What Should Writers Steal?

I was sitting at a desk doing volunteer work for an organization I belong to, and sitting not far away were a group of six or seven middle age-or older-women at a long table holding a monthly meeting. I could not hear anything specific in their discussion, but since they were in my direct line of vision and since they were preoccupied with whatever they were discussing I was an unobtrusive observer.

And I could spy. And I could steal without being noticed.

One of the women had a hairstyle best described as worn-out Brillo pad. She chewed gum with intense fierceness, unlike a cow who enjoys her cud with gourmet bliss. At one point the woman got up and left the building, coming back about six minutes later. I believe she had gone out for a cigarette; she had that ‘air’ about her. And she had, what I assumed, was fresh cud-excuse me-gum in her mouth. She went back to her seat and resumed her chew. A short while later a man and woman came in.

The man wore a bright knit cap, knitted with the colors of the rainbow, plus colors that existed only on the cap, in a horizontal pattern that encircled his head. The man bent over to look in a display case. I noticed a perfect circle a few inches in diameter cut out of the top of the cap. He was bald-at least in that spot. I imagined that if he wore the cap in summer, he might have a cute little tan spot at the top of his head. I didn’t ask him about the strange circle at the top of the cap for I didn’t want to break my observation. A spy can’t make contact with his quarry. You understand right?

The point is not why he had cutout that small circle in his knit cap, nor is the point about what the woman was doing with her gum, but what you can steal from around you. What you can use in describing characters in your story.

When you observe people, what they wear, how they walk, anything that stands out, you make a mental note, or like me, write it down in my small pocket notebook-when nobody you are observing can see you of course. You are the spy, you are the thief, and you must be discreet.

Character traits, odd little tics and quirks, make your characters more believable and identifiable to your readers. When your reader sees the character in their minds they are more involved with your story.

My observations of people I have stolen from and transformed into fictional characters can be found in my e-Books on Amazon. The descriptions of the books can be found in my header.


coyotemoon_silentmurder (1)


What should a writer pretend to be when writing dialogue?

Before I answer the question posed I want to set the scene before two characters talk.

In a short story I am working on, a man is walking down a hallway, stops in front of a door with a security window, punches a code into a keypad, and enters into another hallway.

I do not tell what the facility is, but through describing what the man sees in the hallway, like the color of the walls and what type of pictures or posters are hanging on the wall and using phrases like ‘institutional carpet’ and what he observes by watching people, some of whom are looking at a TV, though few seem to be comprehending, the reader should get the idea that the man is in a nursing home.

The man walks into a room where a woman is sitting and looking out the window. He pulls up a chair and begins to talk. So now we have  a setting. And now they must talk.

When faced with a conversation, especially an emotional one and one with a twist, and a conversation that must reveal character , a lot of thought must go into the dialogue.

You must know your character, know how he talks, and know his personality. What you need not know is how the conversation will end. If you chose to think of how it will end and write towards that end that works too. For me, I like to make it up as I go along. Like an improve actor.

If I know my character, then I can imagine the conversation. As I write I know the man is going to reminisce about two things. One will is about how happy he was when he got married and the other is the worst day of his life when his two children, home from college, are killed in an auto accident.

So, like an actor, I go with the scene. A writer must get into the character’s head and pretend to be the character. Writing fiction requires you, not to think, but to feel. A good actor feels the words, understands the emotion. Once you feel the emotion of the words, the dialogue flows. It did for me, usually does. And in this moment where the man says more than the woman he is conversing with I come up with something that makes it all work, including the twist.

You see, the man thought he was talking to his wife. The woman said that she was not his wife, that her children were not dead. She made short interjections, then asked him to call a nurse, three of four times she would break in and ask for the nurse.

When the nurse does come she sees the man and an empty chair.

The man was not in the right room, his wife is dead, the woman who lives in the room was watching TV in the activity area, and the man had dementia.

But you never say what the facility is. You never give the background like a reporter giving news. You reveal through descriptive imagery and through dialogue, imagining you are an actor, not on the stage, but on the page.

Finished imaginings of mine are found at the top of my web page and the e-books are available on Amazon.

Thanks for reading.

Why I Celebrate Being An Indie Writer

Most writers want an agent, a three-book publishing deal, an author tour, speaking engagements, and everything in between and surrounding the dream. Few achieve it.

Assuming you get a deal, how long does it all take. I found this in a blog from Steve Laube at his agency:

“What is average?

In my experience:

From idea to book proposal to your literary agent: 1-3 months
From agent to editor and book contract offer: 2-5 months
From contract offer to first paycheck: 2-3 months
From contract to delivery of manuscript to editor: 3-9 months (sometimes longer)
(From delivery of manuscript to editor actually working on it: 2-5 months)
From editor to publication: 9-12 months

Total time from idea to print: approximately 2 years

Your mileage may vary.”

I have read similar timelines from other agents, though the two year window is more often for non-fiction, and fiction maybe a year, a year and a half. The bottom line is that is a long time, but as an Indie author, I can write and proofread and when ready I can click on the publish button on Amazon and my e-Book is ready.

Agents seem to be trained to say no. Which is a main reason best sellers so often are rejected over and over, but persistence finally found a publisher. Stephen King getting rejected with his first novel. Yes. Everyone gets rejected.

I am used to rejection. The army rejected me for flat feet. That meant I was not going to Viet Nam. Some rejections you can live with and say thank you. Others, like getting turned down for a date by that cute blonde, brunette, and the redhead is another matter. And when you pet rejects you have problems.

I can live with rejection, but I want my stories in the marketplace, I want to connect with readers sooner rather than later. Being part of the Indie Cyber world provides me more interaction and more control. I can set the price, I can control the advertising. In fact I can control everything from beginning to end.

This month Amazon is celebrating Indie authors. They have a landing page where you can explore Indie writers, so give it a try. There are many good Indie writers.

As for me, here are my indie e-books. At the top of the page you can click on titles to read more about them as well as review quotes.

dugout (1)Loonies_In_Hollywood-375x712coyotemoon_silentmurder (1)Cemetery_Tales_and_other_PhantasmsA-351x597coyotemoon_cemetaryb