Proper Proportions For Your Meals

Wellness is 80% diet and 20% exercise. That wasn’t the first time you heard me say that, and it won’t be the last. What you put into your body is more important than what sort of exertion you get out of your body.

Even if you are eating a healthy about of calories with healthy portion sizes, things can still be skewered if the sizes of each meal portion are out of wack. If your plate consists of 50% mac ‘n’ cheese, 40% steak, and 10% kale…you are doing it wrong. “A” for effort, but still wrong.

Your meals should be made up of three categories: proteins, veggies, and carbs. Veggies are self-explanatory. Proteins consist of your meats, nuts, eggs, peanut butter, and even chocolate milk! Carbs (and remember…we want to focus on complex carbs, not simple carbs) are your fruits, cereals, and breads.

Let’s take a quick look at my personal recommendations on how to segment each onto your plate for each meal. Remember to drink 2 cups (16oz) of water before each meal, and you’ll be right on track to optimal wellness!

Breakfast

Your breakfast consists of an easy 50/50 split. Half of your plate should be proteins, while the other half should be carbs. Think oatmeal with fresh fruit. Eggs with pancakes. Bacon with an apple. Easy peasy.

These pancakes have only two ingredients: eggs and bananas! And, my god, are they delicious -drool-

Lunch

Things start to get a tad trickier when it comes to lunch, as we are now adding veggies to the mix. Half of your lunch should consist of veggies of some sort. The other half of your lunch should be 25% carbs and 25% proteins.

To make this easier, I have several plastic containers that are split in 50%, 25%, 25% section. When I prepare my lunch for the following day, I place my veggies into the 50% section. My protein and my carb are then placed into the two smaller trays. This prevents me from over-indulging with my eyes and placing a higher amount of protein or carb than is needed.

Turkey burger and baked zucchini with squash!

Dinner

The dinner recommendation is where people start to freak out…75% veggies and 25% protein. …Now, now, now, please put down your pitchforks. This is not as hard as it seems.

There are many food choices out there that count as veggies but can be eaten like protein or carbs. Some of my favourites include:

  • Cauliflower mashed potatoes
  • Zucchini noodles
  • Spaghetti squash noodles
  • Cauliflower rice
  • Black-eyed pea patties

These foods can all be found in the freezer section of your local supermarket, and they are quick and easy to make. They are also customizable!

Zoodles with boiled shrimp!

I love steaming cauliflower rice in the microwave and then pouring some Tikka Masala on top, or stirring in diced tomatoes and chiles. The Tikka Masala and tomatoes+chiles are both great additives to normal white rice, and they taste just as great in cauliflower rice.

Another great option is creating homemade pizza with a cauliflower crust instead of flour crust! Add whatever toppings you want; nothing is off limits. Just use that cauliflower crust, and you are set.

When you have a nice-sized helping of these camoflagued veggies on your dinner plate, it’s not so hard to hit that 75%, huh? 🙂

The Easiest Way To Develop Believable Characters

In our last installment, I mentioned how believable characters are the key to writing success. Whether it is starting your prose or continuing your prose or hoping that your readers enjoy your prose, your characters will make or break your prose in general.

So, the question becomes…how do I create believable characters?

Many websites feature 100-200 question “interviews” to give to each of your characters. The purpose of these interviews is the belief that–once you are done filling it out–you will know everything there is to know about that character: where they came from, who they are, their hopes, their fears, their strengths, and their faults. And this logic is not wrong, as you will know virtually everything that there is to know about that character after answering every question.

But it is completely absurd to think that a writer will feel like working on their manuscript after filling out a detailed 200-question interview from one character’s perspective…much less filling out this same interview for multiple questions.

“I don’t care WHY you failed the third grade, Margaret. Can’t I just say that you were a dumb kid and move on?”

Not only is this process unnecessarily time-consuming, but it takes away some of the fun of writing. Yes, you should know many of the basic facts for each character, but you don’t need to write their biography before you’ve even written your prose.

I always create a document with a separate page for each character, and I list down their full name, their preferred name, their birthday and age, their hair colour, their eye colour, their ethnicity, and five-to-ten bullet points regarding major life events and odd quirks. This is all that is needed to get started. As I make my way through my prose, things happen, and things get added to their initial “About Me” document. I learn more about my characters the more I write about them. Unexpected plot twists change some of their dynamics and cause them to make more sense in my mind. I find myself bonding with them more and more.

I wouldn’t have these experiences had I written out a 200-question interview about them prior to starting my prose. Mostly because I would have been so bored and frustrated that I’d have never started the prose in the first place.

So, how should you quickly get started with fleshing out characters? Borrow from reality.

All of my characters are birthed as a mix from people I know in real life and other fictional characters that I’ve found myself connected to over time. I’m not saying to write Thor into your prose. I’m saying to use Thor as an inspiration.

First of all, his name can’t be Thor. Let’s call him Daniel. Hi, Daniel!

Daniel Andersen, CrossFit extraordinaire and our lead protagonist. Remember to take the cape off of him.

Instead of Thor’s superpowers, Daniel is a professional weightlifter who can solve many of life’s occurrences through the power of physical fitness. He still retains his pretty blond hair, which makes him quite the ladies’ man. He is also still slightly aloof.

But what if that aloofness was due to a brain injury that he suffered as a teenager? Say he got into a car accident that killed his brother (sorry, Loki…I mean, Alan), and he’s got memory issues due to the effects of the physical and mental trauma. Oh my goodness gracious, we now have a whole new element to Daniel for us to explore.

He is now a flawed hero.

We can work with this.

Daniel needs a girlfriend. Let’s base her on your spastic friend, Lola. We’ll call her Brandi for the sake of the prose. Brandi retains Lola’s pixie cut, but it’s auburn rather than hot pink. We’ll also add glasses to Brandi to further distinguish her from Lola. Let’s make the glasses cracked to accentuate Brandi’s eccentricness.

When Lola finds a new mate, she overthinks things and drives him or her away. Brandi does the same thing. But since Daniel is quite aloof and also desires companionship to fill the void left by his dead brother, Brandi’s what-ifs don’t fully register in his mind. So, rather than Daniel being driven away, he just stares at Brandi oddly and then holds her until she takes a breath and calms TF down.

See how nicely this is coming along, folks? Be sure to credit me if you use Daniel and Brandi in your prose; I don’t do that ghostwriting shiz.

Believe In Your Characters, Or Fail In Your Writing

In my last blog post, I discussed how to make it past “writer’s block” to continue crafting your prose and create prose with less filler. But then arises the question of How do you keep your momentum?

Even if you don’t hit a wall of writer’s block and not know where to go, how do you prevent just…well…just not caring about the prose anymore? How do you prevent yourself from finding everything and anything else more desireable to do than sitting down and typing out words? How do you ensure that your words just flow from your fingertips in rapid speed without dragging along for page after page?

One word:

Characters.

Think about your favourite books, television shows, comic book characters, movies, etc. What do you like best about them? I’ll bet you just thought of a character. Maybe several characters. The first thing you thought of when picturing this beloved craft was a character related to that craft. And there is a reason for that.

Think about a series that you used to love that has since then gone into the toilet, yet you continue to hate-watch or hate-read anyway. Pretty Little Liars. Lost. Riverdale. The list goes on and on. The series makes you rage with its absurdness, but you continue to consume it anyway. You know you’re most likely going to be disappointed with the episode/book, but you go forth anyway.

This damn show went from amazing in Seasons 1-6A to terrible in 6B-7. Yet I continued watching those last 1.5 seasons because I loved these girls and wanted to see their stories played out. Create characters that do the same thing (but also don’t nuke your show with bad writing and unbelievable plotlines).

Why?

Again:

Characters.

Believable characters are the key to making or breaking your product. If your audience loves (or loves-to-hate) your characters, then they will keep coming back for more. If your characters are stiff and dull–despite an amazing setting, descriptions, and plot–, your audience is going to tune out, or put your product down and forget about it. It lands on the shelf of “I’ll come back to it eventually”.

The same is true for you and your writing. You need to love your characters. Care about them. Make them stand out enough that it’s easy to keep going no matter what rut or other life responsibilities you’ve found yourself in.

Let’s look at the primary characters from my series, the Belle Âme Chronicles: Blythe, Nathalian, Edwin, Sevii, Ramona, and Jaxyn (yes, I know that there are more primary characters from that series, but those are called SPOILERS). I can literally pull a random scene out of a hat and write a good 1000-1500 words of dialogue and action within 15 minutes that correspond to that scene. That is because I care enough about those characters to instantly know what they will say and how they will react, both to the situation and to the other members of their family.

Wha this means is that–even on a bad day–I can sit down, take a look at my outline, and know what scene needs to be written. And then I can just tunnel-vision churn out that scene (or entire chapter, in some cases) without having to stop and strain over “What would they say now?” Enjoying and truly knowing your characters makes the writing process so much easier.

Real talk: I wish I still had my old typewriter. My mom let me use it from ages 4-9, and then it was GONE one day. Maybe I’ll try to find one on eBay 🙂

When you do not care about a character, it is almost a guarantee that your audience will not care about them either. They will cause your writing to drag, and you will start to hate scenes that this character is a part of. While it is hard (and sometimes heartwrenching) to kill off a character–especially a protagonist or anti-hero–, it is quite therapeutic to kill off a character that has just fallen too flat to meet your expectations 🙂

A lot of people recommend doing those lengthy, 200-question surveys to develop your characters. If that works for you…cool. Do it. But to me, there is a much easier and much more practical way to develop characters that actually mean something to you (and to your readers). I will discuss that in our next blog installment, so stay tuned!

Your Writing ≠ Chronological

We’ve all experienced it. Writer’s Block. Yeah. It sucks.

Sometimes, Writer’s Block hits before we’ve even begun. Who all has sat in front of a blank white document staring at that cursor blinking and wondering what to possibly put on the page? Don’t be shy. We’ve all been there.

Sometimes, Writer’s Block hits mid-prose. Things have been going well, but now you are inexplicably stuck. And the longer you sit and try to figure out what comes next, the more discouraged you get, and the more you start to hate your prose.

Over the years, I’ve learned that Writer’s Block isn’t exactly Writer’s Block, as in a mental block preventing you from going further. Writer’s Block is more of your brain telling you to skip the “boring” scenes and get back to the action.

When thinking of your prose, you often go into the writing process knowing many key elements (or, at least, you should. We’ll get into outlining within the next few blogs): who the main characters are, what the central plot is, and what some major plot points are. From here, your writing consists of getting from plot point A to plot point B to plot point C and all the way to the ending paragraph at plot point Z.

I’ve come to find that when I hit “Writer’s Block”, I’ve just word vomited out plot point F in a brilliant flurry of words, and now I’m trying to figure out how to transition to plot point G. What characters should have what conversations? What should be shown? What needs to be included for plot point G to occur?

If it doesn’t come to me quickly, I skip it.

Yes, skip it.

I’m serious.

In brackets, I write something like [Edwin and Blythe have a conversation about (mild plot points) and decide (on something)]. And then I move on to the next scene, which should get us to plot point G. Just bracket your synopsis and move on. Literally every book I’ve ever written has featured the beloved synopsis brackets at least 6 or 7 times in the rough draft. Those synopsis brackets represent 6 or 7 times where I could have gotten stuck, lost momentum, and even quit on the book had I not bracketed and moved on!

When doing your first edits, that is the appropriate time to tackle your synopsis brackets with fresh eyes. Fill in those synopses with actual words and paragraphs! Make it pretty!

But do you know what you’ll find 50-60% of the time? Those synopsis brackets weren’t really necessary at all. The reason that you were stuck with “Writer’s Block” was that your brain–your very smart author brain–knew that you were about to write a mountain of pointless filler that would bore your reader and fail to move the plot. Upon your first edit, if the material in your synopsis bracket is irrelevant, delete it and move on. Or, at least, shorten it. Your readers (and your editor) will thank you 🙂

The same is true for beginning-level Writer’s Block. Introducing your characters is important. Painting a portrait in your reader’s mind of what they look like, who they love, and what they hate is very important. But no one wants to read an entire chapter about people’s hair and clothing. That’s how you get My Immortal.

Start your book prose with some action, and weave in the description here and there as you go. If needed, just skip what the first 1-2 chapters would be all-together and start with chapter 3. Again, when you go back to your first edit, you will likely discover that you can condense what your outline thought your first chapters were into a few paragraphs woven in with the action.

Remember, prose has a lot of moving parts. Don’t get stuck on just one. And remember to thank Writer’s Block for the blessing that it often turns out to be!