Friday, August 31, 2012


It is a fact of time goes by, we size, mentally, spiritually, and in experience. And hopefully, at the journey's end we're proud of the person we've become and the decisions we've made through endless mistakes and retries.

I guess the story would be a dull one if we were all perfect....all doing the same thing, and this ride through life was a piece of cake. A novel with the same "easy/breezy" characters would also lack excitement.

Character growth is essential to a story. Who doesn't like watching the hero/heroine evolve, come to new conclusions through tragedy or circumstances beyond their control? To show you what I mean I will use a few examples:

Let's start with Margaret Mitchell's, Scarlet O'Hara from GONE WITH THE WIND. Scarlet starts out as a spoiled young girl with her head in the clouds. Her only concern is being the "belle of the ball", and having all the attention from all the guys.....especially one guy, Ashley Wilkes. When she can't have Ashley, she marries on a rebound and from there, Scarlet's journey begins. We find Mitchell taking Scarlet through the tragedy of war, she's left a young widow, other loved ones die, she's met daily with starvation and fear. She's suddenly responsible for feeding her family, and to add insult to injury....she has in her care, Melanie Hamilton Wilkes, the woman who married her beloved, Ashley. In her own way, Scarlet meets each of the challenges she's given. She finds within her a strength she didn't know she possessed....we didn't know it either until Mitchell's story unfolds. Her selfishness brings her new-found guilt. Her mistakes make her wiser, more powerful.....and eventually break her heart. But in the end, she rises again. Pulls herself together, and stands to face another day. She's come a far way from the stubborn, self-centered young woman we first met. And although she's not perfect, you can't help but admire Scarlet's tenacity, her fight to stay in control of her life, and the sacrifices she's made for the people she loved.

Dorothy's journey in L. Frank Baum's, THE WIZARD OF OZ is another lesson in character growth. When Dorothy's dog, Toto has to be taken from her for biting the mean neighbor-lady, Dorothy decides to run away. With no regard for her Aunt Em and Uncle Henry, Dorothy makes her escape during a tornado. Her journey through OZ teaches her responsibility, as she helps three new friends, Scarecrow, Tin Man, and the Cowardly Lion, find their way down the Yellow Brick Road, to the Wizard. In the mist of the journey she encounters the Wicked Witch of the North....who torments Dorothy at every turn. Scarecrow, Tin Man, and the Cowardly Lion also experience character growth. No one is the same as they were, and many lessons have been learned....Dorothy's being, THERE'S NO PLACE LIKE HOME.

The growth these characters experienced made the stories they starred in, page turning, best-selling novels. As a reader I feared for them, cried for their sorrows, cheered them on during the dark moments, and thought of them long after the book ended.

It is essential for a writer to create three-dimensional characters.....with dialogue, challenges, and mistakes encountered along the way. It's all about the real life....and in a novel.


Roberta C.M. DeCaprio

Saturday, August 25, 2012


My blog, THE WORD MERCHANT'S SOCIETY is all about writing tips....sharing with other writers and aspiring writers what helped me in my journey to publication.

My most faithful of tips is reading....all genres, as I am a true believer that reading begets writing.

However, listening to writing how-to tapes, reading how-to books, and going to writing conferences and workshops also played a large part....and my walk down the writer's path.

Here are a few books I read....and recommend:

I mention this book first because I truly believe it is the writer's Bible. If you read nothing else on writing, Dixon's book is a must.


BIRD BY BIRD by Anne Lamott.

by June and William Noble.


Roberta C.M. DeCaprio

Tuesday, August 14, 2012


Who hasn't heard the saying, "Two heads are better than one"?

And the saying happens to be very true. Two minds working on something can always come up with an answer faster than a single brain. Two sets of eyes can also see a different perspective.

Being a writer can be a lonely profession. At home, alone, sitting at the computer, typing away your thoughts, with no co-workers to bounce ideas off of, can sometimes become very frustrating. This is where a critique partner can be of help.

Here are a few guidelines to follow when looking for the right critique partner:

Make sure your critique partner likes to read the genre you're writing. If you've written a historical romance and your partner only reads auto-biographies of political figures from the 1800's, you probably won't get an accurate account of where you've fallen short or soared with your plot.

Try to stay professional. Taking your critique partner's remarks personal isn't going to help the process. It is your story, characters, scenes, and dialogue being scrutinized, not you as a person. Becoming defensive will only stifle the new prospective you've been given a chance to see.

Don't feel you have to change or agree with everything a critique partner suggests. But try to keep an open mind. I know it's hard to tear apart something you've worked so long to create. But the process won't work for you if you remain stubborn.

If someone should enlist your services as their critique partner, remember to be kind. You can convey the changes you believe are neccessary without character assassinating someone. Calling them names, spouting off mean remarks in the margins, or putting the author's efforts down isn't going to help them to become a better writer. Trust and respect between critique partners is important, and knowing how far to push your ideas is essential. Remember, this is their story, not're just helping them to see a different potential.


Roberta C.M. DeCaprio                                                                                                   

Wednesday, August 8, 2012


Did you ever listen to someone relaying an account of a situation they experienced, or re-living a childhood memory? Going into detail isn't always available, so quite often you might hear them say, "Long story made short...." as they begin to tell their tale.

That is exactly what a synopsis is....a long story made short. And quite frankly it can be a writer's worst enemy. After having eight books published, the synopsis is still frightening to me. How on earth do you get a 300 page novel explained in only a few paragraphs or pages? And so....thus this virtual book report becomes the dreaded synopsis.

Yet it is done all the time, and essential if a writer wants to become a published author. The synopsis is a selling tool that helps an editor or literary agent decide if you've written a book they can market. So, make sure your story fits the genre they publish.

Each editor/literary agent has their own guidelines as to how they want a synopsis written. If this information is posted on their site, follow the rules to the letter. Some might want a two page outline, and others a twenty page format. If there is no specific length mentioned, keep your synopsis around ten to twelve pages long, and double-spaced. Always remember to include a self-addressed, stamped envelope (SASE).

Some key questions to ask yourself before beginning a synopsis is:

First, always write a synopsis in the present tense. Explain in percise, correctly-spelled and grammatically correct words what the story is about, where and when it takes place?

You must entice the editor, so set the tone and pace when explaining a scene. Keep your sentences short and to the point.

Next, focus on the characters. Who are the main players in the story (hero, heroine, villian)? What is their motivation? Why do they want what they're after, how will they achieve it, and what are they going to do after they get it?

Is the conflict you've built between characters strong enough to hold a readers attention to the end of the story? Have you built this conflict well throughout the story, been consistent and clear? Remember to include your hook.

Lastly, don't leave an editor/literary agent hanging. They want to see if you've written a compelling story, so include the conclusion.


Roberta C.M. DeCaprio