Saturday, March 21, 2020

Nine Fun Things to Do While You're Staying Indoors

With all the craziness and changes just from the last week, it might be hard to catch a (safe) breath. We want to stay healthy, but we also don't want to be bored.
There are many things we can do while away from school, work and friends to keep our sanity. Many, many companies are setting up live streaming of classes and shows for free.

Here are a few ideas:

Tour a museum virtually:

I LOVE this idea. I can't think of a better way (other than a nap!) to spend a little bit of quiet time than looking at works of art in all their forms. Guggenheim in NYC, The Louvre in Paris, and National Women's History in Virginia are just a few museums offering virtual tours.

Organize Your Photos:

Kids, families and grandparents love to see themselves in pictures. Why not invite them to go through your thousands of photos with you? This could evolve into telling fun family stories and growing closer together. is a fantastic source to write down stories as well as uploading pictures. Plus, finding who your related to (like Lady Godiva!) is always interesting.

Handwritten letters:

There are many in the community who look forward to receiving mail. Why not help them not feel so secluded? Write a thank you note to a teacher who inspired you or helped you. How about a grandparent? Or someone you don't know? Write To Those In Need has a list of ideas of people to write to.


Have you always wanted to learn to play the ukelele or piano? There are plenty of free online sources as well as apps. Why not put together a  Favorites playlist you can all sing and dance to? Of course, the 80's had the best music! Speaking of music...

Go to a Broadway Show:

Virtually, of course! Broadway HD is offering a free trial to view Broadway hits online. Which show would you want to watch?


I'm going to admit, I was sad March Madness was canceled. I love to make a bracket with my family and friends, even though I rarely win (seriously, it's about once every ten years!) What about a Board Game Bracket?? Board games, no bored games! Put all your games in one place and make brackets on your favorites. You might have to play every game to figure out a clear winner!

Take a class:

There are a few online places you can take a free class. Quite a few universities and colleges offer free classes. Great Courses Plus is offering a free month trial to any of their hundreds of courses.

Want to binge on something other than on food or movies? How about life? Earth Cam has LIVE feeds from around the world! From Washington DC (where it looks like the cherry trees are blossoming!) to the Western Wall in Israel to Dublin, Ireland to---sorry! I'm back! It's easy to get lost on that site!


Now that we've mentioned food, learn to cook or bake something new. Find a recipe your ancestors might have used or created. Go on a pantry scavenger hunt and find a strange item you didn't remember buying (sardines?) and make something. This can be done virtually with friends or family!

What ideas that have worked for you and yours to get rid of the stay-at-home blues/boredom? 

Mental Health During Social Distancing

Hope you are all doing well!

A few of my favorite things I'm doing

I'm reading:

Fiction: A Lady's Maid by Jen Geigle Johnson

Molly O’Malley, lady’s maid to the progressive Lady Amanda Halloway, is determined to continue the life’s work of her lost love, killed in the Peterloo Massacre.

Thomas Flaherty, a footman in the Halloway household, has been with Molly from the beginning, but he fears she will never trust him with her heart. Even though her cause and happiness are of foremost importance to him, his loyal patience is tested by the fears that keep her at a distance. 

Audible: House of Salt and Sorrows by Erin A Craig

Annaleigh lives a sheltered life at Highmoor, a manor by the sea, with her sisters, their father, and stepmother. Once they were twelve, but loneliness fills the grand halls now that four of the girls' lives have been cut short. Each death was more tragic than the last—the plague, a plummeting fall, a drowning, a slippery plunge—and there are whispers throughout the surrounding villages that the family is cursed by the gods.

Nonfiction: Permission to Feel: Unlocking the power of emotions to help our kids, ourselves and our society survive by Marc Brackett

This book combines rigor, science, passion and inspiration in equal parts. Too many children and adults are suffering; they are ashamed of their feelings and emotionally unskilled, but they don't have to be. Marc Brackett's life mission is to reverse this course, and this book can show you how.

I'm watching:  The Marvel movies in chronically order (yeah, I'm an idiot)

I'm writing/editing: Love in Greece

A romance set in Greece. I'm pantsing the last half so I can edit next month (if I can ever finish editing Old-Fashioned Wishes).

FOOD: Popcorn

I've been craving popcorn for weeks and have tried several different brands. I still love popcorn from the movie theater!

What about you? 
What are you reading? 
What are you watching? 
What are you working on?

Thursday, March 19, 2020

What Do Your Characters Want?

I struggle so much in writing. Some days, I sail through writing or edits. Other days, I check Facebook and Instagram five hundred times in an hour. When I'm struggling, finding a good article to help my brain get out of a rut, as happened when I read this post by Nathan Bransford years ago. I thought I'd repost it here, mostly, because I need it right now!

What Do Your Characters Want?

Motivation. It's the powerful emotion that inspires people to get off the couch and grab a tub of ice cream. It's the only thing that is strong enough to pull me out of a very warm bed when it's still dark and cold outside. And it's what inspires Mario to save the princess, despite all sorts of finely rendered cartoon characters standing in his way.

How does this relate to books? Every good book begins with a protagonist who wants something. 

I know that this kind of seems obvious (and it probably is), but there's a reason you don't generally see books about characters cast about by the whims of fate without any sense of purpose or desire whatsoever. Even Odysseus, essentially a powerless character blown about by the gods, has a rock solid motivation: he wants to get home. 

Now, your character doesn't have to know what he/she wants on page one, but it should be conclusively clear by page 30, preferably earlier. And then, every step your protagonist takes after that point should be a step toward that goal, only they are thwarted at every step by obstacles and characters who have their own set of desires. 

Many novels, especially genre novels, have a built-in motivation. Think: "save the princess" fantasy novels. It's built into the plot. The protagonist wants to save the princess. There's your motivation. 

But better yet is a novel where a character wants more than one thing, and these two things are at odds. The main character might want to save the princess, but he might just have his eye on the king's throne as well, so he has to decide by the end of the novel which is more important to him. Better still is a character that wants things that are internally contradictory so that they not only have to battle the exterior obstacles to get what they want, but they have to battle conflicting desires within themselves as well. 

Here's a way of illustrating that, Super Mario Bros. style. 

Good: plumber wants to save the princess.
Better: plumber wants to save the princess while besting green-clad brother with similar goal
Best: plumber wants to save the princess while besting green-clad brother with similar goal, but although he is brave he is plagued by the creeping sense that the gamer controlling his every move might want him dead

Every time you introduce something your character wants, internal or external, whether it's saving the princess, acceptance from their parents, or snaring a white whale, you're introducing aplot arc. The main arc should open at the beginning and close conclusively in the climax of your novel. Smaller arcs may be introduced and closed somewhere in between.

Every single character you introduce, major or minor, should also have their own plot arc(s) with defined goals and motivations. The more important the character the longer and more complex the plot arc(s): i.e. your main villain's plot arc is probably introduced toward the beginning and closed at the end, and we probably have a rather nuanced sense of their own desires and contradictions.

This is often where writers miss opportunities: every character, big or small, has to show motivation, agency, and desire. They have to have their own plot arcs. And it's important that the arcs have a beginning, middle, and end. Unless you're under contract for book two, make sure those plot arcs are closed!

At every step of the way, on every page, with every exchange of dialogue and every action, characters are trying to achieve their desires but run into obstacles, whether internal, external, or because they're encountering characters who want something different than they do. This is conflict. 

More about conflict on Thursday.

Monday Motivattion ~ Joss Whedon

Writer Website in A Weekend

Writer Website in A Weekend