Read Pat’s latest reviews for Theatrius:
I couldn’t believe, after one four star rating (Mystery Montage,) and another four star rating (Crime Montage), I finally accomplished the best rating for my short story collection Confetti, a collection of Cozy Crimes! I don’t think as authors we realize what book, what story, what sentence, what word, will grab a reader, reviewer, friend, or neighbor. All our stories are in some way leaps of faith that our hearts and minds and imagination will be presented so someone out there will smile and say, “Hey, this was a great read.”
“Oh, just delightful! This book, generally, does not take itself too seriously. It is a collection of short stories, all tied together by the commission, contemplation, connivance or conundrum of murder. The problem of such a collection is to make the characters different from one story to the next. Patricia L. Morin speaks with different voices as her characters, mostly in the first person, involve themselves or are involved in homicide.
“When an intellectual college student has oxygen starvation amnesia, she talks in short clipped sentences, giving the impression that longer thoughts are just too much for her to manage. When a stoner has a run-in with a Good Samaritan, he is under the influence and his lack of coherent thought prevents him from recognizing the truth of his predicament. An elderly man contemplates his life and marriage, striving to find a reason to continue one or the other. A successful stock trader is forced by the murder of her sister to examine her own motivations and desires.
“There is more, however, to character development and tone than sentence structure alone and the author successfully creates, in a very short time and with quick strokes, enough of each character to allow the reader to picture and fill in the rest. There is just enough description for a short story, with such phrases as ‘eyes of ice’ or ‘he had a twinkle in the corner of his crinkled eyes.’ These would make good short plays, each about one-quarter to one-half hour long. Most of them have a clever twist or ending, often unexpected, usually foreshadowed for the amateur sleuths among us. The book is not clinically gory so the characterizations are not lost in the awful details. I liked the book: it is easy reading, and I found myself laughing at the twists and admiring the writer’s craft.”
—Ralph Peterson, San Francisco Book Review
Click here to read published book review
Characters are born, develop, and sometimes die in our minds. They live with us and are manipulated by us. We think about them, nurture them, and care what happens to them, even if they’re evil. While writing a novel or short story, I think more about my characters than my family. Our characters portray humanity and all its flaws; they could be our sisters, brothers, parents, and friends.
With that in mind, we could all be personalities unfolding in a writer’s storyline about love and relationships, life and death.
But few of us are psychologists. As a result, we can misrepresent how the mind actually works. I’ve read books in which a psychopath develops a conscience. That never happens. Psychopaths have no conscience. Why would they care enough to develop one?
Do you know your character’s psychological make up? If not, how do you construct a character arc when some of the vital symptoms, traits, and behavioral manifestations are missing? Not only will the character and their back-story suffer from inaccurate information, but also the character will become less believable.
Most writers have known people with psychological problems. As the author Rita Mae Brown once said, “The statistics on sanity are that one out of every four Americans is suffering from some form of mental illness. Think of your three best friends. If they’re okay, then it’s you.”
The madness of the protagonist or antagonist can be, and often is, the driving force of the story. (Think about Hannibal Lecter.) To understand and label that madness is to truly know your character-type creation.
Or does it really matter? After all, we as writers can make up our own diagnosis as long as that diagnosis doesn’t spill over the boundary of believability.
Many times writers will decide when the character is born what the psychology of the character will be. Ms. A is depressed. The writer might run to the DSM V psychological diagnostic manual, and copy down the traits of depression, and then mold the character’s psychology by those traits. Ms A sleeps a lot and isn’t eating. However, in the middle of the book, she’s out of bed and feeling frisky, eating like a horse, and ready to take on the world, and exhibiting some kooky behavior, among other things.
Characters have a mind of their own, and the author can be back reading the DSM V.
The first thing I question my character about is Demographic, as I’m sure most writers do. Like my character Ariel James in my short story, “Case Study”: Ariel James, a sixteen-year-old Caucasian Jewish female, is model-tall and thin, attractive (long blond hair and hazel eyes), bright, verbal, and sexually active. She lives in an upper middle class neighborhood with her computer-programmer father (Mike), his fifth-grade-teacher girlfriend (Rho), and her eleven-year-old baseball-fanatic brother (Stu). Ariel referred herself for counseling May 7, 2012. She called and said: “I have big problems and I want to talk to someone.” I asked Ariel about her hobbies, what she likes to do on her free time, and what she does when she’s alone. From there: it’s the psycho-social: social (external), personal (internal), financial, career choices, educational, spiritual, family ties, and what is causing her stress. Then we’re on our way together toward an adventure and unique relationship. I revisit the personal feelings and social events often before I label my characters because, as you know, they can be so damn fickle.
Traveling cross country from San Francisco to our new New York City apartment with a caravan full of “stuff,” and the blaring sun reminding us how burning hot it can be, I thought about the word purpose, a purpose unto itself. Purpose was all around me. In fact, we were in a Bed, Bath, and Beyond store, and I heard this song I don’t know, and the crooner is singing about finding something to believe in or not living. Those weren’t the exact words, but I was holding too much “stuff” to write it down.
But what I did get to do, and I thought it quite exciting—wish I had a video camera—was to interview people I had met about what they thought when I said the word purpose. What the heck, I thought. Michael Black hit the salient features of “purpose,” and I couldn’t agree more. Carole added some purposefulness to the word, and Rita gave us many writers’ and philosophers’ quotes on the subject. All great in their own way. Susan and Hannah had existential definitions for the words as their day and adventures took them into the here and now, the ever important daily purpose, or describing obstacles to achieving one’s purpose.
A young bartender we met, Danielle, a wise 24 year old, answered that question. Here is a bit of the conversation. Larry, my husband, added a few things, also.
P: What is purpose?
D: It is cause and effect, everything happens for a reason.
P: Is it transient?
D: Yes it is.
P: So it changes.
D: Of course.
P: Does it change as your life changes, or as the experience changes? Can one experience have several purposes, or is it that you have to go through an experience, and in that experience there is a purpose?
D: For me you have to go through an experience that has a purpose, then you have another experience and that has a purpose.
L: Pat, why the meeting with Danielle and Tierney (another interviewee—is that a word?), what was the purpose?
D: Hey, that’s what I said when I went home last night. I met those people for a reason, not just to serve them wine. If I meet this Joy (a person we recommended) and she helps me with something that is life changing, then that’s the purpose of our meeting. You become the purpose.
So what I have gleaned about “what is purpose” is this: There’s a silent movement to it. Its vicissitudes in life are individual, constantly changing, and very important. There may even be an ingredient of serendipity to the mix. My cousin, Wally Gold, a songwriter (who wrote “It’s my Party” and “It’s Now or Never” and others) said that because of serendipity, he met Aaron Schroeder, the music king at that time, and that changed his life and his life’s purpose. Maybe for me, the benefit of this trip, in a spiritual way, was to help people take a look at what is truly meaningful to them.
When thinking about the word “depth,” it is hard to imagine what it really means. I naturally think of water (the distance below the surface), a drawer (distance between front and back), maybe a jungle (distance to the most remote part), or maybe even art (depth of color or three dimensional forms). When it comes to the individual, depth become harder to envision. What is the quality of being deep? Is it experiences layered with experiences layered with even more experiences? Is it a profound or intense state of feeling, as in the depth of misery?
What life could be lived, or experiences gained, without self? It is another word that is hard to imagine. Self is the core of our being, the essence of what makes us home in our body. But when I imagine it, it’s seems as endless as an oil shaft, like our center core is unlimited. There is no single image that identifies it. One women I saw in therapy said that she had lost her self, and was grieving that loss. She no longer acted in a way that felt authentic to who she was. Whew! Right?
Psychology is the study of the Psyche. Modern Psychology can help us understand more about that “self”. With Depth Psychology, we learned that the psyche is more than a conscious mind, it had depth, illuminations which are not visible, the unconscious. Carl Jung (picture to left) believed that there were aspects of our psyche that were common to us all. These aspects include images, dreams, the spiritual (soul), art, philosophy, and the para-nornormal. Jung did his doctoral research on the Occult, and studied a fifteen-year-old medium. I believe that these ingredients are also important to what make up the “depth” in all of us, the authentic self.
When exploring the characters in your life, as well as your books, or maybe even yourself, probe the most important facets of that character: spiritually, emotionally, their dreams, their fantasies (which few share), their real and imagined desires. That’s what I do to get that added dimension. That way I feel as though I’m not writing about their lives, but of their lives.
The Interactive Way to Write Your Next Book: Crowdsourcing!
Recently, I was at a meeting with my new publisher and several of the authors from Harper Davis. We discussed “Branding,” and my need to redo the way I brand myself as well as my blog, website, and name. I tend to use Pat Morin, and not the Patricia L. Morin signed on my books and short stories. When discussing the use of name, one of the marketing people suggested I crowdsource an opinion of which of the names I should use. I had never heard of it. Several of the authors had explained that authors are now using crowdsourcing to write their novels. With the help of their fans, their new stories are being created.
Wow! First let me define crowdsourcing (and if some/all of you know, please forgive the repetition).
Crowdsourcing is, according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, the practice of obtaining needed services, ideas, or content by soliciting contributions from a large group of people, and especially from an online community, rather than from traditional employees or suppliers. The general concept is to combine the efforts of crowds of volunteers where each one could contribute a small portion, which adds into a relatively large or significant result. Crowdsourcing is different from an ordinary outsourcing since it is a task or problem that is outsourced to an undefined public rather than to a specific, named group. Although the word “crowdsourcing” was coined in 2006, it can apply to a wide range of activities.Crowdsourcing can apply to specific requests, such as crowdvoting, crowdfunding, a broad-based competition, and a general search for answers, solutions, or a missing person.
There is even a new platform for writers all over the world launched by CrowdSource, LLC. The new portal, called Write.com, aims to recruit new writers to enrich Amazon’s Mechanical Turk crowdsourcing marketplace.
Authors are able, through this new format, to change endings and rewrite books, as was discussed on LadyKillers Blog before. But now, we can include our fan base to help create the story from the start.
Out with the outline, out with the plotantsers, out with the 1,2,3. In with the new group interactive process: crowdsourcing!
What do you think about all this?
What interested me the most about the rejections that authors received from publishers and agents, beside the types of letters, and diversity of the language in the negative responses (some very positive, also), was the reaction of the author. I know when my reject slips started flooding in, I felt angry, defensive, bewildered, and sometimes indignant (usually not all at the same time). I worked hard to keep my spirits up, and push through a bit of despair to send my stories to the next publisher, hopeful of an acceptance.
We’re resilient. We’ve bended, adapted, shifted, sometimes in ways we never thought we could. I most certainly did not handle all my rejections effectively. I cursed out several agents (the one who sent the fortune cookie size response). I even wrote to one agent and told her how rude she was in her rejection letter, and would suggest no one hire her—since we do have to pay them for services.
Anyway, the resilient person, moi, does not always, to this day, handle refusal of my work well. However, the strength, I believe, is in the ability to rebound. According to Robert Brooks, Ph.D, there are four concepts that help people when confronted with rejection. All four have been touched upon in The Ladykillers Blog this week at one point or other. I’m just putting them all together.
- Avoid self-defeating assumption. Rejections do not indicate a basic flaw in our personality.
- Don’t magnify the rejection in terms of the impact it has on your life. It is not a forecast of your future. After about 75 rejection slips, I sorta had a hard time believing this one.
- Don’t allow the rejection to derail your dreams. Persevere.
- Learn from the rejection, even if there is no suggestion for change. Seek helpful feedback from others.
- (Mine) reevaluate the agents and publishers, the people you are hoping to win over–they my not be right for you. I’ve had to change my list several times.
- STAY RESILIENT!
Can you add to this list? What has helped you stay resilient? Cat buddies that purr on your lap are acceptable.
Sedona, AZ–Pat Morin
Like in nature, rules are constantly broken. You can have rain, and sun, and clouds, and thunder storms, all at one time.
I, as the novice writer, don’t even know all the rules I’ve broken. But I have read many books on the art of writing, and have learned we need rules to free us from the onslaught of those unending waterfall of images and thoughts, and runaway mental scenes that go on and on, and then split into other scenes until the first scene is forgotten. Sometimes I say to myself: Put a period on that run-on thought, will ya?
I can do that more easily than I do in my everyday life. The escape of writing and being in that made-up world with its many rules is more freeing than having to deal with the stresses of everyday life. I cherish being in that rule-filled world.
It’s okay to break the rules of my dieting (more than breaking the rules of my writing), sometimes I break the rule of calling a family member, like should I every-single-day. Sometimes I break the rule of not giving the ultimate review about a fellow author (because I have to run my dog to the vet), and I haven’t read all the books I should for fellow writer (because I have all those test I have to take at Kaiser, my insurance co.).
I have to break the pattern of breaking the rules so I can get on track for, at least, a little while. It’s my mid-year-goal rule. Try to get the imagined-world rules at least a bit closer to the real-world rules.
Painting by Adell R. Donaghue
Sometimes making someone smile is a pep talk.
Every writer needs a good pep talk from time to time. Writing as a business tends to be rife with negative feedback, whether it’s a string of rejection letters from literary agents or a bad review from an unhappy reader. Since sitting at a computer all day is such a solitary activity, it’s easy to let all that negativity pull you into the dark corner where all your insecurities lie, that place where you convince yourself that you don’t even have enough talent to write a proper grocery list. That’s why those pep talks are so crucial. Staci McLaughlin
Another writer, Priscilla Royal wrote: Most writers are fragile sorts. Some may come across as arrogant, others painfully shy, and many in between. But when it comes to that public reception of that beloved creature which has burst forth from our fevered brain, we all very nervous. That is when pep talks are needed. I thought a lot about these two statements this week and changed their words a bit to include all of us, writers, readers, humans, non-humans, the whole lot of what inhabits the earth.
I would change Staci’s wise words to: Every person, no matter who they are, needs a good pep talk from time to time. Life is rife with negative feedback, whether it’s a string of complaints from loved ones, or an unhappy co-worker or worse, a boss. It’s easy to let the negative pull you into a dark corner where all your insecurities lie (and every nook and cranny where light never shines), that place where you convince yourself (and have for many years believed) that you can’t even get it together to write a proper grocery list. That’s when, as Staci reminds us, you need a pep talk.
I would change Priscilla’s wise words to: Most humans are fragile sorts. Some of us may come across as arrogant, others painfully shy, and many in between. But when it come to that public reception of any work or words that have burst forth from our fevered brains, that is when many of us are bundles of nerves … some about to unravel. That’s when we need the pep talks.
Where do the pep talks come from? Mainly, ourselves. Ann Parker posted a video showing a five-year-old girl talking into a mirror, cheering herself on, reminding herself of all that she had going for her, including her house, her PJ’s, and sister. Heartwarming. Reaffirming. Reminding us to be our own cheerleaders and to move on toward our desires, over mounds of self-doubt, by remembering the little things that made us feel worthwhile, and important.