Picturing your Character: The Dog Hero

The last two post have been about finding pictures to help envision my characters. I posted several pictures to help me create a compost of both Dan and Isabella. There is one more important character I needed to get a clearer picture of his appearance. My hero Dan Sweeney’s service dog. He has a dog to keep his panic attacks away and assist him when he falls. Service dogs detect symptoms before they occur and can be trained to do a number of tasks for their master. My heroine Isabella is afraid of dogs. So this creates an interesting dilemma. I wanted to choose a breed I love that is intelligent and gentle but he needed to be misunderstood. Looking at me as I typed my story was Kreeper, my son’s well-behaved, well-trained gentle Razor Edge bully pit. He is one of 265 breeds of pit bull. When he is trying to persuade you to feed him your popcorn, his pleading looks can melt your heart. But he can be alert and stand between you an impending danger. He thinks he’s a lapdog and often takes up the whole couch to snuggle next to any of the family. But I wanted Brutus to be kind of a mystery breed so I chose his heritage to be 50% German shepherd. They can be service dogs or guard dogs and are often used by the police. I wanted a macho dog for my wounded warrior. Some of you may not care for either breed. This is fine with Brutus because he’ll win you over as he does Isabella. Again I went online to find pictures to create my composite. I found pictures of both breeds.


Pit Bulls

When I googled Shepherd pit mixes I got these adorable creatures.

Brutus has Kreeper’s temperament and like all service dogs had been well-trained to work with his master. He is attentive to him first and foremost. For those who question my choice google the top ten vicious dogs. Dachshunds and Chihuahua are number one and two with larger breeds further down the list. Along with my son’s pit we have a dachshund living here, as well. The little one is more likely to have aggressive behavior toward a stranger entering our home. The large dog may injury you with the enthusiastic wagging of his tail.

When I envisioned Dan’s service dog I saw our pit bull and knew his bred was getting a bad rap so why not go against the norm of a golden retriever or a lab. A well-trained dog no matter the breed is a wonderful pet and companion. By making him a mix breed we concealed his negative identity until after our heroine discovers how loving he is. Fiction heroes need time to woo their readers even the furry variety.

What is your favorite breed of dog to read about?

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Picturing Your Character: The Heroine

Monday I shared a new technique I was exploring to create my characters for the novel I’m working on during Speedbo. I shared a compilation of pictures I found on the internet to create my hero Dan Sweeney.

Now I want to show you a collection of pictures I found to help create my Hispanic heroine.

At the Start of the story Isabella has waist length hair

My character had waist length hair

My character had waist length hair

She is five foot two from Guatemala, adopted as a young girl. Isabella Wilson is starting over after the death of her husband. She gets a make-over cutting her hair short.

She becomes more stylish

Shoe Shopping

She enjoys wearing three inch heels. I am a practical footwear person myself so I went virtual shoe shopping to find what Isabella liked. Fortunately she doesn’t go for too outlandish of a style. Three inch heels help her feel more in control because she is so short.

I found perusing photos on the internet really was an interesting way to get a clearer picture of my characters. Keeping the photos handy as I tell my characters’ stories. References to their appearance chapter by chapter remains the same.

What techniques do you use to help create a character? Do you virtual shop for their clothes?

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Writing a novel in a month during Speedbo

Speedbo participant

Well, I took the plunge. I signed up for Speedbo. It is Seekerville’s version of NaNoWriMO. Seekerville is a group of writers helping writers. I love their daily blog posts. Lots of helpful tips and great giveaways. Speedbo takes place in March. Which is better for me because there are no holidays to interrupt me and only one birthday. NANOWRIMO takes place in November and I have three birthdays in my family as well as Thanksgiving that month. My life is not any less hectic in March. It will be full of caring for elderly parents and helping with grandkids like always but only one birthday. I know there is no logic there.

Why Speedbo

I have wanted to attempt writing a novel in a month for a while. And you know—there is no time like the present. I love that Speedbo has no rules. The theme this year is No Limits. You can have goals of rewriting or editing every day or to write only one or two days a week. Your goals can be hours a day. And it doesn’t have to be a novel. Whatever you need to help you focus more seriously on writing. My only goal is to write 2,000 words a day on a new novel.


I have my twice a week blog posts ready to go for March and whatever other writing inspiration I get will have to wait on the back burner. I may get delayed when my editor sends me her edits for my present novel. But most of my free time (what there is of it) will be committed to writing the worst possible novel in 31 days. No stopping to correct just getting the words down. And if it comes out half as good as I hope for vomit on the page I’ll spend the next several months rewriting and editing and getting critiques to whip it into shape. I might even submit the first pages for a critique at the Write To Publish conference in June. The month is for beginnings. No one in their right mind would submit that mess to a publisher.

My novel idea has been ruminating in my mind for a few years. A few rough chapters rest in my PC. I will be using Scriviner for this project. A software program designed for writers. I took a course to learn how to use it but then I haven’t used it much. I even have Scriviner for Dummies to reference. Scriviner helps organize my chapters, outlines, notes and stuff. I just need to use it daily to feel more comfortable with it.

I need to do a little research this week and map out my settings before I begin on the first. Get the characters faces firmly planted in my mind. I have already filled out DiAnn Mills’ character sketch template for my hero and heroine. I’ll let you know how it all turns out whether I succeed or fail. Even if I fail I am sure I will have made some progress toward a first draft. I am going to purpose to have a glass half full attitude. I’ll get some help from Seekerville’s daily encouragements and comments from other Speedbo participants. Now that I’ve revealed my plan to you I will feel more compelled to get the job done. After all you will be waiting to hear the results. 🙂

Want to join me? There’s still time. Check out Speedbo rules.

Have you ever participated in NANOWRIMO or Speedbo or attempted to write a first draft in a month? I’d love to hear your story. Please, please post it below.


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Best Selling Author DiAnn Mills Shares Her Secret to Bringing Characters to Life

DiAnn, thank you so much for joining me today, I love your storytelling skills. Your characters are so believable and easy to imagine in my mind as I read. That’s why I’m so excited to discuss  how you develop your characters. In Christian Fiction Magazine Online you mentioned interviewing your characters. I got a copy of your Characterization Sketch worksheet and was wowed. I could envision you sitting at your desk, pen in hand, your character standing before you morphing into shape as you fill out this very detailed sheet. Tell me how you came up with this idea.

The character sketch came after years of working through the aspect of asking myself, “What do I need to know about my character to establish motivation? How can I lay a foundation, a springboard of character development?” Years ago, I saw a similar sketch, but it didn’t provide the information needed that would go deeper. I’veadded/rephrased it many times.

Your Characterization Sketch worksheet goes beyond the typical hair, eye color, body build to more specifics such as birth order and meaning of the characters first and last name. How do you find those details helpful in developing a character?

I think of my characters as new friends, even the bad guys. 🙂 It’s all about discovering what a character will do or not do to achieve wants and needs, goals and desires. We writers don’t have twenty, thirty, or more years to develop a character, so we have to look for those things that have helped form the character in chapter one.

It is fascinating to think about describing the characters’ mannerisms, personality type, even whether he or she has a sense of humor. Do you figure all of these out before you even start writing or do some of the blanks on your worksheet stay blank while you discover things about your character as the story unfolds?

Some of the items do stay blank until I write a few chapters. I often have to see my characters in action first!

Even after using this tool to create your character, do you ever find your character not being who he claimed to be in the interview?

Absolutely. Especially antagonists. They usually lie to themselves and have no concept of truth. The saying that says, “What you do speaks louder than what you say” fits perfectly.

Are all the characters in each novel put through the interview process or is it only the main ones?

Only the main ones.  Minor characters have paragraph descriptions.

I can see how much easier this would be to create well-developed characters before actually beginning to tell their stories. Where can my readers get a copy of your Characterization Sketch?

 Readers can email me at diann@diannmills.com for a copy of the
Characterization Sketch.

DiAnn, it has been a delight to have you as a guest on my blog, Thank you so much for giving me a little of your very precious time to share your insights. Now, before you go please tell us about your latest projects.

Under a Desert Sky is a June 1 release. This historical romantic suspense is set at Ghost Ranch, New Mexico 1935.

Readers can go to my website http://www.diannmills.com/historicalfiction/48underadesertsky.shtml, view the book trailer, read the first chapter, and purchase from their favorite store.

DiAnn has a give away for this new release. Just visit her website for a chance to win.

Attracted to Fire is an October release. This romantic suspense is set in West Texas. The heroine is a secret service agent assigned to the Vice President’s rebellious daughter.

Readers can connect with me on Facebook http://www.facebook.com/diannmills?ref=ts and on my website www.diannmills.com. I love hearing from readers!
Thanks so much!



House Publishers – October 2010

THE FIRE IN EMBER – Zondervan –
January 2011

Press – June 2011