Scary Days

These can be scary days we live in if we don’t know where to find the answers. The times have changed forever the face of our world. The times, they are achangin’, but I’m grateful for the time we have to spend together each week. So let’s get to it.

 Often, we’re told that all  you need is a good story to succeed. So what makes a good story? Maybe vibrant characters will hold our reader’s interest. Or could it be we need an exciting plot? All this is true. What isn’t true is that that’s not all we need. 

This week we’ll take a look at description. Remember the last time  you couldn’t put  down a book. What kept the pages turning into the wee hours of the morning? No doubt the characters were well defined. No doubt the plot was intriguing. But what about description? It’s description that makes characters come alive (of course, great dialogue always helps). It’s description that creates a believable and drivable plot.

The key to holding your reader’s attention is to activate their imagination. How do you do this? Vivid description. You can help your readers see past the pages and take them into your world by using powerful descriptions of nouns, in particular. Think people, places, and things. Let’s add events to the list.

Detailed description allows you to establish an emotional connection with your audience, thus making the content more memorable, which keeps your readers engaged and coming back. 

I leave you with three thoughts on description. Hopefully, these will make your writing more compelling and clear.

1. Focus on the human experience. Realize that you are one human writing to another human. What do you experience in your human form? The one on the other side of the book experiences the same things. Make your description identifiable. Just like you, they go through challenges, moments of joy and pain, times of frustration. Let these show in  your writing.

2. Use sensory words. This is one of the best ways to help your reader understand the scene you set before them. You have five senses. Your reader has five senses. Use them all. Don’t just allow them to understand the scene. Allow them to experience it. Below are some examples of sensory words.

Sight: Dark, dingy, gloomy, bright, dazzling, shimmering, twinkling
Touch: Smooth, scratchy, frigid, scalding, fuzzy, rocky, slick
Sound: Screeching, buzzing, chirping, clinking, growling, jangling,
Taste: Bitter, sweet, buttery, zesty, spicy, tart, crispy
Smell: Musty, foul, floral, piney, smokey, acrid

3. Include anecdotes, similes, and metaphors. Especially when writing nonfiction, anecdotes are helpful. An anecdote is just a short narrative about a real incident that helps to drive home your point. In the world of preaching, we call them illustrations.

A simile is a comparison of two things using the words “like” or “as.” For example, “The rain flooded the streets like an ocean.” A metaphor is like a simile but without the use of “like” or “as”.  We could say, “The sound of the rain was music to my ears.” We compare the flooded streets to an ocean. We compare the sound of rain to music.

It may make things a little more difficult, but I believe developing description will be time well spent. 

That concludes another Wednesday. I hope yours is as great as I’m planning mine to be. See you next week.


The Third Dimension

Life goes on. One foot in front of the other – or so they say. But sometimes it doesn’t seem that way. Sometimes life throws us off-balance. We struggle, regain our composure and move on. Is that the life of a writer or what? So many things cause us to lose our focus, but we regain our composure and move on. At least, I hope we do. 

This week, let’s look at developing 3D characters. 

The first dimension is what we see on the outside. It’s the quirks and habits, the idiosyncrasies. This may or may not be who your character really is. Without a second and third dimension, it’s hard to tell.

The second dimension is where we see what’s on the inside. Make use of backstory here. Let us know why your protagonist and other characters act and react the way they do. What is it in their past that brings out the present in them? Think dreams that never happen. Think childhood fears playing out in adult life. Don’t be afraid to let your characters act out of character from time to time. No one in actual life is true to themselves 100% of the time.

The third dimension brings the stage to life. Let your actors surprise your reader. Have your strong man crumble. Have your weak man rise to the occasion.

It’s within humanity to search for a higher purpose. Give them one. We all have a destiny, so let your protagonist reach for hers. Give her a different path to follow than might be expected. Let it be known she was created for such a time as this. Maybe this unfamiliar path works. Maybe it doesn’t, but it does give an added dimension. 

Allow his inner feelings to show on the outside, to be expressed physically. What does a new haircut tell us about how an individual is feeling? How about a character that has worn the same clothes for a week? There is a difference in appearance, and likely there is a difference in how they feel on the inside. Just an example of showing, not telling. Trust your reader to figure it out.

Another way to deepen the third dimension is to use conflicting emotions. It may be the wife knows she’s not truly loved by her husband and needs to walk out, but deep inside she loves her husband. She is torn by the decision she must make. Or perhaps she feels she needs to stay for the kid’s sake. Either way, she’s reached a point of conflict in her emotions. Everyday people reach this point repeatedly. Make her an everyday person.

Use real-life emotions. Could it be that what your character is showing on the outside really isn’t what he is feeling? There are many reasons your main man might not reveal himself to the world, but inwardly his emotion is heavy. His outward appearance may be a smoke screen for something deeper. Then again, he may be very open with his feelings. We all have emotions, and we can identify with a character that has powerful emotions. It’s called empathy, and that’s exactly what you want to create in your reader. 

Let me summarize for you. You need to show your character with all three dimensions. People are emotional beings with conflict that includes all three dimensions. They are the sum of all their parts. This is what you want your reader to grasp. We’re filled with dreams and hope for a future, but we’re also filled with shameful secrets and self-doubts. Bring it all out in your key character and you have done your job.

Well, that should do it until next week. See  you then!


Sidestepping the Issue

Another week has passed. Time obviously doesn’t wait for anybody. I’ve always been interested in time travel – the ability literally to revisit the past or to take a peek into the future. Theoretically, it can be done, but that’s where it ends. Really, we’re all time travellers. We travel one moment at a time through time. We travel through hours, days, and years. That being said, let’s get to it.

We all know the writing cliche show, don’t tell. One of the best ways I know to show is to use dialogue. But just as we have a tendency to tell too much, we may also have a tendency to allow our character to say too much. Sometimes less is better. Sometimes allowing our character to sidestep an issue is good.

Think about the following conversation between Jim and Tom. Tom has done something stupid and hurtful to Jim. You want to paint Tom as cold and uncaring. It may be to your advantage to allow silence to speak. Let me show you what I mean.

Tom’s actions caused Jim to be visibly upset. “I can’t believe you did that! I can’t believe it! Why, Tom? Why?”

Tom said, “Just let me alone I don’t have to answer you.” Not looking up, he flipped another page in the magazine.

Jim repeated, “Why did you do it? Tell me.”

By this time Tom had enough. “If  you say one more word . . . “ He stood and gazed out the window.

“I hate you for what you’ve done!”

“You’re a jerk, Jim. A real jerk.” Tom turned and walked away. 

Now, let’s remove Tom’s dialogue. Let the silence speak

Tom’s actions caused Jim to be visibly upset. “I can’t believe you did that! I can’t believe it! Why, Tom? Why?”

 Not looking up, he flipped another page in the magazine.

Jim repeated, “Why did you do it? Tell me.”

He stood and gazed out the window.

“I hate you for what you have done.”

Tom turned and walked away.

Experiment with it. Have fun with it. Try it both ways. See what works best. 

Well, time has gone for this week. Imagine that! Let me know what you think in the comments below and I’ll see you later.


Writing from the Heart

There can be no doubt good writing includes proper grammar and punctuation, the mechanics. A thought leading somewhere is also a must. You can use all the right grammar. Spell-check it three times. Use your styler. But it’s all useless if you don’t write from your heart.

So today I’m writing from my heart. A few weeks ago, I said I was done with COVID-19. But today I’m writing from the heart and I must mention it again. People are so focused on the disease they miss what’s happening behind the scenes. Before I go any further, let me say I’m sympathetic to those who have suffered from the disease and to families who have lost a loved one due to the pandemic. 

I know some of you may disagree, but the fact is COVID-19 is media-driven for the purpose of causing fear and panic. What’s behind the fear and panic? The New World Order. The NWO is that which is prophesied in the book of Revelation. It will be a one-world government headed by the antichrist.

This is not a fairy tale, and we are living in the midst of it. Just when the takeover will be,  no one can say. This may or may not lead directly into the time the Bible calls The Tribulation. It may linger for several years, but it also may begin tomorrow. Either way, the stage is being set. As far as the prophetic element of our times, I will leave a link here for you to check out.

I have heard the lie, America is not equipped to handle the COVID-19. It is unprecedented in scope and power. Am I to believe this pandemic is the worst America has ever suffered? 

What about the influenza pandemic of 1918?  They estimate that about 500 million people or one-third of the world’s population became infected with this virus. It is estimated the number of deaths to be at least 50 million worldwide with about 675,000 occurring in the United States. 

We have the Asian flu of 1957. The estimated number of deaths was 1.1 million worldwide and 116,000 in the United States. Still, we have the N3H2 virus of 1968. The estimated number of deaths was 1 million worldwide and about 100,000 in the United States. The number of deaths caused by pneumonia is over 57,000/year. 

Enough ranting for today. So what does all that have to do with writing? Nothing except that I’m writing from my heart. I’m not big on conspiracy theories, but people are being blinded by a cover-up that falls under the category of fulfilled Bible prophecy. You need to know. Call me crazy, but that’s my heart.

Name Calling

My goodness. April 22 and there’s snow on the ground. I love snow in the winter, but right about now I’m ready for a robin or two, trees budding and a sunny, warm day with a gentle breeze floating off the mountains. Maybe next week. In the meantime, I’ll enjoy the white stuff.

What is your process for naming your characters? Names have meaning. Names in themselves tell a story. So I ask you again. What is your process for naming your characters? Here are some things to think about.

  1. Be careful of using too many names in the same story that begin with the same letter or sound similar. Think Tom and Tim or Jim and Jon. It can be confusing to your readers and that’s exactly what you don’t want. Maybe it would better to name them Tom, Peter, Scott and Hoss. You get the idea.

    You really don’t want to have two characters with the same first name and a different last name. I confess. In my book, The Voice, there are two characters – Dr. Barton and Alex Barto. Even though separated in the story by more than 100 pages, the only difference in the last names is an “n”. Too confusing.

2. Consider the time period. Different names have been popular at different times. If you’re writing a story set in the 1800s, you probably don’t want to use names like Paisley or Nova, Masen or Marshall. On the other hand, if your setting is in the present or recent past, these may be the perfect names. Only you can decide. 1800s – try Alice or Henry.

The Social Security Administration has a helpful website. You can look up the most popular names used for a given time period. Just select the decade and click or tap Go. Here’s the link –

Well, it looks like we’re done for another week. Enjoy your time until we meet again next Wednesday!


Plotting the Plot

Here’s hoping this Wednesday’s Update finds you healthy and safe. It’s a beautiful day in Pennsylvania as we prepare for a snowy weekend. Really? Yes. Hopefully, that will be the last of the white stuff for another year. I’m ready for the green.

I have some thoughts for you today on plotting your story. Whether you’re writing a short story or a full-blown novel or something in between, you need to have a solid plot in place. There are many ways to plot your story. I’ve seen anything from three-point plots to seven points and beyond. So let me hit it in the middle with five.

There really is no right or wrong way to plot, but let me share these thoughts. You spend time building your story and character arcs, but if the plot is weak, all else will fail. It doesn’t matter if you write by the seat of your pants or you use elaborate outlines.

For our purposes I’ll refer to the Three Act plot. Breaking our story down into three acts, the first act opens early with a triggering event. There needs to be something to give the story its initial thrust, something to spur on the reader.

I’ve heard it so often, but I believe it’s true. Your first page needs to grab the reader or they will never read page two. Page one is made up of paragraphs. Your first paragraph is the most important, and your paragraphs are made up of sentences. Most professional editors can tell by reading your first sentence if the rest of the story is worth their time. Capitalize on that. Develop a driving first sentence and build on that.

Very early in Act One, you need to build up to an inciting incident or a trigger event. This plot point is the event that sets your story in motion. Confront your protagonist with a problem that leads them into the story events. This indicates impending trouble or circumstances of the main tension in your story.

This brings us to the first turning point. I’ve also heard it referred to as The Lock In. Your protagonist makes a choice to get involved. The protagonist accepts the challenge raised in the inciting incident. S/He or she makes a commitment to solving the problem. S/He lays the comforts of life aside and digs in for whatever might be on the other side.

This brings us to Act Two and the First Culmination. This is a time of recovery for your hero. Perhaps they’ve been shaken off course, but now they regroup and plan what is to happen next. At this plot point, it may also be the perfect time to plant obstacles and problems for your character to face. Perhaps this would be a good place to use foreshadow rather than just telling what the situation is.

Although the protagonist wins a minor battle that wraps up the first half of the story, s/he discovers that he hasn’t been playing the game wrong, he’s been playing the wrong game. This ushers in a twist, and it opens up a realm of challenges the protagonist hadn’t imagined were there.

Act Three begins with the twist. In your protagonist’s eyes, the besetting problem is insurmountable. S/He takes a leap of faith because faith is all that’s left.

The setting is now set for the Final Act Twist, for the final confrontation. At this point, your hero may have underestimated the power or brains of the antagonist. A new challenge is presented and a fight for life ensues. The trick is have your protagonist and especially your readers think the climax has arrived, but in reality, there is one more major battle to be fought.

Without this final twist, your readers may be headed for a predictable ending. Don’t allow that to happen.

That’s it for this week. See you next Wednesday!


No More “C” Word

Back in the beginning of the year when I posted the above picture,I had no idea of what was on the way. COVID-19 has changed the face of everyday life. I don’t see things being much different after the virus leaves. People will be accustomed to social distancing. It will be natural. I can see most intimate relationships being replaced by Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.

Of course, the economy is changing and will be greatly affected. $11 for a dozen eggs? How far can this go? It may change the face of world currency.

The American church will have a different look. Most people are content to stay at home and watch a service on TV or the internet. When the church doors reopen, few will attend because they enjoy not packing up and traveling to a building. It’s become too easy and is not seen as an important issue although it is.

“C” for COVID-19. I’m going to do my best not to mention it again. It’s an everyday occurance and our senses will become numb to it. “C” is for Change. Change that has and is bound to occur. Change can be good, but it can also be bad. I wonder what we’ll choose?

So as it has been addressed by so many writers, use this time to write. There is a world that you can influence for good. There is a world out there that needs your creativity. There is a world out there that you can ease their stress and pain through the written word – if only for a moment. Just do it!

Oh, but please keep your personal relationships intact. Don’t write to them. Don’t text them. Phone them. Speak to them. Spend time building the things that really matter. No more COVID-19. Bring on positive change for all who call themselves human.

Where Are We Going?

There’s no self pity here, just the facts. I’ve been taken over by pneumonia for the past six weeks or so. That being said, my writing has been somewhat limited.

This post has nothing to do with writing. I’m just asking the question (and only you can answer), where are you going? What have you accomplished that will last after your time on earth is up? Where will you be after your time on earth is up?

In short, I’m going back to the three main questions we all need to answer. First, where have I come from? Second, Why am I here? Third, where am I going? There is something in the human psyche that demands answers.

So I ask again, where have you come from? Why are you here? Where are you going? I’m just asking the questions. Feel free to discuss it in the comments, or email me. I’d love to talk more about it.

Short and sweet – see you next week.


Lockdown? -Yeah, Right!

America and the world have experienced something we have never dealt with before. COVID-19 has everyone running for cover. Certainly we need to use common sense and use good hygiene. I’ll leave my political views out of it except to say I believe it’s an overactive media at its best – or worst. I can see how the current events fit neatly into Bible prophecy. I’ll save that for another time as well.

So the country is in lockdown. Does that mean you can’t accomplish anything worthwhile? Nope! This may very well be a blessing in disguise for writers. So few places to go. So few things to do. It’s the perfect time to devote yourself to your next writing project. Or if you don’t write, curl up on the couch with a cup of coffee and ten books. Don’t waste the time we have – and don’t complain about it either.

Now, on to something practical. Well, I’m not sure. I’m always looking for new things to try, new techniques to use, to keep the creative juices flowing. I came across something interesting today. Have you ever thought about copying a finished novel? I don’t mean copying it and claiming as your own. I mean taking pen and paper and writing it word for word. It sounds like a lot of work, and it is. But here’s the payoff.

  1. You learn commitment – Taking time to handcopy a great work is a great work. You’ve chosen to place yourself in lockdown as you undertake many hours of scribing. You risk writer’s cramp. The sacrifices you make and the commitment you claim will go miles as you set out to work on your new manuscript.
  2. You learn the hidden, internal structure of the manuscript. How does the author structure his/her sentences? Are they short? Long? What about the cadence? You’ll see things you never thought of before, and I believe in the long run that will help shape your writing. (But you have to use a quality text to copy. It works both ways. If you use an inferior manuscript, it will pull your writing down just as easily).
  3. You strengthen vocabulary. There can be no doubt, left to ourselves, we have a tendency to overuse certain words. Think about the word but. What other words could you use in its place? Maybe however. How about in contrast? It might even be possible to change it up by using the word and.

    There is much more that can be said. however, I think you get the point. I’ve never done this before so I’m hoping to try it in the near future. Let me know what your thoughts are.

Until next week, keep healthy and busy. Don’t let the lockdown get the best of you.


Welcome to Wednesday



Welcome to our new day – Wednesday! I don’t have much to say this week as I’m under the influence – the influence of influenza. I’m just chillin’ if you know what I mean. The old flu bug has me tight in its grip. At least, it’s not COVI-19. With that being said, just to let you know I said a prayer for you, and plan on giving you something worthwhile next week. Right now, worthwhile escapes me. Have a great week!