You can now find it at http://www.cindyervinhuff.com/blog
Today, I welcome a new to me author, Jacqueline Gillam Fairchild. She has led an interesting life and has several books published. I always like to hear writers share their journey with me and what sparked that journey.
Thank you Jacqueline for visiting with me today. Tell my readers why you started writing.
I think women crave a prettier, kinder, independent world. Through my restaurant, my shoppe and my stories, I show women how this can be achieved. How they can find that gem inside themselves and develop it into their dream career or hobby.
I inspire and encourage women to leave the rat race before they are forced out, and to become self-starters in all the ‘dream’ categories from running a bed and breakfast, tea room, bridal business, photographer, pastry chef, interior designer and floral designer, to name a few.
My stories include the beginning and end—the very young and the very old and the ties we make with them in the middle. And perhaps a bit of whimsical magic, because, after all, there is that magic inside of us that sometimes we just miss. I think of myself as Hallmark meets Disney.
I can so visualize that combination. What a great description. I understand you have a few series available.
I have two series at this time. My Mid-West series showcases a part of the country I now live in and care very much about. Estate of Mind, Make Me Over, The Scrap Book Trilogy, The Dating Agency series of four. My Nantucket series has recently found a new publisher. I have a special place in my heart for Nantucket and have been there countless times. I think it is a spot many people hear about but have not been. It is not the easiest place to get to as it is tucked away in the ocean. As a result, it has its own mystery and lure. I write about this. I also have several cookery books that I believe will be published soon.
Cookbooks of local cuisine are always an interesting find when visiting an area. Jacquelyn, what is your lastest project?
My newest story is being released soon. It is number three in my Nantucket Tuck You Inn Series: The Mermaid Mansion.
Do you believe in mermaids? Well, it’s a lot easier if you live on Nantucket. After all, that’s where they all are. It’s not that the Mermaid Mansion was cursed; it was just locked up for 100 years, with the understanding that at the appropriate time it be opened and restored. And the appropriate time, Tabatha Tucker proprietress of the Tuck You Inn next door, decided was now.
Plucky five-year-old Clemmie enters her over worked interior designer mum in a contest to restore a mansion that had been locked 100 years–on Nantucket, next door to the elderly Miss Tabatha Tucker’s Tuck You Inn, simply because the child wants her mum’s life to be better.
Can a crayon drawing of a mansion and a mermaid get Miss Tabatha’s attention as a serious contestant? Apparently yes.
Octogenarian Auntie Clara lands at the Tuck You Inn, with simply her scrap book. It seems whatever she puts in her scrap book happens … but other than a little mind reading, she assures Miss Tabatha she is quite normal. Auntie Clara not only has a need to be needed, she begins an ongoing friendship with 5 year old Clemmie.
Once a broody Scot architect is in place, the mansion’s real work begins. But Auntie Clara and Clemmie discover similarities to the original mansion’s owners, Clemmie, her mum, and the architect.
Come with me to a seven mile island that finds it easy to believe the sea is full of magic, and meet a five-year- old child who simply believes what she sees, and who not only solves the mystery of the mansion, helping the pirate and mermaid’s souls finally rest, but finds a dad and honorary grandma.
For anyone who has read my Scrap Book Trilogy and met Auntie Clara, they will be happily reunited with her as she takes a permanent holiday to Nantucket.
Sounds like an fun story
What kind of research went into this book?
I feel very strongly about only writing about things I know. I have read so many great stories that fell short because the author missed a point or two of reality about something or other. My experiences are vast, and I have a lot to draw from. I have had the good fortune of being in so many of the fields women are interested in from being an Interior Designer, working at a florist, being an avid gardener, studying at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris, running a British Tea Room (Her Majesty’s English Tea Room), being in the fashion business, having owned a photography business, being a gemologist, owning and running a boutique (Fairchild’s Ltd), being a cast member of the Murder Mystery troupe at Grand Hotel Mackinac Island, and so many more. I write about places I have been and feel comfortable with. I want to share these things with my readers.
Seeing places first hand always adds to a story. Tell me what inspired you to write your book?
Like so many other writers, I have a story in me that wants to be told. I believe so many things that I write can comfort other people, especially with a message tucked in a novel.
So true. Novels can speak to things that a reader might not talk to others about.
Do you have a favorite motto that resonates with you?
Be true to yourself.
If you could go back in time and give one piece of advice for your younger self about writing, what would that be?
Whatever you are doing right now is important. It is making you who you are. You do not need to start your future career now, as a matter of fact your future career may change a million times. Your story will unfold. Live today and be true to yourself and this will take you where you are meant to go.
Excellent advice. Too bad no one told us that when we were young.
Who is your best support system to keep you focused on your writing?
I have a small writer’s group and we encourage each other. I try to always look to people doing better than me, no matter what their field of interest is. They are the true inspiration. People who follow their hearts and make their dreams come true.
What is your favorite genre to read for fun?
I like cozy romance and cozy mystery. I also can while away an entire evening with a good cookbook. Travel books to places I love always capture me as I am an armchair traveler at times. As a former Interior Designer, I love the design books because a part of my heart always goes to interior design.
Where is your favorite place to write?
Anywhere I have a pen and my clip board. I can literally disappear into the characters I am working on. And I find sometimes a few minutes here and a few there keep me going.
Today, Jacqueline is featuring Becoming Santa and Looking for Santa. You’ll find links to these books.
Becoming Santa, Book One of the Nantucket Tuck You Inn series
What if you were destined to become the next Santa Claus yet not only fought the idea—simply couldn’t grasp it?
Even if you were in love with the person proposing the idea to you? Even if your son felt he’d found his new mom? After all, how could you believe in something so totally outrageous when you don’t even believe in yourself…?
And when the love of your life leaves, because it is almost Christmas and she has work to do, you cast all logic to the winds and chase after her. Your only address is Santa’s Village, North Pole. Your planes get smaller until you find yourself on a train going through Candy Land and King Kandy himself taking you by sleigh to Santa’s Village.
A story of a young man who cannot believe in himself mind Santa Claus, and a young boy who doesn’t question his belief just feels he has found a mom.
Looking for Santa, Book Two in the Tuck You Inn Series
Santa Claus has a summer house on Nantucket! Absurd!
But ace New York Times reporter Max is on a ferry to the island, to satisfy his young nieces, when he meets the elusive Noel, part time dress designer for Nantucket’s #1 boutique, and part time designer to the first family of Santa’s Village, and starts to change his tune.
Is the entire island hiding Santa’s secret and if so what would it take to crack the exclusive circle of insiders—short of love? But of course, first Max needs to believe …
Join me from the magical island of Nantucket to the North Pole and start to believe all over again .Take an arm chair visit to the enchanting island of Nantucket, and then zip right up to Santa’s Village all while immersing you in the world of high end magical fashion design. Just be prepared to hold on to your heart …
Jacqueline Gillam Fairchild writes cozy fiction stories that are escapes to countryside settings, and also on Nantucket Island. She writes of women who are ready to take the leap into starting their own business, or who just want to start over. At the heart of Jacqueline’s writing is the belief we all want a life that is just a little bit prettier and maybe a little bit magical.
Jacqueline owned Her Majesty’s English Tea Room, and her British store Fairchild’s, in the middle of the middle with her Pekingese, Piewacket and now runs an online shoppe Teatimwithhermajesty.com and writes novels. A former Interior Designer who studied pastry at Le Cordon Bleu, her business was a finalist for Gift and Decorating Accessories Magazine’s Retailer of the Year award and won the prestigious Icon Award Americasmart Atlanta. Youtu.be/HK3_bUCqbWE. Jacqueline is also a script writer and is a cast member of the Grand Hotel Murder Mystery Troupe.
Enjoy her daily blog at teatimewithhermajesty.com, and on Facebook at Her Majesty’s’ English Tea Room and Jacqueline Gillam Fairchild.
Her Books are available through teatimewithhermajesty.com and on Amazon.
Follow her on Linked in and Pinterest.
Jacqueline Gillam Fairchild
Facebook at Her Majesty’s English Tea Room
Thank you for joining me today, Jackie.
I just finished book nine of my novel writing journey. Books four and five are coming out this year, and others are still in search of a home. One of the big keys to catching a publisher’s eye is a stellar first three chapters. In fiction, you can only send the first three chapters. You can’t skip to the chapters you feel are the best part of the book. Because if the beginning isn’t a page-turner, the reader will put the book down before they get there. If a pub board isn’t wowed by your writing sample, you will not get a contract no matter how stunning chapter seven is. They don’t have time to read the entire book.
Make sure there are no typos, or grammatical errors in those chapters. Ask a fellow-author or two or three to read through the chapters and red mark those areas. Even sentences that sound funny or word choices that seem weird or off-putting. It is not the publishers’ job to overlook these and just judge the story. These things will distract quicker than quick and paint you as someone who isn’t serious about your craft.
Strong first sentence
Here is the first sentence from my novella Healing Hearts from The Cowboys, a novella collection available on Amazon, (Shameless promo.)
If I only do one good thing in my life, I’m getting my brother home.
Does that make you want to read on and find out why Lonnie thinks this? The first sentence draws the reader to ask who is this, what is happening and why. The where was established with a tag at the beginning of the chapter Kansas, 1866.
The first paragraph needs to build that tension as it begins to introduce the characters through dialog and interaction. Setting descriptors should be sprinkled throughout as beats. Lonnie adjusts the blanket over their laps so his twin gets more because they are in an open wagon in a snowstorm. I show through actions rather than tell the reader what is going on..
By now the reader should feel compelled to turn the page. Don’t waste a lot of time describing a building. Healing Hearts opens in a wagon traveling through snow. As the men travel, they shove their gloved hands under their arms, etc., to imply how cold it is. As Lonnie recalls his past failures, the snow makes it hard to see the path in front of them, a metaphor for his lack of hope. And the reader learns that Jed is the more positive of the two.
The reader should have a good handle on setting and main characters by the end of the first chapter. In Healing Hearts, Lonnie Holt is traveling with his twin brother Jed to a ranch they inherited from their late uncle. Jed is recovering from ill health after being released from a Civil War prison camp. Lonnie blames himself for the loss of their family and ranch in Texas. Jed is all he has left of his family. The whole first chapter establishes their relationship and their dream of a thriving ranch. The chapter ends with the twins finding a woman in their cabin, the awkward way Lonnie handles the encounter, and the realization that she can’t leave anytime soon.
Lonnie let the fire’s heat chase the chill from his body while his mind fought to find his manners. A glance out the window at the thickening snowfall told him the scared filly would not be leaving anytime soon. It both irritated and intrigued him.
Chapters two and three
These chapters need to be as engaging as the first one. More of the who, what, where and why unfold. We get a better feeling for the setting and characters. By the end of chapter three, the editor has a sense of your writing style and your level of writing craft. It also tells them how engaging the book will be for the reader. Healing Hearts’ Lonnie is instantly attracted to Genny, but his physical and emotional scars build a wall around his heart. He is sharp and obnoxious toward her. But when she steps in to use her nursing skills to help Jed with a wretched cough, Lonnie softens.
Here is the last few lines of Healing Hearts’ chapter three.
He followed her to the door and spoke low. “Forgive me, ma’am, for being ornery and sharp with you earlier.”
“Home is where you hoped your brother would heal.” Her brown eyes lingered until he felt uncomfortable. “I forgive you.” She left the room, taking with her his momentary peace.
FYI: Every chapter ending should be intriguing enough to lead the reader to want to turn the page rather than stop and go on to other things.
The editor has read the summary and knows how the story ends. And after reading the first three chapters, he has determined whether you can deliver your story in an exciting, well-written way.
And if the answer is yes for him, he will pitch it to the pub board. Hopefully, leading to a contract offer.
If you are interested in reading Healing Hearts, here is the link to The Cowboys. The other three authors, Jennifer Ulrich, Sandra Melville Hart, and Linda Yezak have excellent opening lines, too. I guarantee you won’t be able to stop turning the pages.
What is your favorite opening line?
If you haven’t read The Cowboys there is a link under the picture.
Taming the west—one heart at a time.
Lonnie Holt’s external scars remind him of his failures, his internal scars torment him. Genny Collins seeks safety at the ranch once owned by Lonnie’s uncle. When Lonnie and his brother arrive, sparks fly and distrust abounds. While Lonnie and Genny fight the love growing between them, his past haunts him, and her past pays them a visit.
When Coy Whittaker stumbles upon a grisly scene littered with bodies, he wants nothing more than to get his boss’s cattle out of Indian Territory. But when a bloodstained Aimee Kaplan draws down on him, his plans—and his heart—screech to a halt.
Wade Chadwick has no money until his boss’s cattle sell, so he takes a kitchen job at Abby’s Home Cooking. The beautiful and prickly owner adds spice to his workday. Abby Cox hires the down-and-out cowboy even though the word cowboy leaves a bad taste in her mouth. Just as she’s ready to trust Wade with her heart, money starts to disappear … and so does her brother.
Loving a Harvey Girl
Eva Knowles can’t imagine why the local preacher doesn’t like Harvey Girls—women who work serving tables instead of finding a husband and falling in love. But if Eva can get the handsome and wayward cowboy Cal Stephens to join her in church, maybe the reverend will accept the girls. Or maybe she’ll forfeit her job for a husband, hearth, and home!
There are twins in Healing Hearts and I wanted to give Jed his own happily-ever-after. Rescuing Her Heart is available for preorder in paperback and e-book. It releases July 6th.
As her husband’s evil deeds 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?
This Sunday is Mother’s Day. The first one without my dear Mom. She passed in February. As I thought about my loss, the feelings of sadness and grief gripped me. Reflecting back on that moment now that it’s past, I realized I could use those feelings in my story worlds.
I’ve read posts from writer friends who share how writing a particular book drained them because raw emotions rose up as they worked out the characters’ dilemmas. I can so relate. When my baby sister died of cancer, I couldn’t deal with the C word or with hearing happy tales of people’s recovery. My mother passed from dementia and my father from Alzheimers. Both words leave a bitter taste in my mouth.
Time has healed those initial aches. I can unwrap them when I need to find the right words to describe my character’s grief. Those emotions coat the edges of what I want to convey through my stories.
Delilah James in my upcoming release Rescuing Her Heart is dealing with guilt, anger, grief and bitterness from her late husband’s abuse. I have never known domestic abuse, but those same emotions have hounded me in other life experiences.
The older I get, I find more emotional rocks to stumble over. Ones I had no clue of as a teen or young woman. That may be why it took me years to feel confident in trying my hand at novel writing.
I noticed when asked to critique new authors WIP pages that the younger the writer, the shallower the emotional arc. It’s hard to write about married life if you’ve never experienced it. In like manner, grief may not be in their wheel-house yet. There are younger writers who have had deep-emotional trauma that, if they are willing, can channel it into their stories.
The same can be said for older writers crafting stories for middle-grade or teens. Feelings from those years have probably faded to a quiet ache, if it wasn’t extremely traumatic. So, unless they kept a journal from their youth, they may have difficulty creating a true age-appropriate character. Yet, there are older authors who have been writing for that genre for years. They’ve captured the emotional essence of youth and presented it believably on paper.
Am I saying only write from fresh emotions? Of course not. We sometimes must completely process our emotions that arose out of an event. Your emotional memories of trauma need to fade so you can heal. Only then can you have a character deal honestly with their situation. And I’m not saying you can’t write about what you’ve never experienced. Being near someone facing hard times, going through it with them, can stir up deep empathy you can use to develop a character. It comes down to the depth or rawness of the emotions experienced and how healing overcame.
As a writer, you can journal your feelings while going through a difficult time. Describe in detail how your chest ache feels. Did you lose your appetite or binge eat? How did that make you feel? Even a brief sentence expressing your angst can be a gateway in the future to unlocking those emotions when you’re ready to use them in your story.
I spent time with my parents as Alzheimers and dementia changed them. Their behavior was so different from the parents who raised me. I wrote a minor character in my contemporary romance, New Duet, who was at the beginning stages of dementia. I found some humor there from my mother’s funny comments to add to Clara’s persona.
Mom got funnier as the dementia progressed. Child-like, really. I watched my mother fade away and even more so with Covid keeping us apart. These past few years of watching my parents leave my life by measures was much harder than I imagined.
In the future, those very feelings of loss may wind their way into a new character. And for the reader the story will be richer because my life-experiences will breathe life into that character. I don’t need to focus on dementia and aging, but those same feelings of watching someone drift away can describe losing a child to illness or a loved one to substance abuse.
Have you found adding bits of yourself makes your words richer?
If you’re curious about Clara in New Duet, the e-book is free through Sunday, May 9th on Amazon.
There used to be a time when publishers offered contracts on good ideas, then worked with authors to develop and polish their stories. Not anymore.
Like many industries, publishers have had to make cuts. It’s hard to find freelance printers and distributors, so they made cuts in areas where independent contractors can fill in the gaps. They may not be able to edit the way they used to, but authors can still find and hire editors on their own to help them strengthen their stories.
But why should authors hire professional editors? Here are my top five reasons why:
- Publishers want perfection (or close to it). At Guiding Light Women’s Fiction, I can’t work with you through all of your plot holes, character flaws, pacing issues, and point-of-view problems. If you’ve already fixed those, however, we can tighten your writing, add more showing, and rearrange a few things to make your story sing. I need you to give me your cleanest copy possible, and only a professional editor can help you with that.
- Readers and retired English teachers don’t know the industry. Your friends can tell you if the story is compelling and your high school English teacher can tell you if the grammar is correct, but they can’t help with genre expectations, fiction-writing techniques, or basic industry standards. Editors can.
- You’re your own worst critic. You might think you have a garbage idea. You might think it’s beyond hope. You might think a lot of things, but you’re too close to the story. A pro can give you honest, experienced feedback.
- You’re not critical enough. Just because you love your characters and their storylines doesn’t mean everyone will. And your ability to mimic Jane Austen’s tone worked in the era of Jane Austen, but that type of writing (i.e. omniscient) doesn’t sell well today. A pro knows that, and he or she can give you the critical eye you need.
- Writing and editing use different muscles. Being good at math doesn’t mean you’ll be a good accountant; there are a lot of other factors you need to know, like state and federal tax laws. The same is true for writing and editing. They’re similar but different. You need to develop both sets of muscles to do both (and each skill takes years to learn). If you haven’t done the work to strengthen your editing muscles, you need a pro to help you out.
Those are just my top five reasons why you need a professional editor—trust me, there are more! I don’t say this to be discouraging. In fact, I hope it encourages you (especially if you’ve already received some rejections).
Hiring a professional editor isn’t something the weak or lazy do. It’s the sign of a serious writer who understands her limitations and wants to do everything in her power to improve her writing (and chance at getting published).
She’s trying to make things right.
Two years ago, Jessica Miller made a mess of her already confusing life. Now, she’s back in Boyne Heights, and she’s determined to fix her reputation. She can’t seem to avoid the past that haunts her, but that’s the joy of small-town life—word spreads and people remember. Intent on her mission, however, she faces her past head-on, taking a job with her ex-boyfriend while avoiding her grandmother’s attempts to find her a new one. Order link.
Karin Beery grew up in a rural Michigan town, where she wrote her first novel in high school. Today, she writes contemporary stories with a healthy dose of romance. When she’s not writing fiction, she’s reading, editing, or teaching it. She has worked with Iron Stream Media/LPC as an author, general editor, and now managing editor, and is an active member of American Christian Writers, American Christian Fiction Writers, and the Christian Proofreaders and Editors Network. Her third book—Avoiding Marriage—is now available!
Note from Cindy:
I loved the first book in this series, Practically Married and Avoiding Marriage was just as much fun to read. Once you open one of Karin’s books you’ll want to read more.
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.
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.
Four of my books have dogs. Their antics add to scenes and my characters’ responses can move the action along or the emotional level.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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)
Height, weight, and body type
(pear- shaped, broad shouldered, curvy, six -pack, details that plant an image in the readers mind)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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?