Writers: Meet Your Alter Ego(s)

Come Out, Come Out, Wherever You Are
Like actors, we writers are well acquainted with our alter egos. Or are we? If an actor's role becomes famous, as in Sean Connery as James Bond and Leonard Nimoy as Spock, the role takes on a separate existence. "Although other actors have portrayed [James Bond], Connery made him famous, and his trademark style is often pointed to as the 'true' Bond." Wisegeek.org The opposite was true for Nimoy, who titled his first autobiography, I Am Not Spock; then had a change of heart and titled his second book, I Am Spock.

We create a character often by piecing together various personalities of people we know, sprinkling in generous amounts of seasonings such as humor, intrigue and adventure; and known or unknown to us, adding a dollop of ourselves.

My brush with this subject, which amounts to a revealing personal experience and a Google search for this post, has sparked a desire for further research. What is alter ego? How can it best be used in creating characters?

A Sampling of Definitions
  • Webster's Collegiate: A second self; a trusted friend; the opposite side of a personality.
  • American Heritage: Another aspect of one's personality.
  • Wikipedia: A second self, which is believed to be distinct from a person's normal or original personality.
  • Dr. Carolyn Kaufman: It is normal to have multiple ego states. Everyone has them. Dr. Kaufman's example is the "you" who, at Thanksgiving dinner with your in-laws, acts different than the "you" out on the town with friends. These two "you's" are different sides or facets of you. She goes on to write that it's even normal for your various ego states to have different names, such as Mrs. Uptown at work, and Kitty with friends.
  • Problem ego states: Dr. Kaufman's book, The Writer's Guide to Psychology: To Write Accurately about Psychological Disorders, Human Behavior, and Clinical Treatment, provides information on borderline personality, dissociative identity disorder, mood and anxiety disorders, treatments, therapies, and character-building. She states on her blog that she wrote this book to aid writers in understanding the personality so their characters' behavior is accurate. An excellent example of dissociative identity disorder, or DID, is portrayed on the Showtime show, United States of Tara (final episode: June 20, 2011). Toni Collette stars as a suburban housewife and mom living with DID. In the show, her family never knows who will greet them when they come home: Tara herself, or "T," a flirty teenager; Buck, a beer-swilling Vietnam vet; Alice, a perfect TV 1950's mom, or other alter egos.
The Fight against Good and Evil: Living a Double Life
Superheroes top the list of those who fight the good fight.
  • Superman/Clark Kent: Appearing as a "mild-mannered" newspaper reporter allowed Superman to live among the people of Metropolis without giving away his identity.
  • Batman: Disguised himself to fight crime.
  • Spider-Man/Peter Parker: Peter takes on the role of "vigilante" after going on a high school science trip and getting bitten by a radioactive spider; and suddenly becomes stronger, faster, and can shoot webs, climb buildings, and  jump great distances.
The Famous Split Personality: Jekyll and Hyde
Scottish author Robert Louis Stevenson created Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde in the late 1800s. His story was based on recurring nightmares he had of living two opposing lives. The story actually portrays a borderline personality, according to Wisegeek.com. Due to a scientist consuming a substance in an experiment, Dr. Jekyll became "congenial and moral," while his alter ego, Mr. Hyde, was "wicked and unmoral."

A Sampling of Alter Egos in Film
  • Black Swan: The protagonist Nina Sayers, played by Natalie Portman, faces her alter ego, the character of the Black Swan.
  • Breaking Bad: The protagonist, Walter White, a high school chemistry teacher, uses his alter ego, Heisenberg, to become a player in the drug world.
  • South Park: Butters Stotch created an evil alter ego, Professor Chaos, out of frustration.
  • Our Gang: In the episode, "Mama's Little Pirate," Spanky gets in trouble, gets sent to his room, and he talks to his alter ego.
Make Room for More
A young man I went to high school with (to me he'll always be the popular guy I remember) didn't find out he's an artist until later in life; had no clue. As for my discovery, it came as a surprise, not from writing, but from a quartet I took part in. We sang popular songs for events in our community, some humorous. Our guitar player's wife would patiently listen to our practices (she had no choice--we took over her living room). I made a joke once and saw that she genuinely thought it was funny. That did it. I wound up as the group comedian and since then have continued to develop this humorous side with friends and in my books.

Dr. Kaufman writes in her blog that some people are more aware of these different ego states than others, especially if they play very diverse roles in life. I have come to understand that although you infuse each of your characters with their own, unique personality, each of these aspects are part of you. Just as it's a good idea to create a profile for each of your characters, then, why not profile your alter egos as they reveal themselves?

Sources: Photo by Linda Wilson; Urbandictionary; United States of Tara.

Next month: Writers: Pin Down Your Alter Ego(s)

Linda Wilson, a former elementary teacher and ICL graduate, has published over 100 articles for adults and children, and six short stories for children. Recently, she completed Joyce Sweeney's online fiction courses, picture book course and mystery and suspense course. She is currently working on several projects for children. Follow Linda on Facebook.

The ABCs of Writing - Tips for New Writers

When I began a serious writing career, the first step was to get organized and establish a regular routine.

Here are some tips to encourage new writers to get started. It is not exhaustive, but purposely short to get you going.

A is for action.

To be successful in anything, it requires action. You have to have a plan and then you have to follow the plan. It is important to set 3 goals for the year and then list specific, daily and weekly objectives to accomplish those goals. This will keep you on track.

For example, if writing for magazines is one of your goals, your objective is to decide how often you will submit an article (e.g. one per week). If writing a book is another goal, you will decide how much time or how many pages you will write each day or week.

Writers can have so many ideas it is easy to dream about them and not act upon them. A plan of action is crucial for your success.

B is believe in yourself.

You are unique. You have something to say. No one can write it quite like you.

There are lots of magazines and books in the world, but there is always room for more article or story. The world is always changing and creating fodder for the next story. 

Of course, your first published work is a real boost to believe in yourself. Until that time comes (and it will come), keep at it and don't give up. 

C is for challenges.

Needless to say, our lives have challenges. Some are serious and out of our control. Some are mere distractions we can eliminate. 

Don't let challenges stop you. Learn to navigate through them. Often, these challenges make us better writers. We learn patience, endurance, and even find our challenges can help others through our writing.

After the death of my oldest son, blogging became therapy for me. My desire to help others naturally unfolded from a very difficult and challenging time. Not only for those who lost a child, but anyone who needed hope during painful situations in life. 

You might be chugging along with a good routine and a challenge comes along, disrupting your rhythm. It could be submission rejections, computer problems, illness, job loss - it will slow you down but don't throw in the towel. Become stronger and allow your challenges to define who you are and what you write.

D is for determination.

It goes without saying, right? Anything worth pursuing takes determination. 

Some of us hit the brick wall sooner than others, but we all hit it eventually. Thing is, what will you do after you hit it?

Once you find your niche and get momentum, there will be plenty of reasons that come along to thwart your writing goals. Sometimes we must pull back but then we have to get back on track. 

I have had those seasons of not submitting articles regularly for various reasons. Don't let that season go too long. Be determined of your potential and success!

E is for earning money.

It's the best feeling in the world to get paid for what you write. You may have a long term goal in mind to write a book. Meanwhile, freelance writing can earn you money now. 

Checking online job boards consistently provide more opportunities than you can imagine. There is a continual need for freelance writers - everything from resume writing to product descriptions. 

Next month, we will continue with the ABCs of Writing - letters F-J.

Photo Crediinterphasesolution.


After raising and homeschooling her 8 children and teaching art classes for 10 years, Kathy has found time to pursue freelance writing. She enjoys writing magazine articles and more recently had her story, "One of a Kind", published in The Kids' ArkYou can find her passion to bring encouragement and hope to people of all ages at When It Hurts http://kathleenmoulton.com

DIY marketing with graphics

photo courtesy of
blackzheep  Free Digital Photos.net
We all know that the ideal when it comes to books and book marketing is to hire a professional for the non-writing tasks. A cover artist, a gaggle of editors or one who can multi-task, are the accepted norm.

But professionals cost and when you're starting out, you need to balance your outlay with projected income. We all hope we've produced a best seller. But beware. The market in books and e-books is more saturated and competitive than ever before.

There's no harm in experimenting with your own graphics and seeing what you can do for yourself. And there's no end of help and information free on the Internet.

Try cartoons

I have always loved the animated messages presented by cartoon characters and never realized it was possible to produce them easily--and free--thanks to sites like PowToon.

Find out how to produce a book trailer.
Download pdf instructions and have fun.

If it doesn't work out for you, no harm done. Save until you can afford one created by a professional. 

Try infographics

 Infographics are an enjoyable and popular way of sharing information. With so many demands on our time, graphics are a fast and fun way to grab attention. Tom Fanelli shared an easy step-by-step tutorial on using Canva for infographcs. Canva has its own Design School and their suggestions go a long way in helping you design an image with a professional appearance.

Try Covers

If you do want to design your own book covers, Canva again has templates to help. Study sites like Book Covers Anonymous for ideas. Use a site like CoverCritics to test out your new cover before you publish. 

Designing a cover for a report or information product you are giving away as a marketing incentive is an excellent idea especially if you are using a PLR as a base. You are always given covers for PLR reports but to make yours stand out, it should have an original cover.

Sharing Ideas

Do you create your own graphics? Make infographics? Design covers? Is it cost effective? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

Anne Duguid
Anne Duguid Knol

A local and national journalist in the U.K., Anne Knol is now a fiction editor for award-winning American and Canadian publishers. As a new author, she shares writing tips and insights at Author Support : http://www.authorsupport.net .

Her Halloween novella, ShriekWeek is published by The Wild Rose Press as e-book and in print  included in the Hauntings in the Garden anthology. (Volume Two)

At last starting to write something else...

Your Book—The Best Business Marketing Tool

Everyone is looking for the silver bullet to propel their small business into the stratosphere. Yes there are many possible tools and shiny objects. One solid tool which gives and gives yet is often ignored is right in front of you: a book.

The book works for you 24/7 and promotes you as a business owner and expert. There are great books and there are poor books. To be successful you need to strategically take these three steps before you write your first word:

1. What is my area of expertise as a small business owner?

2. List 10 benefits or advantages you can give to others from your unique skills and viewpoints.

3. Return to your list and think of stories or personal experiences you have had to illustrate these advantages.

You have just created the outline for your book. People love stories and takeaway lessons from your experiences. I wrote a book for Joe Leninger who traded for ten years in the Eurodollar Pit of the Chicago Mercantile and made a million dollars every year for ten years. Our book, Lessons from the Pit, was built around stories and lessons. You can write the book yourself then go to an editor to get it polished. Or you can speak your book. A book will build credibility, get you speaking gigs and much more. The key is to create value for your reader. I suggest a 40,000 to 50,000 word book which is about 200 pages. This length has substance yet is not overwhelming to the reader.

Whether you publish your book with a traditional publisher or self-publish it, I encourage you to write a book proposal. Editors and literary agents use this specialized document to evaluate your idea. If you write one, you will have the tool you need to successfully approach them. If you do the book yourself (self-publish) a book proposal will help you develop a business plan for your book. I’ve written many proposals and read many more of them. You can learn the details using my free book proposal checklist at: http://terrylinks.com/bookcheck If I can help you, reach out to me. My email address is in my twitter profile. 

Todd Ordal has written an example of a solid business book called Never Kick A Cow Chip On a Hot Day (Real Lessons for Real CEOS and those who want to be). Notice Todd’s different title and his quality writing combined with an excellent cover design and a growing presence in the marketplace. I acquired this book for Morgan James Publishing. You can learn a great deal studying the details of this book. Then do likewise with your own business.
W. Terry Whalin, a writer and acquisitions editor at
Morgan James Publishing, lives in Colorado. A former magazine editor, Whalin has written for more than 50 publications including Christianity Today and Writer’s Digest. He has written more than 60 nonfiction books including Jumpstart Your Publishing Dreams. His website is located at: www.terrywhalin.com. Terry has over 165,000 twitter followers.

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Writer's Block - Getting Past Fear

Writer's Block: According to Webster's Dictionary.
The problem of not being able to think of something to write about, or not being able to finish writing a story, poem, etc. A psychological inhibition preventing a writer from proceeding with a piece.

Yeah, I think writer's block is about fear. Plain and simple. The fear of failure - my work will not be good enough to: publish, win a contest, excite fans, or please my parents. Or it's a fear of success - what would happen if I became famous and everyone was reading my work? How would that change my life? (Many of you might be thinking that would be an awesome problem to have, but almost the same number of people are afraid of success as there are people afraid of failure.) Both fears stop you from writing - they are the cause of writer's block. 

How do you get around the fear?

1. Recognize that fear might be the thing that is preventing you from writing. Sometimes the process of identifying the cause can allow the breakthrough. "I'm afraid, and I don't want to be caught in fear, so I'm going to sit down right now and get to work."

2. If recognition isn't enough - sit with the fear. Recognize that fear is the problem, then determine where your fear comes from and allow yourself to release that fear. Today you do not have to be a best selling author, or show your parents your novel, or do anything else, but put words down on paper for yourself. Push that inner critic who is always striving for perfection away - far, far, far away. You don't need him today. 

3. Change from focusing on the fear to focusing on the love. Why do you write? Love of words? Love of story? Love of the time sitting in contemplation with your journal? Whatever excites you about your writing process, make that what you focus on. When you exchange love for fear your writing mind will automatically open and allow the process to begin. 

Good luck and happy writing!
D. Jean Quarles is a writer of Women's Fiction and co-author of a Young Adult Science Fiction Series. Her latest book, Solem was released February 2016.

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, and the co-author of The Exodus Series: The Water Planet: Book 1 and House of Glass: Book 2. 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 www.djeanquarles.com                                      

You can also follower her on Facebook.

Writing, Marketing, Platform Oh My

Writing, marketing, developing a platform, editing, monetizing, and the list goes on for a writer who wants to make a business of doing what they love.... WRITING. Add in the normal distractions that life can bring on a daily basis and it can be easy to lose focus. I know because it happened to me.

Does it happen to you?  You become so wrapped up in the process of marketing, branding, networking, generating new ideas, and goal setting with an action plan that you look back and find no words on the page... and those words, characters and story lines rattle around in your head trying to find their place on the page have to wait for again another day. Life's little distractions can all but halt the best of us.

So how do you tame the "distraction monsters" that try to steal your writing time? First deciding what is important to you is a big part of how you decide where to put your effort. For some, life's distractions do become more important than the writing and marketing at some point in life. Your state of health, your current financial status, and family obligations also can become distractions and may even force writing and marketing to take a back burner for a time. But if your decision to pursue your writing is burning in your heart there is a way.

Fifteen minutes a day... that is all it takes to write something. Fifteen minutes for a character description, fifteen minutes to send a marketing email to your local newspaper, fifteen minutes to network with other writers on your preferred social media site..... fifteen minutes today and every day notches out 105 minutes a week for writing and developing your platform. It can be done.

The lesson here is to rid yourself of any guilt because you haven't written or because you needed to take a break from promoting your writing. Get back on track and write. Many may not agree but writing comes first at least initially.... you cannot promote or market if you don't have something solid to offer.

Once those ideas start showing up on the page with those precious words coming from your heart the rest will follow. Time for marketing and promoting will fit easier into your daily schedule because now you are focused and know where you are headed. The ideas will flow because you are doing what you love. If you have dry periods where you have lost focus or have had been invaded by the "distraction monsters" simply go back to fifteen minutes a day. It worked for me.

Terri Forehand is an author and neonatal nurse. She lives with her husband in the hills of Nashville Indiana where they also own a small fabric shop. She is currently working on several projects including stories about quilting for kids. Visit her blog at http://terri-forehand.blogspot.com

A Sweet Offer for Valentine's Day!

Here's a sweet offer for Valentine's Day – the most romantic day of the year – if you've been thinking about writing a romance but weren't sure how to get started.

Sign up for my free e-course, How to Write a Sweet Romance, and I'll take you step-by-step through the process I use to write sweet romance.

Every year, Wendy Dewar Hughes and I sponsor several sweet romance writing contests. The winning stories are published in one of our romance anthologies.

Here are the trailers for two of these books. They might give you some ideas for your own story.

Sweet Christmas Love

Sweet Summer Love

Happy Valentine's Day!

Suzanne Lieurance
The Working Writer's Coach

Looking for Love? Better Think About the Words You Use

Online dating services are a HUGE business now. People are looking for relationships, companionship, marriage partners, and even just friendships and they're using these services to find what they're looking for. And, to do this, they need to fill in profiles. This means they need to use WORDS! They need to write effectively.

Well, our friends at Grammarly.com, the team behind the popular writing app, partnered with the online dating website eHarmony to determine whether the writing skills displayed in people’s online dating profiles affect their chances of finding romance. Grammarly summarized the results, along with other online dating statistics, in an infographic.

Valentine's Day Grammar 2016 Infographic

This infographic is attributed to Grammerly.com.

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Ten Climbing Lessons for Writers

I’ve been dabbling in a new hobby—rock climbing.  It’s not the type of activity that I would come up with on my own and is definitely out of my comfort zone.  But, my husband and two adult sons were climbing, so I finally decided to give it a try. It’s been six months and I really enjoy climbing.  Most of my climbing has been in a climbing gym, though I did venture out on the rocks of Sedona.
Usually we will start by bouldering— free climbing on a low wall without ropes.  For those who have never been an inside climbing gym, paths are created by colored boulders and you can only put your hands and feet on the color you are attempting to scale.   It took me a while to get comfortable bouldering.  Going up was fine but I was scared trying to get down.   I find the higher walls where you have a harness and ropes much less stressful.  

About a month ago, we went to the gym and I started to boulder.  Half- way up, I came down.  It just   I thought to myself, I don’t think I should climb today.  My husband suggested I try an easier route.  I took his suggestion made it to the top and down, but something still felt off.
Falling Off Wall
didn’t feel right.

One more try…then if I still didn’t feel right, I would stop.

Three quarters of the way up the wall, I reached for the next boulder and fell (about 15 feet).  Dazed,  and neck when I landed.  I knew I shouldn’t have been climbing that day.  I also knew after the fall, that I better climb one more time or I might never climb again.

I stood up, the inside of my head and my neck hurt from whipping my head
I discovered that the lessons I learned about climbing apply to writing.

1.       Stay on the Path – Like following a colored coded trail when bouldering in a gym, you need to create your writing path and write.  Identify a dedicated time for writing in your week.  Your writing time is not for emails, surfing the web, or social media. Just write!

2.       Find people to encourage you and guide you – Climbers watch each other scale the wall and provide suggestions on how to master a trail.  An effective critique group can help you find a new direction for your story or polish your manuscript.   Critique partners are there to urge you on, when you’ve hit the writing wall, or cannot muster the physical intelligence to complete a climbing route.

3.       Listen to your internal voice – The day I fell off the wall, I should have listened to my internal voice and called it quits for the day.  Sometimes when working with agents and editors, you can get conflicting advice or be asked to do a rewrite that just doesn’t seem right.  A friend of mine’s agent recently had her rework her manuscript before she sent it out to publishers.  She didn’t agree with the changes, but made the changes.  After it was shopped around to a few publishing houses, the feedback she received was to go back to her original approach.  Sometimes too many voices get in a writer’s head.  It’s a delicate balance to know when to follow your intuition and when to listen to the critiques you are receiving.

4.       The only way past your fear is through your fear.  To be honest, I’m afraid of heights.  I just had to climb to get past my fear.  As a writer, what frightens you?  Are you afraid of rejection?   The only way to get past the fear of rejection is to submit your  writing for publication.  When you receive a rejection, instead of being demoralized, celebrate the fact that you are one step closer to finding the right publishing house.

5.       When you reach…make sure you footing is solid.  – When I fell off the wall, I reached without being in a stable position.  New writers often are so excited about getting published that they submit their work before it is polished.  If you don’t know the basics of writing and the publishing industry, you are not ready to submit for publication.   WOW! Women on Writing is a great resource to develop a strong foundation for your writing.

6.       After a big fall, get back-up and try again. – Did you recently receive a rejection letter?  Have you been unsuccessful in obtaining an agent?  Just keep writing, revising and when you are ready, submit your manuscript. Keep doing it, and it will become a path you have climbed before!

7.       You need instruction and training – Whether you are writing or climbing, studying with experts will enable you to move your work along.  I had to take a ropes class before I could belay someone else who was climbing under my guidance. You will need to learn beats and rhythm before you can write a rhyming picture book. 

8.       Take a break – At the climbing gym, when I need a break, I go to something else.  There’s yoga, weights, juice bar, internet, big comfy chairs, or even a ping pong table. There are times during your journey as a writer when it’s a struggle to make a story work.  My critique partner was struggling with a piece and she said it was making her brain hurt.    She needed to put the story away and do something else.  Sometimes working on another piece is enough, but sometimes you just need to get out of your writing chair and move. 

9.       Practice…Practice…Practice – It’s been more than a month since I’ve been to the climbing gym and I know I won’t be able to climb routes that I’ve already mastered.  The more you keep climbing or writing, the stronger your writing or climbing muscles become.

10.   Enjoy the journey — It’s not about reaching the top, it’s about the climb.  Being a writer is a journey.  Have fun and enjoy the process. You will feel great the next day, even if a little sore!

Mary Jo Guglielmo is a writer, educator, and life coach.   For more information check out DoNorth.biz

On Mourning the Loss of Ask Amy for Her Daily Wisdom with My Oatmeal and Coffee Each Morning

  The Guest Blogger with Typewriter  She Used  in Early Ann Landers Days To #WritersontheMove Subscribers and Visitors: Amy Dickinson just a...