Family Dynamic

Family culture is defined as “how you express culture as a family through traditions, roles, beliefs, and other areas” Lumen: Cultural Anthropology.

The family dynamic is how the family interacts with each other. Sometimes falling into the commonly accepted stereotypes Psychology Today: Family Dynamic i.e. the spoiled youngest child, the crazy uncle, etc.

Where this all comes to play, is you as a writer who want your characters and overall story to be relatable to the reader. Plus, if your characters are well rounded people, then your story with their interactions will write itself.

For example: If you read Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen did a wonderful job with creating personalities for each of the sisters and parents and was able to show their interaction with each other and how they all play roles in the story plot. If you haven’t read it, than watch the 2005 Pride and Prejudice movie.

Also, considered the Harry Potter series with the Weasley family. Ron, being the youngest male child, felt like he was always living in his brother’s shadow. However, when the family was all together, it almost made the reader envious that they couldn’t be apart of one of their dinners.

What I’m trying to get across is that there is a unity embedded within families. Your family doesn’t care if you’re the greatest at your field of work, or that you’re the smartest. They are sincerely happy in your success and will brag about to you to others, but would love you and help where they can if you failed, and gossip about you to other family members – hey, it comes with the territory. They see your strengths and weaknesses and will still be with you. If you have any type of family relationships or close friendships within your story, then you need to establish a strong bond between the characters.

L. R. Mauck

A Rest From The Plot

I believe I’ve written something similar to this topic in the past. Recently, taking a rest from the plot inside the story has been on my mind more so than only writing on certain topics.

I’ve heard at conferences, seen others write, and heard people talk about when you write your story, you need to stay focus on your plot. Yes, I agree. You need to keep your story moving along the plot. There are essential points that you need to hit at each phase of the story to keep the story in line with your plot and to be sure in closing any plot holes.  You need the plot to move to show the story clearly and to show the character’s understanding of the plot and character develop.


Think about your reader.

Consider these following points:

  • Don’t throw information after information at the reader. They can get confused and burned out by not mentally seeing and piecing the plot together as the story unfolds. Too much information with a fast pace plot can be just as bad as an information dump in a single section. Weave the information between different situations.
  • Just as a comic relief character or situation is important for a reader in the story, so is it important for the reader to what I’m calling a “mental relax” while reading your story. There needs to be a moment or two for the reader to just enjoy your story.
  • A rest from the plot can also be thought of as to slow the story down. Give your characters a moment to breathe. It can be as simple as enjoying a family birthday party in the story, or a shopping trip to the store. Maybe even add a phone call from a long forgot friend. You can add small clues or key plot points within these story slow down moments, but don’t make them painted in the sky with neon lights surrounding them. Make them subtle.

Feel free to add any additional thoughts or comments below.

L. R. Mauck

Common Phrases

I’ve been lacking creativity for a while now. My work in progress stories are constantly in the forefront of my mind and I’ve dabbled with a few revisions, but my writing seems to have frozen. So, I’ve dusted off a series of books that I haven’t read in a few years and started reading a month or so ago.

Almost instantly, I noticed common grammar errors in the New York Times #1 Best Selling Author’s series. Question marks outside of quotations when a character asked a question. Comma’s in the wrong place, etc. It annoyed me. When I see one mistake, I start looking for them throughout the books. I’ll be up front and honest, I’m far from perfect when it comes to the written English language, but you’d expect the next books in the series to be better than the first with the editing. This series was not.

I do love the books, don’t get me wrong. I just believe that there is an opportunity to learn from other writers.

The author continued the series with a second series filled with additional characters to accompany the main characters. However, the author’s writing pattern and point of view changed. Rather than focusing the story around a single main character, the author jumped to three to four different character voices, using the chapters as the structure to separate each character’s perspectives.

The author was able to use different traits to define each character: the funny one, the modest one, the brave one, the pretty one, etc. However, I’ve seen a pattern of the same phrases used over and over again. “If so-and-so would’ve known (fill in the blank), than the so-and-so would’ve done (fill in the blank)”. Or “so-and-so did something, but something changed so-and-so’s course.” It’s glaringly obvious when it seems to be used each time a different character’s perspective is introduced. It ends up making the reader (or maybe it’s just me) feel like it isn’t different perspectives they’re (I’m) reading. If everyone sounds the same, the books hold no depth to them and come off sounding bland.

Examples: (Without using quotes from the actual books – I don’t want this to seem like I’m bashing the author’s writing.)

  • “It seemed as if Tim’s head only hit the pillow for a few minutes, but when he opened his eyes, the sun was already shining through the window.”
  • “If Sally knew it was going to rain, than she would’ve brought her umbrella.”

Another VERY common phrase I’ve read – mostly with romance books/character’s:

“They kissed until their lungs hurts…” Or “They kissed until the need for air was too great…” etc.

I just want you writers to pay a little closer attention to what you are writing and the phrases you uses. Challenge your creativity. Stay away from these overused phrases.

Also: If you plan to write or are writing a series – if you make a big deal out of a character trait/skill/personality – continue it to the next books. The same series I’m reading, one of the main character’s go-to skill was a bow. However, in the next book, all he does is sword fight and change forms. No mention of a bow at all. I understand character growth. However, there needs to be a stair step to connect to that growth. A skill is not something you just randomly abandon, especially, if the person/character was trained with it for combat.

The earlier series featured sarcastic comments or funny phrases at the beginning of each chapter, most of the time in the form of a title. The second series starts off with it in the intro to the chapters, but loses it over the course of the books. If you’re going to start with something, stick with it.

Now, if any of you all have figured out what series I’m reading, please don’t comment on it. I do love the stories and the characters. I’m only picking at it because I’ve been reading it for the last month or so.

I apologize for not posting for a while. My work has been very demanding to the point that I’m mentally exhausted by the time I get home. Yesterday, I was allowed to leave work early, so I’ve took advantage of the time offered.

L.R. Mauck

Starting Your Novel

The first thing that pops in my head when I’m trying to start a book is: DON’T start with a cliché.  That means don’t start with the weather (it was a clear, sunny day) or  starting with a tragedy (car wrecks, health scare or death) or the common – parents divorcing and having to move locations. Starting a book is almost as hard as finishing the book. You have your ideas, possible outline, and may even know exactly what you want to get accomplished within the first chapter. I’ve already discussed much of this in Beginning the Rough Draft, however, this entry is to expand on it a little more.

I once wrote on the power of the initial opening sentence in the entry Word Importance. Save those powerful words for your revisions. They may come later or not at all. Don’t get hung up over it.

Your beginning of your book (the first 50 pages) should have:

  • Character(s) intro
  • Setting
  • Internal/external struggle for character(s)
  • What is at risk
  • The hook for the audience to continue reading
  • Story pace
  • Genre – remember your readability level of your characters. You want them to said age appropriate to the story.

The book, The Plot Whisperer Workbook Step-By-Step to Help You Create Compelling Stories by Martha Alderson, writes there are seven essential elements to a scene:

  1. Time and setting
  2. Dramatic action
  3. Conflict, tension, suspense
  4. Character’s emotional development
  5. The protagonist’s motivation to reach a goal
  6. The “protagonist who goes after something, fails, and tries again”
  7. Final layer of scene that helps set the overall theme of the story

Some books only have a hand full of scenes, others have one per a chapter or more. There is no real guideline into how many scenes a book can have. Just don’t confuse the reader by jumping back and forth between scenes to where it confuses them (and you) of where the characters are located.

Most books begin very early the description of what the character(s) look like to help the reader’s develop a mental image and then the setting.

Try to start your book with something unusual. Starting with action, helps draw the reader in quickly, but that doesn’t work for every book and it becomes hard keeping that pace. Think of something different for the genre you’re writing. If it’s drama/murder/mystery – start with humor. If it is fantasy – start with something that is very common for us today to relate too –  a stubbed toe, a broken tire on a carriage (think of a flat tire), main character’s belief that dragons are myths, etc. Romance – start with a situation of the character already in love with someone else, but don’t make them cheaters. To me, that sets a bad president for the overall relationship for any couples. Or make the main couple already together, then they fall apart and have set backs only to get back together at the end.

To challenge yourself further – make your intro into a metaphor or to parallel of what your final conflict will be.

As I said, it’s hard to begin the story. I have rewritten the intro to many stories before I found those that work. Don’t put much stock into it until you start on the revisions. It sometimes matter more of the flow of the book on to what works the best as the intro.

My best suggestion is to start with a conversation. You can reveal tone of voice, character’s appearance, their personal movement ticks, thought process, initial location, and the intro to the plot within that conversation. Now, this conversation can be overheard by the main character(s), the main character(s) having the said conversation, or it is about them.

Best of luck to you all. I’m starting a new story myself and I’m facing the same struggle.

L. R. Mauck

Odd Places to Find Writing Ideas

Sometimes, writing ideas just come to me without even thinking of a new idea. Very few times, I’ll stare at the wall, struggling to think of a story line or a good twist.

Well, one of the best tips to find that idea is view the world around you.

  • Watch TV
    • Watch Judge Judy or some of the other televised judges. Some of the stories people come up with for their cases would make for a good book, as long as you put in your own plot twist.
    • Dateline / 2020 / or any of the crime drama shows.
  • Read
    • Read some of the classics. I’ve seen people write books with new spins off of Shakespeare or Grimm Brothers.
    • Some of the stories in the Old Testament of the Bible can draw some wonderful plot ideas.
  • Talk to people
    • Talk to your grandparents. My grandma loves to tell stories of her grandparents when she was a child. They were Native American, so hearing of how they lived on a social level back in the early 1900s and the family drama is fascinating.
  • Explore new locations
    • If you have an extra day or so, pull out a map and take a day trip. Try to hit several towns / cities in that area to drive to. Visit museums, art galleries, coffee shops, parks in that area. Sometimes, just being in a new environments will give you that push you need.

L. R. Mauck

The Motivational Character

Let’s face it, there are times when we are down a mental or physical destructive path and we cannot get ourselves out of it. So, we turn to that one person who always knows the right thing to say or do to help us. Some times it’s a parent, a teacher, or a friend that will give us the perfect advice that we need.

I recently bought several seasons of the Boy Meets World television series. I remember Mr. Feeny always as the inspirational rock in the show. He always offered sound advice and never hesitated to point out where people were wrong. He even apologized a few times when he was in the wrong. You can’t hardly find anyone like his character in shows today.

However, there are several in books: Albus Dumbledore (Harry Potter), Gandolf the Grey/White (Hobbit and Lord of the Rings), Atticus Finch (To Kill A Mockingbird), Charlotte (Charlotte’s Web), etc. If you google it, you can find so many character’s who mean sometime to anyone based on actions and/or reasoning.

You can see quotes all over the internet that are inspirational. I want to encourage you, as a writer, to make your characters a little more than just run of the mill. I want your characters to have meaning in life, to inspire others to reach for those goals that others say they can’t reach, to get up when they have been beaten down so hard that they can barely physically move. I want them to face battles (war, health, drama) head on with the idea that they will overcome it or die with dignity. Have that motivational character always in the background, cheering the main character(s) on. Even in romance novels, you can make it to where the main characters need that push to open up their hearts again by having them gain advice from others.

Yes, this is a hard thing to do. You, as a writer, need to step out of your character’s world and reach out to the reader. Meet the reader on a deeper field with the same words to inspire other characters.

Note: You don’t have to clutter your novel up with meaningful messages from cover to cover (unless you’re writing a Chicken Soup book). Just place a few well meaning words at the start or close of the climax and it should work wonders.

L.R. Mauck

P.S. This was written while at work. I apologize if it doesn’t flow well or there are mistakes.

Extra Details

As a writer, it is very tempting to get as much as possible into a story so that the readers can see the same story and details that we see when writing it. Through editing, the story gets refined and sometimes details are cut because they do not add anything additional to the actual story plot.

However, I would say to keep in a few of those extra little details. They may not add to the plot, but they add to the story.

The best example I can give is not a modern book: the Bible. I hardly know of any other books that has the same plot, situation, and people, but has different writers. In the book of Luke, the extra details given do not take away from Matthew, Mark, or John, but adds to it. In (NKJV) Luke chapter 6 verse 1: “Now it happened on the second Sabbath after the first that He went through the grainfields. And His disciples plucked the heads of grain and ate them, rubbing them in their hands.” Matthew (12:1-8) and Mark (2:23-28) mention the same situation, however, they do not included the “rubbing them in their hands.”


I’m a farmer’s daughter, so I mentally picture the grain as raw wheat. If you have seen raw wheat in the fields, then you would know that there is an outer skin protecting the grain seed. It is rough and there is hair-like fibers on it (see picture). If the disciples were walking by the field, plucking the grain heads and eating them, I automatically want to cringe. However, the extra detail Luke provides, says they were “rubbing them in their hands”. That extra detail turns my cringe into understanding. Rubbing the raw wheat heads in their hands would breaks apart the outer skin to separate the grain seeds.

With this example, you see small five words changed the description. I don’t mean that you as a writer need to lay out every single step-by-step action. That gets redundant and tedious. However, a few well placed details provides a more refine mental image to the reader.

An additional note: don’t be too descriptive in your writing.  You don’t have to describe the fluffy clouds or how blue the bluejay’s feathers are. Keep the story moving. Paint the picture, but don’t lose the picture image because of the brush strokes.

L. R. Mauck


A Happy Moment

Most stories have a drama flare or an intensity that keeps building throughout the story. Your story needs to have that fight/pull feel to it to get to that climax and to keep your readers in suspense. However, you also need to have intervals that break up the intensity and help pace your story.

There are several ways to accomplish this:

  • Create hobbies for the characters. See Adding Hobbies
  • Create a character that is the comedy relief. The character doesn’t need to be funny 100% time through the story, but can be a someone who can be naturally funny or tries to relieve uncomfortable situations by telling jokes. Think of Chandler from the sitcom Friends.
  • Have the main character do some quirky traits. See Character Personality Traits and Character Flaws – Note: they don’t have to be negative traits or flaws. Challenge yourself and create good ones or funny spins to them.
  • Your story overall needs to have Character Growth. The intensity of the story can slow down in places to have the character growth focused on. It helps set the pace a bit more.
  • Add in something unique to the character: an anniversary, a birthday, gaining their college or high school degree, drivers license, a speech to prepare for then give, etc.
  • Adding in Road Blocks / Challenges to the story can really slow the pace of the story. Don’t have nothing but road blocks building up to the climax, but add them in as twists or ways to help with character growth. Note: Same as above – challenge yourself and create good road blocks in the story.

I’m sure there’s more, but just remember that not all experiences are bad. Even the bad ones, we learn and grow from it. Don’t limit your story and more importantly, don’t limit yourself.

L. R. Mauck

When your Muse is Gone

Many artists – from musicians to actors to chefs to athletes to painters to writers – will draw inspiration from something other than themselves. It can be anything from someone close to you to an idea or goal to a physical object to a personal experience to a spiritual level. This source of inspiration is what is called a muse.

Having a muse can be great. It gives you an outside perceptive (out of the box look) to view your work. The more muses you gain, the larger pool of inspiration you can pull from.  However, a muse can be bad when it is suddenly gone. Trying to find your creativity is like being lost in the middle of a wooded wilderness. You have an idea and a direction, but you just can’t put one foot in front of the other.

This is where I am now.

For many, many years, writing is a hobby of mine. To help me focus on my writing, I use music as background noise. But, when my favorite band comes on, my mind uses their music as a source to write by. If it’s a scene that is very active or intense, I’ll listen to one of their hard rock songs. Those scenes do tend to pick up speed that matches the songs. When it needs a slower, calmer scene, I’ll listen to some of their more meaningful songs. The lyrics are absolutely amazing and can speak so many different levels that I have never been unable to relate to any of their albums. Now that I’m on Twitter, I see just how down to earth each of the members of the band are and how, even now, interact often with their fans. If you have read any of my previous posts, you would know instantly that I’m speaking of Linkin Park.

Just after joining Twitter last year, I followed the band and assumed that they would continue putting out new albums up until we are all deaf from old age and I wouldn’t care any more. Then, sadly, July 20th happened that sent an earthquake through many fans and stopped the band in their tracks. It still hard to believe that Mr. Bennington is no longer here. I had no idea just how much the band had influenced my writing over the years until those days immediately following his death. I sincerely felt that this was the last of Linkin Park. Just that thought seemed to freeze every new creative notation within me. I had many ideas already recorded prior on a single flash drive (yes, I know backups save lives). Then the flash drive disappeared in the fall. You all probably saw that my blog posts started tapering off. I no longer had an outline of topics. My writing in general has been suffering as well.

But Mike Shinoda (of Linkin Park) surprised many with releasing three new songs this year that were created solely by him. Over the last few weeks, I’ve listened to the songs. When the songs first played, I examined the content of the songs and mentally compared them to other Linkin Park songs. Then later, I thought about how I felt when Chester passed. But tonight as I’m currently listening to the songs right now, they finally clicked in my head. Linkin Park drew their own inspiration from the paths they walked themselves. Mr. Shinoda is still doing the same thing with his new material. Each song speaks of exactly how he found his way to get back to his craft. He was lost after his band mate’s death and needed to find that first step to getting his life back. Then he had to deal with grieving while on stage (literally and figuratively). I can’t imagine how they would have felt, but the songs give a window into the roller coaster of grief.

This was what I needed tonight. To see what I myself must do. Yes, Linkin Park will still be my muse for much of what I do. But I need to look to myself and make those necessary steps to get back on track.

Ways to get passed your dead muse &/or writers block

  • Set aside a time to think about your story. Take notes.
  • Read – the more you read, the more your imagination is in use
  • Interview your characters
    • One suggestion I received was to write a background story of how the characters met
  • Research – the more you work with your material, the more twists or ideas will aid you
  • Set aside a time to WRITE
    • There are times that you just have to get your hands dirty
    • Set a daily goal to write just a paragraph, then increase it as you start writing
    • Setting a timer beside you will help push you and keep you focus to write the word count goal and not give into checking Twitter or playing cards
  • If you can’t find the inspiration you need where you typically write, change locations
    • Just don’t try writing in front of the tv. Trust me, it doesn’t work.
  • Talk to someone or out loud to a wall about your story. Hearing it verbally described will make you think more about your characters and the overall story plot. They may even be able to offer additional ideas to use.
  • If you aren’t on twitter, you need to be. There are so many other writers on there offering support and tips.

I hope these help you in your writing. I am still struggling, but I’m setting a daily goal of writing. Every little bit will build to a story.

L. R. Mauck

Adding Hobbies

This post is another layer to add to your character(s) in your writing. I will say that I have read a book or two that was solely a plot-based book. However, if you want to add more to your characters on a relatable level or add more words to your book, you’ll want to add a tangent or even a minor subplot.

One of those tangents can be characters with hobbies. Something that fills their “free time” when they are not involved directly with the plot. Adding hobbies to character(s) is an easy way to slow down the plot if need be or even angle the story that their hobby will later give way to the climax of the plot.


Harry Potter was an athlete by playing Quidditch. Throughout the series, his flying and even practice times were aided in the series.

Herimone Granger (Harry Potter series) was a scholar. She was constantly reading, quoting, and seeing the important clues that Harry missed.

Fred and George Weasley (Harry Potter series) were jokesters who later opened a joke shop. They were a comedy relief as well as played important roles in the series as well as their products.

Katniss Evergreen (Hunger Games) was a hunter who fed her family.

Bella Swan (Twilight) didn’t really have a hobby until the second book when she started rebuilding and riding the motorcycle with Jacob Black.

Personal examples I’ve used in my own books – one character was training for the school’s track team. It gave her an excuse to be out on the roads or in town to witness different clues. Another had a successful career in music – with him being used to his fan base, he could relate on a better level with people from all different walks of life.

One VERY common thread I see in many books is that one of the main characters is a reader. Yes, we writers also love to read. I’m guilty. However, try to push pass this pattern. Get a bit more creative with the hobbies. Yes, I understand that in some cases you want your character to be smarter than the average human – especially if it’s needed for the plot, but get out of the box. Have the character have first hand knowledge of the subject because their parents or best friend worked in that field. Make them a Wikipedia junky – as in they are always looking something up online. It doesn’t make them a reader exactly, but it can be used as the result of a t.v. show curiosity or topic of conversation and they look it up on their phone.

I also understand that in period based novels there was limitations in the activities people could do as a hobby. Jane Austen did have her characters do more than reading. She had them attending parties, playing games, putting on plays, playing piano, taking walks, visiting neighbors, traveling, etc. It is doable.

If you want to push your creativity, do a hobby in the book that you have never done before. Go out and explore that hobby. In a previous post, I wrote about that I personally took up archery to better understand my characters. It will give you firsthand knowledge and may even teach others who read your books about the hobby or craft.

L. R. Mauck