Posted in daily life, Loosing Weight

People You See at the Gym

golds-gym-logoI joined Gold’s Gym about two months ago, not sure whether or not I’d like it. In my experience, gyms tend to be hot places with not enough air flow. I sweat and get hot when I exercise. But this one was brand spanking new. I hoped it would be different.

It was.

I’ll go ahead and get the glowing review out of the way. The people who work there are pleasant, fun, and encouraging. They have programs for every level of fitness–from the “I’ve never exercised a day in my life” people to “I could bench press cars” fanatics. I wouldn’t have lost the weight I have without them.

But that’s not why I’m writing this post.

I’m writing this post to tell you about the kind of people you see at the gym.

All kinds of people go to gyms. All kinds. A lot go in the hopes they’ll look buff and lose weight in just a day or two with minimal effort. There are people, I’m sure, who could do that. Yahoo for them.

But the ones who are there every day? They are the real interesting ones. The kind that might get immortalized in one of my books one day.

The Fashion-Challenged Exerciser

We’ve all seen this person. Could be guy or girl. Any level of fitness. But they seem to go out of the way to wear the most unfashionable outfit possible. And this is saying something, considering people at gyms tend to wear whatever is comfortable. I mean, they aren’t there to win beauty pageants–they’re there to get sweaty.

There’s this one guy my husband calls “Shorty Shorts Guy.” I haven’t seen him, but apparently, not only are his shorts short, but they bulge two inches past his waist, like he’s stuffed them with Styrofoam or something. And no, I’m not talking about the crotch area. I’m talking about his thighs. Why would anyone want to wear poofy shorts? And tuck their shirt in to boot?

Madam Marathon Runner

I can’t tell you how many older ladies–and gentlemen–I’ve seen exercising at the gym. Most, I will admit, are just trying to stay healthy. But there’s always one or two there who look like they could bench press their teen-age grandchildren. Then go run a marathon. You know, just by looking at them, that they’re just as serious about what they eat as they are about exercising.

I’ll admit these old ladies really impress the heck out of me. They’re in better shape than I could ever hope to be. I’ve seen them do pull-ups. Pull-ups, people. If I could do half of what they do, I’d be ecstatic. But let’s face it–I’m too lazy and like to eat too much to put that much energy into being that healthy.

Mr. I Can Bench Press Cars

There’s this one guy I see all the time. Don’t know his name. But I’m pretty sure he lives at the gym. He doesn’t work there, but he could probably teach any class. If he doesn’t, I’d be seriously surprised.

This man, he looks like he’s in his late 50s, and his hair used to be blond. His muscles are bulging and sculpted, and he wears tight fitting clothes. This morning, I saw this man doing pull-ups like it was no big deal–then pause in the middle of a pull-up, point his toes, and then lift his feet over his head. He pointed his feet to one side of his head, then the other. This lasted for like thirty seconds.

I have no idea what that exercise is called, but it’s got to be the hardest, most impressive thing I’ve ever seen a person doing at a gym.

Mr. Strange

Every now and then you see someone that, for whatever reason, just looks weird. It could be what they’re wearing or some other feature, but you look at them and think, “what?”

There’s this guy who, I swear, looks like a black version of Bane, the super-villain from Batman. He’s big, he’s buff, and he wears a mask that covers half his face. He sounds like Darth Vader when he breathes. I haven’t seen him cart an oxygen tank or a funky backpack with tubes coming from it–but it’s the kind of mask that looks like it should. I have no idea what it does, but I would really like to know.

Posted in writing

Lessons about writing I learned from reading

Why Should Writers Read?

lost-in-a-book-2Aspiring writers receive many pieces of advice. One is if writers want to improve their writing, then they need to read as much as possible. There’s a reason for this.

An observant reader will pick out mistakes from what they read. They will notice what makes their favorite stories work. Readers will develop likes and dislikes, and if those readers also happen to be writers, they will incorporate the lessons they learned from reading into their stories.

I’m not the most observant of readers. I have the tendency to read primarily for pleasure. Learning from what I read was a bonus. However, even I have learned a thing or two from the things I’ve read. Let me explain.

Complex characters are more interesting than flat or cookie-cutter ones

I love well-developed characters. I love reading a book and seeing how characters grow and become these awesome heroes that just decimate their enemies. Or whatever it is they’re fighting. I love it when characters change and overcome. Characters who get put through the wringer work their butts off for what they want–they deserve their reward.

Flat or cookie-cutter characters annoy me to no end. I look at them and I’m disappointed in the writer. Couldn’t that author have worked a little bit harder and given their character more depth? A history? And why do writers re-use their characters? It’s like they pick up John Doe from Book X, dye his hair and give him contacts, and then place him in Book Y. Same character and almost the same book.

Flat or cookie-cutter characters don’t change. They don’t grow. If they do, it’s because they’ve been reused and are growing in the same way. Ug. Give us readers a little bit of variety, people.

A well written character does more than just act the part. They drive the book, map out their own plots, and send conflict skyrocketing. You’re plot doesn’t make the characters–you’re characters make the plot.

If your character must be cookie-cutter or personify some stereotype, make sure you do the best job you can. And dent the cookie-cutter while you’re at it. Make this character your own. Every author is different. Make your books different, too.

That’s why I never hesitate to torture my characters. I enjoy it too, and rarely feel sorry for what I’m doing to them. In then end, I know I’ll have a better story.

If the scene doesn’t contribute, get rid of it.

I can’t tell you how many times I read a scene and think, “why is this here?” Romance novels can be bad about this–which is sad, because I love reading romances. All those sex scenes–are they really necessary? At what point to they become redundant?

I’m not a romance writer, so I can’t answer those questions. However, as a writer, I can tell you that superfluous scenes get added or left in for a variety of reasons. Maybe the writer needs to pad their word count, make the story longer. Maybe the writer honestly thought the scene necessary to the story.

It’s always easier to add to a story than to take away. Make sure whatever scenes you include in your story drive it someway. If it doesn’t do anything, do your own editing and get rid of it. This way, when the editor comes along with his or her evil red pen, they’ll have less to get rid of than before.

Avoid info-dumping at all costs

Info-dumping: the process of dumping as much information onto a page as possible.

You’ve probably run into this yourself. You’re reading a book–maybe a scifi or fantasy novel–and you’re character comes to a new place. Suddenly, you’re reading not just what the place looks like, but who built it, what he looked like and what he had for breakfast for thirty years. Info dump.

Information dumping can be boring and unnecessary. Granted, some info-dumping can be necessary for world building. Science fiction and fantasy novels typically have a lot of world building to do, and if they want their readers to understand the environment, details are necessary.

The thing is, there is a difference between info-dumping and telling readers what they need to know to understand the scene.

When world building, most of the details of that world will never make it into the book. I’ve got a file of world-building notes from my last book that is almost as big as the book itself. As an author, I will need every single one of those notes. My readers do not.

When you write your story, do not dump all the pertinent information all at once. Tell what the readers need to know and no more. Do they need to know what the temple looks like? Fine, but don’t give them so much that the information stretches on for three pages. That much detail isn’t necessary. Is it necessary for them to know why the temple is there, or about the battle that was fought at that location a hundred years ago? Fine, but put it someplace else, later on in the story–maybe during a conversation.


What did you think? Feel free to leave your comments below.

 

 

Posted in writing

Things I Have Learned about Character Building

Some of my favorite books are ones with excellent characters. Flat characters, in my experience, brings nothing to a book. It doesn’t matter how well written the book is, or how driving the plot is, if the characters are flat then the book falls flat.

Here are the top three things that I’ve learned through book reading and experience.

Get to know your characters

building-believable-charactersThere is more to knowing your character than know what they look like and how old they are. You also need to know their history, their preferences, their character traits–everything. How well do you know yourself? That is how well you need to know your characters. This will help you determine how your character will react in different situations. Also, it will help prevent you from being surprised when your character starts writing the story for you.

There are several books and other online sources out there to teach you how to build believable characters. Many of these books contain charts such as this one, which amount to long lists of questions. These questions are meant to help you brainstorm and think about your character. The more of those kinds of questions you can answer, the better you will get to know your characters.

My favorite book on the subject is The Writer’s Digest Sourcebook for Building Believable Characters, which you can buy from Amazon.com. 

Do your research

You’ve heard the advice, “write what you know.” This advice applies to your characters. It is easy to create characters who know the same things you know. However, sometimes you characters will know things you don’t know. Are they a doctor, but you aren’t? Do they know how to weld, but you don’t? If this is the case, then you may need to do some research. The more you know about their field of expertise, the more accurately you can write about it.

If you can’t relate to your characters, something is up

With my most recent story, I created a character that took me a very long time to relate to. This character was utterly different from me. Other than what he looked like, I didn’t know a thing about what he knew. Most importantly, his character was completely different mine. What I mean is he thought completely different from me, and his reasons for doing what he did were completely different for why I do things. I had a very hard time relating to him.

Some of these problems I solved with character charts. I figured out his history, his likes and dislikes, etc. Some more problems I solved by researching. My character couldn’t didn’t have emotions, and so I researched things like psychopaths, sociopaths, and alexithymia. Even after all that research, however, I just couldn’t connect with my character. What’s more, my character wasn’t connecting with the direction the story was taking. It wasn’t until I expanded my research to include autism and Asperger syndrome that my character finally clicked with me.

What this comes down to is this: if you can’t relate to your characters, then neither will your readers. So be careful when you write about things you aren’t familiar with. Research and character charts will go a long way, but in the end, you may need to rethink either your characters or your story or both.