Giving a Heartbeat to Your Characters

Have you ever heard the expression, “he/she is such a character?” That means whomever they are talking about is a person worthy of remembrance for their larger than life personality. Most often that person has a great sense of humor. I tend to remember folks that make me laugh, don’t you?

In fiction writing, the characters in your manuscript are helping you tell the story. You want your readers to become so enamored they can’t put your book down as they experience a life through that of your characters. This focus on creating a cast of players in your story is called “characterization.” It goes beyond eye, and hair color, age or gender. Although those features are important, it doesn’t really make your reader care about the hero or heroine.

Doing a profile is helpful in developing your character’s personality traits. Consider how your heroine reacts emotionally as you plot your story. How does she react to disappointment, anger, or sadness? Does she eat ice cream when she is stressed? Or perhaps she breaks out in hives when under pressure? These are the types of traits that make our characters more human and not just paper people.

One of the traits I gave my hero is rocking back and forth on the balls of his feet when he becomes impatient. He is a military man, and you could just see this as a normal behavior for someone who is an officer in the Army. Looking at your characters through the lens of a camera, as if they were in a movie helps to incorporate mannerisms; such as biting one lip when caught in a lie. Or the wringing of hands to show worry.

Consider likes and dislikes, incorporate them into your story. Do they have a loving family, or do they come from a dysfunctional background? Do they get along well with others? Do they have hobbies? Do they have a gift of music, sports or crafting? If you think about it our preferences make us who we are whether we want them to or not.

Another great tool of characterization is giving your hero/heroine a goal. What motivates them to reach this goal? How will they grow personally if they meet the goal, or how will they react if they don’t reach it? Our characters need to meet expectations, either imposed by someone else, or from within.

When writing Christian fiction your characters my go through a spiritual growth. My heroine lost someone she loved and became angry at God. If God is all knowing why didn’t He stop her fiance from being impressed into the British Navy and leaving her to become an old maid by societies standards? Though her fiance did not die, she lost him to a force larger than they could defeat.

Elaine’s journey is finding that God was always with her and knew better what she needed in life. Isn’t that true for all of us?

Two sources that helped me with my characterization:

Goal, Motivation and Conflict, by Debra Dixon.

The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Character Expressions, by Angela Ackerman & Becca Puglisi

 

Writing Prompt: Describe your perfect day with your favorite character from a book.

Click to Tweet: In fiction writing, the characters in your manuscript are helping you tell the story. 

Take Time to Look at the Past

Writing in the Historical Genre.

When I started writing it wasn’t hard for me to choose a genre.  As a young girl I loved reading Nancy Drew. Nancy was everything I wanted to be, smart, popular, and fearless. When I turned thirteen all that changed with a book I checked out from the bookmobile. It was called “The Distant Summer” by Sarah Patterson. Romance had taken hold of my page turning habits.  Boy meets girl just made my heart zing. In high school I found a new love, history. Putting my love of history together with romance just made my world complete.

My first novel is set during the American Revolution. With some help from a writing group; a brainstorming session created my hero and heroine. The historical facts took a bit longer. A lot of research goes into historical fiction writing.

There are many sources available to research a historic period. Books, the internet, libraries, and historical societies are all a wealth of information. This summer my husband and I went to Washington, D.C. for a short trip. About two hours south of that city in Virginia is  Colonial Williamsburg, a living history museum. I fell in love with the place! Doing a research trip is totally worth it. I found so many interesting stories while doing my research. There are truly so many real characters who played instrumental roles in forging our country that adding  your interpretation of those historical characters to your novel can add a bit of authenticity.

Throw a dart at a map of our original thirteen colonies and land on a spot rich in history to use in your historical novel. You could choose any time period and do the same. Some of my favorite historical novels are not necessarily considered romantic. You can weave a historical tale without the romance. A character study of a type of historical figure like a spy during the American Revolution, or the Civil War, who happens to be a romantic is a great historical story.  The possibilities are endless.

I have learned through this writing journey to listen to the advice from those who have traveled this worn path. Save everything. Not that you need to become a hoarder mind you, but there may come a time when your historical facts need to be proved. Keeping track of your sources will make this less stressful. A notebook, or three ring binder for keeping documents and the ideas you’ve chicken-scratched on little bit of paper. I also keep a notebook on my nightstand, I can’t tell you how many times an idea will present itself while I lay in bed at night.

There is also a computer application called Scrivener which will allow you to keep all your sources, documents, notes, pictures, and your manuscript all in one place. It will even help you format your book. So, think about those days gone by, there just might a story there.

 

Take a page from the #past

 

Writing Prompt: You just found a diary in a dusty old trunk in your Grandmother’s attic. It tells a story of one of your long lost ancestors. Tell me about him/her and the time period they lived in.

Encouraging Others Through Devotional Blogging

Merriam Webster defined devotion as “An act of prayer or private worship; to show allegiance or loyalty.”  Devotions help with the growth of our faith through spending quiet time with God. In doing so one can be blessed through this act of obedience.

We spend so much of our time these days on the computer that it’s normal to now find devotions in an electronic form. There are many to choose from, and they can target many different ministry needs. Writing a devotional blog is much like writing a devotional book.

Prayer is the first step in the process. Ask God for His guidance and wisdom to create a site where one can find a source of encouragement from the Bible. A great example of this is Philippians 4:6; Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be known to God.

You will need to decide what venue to use to produce your blog. A site like WordPress can help walk you through the steps to create a top-notch blog site. Coming up with a name for your site may take a bit more time and prayer.

Once you have your blog site complete. Decide how you can best serve those who will be reading your blog. Will you do it daily, weekly, or monthly? Perhaps share other resources that help emphasize the theme of your blog with non-fiction books, a Scripture reading plan, or a ministry resource. You may also consider using information from professional sources such as medical doctors, psychologists, or other knowledgeable professionals to help with the theme of your blog. It will not be possible to help everyone in every situation. However, you will be able to help some, so create the devotion as God leads you. Then trust in the Lord to lead the people to Him through your blog.

Most devotional blogs tell a story that drives home a biblical truth or theme. Some incident in your life where God was able to teach you through an event, a Bible verse, or even a sermon can help give your reader direction. Consider a theme for your devotional blog. You could target your blog post for an audience that may be dealing with addictions, or raising a family; it can even be based on books of the Bible such as Psalms or Proverbs. Whichever you decide; God will use it for good. You may have gone through some rough patches in your life when you struggled with personal issues. Allow God to use those hard times to teach others and give them encouragement so that they too may come through it in victory.

Making time for devotions is a challenge for most Christians, including myself. Start out with a portion of Scripture. Include your thoughts about the Scripture reading. Share a consideration of how it can be applied to everyday life. Encourage your reader to journal their thoughts. It is a wonderful way to meditate on God’s Word and begin to see how He is truly guiding you. Finish with Prayer leading your reader to ask for continued guidance through the Scripture verses.

Click to Tweet: Encouraging Blogs #Devotions

Always be joyful. Keep on praying. No matter what happens, always be thankful, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 NLT.  Our direction from God in this Scripture is to always be thankful, in all circumstances. In doing so we can be assured to find joy in leaning closer to Him in prayer.

Please post a favorite Scripture and your thoughts on it.

Freelance Writing for a Magazine

by Tammy Trail

To tell you the truth, I chose this topic because it has always been an interest to mehow to write for a magazine.

I love magazines, but my husband does not. So, I don’t buy very many. I usually get my fix at my hair salon while I wait my turn. Sometimes I have been known to go to the shop just a bit early to read the offerings. I recently read a very good article about Falconry in an airline magazine during a flight to our vacation destination. Who knew there was such a process in taming birds of prey to be handled and taught to hunt on demand? I certainly didn’t. That’s what I like about a good magazine article, it’s a short, decisive piece that teaches, informs, and focuses on one topic of interest.From my research into writing for a magazine, I found it’s pretty much the same as writing a novel.

  1. Study your target. The publication you choose to submit your work to may only publish certain topics.
  2. Find out how to submit. Just like finding a publisher for your book, magazines also want submissions sent in a professional manner.
  3. Query letters – No, you don’t’ get out of it. The dreaded query letter is a necessity even for short articles. Here are some helpful hints.

You must make a good case for the magazine to publish your work. You are in fine competition with other freelance writers. Just like writing a novel, you must grab an editor’s attention right from the start. Tell them why your article idea is important to readers.

Give content information like; how many words, the sources you used, or what current issues pertain to the subject matter.

Include your qualifications. Give samples of other articles you have written, also include a self- addressed stamped envelope.

There are lots of sources on the internet that will walk you through the freelance writing process. All will tell you the same thing, keep at it. Don’t give up. Through my research, I have learned there are a lot of magazines out there which hire freelance writers, like the magazine created just for a specific airline. All you need sometimes is Google.

People do make money freelance writing for magazines. I may try it myself. It’s another vehicle to get your work and name circulating in the writing world.

What type of magazine would you like to write an article for? What topic would you choose for an article?

Click to Tweet: Freelance writing for magazines is another vehicle to get your work and name circulating in the writing world. -Tammy Trail #freelancewriting #writing4magazines

Working with the Industry: Editor Interview with Karin Beery

This month’s “Working with the Industry” posts are a real eye opener for me. I just love to learn. And when the lesson has anything to do with improving my writing skills, I’m all ears.

All of us need a helping hand every once in a while. Your critique partners and Beta readers may think your story is the next best thing to hit the market. However, once you expose it to someone who is working in the writing industry it may still need work.

For my editor interview, I asked a few questions of my editor friend Karin Beery. I first met Karin while we commiserated in the same critique group for about a year. She is a champion of helping others achieve a quality product they can be proud to present for publication.

Be teachable. If you’re unwilling to take an editor’s advice, there’s no point in hiring an editor.

What is the best advice you can give to an established writer and newbie alike on the writing craft?
Be teachable. Even if you’ve been in the industry for a while, things change. Editors should be aware of those changes. If you’re unwilling to take an editor’s advice, there’s no point in hiring an editor.

What book have you read that you would have loved to edit, and how would you have changed it to your liking?
I don’t necessarily want to name the book because I don’t want to embarrass anyone, but several years ago I read a fantasy book that “everyone” was talking about. It was simultaneously the most interesting and most boring book I’ve ever read! Since then I’ve ready many books with the same three common issues:

  • stereotypical characters
  • spending too much time describing unnecessary details (such as exactly what each character is wearing in every scene) while failing to describe necessary components (like establishing scene setting)
  • not enough conflict.

How does an author know when the time is right to engage an editor before publication?
Ask! Almost every editor I know will provide a free sample edit/review of at least the first few pages. I’ve told several authors that they aren’t ready for editing yet, then offered suggestions for how they can strengthen their writing. If you’re afraid to ask an editor, then find someone in the publishing industry for their honest input (and be ready for honesty!).

What should a writer expect when entering into a contract with an editor?
 Regardless of what kind of an edit a writer needs, there are a few things they should expect from any competent, professional editor:

  • Edits/Comments – if you get a clean manuscript back, that’s not actually a good sign. No one’s perfect (even published books have typos!). If your editor can’t find anything wrong with your story, he/she might not know what to be looking for.
  • Proper Edits/Comments – proofreads are the last step in the editorial process. If your proofread includes rewrites and restructuring, that’s not really a proofread. Make sure you know the difference between the services so you’re getting the right edit.
  • Industry Standards – an editor’s job is to help you clean up your manuscript, not to rewrite it to his/her personal beliefs or preferences.
About Karin Beery

Editor. Teacher. Novelist.

A passionate lover of fiction, Karin doesn’t just write novels, she helps others write their best stories! A certified substantive editor with the Christian Editor Connection, her goal is to help authors to put her out of business by equipping them with the tools they need to become better writers.

Want to know more about Karin?

Connect with her at: KarinBerry.com, FaceBook, Twitter, and Instagram.