On Friends and Family in Writing

On Friends and Family in Writing

From early on, we are told “write what you know.” If every writer followed this advice, we wouldn’t have science fiction, or fantasy, or the always-sappy happily-ever-after of romance novels. These are often not real life experiences, so how can someone “know” about them? Love doesn’t always turn out that way. The names science fiction and fantasy may indicate that even if there’s a grain of truth, the rest requires your imagination.The characters and their traits or powers are just the fanciful imagination of the author, and none of it applies to what we know as truth and fact in the real world we live it.

Other genres, including mystery – the genre of my upcoming novel, are more fact-based. I can “write what I know,” since there is plenty to know about solving mysteries, the police work it takes, and the many factual details needed to make the story believable. But, I didn’t know. I had a lot of research to do. I’ve learned this from my dad. He can’t read a book or watch a TV show without his retired police officer’s brain saying “that’s not how that’s done” or “you can’t solve a crime like that in a couple days.” His comments have informed my writing. The rest is research. How big of a hole does a certain bullet make? When a body and analyzing the blood spatter on the wall to recognize how the person was killed, or were they moved and the crime scene is elsewhere? I looked a lot of this stuff up over many visits to the library for various books, interviews with police officers, and more research. I didn’t exactly write what I knew.

When it comes to settings, I do write what I know, to an extent. The setting of my upcoming novel is in a smallish, fictional town I have created. But that creation came from a combination of towns I know and love. While the town I have created doesn’t actually exist, pieces of it do.

When it comes to characters, it’s a mixed bag. One character is so much like a friend of mine, I asked that friend if it was okay if I modeled a character after them. Thankfully, they said yes. I’ve informed them of the character traits and features I’ve used, and I’ve let my friend read the parts that include the character. This character is meant to compliment, not degrade, this person. Another character I’ve created is modeled after a family member, and even uses a version of their name. Again, I told this family member about the character. Yet a third character is somewhat based on a family member. Physical traits have not been used, but this family member’s magnetic personality and ability to communicate with a variety of people is the type of character traits I wanted in the character in story. I didn’t really think about it at first, but the more the character was developed, the more I saw the similarities.

Other characters have come purely from my imagination, and aren’t particularly modeled after anyone I know. On a subconscious level, it’s possible they are, but these characters are not “write what you know” characters. They are many and varied, some with backgrounds I needed to research a little because it’s not what I know.

Knowing all this, is write what you know the best advice? Let’s talk about it on Facebook.

The Pro and Con of Outlines

The Pro and Con of Outlines

A lot has changed for my writing life in just the first two and a half months of this year. The class I took at the end of 2023 motivated me to get a lot done and look to organization for help.

For years, I’ve been a “pantser” when it comes to writing fiction. That means I sit down at the computer and start with a vague idea and a will to write. I write and whatever comes out, comes out. After I have whatever it is, I go through and edit and rewrite and edit and on and on until I can’t stand the story and characters anymore. I’ve been working on a novel on and off for several years through this method.

The class I took talked about the importance of planning for getting to where you want to be in the future, in life and in writing. With just about everything else in my life, I make a plan, decide the steps, and get whatever ‘it’ is done. I applied this information to creating a better outline for my novel. I created a thorough outline that extended my work from an about 60,000 word, 250 page document that had no direction to the end to a 109,000 word document of 460 pages with a beginning, middle, and end.

It’s currently going through a first full edit. Look for it in Q1 of 2025.

The major con for many is for those who struggle sticking with an outline feel it’s confining. You have to stick to the outline, and not wander beyond that. This is how I felt about outlines for a long time. It was a definite and locked in way to write and there was little room for exploring beyond what you previously decided needed to be followed. The feeling likely came from my academic life of book report writing when I had to submit outlines and rough drafts for approval, and straying from those previous plans was frowned upon in the final product turned in for grading.

I’ve learned that this is certainly not the case in creative fiction. It’s a form of writing that encourages you to take the side roads and paths less traveled. However, it doesn’t encourage you to start out on a road without a map.

Finally, there’s the idea of the “plantser.” That’s a person who thrives on both. They make that detailed plan and outline, but then throw it all in the trash if it ends up not working out the way they want.

But the outline doesn’t work for everything, or everyone. Do what’s right for you.

Success in Cooking

Success in Cooking

As I said before, my mother calls it “an adventure in eating.” There’s another saying: third time’s the charm. That’s valid in this case. Due to my son being sick on the day of the Scout event we were making this for, I skipped making it altogether the “first time.” The second time was the awful accident with the glass baking dish. But I was determined we would make and eat this dish.

The third time came at the end of February – there’s been so much going on that writing about it has gotten shoved down the list. I got a new pan, more like the one all the recipes tell you to use, and I set out to make it one last time. I still had all of the ingredients, and I was determined to use them successfully, serve this dish, and be able to actually eat what I made.

Due to the time it takes to prepare, this won’t be a regular rotation meal by any means. The number of ingredients, the number of steps, and the sheer time it takes is not something a home chef with a busy schedule otherwise can easily take on each week.

The accomplishment in my book though is that I did it. Having made the dish once before, I changed things up a bit. I made the topping sauce first, then the meat sauce. I cooked the pasta while I made the topping sauce, meaning I used my larger skillet for the sauce that was overflowing out of one of my smaller pans the first time. The timing was better for everything, but most importantly, I made sure all the stove top burners were off, just to be safe.

Everything worked out! From beginning to end, things went much more smoothly than before. Plus, I had a husband and son who were asking for seconds and thirds! Bonus: it tastes just as good as a leftover as it does fresh from the over. As with any dish, I learned a couple more tricks, and with feedback from my guys, know what I’ll do next time to make it even better.

When will next time be? That’s still up for debate.

Have you ever made a dish that didn’t turn out and decided to try again? How did it turn out the next time? Is it part of your regular menu? Tell me about it on Facebook!

Goodbye Vella

Goodbye Vella

This month’s Kindle Vella blog post was meant to announce this month’s story. Sadly, instead, this month’s post is about leaving the platform. If you haven’t read the last installments of The Next Keeper, I’ll be leaving it as well as The Normal Day, and The Elevator up until the end of the month. After that, all my work on Kindle Vella will be unpublished.

I’ve enjoyed posting these short episodes and stories for you all to enjoy, but Amazon is making it an inhospitable place for writers. If you’ve enjoyed any other content on Kindle Vella, watch for announcements from your favorite stories and authors. When one side benefits, another often has to lose. Amazon has decided to make the first TEN episodes free to read rather than the previous three. For writers who post very short stories, which may top out at or below that ten episode mark, we are giving away our stories for free. Each unlock will now only be ten tokens, when in the past it depended on the episode length. Watch for writers who once provided thrilling and detailed content to start cutting things drastically in response to these changes. I’m not upset they’re trying to serve their readers better, but it is sad that it has to be at the expense of their writers.

I will be looking for another platform to continue to share these stories with you. Watch the blog for announcements related to where we can connect again!