Archive for May, 2016

Memorial Day 2016

I will not wish you a happy Memorial Day, but I will wish you a memorable one. For I do remember:

A great- great, great Uncle, William Sudduth, died at Raisin River, War of 1812.

My great-great grandfather, Lucilious Pate, came home in 1865 to find his wife and family gone, his younger brother, Wesley had drowned when an army steamboat caught fire, and another brother, James, had died in battle.

My great grandfather, Thomas Gillenwaters, came home in 1865 to find his father dead, his family starving, and a brother whose name I cannot recall had died in battle.

My great-great grandparents, William and Mary Greenfield, were murdered in 1863 by guerillas near Brandenburg, Kentucky.

My great-great grandfather, Samuel Anderson, made it home in 1865, but his health and lungs were ruined.

My grandmother’s cousin, Beanie (Bennie) Short died in 1865, a Confederate, but I do not judge him.

Clarence Dean woke up in 1945 in a battlefield morgue. He died in his 90’s, but would never talk about it.

James Fugit had his legs crushed in 1945. Doctors told him he would never walk again, but 6 months later, he walked out of a military hospital and lived another 60 years.

I have gone to school or worked with countless people, some of whom likely died in Vietnam or the Middle East, and they should not be forgotten even though I have lost track of them.

To all of the above and countless others who gave their lives, I salute you.

Charles Suddeth


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(They also will work for adult & children’s fiction)

  1. Think Like a Teen: more than POV, be a teen while you write: always be your POV character
  2. Find the “Emotional Truth” of the Teenage/child/adult Experience: most teens/children/adults have similar problems, goals etc.
  3. A Good Pop-Culture Reference Goes a Long Way: music, TV shows etc. (might use made-up names)
  4. Get Input From Real People: co-writers, beta readers, critiquers, comments
  5. Use Slang Words at Your Own Risk: slang mutates too quickly to use it in print
  6. Keep It Moving: keep it simple & stay on the plot
  7. It’s Okay for YA To Get Dark—or for children’s & adult’s writing: nothing is off limits anymore

Find the Kernel of Hope: even with a sad ending, leave a way out

Eights Mask2

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Find your nearest and/or favorite independent bookstore:

Indiebound bookstore finder: http://www.indiebound.org/indie-bookstore-finder

Experiment 38: http://www.indiebound.org/book/9781940310022

Eighth Mask: http://www.indiebound.org/search/book?searchfor=eighth+mask&search=Search

Halloween Kentucky Style: http://www.indiebound.org/search/book?searchfor=halloween+kentucky+style&search=Search

YA thriller, publication TBA


Eights Mask2KentuckyHalloween3

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World Turtle Day

World Turtle Day, May 23, sponsored yearly since 2000 by American Tortoise Rescue.

Hug a turtle today.


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Three elements of characters

Likability: Especially for your main character. Villains/antagonists need to be understandable, i.e. why are they bad/evil. Readers want to emphasize with characters, and the characters need to be consistent and have moral fiber.

Characters must want or need something. They also require goals or problems.

Characters need complexity. Characters need conflicts in their goals, needs, and thinking.

Other Points

Characters have internal (thoughts & desires kept private) & external (what other people experience) traits.

Dialogue: characters need their own speech patterns/dialect/vocabulary/voice.

Mistakes with characters:

Believability, i.e. too unique or different to be real.

Clichéd or unoriginal

Wimpy/weak & unlikeable characters

Character in genres

Picture book characters need security

YA want to stand out from peers & family.

MG have search for identity.

Adult characters are more complex, but they often want love & sometimes have holdover desires from childhood.

Final points:

Characters must have desires & needs or they are flat.

They must change over the course of a story.

They must have authenticity: drama & self-centeredness but no clichés.

Think like the character’s age: the characters must make mistakes & the writer must find inner child & kids lack experience.

Know audience: read books, school visits, be around kids, be sociable if writing about adults

Character sketch: develop character, lists of likes & dislikes, ask character questions

Eights Mask2

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Dialogue Ideas

Ideas for Dialogue


When I do character sketches, I include voice:

How do they speak? Soft, deep high-pitched, raspy, fast/slow talker/child’s voice mumble etc.

Do they speak with an accent? foreign/Southern/educated/teen/child etc.

Do they speak differently under different circumstances? Happy/sad/scared/bored/angry

Do they speak differently in different places? School/home/public/work

What kind of vocabulary do they use? Large/simple/slang/work places terms.

I use these as I write and edit. And I read aloud, trying to imitate each character. If a character speaks more than once, I include their voice in a character sketch. When using slang, dialect etc., find a native speaker (E.g. A teen for high school slang) and read it aloud to them.

Dialogue is not just voice or sound:

What are your characters doing while speaking? Washing dishes. Hiking, etc.

Silence is a form of communication. (AKA the silent treatment)

If the POV character chooses to think rather than speak, it is a form of dialogue because it informs the reader the way speech would.

Facial expressions, body language, movements can communicate as much as words.

What is dialogue for?

It either propels the story forward or tells the reader something about the characters. If it doesn’t do either one of these, why is the dialogue there?

Things to forget:

Grammar. Complete sentences.

Answering questions: characters often ignore questions and change the subject, which often tells more than answering the question.

Don’t try to write dialogue that is too real-to-life. The reader doesn’t need every huh, um, etc, speakers say. Writing dialogue is a trick to convince the reader the speech is real. When using dialect, a few hints work better than dialogue that is difficult for anyone to read.

Using exclamation points (let your word choice indicate excitement). Using caps for emphasis (use italics).

Read it aloud:

Dialogue needs a rhythm. Angry or scared words need a faster, frantic pace. Conversation or romance might take a slower, relaxed pace.

People interrupt each other, breaking the rhythm. People are rude to each other.

Beats, tags, or neither?

Beats are actions or gestures that either interrupt or add to the dialogue. Use them but not too often.

Tags should be used ONLY when leaving them out it will confuse the reader. Try to use either said or asked.

Neither. If it is clear who is speaking, and no action or beat is required, then just dialogue is fine (hard to accomplish with more than 2 speakers).


Three Ways of Dealing with Non-dialogue for Intense POV’s

The character breaks a piece of chocolate candy.

Narrative description: The brown candy broke in his hand, releasing a vanilla scent.

Thought: Brown candy. Vanilla scent. It breaks right in my hand.

Active: He broke the brown candy in his hands, the vanilla scent making him smile.

Eights Mask2

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Hook ’em!


Hook: Is 2 sentences (at most) to hook reader (or agent or editor) by explaining/identifying the plot. It will tell how it is unique, will impress/excite the reader, and must include the main character.


Hooks (in my estimation) are the same thing as elevator pitches. They can also begin query letters or be used to promote your book.


Hooks should include (but you don’t need to explain the plot):

  • Main character (or other important character)
  • Conflict (internal and/or external)
  • Setting (time and/or place)
  • Distinction (how it is unique or different)
  • Action
  • Tense/POV (not sure how this can be inserted in a 2-sentence hook)

    Eights Mask2

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