Category Archives: On Writing

Volunteer Opportunities for Your Characters – Writers’ Resources

When building a character for your novel, it’s great to give them a few quirks and a job, but a volunteer position can add a lot to their depth.  It not only makes your character more of a real person, but it might also give her a reason to be in the right place at the right time and solve the crime/win the love of her crush/tick off someone who deserves it.

Since I love just these sorts of lists when I’m writing, I’m sharing them with you!  You can find this list and more on my Writers’ Resources page.

If you have any suggestions for this list, leave me a comment!  I’ll add your idea as well as your preferred link.

animal shelter

Big Brothers Big Sisters

blood drive

booster club (athletics, band, etc)

Boy Scouts

Boys and Girls Club

churches

city cleanup

coaching

food pantry

Girl Scouts

Habitat for Humanity

historical society

homeless shelter

hospice

library

literacy program

national parks

park district

political campaign

Red Cross

retirement home

schools

soup kitchen

warming shelter

YMCA

youth center

 

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Ashley O’Melia is an independent author and freelancer from Southern Illinois. She holds her Bachelor’s Degree in Creative Writing and English from Southern New Hampshire University. Her books include The Wanderer’s Guide to Dragon Keeping and The Graveside Detective. Her short stories have been published in The Penmen Review, Siren’s Call, and Subcutaneous. Ashley’s freelance work has spanned numerous genres for clients around the world. You can find her on Facebook and Amazon.

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20th Century Timeline for Writers (1900-1999)

This is a work in progress as part of my Writers’ Resources page!  It’s here to give you some help or maybe just a little inspiration if you’re working on any sort of historical fiction.  You’ll find that the links open a new tab so you can come back easily.  You can also check out the 19th Century/Old West Timeline.

Have something that shoudl be added?  Leave me a comment!

 

1900

Hawaii is annexed as a U.S. territory

1904

-both the World’s Fair and the Summer Olympics are held in St. Louis

1911

Ronald Reagan is born (Feb 6)

1919

Prohibition (the 18th amendment) was passed on Jan 16.  The country wouldn’t officially go dry until Jan 17, 1920

1929

Martin Luther King, Jr. is born (January 15)

1941

-the Japanese attack Pearl Harbor, Hawaii (Dec 7)

1959

Hawaii becomes a state (August 21)

1963

Cat’s Cradle (Kurt Vonnegut) is published

1967

-the first Super Bowl is played (Jan 15)  (Green Bay Packers vs. Kansas City Chiefs in L.A.)

1968

Martin Luther King, Jr. is assassinated (April 4)

1969

Slaughterhouse-Five (Kurt Vonnegut) is published

1970

The Mary Tyler Moore Show is broadcast (until 1977)

1980

Ronald Reagan is elected President and is at that time the oldest person elected for the position

 

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Jobs for Your Characters

As a writer, you want your characters to have some depth.  Maybe they need some interesting quirks, or maybe they just need a job.  I often find that when I’m cranking along on a story, it’s really helpful to look through a list of options when I need to make a decision about a character.  While it’s by no means exhaustive, here’s a list of common jobs for you to use in your creative process.  These are the kind of jobs you’d find in any typical town, so this list is particularly helpful if you’re working on cozy mysteries.  If you think of something that should be on this list, leave a comment and I’ll add it!

Looking for more posts like this?  Check out my Writers’ Resources page!


Accountant

Artist

Attorney

Baker

Banker

Barista

Bartender

Blogger

Bus driver

Busboy

Busker

Butcher

Cab driver

Car salesman

Carpenter

Chef

Cleaning lady (or cleaning gentleman?)

Computer tech

Cook

Daycare provider

Delivery driver

Discount store clerk

Doctor

Dog groomer

Drywall finisher

EMT/paramedic

Factory worker

Fashion designer

Fast food worker

Financial advisor

Firefighter

Florist

Gas station clerk

Hair stylist

HVAC tech

Insurance agent

Janitor

Jeweler

Landlord

Librarian

Mechanic

Musician

Nurse

Painter (of either homes or landscapes)

Paralegal

Paranormal investigator

Pet sitter

Photographer

Pilot

Plumber

Police dispatcher

Police officer

Printer

Real estate agent

Secretary

Security guard

Shoe salesperson

Stable owner

Teacher

Teacher’s aid

Veterinarian

Waitress

Warehouse foreman

Web designer

Welder

Writer/author

Youtuber

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Ashley O’Melia is an independent author and freelancer from Southern Illinois. She holds her Bachelor’s Degree in Creative Writing and English from Southern New Hampshire University. Her books include The Wanderer’s Guide to Dragon Keeping and The Graveside Detective. Her short stories have been published in The Penmen Review, Siren’s Call, and Subcutaneous. Ashley’s freelance work has spanned numerous genres for clients around the world. You can find her on Facebook and Amazon.

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Old West/Frontier Timeline for Writers (19th Century)

Historical fiction can be a delight or doozy, depending on how you look at it.  Much of my ghostwriting work has been in this genre, and I find myself spending a lot of time checking facts to make sure I get things right.  To save both myself (and you!) some time, I’ve started this timeline of the 1800s in America.  It will include anything I come across that’s relevant to life in America, even if it’s an invention or publication in another country so your characters will have some news to talk about.  This timeline works well for writers working with frontier and pioneer life, mail order bride stories, westerns, and more.  Each link will open in a new tab so you can explore a little more but still come back easily.  I’ll be updating it regularly, so be sure to check back!

Have an event you’d like to see on the timeline?  Just leave me a comment!

 

1814

British troops burn the White House during the War of 1812 (August 24)

1818

-Illinois becomes a state (Dec 3)

1820

Washington Irving publishes “Rip Van Winkle” and “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” in a collection of short stories entitled The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent.  They’re considered the first American short stories.

1821

-Missouri becomes a state (August 10)

1825

a patent for tinning sardines in America was granted to Thomas Kensett.  The food had originally been invented in 1810 to help feed Bonaparte’s troops.

1834

Fort Boise (Idaho Territory) is established

1837

the Daguerrotype is invented in France  (the first made in the U.S. were in 1839)

1841

-Dallas, TX is founded

1843

Charles Dickens publishes A Christmas Carol (Dec 19)

1848

James Wilson Marshall discovers gold near Coloma, California, sparking the gold rush of 1849

the Mexican-American War ends with the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo

1850

-California becomes a state (September 9)

1851

-the Australian Gold Rush begins (Feb 12)

Moby Dick (Herman Melville) is published

1854

copper is discovered in Arizona

the Nebraska Territory is established

1856

-Dallas, TX is officially incorporated

1860

the first schoolhouse in Colorado is built in Boulder

1861

the Territory of Colorado is established (February)

-the Civil War begins (April 12)

1862

The Homestead Act is signed into law by President Lincoln, allowing Americans to claim 160-acre plots of public land (May 20)

1864

Montana becomes a territory

Jules Verne publishes A Journey to the Centre of the Earth

1865

-the Civil War ends (May 9)

1867

Nebraska becomes a state (March 1)

Lincoln is chosen as the capital of Nebraska (territorial capital was Omaha)

1869

the transcontinental railroad is completed in Promontory, Utah (May 10)

Jules Verne publishes 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (translated to English in 1873)

1871

the city of Boulder, Colorado (formerly Boulder City) is incorporated

1872

Jules Verne publishes Around the World in Eighty Days

1876

-Colorado is admitted to the Union as the 38th state (August 1)

1877

-The University of Colorado in Boulder opens (September)

-The American Museum of Natural History opens in New York

1882

Buffalo Bill Cody starts “Buffalo Bill’s Wild West” show

-Northern Pacific railroad completed in Idaho

1889

Pocatello, Idaho is founded

Montana becomes a state (November 8)

1890

Idaho becomes a state (July 3)

-Wyoming becomes a state (July 10)

1893

Colorado becomes the second state to allow women the right to vote

1912

Arizona becomes a state (February 14)

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Ashley O’Melia is an independent author and freelancer from Southern Illinois. She holds her Bachelor’s Degree in Creative Writing and English from Southern New Hampshire University. Her books include The Wanderer’s Guide to Dragon Keeping and The Graveside Detective. Her short stories have been published in The Penmen Review, Siren’s Call, and Subcutaneous. Ashley’s freelance work has spanned numerous genres for clients around the world. You can find her on Facebook and Amazon.

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Character Quirks

Quirks are handy when creating characters and may even help advance the plot.  Note these aren’t necessarily bad or good things about a person, but they’re fun traits that not everyone will share. Although it’s by no means exhaustive, here’s a list of quirks you may find helpful while creating your characters.  (Looking for more on writing?  Visit my Writers’ Resources page.)

  • presses her lips together when she’s angry
  • sticks the tip of his tongue out of the corner of his mouth while he’s working on something
  • picks up rocks and throws them as she’s walking
  • can’t stand to eat a certain food, i.e. always picks tomatoes out of his salad
  • doesn’t like pets or animals of any kind
  • constantly corrects people, either on their grammar or their pronunciations
  • trails her fingers on plants, books, whatever is at hand as she walks
  • has trouble sleeping at night
  • constantly lies, even though she’s terrible at it
  • always has his nose in a book
  • constantly washes her hands
  • afraid to travel
  • hates confrontation so much she won’t stand up for herself, even when she’s right
  • really into science fiction, and it is a part of his life
  • won’t go anywhere without her dog
  • likes to blame everyone else for his problems
  • is neat and presentable, but her house is an absolute wreck
  • insists that his clothes be folded a certain way, but he won’t do his own laundry
  • refuses to take her husband’s last name
  • won’t drink out of a can or bottle, and has to pour it into a glass first
  • chews ice
  • always falls asleep with the TV on
  • talks in her sleep
  • thinks he’s an expert on everything
  • bad with money
  • talks to her dogs like they’re people
  • terrified of animals (or a certain kind of animal)
  • drinks a lot but functions
  • always reads subtitles even when he can understand the dialog
  • must be busy while on the phone
  • gestures with hands while talking, even if on the phone
  • always carries his own pen and refuses to use anyone else’s
  • constantly listening to music
  • drums her fingers on the counter when waiting
  • absolutely refuses to leave the house without full makeup and hair
  • despites coffee
  • obsessed with coffee
  • obsessed with eating healthy and drives everyone else nuts with it
  • obsessed with environmentally healthy products
  • always trying to sell you something (party products like Avon and Pampered chef, handmade crafts, or even a used car)
  • has kept all the porcelain dolls her mother collected
  • literally lives in a fantasy world (cosplay, D&D, etc.)
  • convinced she’s adopted
  • feels Christmas must be exactly perfect or else it’s a disaster
  • is an extreme couponer and hoards pantry and cleaning items simply becuase she got them cheap
  • always cold (needs blankets, socks, mitten, sweaters)
  • quit smoking and now constantly chews gum or has a toothpick in his mouth
  • always apologizes (could relate to past trauma)
  • constantly knitting things for people, even if they don’t want them
  • loves speaking with an English accent and/or using British terms, even though she’s American
  • loves British television (and thus the accent?)
  • believes in crystal healing and is constantly giving her friends stones that she believes will help them
  • hypochondriac
  • signs up for volunteer positions but never follows through with them
  • loves spending time in nature and is always outside
  • loves fountain pens and ink (this person is likely to have ink on their fingers)
  • still gets up to watch cartoons on Saturday morning
  • insists on having a perfectly clean house all the time
  • abstains from drinking any alcohol, ever (perhaps a victim of alcoholism in some way)
  • always has a book with her
  • waves at anyone who happens to drive by

This is just a handful of suggestions, but it was also a great writing exercise.  What quirks have you used or seen in fiction that you think are great?  Or terrible?  Let me know in the comments!  Please be sure to check out my Writers’ Resources page for more ideas, lists, and information on writing.

* * *

Ashley O’Melia is an independent author and freelancer from Southern Illinois. She holds her Bachelor’s Degree in Creative Writing and English from Southern New Hampshire University. Her books include The Wanderer’s Guide to Dragon Keeping and The Graveside Detective. Her short stories have been published in The Penmen Review, Siren’s Call, and Subcutaneous. Ashley’s freelance work has spanned numerous genres for clients around the world. You can find her on Facebook and Amazon.

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As Long as You’re Writing…A Note to Myself

It’s not always easy to write.  For me, lately, it’s been pretty hard.  I’m constantly distracted (thank you, Internet).  Or tired.  Or I have other things I feel I should be taking care of.  Or I’m just not feeling it.

It’s difficult to find a moment of silence when you have a full house and you work from home.  It’s sometimes impossible to drown out the sound of my kids fighting right behind me or playing around with various car crash sounds on the keyboard.

And I fully admit I get frustrated when I can’t find the time to write.  It seems like I shouldn’t have to fight so hard to get past the mom-and-wife stuff just to get a few words on the page.  You know what I mean.  You’ve felt it, too.

But that’s when you have to make a fresh cup of coffee, grab your headphones, blow the cat hair off your computer, and just go for it.  Even if it’s not what you were supposed to be writing.   Maybe you should be working on a freelance job or your next great novel, but you just aren’t feeling it at all.  It’s okay.  Even if it’s something that doesn’t turn out the way you wanted and you’ll erase it later (or the cat will).  As long as you’re writing, it’s okay.

Not even kidding about the cat hair thing…

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Beating Writer Burnout

It’s Monday morning. You’ve had your coffee, your avocado toast, and your obligatory half hour in front of the TV before it’s time to shuffle across the house to your desk. But for some reason, you just can’t do it.

Or maybe it’s after dinner, when you normally take a break from the real world to work on your novel. But as soon as you grab your laptop, you know your eyes will cross if you have to read your own story yet again. It isn’t bad writing, you just can’t do it.

Dog Sleeping after Studying

You may have writer burnout. This isn’t quite the same as writer’s block, because in that situation you want to write but can’t.  When you’re burned out, you don’t even want to pick up a pen.  It happens to all of us, whether we’re getting paid or not. For me, I freelance for a living and write my own stories when I find the time. I’m always writing. Most of the time I’m thrilled to be doing so, but there are days when I just want to sit around in my fuzzy pink bathrobe and watch Star Trek.

Fortunately, there are a few things you can do to help stave off burnout:

Give Yourself Goals: It’s too easy to just not write, even if it’s your livelihood. Give yourself a goal every month. If you’re writing for yourself, make it a word count or a certain number of stories. If you’re freelancing, make it a dollar amount. When you reach your goal, treat yourself to that video game that you’ve been wanting or a new shirt. People working “regular” jobs get bonuses, so why shouldn’t you?

Buy a How-to Book: There are tons of books out there on writing, and they can be just the inspiration you need to get back on track. Find one that deals specifically with the type of writing you’re trying to do, whether it’s crafting the perfect murder mystery or learning how to boost your freelancing business. This also gives you an excuse to go out to the bookstore and get some coffee!

Take a Break: When you just can’t do it anymore, don’t! There are lots of techniques for working through writer’s block, but if you’re burned out its a good idea to walk away for a little while. It gives your brain a chance to focus on something else, and maybe come up with some great ideas in the meantime!  Just make sure you go back and hit the keyboard after an hour or so.

Balance Your Checkbook: If your freelance work seems like the last thing you want to do, balance your checkbook and look at upcoming bills and expenses. For me, that’s usually enough to get my head back in the game!

Work on Something Different: There’s no written rule that you can’t have more than one story going. Tired of trying to figure out what your main character is going to do in chapter 5? Go find a new character to stalk!

While these methods aren’t going to be perfect for everyone, it’s important to give yourself scheduled breaks and avoid working too hard on one project.  Find what works for you, and keep it going even when you don’t feel burned out.  It’ll prevent future episodes and make sure those words keep coming.  Good luck!

* * *

Ashley O’Melia is an independent author and freelancer from Southern Illinois.  She holds her Bachelor’s Degree in Creative Writing and English from Southern New Hampshire University.  Her books include The Wanderer’s Guide to Dragon Keeping and The Graveside DetectiveHer short stories have been published in The Penmen Review, Paradox, and Subcutaneous.  Ashley’s freelance work has spanned numerous genres for clients around the world.  You can find her on Facebook and Amazon.

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