I tweeted a little while ago that “Print versions of The Ransome Trilogy are being remaindered. Be sure to get your copies before they’re gone!”
What this means is that Harvest House has decided that the print versions of the books aren’t moving well enough for them to continue to pay to warehouse all the unsold copies of them, and they will be discontinuing printing them. They’re also going to get rid of all of the back copies they have, inviting retailers to take on whatever additional stock of them they’d like before getting rid of whatever remains unsold.
If you’ve ever wanted print copies, or if you’ve ever wanted to give them as a gift to someone, now’s the time to do it.
I don’t know how many retailers will have the books in stock nor for how much longer, so if you think you might want them, now would be a good time to get them.
The good news is that they will continue to keep the ebooks available. So they’re not gone forever, just in print.
There are links to a bunch of retailers where you can order the print copies of the book (hopefully) on the series page: http://kayedacus.com/books/books-the-ransome-trilogy/
You thought I was going to forget that it’s the first Monday of the month didn’t you? Well, I remembered with three hours to spare!
Tell us what you’ve finished, what you’re reading, and what’s on your To Be Read stack/list. (And if you’ve reviewed the books you’ve read somewhere, please include links!)
- What book(s) did you finish reading (or listening to) since last month’s update?
- What are you currently reading and/or listening to?
- What’s the next book on your To Be Read stack/list?
MOOC = Massive Open Online Course
One of the biggest trends (and controversies) in higher education right now is the proliferation and use of MOOCs, inside and outside of the classroom. And while this is a controversy that gets more heated all the time, it’s also something that can be quite beneficial to the general populace—because top professors at top universities are involved in creating MOOCs which are courses designed for you to take from home, online at no cost in anything other than a time commitment.
Just this weekend, I signed up for two courses in the field of higher ed, and while I was doing so, I noticed that several platforms offer creative writing courses and even some editing courses. Then, there are those that are more business related, too. So I thought I’d share some of the ones I found.
I have not vetted the content or quality of any of these classes. I’m sharing these because they look interesting and I thought they might be helpful.
Crafting an Effective Writer: Tools of the Trade: Learn to become an effective builder of sentences using the basic tools of grammar, punctuation, and writing.
Michigan State University
Thinking Like a Writer: This course will help you learn to revise more effectively, but you’ll revise more than your writing. You will: revise how you think, revise how you understand yourself as a writer, and revise how you write.
MIT has a bunch of writing-related courses listed on their OpenCourseware site.
Stunt Writing for Personal Growth: he Stunt Writing For Personal Growth class includes prompts, lectures, readings and discussions for writers of any age, at any level. Inspired by Eleanor Roosevelt’s famous quote, “Do one thing every day that scares you,” Stunt Writing For Personal Growth is a process that uses writing as a tool for you to learn about yourself, and gain skills in communicating your own unique story.
And, let’s not forget:
Writing Series Index on KayeDacus.com!
In the previous post, I mentioned that one of the methods of character casting depends greatly on creating a “Casting Book.” This isn’t necessarily a “book,” though; for me, for many, many years, I had two 4″ three-ring binders—one for men, one for women—in which I had a page/pages for each Real World Template. I subscribed to multiple entertainment magazines and made sure I got as many clothing company catalogs as possible. This, of course, was back before the days of wide Internet use and computers that could store images without filling up the hard drive.
Creating your Casting Book
There are so many ways to keep a casting book, but there’s really only one way to start: Always be on the lookout for images of people who strike a creative nerve inside you. You can find them in:
- Catalogs—either online or physical
- Magazines—again, virtual or physical
- Movies/TV shows (best place to find out who the actor playing that character is is on IMDb.com)
- Stock Photo Sites (my favorite is JupiterImages.com). Just be aware that you cannot use any of the images from most stock-photo sites for anything other than personal usage without paying for them.
- Pinterest (follow authors—most of us have Possible Character Template type pages)
- Museums/libraries’ online photo collections
- People watching (this is why God invented phone cameras!)
Once you find the templates, you can keep track of as much or as little detail as possible about them—if they’re public figures (celebrities, professional athletes, etc.), there will be much more specific info on them than if it’s a model from a catalog or someone you happened to see on the street and sneaked a picture of. This is why I prefer using celebrities/public figures, because not only do I want multiple images, and preferably video, of them to study expressions, body language, and vocal intonations/dialect, I like to keep track of a lot of technical specifications as well, such as:
- Year born
- Hair color
- Eye Color
- Where I first noticed them
- Info garnered from IMDb.com, Wikipedia, fan websites
And I collect this information in an Excel spreadsheet, which gives me the ability to sort and filter by any of these indicators.
My Casting Book currently has just over 1,240 names in it (682 men and 560 women), but that’s because I haven’t recently gone through and added everyone I’ve pinned to my Possible Character Templates board on Pinterest, which would add probably 250 names to the list if not more.
Collecting Images of RWTs
As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, up until about fifteen or so years ago, I kept my casting books in three-ring binders with images cut out of magazines and catalogs. But then along came the Internet and computers with ever-increasing memory capacity (I have a 1-Terabyte external hard drive that’s smaller than my first Walkman, and even with two computers backed up to it, it isn’t half full). Once technology allowed me to forgo the physical books, this was how I kept the images that went along with the Excel spreadsheet:
I still have all of these files—two PowerPoint documents (is it really a “slide show” when used for this?) for each letter of the alphabet (one for men, one for women, with the Ms split in two files for the men due to the overwhelming number of images of Paul McGann I collected over the years). I haven’t added to them in a couple of years. Not since . . .
Google Image Search is such a space saver when it comes to finding multiple images of a Real World Template. I’m not having to keep an image of every template listed in the Casting Book spreadsheet—not when it’s so easy to find images of them online.
And now, with the addition of Pinterest, I have another place where I can “keep” my templates, though I typically don’t do more than one or two on the Possible Character Templates board until I’m ready to use that template—and then I will add them to the board dedicated to that particular story.
Casting a Character Using the Casting Book (Character “Shopping” Method)
First . . . I generally know what kind of character I’m looking for:
- Between 30 and 40 years old
And I filter the spreadsheet appropriately:
Then . . . I start to narrow it down:
- Brown hair
- Blue eyes
That’s the “shopping” method. But if you’re always on the lookout for templates to add to your casting book, you’re “browsing” and you might just be struck by “lightning.”
Do you have a “casting book”? How do you find and then collect/keep track of your possible character templates?
If you’re not someone who is “into” character casting or even that much into writing the physical descriptions of characters, you may be wondering:
Why Worry About Looks?
After all, we’re writing stories, not casting a movie or play. Right, but see, here’s the thing: too little description can leave readers struggling to connect while too much description gets boring/overwhelming. Knowing all the details of what a character looks like by having a readily available picture of him/her allows us to find a balance between too much and not enough description. We’re not having to try to figure out what the character looks like by writing down every detail that comes to mind because we can see them so clearly in our heads and we don’t want that image to disappear, and we’re not abandoning description altogether because we really don’t know (or care) what the character looks like anyway.
However, even we visually oriented types have to keep something very important in mind: Physical description is not character development. It’s the giftwrap on the package. And the level of physical description offered in a story varies by genre. Typically, romance, fantasy, and science fiction genres will have much more, and more specific, descriptions of the characters’ physicality; while mystery may focus only on what’s important (or what the writer wants the reader to think is important) to solving the case. Thrillers, action adventure, and even horror can be sparing with descriptions, using the bare minimum to draw the reader into the character’s peril or heroicism.
So, how do we go about finding our Real World Templates?
4 Methods of Character Casting
After many, many years of doing this, I’ve narrowed my methods down to four. Yours may be one (or all) of these, or you may have a different way do to it. There is not right or wrong way. Do it the way it works best for you—or don’t do it if you find it’s distracting rather than helpful.
1. Character “Fitting”
You already have an idea of what the character looks like & search for someone who fits. For example: I have a story idea. I know my heroine just turned 40 (because the story hinges on that). She’s from a big Southern family. I want her to be plus-sized with dark hair and dark eyes, somewhat tall. She’s a scientist/genius—but not the stereotypical short hair, lab-coat, and horn-rimmed glasses female scientist. But because of her physical presence and her genius-level intellect (and the fact she’d finished two PhD’s by the time she was twenty-four years old), men tend to be intimidated by her.
2. Character “Shopping”
As soon as the idea for a character comes to mind, you immediately shop for a RWT to develop the character from. For example—you know you want a character who’s a certain age and certain ethnicity—but you really aren’t sure about anything else. You “shop” around until you find the RWT that speaks to you.
3. Character “Lightning”
You see someone who inspires a character. For example:
It wasn’t just seeing an image of Paul McGann in this uniform that inspired the entire Ransome Trilogy. It was seeing Paul McGann in this uniform as Lt. William Bush in the Horatio Hornblower movies that inspired the entire Ransome Trilogy. You see, had a different actor played this role—one without a voice and accent that is like bathing in melted chocolate on the ears, one without those impossibly fathomless blue eyes—I might never have become obsessed with the character of William Bush. And I might never have fixated on the line in Duty (in the scene here, starting at 1:45) when Bush says to Hornblower: “In my opinion, sir, there’s never a good time to get married.” Which, of course, made me take pencil to paper and start figuring out just what kind of woman it would take for William Bush (soon to be rechristened William Ransome) to change his tune when it comes to getting married.
4. Character “Browsing”
You spend time browsing IMDb, catalogs, websites, and adding images to a casting “book.”
Ah, there’s that term . . . casting book.
Which we’ll get into tomorrow. But for now . . .
What methods do you use/have you used in the past to cast your characters?
You might be a visually oriented character developer!
Let’s back up a minute for those who aren’t . . .
Character Casting goes deeper than just finding images of people who look like our characters. Those of us who are compelled to find Real World Templates (RWTs) for our characters are looking for inspiration—for emotions, actions, and body language in addition to how they look. We use RWTs as one of many building blocks for character development.
Just like every other way of character development, we are looking to create characters who jump off the page as real, whole, alive PEOPLE. Character casting gives us tools we use to connect the reader to the story in a way that goes beyond just describing what a character looks like. The characters are the active part of the story—they are what give the story emotional resonance, whether it’s a romance novel or an action thriller. Characters are what make the reader care what happens in the story.
But this blog series redux isn’t really about taking characters to that level.
For the next week or so, we’re going to look at what, to me, is one of the most fun parts of developing a story: casting my characters and then finding as many images of the Real World Templates as I can so that I can use those to generate ideas about who the characters are.
Do you cast your characters?
If so, how do you cast your characters?
Well . . . not much got done on Colossal Cleanout Weekend #2 (last weekend) what with my local writers group meeting and Thor and all. I have Saturday plans again this weekend, but I’m scheduling the rest of my time on Saturday and Sunday carefully—because I’ve got a lot of work to do if I want the main rooms of my house to be sparkling and clutter-free before Thanksgiving.
Imagine my astonishment when I discovered that today, November 15, is . . .
Clean Your Refrigerator Day
And, boy, does mine need it! I’m pretty sure a couple of alien creatures have crawled up in there and died.
Okay, so it’s not quite that bad, but there are a couple of sticky spots where things have dripped (especially on the condiments shelf in the door), and I know I have a couple of bags of salad and coleslaw mix that are a few weeks past their eat-by dates (still sealed, though—I know, I’m wasteful).
Since I lead such an exciting life, I’ve put “Clean Out Fridge” on my Colossal Cleanout To Do list for tonight. Yes, my Friday night plan is to clean out the fridge. Not just throw out stuff that’s old/gone bad, but actually empty both compartments and clean it.
With that in mind, here are a few links I found that have tips on how to do a thorough job of cleaning a fridge:
15 Tips for a Squeaky Clean Fridge (Mental Floss)
Speed-Clean Your Refrigerator (Real Simple)
Will you participate in Clean Your Refrigerator Day this weekend? When’s the last time you gave your fridge a thorough cleaning? What’s the most bizarre thing you’ve ever found in your fridge?