Author Archives: Terry Misfeldt

Character Descriptions

By Terry C. Misfeldt

How you craft descriptions of your characters is an important element in gaining and maintaining reader interest in your story. Character descriptions vary from quick sketches to detailed revelations that can include emotional states.

An example of a quick sketch would be describing a female character wearing a sleeveless top with colorful tattoo sleeves from shoulder to wrist on both arms. Main character? Perhaps, but more appropriate for a passing stranger in some scene.

The more detailed character description might be something like this: “The plump four-year-old towhead with sparkling blue eyes and out-turned feet plodded barefoot through the mud with his tossled hair clinging to the back of his sweaty neck. His bleeding hand was wrapped in his blood-soaked t-shirt that he held tight to his chest with his belly hanging over the waistband of his too-tight shorts.”

The point of the examples is writers need to create believable characters with precise descriptions. The scene in the second example is used more to describe what might be going on in the towhead’s brief existence, but you learn he is blond with blue eyes and is overweight for a 4-year-old.

Beware: You can divulge too much information about a character in a single description or scenario. This may force you to repeat traits or descriptions at other points in your story that could potentially conflict with your original picture of them.

Suggestion: Identify your characters and write character descriptions on each of them before you dig too deeply into writing the story. This enables you to sprinkle some of their traits throughout the story at appropriate times rather than all at once.

Observe people who may model the type of character you want to create. Take notes about how they move, what they wear, and, of course, what they look like. Writers call it research.

Writing Tools

By Terry C. Misfeldt

The most important tool available to you as a writer is your brain! Chief among writing tools: You ability to think and create. Think about what you are trying to say. When you know what message you want to convey, there are many writing tools at your disposal.

Research can be a valuable writing tool. Where do you find out about personalities so you can determine what your characters’ flaws and attributes are? Psychology textbooks are one source. Personality profile programs are another. Maps, the Internet, and countless other sources of information can assist your research quest. Chambers of commerce in many communities can provide you with demographic information.

Reading is often overlooked as a writing tool, but one that can prove powerful. Read the works of other writers in the genre you are working on. How do they create scenes? Write down the ideas that relate to your story. How do they create conflict between characters? Again, make some notes. How do they create dialogue? Emulate them if you believe it is appropriate for your work.

Outlining & Plotting are writing tools that are somewhat synonymous. When you outline your story from beginning to conclusion, you have a tool that enables you to look at the story impartially. If you believe a chapter should be moved forward or back, the outline suggests where it may fit better. Plotting, likewise, enables you to plot the course of your story and inject conflict where you may not thought of adding it.

Another writing tool we take for granted: Your computer. Most computer programs help edit what you write and find alternative words if you need a substitute. Things I have found most valuable about my laptop are the keyboard I have attached that enables me to type more efficiently, the storage capacity, the ease of editing, and the speed it enables me to write with. My brain works much faster than my fingers can type, but the more I practice, the closer those two speeds come together.

Cleaning Leads to Writing Inspiration

By Ruth Granger-Wellens

At the beginning of my Corona virus isolation, since I had so many hours of unscheduled time, I decided to tackle some huge cleaning projects that I had put off for, well, years.  When we moved 16 years ago, during a week long spring break, I packed all my nonessential “stuff” into boxes.  My “stuff” eventually was cornered, literally, in the basement, and I hadn’t touched it in, again, years. With all the time I had ahead of me, I decided to clear out the corner by going through boxes to see what I had.

Wow!  I am a saver, I will admit, but some of the items I saved were a puzzlement even to me. Letter and cards, some from high school friends, but more from college buddies became inspiration to write about occasions from long ago. I could put twists on some of the letters I had saved – maybe a story about unrequited love? Why was that card never answered?  What happened? Why did I save some of my correspondence in a special box with a ribbon around it?

I did read everything before I threw out the majority of it, but not before going through many emotions.  Of course, if I didn’t remember the particular event, fiction writing would come in handy.

Then the pictures were discovered.  So many pictures of friends, family, and even a few strangers.  I did hang onto some of them, but others I tried to look at through my son’s eyes and wondered what he would think when the time came, and he needed to go through my things.  I became a new me in part and actually threw out some pictures.  But others, of people wearing vintage clothing, hats, with solid, serious stances, became inspiration for writing.  Who is that stranger in the picture? Remember the dance performances and the drama surrounding them in college?  What was the occasion for this picture?  How did the subjects feel about the picture being taken?  Were they standing next to people they enjoyed or not? The pictures provide ideas for both fiction and nonfiction.

Then came the preciously saved mementos. I found a large red button that had made me an official member of the Beatles Fan Club.  Upon seeing it, I felt a memoir coming on.  So many memories and feelings to capture in writing.     

This deep cleaning created a win-win situation for me.  I not only came away with some inspiring ideas for future writing, but that corner in my basement looks great!

Inspiration

By Rhonda Strehlow

Inspiration

Someone once asked me where I get ideas for my books. Some have been in my head for years. Take the premise for my first book, Second Act. All 70,000 plus words are based on a sixty-minute encounter that took place more than twenty years ago.

It started like this: my sisters and I took a long weekend break in Chicago. We had just seen a play and had an hour or so before we were expected at a nice restaurant. The evening was gorgeous. We talked and laughed as we wandered down the street. I was carrying a tiny evening bag. Feeling free and silly, I was swinging the purse in circles when a blond gentleman grabbed my arm.

This is downtown Chicago. We’re from a town with a population of 499 in northern Wisconsin. My sisters and I freeze.

He says, “It’s not safe to swing your purse in this city.”

En masse my sisters and I back away from him and his large bald friend we hadn’t noticed earlier.

He smiles and starts telling us about Chicago, its history, and famous residents. Within minutes we were captivated by his insights and barely noticed when we reached the restaurant.  We invited them to join us. They pointed to their shorts and sandals and declined.

“Thank you…” I hesitated. “We don’t know your names.”

The blond man smiled enigmatically, hugged me, and walked away.

I gave the bald man a quizzical look.

He leaned in and whispered, “If I told you his name, you would recognize it.”

In minutes they disappeared into the crowd.

If you want to know what could have been the rest of the story, you’ll have to read the book.

A Shot

By Benjamin Hock

A shot. It’s all we as writers ask for. We believe if the right agent read our manuscript, got to know our characters, their story, their life, that agent would fall in love with them as much as we did. Then we’d be off to the races. In pursuit of that book deal that might change our lives forever. But, I’m getting ahead of myself.

If you haven’t heard of #PitMad. That’s what it is. ​A​ shot. One of a handful of ways to get your work in front of agents without the initial hassle of drafting a semi-custom form letter that can feel halfway between an E-Harmony and a Linked-In profile.

So when it came to pass the next pitmad contest was just around the corner I decided to take my shot at this once every three month opportunity and throw my hat in the ring as they say. Like any contest there are a few rules, which I won’t go over here. If you want to try your hand at PitMad you can find the rules and times at ​www.pitchwars.org​. But in true PitMad fashion I’ll describe the entire contest in 280 characters or less.

PitMad is like going to buy a scratch-off ticket. Most of them are losers. There’s some luck involved. The more you play the better your odds, and everyone wants to win the jackpot, however most of us go home a dollar poorer but can say it was a good time. That said the hardest part of PitMad is not the rules but the idea of taking the entirety of three plus years of work, 62,000 words, and summing it up into what amounts to a fortune cookie fortune.

How is this even possible? I agonized for days, writing over and over and over again this tiny billboard advertisement for my book that hopefully would stop an agent, if only fora moment, in their infinite scroll through Twitter. And if I did my job right, that agent would hit that ‘like’ button to tell me they are willing to take a look at my work. That’s right. All this for a chance to stand in line to get into the door. When the day of the contest arrived and the clock struck 7 a.m., like the morning bell of the stock market, a buzz of social media activity began to fly.

Writers littered the twitter-sphere with their own tiny billboards, including myself. My phone buzzed. A retweet. That must be good. More retweets equals more chances for agents to see it, right? A few hours pass. No likes. I post again, this time a revised version of what I essentially now consider micro-flash fiction. A few minutes go by and nothing. An hour. Nothing. Then ​ping​. The sound of a chime rings from my phone. I have a like. It’s from a small press publishing company.

Did their butt accidentally like my tweet when they sat down? No. They would like me to email them my first10,000 words. I followed up with my one and only like in less than twenty-four hours. My mind rushed with both hope and skepticism. Seventy two hours later I received a request for the full manuscript and a new excitement had risen within me, one of possibilities. I hit send and my book is on its way, zipping through fiber optic cables at the speed of light, to land on someone’s digital to-do stack.

Would I say taking part in PitMad was worth it? I can’t say for sure. This is still an experience in progress as I wait for either that next step into the door or that all too familiar email–thanks but no thanks. However, one thing is for certain, it was a good time.

Writing Challenge

By Terry C. Misfeldt

One week into July 2020 I decided to challenge myself on writing. I believed I could write 1,000 words a day, so I established that as my realistic goal. My rationale was two-fold:

1) If I wrote 1,000 words a day I could craft a 90,000 word novel within 90 days; and,

2) I could hold myself accountable by documenting how many words I wrote in my daily journal. I did not intend to count the journal words in the daily total.

Through the first 18 days of my challenge I have written 22,336 words for an average of 1,241. There was only one day when I did not write anything, and some days when I fell short of the 1,000 word goal. The most words in a day were 2,995. The key, in my estimation, has been accountability.

There have been days when I was motivated to sit down at the keyboard early and crank on the sequel to my novel, Shevivor. And there was at least one day where I did not want to go to bed without sitting down and cranking out something.

How did I determine what to write?

If I was working on the sequel, I went to bed thinking about the next few paragraphs and where I wanted to take the story. If I hit a snag or blockage, I worked on a chapter of my memoirs and found it easy to craft 1,000 words about one of my life’s experiences. In other words, I always had something to write about. And there were days when I wrote in two different stints when I was motivated to write.

Enough about me.

Challenging yourself to write involves setting a goal. It is less important to establish how much you want to write as it is to maintain a regimen that keeps you focused. If you can accomplish writing 500 words a day, make that your objective. If you find it difficult to commit to a daily schedule and believe you can write 2,000 words a week, that should be your goal.

You must set your own standard because, ultimately, you must hold yourself accountable.

Keep track of your achievements. It is how you measure progress.

A lesson learned long ago is that goals must be written, or they are never attained. They must also be realistic, so even if it is 100 words a day and that can be achieved, you can accomplish it.

Goals need to be timely as well. I have been focused on mine for 18 days out of at least 90 planned, so I need to infuse persistence into my regimen to complete what I have in mind.

You can do it, too!

Writing this piece alone generated 461 words toward today’s goal.

Help! I’ve Become a Fribbler!

By Gail Blohowiak

(fribble, fribbler, fribbling,etc are real words)

I have learned to fribble. I’m a very good fribbler.  Fribbling and writing are not compatible.  

My pandemic life is full of useful and useless items.  I try to focus on useful and productive items.  

 It seems that some weeks Zoom has taken up my life.  I Zoom with my two writers’ groups, my two book clubs, and two friends’ groups., and a critique group.  I Zoom a lot.  I even Zoom Happy Hour with a group of friends.  

Other times, I fribble.  I fribble a lot lately too.  

Fribble is those times when I go to do something productive and end up doing something unproductive.  

I make it to my office and open my document files with all the good intentions of doing edits. My motivation is lax and soon I check emails and FaceBook posts. I know I should silence my phone and iPad, but I don’t.  I attend each zing or new notification!  It might be a video of my youngest grand doing something cute!  I can’t miss this!  

 I get distracted by listening to the news on the radio of on the T.V. playing in the background.  I get distracted by the need for coffee, water, or a potty break.  

My intentions are exemplary!  However, I quickly descend into fribbling away another good hour or two until a Zoom meeting begins, until it is lunchtime until someone distracts me with a lawnmower, trimmer, or garbage collection.   

The mail is another distraction – I can now identify the exact time the mail carrier arrives at our mailbox and I can identify the hour the Fed Ex, or Amazon drivers drive our cul de sac.  I am vigilant with these tasks.  But, when it comes to editing or writing, I fribble! 

I never used to be a fribbler!  I was always focused on the job at hand.   I spent my time engaged in productive endeavors.  

Now, on the way to the kitchen for a refresh of coffee, I watch the birds at our feeder, or I count the seeds on the ground and wait for the squirrel or chipmunk to come around for cleanup duties.  This isn’t a true fribble. I now call this ‘being in the moment’.  It’s not.  It’s fribbling! 

If any of you reading this has suggestions or a foolproof cure for fribbling, please contact me via an email, text message, FB post, or Zoom Room.  I still have my notifications on.  I have not gone silent.  I will not add this to my lists of fribbling activities.  I will count it as an intervention to put me back on track to writing and editing.  Please Help! 

Copyright 2020. Gail Blohowiak. (920) 360-6235. gailblohowiak@gmail.com

Words, Words, Words

By Debbie Delvaux

What can truly be said about how we use words.
We use words to describe how to do things.
How to tell someone that they are beautiful.
How to say what we are thinking.
How to tell the world that we are upset or mad.
Some scholars use words to make us think.
Some high officials use words to intimidate us.
Some people use words to express how they feel.
Children use words to tell us how they feel about their own private world.
Sometimes we hear words that we don’t want to hear and have to face the fear we see in front of us.
Sometimes there are no words that can be said in the time of a loved one’s passing.
The best of words that can be said is love, beautiful, fantastic, caring, nurture, and happiness.
We all long to hear someone say I love you.
You have a son or daughter.
You have even hired.
Or even will you marry me.
We in a sense are all wordsmiths.
We use nouns, adverbs, adjectives, and phrases, thoughts to say what we are thinking.
We are all humans and from all different races, creeds, and ethnicities.
All our knowledge is made up of what we were brought up to believe in.
So go out there into the big world and do your best and above all.
Use your words wisely.

Competitive Writing

By Terry C. Misfeldt

Writers of every genre should consider competing for recognition by entering contests. Competitive writing stretches a writer’s composition skills and earns them credibility when they win. Of course, not every entry is a winner but it is worth trying.

The first step is awareness. There are many sites online promoting various writing contests. Your job is to find one that falls within your bailiwick and gives you a chance to win, place, or show to use a gambling term.

Second, learn the nuances. Who are the judges and do they review every entry, or is there a screener who eliminates some of the entries to make the judging less taxing on the final judge? How many words (please stay within the guidelines)? What is the deadline? What format must your entry be in? Is there an entry fee?

Third, if you can, review previous winning entries. There is no guarantee that writing something similar will increase your odds because the judges are likely different, but it gives you a sense of what wins.

Fourth, choose if you want to participate and start writing. You want enough time to finish your piece and edit it before submitting. You might also want to research the judge to know what he or she has written. That gives you an idea of what might appeal to them.

Last, finish your piece and submit it. Make sure you follow all the rules and guidelines, then wait to find out if you came out on top. And do not worry. If you win, great! If you don’t, consider it a learning experience and try again.

Writers Are Readers

By Terry C. Misfeldt

Writers have a tendency to also be avid readers. Yes, folks, writers are readers!

We read to explore new worlds without leaving the comfort of our favorite chair. We can cross the plains of America in a covered wagon with a cup of coffee and a doughnut in our hands. We can be enthralled in a steamy romance while lying on a beach blanket.

Why do we read? We get ideas for writing from reading what others have written. We can study character development. We can create exotic worlds from seeing how other authors develop their fantasy planets. We consider sentence length, grammar, punctuation, and style from the words in those published works.

Sure, we read for entertainment or knowledge and sometimes just for something to do. We find authors we love and crave their next book. For me those are writers like Kevin J. Anderson, Brian Herbert, James Lee Burke, and Jeff Shaara…each of whom writes for a different audience. Their work can be inspiring, and writers need to be inspired!

As writers, we also read to learn how other writers grab your attention and keep it as they develop a plot through various crises to a climax. Part of why we read involves a never-ending search for new authors whose work we will either love or despise. Those we dislike usually have but a chapter or two before they lose us.

And no writer wants to lose their readers…for whatever reason! So we read.