A Character By Any Other Name

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I’ve been catching up on my to -read-to- do-book- review pile and noticed something that made me groan. What appears to be the most common name for a secondary character, flat character, dead character or old wizen cowpoke character is Charley, also spelled Charlie. It’s funny to me because my husband’s name is Charley. He refuses to spell it Charlie. Insisting the spelling changed when the cartoon character Charlie Brown made his appearance.

I must admit Charley (spelled correctly) appears in my first two novels. In Secrets & Charades as Evangeline’s long dead brother and then in a party scene in New Duet playing Yahtzee. I think there is something comforting about that name or so many novelists wouldn’t use it. He’s the best friend, the overbearing older brother or bratty kid brother. Call him Charles and he’s the CEO, the villainous usurper or royalty.

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Then there’s the horse, mule, cat or dog called Charley. That moniker makes me laugh when I see it in literature. But in real life I almost had a heart attack. My sister called me one day in tears. “Charley’s died.” My heart started to race for a nano-second before reality brought me back. The cat she’d adopted years earlier, Charlie, had left this life not my husband.

Character names can be a challenge. We have our favorites and need to be careful we don’t overuse them. There is a secondary character in Secrets & Charades named Isabel and Isabella is my heroine in New Duet.

How many soldier’s in books and movies are Joe? Or cowboys named Dusty, Duke, and Buck?

 

We work hard at making sure our hero and heroine have memorable names. Whether it’s Star or Elizabeth we spend time matching the name to the characters stories. But the cop’s partner, the Sheriff’s sidekick or the dead brother is likely to be named Charley. Why? Maybe a relative, neighbor or childhood friend with that name.

The same goes for female characters. How many Sarah and Katie’s do you find in westerns. Tiffany and Heather are popular in contemporary tales. Back in the day Cynthia was a snobby character or a wealthy one. Cindy was usually a ten-year-old.

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I’ve read of a cat, a dog and even a horse names Katie. Although Sally is more common for a mule in a western and it’s usually owned by ol’ Charley the prospector.

The point of my post is rather thin. I found it amusing that my husband’s name was so well-used on the sidelines of many books I’ve read over the years.  That lead to the thought how important it is to take a moment to give some interesting names to those cameo characters or pets. I named a horse Drake in my novella. What picture comes to your mind with a black horse named Drake. Handsome and intelligent for sure.  My current WIP has a large mixed breed dog named Brownie. Makes you think of warm and affectionate. Spike would not conjure the same feelings. I guess I could have names him Charley.

How about you? What name have you noticed often in the pages of your favorite books? What kind of characteristics do you expect to see when you hear certain names?

 

 

 

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Earthshine Characters influenced creator Kadee Carder’s Life and a Giveaway

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I’ve invited Kadee Carder back to share a bit about how her characters Saylor and Tucker evolved in her new fantasy Earthshine and their influence on her life.

Windchimes swung in the background. A gentle wind hummed. Fingers picked the tinny strings of an acoustic guitar, one at a time cascading into a tender melody.

“Belief in the breeze

The smoky morning haze

The sun on her face

and the touch of lovers’ hands

The pain that comes today

Is here, then goes away

And we are homeward bound

And I

I want this more than life…”

Whitley’s version of the song, “More Than Life,” brought Saylor and Tucker into my mind, sitting on a porch swing, watching the sun set.

The two characters have stayed with me over the years, as I have traversed their roads, through wet marshes, muddy mountain trails, and the wilds of the Australian outback. What would they be doing right now, I’d ask myself. The hard part about meeting characters and following their stories is that they stay with you, real as friends. Their lives influenced mine. Their stories shaped mine. So, in that smoky morning haze, in the golden, setting sun, what would they be doing, I’d revisit the question in my memory.

Would Saylor ever be satisfied with her ending?

What would she want more than life?

Through the years spent writing the Insurrection trilogy and agonizing hours spent trying to market books, I found myself down. I couldn’t find any tangible success. Blow by blow, each step I’d attempt to progress as an author met with resistance after resistance. The rejection and failure ate away at my spirit. It seemed like nobody cared. And from the ashes of broken dreams, from the depths of dark nights, of agony, of restlessness, of inability to wait with inaction, the story of EARTHSHINE came to be. Could a girl who’s “done the hard thing” once more rise to the occasion? You see, there is not just one “hard thing” to face in life. There will be one, then another, and another. Each time more difficult, each time more unhinged and chaotic, each time drawing the protagonist further into the hero position. What would Saylor do when asked to face her greatest fears, knowing they are real?

I wasn’t ready to write EARTHSHINE when the words began spilling out. It began with another title – Deadlight.

Halfway through, exploring the theme and tone brought on by the title “dead-light” generated, the word no longer fit. Is death the finale? While it served as an intriguing vocabulary word, no, it didn’t fit with Saylor and Tucker’s story. Theirs is a story of perseverance, of love, of hope. Of reflection. Of audacity. Of moxie. Of grit. One morning as I began to wrap up the final chapters on my manuscript, my “Word of the Day” email popped into my inbox. The term, “earthshine,” lit up my screen. In fact, it lit up my eyes from its first appearance, because earthshine means…well…I suppose you’ll have to read the book to find out.

I hope you will.

I hope you enjoy the story that had to be written.

I hope you may also get back up, once your heart has broken.

I hope you will be the one who shows up, builds up, and believes.

May you be the light, shining into the abyss. May you be someone’s Earthshine.

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Earthshine Blurb:

 

Fear may be a liar, but hope can be a monster.

Saylor single-handedly saved the world from a devastating solar flare…and it nearly killed her. Now her father’s Alliance Military Guard must track down pirated tech, missing ships, and a rogue billionaire, and they’ve requested a reluctant Saylor’s help.

Tucker spent a year training the rookie Guardsmen. They call themselves Dragons. He calls them defiant. Dispatched across the ocean on a mission to retrieve AMG’s bootlegged tech, he rallies Saylor to overcome her fears and return to the field by his side.

Working together wielding unprecedented tech and determined to defy their destinies, the two wrangle missing ghosts, brunt force betrayal, and the swagger of power. What lies beneath the earth just might save it.

 

EARTHSHINE is the final book following the McConnell clan and Alliance Military Guard, a standalone for the seeker of YA Sci Fi Action Adventures.

 

Purchase EARTHSHINE on Amazon in paperback or ebook:

 Thanks, Kadee for your interesting revelation. I always like to learn how characters affect the author’s lives.

Who is Kadee?

Fierce yet sparkly, I rally seekers to thrive in their stories. The goal is magic, the medium is ink, and the fuel is coffee. And sometimes pizza. I teach English on the university level when I’m not dancing around the living room with my family, lifting heavy at the gym, traveling the planet, or binging superhero shows.

More of Kadee’s books and how to connect with her

INSURRECTION, INCOMPLETE, INDELIBLE, HERE BE DRAGONS, EARTHSHINE and non-fiction inspirational KINGDOM COME roll out perilous motives, twisty plots, and daring protagonists. Grab some real estate and your copy of my latest adventure and follow along on KadeeCarder.com.

 

Visit http://www.kadeecarder.com for inspiration, encouragement, freebie codes, and more!

Let’s connect on social media!

Website: kadeecarder.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/kadeecarderink/

Instagram: kadeecarderink

Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCAkYQcShpWHBua-7VVi9Swg

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/kadeecarder/

Twitter: @kadeecarderink

And please feel free to subscribe for encouraging blogs! Kadeecarder.com

A Giveaway:

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I’m giving away a free, empowering e-book to those who subscribe to my email list at kadeecarder.com/subscribe. Titled IGNITE, the 60-page book offers a serving of inspiration, a dash of hope, and a cup of grace to help you get kickin’ on those challenging tasks you’ve got to do!

 

**Grab Book Three of the Insurrection trilogy, INDELIBLE, for only $.99 this week!**

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Pat Nichols Turned to Novel Writing after Retirement

Today I welcome Pat Nichols to Jubilee Writer, she and I have a lot in common. We share a publisher and are both members of Word Weavers and ACFW. And …well, I’ll let her tell her very interesting story. Pat

Eight years ago, my husband and I completed our retirement-travel bucket list, prompting the question, “What’s next”. Having spent twenty-five years in the corporate world, I was accustomed to meeting deadlines and accomplishing goals. It might sound crazy, but I kind of missed the fast pace. Not enough to get back in the rat race, mind you. But enough to consider starting a second career. One I believe God prompted me to pursue. Writing novels.

While I cut my teeth on two, not-ready-for-primetime manuscripts based on real people, three fictional characters began to form in my mind. Strangers with different backgrounds. Emily, from a small southern town, and Rachel, an Atlanta native. And Sadie, a convicted felon returning to the scene of her crime. They eventually found their way into my third manuscript.

From the beginning I’d planned to create an ongoing saga with a small town functioning as a key character. Thus, I researched everything I could find about series, finished book one, and began writing the sequel. Late in 2017 I was blessed with a contract from Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas. Months into the editing process readers chose The Secret of Willow Inn as the title. It will be available on Amazon presale in late September or early October and released January, 2019. Earlier this year, I received a second contract for book two in the series, scheduled for release January, 2020. I’m currently working on book three and plan to continue the series until it comes to a logical conclusion sometime in the distant future.

I first realized a calling to write in the eighties during a three-year assignment as a public relations manager. Creating articles and stories for newspapers gave birth to my passion. Many years and numerous assignments passed before the opportunity to tap into my creativity resurfaced. Now with my computer sitting on a lap desk, I write five days a week from a recliner in my living room. The thrill of deadlines and goals mingled with the flexibility of retirement.

In addition to my friends in the North Georgia ACFW chapter and my Word Weavers group, my wonderful husband of fifty plus years is my best support. Although he doesn’t read novels, he listens to my draft, catches errors, and provides excellent feedback.

A friend recently asked how long I planned to continue writing. The answer? Until God takes me home or I wake up one morning and totally forget where I left my computer. I’m counting on the first happening before the second.

I feel the same way, Pat. Thanks for sharing your encouraging story.

Here’s Pat Nichol’s bio:

Pat Nichols launched career number two as a novelist, proving it’s never too late to follow your dreams. Drawing on years of corporate experience working with hundreds of amazing women from all walks of life, she creates stories about women who face challenges in the pursuit of their dreams. She lives in an Atlanta suburb with her husband of fifty plus years, is the mother of two, and grandmother of three. She is grateful for God’s blessings and unfailing love through all of life’s peaks and valleys.

Visit her on social media:

https://www.facebook.com/pat.nichols.52459

https://twitter.com/PatNichols16

https://patnicholsauthor.blog

 

Instagram

 

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Back Cover Copy of The Secret of Willow Inn:

Two women fighting for their dreams, one who’s long lost hers, are united by tragedy and a long-held secret.

Pregnant with her first child, Emily Hayes is eager to help her mother finish transforming an estate into the Willow Inn and write a novel about Willow Falls’ colorful history. A tragic event threatens her parents’ plans to refurbish an abandoned hotel and transform the obscure Georgia setting into a tourist destination.

Sadie Lyles left Willow Falls a murderer who’d killed the town hero. She returns as a despised felon and seeks solace in the town’s café. Emily struggles to unite the close-knit community and becomes Sadie’s biggest advocate. She strives to uncover the truth about the crime and save her town from dying.

To appease her father, Rachel, a VP in his Atlanta real-estate-development firm, relegates her acting dream to secret performances for imaginary audiences. After meeting charming, flirtatious Charlie Bricker, manager for Willow Falls’ future vineyard, she vows to break free from her father’s control.

If you enjoy encouraging author interviews and want to read more along with other writerly stuff don’t forget to subscribe to Jubilee Writer.

A Visit with Naomi Musch

Today I’m featuring author Naomi Musch. Like me she discovered her calling to write novels later in life. Welcome, Naomi, have a seat and let’s get started. Tell my readers a little about your writing journey.

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I’ve been writing since I announced to the world at ten years old that it was my intention to become an author. While I pursued that diligently and wrote in various venues over the years, publishing news articles, essays, and blog posts, it wasn’t until I was in my forties that my first novel was published. In the twelve years since, I’ve been blessed to see eleven of my novels find publishing homes.

How exciting for you to see your dream materialize. Sounds like for every year you waited you’ll soon have an equal number of books published. Tell us about your upcoming twelfth project.

I’m SUPER EXCITED to tell you that my current work is just a few days’ shy of release! On October 10th, Mist O’er the Voyageur launches, a true novel of my heart. The story is a romance set during the fur trade era among the voyageurs and fur traders of the Great Lakes, primarily between Quebec and the head of Lake Superior.  (Be sure to check out the Rafflecopter prize drawing at the end of the post!) Here’s the cover blurb:

After her aunt’s death, Métis woman Brigitte Marchal finds herself alone in Montreal. Uninterested in the convent and desperate to flee a loathsome suitor, she disguises herself as a young man to travel west by voyageurs’ brigade in search of her long-absent, fur-trader father. But her inexperience and disguise don’t hide her for long.

René Dufour yields to the unwelcome position of shielding Brigitte, but he cannot hide her identity forever. Keeping her safe while meeting his North West Company obligations and honoring his family promises may prove to be more disquieting to his heart than he imagined.

As Brigitte adjusts to the voyageur life on Lake Superior, she struggles to justify the faith she grew up in with the mysticism around her, but greater still is the conflict her heart must settle over who to trust in this rugged, unfamiliar country. 

Can’t wait to read it. As a history geek and a writer of historicals I want to know how you did research for your book?

I live in the Lake Superior region, and I’ve known some history of the voyageurs and area forts and fur trade history for a long, long time. Years ago, I read a YA novel called Song of the Voyageur written in the 1950s by Wisconsin author Beverly Butler, and I started falling more in love with the period. It was such a beautiful story.  I wish I could get my hands on that book again! Then about twenty years ago, we took our children to visit Fort William near Thunder Bay in Canada, and took part in that “living history” experience. Something spoke to even me then about setting scenes of a story there someday. As someone who loves research, I found more information in library books and online than I could ever use, and I had to figure out what would be important to leave in the story and what wouldn’t. Besides researching the route of the voyageurs from Montreal to the forts at the head of Lake Superior, I also used Google earth (of all things!) to help me map the journey (realizing, of course, that some topography has changed since the early 1800s).

Sounds like you had fun researching. Now, I love to learn what inspires writers. So, Naomi what inspired you to write your book?

I think it was my love of the period combined with having written a different novel that sort of related. My first novel was called The Casket Girl, a tale about the “King’s Girls” who were sent by King Louis of France to encourage population of New France (Canada & Louisiana in the 1700s). I had planned to write a sequel set in Canada, but as I continued my research, the story began to morph into something else entirely. I can’t tell you just where the idea came from, but it was seeded sometime back then. A lot of the plotting took place from a cold deer stand one snowy November.

A deer stand…well, I’ve never heard that before. How interesting. Writers do get their inspiration at odd times and unusual places. When did you realize your calling to create words on paper to share with the world?

As I mentioned before, I was ten years old. I’d already ruled out becoming a ballerina or an architect. Writing stories allowed me to become anything I wanted to be. (And I’m humming “In my own little corner, in my own little room, I can be whatever I want to be” as I write that. –Cinderella, Rogers & Hammerstein) LOL! Love it.

Obviously, you love music, do you have a favorite verse that resonates with you?

Oh… so many! Psalm 40:1-3 sums up my life’s testimony — and I think it has subconsciously summed up the lives of some of my characters as well:

“I waited patiently for the Lord;
he inclined to me and heard my cry.
He drew me up from the pit of destruction,
out of the miry bog,
and set my feet upon a rock,
making my steps secure.
 He put a new song in my mouth,
a song of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear,
and put their trust in the Lord.”

Let’s take another turn in this interview. If you could go back in time and give one piece of advice for your younger self about writing what would that be?

There are probably many things I wish I’d known about writing and doing the work of a writer when I was younger, but most importantly, I would tell myself, “Do not procrastinate! Submit, submit, and submit again!” I think there were too many times I stopped too soon.

I can so relate.

Who is your best support system to keep you focused on    your writing?

My best support system is my family. My husband Jeff allows me as much room as I want to pursue my love for writing. He knows that no matter what becomes of it, it’s what God gave me to do. I believe God is pleased when I practice the gift He’s given. My five adult kids, too, are very supportive. They don’t even like to ask for babysitting if they know I’m in the throes of a work-in-progress. They’re all very sweet and encouraging. I also belong to a fantastic writers group called the Upper St. Croix Writers.

What is your favorite genre to read for fun?

My heart beats strongest for historical fiction with a strong romantic thread. The more realistic and rugged the story, the better I like it.

Where is your favorite place to write?

I write from an easy chair in my living room. I gave up working at a desk in 2007 when I hurt my back. However, when the weather holds, my very favorite place to write is in my vintage camper. The atmosphere is cozy and quaint, and though it still needs some work, I find it a very peaceful place to hole up and let my imagination fly while a story takes focus. While I’m in there, I manage to stay free of the distractions of housework that always beckon.

Sounds wonderful. Thanks so much for stopping by. Tell us what coool gift we get fro signing up for your newsletter and your drawing and how my readers can sign up for a chance to win.

Those who sign up for Naomi’s newsletter will receive her award-winning short story Ellie Hollis Gets Her Man in the November issue.

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DRAWING!

Naomi will give away THREE eCopies of Mist O’er the Voyageur in October, one each on the 10th, 17th, and 24th of the month. On the 31st she’ll give away a Grand Prize Package which includes: a Signed Paperback Copy of Mist O’er the Voyageur, 8×10 watercolor print “Estuary” by northland artist Viola LaBounty, Philippians 4:13 Blue Soul Scrips Flex-Cover Journal, Flowered Note Card Set, and Miscellaneous Swag.

Use the Rafflecopter to enter, and follow her blog hop for repeat chances to enter: Click on blog names to read more about Naomi and enter again.

Oct. 5: Colonial Quills

Oct. 10: More Reason to Write

Oct. 16: Stitches Thru Time

Oct. 17: Linda Brooks Davis

Oct. 27: The Over 50 Writer

Oct. 29: Linda Yezak

Oct. 30: Winner announced at naomimusch.com

Here is your first chance to enter click the link below.

[Rafflecopter]

http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/share-code/NDIzMGJhZDAyZDExN2NlM2UzZmZmMDgzNDFkYzcwOjI=/?

 

More about Naomi Musch

Naomi is an award-winning author who crafts her stories from the pristine north woods of Wisconsin, where she and her husband Jeff live as epically as God allows near the families of their five adult children. She enjoys roaming around on the farm, snacking out of the garden, relaxing in her vintage camper, and loving on her passel of thirteen grandchildren. Naomi is a member of the American Christian Fiction Writers, the Wisconsin Writers’ Association, and the Lake Superior Writers. She is a new contributor to the Colonial Quills blog. Though she has written in a variety of venues, her great love is historical fiction. Her new novel, Mist O’er the Voyageur, releases from Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas in October 2018 and is available for pre-order. Naomi would love to connect with you around the web. Visit her at naomimusch.com

FB: Naomi Musch – Author

Twitter: @NMusch

Instagram: Naomi Musch

Goodreads: Naomi Dawn Musch

Pinterest: Naomi Musch

Amazon Author Page: amazon.com/author/naomimusch

 

 

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Visual Inspiration for the Writer’s life

 

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The custom framing was worth the price to remind me I need to continue this writing journey.

 

The writer’s life is a rollercoaster of emotions. We are on a high when our book gets published. A low when our sales are down, or we get a one-star review. We worry our next book won’t be as good as our last. We fear rejects and being a one hit wonder. Anxiety overwhelms us with marketing and putting ourselves out there.

Reminders

We all need to wrap ourselves in positive reminders. For me, it was custom framing my Serious Writer 1st place for Fiction Award. It’s not the Selah, Carol or Christy but I’m still pleased with it and it’s reminder, I am a writer. I’ll look at it and be encouraged. I’ve framed other award certificates as reminders. But I need to hang them on the wall.  Yes, I’ll admit it, they aren’t hanging in my office. (Sliding them in a drawer or a folder because they aren’t 1st place or have no trophy or medal connect with them is pointless.)  All of these awards need a place of visual prominence.  As a group they’ll inspire me to go for the gold in the future.

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I love seeing 5-star reviews. I don’t read the 1-star reviews because they only instill doubt. Atta girls and compliments on my social media from fans and fellow-writers are so appreciated. Often I see them when my heart is in a dark place and words aren’t coming.

When people respond in the comment section on my blog, it’s encouraging. I need to know the time it takes to write these posts has value to my readers.

It’s human nature

I believe most writers feel the same.  If they say they don’t need accolades and don’t care what other think about their writing then they must do it for a hobby or they are lying. It’s human nature to want praise.

Praise is not a daily thing. Neither are 5-star reviews or awards. But having proof of my accomplishments in a place to view when my heart feels heavy over some aspect of my writing career helps. I’m reminded I can do this.

I lift my heart

For me the reminder causes me to take another step to bring me out of a negative place. I thank God for the gift of words he’s given me. I pray for his peace and confidence and seek his direction for my next project. And I thank him for the lovely encouragement he bestowed on me through these awards.

What visual aid keeps you focused on your goal to complete your next writing project?

 

 

A Show of Hands

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I recently read a post on FB where writers were debating whether men put their hands on their hips. Some were adamant that they don’t, and others like myself knew they do based on my own male relatives and contacts. That conversation lead me to think about hands in general. How we describe them in our writing and when they become the center focus of a scene.

From a clean romance writer perspective, hands are often part of the romantic tension. How many ways can a couple hold hands?

Some examples:

  • Hands cupped together is less intimate than fingers entwined.
  • His thumb rubbing over her fingers, or her fingers feather light over the top of his hand are also intimate gestures.
  • His fingers tracing a pattern in her palm or her fingers roaming between his fingers as they sit and chat.

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    Clasped fingers are another romantic gesture.

 Hands play a big part in building romantic tension

A hand on the small of the back to guide a woman was considered good manners for centuries in America. But how much pressure is applied or the length it remains there can speak volumes. Is it a rough push or a gentle open palmed caress? The palm lingering long enough for the lady to notice can be either perceived as lecherous or loving.

In days gone by a man didn’t touch a woman’s ungloved hand. Women danced with gloves on.  Even the kissing of the hand was usually an air kiss or on the gloved hand. Bare skin touching was sensual.

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Hand squeezes

The amount of pressure on the hand can speak love, jealousy, anger or fear. All of the John Wayne/ Maureen O’Hara movies have the same an iconic scene repeated in each. Near the end of the movie John grabs Maureen’s hand and drags her home.  They make up and love blooms full.  Pretty sure in a modern story it wouldn’t be too believable.

  • A finger can stroke a wrist in a sensual fashion or put enough pressure on it to bruise.
  • A man whose wrestling with anger might fist his hands at his sides or dig his nails into his palms.
  • She can slap his face, scratch him or dig her nails into his palm while he holds her against her will.
  • He can apply a lot of pressure in a handshake to relay a message to his rival. Either: she’s mine, I’m the better man or even watch your back.

Hands aid tension

  • Arms and hands at the character’s side in surrender or as an act of defiance
  • In front of the face to cover a horrible sight or a laugh
  • Running through his hair in frustration
  • Fingers in his/her hair as part of a passionate kiss
  • She twists her hair between her fingers when thinking or worried
  • Moving a tendril of hair either their own or their love interests can attract attention or stir desire.
  • The position of a weapon in the hands of a character can tell the reader if they are frightened, determined or inexperienced.
  • An apparent calm character can reveal his fear with shaking hands.
  • Hanging by finger tips (we get what that indicates)
  • Hands on hips (female or male) usually relay aggravation or determination.
  • Hands grasping the arms as they’re crossed across the body can indicate both anger and fear.
  • Fingers trace objects to learn things like texture, density and temperature.
  • Those same fingers tracing skin can be looking for wounds, affection or a creepy outcome.

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Hands are essential in description.

Sometimes hands are implied. He raised the rifle. We know he didn’t use his toes.  He reached for her. Unless he is an amputee we know he used his hands and arms to reach.

Hands and fingers can help layer the tension romantically, help solve a mystery or aid in murder.

Can you add to my list?

 

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Let’s Get Sticky

I am in love with my very special guest and have been for over 45 years. Charles Huff is not only my wonderful husband, he’s a writer as well. His blog, Boosterclub, focuses on insights from the Scripture and his own life lessons. He has a book shelf dedicated to biographies of famous and infamous people.  Today, I’ve asked him to share some writing insights from the life of Winston Churchill.

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Sticky Statements

Have you heard of sticky sentences? That’s cardiac arrest for our masterpieces, right? Those are the sentences that drag your readers to a stop. I am betting you’ve heard the instruction to be ruthless in self-editing as you strive to eliminate many reader distractions. So, why am I calling us to get sticky? Because I recently learned about sticky statements (not to be confused with those pesky sticky sentences). Sticky statements are those words you want to stick to your audience long after they have read your article or book or listened to your speech. They should move, motivate or be memorable—whether in non-fiction or fiction.

I think sometimes they happen by accident. I remember some classic lines from movies we’ve been told were delivered by an actor off-script. Many months ago, my critique partners pulled out a line I had written rather off the cuff. They held it up as the most powerful line in the story. So, why work so hard at it? Well, because of a surprise history lesson I received.

Darkest Hour

My wife gave me a copy of the book Darkest Hour by Anthony McCarten after we had seen the movie. Intentional or not, McCarten gave us writers this crafting lesson about sticky statements from Winston Churchill. (The movie doesn’t express it, so read the book!

In the beginning we are introduced to a young Churchill. He’s a bit introverted and insecure. His insecurity grew as his leadership opportunities ended in disaster for England. He appeared to be the worst choice to hold any leadership position in government. When his name rose to the top consideration for Prime Minister, members of Parliament cringed at the thought. The king opposed him. But, they could not find anyone else. They seriously considered paying Hitler off through surrendering territories to him. They wanted to avoid war on their soil.

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Winston Churchill

 

Words hold tremendous power

How did such a man end up being a world hero? One of Churchill’s qualities and practices stands out as a primary reason. He ruthlessly self-edited, striving for sticky statements. McCarten explains that at age 22 Churchill immersed himself in the classics, reading Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle. At age 23, he wrote an essay he called “The Scaffolding of Rhetoric.” He was convinced words held tremendous power when handled carefully. His own ruthless editing gave rise to the reputation that he spent one hour of preparation for each minute of a speech.

He seeded his speeches with tension, let anticipation rise, gave small payoffs only to create new tension. He kept his audiences engrossed through each rise and fall until he knew they were ready to jump to their feet. His conclusions were sharpened and driven home with his audiences through his word choice. They must be words that carried emotion. They had to be in the right order. He practiced in his room, pacing, pausing, gesticulating. Churchill often dropped them into conversations with others to gage the reactions and then change his speech accordingly.

History declares how well it paid off. Great Britain prepared to buckle before the military might of Hitler’s Germany until May 13, 1940. Churchill stood before the House of Commons (and in truth before the nation) and spoke the words that changed the heart of each of his countrymen. “I would say to the House, as I said to those who have joined this government: I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat.”

He ended with defining his aim: “I can answer in one word: It is victory, victory at all costs, victory in spite of all terror, victory, however long and hard the road may be; for without victory, there is no survival.”

 

dunkirk

Churchill inspired a nation. Every available boat was manned and  crossed the English Channel to rescue 340,000 soldiers.

 

He used his skills to convince the King of France not to surrender. He spoke with field commanders facing impossible odds to continue to the last man so the evacuation of Dunkirk would succeed. His carefully chosen words breathed courage and determination into men facing certain death. But for one man laboring over ruthless editing and sticky statements, the world would be a different place today.

We may never write anything that would have a world-changing impact. But we have the power to impact someone’s world. Sometimes you need to get sticky.

About Mr. Wonderful

See more of Charles Huff’s writings at www.chashuff.wordpress.com where he offers encouragement toward the abundant life Jesus promised. He is part of two anthologies: James Stuart Bell’s Gifts from Heaven: True Stories of Miraculous Answers to Prayer and Susan King’s Short and Sweet, Too. He has devotionals published at www.christiandevotions.us and The Upper Room. He and his wife are charter members of Word Weavers International of Aurora, Illinois.

What words from a book, movie or speech have inspired you? What is your process to create powerful words?