Cracking Knuckles When Nervous Part 2 Creating a Character Chart

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Last post I shared a basic list to help you keep facts about your characters straight before you write your story. If you missed that post here the link.

Today, I’m going to add more layers to that list to create a deeper POV understanding of those same characters.

What gestures and mannerism might they have?  Creating gestures ahead of time eliminates the possibility of every character sighing,or running their fingers through their hair when things are stressful. It sets them apart unless they are siblings, and that can be a fun observation as you create your characters.

 All the Mulligan brothers had the same habit of cracking their knuckles when they were nervous.

How much education does he have, and where did he get it?

An Ivy League education puts him a cut above a community college. This can affect how they talk and their expectations of life.

What kind of occupation or income does your character have?

This can aid in setting. A successful surgeon probably will have a house with a pool. While his nurse may live in an apartment.

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Does your character have any other skills?

 Play the piano, steeple jumping, CPR are a few examples.

During a date he or she can play piano and woo the other. Or CPR skills can save someone in a crucial scene.

Do they have any hobbies or interests?

 The opera, sports, knitting, crossword puzzles are possibilities. Each of these things creates another layer of their intelligence and passion and are great bits to add to scenes. You can set a scene at a sporting event or a knitting circle.

Pets?

 Four of my books have dogs. Their antics add to scenes and my characters’ responses can move the action along or the emotional level.

Religion?

If you write faith-based books, this is necessary to show why they respond as they do. Or if your characters are from another culture, this gives you a chance to note important things needed to sketch your character’s backstory.

Speech pattern?

 This can be a regional accent or a speech impediment. It can also reflect English as their second language. What kind of vocabulary do they have? Having this in mind when writing dialogue keeps characters from sounding alike.

Personality type?

There are several tests available online you can use. Take the test as your character and you’ll be amazed how much more real they become. Or just write controlling, people-pleasure or introvert to give you a baseline. Are they an angry person? What ticks them off? Do they explode or hold it in?

Does the character have a sense of humor?

In a stressful situation, a comic remark can relieve anxiety. But it doesn’t work if the character has no sense of humor.

Social Status?

 Is your character’s a Lord, a wealthy businessman, a poor laborer or a middle-class blue-collar worker? This question goes along with the character’s political and social views. You might need to research the political or social views of an era if writing a historical.

Friends?

 Who’s their best friend? Who else is in their inner circle? Are they a loner? How do their friends view them? How do they view their friends?

Who is someone your character admires and wants to be like? How does that admiration effect his life?

What is the family dynamic?

Are they close or have a strained relationship? How does their family view your character?

What are they afraid of?

 Does your character have issues from their past that bring out emotional problems?

You could add to your list some pivotal experience in their life.

A father leaving, a sibling’s death that colors their responses to life. Perhaps being accused of cheating or serving time for a crime they did or didn’t commit. Think about what traumas from the past that could shape your character.

Think about what makes them embarrassed.

 Not being dressed appropriately, perhaps. Being in a large group  scares them. Or they are anxious they might say the wrong thing.

What bad habits or weaknesses does your character have?

 Maybe they’re a slob or assume all Irish are bad people. Maybe they are a recovering alcoholic.

What do they want?

 A happily-ever-after? Solve a cold case? Prove their worth?

What do they need?

Money for a mortgage? Find their missing child? A good job?

Defining their ultimate goal helps you craft your story to reach that goal.

Finding a lost child.

What external problems are in the way of meeting that goal?

 Maybe a war is going on around them while they search for a missing child.

What internal problems stand in the way of meeting that goal?

Maybe your character struggles with the fear of not finding this child like she hadn’t found her brother.

Writing the solution to the internal problem before you start your story is a game changer. It might be a  spiritual turmoil like unforgiveness. You decide she needs to truly forgive her partner by the end of the story so they can recapture a loving relationship. Now you just need to get her there.

 Last word

Start with the basic then add any of these other suggestions to help deepen the POV of your character. As a panster it is a challenge to discover half-way through my story that my character hates for example potatoes. Yet he has been eating them all along, and I’ll now need to go back and edit in an earlier comment about his dislike. If I know he is afraid of heights, I’m not surprised when he doesn’t want to leap into the sea from a cliff.

As one who writes their story more organically, asking these questions about my characters before I start helps me understand them better. Will I use all the information I’ve discovered, or will I change it? Probably things will change as the characters tell me who they are as the story evolves. But this exercise saves me gobs of time during the editing and rewrite stage. And that my friend, is worth it to this die-hard pantster.

Helpful Books

I have in my library a collection of Thesauruses by Becca Puglisi and Angela Ackerman. They’re designed to help create realistic characters. You don’t need to read them from front to back. Like any Thesaurus, you look at the entries that interest you.

The Emotional Thesaurus, The Positive Tracts Thesaurus, The Negative Tracts Thesaurus, The Emotional Wounds Thesaurus, Occupational Thesaurus, Rural Setting Thesaurus, Urban Setting Thesaurus. Here is the link to the Amazon page with all their current books.

I recommend checking out their blog Writers Helping Writers. They have several worksheets to help develop characters if you don’t want to create your own.

What kinds of tools do you like to use to flesh out your characters before you start a story?

Link for preorder

If you’d like to learn more about my upcoming books and a bit about me here is the subscribe link to my newsletter.

http://eepurl.com/dkZGY5 Not only is Rescuing Her Hearting coming out in July but I have book one of the Village of Women series coming out in October 2021. Be the first to get all the scoops.

Her Brown Eyes turned Blue on page 152 Part 1 character charts

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As a pantster I don’t outline and plot much. Which can leave me forgetting the name of a character or changing their brown eyes to blue. Brown eyes can never be sapphire or blue eyes chocolate. And discovering that I’ve changed the color farther into my manuscript makes for tedious edits.

Two things I do to keep my characters’ appearance consistent

I create an excel spreadsheet with the physical appearances of each character. Column headings are name, occupation, eye color, hair color, height, and distinguishing marks (scars etc.) I keep it open and can easily refer to it as I craft my story. In the midst of creativity, my mind blanks on names or other details. The spreadsheet keeps me from needing to edit these errors later.

The second thing I do before I start the story is fill out a character sheet. It contains more details than the spreadsheet. The sheet helps me go into deeper details regarding my character. This is the place where their backstory can take shape.

There are a variety of character sheets available online. You can use one of those or create your own.

Here is the basic information you want to have to keep your description straight:

Name and nickname (if there is one)

Sex

 Age

 Height, weight, and body type

 (pear- shaped, broad shouldered, curvy, six -pack, details that plant an image in the readers mind)

 Race

Complexion ( peaches and cream, ivory, bronze, caramel. freckled, dark, maybe add a few other adjectives here in your notes so you aren’t having another character see her skin as ivory when her mother already mentioned her ivory skin. Perhaps alabaster instead.) Under complexion you might note pimples, pock marks or dry skin.

Eye color- details about eyes shape, flecks of color in the iris, ie… brown eyes with gold flicks.

 Hair color- black can be raven, red can be carrot or auburn, blond is white, golden, strawberry blond, and brown can be mousy, dark, soft brown, and all of these colors can have natural highlights of red, blond or gray, even blue, purple or pink. Mention the style too. Is it long, cropped short, styled in a certain way? Fuzzy tips, freshly trimmed, in need of a haircut.

Photo I used for my hero Jed in Rescuing Her Heart
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Distinguishing marks such as birthmarks, scars, dimples, odd-shaped ear, broad nostrils.

Now you’ve got a very clear picture of what your characters looks like, and this will help you keep them in focus. And as you write, sprinkling in descriptions of your characters that are consistent.

If you like, find pictures of people who remind you of your characters and put them where you can see them when you write.

Now their brown eyes will no longer change to blue.

Now that I’ve covered the basic, in my next post I’ll share some deeper questions you can ask that will fill out your character and make it easier to add deeper POV as you create your story.

What details slip your mind in a creative moment?

Notice the picture to the right was my inspiration for Jed in Rescuing Her Heart.

What is a visceral response?

Visceral. Don’t you just love that word? A Judge’s comments that you need more visceral responses in your submission. A professional editor adds the comment, needs more visceral in your manuscript.

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There is no way you’re going to ask what it means. Don’t want anyone to discover you’re a novice, after all.

Now here’s your chance to find out. No one will notice you reading this on your phone.

After checking into several dictionaries, this adjective is used to describe things you feel in your gut, intuition, not a rational explanation, but you feel you know what’s best.

Visceral is derived from the word viscera. This refers to internal organs.

It’s not just a gut feeling, but a physical response to your environment. One beyond your control. Delilah James, the main character in my upcoming July 2021 release, Rescuing Her Heart was an abused wife. Every look, touch, and tone from Jed Holt, my hero, and any other male causes a visceral response. Her stomach tightens, her throat dries out, and at one point she faints. All involuntary responses.

Visceral responses are beyond your control. Think of a dirty diaper creating a gag response. Someone vomiting, causing others to do the same. Involuntary responses to stimulus.

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Describing visceral responses  adds to deep POV. Rather than saying, she hated Mortemer. You could write, Sharon’s hand fisted, causing the muscles in her forearm to ache when Mortemer entered the room.

Mary jerked back from the edge of the railing as light-headedness overtook her.  

With this sentence we don’t need to explain she is afraid of heights.

John’s face remained neutral, but his gut burned at Sherman’s remark. “I’m hooking up with Sally tonight.”

We know outwardly he is trying to be nonchalant, but he’s really upset.

Carol’s sweaty palms slipped off the golf club. She paused to wipe them on her shorts, before resuming the game of mini-golf.

Sweaty palms signals the reader she’s nervous. Did you want to wipe your hands on your pants just reading those words?

These are examples of visceral responses. (Although there are many better ones in print.)

They turn a flat character into a three-dimensional one.

The reader is experiencing what the character is feeling.

Visceral responses are so much more colorful than saying he had a panic attack.

Instead an author can add beads of sweat forming on his brow, chest tightening, breathing shallow, heart racing. He may he struggle to sit down. His shaky hand presses against his chest. His mind’s foggy or racing with thoughts of a past trauma. He might even roll up into the fetal position.

Love can be described as a tingle running down her arm, heart racing, warmth on her cheeks. And there are many more.

Past experiences are recorded in our brain and those memories effect, how we respond to people and situations around us. Your characters should do the same.

So, now you know. You can wipe those beads of sweat off your brow and grab a glass of water for your parched throat.

What are some of your favorite visceral responses to write?

Rescuing Her Heart is available for preorder. Preordering is a great way to get your copy as soon as it ready and it helps with my sales numbers out the gate.

As her husband’s evil deeds and abuse haunt a mail-order bride from the grave, can she learn to trust again and open her heart to true love?

On visitation rounds as a lay preacher, the last thing rancher Jed Holt expects is to be shot at from the barn next to a burned-down homestead. But the soot-covered woman hiding inside needs protecting, and Jed is the man to do it whether she likes it or not.

Delilah James’s nightmares began when she came to Kansas as a mail-order bride. Her husband was nothing like his letters. Now that he is dead, she can’t shake his abuse from her heart. Trusting men tops her never-again list, and taking a job on the Holt ranch as a housekeeper is a means to save money and bring her parents west. But her attraction to the compassionate former chaplain both angers and confuses her.

Jed has his own nightmares from a POW camp and understands Delilah better than she knows. Can two broken people form a forever bond?

Click here to learn about me.

Denise Weimer shares the funny thing about her newest release Bent Tree Bride

Denise Weimer is a wonderful editor and I dearly love her novels, both contemporary and historical romances. I’m  happy  she’s agreed to return as my guest. My specific question for Denise was what surprised her most during her process of writing Bent Tree Bride? Here is her answer.

If I had to pick only one thing that surprised me in writing Bent Tree Bride, I’d mention the rather shocking fact that this novel was researched and written in about six weeks. Before you rule it out as inferior historical fiction, hear me out!

This project came at a time right after I’d really immersed myself in my editing training and my new job as a managing editor with Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas. So first of all, my mind was working in efficient editor mode. I found myself cutting the fluff as I went, writing much tighter, and focusing on the romance and action. Because I was working in my favorite trope, Southern American frontier romance, the story fairly poured out.

The time frame did not mean I skimped on research either. I compiled a 45-page timeline crammed with historical events and topics, maps, and paintings. I watched knife-fighting and tomahawk-throwing videos. I even attended a living history at the site of the battle, Horseshoe Bend, which culminated the Red Stick War (part of the War of 1812 in present-day Alabama).

I’m not sure I’ll ever again match the pace I set when churning out Bent Tree Bride, but that’s okay. It’s a labor of love, and I believe it’s my best writing yet. Will you give it a try?

BACK COVER COPY FOR BENT TREE BRIDE:

Susanna Moore can’t get him out of her mind—the learned lieutenant who delivered the commission from Andrew Jackson making her father colonel of the Cherokee Regiment. But the next time she sees Lieutenant Sam Hicks, he’s leading a string of prisoners into a frontier fort, and he’s wearing the garb of a Cherokee scout rather than the suit of a white gentleman.

As both Susanna’s father and Sam’s commanding officer, Colonel Moore couldn’t have made his directive to stay away from his daughter clearer to Sam. He wants a better match for Susanna—like the stuffy doctor who escorted her to Creek Territory. Then a suspected spy forces Moore to rely on Sam for military intelligence and Susanna’s protection, making it impossible for either to guard their heart.

BIO:

Denise Weimer writes historical and contemporary romance and romantic suspense, mostly set in her home state of Georgia. She’s authored a dozen traditionally published novels and a number of novellas. As a managing editor for Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas, she also helps others reach their publishing dreams. A wife and mother of two daughters, Denise always pauses for coffee, chocolate, and old houses.

Grab a copy of The Witness Tree while it is on sale.

The Witness Tree, on sale April 5-12 for 99 cents in e-book: https://www.amazon.com/Witness-Tree-Denise-Weimer/dp/1645260623/

*The hero of Bent Tree Bride is a boy in the mission school for the children of Cherokee chiefs in The Witness Tree.*

(Cindy here) I’m excited to read my copy of Bent Tree Bride, I loved The Witness Tree and recommend if you haven’t read it first, do so. But Bent Tree Bride can be read as a stand-alone.

Pitch a pocket idea to an Editor

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I’d not heard the term before, but it perfectly described what is needed when pitching a manuscript to an editor. “in my pocket,” is any other manuscripts I might have finished, am working on, or have on my mind.

What else you got?

When you get fifteen minutes to pitch your work you don’t want the meeting to end too soon by presenting an idea that doesn’t grab the editor. Maybe they have already acquired something similar, or they are hoping for a different twist. That’s when they’ll ask, “What else do you have?”

It’s scary to say nothing or sit there in silence with sweaty palms. Instead, pull something out of your pocket. Have a sell sheet or pitch ready for that other book you’ve been writing or outlining. I pitched my idea for my October release off the cuff to a couple of publishers. The idea had been floating around in my mind, but I’d not done anything with it. They liked the idea and I got to work on book one in the Village of Women series, Angelina’s Resolve. I prepared a proposal and a summary of the book and a series.

A different publisher picked up Angelina’s Resolve and the Village of Women series. But if I hadn’t pulled that pitch out of my pocket I might have missed an opportunity. The idea for my July release Rescuing Her Heart was another pocket pitch. I wanted to write Jed ‘s story. He is the twin of Lonnie in my novella Healing Hearts in The Cowboy Novella Collection. Now it is book#2 in that series.

Pitch an idea for a different genre

A fellow author was at a book expo and although she wrote fiction she pitched an idea for a cast iron cookware cookbook to an academic publisher as she chatted with them about what they published. They like her idea and offered a contract. Then she set to work making that book a reality. This was her debut book, not what she had been focusing on but the notoriety from this book from a well-known publishing house may be just the catalyst to open doors for the kinds of books her heart desires to write.

I’ve heard the same thing time and time again from other writers. “I went to pitch ABC and they asked what else I had and requested the manuscript for XYZ.”

Fill your pocket with other ideas

As conference season is upon us again prepare not only the pitch for your completed manuscript and proposal but those might be nice ones too. Create a sell sheet with a summary of the story, word count and estimated time of completion. Your story may deviate from your original summary as your characters reveal more about themselves or your research takes you in an unexpected direction, but the idea is on paper. You’re ready to pull out of your pocket whatever else you think the editor might be interested in. They may even point out other editors who are better suited to your story ideas.

Have you ever pulled an idea out of your pocket that you hadn’t plan to pitch? Did it lead to a contract?

An Interview with best selling author Eva Marie Everson

I am beyond thrilled to have Eva Marie Everson as my special guest today. I’ve known this outstanding lady since starting my chapter of Word Weavers here in Illinois. She is the founder and president of Word Weavers International. Word Weavers made a profound effect on my life and I’m honor to have her grace my blog.

Yeah, a bit of a fan. Welcome Eva. I like to start by asking authors to share a little about their writing journey.

  I’ve written as far back as I can remember, and before I could put pen to paper, I made up stories and acted them out in the backyard of my childhood home. In 1996, I began writing for a children’s ministry. Then, in 1997, I began working on my first novel. Somehow, I knew it would be published! And it was; it was my third book published of the forty I’ve published since.

Forty is an impressive number. What is your latest published project?

  Dust

What inspired you to write your book?

The book came as an idea that formed after hearing the song Dust in the Wind by the 1970s rock band KANSAS. I questioned whether the lines in the chorus were true—are we just “dust in the wind” or do our lives really matter? And what about those who seem to be the “ordinary lives” of “ordinary people”? Can they leave extraordinary legacies? The story followed from there.

Wow! You have my attention. I have my copy and can’t wait to dig in. What kind of research was involved with this book?

I didn’t have to do a lot of research for this one. It begins in 1965 and goes to present time, all of which I lived through.

       So did it. 😊

Do you have a favorite verse that resonates with you? John 6: 68: Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.”

Such a powerful verse.

Here are two questions I love asking authors.

If you could go back in time and give one piece of advice for your younger self about writing, what would that be?

 Don’t wait. Do it.

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

 My Word Weavers Page 6 group.

Word Weavers is a wonderful supportive on so many levels.

Writers are told to read. What is your favorite genre to read for fun?

I read a variety for fun and I am hopelessly hooked on anything by Richard Paul Evans. We don’t write alike, but my books are often next to his on bookshelves (Evans/Everson). So, since he is a multi-multi-multi bestseller, that doesn’t hurt me too much! 😊

I’ll have to check him out.

Before you go, I want to know where is your favorite place to write?

 In my office. I seem to slide into another world when I’m here (I’m here now).

Thanks so much for stopping by.

I’m posting the back cover copy of Dust to tantalize my readers.

Can an ordinary life leave an extraordinary legacy?

In 1977, when nineteen-year-old Allison Middleton receives a proposal of marriage from Westley Houser, she eagerly accepts, having no idea the secret Westley carries—a secret that will change Allison’s life forever. But Allison rises to the challenge of raising Westley’s toddling daughter as though she were her own.

Over the course of their lifetime together, Allison, Westley, and Michelle form the strong bond of family. As Allison struggles with infertility and finding her way during a time of great change for women, others—some she knows and others whom she never meets—brush and weave against the fabric of her life, leaving her with more questions than answers.

From teen bride to grandmother, Allison’s life chronicles the ups and downs of an ordinary woman’s life to examine the value of what we all leave behind.

More about Eva Marie Everson

Eva Marie Everson is a multiple award-winning bestselling author of both fiction and nonfiction. She is the president of Word Weavers International, the director of Florida Christian Writers Conference, the managing editor of Firefly Southern Fiction, and a wife, mother, and grandmother. She and her husband are owned by a very spoiled cat. They make their home in Central Florida.

Connect with Eva Marie on social media

www.EvaMarieEversonAUTHOR.com

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