More Similar to or Different from You – How Do You Like Your Protagonists?

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More Similar to or Different from You – How Do You Like Your Protagonists?

I remember reading a blog post a year or so ago about the trend toward awful/bitchy/ugly/unpleasant – fill in your own blank – heroines. People are bored with nice girls finishing first, or so the assertion was made. I gotta tell you, I resisted that one. A lot. Still do. While I might want a badass heroine like Gal Godot in Wonder Woman, I also want a heroine I can root for. A fully drawn, complex character, but one who underneath it all is a pretty decent human being. (That would probably be the one flaw in Wonder Woman – she wasn’t all that fully drawn because the focus was the action.) The above-mentioned story seemed to be mocking decent female characters, implying they were weak, uninteresting, and not worth caring about.

wonder woman

So I ask – as a reader, are you drawn to characters who are more like you, or more different from you? Same question for the writers in the room: are you more likely to create a character who is exactly like you or starkly dissimilar? Add your comments below!

In Stan Finds Himself on the Other Side of the World, the protagonist is a timid, privileged white guy of 30. He’s afraid of everything – including most people, so he holds them in disdain. Can’t be bothered to strike up a conversation with anyone he doesn’t already know – which makes it pretty hard to meet new people. He goes out of his way to avoid social situations. He’s good at math, prefers order to chaos, plans everything welllll in advance. In other words, the complete opposite of me.

The second main character, Paula – she’d probably be nominated as Supporting Actress if we were talking about an Oscar role – is a lot more similar to me.

So why’d I do arrange the characters that way? Well, for one, it wouldn’t be a very interesting story for an outgoing guy who loves people to go around the world. He might have a great time, but he probably wouldn’t learn or grow very much. But why isn’t the main character a woman? There’s the small matter that this story was developed out of a real conversation I had with a male friend, the person on whom Stan was initially patterned.

So how did I write the character? When I started, I just thought, “What would Tom do?” Eventually, though, Stan became Stan and wasn’t so similar to Tom anymore – and I was able to ask myself, “What would Stan do?”

It also helps to have a pretty good sense of people. I’m still looking for 30-year-old male beta readers to test-drive the book, because I want to be sure the dialogue is realistic. Other men have told me it is, but not guys as similar to Stan as I’d like to hear from. If that’s you – give me a holler and I’ll get you an ARC (advance reader copy). So I know people. I like people. I pay attention to people. I like character-driven books, movies, and TV shows. And I’ve also studied a variety of personality profiles. You may be familiar with Myers-Briggs, DISC, and the Enneagram. Just in case you’re wondering, Stan’s profiles for each of those are below.

personality profiles

Time will tell whether I’ve written Stan’s character as realistically as I think I have – or whether that even matters. My second novel is about a man, too. It also came out of a real event. But the details about that are for another day. In the meantime, I’m finishing this draft so I can start the rewrites.

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Laura’s first novel, Stan Finds Himself on the Other Side of the World is forthcoming in early 2018. Watch here for updates – and prepurchase your signed copy here.

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Baseball Beards – More than Superstition

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Baseball Beards – More than Superstition

As a baseball fan, Stan would be all over the post-season. Twelve-year-old Stan is a huge New York Yankees fan – what 12-year-old who lives East of Kansas isn’t? He and his buddy are thrilled to meet two members of the Yankees’ Double A team, the Albany-Colonie Yankees: Andy Pettitte and Jorge Posada. He still roots for the Yankees as an adult, but he’s not an uberfan. For instance, he’s not irritated by Mets fans and merely raises an eyebrow when the Yankees miss the playoffs in 2008.

Stan played baseball in prep school, and at one point thought about pursing a professional career in the game. On his way home from his round-the-word trek, he stops in Houston and tours Minute Maid Park. It’s during that stop that we learn why he gave up on baseball, and instead fell into a Wall Street job he never much liked.

baseball beards

As I write this post, I’m watching my home team, the Arizona Diamondbacks, trying to even the NLDS (National League Division Series) with the Dodgers, who lead the series 1-0. The Washington Nationals just finished up a come-from-behind win over the Cubs. As much as I’ve always loved baseball, I haven’t been following it much these last five or six years. No particular reason – just other things taking priority. So as I’m watching these games, I’m particularly struck by the number of players with everything from a mild hipster beard to the full-blown hippie thing going on.

That ever-reliable resource Wikipedia tells us, “A playoff beard is the superstitious practice of male athletes not shaving their beards during the playoffs. Playoff beards were introduced by ice hockey players participating in the Stanley Cup playoffs, and are now a tradition in many sports leagues.” But it seems, these days, there’s more at work regarding beards in baseball than superstition. At the start of Spring Training last year, Sports Illustrated did a story titled “The 2016 guide to baseball’s finest facial hair.” And not everybody thinks favorably of these furry faces. Back in March 2015, USA Today did a piece titled, “The face of baseball is entirely obscured by its beard.”

The Ryman - Sept 2017

Hubby and I in Nashville, Sept 2017

Personally, I think they look pretty scruffy. My husband has a well manicured beard that his grandmother hated. She was of the era when the only way to look presentable was to be clean-shaven. Whenever she would nag him about his beard, I would defend him, telling her, I think he looks quite handsome.”Clean shaven vs Bearded

So Stan starts off as one of Grandma’s clean-shaven gentlemen. However, as he travels the world, he looks to lighten his load and make things easier, so he grows his hair long and has a beard he tends every now and then by the time he makes it home. But he has a reason. Other than macho posturing, I’m not really sure what these ballplayers are thinking.

What are your thoughts on beards? Yea or nay? Does it matter if they’re busy or well trimmed? Give us your thoughts in the comments section.

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Laura’s first novel, Stan Finds Himself on the Other Side of the World is forthcoming in early 2018. Watch here for updates – and prepurchase your signed copy here.

What’s on Your Travel Bucket List?

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What’s on Your Travel Bucket List?

travel bucket list.jpg

While the character of Stan is loosely based on a friend of mine, he is fictional. There may be a man (or men) out there in the world who are similar to him, in terms of age, interests, and world views – but I don’t know them and did not pattern this book after them. Likewise, the character of Paula is based loosely on aspects from my past. However, she’s a fully drawn character, a fictional person. There may be a woman (or women) like her out there – but I don’t know them and am not writing about them.

The point is that I made it up – this story about a guy who travels around the world. Yes, there are actual historical references, real people are mentioned, and as much as possible, I’ve fact-checked the details. But the travel plan, how Stan gets from place to place, sneaking his dog into places he couldn’t possibly sneak a dog into, and all the characters he meets on his journey are straight out of my own imagination. So it makes sense – to me – that Stan visits a couple of places I’ve visited or that are on my travel bucket list, chief among them Greece and Australia.

But there are more places than those on my bucket list. For one thing, I’d love to do a tour of Ireland, Scotland, England, and Wales. I’ve never been on a cruise, so one of my travel bucket list items is an Alaskan cruise. I’d like to get that one crossed off by May 2019.

When I was in third grade (a loooong time ago), my family did a brief tour of Western Canada that included Alberta and British Columbia. Then we visited Toronto when I was about 12. (My dad was Canadian.) However, I’d love to do a tour of the whole country. My husband and I are thinking about buying an RV trailer – so that would definitely be the way to see our Neighbor to the North!

I’d love to travel to the interior of Mexico, as well as the beaches, and see South America. Gotta dust off my Rosetta Stone before we do that, as my rudimentary Spanish probably will not suffice for a trip of that magnitude – but if immersion works, I’ll be better at the language by the time I get home.

Most people list travel as the thing they’d do if time and money were no barrier, and yet surprisingly few ever do. Estimates put the number of Americans who travel abroad at about 10 percent annually – and the majority of those never stray further than Canada or Mexico. My friend Janet has been all over the world. A number of years ago, she went to Peru – has pictures with the llamas at Machu Picchu. A couple years back, she did a river tour of Viet Nam. Most recently, she took a trip to Bali this summer. She says her kids know she’s not leaving them an inheritance because she’s traveling every chance she gets.

So where will your dream trip take you? How’s the planning coming? Is it a dream that will become a reality, or is your travel likely to remain virtual? Visit Twitter to give your answer on my Travel Bucket List poll.
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Laura’s first novel, Stan Finds Himself on the Other Side of the World is forthcoming in early 2018. Watch here for updates – and prepurchase your signed copy here.

Hometown Holidays Different from Holidays Around the World

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Hometown Holidays Different from Holidays Around the World

So yesterday – October 1st, was International Music Day, International Coffee Day, Walk your dog dayand National Walk Your Dog Day. I posted about all of these on my author Facebook page, as all are relevant to Stan’s story. How does one learn about all these interesting and very specific “holidays”? There are lots of sites that list them, but Brownielocks.com – a homespun website if ever there was one – is one of the most comprehensive. Want to create a holiday? Just google it: a search for “how to create your own holiday” will yield many a story, tip-sheet, and blog post on the subject.

There are quite a few other holidays that could, however tangentially, pertain to our world-traveling protagonist. October 4 is National Taco Day – and Stan’s last stop before returning to the US is Mexico, the country where the taco originated. October 6 is American Libraries Day – and Stan’s mom is a librarian. October 10 is National Face Your Fears Day – you could say that the whole story is about Stan learning to face his fears. Ditto October 19 – Evaluate Your Life Day. October 25 is International Artists Day – Stan’s best friend is an artist, so he sees a lot of art on his trip.adopt-shelter-pet

This week – October 1-7 – is Great Books Week. Of course, I think Stan Finds Himself on the Other Side of the World is a great book, but I’ll leave that you, the reading public, to decide. 😊

And the month of October is Adopt a (Shelter) Dog Month. Isis says, “Woof!”

Holidays are one way that a culture expresses itself. We celebrate and commemorate the things that are important to us. What Stan learns, however, is that what’s important to us, as Americans, often has no bearing on what is important to people of other cultures. July Fourth is the mother of national holidays here in the U.S. Doesn’t really mean much elsewhere in the world, except perhaps to expats who fly Old Glory to celebrate. Likewise, unless you’re Buddhist, you’ve probably never heard of Buddha Purnima, colloquially known as Buddha’s Birthday and celebrated in  most Asian countries on April 8.

Holidays are full of tradition – times typically spent with family and friends. Even if you don’t go out and create an official holiday that gets its own internet memes, maybe it’s time to create a special day/week/month tradition that is unique to your friends and loved ones. Could be anything. Stay in Bed Till Noon Day. Wear Golf Hats Week. Eat Breakfast Together Every Day Month.

Tell us about your favorite holiday. Why is it special to you? Post your answers in the comments section!

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Laura’s first novel, Stan Finds Himself on the Other Side of the World is forthcoming in early 2018. Watch here for updates – and prepurchase your signed copy here.