Von was just minding her own business, going to the break room at our job when she was accosted by one of our readers. She’d just finished reading our third book and demanded to know what would happen next. She begged and begged, promising to buy our next book, she just had to have the answer. Like we always do, Von told her she would have to wait until the next book is out.
We’ve been bribed, extorted and threatened by readers/coworkers who after reading the ending of one book, wants to know how the cliffhanger is going to be resolved in the next. I think it’s one thing as authors we’ve gotten right. Every one of our books end with bait to get the reader to buy the next one.
If you’re an author with one off books with unconnected stories it won’t work. But if you’re planning a series you may want to give your readers extra incentive to come back. A cliffhanger doesn’t have to be the damsel in distress tied to the railroad tracks. It could be as simple as will they or won’t they get together, which of the characters is hiding a pregnancy, or what’s in the briefcase the villain has been carrying around.
Whatever you decide, don’t be shocked if your readers get confrontational and want to know what happens next.
The innocent looking boy in the picture is quite the cutie isn’t he? He would live to be 87 yrs old before being called home, and while on this earth, lived quite an eventful life. He married 6 times, with only 2 marriages ending in death, my birth mother, wife #3, and wife #5.
He worked in the auto industry for most of his adult life. He believed in Generous Motors until the financial collapse of GM’s bankruptcy broke his heart. Life changed around him and he just couldn’t understand the why’s. He refused to believe that after all his years of blood, sweat and toil to a company he loved, he suddenly had to pay doctor co-pays and worry over the possibility of his pension being cut. The latter thankfully never happened.
I’d love to say in this post that he was a perfect father ect…. I’d love to say it, but truth was, he was blissfully unaware that he was a complicated man. He believed in simplicity and yet he convoluted his life so badly when it came to his family. With his last wife, he believed his kids should have just fallen all over the woman he loved, and love her just as much as he did, even as she was ripping our family apart.
This of course was his pollyanna, his utopia. Blood will always be thicker than water and the woman made sure that her grown child and grandchildren were to always come first in his eyes. At times I believe she succeeded and enjoyed rubbing my nose in it.
That’s not to say he didn’t love us. I think he just assumed we knew he did, and felt he had to outwardly show it to her children more. He had to prove to the new wife his loyalty, and I believe she exploited it to a high degree. I know in later (rare) private conversations with him, he later felt trapped in that loyalty, but felt powerless to do anything about it.
I loved him to a fault when I was young, and I do have many fond memories of him. My most valued memory is the father/daughter dance at my wedding. It was one of the few times I really felt connected to him, that he cared and was happy with my choice of partner. he loved my husband and thought highly of him. He even defended him against my husband’s own father. Yet another father story for another time.
After wife #5’s death, my brothers and I struggled to reconnect with him, feeling that for the first time we could have had that long awaited, and unencumbered relationship with him.
Not so much.
I quickly realized that he was the ‘marrying man’, when he announced at 73 yrs of age, that he was seeing yet another woman. This was literally months after wife #5 died. It was like a sickness, he just couldn’t be without a woman whom he wanted to give control over his life.
As an adult I began to see the pattern emerge. I don’t know much about wife #1 and 2, except with #2, he had 2 boys that he let another man adopt because he didn’t want anymore animosity and fights between wife #2 and #3, besides he had young children with #3 and another new life.
With wife #4 he had no children, and after a contentious relationship, ended up leaving her for wife #5. With wife #5 he gained 4 stepdaughters that he truly loved. It was inexplicable to me that he also dropped them all by the wayside when #6 came around, though later he would believe wife #6 when she said it was their fault and they abandoned him. It’s that ‘why didn’t they worship #6 like he did’ kind of thing. Through rose colored glasses of love and obsession, he failed to see #6’s jealousy and that she pushed us all away.
The 4 girls would never be able to have any semblance of a relationship with him again, with only one of them being able to see him once before he died. Wife #6 made sure of that. She also made sure my brothers and I were tossed out of the picture until she finally relented to having me around.
This was an eggshell walk for me, treading water carefully as to not upset the balance that allowed my continued visits. My brothers just gave up.
Now here’s the weird part, as time went on he just couldn’t understand why things were the way they were. He couldn’t see his role in the drama. Sensing that he was losing his touch on reality in his last years, I let it be and decided instead to try to persuade the brothers to make up and just be a family before he passed. It didn’t work. I spent years on this fruitless endeavor, arguing and pleading with them to no avail. I swallowed so much pride I was drowning in my own tears.
I was with him that weekend at his home, watching his chest rise and fall with each ragged breath, hanging on to life with him in his few moments of clarity, in-between blissful pain free naps. I held his hand, stroked his hair and prayed for a peaceful ending, letting him know he wasn’t alone.
I watched as the funeral home came and zipped him up in a body bag and carried him out on a gurney at 5am, after hospice came and declared him what we already new him to be.
I sat in the funeral home alone for calling hours, my husband having been taken ill that day. I was surrounded by wife #6’s family, very few I truly believed loved him, and senior center friends of his I didn’t know. My family was nowhere to be seen. It was totally awkward sitting there. Many of his ‘other’ family didn’t know who I was, since I was never spoke of by #6. I felt like it was me, not him, that was the ghost in the room. Only one of #6’s family offered a condolence to me, thankfully it was #6’s daughter, who was gracious enough to put aside her own grief to see that I too, was hurting. I dreaded the funeral the next day.
Then a miracle happened. The 3 step sisters who were still alive (1 passed away 2 yrs prior) and their spouses and children, who’s hearts were also broken by the man lying in the casket, had made a last minute decision and showed up at the funeral, swallowing their pride with me, shedding tears for the relationship they remembered with him, not what for what it became.
I don’t want my readers to get the wrong impression about this post. It’s not a bash my father for the last time kind of thing. He was, after all, a funny man with down home, countrified kind of humor. He enjoyed playing his music and was quite an accomplished singer and guitar player. He played in many bands and gave generously of his time to playing for the ‘old’ folks at the senior centers and nursing homes in his seventies and early eighties, before his health demanded he stop. He was beloved by his friends as an affable, kind man, who would give you the shirt off his back. Like I said, he was complicated without ever realizing it.
There is, of course, a huge amount to tell of his life that would have to be classified as fiction, because, well, truth is stranger than fiction. I just wanted to share this more for me than anything, to help reconcile on digital paper my feelings of undying love for this man and simmering disappointment of what could have been.
If any of you have had a parent like this feel free to comment and tell me about it. I’d love to know I’m not alone.
Readers, myself included don’t like cookie cutter, cardboard cutouts as characters. If a character is boring or not dysfunctional enough, I’m putting the book down.
As a writer I learned that the more layers a character has, the better your audience receives the character. That character’s bio doesn’t have to be explained in detail in the book, but it may be something you want to keep in the back of you head as you’re writing.
What’s their favorite food? What are their hobbies? What was their relationship with their parents? Do they have tattoos? Did they serve in the military? What type of movies do they like? Who’s their best friend? Where did they grow up? Do they have money? If so how much?
The answers to all those questions and everything else you can dream up for your character will influence every challenge they have to face, just like what you faced in the past affects who you are today.
For example, our main character in The Body Hunters, Danielle Labouleaux or Danny as she prefers to be called is biracial and grew up in New Orleans where she had a somewhat antagonistic relationship with her parents in her teens and early twenties. She was bullied as a child, not only for being biracial and also for a zipper scar that bisects her chest from heart surgery when she was six. She has a penchant for hot rods, especially her candy apple red Camaro, named Lucille. She loves to cook, which she learned from her Grandmere and she hangs on to friends for dear life because they were few and far between during her childhood. She also has a thing for buff, tattooed bad boys, who are really diamonds in the rough.
This is how we started our main characters and as Danielle’s story progressed, we added layers and layers of back story, fleshing her out as a character. Before long we knew what she’d say and how she’d react in any given situation.
The same technique can be used for the universe your characters exist in. It’s your universe, you make it up and mold it any way you want to.
Is it post apocalyptic? If so how did it get that way? Who’s the President? Is this the future? What happened twenty years ago?
The more believable your story and character are, the more invested your readers become in your story.
I didn’t start out like this. I laughed at and sneered at the crazy people who just couldn’t get enough of their pets, treating them like children. Then I met my loving adorable husband. He was a feline aficionado, a rare quality in a man to say the least. He never denied his love of cats even to other men, secure in his own masculinity to say I love….Cats. We’ll save the other euphemism for another time. 😉
Now I am an animal lover myself don’t get me wrong, but it wasn’t till I was on my own and had an apartment that I discovered all things feline. I was bound and determined to raise them with dignity, no cooing and coddling, they would grow to be the adult cats with the respect they deserved.
I worked with a woman at that time who had a Shih Tzu named Charlie. It was one of those mop dogs, the kind you wanted to stick a pole up its bum and mop the floor with it. Supposedly a cute small yipper. Charlie went everywhere with her and it was Charlie this and Charlie that. Charlie had to get his hair cut, She had to go right home and make Charlie’s dinner ect… I’m not joking when I say this, for the first six months I knew her, I thought Charlie was her husband till one day she comes into work and mentions Dave.
My world spun! how could this middle-aged woman be cheating on Charlie? I was aghast in horror! till another co-worker who snickered and laughed at me said Charlie was her freaking pooch!
Now this part is sad I’ll warn you. Charlie developed cancer and mercifully was given the gift of a peaceful death. My friend was devastated of course and she announced Charlie’s funeral would be held in two days for all those who would like to attend.
Wait, What? A funeral for a Swiffer?
My eyes rolled and I shook my head. Thankfully, I thought to myself, that I had to work and couldn’t attend, but I was lucky enough to share in the pictures of Charlie lying in his little doggie casket at his viewing. He was buried lovingly in a pet cemetery.
This whole melodrama was foreign to me. I was brought up that pets are animals and we may cry when they leave us but it is after all an animal and we move on. I believed that till my McTavish. I had Mctavish before I was married and he was a gift from a dear friend. Living alone I appreciated his company, his constant need for attention taking my mind off of the fact that I lived alone. He was a Scottish Fold and my constant companion.
When I married my husband, the feline aficionado, remarked that McTavish was my ‘first’ husband since a lot of my daily concern was for my aging cat. I was slowly starting on my journey to being one of ‘those’. We had by then added to our family several more feline children and as the years progressed on, our decisions even ones where to live centered around the cats. McTavish was by now an old man in cat years approaching 80 + years and I’m positive he appreciated that we moved somewhere that was one level only and I to this day believe it’s the reason he lived to 18 human yrs ,101+ feline, but even then I still hadn’t completely transformed into one of ‘those’ quite yet.
Then ‘they’ came.
The two bundles of lil’ dog love that insidiously completed the transformation and it all started with the first sweater I bought them. It was January in Detroit after all. The frozen north and the two little ones who weighed no more than a pound a piece when I brought them home needed extra warmth. They are after all Chihuahua’s and barely had fur.
They had to have coats!
Now there is nothing cuter than Chihuahua’s in hoodie parka’s except maybe this
and of course this
So now every time I go to PetCo and PetSmart passing by the mini coats, sweaters, booties, sundresses and team jerseys, I call my sponsor from Pet Clothes are Just Too Damn Cute Anonymous. My sponsor is my husband who says only one word. “NO” 😦
Though recently he did have to admit they did look awful cute in their hoodies.
Now if I can only get him to let me have one of these!
Have a sweaterific day!
The term passive-aggressive is defined as the “unassertive” expression of negative sentiments, feelings of anger and resentfulness. So instead of verbally or physically expressing frustration or anger — or even simply saying “no” when asked to complete a task — someone described as passive-aggressive might simply act agreeable but then not follow through with completing the task.
I am a classic passive aggressive. My entry into this world was filled with drama having been born early and with the umbilical cord around my throat. I joke and say I was trying to leave before I even arrived. Ok, not really funny but that kind of humor is what has gotten me by all these umpteen yrs. I was supposed to be dead and if it weren’t for 1 pediatrician that had refused to give up I would have been. My drama doesn’t end there. My mother for reasons speculated but ultimately unknown killed herself in a most dramatic fashion 1 month before my 1st birthday. my brothers witnessed all the drama and aftermath that shaped their lives forever. My father could only mentioned it when he was drunk. In all my baby pictures and there are not a lot of them, she is never pictured holding me.
Now before you get out a tissue and give me a bunch of ‘awws’ please don’t. My aim in telling you all this was not for pity. I’m over it in a lot of ways except the eternal questions that will haunt me forever and even that’s ok, it’s supposed too. No, I told you this so you know how my passive aggressiveness started and why it is I think it makes for my love of writing drama.
My co-author Joi recently decided to write the drama of a 4 way argument of our characters in book 4 of our series we are writing now. She told me by the end of the day she was utterly exhausted having the arguments in her head and having it with each character telling her what they wanted to say. If you’re a drama writer I dare say you’ll understand that statement.
Now I am the one who usually handles this and even though, yes it is exhausting , it is also where I live. It gives me the ability to take out the hidden aggression buried deep in my psyche and release it on an unsuspecting audience. I want to tap into anger? I only have to look no farther than into a ready stream of memories of my childhood.
Here’s the weird part. I love to write drama, I want you to feel the thrill of the roller coaster ride of emotions that ensues when you know something big is going to take place. I want you talking back to the characters, yelling at them how mad you are at their actions and words. I want you to believe they and all their problems and triumphs really exist, but I can’t watch it neither on television or in the movies. I watch Scandal on the edge of my seat eating Tums. I recently saw an ad for a new movie with Sandra Bullock and George Clooney where they are in deep shit in deep space. I have to change the channel till it’s over. The ad also has the nerve to say you can enjoy the movie in 3D. Are they serious? I would have a heart attack!
Now if anyone reading this is a psychoanalyst or just psycho, please feel free to comment on the weirdness of that. Just keep it clean. I would also like comments on your feelings on writing drama. What do you tap into? Where do you go to bring it out and bring it to life on paper? How do you feel after writing a scene that is argumentative drama and what do you do to get yourself back to a normal emotional state?
Looking forward to your comments and here’s wishing you good mental health.
If you talk to anyone who blazed a new trail or started their own business, they’ll tell you how hard they had to work to get it off the ground. They can tell you stories about the nights where they got little sleep or the ulcers they got while working to make their dream a reality. Having your own business is certainly not for the lazy or the faint of heart. Doing your own thing is hard.
My writing buddy and I have been on this journey for over a year; starting working on our first novel June of 2012, since that time we’ve released two projects with a third being edited right now and the fourth currently being written with a script for Amazon Studios also in the works. Not too soon after we started our endeavor, we discovered that the writing is the easy part.
One can not simply put their book on Amazon and wish it to sell, you’ve gotta hustle. Along with our day jobs, we have to write, and find time in our schedules to tweet, network, and blog. There are never enough hours in the day and any time you spend with trivial things can be time better spent building our brand.
Like crumbs to a starving person, we get our little signs that we’re headed in the right direction. Maybe while out in about we’ll see the exact make, model, and color car one of our character drives or maybe we’ll one across someone with the same name living in the same location that our characters are from. Or happen to be driving behind someone with a vanity plate that says ‘Author’. We don’t see these as coincidences, but as mile markers on our journey.
The challenges one faces while working their dreams are there to weed out the weak from the strong. Nobody ever said pursuing your dream would be easy; ask the people who’ve been through it. If you keep your eyes on the prize than it will be yours. One day this will all pay off, until then we’ll just keep blogging, networking, and tweeting.