10 Tips for More Writing Time: Shop Faster

Think you’re running out of minutes in the day to get some writing done? Here’s one place you can shave off a few minutes of wait time and get back to writing sooner: The Grocery Store!



You may not normally consider how much time you waste at the grocery store, but a chunk of this could be time better spent writing. Here are 10 things you can start doing today that will shave some serious time off your multi-daily, weekly, or monthly grocery outing.

1. Make a List, Check It Twice, and STICK TO IT!

Distractions are a writer’s worst enemies (well, when it comes to time management anyway) and can turn a seek-and-destroy mission into a wild goose chase. Make a (short) list of the things that you need from the store and bring it with you. Use a sticky note, phone app, voice recording, self-email or self-text.

And don’t casually wander into the bakery, ice cream, or candy areas just because you happen to be walking past it. Stay focused!

2. Grab a Hand Basket or Smaller Cart

Going into the store with a monstrous cart is like sitting down in front notebook with 100 empty page–you’re gonna want to fill it up! Or, best case scenario, you won’t realize how off track you’ve gotten with your shopping because every time you see the cart it won’t look full…and won’t look full…and won’t look full, until it is. Using smaller carts helps you stop shopping faster when your load starts to get too heavy or you quickly run out of room to hold items.

3. Frequent an Establishment

When you go to the same store every time you shop, you gradually begin to learn where everything is. This cuts down on you having to wander aimlessly or find an employee to help you look for something that you want.

4. Stick with Boxes and Cans

How does this save time? Because these scan the most quickly and reliably. When you buy things in bags, sacks, tiny packages, or oddly shaped containers, the bar code isn’t as easy for the scanner to read, and often isn’t even easy for the cashier to find. Precious time is wasted. If you are a big junk food eater, this isn’t much of an issue since a lot of junk comes in boxes. However, if you’re big on fresh produce, you may be wondering how you’re going to save time. The best a fresh producer fiend can do is opt for bags and plastic containers instead of items that are loose or only tied with twine or wire (meaning the cashier has to search for or ask for the PLU code to be able to ring it up). Also remember that, some loose produce items (such as potatoes or garlic) must be weighed, which takes even more time). For example, instead of a fresh bunch of wet cilantro, just buy the cilantro that comes in a jar or clear plastic box that has a clear, easy-to-read bar code on it. Instead of loose garlic, get the garlic in a box or jar.

5. Estimate As You Go

Estimating the price of your order as you go helps you keep from being surprised at the register. It also helps you know how much cash to prepare (as suggested in tip 7). Remember to always round up. $4.99 is $5, $3.23 is $4, and so on. And still add a few dollars onto the running total before you head to the checkout for tax. You’d rather be under budget than over budget.

6. Unload

Don’t just sit your order on the belt and start texting or daydreaming. Make checking out a process in which you are fully participatory. Unload your items and put your basket away under the conveyor built or hand it to the bagger when it’s your turn to be checked out.

7. Unload Intelligently

When it comes time to hit the register, put your items on the belt with the bar codes either facing you or facing down. Grocery scanners have a plate on the bottom and mirrors on the side opposite the cashier. So, if you place your bar codes like this, you won’t have to wait for the cashier to find it, and it’s more likely to be registered quickly by the terminal.

8. Prep (your coupons, school cards, discount cards, gift certificates, etc.) 

Translation: Get your shit together before it’s time to check out. Don’t wait for the cashier to ask you if you have a shopping card or coupons. Often, you’ll be standing in line waiting to be rung up anyway. Instead of staring a magazine covers, browsing candy labels, or texting on your phone, use this time wisely. Check your pockets for coupons. If you have partner or loyalty cards on your keychain, have them out and ready to hand to the cashier the moment the order before you is complete.

9. Start Paying As Soon As Possible

If you’re paying with plastic, most terminals are able to complete the early parts (and sometimes most) of the payment process as soon as it’s your turn to check out. Do this so that you utilize your time well while your items are being rung up. Just step up to the card reader and insert your chip (or slide, if you still have to do that).

If you’re paying with cash, open your wallet and pull out at least $5.00 more than you think your . Pull out four pennies. If you have four pennies to give, you won’t get any back. For example, if your total is $44.04 and you give $50.04, the pennies get absorbed. Then, as the total for your order rises, start pulling out bills. When you get the final total, you should have everything you need to hand the cashier exact (or near exact) change within about three seconds.

10. Bag

It may be difficult emotionally, but try to set your pride aside and help yourself get out of that store as quickly as possible. Lots of grocery stores may have times during the day when they don’t have a bagger around to help out (and the manager is with a belligerent customer and the other cashier is in the bathroom and the customer service is swamped, and so on). When this happens, jump in and get it done. As soon as you’ve followed the previous step with your credit or debit card, slide to the end of the check lane and start bagging up what your cashier has rung out. If a bagger steps in before you’re done, by all means, step aside and let the expert handle it. But don’t let poor staffing at a store keep you there any longer than necessary.

Character Development: Children’s Roles: Lost Child

Creating a Lost Child for your story can help make a character more realistic in the eyes of the reader.

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What are Children’s Roles?

Children’s roles are a specific set of coping mechanisms that children tend to develop throughout chaotic situations in their childhood. This could include the loss of a parent, a family struggle with addiction, or even a move to a new place.

The four major roles are Family Hero, Scapegoat, Lost Child, and Mascot. Most children have played these roles at various points throughout their lives, but some kids get “stuck” in one of these roles and it can be problematic for them as they grow older. However, while they are in the midst of the chaos (parent loses a job, being severely bullied at school, parents divorce, etc.), these behaviors are how they cope with the pain.

What’s a Lost Child Like?

A Lost Child is often referred to as ‘the quiet one,’ ‘wallflower’, or ‘independent.’ You may have seen, heard of, been friends with, or even been a Lost Child yourself. Let’s use the example of a single, alcoholic mother once again. She loses her job due to her consistent drunkenness and decides to drown her sorrows in yet more alcohol. As noted in previous posts, this means that bills are not being paid, clothes are not being washed, groceries are not being purchased, and so on. The household containing her and her 4 children is in chaos. While the Family Hero is filling in as a pseudo-parent, the Scapegoat is doing the exact opposite, and the Lost Child is finding ways to get their needs met while drawing as little attention to themselves as possible.

The Lost Child may spend most of their day doing something that helps this disconnect from reality including reading (me), playing video games (me again), writing (once again, me), or browsing the internet (yep, me). This child wants to distance themselves from the painful living conditions that their family provides. They may see the Family Hero as working too hard, see the Scapegoat as getting too much negative attention, and just wants to blend into the background so that they can be left alone.

Human beings are some of the most social animals on the planet. We crave human contact and attention from birth. The Family Hero gets their attention from their peers and the accolades they get from others who see them “doing so well.” The Scapegoat gets their attention from getting into trouble or joining a gang. However, the Lost Child does not seek attention. Where a Family Hero strives for As and a Scapegoat may flunk out of school completely, a Lost Child wants to do well enough that they don’t get in trouble for getting horrible grades, but don’t get singled out for having great grades. This child strives to do work that is passing and nothing more.

The Lost Child may be left behind on a family vacation or have their names routinely forgotten by people the go to school with (including teachers). Being consistently quietly busy by themselves, these children are often seen as “low maintenance.” If mom is passed out on the couch and the Family Hero went downtown to bail the Scapegoat out of jail, the Lost Child would simply forge a signature on the permission they need for tomorrow, make themselves a sandwich, grab a soda out of the fridge, and spend the remainder of the night in their room watching television after completing their homework with careful mediocrity.

This child makes it easy to forget that there is another responsibility in the house that is not being met by the mother. This child offers relief to the chaos of the family situation because they don’t add any extra stress. The mother in this scenario does not have to be concerned at all about the Lost child.

While many parents used to attempting to manage multiple, rambunctious children may see the Lost Child as a blessing, these children are commonly deeply troubled. Many of the young people who have been notorious for committing mass shootings at schools would be considered a Lost Child.

Habitually pulling away from in-person relationships means that they can develop a warped expectation of control in relationships. In the virtual world, if someone posts a video they don’t like or writes something negative about them, they can not watch the video again, go to another site, or even shut down the computer or smart phone completely. This means that they find safety and normalcy in removing themselves from interactions with other humans beings in the simplest ways possible. Sometimes severe bullying or exclusion can lead to them believing that death (of themselves, their peers, or both) is the most efficient end to the strife caused by being in any kind of relationship with someone who is hurting them in some way.

Less drastically, this child may never learn how to develop healthy coping, communication, and other interpersonal skills so that they can maintain friendships or even date. Until they are offered skills training, therapy, or even just a self-help book, they may never be able to heal and begin to have healthy views of themselves, other people, and human relationships in general.

Lost Children as Adults

If the single, alcoholic mother of four goes to treatment for her addiction and gets some treatment for her children, they may be able to wrench themselves loose from these roles. However, if this doesn’t happen, it’s very easy for a child’s personality/sense of self and their role in this chaotic situation to become enmeshed.

When this happens, the Lost Child becomes an adult who searches for ways to get their needs met while keeping human interaction as low as possible. This person is often called ‘quiet’ or ‘shy’ and accused of having ‘no personality’ or being ‘boring.’ Because they equate human relationships with pain, they are likely to live alone (maybe with their original family under certain circumstances).

The notion of finding gainful employment may seem daunting, but they will try to find a way to do “background” work (such as working backstage at a theater, working behind the scenes of a television show, being a grocery stock member, being an office building janitor, etc.) or solo work (writing, video transcription, copy editing, etc.).

Starting a family is often the furthest thing from this person’s mind because they don’t want to risk falling into the type of chaos that the experienced as a child. They are likely to masturbate regularly as opposed to attempting to find a consenting sexual partner. They may pay for sex as well, but this may be relatively rare since it involves another human being.

 

Lost Children / Wallflowers in Fiction

This character is often the one who has no idea that someone is attracted to them and would run scared if they knew anyway. Someone trying to show / teach them that not all human interaction is painful might make for a good romance or romantic portion of a story.

This character would be much more likely to rely on WebMD and YouTube videos for any minor or moderate medical conditions.

Because they like to work solo or in the background, they will rarely (if ever) be a celebrity of any kind. They will stay on top of their finances just enough to not get called by bill collectors, but not enough to get solicited by American Express. If they did fall on hard times for some reason, they would likely do without various things (even food) or go to a formal financial institution before they would think to attempt relying on someone close to them to help them out with a loan.

This character is likely to be highly socially awkward and visibly uncomfortable in group settings (sweating, eyes glued to the floor, never putting their phone down, etc.).

Having a Lost Child character with a realistic backstory can add depth to your piece and possibly offer some extra paths for your to explore with it comes to how your character will behave in new situations they run into in your story.

Stay gready, Friends!

 

Character Development: Children’s Roles: Scapegoat

Creating a Scapegoat for your story can help make characters more realistic in the eyes of the reader.

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What are Children’s Roles?

Children’s roles are a specific set of coping mechanisms that children tend to develop throughout chaotic situations in their childhood. This could include the loss of a parent, a family struggle with addiction, or even a move to a new place.

The four major roles are Family Hero, Scapegoat, Lost Child, and Mascot. Most children have played these roles at various points throughout their lives, but some kids get “stuck” in one of these roles and it can be problematic for them as they grow older. However, while they are in the midst of the chaos (parent loses a job, being severely bullied at school, parents divorce, etc.), these behaviors are how they cope with the pain.

 

What’s a Scapegoat Like?

A Scapegoat is often referred to as ‘the bad one,’ ‘Bebe’s kid,’ or ‘the black sheep.’ You may have seen, heard of, been friends with, or even been a Scapegoat yourself. Let’s use the example of a single, alcoholic mother again. She loses her job due to her consistent drunkenness and decides to drown her sorrows in yet more alcohol. As noted in previous posts, this means that bills are not being paid, clothes are not being washed, groceries are not being purchased, and so on. The household containing her and her 4 children is in chaos. While the Family Hero is filling in as a pseudo-parent, the Scapegoat is doing the exact opposite.

The Scapegoat may spend most of the day sleeping, rarely making it to school on time or at all. This kid just wants to get away from the stressful situation that is being part of this family. They may see the Family Hero working their ass off attempting to keep everything together (as a parent and a child) and doesn’t want to put themselves through that kind of stress. They will often do things to get attention that are considered problematic, such as getting pregnant as a teenager, using drugs, joining gangs, committing crimes, or bullying or being generally violent and abusive towards others (including family members). They are likely to struggle with their academics and may even flunk out of school. The Scapegoat will often come home late at night or not at all since they may find more comfort and stability with their pimp, gang leader, etc.

Their destructive and problematic behavior makes it more difficult for the focus to be on the central problem of mom’s alcoholism. People within the family and outside the family might think, “There lives would be so much better if Sheena would just get her act together.” The mother may not realize how much of a burden is lifted off of them when the Scapegoat’s problems overshadow her own.

Scapegoats get the attention that all children crave, but they get it for getting expelled, breaking laws, or getting arrested. The mother might often berate the Scapegoat: “What is wrong with you?” “Why can’t you grow up?” “Your brother’s never acted like this!” “You’re the worst most ungrateful child I’ve ever seen!”

Therefore, even though the Scapegoat does things that a problematic, it begins to feel comfortable as they take on the labels that they are fitted with by schools, law enforcement, family members, friends, and classmates. Their behavior is often an outlet for feelings of rage that they are not having their basic needs met by their family unit and have had to look outside the family for feelings like love, connectedness, and appreciation. Until they are offered a self-help group, non-judgmental companions, or therapist, these feelings may never be directly expressed in a healthy manner.

 

Scapegoats as Adults

If the single, alcoholic mother of four goes to treatment for her addiction and gets some treatment for her children, they may be able to wrench themselves loose from these roles. However, if this doesn’t happen, it’s very easy for a child’s personality/sense of self and their role in this chaotic situation to become enmeshed.

When this happens, the Scapegoat keeps looking for new ways to be ‘the black sheep’ in different situations. This person is often called a ‘career criminal’ as an adult, but could also be noted as an unmotivated ‘pot head’ or other drug addict. They’ve given in to the feelings of helplessness that have surrounded them in their chaotic family and decided not to fight against it, but just to ignore the core issues that caused it.

Sometimes the idea of getting a job is unattractive to them because it means following rules, having a boss, and having to be somewhere on a consistent basis throughout the week (i.e., too much work). So the Scapegoat may find ways to make money that don’t take a lot of effort or oversight (selling guns or drugs, doing odd jobs when they feel like it, etc.)

Sometimes the idea of having a family isn’t appealing because they don’t want to end up back in a family like the one they grew up in. Therefore, the Scapegoat might intentionally remain single, though they may have many ‘sex buddies’ available to them.

Scapegoats / Career Criminals / Burnouts in Fiction

This character is often the one who attempts to keep potential love interests at bay. They may have sex with them, but that’s as far as it goes. A love interest trying to break down this emotional wall could make a strong romance.

This character may not believe that they can rely on people in the medical community, so health problems as “solved” with drugs or simply ignored. Good for a tragedy.

Due to an inconsistent work history, this person may have accrued some debt that can follow them and cause problems between them and others when bill collectors call, items are repossessed, or the character borrows money that they cannot (or have no intention to) pay back.

This character is apt to see people who are industrious (such as the Family Hero) as “suckers” working for “the man.”

Having a character who is a Scapegoat with a realistic backstory can add depth to your work and maybe even offer you some extra avenues to explore when it comes to how they will behave in the new situations they come across in your story.

 

Stay gready, Friends!

 

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Character Development: Write the Walk

Who knew you could tell so much about a character from the way they walk?!

 

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It may seem like an odd trait to focus on, but the various aspects of someone’s walk can be a great avenue for expressing things about their personality. In my experience as a therapist (and you may have seen this in your own life) people with various dominant personality traits may walk in a particular manners. And walking alone only tells part of the character development story. Having your character walk with a group or just one other person can give the reader some insight into the kind of person they are as well.
Here are some examples.


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Invisible Heels

I went to middle school with a guy who was always bouncing on his toes. I always imagined that, by the time we finished high school, he was going to have the biggest calves in history. It looked like he was walking with 2 or 3 inch heels on that nobody else could see.
The overarching theme for why someone walks like this (especially if they walk quickly) is that they are impatient, which can also mean they are judgmental and stubborn. Here are a couple of reasons why a character you’re developing might walk like this (besides physical pain):
  • They’re anxious. Either in the moment, or perpetually (as I suspect was the case with my classmate), people may exhibit anxiety or nervousness by not letting their heels touch the ground. This could be due to anything from past trauma to stimulant use.
  • They’re eager. Someone who is excited for something they are really looking forward to may walk in a similar manner. Someone who is experiencing some kind of situational mania (they just won the lottery, they just accepted a marriage proposal, etc.) may be on cloud nine. What better way to manifest that kind of exuberance than by trying to levitate? 😀

Slow-Poke Jones

I’m guilty of being one of the slowest casual walkers you will ever meet in your life. People pass me on the sidewalk as if I’m crawling and they’re sprinting. I understand that part of this has to do with being obese (I’m working on it!), but part of it may have to do with my laid-back, low-energy personality. In character development, having your character’s walk be slow can represent the following about them as a person:
  • They’re in control. If a meeting can’t start until you get there or you don’t work and aren’t looking for a job, you have all the power. What’s the hurry? Taking time to smell the roses and fully experience your trek from your limousine to the top floor won’t do any harm. This person may wait for no one, but have many people (eagerly) waiting on them. Kings, presidents, mob bosses, dictators, and the like may have a slower-than-average walk for this reason.
  • They’re simple-minded. On the other end of the spectrum, someone may be a slow walker because they have trouble with basic multitasking. They are looking at things, smelling things, hearing things, feeling things, thinking things, and walking all at the same time. All these other non-walking activities are slowing them down due to sensory overload.
  • They don’t want to go. You might have expressed this in a few other ways, but a nice nuance to add in when someone doesn’t want to go somewhere is that they walk slowly towards that place. The groom that shuffles slowly to his spot at the front of a Christian wedding. The 10-minute walk to school that takes 30 minutes today because there’s a bully lying in wait. These are the types of scenarios in which having someone walk noticeably slowly just shows the depth of their reluctance and feeling of helplessness.

Road Runner

I have several people in my life who I see as Road Runners because I walk so slow. But there are others that, even for an average walker’s speed, move very quickly. When walking with children, the children often struggle to stay 5 or 10 feet behind. Small dogs might even get left in the dust. Here are a few specific traits that your quick walker may have:
  • They’re anxious. Sometimes people walk very quickly, even when they’re not going anywhere in particular. Just enjoying the warm weather with a walk through the park can turn into a marathon for whomever they’re walking with. Generalized anxiety may have the person feeling as though they must move quickly even though, if asked directly, they could not tell you why and likely don’t even realize they’re doing it.
  • They’re impatient. Sometimes people walk very quickly because they’re ready to move on to the next activity, destination, topic of conversation, etc. Because they may not have control over who they’re talking with, the distance to the restaurant they’re going to, or what they’re going to do once they get to the park, they want to just hurry up and get there and get it over with. These kinds of people may have severe problems with control in relationships. Their way is the right way and there will be no discussion (Translation: If you can’t walk at the same speed I do that’s your problem, not mine). They may also have problems with compassion for people who think, feel, and behave differently from them.

The Dabbler

This person may walk at just about any speed, but it still takes them a while to get to their destination because they can’t focus on getting there. They stop to have conversations with strangers, they pluck flowers, they try to find the owner of a stray dog, and so on. This character may, of course, have severe AD(H)D. However, a couple of other issues could be at play:
  • They’re forgetful. If someone’s memory is beginning to fade due to a condition such as dementia, not being able to focus on a task like walking—especially with so much stimuli around—can help tell that story. When my great-grandmother was struggling with Alzheimer’s disease, she couldn’t get through one room of the house to use the restroom without talking about 3 or 4 different things on the way or even forgetting why she was walking in the first place.
  • They’re afraid. Much like the slow walker who doesn’t want to reach their destination, this person may be stalling while they make a plan, think of what they’re going to say, or try to figure out a way to not get to their destination at all via a viable excuse.

Walking in Groups or Couples

Light-years Ahead

When your character is walking ahead of a group, it could mean that they are the only one who knows where the restaurant or concert is. However, in less pleasant character development, walking ahead of the group shows impatience, arrogance (they assume the group is just going to follow them blindly), or judgement (they don’t want to be seen in the same company as the group for whatever reason).
When someone does this in a couple, it could be a matter of religious protocol (the woman walks x amount of steps behind the man as a show of respect). However, it can point to there being a rift between the two people. For example, let’s say Mary tells her husband she’d like to walk around the new mall downtown to see what stores are available. If he agrees, but then walks 10 feet ahead of her throughout the visit instead of walking beside her, it can show that he thinks he’s better than her, is feeling impatient or resentful towards her, or even has tired of her and wants his single life back. Walking far in front of someone can show some deep levels of disrespect and disconnection.

Side-by-Side

Walking beside someone or with the rest of the group often symbolizes someone’s high comfort with and strong connection to those people. Characters can also show their devotion to, obsession with, or interest in a person over the task at hand by walking beside that person. If Jake and George are walking to a place that George has never been to before, Jake can guide George there while walking beside him instead of putting great physical distance between them as he leads. He can use hand gestures and words to direct (i.e., “Let’s take a left here,” “Now we’re gonna to down these stairs.”).
People also stick with their designated groups because they don’t feel comfortable, but they don’t want to stand out. If they walk too far ahead or behind, someone’s bound to notice and tell them to slow down or hurry up. If your character is shy and / or new to the group, they’ll probably conform to the group’s walking speed and pattern in order to not “rock the boat” socially.

Back of the Bus

Our Havanese, Charlie, who died in December 2015 used to play this role beautifully (unfortunately! :D). The Labrador and Jack Russell would drag me up the street if it weren’t for head leashes. But Charlie was always 3 or 4 feet behind us. Being a low-energy, calm dog we’d rescued from an abusive situation, I chalked it up as him being either nervous about walking around outside or trying to give me respect by letting me “lead the pack.” Who knows?!
With humans, there are also various reasons why someone might choose to stick to walking behind a person or group. Walking leagues behind a group could denote feelings of inadequacy, estrangement, or even criticism towards the group. Again, the emphasis may be on not appearing to be associated with the group.
When walking with a single other person, walking behind could be an expression of uncertainty about the relationship, a lack of trust between the two people, or a strong disinterest in going to the next destination with them (physically or romantically).
These are just a few ways I’ve observed that authors can take advantage of describing someone’s walking patterns to flesh out their personality more genuinely during character development. None of this is set in stone, but is meant to help us as writers think more deeply about the characters we create and the details that make them who they are.

 


Got a dollar? Got a million? 😛 Every little it helps!


3 Hot Pens That Love Your Budget

Here are a few pens that give you a little taste of luxury without sending you to the poorhouse.
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Pens range in price from a few pennies to over a million dollars. Some pens you wouldn’t mind tossing after one use, others become life-long accessories.
Finding a pen that writes well, feels comfortable, lasts long, and doesn’t destroy our bank accounts can be difficult, but I’ve found a few that you might want to try.

 Uni-ball Signo Bold 207 Retractable Gel

This pen is retractable, lightweight, and B-O-L-D (1.0 mm line)! I like this pen because of how thickly it lays down ink. In my near-decade of working in social services, having a pen that marks thick means copies of signatures and form fields come out clear and legible copy after copy. Also, you are purchasing that level of quality for the price (around $1 per pen), but that amount might not break your finances completely. This is especially true if you buy a 12-pack instead of one or two at a time.
Watch Out! – I’ve not been able to find refills for this pen (if you do, please email me). So once it’s empty, you can toss it. I haven’t found this to be a problem because I value those thick lines and the writing comfort so much. If a pen not being refillable is a deal-breaker for you, steer clear!

 

 

Pilot Dr. Grip Medium FullBlack Retractable Ballpoint

Sleek, sexy and smooth, this is a ballpoint pen that I love to write with. It puts down a sophisticated, 1.0 millimeter line and the ink flows like silk. The grip is comfortable and the pen itself is has a thicker body that helps decrease my hand fatigue. This pen is refillable and comes in a black-on-black style with only the clip being silver. I’ve seen this pen sell for as little $6 online, but usually between $8 and $10 from a physical store. But since it looks great, writes well, is comfortable, and is refillable, it’s an investment I didn’t mind making.

  

Pentel EnerGel Alloy RT Liquid Gel

So far, the ultimate favorite of mine! I can’t resist a metal barrel, so this pen immediately caught my eye when I saw it on the shelf at WalMart. This is an aesthetically pleasing pen that comes in (so far as I’ve seen) pink, three difference shades of blue, purple, black, red, silver, and gold. All of these colors have silver accents.

This pen is retractable. It has a heavy body that has a classy vibe. Every time I pull this pen out to write with it I get either a compliment or a question about it’s construction or where I found it (most times, I get all three!). Even for people who aren’t office supply geeks like myself, the sight of this pen screams “quality.” It sells for between $6 and $20, sometimes the difference in price is solely based on the color (the gold body, for instance, will be on the higher end). But, being refillable, you can just pick your favorite color and use it ad infinitum!

Be sure to share you favorite pen picks with your fellow Volo Press readers by leaving a comment.

 

Character Development: Children’s Roles: The Family Hero

Creating a Family Hero for your story can help strengthen character motivations and make your readers relate to them more.

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What are Children’s Roles?

Children’s roles are a specific set of coping mechanisms that children tend to develop throughout chaotic situations in their childhood. This could include the loss of a parent, a family struggle with addiction, or even a move to a new place.

The four major roles are Family Hero, Scapegoat, Lost Child, and Mascot. Most children have played these roles at various points throughout their lives, but some kids get “stuck” in one of these roles and it can be problematic for them as they grow older. However, while they are in the midst of the chaos (parent loses a job, being severely bullied at school, parents divorce, etc.), these behaviors are how they cope with the pain.

 

 

 

What’s a Family Hero Like?

A Family Hero is the ‘perfect’ kid. You may have seen, heard of, been friends with, or even been a Family Hero yourself. Let’s use the example of a single, alcoholic mother who loses her job due to her consistent drunkenness and decides to drown her sorrows in yet more alcohol. Needless to say, this means that bills are not being paid, clothes are not being washed, groceries are not being purchased, and so on. The household containing her and her 4 children is in chaos.

The Family Hero is the kid who wakes up extra early to get their other siblings off to school on time (with a hot breakfast that the Family Hero made). This kid strives to excel at everything that they do. They are often in a leadership role outside of the household as well. They might be a first chair violinist, captain of the football team, or in AP classes. They will often get a 4.0 GPA or very close to it. They may get a part-time job to help pay bills and keep the family afloat. They may be the one who physically applies for unemployment benefits or other kinds of financial assistance (for instance, asking grandparents for money) if the parent can’t or won’t.

This kid spends very little time actually just being a kid. They take on many of the responsibilities of an adult. They often juggle all these extra tasks in an effort (subconscious, mind you) to take attention away from the dysfunctional aspects of the family and try to ‘fix’ it. Their worldly success makes it harder for outsiders to view the family as a whole or even the parent(s) as having any kind of problem. “They can’t be that bad, Joe had the brains to start his own business at 16 for Christ’s sake!” neighbors might exclaim among themselves.

There is some level of appreciation for the Family Hero from the parent, though it might go unexpressed, or the focus of praise may be only on the good done outside of the home. “You’re such a good kid!” “I’m the only parent on the block with a child with a real job. I’m so proud!” Note that the parent will likely steer clear of mentioning that the child has only done these ‘good’ things in order to pick up the slack for the parent.

Therefore, even though the child has a lot of outside success, internally they often feel things like guilt, shame, frustration, and hopelessness. The Family Hero role is a facade that they can hide these feelings behind. The extra activities they engage in are often their only outlets for these feelings. Until they are offered a self-help group, non-judgmental companion, or therapist, these feelings may never be directly expressed in a healthy manner.

Family Heroes as Adults

If the single, alcoholic mother of four goes to treatment for her addiction and gets some treatment for her children, they may be able to wrench themselves loose from these roles. However, if this doesn’t happen, it’s very easy for a child’s personality/sense of self and their role in this chaotic situation to become enmeshed.

When this happens, the Family Hero keeps looking for new ways to fill the same role in different situations. The Family Hero will often be called a ‘Workaholic’ as an adult. Being able to manage people and situations can be soothing for the Workaholic since they weren’t able to do so with the trauma they experienced during their childhood. They love long hours and difficult situations. They feel restless on vacations or when there’s a lull in their work.

 

Family Heroes / Workaholics in Fiction

This character is often the one who doesn’t pay attention to a potential love interest’s advances, which can be great fodder for a romance.

This character is also often not likely to pay attention to health problems (they think they’ve only had a cough for a few days, but it’s been a few months), which can be perfect for the start of a tragedy.

This character often continues working even though they have millions of dollars put away and could retire on any given day. For some supporting characters, bitterness will ensue. They will be frustrated by the Workaholics inability to realize how lucky they are to have been so financially successful since many people literally have to choose between working full time or being homeless within a few months. For other supporting characters, they may continue to admire the Workaholic. They may see this unwillingness to stop working as an unwillingness to stop living or some deep-seated passion for the specific type of work that the Workaholic is doing (feeding the homeless, finding homes for orphans, etc.).

Having a character who is a Family Hero / Workaholic with a realistic backstory can add depth to your work and maybe even offer you some extra avenues to explore when it comes to how they will behave in the new situations they come across in your story.

 

Stay gready, Friends!

 

Character Development: Always

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Character development and plot management: Used just right, ‘always’ can get someone dumped (and maybe even divorced!).

 

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“Always” could be used to initiate a feelings of distance and judgement in a relationship that eventually lead to a breakup. The person using the word would often be the one who has a hidden (or not) desire to leave the relationship.

how characters might say ‘always’

Here are the phrases that include ‘always’ that can get your character nto a lot of trouble, especially in the heat of an argument. These are only a few examples, but you can come up with some usages that fit your story.

“You always say that.”

“You always do this!”

“You’re always late.”

“You always take their side.”

“You’re always like this. ”

 

who uses ‘always’

In this context, ‘always’ is more likely to be used by a character who is generally seen as aggressive (maybe even assertive). This person will often have extreme reactions to certain events and be judgmental towards others regularly.

For instance, this character may save up money to pay for an abortion for their virgin daughter because she’s gone on one date with a boy. This person may also believe that someone is an alcoholic because they had a can of beer at a party instead of a glass of wine. This is the type of character you might consistently feel the urge to say “Will you relax?!” to.  Controlling people who see the world in black-and white would also be more likely to use ‘always’ in this context.

why always hurts

To use ‘always’ when speaking about someone can easily trigger up their defenses. This is especially true if the character is being told that they are “always” doing something they think is negative. For instance, “always smiling” is a lot easier to hear that “always nagging,” in most cases. However, in a culture or context in which smiling is inappropriate (for instance, at a funeral, while being fired, or during a serious discussion) even “always smiling” can become a slight.

Saying that someone “always” does something, says something, or acts a certain way damages the part of the ego that views the self as special. Characters who are predictable aren’t special (in some people’s view). Therefore, being said to always be a certain way or behave a certain way can feel disrespectful.

As an added bonus, your character may not actually “always” do what they’re being charged with. This can heighten their frustration with the other person or the relationship in general because they are falsely being accused.

For example, let’s say a manager tells an employee that they “always” come to work late. Well, if this employee has been late for work twice in the past 6 months, they may feel indignant, shocked, and angry at their supervisor’s overreaction to their third tardy. Will they curse at their supervisor? Beat them up? Quit the job?

 

 

The supervisor in this example could be outright lying about the situation as well. Maybe the employee has never come in late, and this has been recognized by other staff on the team. Why would the manager say this anyway? Are they losing their memory? Is this part of some delusion they need to help cover up a painful truth about themselves? Are they purposely trying to distract from the fact that they’ve been stealing from the company?

Look at all the different places a little word like ‘always’ can take your work! Write on!