skip to Main Content

The Unsatisfying Days

The Unsatisfying Days, Jill Kemerer blog

As I write this, I’m pushing through another Monday. I’ll be honest. The second I woke up this morning I knew it was going to be one of those unsatisfying days. Why?

  • Well, Monday. That probably says it all.
  • I didn’t sleep well.
  • It’s the end of March and STILL snowing.
  • I needed to get groceries this morning.
  • I had almost no clean clothes (which meant in addition to the general Monday-ness and groceries, I’d be doing laundry as well).
  • I’m pretty sure I gained ten pounds overnight.
  • The workout plan I’m doing this week features LONG workouts. The thought of 45-50 minutes of difficult exercise this morning made me gag.
  • My original plan for my writing this week has to be adjusted because I received copyedits for a book on Friday (this wasn’t unexpected, but I still have to figure out how I want to approach the week).
  • I just wasn’t in the mood. For anything.

I’d love to tell you that as the day wore on my mood improved and I thought, Yeah, Monday, you and me–we got this! Alas, no.

I took extra time over my coffee. I’m very glad I did.

I got groceries, and they took longer than normal because the store is resetting its layout. Also, they were out of half and half, which threw me. Like, I’m taken aback in a bad way. I can handle no bread on the shelf. But no half and half? Mind. Blown.

Since meat was on sale, I spent 30 minutes trimming fat, cutting it up and repackaging it for the freezer. Dealing with raw meat is not my favorite activity. At one point I seriously gagged.

All that laundry? Still doing it. Still folding it. Still putting it away.

The workout? Sweaty.

My writing plan? Still unsettled.

Look, I know I’m a whiner. And I know, I know, I can hear that chirpy friend in my ear, “You should be thankful the store has food. You should be thankful you have money to buy the food. You have your health. You have a working washing machine. You have the luxury of working from home and making your own schedule. At least you had your coffee, right?

That chirpy friend (who is non-existent and probably just a fragment of my personality) is correct. I am very blessed. And most of the time I’m grateful for every little thing.

Not today, though, my friends.

I’m not going to pretend I had a 180 in attitude from morning to now. I didn’t. I’m also not going to spout off about what a great day it was and how much I got done. Admittedly, I did get a lot done. But it was the core stuff, the behind-the-scenes stuff, the not-fun-stuff that allows me to spend the rest of my time working on things that DO satisfy me.

I guess those unsatisfying days lead to the satisfying ones. Maybe they make them sweeter. Who knows?

I’m off for another cup of coffee…

Do you have unsatisfying days? How do you deal with them?

Enjoy your week!

Plotting Blues? Try Something Different

Plotting Blues? Try Something Different Jill Kemerer

Last month I took a few days to flesh out my next novel and promptly got a case of the plotting blues. Almost eighteen months ago, I’d figured out the basic plot (it will be the sixth and final book in my Wyoming Ranchers series), but I knew I needed to develop it further before I can begin writing it.

Here’s the thing: I’ve been anticipating writing this book for a long time! I know the hero. I’m excited to write his story. But when it came time to flesh the story out? Nothing.

I prayed about it and relaxed. The story would come to me at some point. They always do. But in the meantime, I decided to try something different.

Read more

The Temptation to Over-Simplify Secondary Characters

The temptation to over-simplify secondary characters by Jill Kemerer

The temptation to over-simplify secondary characters, especially bad guys, hits me every time I write a first draft. Since my books are short, I don’t have much space to devote to sub-plots, and some of the characters are off-camera anyway.

These bad-guy characters are typically exes—ex-boyfriends, ex-wives, ex-in-laws. You know, the people who shaped the main characters’ internal conflicts. The reader needs to know how they affected the characters, and it’s easy to make them caricatures.

Another reason I tend to draft caricatures is because the reader doesn’t get to experience their point of view in my books. I’m only giving the main character’s impression of them, and let’s face, it a one-sided impression tends to be skewed. For instance, the current book I’m writing features a woman whose husband not only demanded a divorce when she told him she was pregnant, but he also wants nothing to do with their unborn child.

He’s not a villain in the sense that he’s stalking her or trying to kill her, but he’s a villain nonetheless.

The problem? Readers don’t want one-dimensional characters, even if he is the jerky ex-husband who is off-page the entire book.

Even if my readers give me a pass, I don’t want to write caricatures. It’s lazy. And it doesn’t reflect reality.

No one is all bad. No one is all good.

Yes…some people are ethically challenged. Other people have very real mental health problems that causes them to make poor decisions. There are also people who live their lives selfishly, not thinking about how their actions affect those around them, and not taking responsibility for it either.

So, there’s the dilemma. How can we write the “bad guy” without making him a caricature? How can we make her a real person, with motivations we might not agree with but we at least understand? And how can we humanize them enough so the reader isn’t taken out of the story wondering, would anyone really act like that?

I’ll be honest with you–there have been times I’ve failed at this. As much as I try to produce multi-dimensional characters, sometimes the cookie-cutter ex shows up.

How to combat over-simplifying secondary characters?

When I have a character (usually from the past who doesn’t play an active role in the book) who caused my heroine or hero a lot of pain, I come up with reasons why this person would behave that way. Jealousy, greed, narcissism, desperation, chemical imbalance, addictions–all of these can bring out the dark side in people.

When I have an idea why the “bad guy” was so awful, I then try to incorporate this into the main character’s thoughts 0r even a conversation with someone they trust so the reader gets a better understanding, too.

Going back to my current heroine…she’s long suspected her ex-husband had a personality disorder of some sort. This is confirmed later in the story. Their entire relationship was basically long-distance. They only saw each other a few weekends per month because of his job. These details help the reader understand why the heroine would have married this guy in the first place and gives credence as to why he wants nothing to do with their child.

He’s not an endearing character. His actions affect my heroine. But he’s not evil or just bad to be bad. He has problems, and since he’s chosen to cut himself out of the heroine’s life, there’s not much she can do about it.

If the secondary character plays an active role in the book–say the ex-husband is showing up at her house or she has to work with him and he’s lying about her–I would spend even more time weaving in reasons and motivations for the reader to understand why he’s acting like a jerk. Readers can handle a “bad guy” in the book. They will find him or her more believable if they understand why he or she is acting that way.

Readers don’t have to like every character. The book might be boring if they did! But they do need to understand each character.

The temptation to over-simplify secondary characters is basically telling not showing. Hate this ex-husband because he’s a lying, cheating jerk who doesn’t want the baby!

If that’s all his character is reduce to, it makes me wonder why she married him in the first place? He must have had some redeeming quality, right?

When I’m revising, I actively search for ways to make secondary characters more believable. If the character is a bad guy, I try to either make him or her a little less villainous or weave in more reasons for why they act the way they do.

How do you handle secondary characters who are bad guys? Do you have any tips on making them more believable? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

On a side note, I’m linking an OLD blog post I wrote back in 2014, “Strengthening Weak Areas in Your Writing.” I’m still finding lots of weak areas to strengthen!

Have a great day!

March 2022 Goals

March 2022 Goals. Jill Kemerer blog. Writer productivity

My writer productivity skyrockets when I set monthly goals. At the beginning of each week I break them down into daily tasks that will work within my current schedule. Do you know how great it is to finish projects? Of course you do! For me, setting monthly goals makes it all possible.

Every month I share how I did the previous month as well as my new goals. Let’s get to it!

How Did I Do? Jill’s February Goals

Read more
Back To Top