Candy, Clarity, & Creativity

Writers must raid their child’s Halloween haul because therein lies every writer’s story.




Once upon a time, you heard the
snickers of your friends upon announcing you were writing a novel.
They didn’t realize that writing provides your creative
 and that when you gaze up into the
milky way you dream of plot and character.
But hey, you’re just one of many writing


striving to live the dream.

Each writer’s path is different. Some stop and start, while others experience the 
of plot flaws and banal characters. Attending writer’s club meetings or conferences helps because you take advice from savvy


and learn from the mistakes of 


Back home, in the glow of the LCD screen, you practice the craft of writing, making sure to give your story that creative

nestles crunch

Months later, you hand your manuscript over to a beta  reader only to have a creative meltdown, your


as you are told that plot holes and pacing flaws riddle your manuscript.

More months pass while you rewrite and rewrite and rewrite some more. Only after wiping the sweet sweat of editing from your brow do you believe your manuscript is

good and plenty
with conflict and characters. Now it’s time to take the publishing plunge.
With anxiety you use your trembling
to send that first query.
And you wait…


the time of querying and the
whoppers of rejections you  manage to carry on undaunted. Maybe you even begin writing your second novel.

But in the end, long weekends spent in writing caves, dark nights obsessing over plot, months of research, and countless hours of slavish devotion  are done for one reason. It is the hope that your words will provide delight to a reader.  Because, after all, isn’t that a real writer’s 

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Character Morality

KohlbergWriters love creating characters. Personality. Physical Appearance. Dress. Mannerisms. Dialog: It’s what we do!  It’s how authors bring characters to life.

But did you stop to think about your characters’ morality, or more specifically, what level of morality they have achieved? Creating a character with moral issues, flaws, or strengths can add depth and understanding, often justifying and explaining why the character did what they did.

Let’s look at Kohlberg’s Levels of Moral development:

Pre-Conventional Morality

Stage 1: Obedience & Punishment Orientation:  Age: 9 & under. Standard of behavior is determined by adults and the physical consequences of following and breaking the rules. Child avoids punishment by good behavior. Child believes that if a person is punished they must have done something bad.

Stage 2. Individualism and Exchange. Child realizes authorities ( parent, teachers etc) may have more than just one right view and that different individuals will have different viewpoints.

Conventional Morality

Stage 3: Good Interpersonal RelationshipsAge: Most adolescents & adults. Moral standards are internalized by those authority figures the individual deems right/moral. These authority figures are not questioned. Any and all reasoning conforms to the group’s perspective. The individual is good because they want others in the group to view them as good. They need the approval of their group.

Stage 4. Maintaining the Social Order. The rules of society are important to the individual. Rules are obeyed to maintain law/rules and to avoid guilt.

Post-Conventional Morality: 
Individual judgment is based on self-chosen principles, and moral reasoning is based on individual rights and justice. This occurs in only 10–15% of adults and not before the mid-30s.


Stage 5. Social Contract and Individual Rights. ONLY 10-15% OF ADULTS REACH THIS STAGE and rarely before their mid-30s. The individual idealizes that while laws/rules serve the good of the majority, the laws/rules can also work against specialized groups/minorities. Thus, Right and Wrong are not clear cut.

Stage 6: Universal Principles: Individual understands that justice, equality, and human right issues are not law/rule governed. These individuals will break rules/laws to defend the greater moral principles even if if it means imprisonment or society’s disapproval. Very few reach this stage.

6 ethical typesNow let’s look at 6 ethical types. This is courtesy of The UK Times.

Philosophers are good at solving tough ethical dilemmas. They will break the rule/laws if a higher principle is at stake.

Angels  believe being good to others is important. They give people the benefit of the doubt and give second chances rather than stand on principle. 

Enforcers enforce the rules. They often lack empathy

Judgers believe moral principles are important. They’re good at solving tricky moral principles, yet tend to lack empathy.

Teachers do the right thing for humanity because it’s the right thing to do. They may break the rules if they think they know what’s best.

Guardians believe in doing what they are told to do because it’s the best course of action for everyone. Greater moral ideals are rarely considered.

Does your story require delving deeper into your character’s morality?
  • What is your character’s ethical type?
  • Where do they fall on Kohlberg’s moral development scale?
  • Are your characters acting inconsistently with their type or moral level?
  • What self-revelation causes them to change?
  • Is the change good or bad?
  • Do you need to flesh out a character’s morality?
  • Will you be able to convince a reader of their epiphany?

Related links: Readin’ & Writin’

A Writer’s Taxonomy

Blooms taxonomyAny teacher knows Bloom’s Taxonomy.  For those not in the teacher loop it’s how educational psychologist Benjamin Bloom classified the levels of thinking. Teachers use the classifications to foster and inspire students’ higher-level thinking skills.

Writers can use the same taxonomy to help improve their writing skills.

Knowledge, at the base, is the most fundamental. ( Imagine trying to solve a calculus problem without knowing how to add, subtract, divide, or multiply.)
Knowledge is knowing the writing basics.  Recalling:
  • grammar
  • story structure
  • punctuation
  • authorial techniques like metaphor, symbol, allusion, characterization, structure, imagery, form, motif, dialog, point of view, theme, and tone
Understanding: More than just recall is required. Comprehending the nuances and effects of the basics guides the writer to creating a better, tighter manuscript.
Writers need to understand how:
  • syntax manipulates a reader.
  • syntax impacts the author’s tone and mood.
  • syntax speeds up, slows down, and emphasizes.
  • story structure is more than just exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, and resolution.
  • punctuation impacts mood and slows down, speeds, up, and emphasizes.
  • authorial techniques and literary devices add depth, flavor, and nuance.
  • the hero’s/protagonist’s weakness; his desire; antagonist’s/enemy’s desire; the quest/plan; battle/crisis; self-revelation; and resolution/new normal are used for maximum impact.

Application: Utilizing what you understand to weave, manipulate, and design plot and characters. This is where each writer’s process is different. It doesn’t matter if you don’t write chapter 2 until chapter 1 is perfect or if you rewrite a hundred times. It’s implementing what you know that is important.

Analysis: Read and study trends and genres in the industry. What do agents/publishers want and expect of your genre? What do readers of your genre crave? Scrutinize industry standards to determine if your novel meets the mark.

Synthesis: Craft your manuscript so it meets those standards. Modify with revisions. Imagine new combinations. Predict the problems an agent/editor/reader might find. Deduce why novel X made it big.

Evaluation: The toughest level by far and the one some writers are ill-equipped for because their knowledge and understanding base is lacking. This is where pride and ego keep the aspiring writer down. This is where a thorough assessing and judging of craft and the publishing world determine your expectations, aspirations, fears, and insecurities. Writers should:

  • judge their manuscript against the current biggies.
  • evaluate how, where, and why the manuscript might need work.
  • solve manuscript weaknesses. Do you need a content editor? Do you need a grammar punctuation editor? Do you know how to assess whether the folks claiming to have those skills actually have credibility?
  • evaluate well-meaning fellow writers’ comments when they claim your writing is amazing. Would you take from-scratch baking advice from someone who only makes cakes from a box?

Where do YOU fall on the Writer’s Taxonomy?

Writers Taxonomy

Related Links: Readin’ & Writin’, Symbols & more Symbols, Rock Your Writing


Handy-Dandy Responses

handy dandy JPGOn rare occasions, writers may leave their creative cave joining with friends and family to partake of festivities and merriment. On said occasions these friends/family are bound to ask casual questions about your writing, novel in progress, and/or your current publishing process.

Their seemingly innocent questions–delivered with a genuine smile–often leave the new author stymied.  How does a writer respond to casual questions by a non-writer? They’re your friends and family after all, they like you—might even buy one of your novels–so they expect a genuine answer.

Well, before launching into a prolonged too-much-info reply—and you’ll know when their eyes begin to glaze over—here’s a few all-purpose responses.

1. Most often asked question:
Question: How’s your novel coming along?
 Writer: Great thank you! I’m on the [ # of drafts]. How is [ add their hobby here]?


2. You know they’re gonna ask!
Question: What’s your book about?
Craft that one-sentence hook or elevator pitch now! If it falls flat you know it needs work.
Writer: A young Kansas teenager battles a diabolical shoe-stealing witch.


3. Question: Where do you get your ideas?
Non-writers really really want to know. They don’t understand how our brain works. The trick is to give them a glimpse without freaking them out.
Writer: Ideas come to me in a dream. (The standard Mary Shelly of Frankenstein fame response.)
I have no clue. Ideas just pop into my brain at random times.


4. The Inevitable.
Question: I’m thinking of writing a memoir/novel. Do you have any advice?
Writer: ( with big smile) I have lots of advice. Call me when you’re ready to begin and I’ll be happy to answer all your questions over coffee.

As any writer knows, more than one cup of coffee will be required to impart all your wisdom and advice.


5. The Inevitable II
Question: Can I be in your next novel?
Writer: Absolutely, how would you like to die?

True story: In the opening scene of one novel,  I very loosely pattern the victim after a friend. When I told him how he dies, he spent the rest of the party telling everyone, “Hey, L.Z. kills me in her book!” “Excellent! ‘Bout time,” was the standard reply. 


6: The Movie!
Question: Why don’t you turn your book into a movie?
No need to blast them with a lecture on the fundamentals of script-writing, producing, financing, directing, casting, and other Hollywood fun facts.
Writer: Wouldn’t that be fun? Who would you cast as [ insert name of character ] ?


Of course, should you have family or friends with the same writing affliction…um passion, feel free to talk, moan, bewail, share plot problems, and celebrate successes. Although…you did come to the party to take a break from writing!

So…now that you have a few quick answers to some tricky questions, go out there and mingle like regular people.

Note: Click on the picture to read what we think when asked that writing question.


Halloween Costumes for Writers

“Honey, did you forget about that Halloween party we’re invited to?”
“Noooooo. Not tonight. I’m on a writing role. Can’t stop now.”
“Your friends miss you. You need a break. And you have that crazy look in your eyes again.”

Mmmm…you think. My friends buy all my books, I really should go.

“What am I gonna wear?”

Writers with day jobs tend to devote almost every non-working hour to writing, which leaves little time to plan and create a costume.

Here’s a few no-frills, no-fuss ( mostly ) ideas:

1. Lady Macbeth: Wear a long white nightgown, rub red dye on your hands. Added bonus: no need to change for bed after the party.

2. Bestselling novel: This one is easy. Stop at Home Depot or Lowes  before party. Staple to t-shirt.50 shades of gray 3.  Jackie Collins: Tease your hair, wear black eyeliner and lots of flashy costume jewelry. High heels a must.jackie collins 4. Professor: Dig out your graduation gown. Better still if you put on the Masters or Doctoral hood.

5. Plato or favorite Greek philosopher: Wrap a sheet around your body toga style. Wear sandals. Added bonus: Fall in bed after party, no disrobing necessary.

6. Muse: Wear a sheet toga style and place a few flowers in your hair. Add a laurel wreath fashioned from fake ( or real )  ivy for extra Greek oomph.

7. Outlander: Don a kilt. Undies optional. Warning: Sexy men may get accosted by women.

8. Rough Draft: Use a staple to cover your clothes with pages from one of your rough drafts.

9. Revision Fairy: Roll up pages, staple to a ribbon wide enough to be tied around your waist. I took this photo from Pinterest. Type in book fairy and you’ll see a few variations. ( I think I might wear this to school.)fairy 10. Ernest Hemingway: For the beard blessed, all you need is a turtleneck sweater, a cap, and a copy of Old Man and the Sea or other Hemingway classic. hemingway 11. F. Scott Fitzgerald: Part your hair down the middle. Wear a suit and tie.f-scott-fitzgerald 11. Recluse: Don’t go to the party. Send significant other with your regrets. Recluse sounds ever so much more socially acceptable than misanthrope.

12. Sales Pitch: Dress as one of your characters. When someone asks who you are, launch into a riveting but brief teaser of your latest work.

For the more ambitious, the cleative application of make-up may be all you need. For some fun looks Baroque in Babylon has great ideas!

elf heartbroken marty gra


Hope several ideas were appealing. Now, get back to writing!

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