Monday, May 28, 2012

COSCBWI Meeting April 2012: "So Your Manuscript Has Been Stolen. Now What?"

This month's COSCBWI meeting was on the topic of, "So Your Manuscript Has Been Stolen.  Now What?"  And it was led by me!

You can read everything I discussed in my blog post here.  (I suppose it's silly to summarize what I already summarized!)

June's monthly meeting is going to be a special event called the "Urban Draw and Scrawl Crawl."  You can find more details at  Hope to see you there!  :)

Friday, May 25, 2012

Book Review #9: Neversink

With all my writing and blogging over the few months, I haven't had much time for reading.  But boy do I have a treat for you today!   At my Highlights workshop earlier this month, I was given a lovely book called Neversink by Barry Wolverton.  It's a truly unique animal fantasy story, and I was already hooked by the time I read the subtitle: A Puffin Saga.

Here's the blurb from Wolverton's website:
Along the Arctic Circle lies a small island called Neversink, which wouldn’t be considered much worth saving by many talking animals. But for Lockley Puffin and his fellow sea-birds, the remote and rugged habitat is just perfect.

They have few concerns other than Egbert, a scholarly walrus with an opinion on everything, and Ruby, a vagrant hummingbird prone to withering put-downs.

All that changes when Rozbell, a pygmy owl with a Napoleon complex, takes control of the Parliament of Owls, the governing body of the territory that includes Neversink. Can Lockley, Egbert and Ruby stop an owl invasion?

In short, Neversink reminded me of the story of the American Revolution delightfully played out by puffins and owls.  The poor puffins and other auks (sea-faring birds) just want their fish and freedom, throwing a "Fish Party" by tossing food into the ocean and fighting taxation without representation.  It was a very interesting read and full of humor and wit, with a few clever jokes thrown in that adults will particularly appreciate.  What I found most impressive about Neversink, though, are the animal cultures Woverton creates and his narrative voice.

In Neversink, there are several distinct animal cultures the reader discovers: puffin/auk culture, owl culture, walrus culture, and even a bit of badger and weasel culture.  Each animal culture has their own beliefs, mottos, and standards that members of society should live up to.  When individuals don't adhere to the rules and standards, they are viewed as wave-makers and oddities.  The owls have a tendency to overreach their power; the walruses waver between two extremes of fighting constantly or basking in their superiority over less-learned creatures, and the auks prefer to stay in line and simply grin and bear whatever comes their way.  (Which makes it rather hard for Lockley Puffin to convince them they need to fight for their freedom!)  Without being heavy-handed at all, Wolverton shows that it's harmful to stay in such cultural ruts and that reason and goodwill are the keys to a happy life.  (You should pay attention to how he sneaks these morals into the story--that's not an easy trick to pull off!)  Plus, the puffins make tea and fish smidgens and the owls wear hats, and how can you NOT love animals with cultures like that?    

Neversink is narrated by a walrus and, as you might have guessed from the information above, he is a rather academic and prolific walrus.  He is also incredibly funny, throwing friendly jabs at the other creatures and giving the reader humorous insights into the walrus way of thinking.  Neversink's narrator can definitely be classified as an "Intrusive Narrator," meaning he talks directly to the reader.  Sometimes this narrative choice can stick out in a book like a puffin in a flock of parrots, but it works wonderfully in Neversink.  Wolverton shows that when used correctly, an intrusive narrator can make the reader feel a deeper connection with the story.  In retrospect, it's actually hard to imagine this book without the walrus commentary--it's entwined that well with the story.  This is an impressive feat to pull off, and if you are thinking of adding an intrusive narrator to your own story, you should certainly study how Wolverton works his magic.

If you love animal fantasy stories, Neversink is a must-read.  And if you write animal fantasy, it's a must-read, too.  Wolverton's skills in crafting animal cultures and prowess with narration add such a richness to his story, and both are important aspects for you to think about when creating your own animal fantasy world.  (And just look at that adorable puffin on the cover!  He won my heart before I turned the first page...)

You can check out Wolverton's website at:  And if you read this book, do let me know!  I'd love to hear what you think.  :)

Note: The cover art and blurb for Neversink are both from Wolverton's website.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

What To Do If Your Manuscript is Stolen

I think it's safe to say that at this point, you are probably aware of the fact that my manuscript was stolen and leaked to the internet.  And it stunk.  A lot.  But, you are also probably aware that I fought for my book and got it back.  (Hooray!)   As stinky as this situation was, it was a wake-up call to the serious threat of copyright infringement.  I can't take back what happened, but I can move forward from here.  And better yet, I can share my crash-course in copyright protection with you!

My Manuscript Theft Monster had several heads, and I'll go through each one in the hope that this information will help protect YOU someday.  This advice comes from the combined efforts of a wonderful copyright attorney, irreplaceable friends and colleagues, and my own hours spent desperately scouring the internet for answers.  Please remember that I am not an expert, though, and that the below information is simply the best advice I can give you.

Problem 1: I'd first like to say that this theft all came down to bad luck.  I was part of an online critique group where we shared our manuscripts with each other using a private Wordpress blog.  The blog got hacked.  Some of our manuscripts were leaked to the internet.  Mine was one of them.  It was nobody's fault--and everybody's fault--at the same time.  No one ever thinks their site will be hacked, but if it happened to us, it can happen to you.

What should you do if your blog is hacked and documents are stolen?

-Shut it down.  Web-crawlers and robot-hackers create back-doors that allow them to keep sneaking in, even after you have re-secured your blog.

-When you shut it down, delete ALL your files and media one by one.  Choose an option like "Delete Permanently."  Contact the host's support network to ensure everything has truly been deleted from the server.  (Read more on the step-by-step process here.)

-Use robots.txt coding to block current and future web-crawler access.  You can find out more about that here.  I don't entirely understand the mechanics of it, but it's really something you need to be aware of.

What can you do to protect your blog or website from hackers? 

-Don't post your full manuscript online.  Never.  Ever.  EVER.  Even if you think a site is "private" or "secure," you could be in for a very rude awakening.

-Be sure to perform all blog or site updates and change your passwords frequently.  Check your security settings often.  If you aren't the blog or site moderator, make sure that he or she is doing all of these things.  Remember: Even if you aren't in charge, you are still responsible for the safety of your property.

Problem 2: An enormous issue that came up during this mess was that SOMEHOW, my manuscript was available for all the world to see as a Google doc.  I'm not kidding.  You typed in my book title and voila!  The entire manuscript popped up as the first search result--a sitting duck just ripe for plucking.  (How it got on Google docs remains a mystery to us all...)  And even worse, it didn't go away after we deleted the blog!

So, what the schnox is going on if you have deleted your online documents, but your manuscript still shows up on the internet?!

-It means your file is cached.  Often when a website or page is deactivated, it will still show up as a cached version in the search engine's results--meaning you can still see everything when you click on the link.

-If you have already deleted your site/blog/source files, you are probably in okay shape and just need to sit tight until the page registers as a "dead" link.  (i.e., you get that "404 Error Message.")  If you don't know where your document is leaking from, find out and contact the site.  You can't do anything until you stop the leak.  But once you do, then you can...

Clear the Caches! 

-Even after you get the "404 Error Message," your dead link will still show up in an engine's search results--in our case, Google.  You want that page gone, especially since you never know if it will spontaneously activate again.

-While Google's crawlers will remove the dead links "eventually," everything I read said it could take three days to three months.  NOT acceptable in this situation.

-You can force-clear your cached page (again, only if it shows "404 Error") by going to and following the directions to request a page removal.

-Keep in mind that the requests take time to go through.  Be patient, and if it is denied, just try again.  Once it's approved, the page will no longer appear in the search results.  (Yay!)
Problem 3: The third monstrous issue that sprouted from the hack was that my manuscript was posted to illegal downloading sites.  I can tell you, this was not an easy battle.  The illegal sites are bullies and will make it sound like YOU are in the wrong.  Don't let them push you around!

Know your DMCA rights!  

-The "Digital Millennium Copyright Act" protects the rightful owners of digital books, art, music, videos, games, etc.  It states that the distributing and downloading of files without the explicit permission of the copyright owner is ILLEGAL!   

-Writers/artists/musicians/etc. who don't own the actual copyrights are still considered legal owners under "Intellectual Property Rights."

-Your years of drafts, dozens of submissions, and army of angry family and friends PROVE it's yours.

Okay, so how the heck are you supposed to stop those illegal sites?!

-Write a DMCA letter!  Most sites will have a link to their DMCA infringement claim procedure.  (You'll likely have to hunt for it, and foreign sites might not have it at all.)

-Make sure you follow their many instructions.  There are a lot of hoops to jump through, but now is NOT the time to cut corners.

-Be polite and professional, but firm.  (This is one of those, "You catch more bees with honey than vinegar" situations.)

-Be patient.  This process can take awhile.  (I sent follow up letters once a week.)

-If at first you don't succeed, keep sending letters!  (Mine became progressively less polite, but eventually got results!)

Hopefully, if you follow the above advice, you will emerge triumphant from your battle!  But alas--the war will never truly be over.  Other monsters can still rear their ugly heads, from more illegal sites posting your property to deceased links and pages coming back from the dead.  You can't know who has your work and what they may be doing with it, but you can take steps to protect yourself.

Protect yourself by: 

-Setting Google alerts.  They're easy to create at  Set alerts on your name, your book title, characters, etc.  (This is a good thing to set up regardless of whether or not your work has been stolen.  You never know what pictures or information might pop up about you online...)

-Apply those robot.txt codes to your websites and blogs.

-Remember to update your blogs and sites frequently.

-If you want to purchase the official copyright for your manuscript, you can do so at  I can't tell you whether or not you should do this, but it's only $35.00 if it helps you sleep better at night.

And most importantly....


I hope this information has been helpful to you.  Dealing with copyright infringement is no fun at all, but perhaps my experience will aid you in your own battle, or help you avoid getting into one in the first place.  

But if you find yourself stuck in my stinky situation, please remember these few things:

-Don't panic.  It may seem like the end of your life, but it's not.  In this tech-driven world, manuscript piracy is becoming more common and won't result in a black mark by your name. 

-Don't throw things.  All of the above actions take time.  Weeks may pass before you get an answer to your letter or finally clear a stubborn cache.  It may be incredibly frustrating, but throwing your computer out the window will not get you faster results.

-Eat lots of ice cream.  Goodness knows you deserve it.

-Don't blab to the world.  You may want to lament your woes on Facebook, but try to keep the situation quiet until you've done some damage control.  You don't want to draw more attention to yourself.

-Be vigilant.  Only YOU can protect your property.  Don't ever take your security for granted!

And above all...

-DON'T GIVE UP!  You CAN fight copyright infringement and you CAN win!   

Ellis says, "Fight! Fight! FIGHT!"

Note: I'd just like to say a special thanks to everyone who helped me during this trying time.  I couldn't have achieved success without your undying support, relentless research, and valiant efforts to drown my sorrows in Chinese buffets and ice cream.  Thank you.

Please also note that the above links may have changed since I had to use them.  If this is the case, please let me know as I would like to keep the information in this post as up-to-date as possible.     

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Highlights from Highlights

Hello everyone!  I must admit, I'm a little sad to be writing this from my boring home office instead of a secluded cabin with the peaceful sound of birds chirping in the background.  But at the same time, it does feel good to be home with my hubby and furry family again. 

I hope you enjoyed reading my "Highlights from Highlights" over the past week.  I certainly enjoyed writing the posts and loved sharing what I learned with you.  Our mentors were such geniuses, though, that it would have been very cruel of me to keep their pearls of wisdom from you!  ;)

If you missed any of my workshop summaries, you can catch them all below:

2012 Workshop Day 1
2012 Workshop Day 2
2012 Workshop Day 3
2012 Workshop Day 4
2012 Workshop Day 5
2012 Workshop Day 6
2012 Workshop Day 7
2012 Workshop Day 8

I feel extremely fortunate that I was able to attend the 2012 Fantasy Reunion Workshop and look forward to putting my lessons into practice.  Now, I just need to figure out how to spend more time writing and less time cleaning ferret litter boxes... 

Monday, May 7, 2012

Highlights Fantasy Reunion Day 8

Written from the plane:

Today was the last day of my Highlights Fantasy Reunion workshop.  We disappeared in ones and twos throughout the morning, our numbers dwindling until just a few of us were left.  We drank some coffee, nibbled on bread with jam, and delayed packing as much as possible.  But alas, all good things must come to an end.  Eventually, I was forced to pack my things, take one last look at my cabin, and hug everyone good bye.  (Although I mentally kicked and screamed the entire time…)

I can’t stress enough how wonderful it is to attend workshops like this.  After just one week of being immersed in the Highlights atmosphere, I feel rejuvenated, confident, and optimistic that someday I can become a published author.  If you are an author or illustrator, you owe it to yourself to try to find the time and funds for opportunities like this.  I think we all walked away from this reunion with a rekindle love of writing and the renewed conviction to keep soldiering on.

Oh, Highlights food.  I will miss you.
Highlights even knows how to end the perfect week with a send-off feast!  (And our brunch buffet was a doozy!)  We enjoyed French toast bread pudding, cauliflower breakfast bake, crispy bacon, potato casserole, and fresh fruit with scrumptious left-over cream cheese and chocolate cupcakes.

Let’s just say that after this week, my soul and stomach are both satisfied.      

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Highlights Fantasy Reunion Day 7

Today was the last full day of our Fantasy Reunion Workshop.  (Sniff.)  The day started with a second round of one-on-one sessions with our mentors.  After chewing over our manuscripts for a week, we discussed any lingering issues, as well as our post-Highlights writing and revision plans.  (Not that any of us wanted to think about that!)

The view while I waited for my one-on-one.

Our workshop today featured a special guest: editor Jordan Brown.  Jordan works for Harper-Collins, specializing in Middle Grade fiction with their imprint, Waldon Pond Press.  (And he just happened to work on Anne Ursu's awesome book, Breadcrumbs.)  Jordan spoke a little bit about the market and how he acquires manuscripts.  His biggest piece of advice to writers is to clean up your manuscript as much as possible before it goes on submission.  The clearer your writing and story are, the easier it is for editors to see the end-goal and present it to their house for acquisition.

So how do you make your manuscript as clean as possible?  With that dreaded "R" word: Revision!

Every writer will need to go through revisions at some point in their writing lives.  Jordan explained that it is the most important part of the writing process, but also the hardest.  He had some steps to make the process easier, including:

1-Don't get overly attached to anything.   Sometimes great characters, or plot elements, or beautiful descriptions need to be cut for the good of the book.  He also advised that writers should consider what scenes add to the core of their manuscript, and to remove any that don't move the plot or character development forward.

2-Make sure that your character drives the plot.  Remember those important over-arching questions: What does your character want?  What are the stakes?  What stands in the way from him getting what he wants?  Knowing these elements can help keep your story on track.

3-Start small.  Revising can be very daunting.  So instead of tackling the entire manuscript at once, just focus on a certain chapter or scene.  And if that still seems overwhelming, Jordan recommended simply finding something in your manuscript that isn't perfect, even if it's just fixing commas or misspelled words.  There is nothing wrong with baby steps.  A comma here, a re-worded sentence there, and you'll be flying through those revisions before you know it!

It was great hanging out with Jordan and hearing the ins and outs of an editor's life.  Sometimes we writers forget that there are friendly faces behind those publishing house desks.  :)  


Jordan even stayed for dinner tonight, entertaining us with his stories and food preferences.  But I suppose you want to hear about breakfast first, which was oatmeal with tropical fruit, sausage, and coffee cake.  Lunch was egg salad sandwiches with lemon-poppyseed salad, potato salad, and molasses cookies.  Our appetizers during Jordan's workshop included local fresh cheeses, mushroom-walnut dip, and bagel chips.  Dinner was green-chili chicken with cactus tortillas, rice, black beans, and kale salad.  (I believe salad-hater Jordan declared it, "Delicious!")  And our final Highlights dessert was sugared fruit with chocolate chip biscotti.

My belly is already lamenting going back home tomorrow to a refrigerator full of yogurt and hot dogs, but at least there are a few meals left!  (I foresee brunch on my horizon...)

Friday, May 4, 2012

Highlights Fantasy Reunion Day 6

Well, we had the storm of all storms last night and I was honestly surprised my cabin was still standing this morning.  Lightning knocked out our internet, too, but now it is finally up and running again!

Today we had a special guest for our workshop: agent Tina Wexler.  Tina is an agent with ICM and represents books for both children and adults.  (She also represents our awesome workshop mentor, Anne Ursu.)  Tina loves Middle Grade and Young Adult lit, and told us she has a particular fondness for magic realism and novels in verse.  (You can read more about her on Literary Rambles here.)  We were lucky enough to meet with her for one-on-one chats, as well as a group Q&A session.

Tina first spoke a little bit about the market and what publishing houses currently want to see.  She said good Middle Grade books are always in demand, and Sci-Fi is gaining steam.  (She reminded us it's important to avoid writing to trends, though, since it's easy to miss the boat.)  She also said High Fantasy is always in style, but it's helpful to have a contemporary voice that today's teens can relate to.

Tina offered us some advice, too, since many writers in our group are in that dreaded query stage.  She said to be sure to make queries clear and short, and to not give an agent any easy reason to say, "No!"  Politeness and good research are key as well since no one likes to receive a letter that is rude or irrelevant.  A new piece of advice she had to offer was to prepare multiple queries and pitches.  By doing this, you can tailor your story to appeal to a wider array of agents and preferences.  For instance, if you are writing an animal story about friendship, you can entice agents who love animals OR agents who like friendship stories depending on how you pitch your project.  And ultimately, this can gain you more requests for pages and full manuscripts!  Hooray!  (Tina said you should still be truthful, though, because an agent will figure out if you lied once they read your pages.  And nobody wants that...)

Even more fun than listening to Tina's words of wisdom was just getting to hang out with a real-life agent.  Agents are not one bit frightening once you see them up close and realize how friendly and funny they are.  We had a blast listening to her many stories and laughed like we were all old friends.  

Messy plate, yummy food!

It was so wonderful having Tina for our workshop, and we got to enjoy all our meals with her, too!  Today's breakfast was a spinach and egg bake, sausage, and rhubarb coffee cake.  Lunch was minestrone soup with citrus salad, bread, and homemade chocolate chip cookies.  Our evening appetizers included spanakopita and wonderful tortilla-bacon-layered thingies.  And dinner was savory beef stew with homemade bread, dill-cucumber salad, and caramel brownie parfaits for dessert.  YUM!

Let's hope we don't get hit by another torrential storm tonight...     

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Highlights Fantasy Reunion Day 5

Today was a busy day, and I can hardly keep my eyes open as I type this.  After a productive morning writing, I had the group critique of my manuscript this afternoon.  This year, we were instructed to send in fifteen pages of a manuscript for the entire group to critique.  I sent in my WIP middle grade novel, "Pirate Ferret" about, well, a pirate ferret.  Considering it's my first draft, I was pleasantly shocked that everyone really enjoyed it and had a lot of positive feedback.  I also walked away filled with lots of great ideas to think about as I write and revise.  Group critiques are such an awesome learning experience, and you never know what wonderful insights you'll gain about your manuscript.  I highly recommend you partake in them every chance you get.  :) 

I finally went for a walk today, too!  It was very lovely.

Our group workshop today was a lesson on language.  Language is very important to think about as you revise.  We chatted about how to take the vague and squishy language in your book and instead make it vivid and direct.

To illustrate this, we studied a poem called "At the Bait Shop" by Ted Kooser:

Part barn, part boxcar, part of a chicken shed,
Part leaking water, something partly dead,
Part pop machine, part gas pump, part a chair
Leaned back against the wall, and sleeping there
Part-owner Herman Runner, mostly fat,
Hip-waders, undershirt, tattoos, and hat.

When you read this, you notice a really neat thing: although the poem is called "At the Bait Shop," there is no bait in the poem.  But with his careful word choices, Kooser doesn't need the word "bait" to convey a precise picture of a bait shop.  (How cool is that?)

We then practiced this technique in our manuscripts, studying each sentence and rewriting them more concisely or cutting words completely.  Take a sentence such as, "The sound of wailing cats outside Allie's bedroom window gave her a headache, making it hard for her to do her math homework."  While that's a grammatically acceptable sentence, it works so much better as, "A cat wailed outside Allie's window.  She slammed her math book shut and grabbed her headache medicine."  By choosing meaningful words and writing as concisely as possible, the sentences positively affect elements like character and tone, thus creating a better story.  It may involve cutting some of your dear words, but you'll be happy you did in the end.  :)

With all of today's brain-stuffing, there was plenty of belly-stuffing too.  Breakfast was cheese blintzes with oatmeal and breakfast ham.  Lunch included hamburgers with all the fixin's, homemade coleslaw, deviled-egg potato salad, and Mexican-chocolate pudding for dessert.  Our evening appetizer was chips with guacamole and salsa.  Dinner entailed fresh mozzarella and tomato pizza, Italian vegetables, and brown sugar pound-cake cupcakes with maple icing for dessert.  (It was so nice today, we even got to eat dinner outside!) 

Time for me to go to bed before I fall asleep at my computer.... 

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Highlights Fantasy Reunion Day 4

Today was the fourth day of our Fantasy Reunion Workshop--which means it's time to panic since the week is half over!  Everyone is in agreement that what started as "I have all the time in the world" has now turned into, "I still have so much I want to do before I leave!"  At least we have a few more days to buckle down and get some work done.

Alas, it was rainy again today, so I couldn't go for a walk or take any farmstead pictures.  But the weather is looking up for tomorrow, so perhaps I can enjoy the woods then.  (I would like to go on at least one walk before I leave!)

Our workshop today centered around world building using our assigned reading material, Thirteenth Child by Patricia Wrede.  The book's subtitle, "Frontier Magic: Book 1" actually tells you a lot about this story.  In short, it's a fantasy set in a pioneer world.  (Sounds cool, huh?)  The type of world this book uses is called an "Analog World," which is one readers can understand because it closely parallels the real world. 

In Thirteenth Child, the main character, Eff, experiences the settlement of a fantasy-version of America's frontier.  Only, instead of guns and boring buffalo, the characters use magic and face mammoths and swarming weasels, and the Founding Fathers include a magic-wielding Thomas Jefferson and Ben Franklin.  Even with the fantasy elements, though, the world conveys a strong sense of Americana.  As such, it was a unique, yet familiar, world which everyone in our group could relate to.  It's an interesting concept to think about when designing your own world.

We took our lesson of world building one step further into the connection between setting and story.  In Thirteenth Child, Wrede creates a world that matches both the character AND overarching themes of growth, fate versus free will, and finding truths.  Character, theme, and world are all beautifully intertwined with each other. 

To do this in our own books, our mentors asked us to consider these thoughts: How does your world help ask questions the character is asking?  How does your world help ask questions the theme is asking?  Choosing the correct setting can certainly enhance your story, and in some instances, even make or break it.  They also said not to worry too much about this in first drafts, though, and that it's something to think about once you know your characters and where your story is going.  But moving your desert world to an ice land might just make your story shine in unexpected ways...

Green sauce looks yucky, tastes gooood.....

Boy, this workshop left us with a lot to think about!  Luckily, we could chew over these thoughts with some more delicious food!  Today's breakfast was homemade blueberry pancakes with real maple syrup, sausage, and honeydew.  Lunch was grilled chicken with Greek salads, watermelon, and ice cream sandwiches for dessert.  Our workshop appetizers included a bunch of cheeses I can't spell (or pronounce), piggies in blankets, and smoked paprika deviled eggs.  (Let me tell you--YUM!)  And dinner was prime rib with loaded baked potatoes, beet salad, and carrot-zucchini pancakes with a HUGE hunk of carrot cake for dessert.

I do believe I will be packing the Highlights chef in my suitcase to take home with me.

Well, the clock is ticking!  Must go write!  :)

Note: The cover art from Thirteenth Child is from       

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Highlights Fantasy Reunion Day 3

Today was the third day of our Fantasy Reunion Workshop and a real treat.  In addition to critiquing and writing time today, we had a group workshop led by our mentor, Laura Ruby.  The session was truly epiphany-inducing, and I'm so excited to share our exercise with you.

Have you ever been asked, "What does your character want?"  Has that question ever been followed with, "But what does your character really want?"  If you've ever written a manuscript, I'm guessing your answer is "Yes" to both of these questions.  (And it probably makes you grumble and feel all prickly about the experience.)

Laura Ruby explained that for many writers, these are dumb questions.  Just knowing what your character wants often isn't enough to drive your story along.  The story needs to go deeper than just "wants."  Instead, she shared a exercise that she learned from author Franny Billingsley to help discover the three driving factors of your character: Wound, Belief, and Default Emotion.

1) Wound: What is the experience that shapes your character's self-image and guides his or her action?

2) Belief: What single belief rules the character's view of him/herself?

3) Default Emotion: What emotion rules your character's life, seizing him or her in times of stress?

THIS affects his entire being.  THIS is what he wants.
We walked through the steps with J. K. Rowling's Harry Potter.  Harry's "wound" (or "mortal wound" to stress the importance), is the loss of his parents.  His "belief" is that he is all alone in the world--even when he has friends to stand by his side.  His "default emotion" is fear, and this in turn drives him to extreme acts of heroism to save everyone he loves.

And doesn't that just sum up Harry in a nutshell?

Determining these three factors can be a little tricky, and you might have to delve deeper and deeper to find the root of your character.  But once you do, you immediately understand why your character does the things he does and how he will react to the story you've created for him.  (And yes, you'll probably even have some clue as to what he ultimately wants, too.)  Neat, huh?

You can apply this method to your villains and side-characters as well.  And if you're having trouble pinning down these three factors, brainstorm with some critique buddies who know your character.  We certainly did, and I think everyone walked away from today's session feeling much closer to their characters.

We definitely fed our minds today, but what about our bellies?  Well, for breakfast we enjoyed oatmeal with fresh fruit and brown sugar, hard boiled eggs, and carrot-zucchini "Good Morning Muffins."  Lunch was chicken salad with butternut squash soup and double-chocolate cookies for dessert.  Our smorgasbord of workshop appetizers included baked crispy kale, potstickers, and mini-quiches.  Dinner was chicken and salmon with creamy leek sauce, seasoned veggies, rice pilaf and foccacia bread, with panna cotta for dessert.  (Aka "delicious cream with berries on top.")     

How can I still be eating so much, you ask?  Honestly, I have no idea.  I guess all this writing just works up an appetite!  :)

Note: Harry Potter is (c) J.K. Rowling, the movies are (c) Warner Brothers, and the above picture is from