Last week was Mental Health Awareness Week, and it seems relevant to talk about writing fiction, and the positive way it can impact your mental health. I’m sure a lot of writers write as an outlet, so I thought it’d be appropriate to talk about 5 of the reasons writing fiction is good for you mental health.
Writing is cathartic There’s just something about the act of writing that’s cathartic. It’s relaxing, calming, and allows you to outpour your thoughts and feelings. This is true of journaling, poetry, stories….any writing. When you need a release, getting words down is immensely healing.
It enables you to explore and understand emotions Pent up emotions often lead to further stress and complications. It’s important to go through your emotions and do all you can to understand them. Writing gives you the space to do that. You can use emotions in your work, and through your characters explore them and their outcomes. Often, writing helps you understand how you’re feeling, and that can be vital.
Don Massenzio, the author of the Frank Rozzani-series, has published a fascinating post about using a character bible. I’m always enthusiastic when I can share an article that shows us an experienced author’s recommendation. Thank you for sharing yours, Don!
As I embark on my next writing venture after a 2020 hiatus, I realized something. The equation of my age plus the stress of 2020 and the length of time since I’ve written a Frank Rozzani book has added up to me forgetting the details of many of my familiar characters. I remember reading a while back about having a character bible, a book of character profiles. The article I read talked about how this is especially important if you write a multiple-book series with the same characters.
At the time, I said to myself, “I’ll never forget these characters. They’re part of me.” Well, as I get older, I’m pretty sure there are actual parts of me that I’ve forgotten.
As I try to write for my tried and true characters, I find myself searching my previous books for things like dates, names, hair and eye color and other things that would be great to have at my fingertips. As a result, I’m revisiting the idea of the character bible. I thought that one useful resource would be to go to the blogging community of authors, editors and readers and ask for your opinions and experience.
I thought I would begin, however, by telling you what I’ve learned about this tool for those of you that haven’t heard of it or have been using elements of it without realizing it had a name.
What is a Character Bible?
There is no single definition or series of components that make up a character bible. From the research I’ve done, it’s basically a collection of character profiles each of which tell you about the character’s:
Name – This might seem obvious, but a character’s name is important. Think of Alex Cross and the numerous James Patterson books bearing his surname in the title. To a much, much lesser degree, of course, there are my Frank Rozzani detective novels that all have ‘Frank’ in some form in the title Frankly Speaking, Let Me Be Frank, Frank Incensed (my personal favorite), Frankly My Dear and Frank Immersed.
Physical Appearance/Mannerisms – The characters height, body type, hair color, eye color, physical anomalies and disabilities and other information about how the character looks.
History – Information about the character’s backstory, cultural, educational and socio-economic situation and any other relevant information that is material to the plot.
Personality – What psychological quirks, conditions or flaws does the character have? What motivates him/her? What are his/her desires? What’s missing from his/her life?
Now, the worst thing you can do is dump all of this information about the character into your story in one fell swoop. You can dribble out the information as needed in small doses. The other thing to avoid, however, is your character developing some ability or piece of knowledge from his background out of convenience to get you past a snag in the story without foreshadowing it first.
Roz Morris provides us with an excellent article on how to write a memoir about difficult times. Thank you very much for this great post, Roz!
I’ve had this question from Julia.
I would like to write a nonfictional account of my experience as a caregiver of my 80-year-old mum during lockdown. I’ve never done any creative writing. Where do I start? A diary, a memoir? I’ve been through a lot of struggle and want to put that on paper. Maybe someday I will publish it to share my experience with people facing the same difficulties.
First, Julia, capture the raw material. Start with a diary. Write it as often as possible, before you make any decisions about what to do with it.
How to write the diary
You might be self-conscious to begin with. You might worry about who will read it and what they’ll get from it. Forget that for now.
You won’t publish this diary. It’s notes that you will eventually use to create a book. So for now, it’s you and your thoughts, talking privately to a page or a recording app – whatever is comfortable.
Keep it simple. Just write what you did today. Then write whether that was usual or unusual, and how. If it’s usual, for how long has it been usual? Write how that made you feel, what was difficult and what was a pleasure, and why. Write what you think tomorrow will be like. Or next week. Write your hopes and pleasures and fears.
Humans are able to feel so unbelievably strong emotions: Love, hate, reflux…
– unknown –
When did we stop writing love letters? When was the classic ‘love letter’ a relict of the past?
In my opinion, technological progress has not only killed a lot of our ability to communicate but also our ability to write, maybe to be romantic…
Where did these little notes go?
From what I hear, nowadays, people send each other texts. They start dating, sending texts, women are hurt when their love interest doesn’t text back within five minutes, the rate of misunderstandings within text messages is enormous, and often couples argue by text, and at the end, break up by text. It’s so much easier to send short messages, than to say what we feel… or: in this case, to write it down.
I recommend picking the right stationery. It doesn’t have to be pink with hearts… but tasteful and a bit romantic.
You don’t have to be a writer to express honest feelings by writing them down. When you’re not sure about grammar and spelling, please hand the letter over to someone you trust to correct your letter. There’s nothing worse than your love interest roaring with laughter about your ‘meestakes.’
Maybe you might refrain from rhyming, in particular when you’re not used to writing poetry. In a love letter, it’s important to be true to how you feel and not try to impress.
I would walk on my knees in front of you
show you how much worship I can do.
Your heart, it pulses, it feels like a shock
in accordance with my …. uhm… soul.
And no, this is definitely not a verse for your love letter. (Unless you have a really humorous partner, of course).
Write what’s deep in your heart. Express what’s in your head, let the other one know that he/she is important to you. There is a choice of words that are important for your letter:
Feel free to add more words to the list, in particular, important ones… they don’t need to have to be important to us, but to you – and your loved one.
Maybe you know each other for a while; maybe you are a couple already and have gone through a lot with each other, or maybe you want to tell someone how you feel? It doesn’t matter. As long as you express your deepest emotions and be honest, your letter is going to touch your recipient’s heart and soul.
Let me give you an example… a letter, addressed to someone who wishes to start a relationship, expressing affection and hope.
We met through a phone call. When I particularized my situation, you immediately consented to help me. What a big heart you have! You didn’t have to, and still, you supported me. You were always there for me! We talked, and our conversations brought us closer.
We met a bit later personally, and that meeting only confirmed that I found who I was looking for, someone to trust, someone to feel safe with, someone to hope…
Our conversations, these endless, wonderful, humorous, and informative conversations… I cannot deny I’m addicted to these conversations. I love talking to you, I love hearing your voice, I love hearing your laughter, and when we don’t talk, I miss you… and I wish, one day, I would hear the same from your lips.
I wish I could hear the birds sing with you, I wish I could listen to the rain with you, I wish I could see you soon, I wish, I wish, I wish… you are someone special. I hope, one day, I will be able to tell you that, without embarrassment or humiliation, without any awkward feeling, but with a warm smile, and maybe with a hug.
With all my heart
I know, this is far away from Do you love me, yes/no/maybe. But it is clear, honest, and emotional. And that’s what you want when you write your love letter.
(Of course, you can hire someone to write your love letter. And yes, I do that occasionally, even though it’s not cheap). But that isn’t how it should be. A big part of a love letter is that part that you send with your words: your heart, your tears, yourself.
Dave Chesson on his ‘Kindlepreneur’ blog writes about ebook piracy 2020, an article, which I think needs to be spread for as many authors as possible to know. Thank you very much for sharing your experiences and researches, Dave, we all appreciate it.
Ebook piracy is a real issue. You’d be amazed at how many websites have pirated or claim to have pirated your book.
There it is…sitting there, being given away for free.
All those sales…lost.
Worse yet, most of these sites have no contact information and probably aren’t even located in your country.
So, how do you protect yourself against these pirates and protect your rights?
In this article, I want to show you the legal, safe, and extra awesome way that anyone can regain their book from these pirates with some cunning tactics that only the most advanced computer nerds know how to employ. Even if you haven’t written that non-fiction book or are in the process of laying out your book, this is great to know for the future.
It’s been quite some time since I wrote about a great place to write. But a few weeks ago I found one. It was quite unexpected.
It’s getting cooler here… yes, even in Southern California autumn is visible and feelable. A couple weeks ago, I knew I’m going to be cool sitting outside and writing, and there was a breeze that can make writing on paper a bit uncomfortable at times. Besides, I hadn’t eaten that day and was a bit hungry.
I discovered ‘Mimi’s Bistro & Bakery’ in Thousand Oaks and found it inviting on the outside. I decided to go in and see if I could stay for a while, eat, and write.
It was homey and cozy inside as well, and I had a wonderful waitress, called Melissa. They have a quite attractive menu here:
I told Melissa who I am and what I planned, and she beamed like the sunshine and invited me to stay as long as I liked. She paid really good attention to me, did not constantly disturb me, and counted on me looking at her if I needed something.
I was in Mimi’s Bistro for about three and a half hours and loved it! The food is great, the staff was wonderful and polite, and since then, I had been back at ‘Mimi’s’ and enjoyed the ambiance and Melissa’s service again. Drop by and enjoy it!
That particular location of Mimi’s Bistro and Bakery can be found here:
400 N Moorpark Rd.
Thousand Oaks, CA 91360
Phone: (805) 373-6161
If you ever go there, to eat – or write – or both, and you see Melissa, please tell her I said hi. She’s amazing!
In only a few short days it will be 2019 and I decided today, that it might be time to look back to your life and maybe help you out living it by sending you some advice. You’re 16 years old and I think it’s time you get some hints.
Just in case you think someone plays a trick on you, believe me, nobody does! Look at your desk. The lowest drawer, in the very back, there is a little envelope, glued to the bottom of the drawer. You remember you hid a love letter, a dried red rose and a silver necklace with a heart from your very first ‘boyfriend’ ever? How would I know about that if I wasn’t you? Let me tell you: one day you will regret the decision to throw that envelope away, after keeping it for more than 15 years. One day the world will be drowning in so-called ‘cell phones’ where you can talk on the phone and send messages all over the world, anytime, at any place, and secret love letter such as this one will cease to exist. Keep it in your heart, him, who has made your first kiss an unforgettable experience and, despite the age gap, treated you with utmost romantic respect, making your ‘relationship’ one of childlike innocence with no pressure and no demands.
But that is not the reason why I’m writing to you. I would like to tell you that your life is not going to be as easy as you thought it would be. In many ways, you are too trusting and if you don’t quit to believe every story people tell you and try to help them with whatever you own, early enough, you will go through quite poor times. Be a little trustful, be a bit more careful and please, be the tiniest bit more selfish. You will always do everything for everyone and too often you will face broken promises, downright lies and a hell of an empty bank account. You know how you grew up – with the natural helpfulness your Dad gave you, the sense for the responsibility you were taught and sensitivity you will find out years later, you have. You’re strong, you’re a fighter, but your nature makes it easy for people to use you. Don’t let that happen and set a ‘stop’ early enough! It’s easier to stay strong and say stop than using your strength to fix later what others did to you. Remember: If you are making yourself a doormat, don’t be surprised if everyone keeps wiping their boots on you!
Remember that several of your teachers mentioned that you are a talented writer? You love writing, poems, and stories equally! Essays are easy for you to write, and you love to build stories, fairy tales, and fantasy worlds. Keep it up, girl! Use this gift and start writing early. One day you will be able to publish by yourself! I know you write regularly, but don’t hide what you are writing! Soon enough you will see it’s a good idea to start letting people see it! One day, I promise, you will publish a book. I only wish you would do that earlier!
Other than that, I refrain from going any deeper into your life. You are emotional, passionate and stubborn. Who says which one of these is a virtue or a weakness? I found out, each has its place in your future. Things are going to be the way they were planned for you. Everything happens for a reason, and there is rarely a bad situation that doesn’t result in something good.
Just one more thing: If you are offered a great chance, take it! It’s good to balance the pros and cons, but if you keep balancing you might miss the chance! Don’t be too scared. Take the step and see where the path leads you to! You must know, there is nothing worse in your life than the regret about the opportunities you didn’t take!
Now take care, be a good girl and keep smiling. Your humor is one of the things in your life and personality that make you who you are!
With love, hugs and the best wishes for your (our) future!
Bryn Donovan gives us all ideas on how to handle a day that didn’t start too well. Thank you Bryn.
I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately about how to restart a bad day. Because if you’re like me, sometimes you get a day that’s not going your way, and by lunchtime you’re thinking, “Ugh. Today is awful. Maybe tomorrow will be better.”
I know this is faulty thinking. Yes, a good night’s sleep can lead to a better frame of mind, and the dawn is a universal symbol for a fresh start.
But sometimes, I’m giving up on the present day too easily. A bad morning doesn’t mean the afternoon is a lost cause, and a bad day doesn’t mean I have to have a bad night.
I’ve done some thinking about how to make a bad day better…things that have helped me start the day over, even if morning is long past. Maybe some of these will help reboot your day, too.
Derek Haines not only provides us with a recommendation on using our competitor’s long tail keywords; he also delivers a complete ‘user manual’ on how to manage that. Thanks so much for all your work, Derek!
How to find the best long tail keywords and get your blog post to rank, immediately.
Have you noticed that some bloggers always seem to rank high on Google?
If you are blogging, or content marketing to make money from advertising, affiliate marketing or selling your products or services, you know that keyword search is vital.
Writing a long article and creating content without thinking about SEO keywords first is a hit and miss affair.
Perhaps you might get lucky with a few words and phrases that make it to a search engine results page. But usually, it doesn’t work very well.