nichepoetryandprose

poetry and prose about place

Posts Tagged ‘characters

Strawberry Kool-Aid Hair with Ribbons

leave a comment »

~

'nearn' (3)

~

Strawberry Kool-Aid Hair

with Ribbons

~

strawberry Kool-Aid hair

with ribbons

she pushes the button

to cross Dundonald

serious with her boyfriend

her backpack heavy

~

she is like

the student on roller blades

skilled with traffic

not slowing near the top of Regent

reckless to the river

~

or the man

a block from here

a man with a briefcase

leaning across the fence

making a bouquet

of pussy-willows

~

~

All my best.

Stay safe.

Jane

 

Written by jane tims

June 19, 2020 at 7:00 am

heroine

leave a comment »

rose heroine

~

heroine

~

her hair

is a stroke of pink

on the brown audience

~

more compelling

than the script

or the decorated stage

~

not surprising to see

her name on the program

Rose

~

in black but for the hair

even her lips

implore the audience

to pardon the difference

~

she, the heroic one

not Romeo

or Juliet

~

not the dead

but the left-behind

~

~

All my best.

Staying safe,

Jane

Written by jane tims

June 12, 2020 at 7:00 am

first draft

leave a comment »

This past weekend, I finished the first draft of the third novel in the Kaye Eliot Mystery Series. This is my favorite part of the long process of working on a book.

~

I plan my novel to an extent. From the beginning, I knew the basic story: Kaye Eliot finds a packet of old postcards and is set on a search for a valuable stone. The idea for the story was sparked way back in 1989 when I first saw an abandoned stone house during field work in Nova Scotia. I also had most of my characters to work with: Kaye and her husband and two kids. And Daniel Cutter, a stonemason, a character introduced in Book Two of the series. To read Book Two (Something the Sundial Said), click here.

~

~

As I write, I let the characters and story take me where they want to go. Sometimes this takes me in unusual directions. Unless an idea is ridiculous, I usually run with it.

~

The props I encounter in the story have their own push and pull. The stone house, the postcards, a stone chimney, a set of architectural plans. When these objects are repeated in the story, they become symbols of ideas in the book.

~

stone house Upper Canada Village

~

The next stage in writing is the revision. This means reading the book, cover to cover, over and over. I will fix the misspellings and grammar, I add some description. I polish the dialogue. I adjust the story points. I fix the names of villages and bridges and social groups in the story. I do some research. Revision takes the bulk of the time devoted to writing the book, probably 80%. I do at least ten revision sweeps.

~

I love the first revision. Although I wrote the first draft, reading it for the first time, cover to cover, is like discovering a new book.

~

stone wall

~

Next post, I will talk about choosing a title for the book, not as easy as it may seem.

~

All my best.

Please stay safe.

Jane

Written by jane tims

June 8, 2020 at 7:00 am

next book in the Meniscus Series: the illustrations

leave a comment »

For the last two days, I have been in a drawing mood. Not many authors illustrate their books (not including those who work on graphic novels), but I love this part of the process.

~

~

 

I have had lots of discussions with readers about the right and wrong of illustrating. Some think it takes away from the reader’s wonderful ability to imagine characters and scenes. Others think the illustrations take a reader deeper into the author’s intentions. As an author, I think drawings help get my ideas across. Since my books are told as narrative poetry, my words tend to be vary spare and I think of the drawings as extensions of the narrative.

~

I include two types of drawings in my books: portraits of the characters and sketches of the action.

~

The portraits are useful to me as a writer. They help fix the character’s face so the image does not migrate from book to book. I am really proud of the portraits and looking at them inspires my writing.

~

~

I am also proud of some of my drawings of scenes from my books. When the drawing is close to the idea I want to portray, sometimes it suggests new details in the text. Some drawings are not so good but I rarely re-draw. Instead, I think of these as representative of the weirdness of planet Meniscus. It reminds me of a line from my favorite TV show Lost. Daniel Faraday, on his first visit to the island says,

The light… it’s strange out here, isn’t it? It’s kind of like, it doesn’t, it doesn’t scatter quite right.”

On Meniscus, the pencil doesn’t behave quite right.

~

~

In every book, there are 23 +/- 4 drawings. Some are portraits or repeats of earlier scenes. Today, I did two drawings, both unique to Meniscus: The Knife.

~

All my best,

staying home

and staying in my two-family bubble,

Jane

Written by jane tims

May 11, 2020 at 7:00 am

next book in the Meniscus Series: the Cast of Characters

leave a comment »

Other writers often ask me about the use of a beta reader. Of course, I value their input and listen carefully to any suggestions about the book they have just read for me. In a series like Meniscus, the suggestions of the beta reader often help me more with the next book. Sometimes the suggestion has to do with the storyline or a particular character. Sometimes it is a suggestion that becomes integral to the whole series.

~

When she read Book Two of the Series, Meniscus: South from Sintha, my beta reader Carol suggested adding a short description of each character in a compendium at the end of each book. I began to do this for the next book and now every book has a Cast of Characters.

~

Since some of my characters are aliens, I group the characters as Humans, Argenops (benevolent furry creatures), Dock-winders (self-serving overlords), Gel-heads (unlikeable minions), and Others (animal companions and other sentient aliens).

~

~

In the Cast of Characters I include information on the character’s role in the story, the character’s age, where the character lived on Earth, what they were doing when the Dock-winders harvested them, what Earth year they were taken, their occupation on Earth, their occupation on Meniscus and sometimes their motivation, faults or wants.

~

Here is an example, a character description of Zachary, a carpenter and an important citizen of Themble Hill:

Zachary – survivor of the transport crash; 46 one-suns old; harvested by the Dock-winders in 2008 when he worked as a carpenter with his father’s company in Fargo, North Dakota; educated as an engineer; harvested as he made repairs to a roof during a wind storm; used by the Dock-winders as the laser-sawyer in a grammid mill; spent most of grad school playing Sonic the Hedgehog ™ and eating pickled eggs in the campus grad house.

~

Sometimes I wish I could change the character description a bit to suit the story, but I try not to do that. I also include all of the characters mentioned in all of the books to date although they may not appear in the current book. So far, I have 41 characters, major and minor, who have appeared in the various books.

~

~

All my best,

staying home and keeping in my two-family bubble,

Jane

Written by jane tims

May 8, 2020 at 7:00 am

reading in isolation

leave a comment »

For a writer, retired from the daily commute, living in isolation from others has not been very hard. I have kept in touch with my family by phone, with my writing groups by Messenger, and with other friends through Facebook. When I am not writing, I watch TV or read aloud to my husband and we occasionally go for short drives. I’ve also taken an on-line writing course on Monday and Thursday evenings. Sometimes I sew, sometimes I blog. Rarely I take on my cleaning duties. There is always lots to do.

~

Reading has been a true solace in these times of isolation. I have a Kobo for bedtime reading and a Kindle for the living room. And there is always a stack of books by the reading chair. I love British detective series like those of Ann Granger, Anne Cleeves and Elly Griffiths. I also love Science Fiction, most recently Vicki Holt’s Hunted on Predator Planet.

~

What’s a comfortable chair without a book?

~

So what is it about reading that is so involving? Part of this is setting, being transported to the misty sea-bound Shetland Islands, or the tentacled and mucky landscape of a distant planet. Part is about characters, getting to know people who face heart-pounding danger, or who solve mysteries by fitting clue to clue. Part is about story, a mix of circumstance and fate with twists and turns and an ending you never see coming.

~

~

I have been known to lose myself in a good book. Once I settled in my car at a local park to read and forgot to return to work!

~

Other people are reading lots too. I have seen a bit of a spike in book sales on Amazon. It is one of the pleasures of being a writer, knowing that I can bring a bit of escapism and solace to my readers.

~

If you want to lose yourself in a book series, try my Meniscus Series. It’s a bit different. The stories are written in narrative poetry in a style that is compact and accessible. There are maps, a glossary and an alien dictionary in each book. All my books are illustrated.

~

The Meniscus Series is about humans trying to overcome a dystopian reality on an alien planet. The story unfolds over several books and the theme is building relationships, building community.

~

~

All my best!

Stay in your bubble! Read on!

Jane

Written by jane tims

April 29, 2020 at 7:00 am

a muse takes over – character arcs

leave a comment »

Every character in a novel needs a background and a story arc of their own, in order to make them interesting and realistic. This creates challenges as I proceed through the drafts of the five books of my sci-fi series ‘Meniscus’.

~

In Book One (Crossing the Churn), I have only two main characters, Odymn and the Slain.

In Book Two (South from Sintha), they rescue three new characters from servitude under the Dock-winder aliens and a simple community begins to take shape.

In Book Three (Winter by the Water-climb), a transport crash brings six more humans to the settlement.

By Book Four (The Town at Themble Hill), the settlers  are actively seeking new recruits to the community and there are sixteen characters for the writer (me) to manage.

At the end of Book Five, even I don’t know how many characters will survive/be added!

~

Character arcs assist with the forward motion of the entire story. Each character’s story arc contributes to the whole and is usually connected in some way to the main story arc.

~

I express my character story arcs in a three-part sentence — what the character wants, the obstacles he or she encounters, and the resolution.

~


~

For example, one of the new recruits in Book Four (The Town at Themble Hill) is Edward, a medical doctor. Although the settlers can get the help of an alien elder, a doctor who has actually treated human illness will be a great asset to the community. When he enters the story, he has been a Dock-winder slave, used to treat the ailments of other human slaves.

~

In the Dock-winder city of Prell, Edward has been able to work with complex technologies. But in the new human settlement, deep in the Themble Woods, even simple tools like stethoscopes or standard pharmaceuticals don’t exist. Edward has to reinvent his approach to medicine, developing his own methods with available tools and embracing alien natural medicines and techniques he previously belittled.

~

So, Edward’s story arc is expressed as follows:

Edward wants to help his patients but when technology is no longer available, he has to learn to embrace alien methods and natural herbal medicines.

~

This sentence, once written, can help determine the mood of the character, his attitude towards other characters, his response in various situations and the risks he is willing to take.  Now I can revise my draft to make it consistent with Edward’s story arc.

~

There are often three ‘bumps’ to move the character’s story arc along. Edward’s three ‘bumps’ are consistent with his story arc:

  • Edward is skeptical of the Argenop methods (the Argenops are primitive aliens, cute and furry)
  • He encounters a medical challenge that, with technology, could be easily resolved
  • He tries an alien, herbal treatment and learns to trust new methods

~

Back to work!

~

~

Copyright 2017 Jane Tims

Written by jane tims

February 9, 2017 at 8:32 pm

three fantasy characters

leave a comment »

On Friday, I introduced my current writing and drawing project – creation of a short fantasy tale. The story is about a young woman who tries to trade an old life for a new. The setting is an alien planet named Meniscus. I have three main characters:

  1. The young woman is a Human named Odymn. Odymn is in her thirties, living a life of servitude on Meniscus. Every night she escapes confinement to practice her passion of parkour.  Parkour is the discipline of moving through the landscape in the most efficient way possible, running, jumping, vaulting, climbing and rolling. The discipline involves strength, endurance and flexibility and has allowed Odymn to reclaim and have control over at least one part of her life. Odymn has bright red hair which is about to get her into a lot of trouble.
  2. The man she meets during one of her parkour adventures is a genetically enhanced human, a Eu-hominid. He is a rover, moving from place to place to earn his living. He wears a special kind of armour and weaponry which taps into the electrical forces in his body. He has strength and endurance but almost no flexibility. He does not engage in idle chatter, to say the least. So far he has no name, so I just refer to him as Eu-hom. It’s OK if you are thinking names are not my strong point!
  3. After some encounters with other hominids and creatures on the planet, Odymn and Eu-hom set off on some adventures. At one point they encounter Wen-le-gone, a sentient, passive, furry creature known as an Argenop. Wen-le-gone adopts Odymn as his friend but does not warm to the Eu-hom, not at all.

~

Now that you have met my characters, I’ll show you what they look like.

~

odymn

Odymn has a peculiar scar on her forehead. How she got the scar and what it means to her is part of the story.

~

eu-hom

The Eu-hom is a rather serious character, not much of a conversationalist and not easy to befriend.

~

wen-le-gone

The Argenop, Wen-le-gone, is the village healer and sage. Looks a little like my cat.

~

Next time, I’ll show you drawings of some of the other humanoids and creatures of Planet Meniscus.

~

~

Copyright  Jane Tims  2016

Written by jane tims

November 14, 2016 at 7:29 am

writing a novel – being consistent

with 6 comments

As I work on the Forth Draft of my novel ‘Crossing at a Walk’, I need to consult reference material.  I check the correct spelling and meaning of words, odd bits like ‘is Tim Hortons coffee spelled with an apostrophe?’ (no, it’s Tim Hortons coffee), and technical information such as the correct name for the shape of the windows of the Landing Church (‘Gothic with extended legs!’).

~

gothic window

The windows in the Landing Church are referred to as ‘Gothic with extended legs’. This is an old church in Upper Canada Village in Ontario.

~

I also keep a project-specific ‘guidance document’ (a ‘concordance’ or ‘style guide’) to make certain I am consistent about how I deal with people, objects and conversations within the text.

~

Oliver

One of my main characters is Oliver, the former minister of the Landing Church. My ‘guidance document’ reminds me that Oliver always says ‘graveyard’ rather than ‘cemetery’.

~

A ‘guidance document’ is a useful tool to prepare from the beginning of writing a longer piece of fiction.  It provides a set of rules to follow, to help me remember how I have previously dealt with many aspects of the book.  In dialogue, it tells me if a particular character uses the word ‘dinner’ or ‘supper’.  It reminds me that I put all business names in italics. It tells me to use ‘towards’ instead of ‘toward’ (the words are interchangeable and I often can’t remember which of the two I have typically used).  It means I don’t have to remember the title of Sadie’s university thesis: ‘Consideration of the Contribution of Writers to the Field of Cinematography’.  It also tells me details about the characters: Pat has a brother; Minnie has bright red hair; Reid’s best seller was titled ‘No Small Truck’.

~

Some of the items I will only ever use once.  Often I have to look up information again and again, so I keep my ‘guidance document’ file open whenever I am working on the novel.

~

matt

Matt Cromwell is a theatre student participating in the first writing weekend at Sadie’s writing retreat. The ‘guidance document’ reminds me Matt’s eyes are blue, he is 24 and he is a star-gazer in his spare time.

~

You may wonder why I would forget these things.  Some items ensure consistency between my two books. In dealing with 70,000 words and 33 characters, I don’t need to keep everything in my head if I keep my ‘guidance document’ up to date.

~

Copyright  2015  Jane Tims

Written by jane tims

April 17, 2015 at 5:56 pm

writing a novel – getting to know your characters

leave a comment »

IMG480_crop

The Whisper Wind Writers’ Retreat – the setting for my novel

~

Working on the drafts of a novel is like combing hair.  You start at the top/beginning and comb through the words and sentences, paragraphs and chapters, over and over.  Eventually the tangles comb out and the hair becomes smooth and shiny.

~

I find the best way to do the ‘combing’ is to work at specific components of the story.  Developing symbols within the story is one.  Developing characters in the story is another.

~

I have a lot of characters in my books.  In ‘Open to the Skies’ there are 44 characters, major, minor and dead.  This is probably too many, but it is a book about a community.

So far, in ‘Crossing at a Walk’, I have 33 characters.  These include Sadie and Tom, members of the community, and the six ‘retreaters’ (the writers enjoying a weekend at the Writers’ Retreat).

~

A difficulty with writing a sequel, I feel responsible for all these characters.  Leaving one of them out of book #2 seems wrong to me.  But by book # 25 (!) I’ll have a whole planet to contend with. So I have to make choices.

~

IMG486_crop

~

Each of my characters has a character sketch, a background story and a story arc.  As I’ve said before, I try to include three ‘bumps’ in each story line.

One of the ‘combings’ I do is to look at each character as he or she appears in the book.  I want to make sure the character is consistent with respect to appearance, back story, way of speaking, relationships, and so on.

~

1.  Character sketch and background

As an example, let me introduce you to Ruby Milton.  She is the fourth character from the left in the sketches above. She is a minor character, a constant companion to one of the major characters.   Ruby is 64 and married (she was a Brunelle before she was married).  She is a retired librarian and now runs a U-Pick with her husband Lars.  Ruby, as a result of her name, loves all things red.  She wears red and she bids on a lamp at an auction because it has a red glass finial.  A quilter, she works a red patch into every quilt she makes.  She was also one of the characters who opposed the sale and relocation of the Landing Church in ‘Open to the Skies’.  Ruby snubs Sadie at every opportunity.

~

006_crop

Ruby would love my lamp with the red finial – it once belonged to my mother-in-law Mary

~

It’s hard to have to keep checking on a character sketch as I write, so I prepare a chart of my characters.  I keep the chart file open so I can check on it as often as I want.

~

Name Occupation Characteristics Age  Vocabulary
 Ruby Milton Librarian; runs a U-Pick Wears red; thin; a quilter; maiden name Brunelle; lived in community all her life 62 Cemetery; uses lots of contractions
 Lars Milton Retired Teacher; runs a U-Pick Tall; Full head of snowy hair 65 Graveyard
 Marjory Alworth Shop owner Nicknamed Margie; Ruby Milton’s daughter 41
 Betsy Alworth Waitress Ruby Milton’s grand-daughter 24

~

2. Story arc

Ruby occurs three times in ‘Crossing at a Walk’.  She occurs because she is a friend to Pat, a major character; she runs a local U-Pick and food from the U-Pick is used at the Retreat; she represents the community’s continued interest in its landmarks.  She wants to continue to use the Landing Church for her quilting group and she participates in celebrations of the history of the covered bridge.  Ruby also represents the part of the community that Sadie hasn’t quite won over in her efforts to fit in.

~

As I read my draft so far, I realise Ruby needs to change in some small way during the book.  So, in keeping with her importance as a representative of community, I add some elements to Ruby’s story.  At the auction, she won’t even acknowledge Sadie.  But during the book, Sadie allows Ruby’s quilters to use the church and treats Ruby as knowledgeable about community history. By the end of the book, Ruby greets Sadie as a friend and contributes a story about her memories of the covered bridge.

~

DSCF7651

inside a covered bridge

~

I keep a table of story arcs for each of my characters, to help me build the story, be consistent and make sure that I find the story for each character.

~

Name First occurrence Second occurrence Third occurrence Story
 Ruby Milton Ignores Sadie at auction (page 35) Asks to use hall for quilting group (page 146) Greets Sadie as a friend at a community gathering; tells a story about bridge (page 232) Pat’s friend; represents community;  changes her attitude about Sadie

~

Ruby is a relatively minor character in the book.  However, I treat her with the same respect I give my major characters.  And she gives back to me.  She suggests turnings for the story.  And she helps make the community I have created for these characters more realistic.

~

030_crop

Ruby puts a bit of red in every quilt she makes

 

~

Copyright  2015  Jane Tims 

Written by jane tims

April 3, 2015 at 7:35 am

%d bloggers like this: