Tag Archives: blog

Still here and blogging (sort-of)

Reasons I have not updated my blog in four months:

1. I was putting all my writing energy into finishing the Novel.
(And on 5 June 2016 I DID finish the 115k-word, zero draft!)

2. End of school year chaos.

3. My husband and I took our twins on a family vacation in northern India for three weeks.

4. The illness I picked up in India came home with me and has been hanging around for one-and-a-half weeks (so far).

5. My oldest daughter is getting married four weeks from now.

More blog posts to come…

Miriah Hetherington visits Tak Thog Gonpa, photo 15 July 2016

Statue at Tak Thog Gonpa, photo taken 15 July 2016

Be Entertaining

Mary Rosenblum has this wonderful website, New Writer’s Interface, and recently she blogged her advice for new writers who have trouble figuring out what to blog about. That is totally me!

I subscribe to Mary Rosenblum’s newsletter. I recommend it. She describes herself as the Literary Midwife for new writers. I love the idea of that.

Anyway, her main advice was: be entertaining.

Goats at Farrel-McWhirter park

Goats at Farrel-McWhirter park

Somehow I am reminded of a conversation I had with a friend about twenty years ago. She was pregnant with her second child, due anytime, and worried about needing to have labor induced like with her first delivery. Her midwife told her something like, “Have I got a fun assignment for you! You and your husband go home and have sex. A lot of sex. And have orgasms. A lot of orgasms. That will get your labor started.”

My friend’s pregnancy was near term and she was huge and uncomfortable. It was a hot Southern California summer. She was perpetually exhausted. Her (unsurprising) response was, “Ugh! Not only do I have to have sex, but I have to have orgasms too?!?” (I don’t remember what her husband’s opinion was – I think he wisely kept it to himself.)

Where am I going with this? (Nope, not there. At least, not without a pseudonym.)

But I AM thinking, “Not only do I have to write a blog post, but I have to be entertaining too?”

The most entertaining and thoughtfully funny blog I know of is Chuck Wendig’s – he makes you feel like you’re sitting with him drinking a beer. The most engaging blog I know of is Louise Penny’s – she makes you feel like a personal friend.

Clearly, some (awesome) people just have a knack for making this blogging thing seem easy. Blogging is writing, and writing is what I do for fun. So thinking of ideas/stuff to blog about should be easy, right?

Like everything else I guess it just takes practice.

Where do you get ideas for blog posts?

Happy Writing,
Miriah

Character Building in Layers

Photo of a lilac tree Miriah saw on her walk in Bellevue on 30 April 2013

Lilac tree in Bellevue. It’s Spring!

Looks like Spring has arrived in the Pacific Northwest. Happy Beltane!

I’ve been busy with real life, the kids, etc. Slushing has also kept me busy (since February 1st I’ve first-read 179 stories totaling 702,600 words).

About two weeks ago I attended a Clarion West ONE-day workshop with Mary Rosenblum “Step Into Their Shoes – Breathing Life Into Your Characters”. This workshop was amazing. Mary Rosenblum is not only a wonderful author, she is also a fantastic teacher. If you ever get the opportunity to take a class from her, I urge you to do it!

One thing I learned in the class is that depth can be added to characters during the editing process. An approach Mary suggested is to edit for characterization in layers, progressing to the next level on each pass.

Levels of Characterization
1. External – What the character does in reaction to physical stimuli.               (The first draft)
2. Internal – How the character reacts physically. Body language, facial expression, etc. that indicate thoughts, attitudes, emotions, etc.
3. Modify the internal reaction to convey a sense of backstory.
4. Modify the internal reaction with character faults that are known to the character.
5. Fine tune so that as the story progresses, character traits that the character is NOT aware of are revealed to the reader.

Photo of a fern Miriah saw on her walk in Bellevue on 30 April 2013

A tentacle fern, ready for Spring!

Here are some more things I’ll be thinking about when I try to create deep characters. (This is sort of from the notes I took in the class, filtered through my brain. Mary’s version and numerous insights were SO much better.)

Voice – What the character says and does.
I’ll be asking myself, would my character really SAY that? Because if I write a character speaking with my vocabulary instead of their own, then that character will sound like me instead of himself. I’ll also be asking myself, would my character really DO that? As the author, I am holding the puppet strings. But the reader should not be aware of those strings. So if I need the character to notice a clue or look out the window to further my plot, I’ll make sure she has a believable reason to look.

Environment – How the character is molded by their world and society.
It can be really easy to fall into the trap of having my character react to situations the way I would. But if (for example) I have created an oppressive world, then my character needs to reflect the pervasive world view. I will ask myself how my character has been affected by living in that society and how he has internalized that society’s ideals. Then I’ll ask myself if she is reacting in a way that makes sense.

Perspective – How the characters evaluate what they observe.
People are constantly noticing what other people are doing, and observing their environment. So I’ll be asking myself how my character relates those observations to themselves. How do they interpret the surroundings and people around them? What does it mean to them? A person who gardens will notice more specific things about a room full of plants than a person with no interest in plants.

Change – How the character changes over the course of the story.
I will remember that like regular people, characters don’t just have an epiphany and change suddenly. The character needs to change as the result of external stimulus and experience. In a character-driven story, the character should make one step along their character arc in each scene.

For more about getting into a narrator’s head, check out Cat Rambo’s recent blog post.

Happy Writing!

An Sgeul Beag (The Small Story)

In my last blog post I wrote about writing intentions and goals for 2013. I have other goals unrelated to writing – like getting more organized and the standard improve-my-health-through-diet-and-exercise. Let’s not forget my ongoing goal of raising two pre-teens to eventually reach their full potentials and be (hopefully) less narcissistic than I was at their age.

Another goal I have is to improve upon my understanding of the Gáidhlig language. Luckily for me, my friend and Gáidhlig teacher Geoff Sammons has thought of a way for me to work on my Gáidhlig and for both of us to blog more frequently. (Yay Geoff!)

Geoff started a story, in Gáidhlig – on his blog, and I added my best shot at the translation in a comment. Now I’m going to post what he wrote plus my translation, then add a few more lines in English. Hopefully we can keep this up, and write a little narrative together.

Sin agad e! (There you have it!) Blog posts, Gáidhlig learning and storytelling fun all in one;-)

Happy Writing!

 castle_scotland

Geoff:

An sgeul beag ùr airson Miriah

’S e oidhche dorcha ’s stoirmeil a bh’ ann. Choimhead a’ bhànrigh a-mach uinneag an caisteal ris an gailleann, dh’fheitheamh i ris an rìgh. Chuala i a-rithist mu dheidhinn an rìgh agus ceannard an fhreiceadain.

Miriah’s translation:

The new short story for Miriah

It was a dark and stormy night. The queen watched the storm from her window in the castle, and waited for the king. She had heard (or heard rumors?) about the king and the leader (of their personal?) guard.

Miriah’s addition:

Sir Iain had served on the personal guard of king Niall’s father, the old king, during the war. Queen Siobhan’s marriage to King Niall established peace between the two kingdoms. But after five years, Sir Iain still did not trust Queen Siobhan and insisted on meeting with the king in private.

And next: Geoff’s addition, anns a Gáidhlig??

Writing a Guest Blog

I recently wrote a guest blog post for Penumbra eMagazine. When I received that email from the blog manager asking if I was interested in writing a guest blog, I felt really pleased and flattered they asked me. That was my first reaction. My second reaction was panic. What would I write about?

View along the Little Si Trail, North Bend, WA

We went for a family hike up Little Si, North Bend WA, on August 25. View of an interesting part of the trail, with criss-crossing tree roots.

I often think there is a certain arrogance or audacity to keeping a blog about becoming an author, especially since I am not in any way an expert on (well anything really, but especially) writing. There are many other blogs on the internet written by widely published authors who can give far better advice than me. (Links to some of my favorites appear in the “Resources for Writers” table on the right.) When I blog I try to stick to my own experience and the perspective of a writer just starting out and trying to get published.

So for my guest blog, I wrote about something that was going on in my life (sorting through my family’s collection of children’s books) and related that to writing speculative fiction.

But first, I read all of the entries on the Penumbra blog for the last three months to get an idea of what other blog posts looked like. (That actually increased my anxiety, because the site has interesting posts written by some very noteworthy people.) I also did some internet research, searching on “guest blogger etiquette”, to make sure I didn’t do anything really stupid or embarrassing. Then I wrote the post.  Lastly, I submitted my guest blog post early (just-in-case it needed editing or revision:-)

If you read that guest blog post on Penumbra, you may be wondering which picture books among the collection were my favorites. I have many, but here are a few:

Love You Forever by Robert Munsch, illustrated by Sheila McGraw I cried every time I read this to my kids.

Miss Rumphius by Barbara CooneyWhat will you do to make the world more beautiful?

I Love You, Stinky Face, by Lisa McCourt, illustrated by Cyd Moore This is the very last picture book my kids asked me to read over and over.

The Paper Bag Princess, by Robert N. Munsch, illustrated by Michael Martchenko Princess Elizabeth is one of my all-time favorite heroines!

So now I’ve written a blog post about blogging. (Hopefully that’s not as lame as it sounds.) What are your favorite children’s books, and how have they influenced your writing?

Happy Writing,

Miriah

Guest Blog on Penumbra!

The guest blog post I wrote for Penumbra, “A Speculative Sense of Wonder”, is up on their website.

Go read it now! (Please;-)

Miriah's cat Kiki

Kiki says, “Stop looking at Facebook and check out Penumbra!”

Happy Writing,

Miriah

Reunions, Writing, and Growing Up

This week the twins and I have been visiting my mother in my home town, and tonight I will be participating in a time-honored American tradition. I’ll be attending my high school reunion.

photos of my kids at Horse Camp

My (fraternal) twins

In terms of writing, it’s been a productive week. I did some major editing on one short story, and made progress on the first draft of another. I also wrote a guest blog post, and once it goes online I’ll link to it here.

For my own blog I added a Twitter feed, Blogroll, and “Resources for Writers” table. (I am embarrassed to admit how long it took me to figure out how to use the WordPress Links Widget. So I won’t.)

There is something surreal about a high school reunion. In many ways it’s difficult to figure out why I want to attend. High school was one of the low points of my life. I was painfully shy, had few close friends, and low self-esteem. I didn’t attend my senior prom, mainly because no one asked me. Academically, I was/am smart, but I only did well in the subjects that interested me. In retrospect I was a downright average, angsty and self-centered teen. So after thirty-five years, why on earth would I want to relive any of that?

For me, the reunion’s biggest draw is the potential to reconnect face-to-face with people I truly regret losing touch with.

Unlike in films or in some books, one moment in time does not define who someone is now. People evolve. Anyone who really wants to can redefine themselves as many times as they need to during their lifetime. I’m looking forward to getting to know some of my ex-classmates again, to finding out where they are now, and to appreciating how they’ve grown.

One thing I’ve learned from writing is that every life experience has the potential to become story fodder. As a speculative fiction story setting, a high school reunion is practically cliché. (BTW, if a time-traveling version of myself wants to carpool in a DeLorean, come on by. Just sayin’.)

No doubt I will be uncomfortably reminded of the person I was when I was eighteen. She had a few more flaws I’m not going to advertise here. The odd thing is, I still feel like the same person, even though I’ve changed. I wouldn’t be surprised if she shows up as a character in one of my stories. So there’s one advantage to being reminded of her. Tonight I’ll get to observe how time has affected a few dozen other people. Some of them may appear in a story or two down the road.

Happy Writing!

Miriah