Tuesday, June 29, 2021

Do You Have to LIKE the Main Character(s)?


A relative had recommended a series, and after watching the first episode I let him know I didn’t think I’d watch the rest.


He was aghast. “It’s the best series I ever saw,” said my dear family member. “It got me thinking about so many questions and had so many twists and turns.”


Yes, that’s the plot. A whole town full of characters. Mysterious occurrences, once begun, continue to baffle as they go on and on. Good premise.


The problem was that I found every single person in the town unlikable. Not in an interesting sort of way what’s-with-him/her unlikable, but in a dull nothing-to-like-here mode.


My relative lamented that his wife also dismisses stories (be they books or movies) when she doesn’t like the main character. “I just don’t get it,” he added.


Here’s the best explanation I can give on this matter. Spending the most precious thing I have, time, in a place I don’t like or with people I don’t like, is something I won’t do unless compelled to by law.


We all occasionally have to. It might be family, or a job. But we’d be wise not to do so for longer than necessary.


Reading a book or watching a movie is very much like hanging out in their time, place, and with their characters. What happens there can be interesting. But without liking someone in that world, I’m out of there, thank you.


And so I left that series, which incidentally is named The Leftovers. I may give it another try someday. Who knows, never say never. But the feeling that I choose who to hang out with when I begin a story is forever. Same for the ones I write.

Tuesday, June 22, 2021

What Is Your Mascot/Avatar/Spirit Animal?


Paraphrasing question #23 on the same list of better questions to ask a writer,  I decided to have fun today. I mean, the question itself echoes the infamous Barbara Walters school of interview standards, “if you were a tree, what tree would you be” silliness. (It should also make anyone question if the list labeled “better questions” merits this title)


But you know what? Be we as children if we deem to write for young spirits.

 Let’s play. I go first.

So what animal would I be?



Could you guess?


A decent guess, knowing me even a wee bit, would suggest a feline of some sort.

 That would be wrong.

 I admire felines. I am in awe of their beauty and grace. They are far-away, god-like beings. So aspirational as to not even be my aspirational avatar.

I am no such thing.


 For me, this one does it:

The giraffe is a peaceful animal who manages to stay above the fray. Giraffes have a great perspective, having been graced with the anatomical advantage of a perennial outsider, seeing more of the whole picture, not tangled in the weeds below. And unlike birds, Giraffes do this with their feet firmly planted on the ground.

That is what I aspire to. 

DD even drew one for me when she was four-years-old:

Do share yours, if you dare to play. Like the giraffe, I may bat my long lashes. But I won't judge you.

Tuesday, June 15, 2021

A Place to Write


There is a romantic notion that a writer must have a special place to write. I recall a question a friend asked when we talked about process. This friend is not a writer.

She: “Do you have a retreat?”

Me: “Retreat to what?”

She: “A place where you leave everything behind in order to write.”

Me: “You mean— other than a desk at home?”

She: “I mean away from it all. A writer’s retreat.”

          Me: “And who’s going to take care of my kids, fold the laundry, and clean the cats’ litterbox?”

Yes, my friend who knows my family and me actually imagined real writing requires a cabin in the woods, or at the very least, a shed in the backyard with a padlock & key only the writer possess.

All you need to write is an ability to delve inward, focus, and a pencil or computer. A regular corner where focusing usually takes place is helpful, but not a must.

Mine is a wee corner of my bedroom~

Tuesday, June 8, 2021

The One Thing a Pitch Must Do


There’s a notion universally acknowledged that the one thing a story must do is arouse the listener/reader’s curiosity.


This goes triply for a pitch. A pitch must wake up a part of the mind and have it scream, “TELL ME MORE!”


Which is precisely what my first ever effort at pitching did not do.

(Does this 👆 wake up your curious bone?)


My first effort writing a story for publication was a noble failure. I had no idea what I was doing on the publishing front. That’s the way it is when delving into a new field.

It did get some lovely personal responses from busy editors, so I know it was not a complete dud as stories go. But I mis-labeled it, (a six-thousand word manuscript is not a picture book) it was episodic, (by then, out of fashion in publishing) and the pitch was as bad as can be.


The story itself was about the time in a five-year-old’s life when his sister is born and his beloved grandparent dies. Things happened. Things that mattered.


But from my point of interest, the real story was an interior coming-of age journey. The boy was a contemplative, imaginative dreamer who wondered about the meaning of it all. To me the real happenings were interior.


And so I came up with a pitch that went something like this:

“In a year in which nothing much happened, Isaac grows inwardly.”

I mean, really. Would you ask to read the rest of it? I’m amazed at the few positive encouraging replies I did get.


Okay. This 👆 is what not to do. For goodness sake, there was a ghost in Isaac’s house, and the most beloved person in his life was dying, and the new baby was taking all his parents’ attention and...

So just remember that a pitch has one job to do. That job is to make the recipient shout even before the end, “I must know more!” 

Tuesday, June 1, 2021



I have friends who testify to many started but never finished manuscripts. Their virtual drawer bursts with the begun & abandoned.



When I was a wee child, I had many such stories. Half-written real paper pages (that was a pre-digital age) not mellowing but yellowing from neglect, lay next to other unfinished arts and crafts projects. They accepted their destiny to never arrive at a destination.


That all changed in my late twenties.

I worked for a friend who is also possibly the most talented artist I have ever known. I saw the chest of half-done and abandoned textile work that was her life then, and it scared me.* I made a vow, not to another person or the creator, but between me and myself. From then on, I won’t give myself permission to begin a new work until I finished the one I had started.

For me, that vow was one of three best private decisions I ever made.


This is not for everyone. Nothing is. But if you are plagued with many “someday I’ll get back to__” started projects, my wish for you is that you find your way to a clear that cluttered path. My “how to” may sound harsh, but harshness may be what’s needed.


I find half-done manuscripts a sad sight. For me, only real life gets to be a never finished story. That is, until it, too, comes to an end.

* I'm happy to write that my old friend seems to have conquered the issue as well, as her amazing creations are now sold by the finest galleries.

To quote another writer, Nancy Sanders

"If one can, 

two can. 

If two can, 

you can too!