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. 

Resources for Indie Publishing

This month’s topic of Indie Publishing is great! I have really enjoyed learning more. I don’t know about you, but I love to think outside the box to find different ways to learn about the writing craft.

YouTube is my go-to lately. I sit at a desk when I’m at work and do repetitious data processing while answering a switchboard that is less busy during the night hours. During those hours I use one ear bud in my I-Phone to listen to videos on a variety of topics.

I didn’t realize until just a few months ago that there are a great many videos on the craft of writing. Some of the authors I have listened to do not write the same genre as I do, but basic story structure, outlining, marketing tips, and encouragement are basically the same for all genres. Who doesn’t need another author who has been there giving great advice on getting out of a slump during the process of getting your book done?

There are videos that are specific to a certain genre, but I tend to like to glean from all types of teaching. There is something called “Skill Share” you can access through YouTube. These videos are made by folks who want to “share” their expertise or lessons they have learned on a virtual plethora of topics. Of course, I have only sampled the topics that have to do with writing, marketing, or using social media as a marketing tool. One of the young ladies I like to follow and listen to is Vivien Reis. She posts very regularly in her own YouTube channel, and contributes to Skill Share.

There is even a video that gives you step by step instructions on how to self-publish your book for free or very minimal out of pocket cost. I will link this video below.

Another source for Indie Publishing is Google. There are many websites available to the techie smart novelist who is cautious in their quest for tools to self-publish. I found a website with called “48 Publishing Resources You Should Know About” by Diana Urban. She includes a great many topics that I didn’t even think about before writing this blog.

Pinterest is another resource for gleaning information on writing topics. I have my own board for saving pins I find of interest, related to the writing process. It can also be a good marketing tool for your book once it is in print. I also have boards used for saving pictures I like that relate to my current work in progress, like hero and heroine templates, places they might live, other characters in the story, and fashions of the historical period in which I am writing.

Last, but certainly not least: Good old fashion networking with other authors. Sometimes the writer sitting next to you has just the answers you need. Join a writing organization like the American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW), who can walk you through the in’s and out’s of publishing, and help you find like-minded individuals who can give you a helping hand while you craft your story. Many local chapters get together on a regular basis for continuing education, support, and friendship.

https://youtu.be/ZkoltFuljlE to learn about how to self-publish your book step by step. By Gillian Perkins

https://youtu.be/Isobf02R3fk to learn about Skill Share with my favorite writing channel. By Vivian Reis.

https://insights.bookbub.com/publishing-resources/ “48 Publishing Resources You Should Know About” by Diana Urban.
https://pin.it/yt2jg6wtnexxv3 This is a link to my Pinterest board for my book, “Patriot Hearts.”

CLICK TO TWEET: Need another author who has been there, giving great advice on getting out of a slump during the process of getting your book done? Resources for Indie Publishing from @trail_j via @InspiredPrompt #writinglife #IndiePublish

 

Pinterest: Your Neighborhood Billboard

I find Pinterest an ideal place to goof off when I have some extra time on my hands. I found through some research that it’s also a great place to promote as an author.

Now that I have a novella finished I need to start building a platform to showcase my work. I’m not comfortable with the idea that I might make a big, hairy deal out of myself. However, I want people to get to know me and my writing, so I will need to learn how to entice folks to read my story.

One way I used Pinterest was to create a storyboard of my novella, Patriot Hearts. In fact, I used the same title of my novella for that Pinterest  board. I selected pictures from the internet of my hero, Major John Tennant, and my heroine, Miss Elaine Henderson, to represent them as my characters.  I also have elements of the story pinned to that board as well, such as images of a primitive church that may have existed during the American Revolution, or  colonial homes, fashion, and kites.

Pinterest can also be used as a marketing tool. I plan to create a new board to promote my book using the cover,  and a link where it can be found. I would also like to compare it to other published books during the same time period, and subject. I can also link a Twitter account or a Facebook author page to that promotion.There is still a lot of work to do even with a finished book. That book has now become a product. I am now the main promoter of that product, and need to find consumers who want to be entertained by a good story. Hopefully, after they are engaged with my work, a consumer will tell others about how much they enjoyed it.  I don’t know if my Mother counts, but she likes my story. On my Pinterest page you can also find boards for Colonial Trivia, Logos Sisters; which are writer helps. Books worth reading (of course I do need to add mine there), and Words that inspire.

In my spare time I also like to make jewelry and I have found wonderful examples through Pinterest to pin to my Jewelry board. With the popularity of Pinterest for recipe searches, and consumer goods, I see an opportunity to use it to promote my book also. It’s my hope that it will be a great tool to showcase my story.

Writing Prompt: Have you used Pinterest to showcase your work? If so, share your experience using Pinterest as a social media tool.

Click to Tweet: #Pinterest: Your Neighborhood Billboard via #InspiredPrompt –#how-to of self-promo and book marketing.

Twenty Years of Freedom From Addiction

by Tammy Trail

I’m sure many  significant events happened within the last twenty years. I’ve been racking my brain for a source of inspiration for the topic of this month’s blog. How can I bring something to print that has not been thought of by my fellow blog mates (who are all awesome!)?

A dear friend of mine recently asked me to write down the testimony of my struggle to quit smoking. She has another friend who is struggling, too. I realized this year in November will be twenty years smoke free for both my husband and me.

I suppose any bad habit is hard to break. We all struggle with something. My husband had only smoked for a handful of years, and he seemed to have an easier time of it the first time we attempted to quit. I had been a die hard smoke stack since the age of 15! Of course, I had adults in my life that told me I would regret starting. It would take years off my life, I would ruin my health. None of that mattered to a hardheaded teenager who thought she could quit at any time, and who didn’t appreciate good advice.

My first attempt to stop smoking was when I became pregnant with my daughter, Amanda. Cold Turkey–that was the way to do it! Oh my, what I put my poor husband through. It was so hard when you spend your workday in an office full of smokers! I would literally cry until my husband relented and bought a pack of cigarettes.

Then we tried hypnosis. It worked for awhile. I was even able to ignore those folks at work. But for some reason, I began to crave a cigarette on Thursday evenings after work. I know, it was very strange. This battle was real. I loved to smoke. I gained pleasure from it. There was no reason for small talk in a social setting while holding a cigarette and hiding behind the veil of smoke. So, eventually I was right back where I started.

Fast forward to a year after my son, Sean, was born. Cigarette prices were going up. While we struggled with meeting our financial obligations and putting a meal on the table, there was always money for our habit. Tim and I had rededicated our lives to the Lord and started attending a small full gospel church. We were learning so much, and the people were so patient with us. I’m sure they could smell our smoke-laced clothes before we even hit the door. Our beloved pastor could teach for hours, and Tim and I would try and satisfy our nicotine cravings with one last cigarette while we pulled the car into the church parking lot.

So, we decided to try and quit once again. This time we used the patch. Those nicotine-laced sticky adhesives on our upper arms seemed to work, but my, were they expensive. One Saturday afternoon, a few days into wearing the patch, I attended a church sponsored event on prayer.

While praying, I heard a voice in my spirit tell me, “Daughter, you don’t need that patch anymore.” Not knowing what to do with that, I left the patch on, and didn’t change it Sunday morning before church.

Our service usually began with prayer requests. A well meaning member of the congregation knew Tim and I were trying to quit smoking. She felt we needed to go up to the altar for prayer. This was very new to us, since we had only recently gone through re-dedication.  Accepting prayer, the laying on of hands–the very act of humility–was a huge step of faith for us. Remembering the words spoken to me the day before and thirsting for all of what the Lord may have in store for us, we went forward.

Loving hands were placed on shoulders, on our head, in the small of my back and at my elbows. I recall the pastor placing his hands on our heads, he spoke  loud and clear, “in the name of Jesus Christ, I proclaim the addiction to nicotine be lifted off of these bodies and claim healing.” If, there were any other words spoken, I don’t remember them. I just felt free. My husband and I have not even looked at a cigarette since that day.

I know it’s hard to quit a bad habit. I feel like cigarettes are the most difficult, because it is socially acceptable. I think cigarettes are just as addicting as hard drugs. If you struggle with an addiction, please seek help.

Matthew 11:28-30, Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

CLICK TO TWEET: Hard to quit an addiction to cigarettes. Twenty years of #freedom from addiction. #smokefree

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Land of Spaghetti, Lasagna, and Frank Sinatra?

Map of Italy

Map of Italy

By Tammy J. Trail

If you hadn’t guessed it already, our Writing Prompts Crew is taking you on a trip around the world this month. My husband and I have a dream trip we would like to take to Scotland and Ireland one day. I would also like to visit Italy.

The coliseum in Rome

The coliseum in Rome

You may think this a bit funny, but my first exposure to anything Italian was on Sunday afternoons in front of a television. My Grandmother loved to watch those movies made during what is called Hollywood on the Tiber. During the 1950’s and 1960’s, Rome was a major location for international films. These films were made in English for a global release. The movies I remember most are Three Coins in a Fountain made in 1954. This film also spun a song by the same name sung by Frank Sinatra.  You might also recognize, Roman Holiday, Ben Hur, The Agony and the Ecstasy, and Cleopatra. These movies and a few more were all filmed in Rome, and have become beloved classics.

Italian pizza with wine

Italian pizza with wine

Italy is also known for its wonderful food and beautifully tended vineyards. Naples, Italy, is the birthplace of pizza. Who doesn’t like pizza? I love it, but unfortunately it doesn’t like me. Spaghetti and lasagna are my favorites, too. And yes, I would like a little wine with my cheese. Italians consume twenty-six gallons per year, and a half-pound of bread per day.

Italy is only about the size of the state of Arizona. It has the tallest mountains in Europe, and the sandiest beaches. Swarms of tourists visit Italy and can experience whatever they fancy. If perhaps a tourist wants to experience some culture, Italy is home to a plethora of fine museums.

Cathedral in Florence, Italy

Cathedral in Florence, Italy

Statue outside the Vatican

Statue outside the Vatican

Florence is the birthplace of the Renaissance. Milan is known for fashion, and Genoa for being the oldest city of trade with many ship yards and steelworks. Of course, Rome is the most well-known city, encompassing Vatican City as well as an abundance of architecture and history. In Rome, a former Jewish ghetto is now some of the most expensive prime real estate in the city.

Another fun fact is  that William Shakespeare must have loved Italy, too. He wrote many famous plays like Julius Caesar, Romeo and Juliet, Othello, The Taming of the Shrew, and my favorite, Much Ado About Nothing. They all took place in Italy.

We can also thank the Italians for inventing thermometers, typewriters, eyeglasses and pianos.

One of the most tragic events in recent news was the earthquake that devastated a mountain region of Italy. On August 24, 2016, the town of Amatrice, Accumoli, and Marche, Italy, were struck by a 6.2 magnitude earthquake that killed at least 241 people.  Tremors were felt in Rome, nearly 100 miles southwest, in Bologna to the north, and in Naples to the south. Survivors dug through rubble with their hands to find those trapped. Please pray for the injured and for those who have lost loved ones.

I hope you enjoyed my small tour through Italy. I am looking forward to someday experiencing all of its history, art, architecture, and beauty. Can’t wait!

Writing Prompt:

What old films have you enjoyed in the past that take you back to an enjoyable memory?

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