Art, I made this, My point of view, Writer's life, Writing

Level Thinking – The Value of Negative Space

Once upon a time, there was a rhythm to submitting manuscripts and publishing.

Never submit a manuscript or look for an agent in August. Everyone in New York is out of town in August. As for December, close up and go home. Publish in May to catch the summer readers and in October for the Christmas market. Never, ever release a book in January. No one buys a book right after Christmas.

The seasonal rhythm of writing has vanished like the dodo bird. Finish a book on Tuesday; start writing the next book on Wednesday. Come home from a convention; get ready to go to the next convention. Submit a manuscript or hunt for an agent every day of the year, with the possible exception of Christmas Day itself. With electronic publishing, publish even on Christmas Day.

Negative spaces is what surrounds activities and events. An image is seen not only because of the image itself, but because of the space that surrounds it. Good negative space makes an object pop.

There are no negative spaces in writing any more, except the ones we create for ourselves. That makes them even more important.

The first writing negative space I encountered was in a class I took almost thirty years ago. We were required to keep a daily journal, writing down snippets of overheard dialog, descriptions of people or events, news stories that caught our attention; in short, anything that might make a good story. Only, we weren’t to grab our notebook and write these things down as they happened. The instructor asked us to wait a full twenty-four hours before committing them to paper.

He said that beginning writers were often afraid to lose the moment. Fearful of not getting the dialog or the description word perfect and correct, we focused on immediate retrieval. He said that we needed to train our writer’s mind to do two things: first, to develop memory because there would be times that we simply couldn’t get to a notebook. Second, to let the thing we wanted to remember settle; in essence, adding negative space around it so we saw it more clearly.  If we couldn’t remember it after twenty-four hours, chances were what we thought so brilliant in the moment wouldn’t make a terrific story after all.

It wasn’t easy to wait. My fingers had this intense desire to scrabble in my backpack, pull out my journal and write. Sometimes I grieved over forgetting. If I’d only written it down yesterday . . .

Gradually, I came to realize the dimensions of what he was trying to teach us. There was a huge difference between things remembered in exact detail, and things remembered as fiction. For some experiences it mattered that I could recall the exact smell, the sight, the colors. For others, it was more important to remember the—gestalt, for lack of a better word—how I was moved by the thing rather than the exact details of the thing itself. Both had a place in writing, and learning how to do both made me a better writer.

Over the decades, I learned another lesson about negative space. If the business of writing has become a 24/7 occupation — I believe that it has — then we, as writers, have the freedom to set our own seasons. Yes, there will always be deadlines coming at us faster and harder, with none of this nonsense about taking August off or relaxing in December. But I truly believe that it will be the negative spaces with which we surround our work that will enable us to survive.

We have to develop a whole range of negative spaces in order to survive. Five-minute vacations that we take on a moment’s notice. Ways to shut off that nagging “What am I going to do about Elrod’s lack of motivation in Chapter 7?” long enough for Elrod to work out the answer for himself. Entire days off in which we restore, restock, and replenish those creative gifts we have been given.

Recently, I added Jennifer Louden’s Conditions of Enoughness to my tool box. She says that as creative people we tend to over plan, over commit, and over work ourselves. Her COEs are four steps to limit doing that.

Recently, a rather pompous writing expert pontificated to an audience I was in that, “Writing today demands a full-time commitment. If you’re a part-time writer, you’ll never be successful.” Oh, dear, I have a life outside of writing. I love that life. I guess that means I’m not a real writer.

I came home depressed until I caught site of a mini-quilt I did a couple of months ago.

168 hours = 1 week

168 hours = 1 week

There are 168 hours a week, so unless we’re writing 168 hours at a time — yes, some weeks seem like that — we’re all part-time writers. And many of us are darn good at working part-time.

“It takes peace of mind and clarity to recognize and reorder meaningful, personal priorities . . . Many of us assume that we can continue to get along just by winging it indefinitely. We can’t. We need an antidote for the hurried and harried lives that threaten to tear us apart.” ~Sarah Ban Breathnach, author

Hope to see you back next Tuesday, September 2, for Write the Novel – Secondary and Tertiary Plots, what are they and how do we use them.

My point of view, Tips, Writer's life, Writing

Level Thinking – Things I learned at When Words Collide

I’m fortunate to have attended all four When Words Collide. This is a genre writers conference, held each August in Calgary, Alberta. If you’re a writer, and there is any chance you’ll be in Calgary 2015 August 14 to 16, I urge you to sign up for the WWC newsletter  and consider attending.

Here are six things I didn’t know before I attended this year’s conference

Branding develops a consistent image that links us, as human beings, to our books

“A brand positions an author so that she is unique. Our brand must be a subset of our personal self that best relates to our fiction.” ~ Kate Larking,  fiction marketing expert

Brand wasn’t new to me. I developed a brand several years ago. Here’s my core message.

Strong women enjoy adventure, but everything comes at a price. The past overtakes everyone, but it doesn’t have to overwhelm everyone. Transformation comes through courage, strength, and honourable relationships; healing comes through reflection and honesty. There’s strength in adventure and adventure in strength. To those who fight for it, life has a flavor the protected never know.

The real eye-opener was realizing that I haven’t taken full advantage of that brand in what I include on my web site. I need far, far more links and material about adventurous women there. That’s going to guide my next web site renovation.

It’s no longer a question if to self-publish, but when

Knowing how to self-publish has become as essential a tool in our writers’ workbox as being able to create characters, plot, and use serial commas correctly. Everyone from first-time published writers, to writers multi-published by large, traditional houses said that self-publishing is now a part of every writer’s career path.

Word length no longer matters

This is directly tied to self-publishing. Word counts were artificial limits imposed by the needs of producing books of such and such a size and so many pages in order to fit printing presses. Because of self-publication and the multiplicity of devices now available, both the short story and the novella are making come-backs, as well as forms that we don’t have names for yet.

What we publish between books is as important as the books themselves

Appetite for content is insatiable. Readers are no longer content with even a book a year. They expect short stories, novellas, character interviews, and additional material to be published on the author’s web site. We have to feed the pipeline constantly.

Time lines for traditionally published books to be successful have become impossibly, unbelievably short

“Most new books from traditional publishers are released on Tuesdays. Because gathering on-line of statistics is instantaneous, authors now have 48 hours for their books to be successful. If sales numbers aren’t good by the end of Thursday, there won’t be a contract for a second book.” ~ Dr. Robert Runté, teacher and editor

“Book sales for traditional publishers are so much more front-loaded now. You hear about a book that interests you. A couple of weeks later you tell your mom about it. A couple of  months later she goes looking for a copy to give you for the holidays. She’s likely to discover that it’s no longer in stores. Bottom line, if you see a book you think you might like, buy it. Right then.” ~ Ian Alexander Martin, publisher

“Kindle tracks not only what books are sold, but what books readers read or don’t finish. A book’s sales may be high, but if the percentage actually read is low or the percentage not finished is high, that book is dead.” ~ Hayden Trenholm, writer, playwright, and managing editor

New resources

Next Tuesday, August 26, I continue Write the Novel with a look at secondary and tertiary plots. Hope to see you then.

Tips, Writing

Write the Novel – Primary Plot

In any book, the primary plot is where the heavy lifting gets done. It’s what the book is about. Those of us who write genre fiction know there are both restrictions and freedoms. Genre stories are always about a single theme.

  • Adventure — salvation quest
  • Romance — overcome obstacles to find love
  • Science fiction/fantasy — ramifications of asking “What if…?”
  • Western — land, water, and a chance to start over

For mystery novels, it’s solving murder. Period. No, it wasn’t always like that, and there may come a future time when it’s different again, but for right now, it’s murder. There is a little more leeway in mystery short stories. Some are about revenge, theft, or uncovering secrets. For thrillers, it’s how much damage will be done, and to whom, before threat is quelled.

Here’s the primary plot of any mystery novel

  • Someone dies.
  • Someone investigates.
  • A limited number of suspects are identified.
  • Clues, red herrings, and obstructions confuse the issue.
  • Likely, a second person dies. This death strikes the investigator closer to home than the first one.
  • Danger rises; prices are paid. There may be additional deaths.
  • The final clue is uncovered.
  • There is a show down between good and evil.
  • The characters resume changed lives.

Keeping all those balls in the air is a lot of work. It’s what we writers lose sleep over, discuss endlessly, and buy writing software programs to help us do. Learning how to do manage our primary plot is what our lifetime commitment to writing is all about. Unfortunately, there is no magic bullet. If there were, I’d put it in this blog and we could all meet on some restaurant patio to eat nachos and the adult beverages of our choice. Instead of the magic bullet, here are two thoughts I had recently while attending a great writers’ convention.

To plot or not to plot

Each writer has a different take on how much of the book to plot out in advance. I once met a writer who claimed to have a 150 page outline for a 300 page book. That seemed excessive.

The shortest premise for a book was, “I met someone who has an idea for a mystery about a dinosaur detective in Los Angeles. He doesn’t quite know where it’s going yet.”

At first I thought she meant the protagonist was an old-styled, cigar-smoking, hard-drinking LAPD detective. No, she meant he was a Velociraptor named Vincent, and that idea evolved into Anonymous Rex and two other books by Eric Garcia.

Is it better to plot extensively or not? This question surfaced once again at that writers’ convention. My take on this we need to learn to do both. It’s like having different tools in a tool box. Sometimes we need a hammer; sometimes we need a screwdriver. The two are not interchangeable. Plotting and not plotting are not interchangeable. At some point in the story we need to be able to plot down to minute details. At other points, we need the confidence to wing it and trust that the writing gods will smile on us.

Plotting has nothing to do with what comes next

At the writers’ conference, I had lunch with a fellow writer. In answer to the question, “What are you’re working on?” I received a long list of “and thens.” . . . “and then she decides she has to go back to Vancouver . . . and then she runs into an old school friend . . . and then they try to find out why Harold divorced his wife . . . and then . . .”

I found it hard to care, and then, going home I tried to decide why. It was because after the entire recitation I had no clue what was happening inside the character. What motivated her? What internal struggles did she face? How had she grown because of the experience?

“What are you working on?”

  • Answer #1 starts: “University student Jo Fleming survives by driving a cab at night.”
  • Answer #2 starts: “Every night, Jo Fleming cruises downtown Toronto stalking the person who ruined her mother’s life.”
  • Which one grabs you? #2 would certainly grab me more. In fact, it might evolve into an entire book blurb.

A Week to Kill

Every night, Jo Fleming cruises downtown Toronto stalking the person who ruined her mother’s life. When she finally meets the man of her nightmares, they are both a long way from the corner of Bloor and Dundas. With a week to kill in a posh resort where three Canadians have already died, Jo revels in the opportunity to plan a perfect murder. But, she, not her quarry, may be the fourth Canadian tourist to die. Desperately running from an attack, she is horrified to realize the only person who can save her is the man she hates enough to kill.

The primary plot is about what challenges the protagonist, and how her life unravels. Stop plotting what comes next, and try working on how life gets worse and worse for the characters. It’s a great way to approach our primary plots.

There’s more. I hope to see you back on August 26th for secondary and tertiary plots.

Art, I made this, My point of view, Writer's life, Writing

Level Thinking – Merit Badges 4

Today we conclude our summer series of merit badges for writers.


Merit badge Writers of a Certain Age

For those of us who have been around a while

Writers of a Certain Age

This one is for writers who have been around a while. We began our writing careers writing in longhand or using a manual typewriter. We remember how mimeograph ink smelled and the way it turned our fingers purple. We erased on carbon copies with a small brass stencil and a crumbly erasing pencil, which had a white eraser on one end and a stiff blue brush on the other end. We sent a SASE with our submissions and bought International Reply Coupons if our submission was going to another country. We had to look up words in a dictionary and did research by going in person to the library.

We’ve been around for a long time and this badge celebrates our persistence! You go, girls and guys!

Merit Badge Writers of the Purple Page

To celebrate those slightly embarrassing things we’ve written

Writers of the Purple Page

This is for those of us who have written—let’s say anything involving parts of the body or clothing, which throbbed, heaved, ripped, or enlarged, or characters blessed with milk-white skin and raven locks. If we’ve ever written anything that would embarrass an elderly, conservative relative. If we’ve ever written fan fiction, and had a hot date with someone else’s character. If we’ve ever written under our burlesque name.

Burlesque, for those of us who don’t yet qualify for the Writers of a Certain Age badge, was a form of entertainment popular in Britain and the United States from approximately 1880 to 1920. It involved ribald humor and dances that would embarrass an elderly, conservative relative. The women who danced in burlesque theaters worked under pseudonyms, sort of nom-de-danse names.

To find your burlesque name, take the name of your first pet combined with the street you lived on when you were ten years old. My burlesque name is Blackie Freemont, which has a nice ring to it. I may name a character that one day.

Of course, this formula doesn’t work, if we lived on a numbered instead of a named street. In that case, try this alternate formula: combine an object that is either sweet or has a lovely odor with the name of a bird. Rose Nightengale? Robin Cinnamon? Hey, those beat out Bowser 68th Avenue.

What better symbol for writers of the purple page than a Mardi Gras mask? As they say where I come from, Laissez les bon temps roulier—Let the good times roll. If we’re a little hesitant about going public about having written purple prose, you have my permission to keep this badge in a drawer instead of displaying it on a badge sash.

Merit Badge Stop Me Before I Volunteer Again

It’s okay to stop. Right now. Really.

Stop Me Before I Volunteer Again

I don’t have to explain this one. Those of us who have earned it know who we are. Even though our contributions are hugely appreciated it’s okay to stop volunteering! Why not spend the next few months at our word processors instead? Writing a new novel would be hugely appreciated, too.

We can’t burn the candle at both ends forever.

I hope you’ll be back Tuesday, August 19, for Write the Novel: Primary Plots. After all, they are what the book is about.

Tips, Writing

Write the Novel – Build a Better Segue (BBS)

This blog completes our series of five critique abbreviations. Today’s abbreviation is BBS – Built a Better Segue.

It’s not pronounced the way it looks. Segue — seg-way — meaning a smooth transition between music pieces, conversation topics, scenes, or chapters.

Chapter end or scene change?

In general, chapters end with big reveals or emotional moments.

  • “Michael Garvey was the district attorney who sent my father to prison. I’ve wanted him dead for twenty years.”
  • “A patrolman in the valley just called in Francine’s license plate. I’m sorry, Toby. There’s blood all over the front seat.”

Scenes change because the story moves to a different location, time passes, or there is a change in a point of view.

Chapter end/beginning format

If we’re writing for a specific publisher, we must follow whatever chapter end/beginning format that publisher requires.

Since most of us write before we know who out publisher will be, it easier to use standard formats.

Between chapters

  • There is a forced page break at the end of the previous chapter. Put this in even if the last line on that chapter ends exactly at the page bottom. It’s just neater that way.
  • Title is centered, same font as the rest of the manuscript, and 2 points bigger than the body text. So if we’re using 12 point font for the manuscript, the chapter title is in 14 point.
  • Capitalize the first letter of Chapter and use numerals for the chapter number; for example, Chapter 23.
  • Putting the chapter title in all capitals, or making it bold are left over from typewriters, and we’ve evolved beyond all of that.
  • A word about renumbering. As we go through subsequent drafts, chapters will be added or deleted. Don’t bother renumbering each time a change is made unless there have been so many changes that we’re lost.
  • For additional chapters, add letters to the new chapters: Chapter 23, Chapter 23A, Chapter 23B, Chapter 24.
  • For deleted chapters, add a sentence at the next chapter’s beginning: Chapter 16 was deleted.
  • Once the rewrite is finished, go back and clean up the numbering.

Between scenes

  • Turn on widow/orphan control. It looks neater not to have only one line of the previous scene at the top of the next page, or one line of a new scene at the bottom of a page.
  • One double space after text ends, scene change mark, one double space before text begins again.
  • Use regular characters such as asterisks or hyphens for the scene change mark, such as ***** or – – – . Yes, it looks cool to use widgets or dingbats such as ✑ or ☃ as scene dividers, but it doesn’t look professional, and it can create formatting problems for the typesetter.

Life happens between chapters and scenes

Time passes, locations change, or a character’s emotional situation changes. Sometimes point of view changes. Readers need to be reoriented with each change.

  • After three days in Beijing, downtown Manhattan on a Monday morning felt pastoral. (The reader knows our detective is back in New York, but the city feels different because he’s been away.)
  • The only good thing about the drive to Cousin Sal’s farm was the sunset. I pulled over, sat on the hood, and watched pink and orange clouds melt into darkness. Melting into darkness was sure the way I felt. (Since the last scene happened at noon, in a diner, the reader will figure out that several hours have passed.)
  • Lakey’s fingers gripped the chain link fence. The little girl in the red coat and hat wasn’t in the school yard. Maybe she had more than one coat and hat. No, she wasn’t there, and she should be. It was time tell somebody, but who? Who would listen to an old bag lady? (Since the last chapter was in Reverend Small’s point of view, the reader knows that the story has switched to Lakey’s point of view.)

There’s no secret to changing perspective. You must be clear and courteous to the reader, just as you would be to a guest.

~Jerry B. Jenkins, novelist

Join us next week, Tuesday, August 17, for the Primary Plot.

On Thursday, August 14th, we also finish up our mini series on merit badges for writers with Writers of a Certain Age, Writers of the Purple Page, and Stop Me Before I Volunteer Again.

Art, I made this, My point of view, Writer's life, Writing

Level Thinking – Merit Badges – Part 3

Today we continue with our series of merit badges for writers and readers because we all need an Atta-a-Girl once in a while.

Series Maven

This is the second in our badges for readers as well as writers.

Sometimes we just have to have it all. Every book in a series, lined up in perfect order on our bookshelf.


Merit Badge Series Maven

Waiting for the last one

Award yourself this badge if you will go or have gone to any lengths to own a complete series and/or read it in order. This includes—but is not limited to—bugging librarians, requesting inter-library loans, dropping not so gentle hints to friends and family as to what you want for your birthday or holiday gift, sending out general SOS calls for books on the Internet, driving to another city to buy a copy of the book, or paying an exorbitant amount for the one book needed to complete your series.

Book Tour Survivor

Being a writer isn’t easy. Being a writer on a book tour is a test of humor, stamina, patience, planning skills, and the ability not to trust GPS to get us where we need to go, but rather take out a map and read it.

Merit Badge Book Tour Survivor

What do you mean, you think we’re in the wrong state?


Award yourself, and any traveling companions, this badge if you have done at least 2 of the following:

  • Laughed until you cried listening to other authors describe the machinations of their book tour, only to find out later that everything they said was true and then some.
  • Spent three hours making conversation with two bookstore employees and the store cat because you scheduled your signing opposite a major local sporting event, the Rolling Stones return tour, and/or the worse weather the town has had in 50 years. “We never have hail in October, honest!”
  • Added an extra stop on your tour at the last minute, but without checking a map. Then you found out that the Springfield you thought you were signing in—the one only 30 minutes from your last stop—isn’t the right Springfield. The one you’re committed to is half-way across the state, but not to worry. You can still make it if you drive all night.
  • Eaten the most incredible meals, in the most bizarre circumstances and laughed yourself silly while eating it because you know what a great story this will make at the next convention you attend.

Extreme Researcher

It’s not easy being a writer’s family member. There are questions significant others learn not to ask. Do I smell gunpowder? Why is there a raw chicken in the sink with knitting needles stuck in it? The Poison Lady returned your call. She’ll be home tonight if you want to call her back.

They also learn to adopt a nonchalant stance and fix their eyes on the horizon as we ask police officers if we can hold their tazers; airport baggage security checkers what’s the weirdest thing they’ve ever found in a suitcase; and construction workers how long it would take a body to sink into freshly poured concrete.

Merit Badge Extreme Researcher

Does this or doesn’t this look like a poison blow fish?

Award yourself this badge when you have done at least one activity from each category listed below in order to research a book:

Research in extreme places

You’ve done any of the following activities for a book: snake or other wild animal handling, skydiving; scuba diving; mountain climbing; rappelling; skateboarding, break dancing, in-line skating over the age of 55, or cave exploration. Going with a guide through Carlsbad Caverns doesn’t count for the last one. We’re talking the light-on-your-helmet, wedging yourself through tiny holes kind of cave exploration.

Danger pay research

Gone on a ride-along with a police officer or taken a civilian police course; learned to fire a gun or fight with a knife, taken up a martial art, or attended a para-military basic training course. Give yourself full credit, and award yourself the badge, if you served in the military.

Researching the law

Done something slightly illegal. If you’ve done something blatantly illegal, I don’t want to hear about it. I’m putting my hands over my ears. I’m not listening. La-la-la-la-la-la-la.

As often as not our whole self…engages itself in the most trivial of things, the shape of a particular hill, a road in the town in which we lived as children, the movement of wind in grass. The things we shall take with us when we die will nearly all be small things.

~Storm Jameson, That Was Yesterday, 1932

Tips, Writing

Write the Novel — Violence as Dialog (VAD)

This is the fourth of our five discussions about critique comments that show up over and over. Today I’m writing about VAD: Violence as dialog.

Think love scenes are hard to write? Try getting violent down on paper. Writing authentic violence is like making authentic Cajun food. A lot of people who think they know how to do it, don’t. My mother, born and raised in south Louisiana, never intentionally blackened a fish and, were she still with us, the average restaurant offering called Jambalaya would send her into hysterics.

Writing violence is one of the times I leave the computer and write in longhand. There is something about pen on paper that lets me get closer to the subject.

Much of what I learned about writing violence came from F. Braun Mcash, a television and movie fight choreographer; and from my husband, who practices a western martial art.

Build to a violent confrontation slowly

Violence should flow out of the story. It is a dialog in which physical actions replace words. Plant seeds early and often that show characters’ abilities to meet violence with violence. The character doesn’t have to be a martial artist expert or have super strength, but if a ninety-pound weakling takes on a motorcycle gang single-handed, with no foreshadowing, it won’t read true.

Start with a small event: a character taking a swing at an inanimate object, or squashing a bug, or getting red-faced, uncontrollably furious when life frustrates him to the max. Show that he has a potential for rage. Also show if he gets off on violence or not. Bonus points if we build in something in his past where violence went horribly wrong.

Build in a physical component. Give her regular exercise, and a reasonable diet. We don’t have to send her to the gun range or the dojo in every other scene, but the reader needs to know that she has a reasonable chance of winning a physical fight.

Violence and setting

In a series, as the character develops, the stakes go up when he is exposed to violence. Part of the power in a violent scene has to do with where it takes place. ~unattributed quote from a panel member, Lover is Murder Conference

Very few violent scenes take place in the front yard of a vine-covered pink cottage. Place can be used to build in an emotional component, too. Maybe it’s a fear of heights. If our character doesn’t like high places, we can get a lot more emotional mileage out of setting the final, violent confrontation on a swinging bridge, or the glass-floor of the Calgary tower, where there seems to be nothing but air and a sheer drop under her feet.

Violence as dialog

Violence may be one of the lines our characters won’t cross, which we all know, really means they won’t cross until this book. Being the crafty authors we are, we’ll poke and prod and twist both the situation and the character until they MUST resort to violence. Watch High Noon, which is a wonderful example of how people behave when faced with violence.

Be as sparing with physical dialog as we are with verbal dialog. It may help to write a verbal exchange, then convert each statement to a physical action.

“Get out of my way.”

“Not this time.”

“I said get out of my way.”

“Make me.”


Michael blocked the hall, feet apart, arms crossed over his chest.

Once action begins, dialog stops.

Michael blocked the hall, feet apart, arms crossed over his chest.

Gerard sneered. “Get out of my way.”

First of all, words stop the flow of action. Second, we have such a hard time resisting throwing in words like sneered, demanded, hissed, and so on, which are likely physically impossible. Try to sneer dialog some time. It’s not easy.


Michael blocked the hall, feet apart, arms crossed over his chest. Gerard tried to go around him. Michael shifted his weight and blocked him. Gerard’s pulled back his fist. They had taken each other down so many times in training, Michael knew Gerard’s body as well as he knew his lovers. As Gerard’s fist came towards his jaw, he moved his upper body to one side, caught Gerard’s arm, found the vulnerable notch in his wrist, and spun his partner around pinning his arm behind his back. With a practiced hand Michael extracted handcuffs from his belt pouch. The first cuff clicked closed around Gerard’s wrist; a louder click sounded as the second cuff encircled the water pipe. He made sure to take Gerard’s handcuff key before he left. Gerard was still cursing when the elevator door closed.


Violence costs

All violence should advance the plot. Match the actions consequences to how importance the violent act is in advancing the plot. Violence on which the story’s resolution turns should have the most emotional and/or physical costs. All violence should be a turning point in a character’s emotional life. A character may discover she loves violence, or hates it, but she should not come away emotionally unaffected.

When violence happens, the body kicks into a flight-or-fight reaction. Time slows down. Senses become more acute. In extreme cases, beserker rage takes over and the person may not remember details. This is also known as a fugue or dissociative state and may cause the person to selectively forget the violent encounter.

If our character goes into a true fugue state, she may not have the capacity to remember because the chemicals coursing through her body may have prevented memory from being laid down. And no, she won’t get her memory back at a convenient point later in the story because the memory was never built in the first place. She will, however, retain the emotional reactions to something she can neither remember nor understand.

All violence has physical costs. It must cost the character something, even if it is only having to buy a new shirt or make a quick trip to the doctor. Physical effects may take hours or days to appear after a fight. This is especially true with a blow to the head. Injuries may not be painful at first. Vomiting and the shakes are common a few minutes after a fight, as is an intense desire to eat uncontrollably and/or to have sex.

The effects of violence linger. It may take days or weeks to recover emotionally from a violent act, even if the physical consequences were minimal. Nightmares after a fight are a common reaction.

Violence is cumulative. There is a huge body of research that shows physical trauma, even as something as innocent appearing as hitting a soccer ball with the head, leads to micro damage. If the action continues over time, it leads to macro damage. The same is true of emotional reactions.

Two Central America proverbs sum it up: Whether the pitcher strike the stone or the stone the pitcher, the pitcher suffers. Dip the pitcher into the water enough and it finally breaks.

Thursday, August 7th, we’re continuing with our Merit Badges for Writers. This week we have Series Maven, Book Tour Survivor, and Extreme Research.

Next Tuesday, August 12th, we finish up our critique series with BBS – Build a Better Segue: ways to glue those pesky story fragments together.