9 Ways to Creating the Perfect Hero


Science experimentThe hero:  perfect.  Muscular, kind-hearted, rich, capable, funny, ad just the right height.

But that’s not all there is to it, is there?  When we are writing the hero, there are so many elements that need to be considered.  After all, he really does need to be perfect. And human-ish.  And normal.  And above normal.

How can we even do this?  Our expectations are pretty high.  In addition to creating a spectacular physical specimen of a man, he needs to be perfect in other ways.  I think the following nine elements are important in a hero I’m going to let my heroine fall in love with.  You can let me know if you have things to add to the list, in the comments!

1. Genuine Kindness

Is he the fireman who rescues the kittens (easy out), or is he the guy that realizes the heroine may need a helping hand or that being kind, even to someone that can’t help him?  I’ll take the second.  A truly kind man doesn’t need a uniform (although that is hella sexy) to be kind.  He just needs an open heart and a sense of empathy or ability to see when someone is struggling.

2. Stability

Hoo-boy is this an important thing in real life.  And it is important in a story too.  The reader and the heroine both need to know that he is going to make it through the story, that he has his head, finances, and ambitions focused on success.

3. Emotionally Supportive

Is he going to react with anger and distrust, and ruin a good thing, or is he going to be that pulled-together guy who really does have the emotional answers?  And is he able to feel what the heroine feels, and support her through her journey too?

4. Some Actual Manners

Yes, I’m old school.  Please don’t use your fork as a spear to pick up your dinner and gnaw at it until it is gone.  Please open that door for me, and please walk on the side closest to the street.  Seriously, it’s not that hard.  Oh yes, and keep your burps and farts to yourself!

5. Reliability

Do what you say you will do, say what you mean, and live up to your obligations.  No one likes a slacker.

6.  An Open Heart

How else is he going to fall in love with her?  But this extends to more than just her.  This extends to the other people he may be interacting with in the story.  No one can resist an open-hearted man.  We just want to hug them and squeeze them and call them…(not George).

7. Generosity

Gimme your money!  Or at least, let me see you spend your money.  Don’t be a cheapskate.  And this applies to actions, too.  Don’t be stingy.  Strength is truly shown in how you treat others.

8. A Passion For Life

Another no-brainer, at least for me.  What is life without passion?  It doesn’t matter if you are into old cars, coaching little league soccer, growing perfect roses, or playing music.  Have a love of something besides yourself.  Passion for something is a complete turn-on.

9. Pride In Making People Smile

The world can be a dark, dark place.  And we tend to ramp up the negatives in our writing, because it is dramatic and helps the reader buy in better to the story and characters.  But don’t forget that humor is what really makes the world go around. Know when to laugh, and know how to make other people laugh.  The skill that allows you diffuse a situation with humor is one you can’t discount.  Everyone needs to laugh once in a while.

So, what do you think?  What would you add to this list?  Leave me a comment!

***

Fairest of the Faire

Fairest of the Faire book coverBlurb:

Schoolteacher Connie Meyers is suddenly a young widow, her husband killed in a horrific car accident. Heartbroken to find out he had gambled away everything they had, she moves to her sister-in-law’s Midwest home to rebuild her life. A trip to the local Renaissance Faire with her nieces leads to a summer job as a costumed storyteller.

Avowed bad boy and fair performer Gage Youngblood is infatuated with Connie at first sight. Despite his deliberately commitment-free life, and Connie’s don’t-touch-me attitude, he soon has her in his arms, realizing quickly she is also in his heart.

When she is threatened by her late husband’s bookie, he steps into the role of protector, his fate forever sealed with hers.

Available NOW!

Buy at Wild Rose Press:  (eBook and paperback)

Buy at Amazon (Kindle and paperback)

Buy at Barnes and Noble (Nook)

 

Bootcamp!


bootcampI’ve been having a lot of moments of “I don’t wanna.”  This isn’t good for a writer who needs to get a novel written.  I find all kinds of things to do EXCEPT for writing.  And I know I am struggling with my current Work In Progress.

So, I signed up for an online Plotting Boot Camp.  The class was cheap, because I’m cheap, but the instructor is well-known and many of my writer friends seem to vouch for her.  And two weeks in, I do feel like I’m learning a few things.

I am one of those people who learns best by doing, by experiencing, by hands-on.  I can read every wonderful book about plotting and writing conflict and determining goals and motivations for my characters, but if I don’t have some sort of exercise to do to go along with it, with feedback, then I’m just not going to grasp the concept.  I was that learner in college that did way better, and had more fun, in labs than in lectures. That hands-on thing is important.  It is the same if I’m learning a new craft, so why not with writing, too?  After all, it’s a craft as well.

I am, of course behind on my homework, but the course is somewhat self-paced, so I have some leeway.  I have a busy life, with a full time job plus side work, being a virtual single mom to a troubled 14 year old (my husband is working out of town for the foreseeable future), and dealing with a death in the family and my mother’s roller coaster of grief.  But despite all of that I feel really compelled to do this homework and get the feedback I so desperately need.  Each week contains two lessons, and two sets of homework.  I will be finishing this week’s set either today or tomorrow.  The agenda for the class is:

  • Trope, themes, loglines, and premise
  • Character roles
  • Character descriptions
  • Character conflicts
  • Setting
  • Story arc
  • Plotline

Have you taken a writing class lately?  What did you like about it?  Was it useful to you?  Tell me about it in the comments!

“What if…” The Role of Conflict in Your Novel


The other day, I was washing dishes, a tedious chore that requires very little thought, when my mind wandered off to my WIP.  As a writer, that often happens, especially during mundane moments like my morning commute, folding laundry, pulling weeds in the garden, or taking my bike ride.

My best musing happens during these times, and once in a while, a breakthrough occurs.  Most of my breakthroughs are revelations of potential conflict.  “What if [Villain] shows up just as [Hero] and [Heroine] are suddenly figuring out their attraction and are locked in an embrace.”  It is usually a bit of an “ah-ha!” moment, that solves some problems and creates others.

But that is the nature of conflict.  If the conflict isn’t messing something up, then it’s not a good conflict.  That mess is what the characters in the novel need to fix, in order to make the story interesting enough to read.  “Timing is everything,” they sometimes say, but it isn’t just the timing (placement) of the conflict that needs to be right.  The conflict itself needs to be deep enough, and just this side of impossible to solve, in order to work. Our characters need to work for those solutions in order to keep the reader interested and wanting to find out more.

So how do you make that all work?  Fortunately, as a romance writer, there are plenty of tropes out there to give inspiration, and almost every romance novel follows a particular pattern.  Whether that is “girl meets boy, hates boy, boy convinces her otherwise” or “girl meets boy, boy loses girl, boy gets girl back,” those standards of storytelling can help you focus your conflict in the right places.

These conflicts can be small, but are better when they are larger.  You don’t want to frustrate your reader with a whole bunch of little conflicts that are easily resolved or are just simple misunderstandings.  This is not exciting for the reader.  The conflicts need to be all-consuming – whether it is a physical danger or an emotional one.  I am fond of both.  I like to see my characters grow and learn, and by working through the conflicts, they are able to do that.

My current WIP features an external conflict – the “villain” is her father, who wants to take the land she was raised on.  It also features an internal conflict – the hero seems out of her league (the hero also thinks she is out of his league).  Intersecting both of these conflicts at the 2/3 or 3/4 mark in the book is my goal.  The excitement of reading up to these conflicts, and seeing how the characters deal with them, will be great for my reader.

There are still many miles to go in this story, of course.  But now that my life is settling back into some sort of summer normal, I should have time to get more deeply involved in the conflicts I’ve managed to work out in my head over the sink full of dirty dishes.

Where do you get your ideas for conflict?  Are you like me and your mundane life gives you plenty of “thinking time,” or do you use another method?  I’d love to hear about it in the comments!

Doing My Homework


Goal, Motivation, & Conflict by Debra DixonAs I continue to flounder through my current Work In Progress (WIP), I am looking for ways to make the process come together more quickly.  Another author with my publishing house, Peggy Jaeger, recommended Goal, Motivation, and Conflict By Debra Dixon.  I’ve read through it quickly once, but now I am going back through and doing what the book told me to do.  That means I am doing homework! It’s been many years since I’ve been in school, so homework is a bit of a foreign concept to me at the moment.  There’s also that whole “old dogs, new tricks” thing that plagues many of us over the age of 50.  I am no exception.

I originally checked the book out from the library, because I wasn’t sure if it was something I wanted to spend money on or not.  That first read showed potential, so I found a used copy online and bought it.  It’s been a few years since the book was published (1996), and although it’s still in print, used copies are going for almost the same price as brand new.  Still, if it helps me get to my goal (writing a second novel) it will be money well-spent.

And so far, the homework seems manageable, and sort of fun.  Today, I will be watching the The Wizard of Oz, which was assigned in the first chapter.  So, before I can move on (I just finished chapter 2), I need to watch that movie.  There are others on the list, but it is well-known that I am not a movie/television person, so I’m not sure I’ll get through the rest of the list.  I hate losing an evening or sunny afternoon to a movie, even an entertaining one.  My German, semi-rural upbringing makes it virtually impossible for me to sit still doing “nothing” unless it is productive.  If I’m sitting and writing, that’s productive.  But sitting and watching a 2 hour movie is not productive. I cannot fathom how people can spend an afternoon or day or weekend binge-watching some popular television series, unless they are bedridden with illness or injury. It is a foreign concept to me. I do watch sports mostly football and baseball), but it’s always while I’m doing something else – working on a craft project or quilt, cleaning house, folding laundry, etc.   I’m sure I’m not alone in that.

Anyway, back to the homework.  I have seen The Wizard of Oz many times.  Probably at least ten times.  But it has been at least a dozen years since I’ve seen it, and I’m sure there are parts I have forgotten, and will need to know in order to do the homework in GMC.  So I will sacrifice part of a sunny afternoon today to watch a movie, instead of doing something outdoors, or finishing the weekend chores.

Have you read Goal, Motivation, and Conflict?  What do you think of the process, and have you used some of the process (or all of it?) to write any of your novels?  I would love to hear your thoughts!

 

Fairest of the Faire – available now!

Fairest of the Faire book coverBlurb:

Schoolteacher Connie Meyers is suddenly a young widow, her husband killed in a horrific car accident. Heartbroken to find out he had gambled away everything they had, she moves to her sister-in-law’s Midwest home to rebuild her life. A trip to the local Renaissance Faire with her nieces leads to a summer job as a costumed storyteller.

Avowed bad boy and fair performer Gage Youngblood is infatuated with Connie at first sight. Despite his deliberately commitment-free life, and Connie’s don’t-touch-me attitude, he soon has her in his arms, realizing quickly she is also in his heart.

When she is threatened by her late husband’s bookie, he steps into the role of protector, his fate forever sealed with hers.

Available NOW!

Buy at Wild Rose Press:  (eBook and paperback)

Buy at Amazon (Kindle and paperback)

Buy at Barnes and Noble (Nook)

Taking the Bad With the Good


Who told you you could write, anyway?When you’re new at this author game, you are sure you can “take it.”  You will tell yourself that you can take the criticism, and say, “how bad can it be?”  You believe that you are mature enough, have had enough life experience, that this should roll off your shoulders like water off a duck’s back.  It won’t hurt you, much less make you bleed.

But I’m here to tell you, you are never really ready for the criticism.

It starts with your beta readers, who come back with blunt comments about what needs to be fixed.  Then you sell your manuscript but wait, there’s an editor, and she will be ruthless.  Absolutely ruthless.  The beta readers were like walking on stinging nettles, compared to the daggers the editor will throw at you.  Much bleeding will occur, mostly in the form of red ink (or in this case, “track changes”) on your manuscript.

Then there are the reviews.  Some less than stellar.  Ouch.

As a debut author, with my first novel now out there for the world to see, I now have a much better understanding of the process it takes to get to a published book.  There is a process I went through in each of these three stages.

Beta readers

The comments came back, and I anxiously read them all.  Prick prick prick went the needles in my ego.  Prick prick prick…tiny drops of blood ink.  One reader picked out all my weird…grammar.  She caught all the sentence splices, the incomplete sentences, the improper use of contractions.  Another picked out a glaring plot hole in the first third of the book.  Another took me to task for the first sex scene of the book.  And my writing companion found a weird plot thing, not a hole exactly, but something strange, towards the end.  Tiny drops of red ink.

Editor

When the first round of edits came in, I was so excited that I immediately dived in to take a look.  Boy, was that a mistake.  Every mark was like being stabbed in the heart.  I only got about half-way through reading them before I had to stop, completely demoralized.  She was asking me to chop off the toes and fingers, and dig out the spleen.  I had to put it away for a few days, when I could look at it with a much clearer head.  It was painful.  But I made the changes, seeing where she was going with things, and felt happy with that version that I turned in the second time.

Well, we weren’t done.  The second round of edits came in.  This time, we were chopping off legs and arms, and doing a brain transplant.  Copious amounts of blood ink.  The opening chapter needed to be removed completely and re-written.  The agony!  I agonized for days before editing anything, arguing in my head with my editor about the changes.  I tried to come up with a good way of arguing my point with my editor.  Surely, we didn’t need to be so drastic.  Surely, not the whole beginning!  Agony.  Pure agony.  I finally gave myself a stern talking to, packed up my laptop, notes, and printout of that first chapter, and took a short retreat to the mountains.  I sat in a coffee shop by a little river, watching it snow, while I scribbled and scratched and came up with a new beginning.  It was the best thing I could have done.  I was able to focus completely, hand-writing a rough draft, then typing up the final draft.  It took four hours.  I’m surprised the other people in the coffee shop couldn’t see the blood ink dripping onto the floor.  I had never worked so hard on a story.

I sent it back to my editor, holding my breath.  The third round of edits came back, and they were so minor that I nearly cried for joy.  I had made it!  I had survived the blood ink-letting, and my story was the better for it.  I wondered momentarily why the editor hadn’t given me those big edits on the first round.  But I know now that she was being very smart.  If I’d gotten back he big edits the first time, I’d probably have dissolved into defeat, and never touched the story again.  She started with the easy stuff.  In my case, weird phrasing and filtering words, which I’m particularly bad at.  Once she saw that I could handle those relatively minor edits, she knew I could take the bigger ones.  And she was absolutely right.

Critics and Reviewers

There are always going to be people that don’t like my book.  I did actually have a reviewer make a comment about my cover.  I didn’t design the cover, that was handled by the publisher, so it didn’t hurt too badly to hear that.  But there were others who thought my heroine was too naive, that the bad boy wasn’t bad enough, that the story was too “soft.”  I got good reviews too, so I can’t complain.  But those little pokes of criticism still hurt, still set me back a bit.  As they should.

You see, it really does take all that criticism to make me a better writer.  If I can’t take those criticisms, I will never be able to improve my writing, and sell a second book, a third book, a fourth book…

I’m a big girl.  I can take it.  And if I say it often enough, it will be true.  Or, as I like to say, BRING IT.

How do you take your criticism, and how did you survive your editing process?  I’d love to hear about it in the comments!

 

I Think I’m a Grown Up


alarm clockMost days, I feel like a grown-up.  You know, paying bills, working a day J.O.B., keeping a house maintained, remembering to pick up milk, getting the laundry done, scheduling oil changes for the car, and making my own doctor’s appointments.  After all, I’ve been doing this stuff for somewhere around 35 years or so.  I should have this stuff down pat.

I’m known for keeping a calm head in panic situations, and in fact, people rely on me to maintain that level of calm through any stressful or crisis situations.  I have been this way all my life, even when I was a teenager.  It isn’t until later, when I am alone and out of the crisis situation, that I can allow my internal panic alarm to activate and work its way out of my system.  No one ever really knows.

But as a writer, I don’t always feel much like a grownup.  I am constantly worried about whether people will like what I’ve written, feeling seriously aggrieved when there is criticism or requests for editing.  I am often paralyzed by this fear, sitting with my fingers over the keyboard unable to write a single word that doesn’t sound awful in my head. No one is going to like it.  My editor is going to scratch it out with a red pen.  Worse, my publisher will not buy it.  I am a loser.

That panic keeps me from being productive when I should be being productive.  As I head into a new year, with the same goals from last year (finish the damned manuscript!), I don’t feel any more capable than I did last year.   There has been no magic switch.

But as a grownup, I know how to fix it, or at least, how to attempt to fix it.  When I feel incapable, I know much of it is because I feel like I don’t know enough.  I know enough to panic, but not enough to actually move forward.  So this first month of the year will be mostly about getting my crap together, boosting my skills, and learning as much as I can before I dive back into the current story, with the hope of finishing it.

I definitely have my work cut out for me.  As I pointed out last week, I have a few things I’m working on, and will be trying.  Today I will get my big white board out and see what I can do about that whole goal/motivation/conflict thing for my characters.  My writing journal, where I will record my successes and failures about writing every day, is ready to go.

Now, let’s just see if I can act like a grown up and get this thing done! 🙂

As always, I’m happy to hear your comments, suggestions, helpful tips, smacks to the head, whatever it takes to get me going on my goals!

 

Fairest of the Faire – available now!

Fairest of the Faire book coverBlurb:

Schoolteacher Connie Meyers is suddenly a young widow, her husband killed in a horrific car accident. Heartbroken to find out he had gambled away everything they had, she moves to her sister-in-law’s Midwest home to rebuild her life. A trip to the local Renaissance Faire with her nieces leads to a summer job as a costumed storyteller.

Avowed bad boy and fair performer Gage Youngblood is infatuated with Connie at first sight. Despite his deliberately commitment-free life, and Connie’s don’t-touch-me attitude, he soon has her in his arms, realizing quickly she is also in his heart.

When she is threatened by her late husband’s bookie, he steps into the role of protector, his fate forever sealed with hers.

Available NOW!

Buy at Wild Rose Press:  (eBook and paperback)

Buy at Amazon (Kindle and paperback)

Buy at Barnes and Noble (Nook)

Hauntings From the Past


The Transitive Vampire Book CoverBear with me…I know it isn’t the haunting season anymore.  Trust me, you’ll like this. 🙂

A couple weeks ago, I was hanging around some of my favorite haunts (aka, all the wonderful thrift stores in my town) and picked up an original 1984 copy of The Transitive Vampire.  It still had the dust cover on it, and the binding had not been cracked.  In other words, brand spanking new, yet older than the college students I work with at my day job.  31 years old, to be exact.  Let’s see…at 31, I was a mom and wife and working a full time day job and a part time evening job.  Kind of like today.  But I digress…

Why I didn’t have this book in my “writing books” collection, I am not sure.  It should have been right there along with Eats, Shoots and Leaves and Bird by Bird. How could I resist buying this book at the thrift store?  It was $2 on half-price day…what a bargain!

I’m going to digress again, here.  Because when I brought this book home, along with lots of other goodies from the thrift store, it sat on the dining room table for the rest of the day.  My husband saw it and said, “Transvestite Vampire?”  I almost fell on the floor laughing.  My husband is not much of a reader, and never a writer, as moving media is more his thing (television).  He saw the first part of “Trans” and went from there.  After I stopped giggling, I told him it was a book on writing.  He wasn’t very impressed.

From a review by Thomas DePietro in 1985:

The deliberately offbeat examples that form the body of this whimsical handbook of grammar may delight readers who savor the postmodern fictions of Borges, Barth, and Barthelme.  But these self-consciously hip sentences risk perpetuating what The Transitive Vampire tacitly acknowledges: many college-educated adults can’t parse a simple sentence.

Thirty years later, I think that is probably still true.  I work with students in higher education every day, and I see it still.  I know writing is somewhat of a talent, but it is also a skill, and needs to be practiced.  I always say essays are easy for me.  And that is true.  I was born with the ability to take a small kernel of information and form an entire treatise around it.  I can do it quickly, and I can do it over and over.  I was that kid in college whose first year comp professor recognized as someone who needed to put in a bit more effort, so she gave me lots of C’s and D’s until I worked as hard on my essays as my classmates.  I didn’t value her judgment of me at the time, but I do now. I needed to develop the innate talent I had to be an effective writer.

As soon as November is over (I’m still in the throes of writing my NaNoNovel), I’m going to be sinking my teeth into The Transitive Vampire.  What a fun read this will be.  I also need to finish How Not to Finish a Novel, which is pretty fun so far with some terrible examples of now NOT to write a novel.

And one more diB Dalton book sticker from 1984version before I go.  How many of you are old enough to remember B. Dalton Books?  Because this book has the original BD sticker on it, including the price.  Talk abut walking back in time! I spent a lot of my paychecks in B. Dalton back in the day.  Did you?

I’d love to hear your writing book suggestions in the comments.  Or your memories of B. Dalton.  Or your fabulous book store finds.

The Oxford Comma


I have been reading Berkeley Breathed’s “Bloom County” comic for many years.  When he stopped drawing and publishing, there was a huge void in my daily comic section of the paper.  But he’s back to drawing and making pithy pronouncements about our crazy politicized world, and I’m a happy reader.  Part of his return to publication and syndication included an ongoing storyline about Opus and Bill the Cat running for president.  Their platform?  The importance of the two spaces after a period.  It reminds me of another ongoing formatting and grammatical argument: The Oxford Comma.

The Oxford Comma: Just use it!Some people may not even know what the Oxford comma is, but others, like myself, know what it is and further, insist upon its use.  While journalists and some other standard-makers insist the Oxford comma is not necessary anymore, I would posit that it should be used at all times.  Yes, it saves a little ink and one typespace, to not use it.  But nothing is clearer than using that little comma to separate things in a list.

If you don’t know what the Oxford comma is, it is the use of a final comma before the last item in a comma-deliniated list.  I had toast, eggs, and orange juice for breakfast.  I had to choose between a black dress, a purple pantsuit, and a yellow mumu.  Of course all of these sentences can be written without that final comma.  But there are times that final comma is really necessary.  And if you are writing a lot, it is best to keep in the habit of using that third comma.  That way you never leave it out when you should have left it in, because your habit was not to use it.

I know there are arguments on either side of the issue.  People can have strong feelings about it, and can have loud arguments about it.  Like most things where there are two potential answers that are both correct (Does the toilet paper roll go over or under?  Is that dress black and blue, or gold and white?), people can come down pretty hard on “their side” and be unable to see the other side.  I am no different.  I am going to insist on the Oxford comma, no matter what.  And when I was still teaching English (before the Internet), I insisted on the Oxford comma.  I think it makes things very clear, with no ambiguity, to use it.  And I’m close to militant about it, no matter what style guides are trying to tell me to do.

In other words, you can have my Oxford comma when you pry it from my cold, dead fingers.  Also, those two spaces after the period?  Yup, those need to stay, too. Naturally.

How do you feel about the Oxford comma?  Do you use it religiously, or only when a list wouldn’t make sense without it?  What arguments have you heard either way for its use or abandonment?  Let me know in the comments!

 

Fairest of the Faire – available now!

Fairest of the Faire book coverBlurb:

Schoolteacher Connie Meyers is suddenly a young widow, her husband killed in a horrific car accident. Heartbroken to find out he had gambled away everything they had, she moves to her sister-in-law’s Midwest home to rebuild her life. A trip to the local Renaissance Faire with her nieces leads to a summer job as a costumed storyteller.

Avowed bad boy and fair performer Gage Youngblood is infatuated with Connie at first sight. Despite his deliberately commitment-free life, and Connie’s don’t-touch-me attitude, he soon has her in his arms, realizing quickly she is also in his heart.

When she is threatened by her late husband’s bookie, he steps into the role of protector, his fate forever sealed with hers.

Available NOW!

Buy at Wild Rose Press:  (eBook and paperback)

Buy at Amazon (Kindle and paperback)

Buy at Barnes and Noble (Nook)

Contemporary World-Building


Shelf of booksI always say I don’t write historical romance novels because the research is daunting.  If you get something wrong in a historical, your readers will know.  Were there trains in Wyoming in 1865?  Did people take baths in Italy in 1838? What did they eat on the long journey the Santa Maria took from the old world to the new world?  What rights did women have in Colonial India?

It’s a lot of work.  And I’m lazy.  I do have two historical novels I’ve written, but are not ready for publication.  I know I’ve gotten a ton of elements wrong.  I know there is more research to be done.  I would just change them to contemporaries to make it easier, but the tropes I’m using would never translate to contemporary times.  I’ve thought about both of those stories for years.  The stories are good, the plots are awesome.  It’s all that troublesome historical detail that has me hung up.

So I write contemporaries.  But even in contemporary stories, there is research, and world building.  How many hours a day does an architect work, and how much money does he make?  Do firemen sleep at their fire stations?  Can a woman who owns a coffee-shop-slash-bakery ever take a day off?  What does a rural veterinarian’s day look like?

This takes some research too.  I don’t want my characters to seem unrealistic, and I also want them to live “normal” lives, whatever that means.  I know a lot about what I do for a living, and what a day for me is like, but I’m not writing about me.  So the research has to happen.

I also have to build realistic scenes, realistic events, and realistic living situations.  What is the weather in October like in Wisconsin, as opposed to California?  What are holiday events like in rural areas, as opposed to urban areas?  What kinds of industry might be more likely in Pennsylvania, as opposed to Montana?  Is there a lake, ocean, or river?  Or just a lot of rocks and pine trees?  Are there wild animals, or just the neighbor’s dogs?  j

This takes thought, as well as some research.  In my first novel, set in a generic town in Wisconsin in October, the heroine runs a bed and breakfast in a town known for fall tourism and antiquing, and the hero is a fire chief.  Halloween and the season’s first snowfall came at the same time in that story, because, in Wisconsin, that can happen.  I wouldn’t have known that if I hadn’t gone and looked it up.  The young fire chief lived at the fire station.  The heroine was extremely busy on the weekends, but not so much during the week, as she had guests in her B & B from Friday through Sunday.

Scene-building and world-building are important to make a story believable, but also to set a certain tone for the characters, and by extension, the readers. We read for entertainment, and all of that work on building the world our characters are living in, even if it is modern day, makes all the difference.  Our readers get to escape to someone else’s, world, even if only for a couple hundred pages.

My research begins with Google, and often ends at the local library and a well-read reference librarian.  Yes, even for a contemporary novel, there is research to be done.  It’s a good thing I like libraries.  And there’s no better research partner than an excited reference librarian.

How do you do your research for world-building?  Do you write a particular genre because of the research (either because you like the research or are avoiding doing too much research, like me)?  What are your go-to sources?  Would love to hear your comments!

Georgia’s Husband’s Sister’s Financial Advisor’s Cousin-in-Law


Have you ever read, or started to read, a book that had a dozen characters in the first chapter alone?  By the time you get to the second chapter, the relationships between the dozen(s) of characters becomes about as clear as a muddy lake.  By the third chapter, you’ve given up and the book goes in the pile to go to the second-hand store.  There’s just no way to keep up with that character tree, and still have enough energy left to understand the story.

I think it’s important to put a limit on exactly how many characters will be involved, be extremely cautious with their names, and only keep in the characters that truly drive the story.  While all of the ancillary characters my bring “character” and color to a story, if you’ve confused the reader with the sheer volume of them, your reader is going to give up and move on to something that isn’t so much work.  We read fiction for fun and entertainment. Reading is an escape. Why make the escape complicated?

I would venture to add that keeping character names distinct is also important.  If there is a Susan, Sandra, Sarah, and Sally in the same story, I’m going to forget who is who.  Distinct names for characters is almost as important as keeping the total number of characters limited.  The more the reader has to go back and figure out who all these people are, the quicker you are going to lose them.

The last point I’d like to make is to choose names for your characters that are easily pronounceable.  If the reader has to stop each time the name is shown, in order to pronounce it in their heads, again, you are going to lose their interest.  Making up a fabulous name that only you, the author, knows how to pronounce is definitely creative, but not conducive to keeping a reader.  Use traditional or at least easily pronounceable phonetic standards for your names, and reconsider the name entirely if you find yourself typing it wrong when you are writing the story.  Clarity and speed of being able to read the text are more important than a fancy and “unique” character name.

There’s nothing wrong with a good old Virginia, Katherine, Shannon, or Amelia as a character name.  The same goes for Stephen, Kevin, David, Austin, or Thomas.  Think simple.  Put the complexity in the story, where it will be more easily appreciated.

What character names have you used in your writing?  Do they have special meaning?  Tell me about it in the comments!

 

Fairest of the Faire – available now!

Fairest of the Faire book coverBlurb:

Schoolteacher Connie Meyers is suddenly a young widow, her husband killed in a horrific car accident. Heartbroken to find out he had gambled away everything they had, she moves to her sister-in-law’s Midwest home to rebuild her life. A trip to the local Renaissance Faire with her nieces leads to a summer job as a costumed storyteller.

Avowed bad boy and fair performer Gage Youngblood is infatuated with Connie at first sight. Despite his deliberately commitment-free life, and Connie’s don’t-touch-me attitude, he soon has her in his arms, realizing quickly she is also in his heart.

When she is threatened by her late husband’s bookie, he steps into the role of protector, his fate forever sealed with hers.

Available NOW!

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