Author Archive: Stanley

Who are the Characters in a Story

Every story has characters. They may not be human, but they should have human traits. Also, there has to be at least two characters in the story. Stories with one character are not stories, but monologues. You can have one person talking in a story, but they should talk about other characters.

Characters do not have to be people. They can be things, animals, vegetables – as long as they act with human traits and can express thoughts and feelings in a way that people can have empathy with. They also need to be put somewhere, in some type of environment, that affects how they feel and helps define them as characters.

After settling on who the characters are and where they exist, there has to be some type of challenge to them. This could be a conflict with other characters, the need to achieve one or more goals, or a combination of these.

From here, a story improves when the writer adds depth by layering and expansion of the characters, where they exist, and their challenge. The best way to do this is through relationships either between the characters, their environment, their quest, or a combination of these.

Another way to provide depth and layering is for the characters to have something in common that drives them apart, have them as opposites that makes them the same, or they transform the other from good to bad or vice versus.

While two characters are the minimum in a story, there can be too many characters. The number depends on the length of the story (less in a short story, more in a novel). I learned from readers over the years that, when a story has too many characters, the reader struggles to figure out who is who (certainly me).

No story is a story without characters.

A Nonprofit’s Volunteers part 2

I previously wrote a blog post about volunteers. This post is a different take on the subject.

A grant writer should learn about the volunteers who help a nonprofit. As an example, many companies provide grants where the employee volunteers. A grant writer only needs the volunteer’s permission to use their employee number.

On applications, a grant writer should note the number of volunteers and hours worked, even if not required. The more volunteers there are, the stronger the justification since it shows community support.

However, data on volunteers should be explained in relation to the size of the nonprofit. The number of volunteers and hours worked are only relative to the number of people helped by the nonprofit. A few volunteers for a small nonprofit are just as good as larger numbers in a bigger nonprofit.

Volunteers are crucial to the success of a nonprofit. Without them, labor costs soar to levels that are difficult to justify. To learn about volunteers, a grant writer should talk to the volunteer coordinator.

If this position is not filled or does not exist, there may be no need to get grants. Without management of the volunteers, the nonprofit’s primary labor source is unstable. Who will reliably help perform the mission? Foundations do not want to fund only labor.

Fortunately, most nonprofits have some management of their volunteers or they would not be around for long. Writing about volunteers in a grant application is an easy way to help justify the need for funding.

I did not form an LLC

In a previous blog post, I stated how I was forming a limited liability company (LLC) to publish my books. For the LLC, I completed the short application and long operating agreement, then decided to see what the wizard Google had to say about all of this (you would think I would have done this first).

I originally got the idea from podcasts and articles by authors who publish multiple books. They made me think it would be a good idea to start off self-publishing under the umbrella of a company. “Treat your writing like a business,” they proclaimed.

From my advisor Google, I found articles from authors and others who questioned the advantages of an LLC. At least for beginning authors. Most people publish under a sole proprietorship, meaning they are personally responsible and liable for everything.

Forming a company does not necessarily isolate an author from liability. However, liability was not the reason I considered an LLC.

It was to help me be serious about self-publishing and treat it like a business. I rethought my decision after one author wrote about the need for beginning authors to minimize expenses.

Forming an LLC in North Carolina cost $125. The annual report (really a tax) is $200 a year. This also got me thinking about complications since every year I would need to file a report (and the tax forms!).

Self-publishing is already complicated enough. Did I really want to add to my already complicated self-publishing attempt with managing an LLC?

I decided not to form one. I’ll still treat my self-publishing like a business. However, first I’ll get my books published and see where that goes. Hopefully, someone will read what I wrote.

Grant Writers Should Write Grants Only

After writing a grant, the writer should never be involved in receipt of the grant money or reporting on how the money was spent. This is the nonprofit’s responsibility.

I haven’t researched this ethical issue, this is my personal view. A grant writer should establish boundaries of what they will do for a nonprofit. Anything up to the point of submission can be the grant writer’s responsibility. Submission must be made by the executive director. After that, I think the grant writer’s responsibilities should be as a consultant, only.

  • For a nonprofit: a dishonest writer receiving grant money has all kinds of opportunities to take some of the money. They know all the details about the submission. Reporting on the grant money and a writer can control who receives the money and create false reports.
  • For a grant writer: other people can accuse the writer of dishonesty when it is someone else who is dishonest.

The grant writer should make sure the nonprofit understands the reporting process and procedures. Then, it is the nonprofit’s responsibility to correctly receive and account for the grant money. The nonprofit should report on how the money was spent.

Grant writers need to stay in their lane of responsibility. They find the opportunities and write the grants. To do anything else presents risks for the grant writer and nonprofit.