September 9 2016

Creating Characters

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I get my characters from real life. Sometimes they are loosely based on an actual person I have met and admired. Most of the time my characters are a compilation of characteristics of many different people I have come across in my life. I may take the looks from one person and add in the personality of another person with the odd quirks from someone completely different from either of the two people the character is based on. Sometimes my characters are based more on ideal people than actual people. I imagine a person I would like to meet and how that person would behave in a given situation.
I had the idea for the Crafty Ladies Club and wanted them to all be in the 45 to 70 year old age range. I wanted them to all have different crafting specialties, so I began making a list of the various types of crafting they might be good at. At first, they were listed as Crafty Lady #1, Crafty Lady #2 and so on. Then, I wasn’t sure how to make them realistic. I remembered a co-worker who was creepy accurate with describing a person he had just met based on learning their zodiac sign. He had apparently made a study of how various zodiac signs interacted with each other and how they behaved. I witnessed him telling a woman she likely had a shoe collection that would make Imelda Marcos jealous. He told her that she behaved like this or that and her eyes got as round as saucers and she was shocked how accurate his guesses about her were. He went on to tell her that she likely had a good friend who was a particular zodiac sign and that she had trouble getting along with another zodiac sign. She thought he was psychic or something. So, remembering that, I decided that I had come up with twelve character that I needed to know more about, so I assigned the twelve zodiac signs to them to make sure I had variety in my characters. I studied a sheet listing the signs and a few characteristics about each one and decided which craft or job a person with that zodiac sign would be best suited to. Some were very easy to match up and others were harder, but I really liked having a little guide to help me create each character and decide how he or she would act.
I have heard of authors who use the personality types for their characters. There are numerous websites and tests you can take either as yourself or as one of your characters. One site to help explain the sixteen personality types is https://www.16personalities.com/personality-types. It can help you to get to know your characters better by answering the questions on the test as though you were that character. I have taken the test a few times at different times, but have never used it to help me with story writing or character development.
Now, I have no idea if this is an original idea I came up with or not. I’m not sure if it was a good or bad idea but it was a place to start and at the time I really had no idea how to do it any differently or better. My characters went through most of the first draft of the first book in the series with names like The Sheriff, Deputy One, Female Deputy, Store Keeper and that sort of name. They were place holders. One time, my main character’s late husband went through most of the book being called Hubby and with me having no idea what sort of job he had, but knowing it needed to be a decent office type job that paid well enough for his wife not to have to work. I think I was so afraid of picking the wrong name and occupation for him that I just kept putting it off and thinking about it.
I don’t really create character profiles, but I do try to carefully record in a character sheet each detail about that person as I write it into the story to keep myself from having trouble remembering what I have written about them later.
When I come across a person that I think would make a good character, I try to write what ever I know about them on an index card or scrap of paper so I can add it to a character list I have in a document in my computer. One time I was perusing the forums on the NaNoWriMo.org website and found a place where NaNos could offer themselves up as characters for others to use in their writing. They would give as many details as they felt were needed and that they felt comfortable putting out there for the world. I found several that I thought I could use, so I copied the details down for later use. Most of these people just wanted to be told if they were used as the basis of a character and be given the chance to read all about their fictionalized selves if they were used. This was extremely interesting because many of the “characters” had details listed that I wouldn’t have thought of or have put together in the same person.
So, what about you? Are you a character? Would you want someone to fictionalize you? Where do you get the characters for your writing from? Do you write about the real people in your life, your family members or maybe the strangers you see at the mall? I have been known to sit in crowded public places watching the people and trying to imagine what they do for a living, what their relationship to the person they are with is or what sorts of trouble they have seen in their lives. Sometimes I wish I had the nerve to take photos of them so I could describe them better later on . Have you ever looked at the photos at peopleofwalmart.com? I have often wondered how those photos get taken without someone getting suspicious or angry about their privacy being invaded. Heck for all I know the photographer (and I use that term very loosely) walked up to the person and asked if they would mind having their picture taken. From what I have seen there, that scenario is entirely possible. I’ve thought of using some of those photos as inspiration for characters, but then talk myself out of it because they would never be believable characters. But then again, they are already real people, so I supposed there is no reason they wouldn’t make believable characters. Maybe I am just not imaginative enough to create the right setting and story for them to appear in.

August 12 2016

​NaNoWriMo Is Coming!

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This is August already. Oh My! November will be here before we know it and I have no idea what I should do for my NaNo project. I feel like I should tackle the whole writing 50,000 words on a new fiction novel thing as is the intended thing for NaNo. But, I have currently got no less than five previously started novels that are as yet unfinished. Quite honestly, I can’t say I am particularly jazzed about finishing any of them right now. I plan to finish all of them eventually, but probably not until I figure out whether I have written workable plots and where they need help. I just don’t feel like I am ready to tackle the editing of any of these projects yet.I know I shouldn’t start yet an other novel until I finish some of the ones I have started but I know I don’t have time between now and November to do any of them justice. Three of them have between fifty and sixty thousand words written on them and the fourth has just over thirty thousand words written. The fifth book is a different animal altogether. It is a non-fiction book that may be mostly finished it is about sixty pages and have right at ten thousand words. I kind of want to spend August and September working on polishing this book and getting it self-published either on Amazon or on a website of my own in PDF format. Doing that would require a lot of research of the pros and cons of self-publishing with Amazon. I should probably admit here and now that while I really, really want to be published and have confidence in the need for a book like mine, I am also terrified that I will do the publishing thing wrong somehow and mess up my chances of actually successfully launching my first book. I wish I had someone I could trust and then get to lead me by the hand through the entire process and have confidence because of their previous success and experience that it would all go smoothly and turn out exceedingly well. Unfortunately, I don’t know anyone like that who I would feel comfortable asking to help me publish the book.
So, that is where I am as an author. I DO consider myself an author even though I have yet to finish a book or be published. I would love to figure out a way to make a living on my writing. That is my goal, my dream, my torment. I may present myself as a confident person, but inside I am a small child cringing in fear that I will do something wrong and disappoint someone important in my life. I know this is not realistic or founded and I don’t even know who it is I think I would disappoint. Maybe I am afraid of disappointing myself. Maybe I am scare that if I fail everyone will know and laugh at me and then I won’t want to try writing anything again because if I fail, no one will take me seriously as a writer. If I never try to publish anything I have written, I need never experience rejection, there will always be hope of being published…someday.

Another part of me says I should just go for it. What do I really have to lose by trying? Should I use my real name, or assume a pen name? If I succeed, of course, I would want to have used my real name so everyone would know it was me. If I fail, I would rather it be a pen name so I could have a do-over without ruining my real name as a writer. There are so many decisions to be made when you are a writer.

So I am listening to music while I write this and the song Day One by Matthew West just came on and I am wondering if that is Divine intervention telling me I should just do it already. I feel like I am supposed to be writing a book, but have no idea what sort of book I am to write. I feel like I pray for guidance a lot but have yet to hear that “Still Small Voice” I have heard and read so much about. This causes me to question whether I am doing God Will with my life. Am I following God’s path or wandering down my own path selfishly? How is a writer to know?

So sorry, I seem to have gotten off track. I was talking about what to write for NaNoWriMo in November which is only about ten weeks away. I want to write another of the Crafty Ladies Series books, but have no idea which of the Crafty Ladies to feature in the next book. There are seven ladies in the group and so far I have attempted to write a mystery (Marni’s Story) and a romance (Lu Ann’s Story) so the question is not only whose story to tell next, but what genre it should be. Can you have two or more different genres in a series? Should I try to write in yet another genre in hopes of finding the one that clicks for me? The five books I have begun were, in order: memoir, mystery, romance, historical romance and non-fiction. Obviously, I am still trying to find myself as an author. I have no idea what genre to write or whether I should focus on one or just write what feels right? While I am at it, I question what sort of things I should be blogging about as an author, especially as an unpublished author.

I am getting better about writing throughout the year instead of only in November, so I am happy about that. I still don’t feel driving to write with any kind of regularity and often question what I should write when I do sit down to write. Most of my writing outside of November happens on Thursday nights when I join the ladies in the Thursday Nights Writing at Panera group at various Panera Bread Cafes around our fair city. Sometimes if it weren’t for meeting every week with this fabulous group of ladies I don’t think I would be half as far along the path as I am now. I actually participated in Camp NaNoWriMo in both April and July this year and have successfully met those goals as well as completing the November challenge of 50,000 words in 30 days three years in a row. This makes me feel successful even if I haven’t finished any of these books. I know I must keep writing, because I can see a lot of confidence and understanding that has come about as a result of these five “wins”. I KNOW I can do it again this November, I just have to figure out what book to write.

Please leave your comments and suggestions below. I would love to hear from you. If you have a favorite go-to book for story structure, outlining a novel, plotting, story arcs, character development, etc. Please let me know what they are in the comments. I need all the help I can get! (1,224 words)

(Note: comment was originally left 8/19/2016)

March 7 2015

Lu Ann Barrington Character Sketch

Lu Ann Barrington is in her mid to late fifties. Lu Ann was a recent widow after being married for 36 years and when she got the money from her husband’s life insurance, she decided to use it to open her own business so she could be surrounded by people who enjoyed the same things she did and earn a modest living while doing it.  She opened her store only after she had paid off her house and car and put money in her retirement account. She was nervous about spending the money to start the store but felt she had done what she could to ensure her financial future by cutting her expenses and paying off her debts. She didn’t know if she could make it work, but she hoped she could if she started small. She was confident she could teach others to quilt, knit and crochet, she just wasn’t sure she could make a living doing it.  

Stitches in Time is her brain child. She always loved to sew and do all sorts of crafts, but never seemed to know what to do with herself. She never went to college, never really wanted to even. She married her high school sweetheart and settled into married life trying to be the perfect home-maker. She never really worked outside the home, at least not for pay. She had done a lot of volunteering and being on various committees at the church and helped to organize the occasional bake sale, rummage sale or other fund raising event. She wasn’t without experience, after all, being a wife and mother for so many years had given her wisdom and experience a plenty. Her resume was a little thin, so being her own boss seemed the perfect solution. 


Lu Ann wanted to help others develop the love of all things stitched like she had. She wanted a place where they could learn to knit, crochet, do cross-stitch or quilting, or even make their own clothes. She would offer classes for those who didn’t know how or those who wanted to learn more. She would offer the supplies needed to do all the projects that they could think up and give a ten percent discount to those who were buying supplies for the classes she offered. She was best at quilting, so she began by offering basic quilting classes and decided to wait and see what else her customers were interested in learning. She would meet lots of new people and thus would ease her new found loneliness. 


She bought a large Victorian house near the business district of the small town, she made the upper level into her living quarters and the lower level was renovated into a store front. The living room now housed the quilting fabrics with the walls lined with notions of every kind. The dining room table was where they hosted quilting classes. There were lots of extra outlets installed and smaller tables around the edges of the walls so the customers could set up their sewing machines and work during classes. The kitchen was condensed to a much smaller version of its original size to use as a break room and the space saved from reducing the size of the kitchen made a great storage room. The rooms in the rest of the main floor had been combined to house the yarn arts area. The walls were lined with cubes to hold the various yarns, and there was a comfy seating area with a sofa and a few overstuffed chairs that customers could hang out and knit or crochet in or for seating during classes.


By living above her shop, she saved time not having to commute to work. She also saved money by being able to sell her house she had shared with her husband and the kids when they were growing up. She had loved the old house but was glad to be away from all the old memories now that she lived alone. 


Lu Ann has a very strong faith and hopes having her shop will give her the chances to gently lead others to a relationship with the Lord too. She helps with various groups and tasks as needed at the church she has been a member of for many years. (717 words)

November 4 2014

NaNoWriMo Day 4

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This is my second year participating in NaNoWriMo.
Last year I found the site in the wee hours of November 1st and decided that my finding it on the very day the challenge began was someone’s way of telling me I should stop talk and thinking about writing a book and get busy writing it. Being as I had written exactly little of nothing outside of some lengthy emails since my college day, I decided to go with some good advice and write what I know. So I did my first NaNo as a rebel and wrote my 50,000 word in the form of a parenting memoir of sorts. So I didn’t have to think about plots, characters, or scenes. That was a good thing because all I had to do was write out some of the many stories of our adventures in parenting. I had very little organization. If a story was about one of the kids as a baby, it went in the Infant chapter, High School stories went in the High School chapter, etc. After I hit my goal shortly before Thanksgiving, I put it away needing some distance from anything even resembling writing. Basically other than adding some words to it as an assignment for a writing class, I did nothing else on it. It still sits at about 51,000 words and may never be finished.
The experience I gained last November was priceless. I learned that I could write and get to the 50,000 word goal in the 30 days allotted. I earned that there are so many other writers out there and I am not alone. I learned that writing IS a group sport! I met some fantastic and enthusiastic writers and found some very cool places to hang out and write that I might never have visited were it not for someone deciding to hold a write-in there. I am not the sort of person to go out and meetup with someone I don’t already know and spend several hours with them. This seemed very safe, meeting up in public places and in a group setting and I learned so much from those mostly 20-something writers. They didn’t shun me because I am older than them, maybe older than their parents even. Many of them are the ages of my adult children, and maybe that is why hanging out with them never bothered me.
This year, I am doing it again. This year, I am going to do it the non-rebel way. I am attempting to write an inspirational fiction mystery novel, from scratch. I search high and low for ideas and read extensively during the month of October to figure out what to write and more importantly HOW to write it. It still left me unsure until late in the day on November 1st what my subject matter would be. I only got there because one of the other WriMos recommended during a Chatzy Write-In that I check out the area of the NaNo website for adopting plots. I read through so many, making notes on any that seemed interesting, several pages of notes actually. Then I found a simple idea that I twisted and expanded on and made my own. I have some ideas for plot and characters, but nothing even remotely complete and not very solid yet. I took a free class on Sunday afternoon called Introduction to Murder that was offered at the library and taught by members of the Indiana Writers Center. One of the things the teacher had us do in class was to write down our opening sentence. What do I know about opening sentences to mystery books? Nothing! But, I dug deep and wrote some babble down, then had to share it aloud with the teacher and the 1 other student taking the class with me. They both loved it and thought I should use it! So after that, my word count stands at 26 words. But that quirky idea of an opening sentence helped lead my story, gave me a focus of sorts to begin planning actual characters and the tiniest thread of a plot. My word count should be 6,668 or higher at the end of day 4, but it is just 26. I am hoping and praying that once my plot is more solid and my characters more real to me the thought will spill forth from my brain painlessly and plentifully and I will be able to catch up and even get ahead in no time. It is not too late to join the challenge. You only have to write 27 words to get ahead of me! Am I worried? Yeah, a little. But the ideas are growing in my head and I had a vision today of turning this one little idea into a series of 7 or more books. How is that for positive thinking and being ambitious? Come on and join me, we will do this thing together. What is the worst that can happen? I could fail the challenge by not getting to the goal in time, but any words I write are more than I had written on Halloween, so I still win don’t I? So, what’s it going to be? Are you in?
(Originally Posted 11/4/2014)