Confessions of a Pantser

Every story begins with inspiration. Some little bit of something catches the eye or sparks the imagination. The writer overhears a conversation in a Chili’s in the Dallas-Fort Worth airport that starts the thought processes rolling. There is a hill in northwest Arkansas that has an abandoned house just sitting up there on top of it, buffeted by the wind, waiting for someone to write a ghost story with the dilapidated old thing as the setting. Then a news story catches her attention, and she wonders why in the world that guy did that thing with the sharpie that he did. And off the writer goes with a few what if questions like… What if someone used a major catastrophe like a hurricane or a bombing as a perfect opportunity to disappear? Next thing you know, she’s tapping out the first few paragraphs of a brand new story.

Start with a spark that creates a great setting, an inspired character, or a fabulous opening scene, then add a hero, a heroine, and an antagonist, and don’t forget a major conflict and a nail-biting life or death pivotal the-book-hinges-on-this-one-moment scene, and you’ve got the basic ingredients for romantic suspense.

In between the opening hook and the final nail biter scene, there is a lot of territory to cover, and it is in that middle as yet undefined land where I confess I am a certified pantser. I don’t know where my story’s going in the middle until I write it. Oftentimes, my characters will decided what happens in the in-betweens. For instance, just last week my hero’s ex-girlfriend was murdered. Did my hero kill her, you ask? No, of course not. Heroes don’t murder their ex-girlfriend’s, but he certainly didn’t see the crisis coming and neither did I!

So I’m going to let my imagination run away with me for a moment. Bear with me. Let me set up the situation for you. I’m going to put my hero, my heroine, and my antagonist in a dark room and just sort of go from there. Okay, I’ll give them a dim 20 watt light bulb dangling from the ceiling, just so they won’t be scared of the dark. I’ll name my hero Unnamed, my heroine Undefined, and my antagonist Unwritten.

And action…

Unnamed: Man, it’s dark in here. Why doesn’t she put a window in this place?

Undefined: I don’t know.

Unnamed: Oops, I forgot. You don’t have an opinion, because she hasn’t given you a personality yet. She should at least give you some...she should make you friendly or…something.

Bubbly: Oh, right! Maybe she hasn’t given me a personality yet because she’s busy or she’s thinking about sorting her underwear drawer or the cat barfed up tuna or her baby is squalling…or wow why is it so dark in here? And why is everything black? And who’s that guy over there that doesn’t say anything? He’s kind of scary. (Giggles.)

Unnamed: Oh, no.

Miss Optimistic (Name changed from Bubbly/Undefined.): What? What’s wrong? I can tell there’s something wrong, but cheer up. Everything is going to be fine. We have this nice room, and I know she’s going to give us a window soon. Ah, look over there! She did it! She did it!

Unnamed: Yep, she made you a ding-a-ling.

Grouchy (Another name change for Miss Optimistic/Bubbly/Undefined.): What’s that supposed to mean? I’m not going to talk to you. And… (Stares mean at Unwritten.) Stop staring at me.

Unnamed: He can’t respond. She hasn’t written him yet. And you don’t have to get all huffy.

Grouchy: Oh, so now you’re an expert on how she writes, Mr…Mr…What is your name?

Unnamed: I don’t know.

Grouchy: Oh, that’s right, she hasn’t named you yet. She should call you Ralph.

Ralph (Name changed from Unnamed.): I don’t like the name Ralph. I’d rather be Chad.

Snarky (And yet another name change for Grouchy/Miss Optimistic/Bubbly/Undefined.): You would like the name Chad! (Examines fingernails as if she doesn’t care when she really does.) She should do something about the stone statue over there. She should at least give him a scowl.

Tank (Name changed from Unwritten.): (No dialogue only rumbling noises like a tank.)

Chad (Name changed from Ralph/Unnamed): (Glances around nervously at the black walls.) We need a door so we can get away from him.

(Door appears as if by magic.)

Smiley: (Grabs Tank’s upper arm.) Come on, Handsome, I’d rather leave with you. (Throws snotty smirk over shoulder at Chad as Tank, who used to be Unwritten, opens the door for her.) You’re much better looking than Mr. Bossy.

Handsome (Name changed from Tank/Unwritten): You look lovely today, Smiley.

Mr. Bossy (Name changed from Chad/Ralph/Undefined): Hey, come back here!

…and scene.

Who knew the heroine would leave with the antagonist? Did you? I didn’t.


Conversations With My Muse (Accounting is Boring Edition) - 0006

Image in Public Domain as a faithful reproduction
of a work of art in the Public Domain.
So I’m in my office at work trying to figure out which one of our members’ dues hasn’t been remitted to national yet when my muse interrupts my train of thought.

Muse: Pssst…Writer person….

Me: * Doesn’t bother to hide irritation. * What?

Muse: So I was thinking—

Me: Not now. Can’t you see I’m busy? I have a lot of work to do.

Muse: But listen to this—

Me: Hold up! You’ve been silent for days, weeks no less, and you want to whisper in my ear now?

Muse: You need to work on your writing, girl. You’ve been slacking. And besides, accounting is boring! So there was this the guy and this girl and she’s been dead for three years, but she wakes up in this other woman’s body—”

Me: Wrote it already.

Muse: What?

Me: Released that story last month. Don’t you have anything better?

Muse: So there was this guy, this gal, and this ghost—

Me: Released that yesterday. You’ve been off your game lately.

Muse: You’ve been ignoring me.

Me: I’ve been working—

Muse: Working smirking. Accounting is sooo boring.

Me: Well, yeah. Accounting is boring. You said that already. Why do you think I write? I gotta have some excitement in my otherwise mundane life, don’t I? And how do you think I’m able to support your habit?

Muse: Point taken…. Hey, you make me sound like an addict or something.

Me: From your own subtle whisper to my ear.

Muse: * Huffs * Well then, I can tell you this later.

Me: Oh, no. You’ve already interrupted me, so what is it?

Muse: Never mind. Go back to your numbers and your calculator and your Excel spreadsheets and your QuickBooks and your—

Me: * Leaning back in my chair and looking all smug * You sound bitter.

* Silence *

Me: Muse?

* More silence *

Me: Well, you don’t have to be that way about it!

Muse: So there’s this guy and this gal and she has problems with other people’s memories—

Me: Current work in progress. If you’re going to harass me, you need to do better than that.

Muse: So if a man wanted to disappear, what better time to do it than after a catastrophe.

Me: Okay, I’m listening.

Muse: So there’s this woman who lost her husband in 911. She goes on vacation and…


Even More #FridayStuff About Me - 0014

Each week, Hilary lists four statements on feeling beachie with a blank for you to fill in on your own blog. If you want to join in on the fun and come up with four fill-in’s of your own, please email them to her at feelingbeachie@gmail.com. If she uses them, she will add you as co-host to the hop! This week’s co-host is Janice from Janice’s Footsteps (she came up with the last two statements).

Hilary would LOVE if you could please help her spread the word about this hop…So please tweet, FaceBook share, and add the linky to you post…

This week’s statements:

1.    Given the choice of summer weather or winter weather I’d pick winter, because it’s better to add layers of clothes than go around naked in public and since I’ve become a woman of a certain age, I’m hot all the time.
2.    If you told me when I was eighteen that I would pass the age of forty I would have never believed you. Just because I couldn’t imagine being THAT old. Now forty seems incredibly young…
3.    The last time I cooked okra and tomatoes it came out horrible. I tried to remember my Daddy’s secret ingredient and discovered it is NOT chili powder.
4.    My favorite color is red.

Please add the Follow Friday button to your post or your blog.

Please link your Follow Friday Four Fill-in Fun post to the linky below. Please grab the linky and post on your blog…


Happy #ReleaseDay - Fear

  Just in time for Halloween! From Crooked Cat Publishing, Fear: A Modern Anthology of Horror and Terror. This anthology comes in two volumes, including stories from sixty talented writers. I am honored that my story Life and Death in a Cemetery is included in Volume Two. All the authors in both volumes have donated their royalties to the international charities Barnardo’s and Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF).

Fear can be purchased on Amazon. Volume One of Fear can be purchased at this  link. Volume Two can be purchased at this link. Or click on the Crooked Cat badge on the right sidebar to go directly to the Crooked Cat Bookstore.


All About Heroes Interview with Ceri Hebert

Today I have as my guest Ceri Hebert. I met Ceri through the Still Moments Publishing writer's group. I read her wonderful story Yesterday's Tomorrow. You can find my review here.

First, tell us a little about yourself.

I was born in Minnesota but my parents in their best move ever, brought the family out to New Hampshire. Moving from a city to the country was a culture shock, but I fell in love with the state. I’ve been writing since I was about 12 years old and “strange” things were happening in my neighborhood (all of which had explanations, I’m sure, but to a 12 year old everything was a mystery.) As I grew, my interest in writing never died, even though I wanted to do other things with my life, like being an archaeologist, paleontologist, museum curator, Olympic horseback rider, and actress. I actually went to college with those things in mind. Somehow I ended up working in offices after college. It took me about 15 years to really get the writing going. I still work in an office, but when I come home to my husband, three kids, dog and two cats, I write as much as I can. I’m still in New Hampshire and, even in winter, I’m happy to stay.

As writers, we often become emotionally attached to our characters. Who is your favorite hero you’ve ever written?

That’s tough. I love Ben from Sweet Forever. He’s romantic and a regular good, hardworking guy. I have a work in progress with hero Jonas, a man struggling to keep his family hotel on the Maine coast running. He’s patient and romantic and ready to step in to be a father figure to the heroine’s newborn.

Have you ever fallen in love with or had a crush on one of your heroes? Tell us about him.

Ben and Jonas. Oh, and Craig from the sequel (not yet released) to Sweet Forever. They’re all strong men who can be tender with those they love. It helps that I base them on actors or musicians who I already have a crush on.

How do you develop your heroes? Do you imagine their personality or their physical appearance first? Do they grow as personalities as you write or do you do a character sketch before you type the first word?

Their personality and story is first to emerge but I generally have an idea of what they look like as I’m figuring them out. Actually, I rarely do character sketches. I probably should.

I like to give my heroes a personality quirk, just so they aren’t too perfect. Have you ever written a quirk for one of your heroes and what was it?

Actually, I don’t. I really should. That being said, my heroes aren’t alpha males.  I like small town guys with regular jobs. They’re ranchers, run hotels, horse rescue facilities, are cops and volunteer firemen. And they’re happy that way.

How do you name your hero?

I used to want soap opera names but now my guys have everyday names. Sam, Alex, Craig, Patrick. Ironically I’m more likely to give my heroines odd or uncommon names.

Who is your favorite hero in books, movies, or television?

Yikes, I couldn’t pick just one. I loved Jack in Men In Trees. He was outdoorsy, handsome, shy but gentle. The Phantom in the movie Phantom of the Opera. Okay, so he wasn’t the hero, but OMG he was sexy, damaged but sexy!

Who is your hero in real life?

Again I can’t pick just one person. I truly admire (as cliché this might sound) our armed forces. Those men (and women) who sacrifice everything to keep us safe. I can’t imagine a more perfect hero.

Tell us about your most recent release and where we can find it. Who is the hero and what do you like about him the most?

Yesterday’s Tomorrow isn’t my most recent release, but it’s one of my favorite stories. It’s a sweet short story about a middle aged woman who’s dissatisfied with what appears to everyone else as the perfect life. Perfect job, perfect paycheck, and a successful husband. When she wakes up one morning in her twenty-three-year-old body she has the unique, and very difficult opportunity to change everything and take a chance on a new future or make sure she does everything the same way this second time around. The story focuses on three different men, the straight-laced, nose-to-the-grindstone man who’d become her husband, the sexy, intense artist who she secretly had the hots for, and her very best friend in the world who was always there to offer a shoulder to cry on. Poor Lila has some decisions to make!

Here’s a short synopsis of Yesterday’s Tomorrow.

No one needs a mental health day more than forty-four year old Lila Weidner, but when the overworked HR director wakes up in her twenty-three year old body, she's left wondering what is going on. Where is her life as a successful business woman? Where is her equally successful husband? And how is she going to maneuver through the day in order to stay on the same path she followed over twenty years earlier? Lila soon rediscovers old dreams and old friendships that she left behind and wonders if this is her chance for another shot at a truly fulfilling life. Does she dare to step off her original path and allow yesterday to become her new tomorrow?

My Twitter: @CeriHebert

My webpage: www.cerihebert.com

My blog: http://cerihebert.wordpress.com 
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