Character Development: Don’t Forget Your Character’s Hygiene (especially if he does…)

When developing your major characters, don’t forget to include details about his or her hygiene and, well to put it bluntly, body odor. It might seem like something OCD or overly detailed at first, but let’s do a little experiment. Don’t close your eyes (because then you couldn’t read this blog), but imagine a man coming toward you. You get a whiff of aftershave, a touch of cologne, and a lingering hint of soap.

What does he look like? What clothing is he wearing? What kind of haircut does he have?

Catch that? You’ve already filled in the blanks. You have a clear picture of this guy, and I never told you what he was wearing or how he cut his hair.

Good description and character development is about giving your reader just enough details to let him fill in the rest of the blanks. Staying within word count and good storytelling principles prohibit writers from describing every detail and backstory about each character. We need to set the stage, create the structure, and let the reader add the rest so we can move on with the story.

Giving your reader a hint of your character’s hygiene and smell takes only a few words yet gives your reader an incredible bit of insight into your character. Here are a few details you might want to include in your manuscripts:

  • Clothing cleanliness
  • Ironed vs. wrinkled clothes
  • Fabric softener
  • Cologne/perfume vs none
  • Cheap cologne vs expensive
  • Sweat
  • Salt from the beach still on a person has a distinct odor
  • Fire and dirt leave a distinct odor, for those of you with characters backpacking or on a Baggins-sized adventure.
  • Halitosis (bad breath, lack of brushing teeth)
  • Alcohol comes out in the breath and pores
  • Smoke – cigarette vs cigar vs pipe
  • Nervous sweat vs hard work sweat (smells different)
  • Underarm stains
  • How trimmed is his beard? How clean does it stay when he eats?
  • Matted hair/dreadlocks
  • The greasy hair look is real, and it indicates how long ago she washed her hair.
  • Does she do her hair with loads of product, or is her look more natural? (location matters. In south Florida, we don’t do our hair the way they do it up north in the South.)
  • Fresh clothes smell different than warn clothes. They are also less faded.
  • An athlete or a soldier may not mind being sweaty on the field, but can clean up well and have good hygiene.
  • People associate dandruff and acne with uncleanliness, but they are actually caused by other things, including oily skin.
  • If it’s humid, hair gets frizzy.
  • A person can smell clean without smelling like fragrance.
  • Don’t forget nails. Dirt doesn’t always come out. Also, some women do them, some leave them natural.
  • Makeup. How much?

These are just a few things you can add to enhance your story and help your reader build a better picture of your characters in his mind. Happy writing everyone!

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Do you have M. B. Weston’s Elysian Chronicles on your Kindle yet? Get them now for only $2.99–less than the cost of a Starbucks Latte! (Click here for A Prophecy Forgotten on Kindle and Out of the Shadows on Kindle.)

Be sure to check out M. B. Weston’s YouTube Channel (YouTube.com/TheMBWeston)!

Fantasy, steampunk, pulp, and paranormal novelist M. B. Weston is the author of The Elysian Chronicles, a fantasy series about guardian angel warfare and treason. For more information on M. B. Weston, visit www.mbweston.com. To receive notification of M. B. Weston’s book releases click here to subscribe to Dark Oak Press & Media’s e-newsletter.

Click here for a full listing of M. B. Weston’s published books, and be sure to check out her ever-growing list of published short stories here.

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New MB Weston’s Corner Video: Show, Don’t Tell Using Action!

This is part 2 of a 4 part series on Show, Don’t Tell. Today, we discuss using action to help turn scenes that only “tell” into scenes that show. Some concepts are repeated a bit from last time because I’m trying to create videos that can stand alone. Also, noticing that the backdrop needs ironing. I have to film, edit, and upload during my daughter’s 2 hour nap, so…. choices.

Today we cover three ways to use action to show instead of tell innyour writing:

  • Using action to show emotions
  • Using action to show and enhance relationships between your characters
  • Using action to enhance your action scenes; a good reminder to really describe the gritty details.

*****

Do you have M. B. Weston’s Elysian Chronicles on your Kindle yet? Get them now for only $2.99–less than the cost of a Starbucks Latte! (Click here for A Prophecy Forgotten on Kindle and Out of the Shadows on Kindle.)

Be sure to check out M. B. Weston’s YouTube Channel (YouTube.com/TheMBWeston)!

Fantasy, steampunk, pulp, and paranormal novelist M. B. Weston is the author of The Elysian Chronicles, a fantasy series about guardian angel warfare and treason. For more information on M. B. Weston, visit www.mbweston.com. To receive notification of M. B. Weston’s book releases click here to subscribe to Dark Oak Press & Media’s e-newsletter.

Click here for a full listing of M. B. Weston’s published books, and be sure to check out her ever-growing list of published short stories here.

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Writing Diary: How I Became More Productive

Time management skills have eluded me since grade school. Okay, that’s not true. Time Management and I might have been friends had I not already been involved in close relationships with Procrastination and Distraction. Throughout the years, I have tried several different types of productivity books and apps, from Franklin Covey to the Pomodoro method. I’ve bought planners and apps, hoping something would stick. All this happened before I had a baby, so you can imagine how difficult reigning in time is now. 

Finally, my author friend, Andrea Judy, put me on to a daily planner that included journaling and task management called a Cossac Planner. I believe she shared it on her Instagram account, and I noticed and few days later that she was still using it. I researched it, and it seemed interesting. Tight finances prevented me from buying one. I decided to make my own, first using several sheets of paper in a notebook as a test to see if it would work for my personality. 

I discovered that planning out my days and weeks and reviewing how things went began to change me, which is not what I expected from a planner. Like many planners, this includes a monthly calendar view and pages for each day. Unlike many others, this one includes daily, weekly, and monthly review sections and has a separate page to plan each week. 

I can’t explain why it works, but it forces you to sit down and plan out your week and your month. Sitting down each weekend, looking at next week’s schedule, and assogning a task to each day has changed my life.

I have written more in the past month than I have in longer than I want to admit. I have completed things that have been sitting on the back burner. I have started a video series on YouTube. I have been blogging more. I am developing a social media strategy.

And, my friends, I am also getting more sleep.

I’ve decided to share a few things I’ve discovered about myself and about time management as I’ve become more productive, hoping it might help others:

Getting off digital sometimes works better. Moving back and forth between physical pages is quicker and more efficient than scrolling. Being able to see a whole month instead of little dots helps me process things better. My iPhone is too small to help my brain process and focus on the amount of information I need to effectively manage my time.

I really am trying to do too much. Forcing myself to look at my weekly schedule and assign tasks to each day has illuminated some issues. I truly am overextended. I can’t have a part time job, be a full time mom, write novels, keep up with the social media to write the novels, and be Condo Associaion President and expect to stay sane. Something has to give. Before I started writing things down, I thought I was the problem. Turns out I really do have too many things I’m trying to do. Now I am attempting to lessen the amount of tasks I do each day, which has helped.

I still don’t reach my daily goals. I’m a perfectionist who isn’t perfect. I still over schedule myself. However, this is the first time I haven’t just quit a time management system. (I think it has to do with the review section each day.)

I need to expect more emergencies. I plan, expecting each day to be perfect. They never are. I’ve adjusted how many tasks I put into a day, which results in me liking instead of hating myself. (See the perfectionist part above.)

I now write early in the morning. I am a night owl, but the most practical time for me to write is before my daughter wakes up. Trying to do anything at night usually fails. Once I put Ellie down for bed, I can’t even think from exhaustion. So now I wake up at 5:30, shower and get dressed for the day, and write. I don’t get as much writing time as I would like, but it’s working and I’m writing every day.

I see how I can make the next week/month better. By writing down my daily tasks and schedule, I discover how I can improve my time management. Each week, I adjust what I do. I now set my computer up the night before. I lay my clothes out the night before as well, and I prepare my lunch the night before I go to work. I also prep for my filming the night before because I know I won’t be able to get to it until Ellie naps. Once she naps, I only get 2 hrs to film, edit, and upload, and I can’t spend that time prepping. I’ve learned all this through trial and error.

I probably can blame most of my lack of production from reading to many dumb articles on FaceBook and playing Soduku on my phone. No comments needed.

Forcing myself to go to sleep at a designated time prevents me from wasting time during the day. If I know I have to be in bed by 10:30, I’m less likely to play Sudoku.

Update: I forgot to mention that my blog posts/social media posts have become more stratigic. I’ve planned out one post a week for this quarter. I’ve already planned out all my filming for this quarter. I’ve planned out a few social media posts a week for this quarter. I now realize I need to learn more about the inner workings of algorithms and key words. I plan to start that next year, because I have no time right now.

Update: Going with the post above, I am also now paying attention to what works. I’m watching the analytics. Are my numbers rising? Do my social media sites grow in strength. Are more people discovering my blog? Are people buying my books? If something doesn’t work, I don’t have time to bother with it. 

Update: Last post-publish addition: I am less stressed. I have a plan in place. If I can’t get to something, I push it to the next day and then adjust how I schedule myself.

I’m a work in progress. I haven’t got this time management thing down yet, but I feel like I’ve finally found a system that works for me.

How about you? What helps you manage your time?

*****

Do you have M. B. Weston’s Elysian Chronicles on your Kindle yet? Get them now for only $2.99–less than the cost of a Starbucks Latte! (Click here for A Prophecy Forgotten on Kindle and Out of the Shadows on Kindle.)

Be sure to check out M. B. Weston’s YouTube Channel (YouTube.com/TheMBWeston)!

Fantasy, steampunk, pulp, and paranormal novelist M. B. Weston is the author of The Elysian Chronicles, a fantasy series about guardian angel warfare and treason. For more information on M. B. Weston, visit www.mbweston.com. To receive notification of M. B. Weston’s book releases click here to subscribe to Dark Oak Press & Media’s e-newsletter.

Click here for a full listing of M. B. Weston’s published books, and be sure to check out her ever-growing list of published short stories here.

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Writing Diary: When the Story Takes Over the Writing

It never fails. In every novel or novella I have written, the story decides about four-fifths of the way through to scrap my original ending and take a hard turn somewhere else. Every. Single. Time.

The next Lodestone installment was supposed to end in an abandoned warehouse in the outer skirts of New Orleans with a magic showdown/fortress battle. But no…. it decided to stay in the French Quarter, and my villain released an extra werewolf I wasn’t expecting. And she unleashed some fog, so I couldnt see anything going on, which makes for fun writing. (Watching a character wearing a hooded cloak walking through fog under the glow of street lights is pretty sweet, though.) Meanwhile, I’ve got a new ending unfolding in my imagination in split second snippets,and I can’t keep up with it.

Such is the life of the writer. We slave over the research, the character sheets, and the planning, only to have the the story take matters into its own hands.

Personally, I believe this kind of thing, be it our character’s refusing to do what we want them to or the story unfolding the opposite way we planned, is actually our subconscious working out a few of the manuscripts hidden structural problems. In this case, I never felt comfortable with the original ending. It didn’t sit right or make sense. I suspected the “magic showdown” was something I forced into the climax because it sounded cool. I totally ignored that my villain wouldn’t have chosen that method to achieve her goals. When writing time came this morning, I’m pretty sure my subconscious fixed the problem without telling the rest of me.

The only problem with stories taking on lives of their own: the cleanup. I now have to go through the manuscript and fix things and eliminate others. Fortunately, this is just the first draft, so it won’t take as long. Sigh. But it will be worth it. The story is better already.

How about you? Have you ever had a story take th reins? How did it work out? Leave comments 🙂

*****

Do you have M. B. Weston’s Elysian Chronicles on your Kindle yet? Get them now for only $2.99–less than the cost of a Starbucks Latte! (Click here for A Prophecy Forgotten on Kindle and Out of the Shadows on Kindle.)

Be sure to check out M. B. Weston’s YouTube Channel (YouTube.com/TheMBWeston)!

Fantasy, steampunk, pulp, and paranormal novelist M. B. Weston is the author of The Elysian Chronicles, a fantasy series about guardian angel warfare and treason. For more information on M. B. Weston, visit www.mbweston.com. To receive notification of M. B. Weston’s book releases click here to subscribe to Dark Oak Press & Media’s e-newsletter.

Click here for a full listing of M. B. Weston’s published books, and be sure to check out her ever-growing list of published short stories here.

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Writing: Using Clothing to Develop Character

When it comes to clothing, society wants it both ways. We say “Clothes make the man,” and pay close attention to every article of clothing the rich and famous don on Instagram. Likewise, we say “don’t judge a book by its cover,” and insist that no one should form opinions of others based on their clothes.

Personally, I wish the world adhered to the latter, overlooking personal style decisions and focusing instead on a person’s character. (I also wish that Disney would release the unaltered, original Star Wars trilogy on blue ray, so that shows how much power my wishes have…)

Like it or not, character attire shows the reader a bit of who they are. Ignoring our character’s clothing choices deprives us of a chance to give the reader a bit more of a bigger picture of who they are.

Here are a few things to keep in mind when using duds to enhance your character’s character:

Clothing can reveal your character’s income. “She’s wearing my salary.” I love that quote from Dennis Leary in The Thomas Crown Affair. Some articles of clothing can cost into the tens of thousands in today’s world. No one can forget Scarlet O’Hara in Gone With the Wind making a dress out of curtains to disquise her fallen income. If your characters live in a pre-industrial setting, the wealthy would have access to rare silks and fabric dyed with hard-to-access dyes. The lower classes will often wear used clothing. In the Victorian times, the poor might be the third or fourth owner of a dress.

Clothing can reveal how much your character wants to be noticed. Some days I just throw on a black shirt and jeans so I can fade into the background. If I want to sell books, I might wear hot pink or red. (Yes, at conventions, I often wear my brightest clothes on Saturday when people are searching for new books to read.) Some people wear clothes specifically to be noticed, and it doesn’t have to be “sexy” attire. Bright colors, statement shoes, bold patterns all garner attention. A shy person will avoid these items. A person who is uncomfortable with their body size or shape will choose clothing that hides certain areas.

Clothing choices can reveal a moral code. The Amish way of dressing is attached to a moral code. Some religions require a woman to cover her hair. Some people refuse to wear leather and fur.

How someone wears her clothes reveals a lot about her character. Some days, I’m lucky to make it out of the house wearing clothes. I rarely notice whether I’ve put on jewelry, and I often forget to put on belts. Contrast me with a perfectionistic person who makes sure the buttons on his shirt line up perfectly with the button on his pants. Contrast this again with the woman who looks effortlessly fashionable with the perfect amount of accessories. All three methods of dressing reveal character.

How someone cares for his clothes reveals character. Some people iron and starch everything. Some add fabric softener. Some don’t iron when they should. I own a fabric shaver and try to shave off the pilling my clothes because I hate spending money on clothes.

All societies have an unspoken dress code. Whether or not your character chooses to follow it exposes part of his nature. Some people push boundaries. Some people dress down no matter the situation. Some people dress up.

Your characters are human (unless you write sci-if or fantasy and they aren’t human), and they will judge other characters’ clothing choices. My father is an engineer, and sometimes has to go out in the field as part of his job. One day, he entered a jewelry store wearing jeans, muddy work boots, and was quite sweaty. No one in the store would wait on him because of his clothing. Your characters might behave in the same way. If your writing mimics life, it will feel more real.

Keep your audience in mind when describing your character’s attire. If your audience tends to be men who enjoy military fiction, they will probably not be interested in the quality of cotton used in a shirt, nor will they care about what kind of handbag your character carries. If you write for mainly women, mentioning your character’s Birkin bag would totally change their attitude toward your character, (especially if the character is wearing hand-me-downs). Your own writing style comes into play here. Anne Rice will pay more attention to fabric and texture more than Stephen King.

Don’t forget uniforms. They aren’t just for the military.

Don’t write fashion to impress your reader with your knowledge. Use fashion, clothing, and accessories to enhance your characters, not to impress your reader. Overdoing the clothing description will seem out of place if it doesn’t fit with your voice and your style.

How about you? How do you use clothing in your writing?

Do you have M. B. Weston’s Elysian Chronicles on your Kindle yet? Get them now for only $2.99–less than the cost of a Starbucks Latte! (Click here for A Prophecy Forgotten on Kindle and Out of the Shadows on Kindle.)

Be sure to check out M. B. Weston’s YouTube Channel (YouTube.com/TheMBWeston)!

Fantasy, steampunk, pulp, and paranormal novelist M. B. Weston is the author of The Elysian Chronicles, a fantasy series about guardian angel warfare and treason. For more information on M. B. Weston, visit www.mbweston.com. To receive notification of M. B. Weston’s book releases click here to subscribe to Dark Oak Press & Media’s e-newsletter.

Click here for a full listing of M. B. Weston’s published books, and be sure to check out her ever-growing list of published short stories here.

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M. B Weston’s Corner: Show, Don’t Tell – Part 1

I’m not an actress. I’m just an idiot with an iPad being goofy and having fun talking about writing. In my first real “M. B. Weston’s Corner” video, I discuss “Show, Don’t Tell” for writers. This week’s focus is on explaining show, don’t tell, and highlighting how writers often miss the mark:

  • Failing to use description and sensory details
  • Telling a character’s emotions instead of showing them
  • Making blanket statements about a usual occurrence or relationship

It’s my first time using some equipment, and I discovered after filming that the camera picked up more than what I thought. It’s also a little bit longer than what I wanted. I decided to post anyway because no one is perfect, and I’d rather be authentic than perfect. 😉 I’ll keep the rest under five minutes 🙂

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Introducing M.B. Weston’s Corner in YouTube

I’m starting a weekly video blog on my YouTube channel, YouTube.com/TheMBWeston.  This is official Introduction video to M. B. Weston’s Corner. I plan to discuss writing: the technical stuff we all need to know as well as the trials and tribulations we authors endure for our craft. It should be goofy, snarky, and most of all informative. Please be sure to check it out, share with others, and subscribe to my channel if you love YouTube. The first “real” video on Show, Don’t Tell should air Thursday.

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