I’m sorry, but this is what I have to do, I need a hiatus

I know I’ve been MIA lately, and I’m truly sorry, this blog means a lot to me. Everyone who’s stuck with me mean a lot to me, and I’ve done everything I can think of to snap myself out of the haze of pain I’m in, but it’s just not happening.

That’s why I’ve decided to put regular updates on hold. 

However, the contest is still going on, and I’ll still be reading entires, and once for all, I WILL PICK A WINNER AND WILL GIVE OUT THE PRIZES AS I PROMISED. PERIOD. EXCLAMATION POINT. THE END! 

Got it?

I hate myself for being weak like this, but there’s nothing left I can do, and no one’s going to tell me I didn’t do anything to make of best of things.

I thought I had it in me to keep going, but I’m stuck, and I don’t know why and if I’ll ever get unstuck.

Writing’s not fun anymore.
Reading’s not fun anymore.
Not getting better is getting impossible to deal with.

I’m tired of getting nothing but form letter rejections.
I’m sick of being told to be a fast food flunkie.
I hate that no one thinks your serious about anything without a damn college degree!

I’m sick of hearing people preach about this stupid know-it-all Robert Heinlein. I’m not him, I’ll never be him, so stop telling me how brilliant he was, I’m just not him!!

I’m sorry, I just need some time, and I wish things were different.

Short Update

I’ll have a regular blog post tomorrow, but I’ve posted the info for my first contest. I hope to get some great entries from you, and trust me, the prizes are worth it! Plus, it’s great way for any budding writers out there to sharpen their skills, and win free stuff at the same time!

Until tomorrow,
May the fantastic fauna be with you,

P.S. Please vote in my first weekly poll!

The Humanity Behind the Beast: Part 3 (What I learned the HARD way so you won’t have it as hard)

Note: It’s late but….

Happy New Year!!

Newcomers, please read PART 1 and PART 2 before continuing on.

Now, at LONG last, today I’ll conclude this three part series on the basics of making your talking animals come alive, and mistakes I made, so you don’t have to, or at least know how to find them, since sometimes that’s half the battle. After all, you can’t fix a problem without knowing what or where the problem is.

As writers, we’ve heard the advice, “Show, Don’t Tell,” more times than we’d like to remember.

But for readers to enjoy our stories, and believe in the unbelievable, we must be mindful that the more we show an experience from the eyes of our characters, and how they see the world, the stronger our stories will be, as opposed to telling the reader how our characters think and feel.

Writers may be storytellers, and there are legit times to tell, but on average, the more you can show things from your main character’s perceptions and viewpoint, the better off you’ll be.

So, in the good practice of “Show, Don’t Tell” I’m going to share some examples from my early and current work to you’ll see just what I mean.

In writing fiction, especially short stories with tight word counts, it’s vital to let your reader know what story they’re getting into. By that I don’t just necessarily mean the genre, but what your particular story is like. How would your animal story differ from those you’ve read and loved, and some you wouldn’t want to be compared with.

Babe, Olivia, Piglet, and Wilbur are all pigs from various stories, and by different writers, but aside from all being pigs of one form or another, the similarities stop there, because their personalties, quirks, stories and art styles couldn’t be anymore different,

Just like avid mystery readers can tell the difference between Sara Paretsky’s V.I. and Alexander McCall Smith’s Precious, from Sue Grafton’s Kinsey.

Who’s the Protagonist? Or in the case of this blog’s theme: What animal is the Protagonist?

I’ll give some short examples in each age group. One will tell too much, and give little or no hints to what the animal protagonist is, the other shows the reader the experience as the character experiences it, and clue the read to what animal the protagonist may be.

What to look for
Who is the Protagonist?
What animal is the Protagonist?
Any hints to clue in the reader what animal the protagonist?
Are we shown the story through his or her eyes?

Don’t worry if you can’t guess, highlight certain parts of this post to reveal the answers, like study guides or pratice tests that put the answers upside down in case you need help with the answer, but hopefully you’ll try to figure a few out yourself, but remember, everyone learns at their own pace, and trust me when I say it took over three years before what I’m talking about sunk in for me. I’ve been at this craft for eight years now, so roughly half that time I was stumbling in the dark like most folks in the beginning. One of my writer’s group comrades often reminds me that everyone must start somewhere, you only fail when you give up, something I’ve had to re-learn in recent weeks, which is partly why I didn’t update the blog for so long,the holiday madness was only a small part, but I’ll talk about that later this month.

Now, onward to the examples below-

PB (Picture Book – Ages 4-8)

Example #1

Mr. Hare hopped around his parlor in a dreadful panic. He leapt into his chair and read the postcard from his mother again. His heart thumped faster. She was definitely coming back today, and would be here for afternoon tea.

(Highlight the area below for the answers!)

Who is the Protagonist?
Mr. Hare
What animal is the Protagonist?
A hare, member of the rabbit family
Any hints to clue in the reader what animal the protagonist is?
Yes, Hopping, but if not for Mr. Hare’s name, we could mistake him for a kangaroo.
Are we shown the story through his or her eyes?
Yes, we stay within Mr. Hare’s POV (Point of View)

MG (Middle Grade – Ages 8 and Up)

Example #2

Sawyer Flattail had what his friends called “A bad rep,” and though he never meant any harm, his ideas of fun were nothing but trouble for others. Of all the adults of Twig Arbor, it was Miss Gristletooth, who he nicknamed “Miss Bossy Bark,” that always knew how to get on his bad side.

His mother sighed and fiddled with her paws. “What’s Sawyer been up to this time?”
(Highlight the area below for the answers!)

Who is the Protagonist?
Sawyer, but it’s hard to tell since we’re not seeing him speak, literally via dialogue, and in the narrative.
What animal is the Protagonist?
Hints at Beaver, but not sure it’s clear enough.
Any hints to clue in the reader what animal the protagonist is?
Bark and trees references, and the characters last name, but a less adept reader may not figure it out.
Are we shown the story through his or her eyes?

Too Vague!

Example #3

Pip was trapped, but still alive since the book was thin and didn’t fall from a great height. But the weight of the book against his body made it impossible for him to escape. What’ll I do? Pip thought.

Suddenly, he heard giant, pounding footsteps looming closer, and heard a hard thump! Once he felt the book lifted off his body, Pip scampered under the bed and hid behind a red sneaker.

The girl bent down and ducked her head under the bed.
“Please come out, I won’t hurt you.”

Unable to escape, Pip squirmed out from under the bed. The girl lied on her tummy, watching him approach her.

“Are you all right? I hope you weren’t hurt when I dropped my diary on you.”

For the first time in recent memory, Pip was speechless. Not only had he never been this close to a human before, but one is speaking to him, as opposed to screaming in terror like his mother had told him.

“Are you lost?” asked the girl.

Pip stood up, and then shook his head. “No–I was exploring.”

The girl let out a gasp. “You can talk?”

Pip slapped a paw on the side of his snout. “Yep, but I shouldn’t have.”

“Why? Is it because you’ll get in trouble?”

“You don’t know the half of it,” said Pip. “I’m not even supposed to be seen by humans, let alone talking to one.”

“Well, I’m glad you did,” said the girl . “I just moved here, and I’ve had no one to talk to for hours.”

“That’s a shame,” Pip said. “But you can talk to me if you want.”

“I thought you said you’d be in trouble for talking to me?”

“I know, but I won’t tell, if you don’t.”

“All right,” said the girl. “My name’s Enid Andelman. Do you have a name?”

“Of course I have a name, and it’s Phillip Bitterswiss, but I’d rather you call me Pip.
(Highlight the area below for the answers!)
Who is the Protagonist?
Pip, since we see things play out via his perspective.
What animal is the Protagonist?
It’s not clear from the snippet given here, but obviously a small creature to be immobilized by a book. (Pip’s a mouse!)

Any hints to clue in the reader what animal the protagonist?

Are we shown the story through Pip’s eyes?
Yes, but it’s quite vague.

Example #4
Aurel Finnwhistle was in a fix, the worse kind possible, he was trapped in a cage, with a cast iron lock. It was so dark he couldn’t see the nose in front of his face. “Stragglefur, are you out there?” But all he heard were the chickens squawking. “Kill and skin him! Kill and skin him!” they chanted.

Aurel sighed. What a sorry predicament for a weasel to be in. I never should’ve trusted that fox…
(Highlight the area below for the answers!)
Who is the Protagonist?
Aurel Finnwhistle,
What animal is the Protagonist?
A Weasel
Any hints to clue in the reader what animal the protagonist is?
Yes, his internal thoughts, and being trapped in a cage after failing to kill a chicken for a meal, and swipe any eggs the chicken laid.

Are we shown the story through his eyes?

Yes, we see, hear, and smell what Aurel does.

YA (Young Adult/Teen Ages 13 and Up)

Example #5

September 3rd was a happy day in Warbler’s Hollow. Well, happy for all the parents in America, anyway, because it’s the day when students returned to school. Why did summer vacation have to end?

Normally, it didn’t matter to me. I never got to go anywhere cool, and I didn’t have any friends to spend the summer with, or any other season for that matter. This summer was different. I met Jet Robinson. His family moved here, from New York City of all places, he lived next door to me.

His real name was Jacob, but everyone in our comic book club, The Hidden Pages, called him Jet, because he loved collecting toy jet planes almost as much as comics.

“So, can you come over to the club after school?” Jet asked me on our way to school.

“Yeah, but I have to take Ruka to her fencing lesson first.”

Jet looked at me with a raised eyebrow. “Fencing?”

Almost everyone does this when they first learn about my little sister’s after-school pastime. How she came to it is a story best told by Ruka herself, but to put it simply, she read The Three Musketeers in seventh grade and was determined to be as strong and cool as they were.

Before I could say that to Jet, the sound of a bell turned our attention to Sadie Hutchison, who rode up to us on her bike.
(Highlight the area below for the answers!)

Who is the Protagonist?
Not yet named, but we know he’s male and a high school student.
What animal is the Protagonist?
He’s human, tricked ya!
Any hints to clue in the reader what animal the protagonist?
See answer above
Are we shown the story through his or her eyes?

It’s told in first person from the protagonist’s point of view. We only know what he knows, what he tells us via past tense narration, and his inner thoughts.

Example #6

Vlad awoke to find he was in front of a roaring fire; the wound on his back had been bandaged, he the noticed a human boy who looked right at him. “Good you’re awake, I thought for a moment you might not make it.”

“Where am I?” asked Vlad.

The boy smiled. “So you talk, cool. You’re in my backyard. What happened to you?”

“I was fighting this panther demon and the last thing I remember after that was trying to reach the Plummer house.”

“Well, this is the Plummer house, I’m Chad, it’s great to meet you.” Chad then held out his hand.

Vlad took his hand. “So you’re Chad, I’m Vlad Waldgrave.”

“Wow, your hand’s really hairy; you must be a werewolf, unless you’re a guy in a suit. A lot of folks get their Halloween kicks in early, Show me your teeth.”

“What? My teeth?

“Yeah, if you wouldn’t mind.” Chad said.

“All right,” Vlad said and opened his mouth wide.

Chad carefully went over to Vlad and touched one of his teeth. “Wow, these fangs are real!
(Highlight the area below for the answers!)
Who is the Protagonist?
A bit unclear. Seems to be Vlad.

What animal is the Protagonist?
A werewolf as inferred through dialogue

Any hints to clue in the reader what animal the protagonist?
Chad points out specific details. Clearly interested in meeting a real werewolf.

Are we shown the story through Vlad’s eyes?
Yes, quite clear from the opening sentence.
(Highlight the area above for the answers!)

Did you get any answers right? If so, great, if not, hopefully it was a learning experience at the very least, as I never want another writer to suffer as I did in figuring this out. Trust me, there are many other issues you’ll face as a writer that test your mettle more than this. Still, the basics are vital to understanding te more subtle and not-so-subtle techniques a writer must employ to achieve the right effect for a story, and those of us who write stories with our animal heroes, villains, and those wayward rascals somewhere in-between, th

For all writing where telling a story’s the driving force, fiction or narrative nonfiction (That doesn’t ALWAYS mean memoir) Show, don’t tell is important, if not always clear how to do it in any given story or book we write.

For writers of talking animals, it’s not just Show, don’t tell, but “Show, don’t tell meets  Who, What, Where, Why, and how.

Who is the animal or group of animals in your story?
What sets your story or concept apart from other stories about the same animal or animals?

When does your story take place? 
History affects animals the same as people, sadly often due to the crazy and cruel things our ancestors were capable of, and sometimes still are, from abuse, to saving endangered creatures from extinction, and how man and nature have a hard time sharing, and how some things are getting at least a little better, or outright improving.

How do humans play a role in the story? 
If the world is only made up of human-like animals, how do the different races work, and how does it differ or work with their real-life counterparts.

Why is your chosen animal the main character? 

You may or may not know the answers to some or even all these questions at first, but it’ll come, so long as your passion and heart come through, the rest can and will follow, even if it feels like it’s taking a mini-eternity to come to the answer. On the bright side, every book is different for the writer as it is for the reader, some things click faster on one book or story versus another.

It may not make the wrting easier, but the more you know the characters at the start, the less likely you are to make as many critical errors, and for me at least, anything I can do to make edits and rewrites less aggravating, and not cut corners on quality, I’m all for.

What do you think? I’d love to hear from you.

This concludes my series, “The Humanity Behind the Beast.”

I hope you’ve found my musings helpful in some way, even if it’s just “Yes! Someone understands my frustrations,” as we start off a new year, it’s important to remember how far you’ve come, as well as where you want to go.

The blog will back to my intended semi-regular schedule on Monday. I’ll be starting my first contest, which I hope you’ll take part in, and tell your friends, I’ll post details on Tuesday.