Nancy's Books

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Character-Driven Stories, Part II/Contest/Call for Submissions

Character-driven stories focus on the character's emotions, needs, and flaws. That’s right, flaws. Characters should not be cast as perfect. Let the flaws draw in the reader by building empathy. The actions and decisions of the character drive the story, and some of those decisions might be poor choices. By the end of the story, the character should grow and learn from the conflict/quest/problem.

Create characters you care about. If they seem flat and dull to you, they probably will seem the same to the reader. Allow the character to engage the reader emotionally or intellectually, make the reader chuckle or tingle with goosebumps.

Become a people watcher. Notice what people wear and how they act. Listen to conversations. Eavesdrop. Use these observations in your writing.

As your story progresses, give the character an opportunity to surprise you with actions, thoughts, and dialog. Again, if you’re surprised, the reader is likely to be also. Unanticipated behavior adds interest. Refer to the profile you developed to include the character’s background and personality so the behavior remains credible.
Keep in mind the character’s motives and goals, in addition to the background. Focus on a character as s/he goes through a major change. Thoughts and emotion carry endless possibilities for your unique or quirky character. Have fun creating a character that only you can craft.

Part III will be posted next week.

Delacorte Press Contest for a First Young Adult Novel The prize of a book contract (on the publisher’s standard form) covering world rights for a hardcover and a paperback edition, including an advance and royalties, will be awarded annually to encourage the writing of contemporary young adult fiction. The award consists of $1,500 in cash and a $7,500 advance against royalties.
Deadline: Manuscripts must be postmarked after October 1, 2010, but no later than December 31, 2010.
Details at

Skipping Stones provides a place for writers and artists of all ages and backgrounds to communicate creatively and openly.Writings (essays, stories, letters to the editor, riddles and proverbs, etc.) should be typed or neatly handwritten and limited to 750 words and poems to 30 lines. We encourage writings in all languages with an English translation, if possible. And, we love illustrations! Please send originals of your drawings, paintings, or photos. Include your name, age, and address along with your submission.
Details at

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Character Driven Stories, Part I/Calls for submissions for adult and teen writers

Characters are the driving force behind a story’s depth. As the plot unfolds, the choices a character makes define the story outcome.

Get to know your character before you begin writing. Knowing your character helps you keep the character’s voice, dialog, and actions consistent. A teenage character should sound like a teenager throughout the story and the dialog should reflect that voice. A five-year-old should sound and act his age.

Create a profile of your character through an interview. This short list can be used as a guide.

Character Profile

Family members
Is behavior ruled by emotions or logic?
Type of Personality
Favorite expressions
Odd quirks

Add to this list as needed. You might want to know more about the parents, pet peeves, and attitudes or you may want to skip some items. Develop a list that pertains to your character and story. Experiment to determine what works best for you. As your character grows you may want to add particular personality traits to the list.

Write the answers in the character’s voice. Be as detailed or as brief as you wish. Again, determine what works best for you. The information you write is actually a biography of the character.

Developing a character profile is a good way to organize thoughts about a character, to keep character continuity, and to reveal minute character details to readers. When you know your character as well as you know yourself, you can more easily create a character that is believable, captivating, and unique. Character subtleties affect the way the plot unfolds and the problem is resolved.

In my next post, I’ll focus on character-driven stories.

River Styx. A multicultural journal of poetry, prose and art. River Styx publishes works of both new and established artists significant for their originality, energy and deft of craft. The high quality of its form and content have made it a leader among literary magazines for 30 years. River Styx has been included in many editions of the Best American Poetry, Best New Poets, New Stories from the South, and Pushcart Prize anthologies. We publish poetry, short fiction, essays, interviews, drawings and photographs. If your work is the best that it can be and you deem it fits with the established style and content of our magazine, please send it to River Styx.
Deadline: Until November, so hurry.
Details at

Frodo's Notebook is looking for well-crafted poems, creative essays, and short stories by teens age 13-19 from all around the world.
Details at

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Breathing Life into Characters, Part III/Calls for Submissions

Begin the story at the moment the main character faces change or conflict. At this point ask the character what would happen if he failed to succeed? What consequences would the character suffer? What is the character willing to give up or sacrifice? From these questions, you can determine the character’s motivations. By the end of the story the character should undergo change. The change may be internal or external or both.

Conflict drives the actions of the character. The character should respond in ways that reflect real life. Don’t be afraid to give the character flaws. Flaws provide conflict, and readers empathize and identify with imperfect characters. Allow the character to develop gradually as the plot develops.

Characters are the forces that tell the story. Their thoughts, actions, and dialog make a story memorable. The more believable the character, the more believable the story becomes. Spend time learning the characters before writing the story and you will develop a better understanding of how they will react in the tension-filled situations in which you place them. Your character will become more interesting and life-like and will linger in the minds of the reader long after the book is closed.

In my next post, I’ll discuss how to create a character profile.

CALYX, A Journal of Art and Literature by Women, accepts submissions of poetry, short fiction, visual art, essays, reviews, and interviews. ALL SUBMISSIONS (prose, poetry, art, reviews) should include author's name on each page and be accompanied by a brief (50-word or less) biographical statement, a SASE (self-addressed, stamped envelope with “forever stamp”), phone number, and e-mail address. Even if you indicate that it is unnecessary to return your submission(s), please enclose a SASE for your notification. Prose and poetry should be submitted separately with separate SASEs for each submission category.
Deadline: October 1 - December 31 (postmark dates).
Details at

CICADA MagazineCICADA fiction and nonfiction stories and poems are written by adult authors as well as by teens. CICADA also sponsors "The Slam," an online writing forum for young writer. For ages 14 and up."
Cicada is remaining open to submissions through December 31, 2010.
Details at

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Breathing Life into Characters, Part II, Contest, Calls for Submissions

Let your imagination soar as you try different possibilities for the character. Developing character traits does not mean the traits and everything you know about the character should go into the story. Give the reader only enough information about the character’s physical description to “see” the character. Remember, the reader doesn’t need to know as much about the character as the writer knows. Provide only the parts of the character that are relevant to the story. Glimpses often work better than all-out descriptions. The scar on his cheek was a constant reminder of how his hot temper could lead to danger. Maybe a scar is the only physical trait the reader needs to know about his face. Feed the reader small bits of character information at a time.

Allowing the reader to “see” the character through feelings, thoughts, and reactions to situations is a way to build empathy for the protagonist. Readers need to know the character’s motivation, what makes the character think and act in a particular way. Readers don’t need to know the eye or hair color unless the physical appearance plays a role in the plot. If you’re writing picture books, the illustrations reflect the physical appearance of the characters so the focus should be on the action in each scene.

Another way to breathe life into a character is dialog. Does the character have an unusual way of speaking? Is the character serious or funny, sad or happy, lively or subdued? Good dialog makes the characters practically step off the pages and become real. Give each character a different way of talking, with different speech patterns, so the reader can distinguish between them in a conversation. One could chat in short, snappy sentences and the other could speak in a longer, more detailed manner.

Part III will be posted next week.

Crab Orchard Review has announced its next special issue theme: “Crab Orchard Review is seeking work for our Summer/Fall 2011 issue focusing on writing exploring the people, places, history, and new directions that have shaped and are reshaping the American South. All submissions should be original, unpublished poetry, fiction, or literary nonfiction in English or unpublished translations in English (we do run bilingual, facing-page translations whenever possible). Please query before submitting any interview. The submission period for this issue is August 10 through November 1, 2010. We will be reading submissions throughout this period and hope to complete the editorial work on the issue by the end of March 2011. Writers whose work is selected will receive $25 (US) per magazine page ($50 minimum for poetry; $100 minimum for prose) and two copies of the issue”.
Details at

Creative Kids
· We are looking for the very best material by students (ages 8–16). Material may include cartoons, songs, stories between 500 and 1200 words, puzzles, photographs, artwork, games, editorials, poetry, and plays, as well as any other creative work that can fit in the pages of the magazine.
· All work must be original. Upon acceptance of a work, we will request that a legal guardian sign our standard contract granting copyright permission. The contract will be mailed with notification of acceptance.
· Work may be submitted by the author, parent, or teacher. Each piece must be labeled with the child’s name, birthday, grade, school, and home address, and must include a cover letter.
· Each entry should be sent in its own envelope via first class mail. Do not send more than one submission in each envelope. Teachers, please do not send more than 3 submissions in each envelope.
· Include a self-addressed, stamped envelope for a response. Do not seal the SASE. Submissions without a SASE will not be considered. Submissions will not be returned. Teachers, please include a SASE for each piece of work submitted.
· Deadline: November 1, 2010
· Details at

New Voices Young Writers Competition
Eligible Students: This contest is open to students worldwide, attending public, private, or home schools. Students must be in junior high/middle school or high school in the U.S., or the equivalent grade level in their specific international school system.

Categories for entries: Entries may be a story, poem, or essay, written specifically for the contest or as a school assignment for grades 6-8 / ages 11 - 14 (Middle School categories) or grades 9-12 / ages 15 - 18 (High School categories). The sub-categories are Story (fictional Short Story), Poetry, and/or Essay (nonfiction).
Language: All entries must be in English.

Entry Limit: An entrant may enter no more than one (1) entry in each category, equaling a maximum of three (3) entries.

Entry Fee: None.

Deadline: All entries must be received between August 1, 2010 and October 20, 2010.
Judging: Entries will be judged by a panel of judges, including teachers, librarians, published writers, publishers, and editors. All entrants will receive feedback ONLY from the first-round judging panel. Finalists will move to a secondary judging panel.

Details at

Sunday, October 3, 2010

National Book Festival, Characterization, Mad Magazine, Mrs. P's Writing Contest for Kids

The photo is a picture of my books at the National Book Festival in Washington, D.C. Trouble in Troublesome Creek represented the Kentucky booth. Happy Birthday, the Story of the World's Most Popular Song, was showcased because it was released this year and the story focuses on Kentucky.

Breathing Life into Characters, Part I

Believable characters make the world of fiction come alive. A character that does not seem real will not be interesting. So how do writers breathe life into characters? The best way to develop a three-dimensional character is to get to know the character as well as you know yourself.

On paper create a character profile. List the character’s physical traits, including hair color, height, and other features. List the character’s likes and dislikes, family members, and unusual mannerisms, such as winking as he smiles or rubbing his hand through his hair when he is stressed. Ask your character questions about favorite foods, sports activities, and friends. Write the character’s answer in a first person voice as though he is talking with you. What are the character’s strengths and weaknesses? What does the character want and why does the character want it? What drives the character? The writer needs to know why the character makes certain choices throughout the development of the plot.

Characters are more interesting if they are not perfect, but they need to be likeable. The reader should want the character to succeed or the story will fall flatter than the page on which it’s written.

Part II will be posted next week.

Call for submissions/Contest
MAD Magazine
Pay: $500+
We're actively looking to expand our pool of freelance comedy writers and there's more opportunity to join The Usual Gang Of Idiots than ever. If you have a twisted sense of humor, a peculiar way of looking at the world, or are simply eager to express your immature, strange or just plain silly side, then we want to see your stuff!

Open to kids 4-13. Two winners will be chosen, one in age
group 4-8 and one in age group 9-13. Stories may be any topic.
Fiction or nonfiction. 250 to 1,000 words.
Two grand prize winners (one from each age group) will have
their stories read by Mrs. P herself and an artist will
create original illustrations to accompany the story. Each
winner will receive a bound copy of the illustrated story,
as well as having it posted on Both grand prize
winners and up to eight runners-up will also each receive
a $25 gift certificate to Powell's.

Deadline: Submissions will be accepted Sept. 1 through Oct. 15, 2010.
Details at