Saturday, February 16, 2013

Reflections on the Bones: A sort-of Review




Natalie Goldberg's book, Writing Down the Bones is a classic to read again and again.
Image by Carol Rucker

For those who aren't familiar with Natalie Goldberg's classic book on writing, Writing Down the Bones, I highly recommend it, as well as her other books, including Wild Mind. As part of a my college writing class, I'm required to read books on writing by various authors. This has been an interesting exercise for me as a writer, because I've read so many books on writing, but years have passed since I picked one up. Once you've read four or five books on writing, they can start to feel repetitive... and I, like most writers who've been in the game a while, have long abandoned the habit of devouring books on writing on a regular basis.

Reading Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones for the second time was like visiting an old childhood haunt. It made me realize how much I’ve “grown up” as a writer. The book itself is a timeless classic that I recommend to any beginning writer, or anyone who hasn't yet had the privilege of reading one of her books. Goldberg’s sense of fun and the tossing off of the fetters of formality are freeing to many writers who might have become a little too bogged down with the "rules" of good writing and the discipline of "writing every day". While daily attention to the craft is part of Goldberg's philosophy, she gives writers permission to break all the rules and write selfishly, something we often forget in our endless pursuit of craft and writing "to the market". 

Reading the book again, after over ten years of growth and change as a writer, there were many memories I smiled over, recognizing how much influence this book had on me. Natalie Goldberg’s Zen philosophies are universal in many aspects. The resonance I felt with her ideas and perspective hasn’t changed. In fact, I laughed when reading her thoughts on metaphor, because the idea is one of those that stayed with me after all these years. 

Natalie Goldberg wrote:

 “If you think big enough to let people eat cars, you will be able to see that ants are elephants and men are women. You will be able to see the transparency of all forms so that all separations disappear.
This is what metaphor is. It is not saying that an ant is like an elephant. Perhaps; both are alive. No. Metaphor is saying the ant is an elephant.” 

  
The superimposition of ants and elephants, the way the two words fit together, short, wriggling, determined little ants, and lumbering, majestic, indifferent elephants, settled into my heart and eventually bubbled up in the idea that lead me to write a short poem for children; An Ant is An Elephant:

An ant is an elephant
                        If you’re a flea.
                        You might not even notice me
                        If you were an ant
                        And I, a flea.

Although I wrote the poem over six years ago, in 2007, I can still remember the way the words came, the battle I had re-arranging and trimming and fussing over them, and how many drafts I wrote to perfect those few, rather silly lines. I rarely write poetry these days, simply because it’s difficult to make much of a living from it. Reading this book again, I remembered where I was as a writer the first time I read it, and those memories have left me feeling anchored, and considering taking up poetry again. I'm satisfied, in some ways, to see how far I've come as a writer, and anxious, in others, to see how much further I have to go.

Joseph Campbell, the famous comparative mythologist, wrote;

 “God is the experience of looking at a tree and saying, 'Ah!”


Reading Writing Down the Bones again, I came back to a familiar tree, loved, lost, forgotten and found. For me, writing is an integral part of who I am, so finding my way on the page is more than just a professional process. It is, in fact, the first step toward finding a new way in a life that has recently undergone some earth-shaking changes. Re-reading books like Writing Down the Bones, I'm re-discovering who I am as a writer, and taking stock of my place on the map. Bones has been part of my journey, and I owe a debt of gratitude to writers like Natalie Goldberg.

What book on writing has been life-changing for you, if any? To whom do you owe your writing debts?

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Making a Living Part 3- Finding Balance

Most aspiring freelancers tend to err toward one of two extremes: The over-achiever or the slacker.

 The over-achiever allows themselves to be pulled in too many directions at once, immersing themselves in work and rarely coming up for air, until their friends vanish and their family threatens to disown them. This type of freelancer tends to burn out quickly and find themselves sinking into a depression. They may be successful financially for a time, but when the pressure becomes too much, they blow up, losing precious time to an emotional meltdown or worse, to depression and torpor, which can be very difficult to break out of once it takes hold.
The freelancer who tries to be everything to everyone will burn out fast.
Photo by Arron Jacobs
Most freelancers start out as this type, burning the midnight oil, convinced they must accept every single job that comes along, applying to every available entry on job sites. In my first few months of freelancing, this was me. In the span of about three months, I wrote three lengthy e-books, about 500 "descriptions" for a jewelry sales site, and wrote about 120 blog entries.

I attempted all of this while attending college full time. Then it caught up with me. The third e-book fell apart, and I lost the contract because I simply couldn't keep up with the client's deadlines. I got a lower grade than I wanted in my foreign-language class because I couldn't stuff one more syllable of Spanish into my over-crowded brain. I had to ask for an extension in another class. I learned the lessons of moderation and focus the hard way, by nearly burning out entirely.


 The Slacker is at the other extreme. This is the freelancer who assumes the work will magically get done while they go out for a long lunch with friends or an impromptu shopping trip. This type of freelancer might make a few half-hearted attempts before deciding that freelancing is a scam after all, and that no one makes a real living as a freelancer. They leave clients in the lurch and let everyone down, including themselves.
This type of freelancer needs to recognize their own tendencies toward slacking off, and take the time to closely examine their commitment to freelancing.

Remember, freelancing is a marathon, not a sprint.
 The successful freelancer will recognize his or her own tendencies. It's important to make a firm commitment to keeping a reasonable schedule, which includes breaks and time to socialize, as well as a reasonable number of hours for client work. The beginning freelancer should consider focusing on one or two types of jobs, and play to his or her strengths. Early successes build confidence, and in turn, confidence builds success.

Never forget that freelancing is a job, not an identity. Success or failure of a business can become a burden for some. While commitment to one's work is commendable and important to success, businesses fail every single day, by no fault of their owners. If your ego is too caught up in your work, it will be difficult to take the inevitable criticism from clients in a constructive light, or to make sound decisions regarding which jobs to accept and which to turn down.

Your time is valuable. In your quest to establish your freelance career, don't overlook this important concept!
 All this talk of finding balance and focus is well and good, but how do you do it? How do you choose which jobs to accept, which to turn down, and which to run from screaming as if they were the zombie apocalypse?
Here's a quick guideline:


1) Choose jobs that you know you can accomplish. Do you have experience with research? Blog entries and articles often require seeking out information. The ability to gather research and turn it into original writing is critical to bloggers. Data entry will usually require experience working in Excel, Access or other data-management programs. It's wise to inquire about the program you'll be expected to use as part of the application process.

2) Choose an hourly rate and stick to it. Don't allow yourself to get roped into a low-paying job unless the project is one you are very passionate about, or if it furthers your career somehow.  It might take some time to figure out your average turn-around time on a job. Consider starting out accepting fixed-price jobs, but keep close track of how long each one takes you, so that you have a good baseline for estimating prices. It won't take long to get a feel for your speed.

So there you have it, the very bare-bones basics of making a go at freelancing as a career. I hope this information helps you avoid a few of the steeper pitfalls as you begin this journey toward success!


Saturday, January 26, 2013

Making a Living Part 2- Where to Find Jobs


Being a freelancer is great, but it's also one of the hardest jobs I've ever held. Like all writing jobs, freelancing means putting myself out there and becoming an expert marketer as well as a writer. I'm the boss, but I'm also the secretary, accountant, collections department and day laborer. I wear all the hats and juggle all the acts. It's thrilling and challenging... and at times it's frustrating beyond belief, yet I keep going, because I am a writer and I can't imagine making a living any other way. And besides, I like working in my pajamas.


Working in one's PJs is a major attraction of freelancing, but it's not all coffee and cream.
If you want to succeed, you'll need to work hard.
Welcome to part 2 of my series on how to make a living as a freelance writer. You can find Part 1: Finding Time, here.  Today I'm going to focus on two things: Where to find jobs, and how a business plan can make freelancing work for you. 


For most freelancers, finding jobs means going online. Job clearinghouses like E-Lance and oDesk are the most popular sites. Some freelancers also use social media to gather jobs. Creating a Facebook "Page", LinkedIn or Twitter account to advertise your writing and editing services may help funnel some work your way, IF you take the time to maintain a solid social network. This strategy may work best for those transitioning from some type of editing or writing office job into a home freelancing business. In other words- for social media to be an effective job-hunting tool, you need to have connections with people who will potentially be interested in your services. If you don't already have those connections, you'll have to put a lot of time and effort into cultivating them.

For the rest of us, job clearinghouse sites are the best places to search. I recommend oDesk and E-Lance because I'm most familiar with these services and most of my work comes through those two portals. Other freelancers have found success through searching Craigslist and even newspaper listings, as well as other job-listings sites.

A caveat: Wherever you search for jobs, try to use a platform that offers at least some protection to the freelancer in terms of payment. oDesk, for example, guarantees payment for freelancers on "hourly" jobs. E-lance has a similar guarantee. The "guarantee" is somewhat flimsy in practice, but better than being completely on your own, as you are with contacts made through Craigslist. Legitimate employers who hire through oDesk at very least have the motivation of not wanting to be blacklisted for non-payment. 


So, now you know a little about where to find jobs. The second part of the equation is how to manage jobs once you have them. A solid business plan, including goals, a regular daily schedule and record keeping, will turn your freelance writing career from a hobby into a viable career.

Always remember, a business plan is your key to success, not a fence to limit your progress. 
For those of us who did not major in business, and to whom a budget represents The All-Consuming Vortex of Boring-ness and Death of Fun, a business plan can seem like an overly-formal and fussy approach to the lighthearted world of freelancing. The truth is, a business plan doesn't need to be formal, boring or enclosing. A few lines on a piece of notebook paper is sufficient, as long as it details your goals and how you intend to achieve them.

For example, my business plan looks something like this:

Goal # 1: I would like to make enough in 2013 to cover my household and business expenses.
(A tip: Keep the goals accessible. Stating a goal of "I want to make $100,000 in my first year of freelancing" might be a little bit of a stretch.)

Goal # 2: I would like to establish a diverse enough client base to maintain a steady income.

In order to reach goal #1, it needs a little more definition. How do I know how much I need to make in 2013, unless I have a fair idea of what I can expect my household and business expenses to be?

I sat down and worked out the math. My basic household expenses, PLUS what I need to factor in for business expenses, averages out to around $1200 a month. For me, business expenses basically means paying my internet bill. Your business expenses depend on what type of freelancing you're doing. Some freelancers maintain professional memberships and so on.

I need to make an average of $300 each week to cover my expenses. With my current rate for most work at around $10 an hour (I charge a little more for writing jobs that require heavy research or academic language, and for heavy editing projects), I need to work an average of 30 hours a week to meet my goals. Now that I have those numbers in mind, I can apply them to my schedule and make sure I allot 30 hours a week to paid work for clients.

Finding work as a freelancer can be challenging. 



My second goal, establishing a diverse client base, requires looking at the way I find jobs and categorize clients. Scheduling time for perusing job boards like  and  is as necessary as finding time to work. While it might seem fool-hardy to be searching for more jobs while I'm already working at capacity, that's just what I do. A freelancer who fails to diversify their income stream will fail to last long in this business. Seeking out different avenues for creating revenue is critical to success.

My clients tend to fall into one of three categories: 1 time clients, who need a single project completed, (usually a large job that pays well but is on a tight deadline), sporadic clients who contact me when they have work, but who I may not hear from for weeks at a time, and steady clients who have regular work for me and who make up the bread-and-butter of my income. While the last type, the steady client, are the foundation of my business, the other two types are the ones who make freelancing... interesting.

As soon as possible, it's advisable to make the steady clients the bulk of your income. That steady paycheck comes in very handy when bill collectors require their payments on a regular schedule, even if your income stream sometimes slows to a trickle. Rely on the one-time clients and the sporadic clients to help build up a buffer of savings- critical for closing the gap between losing income if a steady client goes elsewhere or runs out of projects for you to do, and the time it takes you to replace that income stream.

By having a plan, and setting goals, freelancing can be a viable way to make a living. Next week, I'll talk a little about that happy problem of keeping your balance when your career begins to get off the ground.

Happy writing!
~Mary

I'm a great believer in luck, and I find the harder I work the more I have of it.”
  ~Thomas Jefferson

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Making a Living Part 1- Finding Time

The "happy housewife" is the ultimate dream of many aspiring freelancers.
Photo by Victor
 
When I opened my Facebook account this morning, I found a message from a friend: "How do you make a living?"

It's a good question, and one I intend to begin to address today. How does a writer make a living?
Well, for many aspiring fiction writers, the answer is; they don't.

Very, very few writers make a living by writing fiction exclusively. Stephen King, James Patterson and JK Rowling might have bank accounts which allow them to write at their leisure every day, but for the rest of us in the ranks of the as-yet unpublished (but hopefully washed) masses, large royalty checks are the holy grail, the dream that we pursue every time we send out another query or submission.
Even for published authors, the checks are often too small, and too far between, to be considered full-time income. The vast majority of fiction writers hold jobs in other areas. Many are experts in a particular field, and draw upon their knowledge to enrich their writing.

For most of us, making a living as a writer means freelancing. For those who aspire to write full-time, or who want to earn a living working from home, it's important to understand how freelancing works, and how the dream differs from the reality. If you're interested in making a living as a freelance writer, this series of blog entries is for you. I intend to cover the basics here, to let you in on the secrets that might make your entry into freelancing a little easier. I'll talk first about the hours that go into freelancing, and give you some practical tips on how to find time to freelance. I'll also talk about where to find jobs, and finally how to run your business while balancing the writing life with everything else. 



My office is a chair in the corner of my bedroom where I sit with my laptop, cats and fish. Yes, really.




I can't tell you how everyone who works from home makes a living, or how to make a million in your spare time, but I can tell you how I make a living and what I have found works, and doesn't work, for me. If you're determined to make a living at writing, read on, young grasshopper. It's not easy, and it's not for everyone, but it can be done.

Scheduling is the most critical, and often the most difficult, part of being a freelancer. Most people seem to think they can freelance in their "spare time", without realizing the importance of relaxation. The truth is, freelancing is a job. It requires time, commitment and energy. My personal schedule is relatively simple:

7-8:30 AM Personal writing. This is my time for writing fiction. Starting the day this way allows me to feel productive and reduces my frustration and feelings of being overwhelmed.

8:30-10 AM Morning chores, including caring for our numerous pets and getting my own breakfast.

10AM-1PM This is the first chunk of my freelancing day, in which I focus on actual writing, editing or other client work.

1-2PM I take an hour for lunch, before coming back to work.

2-5:30PM I dedicate these hours to project work before taking a break for making and eating supper, and hanging out with my kids.

7PM-10PM (or later, depending on how my week is going)- Working or seeking out more work.(A topic I'll address later when I discuss how and where to find jobs.)


I follow this schedule, in general, from Monday through Friday,, with exceptions for the days my kids have appointments and lessons. I tend to work in 3-hour stretches. Some people can work longer at a time with fewer breaks, others might need to stop to get up and stretch their legs more frequently. The important thing is not to follow the same schedule as someone else, but to discover what works for you.



My schedule is wide-open... at least until I start adding in everything I need to get done in a day.
Each of those squares represents a half-hour of possibilities.


  In order to make my schedule, I sat down and blocked out the hours of my day in a grid, and entered all my activities into the blocks. Although I don't follow the schedule religiously, having it on paper allows me to keep better track of which project I'm working on in a particular day, so that no one client gets neglected because I'm too immersed in another project. It's a good way for a freelancer to discover their "time sucks" (one of my big ones is Facebook), and where they need to adjust their expectations of just what is possible to get done in a single day.

Controlling one's time is the most critical aspect of freelancing. Freelancing is a job, like any other. It requires self-discipline and focus, as well as determination and a high tolerance for risk, disappointment and isolation. It's not for everyone, and it's not a get-rich-quick scheme. It can, however, be a viable way to make a living.

Still think you want to try making a living as a freelancer? Look for the upcoming installments in this blog: Where to find jobs, which will cover not only where to look for clients, but how to land jobs and manage your business, and Finding Balance, which will discuss in more detail how and when to accept jobs, how to balance your personal and professional life, and how and when to say "no".

Happy writing!
-Mary
~*~*~

Thursday, January 10, 2013

When Life Gets in the Way

Sometimes, life gets away from us. Sometimes... Life is too much.


This blog has been silent for an entire year. 2012 is empty. I didn't write a single word here. My personal blog, however, has 20 entries for 2012, about twice as many as I normally write. Sometimes, life takes over, and writing gets pushed aside.

For me, the forces pushing on my writing were divorce, the sudden and unexpected loss of a dear friend, and the work and effort that went into earning my first college degree while adjusting to a new life as a single mom and trying to field my kids' questions about my husband's change of heart.

While not every writer will go through the upheaval of complete life changes, everyone faces challenges. Your obstacles might be as simple as making time away from Facebook, or working chinks of writing time into the cracks between running kids from friends to school activities to clubs and sports. It might be as simple as fighting depression or anxiety when faced with a blank page.


One thing writers have in common is that writing is hard. We sit down every day and have to begin our jobs fresh. We usually learn on the job, with very little training. Once we've been working for a while, we might attend a few conferences or join a writing group, and begin to discover concepts like craft and voice... and then we go back to our solitary toil and try to discover them in ourselves. Writing, on the whole, is a difficult mountain to climb.

Then, if we stick with it, if we keep growing and learning and developing until we finally achieve the ability to write publishable material, we discover that the market is very  tough. If learning writing was hard, marketing writing is nearly impossible. Editors want experts in the field for non fiction, and life experience or at least an interesting personality for fiction marketing. Editors don't want writers; they want marketers.

So why do we keep doing it? Why do we turn to freelancing, writing and editing web content, or grant writing or technical writing? Why do we accept jobs outside our field just to pay the bills and support our writing habit? Why do we keep trying in the face of such impossible odds? Because we're writers, that's why.

Happy writing, friends.
*~*~*

"lf when you wake up in the morning you can think of nothing but writing...then you're a writer." ~Whoopi Goldberg, Sister Act Two, quoting
Letters To A Young Poet. Rainer Maria Rilke

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Through the window frame


Have you ever read a book that stayed with you? Have you ever met someone new and been sharply reminded of a character? Those authors wrote characters who seemed so real, they made the leap, at least in your subconscious mind, into reality. They came to life.

By the very nature of fiction, the nature of the media through which we convey the musings of our minds, our characters are limited. Our view comes through a window, and is sometimes distorted... limited... by our own lack of understanding, by the edges of our paradigm. Our stories give our readers a glimpse, a section, of our characters and their world... but to achieve depth, our characters' world must be larger than what we merely see. Our characters must seem real.

Limited characters have their uses. Cameo characters don't need to be fully developed. Characters who enter a story for a moment, the cashier your heroine buys her carton of milk from, the by passer on the street who notices your villain's odd facial tic, need be little more than cardboard cut-outs, faces we catch a glimpse of in passing, easily dismissed and easily forgotten.

Main characters, however, must have more depth, tangibility, a feeling of reality. Your reader must be left feeling if they met the character on the street, they would recognize them and greet them like an old friend. The better you know your characters, the better your portrayals will be. Like an artist, you must study your subject before you begin to paint. Character outlines, character interviews, and lists of characters' traits can help you get to know your fictional people better, but to write truly memorable characters, you'll need to come to an understanding of their motivations, their feelings and fears, their emotional depth.

Take your hero for example. The basic Hero is dashing, strong, honorable. He or she faces danger with a knowing, grim smile. The horse is white, the hair is groomed and flowing, and the teeth are straight. In short... the basic Hero is... boring.

Take that same Hero, and make some changes. Maybe your Hero is a custodian in an elementary school who is minding his own business when a disturbed student unleashes gunfire in a crowded cafeteria.
Maybe your Hero is an executive who has an opportunity to help his young assistant deal with her unplanned pregnancy.
Perhaps your Hero is a youth who must travel through the jungles of a tropical setting to retrieve needed medical supplies for the village leader, a man who has bullied her family her entire life.

What motivates each of these characters to follow their Hero Journey?
How does the custodian react to the shooting, and why? Does he throw himself in front of a child instinctively because she reminds him of his younger sister who perished in an accident when he was a child?
Does the executive help the young woman because his own mother was a struggling single parent?
Does the young woman make the journey to help the chief to uphold the honor of her father?

Strong characters must have strong motivations. Understand what drives your character, what makes them unique, and you will write characters your readers won't soon forget.

Happy writing!

Rejoicing in the day,
-Mary

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Fifteen Fictional Characters

A friend recently posted a note on Facebook with a challenge:

"Don't take too long to think about it. List fifteen fictional characters (television, films, plays, books) who've influenced you and that will always stick with you."

I smiled, reading her list, as I nodded to old acquaintances and wondered about those unfamiliar to me.

Presumably, if you're reading this blog, you've chosen writing as a career, or at least an obsessive pursuit. While making lists like this has become almost cliched in our information-saturated digital world, the exercise has a deeper value for writers.

Recalling the characters who influenced your decision, your calling to become a writer can help you discover the qualities within those characters that made them so appealing. Characterization is the creation of memorable characters, and melds with word choice and sentence structure to form the elusive quality of writing known as "voice". Like art students studying the masters, writers can learn the craft by examining the characters who left the pages and took up residence in their imaginations and memories.

My own list could stretch far past the required fifteen, but for brevity's sake, I'll limit myself to three examples.

1) Frodo Baggins J.R. Tolkien's famous Hobbit.

Frodo traveled into the darkest parts of his world, carrying the token that could destroy all he loved and held dear, with one purpose in mind: destroy the Ring.

What impresses me about Frodo is not his courage or his tenacity, though those qualities are part of his character, but his simple, practical understanding of himself and his place within the Fellowship. He never thought himself a great Hero, rushing off on his white horse to single-handedly slay the dragon, or in this case, the evil wizard bent on taking over the world. In fact, he would laugh at the very thought.

He assessed his strengths, faced his weaknesses squarely, and was content to allow others to fulfill their roles while he did his best to carry his own burden. He was loyal, brave, and had a deep understanding of what was at stake. His practicality and humility gave him depth and made him a memorable, lovable character. He was... is, a true Hero.

2) Leonardo Hamato, Ninja Turtle.

Anyone growing up in the '80's through the early 2000's might remember the corny, goofy, pizza-guzzling Green Machine known as the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. While the iconic '80's Turtles were typical of cartoon characters at that time, joking, talking to the audience and battling comical villains, the 2003 incarnations were older, wiser, and far more aware of the very real dangers lurking in their fictional version of New York City.

They still battled evil. Donatello still created incredible inventions from junk-yard scraps, but in the 2k3 version (as it's known among fans), characters suffered injury, and in one infamous alternate-universe episode, the beloved heroes died in a final battle against their nemesis, giving their lives in order to save a world which had rejected them.

Leonardo, in particular, stands out to me for his loyalty, his strong sense of honor, and his single-mindedness. While the Turtles actually die in the alternate reality of "Same As It Never Was", in another episode Leonardo makes a decision that, save for a last-instant miraculous rescue, would have resulted in the deaths of himself and the entire family. In the aftermath, Leonardo faces his own decision with guilt, frustration and a depth of rage that is rarely examined in children's programming. Because Leonardo's reactions to trauma are real, he is believable. The devil, as always, is in the details, and so is the characterization.

3) The Tao "TJ" Jones, from the book Whale Talk by Chris Crutcher.

Chris Crutcher remains one of my favorite authors for teens. He tackles issues of social justice head-on with the unapologetic, clear-eyed voices of his teenage characters. What makes his creations so unique is their passion. Each of his characters has something they hold dear, whether it is social justice, as in the case of TJ Jones, or loyalty to a friend like Eric "Mobe" Calhoun from his book Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes.

TJ's self-admitted pigheaded refusal to back down from a fight, combined with his calm acceptance of his tragic past and his constant pursuit of justice, not for himself, but for those around him who are weaker or less able to defend themselves, make him a character the reader cannot ignore. He is stubborn to a fault, angry and often impulsive. Some of his testosterone-fueled teenage follies may seem outrageous to more sensitive readers, but above all, he is memorable. Love him or hate him, you will never forget TJ Jones.

TJ is a great character because he's passionate. Never, dear writer, back down from what your character believes in for fear of offending delicate readers. A character without passion, whether hero or villain, is a character without motivation, without fire, without the necessary fuel to drive the plot forward to it's full, heart-pounding potential. Without TJ's passion for justice and family, the book's conclusion would have been gutted of its intensity and power.

When I look back at the characters who have stayed with me over the years, I see three recurring traits:

1) Each character was involved in a larger story. Something was at stake, whether it was the fate of the world, the safety of family, or justice for the victims of small-town bullies. If the character had made a different choice, in each case, something precious would have been lost. Each character was needed, and each responded to the need, answered the Call.

2) Each character answered a call that forced them to press beyond their limits. Each lost something precious and had to respond to that loss, either by continuing with the Hero's Journey or by giving up. All good stories involve seemingly-insurmountable challenges. All good stories include the loss of something the character cares about, and all good stories result in the growth of the character through the journey.

3) Finally, each of these characters had unique traits that made them the only one who could answer the Call. Each had particular passions. For Frodo, carrying the Ring meant defending his beloved Shire, even if it cost him his life. For Leonardo, his honor bound him to protect the people of Earth, sacrificing everything he loved. TJ Jones risked everything in the defense of the helpless, and in the end had to learn to live with enormous loss.

A Treasure worth sacrificing for, a Journey of challenges, failures and triumphs, and a Passion. Those are the three ingredients to creating characters your readers will never forget.

~*~*~

"For this reason I also suffer these things; nevertheless I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day."

2 Timothy 1:12 KJV