Make Your Readers Feel the Pain

I’ve been neck deep in research and editing, enjoying every minute.  And letting the days slip past before I come out of my red-pencil fog to check my deadlines.


I planned to write about layering your characters’ backstories, referencing scenes from the movie “The Homesman.”  In the meantime, I read Sue Coletta’s post over on The Kill Zone blog about researching torture methods.  Coletta is the author of the Grafton County series (Cleaved, book 2 is now available), the Mayhem series, and the criminally inspiring 60 Ways to Murder Your Characters.  This is one author who believes that first-hand experience makes her crime thrillers darker and scarier.  And she doesn’t hesitate to enlist her husband or a neighbor to assist her in the search for realism.


Just reading about her experiment inside an oil drum was enough to make my breath hitch and my ears ring.


Now I’m not saying every writer should bribe someone to bury them in a box with a short hose leading to the surface.  And please don’t play with sharp blades.  You don’t want to end up describing your visit to the nearest emergency room instead of the fight scene you roleplayed.


But don’t allow anything to stop you from getting deep into your character’s emotions and physical responses.  Because in the middle of the action, that’s what happens.  The body responds to physical stimuli while the mind assigns feelings and emotions to those actions and reactions.


Don’t think of the character as a cardboard cutout you’re creating with ink and paper (or ones and zeroes).  Put yourself in the middle of that scene.  Become that character as each word finds its place on the page.


Your knife-wielding assailant isn’t thinking about what he’s going to defrost for supper once he takes you down and saunters home.  He’s thinking about getting in close, sliding his knife-hand under your deflecting arm, and driving his blade into a space between your ribs.


You don’t wish you had worn lower heels.  Your mind is desperately sorting hundreds of ways to survive.  You attempt to grasp one before they all disappear.  Kick your shoes off–turn sideways to offer a smaller target—move into the middle of the street for maneuverability—scream your lungs out to attract attention—run like hell!


Even as your brain processes these commands, your senses pick up the smell of the man’s sweat as he grabs you, the sound of your voice echoing off surrounding buildings, the hot bite of the blade as it slices across your raised hand.


Dive into the experience, and take your writing to another level by increasing the depth of each scene.  And like Sue Coletta’s readers, yours will sleep with the lights on.


Next time we’ll unwrap layers of personality in “The Homesman” characters.


If you’d like to work with me in 2017, I’m currently setting my editing schedule for June through September.  Email me at and let’s start a conversation about how I may help you take your writing from idea to signing party.

What Language Do Your Characters Use?

What’s the missing ingredient to the story in which every character sounds like the next? It’s the individual’s language of life and personality.


There is a magic in interpersonal communication sometimes ignored by writers. Characters from different backgrounds and life experiences express themselves in unique ways.


A naturopath reminded me the other day that experienced energy healers speak a language of their own. One that those unaccustomed to the art find confusing. The etheric body is as incomprehensible to the initiate as the idea of space travel was to the average man before Da Vinci built his spacecraft between the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. His concept inspired the language of science fiction writers.


Doctors discussing the latest medical breakthrough use a vocabulary foreign to their patients. Patients break the news to loved ones in terms used within their familial group.


Musicians in each genre of music have a particular language for the way they coax magic from their instruments and voices.


Lovers speak of inspiration, dedication, and hope found in the presence of each other.


Teenagers use phrases and abbreviations that seem to change overnight in popularity. Parents answer in expressions derided or ignored by the adolescents they address.


Friends converse with the language of past experiences and never-forgotten embarrassing moments. Men use physical manifestations of friendship—the shoulder slap, the fist bump. Women are more apt to be huggers.


Couples often communicate without words, but rather in a ballet of movement, a tilt of the head, a tightening of the lips. A smoldering glance across a room is a language as old as time.


Watch the way people converse in a crowd. Identify patterns of verbal and body language that you can bring to different characters. Build on the verbal and nonverbal signals they bring to every relationship.


How do your characters express their relationships? Why and when did they create their language of shared thoughts and emotions? Are they able to establish a mutual understanding or does the natural language of each build new tension and conflict between them?


There’s no one method of communication that we all share. And our language patterns change as we communicate with different individuals or groups of people. Make your characters vivid and unforgettable with communication patterns uniquely their own.

Talent vs. Success

Even the most talented writer will never achieve success without sitting down and doing the work.  It’s easy to say we’re busy creating, but how much time do we waste each day on tasks that have nothing to do with writing?

Take an honest look at where you want to be with your writing by the first day of March.  Then be equally honest about the effort you’re making toward that goal.

Will you be a talented writer who never reaches publication?  Or will you be a success because you weren’t afraid of the hard work?


Own the Power of Your Words

Now, more than ever, each stroke of the pen makes a difference.  You say, “But I’m only writing fiction.”  Or you shrug off that short article about finding the best school for your children.  Never underestimate the impact every word you write makes on the reader.

So what do you choose to create with your words?



Have You Abandoned Your New Year’s Intentions Yet?

I read the other day that by January 21 of each year most people have abandoned or given up on the intentions they set on the first day of the year.

Wow!  Are we making our goals too hard?  Dreaming too big?  Reaching too high?

Or are we just not clear on what we desire?

Without clarity of purpose and plan, nothing gets done.  When that one vital piece of the equation, is missing there are no new inventions, symphonies, blockbuster books, movies, or movements.

In my last post, I gave you three words to focus on in 2017.  Now I want you to take another look at them.


Set Your Intentions

Are your intentions ambiguous and open-ended?

Maybe you’ve decided this is the year to get a book published.  Have you written any part of it?  Do you know what you want to say?  What do you want the book to inspire or incite in your reader?


If answering those questions make your head swim, it’s time to carve your intention into chewable pieces.

Those sub-intentions may look like this:

1)  Sit down for a week and decide on a theme/plot/reason for this book

2)  Write one chapter a week for the next fifteen (or whatever) weeks

3)  Devote two months to editing and rewriting the manuscript

4)  Spend the second quarter of the year researching publishing options, etc.


By creating clarity around your primary intention, you’ll have created a series of small steps that will lead you to your overall goal.


Sit Your Butt in a Chair and Write

If you’ve been having a tough time doing this, ask yourself what’s keeping you from getting started.

Maybe your chair is so uncomfortable you’d rather walk barefoot through a cactus farm than sit in it all day.  Get yourself a new chair.  If you can’t afford what you want, find a different place to work in your house.  Sit on the couch and write.  Curl up on your bed and create pages as fast as you can type.

If your environment is preventing you from writing, change it.


If time is your enemy, get up earlier, stay up later, or get a timer so you can work in bursts.  Once the timer goes off, you know you’re done for the day or for that writing episode.

Knowing you have a specific amount of time in which to write generates more creative energy. 


Success is the Compound Result of the Above Actions

You can have the best and clearest intention, but if you never sit down and write, you won’t be successful.

Or you can sit and write for hours every day, but without clarity around your purpose, you never attain your goal.

You’ve still got time to turn the new energy of 2017 into a tool to achieve your writing dreams.  Decide on your goal and purpose.  Get clear about them.  Claim them.  Then sit down and make them happen.  At the end of this year, you’ll be marking “Done” on your scoresheet while celebrating your accomplishment.


If you’d like to work with me in 2017, I’m currently setting my schedule for the next four months.  Email me at and let’s start a conversation about how I may help you attain your writing dreams.

Choose Your 2017 Door of Opportunity

Did you hear that thundering boom as we stepped into 2017?  It was probably the remaining reverberation of the first fireworks in my neighborhood—set off before 7:00 am on New Year’s Eve.  It shook the house so hard, I thought a neighbor’s propane tank had exploded.




No matter when or where your fireworks took place, they heralded the appearance of new, limitless opportunities for your coming year.

Think of it as if you’re turning a sharp corner and discovering an endless hallway lined with doors.  Some are open, the light within shining in invitation.  Others are barely ajar, allowing only a glimpse of light around the barrier.  A few are tightly closed.  You feel like you’ve shown up to a smorgasbord with no idea of what’s on the menu.  It’s up to you to find out what awaits behind each door and determine if it’s to your taste or not.


Open Doors

“At its heart, our work is the opening up, the bringing forth of a new domain of possibility for people.” ~~ Werner Erhard

Approaching the open doors takes less bravery than you would expect.  You can see the opportunity that waits within.  It’s easy to access.  All you have to do is decide whether the reward for accepting this opportunity enhances your goals.  (You do have your short- and long-term goals defined, don’t you?  If not, stop reading, set your intentions, and then come back and finish this post.)


Doors Ajar

“The future belongs to those who see possibilities before they become obvious.” ~~ John Sculley

These are the chances you approach with more caution.  It’s harder to see what this opportunity might deliver to you or require of you.  You may have to do some digging to get to the meat of this feast.  There may be some delay in gratification for you.  If you’re up to the challenge, this opportunity may help you grow as a writer and deliver you to another door to explore. 


Closed Doors

“When you have exhausted all possibilities, remember this — you haven’t.” ~~ Thomas Edison, attributed, Quote This!: A Collection of Illustrated Quotes for Educators

These are the doors to which you have to apply some muscle to excavate the treasure you can’t even see at this point.  Making your own opportunities takes a lot more work than finding the ones beyond the open, beckoning doors.  Sometimes, it turns out to be solely a learning experience with no discernible return on your investment.  But more often you’ll find some advantage that brings you a fuller, richer reward than if you’d settled for the prize beyond each open door.


Which Door Do You Choose?

All that remains, this first day of 2017, is for you to decide if you’re going to take the easy path in your writing or dig deep for lasting success.  Where will you be standing this time next year?  Beyond the door where room service dropped everything you wanted in your lap, but you didn’t grow as a writer?  Or in the beautiful chamber you hand-crafted from the studs out after kicking the door down with your combat boots? 


“If I were to wish for anything, I should not wish for wealth and power, but for the passionate sense of the potential, for the eye which, ever young and ardent, sees the possible. Pleasure disappoints, possibility never. And what wine is so sparkling, what so fragrant, what so intoxicating, as possibility!” ~~ Soren Kierkegaard


If you’d like to work with me in 2017, I’m currently setting my schedule for the next four months.  Email me at and let’s start a conversation about how I may help you attain your writing dreams.