Weekly Pinterest Roundup

Welcome to my weekly Pinterest roundup, no images belong to me, only their respective owners. Click each picture to go to the link.

Inspiration

I love this idea for both a Bullet Journal page and for life in general. I’ve started a page in my Bullet Journal for things I want to learn.

Good advice for writing.

This has been a problem for me this month.

Style

Love this pattern mixing!

Very classic dress.

This dress is absolutely gorgeous.

Food

Great idea for holiday baking.

These sound super delicious and healthy.

I have a bottle of capers in the fridge I need to use up, this looks great.

Home

It might be snowing soon, but I can’t wait for spring.

More gardening tips for companion herb plants.

Such a dream house.

5 More Simple Writing Tips From Your Editor: Character

In honor of NaNoWriMo, I thought I’d start this series to add a bit more to the ‘writer’ part of A Writer Cooks. If you want to see more after November, please let me know you liked it by leaving a comment! Or suggest what topics you’d like to see tips on. 

Characters carry your book. If you have a book without any characters, it will be very boring and nothing will ever happen. Here are a few tips on how to make more interesting characters.

1. Description

Every character needs to be unique, but it’s way less important how they look than how they act. It’s best to give your characters a bit of description so we can have a general idea of what they look like, and then let us fill in the blanks. We don’t want to read a whole paragraph about how their eyes are blue-black like coal and how flawless their skin is (real description from a book I edited). Work the description in naturally, such as when the character is getting ready. ‘I brushed my long red hair.’ And remember, less is more.

Don’t go cliche either and have your character describe themselves while looking into a mirror. No one actually does that. If you must, pick one or two characteristics that are important and have your character focus on them as part of their character. Which brings us to:

2. Flaws

Don’t write a Mary Sue character: a character that is perfect in every way and everyone falls for them and they know how to do all sorts of obscure hobbies that just happen to be useful. Give your character at least one good flaw. Maybe she’s vain (see above). Maybe she’s insecure (also above). Don’t write a Disney prince for your love interest, give him the insecurity or even anger problems. Maybe he smokes but wants to quit.

Give your character at least two defining traits and one flaw and you’re on your way to a more well-rounded character.

3. Consistency

This goes for the basic stuff (don’t change her hair color halfway through your book or change his name) as well as more complex things. If she stood up to a bully in the beginning of the book, don’t make her scared of a similar situation later on (unless it is important to the story). If she’s brave in one area of her life but completely cowardly in another, that makes for an interesting inconsistency to explore.

Always remember things like how many siblings they have and what their names are, and all other details about their pasts. I am very displeased when I’m editing a book and have to search back through it when I’m sure they mentioned the sister’s name earlier and it has changed. Keep notes if you have to to make sure every detail stays the same throughout the story.

4. Names

You don’t have to break out a name dictionary, but be careful when selecting names for your characters. Readers aren’t as likely to identify with a heroine whose name they can’t pronounce or remember, or a name that doesn’t match the character. Imagine a romantic heroine with the name Hortense (no offense meant if that happens to be your name). You don’t have to go super cliche with a name like Juliet either. Just pick a name that’s believable for your character’s age and situation. If you’re writing historical fiction, try to keep your names appropriate for the time period as well.

Also, try to keep all of the names in your book distinct. In an earlier draft of one of my books, it turned out that the three main male characters were named Joe, Joey and Jay. It wasn’t confusing for me, but I had to think about how other people could be confused. As Jay and Joe weren’t in a lot of scenes together, I left their names alone, but changed Joey to Ryan.

5. Make Your Villain Human

I recently came across a quote I really like that says “There isn’t a person you wouldn’t love if you could read their story.” Your villain or antagonist is a person too. Give them a personality that goes beyond ‘baddie that is pulling the strings to make the hero’s life miserable.’ Give them a moment or two of weakness. Find out why they want to ruin the hero’s life. Give your villain a backstory, even if it doesn’t appear in the book. Make good vs. evil a little more complicated.

 

Want some clarification? Have a specific question? Feel free to leave a comment with your thoughts about my tips. Please subscribe to be notified of next week’s writing tips.

Weekly Pinterest Roundup

Welcome to my weekly Pinterest roundup, no images belong to me, only their respective owners. Click each picture to go to the link.

Inspirational Stuff:

This seems like a fun challenge to get into shape. I will be trying this.

While this seems like a lesson for life, it’s also great advice to write all characters in a story as if they matter.

Love this idea for a page in my bullet journal.

Style:

Gorgeous dress.

I love the contrast of the summery skirt with the black accessories.

This capsule wardrobe has great colors.

Food:

I love enchiladas, I love spinach, this sounds like an awesome dish.

I love this way to put together meals without a recipe.

Scallops with Linguine and Spinach

This was a new dish for me this week. It was a bit more involved, as I actually bought a tomato and diced it (and found out my knife is totally dull). I cooked the linguine and saved half a cup of cooking water. Then I heated some oil, added some garlic, then cooked the tomato with cooking wine. Then I added the cooking water and scallops until they were cooked through. Last, I added the spinach, wilted it, and finished with spices.

I found this recipe on Pinterest, click here for the link.

5 Simple Writing Tips From Your Editor: Dialogue

In honor of NaNoWriMo, I thought I’d start this series to add a bit more to the ‘writer’ part of A Writer Cooks. If you want to see more after November, please let me know you liked it by leaving a comment! Or suggest what topics you’d like to see tips on. 

If you’re writing the average novel (not that your work is in any way average), your characters are probably going to speak once in a while. Knowing how to write dialogue is a great skill. Anyone can write decent dialogue with a few simple tips.

1. Dialogue Tags

I get it. Dialogue is hard. It can be intimidating to give each character a distinctive voice. Plain dialogue is always okay. It’s not amazing, but there’s nothing wrong with it. Focus on everything around it though, and eventually your characters will come into their voices.

‘Said’ is okay. It’s okay to write ‘Joe said’ and ‘she said’ and ‘he said’. This kind of dialogue tag disappears and lets the words speak for themselves. Try to keep yourself from attributing adverbs to every ‘said’. “How dare you!” she said loudly. That’s what the exclamation mark is for. We can guess that she said it loudly, or shouted it. ‘She shouted’ would be a better dialogue tag, if a bit redundant.

It’s okay to not use dialogue tags at all. “How dare you!” Sam’s eyes grew wide and she stamped her foot. We can infer that Sam did the yelling from her body language. Use a mixture of simple dialogue tags and actions and your dialogue will be much better.

Lastly, don’t use actions as dialogue tags. “I love you,” she smiled. You can’t smile words out. If you mean she was smiling as she said it, say so. She smiled. “I love you.” OR “I love you,” she said smiling. Also, please never use the word ‘grated’. “You’re dead to me,” he grated. All I think of is grating cheese, and I lose the effect of the dialogue.

2. Punctuation

This is a major major problem I see when I edit. If you’ve read a few books in your life and paid attention in English class, you probably know the basics of how to punctuate dialogue. Here’s a crash course.

Always use double quotes when your characters are speaking. This is not the time to break out the single quotes. Single quotes go inside double quotes when needed.

Always punctuate dialogue inside the quotation marks, even if it doesn’t come at the end of a sentence. Never put “How dare you” she shouted! OR “How dare you,” she shouted. The dialogue itself is a shout, it needs the exclamation point. “How dare you!” she shouted. Likewise with question marks. “How are you,” he asked. If the actual quotation is a question, finish it with a question mark.

The exception to this rule is periods. Don’t end a quotation with a period if it’s not the end of a sentence, use a comma instead. “She promised me,” I said.

What comes before the quotation is important too. You’ll usually use a comma, such as: I said, “She promised me.” A colon can also be used, but stick to commas most of the time. Don’t leave out punctuation unless the quotation isn’t directly being said. For example: Everyone said she was “the belle of the ball.”

3. Names and Titles

Please don’t have your characters repeat each other’s names over and over. “Joe, you can’t mean it.” “I do mean it, Stella.” “Please don’t go, Joe.” People don’t talk like that. If you want to slip it in now and then for emphasis, that’s okay. Don’t do it several times a scene, for example.

Also, in dialogue or out of it, make sure you have titles down correctly and capitalized or not. For example: The doctor walked into the room. “What’s wrong with me, Doctor?” ‘The doctor’ is not capitalized. When you are speaking to the doctor, it is replacing his name so it should be capitalized. Same with moms. ‘My mom’ is not capitalized. Talking to your mom or using it as her name, it’s Mom.

Titles like Doctor or Mrs. as part of their name can be abbreviated (always with a period!). Dr. Hart. Mrs./Ms. Smith. Never use just the abbreviation in dialogue. “Hey, Dr.” “Excuse me, Ms.” Something like “Paging Dr. Hart” is okay, but it looks better all spelled out.

4. Making It Clear Who Is Speaking

The purpose of ‘he said’ and ‘she said’ is, of course, to make it clear to the reader who is currently speaking. While they do disappear into the text, it’s extremely boring to read a conversation where every statement begins or ends with ‘he said’. Mix it up a bit and you’ll elevate your writing without doing much extra work.

Instead of a dialogue tag, preface the dialogue with what the character is doing as or before he speaks. John pulled up a chair and sat in it before looking at me. “What did you want to talk about?” We can infer by his actions and the fact that the dialogue followed the action that John pulled up the chair and then spoke.

Another dialogue trick is to leave the dialogue alone with no action or tag at all. This can create a bit of tension and a faster paced scene. Using the above conversation as an example:

“Joe, you can’t mean it.”

“I do mean it, Stella.”

“Please don’t go, Joe.”

Obviously you want to leave out their names, as we discussed in the last tip, but it’s easy to tell who is speaking when there are only two characters in the scene.

However, don’t let this go on too long with only dialogue and nothing else. It makes it seem like the lines are being spoken in a blank space with nothing to ground them, no character or setting or anything. Let’s mix things up a bit:

“You can’t mean it,” Stella said.

“I do mean it, Stella.”

She blinked back tears and touched his hand. “Please don’t go.”

Joe was silent, looking everywhere but at Stella’s face. “I have to,” he finally said.

See? A couple of saids, a couple of actions, a much more fleshed-out piece of dialogue.

5. Formatting

I just wanted to touch on this quickly because a lot of the authors I edit seem to struggle with it. Every time someone new speaks, you begin a new paragraph. No exceptions.

You can indent or not indent, but keep all paragraphs, description or dialogue, at the same level of indent. No exceptions.

If your character has a monologue, it’s okay to break their speech up into multiple paragraphs. That will make it much easier to read. In that case, don’t put an end quote at the end of any of his paragraphs of speech until the end. Begin every paragraph of speech with a quote though. Here is an example, borrowed from the Emancipation Proclamation:

“…and will do no act or acts to repress such persons, or any of them, in any efforts they may make for their actual freedom.

“That the Executive will, on the first day of January aforesaid, by proclamation, designate the States and parts of States,…”

 

Want some clarification? Have a specific question? Feel free to leave a comment with your thoughts about my tips. Please subscribe to be notified of next week’s writing tips.

Weekly Pinterest Roundup

Welcome to my weekly Pinterest roundup! No images belong to me, only their respective owners. Click each picture to go to the link.

Inspirational Stuff:

This is something I really need to learn to do.

I love how organized this bullet journal is. Definitely something to consider when I finally get a dotted notebook.

I dabble a bit in jewelry making, and these have sparked my inspiration again.

Style:

Simple and classic, with a twist.

I don’t know why, but I love this dress.

This is not a look I would wear myself, but something about it is inspirational.

Food:

Molasses cookies are good. Healthier breakfast molasses cookies? Even better.

Instead of a graham cracker crust, try a gingersnap crust!

I love dishes like this. I tried it and it was delicious.

Home:

This is a great storage solution for someone without a lot of cabinets.

I hope to grow a garden in the spring, and spinach is at the top of my list.

Food Anatomy by Julia Rothman

This book will be released on November 15, 2016. I received a copy through NetGalley.

Food Anatomy reminds me of Fresh Made Simple that I reviewed a while back. I love the simple but colorful illustrations and they are accompanied by a lot of really cool information about food. This book covers all sorts of different cuisines across the world, and tons of tidbits about food and ingredients, from cuts of meat to diner lingo on how to order eggs to how to set a fancy table.

There aren’t too many recipes in the book, but it teaches you how to make vinegar, and shows the steps of making cheese, wine, tofu and other fun things. If you want to learn about a ton of cool food topics without reading a textbook, this is a great resource.