O is Opinionated Characters

Sometimes, in order to get know a character, I pose issue questions to them and figure out where they stand.

This sounds bizarre, asking questions of people who do not exist outside of my head. You would think I already know where they stand. I mean, I made them up, didn’t I? But mostly I don’t.

By issue questions, I mean controversial issues, topics on religion and politics and whatever else causes arguments. They will differ by time and place and setting. Because characters need opinions, right? Things they will do and the lines they will not cross.

And today – today I was reading a post by John Scalzi about what he calls The Four Levels of Discrimination. He makes a good argument about ambient discrimination. (You should read it.) I used to think of this as unconscious biases. But ambient discrimination is a good way to describe it, too.

Anyway, the question I have never asked my characters and now I realize would a good question to ask: what ambient discrimination affects them? Against the character or against others, it hardly matter which.

It’s a kind of world building, too – figuring out what will cause the natives to turn into rioting mobs. That’s fun also. (Causing riots!)

The challenge here, I think, is to keep the opinions from turning them into willful characters, who insist on doing something, when I want the plot to go in another direction. (I sometimes fail at this challenge.)

That sounds mad, I know, because I came up with the characters and I damn well ought to be able to tell what to do. But sometimes that does a disservice to the character.

What do you think? How do you go finding out who your character is?

L is for Lies

L-12A couple years ago, while randomly browsing the internet, Iran across this title: Telling Lies for Fun and Profit by Lawrence Block. (His books are good.)

It’s a book on writing and the title got me thinking. I never picked up the book, but the title stuck in my head.

A story is made up, a piece of fiction. It doesn’t exist. That, on one level, makes it a lie.Lies

But! Everyone knows a story can’t be real. Not everyone knows such a thing of other, more normal lies.

On the other hand, a story must have emotional / psychological truths. How would anyone relate to a character otherwise? And it must have at least some factual truths, else someone will cry: bad research!

The best lies are supposed to have truth, so that doesn’t mean the story can’t be called a lie. Even so, I cannot quite convince myself I write lies. Perhaps it would he easier if the word didn’t have negative meanings.

What do you think? Is aIl fiction some bizarre form of lying?

Has anyone read the book? Does it offer an explanation? Maybe the title is just an example of someone’s expertise at title creation something eye-catching and memorable.


My J word jinni. My take on it is slightly different.

Only the tip of his nose, lower cheeks and jaw was spared. The rest of his face was covered in shadow as dark as night.

His stared at me with eyes like chips of the sun-drenched sky, given life. I had failed him, I and I alone. Seated on either side of me, the other village elders trembled like leaves in a gale. The villagers gathered around us, shocked speechless.

Oh, but for all the honor we did our dead, had either of us expected this?

I kept my gaze fixed on his face; I didn’t want to look at the rest of him. I knew what I had done too well. “Blessed jinni, what may we do for you this night?”

His mouth opened; broken, bloody teeth shone in the firelight.

I rubbed my knuckles under the table, massaging away remembered pain.


I jerked. He’d been blindfolded. He couldn’t have recognized me.

He turned his burning gaze next to me, on my twin, whose life I had chosen over the fruit of my own blood.

The jinnis’ words came again: “Die.”

The villagers gasped. I looked up to see my son staring at me. His head whipped between me and the jinni of his own dead son. Understanding appeared on his face like a storm,  with soft rain and gentle breezes, than with the force of winds powerful enough to uproot whole trees.

He knew I’d betrayed him. I failed to protect his boy from the filth of my twin, as I’d failed to protect him decades earlier.

My son’s anger was a blade sharp enough to let free my lifeblood. And, this time, I didn’t fight him, didn’t try to protect my twin.

I is for Inspiration

Inspiration is what excites me. It is what gives me the beginning of an idea for a new story.

I find inspiration in pictures and music, and sometimes, random words. But mostly pictures.

Lately I’ve turned to 500 px for inspiration. It’s a site filled with the most amazing photographs. You can’t save them, but you can buy the pictures and share them via twitter and Facebook. That’s usually what I do – share.

deviantART is also a really good place to find pictures to inspire and amaze. deviantART has not just photographs, but drawings and paintings too. It has the most astonishing portraits. I share these, too. 
Sometimes I find inspiration in shadows and just the things you see every day – buildings, clouds, people doing what they do.

Sometimes I fine inspiration in the myths, legends and history of the world. History is fascinating. It’s a lot more than dates and deeds. There are stories behind the deeds and the dates are the timeline.

But most often it’s the other forms of art that most often inspires me – pictures and music. Is that strange?

H is for Handwriting or MyScript Stylus Beta

There is a magic to handwriting a story that typing can’t beat. Handwriting is also – at least for me! – riddled with spelling error. And, frequently, with incomprehensible smudges, and editing by way of crossed out words and tiny words forced into the margins. Then comes the trouble of converting handwritten pages into word files.

So I usually avoid handwriting. But sometimes there is no choice. Sometimes a story won’t flow unless it is at end of a pen rather than a keyboard. This is why I still have many notebooks filled with scrawled words, bits and pieces of story and scene.

But! I have lately discovered a keyboard app on my tablet that does excellent handwriting recognition: MyScript Stylus (Beta). It’s as easy to use as a normal keyboard, though its word prediction could use some help.

This is a video that demonstrates how it works. It also shows another related app.

I use it with a cheap stylus. In the last few months I have used it to write most of my blog posts, most of my Friday flash, and a good chunk of the WiP. I need to run everything through a spell checker afterward since on the on-board spell checker isn’t that great.

It’s still in beta, but even so, the handwriting recognition is already a lot better than most other apps that do the same thing. The handwriting recognition resembles the Samsung Note and I suspect they might have a deal or something going.

I am not sure I would want to use on my phone – the screen is a little small! – but it’s perfect for the tablet. Perfect. It works well for those stories that insist being handwritten.

I also use it on twitter, on G+, to do searches and pretty much everything else that needs written words.

I do recommend it. It’s easy to install and easy to use. And I doubt it will be in beta for long.

G is for Google

Google is where I go when I need info or a distraction. It’s both a lifesaver and a black hole that sucks time. I use it find both new reads and new inspiration. I don’t know whether to curse it or praise it. Sometimes I want to do both.

Okay, so Google is only a search engine and not the only engine in the world. But it’s good enough that people have turned its name into a verb. (Google, Googled, Googling: Word does not think these three words are misspelled. But WordPress thinks Googled and Googling are misspelled.)

How do I use Google? Let me count the ways…

1) Save pieces to Google Keep so they are in the cloud. (EverNote does this as well. Not sure which is better.)
2) Research
3) Play. (lots of play)
4) Inspiration. (This will be I post, I think. But I look for pics.)
5) Keep notes on Google Keep on interesting markets
6) Find new and interesting apps
7) G+
8) Read samples in the preview section of Google Books
9) Many, many other Google services.

I could go on and on and on.

These days, I get most of reading suggestions online. And if someone does suggest a new writer, it’s easy to whip out my phone and look up an excerpt. If I can’t find one, well, I consider the stupidity of the writer wouldn’t post a short excerpt. And make no previews available in Google books. I can’t decide if I want to read a book without the excerpt, can I?

The hard thing is to keep play at a minimum and not spend too much time finding random facts in the name of research.

As a reader, I have no idea what I would do without Google. Spend more time at bookstores and libraries, I suppose.

As a writer? I am not sure there is a replacement. Besides other search engines, I mean. It would mean spending hours at a library doing research. I did that in school, but mostly for teachers who wouldn’t accept online resources. (After figuring out what books I needed online through footnotes and whatnot.)

I wouldn’t have the multitude of writerly connections I have on G+ and elsewhere. (There is no replacement for this.)

It’s not exaggeration to say Google as taken over my life. Considering how many problems there are regarding privacy, I am not at all sure this is a good thing or that I shouldn’t spread out things I do elsewhere. But it’s so to have it all in one spot instead of a half a dozen different programs.

What do you use Google for? How does it serve your passions?


D is for Dialogue

A story made up of nothing but dialogue is a challenge for me, because I’m not especially good at it. I haven’t written one in a long time and today I feel, oddly, inspired by soap operas. I suspect nothing good can come of this, but I’m giving it a shot.


“Stay away! Go away, or I swear to god I’ll call the cops! Go. Go.”

“Baby, listen. Please, just listen. I’m -“

“You have the nerve to apologize, after what you did? With the pool boy!”

”It didn’t mean nothing. He wasn’t always a pool boy and I know him from way back. But I’m just into you these days, baby, just you. He means nothing to me. Nothing!”



“Officer? Yes, my ex is harassing me and won’t leave. Could you – thank you.”

“You shouldn’t have done that, baby. You really shouldn’t have. You see this? Give me a hundred thousand and your computer, and the world won’t see it.”

“Get OUT.”

C is for Clothing

C is for clothing! That is, the clothes my characters wear. Usually, I don’t think about it all; I just have them wear whatever seems most sensible.

That’s just as well, because I start second guessing myself when I begin to actually consider, in detail, my character’s style. I mean, the current work in progress, the main character is a laid back, smart, charming guy. He wore jeans. I am sure he wore other things- a shirt, a jacket, but the only the article of clothing I mentioned was his jeans and only because he needed to take something out of his jean pockets.

But, later, I needed to really consider what he had in his closet. Was jeans too obvious a sign of a laid back guy? Too stereotypical? But I wasn’t thinking when I gave him jeans. So no. But what kinds

02-CityScape-Coat-Hanger-by-HookPegSupport-Cityscape-Art-1 of t-shirts? The kind with weird pictures and/or strange words or just simple, solid color tees? But words can be interesting. So what quote describes him best? What kind of pictures?

So, yeah, it was hard dressing him. But fun! And I still haven’t got his jewelry ironed out (he has a LOT of piercings).

But is there a wrong way to dress a characters? Do the clothes always have to reflect the character, even when they are not working? I want to say no, but I feel like I should say yes.

It’s just that clothes are a quick, easy shorthand for conveying who a character is. Maybe too easy, because it would be too simple to also stereotype like that. Question is, how do I avoid it?

A to Z Challenge Theme Reveal

I’m a lot late doing this. That is, writing an A to Z theme reveal post. I had intended to write it last week, but stuff happened.

Last year, I started the challenge late. I forgot to write posts for the first few letters and quite a few of the middle ones, too. Basically, I left out half the alphabet. I suppose that’s lack of planning, and truthfully, my planning isn’t any better this year. Well, except for actually remembering A to Z challenge in time to sign up for it.

So I’ve never done an A Is For post. I still don’t know what it will be and it’s needs to be ready by Tuesday.

All I do know is that all the posts will follow the blog’s theme: stories, both reading and writing them. It’s even in the name: Story Treasury. Maybe watching a few, too, maybe examining them for . . . things. Maybe. ;) Maybe actual stories on occasion, most likely on Fridays. (There are four Fridays in April. Using a letter of the alphabet as a prompt is bound to be a challenge.

I’m hoping I’ll do better this year.

Friday Flash: Victory

This is another drabble! It is exactly 100 words. It was inspired by a photo from this   Mete Özbek. I found it on 500 px. Enjoy.


A swipe of gloved fingers and my queen fell off the edge of the board.

Smoke rose, obscuring the board. But I knew what was what.

I picked up my bishop and knocked out the enemy’s knight. A harsh scream sounded in the distance, just below the cliff precipice.  


I blew out a breath and the smoke faded just enough to let me see the enemy’s face. Dark, wet eyes, like drops of oil given life.

The enemy moved, a useless sacrifice of a knight.

I struck. The king fell into my palm, dead, cracked ebony.

Victory was mine.