Fiction Writing, write to heal, survivor

My Author Interview with Edmonds Community College

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Cool, my #Author / #writing instructor #interview w/@EdmondsCC is out, have a looksee…

“Vision Boards to Enhance Your Writing AND Social Media Presence,” Mindy Halleck, June 21st, 2017 from Visual Media Services, EdCC on Vimeo.

What is an author platform and where do you get one?

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Author platform can be challenging to explain, partly because definitions can vary. But by far the simplest description is: your capacity to sell books because of who you are or who you can reach.

What activities build author platform?

Platform building requires consistent, continuing effort over the course of a writer’s career. It also means making enhancements in extending your network, on-line and in person. It’s about making waves that entice other people to you—not about pleading with others to pay attention.

The following list is not extensive, but helps give you an idea of how to cultivate a platform.

Publish or distribute quality work in outlets you want to be associated with and that your target audience reads.

Create a portfolio of work on your own platform—e.g., blog, e-mail newsletter, social network, podcast, video, digital downloads, etc—that gathers quality followers or a community of people who are interested in what you have to say. Have patience because this takes time.

Decide which Social Media Platform is best for you, use it and be consistent, relevant and entertaining. And remember, social media alone does NOT create platform unless you’re a Kardashian, and even they get out and do public appearances.

Speak at and or attend events where you meet new people and extend your network of like-minded peers and audience members.

Connect with influencers* and or peers on a new project and or discover creative ways to extend your visibility. *An influencers is a person or group possessing the ability to influence the behavior or opinions of others, via large SM following, podcast audience, etc.

Discover personalized ways to engage with and develop your target audience, whether through content, events, online marketing/promotion, etc.

Platform building is unique to each author

Platform building is a gradual process that must be organic and will be different for every author. There is no checklist you can use to develop a platform, because it will always be governed by:

Your distinct story and or message – Your unique strengths and abilities – Your target readership

I will be teaching a workshop July 15th at Edmonds Community College wherein part of the day will be spent on social media. If you’re local, join us here

If you liked this, please TWEET it out for heaven’s sake! 

What’s Your Hero’s Journey?

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Types of Heroes

(Adapted from Chris Vogler, 1999, pp. 41–44)

What kind of hero are you writing?

Willing, active, gung-ho heroes: (Tarzan, King Arthur, Luke Skywalker, Wonder-woman)

  • committed to the adventure
  • without doubts
  • always bravely going ahead
  • self-motivated

Unwilling heroes: (Frodo Baggins, Spiderman, Han Solo)

  • full of doubts
  • hesitant
  • passive
  • needing to be motivated or pushed into the adventure by an outside force
  • usually change at some point and become committed to the adventure

Anti-heroes: (Billy the Kid, Jack Sparo, “Bride” from Kill Bill)

  • specialised kind of hero
  • may be outlaws or villains from the point of view of society
  • audience is in sympathy with them
  • they may win in the end over society’s corruption
  • rebels

Tragic heroes: (Darth Vader, Brutus)

  • flawed heroes
  • never overcome their inner demons
  • brought down and destroyed by inner demons
  • may be charming
  • their flaw wins in the end

Group-oriented heroes: (Nemo, Simba)

  • are a part of society at the beginning
  • journey takes them to unknown land far from home
  • separate from group – have lone adventure in the wilderness away from the group

which they eventually rejoin

Loner heroes: (Indiana Jones, Incredible Hulk)

  • story begins with hero apart from society
  • natural habitat is the wilderness
  • natural state is solitude
  • journey is one of re-entry into the group, an adventure within the group, then a return to


Catalyst heroes: (Teacher from Dead Poets Society, any mentor)

  • central figures who act heroically
  • don’t change much themselves
  • main function is to bring about change in others

   If you liked this please tweet it out, join me at @MindyHalleck  

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Creating Characters Who Dance on Fire

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Often when contemplating the creation of fictional characters – what makes them do what they do, or what makes them who they truly are – I’ll watch movies or read books about damaged people, because (as we all (writers) should know) flawless characters are boring and no human makes it very far in life unblemished.

Today I watched the first movie that received high tributes for one of my favorite actors, Tom Hardy who can play anything because of the depths he is willing to go into the human psyche. Anyway, the movie is Stuart: A Life Backwards. The synopsis: A writer takes a backwards look at the life of his unlikely friend Stuart, a homeless alcoholic who experienced a traumatic event in his childhood.

Tom Hardy

I laughed, I cried and I came out of the movie with even more (if possible) admiration for my favorite actor. This movie was based on a true story. And even though it’s impossible to put mere words to the human experience that rises above verse, we as writers can aspire to hold a mirror up to our characters and reflect what we see in the world – and if we delve into our writerly craft – what they might see in the world.  This character Stuart was charismatic and abhorrent at the same time – abhorrent because it can be difficult to look at the things we find disturbing; homelessness, disease, drug addiction, violence and fear. Tom Hardy danced like a skilled ballerina around each of these issues of the human condition. His (character’s) loud abrasive communications with the world were a beautiful soul-sick opera.

My head is spinning with ideas on how to write more compelling characters, characters who can dance on fire and whose hearts sing to the universe for mercy.

Oh, and if you haven’t been watching the new Tom Hardy TV series titled, Taboo (2017) you’re really missing out on some GREAT characters. Well, I’m off to create.

Writing Conference Time Again…

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Recently I was asked about what to consider before attending a writers conference. I have attended, volunteered, managed and been an instructor at conferences for over seventeen years, maybe longer, I’m old, I forget. Anyway, two Pacific NW conferences that I recommend are the Edmonds (WA) Write on The Sound (October) and the Willamette Writers (August in Portland OR) conferences.

To enjoy a conference you must first do your homework; what classes do you want to attend, what agents do you want to pitch, and most important, what do you want to learn? And I’d like to add to that list, how can you get out of your writerly comfort zone? Like if you only take workshops about utopian world building, this time take a class on how to craft a great sex scene. You’ll be amazed how widening your skill-set will enhance your writing. So give these things some serious thought and design the kind of experience you want: if you set your intention before you attend a conference you position yourself for success instead of disappointment, because who likes that.

Every conference has a personality, a theme and a culture unique to that conference. In Portland the Willamette Writers (WW) is a fairly large conference that takes place in hot August, hundreds of people from all over the country gather in an air-conditioned Portland hotel and cohabitate like college dorm mates. The focus is heavily on screenplay and fiction writing master classes and workshops where the amount of note taking can be exhausting – I mean seriously try to keep up with Larry Brooks or Eric Witchey at 8:00 AM after a late night pitch session – Don’t worry, there’s always coffee in the lobby.

WW is a great place to pitch your project; novel, memoir, or screenplay. I hosted one of the sessions a few years ago and had a blast. We had 60 nervous scribes pitching a panel of literary or Hollywood type agents. Even if you just watch and learn, it’s a priceless experience. The late night pitch parties, cocktail parties, or hanging out in the lobby bar or café are surprising places to garner tips and make connections. And let’s not overlook fun, I mean how often do you get to hang with your tribe, right….

Conversely, Write on the Sound (WOTS) is a smaller conference of maybe 350 participants from all around the country because it’s so easy with the train depot within walking distance. WOTS has an overall atmosphere of art and fall writing, education and the mentoring of like-minded souls – it’s like going back to school. It’s always in October, the sky is (more often than not) blue, the leaves are red and the wind off the Puget Sound is jostling through the streets. The classes are mostly in the old school turned arts building called the Anderson Center where the weekend is spent, writers as pupils in old fashioned school rooms, and breaks in the hallway where cookies and drinks await the rush of trading one classroom for another before the bell rings.  One of my favorite things is the walk from the Anderson Center to one of the coffee shops or restaurants a few blocks away – the streets are filled with walking, talking writers in search of fuel, or cutting class to hang with a new writer friend. During WOTS the serene city of Edmonds is overtaken by enthusiastic and boisterous writers. The Friday workshops are roll your sleeves up and get to work events with (past) master instructors like Robert Dugoni or local celeb, Rick Steves – See this years line-up here. The Saturday night book signing and happy hour event is a great time to network, meet people, make contacts and then walk to a local wine bar and continue the evening talking about favorite authors or how to best write that elusive sex scene.

So, my best advice is to do your homework before you go, sign up (early) for the classes you want to take or the agents you want to pitch, get out of your comfort zone and attend a class or event you normally would not, talk to people, and have some fun. These are two PNW conferences where the quality of instructors, the organization of the conference and bang for your writing conference buck is always a good deal, time well spent, lessons worth learning, contacts worth making, and most importantly, unforgettable.

Queen of the Desert

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I just had to share this fabulous woman…In researching for the background of a (secondary) character in my WIP I stumbled onto Gertrude Bell and was gob smacked by this woman’s hootspa. She was described as an ‘outsider’, the ‘Queen of the Desert’ and ‘the most powerful woman in the British Empire in her day’. How inspirational! She was just what I was looking for. As always, it’s important to write female heroines and depict women (girls) as capable of

Bell is pictured centre at the Cairo Conference in 1921 with friend and colleague TE Lawrence, second right, and then Secretary of the Colonies Winston Churchill, where the future of the Middle East was discussed in the wake of the First World War (

doing ANYTHING (and more) than their male counterparts. Thank you Wonder Woman, Senator Kamala Harris and my new favorite hero, Gertrude Bell!                                                                                                                               My protagonist grew up with a mother (1920s-30s) who traveled to Egypt and with her husband explored antiquities, pyramids and cultures of days gone by. My protagonist was a young girl when she traveled with them giving her a fascinating childhood. But then their idyllic lives were cut short when they were thrown into a concentration camp in 1939, as you can imagine. So in writing her brave mother I sought other women of that time period who traveled and explored along with their male colleagues. Why? Because the mother is the primary influence, and ultimate wound to my protagonist.

Bell (a perfect character role model) was born in County Durham in 1868, then went on to study history at Oxford. She met TE Lawrence 1909 at a dig at the ancient city of Carchemish, which would now be on the Syrian-Turkish border. Their first meeting was icy due to Victorian ‘traditions of snootiness, sexism and arrogance’ as well as Lawrence feeling ‘intimidated’ by meeting a woman who was ‘his intellectual equal’ and ‘spoke Arabic better than him’. But they became good friends. A couple years later Bell was recruited by British Intelligence during the First World War to help guide soldiers through the deserts, before being made Oriental Secretary in 1917. Even after the war she stayed on with the British Government as a diplomat helping to draw up Iraq’s borders and establish the state, and served as mediator between the Arab government in Iraq and the British officials supervising it.

Bell was far bigger than life and certainly the material of a great fiction heroin. Grateful for her journey, and grateful to have found her as my inspiration. Just had to share this remarkable woman.

You can read more about this fascinating woman here

In 2015 Nicole Kidman starred in a movie about her life, Queen of The Desert

A 2017 documentary about her life appropriately titled, Letters From Bagdad was released this year. Take a peek here

I haven’t seen either of these films but plan to.

Staying Grounded in Basic Storytelling Principles

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This last year I’ve really gone ‘dark’ as they say, which means I’ve been very quiet (and unproductive) on all fronts. It’s been a good break, a needed break so I could recharge and take care of myself, but now it’s time to get back to work.

When I’m struggling with a section in my WIP (work in progress for you non-industry folks), or trying to re-wrap my mind around my story I return to basic tools for guides out of that self-imposed darkness.

Larry Brooks, who if you don’t know him yet, you should – who writes writerly-how-to books is one of the gurus (via his books and blog at that I return to over and over again. Not because I’m that stupid (well, not always) but because stories, characters, plots, themes and all the magic elixirs that make up a story world, are fluid, changing, often morphing into something completely different from what I thought I started out to write. So back to the basics I go. If I don’t go back to those grounding basics of storytelling; premise, concept, plot, theme and so on, then I get lost in the words. SO MANY WORDS! And when I get lost in the words it takes FOREVER to finish a project, be it novel, short story or essay.

Oh, and when I said my story could ‘often morph into something completely different’ I meant it. I recently had a conversation with Hollywood script guru, Michael Hague (author of too many books to mention here) who asked me which aspect of my story fascinated me the most, because, he said, that’s where your passion lies and that’s what you should follow. My answer shocked the baggeebies out of me. So, with that answer, which I wont’ share here…maybe later in another post – changed my entire story. After the initial shock, I was happy our conversation happened when I was only 150 pages in.

When a local writer friend, Pam Carter (Writer, Producer and Playwright) asked me about premise,

            From Larry Brooks Workshop materials

I realized during our conversation about hers that I actually needed to re-consider my original premise now that the story had changed so dramatically, and so revisited all my information on premise and concept. Again, back to Larry Brooks


who teaches this stuff like hell fire and damnation from a preacher ablaze with the truth. If you’ve seen him live you know exactly what I’m talking about.

So while I press through; re-entering my story world, getting back into a writing groove, editing, re-outlining and all the other blue-collar work a writer does to create a story-world and narrative that will be of interest to readers, I wonder, what tools do other writers return to time after time, and why? Okay, back to work.