The Bureau of Labor Statistics as a Tool for Fiction Writers

Writing Resources2-Blog

If you’re a fiction writer and need to understand or flesh out a character’s job and/or industry, check out the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) on-line resources.

The BLS site contains tons of information, but a particularly helpful resource for job information is the Occupational Outlook Handbook, which gives you job descriptions, work conditions, education needed, pay expectations and job outlook information; all things that can help you keep your character’s work from being flat. Or wrong.

In it, jobs are presented as individual occupations (for example, Air Traffic Controller) and incorporated within broader Occupational Groups (for example, Transportation and Material Moving).

Occupational Groups list specific jobs within that group, and include job summaries, entry-level education, and pay information for each individual job listed. Here’s a partial BLS screen shot of the Transportation and Material Moving Occupational Group:


The Individual Occupations section expands on specific jobs, providing more details, including a description of the job and work environment; what you need to do to get that job; state and area data; and occupations that are similar to the selected one. Here’s a partial BLS screen shot of the Air Traffic Controllers job:


If you want to check their accuracy, read their write-up about something you know well. My own sanity-check (of accountants) left me comfortable that the site gives an accurate overview of that profession.

By poking around, you may even discover a job for one of your characters you never would have thought of.

Additional links:


Photo source: Walk the Goats


SparkNotes as a Writer’s Tool

Writing Resources2-BlogI just discovered as a tool for learning about the craft of storytelling. I always thought of SparkNotes—and CliffNotes—as simply being something you turned to in high school if you hadn’t read the assigned book and there was an upcoming test. SparkNotes would give you enough of a summarized story overview to, hopefully, help you pass.

But guess what! SparkNotes delivers much more than just a book summary.

I popped in to see what they had on Victor Hugo’s book, Les Misérables, a t.v. series recently presented by PBS. The plot of the story captivated me; the character arcs and character development were observable.

I wanted to unravel the story; break it down; see if I could learn some writing structure and character development from it. I knew I wouldn’t read the whole book. But jotting down notes from having watched the series felt do-able.

I went to SparkNotes thinking a big-picture summary of the book might help me identify fundamental story concepts: the hero, an inciting incident, in pursuit of something, meeting conflicts that get increasingly complex, conquering them until the hero overcomes all and reaches a final resolution. And in the process, the hero’s character changes; you see their character arc.

When I pulled up the SparkNotes web site for Les Misérables, I felt as if I’d landed on a story structure training page. It’s a way of getting a taste of key aspects of a book. It provided:


  • Summary
    • A summary of the book’s overall plot
    • Chapter summaries and analysis
  • Characters: A list of characters, with background summaries about relevant characters, plus more in-depth analysis of major ones
  • Main Ideas: themes, motifs, symbols and key facts
  • Quotes: Important quotations with brief analysis regarding their meaning
  • Further study: author background, quizzes, study suggestions and suggested reading
  • Writing Help: Tools to help students write essays on the book

Here are the topics addressed in the Main Ideas section for Harper Lee’s, To Kill a Mockingbird:

SparkNotes: To Kill a Mockingbird Main Ideas web pageCliffNotes is worth checking out as well; the sites are similar but with differences that make them both working looking at. My first leaning was toward SparkNotes, but each has value, and it likely comes down to personal preference.

This is a totally current discovery, but I’m excited about the possibilities, and stoked to share it. Let me know what you think!


Photo source: Walk the Goats


To My Blog Followers Using WordPress Reader: Yes or No

Pixabay: geralt. Free for commercial use. No attribution required.

Hi followers of Walk the Goats, especially those who find my new posts through WordPress Reader. Thanks for following me and…I need your help.

I posted a new post this morning (1/17/19) at 9 am Eastern Time entitled I Have 340 Separate Account Log-Ons.

My question to you is: did that post come through your WordPress Reader?

  • YES=Yes, it was there! Wahooo!
  • NO=Nope. It didn’t show up.

I’m asking because I follow myself and it didn’t come through mine. Not on my phone; not on my iPad; not on my browser.

Fandango, on his blog This, That and, and The Otherhas posted recently that he’s had lots of problems with blogs he’s following not coming through his Reader.  Right after reading today’s post from him about this, my post vaporized in Reader.

I’m a small blog with a small list of followers. Not appearing in Reader impacts the engagement I have, which is already…small.

I’m trying to do some data-gathering and would love it if you would post in the comments if you saw my above-referenced blog in your WordPress Reader. And if you’ve had any issues with Reader, feel free to note that, too. I’ve already reached out to WordPress about my missing post, but if I have more problems to tell them about, I’ll pass that on.

Thanks for your help. And for reading!  After this has been up for a while, I’ll tally the results.

And keep my fingers crossed that THIS post appears in Reader.


Photo source: geralt on Pixabay


WordPress Design and Content Tweak Suggestions

Pixabay: pixelcreatures Free for commercial use; no attribution required

Cheri Lucas Rowlands, with WordPress, recently published two posts to help us improve our blogs.  In case you missed them, here are five design and content tweaks she recommended. The posts themselves serve up narrative and visual guidance to implement each change, so if one of them catches your eye, click through and tweak away!

Five Design Tweaks for a Fresh Start in 2019

  1. Set the tone with a new header
  2. Clean out the cobwebs and remove your background
  3. Get stylish with a fresh font
  4. Build your site’s visual identity with a custom logo
  5. Use your photography game with high-quality images

Five Content Tweaks for a Fresh Start in 2019

  1. Update your site title and tagline
  2. Reorder and reword your menu tabs
  3. Clean up your categories
  4. Revisit your sidebar and footer
  5. Audit all of your pages

There’s lots more WordPress blogging guidance and reading suggestions on and WordPress-Discover. If you aren’t following them, sign up to get plugged into more resources!


Photo source: pixelcreatures on Pixabay


For Those Missing WP’s Daily Prompt & Community Pool

Edar on Pixabay CC0 Creative CommonsSince WordPress dropped their Daily Prompt and Community Pool at the end of May, other sites have stepped in to fill the gap.  If you feel adrift, here are three sites to both jiggle your brain cells, and help you connect with others in the blogosphere. It’s a great way to discover new blogs, help new writers, and find new fans of your writing.  Enjoy!

SwimmersDaily Prompt and Community Pool

“Have you just published a new post and need some feedback? Do you need some advice on your blog theme & layout ? Maybe you’re a newbie and need to increase your audience? Just leave your question in the comment section adding your blog’s address.”

Ragtag Daily PromptDaily Prompt

“To participate in the Ragtag Daily Prompt, create a Pingback to your post, or copy and paste the link to your post into the comments. And while you’re there, why not check out some of the other posts too!”

FOWC with FandangoDaily Prompt

“FOWC was designed to fill the void after WordPress bailed on its daily one-word prompt at the end of May and I want to thank each and every one of you for being so supportive and for participating in these prompts.”

Photo source: Edar on Pixabay

On-Line Character Naming Tool

Writing Resources2-Blog

Baby Names from the Social Security Administration

While you might not think of the Social Security Administration (SSA) as a writing resource, think different. If your story is grounded in the U.S. or U.S. territories, it’s a great site to help find baby names.  Which means it can help you choose names for characters. Or help you find out if a name you’ve already chosen was popular or not during the era in which your story takes place.

Curious what the top names in the U.S. were in 1880?   Continue reading “On-Line Character Naming Tool”

Fun Q&A Grammar Blog

Writing Resources2-BlogI love finding writing and publishing resources that are new to me. Rather than just bookmark them, I decided to add them to my blog. It’ll help me and, just maybe, prove useful to others.

I plan to do individual posts on stuff as I find it.  If, over time, I end up with a bunch of great resources, I’ll consolidate them into a single page or post. If you have any “go to” resources you want to share, feel free to note them in the Comments. I know there’s a lot of great stuff out there to discover. So any signposts others can show me are welcome. Continue reading “Fun Q&A Grammar Blog”

Writing that Hooks: Inaugural Gems

Amazing Phrases-2Poking around the blogosphere, I come across writing that grabs me with its creativity, its power, its meaning. I discover sentences I want to read to others; that I think about long after I’m done reading the piece. I don’t want to forget these gems, so I decided to catch and share them on my blog as I find them. While each of the posts included here is worth reading in their entirety, the phrases in bold hit me with a particular fierceness. And broadened my worldview.

BLOG: Wish I Were Here: Journeys Through Place and Time

From The Undiscovered Territory post, April 1, 2018, J.D. Riso, a wonderful blogger, talks about returning to Michigan after traveling abroad for 19 years.  There’s a quiet brilliance in her observations and a commentary on cultural things many of us accept without question.

“Not only was I physically away from this culture for so long, but there was also a deliberate media/pop culture blackout. I have only vague ideas of what I’m supposed to be enraged about and no idea who I’m expected to emulate. A young man who struck up a conversation with me before my flight from Paris found it hilarious that I didn’t know that there are new late night talk show hosts. I smiled. It is not ignorance, but strategic apathy. Ignorance is being unaware. I’m conscious of the poison that I refuse to consume.”

BLOG: Out of Hiding: My Journey Through Depression and Alcoholism

From the Mother of an Addict post, April 10, 2018,  writing about the challenges of having an adult son whose experimentation with drugs led him to heroin addiction, jail, and rehab, and her struggles as she helplessly tries to help him find his way out of it.  I caught my breath on the last line; it’s one of those thoughts that shows how quickly we can pivot in our understanding of things when the world forces a shift on us.

“He came to us at the age of 20 and told us he was scared and he needed help.  My world stopped.  Heroin happened to the bad kids.  To the bad families.  That was what I always thought.  I didn’t realize heroin happened and then you became the bad family.