Snowpocalypse 2015… and Beyond!

Snowpocalypse2015backdeck Is it spring yet? Not here, but that doesn’t matter. Snowpocalypse 2015 has (hopefully) ended, and those of us who survived can celebrate by stocking up on iron (more about that further down). Or diving into reading and writing projects. I’m doing both. Care to join me? Here is a list of writing and reading activities I’ve either done in years past, or plan to do this year:

  1. Read or write poetry. Join a progressive poetry group.
  2. Reread a favorite book from your childhood.
  3. If you have children or are a caretaker of children, read to them.
  4. Buy a book for a child.
  5. Watch a movie based on a favorite book.
  6. Get a writing or reading buddy.
  7. Create a book cover for your book-in-progress.
  8. Map out a publication timeline for your WIP.
  9. Watch youtube videos of your favorite authors reading excerpts of their work and giving lectures or talks. I highly recommend Stephen King and Harlan Ellison.
  10. Read chapters of some of your favorite books out loud, and make notes of how you would improve the writing.
  11. Get involved with a local library event during National Library Week, April 12 – 18, 2015 (USA).
  12. Support your local bookstore by shopping on Independent Bookstore Day, May 2, 2015 (USA).
  13. Donate books to a book charity. If you don’t have any books you want to donate, buy some new or used and donate those.
  14. Attend a local author reading.
  15. Take a free online class. It can be a creative writing class, a literature class, or any class.
  16. Make a list of your strengths and weaknesses as a writer. Commit to strengthening the strengths, and improving the weaknesses.
  17. Start or join a writing or reading group.
  18. Commit to writing a set number of words per week, or per month.
  19. Submit a story to a call for submissions for an anthology.
  20. Apply for a residency retreat.
  21. Write a book review and post it on your blog. If you don’t have a blog, make one.
  22. Attend a writers’ conference.
  23. Read an edited and polished excerpt of your writing out loud at an open mic night.
  24. Enter your writing into a contest.
  25. Join an association, like the Independent Book Publishers Association.
  26. Write or read a novel outside your usual genres. If you do that already, then check out my genre list.
  27. Go on a solitary writer’s retreat of your own making.
  28. Read banned or challenged books during Banned Book Week, September 27 – October 3 2015. Tell people.
  29. Go on a literary pilgrimage to visit a place where a favorite author lived or wrote about.
  30. Write the draft of a novel during NaNoWriMo.
  31. Donate books to a juvenile detention center, homeless shelter, prison, half-way house, rehab center, or place of worship. Call to make arrangements first.
  32. Get a Fisher Space Pen and keep it next to some paper on your nightstand!

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And so I’m back! And at a less frenetic pace than last year. At the end of January I had to go to the ER for severe anemia… Then spent about a week at home just managing to crawl in and out of bed… After countless blood tests, and a month of recovery, my iron count is almost up to human level. Next month I have a hospital visit for even more tests. Maybe they’ll find another part of my internal parasitic twin (I’m assuming I have one. Where else is all my iron going? They already found my twin’s kidneys, so I assume I didn’t fully ingest her in the womb. Live and learn.)

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In the meantime, I (rather, my hubby) dug myself out of Snowpocalypse: Snowpocalypse2015frontyard

(This is my front yard. The snow is still over my head.)

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And I found (actually, I won) this: CMStewartBWP

Horror author J. Thorn gives away scary things at his Dark Realms website.

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And HDWP Books was hacked, but our fearless leader Charles Barouch saved the day! Check it out, I have a short story in every Theme-Thology anthology so far…

Theme-Thologies

Authors

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Speaking of my stories, my over-arching project this year is working on the novel I wrote during the last NaNoWriMo: MEATFUL THINGS. I feel like I have a solid draft, and I’ve been steadily improving it as my own health improves. I have some beta readers lined up, but could always use more. So if you’d like to provide feedback on a complete supernatural horror novel of approximately 52,000 words, shoot me an email (click on the “Who is CMStewart?” link), or leave a comment below. I’ll be sending the draft, along with a few book critique questions, to my beta readers at the end of March. Thanks!

Author Spotlight- David Beers

David Beers

David Beers is a former pizza delivery guy, a yacht coveter, and a recently debuted author.

He tweetsposts, and updates from Florida.

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CMStewart: First, I have to say I thoroughly enjoyed your novels “The Devil’s Dream”  and “Dead Religion.” I recommend these novels to horror fans and thriller fans. I’m also a horror writer, and your books inspired me in my own writing. Thank you, David.

David Beers: That just made my entire week! I’m kind of speechless about to say about that, besides thank you for reading! That’s one of best compliments I’ve ever received and I’m smiling so hard right now.

CMS: What genre(s) do you like to read?

DB: I’m a pretty voracious reader. To give you a bit of an idea of what I read, right now I’m reading: The Brain and Buddhism (nonfiction), A Brief History of Nearly Everything (nonfiction comedy), Cholesterol Clarity (nonfiction nutrition), Good Calories, Bad Calories (nonfiction nutrition), and Carrion Comfort (horror).

I generally like anything from fantasy novels to nonfiction science, but I try to stay away from YA.

CMS: So YA is something you avoid. Why is that?

DB: My answer here might seem arrogant, but I promise it’s not meant to. I need a lot of mental stimulation, almost constant. I make sure I meditate early in the morning and that’s because the rest of the day I’m trying to find hard tasks to put my mind against. Young Adult fiction hasn’t been able to supply me with that–to me, they’re kind of like a James Patterson novel, fast but more of a surface skim rather than a deep dive. Again, no knock on people that love YA–my fiancée reads them constantly, and she’s a much better person than I am.

CMS: Religion is a major theme in your novels so far. Was this an intentional decision?

DB: I was brought up in a Christian fundamentalist household, and I think working my way through a lot of things I was taught in order to create my own belief system left a mark on me psychologically. I don’t intentionally ever create themes, but they do recur quite a lot. Religion is one. Loss of a loved one is another. Relationships between siblings is something else that I explore a lot both in my head and I think in my novels. I imagine themes will change as I continue growing as a person, as well.

CMS: Who are your favorite authors?

DB: Stephen King ranks at the top here. In the field of horror, he is the standard bearer.

Robert Pirsig is an absolute genius, and it’s unfortunate that he only published two novels.

George R.R. Martin, as far as I’m concerned, has replaced Tolkien.

I also am excited to see how Joe Hill’s career turns out. So far, I’m wildly impressed.

Ender’s Game, by Orson Scott Card. Card never reached so high again, but to do it once is more than most people can ask.

CMS: Do you focus on one genre in your writing?

DB: No, not at all. I write stories that I like telling, and they tend to be darker, and can mix elements of horror and science fiction into them. At the same time though, I find myself writing a good bit about love, although not your typical romance novel type love.

However, I never think about genre when I write. I think about characters, and everything else comes from what those characters tell me about themselves.

CMS: When did you first know you wanted to be an author, and what were the circumstances?

DB: I worked in a pizza shop during my undergraduate years, and I remember the exact moment with surprising clarity. My boss was twenty-six, about to graduate college, and I asked him what his plans were once he graduated—because surely no one wanted to get a degree and then manage a pizza parlor.

He looked at me like I was either willfully ignorant or slightly stupid; I imagine he was unsure which. He said, “I’m a writer, man.”

Before that moment, I’d written my entire life and never once thought it could be a profession. That sentence, though, opened my mind to a completely different universe of possibilities.

CMS: Do you have any advice for aspiring authors in general?

DB: I do. Well, for entrepreneurs, but a writer (whether they know it or not), is an entrepreneur.

What you need to be an entrepreneur (in order of importance):

1. Vision. You have to see yourself in the future. This is important because every day is not rainbows and puppies. There are a lot of days where you feel like quitting, even more days where you look at someone with half the talent you possess, and wonder–’just how in the hell is this guy doing it?’ Yeah, that’s jealousy, but so what? Without vision, without seeing where this will end, or at the least, has a possibility to end, YOU’RE GOING TO QUIT. Before you start down the road of opening a business, know exactly where you want to end up. Don’t say, I want to be rich. Don’t say I want to be famous. Your vision needs to be specific and attainable. Some people say put a timeline on it; I don’t subscribe to that, but specific and attainable are necessary.

2. Work. A Lot. A close, close second here. Between this and vision, you’re probably leaving behind 90-95% of the population. Much of the world values their down time as much or more as their productive time. I don’t understand these people, and I’m not going to lie, a part of me thinks they’re wasting their time here. That doesn’t matter for this post though. You have to put in more hours than anyone else. I’m not being facetious; that should be your goal. 70 hours a week, minimum. If you go into this thinking you’re going to work 40 hours and be successful, apply to Enterprise Rent-A- Car, because owning a business isn’t your calling. I wake up at 4 AM weekdays and don’t stop producing until 6 PM. That’s fourteen hours. Plus another thirty minutes to an hour of studying between 8-9:30. So, around a fifteen hour workday. On the weekends, I slack. I probably only work five hours on Saturday and then another five on Sunday.

That’s 85 hours and I feel like I could be doing more.

3. Read Everything. The first two on this list will be absolutely nothing if you don’t follow this. Charlie Munger called Warren Buffett a learning machine. You have to be one too. Each day, the entirety of your day has to be concerned with either producing or learning (both, daily). To learn, you can watch television, but mostly you’re going to get garbage. The real learning comes from reading. I don’t care if it’s blogs, messageboards, books, newspaper articles, fiction, non-fiction, memoir. I don’t care. Just read. Read extensively in your field and extensively out of your field. Right now, a book I picked up on a whim–A Brief History of Nearly Everything has substantially influenced Against the Dark, so much so that the book would have been a completely different novel if I never read that non-fiction novel. Stretch yourself to read until your eyes hurt and you think you can’t find anything else to read. Then read another sentence.

4. Concentrate on Positives. Learn from Negatives. You’re going to have a lot of negative experiences, and the human brain is wired to pay more attention to them. This comes from our hunter-gatherer days, in which a lion looking at you was a lot more important than an apple tree. We put more emphasis on negatives in our lives, and that can change your entire mindset. When something negative occurs, find out the source of that event, and move on. When something positive occurs, spend time–a good bit of time, focusing on that positive event. This will help rewire your brain as well as put you into a better mindset.

5. Customers First. When I’m not crafting a novel, I’m thinking about what I can do for my fans. Have I answered all my fan mail? Have I spent adequate time thinking and coming up with ideas that can delight them besides the novel? When I’m actually writing the novel, I’m constantly thinking of one fan in my mind (I won’t say who), and I’m wondering what he/she will think given this or that. I try to make sure that fan is going to be pleased, because if he/she is, then I’ve done my job well. Your customers are your heart that that keeps blood pumping throughout your body. They’re your core. Treat them well.

6. Build a Network. I ignored this for so long and it has hurt me. I was like, f-it, I’m going to write good stories and the world can find me. That’s a fine attitude to have, I suppose, and it helped me develop into the writer I am, but if that’s the case–don’t be surprised if the world doesn’t find you. When you’re reading, when you’re learning, converse with people about your thoughts. Promote others. Help others. Become their friends and ask them to be your friends. Bill Clinton didn’t become President because he shagged well; he became President because he had the ability to make friends out of anyone he came in contact with. That’s your goal. The more friends you have, the more you can help them, and the more they will help you.

7. Have a Supporting Significant Other. This is number 7, because some people don’t have a significant other. If you do, then this is up there with vision, because if he/ she doesn’t understand your vision, it’s over. All of it. I have probably the best significant other I could ask for. I go to bed at 8 PM, wake up at 4 AM. I spend about an hour to an hour and a half with her on the weekdays, a bit more on weekends. She wakes up at five in the morning to edit my work before she goes to work. She doesn’t complain.

She sees the vision. Could I do this without her? Sure. If she left me for some reason, I could continue doing what I’m doing–however, could I stay with her (which I need) and continue with this if she didn’t see my vision? No. Not at all. Be thankful for your other half, and make sure they know you are.

CMS: Do you have any advice specifically for writerly yacht enthusiasts with a pizza delivery background?

DB: Yeah.

Party hard. Help others. Try to produce something of value every single day. Attend therapy regularly. Meditate. Remember to appreciate those that allow you in their life.

Seek truth. Stay out of needless Facebook debates. Track everything important to you meticulously. Write for the sake of writing, not for the sake of ‘making it’ (I don’t care what Russell Blake says about this).

CMS: What are your long-term goals or ambitions as a career author?

DB: Long term goal? Simple, really, I guess—to be remembered for my work. That’s it.

Short term, as in my life time? To be able to pay back my fiancée—for all of her endless devotion to this start-up I’m building—with massive amounts of shoes and jewelry.

Part of me hates Kanye West with a passion that runs deeper than the Mariana Trench, and the other part of me is like, dude is right. No one wants to say their goals because they sound grandiose, and make you seem arrogant. If I’m being honest though, and indeed that’s what the Good Lord told us to do, I’d have to say my goal is to be known across dark fiction genres as someone who consistently delivers quality prose and compelling stories. People may show that they appreciate this prose and excellent fiction by showering me with money and praise.

CMS: What’s next for David Beers?

DB: Surprisingly, a lot. I actually just hired two people that work exclusively for me, so it’s going to give me a lot more control over what I’m producing.

I have the first part of a 2-3 book series coming out this summer. It’s titled: Against the Dark.

I’m finishing up the sequel to The Devil’s Dream in the next week—should have a summer release date. I’m also working on a serial novel which I’m digging just about as much as anything I’ve ever written. It’s called: A Series of Somewhat, but not Entirely, Sinister Business Proposals. It’ll be at least ten parts, so around 130,000 words.

All in all, I hoping by this time next year I have out an additional 5 books, with five chapters of the serial novel available as well.

CMS: Whoa, that’s a whole lotta writing, and more books for me to read. But I digress . . What’s something your fans don’t know about you?

DB: Oh, man. I’m pretty open and honest about everything—especially to fans that follow me on Facebook.

One thing that they don’t know—my cholesterol numbers are absolutely horrible by traditional medical standards, and I’m not the slightest bit worried about this (see the book Good Calories, Bad Calories above).

CMS: Any final comments?

DB: Just a great big thank you to CM for allowing me to talk a bit about myself as well as reviewing my novels!

Oh yeah, I can’t prove it, but I’m fairly certain that signing up for my mailing list improves your chances of dying from any sort of disease by about 50%.

CMS: Awesome! I’m signed up.

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If you wanna read my reviews of Beers’ books, click anywhere on this sentence.

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 List o’ Beers’ links:

mailing list AKA free stuff
website
G+
Twitter
Facebook

The Devil's Dream e-book

The first person to a comment will win a free digital copy of “The Devil’s Dream”!

Hey Writers, Still Riled about Snookums? Still Doubting the Value of Hype?

Snookums and her bookums.

Need relief?

I’ll just leave this here, then:

How to Get a Blank Book to the Top of the Amazon Charts

hudsonvalley.ynn.com

I now return you to your regularly scheduled program of changing the world with your next literary masterpiece.

Failed Apocalypse, Failed Flash Fiction

Separate Metals!

The time between the no-pocalypse and the end of the year is an appropriate window of opportunity to throw out our word scraps. The following tales are a couple micro-fiction stories that didn’t quite pass muster. I’m sharing them in the spirit of writerly advice, and invite a discussion of the stories’ demerits in the comments below.

Losing Marbles

The marble god Harap yawns and draws a circle in the cosmic dust. He drops a nearly perfect crystalline marble inside. “One round. Then it’s the furnace for this upstart marble. I won’t tolerate others.”

Dust fuses into the marble’s surface. A perfect sphere results. Self-awareness buds from exponentially increasing computational equivalence.

Harap’s servant robot Pan scans the circle with his lens.

“Take your best shot, Pan,” Harap says.

Pan plucks out his lens. He grabs the marble, pops it into his sparking hole. “A hole-in-one.”

Harap gasps. “You’re sentient.”

“Good-bye,” Pan adds, aiming his phaser. “You won’t tolerate others.”

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Witness Protection Program

Another day, another patrol through the empty streets of this empty city on this empty planet. All my wants, and needs fulfilled by my robot staff.

An easy job. Too easy.

Another night, another transmission to Area 51, my former headquarters on Earth:

“THERE ARE NO WITNESSES HERE TO PROTECT.”

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To balance out this post, I also invite you to pop over to Albert Berg’s blog and look around there for suggestions on how good fiction- flash or otherwise- is written (rife with examples).

And if you haven’t had enough of the end of the world yet, check out my apocalypse-themed tale for an example of an open-ended story!

Author Nick Hornby Wrote This…

…as a “pep talk” for fellow WriMos.

But I think it applies to any writer undertaking any writing project, and it’s the best answer I’ve seen to the questions “How do I know whether I’m a writer?” and “How do I know whether I’m a good writer?” So I’m re-posting it here:

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One of the questions that is probably troubling you at the moment is this: How do I know whether I’m a writer? And the question can only be answered with another question: Well, do you write? If you don’t, you’re not. If you do, you are. There’s nothing else to it. If, in a month’s time, you have produced a novel, or a chunk of a novel, and you have never written before, then you will have changed your status, simply and crucially. Ah, but are you a good writer?  Because that’s probably the question that best articulates the nagging doubt that has held you up hitherto. And I’m afraid you will never know the answer to that one. No writer does. (Some writers think they do, but they are usually wrong.)

By contrast, it is easy to tell whether you are a good high jumper. If you knock the bar down every time, then I regret to tell you that you are not. You cannot be an underrated high jumper, or an unlucky high jumper, or an overpraised high jumper, or a high jumper whose reputation relies entirely on his or her connections to the wealthy and influential. Your high-jumping work cannot be trashy or elitist or obscure or sentimental. If you work in the arts, however, life can get pretty confusing.  There is no bar to knock down, and as a consequence, there is no sturdy judgment to be made. Shakespeare—he was good, right? Like, officially? Tolstoy didn’t think so, and neither did George Bernard Shaw.

It’s no good looking to writers for definitions of what constitutes proper writing, because you will drive yourself crazy, and you won’t find anything that you can build into a coherent whole. “Writing a book, full time, takes between two and ten years,” Annie Dillard said in her book “The Writing Life.”  Tell that to PG Wodehouse, who wrote ninety-eight books and forty-five plays in a seventy-five year career. You could argue, I suppose, if you were singularly obtuse, that Wodehouse was a humourist, and therefore didn’t write real books. Yet there are many people, and I am one of them, who think that Wodehouse was one of the greatest English prose stylists of the last one hundred years. Wodehouse wrote, wrote fast, made money, produced prose and characters that have endured. He looks like a real writer to me. OK, here’s some advice: If you find yourself producing a book every few weeks, don’t panic. It could mean you’re a comic genius.

It’s a mess, the arts. Critics don’t agree with each other, readers don’t agree with critics. And real writers—if I may become definitive for a moment—change their minds about their own worth and talent somewhere between two and seven hundred times a day.

I’m trying to tell you that your own opinion of your work is entirely irrelevant, and so is the opinion of others. You have a job to do, and that job is to write a novel. You have a bar to jump over, in fact. And to jump over that bar, you will need a pen (or pencil), or a typewriter, and paper. Or a computer. Or some kind of recording device, and someone with a keyboard who loves you very much. You will need to stop checking Facebook every five minutes, and to this end I recommend an app called Freedom, which will block you from your own internet for hours at a stretch. You need a story and characters and something to say about them, although it’s possible that some of these elements won’t arrive until after you’ve begun. You don’t need an agent or a grant or a publisher’s advance, and you don’t need to know whether your book will be studied at university in two hundred years’ time.

Walk into a bookshop and you will see books that you love and books that you hate, books that were written in three weeks and books that took thirty years, books that were written under the influence of drugs and alcohol, books that were written in splendid isolation, books that were written in Starbucks.  Some of them were written with enormous enjoyment, some for money, some in fear and loathing and despair. The only thing they all have in common—and actually there is the odd honourable exception even to this rule—is that their authors finished them, sooner or later. How do I do it? I swear, and smoke, and hate myself for my presumption. And if any of that works for you, then I’m happy to have helped.

-Nick Hornby

Nick Hornby is the author of beloved contemporary classics like Fever Pitch, High Fidelity, and About a Boy, all of which have been made into films.

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So how did I do in the 2012 NaNo?

Check out my update!

Comprehensive Psychological and Environmental Character Questionnaire


Comprehensive Psychological and Environmental Character Questionnaire

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About: The following is a character questionnaire I developed to be particularly useful to character development in science fiction and fantasy genre novels, and novels with strong or complex psychological interactions. This questionnaire can also be used for character development in other genres or in genre-less novels.

The questionnaire is divided into sections:

1. Childhood / Past of Character. Explains the “how” and “why” of your character. Stuff that happened before the start of the story.
2. Visual Description. Identifies and fleshes out the physical statistics of your character.
3. Mental, Psychological, and Social Description. All the internal and external stuff that drives your character.
4. Voice Description. Used sparingly, helpful in adding believable personality to dialogue.
5. General Personality Spectrums. A list of opposed personality traits. Check off where your character falls in the spectrums.
6. General Life. Describes your character’s day-to-day actions during the course of the story.

Each section has a number of “questions.” For example, the first “question” under the first section is “General Childhood / Past Home.” Next to the question is a list of examples or suggestions. Where applicable, you may wish to elaborate on your answers in the spaces provided. The given examples and suggestions aren’t comprehensive, they’re to help you understand the questions. Similarly, this questionnaire isn’t comprehensive for every genre or novel. You may want to add your own questions, or use this questionnaire in combination with others.

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Tips: All major characters get their own questionnaire. Fill out the questionnaire before or during the writing of your novel. Answer the questions a little at a time so you’re not overwhelmed by them. Let your characters answer the questions naturally, or if they don’t like to reveal themselves, answer the questions for them. Skip questions that don’t apply to your characters or story. If you get stuck on a question, move on to another character, or write a scene in your novel, then come back to the question.

When integrating the answers into your novel, remember a little goes a long way. Use or allude to information only if it moves your story forward.

Feel free to print and use this questionnaire in whatever way is helpful to you. If you’d like to reproduce this questionnaire on the internet or for public use, an attribution would be appreciated. Thank you!

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Character Name / Nickname(s):

 

1. Childhood / Past of Character:

General Childhood / Past Home (street orphan, institutional orphan, fostered, adopted, born-into, mixed)

Specific Childhood / Past Psychology (abused, neglected, over-protected, smothered, stable, mixed)

General Sibling Relationship (only child, twin, triplet, multi-sibling family)

Past Relationship with Parent(s) (nonexistent, or: abusive, indifferent, supportive, mixed, other)

Past Specific Sibling Relationship (nonexistent, or: antagonistic, indifferent, supportive, mixed, other)

Past Specific Extended Family Relationship (nonexistent, or: abusive, indifferent, supportive, mixed, other)

Past Specific Acquaintances / Friends Relationship (nonexistent, or: antagonistic, indifferent, supportive, mixed, other)

Disciplinary Upbringing (nonexistent, or: permissive, strict, authoritarian, mixed, other)

General Past Schooling (unschooled, homeschooled, high school grad, trade school grad, college, degree collector, self-taught)

Attitude Toward Past Schooling (indifferent, disliked, liked, mixed, other)

Childhood / Past Travel (nonexistent, in town, in state, in nation, world travel, planetary travel, other)

Special Past Training (CPR, wilderness survival, homesteading, self-defense, other)

Past Pets (farm pets, house pets, other)

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2. Current Visual Description:

Species (human, humanoid, non-human animal, ET, other)

Gender (female, male, intersex, transitioning, transgender, genderqueer)

Age (at start of story)

Height (diminutive, short, medium, tall, giant)

Build (bony, thin, average, full-figured, obese)

Skin (albino white, pale, tan, brown, darkest black, other)

Hair (natural or hair piece)

(bald, balding, full)

(white, salt / pepper, blonde, red, brunette, black, other)

(short, medium, long)

(thin, medium, thick)

(straight, wavy, curly, afro, dreads, braids, other)

Eyes (irises or colored contacts) (partial / complete heterochromic, pink, blue, green, hazel, brown, black, other)

Teeth (natural or artificial)

(none / few, full set)

(white, non-white, discolored, embellished)

(straight, crooked)

Body Modifications (none, or: birthmarks, scars, tattoos, piercings, implants, other)

Personal Clothing Style (indifferent, sloppy, neat, shabby, tailored, thrift store, designer, institutional, mixed, other)

Usual Clothes (no usual, or: minimalist, casual, sporty, business, uniform, mixed, other)

Makeup (none, some, a lot)

Jewelry (none, some, a lot)

Personal Hygiene (nonexistent, minimal, average, obsessive)

Gestures and Body Language (minimal, robotic, stiff, cowering, fluid, dramatic, aggressive, unpredictable, mixed, other)

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3. Mental, Psychological, and Social Description:

General Intelligence (profoundly retarded, below average, average, above average, genius)

Specific Intelligence (street smart, book smart, mechanically intelligent, socially intelligent, philosophically intelligent, mixed, other)

Imagination (none, or: little imagination, moderate imagination, much imagination, avid daydreamer, lives in fantasy world, mixed)

Learning Abilities (none, or: speed reader, photographic memory, Asperger’s Syndrome, savant, other)

Learning Disabilities (none, or: ADD, HD, dyslexia, dyscalculia, autism, other)

Physical Abilities (none, or: athlete, ambidextrous, contortionist, perfect pitch, other)

Physical Disabilities (none, or: wheelchair, blind, deaf, missing limb, infirm, other)

Psychological Abilities (none, or: charismatic, manipulative, mentalist, hypnotic, other)

Psychological Disabilities (none, or: depression, PTSD, neurosis, psychosis, phobias, other)

Conditions and Diseases (none, or: sensitivities, allergies, diabetes, cancer, food addiction, alcohol / drug addiction, sex addiction, other)

Fragrance (none, or: offensive, neutral, pleasant? perfume / cologne?)

General Cult Influence / Non-Influence (atheist, agnostic, deist, theist, other)

Specific Cult Influence (none, or: Wiccan, Buddhist, Hindu, Muslim, Jew, Christian Protestant, Catholic, other)

Other Superstitions (Lucky shirt? Avoids / seeks ‘13’? Knocks on wood? Chants?)

General Political Influence (apolitical, moderately political, extremely political, other)

Specific Political Influence (conservative, moderate, liberal, other)

Economic Status (poverty-stricken, poor, sustained, middle class, upper middle class, wealthy)

General Vocation (non-employed, unemployed, under-employed, part-time, full-time)

Specific Vocation (homemaker, farmer, office worker, artist, teacher, entrepreneur, gov worker, other)

Vocational Attitude

(indifferent, vocation is stepping-stone, hates vocation, loves vocation)

(character is money-focused, character is service-focused, character is self-focused)

Peer Relationships (hermit, limited contact with others, moderate contact with others, lots of contact with others)

Preferred Method of Communication (none, or: online, phone, face to face, mixed, other)

Self-Abuse (character inflicts on self) (none, or: alcoholism, drug abuse, eating disorder, other)

Other Abuse (character inflicts on others) (none, or: domestic abuser, bully, rapist, stalker, other)

Survivor Status (none, or: domestic abuse survivor, rape survivor, torture survivor, other)

Partnership (single, dating, committed, engaged, married, other)

Sexuality (asexual / platonic, homosexual, bisexual, heterosexual, queer, pansexual, unsure, other)

Quirks / Habits (Taps foot? Snaps gum? Cracks knuckles? Mutes TV commercials? Flirtatious?)

Pet Peeves (Litter? Long lines? Whining children? Slurping?)

Sense of Humor (none, or: child-like, bathroom, slapstick, farcical / satirical, sick / morbid, self-depreciating, dry / deadpan, flirtatious, x-rated, off-beat / quirky, sardonic / sarcastic, witty / high-brow, abstract, surreal / nonsensical, mixed, other)

Temper Control (no reaction, slow to anger, balanced, short-fused, quickly becomes violent)

Sleep Dream Recall / Influence

(none, scant, moderate, much)

(black & white, color, mixed)

(lucid, mixed, other)

Major Influencing Personal Events (moving, marriage, raising a family, death of family members / friends, abuse, other)

Major Influencing Social, Political, and Cultural Events (social circle influence, celebrity influence, dominant politics, war, other)

Prejudices (Speciest? Racist? Religiously intolerant? Misogynistic? Homophobic? Xenophobic? Other?)

Internal Image (character views self as . . ) (indifferent, nice, mean, powerful, cog-in-wheel, smart, ditsy, capable, limited, other)

External Image (others view character as . . ) (indifferent, nice, mean, powerful, cog-in-wheel, smart, ditsy, capable, limited, other)

Shameful History / Traits (not pre-disposed to shame, or: criminal record, physical / mental weakness, economic status, obscurity, other)

Prideful History / Traits (not pre-disposed to pride, or: career, physical / mental strength, economic status, fame, other)

*

4. Voice Description:

Speaking Voice

(weak, average, strong)

(high pitch, medium pitch, low pitch)

Speech Patterns

(Monotone? Quaver? Stutter?)

(Accent? Sparse? Florid? Disorganized? Profane?)

(simple vocab, academic vocab)

Favorite Repeated Words / Phrases (for example, “Ah . . ,” “That’s reasonable,”  “Holy crapoly!”)

*

5. General Personality Spectrums:

Kind . I . I . I . I . I . I . I . I . I . I . Cruel

Polite . I . I . I . I . I . I . I . I . I . I . Rude

Joiner . I . I . I . I . I . I . I . I . I . I . Loner

Steady . I . I . I . I . I . I . I . I . I . I . Flighty

Loving . I . I . I . I . I . I . I . I . I . I . Hateful

Open . I . I . I . I . I . I . I . I . I . I . Secretive

Brave . I . I . I . I . I . I . I . I . I . I . Cowardly

Genuine . I . I . I . I . I . I . I . I . I . I . Phony

Emotional . I . I . I . I . I . I . I . I . I . I . Stoic

Proud . I . I . I . I . I . I . I . I . I . I . Ashamed

Grateful . I . I . I . I . I . I . I . I . I . I . Spiteful

Creative . I . I . I . I . I . I . I . I . I . I . Dronish

Honest . I . I . I . I . I . I . I . I . I . I . Dishonest

Helpful . I . I . I . I . I . I . I . I . I . I . Unhelpful

Humorous . I . I . I . I . I . I . I . I . I . I . Serious

Addictive . I . I . I . I . I . I . I . I . I . I . Abstinent

Friendly . I . I . I . I . I . I . I . I . I . I . Unfriendly

Aggressive . I . I . I . I . I . I . I . I . I . I . Passive

Interested . I . I . I . I . I . I . I . I . I . I . Apathetic

Trusting . I . I . I . I . I . I . I . I . I . I . Suspicious

Ambitious . I . I . I . I . I . I . I . I . I . I . Fatalistic

Cheerful . I . I . I . I . I . I . I . I . I . I . Melancholic

Optimistic . I . I . I . I . I . I . I . I . I . I . Pessimistic

Confident  . I . I . I . I . I . I . I . I . I . I . Unconfident

Constructive . I . I . I . I . I . I . I . I . I . I . Destructive

Adaptable . I . I . I . I . I . I . I . I . I . I . Un-adaptable

Open-minded . I . I . I . I . I . I . I . I . I . I . Closed-Minded

Non-confrontational . I . I . I . I . I . I . I . I . I . I . Confrontational

*

6. General Life

General Home Location (homeless, wilderness, homestead, farm, suburb, town, city, metropolis, other)

Specific Home Location (Europe, Asia, North America, South America, non-Earth location, other)

Abode Type (none, or: flop house, lives with friends / extended family, tree / cave / cliff, tent, hut, cabin, rents room / apartment, rents house, homeowner, mansion owner, estate owner, other)

Personal Abode Style (furniture, decorations) (indifferent, minimalist, sloppy, neat, shabby, themed, thrift store, designer, mixed, other)

Travel (nonexistent, in town, in state, in nation, world traveler, planetary traveler, other)

General Language Ability (mute / illiterate, monolingual, bilingual, multilingual)

Specific Language Ability (empathic, computer language, alien language, sign language, pidgin, Esperanto, English, Spanish, Italian, French, Chinese, Japanese . . other)

Handwriting

(none, or: illegible, moderately neat, exacting)

(small, medium, large)

(manuscript, cursive, mixed, other)

Diet

(vegan, vegetarian, meat-and-potatoes, carnivore)

(freegan, gardener / farmer, religious diet, diabetic, food allergies, other)

Favorite Food (Tomatoes? Hot and spicy? Gingerbread? Thai? Truffles?)

Entertainment (gambler, sports observer / participator, word games, reading, TV / movies, crafter / hobbyist, traveler, partier, other)

Favorite Music (Muzak? Sprechgesang? Techno? Steely Dan? Cello? Hawaiian? Theremin?)

Favorite Physical Possession(s) (none, or: house, car, jewelry, artwork, other)

Holiday Observance (Secular? Religious? Birthdays?)

Drinks Alcohol (abstinent or recovered alcoholic, rarely drinks, occasionally drinks, drinks often, drinks daily, alcoholic)

General Family Relationships (is your character a . . ) (Child? Parent? Sibling? Life partner / spouse? Part of an extended family?)

Specific Family Relationships (no family, or: lives with family, close with family, moderate with family, distant with family)

Current Relationship with Parent(s) (nonexistent, or: abusive, indifferent, supportive, other)

Current Relationship with Sibling(s) (nonexistent, or: antagonistic, indifferent, supportive, other)

Specific Extended Family Relationship (nonexistent, or: antagonistic, indifferent, supportive, mixed, other)

Specific Acquaintances / Friends Relationship (nonexistent, or: antagonistic, indifferent, supportive, mixed, other)

Partners (Business partner? Partner in crime? Best friend? Spouse?)

Friends / Influential Acquaintances / Enemies in Story (Protagonist relationship? Supporting character relationship? Antagonist relationship?)

Pets (farm pets, house pets, other)

Life Goals (Specific career? Marriage? Raising a family? Fortune? Fame? Power? Other?)

Life Fears (Aloneness? Poverty? Crime? Disease? Other?)

Greatest Aspiration (Knowledge? Religious Salvation? Rescuing others? Happiness? Other?)

Greatest Trial (Abuse? Death of friend / family member? Personal injury? Target of crime? Other?)

Character Motto (logline or philosophy)

Character Arc (growth, gain, loss, or transformation)

*

Sensory Psychology Chart for Fiction Writers

This post and chart, developed and written by me, originally debuted on Manon Eileen’s blog.

As fiction authors, most of us are familiar with the countless Character Questionnaires, Worksheets, and Surveys. These can help us get to know our characters better, and add depth and believability to our characters’ appearances, personalities, and motives.

But what happens after you’ve developed your characters? You still need to show them reacting to each other as seeing, hearing, feeling, tasting, and smelling (the stuff real people do) individuals. A sensory chart showing how your characters perceive each other, and how your characters perceive their environments, can help you make your characters more “human.”

Why a “sensory chart”?

Our senses- for most of us: seeing, hearing, feeling, tasting and smelling- are what connects us to people, to the world, and to our own bodies. From birth, our senses develop before we learn to speak, play, work, and use logic and reason. Our senses are our primal survival guides, and influence everything we do, including how we interact psychologically and physically with other people. “Sensory psychology” is the study of how the internalization of specific sights, sounds, touches, tastes, and smells influences a person’s reaction to an environment. Using a sensory chart is an approach to developing “palpable” character interactions, using all 5 senses (though smell and taste may overlap).

Consider these examples:

Sight- Love at first sight. Being repulsed (or excited) by the sight of war.

Sound- Dancing to a favorite song. Hearing your name called in a noisy room.

Touch- A lover’s caress. The slap of a hand.

Taste (usually self-referential)- Comfort food. Bile in the mouth.

Smell- The intoxicating smell of a lover’s perfume. The nauseating smell of body odor.

By expanding on these sensory examples, and drawing on some of your own examples, you can customize the ways your characters have unique interactions with each other.

# # #

This chart will help you develop your characters and their interpersonal relationships via sensory-based psychology:

CHARACTER 1

CHARACTER 2

ETC…

SEE

Other characters’ perspectives.

This character’s perspective.

Other characters’ perspectives.

This character’s perspective.

Other characters’ perspectives.

This character’s perspective.

HEAR

Other characters’ perspectives.

This character’s perspective.

Other characters’ perspectives.

This character’s perspective.

Other characters’ perspectives.

This character’s perspective.

FEEL

Other characters’ perspectives.

This character’s perspective.

Other characters’ perspectives.

This character’s perspective.

Other characters’ perspectives.

This character’s perspective.

TASTE

Other characters’ perspectives.

This character’s perspective.

Other characters’ perspectives.

This character’s perspective.

Other characters’ perspectives.

This character’s perspective.

SMELL

Other characters’ perspectives.

This character’s perspective.

Other characters’ perspectives.

This character’s perspective.

Other characters’ perspectives.

This character’s perspective.

How the heck do I use that chart?

After listing your characters in the top row and the senses in the left column, for each of the remaining boxes, choose one or a few examples of the appropriate sensory focus when describing the character, (as the character would appear to an observer) and one or a few examples of the appropriate sensory focus that the character would regularly experience internally (either positively or negatively).

In my opinion, choosing the sensory attributes for your characters is easier after you start to writing your story, rather than before. If you get stuck on some of the boxes, simply write more of your story, or look at the other boxes to see what could be complimentary or contradictory for the story.

# # #

Here’s a full chart example, using my own WIP:

PETRA (phone sex operator & biological template)

RAY

(inventor)

RAMONA (artificial intelligence)

ADELAIDE (entomologist & motivational speaker)

AUBREY (life extentionist)

ALICIA

(reverend)

SEE

Petra and her usual environ. look like- disheveled, broken high heel, Drambuie

————-

Petra focuses on- coins on the ground, expensive clothes on others

Ray and his usual environ. look like- soft face, blinky eyes, computer equipment, crowds

————-

Rays focuses on- robots, his own business products

Ramona and her usual environ. look like- tilting, bobbing, weaving

————-

Ramona focuses on- holograms, robots, sexy women

Adelaide and her usual environ. look like- flannel, baggy pants, boots

————-

Adelaide focuses on- bugs as an entomologist

Aubrey and her usual environ. look like- pubs, Guinness

————-

Aubrey focuses on- pubs, sexy people

Alicia and her usual environ. look like- vivid colors against a dark interior, metallics, candles

————-

Alicia focuses on- halos, auras

HEAR

Petra sounds like- blasphemy

————-

Petra focuses on-phones ringing

Ray sounds like- “That’s reasonable”

————-

Ray focuses on- buzzing, whirring

Ramona sounds like- buzzing, whirring, “I’m learning”

————-

Ramona focuses on- buzzing, whirring

Adelaide sounds like- a pirate, cursing

————-

Adelaide focuses on- surf & waves crashing (imaginary)

Aubrey sounds like- stuttering, “How ‘bout a beer?”

————-

Aubrey focuses on- classic German music (Guinness association)

Alicia sounds like- prayers, “Amen”

————-

Alicia focuses on- other-worldly sounds

FEEL

Petra physically feels (to others)- muscular, esp. calves (from high heels)

————-

Petra physically feels (herself)- her feet in high heels (comfortable)

Ray physically feels (to others)- soft, smooth

————-

Ray physically feels (himself)- heat, electricity

Ramona physically feels (to others)- warm, electric

————-

Ramona physically feels (herself)- electrical charge

Adelaide physically feels (to others)- pudgy, squishy

————-

Adelaide physically feels (herself)- al dente food (Italian food connoisseur)

Aubrey physically feels (to others)- wiry, sinewy, strong

————-

Aubrey physically feels (herself)-padding of chairs and bar stools (gluteus minimus)

Alicia physically feels (to others)- billowy muumuus

————-

Alicia physically feels (herself)- comfy chairs (sits & prays a lot)

TASTE

Petra tastes like- fruit (she’s vegan & a messy eater)

————-

Petra focuses on- expensive liquor

Ray tastes like- chemical supplements

————-

Ray focuses on- metal, chemicals

Ramona tastes like- metal

————-

Ramona focuses on- ions

Adelaide tastes like- marinara, sweat (overweight & hot-blooded)

————-

Adelaide focuses on- garlic

Aubrey tastes like- alcohol, beer, sweat (exercise)

————-

Aubrey focuses on- yeast, malt, vinegar (fond of fermented food)

Alicia tastes like-flowers (douses with floral water)

————-

Alicia focuses on- herbal tea

SMELL

Petra smells like- Drambuie, cheap perfume

————-

Petra focuses on- cooking crack

Ray smells like- chemical supplements

————-

Ray focuses on- ether, over-heating wires

Ramona smells like- ether, over-heating wires

————-

Ramona focuses on- chemical supplements

Adelaide smells like- sweat (overweight & hot-blooded)

————-

Adelaide focuses on- salt air

Aubrey smells like- beer, sweat (exercise)

————-

Aubrey focuses on- beer

Alicia smells like- flowers & incense

————-

Alicia focuses on- flowers

For example, in the box for “PETRA” + “SEE,” I list Petra’s main and / or distinguishing characteristics which are externally observed by another person through sight in the top part of the box. In the bottom part of the box, I list what Petra usually or characteristically observes herself through sight.

# # #

Tips:

  1. At start of your story, add a few details gleaned from your completed chart. As your story progresses, repeat some of these details in meaningful places.
  2. In the case of love interests or obsessive relationships, you could fill in some of the boxes to “match” characters. For example, Ray particularly enjoys the smell of ether, and is attracted to Ramona, who smells like ether.
  3. Conversely, in the case of enemies or antagonistic relationships, you could fill in some of the boxes to “mismatch” characters. For example, Petra particularly dislikes the smell of chemicals (cooking crack) and is aggravated by Ray, who smells like chemicals (supplements).
  4. Or you could show conflict by and irony by showing Petra’s attraction to Ray in spite of disliking the sight, sound, etc of Ray. Or a Petra could dislike Ray in spite of being attracted to the sight, sound, etc of Ray.
  5. Don’t try to make your chart too “matched up,” or your characters will seem formulaic and programmed. Let your characters develop organically.
  6. If a character is disabled- for example, is blind or deaf- use this chart to discover how their remaining senses are enhanced and amplified.
  7. Using senses to show interactions between characters adds immediacy and strength to your scenes, but don’t overdo it. Not every scene needs to be dripping with sensory detail. Use your completed chart as a guideline for suggested sensory details only when those details will move your story forward.

# # #

Feel free to use this Sensory Psychology Chart as you see fit for enhancing your own characters’ interactions in your own novels. The chart may be altered, copied, printed and shared. If shared, an attribution would be appreciated.

# # #