C h a z z W r i t e s . c o m

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Author Blog Challenge: Writing to Love

Wikipedia

Wikipedia (Photo credit: Octavio Rojas)

The latest prompt for the Author Blog Challenge asks what we love to read and how does that feed our writing? Good question. I read voraciously, and the resource that feeds my writing most these days is…wait for it…Wikipedia. How did writers write before Wikipedia? I think they actually had to go out the front door and into the  world and, let’s face it, no one wants that. At least I don’t and I don’t understand those who do. I’m cozy in my fortified writing bunker, thank you very much.

I’m one of those weirdos who gets lost in dictionaries and encyclopedias. (If you read this blog, you probably are, too.) I look up one thing and get distracted by all the other delicious stuff in there. As I was researching my crime novel, Bigger Than Jesus, I consulted The Mob Dictionary, documentaries, a friend who trains SWAT, an ex-military friend and various books on the mob. It was Wikipedia that yielded my main character’s background and contributed to the verisimilitude the story demanded.

I wanted Jesus to be an enforcer who wants out of  the mob.  I had to give him a back story that made the reader understand why he is the way he is. I needed him to be an outsider, so he’s a Cuban among native hispanic New Yorkers. His journey to Florida is sad and, once he arrives, his story becomes more tragic. The key to the character was his childhood and it was Wikipedia where I happened upon more information about the Cuban migration to the United States. Truth gave rise to more believable lies as Fate (um, I am Fate) dumped Jesus from the roaster into the (mostly) proverbial fire. He’s a smart ass, but not as smart as he thinks. He’s more funny, clever and desperate than he is tough. Wikipedia was the seed that led me to understand why the character worships the love of his life the way he does. Like dominoes, one idea leads to another idea which leads to another idea which reveals a pattern which gives rise to a plot. Powered by curiosity, simply traipsing through Wikipedia gave me a book that will be a series I’m really excited about. The last edits are arriving and the graphic designer is working on the cover as I write this. Hoo-bloody-ha!

If you’re stuck, blocked or just noodling, use non-fiction to amp up your fiction and go wander Wikipedia.

Filed under: publishing, , , , , , , , , , ,

Write believable characters

I’ve been on Walkabout. After crawling through the seedy underbelly of a big city, I feel dubious about the idea that there are unbelievable characters. There are so many strange people walking around, we shouldn’t be so dubious when they turn up in fiction.

Just this morning I saw:

1. A guy dressed up like a Bollywood character in a flashy musical. Same big goofy smile, too.

2. A handsome man, dressed in a sharp black suit and sporting a $200 haircut, looked like he belonged at the airport picking up cocaine from Columbia.

3. An impossibly sexy woman walked by. It’s Stella, long before she lost her groove! With asthma.

4. A very muscled young athlete strutted by. He’s had a great summer. The pancreatic cancer has already taken root.

5. Homeless people of all ages. They all have that same haunted look around the eyes. Their postures show that boredom is terribly heavy. I did not expect the dirty, skinny Santa to pull out an iPhone 4, however.

The trick, of course, is to provide enough character detail that your fictional actors have a believable context. Strange characters need a lot of reality around them to find the sweet spot on narrative’s balance beam. Let your mob goon have a soft spot for kids. Let the sweet grandmother swear when she doesn’t think anyone can hear. Don’t allow cardboard stand-ups and clichés in lieu of character development. Characters can be weird. Really weird. You can even clump them together since freaks often do gravitate to freaks. I’ve noticed Goth kids with parrot haircuts often do travel together, for instance.

Just avoid making them one-dimensional. For instance, one of my novels has a couple of gay characters. Ever notice how gay characters are often safely relegated to the flamboyant dancer who’s good with make-up or the safe gay neighbour who’s just a stand-in exposition device? In my novel, compared to the protagonist, the gay guys are proactive in how they deal with plot obstacles. By that I mean, they have skull-cracking ability and they are not just sitting around articulating plot details with pie charts. They have their own backstory and you’ll find yourself curious to follow them out the door to see what happens to them after the novel is over. (At least I’m curious.)

I plan a series. In the first book we meet Romeo, a young New Yorker who wants to be a movie star and becomes a murderer’s target. The next in the series will follow Romeo’s estranged mother as she tries to track her son down on his journey to Hollywood. The third book will be Romeo in Hollywood and once again in mortal danger. Things will get strange but will feel real.

Verisimilitude is easy because reality is scary weird. 

Look at the news. 

Filed under: self-publishing, Useful writing links, What about Chazz?, Writers, writing tips, , , , , , , , , , , ,

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A NEW ZOMBIE ANTHOLOGY

Winner of Writer's Digest's 2014 Honorable Mention in Self-published Ebook Awards in Genre

The first 81 lessons to get your Buffy on

More lessons to help you survive Armageddon

"You will laugh your ass off!" ~ Maxwell Cynn, author of Cybergrrl

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An autistic boy versus our world in free fall

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Jesus: Sexier and even more addicted to love.

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