A picture is truly worth a thousand words, but writers need to paint that picture with very few words. So how do we "picture" an angry character especially when we are told to show not tell?
Anger is a strong emotion or feeling. We all know that anger does not just happen. It needs a catalyst. There has to be a spark or something that stimulates or creates the anger. That spark can come from anyone or anywhere. As writers, we need to create the situation where the anyone or anywhere ignites that anger in our characters. In other words, it needs to be built into the plot. No one believes a character that flies off the handle all the time without a reason--that is unless that type of uncontrolled anger without reason is the plot. But a writer needs to decide on the motivation? Once that is decided, the next thing to consider is how the character will react. Is she passive or aggressive?
Passive meaning withdrawn, sullen, cynical, resentful, secretive, deceptive, or even judgmental. Aggressive meaning selfish, lashing out, assertive, combative, vocal, or even destructive. Why? Because each behavior displays different body language, and describing the character's body language defines the character's anger. Does the character roll her eyes, mumble, round their shoulders when asked a question, procrastinate, fold her arms over her chest when asked to do something or join an activity? Or, does she sneer, clench her fists, push into someone else's comfort zone, wave her finger, make large sweeping gestures, or square her shoulders and hold her body erect.
When we have a handle on the motivation and how we want our character to act, then we can start choosing descriptive words that will show the anger instead of just telling. Join me next time when I try out a few new phrases to describe my character's outrage at being bullied--and yes, he is passive aggressive.
Facial signalsMuch aggression can be shown in the face, from disapproving frowns and pursed lips to sneers and full snarls. The eyes can be used to stare and hold the gaze for long period. They may also squint, preventing the other person seeing where you are looking.
Attack signalsWhen somebody is about to attack, they give visual signal such as clenching of fists ready to strike and lowering and spreading of the body for stability. They are also likely to give anger signs such as redness of the face, lowered brow, showing teeth, scowling or sneering.
Exposing oneselfExposing oneself to attack is also a form of aggression. It is saying 'Go on - I dare you. I will still win.' It can include not looking at the other person, crotch displays, relaxing the body, turning away and so on.
InvasionInvading the space of the other person in some way is an act of aggression that is equivalent to one country invading another.
False friendshipInvasion is often done under the cloak of of familiarity, where you act as if you are being friendly and move into a space reserved for friends, but without being invited. This gives the other person a dilemma of whether to repel a 'friendly' advance or to accept dominance of the other.
ApproachWhen you go inside the comfort zone of others without permission, you are effectively invading their territory. The closer you get, the greater your ability to use a 'first strike' attack, from which an opponent may not recover. While you may well not intend this, the other person may well feel the discomfort of this risk.
TouchingTouching the person is another form of invasion. Even touching social touch zones such as arm and back can be aggressive.
GesturesInsulting gesturesThere are many, many gestures that have the primary intent of insulting the other person and hence inciting them to anger and a perhaps unwise battle. Single and double fingers pointed up, arm thrusts, chin tilts and so on are used, although many of these do vary across cultures (which can make for hazardous accidental movements when you are overseas).
Many gestures are sexual in nature, indicating that the other person should go away and fornicate, that you (or someone else) are having sex with their partner, and so on.
Mock attacksGestures may include symbolic action that mimics actual attacks, including waving fingers (the beating baton), shaking fists, head-butts, leg-swinging and so on. This is saying 'Here is what I will do to you!'
Physical items may be used as substitutes, for example banging of tables and doors or throwing . Again, this is saying 'This could be you!'
Sudden movementsAll of these gestures may be done suddenly, signaling your level of aggression and testing the other person's reactions.
Large gesturesThe size of gestures may also be used to signal levels of aggression, from simple finger movements to whole arm sweeps, sometimes even with exaggerated movements of the entire body.
See alsoPower, Emotions, War game, Emphasis with body language, Dominant body language, Gesture types
How do you answer a request from a young author-want-to-be when they ask, "Will you help me write a book?" Do you go into the million and one obstacles that face writers who have an innate desire to see their book in print? Do you talk about the long process most writers go through--idea, plot outline, character outline, tons of research, and the formidable beginning, middle, and end? Do you remind her that the key to writing is reading? Or, do you look into those discerning eyes filled with creative brightness and say, "Of course, I will!"
In my case, I answered with an emphatic, "Yes," when my granddaughter asked me that question. But then the doubts started flowing in along with the words of Steven Wright, "I'm writing a book. I've got the page numbers done." I had to ask myself, can I really write with a twelve year-old who can tell a story at lightning speed, change characters in a flash, and instantly weave in new ideas while my mind is still trying follow the bread crumbs she left for me along the way. How could I not? So our journey is beginning and this is how.
I think this venture is going to be awesome! Who wouldn't want to write with a kid?
Have you ever had a story that you needed to tell, but weren't sure how to do it justice? Well, that's my dilemma. A few months before my eldest daughter left this world behind, she sent me an idea and a title for story she wanted me to write. I buried the idea in my heart and my mind for these last three years, but the other day it unexpectedly popped up on my computer. That's when I heard it cry out, "What about me? You promised Dawn to write me?"
The story is about a little frog who wants to play with her friends, but her mother has a different idea, and the little frog has to decide to obey or not to obey. It's a problem all kids face at one time or another. To adults it seems insignificant, but to a child it's one of the more difficult decisions. And, in reality, if adults were truthful, it's a problem we all face everyday. Do we go to work, or do we call in sick so we can have extra time at home, with the kids, or catching that big wave with our new surfboard?
I started the story in a rhyme counting book for toddlers since that is where my daughter's heart was--with children. It started like this: Ten little frogs leaped across the pond, splashing and laughing all day long. But, I am not a poet, yet. Sure, I wrote Oliver's Hunger Dragon in rhyme, and child hunger is a subject near and dear to my heart, but my daughter's story has a different emotional pull.
As a writer, I have found that some stories need to be told while others just want to be told. My daughter's story is a want to be told. So what's holding me back from writing it? I think American writer, Octavia E. Butler said it best, "Every story I create, creates me." In order to create her story, I need to allow it to recreate me, or in truth, my sense of loss. My daughters are my best friends, my advocates, my inspirations, my confidants, and my writing supporters. The loss of one left a hole not only in my heart but in my writing as well, and to be honest, I have scabbed over that loss instead of really oping with it. Oh, I understand the stages of grief. I've been through all five every anniversary, every special occasion and triumph for her daughters, and every time I think I see her walking down the street. Writing this story, however, will be a catharsis of sorts, and that makes me wonder if I can write it in a way that would make my daughter proud.
I mentioned the story to my youngest granddaughter, and her response was, "Just tell the story, Nana. I'll help." So this blog is my affidavit to the world that while this will be one of the most difficult stories to write from an emotional aspect, it will also be one that opens that hole in my heart so I can become the writer that my daughter wanted me to be. Of course, having her young daughter with me on this journey makes the trip even more meaningful. So here it goes world . . . "This is Lilly"
I was never a fantasy buff until a few years ago when I was introduced to Kevin Hopson's Vargrom series and Kelly Hashway's Into the Fire series.
Oh, it's not that I didn't read books on dragons, mermaids, and other magical creatures when challenged by my granddaughter. We had a "you read a book then I read the same book and we discuss it together" pact when she was in middle school. But, it took fellow authors, Hopson and Hashway, to start me choosing fantasy books on my own. It also started me wishing I could write them as well as read them.
Until I started looking into it, I never realized there were so many sub-genres of fantasy. I've counted more than twenty. Some, I have to admit, have no interest at all, but I also understand that to write in a genre, you must read that genre.Reading what's out there helps you recognize a good story from a bad one, an overworked plot from a new one, and a carbon copy protagonist from one that develops through the story into the hero or anti hero you hoped for. It also takes a magical setting.
The magical setting can come in the form of a present day small town and a high school girl who discovers she is a Phoenix like Cara in Hashway's Into the Fire. Or, it can be an imaginary realm of dragons and dwarfs like Modrad in Hopson's Vargrom series. The point is, the world a writer creates has to be all encompassing. The History, customs, culture, language, the good and the evil, all has to be there. The story depends on it.
Okay, so I have a character I've met in my dreams, and a world created in my imagination. Is that enough? Nada! At least not for me. I have not immersed myself enough in the genre to create something new and true. Perhaps one day, I will. But until then, I will keep reading my fellow authors' works of art and keep dreaming of the day I will see my Dragon Maiden on paper.
Do you have an aspiring young writer in your house? Someone who enjoys the written word. Someone who would rather be writing a story than playing outside. Someone who urges you to, "Read my latest story. It's really cool!" No? Well, do you want one? If you do, it begins with encouragement.
I am fortunate to have an older granddaughter who loves to write. She loves writing and reading. Her stories have been shared through sites that encourage writers like Wattpad, and I know she is writing a book. However, I have a younger granddaughter who "hates" writing, or did.
This young writer is blessed with an extremely creative imagination. She can verbally spin a story at the drop of a hat, but putting that story into words on paper was another story all by itself. For the last three years, I have begged, cajoled, and even bribed her to write the essays assigned by her teachers. Oh, she knows how to write, she just doesn't like too. When an essay was assigned, she would ask, "How many sentences do I have to write?" Or, she would tell me, "I'm only writing five paragraphs and no more." This year, we tried something different. What is different? I no longer beg, bribe, or cajole, I encourage.
Every writer, no matter their age, needs encouragement. Children are wonderfully curious and are often eager to share that curiosity with others. They, like my granddaughter, can talk for hours about the caterpillar they saw in the garden. So how does one channel that curiosity and eagerness to share into writing?
So does encouragement really work? You be the judge. Here is her first essay (titled, About me) of the 7th grade school year, and I didn't have to do anything but encourage her to be herself.
What does a tree hugger, an animal lover, a lover of our Creator, a swimmer, a blogger, and a storyteller have in common? Me! I am going to tell you a bit about who I am. While I don’t often hug trees, I do love all trees even the ones that smell like rotten meat that grow in front of my house. I also love all animals except wasps. They sting without warning! Swimming, blogging, storytelling, and our amazing Creator are a very important part of my life. Like most kids my age, I have things I really care about, things I want to do, and some things I’ve already done. You might say I’m a work in progress. Just like everyone else, I’m not perfect, and some days I am far from it. I have my strengths, and I have my weaknesses.
I think by now you should know that swimming is one thing I do well, but so is kayaking and rock climbing. I love being outdoors with my family. They challenge me to try new things and do my best. However, I’m not a sports fanatic. I’m a fairness fanatic. That’s probably why I consider caring about other people and helping those younger then me a strength that I have. I want everyone in the world to be treated fairly. That includes animals.
Being a fair fanatic doesn’t mean that I don’t have things I am working on. For one, I hate math especially word problems. Who really cares if Joe’s car can travel to Seattle faster than Sam’s if he goes X miles per hour faster? I know, it’s important to learn, but come on, why? Then there is reading. I haven’t found a book yet that I really like, and getting up early is for the birds. I am not a morning person. I’m also not into trying new foods. What’s wrong with putting pizza in one of the food groups? My dad would also say that I need to manage my time better and focus more. I agree I need to focus more, and I really try not to get on the next bus to LaLa Land. Even with all the things I have to work on, I have accomplishments.
Swimming is at the top of my list. A year ago, just the idea of putting my head under water gave me chills. Last month though, I swam on the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. It was there where I also conquered my fear of heights. It’s an amazing feeling to hang fifty feet off the ground in a tree. I’m not a squirrel, but now I know how they feel. For the last three years, I have worked on a garden, and entered the County Fair. Each year, my vegetables earned blue ribbons. It’s a lot of work, but worth every minute I spend in the dirt. I’ve also learned how to bead. Thank you, Mrs. Avery! One thing I am really proud of is my blog about endangered animals. “Some think it’s cool to endanger animals but I think it’s cruel.” That’s what I always say. Some might think I’ve already done a lot for my age, but I know I can do more and there is so much more I want to do.
I still have fears I need to conquer, but who doesn’t? My biggest one is wasps. I don’t like wasps. I never liked wasps. I never will like wasps, but even wasps have their purpose as long as they don’t sting me. I like sharks, but I don’t want to swim with them, and I don’t ever think I will get over my fear of riding roller coasters. Setting the fear thing aside, I want to become a successful animal blogger, graduate school, become a competent horseback rider, and a Cryptozoologist. Most of all, I want to find the Lochs Ness monster. I know Nessie is out there just waiting to be found, and I am going to prove that she exists, but not expose her to the world.
Remember how easy it was to jump over a fence or climb a tree when you were a kid? So, why did you jump the fence or climb up that tree? Could it be because it was there and it was fun? I know that's why I did it. Now that I am writing, however, I have found that there is a deeper reason for putting obstacles in one of my character's paths--growth.
Growth is something that is important for middle grade fiction, as far as I am concerned anyway. I'm not including the hundreds of books written that make kids laugh. Although, there are quite a few that have an underlining message in that laughter. The growth I am talking about is the process in which a character's (antagonist or protagonist depending on the story you are writing) being--mind, body, spirit, is enhanced. He or she grows strong, courageous, overcomes fears, gains understanding, learns to be tough or brave, or discovers what kind of mettle he or she is made of. Why?
Well think about it. Who wants to read a book, or write one for that matter, where the character wanders aimlessly through the story on some willynilly plot line that takes him or her no where? I sure don't. In other words, while some obstacles are for fun, the majority of them are written to move the character toward a goal. And isn't that goal part of your plot? Even Pooh Bear faces one obstacle after another in his endeavors to capture another honey trove. Why? Simply put, because it creates tension, conflict, and even humor. How to do this effectively is a lesson all on it's own, and it is one I am still learning.
In Search for the Red Ghost, my main character, Jake, faced one obstacle after another. Each was created out of the setting and the dangers it held, but each was also created to show his character move or "grow" from being a bent-on-revenge seeking 13 year old to the responsible young man he became. He developed wit and courage, and learned what mettle he was made of.
Like I said, I am still learning. In a class I am taking, I am developing a series of obstacles for my character to overcome. Each one must move the plot and my character forward. Difficult? You bet it is. Why? I think my problem is that my work in progress is a picture book with under 500 words. Red Ghost was a full book. Jake's obstacles could be worked out in an entire chapter or chapters of several thousand words. 500 words doesn't leave much room for conquering obstacles, but my little Ellie has to move forward. So, fingers crossed! Like that Little Engine that could, "I think I can. I think I can."
We make choices in life as to what is a priority and what is not. Sometimes those choices are difficult, and sometimes they are not. For me, the little girl in the picture at the left made my choice one of the easiest I have ever made. You see, right now my writing cannot be a priority because my granddaughter's education is.
Three years ago as many of you already know, we lost our daughter, Dawn. Dawn was a wonderful mother who believed the best education possible for her two beautiful daughters was a partnership between learning at home and attending a family-centered community school for two days a week. That gave her daughters the best of both worlds--socialization and education through the public school home school curriculum and a more in-depth education of various subjects at home. It worked well for her eldest daughter who just graduated high school and Clark College at the same time and with her Associates Degree at the ripe old age of 17. She enters WSU as a Junior in January. Can you tell how proud I am of her accomplishments in the face of tragedy? But back to why my writing is not a priority at the moment.
When my 9 year old granddaughter lost her mom, I became her home teacher. That decision meant that I spent two and a half days at school and two and a half days at home teaching grammar, reading comprehension, mathematics, health and fitness, spelling, and writing. Her time in school covered social studies, writing, math, and science. That first year was difficult for both of us, but it was also healing. This is going on my 4th year now, and I expect it to be as rewarding as the last three--for me and for her. However, even though writing is not a priority, here are three things I do to keep the creative juices flowing and the word count mounting.
Have you ever been angry? I mean red in the face, fists clenched, body tensed, and heart pounding mad? Have you tried to portray that feeling in your writing? I have, and believe me it is not easy!
Anger is an intense reactive emotion. Jealousy, frustration, confusion, loneliness, pain (real or imagined), fear, rejection, and even embarrassment can spark anger. The list of feelings that can lead to anger can go on and on. It can strike like lightening with a sharp, quick burst of words or punch in the face, or it can simmer slowly like the proverbial watched pot that never seems to boil until a human Mt. Vesuvius explodes.
All of us at one time or another have experienced anger. After all, we are all human. However, as writers it is our job to portray human emotions, like anger, in a way that our readers feel what our characters are going through. That means we need to show and tell what is happening through our plotting to create the motivation behind the anger, then give it impact with a description of the action that happens as a result of the anger.
For instance, in Search for the Red Ghost, Jake becomes angry when he learns that his father is leaving instead of searching for the creature that killed his mother. You can read his feeling through both his words and his body language.
“No choice?” Jake, his face red and his hands curled into fists, yelled. “Something kilt Ma, and you’re going to ride out like nothing happened? Well go ahead—go chase those Injuns. You never cared much for Ma, or you wouldn’t have left us here in this god-forsaken place.”
His father's response is much the same, but the words used to describe his physical response to Jake's outburst adds another visual dimension to his reaction.
Jake started to turn just as two strong hands grabbed his shoulders, and jerked him backward, and spun him around. “Now listen here boy!” Pa shouted, gripping the front of Jake’s shirt, and pulling his face close. “I’m your pa and don’t you never talk at me that way. Understand?”
Plotting is probably the most important aspect of writing about anger. That sounds almost laughable--plot your character's anger, but it is extremely important. Through plotting, you develop the events that drive the character forward. Those events determine the character's emotional responses and build the anticipation that keep the reader turning page after page. If effective plotting is in place, the reader knows that the character is either simmering silently and the reader can anticipate a blow up down the road, or the reader knows what motivates the character and how the character will react. Either way, showing your character's anger is challenging but what is a good story without a conflict?
erek Jeter said, "Everyone fears rejection," and most of us can agree. We worry that our new article or book will meet with rejection when it is submitted, and if our worry comes true--we tend to feel like a failure. But hold on! Rejection is not failure! It's a learning experience in persistence. Don't believe me? Just look at a few of the thousands of best-selling authors whose manuscripts were rejected time after time.
Why didn't all these authors and hundreds, if not thousands, of authors more give up when those rejections rolled in? For one, they believed in their work, and for two, they were persistent in finding a publisher or an agent. So, if you receive a rejection for your manuscript, story, or article, don't give up. Check your market choice: did you follow the publisher/agent guidelines; does that publisher/agent accept unsolicited submissions; and, does the publisher/agent list your genre on their want/wish list. Next, read your manuscript out loud one more time: is the first paragraph, page, or chapter captivating; does the story flow; and, are the plot and subplots solid.
Finally, celebrate the rejection! You have taken an important step in authorship--your sent out your manuscript. That is an accomplishment in itself! So learn from that rejection, celebrate your accomplishment, then be persistent and send it back out. Rejection is not failure. It is only a learning experience.
Dreamer, believer, reader, writer