Giving a Heartbeat to Your Characters

By Tammy J. Trail

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. 

Pets: A Connection of Reader to the Story

By Fay Lamb

cat-71494_1280When I sit down to start a work in progress, I rarely have secondary characters in mind. My focus stays on the main characters and building their plots. As the story grows, the secondary characters come onto stage and show me their roles in the lives of the characters. Sometimes those secondary characters are pets or animals that parallel a character’s strength or weakness.

The way a character relates with the animals in their environment tells a lot about them. To date, I have included two cows, some chickens, a dog named Cletus, and a wild bear tagged Bumblebee.

In Better Than Revenge, the heroine owns a small farm. The care she and her son give to the animals shows much about the heroine’s character. She is a hard worker who’s brought up her son, teaching him not to slack his duty. She is caring, and when she is focused on keeping her son safe, he is much in tune with the care of the livestock, showing that his mother’s love has not been lost on him—and that’s a very important part of the story.

In my romance, Charisse, Cletus is a golden retriever. He is responsible for literally having the hero, Gideon, run into Charisse. Cletus’s unconditional love mirrores that of the love that the hero has for his heroine. In attempting to keep her secrets hid and to hold to her anger with regard to her husband’s death, Charisse is not easy to love, but like a dog with a bone, Gideon doesn’t surrender easily. Cletus also becomes a bridge that ties the hero to the heroine’s young son, a boy who, in his sadness, has forgotten how to laugh. At least, until Cletus mowed him over with wet sloppy kisses and a game of catch.dog-1082307_960_720

In my latest novel, Everybody’s Broken, Shane Browne has inherited a valuable piece of untamed mountain. He guards it and the wildlife with vigilance. When Shane begins to include the heroine’s young, twin sons on the hikes he and his daughter take up the mountain, they encounter Bumblebee.

Teaching the boys how to respect nature, Shane shares with the boys what to do in case the old lumbering Ms. Bumblebee advances toward them.

Yet Shane has a sense that Bumblebee is drawn to the boys. She deliberately steps into the clearing, always staying a respectful distance from them. If possible, he believes that she performs for them, but she never seems a danger to them. At least not until …

Bumblebees reaction to and her actions toward the boy mirror the feelings of protectiveness growing in Shane, and when Bumblebee does the unthinkable, Shane must trust that the bear knows what’s best for her adopted “cubs.”

In the two series that are written now, unless they come onto stage of my imagination and surprise me, I do not expect to have another animal. While I used Bumblebee to heighten the suspense for my readers, I can state that the one thing I will never do is to bring an animal into a story simply to play upon the emotions of a reader. An animal must always connect to the lead characters and advance the story forward. It is only then that they can become an emotional attachment.

A cheap shot for me, as an author, would be to take the rug out from under the reader and allow that connection to sever. Like it or not, most people will become attached to a four-legged character more readily than they will a two-legged one. As a reader, when a pet or another animal dies in a book, that’s all for me. Even if I continue to read, the message of the story is lost on me. My heart is broken. I feel I have been played, and I’m not delving too deeply into that story to have the author rip out the remaining pieces. Therefore, a reader might experience a suspenseful moment or two, but they can take a breath and relax. The animals in my stories aren’t going to die.

Now, the two-legged creatures …?


Fay LambFay Lamb is an editor, writing coach, and author, whose emotionally charged stories remind the reader that God is always in the details. Fay has contracted three series. With the release of Everybody’s Broken, three of the four books in the Amazing Grace romantic suspense series, which also includes Stalking Willow and Better than Revenge, are currently available for purchase. Charisse and Libby the first two novels in her The Ties That Bind contemporary romance series have been released.

Fay has also collaborated on two Christmas novella projects: The Christmas Three Treasure Hunt, and A Ruby Christmas, and the Write Integrity Press romance novella series, which includes A Dozen Apologies, The Love Boat Bachelor, and Unlikely Merger. Her adventurous spirit has taken her into the realm of non-fiction with The Art of Characterization: How to Use the Elements of Storytelling to Connect Readers to an Unforgettable Cast.

Future releases from Fay are: Frozen Notes, Book 4 of the Amazing Grace series and Hope and Delilah, Books 3 and 4 from The Ties that Bind series.

Fay loves to meet readers, and you can find her on her personal Facebook page, her Facebook Author page, and at The Tactical Editor on Facebook. She’s also active on Twitter. Then there are her blogs: On the Ledge, Inner Source, and the Tactical Editor. And, yes, there’s one more: Goodreads.

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3 Questions Wednesday with Christine Lindsay

Christine Lindsay

Today I’m pleased to welcome my friend, Christine Lindsay, as our guest today.

Hi Christine! So glad you dropped by so we can get better acquainted. Here’s the first question: 

What inspires you?

Christine:  My garden. I would much rather dig a hole to plant a tree than vacuum my living room. A lot of my energy is spent working in my outdoor space, planting flowers, veggies, and herbs, seeing life happen. I don’t mind the hard work of weeding and preparing the soil. While I’m working, I see God’s hand in everything, and yet also my own hands, digging, training, nurturing.

It’s the same with my writing, the long hours of work that must go into a book. Just like in a garden, I can’t sit back on my laurels, but dig into the necessary research, spend hours, months, editing just like weeding. Pray over, and nurture each and every passage or scene, in order to make it the shining best for the reader, a thing of beauty and quality.

My garden inspires me, in that only hard work will produce the kind of book I want to write, or read.

Wow, I love that comparison. Writing and gardening are both hard work, but very satisfying in the end, I agree. Now, here’s a scenario for you:

You’re a new addition to the crayon box. What color would you be and why?

Christine:  Deep Royal Blue. Not because I’m royal—other than in my relationship to Christ—but that’s what the color is called. It’s deep, as blue as a calming ocean, or summer night sky. I choose that color because though I laugh a lot these days, am full of joy, that joy came after many years of heartache. There’s nothing superficial to my joy. It was hard-won through many battles to overcome some tough things in life, like giving up my first-born to adoption. That depth goes into everything I write, my non-fiction as well as my fiction. I believe readers want a book—even if it’s fiction—that their hearts can relate to. Everyone has the depth of heartache and needs hope.

So true, Christine. And that’s where the Lord can minister to each of us, easing our pain and replacing it with His joy. I love your testimony of overcoming hard battles. Now for the final question, let’s go back in time. Tell me:

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?

Christine:  Since I could hold a crayon I wanted to tell stories. But being the oldest child of a single mother, when it came time to go to college, which I paid for myself, I chose Accounting. I thought that was the most sensible thing to do, since there isn’t any money in Art.

Oh, what a mistake. I was a dismal failure at accounting. I should have known I was a writer when in every English class I ever took, I received straight “A’s”. It wasn’t until many years later, after the reunion with the daughter I gave up for adoption, that my husband found me crying over my renewed sense of loss. He went out and bought a brand-new pen and journal and said, “Here honey, write your story.” That was the start of my writing career. Sixteen years have passed and I’m now working on my 8th novel, several of which have won some nice awards. At long last I am working at the job I feel I was created for.

How wonderful that you found your true calling as a writer. I love that your husband encouraged you to write your story–so healing for you and a blessing to those who read it. Thanks so much for sharing with us today, and best wishes for continued success in your writing career.


Irish-born Christine Lindsay is the author of multi-award-winning Christian fiction and non-fiction. Readers describe her writing as gritty yet tender, realistic yet larger than life, with historical detail that collides into the heart of psychological and relationship drama. Christine’s fictional novels have garnered the ACFW Genesis Award, The Grace Award, Canada’s The Word Guild Award, and was a finalist twice for Readers’ Favorite as well as 2nd place in RWA’s Faith Hope and Love contest.

This author’s non-fiction memoir Finding Sarah Finding Me is the true-life story that started this award-winning career in Christian fiction and non-fiction. This book is a must for anyone whose life has been touched by adoption. Christine is currently writing a new fictional series set on the majestic coast of Ireland.

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FINDING SARAH FINDING ME

Sometimes it is only through giving up our hearts that we learn to trust the Lord.

Adoption. It’s something that touches one in three people today, a word that will conjure different emotions in those people touched by it. A word that might represent the greatest hope…the greatest question…the greatest sacrifice. But most of all, it’s a word that represents God’s immense love for his people.

Join birth mother Christine Lindsay as she shares the heartaches, hopes, and epiphanies of her journey to reunion with the daughter she gave up…and to understanding her true identity in Christ along the way.

Through her story and glimpses into the lives of other families in the adoption triad, readers will see the beauty of our broken families, broken hearts, and broken dreams when we entrust them to our loving God.

*Note: 100% of author royalties for Finding Sarah Finding Me will be donated to Global Aid Network Women’s and Children’s Initiative for the lifetime of this book.

READ CHAPTER ONE FREE OF FINDING SARAH FINDING ME

Read the first chapters of all Christine’s books on her website.

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PURCHASE LINKS for FINDING SARAH FINDING ME

AMAZON

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