Wednesday, January 6, 2016

The Insecure Writer and Starting 2016 With a Bang!



Today is January's contribution to Alex Cavanaugh's Insecure Writers Support Group.

Today, I'm co-hosting the IWSG along with L.G. KeltnerDenise Covey, Sheri Larsen J.Q. Rose and Michelle Wallace.  Be sure to stop by their blogs and thank them.



Why am I an Insecure Writer this month? 

For plenty of reasons.

I started a new job two days ago, I’m co-hosting this month’s IWSG bloghop, I volunteered to give a presentation on story structure to my local SCBWI group on Saturday, and I still don’t know if I have what it takes to be a real writer.

To be honest, I’m not all that worried about the job situation. I’ll be working on what sounds like a fun project, one that involves WAY more chemistry than my last couple of jobs. Woohoo!  But starting a new job with a new company with people you don't know is always stressful.

And while co-hosting for Alex is an awesome responsibility, I don't think there's any way I can screw it up.

The presentation is a bit more worrisome, especially since it's not finished yet, but I still have three more days to fix it up.  Heck, story structure makes so much sense to me, I could probably just stand up there and ramble on about the topic for hours.  I just wish writing stories was that easy.

As far as whether I'm a real writer, sometimes I wonder if I'm tough enough to be one. Writers are supposed to be cruel to their characters. Put them through hell, the experts say. Scar them emotionally. Hurt them physically. Make them unhappy for the rest of their lives.

Unfortunately, I usually find myself being too easy on them.  I allow them to solve their problems without breaking a sweat.  I remove their pain almost as soon as they begin experiencing it. I’ve gotten better at prolonging their torture, but I’m still not mean enough.

The question is: can I learn to be cruel enough in 2016?

How about you?  Think you're mean enough to your characters?  Then consider the following picture.

Courtesy of Reddit

Would you be dastardly enough to turn on the faucet? If so, then you're a true writer. Congratulations, I salute you.

But I'd prefer it if you didn't come anywhere near my house.

ChemistKen


78 comments:

  1. Happy New Year and thanks for co-hosting! Congrats on the new job and you'll do fine with theither presentation, since it sounds like you're in your element on the subject. Like you I'm a softy to my characters. Don't want to be cruel to them either but I'm trying to do better. Wow, I sound like a wannabe sadist. Yet I'm going to have to graduate to sadist to write a gripping story. Sorry in advance to my characters.

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    1. I'm sure your characters will understand. Thanks for stopping by.

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  2. I'd turn on the faucet!
    Good luck with the presentation. I'm sure you'll rock at it.
    And yes, you are a true writer.
    Thanks for co-hosting this month.

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    1. That's okay, Alex. You can still come by my house.

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  3. Damn! I failed. I love cats. I couldn't possibly turn on the faucet. Yet--I'm a damn good writer. So there goes your theory, Ken. LOL. Hey--I'm doing a story structure breakdown on Saturday too! Mine is for The Bourne Identity, and I'm doing it for La Cruz Writer's Group. What a small world! What do you suppose this means?

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    1. I think it means that more and more writers are beginning to embrace story structure. Good juob passing on your knowledge to other writers.

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  4. Hi and kHappy New Year!
    Thank you for co-hosting this month. I sincerely hope your presentation at the writing workshop goes well. As for turning on the faucet with the cats in the basin as a sign of being a true writer, well, there is no way I would turn on the faucet, but I consider myself to be a writer, through and through.
    Wish you a very happy 2016.
    Shalom,
    Patricia

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    1. Perhaps the test is rather harsh. Maybe I should change the cats to something else, like gerbils or something.

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  5. Mean to your characters - grin. I guess that means putting them in dire situations. I'm a crime writer, so it's par for the course. What I think you need to be tough for, is after publication. The reviewers...brrrr...
    Nice to meet you!

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    1. I can hardly wait for that part of the process. Thanks for stopping by.

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  6. I can be horribly cruel to my characters, but I would never, EVER, turn on the faucet on those sweet kitties. (I might snuggle them a bit too hard, though). I just read a book where the characters went through one incredibly horrible thing after another and I was almost ready to throw the book away. What was it? (Tap, tap, tap). Stupid brain. Oh well. I think you have to release the tension and give the character some hope at some point.

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    1. They are pretty snuggly, aren't they? Yeah, if the characters don't get some small victories early in the story, it's hard to read sometimes.

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  7. I had to learn to be nicer to my characters. lol I had no qualms about killing off anyone. Now, I get so attached I don't want to hurt them.

    I'd never turn on that faucet! Too cute!

    Thanks for co-hosting!

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    1. Yep, we get too attached sometimes. Maybe that's why some authors kill off their characters after a while.

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  8. I'm not mean to ALL my characters. If you feel like you can't be mean to them though, try this--start them in a bad situation, then help them get out of it. That's the opposite of being mean! :)

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    1. The funny thing is, even though I know I'm going to make everything turn out okay in the end, it takes me so long to finish the book that it's hard for me to be too cruel to my characters, since they might end up suffering for years before I'm finished.

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  9. Turning on the faucet is just too tempting. But then one has to think about how the cats will react: water, fur, spitting, hissing... claws. Hmmm. I'll have to think about it some more.

    Congratulations on the new job and good luck with the presentation!

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  10. There's no way I could turn on the faucet. I can be mean to characters, but not animals!
    Congratulations on your new job! Hope it is a great opportunity for you.

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  11. You've got to love your characters too! And the kitties? there's an evil part of me that says "go on - turn it!" but another part that says "No! think about the consequences!"

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  12. Best wishes on your new job! Your enthusiasm alone will take you far:-) You have a local SCBWI? I am jealous. I don't believe you have to be a mean writer, not when you can always bring full circle your own way. How powerful is that?
    I've been known to brush my teeth in the guest bathroom when my own sink was occupied, so no, I would absolutely not disturb the cats. Now, snoozing on my keyboard is an entirely different matter...ha! Write On, ChemistKen!

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  13. Oh, I would definitely turn on the faucet!!
    In my defense, my cat loves water and tries to get into the shower with us.

    As for my characters, it's painful to let them fail -- just like it's painful to watch your own children flounder and/or fail -- however, it's important for your children's growth as a person that they learn to handle failure. And it's just as important for your characters.

    Of course, in MG fiction, it *usually* ends with a success. :)

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  14. The kittens are so cute! But I don't have pets; I have teenage boys ;-) I love to make my MG characters bleed then fix them after a while! Thanks for co-hosting today!

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  15. Good luck with the new job and the presentation! I'm mean to my characters, so I've got that part of things covered. I don't feel like a real writer a lot of the time, but I keep up with it anyway. Sometimes I wonder if even the most successful writers question their writing cred from time to time.

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  16. LOL! I shy away from being sufficiently cruel, but my editors demand it, so I comply. Editors are brutal, I tell you what.

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  17. Thanks for cohosting. Your post was the funniest thing I've read all day, and I've already been on fb! Gonna turn on the faucet now and wake up my Maltese...

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  18. I might let the tap drip a little, and I can imagine the annoyed little faces as they all got out. Cats are funny! I was HORRIBLE to my characters in my most recent novel. But that makes the reader feel sorry for them and want them to get out of their problems all the more, plus be very relieved when the characters get a very happy ending!

    Good luck with your new job and the speech. You're doing a great job as co-host. Yes, you should torture your characters, but not forever - just till the end of the novel. Then you and the readers can cheer as their lives take a great turn for the better!

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  19. Your post is so timely (and funny) to me, Ken. I'm about to put the screws to my protagonists in my current WIP. It hurts and no, I wouldn't turn on that faucet.
    Good luck with the new job and the presentation. Thanks for hosting.

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  20. When I comes to animals in my stories, I can do them no harm, so I fail there as a writer, but I do plenty of damage to my human characters. Hope that counts. Congrats on co-hosting this month's IWSG!

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  21. I think you have what it takes. :)

    You could always pretend you're writing fan fiction for your own characters. Or a 'Choose Your Own Adventure."Come up with a variety of different outcomes for your story...some good, some bad. See if you can get a little range emotionally with them (and a little distance).

    I'm like you, though...there is one character I simply can't torture!

    Happy 2016. :)

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  22. Yes, I would turn on the faucet. I know because I've actually done that to my cats when they've been in the sink and refused to move.

    And yes, I think I'm probably mean enough to my characters. I'm sure they would agree.

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  23. Good thought, Ken. I've often thought I'm not mean enough either. And I have failed to force myself to be that. Maybe I shouldn't write thrillers.

    Love the cat thought. That will stick with me.

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  24. I'm sadistic, so yeah, I'd totally turn on the faucet. :D

    That's great about the new job! Congrats!

    And I think it's amazing that structure comes easy to you. See, I understand structure, and I know what structure is supposed to be, but I have absolutely no idea on how to identify plot points in my story to know if they are properly structured. I can watch a movie and say, "All is lost! I bet we're 75%." But when it comes to my book?? It's all a mystery. *sigh*

    Thanks for co-hosting! And best of luck with your presentation!

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  25. If they were my characters, I'd turn on the faucet, turn off the lights, and shut the door! Congratulations on the new job and good luck with your presentation. Lots going on for you. I'm just cuddled up with my virus trying not to rattle as I breathe. Have a fantastic 2016! And thank you for co-hosting today. :)

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  26. I could not turn on that faucet - such lovely creatures. But a character in my head - oh yeah - totally! I kill all the time! :)
    Thanks for co-hosting, I'm sure your presentation will go beautifully!

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  27. Great Post! What a giggle. I do put my characters through some stuff and let them almost get out of it several times before succeeding. I'm evil that way.

    So where to you live again? Wha-ha-ha

    Anna from elements of emaginette

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  28. Good luck with the new job and the presentation! I have given cats baths before. Does that make me a good writer? ;)

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  29. Of course you turn on the water...the one sitting on the side will probably do it for me! I, too, am taking a career shift after tomorrow. Good luck with yours. Thanks for co-hosting.

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  30. Oh no, they're just too cute to turn the faucet on. I guess I'll have to work on my cruelty too :-)

    Fun post - I enjoyed it. Cheers - Ellen

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  31. Aaaww how cute! I don't think you need to be too mean to your characters (even though today, I blew one of mine up and shot another in the head point blank - OMG I am a mean person NOOOOO!). Characters just need to be interesting and going by your blog posts, that shouldn't be a problem at all :) Best of luck with your presentation - you'll smash it I'm sure and all present will have a lot of fun and learn a lot.
    Stay nice, Ken - don't fall into our trap! Eeeekk!

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  32. Aww there is no way I could soak the kitties! You are most definitely a writer, Ken. I don't like being mean to my characters either!
    Congrats on the new job, I hope it works out for you. As for the presentation, I'm sure you will be a hit at the writing group.
    Happy New Year and thanks for being a great co-host this month.

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  33. I think admitting what you don't know builds a reader or listener's confidence in you, so you're definitely on the right track. No one likes a know-it-all, or maybe just I don't.

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  34. Aww, kitties! I *might* just turn the faucet on a trickle, to see what would happen.

    Good luck with the job!

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  35. What's your definition of a real writer? To me a real writer is someone who writes. If the definition includes monetary success, well, then, I guess I'm not a real writer either. Good luck with all your projects.

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  36. When I started writing, my critique group kept throwing the word "conflict" at me. "Give it to them, then take it away." None of it was making sense. Took me years and I'm still working on it. Now I mostly just have my characters pretty screwed up from the beginning and keep making their situations worse. Dysfunctional is the new norm, haven't you heard:) I like stories with some sort of meaning (nothing preachy) but I also adore humor. Too much drama for too long is a damsel in distress. Don't know if I'm cruel enough to be a writer, but I'm doing it anyway. And as long as it wasn't hot water coming out of that faucet...I could probably turn it on...maybe

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  37. Thanks for co-hosting, Ken! And good luck with your presentation on Saturday. I think everyone has the capacity to write; to be a writer. Some of the bravest and most profound writers I've met are the seven, eight, and nine year old students I worked with over my career as a second and third grade teacher. Very few writers make it commercially, it seems; but for me, writing is about much more than money. It's about capturing your unique experience and perspective. It's about preserving stories. It's about authenticity and heart, whatever shape your writing takes. I hate to say it, but I'd be tempted to turn that faucet on just to see what happened! I'm currently writing non-fiction, but when I write fiction my characters seem to act without my direction. I may start off with an idea, but they rebel and take over. LOL! Happy writing to you in 2016 ~ and good luck with the new job!

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  38. Sorry, I couldn't turn on the water! Thank you for co-hosting this month's IWSG. Best wishes for a terrific 2016.

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  39. Thanks for hosting, Ken! I share your panic as I just moved and I start a new job tomorrow. Like you, those are no big deal but the writer thing has me concerned - Not enough hours or energy for this ole gal? That remains to be seen. But I'd seriously think of turning on that faucet so I must still be a writer (and do plenty of cuddling and consoling afterward!).

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  40. I hope 2016 is good for you - and rotten for your characters!

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  41. No, I'd not turn on the water. But again, putting characters through "hell and back" need not be that devastatingly cruel. If it was, there would be no romance with HEA.

    Good to know you are seeing the new job and projects with optimism :)

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  42. Hey Chemist Ken...it's a damnable thing that we have to screw up our characters to make them interesting and keep the reader glued to the page. I find that tough and a little depressing. Sounds like your new job will be a good fit. Happy New Year and thanks for sharing the co-hosting!

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  43. Thanks for co-hosting this month, Ken. Congrats on the new job. I hope you'll enjoy it. Insecurities will always try to trip us up. Take your light saber to them. (Can yo tell I just saw Star Wars VII?). Happy New Year!

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  44. Awwww...love the picture. Happy New Year!! And congrats on the new job. I don't believe I could give a presentation like what you're working on. It's easier for me to "kill my darlings" in my manuscripts!!!

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  45. Cute picture, but the faucet is only one potential way to destabilize the kitties. Cue evil laughter.

    Good luck with all your firsts and thanks for co-hosting.

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  46. Haha...those cats are just begging for it.

    What is a real writer? A person who has a story and puts it on paper. I'd say you pass. Learning all the rest takes dedication and perseverance.

    We both write fantasy, that's great. In my current WIP, which happens to be the sequel to The Treasures of Carmelidrium, my villain is a national hero who is possessed and declines into madness. He is also a biologist, (though not called that in the story.) He knows a lot about plants. His pain as he declines is hopefully palatable to the reader.
    Nancy

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  47. You are a real writer.

    Don't listen to 'them'. If you don't want to torture your characters, then don't. Remember though, torture doesn't have to be physical.

    Best of luck w/ your new job and your presentation.

    Thanks for co-hosting!

    Heather

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  48. Haha! Yeah, I'd turn on the faucet, but I'm not sure that makes me cruel enough to be a writer. Congrats on the new job, and on the upcoming presentation. Sounds like a great way to start the new year.

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  49. I admit I'd be tempted to turn on the water, but I wouldn't want to be kitty clawed. Congrats on the new job! Thanks for co-hosting!

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  50. I'm surprised how many people said they'd turn the water on those kittens. I'm positively cruel to my characters but I love cats ansld would never turn that water on.

    Congrats on your new job! And good luck on your presentation! :)

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  51. I'm surprised how many people said they'd turn the water on those kittens. I'm positively cruel to my characters but I love cats ansld would never turn that water on.

    Congrats on your new job! And good luck on your presentation! :)

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  52. I sometimes think I'm too mean to my characters. And yes, often teaching about writing is far easier than writing itself.

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  53. Right, so when it comes to properly torturing your Characters, ask yourself this: What would Vader do? Would he let them off easy, or would he be all "Hmm, I think I'll force choke you and you're not even sure if you'll live through it." (side note, what a terrible work environment, don't they have OSHA in space???)

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  54. LOL! I would turn on that faucet because it would be hilarious to see those kitties run like their lives depended on it! WATER! NOOOO!! As if water is so deadly, or something....

    I think you have one of the best authors to look to on how to be meaner to your characters: Rowling, of course! She was pretty easy on Harry and the others in his first few years at Hogwarts, but by Book 4... not so much. Go back and see how she got meaner to poor Harry and the other characters over time. Maybe it'll inspire you. ;)

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  55. I must admit, I'm not hard enough on my characters--sometimes. When I'm not, the story isn't as good. IF you had put people in that sink, yes, I would have turned the water on. Not kitties though.

    Teresa

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  56. I am totally not mean enough to be a writer. Turning on the water would be mean.

    I think that's why I lean toward the romance. Happy endings are expected. It's easier to put characters through hell when you know you'll make them happy later.

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  57. Wow Ken, you have a lot on your plate right now. I suffer the same question about character and I am constantly at war...live the happy dream I want, or do what I should do. I think for me I have to always circle back to a positive lesson learned. I believe in happy endings. Lol. As far as the sink and the kittens...I wouldn't to yours but mine loves water so then yes. I have been giving him baths since he was 8 weeks old.

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  58. Actually, I would be afraid to turn on that faucet. If one of those kittens has the disposition of my cat - watch out! Claws at the ready, 24/7. Sweetness to feistiness in 0.1 seconds.
    I am kind of mean to my characters, but only so far. I plan out which characters are my red shirts far in advance so I can prepare myself for the inevitable.
    I think you have everything you need to be a writer, Ken!
    And, congrats on your new job!

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  59. You're starting the year off running. Congrats on the new job and the presenting opportunity. Speak from the heart and you'll do great.

    I know what you mean about being mean to your characters. I sometimes find myself being too nice to mine and I have to backtrack and pull the rug out from under them or slam a door in their face. Doing that isn't always easy, but it does make the story more interesting.

    Oh, my first thought wouldn't be to turn on the faucet. I'd be afraid a kitten or two would sink its claws into me.

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  60. Congrats on the new job! I'm sure it is a little stressful starting a new job and working in a new environment, but pretty soon it'll feel like you've been there forever.

    That's exciting that you're doing a presentation for your local SCBWI group! You are definitely starting 2016 off with a bang! Good luck with everything!

    I don't think I would turn on the faucet...

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  61. Congrats on the new job! I'm sure it is a little stressful starting a new job and working in a new environment, but pretty soon it'll feel like you've been there forever.

    That's exciting that you're doing a presentation for your local SCBWI group! You are definitely starting 2016 off with a bang! Good luck with everything!

    I don't think I would turn on the faucet...

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  62. HI, Ken,

    Happy New Year... Good luck on the new job! Sounds like it's right up your alley...

    How cool to be a speaker at the SCBWI conference. I LOVE those conferences and was lucky enough to do three last year! (NYC, MIDWEST, LA). Learned so much and met some amazing people!

    As for torturing our characters... YUP, I am a sadist ... lol. I don't know how my mc survived in my second novel. And it is true, sadly we must do this. Think of all the bestsellers....

    And yes, I would turn on the tap... insert evil laugh.... LOL...

    All the best for 2016 and thanks for hosting!

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  63. Good luck with the new job. I'm delighted I found your page because your books look just like the kind I devour. I have no problem tormenting my characters, but I can't hurt an animal. I can't even watch those commercials with the sad, abused animas in cages. I give to the charities, but I have to fast forward or leave the room when the commercials are on.

    Happy New Year and have fun with your story structure presentation. I'm sure you will be great.

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  64. Oh yeah, baby, turn on the water! And then I would laugh wickedly as the cute little kitties flee for their lives. I think you have a pretty good handle on your insecurities. This is my first time as a co-host and loving it. Yes, I found out you really can't screw it up--so far anyway. Structure, oh yes, I need help understanding that. Wish I could be at your seminar. Best wishes!

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  65. Ken, I'm plenty mean to my characters. And yes I would turn on the faucet. Best wishes to you and yours for a healthy and prosperous New Year!

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  66. Aww.. all those kitties in the sink! Cute!

    But, oh yes. I'm cruel to my characters. I kill them mid character arch or flip things so entirely.. I figure it's going to piss readers off once I'm published, but oh well :)

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  67. Hey co-host, I'm 5 days late but I made it here... *phew*
    Hope your presentation went well!
    I don't know if I have the heart to harm those defenceless kitties...but nasty people on paper, that's another story... *evil laugh*
    Happy New Year!

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  68. Hi Ken!

    Thanks so much for co-hosting this month. Oh how I've had the same thoughts as you. I've always heard to "murder your darlings", things like that. I have come a long way from my first manuscript attempts. In FanFiction there's a type of character called a "Mary Sue". She's one of those annoying characters who is always nice, always sweet, and always solved every problem without a, well, problem. My first MC was like that. Ugh, just thinking about her makes me queasy. I've learned to be a bit more barbaric to my characters, not for the sake of following someone's advice, but because it really is the challenges we face that make for great stories. So put those characters through hell but don't be afraid to have them come on top in the final chapter!

    Cheers!
    Jen

    PS: I couldn't turn that faucet on. They look too comfortable. *sigh* guess I'm not a real writer... :D

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  69. I was just discussing this the other day. No, I'm not mean enough, but I'm determined to work on it. It's time to kill more of my darlings.

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  70. Well, I won't be coming for Sunday dinner any time soon I think. Still not sure if that means I'm a writer. I have always had a crazy notion a person isn't a writer unless they have been published. In any capacity, excluding their own blog, which is presently all that I have been doing.

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