free the pen, a blog for writers

October 31, 2011

The Way We Heal

Filed under: interviews, writing, health, inspiration, dreams,Uncategorized — freethepen @ 7:19 pm

 Ever wonder how you are going to heal a deep seated devastating grief? Monhegan Windows is a poetically written account of two men, unknown to each other, who find their way to this isolated Maine Island, and seek reparation of their bodies, minds and souls after devastating family losses uproot their lives. Here is my review of this remarkably written novel.

REVIEW OF MONHEGAN WINDOWS written by Matthew Kiell
Nothing new truly starts without finishing the old. And the characters in Monhegan Windows are a testament to that. Matthew Kiell writes a
remarkably beautiful painting of unresolved grief and its calling to heal from devastating personal loss. Set in the rocky and wooded terrain of isolated Monhegan Island, Maine, Kiell’s characters have to, just like anything else in nature, compost the old before birthing the new.

Despite the seemingly simple, easy and relaxed days Kiell’s character’s spend on Monhegan Island, it is his account of their ever-present raw
internal struggles, memories of lost loved ones, broken hopes, and destroyed dreams that make the pages awaken. In the slap of the wave against a rock, the deep voice of the gull, the “fog intimately hugging the ground,” the sounds of “Mozart mixed with the wind,” Kiell’s characters are enabled to confront how their lives have, without warning, changed. Caught between the two worlds of what was and what has not yet arrived, Kiell poetically leads his characters to find their way as in one character’s note from a Rabbi: “The only way to experience
true freedom is through going beyond yourself, receiving the task we do not choose, but which chooses us.”

Monhegan Island is that safe place of which we each dream when our vulnerable and aching souls become too much to bear and when life’s
hardships choose us without permission. Beautifully written with poignant and tenderly dramatic prose, Kiell offers every aching heart the opportunity for a calm stretch of time, the kindness of strangers, the comfort of nature and, the peace of a moment as entrance to the other side of life’s unexpected injuries.

Matthew Kiell is a professional writer, independent publisher and photographer who lives outside of Chicago. He first visited and fell in love with monhegan in 1995.

Until next time, pick of a copy of Monhegan Windows. Unfortunately this inspiring book is not on Amazon so contact the author to buy this amazing book at:

book webpage:
Facebook page:

Keep the pen moving,


October 15, 2011

Do Your Main Characters Have This?

Filed under: Uncategorized — freethepen @ 8:32 pm

You might or might not make an outline for your book. It’s okay either way. Ken Follette, author of Pillars of the Earth, takes two years to write an outline. He maps out every detail and character before he begins to write. I almost can’t breathe when I think of it. Outlines don’t work for me. They restrict me, confine my characters, put the life of the page in a box and I can’t move into a place of creativity having such tight borders.

I start with only a general mental plan and then begin to type. Inevitably my characters take over the page and where they want to go. Inevitably my plans change, and giving my fingers total permission to feel my way in the dark allows me to be creative and see what develops. It might be the only time in my life I like being lost.

That being said, there is one thing my main characters must have: a purpose. And my main character leads in that purpose. I’ve read lots of interesting story lines without the main character leading with a purpose and I find that those characters usually feel slightly one dimensional despite the interest I have for the plot.

If the main character of a story is an ordinary person with a purpose, a mission, a drive to accomplish or overcome something, the plot thickens, as the saying goes.

A book is much more powerful when the main character grounds you in the story with a purpose because they give you a suspenseful reason to continue reading. Make your characters extraordinary. Give them a clear purpose so the reader can endear to them rather than just be interested in how life unfolds. Characters are richer and hold more of our dreams when they carry the baton. Hand it to them and allow them to run with it.

To check out my novels, the main characters, and their purposes, go to:
Kate’s Way (also in kindle $5.99)
The Basket Weaver



Twitter_icon Share on Twitter

liked Jan Marquart’s blog post: Does Your Main Character Have This?


always post: reviewsuser statuses

Published on October 15, 2011 13:23• Tags:          purpose-of-main-characters, writing-tip

No comments have been added yet.


Loading saving your comment

add book/author             (some html is ok)

October 11, 2011

Are Your Characters Realistic?

Filed under: writing techniques — freethepen @ 4:42 pm

This might seem as if I’m stating the obvious, but your characters and the situations you put them in MUST be realistic. I’ve edited several manuscripts in which scenes and the response of characters were off track. I’ll share some of them with you and let you decide.

In one manuscript a young female scientist was assaulted by one of her co-workers with whom she was engaged in a short romantic relationship. The rape scene was written in excruciatingly realistic details. They struggled by the fire as she tried to break up with him and ward off his sexual advances. The struggle got violent. He took a knife and sliced open her cheek, ripped her clothing. There was blood everywhere. Afterwards he fled from the home and the woman got up, drove to her friend’s home, sat and drank a cup of tea while trying to decide whether to report her co-worker. Okay, what is wrong with this picture? Would you sit and have a cup of tea with a woman whose face was bleeding and whose clothes were torn who had just been raped? Would you not call the police, get her to the hospital, give her clean clothes? None of the conversation or action went to anything along those lines. What would you do if you had been raped and cut? What would you do if you opened the door and saw your friend’s face open and bleeding with torn clothing?

In another manuscript an alcoholic mother verbally abused her teenage daughter, denied her basic needs and slept with any man she met often with the teen in view of it all. But the author made references to the mother as a kind and caring mother. I know alcoholics can be Dr. Jeckyls and Mr. Hydes but show that discrepancy through the mother’s behavior, not the author’s description or commentary. In discussing these contradictions in the manuscript with the author, she told me she was trying to resolve conflicts she had with her own alcoholic mother. The author used her manuscript, which was a novel, as a way to proclaim her own love for her mother in spite of the pain inflicted on her. That’s okay to do, but write it as a memoir if that’s your plan. Work it out in a venue that makes it realistic and seduces the compassion of the reader.
Does this make sense to you?

A book I read years ago described a female character and her relationship to a man she met. The author revealed the woman’s internal thoughts about that man as nontrusting but her behavior continued throughout the story as loving and desirous of a relationship with him. I kept waiting for an explanation of this discrepancy. Unless the story is about a woman struggling to keep herself safe from a sociopath, this dynamic was unrealistic. There was no mention of the woman having a mental health disorder either. Something to substantiate the actions of the woman in line with her thoughts and fears was missing. Perhaps if the author didn’t describe in acute detail the thoughts of the woman, her desires for the man would have made sense. As it was written, this woman’s behavior made no sense.

Examine your characters and the scenes they are in. Read them to several people and ask if the character and the scenes of events that follow are realistic.

When I wrote Kate’s Way I had to make sure that the character Joker, a schizophrenic, was realistic in his behavior as well as the inpatient unit in which he was placed. Luckily, being a social worker and having worked with that mental health center, I had facts to draw upon. Even so, I had therapist friends read it just in case I missed something while I was working on the overall plot. Details need to be realistic.

Until next time,
keep it real,



October 1, 2011

The Power of Eliminating in Writing

Filed under: writing techniques — freethepen @ 7:11 pm

Unless you are writing a stream of consciousness piece or a memoir, you might be overusing pronouns. Narratives too often use many pronouns, but are they really necessary to begin with? Practice writing by avoiding pronouns and instead add words of actions. Your written piece might just get a fresh new flavor. Try it. Take a paragraph or short piece. Circle all the pronouns and remove them.

If you don’t have a piece of your own to work on, try these sentences:

1. She walked up the stairs because she felt something was going on in her bedroom.

2. In her mailbox was a note from her mother who, she believed, loved her dearly.

3. His job was calling him to work overtime so he could pay for all the things his wife wanted.

4. He knew if he went to the movies he would run into his ex-girlfriend and her new boyfriend.

5. The cat played until it fell over and then it slept until they all came home from their busy jobs.

Re-write these sentences. Send them to me. Tell me what you learned.

Until next time.

keep the pen free.


Blog at