Category Archives: Guest post

Guest Post: Why Writers Should Have YouTube Channels, by Web Design Relief

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This article has been reprinted with the permission of Web Design Relief.  Whether you’re just starting out or a best-selling author, Web Design Relief will improve your existing website or build you an affordable, custom author website to support your author platform, boost your online presence, and act as a hub for your social media outreach. Web Design Relief is a division of Writer’s Relief, a highly recommended author’s submission service. Sign up for their free e-publication for writers, Submit Write Now! Visit the site today to learn more.

As a writer, you may think YouTube isn’t a worthwhile platform for reaching out to your readers and building an audience. Think again—your readers love to watch videos! The media experts at Web Design Relief know that YouTube has over a billion users, and it’s currently the second most popular platform after Facebook. Here are more reasons why writers should have YouTube channels.

Why More Writers Are Creating YouTube Channels

More Exposure: The more times you show up in an Internet search, the better! Along with your social media platforms and author website, having a YouTube channel helps you reach a wider audience and makes you more findable by literary agents and editors. Since YouTube is owned by Google, it also sends traffic to YouTube channels. If a potential new reader conducts an online search for your topics or writing style, Google will display your YouTube channel in the search results. Be sure to keep your content fresh and interesting so visitors to your channel choose to become subscribers! Here are innovative ways to increase your visibility on YouTube.

Better Engagement: Readers who visit your YouTube channel are actively searching for your specific type of content, so your videos will command more of their attention and generate more responses and interaction. Plus, unlike posts on social media that can be buried under other posts and lost forever, YouTube videos will always pop up in a search if the topic is relevant. Visitors who watch your videos are obviously interested in you and your writing, so asking your YouTube audience to sign up for your e-mail list or newsletter is another great way to connect and grow your fan base.

Increased Readership. If you provide quality content on a consistent basis, your regular readers will be delighted with your channel and new readers who browsed in for one topic may stay and watch your other videos. Visitors who enjoy your content and subscribe to your channel will receive notifications whenever you post new content. Viewers who watch your YouTube channel are more likely to share your content with other booklovers and literature fans, bringing you and your writing to the attention of new readers—and potential new subscribers!

Joining Is Free: There’s no cost to create your YouTube channel and start posting videos. You can build your readership, become more visible in online searches, and engage your followers without spending lots of your hard-earned cash. YouTube does offer the option to purchase ads, but it’s not necessary to pay to play.

Bonus: Once you develop a substantial following on your YouTube channel, you can choose to monetize your videos so they can generate income for you! And while making a living from YouTubing is rare, you may bring in enough money to buy that new journal you’ve had your eye on.

YouTube Videos Can Be Reused: You can take the videos you create for your YouTube channel and embed them on your author website and into blog articles, as well as feature the videos on your Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram accounts. Since videos are popular on social media platforms, you’ll capture your followers’ attention more effectively in their feeds.

A YouTube channel is a great way to connect with your audience and grow your following. And you don’t need to have expensive video equipment or expert camera skills to get started! You can read some of your published work, answer questions about your writing process, give writing tips and advice, and much more. It’s a great way to stand out and be noticed!

Question: Which authors do you follow on YouTube?

Guest Post: Using Direct And Indirect Characterization To Make Characters Seem Real, by Writer’s Relief

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This article has been reprinted with the permission of Writer’s Relief, a highly recommended author’s submission service. We assist writers with preparing their submissions and researching the best markets. We have a service for every budget, as well as a free e-publication for writers, Submit Write Now! Visit our site today to learn more.

Even the best story will fall flat without spot-on character development. At Writer’s Relief, we know that good characterization is vital to a short story or novel. But bringing a character to life may sometimes seem complicated—what writing techniques should you use? Both direct and indirect characterization will make your characters seem more real. Here’s how to use characterization to help breathe life into your characters and move your plot forward.

How To Use Direct And Indirect Characterization

5 Writing Tips For Using Direct Characterization

Direct characterization is a very straightforward method of developing your character. You tell readers what they need to know about the character by describing specific attributes, routines, and desires. This method of characterization can be extremely useful for introducing a new character and making sure they take root in your readers’ minds. To use direct characterization in your writing, answer these questions:

What are your character’s physical attributes? Physical attributes—hair and eye color, height and body size, any scars or tattoos—will help readers to create a picture of your character. The more unique, the better! You can also include details about the character’s fashion sense.

What does your character do? This can provide an important piece of the character’s foundation. Telling readers your character’s job, whether or not they’re good at it, and whether or not they like their work, reveals a lot about who that character is.

What are your character’s hobbies? What does your character like to do with their spare time? This will give readers information about the character’s personality: A character who prefers quiet, intricate puzzles may be more patient and inquisitive, whereas a character who prefers skydiving and hiking may be bolder or perhaps even reckless.

What does your character like and dislike? Opinions and quirks come together to build your character’s worldview. Food preferences, pet peeves, and what they look for in friends are all details that will help round out your character.

What does your character want? By answering this simple question, you begin defining and communicating a character’s motivation. What goal are they working toward? What drives them forward? Understanding a character’s motivation is crucial to building readers’ knowledge of who that character is and what their story will be.

6 Writing Tips For Using Indirect Characterization

Indirect characterization lets readers get to know a character through thoughts, actions, and speech. This type of characterization focuses on how your character interacts with other characters, as well as the world around them. To use indirect characterization in your writing, answer these questions:

How does your character’s voice sound? In narration, thought, and dialogue, it’s important to develop a unique, recognizable voice for your character: Do they tend to use flowery, drawn-out language rife with similes and metaphors, or do they prefer to get straight to the point without mincing words? Does the character have an accent or any defining speech patterns? Whether a character talks a lot or lets others do the talking is also a good personality indicator.

Does your character choose to act or stand aside? Choosing to take initiative is hugely defining for a character, whether it’s during a dangerous situation or simply in day-to-day decisions. Do they confront situations head-on, or do they prefer to stand back and watch as things develop? Is the character a leader or a follower: Would they take charge of their friends or coworkers if necessary?

How does your character react to big events? It’s important to consider how your character will react under pressure or stress. Does your character stay calm or panic when they’re up against a crisis? Is “fight” or “flight” more your character’s M.O. (method of operation)?

How does your character treat other characters? It’s important to show how your character interacts with those socially below them as well as with their equals and superiors.

What are the consequences of your character’s actions? How does your character handle the consequences of their choices and actions? Do their motivations affect their reactions to consequences?

How does your character interpret the story’s setting? It’s important to show readers how the character describes the surroundings. Two characters might describe the same scene totally differently, depending on how observant they are and what they’re feeling at the time.

Both direct characterization and indirect characterization have benefits and drawbacks. For example, using too much direct characterization can make a character feel distanced from the readers, since you are only using superficial descriptions. But using too much indirect characterization can result in your readers struggling to put together a full character arc from a rootless series of actions and reactions. Each character has their own story, and it’s important to use a combination of direct and indirect characterization to create a three-dimensional, full character who will seem real to your readers. Check out this “interview” our experts put together—79 questions to help you discover all you need to know about your characters!

Question: What do you find most challenging about creating a character?

Guest Post: Yes, Pre-Published Authors Should Have Websites, by Web Design Relief

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This article has been reprinted with the permission of Web Design Relief.  Whether you’re just starting out or a best-selling author, Web Design Relief will improve your existing website or build you an affordable, custom author website to support your author platform, boost your online presence, and act as a hub for your social media outreach. Web Design Relief is a division of Writer’s Relief, a highly recommended author’s submission service. Sign up for their free e-publication for writers, Submit Write Now! Visit the site today to learn more.

With most people spending an average of two hours a day online, it’s clear that an author website is an essential piece of any author’s platform. But what if you’re a new writer without any publishing credits? The website experts at Web Design Relief are often asked what pre-published writers should post on their author websites. Would anyone (like literary agents, editors, family, or friends) be interested in going to your writer website? Is it worth your time and money? The answer: Yes! Here are important reasons why pre-published authors should have websites.

Should Pre-Published Authors Have Websites? Here Are The Answers You Need

No publication credits? That’s okay! Every writer has to start somewhere. Having an author website in place before you have your first publication credit puts you in a good position to impress the people who can help take your author bio to the next level. Make an “About Me” page to show that you’re dedicated, interesting, professional, and enthusiastic. Offer visitors a well-written bio that will exemplify you as a person and as an author that includes: what your writing offers readers; what you’re working on right now; what inspires you; your interests and hobbies. Don’t be shy! Read this article for additional tips: 5 Tips On Writing An Amazing Author Bio If You’re Not Well-Published.

What if you don’t have a book to promote? An author website isn’t solely for promoting a novel or a collection of poetry, stories, or essays. It’s also for promoting and educating people about your writing as a whole. You can post samples of your work and the “backstory” that inspired them (just be sure that the works have already been published or are written specifically for your website before posting them online).

If you have a book in the works, it can easily be added to your site at any time. Consider a “Coming Soon” page with a teaser about your works-in-progress, and an e-mail sign-up form so visitors can be notified when your work becomes available. When your book is published, you’ll have your buyers ready and waiting!

Will people visit your author website? If you point them in the right direction, they will come! Social media is a great way to let your followers and fans know about your new author website. To learn which social media platforms are most effective for building your audience, read The Best Social Media Platforms For Building A Writer Fan Base.

What will you include on your website? You can take your author website in a multitude of directions and make changes as you gain more publication credits or add more pages. A bio or “About Me” page is always a good beginning, and, as mentioned above, it’s a great place to introduce yourself as a person and as a writer.

Many writers forgo having a blog on their author website—yet this can be a great marketing tool and is something a pre-published author can skillfully utilize. With a blog, you can give the world an idea of your writing style. It’s the perfect place to showcase your writing before being published!

What are the benefits of having an author website? Author websites act as your online business card. Even if you’ve yet to be published, you can begin building momentum for your writing career. Your author website provides a massive networking opportunity in which the number of people you can meet is virtually infinite. Then, when the time comes for you to query literary agents or submit your work to literary journals, you’ll have a substantial author platform built for agents and editors who want to know more about you and your writing.

It’s important to keep in mind that having an author website is so much more than just posting an excerpt here and there. It’s about promoting yourself as a writer and creating a space where people can come and learn about you. An author website provides the online hub you need to market your author brand.

At Web Design Relief, our tech-savvy experts specialize in creating websites that suit the specific needs of writers. Check out our portfolio and schedule your free consultation call today!

Question: Which author website is your favorite?

Guest Post: Get A Literary Agent With The First 15 Pages Of Your Novel, by Writer’s Relief

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This article has been reprinted with the permission of Writer’s Relief, a highly recommended author’s submission service. We assist writers with preparing their submissions and researching the best markets. We have a service for every budget, as well as a free e-publication for writers, Submit Write Now! Visit our site today to learn more.

elements of fiction
Photo by Startup Stock Photos on Pexels.com

Once you’ve finished writing, proofreading, editing, and formatting your book, the next step toward getting it published is to try to get a literary agent for representation. While each literary agent’s submission guidelines are different, the submission strategists at Writer’s Relief know you’ll need to prepare a query letter, synopsis, and the first fifteen pages of your novel—and only the first fifteen pages—to effectively query agents. So it’s vital that your first pages make a great first impression, hook your readers, and leave them wanting more! Here’s how to get a literary agent with the first fifteen pages of your novel.

How The First 15 Pages Of Your Novel Will Help You Get A Literary Agent

Some writers might feel the first fifteen pages aren’t their strongest and would rather submit the entire manuscript. But literary agents know these are the pages book buyers will read first, and it’s important they are drawn into the story and want to keep reading. It doesn’t matter how great the middle of your story is or how clever the plot twist and ending are—if your first fifteen pages don’t intrigue the agent or your readers, no one’s going to keep reading.

Writing Tips For Boosting The Impact Of The First 15 Pages Of Your Novel

Begin with an opening sentence that packs a punch. What do you want your very first statement to communicate? Don’t just set the scene. You can create mystery, incite conflict, or start drama all with your first sentence. Not only will it keep the agent reading, but it will set the tone for the rest of your work.

Introduce your hookThe hook tells us who your protagonist is, what their life is like, and how they deal with the conflicts that arise. Set the plot in motion and give the reader someone to root for and a reason to cheer on this character! Use these first fifteen pages to set the tone for the rest of the story.

Add emotion. Your novel can be cleanly written and grammatically correct, but without emotion, the story will be flat and boring. Readers will want to know how your main character feels about what is happening. The emotional response from your protagonist raises the stakes for your plot, and inviting an emotional response will have an agent invested in your novel.

Establish plot, character, and setting. You want to introduce these elements in a way that will intrigue readers so they’ll commit to reading more. Once you’ve completed your novel, go back and reread your first fifteen pages to see if you need to cut anything out or add in certain details. You may even find yourself completely rewriting the opening pages in order to best bring in your plot, characters, and setting.

Avoid too much exposition. While it’s necessary to include details about your plot, characters, or setting, be careful not to treat the first fifteen pages as a setup or prologue for the actual story. Don’t write paragraphs of telling what your character looks like or what kind of weather is happening—show who the characters are through their words and actions; reveal the weather through its effects on the protagonist.

End the first chapter well. Don’t let the first chapter drag on—find a stopping point that will encourage the reader to continue to chapter two! Introduce a new character, add a plot twist, or leave readers in the middle of a conflict so they are eager to know what comes next.

If you can grab an agent’s interest in the first fifteen pages of your novel, you’ll boost your odds of getting a request to see more pages or the entire manuscript—and of ultimately landing a literary agent. Follow these easy writing tips and you’ll be sure to leave readers wanting more of you and your book!

Question: Tell us the title of a book you think has a great first fifteen pages.

Guest Post: The Things That Make Life Beautiful, by Katie of The Grief Reality

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Thank you to Katie of The Grief Reality for permission to repost this wonderful article of beauty and joy.

  1. A morning cup of coffee, just the way you like it.
  2. Long autumnal walks with leaves that crunch under your wellies.
  3. All of the music that your favourite bands are yet to release.
  4. The concerts you are yet to attend.
  5. Walks along the coast that are so windy the breath is taken right out of you.
  6. When you come across a little cafe that sells gluten free baked goods! 
  7. Barbecues that go on late into the night until the flames have died down to orange glowing embers.
  8. The feeling after a long laugh.
  9. Weekends away in cosy cabins.

To continue reading this article, click here.

Guest Post: 9 Blogging Mistakes to Avoid–and the Easy Fixes, by Web Design Relief

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This article has been reprinted with the permission of Web Design Relief.  Whether you’re just starting out or a best-selling author, Web Design Relief will improve your existing website or build you an affordable, custom author website to support your author platform, boost your online presence, and act as a hub for your social media outreach. Web Design Relief is a division of Writer’s Relief, a highly recommended author’s submission service. Sign up for their free e-publication for writers, Submit Write Now! Visit the site today to learn more.

Blogging is a smart way for writers to grow their audience. But just because you can write a great short story, poem, or novel doesn’t mean you’ll also be a natural at writing and maintaining an interesting blog. The experts at Web Design Relief know that new bloggers as well as those who have been blogging for a while can make some common mistakes. Here are the 9 biggest blogging mistakes to avoid, along with the easy fixes!

Common Blogging Mistakes To Avoid

Posting Only For Yourself

Your blog is not a diary! While it’s important to enjoy what you write about, your posts must be geared toward a wider audience. Talk about what your audience wants to know—not just what you want to tell them. Your content should be user-focused and educate, instruct, or entertain so visitors will want to return again and again to read your latest blog entry.

Constant Repetition

Your blog posts should make a point. It’s important that they have a point. One thing your post should definitely include is a main point. Do you see how annoying this is to read? While some repetition helps with SEO, don’t get carried away. Be sure to have something meaningful to say without reiterating the same information over and over again and again. The same goes for your blog topics—posts offering a range of topics will be more interesting than fifty-three posts about what to name a particular character.

If you search for your blog topic on the Internet and find thousands of similar blog posts, you might want to consider writing about something else—or choose a new angle for familiar content. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel, but try to keep your content fresh. If you need some inspiration, check out these forty blog post ideas.

Not Professional Looking

The writing for your blog articles should be conversational and casual, not stiff and formal. But that doesn’t mean you can skip formatting your posts! Your blog style should be professional and consistent. For example, if you title your posts, make sure you title ALL of your posts. Similarly, you should use the same design theme for each post.

Incorrect Length

You shouldn’t try to write a 50,000-word novel on your blog, because no one wants to read an overly long post. But your post shouldn’t be just three or four sentences, either—put something so brief on social media instead! A good rule of thumb is to aim for about 500 to 1,000 words per blog article.

Wrong Font Choices

Your font and the size of the typeface you use can make or break the readability of your blog post. If your text is too small, readers will have to zoom in to see your post. Likewise, using overly large text or fonts will have your visitors scrolling excessively or trying to shrink your posts. Choose a text size that visitors can read without adjusting—12 point often works well.

Avoid fonts that are too decorative, and don’t make your text the same or nearly the same color as your background. You can’t go wrong using Times New Roman or Calibri in black on a white background.

Posting Inconsistently

Whether you post once a month, once a week, or every day, choose a schedule that works for you—and stick to it. If you post every day for a week, then skip two weeks and post once, then don’t post anything for a month, your followers won’t know when to return to read your next installment. Being inconsistent when posting is one of the main ways that blogs lose readers. Use a calendar to plan your posts in advance.

Inaccurate Information

The only thing worse than a “this is old news” blog post is one that’s littered with incorrect information. Unless you are an expert on your topic, you should research your blog articles and include links and references for your readers. Your blog posts are more worthwhile to your audience when based on data that supports your claims. If you post inaccurate information, you risk damaging your credibility with your followers.

Being Unresponsive

When a reader comments on your blog, they’re often hoping to receive a response. When you don’t take the time to interact with your followers and respond to their comments, it limits all future engagement from your audience. Fans who get a response will feel a personal connection with you and your blog and are more likely to return.

If you’re not getting any comments, here are some tips on how to get people to comment on your blog.

Not Proofreading

Your blog article isn’t a casual throwaway piece—it’s an important way to build your audience and connect with your fans. Make sure your blog posts are proofread and edited just as thoroughly as your short stories, essays, poetry, or book. A post filled with typos and poor grammar will reflect poorly on your writing as a whole. A sloppy post will lose readers and leave any visiting literary agents or editors unimpressed.

Blogging can be a fantastic marketing tool and a way to stretch your creative muscles. Avoiding these common blogging mistakes will help you grow a larger audience and effectively engage your readers.

Question: Which blogging mistake do you see most often on blogs?

Guest Post: Merry Christmas by Kathy Temean

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Thank you to Kathy Temean and to Writing and Illustrating for these beautiful Christmas images and lovely accompanying music.

Writing and Illustrating

 

CHERYL PILGRIM: Being featured on Illustrator Saturday Janruary 11, 2020.

KATE COSGROVE: FEATURED ON ILLUSTRATOR SATURDAY.

DEBORAH MELMAN: FEATURED ON ILLUSTRATOR SATURDAY.

FRANCE BRASSARD:FEATURED ON ILLUSTRATOR SATURDAY

 Sleigh Ride

Jing, Jing, Jing Jingle,
the bells mix and mingle
with clip-clopping hooves as we glide,
on a sleigh sliding silently,
winding a path
on a shadowy, whispery ride

Toes tap and tingle,
as jingle bells jingle,
a single brave horse leads the way.
We snuggle together
like sleepy snowbirds
at the end of this best Christmas Day.
By Carol Murray

JIM STARR: FEATURED ON ILLUSTRATOR SATURDAY.

RUTH SANDERSON: FEATURED ON ILLUSTRATOR SATURDAY.

RUTH SANDERSON: FEATURED ON ILLUSTRATOR SATURDAY.

RENE GRAEF: FEATURED ON ILLUSTRATOR SATURDAY.

TIEMDOW PHUMIRUK:FEATURED ON ILLUSTRATOR SATURDAY.

HOW BEAUTIFUL CHRISTMAS

By Eileen Spinelli

How beautiful these wintry nights,

scented trees and twinkling lights,

ribboned gifts, stocking hung,

cookies baked and carols sung.

How…

View original post 136 more words

Guest Post: 6 Easy Steps to Book Your Author Blog Tour, by Web Design Relief

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This article has been reprinted with the permission of Web Design Relief.  Whether you’re just starting out or a best-selling author, Web Design Relief will improve your existing website or build you an affordable, custom author website to support your author platform, boost your online presence, and act as a hub for your social media outreach. Web Design Relief is a division of Writer’s Relief, a highly recommended author’s submission service. Sign up for their free e-publication for writers, Submit Write Now! Visit the site today to learn more.

It’s pretty common knowledge in the publishing industry that most book signing tours don’t generate big bucks for new authors. Sure—book tours can stir up buzz and interest. But most of the time, bookstore tours are put in place only after an author has established some kind of meaningful reputation that can translate into lines that wrap around the store.

These days, there’s a new way of connecting with readers that doesn’t involve brick-and-mortar book signings: blog tours. A blog tour is when an author does a series of interviews or guest posts on the blogs of book readers and reviewers. Blog tours are fantastic for author self-promotion.

Most of the time, blog tours are synchronized with book releases so that writers can sell more copies of their books. Blog tours can be inexpensive, fun, and rewarding!

How To Set Up a Blog Tour To Promote A Book

There are many ways to kick off your promotional blog tour. You can:

  • Hire a publicist to nab spots on popular blogs.
  • Hire an established and reputable book blog tour company (NOTE: There are unscrupulous companies that claim to get gigs for their clients on dozens of blogs, many of which lack a meaningful audience or are owned by the companies themselves).
  • Set up blogging dates yourself.

If you’re a DIYer and want to book a blog tour without having to pay for publicity help, here are the five steps that will get your book on great blogs.

1. Start reading book blogs. Do your research and narrow your focus to those blogs whose audiences are active readers in your genre. Make a list and track the blog’s attributes, audience participation, readership, and proclivities. HINT: Establish a clear minimum number in your head for the number of blogs that you’d like to appear on.

2. Establish a relationship. If possible, begin leaving comments on the blogs you like. Visit regularly. You may need to demonstrate your genuine appreciation of the blog before you’re invited to appear on it. Use Twitter and other networks to give shout-outs to blogs you like.

3. Write up a pitch plan. Some bloggers have writers beating down their door, begging for reviews and free promotion. You’ll need to make yourself stand out with a personal touch as well as an incentive. Are you willing to give away free copies of your book? Is your idea of what you’d like to “do” on the blog consistent with what the blogger is already doing? Are you willing to do interviews or only guest posts? Will you host the blogger on your author blog in exchange?

4. Draft your “nice to meet you” letter. Reach out to the blogger via a personal email when possible. Be kind, flexible, and maybe a little deferential: you’re asking to be invited to the party, after all. Express your appreciation for the blog and volunteer to host a giveaway (should the blogger believe that his/her audience would benefit from your visit to the blog).

5. Follow instructions carefully. If a blogger agrees to host you, be sure to follow directions. Also, include links to your social networks and author website in your post—just don’t overdo it.

6. Set up your blog calendar. On the days that your blog post is to appear on each guest blog, be sure to put in an appearance that day. Leave comments, interact with readers, thank the host for having you. Then, if you’re running a contest, follow up as soon as possible by sending out the prize.

When Your Author Blog Tour Is Over

Be sure to thank your host for his/her willingness to help you; you might even want to mail out a little thank-you gift. Then, keep your contacts well organized so that when you have another reason to do a blog tour, their contact information will be at your fingertips.

QUESTION: Do you like the idea of doing a blog tour?

Guest Post: Thanks, Lt. Dan! by Donna of My OBT

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Thanks to Donna for this spotlight on the Gary Sinese Foundation. When the article first appeared on her blog, My OBT, I looked up Gary Sinese’s Foundation on Charity Navigator, where it earned a high recommendation, and I signed up to donate monthly. Our veterans and first responders deserve our support and our gratitude.

sinise

Photo: New York Post

In 1994, Gary Sinise was cast to play the memorable Lt. Dan in the blockbuster movie Forrest Gump. That role changed everything for him, not just in terms of his acting career, but also as a person. Though Sinise had never served himself, after the movie, he found himself being approached by service members – and especially veterans – who thanked him for his thoughtful portrayal of the character. Until that movie, wounded warriors were typically portrayed in movies as hopeless and broken. But though Lt. Dan went through a lot of tough things that really resonated with the veterans, his character was eventually able to make a new life for himself. What Sinise had been thinking of as a relatively small part in a Hollywood movie had brought hope to many of the veterans who saw it. The actor was moved by the soldiers’ stories, and wanted to do something to help, so he joined the USO. But he quickly realized that wasn’t enough; he knew he needed to do more.

From those unexpected beginnings came the Gary Sinise Foundation, an organization that raises money to help active military, veterans, first responders, and their families. Here are a few of the Foundation’s major programs and what they do:

  • RISE Program (Restoring Independence, Supporting Empowerment): adapts/builds handicapped-accessible vehicles and homes to help wounded veterans with their particular physical challenges
  • HOPE Program (Heal, Overcome, Persevere, Excel): offers emotional and financial support to veterans experiencing trauma, emotional distress, and injury.
  • Snowball Express Program: creates a community of support for Gold Star families by gathering them together for trips and celebrations.
  • First Responders Outreach Program: provides funds, equipment, training, and wellness programs for U.S. firefighters, police, and EMTs.
  • Serving Heroes Program: cooks and serves homemade meals to soldiers at active military outposts to make them feel closer to home.

The Foundation also does plenty of community outreach on a smaller level, too. The organization hosts numerous festivals (including performances by the Lt. Dan Band) to support and celebrate our military and their families. And they’re not all talk, either. In 2018, 89.86% of every dollar contributed was applied directly to support military and their loved ones, earning them high marks among the agencies that rate not-for-profits.

To continue reading this article, click here.

Guest Post: 12 Tips for Giving Your Characters the Best Names, by Writer’s Relief

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This article has been reprinted with the permission of Writer’s Relief, a highly recommended author’s submission service. We assist writers with preparing their submissions and researching the best markets. We have a service for every budget, as well as a free e-publication for writers, Submit Write Now! Visit our site today to learn more.

elements of fiction

In fiction, a name helps readers form an image of what a character looks and acts like. If you don’t believe us, try picturing Frodo Baggins with the name Mycroft Holmes, or Darth Vader as Atticus Finch. At Writer’s Relief, we know the right names can help your readers really connect with the characters in your short story or novel. And depending on how many characters are in your story, you might have to come up with a lot of names! Use these strategies and tips to give your characters the best names and make them more real and memorable for your audience.

What To Consider When Giving Your Characters Names

Time frame: In creating the right world for your story or book, the appropriate names are important. Mildred was a popular girl’s name in the 1920s, but you won’t find many parents giving that name to their daughters today. Tybalt is a great name for a medieval knight, while Zyla is more suited for a warrior living on Mars in the future.

Age: Some names seem more suited to older characters, while others feel more modern and better fit a young character. Aunt Edna will seem older than Aunt Susie. And as we mentioned earlier, keep in mind the names that would have been popular when your character was born.

Personality: Is your character no-nonsense with a dry sense of humor? A simple, short name might fit best. If your character is elaborate or showy, a more intricate name will help reinforce this trait. For instance, what kind of character does the name Digby Beaumont call to mind? Complete a character study for each of your characters to really know their personalities before you name them.

Parents: If your character’s parents play a vital role in the story (even if they are absent, like Harry Potter’s parents, James and Lily), think about what they would name their child, and what that choice might mean. Assuming your character is using the name their parents gave them, this could be a fun and creative way to come up with the perfect name!

Genre: In fiction, each genre has its own unique rules. If you’re writing science fiction or fantasy that features a unique jargon, you’ll want to reflect that element in your characters’ names. For a contemporary romance, you’d pick names that are more likely to sound like people your reader could be friends with.

Meaning: When you’re having trouble coming up with a name, think about the character’s chief qualities. Then choose a name that has that meaning. For instance, Kella is a name of Irish origin that means “warrior,” while Jamal is Arabic for handsome. You could also choose a name that embodies something your character would find significant.

Where To Find Character Names

Baby name books. Rather than trying to think up names off the top of your head, use a baby name book, which offers you a great resource and starting point. It will put hundreds of names at your fingertips, along with their meanings and origins.

Google. Want to know the most popular names in a given year, or to search for names by their histories and meanings? A quick Internet search will gather all that information for you in seconds! Random name generators are always fun to try too.

Movies and TV shows. Still can’t settle on the perfect character name? Consider giving a nod to one you’ve loved in another medium! Think back to characters who stand out from movies, TV, or plays.

Cemeteries. This may seem a bit morbid, but consider browsing old graves for characters’ names—especially if you’re writing a historical piece and need a name that’s accurate for a specific time period.

Places you’ve visited. The names of towns or landmarks can make great names for characters! If there’s a particular place that’s important to your character’s backstory, this is an angle to consider. Your wealthy entrepreneur who grew up in New York City might fittingly be named Madison.

Day-to-day life. Writers are expert eavesdroppers—when you’re people watching or when you happen to overhear a conversation, make note of the names you hear. You may come across a gem to save for later!

Once you’ve decided on a name for your character, give it a test drive. Then, after you’ve written a few scenes, go back and read your story to see if the name works. Does it suit the character? Are you envisioning someone who looks as you hoped? If yes, yay! Keep writing! But if your character’s appearance or actions don’t seem to mesh with the name you’ve chosen, maybe you want to consider another name. After all, Holly Golightly from Breakfast at Tiffany’s was named Connie Gustafson in the first drafts!

Question: What’s the best character name you’ve ever read?