The Ericksons

Category Archives: Writing

These are posts related to writing.


It’s the 1st Wednesday of the month again. That’s when I take part in Alex J. Cavanaugh’s Insecure Writer’s Support Group. I encourage you to check out their website and even sign up for the IWSG Newsletter. Today, for the first time, I won’t be answering the optional #IWSG question of the month (How has your creativity in life evolved since you began writing?). I just couldn’t come up with an answer. And, after all, it is “optional.” But I encourage you to check out some of the answers the other fabulous insecure writers have written. I will be writing about empathy.One of the best things you can do to help your reader feel invested in your writing is to elicit feelings of empathy in them. How do you do this? And, what is empathy, anyway?A recent surge of empathyAs our Minnesota summer began drawing to a close, our family filled as many open calendar squares as possible before the kids returned to school. Due to uncertainties about my husband’s health, we chose to stay home this summer rather than take our annual family road trip. I had some regrets about this. The summer felt a little less like it usually does. Read more…


Social Anxiety Introvert

There are thousands of phobias and fears in the world. Most of us only have one or two, and they are as individual as we are. I once knew a woman who was petrified of cotton balls. I’m not joking. I witnessed one of her employees trap her in her office by simply putting a cotton ball on the office doorknob. All it took to free the woman was to remove the offending fluff ball. What’s the scariest thing of all for me? Social interaction. As I conclude this month’s frightening series on authenticity. I’m going to talk about my biggest fear and how social anxiety is different from being introverted or shy.What exactly does it mean to be an introvert?If you’ve read a few of my posts, or follow me on social media, you probably know that I’m an introvert. “Introverts are drained by social encounters and energized by solitary, often creative pursuits. Their disposition is frequently misconstrued as shyness, social phobia, or even avoidant personality disorder, but many introverts socialize easily; they just strongly prefer not to. In fact, the self-styled introvert can be more empathic and interpersonally connected than his or her outgoing counterparts.”[1]I don’t view my Read more…


Some writers you may have the ability to let ‘er rip and say whatever you darn well please. Or maybe you question your conscience about whether certain things are appropriate to include in your fiction writing, or not. Things that might be sensitive include:Violencecontent of a sexual naturevulgar languagebiographical information which could harm the reputation or sensibilities of another living (or dead) personanything else that the particular writer is afraid to share authenticallyGenreSometimes it all comes down to the genre. There are certain genres where taboo topics and anything graphic is a strict no-no. For example, the first 3 items on this list of questionable content are off limits in children’s books and cozy mysteries (among other genres). When genre dictates what can and can’t be included in the content, it has nothing to do with being authentic. These are guidelines, rules which must be followed. Readers have certain expectations when it comes to the genre they read. For example, you would never put a sex scene in a Christian romance. In the Christian romance genre, kissing is fine. However, sex and swearing will completely turn a Christian romance audience off.Knowing what’s appropriate to include in your fiction writing isn’t Read more…


It’s the 1st Wednesday of the month again. That’s when I take part in Alex J. Cavanaugh’s Insecure Writer’s Support Group. I encourage you to check out their website and even sign up for the IWSG Newsletter. Today I’m going to explore self-publishing with print-on-demand, as I answer the #IWSG question for October –How do major life events affect your writing? Has writing ever helped you through something?Anything you have ever gone through will affect who you are personally, and as a writer. It will certainly color your writing in subject and tone. When life isn’t going well, it can be tempting to go negative in your writing. This isn’t a bad thing. In fact, it can be very helpful if the genre you write requires this dark tone. You can channel your writing in this way. It can be a bad thing. Instead of working through your issues, you can end up drowning in them. So have a sense of self-awareness and know when to turn off the faucet. I would like to talk about two positive ways to use writing during trials.A great way to do this is to keep a gratitude journalA little more than a decade ago, my Read more…


Creating a realistic setting

Creating a realistic setting doesn’t happen automatically when you write a story. Yet it’s one of the essential components to draw readers into your story so they can walk among the characters. Today I’ll share some ways you can simplify building this imaginary world and make it more real for your readers.Composite Method of Creating a Realistic SettingSometimes to get the perfect setting you need to combine aspects from different places you know or imagine. For example in a fictional town I created, I based the one in Litchfield, Minnesota, the town where my mom’s side of the family lives. I visited Litchfield frequently growing up. Each summer I looked forward to tromping through the town with my little sister, sitting in the band shell and even going to the town’s small history museum. However, that museum wasn’t the one on which I based the museum in my fictional town. That museum was the Homesteader Museum in Powell, Wyoming. And while different, I got the idea for the diner in my story, from Mickey’s Diner in St. Paul, Minnesota.Creating a composite isn’t only done in literary art. Any creative endeavor can utilize composites. A couple of years ago I was Read more…


character's appearance

Think about the last book you read that had great characters. How were the characters described? Did the author go into great detail about each character’s appearance, or did they write more of a character sketch, allowing the reader to fill in the details?The best characters are usually approached the second way. It seems contrary to our instinct as writers, to be vague in describing things like a character’s appearance, but it’s actually the better approach. There are a few reasons for this.Describing a character’s appearance stops the story.Rather than moving the story forward, everything comes to a screeching halt as you describe the color of your character’s hair and eyes, their height and build and even the clothing they are wearing. Often, a character’s appearance has little or nothing to do with the outcome of a story. It’s fluff.Describing a character’s appearance inhibits the reader’s imagination.The natural product of reading is imagination. Your reader’s mind will begin to construct images of your story’s setting and characters as soon as they have the tiniest bit material.  Unfortunately, as writers, we have the ability to shatter those images if rather than allowing our characters to come to life within our readers’ Read more…


Using Character Templates

I recently began reading a book that I put down after 3 short chapters. I wanted to read it. The premise was good, but some of the basic elements that make a story good were all wrong. Those elements all had to do with characterization. Writing characters well is essential to making a fiction book work. Characters are who we relate to in a story, who we love, and who we despise. There are right ways and wrong ways to write characters. Over the next few weeks, I’m going to share how to get characters right—or at least, how to not get them wrong. I will begin with the use of character templates.Character TemplatesWhen people create their character, they often begin with forms known as character templates. If you’re a writer interested in craft, you have likely seen these online. You’ve probably downloaded them, and maybe you’ve even used them. There is nothing inherently wrong with these templates. In fact, they can be quite helpful as you explore who your character is. Unfortunately, too many authors use them incorrectly. They end up sounding more like an application for an online dating service, than aspects of a deep character.“Blond hair, blue Read more…


My crabby neighbor

Karen Hume of the fantastic blog, Profound Journey, posted 25 Totally Terrifying Meaning of Life Questions Worth Asking Yourself. I bookmarked them and intend to answer one every so often. For me, it really is terrifying. Even though I share a lot of my life on my other site, Facing Cancer with Grace, there’s also a lot I keep to myself. In an effort to be brave and transparent I am going to share a childhood memory of my crabby neighbor as I answer question # 7:When was the first time you were afraid? (Question from Natalie Goldberg).When I was about 5 years old…I lived in St. Paul. We had an alley behind our home that was perfect for riding a bike down, as it started on one street which was at a higher elevation than the street it emptied onto.I knew all of our neighbors except for one, the neighbor who lived across the street. But I did know about him—at least I thought I did. I thought he must be mean. He was old (like most of my neighbors). I didn’t see him a lot, and when I did, he appeared to be a very angry man. It Read more…


writer's rut

Sometimes life hands you lemonade right after you’ve brushed your teeth. That’s how the last few weeks have felt for me. Dealing with a medical emergency for one of my children as well as a turn of events in my husband’s cancer, left me little time to write. That happens sometimes, doesn’t it? The problem is that writing is almost as necessary as air for a writer.  How do you get out of a writer’s rut?Getting out of a writer’s rut can be a choreIn physics, there is a principle known as Newton’s first law of motion – sometimes referred to as the law of inertia.“An object at rest stays at rest and an object in motion stays in motion with the same speed and in the same direction unless acted upon by an unbalanced force.”So here we are in a writer’s rut. We will stay in this rut without being acted upon by some unbalanced force. That requires effort.Be willing to accept less than the bestSometimes as writers, we feel as though we need to create something great with our words or it’s not worth the effort. This can lead to writer’s rut. We sit in front of our Read more…


12 things about me

Life in our house is a little crazy right now. My husband is participating in a clinical trial for lung cancer at the Mayo Clinic to treat. One of our daughters has been dealing with her own medical problems, so I thought I would do something different this week by sharing 12 things about me.What does your ideal day look like?My ideal day would begin with me waking up to a quiet clean house. I would have a strong cup of coffee and spend the day writing. At noon, I would go to lunch with my daughters and have happy hour sushi at Hajime. I would end the day as I always do, snuggling in front of Netflix with my husband.What did you want to be when you were younger?I’ve always wanted to be a writer. Always.Who would you love to meet? What would you ask?I would love to meet my husband’s maternal grandmother. She died long before I married my husband so I never had the opportunity, but I feel as though I know her because of all the stories her children and grandchildren tell about her. She was an amazing woman. I have often been told, “It’s too bad you Read more…

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