Posted by: nancycurteman | April 29, 2018

How to Create Unique Character Voices

Bookmark and Share

Character voice is an important aspect of character development. Each character’s voice in your novel including minor ones should have a unique voice that sets that character apart from others. Character voice can make or break a novel. Your job as an author is to create voices so distinct that each character can be identified without a tag. Here are a few ideas that will help authors can create unique character voices.

Character voice encompasses a number of different elements including dialogue, internal narrative, body language, external interactions, and speech patterns. Here are ways to incorporate these elements into character building.

  • Internal narrative is important because your character’s thought processes aid readers’ understanding of his motivations. Internal narrative reveals hopes, fears, prejudices and regrets. It may show a tender vulnerability in a gruff character or a cruel side of an apparently kind person.
  • Body languageoften speaks louder than dialogue. Consider facial expressions, posture, and bodily tics. Often character voice is found in what is not said as much as what is said.
  • Speech patternssuch as use of slang, grunts, snorts, chuckles or groans say a lot about a character. Manner of speaking such as short or long sentences, clipped words add interest to a voice. Accents or dialects can provide a character’s background.
  • Actions and interactions give each character a distinctive voice. When faced with an issue one might retreat, another cry or lash out in anger, still another might move into an intellectual problem-solving mode, take charge and use a no-nonsense approach to dealing with conflict.
  • Dialogue is influenced by many things. Personality and cultural influences should differ among story people and impact how they interact verbally. Voice is shaped and refined by experiences.

The main qualities of a character will influence the voice.  Is the character cocky, depressed, bossy, optimistic or thoughtful?

Consider your characters ethnicity, religious practices, physical and mental ability, sexuality, gender identity. Let your character’s upbringing, friends, occupation. and past and present relationships influence the way they speak. Whether your character is an introvert or extrovert will impact how they engage in conversation.

Two additional points:

  1. The narration in your novel should be in the voice of the point-of-view character. Using the type of speaking language he would use. You will be presenting the world to the reader through the character’s observation.
  2. A character’s voice is dynamic and may become different at the end of the story compared to the beginning.

If you have other ideas on how to create unique character voices I’d appreciate hearing them.

More Tips:

Dialogue: Body Language Communicates More Than Words
4 Ways to Keep Dialogue Interesting
How to Write Accents and Dialect

Posted by: nancycurteman | April 10, 2018

How do Developmental Editing and Line Editing Differ?

Bookmark and Share

Every author knows that editing is a critical component of the writing process. It happens after a book has been written and can result in anything from a few simple changes to a complete rewrite of a novel. There are two types of editing, Developmental and Line. Each has an important but different role in perfecting a novel. The question is: How do Developmental Editing and Line Editing Differ?

The best way to describe Developmental Editing is that it deals with the novel as a whole and in large chunks. Developmental Editing includes plotting, pacing, characterization and narrative structure. This type of editing may reposition paragraphs, scenes or chapters. Developmental editing may cut superfluous scenes or even chapters throughout the book. Character examination including believability, actions and growth is included in this type of edit.

Line editing is what makes a novel readable. It often includes proofreading and copyediting. It will refine tone, style, and consistency. It looks at grammar, syntax, spelling, typographical errors,sentence structure and punctuation. It reviews word usage that includes misused words, overused words, and words that do not belong as well as unnecessary adverbs and modifiers. It checks for formatting errors.

Developmental Editing and Line Editing differ but each one is critical to a well-written novel.

More Tips:

Revising and Rewriting a Novel is no Mystery
How to Get a Chapter Just Right
Writing is Rewriting is Revising: 7 Ways to Do It

Posted by: nancycurteman | March 22, 2018

8 Questions Readers Ask About Grace Wright

Bookmark and Share

In my last post I shared a marketing strategy I use to maintain reader interest in my Lysi Weston Mystery Series and to reinforce differences between characters in terms of values, interests, voice and goals. I posted an interview with one of the novels’ main characters. I pointed out that when I do book events, I often get repeat questions about readers’ favorite characters. One of the most popular characters is Grace Wright. In this post I will model a format for responding to questions about Grace.

What is your job? I bully corporate managers into recognizing and eliminating sexual harassment in the work place.

Any romance in your life? Oh yeah. You know I travel the world in my job. Well, let me tell you, I got a man waiting for me in every port.

Tell us about your relationship with Lysi Weston, your business colleague. Lysi is a doll and no dummy. She would do anything for you. I love her, but she has some problems that bug the hell out of me.. She’s too uptight. I try to loosen her up but it’s a losing battle. Everything has to be planned, scheduled and implemented. She even makes lists. Her biggest problem is her fantasy that she’s some kind of detective. She gets mixed up in murder cases wherever we go. And, OMG! She always gets me involved. Despite all her issues, she’s my BFF.

Do you have any bad habits? I don’t think so. Well, maybe a couple. I imbibe a bit—a little scotch, a little champagne, maybe a cocktail now and then. Oh, and I have a flirty side that upsets my current squeeze. What can I say? I don’t want to be selfish, so I spread my affection around a bit.

Where did you grow up? Not much to tell. Born in good old Harlem, NY. Had an African American dad and a Puerto Rican mama. We lived above my dad’s bookstore. Spent vacations in Mississippi with my paternal grandmother. Education? Got my street smarts in Harlem where I hung with Black and Hispanic gangs. Got a BA and MA from NYU.

How do you stay so fit? Exercise. And let me tell you, the best exercise is hot sex.

What are your favorite activities? Shopping, partying, eating and sex. Not necessarily in that order.

Any new adventures in your future? Yeah. Lysi and I will do a corporate seminar in Dublin, Ireland in a few months. I already bought a “Hug me, I’m Irish” t-shirt.

That concludes the interview with Grace Wright. She will be going to Ireland in my next mystery novel. Watch for it in about 8 months.

More Tips:

8 Questions Readers Ask About Lysi Weston

Posted by: nancycurteman | March 5, 2018

8 Questions Readers Ask About Lysi Weston

Bookmark and Share

Lysi Weston is the main character in my Lysi Weston Mystery Series. When I do book events, I often get repeat questions about her. I wanted to share some of the most frequently asked questions in an interesting format so I decided to allow Weston to respond to the questions herself in a one-on-one interview. So here goes:

  • What is your job? I present seminars to corporate managers on how to identify and eliminate sexual harassment in the work place.
  • Do you live in an apartment or house? I live in a condominium in San Francisco’s Telegraph Hill neighborhood. I could never afford to buy it now. Homes are just too expensive in San Francisco. My parents purchased it in 1979 when I went away to college. I inherited it.
  • Are you married? I married right out of college. When my husband became an alcoholic, I divorced him. I stayed single for many years. I recently remarried a wonderful man I met in Australia. We spend six months of the year in San Francisco and six months in Alice Springs, Australia on his sheep station.
  • How do you stay so fit? Thank you. I believe in exercise. I think it enables you to do everything else in your life. I ride a stationary bike and walk two miles five days a week. I work out at a fitness center three days a week. I eat lots of salad and vegetables. I have a glass of wine every evening to relax. I call it my “wine down” time.
  • Tell us about your best friend. My best friend is Grace Wright. She is also my business colleague. A college graduate, she was born and raised in Harlem. Her mother is Hispanic and her father is African American. Grace is almost my exact opposite. I’m understated, Grace is flamboyant. I’m a planner, Grace is an improviser. I’m conservative, Grace is audacious. We complement each other.
  • Are you a dog or a cat person? In general I’d say I’m an animal person. I have a German shepherd I adore. She’s a house dog but she loves to take long walks up Telegraph Hill.
  • Do you have any bad habits? My worst bad habit is amateur sleuthing. I just can’t resist sticking my nose into a murder investigation. Even worse, I involve Grace and my husband who is a retired homicide detective. I’m working on myself.
  • Do you have any adventures planned? I do. Grace and I will do a corporate seminar in Dublin Ireland in a few months. I will also have the opportunity to meet some of my Irish cousins.

That concludes the interview with Lysi Weston. She will be going to Ireland in my next mystery novel. Watch for it in about 8 months.

Posted by: nancycurteman | February 21, 2018

How to Get a Chapter Just Right

Bookmark and Share

One of the most frustrating things writers can experience is the inability to get a chapter just right. We try everything—revising setting, character descriptions and conflict, changing sentences, adding and removing paragraphs, rewriting the chapter. We even consider tossing out the whole chapter. But often we can’t because it’s integral to the plot so we have to labor through it. The problem is how to get the chapter right. Translation: how to get the chapter up to the level of perfection we want.

Before we explore some strategies that might help us get the chapter right, we should remember two old sayings: A writer who thinks his work is perfect is usually a bad writer and Don’t let perfect be the enemy of good. With that in mind, here are some thoughts on how to get the chapter just right if not perfect.

  • Read your chapter aloud. This is a great way to diagnose problems. Maybe your rhythm is off or your character is acting or speaking out of character.
  • Write a synopsis of your chapter. This will allow you to see any elements in your scenes that slow the plot pace.
  • Critique groups help. Take your chapter to your group and ask them for ideas. Others can see what you don’t see.
  • Write mentally. Take a walk and add ideas and changes to your chapter in your mental computer.
  • Write the next chapter. Leave the troublesome chapter and keep going. Choose a new chapter to work on. Return to the problem chapter later.
  • Pause and rethink. Take a couple of days away from your chapter to recharge.
  • Calm your Inner Critic. Chances are your chapter is not as bad as you think. Remind your Inner Critic that you will fix problems in rewrites.

These are some strategies for getting the chapter just right. If you have some ideas I’d love it if you would share them with my readers.


More Tips:

Writing is Rewriting and Editing
Revising and Rewriting a Novel is no Mystery

Posted by: nancycurteman | January 31, 2018

6 Unusual San Francisco Sights

Bookmark and Share

If you are a visitor to San Francisco it is of course essential to visit the world famous sights such as Fisherman’s Wharf, China Town, Golden Gate Park, North Beach and the Golden Gate Bridge. However, it is also important for you to try to make time to see some of San Francisco’s more unusual sights. Here are six really different sights you might consider:

•The Gregangelo Museum

You enter this unique museum at 225 San Leandro Way through a mosaic entryway with tiles arranged in shades of blues and blacks that create a swirling galaxy. The psychedelic world of Gregangelo consists of unusual rooms with titles like Solstice, Eclipse, Dawn, and Midnight Hall, each name descriptive of the room’s design theme. This is not a typical no-touch museum, as guests are encouraged to touch, feel and interact with the pieces in each room. For $150 per person you can experience this unforgettable museum.

• Brick Circles of San Francisco

How about a freebie? While walking around the city, take note of random brick circles at various intersections. You may wonder what they might be. Well, they are cisterns. Underneath each of these circles is buried a giant tank of water stored as a backup water source in case the city’s water system is ever rendered useless. Look for fire hydrants placed near each cistern.

• Musée Mécanique

At Pier 45 is located the Musée Mécanique, one of the world’s largest privately own collection of coin-operated mechanical musical instruments and antique arcade machines. In short, an old time penny arcade with over 200 gaming machines still in operation. You could spend a all day in the Musée Mécanique and never run out of games.

• Yoda Fountain

For those of you who are Star Wars addicts you can have your photo taken with a statue of Yoda in the Presidio located on B Courtyard, 1 Letterman Drive just outside the Digital Arts Center. After your photo you can visit the Center and discover a collection of Star War’s icons.

• Clarion Alley

Clarion Alley located in the Mission between 17th and 18th street connecting Valencia and Mission is a little bit of San Francisco culture presented in over 700 colorful murals. Every wall including the alley floor is covered with murals depicting themes of social, economic and environmental justice.

• Magowan’s Infinite Mirror Maze

This maze in housed in a building on Pier 39. It is a dungeon of columns and mirrors, lit by black light and flashing neon with a background of rave music. The SF Weekly stated that this Mirror Maze is possibly the most psychedelic place one can legally reach within the city limits.” This labyrinth of mirrors will make you lose track of where you are.

So consider taking the path less travelled and visit some of San Francisco’s unusual sights.


More Tips:

5 San Francisco Activities Dear to San Franciscans

7 Less Famous San Francisco Attractions

Posted by: nancycurteman | January 20, 2018

“Murder Lurks in the Fog” Ranked #3 in National Readers Poll

Bookmark and Share

I am delighted to announce that my 6th novel, “Murder Lurks in the Fog,” ranked #3 in the 2017 Preditors  & Editors Readers’ Poll.

“Murder Lurks in the Fog” joins “Murder Casts a Spell” (ranked #1) and “Murder Down Under” (ranked #5) as Readers Poll winners.

Thanks  so much to all my readers who took the time to vote for my novel.

You can find all my mysteries on Amazon page.

Posted by: nancycurteman | January 12, 2018

First Drafts are Fun

Bookmark and Share

First drafts are fun because when you write them you can let your imagination run wild. You can develop a story with no constraints. There is no pressure for perfection. Just free write. Begin your story wherever you choose—beginning, middle, end.

Your first draft can be a loose collection of ideas. Along the way you will discover characters, scenes and settings. Your first draft is where you explore ideas and writing styles, meander, make all kinds of mistakes and most important enjoy “living” your story.

While first drafts are fun, they are usually pretty awful—full of spelling and grammar errors, poor pacing, inconsistencies, undeveloped characters. That said, first drafts are not meant to be perfect. Perfection comes with second, third and fourth drafts.

Here are a few thoughts about first drafts:

  • Finish them. Don’t labor over the first sentence forever.
  • Don’t worry about bad writing. You will perfect it later.
  • You don’t need to know every inch of your plot.
  • Do some preliminary research but not in-depth.
  • Understand that in future drafts you may add or change characters, plot events, settings and even beginnings and endings.
  • Think of your first draft as a skeleton that you will flesh out later.
  • A completed first draft will make it easier for you make improvements in later rewrites.
  • Finally, no one need ever see your embarrassing first draft.

The important thing to remember about writing a first draft as bad as it may be, is that without it there is no story. First drafts are about getting the story down on paper.


More Tips:

Writing is Rewriting and Editing

Revising and Rewriting a Novel is no Mystery

Writing is Rewriting is Revising: 7 Ways to Do It

Posted by: nancycurteman | December 29, 2017

Greetings to all my Readers,

Just want to let you know that my sixth novel, “Murder Lurks in the Fog,” has been nominated as best mystery novel of 2017 in the Preditors and Editors Readers’ Poll. I’d love it if you would consider voting for me. Simply go  to this site and follow voting instructions.

Voting closes on January 14th.

Thank you in advance,

Nancy Curteman


Posted by: nancycurteman | December 11, 2017

How to Conquer Writers’ Block

Bookmark and Share

Most authors will have to search out ways to conquer writers’ block at some time in their professional career. Writers’ block can occur at any time during the creation of a writing piece. It can occur before you begin a novel or at the beginning of a new chapter or even while you’re well into the story and trying to tie up threads you’ve created.

Causes of writers’ block can vary. Two of the most common reasons are insisting on a perfect draft—anything from laboring over a chapter or a scene or sentence or even seeking the perfect word can lead to frustration and writers’ block. The second major cause is waiting for inspiration. This passive activity rarely succeeds. The fact is your muse usually will not show up unless you engage in writing.

There are ways to combat writers’ block. Here are a few tried and true strategies that have worked for authors:

  • Write. Just hit the keyboard and type anything that comes to mind. Don’t worry about spelling or grammar. In short, no editing. You may set goals if you like such as 200 words or 3 pages or five minutes. That’s up to you. The important thing is to get words on the screen.
  • Brainstorm. Make lists of words. If you have a topic, choose words that relate to it. Do not outline while brainstorming. Simply let your mind run rampant through your brain, gathering any words that tickle your fancy. By the way, save your list of words. You may use some of them later.
  • Research. This is one of my favorite writers’ block busters. It’s very effective if you know your topic or already have an outline of your plot. But even if you don’t it will stimulate your interest and creativity. I love it because I always stumble on interesting items. Often I can work the new items into my story.
  • Where to begin. This decision is often not well considered. You may automatically decide to start with the first line on the first page of the first chapter. If you’re blocked, get out of that rut. Launch your story wherever you like. Some authors write the end of their story first. Choose a chapter or a scene that interests you and dive right in. You’ll find that the beginning will come more easily after you stop pounding on it as if it were a brick wall. And you don’t have to complete a scene or chapter before you move on. You can attack it again in your rewrites.
  • Go for a walk. As you walk, let your mind wander through your scene or chapter allowing interruptions to gaze at a flower or the sky or whatever. No pressure. I do a lot of my writing mentally as I walk because ideas pop into my mind seemingly out of nowhere.
  • Read a book. You can get inspired and learn writing strategies from reading good authors just as artists learn painting techniques from observing great paintings.
  • Accept your sloppy first draft. Embrace your first draft for what it is—a skeleton. Just write as fast as you can to finish the novel. You’ll flesh it out when you edit and rewrite. Remember, writing is really rewriting.
  • Join a critique group. A critique group not only helps you improve your writing, it also forces you to complete writing pieces on a regular basis to share with the members.

I’ve listed several strategies authors have used to conquer writers’ block. Perhaps you have some strategies that have worked for you. Please consider sharing them with my followers.

More Tips:

What is Literary Style?

Literary Style: What’s That?

What is Theme in Literature?


« Newer Posts - Older Posts »


%d bloggers like this: