Wednesday, August 20, 2014

There's a Gorilla in the Phone Booth! - The dangers of flashbacks

by Shirley Corder

The fog was closing in. Marsha dashed across the road to the phone booth to call her husband to come and fetch her. With relief, she pulled open the stiff door and slipped inside. She peered towards the phone dial, and instead her eyes focused on a gigantic dark hairy chest. Fearfully she looked up, and up . . . until she made out the terrifying features of an adult gorilla. There was a gorilla in the phone booth! 

His immense mouth opened and she gazed in horror at his vicious-looking teeth. She was about to be devoured by a raging primate. It reminded her of the time when she and her husband had gone to see the film, “Gorillas in the Mist.” It was a beautiful evening, their first real date. They had sat and eaten popcorn and drank soda. When they ran out of popcorn, Robert slipped his hand across and gripped hers. The rest of the film was a blur. All she remembered was what happened on their walk home . . .

Okay, this is a variation of a common theme for writers. You’ve created an exciting scenario. A gorilla is a massive animal, renowned for its phenomenal strength. We can think of the well-known advert of King Kong as he rips apart the jaws of a T-Rex, or of him wreaking havoc in New York City. He is not a creature to tangle with. And he’s certainly not something you want to share a phone booth with.

Why did the author put the gorilla in the phone booth in the first place? Because it’s a tiny enclosure. There’s no way anyone can win a battle with a gorilla in a phone booth. The victim would be ripped apart in no time. The tension is unbearable. The reader holds his breath.

And then he’s transported to the cinema. On a trip down memory lane. What a letdown.

What was the writer thinking? He’s created a breathtaking scene, and then left the reader hanging while he explores another part of the heroine’s life. It’s called a flashback, but it’s a dangerous technique. If the author doesn’t want to lose his reader, a flashback has to be handled wisely.

For writers, the lesson is: Stay with the gorilla in the phone booth! The story needs to keep moving forward. The reader doesn’t want to know about the time at the cinema. He wants to know how Marsha is going to handle her ordeal in the phone booth.

There are times for flashbacks, but less is more. Think twice before you leave your reader stuck indefinitely in a phone booth with a gorilla. It's not a nice place to be.

OVER TO YOU: How do you feel about flashbacks when you're reading? Any authors that do them well? Do you use them in your own writing? Leave a comment below.


SHIRLEY CORDER lives on the coast in South Africa with her husband, Rob. Her book, Strength Renewed: Meditations for your Journey through Breast Cancer contains 90 meditations based on the time she faced a gorilla in the cancer valley.

Please visit Shirley through, where she encourages writers, or at, where she encourages those in the cancer valley. You can also meet with her on Twitter or FaceBook

Monday, August 18, 2014

Two Things You Must Do if You Want to Make Money Blogging

by Suzanne Lieurance, the Working Writer's Coach

Whether you’re a full time freelance writer or a published author, you probably have at least one blog (or you should have anyway).

You probably have a mailing list, too (or you should have).

But you may not realize how your mailing list affects your blog traffic.
In his e-book, List Building for Bloggers, Phil Hollows includes a short note from Internet guru, Seth Godin. In this note, Godin says "I get ten times more response to my blog from my email subscribers than I do from anyone else."

That just shows how powerful a mailing list can be. It can drive traffic to your blog.

But here's the rub. It's good to have visitors to your blog and people on your mailing list, but in order to make money from your blog, there are two things you need to do: optimize and monetize.

What does that mean?

It means that each and every blog post has a clear call to action for your readers.

It means that most of your blog posts include your affiliate links to relevant products and/or services.

It means each blog post is keyword rich, with the exact keywords people are using to search for the kind of information you're providing in those posts.

It also means your blog content is aimed at your target market, and this is where so many bloggers miss the mark. They either don't have a specific target market in mind or, if they do, their content isn't directed at this target market.

Today, instead of creating new content for your blog, go back to some of the archived content. Make sure it is optimized (keyword rich for starters) and monetized (includes links to affiliate products or at least some clear call to action). Also, be sure the content is directed toward the specific target market you are trying to attract to your blog.

Once you've monetized and optimized your site, you'll be ready to grow your email subscribers - those people who will be most responsive to your blog and purchase the products and services you blog about.

Try it!

Suzanne Lieurance is an author, freelance writer, certified professional life coach and writing coach, speaker and workshop presenter. She has written over two dozen published books and hundreds of articles for newspapers, magazines, and other publications.

For more ways to make money from your blog, download The Freelance Writer's Guide to Affiliate Marketing by Suzanne Lieurance.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

A Blank Canvas - Your Characters

The last couple of months have been spent packing and moving from our 'retirement home' in Phoenix to our new 'retirement home' in Minnesota. I'm well aware that's not usually the direction one goes to retire. My parents had left me a home and my husband and I decided that for the next however many years we have, we are going to spend them in the Midwest enjoying a slower pace. 

Moving into one's family home is a bit of a challenge. I remember well how my mother had arranged furniture and art. Each day more memories crop up and distract me. But each day, too, I'm working on creating a new and different home, one that reflects the people my husband and I are. Part of the decisions we've already made are to paint, carpet and change all the window coverings. Think blank canvas. 

A blank canvas allows you to find your own place in the world. 
A blank canvas encourages exploration. 
A blank canvas drives one to a new level of creativity. 

And a blank canvas might be the best place to begin when writing your newest character(s). Part of the enjoyment of writing fiction is the unknowingness of the process. You begin with a character or a scene, or maybe only a setting. Somewhere down the road you may know where you want to eventually end - the statement you wish to make with your story. But everything in between is yours and your characters to create. Allowing your mind to be open to your character's possible reactions and thoughts is one great way to keep your readers engaged. Readers like surprises - and if you are like me - you do as well. Creating characters that, well, act out of character is fun. And just like the blank canvas above, it will drive you to a greater level of creativity, it will push you to explore your options and finally, it will help you to create characters that will find their own place in the world of literature. 
D. Jean Quarles is a writer of Women's Fiction and a co-author of a Young Adult Science Fiction Series. Her latest book, House of Glass, Book 2 of The Exodus Series was written with coauthor, Austine Etcheverry.

D. Jean loves to tell stories of personal growth – where success has nothing to do with money or fame, but of living life to the fullest. She is also the author of the novels: Rocky's Mountains, Fire in the Hole and, Perception. The Mermaid, an award winning short story was published in the anthology, Tales from a Sweltering City.

She is a wife, mother, grandmother and business coach. In her free time . . . ha! ha! ha! Anyway, you can find more about D. Jean Quarles, her writing and her books at her website at

You can also follower her at or on Facebook

Friday, August 8, 2014

Where do Characters Come From?

Where do you get your characters? They can come from many sources. Characters can be based on someone you know or a composite of people you know. You write from your experience. You might base a character on a name you’ve picked out or someone you’ve read about in the newspaper. Or you decide on a theme or a situation you want to write about and then decide what kind of characters would fit into that idea.

How do you introduce your characters?

Here’s a great four-sentence exercise:
1.      Introduce a character (age, sex).
2.      Bring character home to dwelling place
3.      Greet someone in the home, tell something about the mood of the character.
4.      Move character out of room (off camera).

You’ll be surprised how much you will learn about your character from such a short exercise! Start out each character like this to find out about him/her. Fill in the information and find the emotional connection.

Some writers like to create an entire character profile even before they start writing. I don’t necessarily recommend that, although some people need a skeleton to flesh out before they can start writing. It’s probably a good idea to at least fill one out as you write (especially if you’re writing a book) just to keep the facts straight. You don’t want your hero to have blue eyes in chapter one and turn up with brown eyes in chapter 20. And you want him to act and re-act consistent with his personality as you write. Or fill in a character sketch if you have a character that seems flat and needs fleshing out.
How do you come up with your characters?

A native Montanan, Heidi M. Thomas now lives in North-central Arizona where she blogs, teaches
writing, and edits. Her first novel, Cowgirl Dreamsis based on her grandmother, and the sequel, Follow the Dream, won the national WILLA Award. The next book in the series, Dare to Dream, has just been released, and her non-fiction book Cowgirl Up: History of Women's Rodeo will be out in September. Heidi has a degree in journalism and a certificate in fiction writing.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Your Main Character's Job Is to Fall to the Bottom of a Deep Pit of TROUBLE

“Your Main Character's Job Is to Fall to the Bottom of a Deep Pit of TROUBLE" by Joan Y. Edwards

When you write your story, is your main character doing his job? You say to me, "What do you mean?" In every story, the main character's job is to fall to the bottom of a deep pit of TROUBLE. He can't go back to what was. He can't get to what he wants. He is clueless and helpless until he CHANGES.

What does the main character do while he's down there? Let's name your main character. What about Jeremy Kidd?
  • He's a 16 year old junior in high school whose parents are moving to New York City and he refuses to go.
  • He's an 81-year-old man whose daughter wants him to go to a rest home and he refuses to go.
  • He's a six-year-old boy whose father tells him he has to play t-ball when he wants to play football.
Suppose your main character is female. Let's call her Sadie Tripp.
  • Sadie is a seventeen year old senior whose parents died in a car wreck three months before graduation. She refuses to go to school because she is so depressed.
  • She's 74 and wants to open her own ice cream parlor and her children try to stop her.
  • She's 5 years old and her parents won't let her have a puppy.

For now your main character's figuring out ways to get out of this pit. Does he spin a web like Spiderman? Fly with a cape like Superman? Crawl around on the floor with a magnifying glass looking for clues like Sherlock Holmes? No, none of those. They've all been done before. Do something different. Put a twist on it.

What does your main character do that causes him to land at the bottom of the pit? Was it pride that he didn’t listen to the wisdom of others in the same position? Was he stubborn and refuse to obey the authority figures? Did he get so angry that he literally drove a car, lost control and landed in a pit? Was it plain stupidity that he didn’t even look where he was going? What does he see? What does he sense? What sounds does he hear? What does his body do? Why does he think this is the end of the world for him?

The pit is dark and deep with no light showing the way out. Your main character is going to have to climb up and feel his way, inch by inch from the bottom all the way to the top. What will he do when he has no hammer and metal spikes to assist him in climbing out? Your main character seems to get himself into predicaments easily and often, but never as bad as this.

As the author, you might hesitate about putting your character into a tough predicament. I am here to tell you to relax. Each character you create is clever and resourceful. He will figure out a fascinating way to get out of this pit in a short amount of time. Why? Because you are the author. You and your main character can do what no one else has ever done before. You are the only ones who can give us your interpretation of this world. We are waiting to hear about how your character survived his "big pit" experience. How does he change? What does he believe now that he didn't believe before? What new skill did he learn? Who did he learn to trust? Don't worry about your character. He can climb out of any deep dark pit you put him into. Believe in you and your characters. You can do it.

It would be great to see how you would write a paragraph or a first page of a story using one of the character descriptions above or your own. Please share your paragraph or first page in the comment area. I'd love to read them. I'll point out a Blue Ribbon Passage - one I especially like in it, if you do.

Celebrate you.
Never Give Up
Joan Y. Edwards
Copyright © 2014 Joan Y. Edwards

Flip Flap Floodle, the Never Give Up duck - He keeps playing his song even in the darkest pit of ole Mr. Fox's belly.

Joan’s Elder Care Guide, Release December 2014 by 4RV Publishing

For other articles to inspire you and your writing, read Joan's Never Give Up Blog


Sunday, August 3, 2014

Avoiding Incorrect Punctuation Pt 3

Commas with Participial Phrases

Good writing is about more than grammar and punctuation.  It's about great characters, difficult decisions, high stakes, and insight into the human condition.'s also about good grammar and punctuation.  Sometimes, important marks gets omitted, like the poor little comma in the illustration here.  Perhaps the omission is in the effort to make writing smoother.  Unfortunately, it often has the opposite effect.  Here's one type of common omission..   

When you have an independent clause (“Nathan stumbled along in front of the guard”), followed by a dependent clause starting with an "–ing" verb (“looking for ways to escape”), ask yourself whether you can stick who was/that was in the middle.  Does it still make sense? 

Example 1:
Test:  Nathan shuffled along in front of the guard WHO WAS looking for ways to escape.  Um…the guard was looking for ways to escape?  No, Nathan was looking for ways to escape.  You therefore need a comma in the middle to indicate that the subject of the first clause is also the one doing the second clause. 

Correct:  Nathan shuffled along in front of the guard, looking for ways to escape.
Incorrect:  Nathan shuffled along in front of the guard looking for ways to escape.

Example 2:  I sat on the sofa sagging in the corner.
Test:  I sat on the sofa THAT WAS sagging in the corner.  Makes sense.  No comma.

Example 3:  I sat on the sofa massaging my ankle.
Test:  I sat on the sofa THAT WAS massaging my ankle.  Cool sofa!  I want one.  But really, that’s not what you meant at all. The sofa wasn't massaging your ankle.  You were.  So you need the commas before the –ing.

Correct:  I sat on the sofa, massaging my ankle.

Example 4: “Come pick me up,” Sarah demanded through the phone looking in horror at the fire.
Test:  “Come pick me up,” Sarah demanded through the phone THAT WAS looking in horror at the fire.  Hmm…that's a really smart phone.

Correct:  “Come pick me up,” Sarah demanded through the phone, looking in horror at the fire.

Use the "THAT WAS" test: 
If you can stick that was in the middle and it still makes sense, no comma.
If you stick in that was and it changes the meaning, put a comma between the clauses.

Note:  It works in other situations too.  Other adjective or participial phrases modifying a subject earlier in the sentence have this same comma pattern.

Example 6:  She continued pushing dirt down around the seedlings oblivious to the threat at her front gate. 
Test:  Liz continued pushing dirt down around the seedlings WHO WERE oblivious to the threat at her front gate.  Technically, the plants were oblivious, but you probably mean that Liz was oblivious.

Correct:  Liz continued pushing dirt down around the seedlings, oblivious to the threat at her front gate.  

Often this mistake just requires that your reader pause a moment and re-evaluate, but sometimes it leads to mass confusion.  "John walked up to the man kissing the belly dancer."  Obviously the man was kissing the belly dancer.  If you meant that John was kissing the belly dancer, your readers aren't going to understand, so put in the comma.

NOTE:  If you're a person who doesn't use any commas unless absolutely necessary, you can sometimes omit this comma.  However, if there's any possibility that your reader will misunderstand, it's best to follow the rule and include it.   

Want more punctuation tips?  
Avoiding Incorrect Punctuation Pt 1:  Commas Save Lives; the Vocative Comma
Avoiding Incorrect Punctuation Pt 2:  Commas and Periods in Dialogue

Melinda Brasher writes mainstream short stories, science fiction, fantasy, and travel articles.  To find her work online, in print, or as e-books, explore her website:

Friday, August 1, 2014

Blogging – The 5 Most Popular Blog Post and Article Formats

By Karen Cioffi

It’s a content marketing fact: Blogging is one of the most effective authority building, persuasive, and money-making marketing strategies.

This being the case, it means you need to regularly post content to your blog. It may be multiple times a day, once a day, three-times a week, once a week, or once a month.

No matter what, you need to post to your blog on a regular basis. While I did put ‘once a month’ in the list, to blog effectively you should be blogging more than that. Conservatively speaking, once a week is the minimum.

But, suppose you’re motivated and want to post to your blog three or more times a week. What do you write about? What blog formats can you use? How do you keep it up?

The 5 Most Popular Blog Post Formats

To make life easier, there are certain blog post formats or templates that you can use. Kind of like a fill in the blanks template. These templates will give you quick to follow guidelines and make the writing process quicker and easier. So, let’s get to it. Here are the five most popular blog post formats:

1. The How-to Blog Post

The how-to post is about providing instructions or steps to explain to the reader how to do something and people love them. The post should answer your readers’ question or provide the solution to his problem. In other words, as with all your posts, it should be informative and helpful.

The writing process is standard: address the target audience and note the problem (the introduction); give the solution (this is the body of your post), give the conclusion.

Aside from your post title, the introduction is where you will turn your readers’ attention to interest. This section will motivate the reader to read on.

2. The List-based Blog Post

The list-based format is simply providing a list of things. It may be “10 Steps to a Lighter You”. It may be “5 of the Most Important Opt-in Words There Are.” You get the idea. Choice your topic, create your title, and list the advice or tips.

This post format is another one that people love. It’s easy to read and easy to follow. And, if you scan the articles you read, like me, it’s easy to pick out the information pertinent to you.

When writing in the list-based format strive for organization, sequencing, clarity, and use bullet points or numbered sequencing. Make sure that each step flows into the next logically. You always want to keep it simple for the reader.

Tip: Bullet points should be used when the information within each point has little text. Numbered paragraphs should be used when the points have more text. This article is an example of the need for numbered paragraphs.

3. The Content Curation Blog Post

Before we get into the format, let’s go over what content curation is. In simple terms, it’s using someone else’s content on your site by linking to it. You lead into the source content with your own perspective and ideas. Then add text leading the reader to the original source. You might use: ‘To read more about this, go to . . .’ Or, you might use: To read the original article, go to . . .

The idea is to link to the source article through a ‘more reading’ setup.

The benefit to you is saving time. You don’t have to write a full post, yet you get fresh content that will be helpful to your readers. The fresh content and fresh viewpoint helps increase your authority and helps build you into the ‘go to person’ for your niche.

You do though need to make sure the content is relevant to your site and it’d be a good idea if you leave a comment on the original article’s post.

Another benefit to this blog format is trackbacking. Linking to the original source’s post will bring the attention of the source site to your site. 

4. The Newsjacking Blog Post

The newsjacking blog post format is about making use of headline news within your industry/niche. This type of post is usually timely. It’s very useful if you want to be the one to bring breaking news to your audience.

Another way to use newsjacking is to create an in-depth analysis of the breaking news or simply give your perspective, after the fact. Just be careful not to plagiarize the content. You can reference the news content, but be sure to make the post content your own

You can also use newsjacking with the curation format.

5. The Slideshare or Video Blog Post

This format takes advantage of visual (and audio) content, in place of all text.  This format helps break things up a bit. People love visuals. Adding videos or Slideshare presentations spices your blog up.

Along with adding variety, the visual posts allow you to actually demonstrate tricky topics. For example, when explaining how to use hyperlinks or deep links, it’s much easier for the reader to SEE how to do it, rather than read about it.

Just like the other formats, you do need an introduction explaining the problem and how you can help fix it. Then lead into the video or Slideshare presentation with something like: ‘Watch the video to see how it’s done.’ Or, use ‘Flip through the Slideshare I created to demonstrate just how to do it.’

Here’s an example of a Slideshare post:

Article Marketing – Optimize Your Blogger Blog Posts

Summing it All Up
Blogging is a must if you want to create and increase visibility, readership, leads, and sales. But, simply blogging isn’t enough, you need to know how to blog effectively. Using these five blogging formats will help you keep your blog posts fresh and keep your audience engaged and informed.


Original article source:

Karen Cioffi is an Online Platform and Website Optimization Instructor. You can check out her services at: Build an Online Platform That Works


I hope you found this information interesting and helpful. Too advanced, not enough, just right? I’d really love to know, so please leave a comment – good or bad.

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