17 April 2019

Writing a Novel: Is a Physical Description Enough When Developing Your Characters?


When I begin to write a new story, one of the first things I attempt to do is imagine what my characters might look like. I find it sometimes difficult to bring my books' characters to life if I don't know what they look like. Granted, since I mostly write historical fiction, it's relatively easy to find pictures of my main characters online, but the rest is usually up to my imagination. 

But stories almost always have more than just a few main characters, and I find there are numerous ways to develop the appearance of the supporting characters beyond their eye and hair colour. Often times I like to make notes of details such as the character's height, weight, body type, or other unique physical traits for reference.

Although part of the description, include eye and hair colour it is so easy to rely on such physical characteristics that we might be tempted to neglect everything else.  But how can writers go beyond the obvious? 

Here are some methods that have worked for me so far:

1. Main characters will, more than likely, need a description of their hair and eyes and so much more to help our readers visualize our main characters right from the start, instead of leaving them confused for halfway through the book and then spring an image on them that might not match what they've already visualized. 

2. Supporting characters descriptions can probably do without hair and eye colour unless one or both play a role in the plot. Otherwise, why even bother mentioning them? Writers can use much more creative ways to describe them...with traits that add to the story in some peculiar and memorable way, such as mood, or tension. 

3. Give your characters unique tags, something that will help the reader identify a character throughout the book. It can be something simple such as a physical abnormality such as a beet red face or a wart on the tip of the nose. Give the character a tick such as a catchphrase which only one character uses throughout the story. Your character could also be plagued by extreme shyness, or have a bad habit such as nail-biting. While these tags can be incredibly useful, it's important not to over-use them. It can become tiring when you mention these tags every time a character makes an appearance. And that leads me to my last point...

4. Ultimately, the physical description is only the tip of the iceberg in bringing a character to life, and their actions will always be more memorable than the words they speak. It is also important to show how our characters react to certain situations, what their goals, and dreams are, etc. All of these things combined, help build an impression in the reader’s mind about who the characters really are.

What unique ways have you developed to describe the characters in your fiction writing? Feel free to share your writing experience with us in the comment section!


Piper is the author of several non-fiction books, and recently added three historical fiction novels to her ever-expanding collection of published writings, In the Shadow of Her Majesty , The Country Girl Empress., and A Life in the Shadow of the Crown. When she isn't busy typing away on her computer, she can be found chasing after her furry children or holding on tightly to a good cup of coffee. Follow her on LinkedInFacebook, and Goodreads.
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10 April 2019

Writing a Novel: How to Add Depth to Your Story


A while back, I met an aspiring writer, named Peggy, at a local pet supplies store (I spend a lot of time there....what can I say, I love to shop for my furry children!) who asked me several questions regarding my writing but this one stood out:

“All the books I've attempted to write so far have always resulted in little more than short stories with a page count of under a hundred pages instead of full-length books. Because of this, I've been reluctant to approach an agent or even attempt to self-publish. Do you have any tips or tricks you don't mind sharing how to develop my storylines and/or characters further to make my books longer?”

This week I decided to take the gist of her questions, and turn it into a blog post. Thank you for the inspiration, Peggy! 

My debut novel has over 400 pages, and a word count of over nearly 115000 words, my second historical fiction piece has over 360 pages, and even my current project already exceeds the 320-page mark. As I started to think about what I have done so far to reach that amount, I came up with these three points:

Respect the Setting


One way novels can lack depth is by overlooking the setting and instead focusing too much on the characters and plot. It can be hard to get the setting "just right.” Sometimes we make a mistake by not including enough details, especially when we attempt to develop a fast-paced plot. Then, at times, we err by randomly tacking on setting details like some sort of after-thought.

Instead, we should strive to give the setting the respect that it’s due and to do so, we should focus on descriptions and sensory details that relate to the plot and the mood you wish to create. When we accomplish that, the setting becomes another character in your story that we can slowly and carefully nurture.

When we view the story environment as more than just a description but as an essential component, then we should be able to add the right details at the appropriate times, in order to keep our readers engaged without overloading them.

Add More than One Conflict to the Basic Plot 


Many story writers develop their plot around some kind of conflict, often involving an antagonist. While there's nothing wrong with that approach, there are many other ways to add more conflict to your storyline. Consider man vs. society, man vs. nature, man vs. time, man vs. machine....the list is nearly endless.

I try to remember to weave more than one of these types of conflict throughout my story. The more types of conflict we add to the plot, the more complicated our stories become. Just keep in mind that there's also such a thing as too much of a good thing! 

Give Your Characters Internal Struggles to Conquer


Another way to add layers to a story is by delving into our character's hard, emotional issues, go below their skin as it were, and straight to their hearts. But please keep in mind that this is more than just our characters expressing their reactions to the plot, which is, of course, important as well. 

While they need to show and express appropriate feelings in regards to the antagonist, an emotional struggle is a bigger internal conflict that we can weave throughout the entire story. This is usually a character flaw or struggle such as a personal insecurity, fear of the unknown, pride, etc. that is somehow related to main our character’s backstory. 

The more we intertwine this emotional plot with the world that we have created, the richer our story will become, giving our readers greater opportunities to connect with our characters.

There are many ways to add substance to your story including adding subplots, supporting characters and their viewpoints, creating more scenes, etc. As writers, when we’re looking to increase our story's length, we obviously don’t want to add more words just to reach some arbitrary word count goal. Instead, we should strive to make every word count.

How do you add depth to your writing? Please feel free to share your insight in the comment section!


Piper is the author of several non-fiction books, and recently added three historical fiction novels to her ever-expanding collection of published writings, In the Shadow of Her Majesty , The Country Girl Empress., and A Life in the Shadow of the Crown. When she isn't busy typing away on her computer, she can be found chasing after her furry children or holding on tightly to a good cup of coffee. Follow her on LinkedInFacebook, and Goodreads.
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03 April 2019

Month in Review - March 2019



A quarter of this year has already come and gone, and Easter is right around the corner. Can you believe it!? But before time runs away again, let's recap last month. So now, without further ado, here's the list of the most popular blog posts for March 2019, chosen by you, the readers:

Support Epilepsy Awareness - Wear Purple



Next Tuesday, the 26th of March is Purple Day - it is a celebration aimed to raise epilepsy awareness worldwide, a condition that globally affects over 65 million people. However, did you know that dogs can be afflicted with this ailment as well? Up to six percent of the canine population suffers from a form of epilepsy...

Wholesome Canine Nutrition - Homemade Turkey Meat Loaf 



With the recent influx in dog food recalls, I've received several requests from readers and fellow dog lovers to share another of my homemade dog food recipes. I decided to share my recipe for my puppy-approved Turkey Meat Loaf...

How Readers' Suggestions Can Influence Writers



Like most writers, I get my fair share of emails and social media messages from readers. Most of these messages are encouraging. I love to hear how my stories touch readers' lives...

Writing Historical Fiction: Balancing History and Fiction


Recently, I have received several requests from my readers to share what I've learned along the way and my view on the subject of researching historical facts, how much of it is really necessary, and how close to stick to reality...

Writing Historical Fiction: Chronological Errors and How to Avoid them



Let's start with this question: What is a chronological error? Well, a chronological error or anachronism is defined as an error in time placement...



Piper is the author of several non-fiction books, and recently added three historical fiction novels to her ever-expanding collection of published writings, In the Shadow of Her Majesty , The Country Girl Empress., and A Life in the Shadow of the Crown. When she isn't busy typing away on her computer, she can be found chasing after her furry children or holding on tightly to a good cup of coffee. Follow her on LinkedInFacebook, and Goodreads.
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27 March 2019

Wholesome Canine Nutrition: Homemade Turkey Meat Loaf



With the recent influx in dog food recalls, I've received several requests from readers and fellow dog lovers to share another of my homemade dog food recipes. I decided to share my recipe for my puppy-approved Turkey Meat Loaf. I cook it frequently for my current furry friends as often as I've made it for my late epi-warriors, Lana and Darren.

Considered second only to a raw food diet by many, homemade dog food can be a healthy alternative to unhealthy commercial kibble. With homemade dog food, you have control over the ingredients, potential allergens, additives, preservatives and nutrition of your dog's fare. Wholesome nutrition can mean a longer, healthier life for your furry friend(s). Making your own dog food is also an excellent opportunity to provide your fur babies with a variety of different meats, fruits, and vegetables which results in a nutrient-dense diet.

A homemade diet is perfect for canine's suffering from allergies, seizures or other ailments since you have better control over the ingredients your dog ingests. Adding supplements that improve skin and coat condition while feeding foods that do not cause allergic reactions can alleviate symptoms or eliminate allergies completely. You might also notice that your dog(s) smell much better, as that infamous dog odor usually goes away when you feed a clean diet. 

Homemade diet recipes are composed of both cooked and raw ingredients, such as muscle and organ meat, cooked or pureed vegetables and a moist carrier like plain yogurt, cottage cheese, pumpkin puree or applesauce. A multivitamin is of vital importance to any dog food recipe because it helps to replace nutrients lost during cooking and ensures balanced nutrition. There are several excellent choices commercially available, but when in doubt it is best to consult a nutritionist to help you properly balance your dog's meals.

Turkey Meat Loaf  

Ingredients:

- 2 lb ground turkey
- 1/2 cup chopped carrots
- 1/2 cup peas
- 1/2 cup oats
- 1 large egg
- 4 hard-boiled eggs

Directions:

1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit
2) Mix ground turkey, chopped carrots, and peas in large bowl.
3) Add oats and whole eggs and mix thoroughly.
4) Lightly grease 9-inch loaf pan with olive oil, and put half the turkey mix into pan.
5) Place the hard-boiled eggs into pan, and cover them with the rest of the ground turkey mix.
6) Pop into oven and bake for 45 minutes.
7) Let meat loaf cool completely. Then add vitamins and serve. 

This recipe also lends itself for make-ahead meals. Simply multiply this recipe to your needs, portion appropriately, and store in a plastic container in refrigerator for up to a week. Just don't forget to re-heat the necessary portions before serving, as ice-cold foods might upset your dog's tummy! 

Find more tips, tricks, and recipes here:  





Piper is the author of several non-fiction books, and recently added three historical fiction novels to her ever-expanding collection of published writings, In the Shadow of Her Majesty , The Country Girl Empressand A Life in the Shadow of the Crown. When she isn't busy typing away on her computer, she can be found chasing after her furry children or holding on tightly to a good cup of coffee. Follow her on LinkedInFacebook, and Goodreads.

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20 March 2019

Support Epilepsy Awareness - Wear Purple


Next Tuesday, the 26th of March is Purple Day - it is a celebration aimed to raise epilepsy awareness worldwide, a condition that globally affects over 65 million people. However, did you know that dogs can be afflicted with this ailment as well? Up to six percent of the canine population suffers from a form of epilepsy. In fact, epilepsy is the most diagnosed canine neurological disease. This is only a rough estimate since many cases of canine epilepsy remain undiscovered by the respective canine parents as dogs often experience their fits when they are inactive, late at night or during the early morning hours. So, throw on a purple shirt and let's raise epilepsy awareness for all sufferers, human and canine alike!

What is Canine Epilepsy?

Epilepsy manifests in terrifying ways, causing a dog to experience sudden, uncontrolled convulsions. First recognized in ancient times, Hippocrates referred to epilepsy as the “sacred” disease. However, nothing about it seems sacred! Watching a beloved companion suffer a seizure can be an extremely traumatic event. Learning to live with an animal with complex health issues is never easy. In general, we distinguish between two types of epilepsy - genetic and idiopathic. 

Genetic epilepsy is passed down from one generation to the next, and certain dog breeds are more prone to this form of epilepsy than others. 

Idiopathic Epilepsy is caused by unknown factors, and it is often difficult to predict what will trigger the next seizure or when.

Living with a dog that has epilepsy can be a daunting prospect, but with some help from a veterinarian and much planning, epileptic dogs can live a relatively normal, happy and meaningful life.

How to Help Your Pup Through a Seizure

Whether your canine companion has been diagnosed with a seizure disorder or just experienced his/her first epileptic episode, it can be challenging to keep your wits about you during such a heartbreaking event. 

I took care of my two epi-warriors, Lana and Darren, for over four years, and today I'd like to share my basic practices for protecting your furry friend from coming to harm and minimizing the effects of a seizure with you.

Protecting your dog from injury during a seizure is essential. Many dogs will give off physical as well as behavioral indicators before convulsions begin (pre-ictal phase). If you notice signs of agitation or distress such as heavy panting, whining, or incessant pacing, lead your dog to a safe location, if possible, before the seizure begins.

Spaces away from staircases, furniture, and cables are best. If at all possible, clear the area of items that could potentially injure your pup or may be knocked over such as breakables, decorations, candles, hard or sharp-edged furniture. If your dog is laying on the sofa or bed, lower your friend to the floor to prevent a fall, if it is safe to do so. Make hardwood and tile floors more comfortable with towels and blankets.


Please, do not attempt to move your dog if the seizure has already begun! Instead, improvise by padding the area and blocking off potential hazards with towels, cushions, and blankets as your dog may be thrashing about, banging its head on a hard surface.


During a seizure, your canine’s brain is flooded with abnormal electrical impulses. Any additional stimuli in the form of bright light, loud noises or excessive touching can actually prolong its duration. While it is our instinctual need comfort our furry friends during a time of distress, please rest assured, that your pup is not in pain and is more than likely unaware of what's happening. 

Many times, dogs will bite the inside of their mouths during an epileptic episode, but it is physically nearly impossible to swallow or choke on their own tongue. So please, keep your hands out of your dog's mouth! Your furry friend has no control over their body during a seizure, and you would only end up getting inadvertently bitten. 


You can make the surrounding area more peaceful by:

- Removing other pets and people
- Turning down/off the TV or radio
- Dimming the lights/closing the curtains
- Not touching the dog
- Remain calm


While every second of a fit can seem like an eternity, in reality, they usually only last a few minutes. Most vets recommend timing the duration of the seizure(s) to determine if it is an emergency. It might also be useful to film the seizure, as it may provide helpful information to your veterinarian.


Although most seizures are not life-threatening, they do indicate an underlying medical problem. If your pup experiences a seizure for the first time or has possibly been exposed to a toxic substance, seek veterinary attention immediately. For animals with a diagnosed seizure disorder, the rule of thumb is: It's an emergency when an epileptic episode last longer than five minutes or the dog has more than three seizures within 24 hours.


For epi-warriors with recurring seizures, it can be helpful to keep a detailed log of any seizure activity you may observe to help your veterinarian diagnose the problem, identify potential seizure triggers, and determine future treatment options. It's a good idea to include information such as the length of each seizure, observed seizure activity like convulsions, “air-biting”, staring off into space, etc., whether or not bladder/bowel control was lost, and observed behavior before, after, and in-between seizures.






What I would like everyone to remember on Epilepsy Awareness Day is this...it is not the end of the world if your dog has epilepsy. Yes, it is challenging to live with canine epilepsy, and there's no cure for this condition. However, it can be managed. There may be bumps in the road along your journey together, but you can get through it. Just take a deep breath and deal with it one day at a time.

For more information about Purple Day, more Purple Day events or epilepsy, please visit www.purpleday.org.

To learn more about living with canine epilepsy, click here.





Piper is the author of several non-fiction books, and recently added three historical fiction novels to her ever-expanding collection of published writings, In the Shadow of Her Majesty , The Country Girl Empressand A Life in the Shadow of the Crown. When she isn't busy typing away on her computer, she can be found chasing after her furry children or holding on tightly to a good cup of coffee. Follow her on LinkedInFacebook, and Goodreads.


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