Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Characters Welcome

I’ve got a book releasing on September 1st-HEY, that’s today!
It’s called Cowboy Christmas and I’m giving away TWO copies of it today.

One will be drawn from the commenters.
One will be drawn from the followers.

If you’re not a follower of Seekerville, there is a box on the right side of the page where you can click to become one.

Current followers are already in the drawing.

I'll give the commenters copy away today.


will have until Midnight to


(I am Pied Piper-lite)


Today I’m going to talk about developing three dimensional characters.
I’m going to point out three distinct things I need to do to make my characters come to life.
I give them a backstory (which should NEVER BE EXPLAINED IN ONE SCENE)
I give them a goal (which is the heart of the story I plan to tell)
I give them a quirk.
I’ll use my heroine in Cowboy Christmas as an example.
About a year ago I listened to Angela Hunt say she wanting to get married very young, her parents told her no. I remember Angela saying, “They were my spiritual leaders so I did as they asked.” And I thought, “But what if (when you're a writer it’s always ‘what if’ isn’t it?) What if your spiritual leaders weren’t trustworthy? At what point would you have to defy those leaders?

This was my starting point. I made Annette a ‘good girl’. She’s been working with a traveling mission group, singing. New leaders take over the mission group. These leaders act like Christians at first, but they press Annette to act more and more against her faith. Nothing big at first. Wear brighter colors. Sing patriotic songs, not strictly Christian songs. Inch by inch they ask her to step farther from her belief system. And then comes the day when they ask too much. They finally ask something of her she cannot do. And they’ve set the stage so there is no safety for her. To defy them will put her in terrible danger.
That’s where the book begins. I don’t give you any of that backstory in my book at the outset. Instead, my book begins with a defiant, terrified Annette being knocked down by the villain.
Why she’s being beaten isn’t important in that first scene. Annette’s fighting for her life. WHY just doesn’t matter. And enough of the WHY is revealed by a description of the shameful dress Claude Leveque wants her to wear to that night’s performance and Annette shouting, “No, I’ll die first.”

Actually I just re-read this scene. It came out pretty good if I do say so myself. I got a little weepy.

So Annette gets away but trouble is pursuing her. Her goal, to get to her father for safety. Her worthless rejecting father who sent her away from home to school back east after Annette’s mother died (I'm weaving in backstory-by the end of Chapter three the reader knows the bare bones of this). And along the way Annette meets Elijah Walker. The cranky man who doesn’t trust woman.
I could write what all brought Elijah’s crankiness on but I’ll let you find out yourself.
Annette has her backstory.
Now she needs a goal.
Her goal is to live bravely for God and bear the crosses God gives her. She’s not real good at it. She keeps fumbling the crosses, usually dropping them on poor Elijah’s head. But she keeps trying and Elijah keeps rescuing her and Claude keeps coming.
There’s our story.
Except to me the thing that brings a character to life fully is quirks. Annette's quirk is that she sings when she’s emotional. When she’s happy, sad, scared, excited; her reaction is to sing. A second quirk is that she's practicing being brave with poor Elijah. Snipping at him makes her feel courageous.
That's it, that's my character for Annette Talbot in Cowboy Christmas:
Annette’s got
Her backstory that makes her who she is. The good girl who always thought if she’d just been better her father would have kept her with him. So she keeps trying desperately to be good.
Her goal, to learn to live courageously for God, even at the cost of her own life, which amounts to defiance, something she sees as the opposite of being good.
Her quirks, that singing, that sass.
Now I want you to think of a character in your book and tell me those three things.
Backstory, goal, quirks. And do it in once sentence-each. I don't want a chapter long backstory dump showing up in the comment section. BOIL IT DOWN.

If you don’t have all three, get them. If you want to, pitch some ideas and we can brainstorm a little.
And remember, every COMMENTER gets their name in the drawing for a signed copy of Cowboy Christmas.
Every FOLLOWER (current followers are automatically included) gets their name in the drawing for a signed copy of Cowboy Christmas.

And yes, I know it's September!

We're talking Christmas in September, deal with it.


  1. Add my name to the cowboy hat (you WILL be drawing the name out of a cowboy hat, right? I'd love to win this book!

  2. I would love a chance to read Cowboy Christmas. Please throw my name in that Cowboy hat.

  3. I've heard about GMC over and over again, but I don't remember anyone talking about quirks. I'll have to remember that for the rest of my characters. Here are my BGQs for the heroine and hero in my current WIP, Draw Me Close.

    Lindsey Porter

    Backstory--Reality slapped Lindsey in the face first with the tragic death of her father, and then with a broken engagement when her fiance ended their wedding plans to marry a woman from his past who bore the son he didn't know existed.

    Goal--Lindsey's goal at the beginning of the story is to help her mother recover from a broken leg, and then hightail it out of Shelby Lake before her heart softens toward her ex-fiance who is now a widower, but her ultimate story goal is to find someone to share breakfast with for the rest of her life.

    Quirk--(I really struggled with this one) Lindsey runs from her problems. She left Shelby Lake five years ago when Stephen broke their engagement and hasn't been back. When things get dicey, she gets ready to bolt.

    Stephen Chase

    Backstory--As a young Marine, he made mistakes that created a domino effect in his present life--a one night stand gave him a son, so does he marry for love or honor?

    Goal--Stephen wants to be a man of honor before God, his family, and his community--he doesn't want his son to make the same mistakes he did.

    Quirk--When Stephen is upset, he works in his garage, creating furniture out of wood.

  4. I'd like to enter my name in your drawing for the book. I love your writing!

  5. Mary,

    Thanks for breaking this down so simply, for people like me who need it :)

    I'll give this character in my WIP a go.

    Back story

    For teenager KL, a daddy's girl, her middle class lifestyle crumbled when her father died and left her mother a big pile of debt and nothing to raise she and her sister with. She has money "issues" and manages it horribly, staying on the edge.


    To find a career that brings out her gifts and talents and not have to worry about money any more.


    Her mother raised her that being appropriately dressed is critical to success so when things go wrong, she blames it on what she's wearing.

    I'm open to brainstorming. Not sure if these are strong enough?

    Waving to Janet, for giving me a nudge to visit again.

    I would love to get the book and even signed up to be a follower for a better chance.

    cathy underscore shouse at yahoo

  6. Lynda, I have a Stetson right by my computer just for this purpose.

  7. Good morning, all!!!

    Coffee's on. Dunkin' today. America runs on Dunkin', right???

    Oh my stars, I wrote this wonderful comment and got a Google Blogger error message when I hit send.

    Grrrrrrrrrr............ Talk about total disappearance!!

    Lisa, great story concept! And I love that Stephen jumps into the garage and works with wood. I love wood. Love woodcrafters. Such an earthy, natural thing to do.

    I'd probably ramp/amp up Lindsey's quirkiness, give her something that's unique to her, mostly because running from things is such an overwhelming human temptation that most of us tend to either do it or want to do it. I'd give her something that tells the reader, "YUP. THAT'S LINDSEY!"

    And Mary...

    Love Cowboy Christmas. Love Elijah. Love his name (since we used in as Lawyer-boy's middle name. Great name. Strong. Vibrant. Historical)

    And Annette is a hoot. Definitely a buy-me-now book.

    Breakfast is served courtesy of Dunkin! Bagels, donuts, flavored cream cheese and what a nice array! I tossed in Danish too, because I love a tender, flaky breakfast Danish.

    Grab some food. Relax. Pour a nice cup of coffee with assorted creamers.

    Let's talk writin' stuff.


  8. Okay, here's my new heroine, Lizzie:
    Backstory--She lives in a rural place with few men and her fiance just died.
    Goal--to get married like her older sister and have a family. (I know, everybody says your heroine can't have this as a goal, but that's her goal, okay? As Mary says: Deal with it.)
    Quirk--She cries at the drop of a hat. Yes, she's strong and brave and goes after what she wants (which is the hero), but she can't seem to stop herself from crying at every little thing, even though the hero hates that.

    This is fun, Mary. I can't wait to read your book!

  9. Lisa, great story. Let me talk a little more about quirks. To me, honestly, when I finally hit on a characters quirks, that's when they come alive to me.

    One of my favorite hero quirks is in Of Mice...and Murder. That hero, tall, dark, handsome and rich still feels inside like the 12 year old fat kid who got bullied in school and hid in the library where he found safetly and beloved books. That's his backstory. His quirk is that internally, he's always mentally beating up on himself for being a dork. He's trying desperately to work up the nerve to ask a woman out on a date, he's worthless with woman. And he'll say something outloud, then in internal monologue he said, "Stupid, stupid, stupid. God please make me be cool. Please."

    Once I started letting that quirk flow his character took shape. His dialogue was three dimensional. He become, to me, so much sweeter for his uncertainty. And that quirk is completely in keeping with his character.

    Let's see, what other quirks. In the series I'm working on now, I've come up with a little quirk for each of my heroines.
    The first heroine is a doctor. She subconsciously holds her wrist a lot taking her pulse and she does this to other people,too.
    The third heroine is a sharpshooter and she rubs her thumb and forefinger together and feels the little callus created by pulling the trigger. She's a little worried about how ruthless she gets when she's called upon to defend herself with a rifle. Scared of that part of herself.

    In Montana Rose, Cassie puts her hand over her lips to stop herself from talking. Red taps her on the chin to get her to look up at him, and rubs her arms to comfort her as if she's cold.

    These are quirks but they're KEY to who the characters are.

  10. Lisa, I think your quirk for your heroine is too big. It's a great character trait but pICK SOMething littler. Have her do some small physical thing that reflects that. Bounce a bit on her toes. Clutch her hands together as if she's holding herself from running.

    The woodworking works. You can actually tell the reader his mood without saying it once you establish that's what he does when he's upset. Rather than say, "He was upset." you have him pick up a slab of wood and head for his workshop.

  11. Cathy, I really love your quirk. When there's trouble for her to mentally start beating up on the dress or the shoes she's wearing is a great touch.

  12. Cathy, I really love your quirk. When there's trouble for her to mentally start beating up on the dress or the shoes she's wearing is a great touch.

  13. And here's my hero, just because this exercise is helping me.

    Backstory--He grew up as an orphan after witnessing his mother being kidnapped, and he never saw her again or found out what happened to her.
    Goal--To get the reward money for catching the kidnappers who tried to snatch the Vanderbilt girl.
    Quirk--He's embarrassed by "feminine wiles and weaknesses," and thinks all women are manipulative.

  14. Great post, Mary. I LOVE Christmas in September and I can't WAIT to read this new series.

    Love the covers!


  15. I would love to win this! So far, I have read all your books. And there isn't one of them that I haven't put on my favorites list. They are all wonderful! I'm a follower, also.
    Thanks for this opportunity!

  16. Can't wait to read it, Mary.
    And thanks so much for your clear presentation of character development.
    Cathy, I LOVE your heroine's quirk. LOL

    I didn't realize the importance of backstory until about a year ago and it was like an epiphany. of course my characters have stories, duh - the trick is weaving in the story without slowing down the pace :-) Another trick I'm trying to learn.

    Backstory - Hero
    Raised in a supportive christian family, Wes seeks to follow his dream of becoming an actor. The road is full of temptations. He becomes involved with his agent's daughter and finally plans to marry her, but her sister has been slowly sneaking into his life and affections. His fiance becomes pregnant (which means a major hurdle for both of their professional futures) so she decides to have an abortion. Afterwards, she sinks into depression, Wes feels helpless to comfort her, and ends up falling into his attraction for her sister. On the night of his fiance's suicide, he's with her sister.

    That's the backstory. Four years have past, he's become a Christian and a popular BBC actor, but - he's haunted by what he's done. can't forgive himself.

    Goal: Get a second chance at love - to do the right thing. "Make up for his past mistakes."

    Quirk: I don't know if this is a quirk, but because of his guilt, he's OVERLY concerned for people. He constantly looking for reassurance of their well-being, blaming himself for their apparent frustrations, and trying to make things better. One of those piercing stares that always makes you think he's trying to read your mind, sorts of things :-)

  17. Hey Mary,

    Great post.

    Thought you might like knowing that last night while shopping at Sam's Club, I saw both Montana Rose and Cowboy Christmas on the book aisle.

    I was so excited for you.

  18. I need to get these stories out of my head and do something with them. I printed out the info on a writers contest you told us about closing mid-October. I don't know what the stumbling block is with me. I can write song lyrics and put them on paper. I can blog like the dickens. I can write deep meaningful stuff about the battles with my daughters addiction. ACCCCKKK! Whenever I read this blog I think "ya, that's it, I'm gonna do it" and then I don't. I get busy on the biography I'm writing about my Dad, or babysit, or scrapbook, or sew. OK, I know it's early but I would like some cheese and crackers with this whining. Thanks for the inspiration, yet again! And Congratulations. Love your bookcovers, BTW.

  19. Like others here, the idea of a quirk is new to me. After I thought through my main characters, I realized they do have quirks. I may just need to play them up a little more. So here we go:

    Brianna Nelson:
    Backstory--Her parents got married to hide a pregnancy, and her father abandoned their family for another woman. Now Brianna fears intimacy and abandonment.
    Goal--She has 3 main goals: run a marathon, get pregnant, and keep her husband close to home.
    Quirk--She's a neat freak, constantly wiping counters, etc.

    Ethan Nelson:
    Backstory--Went against his dad's college choice and paved his own path in life.
    Goal--Make partner at the accounting firm where he works.
    Quirks--His knee bobs up and down whenever he's nervous. Tends to talk and laugh loud without realizing it.

  20. Christmas in September is not a problem. TBS is already showing "The Santa Clause" movie.

    This is from the sequel to the book that I submitted a couple of months ago to a publisher. I'll use my hero, as I'm still fleshing out my heroine. I'm open to brainstorming (and free books - wmussell[@]hotmail[dot]com)

    Setting: Osaka, Japan (1589)

    Tsuneomi (Tomi) Nishioji

    Backstory - Became a Christian in 1587 during Regent Toyotomi's invasion of Japan's southern island of Kyushu and lives his faith in secret as the regent has declared Christianity illegal.

    Goal - As a samurai at Osaka Castle, Tomi seeks to stop a group of illegal silk smugglers who are willing to murder to keep their operation going.

    Quirk (the easiest) - Models his life after the apostle Thomas (because of the name similarity and because, of the 12, Thomas got the closest to Japan in his missions) and also has an affinity for items he picked up from his meetings with missionaries, such as a love of poundcake.

  21. I'm not an author so I can't add a backstory, goal or quirk, to this post, but I just have to say I'm excited to read about Annette and Elijah! Poor Elijah...all those crosses he gets beaned over the head with...is he hard-headed? LOL he can take it then! Love your sense of humor and can't wait to read this!


  22. Howdy! I'd like to be entered for the drawing. I would love to win this book! ...schrock.ann-at-gmail.com

    Here is my too-perfect guy character: The guy version of a Mary Sue:

    Background: Lonnie is a Civil War volunteer who was orphaned and partly raised by Indians

    Goal: Figures he's going to die with his boots on during Civil War. Plans to do his duty, get killed and go to Heaven. (This needs work)

    Quirk: Smoker who keeps reasoning with self that he cannot afford cigars on $21 a month pay, but something emotional always comes up where he ends up smoking again.

    I can't pin down a good goal for him.

  23. Hi Mary,

    Nice explantion of back story, goals and quirks. Here's mine for the historical I'm trying to get outlined.

    Back story- Heroine wants to run a tailor shop with her father not marry a wealthy old man that was arranged by her father so she'd have financial security and social status.

    Goal-She wants to be a successful tailor/seamstress and an 'old maid' because she's seen how bitter losing at love made her father.

    Quirk-Because of her occupation she mentally sizes people, like he's broad in the shoulders, probably forty six inches or her dress should be cut fuller in the bodice.

  24. It is early to start thinking about Christmas but when you have as many as I do to provide a small gift for you have to start early. I make a lot of mine, so it takes a while.
    Please enter me into the contest


  25. Melanie, I love the backstory and goal, really intriguing. Write that book, girl!!!!!!!
    Your quirk:
    Quirk--He's embarrassed by "feminine wiles and weaknesses," and thinks all women are manipulative.

    Embarrassed...like he blushes when a woman bats her lashes at him? How does that manifest itself. If he always did some little flinching thing, of shoved his hands in his pockets, as if to keep himself from being drawn to a flirting woman, that'd be a good twist on his quirk.

  26. Pepper, you're dealing with some VERY heavy issues here. Abortion, unwed pregnancy. If by he was 'with' the sister when the fiance committed suicide you mean in bed, then that's really tough. If you just mean he was spending time with her that's still tough but not insurmountable.

    Add in that he's an actor and what you've got here, girl is a very tough sell.

    They don't like performing arts or professional athletes for some reason. And yes there are exceptions, but be aware that you're entering into shaky ground selling this. No sense making life harder than it has to be.

    Still, I like the quirk, the staring, the overly concerned guilt.

  27. DENICE (D.C) I haven't talked to you in a while. Are you coming to ACFW? Is Carla?

    They were in Sam's? Really?

    I'm all shivery. :)

  28. LOL, Jenny you have GOT to write the book, darlin'. It's the only way you can have characters in your head talking to you and not have someone get a net.

  29. Sarah, the way you're doing it is right, seriously. the quirks grow out of who they are, they underline it.

    I have recently been reading a regency author that I've just fallen in love with Mary Balogh. I think she writes the most interesting characters.

    In one serious there is this 'head of the family' powerful duke who has this quizzing glass, which you'll have to look up but it's like a monocle with a handle so it hands from his vest like a pocket watch kinda and he lifts it to his eye sometimes.

    But here's the thing, Balogh uses that quizzing glass as a quirk. How upset this extremely reserved man is, is directly tied to how close to his eye that quizzing glass is. If he's just holding it, he's tense. If he lifts it a ways, he's very annoyed. The few times he lifts it all the way to his eye people start runnign for their lives.

    It's brilliant honestly what she does to show his mood with that quizzing glass.

  30. Hey, Erica, love you girl.
    Are you going to be in Denver?

  31. Walt, darlin' when you say you're 'fleshing out your heroine' it just sound dirty.


  32. Mary,
    I've been beating my head against a wall to think of my hero as anything else BUT an actor and I can't. It's like seeing my child as anything else but 'my child' :-)

    As far as heavy issues, (it's a romantic comedy, btw - boggles the mind, I know), but I've considered dropping the abortion part because the other issues work out well as my catalyst for the darkest moment (will they or won't they) of the story.

    Thanks for your advice.

  33. Walt such a fascinating story. Seriously. Are you like crazed for the time period? Are you buried in research? I love it. Did you read Pamela Binnings Ewen's post a week ago about her Christy Award nominated book Moon in the Mango Tree? Just remember, much like what I said to Pepper, these are tough sells. But if you've got a passion for what you're writing, go for it.

    to me, I can almost always move the Japanese samari to west Texas, give him a Stetson, and turn the silk smuggler into a cattle rustler, but I'm lazy that way.


  34. Hi, Renee, your post about not being a writer is a good wake up call for me. Yes, EVERYONE who leaves a comment is entered.
    And everyone who signs up as a follower is entered also.

    No need to go make up a quirky character just to get in the drawing. That'd be hard, hard work

  35. Well, Ann, to me his goal is...uh...the story. So what's the story you're telling. He's got to have a reason to exist in Times New Romance 12 point, so that's his goal.

  36. Rose, I love the quirk. Perfect. It grows directly out of who she is.

    This line:
    not marry a wealthy old man that was arranged by her father so she'd have financial security and social status.

    I read it and saw marry a wealthy old man and have social security.

    Which made me snicker.

  37. Hi, Edna. Isn't Christmas just completely out of control?

    Interesting story (to me) I bought something online a week or so ago and after the credit card cleared the charge I realized I'd been charged in British POUNDS not dollars.
    I went back to that sight and sure enough it wasn't a dollar sign but one of those stupid curly L things that means pounds.

    It ended up being about TWICE what I thought I was paying, and it was already more than I wanted to spend.

    But on the internet of course everything is world wide. So be careful out there.

  38. Pepper you just tell your story your way. Usually, when people take my advice, it leads to disaster.

    I need to issue a disclaimer with every blog post.

    The author of this blog post cannot be held responsible if the advise she gives is taken and said advice blows up in said advice taker's face.

    I maybe need a lawyer to give that disclaimer a little shine.

  39. Hey Mare -- WHOA, BABY, great post!!

    Backstory, goal, quirks. WOW, talk about a powerful lesson in bullet form!

    I'm eyeball deep in deadline revisions, but just READING your post this morning prompted me to play up my heroine's quirk (Katie O'Connor's obssesion with making lists) so much more than I did. I have JUST NOW finished writing several more paragraphs throughout the book where I play this quirk up, and I cannot thank you enough for this great (and timely) blog!


  40. Happy day! Cowboy Christmas is releasing! Can't wait to read it, Mary.

    Excellent post. I love creating back story and giving my characters goals, but sometimes I forget about those quirks.

    In Courting Miss Adelaide, Adelaide is a neat freak and Charles is a slob. At one point, she straightens his desk. As soon as she leaves, he dumps the pencils and messes it up, believing she's trying to straighten out his life and he's not ready for that.

    In Courting the Doctor's Daughter, Mary overdoes. She's constantly busy, unconsciously avoiding issues in her past. Not sure that's quirky enough for you, Mary.

    Lisa, I have a character who makes furniture, working out his stress on the wood. :-)


  41. Great thoughts here, Mary, and an excellent exercise.

    Here goes, for one of my WIP's:

    Background: (Victorian period) Unbeknownst to the beautiful gypsy dancer, Sabina, she is the daughter of noble heritage who was kidnapped as an infant and later rescued from a burning Vardo by gypsies, who were framed for the crime. The only life she has ever known has created much conflict in her heart as secrets unfold - ones kept from her and others she harbors from a new family who offers her refuge.

    Goal: While falsely accused of murder she must pose as a Christian lady and mentor - ironically she has always longed to be a true lady and intends to become one. She needs to be vindicated of the crime, restore trust, a discover her true self.

    Quirk: Her superstitious nature carries over into the new Christian beliefs she is trying to embrace, presenting some strange thought processes that need to be rooted out.

  42. Mary,

    Am I crazed for that time period? Yes. Mid-16th century to mid-17th century in Japan is referred to as the Christian century for that country. There are a lot of stories to tell. I feel compelled to try.

  43. Ok, Since my Birthday is Sept. 9th maybe i'll have 'good luck' with book drawings this month!!! lol, But I would love to have your Cowboy Christmas!!!!! Please enter me into the drawing!!!!


  44. Carla, I really like that. The supersticions bleeding into her faith. That could be fantastic. Great idea for quirks.

  45. Walt, good for you. If you've found something that really calls to you, you probably don't have a lot of choice anyway, writing being the strange business in our heads that it is.

  46. G.R.I.T.S good luck in the drawing. If you do NOT win, I encourage you to ask for my book for a birthday present. If there's a man in your life, chances are he's desperate for ideas anyway. I might forstall him giving you a gift certificate to WalMart to get your tires rotated.

    Just a suggestions.
    Really, seriously, all of you, my books make PERFECT GIFTS.

  47. Hmm. Mary talking about quirks. Why am I not surprise?

    Now I must climb out of the hat Mary has thrown me in and get back to seriously cleaning my house.

  48. There is no escape from the hat, Gina.

    Tell your husband that when he gets home and finds a messy hat.

  49. If my protag had any more quirks,it would be series material! jk...

    Well, I don't feel lucky today, but who knows?

  50. Lily, good for you quirking up the protagonist.

    And good luck with that unlucky feeling, too, girl. :)

  51. I like tips that can be summarized easily--a backstory, a goal, and a quirk.

    Susan May Warren says characters also need a fear and a lie they believe.

    So can we take Lisa's BGQ and make it a BCGFL? That seems to cover a whole lot of ground. This is really making me think about my characters...

  52. Oh, my.

    So many fun people.

    And a few strange ones!


    More food. We need more food.

    Okay, lunch:

    How about oven-crusted corn flake chicken, sliced buttered and parsleyed potatoes, fresh fruit, homemade rolls to die for, dusted with rosemary, fresh butter from a pasture where sheep and cows graze together with horses, making the milk oh, so creamy...

    Inside joke, there...

    And freshly baked oatmeal cake with broiled coconut/walnut topping.

    Oh mylanta, I'm SO hungry!!!

    Keep up the good work, Mary. No one's gagged as yet.

    Outright, that is.


  53. Mary, I'm looking forward to reading Cowboy Christmas. Love Annette's quirk. My DD sings all the time. I can determine her mood by what show tune she's belting that day. I'll miss hearing her voice when she heads to college later this month.

    I first learned about quirks when reading Deeanne's Gist's books. Constance in A Bride Most Begruding solves complex math problems for fun. Rachel in The Measure of a Lady collects insects. I read these books years ago, and yet I clearly recall the heroine's quirks to this day.

  54. Mary, I love seeing how your mind works. Spooky sometimes, but mostly very intuitive.

    Loved the creation of Annette and Elijah. When I have to come up with backstory, it's usually because my character has done something in the story and I have to justify it : ) Used to really scare me, my cast jumping out of the lines I'd drawn, but hey, if they didn't do something noticable, I would written the story my own (yawn) way.

    Love having characters take control, don't you?

    Thanks for the insight, Mary. It's lunch time here, so I'm running for a bowl of vegetables and cheese -- remember, conference in 16 days!

  55. You are such a hoot, Connealy.

    When I need quirks I just pick a Seeker and steal one of their quirks--if all else fails I swipe one from my mega large Italian family.

  56. Hi Mary!
    I don't really write, but I find it fascinating to read about the "behind-the-scenes" stuff to writing books : )

    One question though...are your books a series? Or is there a certain order to reading them? I'll be honest, I've never read any of your books. However, now that I have heard about your new book, I am very curious! Lol...

    By the way, Ruth your food sounds delicious! I'll have to eat some and run though. In a bit, I have to head for my musical audition. Our high school is doing Kiss Me Kate this year and I'm a senior so there's a lot of pressure! Luckily, during my audition time there are only 7 auditioning including me. Also, 2 are 2 of my best friends and one is my sister! Nonetheless, I really nervous : /

    I'll let you know how it goes after I have it(4:45pm eastern time)!

  57. HANNAH!!!

    Don't eat too much, doll-face. Don't want the indelicate queasies during audition time, you know!!!!

    How exciting to be doing this, you creative wonder! And thanks for loving the food. We do our best (she says humbly)...

    Knock 'em dead, kid. Break a leg.

    And I hope you do let us know! I have to work at the bakery tonight (where finding quirks is about as difficult as glancing up from a Dora the Explorer cake...

    Are ya' kiddin' me? You guys ever work retail????

    Come on down, I'll quirk ya'!


    Mary, you're handling yourself with rare aplomb here today. I'm proud of you, kid.

    Umm... what was the name of that medication, dear????


  58. Hahaha! Thanks Ruthy! I really want to do well...obviously, duh! : ) But thanks for the support. Maybe when I drop by later I can bring some goodies for the late night bloggers. On Cheryl's post last night I brought hot chocolate and warm chocolate chip cookies that I had just pulled from my own oven : ) It was great! I don't know where you are, Ruthy, but up here in Vermont it's getting pretty chilly at night already! So, I had to bring something warm!

    Have fun at the bakery! Maybe I'll catch you later!

  59. Hey Mary,
    Just wanted to say what a great book "Cowboy Christmas" is! I'm so thankful I was able to copyedit it. I think it is my favorite of yours after "Petticoat Ranch." In our book, "Under the Tulip Poplar," Diane and I saw our heroine's goal as settling down with her true love to a simple life on the TN frontier. Her backstory is that she was raised as a simple country girl and has been a Christian for many years. The quirk comes out of these things. Even though she seems practical and down-to-earth, she is actually a dreamer at heart, to the point of dreaming about a simple life. This is played out as she realizes as a Christian she has never really asked God what her dreams should be. When she finally does that, things finally begin to fall in place. But not after the dark moment conflict as it is fiction after all. :) I should get a copy of the book from Barbour so I do not need to be put in the drawing. Looking forward to seeing you at ACFW!

  60. I can deal with Christmas stories any time of the year. So please enter me as a follower and as a commentor.

  61. Project Journal aka Hannah, Cowboy Christmas is a stand alone book. I've honestly never written one of those before.

    And I have a sub-character in the book that I'd love to have star in his own story, so we'll see.

    Montana Rose, which released in July is book one of a new series Montana Marriages
    Book #2 The Husband Tree releases in january and Book #3 Wildflower Bride is coming in May.
    I've also got an earlier series, Lassoed in Texas
    Petticoat Ranch
    Calico Canyon
    Gingham Mountain.

    and now you're soooooooo sorry you asked and so are the other Seekers.

  62. A fear
    A lie they believe.

    Interesting. Susan May Warren teaches great classes, probably go with her advice.

  63. Aaron is my faithful editor at Barbour. He just released a book called Under the Tulip Poplar, go find it and buy it. Allow nothing to stop you!!!!!!!!!!

    Also, any typos, etc. in Cowboy Christmas????????????

    All Aaron's fault, direct your letters to him.

  64. RobynL I see we've got some new followers today, YAY!

    All this talk about being a leader is just nonsense. If everyone was leading, we'd never get anywhere, today of all days, embrace your inner follower.

  65. Mary, Christmas in September - I think the world could use a dose of the Christmas spirit during almost every month! I'd love to be entered to win a copy of your book. Thanks for the opportunity.

    nvgrams at yahoo dot com

  66. Add my name to the cowboy hat (you WILL be drawing the name out of a cowboy hat, right? I'd love to win this book!

  67. Hi Connie and....rasinkain? As in Raising Cain?

    Okay, great name.

    You're names are definitely in the Stetson.

    And if you're not followers, go do that too so you can get a double chance to win.

  68. Hey Mary!
    Noooo...I am not sorry I asked! Lol...I'm intrigued actually. I'll have to find them somewhere : ) Now I have to get back to my AP Physics homework, though I'd rather be here! But I'll be back to check in stiil. Besides I have to let at least Ruthy know how I did at auditions tonight : )
    I'll be back!

  69. Backstory seems to be such a hard concept to grasp. Next time someone mentions it at writers group I'll refer them to this article. Thanks.

  70. don't enter me in the drawing...i think i'm on the permanent book list (right?) for mary...

    excellent post! i love giving quirks (and even more so love giving the reasons BEHIND the quirks!). so much fun.

    can't wait to read cowboy christmas!

  71. Okay, I'm back as promised and bringing goodies for all! Tonight I am supplying my sister's scrumptious Double Chocolate Cake with coffee in it! Mmmmmmm...it is so delicious, I promise you'll be licking your lips for more after! Lol! I'm also bringing cold milk because what could go better with chocolate cake than milk!?

    Ruthy(or anyone that cares) -
    I feel that auditions went pretty well. Vocals and dialogue, I think I projected well. Dancing though...arghhhhh! I hate dancing in front of people : ) The vocals were difficult this time. They were a soprano part when I'm quite clearly an alto lol. I'll find out what my part is on Thursday or Friday. Hopefully there will be a new Seeker post and I can let you know!
    Talk to you soon and enjoy the cake!

  72. Neat post, Mary! Congrats on Cowboy Christmas's release, and thanks for sharing!

    f dot chen at comcast dot net

  73. I'm late I'm late, I was wandering instead of following.


    My character Sam, was abused as a child and believes God sees her as ugly.

    Her goal is to somehow get through life by doing enough to have God's acceptance.
    To do that she wants to start a home to help on the orphan trains.

    Her quirk is she constantly finds excuses for the least of these,
    and wants to help them in anyway possible, but she never puts in herself on the list.

    But of course, her hero puts her on the list and wants to care for her.

    Oh and he's a woodworker...patient, gentle with his hands and takes care when he has to make any cuts.

  74. Okay Tina,
    The way you described that woodworker - whew, sounds like a great hero to me. Actually, sounds like a good story :-)

  75. I just became a follower and would love to be entered in your wonderful draw. Thanks.
    wandanamgreb (at) gmail (dot) com

  76. Oh, yes! This sounds like a wonderful book! Thanks for letting us know, Mary.
    carrie (at) turansky (dot) com

  77. I love the cover of your new book. Congrats on the release!

  78. Sounds like a fun read. Sign me up.

  79. I thougtht I was a follower but didn't see my grinning mug so I clicked just to be sure...yup, I'm a follower. Phew. Knew a good thing when I saw it. :)

    Cowboy Christmas gets more interesting every time you talk about it. And I love the book covers for your upcoming releases.

    Okay, here we go...

    Backstory: Emma's sister was kidnapped when they were both children. She never saw her sister again. When Emma gets kidnapped as an adult, it's as if she's been preparing for it her whole life. And with God on her side, she'll prevail against anything.

    Goal: To survive the kidnapping, return to her family and go to cooking school

    Quirks: All her feelings and emotions are referred to in cooking terms. Because that's who she is and that's how she sees it.

    Thanks Mary. Another post to copy and paste. :)

  80. Anita Mae, that's an incredibly tense, high stakes story. I love it. And I think your quirk it fantastic. Taking her personality all the way to the bone. Great way to create characters.