Getting to Know You

Character building through conversations

Tyler Rowan of “”

This fictitious conversation is between Andrea Mann a journalist researching for an article about patrons of “Feed Our Souls” (FOS) homeless shelter in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Andrea: Tyler, tell me about the circumstances that brought you to FOS. How old were you? What happened that you came to FOS?

Tyler: I was twenty-two, living in my car at the time. FOS had good food and I was starving.

Andrea: Were you working?

Tyler: Lost my job. Then I couldn’t pay my part of the rent, so my roommates kicked me out. Well actually I left. I wasn’t going to let them pay for my place. None of us were doing that well.

Andrea: So FOS was there for you when you were between jobs. What happened that you lost your job?

Tyler: I screwed up. Worked for a builder. I was learning a trade; you know how to put up walls, windows, a roof. But I partied too much. Came to work hung over, still drunk and almost got one of my co-workers killed. I was fired which I totally deserved.

Andrea: Not easy to admit.

Tyler: Took me a long while to get over, you know, almost killing someone. Sobered up fast but my references were shot.

Andrea: Hard to find a job without a good word from someone.

Tyler: Damn near impossible and it didn’t help that I’m not cut out for working at a fast food place or the dollar store.

Andrea: What about family?

Tyler (sarcastic laugh) Don’t have any.

Andrea: No family? You’re an orphan then?

Tyler: Not exactly. My dad died when I was eight, but mom remarried.

Andrea: And…

Tyler: Stan doesn’t want reminders of mom’s old life, tried to drive me out before I was eighteen but I had to finish high school at least, wanted to go to college. Yeah, that was a childhood dream. And I have a sister but she’s in jail.

Andrea: No aunts, uncles, grandparents?

Tyler: I thought this interview was about FOS.

Andrea: Yes, right. Sorry. It is but the background of FOS patrons helps us understand the support that might be needed beyond a bed and a meal.

Tyler: I don’t need support. I just need something to eat now and again.

Andrea: Of course. That is our main purpose.

Disclaimer: This is a work of fiction based on the character in “Kill Words” by Clare Graith. Tyler’s blog can be found at (launching soon). FOS is a fictional homeless shelter. Andrea Mann is a fictional journalist. Any resemblance to real people and places is coincidental.

NaNoWriMo 2020 Novel – A Walk Through Editing

At 40K words, I shared my opening paragraph of my NaNoWriMo novel – “Kill Words” . Below I have shown it again and explained the edits I have made so far. The first sentence of a novel is hugely important but the first paragraph in my opinion is usually the ‘make or break’ that determines if a reader goes on reading. That is the case for myself. When I open a “Look Inside” on Amazon, if the tone and intrigue is not there in the first paragraph, I’m not likely to go on. Sometimes I’ll open a random chapter and see if it catches me, but not often.

BEFORE Edit; First Draft, opening paragraph:

I’m named after my grandmother Gertrude Maisey Warner, the revered matriarch of the family. They called her Gerty, but I’m called Maisey. I guess my parents could tell even then that I would not be able to fill her shoes. She married at eighteen and had ten kids all of them growing up to be upstanding citizens. My uncle Bill is a neurosurgeon, uncle Jack head of mathematics at the university, my aunt Becca a CEO of a medical device company. My own mother not only won ‘teacher of the year’ five years in a row for the Midwest region, but she started a non-profit to combat illiteracy in the inner-city.

The Edits and why:

Removed – “The revered matriarch of the family” – Telling; I don’t need to state this; that is clear by what follows.

Removed – “They called her Gerty,” – Telling; it works better to just start calling her “Grandma Gerty”

Changed- “I guess my parents could tell even then that I would not be able to fill her shoes” – ‘I guess’ is soft compared to the revision ‘the truth is” since this is establishing the character’s belief and state of mind; it needs to be stronger.  ‘even then’ not as defined as ‘when I was born’ – again this is a judgement she feels she’s been under from day one; a key point to make.

Changed – “She married at eighteen and had ten kids all of them growing up to be upstanding citizens” – the sound of ‘upstanding citizens’ seemed out of character voice and telling. Adding in how grandma herself was a success (a point needed further in the story) works better.

Changed the accomplishments of some of grandma’s children to be more descriptive — this all may get cut; still on the fence if it pulls the reader out of the story. Let me know what you think.

Added in another statement of the character’s main concern in life at the start of the novel. This of course drastically changes!

AFTER Editing opening paragraph:

I’m named after my grandmother, Gertrude Maisey Warner. But I don’t have her first name, I’m called Maisey. The truth is even when I was born my parents could tell I would not fill Grandma Gerty’s shoes. She married at eighteen, lost her husband at thirty and raised ten kids by sewing children’s clothes, eventually creating her own brand. Each of her children grew up with the same penchant for success. My uncle Bill is a neurosurgeon and pioneered a technique for treating a rare brain tumor. Uncle Jack is dean of mathematics at the university. Aunt Becca is co-founder of a medical device company. My own mother not only won ‘teacher of the year’ five years in a row for the Midwest region, but she started a non-profit to combat illiteracy in the inner city. Now it was the next generation’s turn to carry on the legacy unless I break the trend.

I hope you have found this editing session helpful in your own editing adventures. Let me know what you think. You’ve “Looked Inside”. Do I need to edit again?

NaNoWriMo 2020 The End

Did I make it? I set my goal at 30K because I didn’t want to stress myself. The idea of fifty thousand words in thirty days seemed nuts. As a matter of fact when I first heard about NaNoWriMo two years ago that is just what I thought about it- crazy idea; who would even try? That was even though I’d written four full length novels. Those each took the better part of a year and sorry to say are still not publishing ready. 

I have no idea what compelled me to give it a go this year. Maybe 2020 has a good side too. I had a story idea, very basic, but it was something. Without any real passion for the story but just the pull of a challenge I typed the first words: “I’m named after my grandmother.” 

The marathon was on and 53k words and two days short of the end of the month later, I have a first draft that was exhilarating to write. There’s a lot of work to do. I bookmarked several places with “INSERT” and “CHANGE”. But I have found that pumping out a story rapidly staves off the story burnout that happened with the previous WIP. Another advantage is the tone and voice is consistent which is sometimes lost with writing a novel over a year’s time. I don’t know if I will ever do NaNoWriMo again. I’d like to think that this first time will be the last because I’ll be writing at the behest of an agent or publisher next year. If I can write a novel in thirty days without breaking a sweat (losing some sleep though and maybe straining my husband’s patience just a bit) I’m believing it can happen. Regardless, NaNoWriMo 2020 was a blast, something I won’t forget. “Strike while the iron is hot”. If inspiration takes you away, go with it. You might end up with a novel to your name. 

NaNoWriMo Ten Days Left

Introducing: “Kill Words”

Ten days left to NaNoWriMo2020. I’m surpassing 35,000 words this weekend. My goal was 30K by November 30. I didn’t expect to tap into a vein of story gold but I’m enjoying every minute of it.

My NNWM novel is not sci-fi, not speculative, well maybe crime speculative, but I’m an unpublished novelist so I can choose whatever genre the story comes in. Mark that as a plus all you published author wanna-be’s.

The title is “Kill Words”. I expect it will be 60K words in the end. It’s new adult/young adult which means characters are in their mid-twenties just starting out in life. Maisey launches an anonymous blog as an outlet to express herself without the constraints of family expectations. She connects with another blogger, Tyler and is quickly mixed up with him in a blog cyber crime ring. Her life spins out of control until all the false pretenses she rested on are stripped away and she finds her true self.

I’m thinking that most of you who read this blog would not read this book. I’m not doing a good job of building my target audience for future publishing of “Kill Words” but maybe you know someone who would be interested. Drop a comment and let me know. I’ll be looking for beta- readers by the new year.

I’ll also launch a blog based on the character Tyler. He gets to post raw, transparent, diatribes on the ills of society. His posts will include “kill words”, a puzzle for readers to figure out. Should be fun.

I’ve got to get back to writing! I’m still setting my mark on 50K words on November 30th. How many think I can pull it off working full time, overtime, stressed to my core?

Easy Erase

NaNoWriMo Day 7 – 8000 Words

I’ve thought sometimes about the invention of the eraser. Who thought of that? What did they do before words written in lead could be removed, obliterated, made to disappear? We have it too easy now. We can just press a delete button. You can’t tell if I typed this post ten times because I can change it with no record (or at least none that is easy to find).

I’m writing as part of NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) and having a blast pumping out 1000 plus words a day on a brand new novel.

[During NNWM – there is no deleting of words! JK ]

Yesterday morning I was typing away and suddenly thought I had inadvertently deleted a few well crafted paragraphs when I moved blocks of text. That’s when I realized, we are now at the place in time when the back arrow will go almost infinitely back. I remember a time when back arrow would only work for one action back; then it was ten or so. Somewhere along the line when I wasn’t paying attention it became forever back. How spoiled are we writers today?

There’s no real point to this post (I blame NaNoWriMo) except don’t take your words too seriously especially whether or not they are snapped up by a publisher. What matters is the people you share words with even terrible drafts. Those that see the lines that,

Photo by Skitterphoto on

If words fall and no one is around to read them before delete did they make a point in the universe?

Day 1 NaNoWriMo 2020

Hope you’re having a great day and especially a great Day 1 of NaNoWriMo. Everything about 2020 is epic in good ways and not so good ways. Will NaNoWriMo be epic for you? Only one way to find out. Give it a go! I signed up on the official web-site. I’m starting a new novel; a young adult suspense. I committed to 1000 words a day and I’ve met that goal for today.

I want to encourage you if you’re still on the fence about it. You can quit any time. You can miss your goal any time. You can change what you’re working on, ANY TIME. No judgement! No penalty!

Anyway, last night I went on the web-site, started a project called “Virtual Truth”. I went to “Writers Resources” and picked the prep work character questionnaire. It was great to answer the questions about my progranist, supporting character and antagonist. I was reminded of something I was just taught: The protaganist needs to have a desire to do/be something that is in direct conflict with what they need to do.

In my new novel my protaganist Maisey desires to be out on an adventure, fully living her life. That is in direct conflict to her upbringing and family’s expectation that she’ll get married and have kids and be a successful teacher. The protaganist doesn’t always know their own inner desire. The very beginning of the story Maisey is concerned about getting married and having kids but that changes very quickly. 😊

Hope you all have the time and inspiration to jot a few words down every day this month towards a project. Write on people!