Posted in Muse, Reading, writers, YA

Teen Topics: to the tune of Characters 5/4/2021 Traci Kenworth

Teen Topics: to the Tune of Characters 5/4/2021

Traci Kenworth

Over the years, we can grow stagnant. In an effort to try a new spin on things for the future of the blog, I’m going to be trying to do something different. I want to focus less on being a blogger, more on being an author. This decision has come about from various happenings in my life and changes in the world around us. I’m a teen author and want to encourage young people to visit my blog as well as others from all walks of life. I hope this doesn’t disappoint some of you, but I realize it may. I’ve enjoyed the success of the blog up to this point. I simply want to reach out to those who may wish to read me when I get published.

So, without further ado: Teen Topics to the Tune of Characters

This week: bffs and how somehow the oddest friends make the best friends.

How did you two meet?

Lenore: “Class assignment.”

Jori: “Her group bullied me in the hallways.”

What was the deciding factor to bring about the friendship?

Lenore shrugs. “We needed each other.”

Jori: “She seemed so breakable. Like me at times. At first, I figured she was doing an act. Pretending to like me just so I’d do the homework for her. But—she really surprised me.”


“She stood up for me. Knowing it could wreck her world.”


“Well, I couldn’t let them hurt her anymore. I’d been in her position. Not from the school clique but—others.” She wiped a tear away. “I just didn’t want to see her end up in a dark closet. Crying her guts out.”

What do you appreciate most about each other?

Jori: “Her kindness. She’s part of such a large group. Instead of being the queen bee I thought she was, she curbed the others desire to pummel me. At last, I’m making friends with those I didn’t think I ever would. I get to be around a guy I didn’t have a hope of doing so, months before. Even if he never acknowledges my existence, it’s been worth it.”

Lenore: “Give him time. Give them all time. They’ll see what I see. Someone to stand beside me when everything falls apart.

Posted in a bit of seriousness, humor & fun, writers, Writing and Poetry

The Monster Show


Promotional photo of Boris Karloff from The Br...
Promotional photo of Boris Karloff from The Bride of Frankenstein as Frankenstein’s monster. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


The Monster Show


Traci Kenworth




Who didn’t go to a monster show at some point growing up? I remember sitting on the couch every Saturday when I was twelve or thirteen watching the local channel’s Scream Theater showing. Frankenstein’s monster, the she-devil, and BIG bugs reigned. Armed with a bowl of buttered popcorn (oh, those innocent, before I became weight-conscious days), and a group of friends, it was something I looked forward to all week. Perhaps because of these screenings, horror often topped the list of my readings growing up.


I loved to root for the characters, praying fervently that each would make it. I think this weekly ritual was the stepping-stone to my writing. It brought an eagerness to tell stories, even those heroes/heroines that didn’t make it, of my own. Writing just clicked with me. I could explore new worlds, the human psyche, and wrong decisions. I found myself at peace when I got it all down on paper (the way it was done before computers came along). At least, into my household. I didn’t own my first computer until I was married.


When divorce hit me, my next computer helped bring me through the rough patches, and pointed me back down the road toward writing. It wasn’t easy, raising two kids by myself, buying a house, and paying the bills, but I did it. I’m still doing it. I watch very little of what’s called horror these days (mostly because it’s become so much of a gore-fest), but when I do, I’m reminded of those Saturdays spent cringing from this week’s monster.


Oh, I have my favorite shows still to keep me tuned in. From Supernatural to The Vampire Diaries, I’ve learned that it truly is the protagonist/s in trouble that capture my attention and less the nameless ones that flee the masked murderer in the forest that capture my efforts. I like fear to count for something, I guess. When I get to know a character, their family, their hopes, their dreams, I want to see them survive. It’s what I try and do in my own stories. Capture the essence of who they are, where they’re going, and how they’re going to come through things. In short, I want people attached to my stories, not a body count.


All this has helped me make some recent cut-backs in my own work. I, too, went for the high amount of corpses versus the character, but I came to realize: less is more. If you want your reader to care about what’s happening, give them heroes/heroines to root for not walk-ons who are just there to get cut up by some psycho. It’s the story that counts, the truth behind what is happening, it’s the meat on the bones.


Yes, those Monster shows educated me on what’s important: the survivors. If you’re having trouble in your work-in-progress, it may mean that you need to step back and look at the people in your story. Are they fully-rounded? Do we care about them? Or is the boogeyman the main character? Readers want to read about people. What makes them tick, how they survived a day in hell, and what their future may look like. Concentrate on the protagonist/s and the curtain on your show will continue to go up every time.


Posted in a bit of seriousness, writers, Writing and Poetry

Tidbits of Who Your Characters are…

Tidbits of Who Your Characters are…

Traci Kenworth


How do you create a whole character? Tidbits, of course. By that, I mean there are facets of each of us that go into our story person. I would say that there is a sliver of our personalities in every one we write. Our shyness, our experience one day at the lake, a camping trip, a sad farewell, or a horrifying event. On and on the list can go. Perhaps a pinch comes from some stranger on the street, a sudden reaction they have, their voice, a part of their conversation. We can catch inspiration from anywhere and everywhere.

What do we do when we reel it in? Build, of course. Like an architect erects his masterpiece from the foundation up, so we must start with our story people. What is the heart of them? What do they care about the most? Twist it in a different direction. What is their greatest hatred about? What would they do if that came to pass? We must start with a grain of sand when it comes to our character, add another, twist, and build upon them strand by strand.

Don’t leave them flat. Only by feeding their personalities, combing their lives, can we bring them into a full-blown person. Example: I needed a snitch for a story. This character was a cult member. Twist: He was just thirteen and full of hatred for everyone, everything. I gave him something to care about: a girl who he brainwashes. She doesn’t change him in the sense that he goes from dark to light, but she gives him feelings of humanity he’s never had before. Thus he both hates her and is drawn to her because of this. The closer he gets to her, the more he is torn apart by her presence. “I always knew it would be you who destroyed me.”

You can draw a picture/pick one from a website for models but unless you go beyond the gloss to the ugliness and scars beneath, you won’t scratch the surface. Thus pretty boys becomes jocks with a Ted Bundy soul, a jock jacket, and a posse of beauties to choose from. Twist: he wants to kill himself, revenge on a world that saw him born into a society that caters to him, that applauds each success that he garners.

What are some of your own tricks? The ways we pull threads together to sew a greater depth about our story person can be amazing, magical. It makes the difference between a simple farm boy and one who discovers he is really a kidnapped prince. Use layers to make your characters stronger, more fulfilling to write about. The deeper you journey the better he/she will be as a hero/heroine.

Of course, there is a time to use some stock figures. That’s when we need to paint in a crowd, some person the character encounters on the street, or a business transaction for example. For these, simple details work best so as not to draw too much “attention” to them. A quick snapshot in our minds of a nurse, for example. The reader draws in the detail based on what the character looks like to them. We don’t spend needless time wasted on describing him/or her down to their shoes. This saves space for us to get in what we need to about our main characters.

Gather your puzzle pieces well. Insert them into the characters of your choice. Mix-and-match. Do something unusual. You can go anywhere you choose with your imagination and a few details.


Posted in a bit of seriousness, humor & fun, Muse, writers, Writing and Poetry

How I get Myself Unstuck from a Scene…

Promotional image of Laura Vandervoort as Kara...
Image via Wikipedia

How I get Myself Unstuck from a Scene

Traci Kenworth


I’ve come up against walls more than a few times when it comes to scenes. There’s a recent one when I needed a character to have certain powers—I just couldn’t figure out what those would be, so I procrastinated about it for days until the answer worked itself out. This is not to say I avoided the scene all together for those days. I worked on this and that of it, chipping away at what I had, until finally a gem formed.

How did I figure it out? Well, I researched different powers. Well, not in the way I could say, “Hey, I’ll give her Supergirl’s powers.” No, I thought about the different elements, what related to her character, where I planned to go from here with her. And slowly, the answers came. And better than expected. Cryogencis. Lava. Avalanches. All these and more were investigated in the hope something would spark.

Another time, I had to introduce a character who has visions of certain events in my book. He was cursed with this by another character. I struggled with whether to write what he witnessed as first person or third. It didn’t quite work out with first as the story is told in first person to begin with and became too confusing for my cps, so I switched it to third and now it is sailing along. The reason behind this being, he has to “see” events through another character’s eyes. He can’t speak for them, he can only observe them.

So you see, there is a way to work through your difficulties. It just takes a new approach. Like I did with my latest book I’m editing. I totally changed the storyline for the female lead in the revisions from passive/sidelines to proactive, kickbutt heroine and it worked. She is now one of the most interesting characters I’ve written. All because I ran into a wall. Sometimes those blockages are good in terms of the story. They force you to work harder, to challenge yourself more.

Any tips you know on how to scale those walls? Doesn’t your story prove stronger/better for it? I think it’s really the Muse telling us to hold up, let’s look at thing from all angles, and then surprising us with its brilliance. So what has your Muse blocked for you lately?

Posted in a bit of seriousness, humor & fun, writers, Writing and Poetry

When it’s Okay

Computer feestje
Image by arneheijenga via Flickr

When it’s Okay to be in Love with Your Writing

& when it’s not

Traci Kenworth


Okay, so you just know you’ve written the one. You’re trembling with excitement, on fire with ambition, ready to shoot past the stars. Hold on there. Have you ran your brilliant creation past your critique groups and beta readers and gotten their thoughts/pointers? Although you may be tempted to skip these steps, because you can’t possibly make it any better, do them anyway. That’s right. Resist the temptation to just hit send to that agent on your list.

Instead, step back, take a look, and breathe. Let the comments settle a while if you must, and then pare your work. Yes, that’s right, doing so will improve it further. I know how hard it is to put something you’ve sweated, cried, and driven yourself mad over, but it has to be done. And when you do so, keep in mind that the critiquer is not out to get you, someone who lives to cut others down, or tempted to steal your work. They’ve got their own.

Now, that’s not to say there aren’t some unscrupulous people out there. Do your research. Find a group that cares about you as well as your writing. Support is a major factor in winning the battle. I trust my cps. I’ve been the rounds with them, know when to listen, and when to stay with my vision. I can tell you one thing though: what they say carries impact because I know they really want the best for me.

I try to give that back as well. Are there times I don’t like what they say? Yes. Are there times when they don’t like what I say? Yes. But we get through it like a family does. The best advice I can give you is to put that manuscript aside and let what was pointed out sink in. Then when you go back, approach it with new eyes. Does that paragraph really border on telling? Tweak it. Is your character too passive? Go back and look them over. Are they doing their job? Is this really their story? Or does it belong to the poor boy, Jack? Is your prose overwritten? Weed, weed, weed.

It’s amazing how much we learn from book to book, if we let ourselves. One of the best compliments I’ve received was after advice to put what I was working with aside and go back to it. My cp simply told me, “Anyone can be taught to write, but you’re a storyteller. That’s a rare gift.” I treasure and hold onto that when the reviews don’t turn in my favor. This is the same person who gave me a key that I like to think will open the door to success for me one day. See, we are like a family. Support and constructive criticism.

Has anyone ever been hurt or put off by my comments in the past? Yes, I’m sure more than once. I tend to be honest and straight forward in a critique and that doesn’t always agree with some people. And some do take what I say the wrong way. I wish this wasn’t so, but it is. I’ve had relationships destroyed by the fact, and people ask me not to critique their work any longer. The hurt goes both ways. I was trying to help, they took offense.

Luckily, the ladies at YAFF (YoungAdultFictionFanatics) keep the communication lines open. Just remember to find someone to critique your work that doesn’t approach it as a tear-down session. They should compliment what you’re doing as well as point out the bad. It’s give-and-take.

Remember to digest what they say, and if it remains true to your vision of the story, or can improve it, go with it. If it deviates from how you want to go, weigh the pros and cons. Trust your gut. It’s hard to do at first, but the more you write, the stronger your belief in yourself will become. Eventually, you’ll learn which path to take. Don’t be so in love with your writing you’re unwilling to change it, but fight for what you believe in.

Posted in writers, Writing and Poetry

How to Breathe Life into Your Characters Part VIII

How to Breathe Life into Your Characters


Endings: The All Important Stop

Traci Kenworth


Next to your beginning hook, your ending may very well be the most challenging to write. Readers want to be satisfied, to be carried through “the dream” they’ve been exposed to. And, no, I’m not saying here to wake your reader up to an, “It was all a dream,” storyline. What I’m getting at is that the all important stop has to resonate with the reader, to the point of them saying, “Yes, that’s the way it happened.”

In your end, you want to tie up loose knots. That’s not to say if you plan sequels that you have to tighten them all, some can remain unraveled. Even if a single story. For instance, we don’t need to be told a character’s future. We can leave that up to the reader to decide what happens, if they got their “happily-ever-after,” or if things just didn’t work out. How do we do this?

We give a little taste of what is to come. This is your shot, your chance to hook the reader into buying your next book and the one after that. Always leave them hungering for more. So how do you know you put the right ending on? You should feel it down in your bones. That this couldn’t happen any other way. It should capture the joy or sadness of the characters depending on the outcome. It should leave the door open a smidgeon for us to guess what happens next in their lives. If they survive.

Sometimes heroes go down on the job. It doesn’t happen very often, but it does happen. There are times when, no matter which way we look at it, the main character has to give their life in order for others/the world to go on. But along with all the grief, you want to leave the message that their life counted for something. That others will go on because of it.

An ending can make or break us. We can lose readers from a half-hearted effort, we can gain word-of-mouth from a glorious one. So pay as much attention to the ending as you do the beginning. Give us a teaser that will make us want to read more of your books. Good luck with your writing.


Posted in Reading, writers, Writing and Poetry

How to Choose Which Genre…

Choosing the Genre in Which to Write

Traci Kenworth


I’m going to divert from “How to Breathe Life into Your Characters” this week to discuss what genre you should think of putting your book in. There’s so many to choose from, and different shades of each. You have your Science Fiction-Fantasy that breaks up into “pure” strains of either Science Fiction or Fantasy. You have your Horror, Thrillers, Romance, and so on. So how do you decide?

Just as you had to figure out what character to begin with, this is your time to discover just “who” it is you’re writing to. The gentle reader, of course. But what age group? Yes, you have to break it down. There are no books from 5-100. So that means, you must choose between  pre-school, middle-grade, teen, and adult readers. All fun to write for, but only one selection can be pursued.

If you tried to write the 5-100, you wouldn’t be able to place the book. The agent wouldn’t know where to market it as well. So don’t be stubborn: let your characters speak. What voice do they use? Young or old? How youthful? I tried writing adult books(and who knows, someday maybe I will give it another shot), but my teenage characters keep reeling me in for their stories to be told. Not that I mind. They have some fascinating tales to tell.

For me, I remember not having much of a selection to read from in the YA market. Nowadays there are so many diverse slots for the books, it’s hard to know just where to go. That’s when you have to let the story point the direction. Is it paranormal? Chick-lit? Dystopian? Contemporary? On and on. I tend to write in the YA Supernatural Horror area. I have read a LOT of Stephen King, Dean Koontz, J.N. Williamson, Ray Bradbury etc. That’s where the horror background comes in. It’s funny, I can’t take the hard-core horror movies or TV shows, but I can read them, and write them. The supernatural is just is part of the way I look at things. Add to that my young adult characters and I know what genre I’m supposed to write in.

I tried comedy, contemporary, the funny and light, nothing fit my voice until I decided to stop fighting it and realize “dark, haunting tales,” are just a part of me. Growing up, the Apocalypse aspect of things always waited just out of reach. I think we’ve come back to those times, those fears. So I write about them, hoping to dispel some anxiety of the reader. What would be the worst that could happen? Could we stop it? What if we couldn’t? All this goes into the material.

Why young adults(ages 13-18), you ask? Because I believe it’s one of the best genres out there. And not only the market ability. I believe young minds are on the cusp of opening to a whole new world of possibilities, that they want stories that challenge them, give them hope, make them dare to take that leap. I don’t write these stories to make them fear life. I want them to embrace it, and live every moment to the fullest.

So decide which shelf it is that you want to pull your book down from. Each genre has it rewards. It’s up to you to decide what means the most to you. Perhaps try experimenting with the different ones, and let that settle your mind on where to write. If you love seeing the hero and heroine explore their relationship, and want to focus on them, choose romance. Love fantastical worlds ala The Hobbit? Fantasy’s your option. Spaceships and star destroyers? Science Fiction. Monsters and good defeating evil? Horror. Or blend them. Not all, of course, but a good Fantasy-Horror book is just waiting to be written.

And remember to break them off into age brackets. Your reader will thank you for choosing to express yourself in a genre you’ll most likely come to love. All that’s left then, is to settle down, open the pages, and begin the story.

Posted in writers, Writing and Poetry

How to Breathe Life into Your Characters VI

How to Breathe Life into Your Characters




The way you bring your hero/heroine onto the page is important. Some say to start with a big bang, but that doesn’t allow your character enough time for the reader to come to identify with him/her. You want to begin with the inciting incident, for sure. This means what catastrophe is going to happen/the beginning of a romance/the window to the plot.

Don’t rush it. Take your time and bring the viewpoint character as close to the action as possible without dangling him over a cliff in the first few paragraphs. I’ve made some of the big no-no’s when it comes to beginning: beginning with dreams, describing the character via mirrors/pools, putting him/her into the thick of things before they’re developed enough.

That’s the key here. The reader wants to get to know your character before they decide to jump off a bridge/rush into the darkness with them. Because we all know there are consequences in those actions. However, for most of us, it’s like listening to the news. We’re aware of the situation but it doesn’t concern us because it’s not personal for us.

Let’s get a glimpse of their sock drawer where they’ve hidden a million dollars, watch the struggle over a comeback to the biggest bully in school, catch a peek of a shadowed figure before we’re swept into the action. This isn’t to say that you start with a dull opening. Far from it. You need a hook to catch an agent/editor’s attention. But a piece of advice: don’t go for the throat in the first sentence.

Think of your favorite books. Clary doesn’t start off in The City of Bones trying to rescue Jace as well as humankind. She doesn’t even know that’s on the horizon yet. She’s concerned with what her mother will think about her staying out late—again.

Katniss doesn’t fall onto the pages within The Hunger Games, a contestant bent on survival. No, we’re allowed to see both the good and the bad of her world. Introduced to those who care about her, and those she cares about. This shows us the window to the plot.

Mary doesn’t begin in the woods in The Forest of Hands and Teeth, but begins by describing a typical day. The horror of what she knows: living with zombies at the fences, always with the threat of their breaking through. We know it’s going to happen, just not when.

These authors were adept at dropping the reader into the book at just the right place. It is important that we know where the hero/heroine’s from, who their family is, what life means to them, and what they consider their fate is going to be. Each glance we get into their perspective worlds bridges the gap between them and the reader. Then, when the rider gallops into the village with news of impending doom, our heroine’s lunch tray gets thrust aside by the it girl, or our lovebirds meet for the first time, it’ll set off sparks.

And those sparks can fan a flame. Keep your characters real to themselves and your readers: show us all that they are made of, then break them down. This is where your story begins. But remember, quietly not with a bang.

Posted in Reading, writers, Writing and Poetry

How to Breathe Life into Your Characters Par IV

How to Breathe Life into Your Characters


Choosing Viewpoint


Okay, now we get down into whose “eyes” the story is told through. It should be the character with the most to lose. Is it Little Boy Blue hiding under the haystack? The Big Bad Wolf? Or Esmeralda? Sure, the villain has a lot at stake, but are readers going to identify with him/her? Or would they much rather fit into the shoes of the hero or heroine? The choice is going to be as varied and interesting as the author’s of the stories.

I would say that it also depends on who your reader is: young adult or adult? It is much easier to incorporate the baddie’s view in the adult novel. Teens want to embrace the characters they read about, not be repulsed, imo. That is why Katniss, Clary, and others are so beloved. They speak to a reader, they’re like old friends. You want to encourage that comfortably as much as possible. Give them something unique, quirkish for sure, but ultimately it’s their hearts that matter.

A good character, a strong-rooted one, will be followed by their fans through thick and thin. So what makes a hero/heroine? Is it their bravery? Their ability to function when the lights go out in a haunted house? Courage is a powerful motivator. What makes Jay Asher’s hero listen to the tapes of a classmate who killed herself? An inner need to know the truth, to go the distance, to know himself.

I think it is the journey, the obstacles thrown into our characters path, the quest to overcome them, to become a better person that keeps those pages turning. In real life, we may not always be the “star player” in our world, but in a book, we can soar to new heights, maybe even change a part of who we are, how we see things, when we finish it. A novel gives us hope that things might be different, that others understand and awaken courage within us. They explore all topics from depression, to suicide, cancer, and rape to name a few. Stories can teach us something at the same time they deliver “the goods.”

Can your book be written from multiple viewpoints? Yes. Often both the hero and heroine share in the telling. I, personally, prefer this method. It gives you a chance to explore events that happen when another character is off-screen. You can advance the story faster. Look at Maggie Steifvater’s linger series. The hero and heroine effectively play off the other’s last scene. Simon and Clary do this well also in the City of Bones series. Here, we have a slight variation on just who the “hero” is, Simon or Jace. But clearly, Simon has the “most” to lose.

So, when your exploring how to begin your novel, consider the viewpoint character/s. A rough coal can be chipped away at to display a diamond. Point-in-case, hush, hush’s fallen angel. A “good” guy can be hiding in our midst, a “shattered” heroine can learn to live again. And the Big Bad Wolf can be defeated.

Posted in Writing and Poetry

How to Breath Life into Your Characters III

How to Breathe Life in Your Characters

Part III

Background Info.


Now that you’ve gotten your characters’ names figured out as well as their descriptions,

it’s time to move onto their backgrounds. For example, who are their parents? Where did they grow up, when is their birthday? The more detail you can put into each of these little tidbits, the better. Don’t skip this precious step. I know it’s easy to think you can because most of the information won’t even show up in the book, but this leads to a one-dimensional character.

Who are they, where do they come from adds layers to them. Don’t settle for a stick-figure when you can have a fully-developed character. You may even have to go back further than your main characters to get a grip on your storyline. When I did my Akara world, I briefly touched on its roots but learned during two books that I’d neglected a whole depth of information. I needed to do a history on the tribe, the village, the founder before I could put my best efforts into the background. Thus I came up with Eauga and the tragic history connected with him.

Research comes in here, as in all points of the story. I had to study the area I wanted it set in, how the Native American tribes were treated, what became of them. I then had to bring the people forward into the time period I wanted to set it in. So, I had to age both my setting and those who had come before. I had to create a village, a county, a town, and city to go along with them. I had to delve into their communication systems, their heat/air conditioning situations, their paths taken. Spending the time doing the research isn’t always fun. Some days it’s downright boring, but when you hit on that little fact, that spark of imagination, it’s all worth it.

Like the character’s descriptions, I had to paint in my setting. The trees, the mountains, the rocks, and the lake. I had to show the acreage, the deed, if you will. This area forces you to dig down deep, to give it that extra effort. After all, you want your reader to stay immersed in your world, and not come crashing down to a world full of dirty dishes, housework, and boredom. People read to escape, to learn, to enjoy. What I did was to take pictures of places in the real world and bridge it with my own imaginings. Thus a snapshot of a mountain provided my inspiration there, likewise the lake, and other land features.

Know your population. How big or small is your town, city, county, state, or country? This is useful in giving us a visual of what the area looks like. Are there crowds down the sidewalks? Lonely, vacant buildings? Unused railroad tracks? Busy malls? Again, your characters must determine your setting, unless you’re trying to take a fish out of the water.

Who is their enemy/the conflict they fight against? Is it nature, man-made, a person/creature etc.? Let your surroundings dictate what sort of obstacle would arise in that world. My Akara are an isolated group. They’re used to being treated different by others who hold a prejudice against them due to race, class, or who they are. Here, I’ve layered their enemies as well. Besides the town’s fear of them, there is a secret society that desires to exterminate them, and creatures who hunt them, even as they are hunted by them.

What kind of education do they possess? Are they leaders among their people, or followers? Do they cower before shadows, or bravely scatter them in their paths? What about faith? Do they have one? How important is it to them? This can be a life-altering decision for your character just as much as it is for someone in real life. How does it make them go about their business? Shock them in moments of weakness? Bring them to their knees?

What about deaths in the family? Classic catalyst. What weapons do they use? Or are they forced into hand-to-hand combat? Their ideas/thoughts on fighting/wars are a major part of who they are. In truth, the best way to round your character/s is to think of yourself and others you know. What makes you up? Your politics? Does a fight in high school with one of your best friends at the time haunt you? Do you wish/regret that old flame you let die? What are your scars, physical and emotional?

Wrap these things and more into your characters and you will have winners/losers. After all, there’s a fair end to the spectrum. Our heroes/heroines must rise the occasion, our villains fall, and the losers in the story must play their part to bring out the best/worst in us all. Only then can we be assured we’ve done our job.