Tag Archives: fiction

How To Get Intimate With Your Characters

Howdy, creatives! I hope you’re keeping your imaginations sharp and your creative juices flowing:) Me? Oh, sometimes it’s like my thoughts for creating characters in my stories are running a mile/minute, that coupled with the urge to just create something meaningful and gritty that will make the reader go “No, s/he didn’t!”

In the past, I rarely did research for my characters, preferring to tickle the ole noggin instead, however, I’m applying more thought and research into the character development process that will help move the story forward, and get my work closer to publication.

5616123-the-three-dimensional-models-of-theatrical-masks-showing-human-emotionsThe thing I’ve learned about creating meaningful characters in story,  that works for me, is that they must be well researched, well-rounded individuals and so believable to the reader, that it’s like standing next to a true-to life human being with flaws, strengths and weaknesses just like us! I also know their individual mannerisms, thoughts and behaviors must keep readers turning the page.

When writing my stories, I liken my characters to actors on the stage because, after all, “the whole world is a stage and everybody’s playing a part.” Thanks Smokey Robinson for the great analogy!

These are the components I took away from my class at FutureLearn on getting to know intricate and intimate details of characterization.


  • Physical/biological: age, height, size, state of health, assets, flaws, sexuality, gait, voice.
  • Psychological: intelligence, temperament, happiness/unhappiness, attitudes, self-knowledge, unconscious aspects.
  • Interpersonal/cultural: family, friends, colleagues, birthplace, education, hobbies, beliefs, values, lifestyle.
  • Personal history: major events in their life, including the best and the most traumatic times.
What process do you use to write great/memorable characters?


Five Reasons To Take An Online Writing Class

“Easy reading is damn hard writing.” I think writers on every level can find some truth in that quote . Writing is work. As writers and creatives, the time will come when we’ll want to ensure that we’re creating our best work. Taking an online writing class can help writers oil those tired, overworked creative muscles and release the frustration that comes with the territory of  being a writer.

WritingTweety Here are five reasons to take an online writing class:

1. Convenience. Online writing classes fit into the busyness of your professional and personal writing calendar. You can easily plug into an assignment at the least stressful time of your day. Early mornings to midday afternoon works for me.

2.Think Like A writer- once you start your classes, your mind is focused on creating characters and you will be re-introduced on how to think like a writer, in that you’ll began to take notice of your surrounding and the people you come in contact with. You will, essentially, become a silent camera lens taking pictures of life happening all around you that are the conversations, mannerisms, languages and voices  at work.

3. Class Participation is really a community of writers who come together for a common cause. There are Amazon bestseller writers, credentialed authors with MFA’s and English majors who teach at community colleges and institutions. There are newbies and established writers needing that ‘something’ extra to complete a WIP.

Online writing classes mesh writers of every caliber who come to enhance their work, participate in writer conversation and offer constructive criticism or feedback to their peers.

4.Understand the ‘Art” of storytelling- when I was a little girl, my parents would gather us all for family times. My siblings and I would pile excitedly into the small space of our parent’s bedroom at night to be regaled by their “Stories.” Some stories would be recalled from childhood; taken from special memories of times spent with their own parents. Some stories were traces of history, where they recounted early life struggles that came from living in the demographic of a racial South.

I loved the ‘ghost stories’ that only my mother could tell and make the telling so realistic. There’s an art to storytelling that reaches beyond plot,character, dialogue and conflict. My mother had that gift of telling stories that comes from the inside.

5.Personal Gratification and Self-Validation- Writers  oftentimes look to other writers and the world at large to validate their work. Taking online classes at this stage in my career as a writer, only reinforces what I’ve known for many, many years. I am a writer! I might not be where I want to be in this writing arena, but I’m where I’m happiest, doing what I love to do. I grew up hearing stories and learning how to read and write them for myself. I am now writing them for others to read and hopefully enjoy.  I’m so comfortable in this space of self-validation.


Creative folks wear many hats. I write from many genres and perspectives. I love that I can do that. Taking online writing classes is the cream that enhances my creative crop:)

‘Treat yourself special ” CF


Have you taken an online writing class? Feel free to chime in with your experiences or to ask questions that might concern you.








An Interview With Author And Emmy Winning Filmmaker- Melissa Peltier


Melissa, thanks for visiting Clara54’s writers forum. Your body of work is so amazing. I’m just going to introduce you as an emmy-award winning bestselling writer, filmmaker, producer and author. Please share some of your fascinating career highlights with us.

I feel that (so far) I’ve been incredibly fortunate to have had a varied and interesting career, though really, I see myself as more of an average worker bee in the industry than someone special. Of course I’d like to change that – and still have quite a “bucket list” of dreams and dream projects I’d like to create – but as you can probably guess from my novel, most ‘Reality TV’ isn’t on that list!

Looking back to these 25 plus years, I’d say I’m most proud of the longform documentary film projects I did with my mentor Arnold Shapiro (model for the “Marty Maltzman” character in Reality Boulevard), including Scared Silent: Exposing and Ending Child Abuse, hosted by Oprah Winfrey, which was simulcast on three networks and was, at the time, the most-watched television documentary in history. Break the Silence the follow-up, is another ASP project of which I’m very proud. I am also still immensely proud of my mini-series for A&E on the Titanic, which won two Emmy’s in 1995. Then of course, White Irish Drinkers, the indie feature film written and directed by my husband John Gray, which I produced (with Paul Bernard and Jim Scura) in 2010. We did it for $600,000 in 17 days and it’s a true indie gem.

You referenced your writing as “cathartic” and I’m sure many writers can agree on how freeing the creative process can be. What’s it like for you ,being ‘in the zone’ so to speak?

When I was in college, I wrote a lot of fiction and poetry and was so frequently ‘in the zone’ that my favorite place to write was the busy student union…because somehow the act of shutting out all the noise around me made my focus even stronger. I went many years without writing my own fiction (with the exception of a handful of dramatic scripts, only a few of which ever went anywhere.) Writing non-fiction books and television was a different, more intellectual process. Now that I am writing my own fiction again, I am so pleased to be back in that place – ‘the zone’ as you say – that I remember. It is amazing, how the characters speak through you and lead you down paths you never expected to go. In a few places in Reality Boulevard, characters would open their mouths and teach me lessons about myself and my life that I really needed to learn. That’s what writing is all about – it comes through you, from somewhere else (I’m a Jungian at heart and the collective unconscious describes a very real place for me) and your perceptions, history, and craft are the conduit. It’s a near magical experience. Of course, some days, it’s just a slog. But you have to do the slog days to get to the magic days.

Let’s talk about this exciting new novel! Tell us about Reality Boulevard.

imagesmelissa's book!

Thank you! Reality Boulevard is set in present-day Hollywood, and its premise is a long-running, 16-year award-winning show about heroic first responders, cops, doctors, etc. called Lights and Sirens (for fun, drop in at http://www.lightsnsirensprod.com !) is unexpectedly and unceremoniously bumped off the air by an ambitious, recently-hired network executive (who would secretly like cancel all drama shows too, and turn her flagging broadcast network into all reality, all the time). Lights and Sirens producer, the quirky, loveable, Oscar-winning documentarian Marty Maltzman, and his loyal staff and crew suddenly find themselves out in the street in a world filled with Kardashians, Real Housewives and Survivors. The novel is about how they cope with this crass new Hollywood, and follows a number of different, colorful characters as they try and reconcile their dreams and idealism with what they must do to survive in a business that is (and has always been) ever-changing.

Reality Boulevard reads like a satire and many readers have called it “laugh out loud hilarious,” but the truth is, I wasn’t thinking “comedy” when I wrote it! Unfortunately much of it is more deadpan truism than satire. But I’ve been in that world a long time and truly, it satirizes itself. There are days when you feel like you’re living in an outlandish satire. Without a sense of humor about the absurd, it would be impossible to survive it!

Although your novel is fiction, I’m frankly embarrassed with some of the disturbing behaviors seen on these shows. Being a black woman and a celebrity blogger, I do call out ugly behaviors at my entertainment site. Is the stereotypical aspect of reality television a big part of executive behind the scenes decision making? Do you think viewers have become desentsitized to what they see on reality tv and how their children might also be affected?

I’ve been around the business a long time and have watched as, slowly, non-fiction/documentary television morphed into what we know today as Reality TV. It has been a gradual process, starting in the 90’s and really exploding on network with the arrival of Survivor in May of 2000. My stepdaughter and her friends were born in 1993 and watching their reaction to shows like The Hills and The Bachelor made me realize, these girls have never known a world without reality TV! I believe it has strongly colored their perceptions toward the world and not for the better. In fact, the Girl Scouts did a study on the effect of regular Reality TV viewing on 1100 girls. http://blog.girlscouts.org/2011/10/new-girl-scouts-research-exposes-impact.html A few of the results of the study showed some positive effects in the areas of leadership and ambition. But to my mind, many more of the results are quite frightening. The girls who watched more reality TV showed a markedly higher belief in the importance of physical appearance (like we women need more of that!), the idea that women have to outdo one another for a man’s attention, and that backstabbing and manipulation were viable life strategies for success – the normalization of the ‘mean girl’ stereotype.

The stereotypes perpetuated on Reality TV, when taken as a whole, are equally as disturbing. As a black woman, you have every right to be enraged! The racial stereotypes in reality TV (“Flavor of Love”; “Basketball Wives,” “Real Housewives of Atlanta.”) are appalling. The gender stereotypes are equally dangerous and I believe the Girl Scout study is the tip of the iceberg as to the subliminal damage they do to young women who are just beginning to develop their grown-up identities. An outstanding and very readable academic analysis of this can be found in Jennifer Pozner’s outstanding and impeccably researched book, Reality Bites Back: The Troubling Truth About Guilty Pleasure TV.” ( http://www.realitybitesbackbook.com )

Sadly, Reality TV could not exist without stereotypes. You see, it’s mostly not real. (I’m not talking about real docu-style shows or shows with reality-based formats like Hoarders, The Dog Whisperer, Intervention, Beyond Scared Straight, etc. here – there are still people who are trying to make redeeming TV. I’m talking about the average docu soap and many contest shows) The shows are conceived and greenlit in a cynical, reactive kind of way based on trying to capitalize on or outdo the success of what came before (although to be fair, all TV, film, theater, commercial art and publishing contains an element of this.) The “cast” – who are cast in much the same way a dramatic project is cast – are often wanna-be actors or even simply wanna-be celebs who don’t want to do the work to actually learn something for which to be famous. They just want to be famous – end of story. Their greatest talent is the ability to play and to improv a larger-than-life aspect of themselves that fits into a stereotypical niche. What most people don’t know is, much reality TV is actually what’s called “Soft-Scripted” – an absurd moniker if I’ve ever heard one! “Soft-Scripted” means that the situations, scenes, conflicts – even lines, from time to time (I know an agent of one of the top and most successful reality docu-soap TV ‘stars’ who dutifully passed on a full script to his client every week) are ‘written’ by someone who, for union reasons, can’t be called a ‘writer’, so he or she is called a “series editor” or “story producer,” or other bland title like that, that won’t alert the Writers Guild that something fishy is going on. It’s paint-by-numbers, lowest-common-denominator drama – if you can call it drama – but it’s very deliberately planned out. Then there are the on-scene “directors” – like writers, they are often simply called segment producers or field producers so the Directors Guild doesn’t get upset – who use any and every technique possible to create conflict and drama among the characters. This could include passing along rumors, to giving the participants alcohol (there’s a lot of that), to forcing the participants into dicey situations. There is enormous pressure on these field producers to bring back heightened spectacle for every episode. And enormous pressure on the editors and post-production producers to heighten that drama and conflict even more in the editing process.

I don’t want to come off as a crusader against reality TV because I’m not. I like being entertained by silly things and guilty pleasures, just like anyone. Television is an ever-changing business and there’s no point in railing against change. The genre itself will evolve like anything else, and maybe it’ll even die a natural death some day. In the meantime, a lot of people seem to love it.

What I want to do is shine a light on an aspect of reality TV that is unsavory and in my opinion, potentially harmful. For instance: I’d say to parents, don’t let your daughters sit and watch the Kardashians on their own. Use it as a teaching moment to discuss superficiality and materialism and let your children know that these situations are about as real as their school musical. When watching shows like Survivor, ask your kids questions about backstabbing behavior, forming factions, etc. as ways to win. What do they really win? (Look up the “where are they now” features about past winners and you’ll see how hollow their victories.) And I think discussing the concepts of fame and celebrity with your kids is important too, because many in this generation truly believe in the Andy Warhol edict – that it is their birthright to be famous. This can be dangerous, because often ‘anything goes’ in this quest (case in point: Tila Tequila). Help your kids develop other role models who actually have a true gift, a skill, an ability or a talent which they’ve honed through hard work.

In the film Iron Lady, Meryl Streep (a great role model for actors!) says, “Today, all everyone wants is to be somebody. In my day, we wanted to do something.” Teach your kids the difference between these two concepts, and reality TV will be far less harmful to them.

What is the reaction from inside the industry, now that you’ve given the world, Reality Boulevard?

My mentor, Arnold Shapiro, loved it, which is what mattered to me most. I know plenty of people who might not be happy about the portrait I paint in the book, but the novel makes a huge point of defending the worker bees in the business – the producers/field producers/story producers/whatever, the editors, the crews – because they too are victims of the market. People have to work, have to feed their families – especially in this economy – and they have to take the work that’s out there. One outcome from the book is, I’ve received lots of private communications from people around my age with years and years in the business, who are paying mortgages and putting kids through college and although the business was quite different when we all started out in the ‘80’s, they aren’t in any position to change career directions at this point in life. Some are indeed upset by and ashamed of some of the work they do, but they still have to put food on the table.

I also wanted people reading the novel to understand that the majority of people who work in the film/television industry are not rich by any toss of the coin. What outsiders call “Hollywood” is mostly peopled by a huge group of middle class workers – creative people and technical people – who work insanely long hours with incredible dedication, for fair but not excessive wages. Without union protection, most have to pay their own (and their kids’) health insurance premiums. They also work from project to project. When a show is cancelled, they have to find a new job. Reality TV has lowered wages across the board, so they’re not only creative victims, they’re financial victims as well.

Where can readers purchase a copy of your book?

My book is only available in eBook at the moment, through Apostrophe Books http://www.apostrophebooks.com – through Amazon, iBooks, Kobo, and hopefully B&N soon if Nook gets its act together! You can also visit my author website at http://www.melissajopeltier.com.

Melissa, it was such a pleasure, having you here. I can’t wait until my readers and your new fans weigh in!

It’s been a pleasure; you ask great questions!

Did you guys enjoy the interview with Melissa? What’s your take on Reality TV?

Book Review: Patrates And The World Of Magical Creatures

Have you ever read a book from cover to cover and just never wanted it to end? You like it so much, you become disappointed when you’ve finished it? As a reader and writer of book reviews, I’m here to tell you, Patrates is a wonderous book of magic and folklore from Albert L. Z., a first time local author, who also did the book’s illustrations. When I first started to read the book, I had to go back to parts of the content’s definition page of creature clans, homelands, powerful leaders and evil doers, just to familiarize myself with all of the mystical names that I would come to know and recognize. Those strange names and characters helped to shape the most intergal part of the book’s story and weave a tale of a mystical reality in my reader’s mind.  
Tata is a young woman of immense beauty. She is not so much like the other members of her Manananggal Clan that lives in the woods of Patrates, her homeland. She is adventurous and longs for the day of her “Awakening Ceremony” where she will get her wings and secretly visit the human world. It is not enough for Tata to play games on the human who visit their soil to picnic and litter their grounds. The humans, she thinks, deserves to be taught a lesson.
Tata and her ghoul friend, Kudo, an ugly little creature that Tata’s family has forbidden her to see, set out to tease a group of young humans who have come to the forest. Three young men, no older than Tata. Kudo casts a spell on the unsuspecting boys, causing much merriment for the invisible pair.They are happy and protected from human eyes because of an invisibility spell that had been cast over Patrates for many thouands of years.The spell that the Kudo casts, seems to cause confusion upon the boys, save for one.The one called Andre, doesn’t seem to be affected by the attempts of Kudo ‘s magic!
Andre has a good life in his human world. Parents who love him, a bit strict on him, even though he is nearly a grownup.He has a curfew when he goes out with his friends. Still,Andre is happy and obedient to his parents. But, he’s concerned about the dreams. His mothers asks if he’s still having them. He tells her about the lady in white, reaching up to him in the wee hours of night, as if to say, “Come with me”
Andre is drawn to the forest. Tata gets her wings. One day she sets out on her own to test her wings around their homeland, venturing into the woods, where she hear screams. It is the Haedus, a precious & magical creature that lives every 100,000 years. She investigates the commotion and sees the creature trapped in a human device. That isn’t all. Tata sees the human, Andre being chased by the haedus owner, Agua Diwata, an evil and magical creature who captures Andre in her water bubble. What should Tata do? Expose herself to this human and perhaps put her own family in danger? Leave him to the evil Diwata’s revenge?
There’s the tease, dear readers! Patrates And The World Of Magical Creatures gets an Albert Ebert thumbs up for its adventure, believability, magical & mystical writer’s imagination!
To purchase a copy of Patrates And The World Of Magical Creatures by Albert L. Z., visit www.Xlibris.com and Amazon.com
Clara54 was provided a complimentary copy of this book for review. No compensation was awarded. 

My Friend Molly…

RN Admirals hat
Image via Wikipedia

What a beautiful morning guys! I’m writing today to talk about Molly. Yea. you’re probably thinking, how grand, it’s not about clara54 right now:) Well, you’d be wrong, sorta.  Molly is an RN with two young children and a husband to boot. Yep, men need to be cuddled as well. I digress, but, the point here  is, Molly is juggling a stressful job, being a wife & mother, and going back to school to get her Masters Degree.

Molly, I find, has a secret. A secret much like I had when I was a few years younger than she is now. Friday, Molly asked if I’d take a look at a couple of stories she’d written online at FanStory.Com. I said “sure I will” and I did. As a creative who has become quite adapt at scouting out and recognizing the “gift” in others, let me tell you, Molly has the creative writer’s gift!

The story is about Molly’s grandmother, written in descriptive voice in her native Johannesburg.Right off the bat, I’m haunted about how dark it gets at night in Africa. I become caught up in the  young girl’s fear. I’m wondering how long the next bus takes, reading how Molly misses the bus that takes her to her grandmother’s house way in the desolute countryside. Then it rains, adding to Molly’s fears because she’d never been out & alone so late before.   

When the frightened young woman exists the bus to walk the remainder of the way, she is crying and find herself doing something she’d never done before; Praying…praying for her grandmother. The moment in the story comes when Molly hears her grandmother calling out her name. Her grandmother had come to meet her because she knew Molly would be afraid…just like a grandma! 

I never got to read the second story from Molly due to time constraints, but I definitely will. She tells me she’s working on a manuscript, only 200 pages so far. I think about all of the stuff that sometimes take priority over our creativity and I can relate. But, I also know that when I give Molly my thoughts on her work? She already knows of the writer within. At some point, she’ll have to open herself to that…

Ok, so, next week, it’s all about me:) There’s stuff I’m working on and lot’s of stuff coming your way as well. How about you guys? Met any great, clueless creatives out there?

Writers with ‘kick butt’ recession ideas…

Whatever works, right? I mean writers are creative if nothing else. We know how to keep the money woes at bay in a sense by applying tricks of the trade we’ve learned just by doing some good ole networking, quering ,trolling & marketing the product of which many of us have become expert in “Writing!”…

I know the economic downslide have caused the best of seasoned writers to downsize from their monthly quota of clients, but just as many writers have adapted to the slump by finding ways to supplement their income… Ebooks . Teleseminars…Teaching creative writing classes or online classes in Marketing, blog branding, short-story and fiction writing  are some of the savvy ways writers increase their finances and pad their writing portfolios.

I have taken advantage of an online marketing class (which you may know from previous posts ) where I’m given an insider pass  to marketing tools that are sure to grow my freelance writing biz. The Marketingbudda’s Bootcamp for freelance writers is taught by Sonya Carmichael Jones and let me tell ya folks she is a hard hitting, no nonsense go-getter when it comes to establishing your business…

There are ways writers can & do kick butt during these hard economic times . Take it from clara54, hard work : ( oftentimes reap great benefits in the end 🙂