#writerproblems: catching #characters

Often times writers are told to go people-watch for character inspiration. This is certainly all well and good if your senses are allowed to wander about the town, in the library, at the pub, and so on.

And then, there’s parenthood.

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(Yes, both Biff and Bash are missing their top two front teeth. God has a sense of humor.)

I thought for sure a trip to the North Woods would give me at least some opportunity to catch a few interesting characters. After all, this is the land of the columned white arrow signs. You better keep your eyes open for these, or you’ll never know where stuff is.

 

 

This is the land of quiet waters, of river-kissing mists departing with dawn’s light.

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Of eagle homes hidden among the oaks and evergreens.

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Unfortunately, the only eagle we spotted all week was this one:

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Still, the kids were all able to find their special little somethings. Blondie found snail shells.

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Bash found his grumps.

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Biff found his chainsaws.

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No, he didn’t grab one (this time). Bo was able to keep the kids a safe distance away from the carving demonstrations at the Paul Bunyan festival.

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I’m not sure what was so Paul Bunyany about it–there was no blue ox, no giant lumberjacks. Plenty of beer and football signs, though. Nothing says Wisconsin like sports and alcohol!

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Just guess how many of these signs are about drinking. I dare you.

Surely a festival drawing in a wide range of tourists and locals would provide SOME opportunity for characters, right? Bo knew I wanted to walk around with my camera, so he took advantage of the chainsaws and stuffed the kids with chocolate-covered graham crackers so I could take a quick look around.

I did spot one crazy individual. Honestly, who dares wear Chicago Bears gear in Packer territory? This woman’s lucky she didn’t get a cow pie thrown at her back.

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Biff notices my absence all too soon, and jumps over to my side of the street. Despite the lumberjack quartet trying to strum banjos and harmonies, Biff belts the theme to “Ghostbusters” at the top of his lungs and dances down the walkway. I hold up my phone to take a video of him singing, but then…oh, but then…

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Who in Sam Elliot is THIS? An older man–70s, I’ll say. Jeans and flannel despite summer warmth. Cowboy hat. Glasses, mustache. Baby carrier. Dog. A wide-eyed, scared-stiff, shaky little dog. In the baby carrier.

Character. FOUND.

So don’t fret if you can’t get out much, writers, or you’re not able to let your eyes wander. Sometimes it’s when our focus is distracted from the hunt that we find what we’re hunting for, and then some.

Speaking of hunting, if you’re looking for a wicked read to welcome Autumn, then I do hope you’ll check out my debut dark fantasy YA novel, Fallen Princeborn: Stolen.

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In rural Wisconsin, an old stone wall is all that separates the world of magic from the world of man—a wall that keeps the shifters inside. When something gets out, people disappear. Completely.

Escaping from an abusive uncle, eighteen-year-old Charlotte is running away with her younger sister Anna. Together they board a bus. Little do they know that they’re bound for River Vine—a shrouded hinterland where dark magic devours and ancient shapeshifters feed, and where the seed of love sets root among the ashes of the dying.

You can snatch up a paperback on Amazon today! If you’ve got an e-reader, I have a couple different versions of the novel available: the green edition, which is the first part of the novel for just 99 cents, or the platinum edition containing the complete novel and bonus content. All online versions are FREE on Kindle Unlimited, too!

Read on, share on, and write on, my friends!

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My Narnia

We all need that timeless place: a piece of childhood where the world cannot change, and the only sounds are that which you create. When I was a child, my parents often helped a school friend run his summer day camp. It’s located in a forgotten chunk of central Wisconsin—not north enough to be considered North Woods, but not south enough to be considered Suburbia. I could run round this camp as much as I wanted, and did. There could be over a hundred kids, and other families with tents, and I’d never see or hear them. The fields and forests spellbound me. I could see the talking beavers emerge from the wildflowers and warn me of the White Witch’s secret police.

This land is my Narnia.

I returned after a twenty-year absence. A few new cabins, a few new signs. But the fields and the forests: unchanged.

Find a place where magic glows in the air you breathe. Stand in its majesty. Imagine.

Guest Author Mary Relindes Ellis on the Spirituality of Untouched Nature

MaryREllis2Mary Relindes Ellis is a Wisconsin native and author of the award-winning novel The Turtle Warrior, which is set in the rural north of our state.

The Chippewa River near my birthplace has always been part of my childhood animism in that it is a deeply spiritual place. Ashland County is the poorest county in Wisconsin but that poverty has ensured that the county’s spectacular beauty hasn’t been developed.  One of the few beliefs I retain from my childhood Catholicism is that there is divinity in everything.  I can’t, however, hold that belief towards skyscapers and such.  But a river, particular the river of one’s birth, holds my soul.  We are nothing without such places.

Click here for more information on Mary Relindes Ellis and her work.

Guest Author Victoria Houston on Setting as a Character

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Victoria Houston is author of the Loon Lake Mystery Series, a collection of murder mysteries based in Wisconsin, the author’s home state.

I grew up on a small chain of lakes just ten minutes east of Rhinelander where my grandparents had a log cabin that had been built in 1895.  Years later their cabin was demolished by a new owner, which broke my heart.  However, I was able to a full acre and 240 feet of lake frontage — the property abutting my grandfather’s.  On it is a 120-year-old cottage where I live all summer (as a kid I used to spy on the former owners because it has a wonderful sleeping porch windowed all around. My cottage has only 525 square feet of living space but it’s 20 feet from the lake.  I sleep surrounded by the sounds of the water and the wind, Great Horned Owls and eerie murmurs from cottages across the lake. I spend my days in the midst of towering red and white pine trees with eagles, Great Blue Herons, woodpeckers and lots of other critters.
This setting infuses my stories — the lovely sunsets, the terrifying thunderstorms.  And all my characters are people who live and deal with the beauty and the threats of the northwoods.  While my plots and people may be contemporary, this setting allows me to transcend the everyday.  My characters may be fictional but I feel as though they live nearby.
My lake world is haunting, often stunningly beautiful, seductive and, on occasion, murderous.  I love it.  I love living here.  I could not write the mysteries I write if I did not live here.