Characterization and its Value

Thirteen Cents Short

After years of writing this blog on and off, I came to the startling realization yesterday that I hadn’t written an entry regarding characterization and what that means for authors and books. In light of this horrible mistake, I am writing this entry now!

Characterization is telling the reader about characters (or even places). It’s the meat and potatoes of the “getting to know you” part of the story, and it can be extremely powerful. This blog ties directly into last week’s topic: description, so if you haven’t read that yet, I’d catch up!

Over and over again in groups and with individuals, I see folks struggling with how in the world do you help readers understand things without beating them over the head with it. We are told often to show, not tell, and while this advice has value, it’s missing a lot of the “how” of the…

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Writer’s Tech 101: Take Care of Your Computer


This week, I’ll post updated suggestions to get your computers and technology ready for the blitz of writing and marketing you’ll swear to accomplish in New Year resolutions. Here’s what you get (link won’t be active until the post goes live):

  1. 11 Ways to Update Your Online Presence
  2. Writer’s Tech 101: Take Care of Your Computer

For regular readers of WordDreams, these are yearly reminders. For new readers, these are like body armor in the tech battle. They allow you to jubilantly overcome rather than dramatically succumb. Your choice.

17 Ways to Speed up Your Computer

I post this every year and have included several great suggestions from readers. Here’s what you need to do:

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Toe In the Water

Writers' Block

It’s that first word, that first phrase, that is hardest to put down in print. It’s as tough to depress the initial letter on the keyboard as it is to dip your little piggy in an icy early spring puddle.  Both require courage and the ability to overcome hesitancy and objection. The law of inertia holds true for human behavior as well as for inanimate objects, doesn’t it. If that’s the axiom, does the corollary, once I get really started, mean the amount of energy I use to keep going will be minimal, and it will take waayyy more energy to make me stop? One can only hope so.

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…A Novel Approach, continued….Name Change


The little cottage stood out more than expected. It had a red clay tile roof line and sand-colored adobe finish similar to every other dwelling on the quiet, narrow street, though each house flaunted varying bright Southwestern colors on doors and window trims in an attempt to differentiate it from its neighbors. Unlike other cottages, the back yard of the one being observed contained a large swimming pool and was protected by an eight-foot-tall adobe wall.

Today’s mission was simple: provide incontrovertible proof that the target was alive and resided here in Caliente, New Mexico. Once that was established, other plans would be set in motion.

Giamonti, who considered himself a “typical” assassin, much preferred shooting with guns as opposed to sighting with the unfamiliar digital camera and smartphone he’d been instructed to use today, but no one ever questioned the bosses.

That Can’t Be Right

I’m embarrassed to admit much of my life is lived on a superficial level. Perhaps that’s not always been the case, but in recent years deep analytical thought seems replaced by a placid enervation . “Things” are “okay”. “It is what it is” rules the day.

That’s about to change. Will this new perspective change the world? Unlikely. But I’ll never look again with an unjaundiced eye at, among other things, the field of “behavioral health” hospitals. Having been exposed to that can of worms, I now wonder what other little messes I’ve been ignoring.

Let me provide a tad of background: our family watched a dear family member (henceforth known as XX) slowly slip into what we variously learned was either bipolar syndrom or chronic fatigue syndrome. The competing diagnoses were provided by two different bonafide physicians, neither of whom was particularly helpful in the long-term.

Soon XX couldn’t hold a job, exasperated significant others to the point of divorce and/or estrangement, and finally became dependent upon the state for food, health benefits, and housing. It was through the state’s hospital system that XX was sent to the psychiatric hospital, euphemistically called a “behavioral health” hospital.

Based on a single page, pre-printed checklist, a woman called a “doctor” diagnosed XX as bipolar, and then proceeded to commit XX to a 30-day hospitalization, with no possibility of discharge without the doctor’s approval. The doctor, incidentally, is actually a nurse practitioner, although a psychiatrist is listed as “on staff”. After two weeks at the facility, XX has never been evaluated or even seen the psychiatrist.

Most important to the facility, a nurse told XX, all of the beds must be kept full in order to protect their jobs. (No kidding – this is definitely a for profit facility! But can you even believe an employee was that blunt in conversation with a patient?)

The hospital itself is a large single-story metal building, very secure. Locked up tighter than a drum. Staff use keys to lock and unlock the doors from outside to inside, from waiting area to hall, from hall to offices. Very much gives a confined, imprisoned feeling both to patients and to visitors.

XX says at least the surroundings are clean and the food is adequate. The nursing staff is pleasant, but the supervisory staff mock the patients and are quite rude. Medications are strongly enforced and injections are given forcibly if pills are rejected. XX says several patients vomit every day. Who knows – that could be due to addiction withdrawal symptoms, but in XX’s case it was a reaction to the medication. Whatever the case, XX now finds it difficult to focus, is dizzy, slightly disoriented, and always sleepy.

Group therapy is on the daily schedule. However, that has only occurred twice in the past two weeks. There seems to be no real cohesive attempt at therapy, but only a “marking time” (cynically I think that will continue probably until benefits run out), hopefully to be followed by a miraculous discharge.

Only one wall phone for 20 patients, and only severely restricted times to make or receive calls. Forget about cell phones, laptops, note pads, or TV – ain’t happening. Staff members accompany all family visits, which are limited to a specific half hour dictated by the staff and at no other time. Visitors must leave wallets and phones outdoors in their vehicles. Visitors cannot enter at all unless they already know the patient’s identification number.

From the standpoint of the visitor, this place is the next thing to a benevolent prison. One thing for sure…the entire experience is designed to be avoided! My heart goes out to someone mentally challenged who lands here. If they’re not crazy when they arrive, they may well be crazy when they leave!

Fun To Watch? Disaster In the Making


Our city received a deluge of more than 20 inches of rain in the course of a day and a half. There is historic flooding throughout the neighborhoods, especially those near the river. Rescuers and their boats and vehicles drew onlookers curious and worried about their neighbors. Secretly happy the damage is not (yet) their own – but more intense rain is forecast to begin momentarily. That rain will fall on over-saturated ground, unable to drain into a swollen river whose waters already exceed flood stage.