Podcast Ponder 2: Writing Excuses


Writing Excuses: 9.13 Three Pronged Character Development

First let me introduce this podcast. It’s one of my favorite writing podcasts, put together by published authors Brandon Sanderson, Dan Wells, Mary Robinette Kowal, and the creator of the hilarious comic Schlock Mercenary, Howard Taylor. Since I started listening to this podcast, the quality of my writing has skyrocketed.

This particular episode, along with its companion episodes (links at the bottom), introduced a brand new concept for me that I have since used multiple times. The Three Pronged Character Development concept is comprised of three sliding scales: 1. Sympathy Slider, 2. Competence Slider, and 3. Proactivity Slider.

Since listening to this episode, diagnosing character problems has become so much simpler and quicker. In this first episode, they introduce the concept and give a few examples of characters with varying Slider levels to start off. It helps to show why we like certain characters and not others. It’s a fun exercise to try yourself, too.

For example, they explain how Harry Potter’s Competence Slider and Proactivity Slider are both low while his Sympathy Slider is quite high and how JK Rowling accomplished that. They do the same for other well known characters as well.

When they get into moving sliders around to improve characters, it instantly helped me understand what I was doing wrong with my own characters and how I could fix it. Which brings me to another big point they make. This concept is not necessarily ideal for developing characters from the beginning, though it can help. It works best as a simple diagnosing tool and I can attest to its value and usefulness.

So if you’re having trouble figuring out your characters, or you want to make them more relatable, or you’re just curious about character developement, then I highly recommend giving this episode a listen. Then check out the companion episodes where they talk about each Slider in depth. I guarantee your characters will thank you.

Ep 9.25: Adjusting Character Sympathy
Ep 9.26: Adjusting Character Competence
Ep 9.32: Adjusting Character Proactivity

The 4 types of knitters


I learned to knit when I was about 10 and have dabbled with it off and on ever since. I’ve made wash clothes, scarves, hats, gloves. At one point I even learned to crochet (gasp!).

I also know quite a few knitters and I’ve learned that there are basically four different types.

Type 1: Pattern required, fiber snob

These knitters yarn shop in two interchangeable steps. 1. Find perfect yarn. 2. Find perfect pattern. Sometimes they find the pattern first, sometimes they find the yarn. But rest assured, they cannot leave the yarn shop without both (or at least not without plans for fulfilling the other step). There is hardly ever any free styling for these knitters. If it doesn’t have a pattern, they won’t be knitting it.

They are also yarn snobs, or as my mother says it, fiber snobs. There is nothing fake in these knitters’ projects. You’ll never catch them fingering anything acrylic, polyester, or synthetic. If it didn’t come straight from an animal or plant, they won’t even notice it. (Unless the tags are missing, but they don’t talk about those embarrassing moments.)

These are the most organized, structured knitters you’ll ever meet. Give them a pattern and they’ll find the exact yarn needed for it, then churn out a perfect sweater that looks just like the picture. (Don’t tell my mother, but fiber snobs also find the softest yarn.)

Type 2: Pattern required, fiber opportunist

These knitters need patterns as much as Type 1s. Give them a skein and tell them to knit whatever comes to mind and they’ll panic.

However, give them a pattern and they will knit with whatever is available. Oh sure, they love exploring yarn shops as much as any knitter (it’s a therapeutic experience, feeling all the delicious yarns), but they aren’t picky about what it’s made of. If they like it, they’ll take it.

These kind of knitters almost always go for the pattern books first. They love feeling the yarns, but are rarely inspired without a pattern to look at first. They’re also a lot of fun to explore yarn with since they touch first and read tags second.

Type 3: Free spirit, fiber snob

These knitters are commonly seen sitting in waiting rooms, bus stops, and coffee shops while their needles seem to have a mind of their own. They never need a pattern, and some actually find patterns too confining, but they will knit from one if they happen to like it. They also never knit with anything fake and a good chunk of their wardrobe they made themselves. (It’s not uncommon for these kind of knitters to be health foodies as well.)

They’re constantly creating and often find ways of putting discordant things together to make something surprisingly beautiful.

Type 4: free spirit, fiber opportunist

These knitters are generally hobby knitters. They find patterns confining and overwhelming and almost always prefer to knit without them. They’re less concerned with learning new stitches and techniques as simply knitting whatever they feel like.

These are the knitters you see most often in Michaels and Walmart (though they’ll wander a boutique yarn shop for fun too), and they aren’t nearly as familiar as fiber snobs with the horror of needing more of a particular yarn only to find that it’s been discontinued. Any kind of yarn will do for them and they don’t really care if what they’re making doesn’t come out just right. They simply enjoy the experience of making something with their hands.

For my part, I’m an occasionally snobby Type 4. It’s unavoidable when your mother is a brilliant Type 1. (Love you mom!)

Any other knitters out there? What type of knitter are you?

Podcast Ponder 1: I Should Be Writing

I Should Be Writing Ep. 378: Preparations

This episode of I Should Be Writing is actually a good one to start with if you’ve never heard the podcast. About halfway through, she explains what it’s all about and even a little about her other podcast, Ditch Diggers. One of my favorite aspects of this podcast is how each episode feels more like a conversation with Mur Lafferty than like she’s imparting invaluable wisdom from some lofty pedestal. When I feel alone in my struggles, I can come to this podcast and feel like I’ve got someone in my corner rooting for me.

In this episode she talks about her struggles with being prepared and how being a pantser (writing by the seat of your pants) makes that difficult. Even though I’m an outline junkie, I can still relate to the constant state of unpreparedness. No matter how much I outline, research, plan, etc. I never feel ready to start writing or keep up with this blog. For instance, this post was supposed to have been written this past weekend, but I never actually got around to it until yesterday. In fact, I’m typing this up while my two year old is climbing on me and shoving a bottle of kids vitamin gummies in my face. (For the record, he’s already had two and I know all too well what too many of these can do to your digestive system.)

I suppose part of that unpreparedness has something to do with all of the various responsibilities life and motherhood come with. It’s exhausting trying to be prepared all the time! And any time I’m fully prepared in one area, I’m therefore lacking in another.

Mur addresses this as well with her example of feeling ready to record a recent Ditch Diggers podcast episode, only to discover an important part she’d forgotten to prepare for. It’s like getting the dishes in the sink done only to find more in another room later on. Or finishing a school worksheet only to get marked down the next day for not doing the work on the back you hadn’t realized was there.

Then she brings up the usefulness of checklists. I have to admit to a bit of a chuckle at that point. Not because it’s not a fabulous idea or an excellent tool. I know they work wonders for many people, but even though I enjoy making lists (outline junkie, remember?), I have two main problems with them. 1. I always lose the lists or can’t remember which app I saved them in, which means I spend more time looking for the lists than using them. 2. The minute I make a to do list, something major inevitably crops up to put a huge dent in my plans for the day. Like the results of too many vitamin gummies.

Mur then spends the last half of the episode giving practical suggestions and tools to help prepare for writing. She never says you have to do any of them to be a successful writer, though. They are simply tools and methods to try out in order to figure out what works for you. I use some of them and am intrigued by others. Mostly though, I’m just grateful to know I’m not the only one who doesn’t have it all together. That any time I’m feeling like a failure and that I’ll never amount to anything, I can always turn on this podcast and be reminded that not only am I not alone, but that success isn’t dependent on always being prepared for everything.

Do you ever struggle with being prepared? Or are you one of those rare breeds who manage to remember everything? More importantly, have you ever had too many vitamin gummies? It’s quite unpleasant.

Introducing . . . Podcast Ponder

I’m a busy mom of two little boys, so I rarely have time to sit and read anymore. As a result, I’ve migrated from reading about writing craft to listening to podcasts, like Writing Excuses, Manuscript AcademyDitch Diggers, 600 Second Saga, and many others. Now I can learn about writing while doing dishes, folding laundry, and hunting for that special sippy cup that I swear looks like all the others.

While brainstorming ideas to write about here, I began writing down my thoughts on some of these episodes for fun. Then I thought, why not share them with all of you? And Podcast Ponder was born.

So now, every other Wednesday, between author interviews, I will share about a recent podcast episode on which I’ve been pondering.

Check out the links above for a sneak peek at what I’ll be pondering about. And let me know what you think about them.

8 Tips On Caring For Your TBR List

To the less reading obsessed, a TBR (to-be-read) list is an inconsequential part of their life. To some it might even be a completely foreign concept. But to a bookworm, the TBR list is an entity unto itself. It grows like a St. Bernard puppy. It leaps in sudden, random directions like an adolescent cat. And it can swiftly become unmanageable like a spooked horse.

So, if your list has gotten out of hand and you’ve resolved to finally deal with it this year, or you’re just looking for some new ideas, here are 8 tips to help you in the care of your TBR list.

1. Set strict boundaries.


(https://onsizzle.com/i/me-at-the-bookstore-me-no-me-i-cant-have-4337055)

If you aren’t vigilant, your list will get out and bring home all kinds of friends until your house is bursting with so many books, you might lose track of your original list. This doesn’t mean your TBR can’t have friends. Just make sure it doesn’t bring home too many.

2. Exercise it regularly.


(http://thoughtfulspot.typepad.com/blog/2012/05/thoughtfuls-thursday-book-faire.html)

If you don’t actually read the books in your list, it will get so out of shape, there will be no hope of getting it back to a reasonable size. See #7 if this one is particularly difficult.

3. Feed it healthy choices.


(dailydot.relaymedia.com)

You know what they say. Everything in moderation. Don’t stop reading your favorite genres, but be sure to keep your list well rounded with some variety.

4. Practice obedience and discipline.


(http://whisper.sh/whisper/0515a5982a32232425950179139939e4a3d8d1/You-cant-read-all-day-if-you-dont-start-in-the-morning)

Whip that list into shape with a plan. Lack of discipline leads to bad habits and bad habits leads to an unmanageable list.

5. Keep it well groomed.


(http://novelgoddess.blogspot.com/2011/11/its-monday-that-means-it-is-time-for.html?m=1)

Bath time is never easy, especially if your list is more cat than dog. But books left in the list too long tend to attract dirt and fleas that can eat away at the careful discipline you’ve just established with #4. Clean out the books you know you won’t actually read. Grooming is difficult, but it must be done.

6. Clean up its messes.


(https://undeadlabs.com/2015/12/studio/developer-bio-cale-schupman/)

Sometimes a book in our list will leave us with a steaming heap of disappointment. Don’t spread it around with a distasteful review. Let it be known that the book didn’t sit well with your list, but allow others to decide for themselves. Every list’s diet is different. This is something we all need to respect.

7. Give it regular check-ups.


(http://blog.whooosreading.org/15-most-accurate-school-librarian-memes/)

Nothing helps with #2,3 and 4 – well, all of them, really – like accountability. Find a reliable, experienced librarian, or at least fellow TBR parents, and meet with them regularly, whether in person or online. This will help to keep your plan on track and for sharing other tips on keeping your list happy and healthy.

8. Don’t forget your other pets (hobbies).


(https://imgflip.com/i/14a0rm)

This one can be hard for parents of particularly unruly TBR lists, but it is necessary. If you let your list take up too much of your life, all your other pets (hobbies) will begin to feel unloved. Don’t neglect them for the sake of your list.

Every TBR list is special and unique and should be treated with utmost love and care. Hopefully these tips will help bring your list back to its happy, healthy self, or if your list is already doing well, they will help to keep that momentum going. May this new year see many TBR lists being read and cared for better than before and may those TBR
lists bring their owners even greater happiness.