Guest Post

If you have a book to promote, Lyrical Pens welcomes guest posts on Wednesdays. I can furnish a questionnaire or you can create your own post. FYI, up front: The site is a definite PG-13. Contact for details. cj

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Creating believably diverse characters

cj Sez: Lyrical Pens is happy to welcome a guest post from author R.V. Reyes. Today’s post delves into the very hot topic of the need for writing diverse and unique characters.

The call for more diverse characters in fiction writing is loud. It began with the MG/YA authors, readers, and librarians. #WeNeedDiverseBooks  Science Fiction/ Fantasy with its ability to world-build is doing a good job of it. . (Here are some great tips.) The mystery genre is doing their part, too.  At SleuthFest 2016, I was a facilitator and co-creator of a panel on diversity called Writing the Other. It focused specifically on writing characters of color and/or an ethnicity other than your own. But diversity means more than just the color of skin. It includes GLBTQ, neurological differences, size variety/body positive--- anything other than the dominate institutionalized culture.

Sisters in Crime researched and published Report for Change. They also hosted a workshop at Bouchercon called Writing to our Differences. If anything this should tell you that the time has come to reflect the reality of the world we all live in—a world that is a rich tapestry of experiences. So, the question you might be asking is—How? How do I do it authentically and respectfully if I’m not of that culture/group?

   Do Your Research!
          Know the history.
          Social media - Follow someone similar to the character you want to write.
          Ask someone who lives it daily. This might mean making new friends.
   Write It!
          Make sure your character has a NAME!
          Make sure your character is not just scenery!
          Make sure your character is not a stereotype! Test your story/scene use the Bechdel test,  the DuVernay test, The Russo Test           
   Beta Readers!
          Have a wide range of readers.
          It is okay to give someone just that scene or chapter you have questions about.        
          Be open to constructive criticism.

Most importantly, don’t be afraid to try. Think about your own uniqueness and what makes you different. How does it feel when you find a character that shares that quality? Do you feel validated and not so alone?  That is something we all want. Representation matters. That is why I write mysteries with Latina characters. I wasn’t seeing the world I live in represented in the genre I read. 

R.V. Reyes lives in Miami Florida where Spanish speakers are the majority. She is an active member of the Mystery Writers of America-Florida Chapter. Her theatre degree from University of New Mexico has served her well despite not making a living at directing.

Jeweler’s Mark—A Love & Diamonds Mystery is the first in a series. The story follows Gig Santos & her wild BFF, Lourdes, as they sleuth to solve the puzzle of counterfeit rings and a murder.  Set in the diverse city of Miami, the reader gets some behind the scenes knowledge of the jewelry
trade and a sampling of the many different cultures that inhabit both those worlds. While Gigi is the epitome of a young business-minded go-getter, Lourdes hasn’t evolved since high school. Their juxtaposition makes for adventure and hilarity.

Social Links:

cj Sez:  This has been an eye-opening post on diversity for me, and I appreciate the jump links provided. I hope Lyrical Pens readers will weigh in with their comments on how they create believable diversity. Thanks so much for stopping by, and best wishes for great sales and marvelous reviews for Jeweler’s Mark (I’m fascinated by the story line). 

Okay, you-all guys keep on keeping on, and I’ll try to do the same.
Choosing Carter  -- Kindle  /  Nook  /  Kobo   /  iTunes/iBook
Deadly Star --  Kindle  / Nook  / Kobo

PS:  How to be a heroine/hero: Set aside a buck (less than the cost of a cup of coffee or a glass of tea) and buy “More Than Friends,” a bundle of six novels offered by Crimson Romance on Amazon. For 99 cents, you can buy hours and hours of reading enjoyment for yourself, a BFF, or a grab-bag party gift. Check it out at… 

Sunday, October 16, 2016

2016 Mobile Literary Festival

cj Sez: I spent all yesterday at the Ben May … the main branch of the Mobile Public Library system … at the inaugural Mobile Literary Festival. A free event co-sponsored by the Library and the Mobile Writers Guild for authors and readers, and it came complete with well-known authors, dignitaries, and small publishers as well as offering author workshops and panels. 
Photo by Linda Busby Parker

Did I mention it was free? Now these are the kind of conference/literary events that should appeal to all authors wanting to build a fan base AND do some skill building at the same time. It was a one-day event that was close to home and free. (Love that sentence.)

T.K. Thorne Photo by Jodie Cain Smith
The first workshop of the morning was led by T.K. Thorne, an award-winning author who is both traditionally published and self-published. (Spotted in her audience, way back in the left far corner, is City of Mobile Mayor William “Sandy” Stimpson. Hmm, a memoir, perhaps?)

A workshop led by Carrie Dalby, our local Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators liaison and the author of two YA novels, covered the things that differentiate books in all age levels—from baby books and picture books to young adult novels.

Angela Quarles, the 2016 RITA Award winner for Must Love Chainmail, led a “plotting 101” workshop, exploring the importance of plot in genre fiction and the three-act structure.

Prolific author Joyce Scarbrough took her workshop audience though “the nuances of creating characters in high definition 3D, no special glasses required” (ergo, no more cardboard characters).

Former Alabama Poet Laureate Dr. Sue Brannan Walker, herself a small-press publisher (Negative Capability Press), presented a brown bag lunch session called, “What’s new on the local scene.”

Thom Gossom, Jr. Photo by Jodie Cain Smith
Thom Gossom, Jr., professional actor (Fight Club, Jeepers Creepers2 and Miss Ever’s Boys), writer, and history-making Auburn athlete (a football walk-on who defied the odds by earning a scholarship, becoming a three-year starter, and the first Black athlete to graduate from Auburn University), gave the keynote address.

Conference coordinator and all-around whirlwind Jodie Cain Smith moderated the publishing industry discussion panel that included Mr. Gossom, Watt Key (author of Alabama Moon, Dirt Road Home, and coming in 2017, Hideout), Angela Quarles and local small press publishers Deer Hawk Publications and Excalibur Press.

Did I mention that all this was free? I know I did, but I wanted to say it again.

The idea behind this post is to remind authors that you don’t have to search far and wide for networking conferences and skill-building workshops that are offered at minimal or no cost. Take advantage of all the events offered at your local library and/or local writing group. Networking with other writers, whether in person or on-line, is as much a skill-building activity as a workshop might be.

Okay, you-all guys keep on keeping on, and I’ll try to do the same.

Be sure to stop by Wednesday for a guest post from author R. V. Reyes, discussing readers’ increasingly loud calls for more diverse characters in fiction writing.

PS:  It’s getting awfully close to some important gift-giving holidays. May I suggest, for 99 cents, a gift of six novels that will give hours of entertainment to your favorite romance reader: “More Than Friends,” available now until February 2017 for less than a buck. A great deal…and one that includes my novel, Choosing Carter!
Choosing Carter  -- Kindle  /  Nook  /  Kobo   /  iTunes/iBook
Deadly Star --  Kindle  / Nook  / Kobo
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