Imaginary friends and writing

by Mandy Broughton

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My daughter had an imaginary friend. My daughter treated her as a real friend. So real that it was six months before I realized she didn’t exist. Imagine my surprise when I asked the preschool teachers to point out Olivia to me and they told me, “there’s no Olivia in this class.” Turns out there wasn’t an Olivia in any classes at the school. I know, I checked.

Best friends. Olivia was quite the trouble-maker. I’d hear all about these wild parties my daughter and Olivia would throw while I slept blissfully through the night. I said more than once I was glad Olivia was good at cleaning up the house after a wild night of partying.

Olivia’s mom was quite the rebel too. I was informed one day that Olivia’s mom was thrown in jail for speeding. I found myself arguing with a three year old on whether or not her imaginary friend’s mother was thrown in jail for speeding. Sheesh!

I decided to research children and imaginary friends. I never had any. As a child, I was perfectly content to sit and read in my room all day. Friends–real or imaginary–would disturb that peace.

Imaginary friends are what we would expect from highly creative people. Active imagination. Intelligent. Creative. Verbal. What I did not expect was that many adults had imaginary friends. What?! Are these people in need of a mental health professional? Maybe, but mostly they are creative adults. And it turns out many of those creative adults are authors.

As a writer, I know I have proper characterization when I dream about my characters. I can hear what they say in certain situations. I know how they’d act when problems arise. Fictional characters should not be shooting gallery ducks forced to respond in a certain way when a crisis occurs.* Characters should be organic, growing as the story progresses. They should feel more real than some real-life celebrities we watch and follow in the news.

As a writer, have you ever needed a character to act a certain way and she just wouldn’t? She’s supposed to be angry but she’s acting all quirky and sarcastic on the page. Or two characters start flirting with each other and they’re not supposed to even like each other. Happens to me all the time. My characters have taken over the pages of my manuscripts. And many of them are completely unrepentant for derailing my plot. I guess I’ve developed imaginary friends as an adult. Maybe I’m a late bloomer.

So tell me, dear writers, how do you know when you’ve achieved proper characterization? Do you hear voices in your head? Do you dream about them? Do you mock-up a fake Facebook page and imagine what they’d post? I mostly argue with mine.

Back to work on this first work week of the New Year. I hope the New Year brings plenty of good books, lots of writing, and great friendships–real and imaginary!

Oh, and I can’t forget, as a longtime, die-hard University of Houston Cougar alumni and fan… oDPuclxr.jpgCongratulations on winning the Peach Bowl. GO COOGS!

 

*My editor once told me my characters were like shooting gallery ducks, they were cardboard and went back and forth like I was shooting at them.

 

Raccoons, Poltergeists, and Exits (RUN FAST!)

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Mandy Broughton has found another willing victim for her hot seat. And hot it is. We’re here with Artemis Greenleaf, Purveyor of Fine Collocations.

MB: Most of your fiction features the supernatural. Is it true that you have a ghost in the attic of your house? And that she regularly bangs on the walls and floors to tell your family, “keep it down, you’re all too loud?”

AG: Well, there is something that lives in the attic, but I suspect it’s a raccoon.

MB: A raccoon. How quaint. I’m sure that’s a newfangled codename for “poltergeist.” Exit Point is your latest release. How did you come up with the name? Is it true that you’ve published so much fiction that you’ve run out of titles? And, while at the movie theatre, you saw a kid point to an exit sign and you said, “AHA!”

AG: An “Exit Point” is a metaphysical theory that before people are born, they choose the tasks they need to accomplish while they’re on the Earthly plane, but there are planned “escape hatches,” so that if they get done early, or situations change, they can leave. It might be something obvious, like nearly drowning in a swimming pool, or it may be something they’d never notice, like making a wrong turn or unusual stop on the way to work. If they’d gone the usual route, they would have been involved in a fatal traffic accident. But since they weren’t at the point of departure, the accident never happened, and they were none the wiser. In researching this book, I read a lot of material from Helena Blavatsky, C.W. Leadbeater, and Carl Jung. I came up with the idea for the story because one summer, there were a group of neighborhood teens who were breaking into the swimming pool area and drinking, and doing some malicious mischief. My husband said, “What if one of them fell in the pool and drowned?” and I thought, “What, indeed?”

MB: “What, indeed,” turned out to be a new story in a long collection of novels you’ve written. You are published under several pen names. Is that a secret or can I ask you if [redacted]?

AG: Yes. Artemis Greenleaf is my main brand. If these books were movies, they’d probably be rated PG-PG13. Although, I do have some short stories for younger readers that I’m working on converting to picture books/illustrated stories – those would be rated G.

One of the characters, Belinda Tate, from the Marti Keller Mysteries series (The Hanged Man’s Wife and The Magician’s Children), writes romance novels under the pen name “Coda Sterling.” The first book (well, novella) in her Dragonfire trilogy is Dragon by Knight. I’m about halfway done with book 2, Dragon Killer. The love scenes in Coda Sterling books are tame by 50 Shades of Grey standards, but they are much more explicit that what I normally write. Rated R.

A.B. Richards (Rescue: A Litter of Quetzels) is darker and grittier than Artemis Greenleaf. Definitely a strong R rating.

My experimental brand, Holly Dey (Puss in Spaceboots), is for story ideas that I’m not really sure how to classify. G-PG.

MB: If I had to guess, I would say YA is your favorite genre. Young adult fiction focuses on Dystopian worlds. Do you secretly have a mermaid army (navy?) that is trying to transform the world into a Dystopian Paradise—I mean—Nightmare?

AG: Funny you should mention merfolk – they do turn up in a couple of my stories (Earthbound, Space City 6), but, while they would be perfectly happy to see humans exterminated, they aren’t big on creating a dystopian society. The only true YA book that I have is Confessions of a Troll. It is true that Mimi, the main character in Exit Point, is 17 (so her friends are also around that age), but I’m not entirely sure it classifies as YA. I would say I mostly write Urban Fantasy, but some books are for younger readers, and some are for an older crowd.

MB: Funny, Confessions of a Troll is the first book I read of yours. I suppose that’s why I think YA! You do lots of personal sales, in grocery stores, at book events, farmers markets, etc. And you’ve mentioned that you enjoy people watching. Readers want to know: do you have a transmorgifier that you point at interesting people you meet and transform them into characters for your latest novel? And once transmogrified onto the 2D page, they are forced to act our your story for the rest of their natural lives?

AG: I have tons of notes about people that I scribble down, and I often combine attributes of random strangers. I was once in Target and encountered two young ladies, whose over-loud conversation I could not help but overhear. I wrote a blog post about that, and one of them turns up as Deb in Exit Point. There was once a lady in a store that was rude to me, so I promptly wrote her into a story and ran over her with a truck.

MB: *nervously worried that I’ve accidentally been rude* What’s next on the truck driving writing agenda?

AG: I’m planning on finishing up Dragon Killer, and then I will either write a novel length A.B. Richards book featuring Quetzel Cazares (and of course, Gato, the kitten), or write The Devil’s Advocate, the 3rd book in the Marti Keller series. I’ve got another project that’s set in that same universe, but stars a (mostly) different set of characters. Also working on the illustrated kids’ books – I’d like to have Brain’s Vacation out by summer.

MB: Thanks, Artemis, Coda, A.B., and Holly! Let’s take a look at your book trailer and Exit Point is on sale for $0.99 through December.

You Might Need an Editor If…

by Monica Shaughnessy

I love Jeff Foxworthy. Since I grew up redneck, I always find his humor to be spot-on and terribly funny:

So when it came time for me to do this post, I just had to use a writerly version of his now-famous routine. Without further delay, I give you my list. If you see yourself on it, don’t cringe (okay, cringe a little), seek help instead. 🙂 If you see one of your friends on this list, send them a link to my post (if you dare).

You Might Need an Editor If…

  1. your picture book has nude scenes.
  2. your middle grade novel has more chapters than the bible
  3. you don’t get the whole apostrophe thing
  4. your critique group spends more time correcting your story than you did writing it
  5. the main character in your YA novel is a thirty-eight year old man with shingles
  6.  your historical novel takes place on a spaceship in the Kxplexnk Galaxy
  7. you think picking a POV is so last century
  8. your main character wants to kill YOU by the end of the book
  9. anyone has ever used your title and the words “steaming pile” in the same sentence
  10. you have a small problem with run-on sentences and by run-on I mean sentences that seem to have no end and make no sense and cause the reader to wonder when they are going to stop because the reader needs to go to the bathroom and waiting for that question mark has just become an exercise in bladder control…

Okay, apart from thinking this would be a funny blog post, I DO have an agenda. Of course I have an agenda!

Just last week, I opened a developmental editing business and am currently taking on clients. Because I’m new, I’m offering OBSCENELY low rates. As of this writing, I’m pricing my services at .005 per word for longer projects and $20 an hour for shorter projects / outline coaching. However, please be aware that my prices will rise as my client list grows. So check back with me to make sure what I’ve quoted is still valid.

My last middle grade client had this to say: “You have helped me see the novel in a whole new way. I LOVED that you broke the story line down for me, helping me to form a firm arc.” I’m hoping she’ll comment below about her experience with me. I also just finished a picture book project for another writer (review yet to come, but I know it’s positive!) and have another couple of middle grade projects lined up this summer. But I can still make time for YOUR project, dear reader.

So what can a developmental editor help you with?

  • a sagging middle
  • an uncertain beginning
  • an ending that lacks emotional punch
  • flat character arcs
  • missing or meandering subplots
  • a “messy” storyline

What can’t a developmental editor help you with?

  • grammatical errors
  • typos
  • sentence structure
  • word choice

If you’re thinking about getting help for your novel or picture book (I work on adult and children’s works–no erotica), then give me a shout in the comments below or email me at: contact@my first and last name.com (Use my actual first and last name! I never write my email address out, otherwise I get spammed too much by bots.) Even if you just want to ask a question about editing, fire away!