepfather. She quickly learns that the man she loved like a father was not the good man she thought he was and that the detective’s list of suspects are everyone know she knows. I’m particularly proud of the concept and idea, but I worry about execution. It’s in the very early drafting stages, so only time, and a million revisions, will tell how this will all play out.

2. How does my work differ from others of its genre?

I’m not sure if it does really. That’s the great thing about writing YA, I feel like rules and strict genre norms are meant to be broken, so we all break them. YA seems to be a buffet of genre mashups and unconventional literary devices. My first novel, Grunge Gods and Graveyards, is a bit of a genre mashing. It’s a YA paranormal romance/mystery set in 1996. The time period is what sets it apart. I don’t care what anyone says, the 90s were the best decade ever (because of the music). The important part is that teenage angst and problems were the same in the 90s as they are today and the time period doesn’t make the book unrelatable at all. I’m amazed at how easily it is for me to transport myself back to 17 years old and relive some awful moments. But then I’ll hear a Radiohead song on XM and instantly I’m back to the fun moments of my youth too.

3. Why do I write what I do?

I write because I’ve always written. Before staying home with my kids, I was a YA librarian. I live for YA books and I rarely read adult fiction anymore (which is not necessarily a good thing). I write YA because I truly love the books geared for a teenage audience and because I want to contribute to the literature. I also have a bachelor’s degree in history so I’m compelled to insert a historical setting or twist into all my work. Writing fulfills me in a way a traditional job never did.

4. How does my writing process work?

I’m constantly fine-tuning my writing process. Lately, I’ve really gotten into using the Snowflake Method. I’m not a details person. With Snowflake, I focus on the big idea, the big plot point, and then narrow down the finer points as I go through the steps. This works for me on many levels. For one thing, I can’t just wing a story. I’m not a ‘pantser.’ If I have no road map, then I’ll just sit in the driver’s seat staring at the steering wheel. I need direction and scene lists are my road map. Also, I find characters drive plot. So if I truly understand my characters, then somehow they lead me to major plot points without me having to think so hard. Details come after.

I must’ve revised Grunge Gods a bazillion times. I’m trying to save myself the time and inefficiency of doing that for any other novel I write. I have young kids. I need to write smarter if I’m to write another book before they go to college.

I want to thank Mr. Koz for tagging me. Stephen is the author of Braineater Jones, a funny, noir zombie novel set in the 1930s and The Ghoul Archipelago, a horror novel set on the open seas that would freak me out so badly if I actually read it (I have a weak constitution).

Up next is……my critique partner, Leandra! Her blogs posts are always a blast. She’ll post next week.

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