Waiting for You: A Playlist (And the Wonders of Music)

I don’t know of any indie authors who haven’t made a playlist for their novels — you all have, haven’t you? — or at least picked out actors who would play their characters if their novel was ever adapted for the big screen (which, by the way, I have an Evernote file of nearly all my characters and their respective actors…).

Music is such a phenomenal concept. I’ve been playing violin for 20 years and have had such wonderful opportunities to perform up and down the East Coast, including places like Epcot and Magic Kingdom at Disney World. In my private lessons, we studied via the Suzuki Method (which Adam makes a crack about in Chapter Two of Waiting for You. I couldn’t resist.) In high school, I also was a part of my church’s youth choir, which was associated with the Royal Academy of Music. In order to advance a level (and thereby getting to wear the next color adornment over your cassock and surplus), you had to take tests in music theory.

There are even studies on the effects of music therapy in psychiatric patients. Seriously, music is such an amazing thing. The right song can make us cry when we’re sad, cheer when we’re happy, and make us belt out a tune at the top of our lungs in rush hour traffic.

This is why I think it’s a great idea to create playlists for our novels. There’s something about the perfect songs that can help convey the heart and soul, bloodmusicspeaks, sweat and tears that we’ve poured into our novels. They can be the perfect accompaniment to, dare I say it, harmonize with our work.

So, without further ado, here is my playlist for Waiting for You!

  1. All This Time ~ OneRepublic (Main theme song)
  2. One Sweet Day ~ Maria Carey & Boyz II Men (Sarah’s song)
  3. Left Behind ~ Spring Awakening (Elliott’s song)
  4. Come Home ~ OneRepublic
  5. Nightingale ~ Demi Lovato
  6. Remedy ~ Adele

    (Sorry! Couldn’t find a video to embed of this song.)

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Floorplanner.com: Using it to help you set your scene

Do you ever find yourself struggling to visualize your settings, specifically ones you’ve made up? I do occasionally, especially when it comes to my characters’ homes. Sometimes it takes me awhile to get a consistent picture in my mind of what a character’s house might look like.

I stumbled onto a website, and I wish I had found it ages ago. Floorplanner.com. Seriously, why couldn’t I have found this sooner? It’s a tool that allows you to create floor plans. For fun, I threw together one of Kylie’s apartment:

first-design

Of course, I forgot to put a door leading into the bathroom, but you get the idea.

It’s a nifty little tool you can use to help you set your scene. It has different options for furniture, rugs, decor, etc. You can change the color and texture of the floor. It requires signup, but it’s free to use. Might be helpful for those of you who are like me and are visual learners.

What random tools or apps have you stumbled on that you use for writing your stories?

Waiting for You: Meet the Characters (Post # 3)

Today I’d like to introduce one of my secondary characters — Kylie Lewis’s best friend, Cat.

Be sure to check out the profiles for Kylie and Adam!

Full Name: Catalina Gabriela Gomez, nickname “Cat”
DOB: February 24, 1991
Height: 5’3″
Weight: 130 lbs.
Eye color: Brown
Ethnicity: Mexican
Hair color: Brunette
Family: Mother – Inés Gomez; Father – Felipe Gomez; also has two younger brothers, Carlos and Martín
Occupation: Ticket seller at the Coliseum (Charleston Performing Arts Center)
Hobbies: Surfing at Folly Beach, dancing,
Hometown: Born and raised in Charleston, SC
Current residence: Downtown Charleston
Friends: Kylie Lewis
Education: High School
Religion: Catholic
Personality: Extroverted, outgoing, bubbly, loud
Favorite Food: 
Mexican, seafood
Favorite Music: Pop, Pop-Rock

Here’s your link to the actress (singer, in this case…who also happens to be one of my idols for all her mental health advocacy work!)

Naming your characters

Hello_my_name_isSome writers are extremely picky when it comes to naming their babies…I mean…characters. They research name meanings and origins, and craft these exquisite, beautiful names.

I am not one of those writers.

To be honest, I’m kind of lazy when it comes to naming my characters. Don’t get me wrong, I do some research. But we’re talking a minuscule, micro amount of research like looking up what the most popular/common names were in the year I’ve chosen my character to be born. I usually Google the Top 50 names of that year, then pick one that I like the sound of. Then I look up common surnames for whatever area my story takes place in. That’s it. That’s really all there is to naming my characters.

Scrivener has a nifty name generator feature, which I’ve been using more of since I got Scrivener not even a year ago. You can include or exclude whatever belonging to certain heritages or countries.

Scrivener, character, naming, characters, novel, book, ebook, author, writer, writing

I understand the process will be different if you’re writing genres such as Sci-fi and Fantasy. As far as when it comes to reading contemporary fiction, however, I’ve never really pondered why an author chose a certain name for their character. If it’s a name that’s obviously, overtly clever or meaningful to the character, I might give a small, “Oh. Ha. I get it” and move on. I’ve just yet to come across a character I remembered solely for their name. Characters are made memorable by being real, flawed people, not because they have a funny or clever name. The only, and I mean the only character I have ever written just to have a stupid name is in Waiting for You. The girlfriend of Adam’s father is only named Suzuki so I could make a reference to the Suzuki method of learning music, which is the method I was taught when I was learning to play violin. But she’s only in one minor scene.

Do you have a method for naming your characters? I’d love to hear from you in the comments!

Waiting for You: Meet the Characters (Post #2)

Welcome to post numero dos of Meet the Characters! In case you missed it, here is the first post.

Today I’d like to introduce my female protagonist:

Full Name: Kylie Charlotte Lewis
DOB: July 10, 1991
Height: 5’7″
Weight: 135 lbs.
Eye color: Blue
Ethnicity: White
Hair color: Blonde
Family: Mother – Sarah Lewis; Father – Daniel Lewis (deceased – 2004)
Occupation: Advice columnist
Hobbies: Surfing at Folly Beach, watching and reading murder mysteries
Hometown: Born and raised in Charleston, SC
Current residence: West Ashley (a suburb of Charleston)
Friends: Catalina “Cat” Gomez
Education: College of Charleston, BA in Journalism
Religion: Christian
Personality: Introverted, empathetic, sensible
Favorite Food: 
Mexican – favorite dish is chilaquiles, made by Cat’s mother
Favorite Music: Pop, Pop-Rock

Here’s your link to the actress.

Waiting for You: Meet the characters (Post #1)

So, I’d like to start introducing some of my characters from Waiting for You. They are all special enough to me that they get their own posts! These are parts of my character profile sheets I wrote out during the course of the first draft.

(On a side and totally unrelated note, I just want to say how much of a fog my brain has been in today. It’s to be expected, what with having an ECT treatment yesterday. I start to do stuff, then forget what I was doing. I have a hard time focusing on tasks. I think I was pretty much just physically, not mentally present at work today. I’ve been trying to start this blog post for a good forty-five minutes now, but keep getting distracted with random videos on Youtube. Oh, and I had raspberry white chocolate chip pancakes at IHOP yesterday after my treatment. They were scrumptious.)

I’m one of those people who like to think: if my work was made into a movie, who would play my characters? While I don’t have specific people in mind from the get-go, once I have an idea in my mind of what my characters look like, I do pick out actors/actresses who resemble how I’ve pictured my characters. It helps solidify the image in my mind’s eye. BUT! Here’s my dilemma: do I dish on which actors I have picked? Part of me wants to say that it kind of ruins the fun of imagining what characters look like when you’re reading. So, here’s what I’ll do. Below the character information, I’ll post a link. Your choice if you want to look or not!

Meet my first protagonist!

Full Name: Adam James Bell
DOB: April 5, 1988
Height: 5’10”
Weight: 170 lbs.
Eye color: Brown
Ethnicity: White
Hair color: Dark blond
Family: John Bell – Father (Occupation: lawyer), Ella Pause – Mother (Occupation: concert pianist), Elliott – Brother
Occupation: Full-time waiter, aspiring musician — singer/guitarist for his band, Waiting for One
Hobbies: Writing music / performing. Began learning piano at age 6, cello at age 10, guitar at 15
Hometown: Born in NYC, raised in Charleston, SC
Current residence: Downtown Charleston, SC
Friends: Shawn Wilson* (drummer/roommate), Oliver “Twist” Hawkes (bass guitarist/former classmate), Benny Rice (guitarist)
Education: High school
Religion: Agnostic
Personality: Outgoing, can be a bit abrasive; driven when it comes to music; can be somewhat impulsive
Favorite Food: 
Anything that doesn’t require cooking, or anything expensive
Favorite Music: Rock

Here’s your link to the actor. He did play a good psychopath on a Criminal Minds episode, which I happened to see just the other day.

*Yes, my dog’s name is also Wilson. No, that is not why I gave Shawn that particular last name. It’s in reference to Bill Wilson, founder of AA.

Speaking of Wilson, just snapped this picture of him yesterday in his new bed. He loves blankets.

dog, westie

Help! I hate my characters! ~ On Sympathetic Characters

Do you ever find yourself at your computer (or notebook) when writing and feel like screaming:

characters

Oh, really? Me too! Or you have someone beta read a bit for you and they say, “I really don’t like this character.”

And then you just cry and cry and cry, then cry some more because you spent so much time fleshing out who you thought was an amazing, really likable character. Then you cry yourself to sleep and dream of ways to kill off your entire cast of characters. Oh, not that last bit? That’s just me? Oh…

But don’t worry! Not all hope is lost! There’s a difference between likable and sympathetic. Your protagonist may be the biggest asshole on the planet, but if readers care about him, they’ll keep reading. The trick is they have to care enough to want to know what happens.

Example one:

As Marcus washed the dishes in the sink, the brush’s stiff bristles scraping the soapy suds against the plate, his green pasture-colored eyes gazed longingly out the kitchen window to the far pasture. He pondered the day’s events, of all the puppies he rescued and the little one he gave to his son, remembering how brightly his eyes lit up. He thought about his perfect life, his perfect family, and his perfectly chiseled jaw.

Did you care at all about Marcus? Booooring. Did you even finish reading it? I’m all for rescuing dogs, sure, but if this was an actual story I was reading, I wouldn’t give a damn about Marcus. Obviously I’m going to extremes with this example, but you get the picture, right? Take a look at this next example:

Example two:

His day at work had been grueling and never-ending, and all Marcus longed to do was pick up his son from his ex-wife’s house — that bitch, he added mentally — so they could completely veg out on the sofa with a weekend-long Star Wars marathon. Just as Marcus had signed off on his last report of the day, his manager marched down the row of desks with another stack of papers in his hand and dropped them on Marcus’ desk. Marcus stared, his jaw slack as he watched his manager turn and walk away without another word about the extra two hours of work he had just given him.

Now we’re getting somewhere. Did you care about Marcus this time around, at least a little bit? Let’s go over some things that will help make your characters more sympathetic.

  • Faults
    Characters need faults. Where’s the fun in reading about someone who’s perfect in every way? Perfect characters with perfect lives have no conflict. Conflict is an integral part of novels. In our second example, Marcus’ life isn’t perfect: divorced, shared custody of his kid, and overworked at his job. Your character’s faults don’t have to be big, either. Is your protagonist ultra shy? Rude? Anxiety-ridden? Bossy?
  • Goals, Wants, Needs
    Goals are the driving force of your plot. In every scene, your character needs to have a goal even if it’s something as simple as wanting to go home or spend time with family. What goal, need, or want is the driving force behind your character’s actions?
  • Active in the story
    Your protagonist shouldn’t be a passive bystander in your story. The plot shouldn’t just be happening around him, with your character only reacting to what’s happening. His goal, want or need should force him to take action.
  • Redeeming quality
    While it’s necessary for your character to have at least some faults, he should have at least one redeeming quality your reader can identify with. Marcus, for example, cares about his son even though not everything around him is perfect.

Remember, sympathetic does not have to equal likable. Your character could be the biggest jerk ever, but the reader should care enough about him to feel compelled to finish reading his story.

In what ways do you try to make your characters sympathetic and relatable? I’d love to hear your thoughts!