Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Character Interviews and Questionnaires

We recently discussed that good writing requires engaging characters. In order to create strong, dynamic, realistic, and relatable characters, we must know them in and out. They must become as real to us as our own family members.

So, how do we do that?

One way is to complete character interviews and questionnaires. From physical descriptions to likes

and dislikes, from hobbies to memories, and from pets peeves to quirks, spending time with your characters in such a meaningful way will create the rich, deep, and complex characters readers enjoy.

If you look online, you will find a variety of character interviews and questionnaires from well-known sources.

The Ultimate Character Questionnaire from The Novel Factory

Gotham Character Questionnaire

The Official NaNoWriMo Character Questionnaire

Writer's Digest Novel Writing: 10 Questions You Need to Ask Your Characters

No matter where you start --plot, setting, or character-- taking the time to get to know your characters will build depth and texture into your story.

Cheryl C. Malandrinos is a freelance writer and editor. She is the author of Little Shepherd, A Christmas Kindness, Macaroni and Cheese for Thanksgiving, and Amos Faces His Bully. A blogger and book reviewer, she lives in Massachusetts with her husband and two daughters. She also has a son who is married. Visit Cheryl online at and her children’s book blog at

Sunday, January 6, 2019

The Outlining Method (Are You an Outliner?)

By Karen Cioffi

Are you an outliner or a pantser?

I don’t know if there has been a study of how many writers prefer each, but I know there are many in both camps. You know the saying, “different strokes for different folks.”

But, before I go on, the definition of an outliner is a writer who creates a written (or typed) outline of the plot of their story. A pantser is a writer who creates the story as she goes along – no outline. The story unfolds as she is writing it.

If I had to take a guess though, I’d say the majority of writers/authors are outliners (plotters).

The reason?

Creating an outline of a story before delving into it provides a foundation. It’s something to build upon. It’s like a map. You mark out your driving route. You know you’re going from Point A to Point B. You see the highways, roads, and so on between those two points. And, they’re all written out in your outline.

It’s interesting to know that there are different kinds of outliners. Some create full detailed accounts of getting from Point A to Point B. Some simply have a rough outline of what the story will be about – possibly that John is at A and has to get to B.

Jeff Ayers (a top crime writer), in his article “Doing What He Loves,” in the May 2009 issue of the Writer, says:

“Outlining allows me time to think. Does this ever happen to you--you're in line at the market, some pushy person cuts in front of you, you mumble something ineffectual or stupid, then when you're 10 blocks away the light bulb goes off, and you think "That's what I shouda said!" Well, outlining gives me the 10 blocks to think of something better.”

I think this is an excellent explanation of why writers use the outline method of writing.

In the article, Ayers explains that he spends lots of time outlining. In addition to coming up with ideas, it allows him to get better acquainted with his characters. This more intimate knowledge allows him to bring them to life.

As I mentioned earlier, outlining is like using a map. But depending on how detailed you make your outline, it can be more like a GPS. It can lead you street by street from your starting point to your ending point.

Even if you run into a detour that was unexpected, as in writing can happen, you have a guided system in place to get you back on track. And, if it’s very, very detailed, you even know where the rest stops are, where to eat, where the scenic sites are, and so on. It doesn’t leave much to chance.

Knowing every step, every detour, all the characters . . . there is a comfort in this method.

I’m much more of a pantser, but I have used outlines now and then. And, it certainly does offer a sense of security. But, with that said, I love to watch my story unravel before me. I love to watch characters develop and move forward. This comes with the pantser method.

It seems though that no matter which style you use, it’s not a guarantee of success or failure. Gail Carson Levine has some good advice in regard to this, “Quality comes from word choice, plot, characters – all the elements [of a good story].”

Which writing method do you use?

Outlining vs. Pantsing


Karen Cioffi is an award-winning children’s author and children’s ghostwriter as well as the founder and editor-in-chief of Writers on the Move. She is also an author/writer online platform instructor with WOW! Women on Writing.

You can check out Karen’s e-classes through WOW! at:

Friday, January 4, 2019

Character or Plot Driven

 Character or Plot Driven

         In writing circles, the battle rages on: Is a story character-driven, or is it plot-driven? One side states that character-driven writing focuses on the internal change of the character or characters rather than the events that take place. They state plot-driven stories focus on the happenings and external changes. However, how clear-cut are the two types of writings?

         According to the article “Character-driven vs Plot-driven Writing” by Dorrance Publishing,
            Plots that are character driven are commonly referred to as “literary fiction”
            due to the fact that they feature characters that possess multiple layers that are
            exposed as the story develops.
Note the author of this article says “plots that are character driven,” and plot means actions, happenings.

         The article sited above does state both character and plot are necessary for a good story, as does editor and writing coach Jeni Cappelle, “Every well-written novel must have a combination of engaging characters and a compelling plot.”

         Best-selling author and writing expert William Bernhardt takes the battle farther when he states the belief of character-driven and plot-driven being separate entities is a myth. He writes, “All fiction is character-driven.” [Creating Character, p 6] No matter what exciting happenings the writing may contain, it falls flat if the writer uses a flat, boring, or unbelievable character or characters. All good writings require “strong, dynamic, unique characters.” [p 11] As stated on the back cover of Bernhardt’s book, Aristotle wrote, “Action is character.”

         Everyone agrees that one must have both engaging characters and an attention-holding plot Bernhardt writes that combining imagination, insight, and first-rate writing skills creates the best characters. Great writers use the same qualities to develop compelling characters and electrifying plots. Both characters and plot combined take readers into a different world that exhilarates them and removes them from their own existences for a while and leaves them wanting more.

Sources, other than author’s own knowledge and expertise:
1. William Bernhardt, Creating Character: Bringing Your Story to Life.
2. Jeni Chappelle, editor and writing coach, “Plot-driven or Character-driven: Does it Really Matter?”
3. Dorrance Publishing

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Book Reception for Pahutchae's Pouch

Ready for guests to purchase copies

      Saturday, December 15, 2018, at the Edmond Library, a reception to honor vehoae's second book and first fiction novel was held.

      A steady stream of guests greeted the author,  enjoyed the displays, and had books signed. Some guests brought copies they had previously purchased.

      Vehoae put together an amazing display. The three pictures here give the different views of a trifold of some of the real people she used as characters in her novel, fictionalizing them of course.

      Another 4RV author, Kathleen Gibbs, visited with vehoae's brother Kad.


      Moments before guests began to arrive, vehoae paused a for a photo beside the refreshment table.

      Guests waited to visit vehoae and to have her sign their books.

      Vivian Zabel and Jacque Graham manned the book table where guests could purchase either hardback or paperback versions of Pahutchae's Pouch.

      Several photos that included other 4RV people didn't turn out well. My cheap-type camera did the best it could, though.

      Copies of Pahutchae's Pouch can be found on the 4RV Bookstore, as well as through brick and
mortar bookstores or other online businesses.

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Willard the Dragon - a children's favorite

      Willard the Dragon first appeared in Suzanne Cordatos' book Sneeze Fire, illustrated by LuisaGioffre-Suzuki. Children loved the Willard books beginning then and continuing through the second book Camp Dragon-Fire.

     The author shared the following pictures of her books for sale and in the hands of young readers:

           On the left, Willard on display. On the right, Suzanne with her books.

A young reader
                                              On the right

 Willard found his way to Turkey.


      The Willard the Dragon books can be found on the 4RV Bookstore, as well as through brick and mortar stores and other online stores. 

Saturday, December 8, 2018

Fiction vs Nonfiction Part 2

Fiction vs Nonfiction Part 2

         As with the first part of this article, I will present the material in outline form.

First Draft

1. Use correct grammar, mechanics, and structure.
2. Revise as you go (don’t search for errors but be aware and fix any you see).
3. Be sure information/story is presented interestingly, keep reader reading.
4. In fiction, “Show, don’t tell,” rather “show much more than tell.”
5. In nonfiction, be sure to keep on topic.

Fiction Components

1. Plot (longer works also have more sub-plots, can also apply to creative/narrative nonfiction)
2. Character(s)
3. Theme
4. Setting
5. Conflict
6. Crisis / Climax
7. Resolution
8. Conclusion (also for nonfiction)
9. Point of View

Nonfiction Components

1. Introduction ending with thesis sentence
2. At least one or more paragraphs to support each point of the thesis
3. A strong conclusion

Fiction and Nonfiction Combination

1. Narrative Nonfiction or Creative Nonfiction
2. Combination by “fictionally” providing material, such as dialogue, that can’t be proven to happen as written, but which is restricted by facts.
3. Author creatively creates literature that is based mainly on fact, reported, but shapes the material so that it reads like fiction.

8 Cs of Good Writing

1. Clarity
2. Conciseness
3. Concreteness
4. Correctness – includes research
5. Coherency
6. Completeness
7. Courtesy
8. Character (fiction)

      I hope the two parts of this article will be helpful as you begin or develop your writing career. Part 1 can be found here.


Thursday, December 6, 2018

4RV Participates in Jingle Jam

                 Every year, the Piedmont, Oklahoma school district holds a Christmas market called Jingle Jam the first Saturday of December to raise money to help teachers with their classroom expenses. Thanks to Wayne Harris-Wyrick, our staff member with a slew of positions, 4RV is notified and has participated the past two years. This year, we were represented again December 1. Dianna Street, managing vp, Wayne, vehoae, and Kathleen Gibbs represented 4RV. Our friendly, helpful mascot, Morgan Street, also attended.

Wayne Harris-Wyrick with his books

Dianna Street behind one table

On left, Morgan Street.  Above,vehoae and Kathleen Gibbs



        Books by all 4RV authors can be found on the 4RV Bookstore,
and most are available through other online stores and brick and mortar stores. 

       Books make perfect Christmas presents, gifts that continue to keep giving.