Posts Tagged ‘writing’

Supporting Characters

February 19th, 2016 • by Karen A. Chase • No Comments


This week legendary character actor George Gaynes passed away. Despite his handsome looks and rumbling voice, despite dozens of plays and films, he was never really considered leading man material. Instead he was most known for supporting roles, like that of the photographer/building manager on Punky Brewster.

But I see high value in such roles. Like Samwise in Lord of the Rings, secondary characters sometimes give us a glimpse into what the main character, who is often wallowing around in the quagmire of becoming, might actually become. We needed the kind, wise mentor of Gaynes’ Henry, to believe that Punky Brewster might also grow up to be kind after being orphaned.

Writer’s Digest has a great article on how to write sizzling secondary characters. Primarily though, it comes down to writing supporting characters who, through their own journeys, help us and our protagonists reach a believable end.

I suspect Dustin Hoffman would not have been as convincing as a woman in Tootsie, had it not be for George Gaynes’ character so believably coming on to him as a “her.”

So thanks for the great character work, George. Thanks for the memories, and the laughs. You can see George Gaynes in this Tootsie original trailer around :40.

Research & Writer’s Block

February 5th, 2016 • by Karen A. Chase • 1 Comment
Writers block means going back to the books. (Public Domain Image: Ivan Kramskoy. Reading woman.)

Writers block means going back to the books. (Public Domain Image: Ivan Kramskoy. Reading woman.)

Writers often dread the idea of becoming stuck, and Writer’s Digest (WD) has a great post this week about 5 Tips for Overcoming Writer’s Block.

I’ll admit that I’m not a big believer in writer’s block as this staring-at-a-blank-page, drink-in-hand, woe-to-the-tortured-Hemingway-like-writer syndrome. Much like the WD article author, Molly Cochran, I think the reasons for why writers might stall are pretty straightforward. And Molly’s tips are a great help for overcoming those problems.

But I will add to her list a sixth reason, and it’s primarily for all the historical novelists out there. Lack of preparation or research.

I write what I call “Factual Fiction,” whereby my plot, story and characters are not loosely set in history but intrinsically tied to real events, people and places. So if I am having difficulty with my plot, or what my characters are doing or saying, it’s because I simply don’t know enough about the event, person or place with which they must interact.

To overcome those moments when words come to a screeching halt, I read (or sometimes reread) about an event. I take out pictures of the locations I’m featuring, or I read second-hand accounts or bios about the person they’re speaking to. Once, I had to request a historian’s dissertation from a California university to overcome a lack of information.

Usually within an hour, or in that one case a couple weeks, I’m humming along with ideas again. No more writer’s block. Then my only problem becomes whether or not I’ve blocked off enough time to write.

7 Years in 1776

January 29th, 2016 • by Karen A. Chase • 6 Comments

Many years ago, when I worked at a corporate job, my employee review indicated I was doing well, but “lacked patience.” I was not surprised. I’d heard it before, and was well aware of both the positive and negative aspects of such a trait.

Fast forward, and this week my novel, in the hands of my agent, is going out for the next round of feedback from publishers. As I wait, once again, I’m reminded of that review, and I wonder if this novel shows how my lack of patience was probably not a trait, but a symptom of circumstance.

Back then, I wanted to my career to advance faster (now), because I was working jobs that fit me about as well as that too-tight pair of wool pants I can’t seem to part with.

But this book, set during 1776, is a passion project. Potentially a new career. And so it’s more like a cozy sweater-dress I bought at Goodwill a couple months ago–it fits so easily, and makes me feel fantastic. Consequently, my dedication to it can been seen in the numbers:

I began researching 7 years ago, worked with 5 different editors, 9 early readers (friends who gave advice and corrections), 100s of historians, librarians, museum directors and more. I wrote and rewrote a total of 8 drafts. Went through 6 months of agent-query rejections, and now, after 1.5 years editing with my agent, we’re heading for the final gate–a publisher.

I’ve grown. I’ve matured. And yet all I can think is, “Now? Have you heard from a publisher now? How about now?”

(I will indeed let you all know when I hear, per this old post about getting the agent, I will fly the Canadian flag when I have a publisher.)