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Lifecycle of a Character:


by Sandy Tritt


Conception is the initial spark, the idea that originally causes us to want to create this character. Sometimes it is generated by plot—we know a story we want to tell and we need a character to tell it by. Sometimes we see a setting—a country porch with a dilapidated swing or an isolated island—which makes us wonder what kind of person would live there. Sometimes we run across a photograph that sparks our imagination and we create a personality to go with the physical features. Or sometimes we see a possession—an antique spinning wheel or an outrageously expensive emerald ring—and wonder the type of person who would own such a thing. Whatever the cause, a character is conceived by an idea.

During the conception phase, we assign basic physical and emotional characteristics to our character. Now, later, as our character begins to interact with his environment, he may (and should) take on a life of his own and he may adjust our perception of him. But, to get us started, we will still go through the paces. A reproducible Character Trait Chart is located in Section 8. This gives us fundamental facts about our character: Name? Age? Sex? Marital Status? Occupation/Social Class? Physical Description? How does he feel about himself? Who are his friends? How intelligent or educated is he? What does he sound like? Smell like? What is the very first thing you notice about this character? And on and on.

Section 8 discusses how to fill out such a chart. Remember that the importance of the different components depends on the type of story your character will live in. In a romance, for example, physical description is important and must be detailed. In a literary mainstream novel, it may not be necessary to have any physical description at all (although I still think the author needs to be able to visualize the character, even if he doesn’t reveal all the details to the reader). Also, in an action/adventure or plot-driven story, character motivations and backgrounds are far less important. However, the more the writer knows about his character, the better he can understand and portray his character, so try to fill out the character trait chart as completely as possible for every major character in your story. (How much you reveal to your reader can be decided later.)

By now, you should have a pretty solid feel for the character you are conceiving. Are you ready to give birth to him?

(c) copyright 2002 by Sandy Tritt. All rights reserved, except for those listed here. November be reproduced for educational purposes (such as for writer's workshops), as long as this copyright notice and the url: http://tritt.wirefire.com are distributed with the pages. For use in conferences or other uses not mentioned here, please contact Sandy Tritt at tritt@wvadventures.net for permission and additional resources at no or limited charge.

   Keep writing!

Sandy Tritt

Inspiration for Writers tritt@wvadventures.net

Critiquing Special

  • Limited time special, one cent per word.  Just mention Publishing New Writers  Newsletter (January, 2006).

    Critiques by Sandy Tritt

  • Unlike most editors, I consider my role to be a mentor or a coach. Instead of just telling you what is wrong, I explain how to correct the problem, and I work with you to teach you how to write effective prose. More than 50% of my business is repeat business, and I relish establishing long-term relationships with other writers.

  • Treat you with respect and compassion. All criticism will be of the "constructive" sort. My purpose is to improve your writing, not to destroy your confidence.

  • Mark your manuscript, correcting grammatical and spelling errors and suggesting alternative wording where appropriate, line-by-line.

  • Highlight areas that are especially well-written, so you will know where your strengths are.

  • Where appropriate, offer suggestions for plot development, character development or other areas that could be strengthened.

  • Return a two-to-four page written analysis of your work. This will include evaluation of: plot, setting, characterization, dialogue, special effects (flash forwards, flashbacks, etc.), voice, point of view and any other areas particular to your work.

  • If appropriate, recommend reading or resources to strengthen your areas of weakness.

  • Answer any questions you  have via email.

  • Provide my telephone number for a personal follow-up, if you desire.

For Sandy's success stories, see http://tritt.wirefire.com/Manuscript_Critique.html

Write Sandy at tritt@wvadventures.net

(See Sandy's article - above.)







The Problems of Writing in an Internet Cafe


by Ehichoya Ekozilen

Someone once said there are three things in the world you cannot do anything about: death, airlines and taxes. I have since added a fourth: cybercafés. Many writers here don’t own computers and rely entirely on cafés. Even for those of us who own PCs, Internet connection is for God, so we still need the cafés. Ninety percent of the cafés in Lagos are shut half the time and render poor services almost all the time they are open. The remaining ten percent render poor services half the time. “Our server is down” is something you often hear at cafés. Most of them operate more stations than the broadband services they pay for is meant to cover and this makes the system slow. Some default in payment and are promptly cut off by their US-based providers. For some this is due to difficulty in remitting money as it is extremely difficult to use credit cards from Nigeria. Sometimes the problem is double power failure; that is, from the electricity company and from café generator. I once spent an entire evening trying in vain to submit a story to an editor meant to submit it to another editor. It was two days to the day the final editor was meant to receive it.

A problem often faced is cafés not accepting diskettes because someone told them their systems would catch a virus. For cafés which have no such rules, the one or two systems designated for diskette users are usually inadequate. Even those of us that now have flash sticks sometimes get ambushed by some cafés running Windows® 98 which is incompatible. 

Once at my favourite café, I found that the six systems designated for floppy disk users were taken up. I sat down and waited. You learn to wait in this business. When someone finally got up, another man jumped in front of me, saying he had been waiting for that system. He said not to worry, that he won’t be five minutes. Five minutes became forty minutes as be browsed away at pornography and sent erotic mails. By the time I sat on the PC, it was ten minutes to the café’s closing time.

The PC had no Microsoft Word. WordPad usually reads MS Word files, but not today. That one said it could not convert certain graphics in the file. A few minutes later, three other systems became vacant. But none of them would accept my diskette. By now the café attendant was standing behind me, telling me they were locking up. I left for home – to return the following day.

For writers who have no access to computers at home and in the office and rely entirely on cybercafés to do their writing, there is the problem of cost. Cafés charge between N100 and N150 an hour. This may not be much but it comes to a lot if you spend several hours at the café. This is unsustainable if you are what is called “a poor struggling writer”. Many of us have since discovered that typing keeps much faster pace with your thought process than the use of pens. But faced with this kind of problem, many go back to writing in ink. If they cannot afford to take this out for typing, they may chuck them in their cupboards and forget about writing.


Nonfiction in Fiction Writing


by Bruce L. Cook

Particulars are important in fiction writing. Therefore, I recommend writing from direct personal experience or relevant nonfiction works.

For example, in his current story, “Murphy’s Law,” Valentine Umelo could have said, “I took a disgusting bus trip to Lagos.”

Consider, instead, his vivid description – and I don’t think this one came from reading a nonfiction book in the university library!

“The bus is filled with fishmongers and market women. The women have been spitting non-stop since the bus took off. I now understand why that seat by the only open window was left unoccupied. I had rushed to it, thanking my stars, hoping to get fresh air to help decongest my chest. Now all I get is spittle coloured yellow and black with cola nut, bitter-cola and tobacco dripping down my body. I dare not complain. It is the worst offence to pick up a quarrel with a band of market women. I pretend I am happy sitting by the window, acting as a collecting bowl for spittle….” (Valentine Umelo, “Murphy’s Law,” 2005

But what about historical fiction – for example, a book about the Second World War? In writing chapter 5 of my Great American Novel (pardon the pun – we’ve all written at least one) I could have said “The officer tuned his radio.”  Instead, I did my research about radio in the Second World War. You tell me if you think it helped!

“Boredom was his real enemy. During his duty hours he would scan the radio bands, for that’s what he and Watts were there for. But, even during the scans, there was ample time to monkey with settings on the Hammarlund Super-Pro 200 receiver. A fortnight earlier he had begun fiddling with the Collins transmitting unit and fashioning a new 30-meter array to string from the lighthouse to the pole he had managed to erect long ago. Now it was ready….”

Now, as a caveat, I do not recommend that a writer seek to experience everything he or she writes about. For example, a writer should not commit a crime just to understand the mindset of a criminal. In such cases, it is best to interview someone who has had the experience, or observe an actual arrest. Again, personal caution is necessary.

Bring your experience into your fiction. Read nonfiction books. But always keep in mind your “journalistic” responsibility to represent truth within the fictional framework you have created.

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Publishing New Writers,

January, 2006 (no. 612)


Publisher: Bruce L. Cook, P.O. Box 451, Dundee, IL 60118.  Fax (847) 428-8974.

Submissions /comments  cookcomm@gte.net.

Links are welcome.


To subscribe and/or  review our archive of past newsletters, go to











Publishing in  Non Traditional Media

New Avenues for

Emerging Writers


By Jane Musoke-Nteyafas

Toronto, Canada


J.K. Rowlings got plenty of them for Harry Potter. Stephen King got a few for his book Carrie and at 7000 William Saroyan had the most. Agatha Christie, Hunter S. Thompson, George Orwell, James Joyce, Gertrude Stein also got their share. What are we referring to here? We are referring to those notorious, humiliating rejection letters from publishing houses. Stephen King got so many that he used to nail them on a spike under a timber in his bedroom.

Margaret Mitchell got rejection letters from 38 different publishers before anyone finally agreed to publish her novel, Gone With The Wind. Beatrix Potter got numerous rejection letters for The Tale of Peter Rabbit until she finally decided to publish it herself. Jane Austen, Pearl Buck and Edgar Allan Poe and were once cruelly rejected by publishers. Even Dr. Seuss and George Bernard Shaw were told to give up writing.

A writer’s life is strife with numerous rejections, harsh criticisms and long spans of loneliness. There are countless stories of now famous writers who sent out manuscripts to dozens of literary houses before getting their first break. Any writer worth their weight in gold knows that it is not an easy path and prepares themselves for the rejection letters that will mercilessly come their way. One of the rules is not to give up and to keep trying. Being a writer today is even harder than it was in the past because of the focus that publishing houses are making on who makes them money as in opposed to who writes good material.

It seems that too many people want to become famous writers. They cannot be blamed when one considers the present day publishing house tactics. Many writers are being told to basically get famous first before they can be considered for publication by large noteworthy publishing houses. Emerging writers are caught up in a catch twenty two situation where they are not famous enough and cannot get ‘famous’ enough because they are not given the opportunity. It’s like university students fresh out of school and being asked for experience that they do not have.

While many publishing houses make noble claims that they are looking for fresh new talent, their actions speak louder than their words when they choose to go with more well-known writers. They are not willing to take the risk with new writers. A celebrity who has never written a book in their life, and will probably hire someone to write the book for them has more chances of getting published than a writer who has been writing for several years and has been published in modest publications.

Being a writer in the traditional sense is changing its meaning as many people, whether they are talented or not, are leaping into the writing/publishing industry. According to the online encyclopedia-Wikepedia the term writer can apply to anyone who creates a written work, but the word more usually designates those who write creatively or professionally, or those who have written in many different forms.

Skilled writers demonstrate skills in using language to portray ideas and images, whether producing fiction or non-fiction. A writer may compose in many different forms, including (but not limited to): poetry, prose, music. Accordingly, a writer in specialist mode may rank as a poet, novelist, composer, lyricist, playwright, mythographer, journalist, film scriptwriter, etc.

Whereas some critics are quick to minimize and disparage writers who have been published in what they call ‘non-notable publications’, the traditional sense of publishing is changing from the old Neanderthal method with more writers taking control of their writing careers. These critics are quick to jump on the ‘are they a somebody? Have I ever heard of them? Since I have not heard of them, they must be a nobody’ bandwagon.

They are very quick to dismiss writers who have been published in relatively unknown publications and wave them off as poseurs. What they fail to understand is that those writers have to start somewhere. What also escapes them is the fact that the times are changing and the writing/publishing industry is changing. Generation X is a generation which continuously challenges the status quo and if their voices are not being heard, they will find ways of having them heard. Another point they miss is the fact that one does not have to be famous to be a writer. One can become famous as a result of being a writer, but in the pioneering stages most writers are relatively unknown. 

 Many so-called underground writers like African Americans Omar Tyree (Flyy Girl) and Heru Ptah (a Hip Hop Story) were selling their books in the 10,000’s long before the media caught onto them and publishing houses decided to invest in them. These two writers had already created a sizable fan base long before they became famous. True writers will write in any medium and will continue to write whether they are on the best sellers list or not. They will always write whether they are published in notable venues or not. If they have to self-publish, then they will. For them these varied publishing venues are a means to an end.

If things were done the traditional way, there are an extensive number of great writers who we would still not know. If every person stuck to the formula and did things the expected way we would not have heard of African writers like Helon Habila (Nigeria) , Monica Arac de Nyeko (Uganda), Jackee Budeste Batanda(Uganda), Binyavanga Wainaina (Kenya), Chika Unigwe(Nigeria) and Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor (Kenya). As hard as it is to get published in well-known journals and publishing houses for the average writer, it is doubly hard for the African writer. No writer faces more obstacles than the African writer.

However more writers are taking the bulls by the horns. In the face of rejection and obstacles many writers have been forced to opt for self publishing or/and getting published in venues that may not be well known. If it were not for so called non-notable online literature magazines like Authorme-from Cook Communication, Open Wide Magazine, Kwani?, and G21Net those writers would not even be known in the literary world today. If it were not for the presence of anthologies, many readers would have not discovered certain writers. What is interesting is how many of these African writers mentioned above have gone ahead to win all kinds of literary prizes like the Caine Prize for African Writing and Commonwealth Prize for Best First Book, African Region,  as well as scholarships, publication deals, Writer-in-Residence opportunities after the non-notable venues saw their talent.

Helon Habila, a progressive, intelligent African writer for example went from self-publishing a book that he was forced to write at night-times under candlelight (because of a broken generator) to winning the Caine Prize for African Writing. He was later published by Hamish Hamilton and received $15,000 prize money as well as a literary University fellowship in England. Had he not taken that step, he would probably still be receiving rejection slips.

It is clear that this is a generation which is tired of having its voice continuously silenced. With the advent of the internet many young writers are taking advantage and creating opportunities for themselves. Ezines, online magazines, blogs and self published books are on the rise. Granted, some bad writers are slipping through the cracks and being published too but traditional publishers are also guilty of doing the same thing.

For the many writers that may have otherwise felt like they may have not had opportunities, the internet is opening up doors. There is a growing number of people who go to the internet to read, as in opposed to book stores. In the process they are discovering writers who traditional publishing houses have been rejecting all along. So for unnoticed writers, there is hope in the horizon. Once published somewhere, there is a greater chance of being taken seriously as a writer.

Jane Musoke-Nteyafas, poet/author/artist and playwright, was born in Moscow, Russia and currently resides in Toronto, Canada. She is the daughter of retired diplomats. By the time she was 19, she spoke French, English, Spanish, Danish, Luganda, and some Russian and had lived in Russia, Uganda, France, Denmark, Cuba and Canada. She won the Miss Africanada beauty pageant 2000 in Toronto where she was also named ‘one of the new voices of Africa’ after reciting one of her poems.

In 2004 she was published in T-Dot Griots-An Anthology of Toronto's Black storytellers and in February 2005 her art piece Namyenya was featured as the poster piece for the Human Rights through Art-Black History Month Exhibit. She is also a columnist for Bahiyah Woman Magazine and is a fellow with the British Council-Crossing Borders Writers Programme.











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