Monday, March 14, 2011

Let your characters write their story




I’m tickled clear down to my toes that my fourth Love Inspired Historical, Wanted: A Family is now on book and discount store shelves and is available on Amazon and at eHarlequin. Here’s a peek at my latest story:
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Shelter of Hope
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The ramshackle Victorian house is all that widowed mother-to-be Callie Mitchell has left. But she’s going to make that house into a true home—a home where she and her baby will be safe and happy…and where women in need can find refuge. And if that means trusting stranger Jacob Smith to help with repairs, then so be it.
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Jacob came to town with a handful of old postcards and one goal in mind—to find the mother who’d abandoned him years before. He never planned to stay…and he certainly never planned to care for Callie. Yet as they rebuild the house together, Jacob and Callie also build the family they’ve always wanted.
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Callie and Jacob, the heroine and hero of Wanted: A Family experienced difficult, even devastating childhoods. The impact of those experiences gave them strengths and weaknesses. The difficulties they face in adulthood intensify those attributes, further shaping who they are. I admire these two--true survivors. I hope readers will too!
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In order to tell stories, writers must know our characters inside and out. In character-driven stories, the characters drive the plot. Their weaknesses and strengths determine everything they do. A character’s weakness and strength can be one in the same. For example, loyalty is considered a good attribute, but when carried to the extreme, loyalty can keep the character from seeing the truth and taking the action s/he should.
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Note: the characters are taking action, rather than being acted upon. In my first manuscript, my heroine was a victim, not the hero of her story. Needless to say that novel’s collecting dust.
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Past experiences shape what our characters want—their goals. Why they want it—their motivations. What’s stopping them from getting it—their conflicts. Characters’ weaknesses and strengths impact not only the external and internal goals but also the romance and faith journeys.
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Rarely characters come to me fullblown, but usually I have to dig for them. How writers arrive at discovering characters' back story varies. I try to use character charts, filling in name, age, description, etc. but before I get to the important stuff, I lose patience. Often I must put words on the page to see who these people are. Not the quickest way perhaps but mine. Once I have the first three chapters written, I have a sense of their traits but I still need to do more work to fully flesh them out. .
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Like real people, characters should have more than one weakness and strength. Shirley Jump suggests using her Rule of Six to dig deep into our characters. She studied marketing and the philosophy about top of mind awareness that involves five of anything. Those first five are relatively easy to come up with, Shirley says. When writers go for that sixth idea, they are forced to dig deeper into the character.
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Once I’ve arrived at my characters’ strengths and weaknesses, I list them. Then think about how these weaknesses could cause problems and what actions those weaknesses will make the character take. Characters’ weaknesses cause them to make bad choices, getting them into trouble again and again. None of us like to fail in real life, but getting our characters into trouble and letting them fail is the writer’s job. When I get stuck in the story, I can look at that list of weaknesses and strengths to help me figure out what needs to happen next.
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On the opposite side of the spectrum, at the climax of the story, the characters’ strengths save the day. Again decide what actions those strengths will make the character take and how these strengths will enable them to get their happily ever after. The strengths and weaknesses are intangible things. Things you can't see. In the end, the hero and heroine must use their strengths to resolve the conflict.
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In between the opening and resolution of the story, we want our characters to gradually grow and change. Like real people, characters resist change and won’t until they’re forced by difficulties to become better people. That means writers must keep raising the stakes. Make them earn their happy ending by overcoming the external and internal conflicts blocking their goal.
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In a sense, using characters’ weaknesses and strengths lets our characters plot their own book. Well, I'll admit it’s not as easy as the title of my post implies.
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As an example of using weaknesses and strengths to plot, I’ll use my heroine, Callie in Wanted: A Family.
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Callie’s book-length external goal is to provide shelter for unwed mothers. Her motivation is personal. The result of what happened to a childhood friend. Much of her past experiences have propelled her to this defining moment, to this goal. The conflict for Callie: the people she loves and expected to support her, disapprove and even fight her goal. One of Callie’s weaknesses is impulsiveness. Impulsiveness causes her to make bad choices, moving ahead toward her goal before she laid the groundwork, before she thought things through. Thus she fails time and again. In the end, out of all of Callie’s strengths that kept her moving toward her goal—her courage, faith, compassion, work ethic, servant’s heart and determination—her compassion saves the day and she reaches her external goal. With the romance thread, her lack of insight, inability to forgive, fear of abandonment and gullibility cause her to resist falling in love with Jacob. But again her compassion--one of her strengths--enables her to overcome her fears and give her heart to Jacob.

If you care to share, give an example of your character’s weaknesses and strengths and how those characteristics guide you in plotting and writing their story. For a chance to win an autographed copy of Wanted: A Family, please leave a comment.
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I’m on deadline so I’ve asked the chef at a golf community we visit in Florida to cater the breakfast buffet of coffee, tea, juices, made to order omelets, bacon, sausage, Belgium waffles, fruit and cheese blintzes.

110 comments :

  1. Congrats on the new release Janet! I have my signed copy here on my bookshelf waiting to be read...it won't be long now since I'm catching up with my reviews. ;-)

    XOXO~ Renee

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  2. Here's the coffee to go with your catered breakfast.

    Love how you laid this out. It's encouraging to see that what works for works for me.

    I, too, start out with character charts, but need to get those first three chapters written before I feel really know and understand my main characters enough to flesh them out.

    Happy about your new release.

    Helen

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  3. So excited to see your new release Janet I have been waiting for yours and two others that are out the end of the month to then order with money I got for my birthday. I noticed there isn't a kindle version (or one for Australia) yet.

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  4. I already won this book, and it was such a treat when it came to the house, autographed! A real thrill!

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  5. Congratulations on your latest release, Janet, and thanks for a great post.

    I'm intrigued by Shirley's Rule of Six. Do you think she'd be willing to guest post and tell us more about it? Just a thought.

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  6. Janet,

    For me, this cannot be repeated often enough: Past experiences shape what our characters want—their goals. Why they want it—their motivations. What’s stopping them from getting it—their conflicts. Characters’ weaknesses and strengths impact not only the external and internal goals but also the romance and faith journeys.

    This is a printer-offer post. Thanks so much!

    Talking about character: In my middle grade book May on the Way: How I Become a K9 Spy, May is our heroine. She is a Schnauzer puppy, about 1 1/2 years old living in an abusive situation for most all her young life. Thus she is persistent (to survive), looking to be loved - or at least to please her owners, and wonders what her purpose is.

    She is smart and that characteristic, coupled with persistence, sure gets her into, shall we call them adventures?, yes... Adventures along the way, after she is adopted into a good home.

    This series is most definitely character driven and I can't wait to find out what happens to her myself in book 2. I've got scenes in my head with a few on paper, and think I know what the black moment is, but there is much filling in to do.

    Glad Seekerville is here to guide me along the way. :)

    The breakfast is lovely. Thanks!

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  7. Oh my stars, that is one cute chef!!!

    And a golf club???? Like the ones where you wine and dine, not SWING???

    This bleacher baseball girl is way out of her league, LOL!!! But your chef put out a great spread, so I'm totally in!

    Janet, I love your characters, how in depth and rich they are. You define them beautifully in their actions and inactions. That's a gift, my friend.

    My addition would be that I like to throw real people into the mix... Sometimes because they're SO COOL like Helen and Pepper, and sometimes because IT'S EASIER TO KILL THEM IN A BOOK.

    No jail time. No open toilets. And very little remorse, LOL!

    Wonderful post!

    Umm... You REALLY ARE JANET, aren't you???? Just checking!

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  8. Thats interesting Ruthy the comment about killing people in books. Maybe a reason to write to kill of people I dont like only I dont tell them that!

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  9. Good morning, Renee! I know the difficulty of keeping up with reviews. And the TBR pile! Hope you enjoy Wanted: A Family!

    Janet

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  10. Good morning, Helen! Thanks for the coffee! Need it badly.

    I'm glad you find character charts helpful. I need to give them another chance with the next book. In-depth planning should produce faster writing. My goal.

    Janet

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  11. :-) I knew what you meant, Helen!

    Janet

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  12. Hello, Jenny! Thanks bunches for putting Wanted: A Family on your list to order!! You're a wonderful supporter of my books!

    US Amazon has the book in Kindle format. I'm surprised that's not true in Australia. I thought all Love Inspired books were available on Kindle.

    Janet

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  13. Good morning Virginia! I love autographed books too. My shelves are packed with books I've bought at signings and, of course, Seeker books! Hope you enjoy Wanted: A Family!

    Janet

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  14. Janet, you're so right about in depth planning makes for faster writing. I have to write the first few chapters first for my characters to come to life. Then I go back and try to add characteristics. I wish I could do that before I start the book, but I can't.

    Great post!

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  15. Hi Keli! Thanks for the congrats! Glad the post made sense! :-)

    Shirley usually teaches her Rule of Six online. In fact she's teaching it right now. I'll try to let you know when she's doing another class on that topic. She's a fabulous teacher and critiquer.

    Janet

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  16. Good morning, KC! Nothing warms a Seeker's heart more than hearing her post is print-worthy. Thanks!

    Love how May's abusive past brings her alive on the page. Doggy adventures are such fun! Congratulations on the YA series!

    Janet

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  17. Hello Ruthy! I've taken over Janet's identity. Had to. Someone had to liven up that gal!!

    The chef is a cutie. Now the golf pro is a doll! I'd suggest a lesson. :-)

    Yay, Ruthy praise! Thanks for your sweet words about my characters, kiddo. Means a lot.

    I haven't killed anyone in a book since Courting Miss Adelaide. Poor Pepper and Helen!! Can't you find others to kill who aren't mainstays in Seekerville? I hate making coffee.

    Janet

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  18. Yep, Jenny. Writers do have a way of getting even. LOL You don't have to write a book to get that off your chest and onto paper. Of course you might want to burn it afterward. :-)

    Janet

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  19. Great advice! Thank you for sharing. I tend to get to know my characters as I write. What they say and how they respond give me clues as to who they are. It's similar to meeting someone and getting to know them a little at a time. By the time I'm several chapters into a story, I know them well enough to list their strengths and weaknesses.

    In my latest work, the hero can't accept a mistake that led to the death of a witness. His drive for perfection is both his strength and weakness. The heroine allows fear to drive her for most of the story, but she also has tremendous determination which helps her conquer that fear.

    I'd love to win your book so please enter my name.

    I brought Cafe Latte and Italian Sweet Cream creamers for the coffee. They are my new favorites!

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  20. Congratulations on your new release, Janet! Sounds like another wonderful book from you. I'll have to head over to Amazon and pick up a copy.

    Thank you for the great post. It's a definite keeper.

    Like you, and others here, I can't do character charts. I sketch out main characteristics, but I really have to get into the story before many of my character's strengths and weaknesses begin to emerge. In my current wip my heroine is driven to save (medically) everyone because she couldn't do anything to save her future father-in-law. This often causes her to push herself beyond her own limits and risk her own health.

    --Kirsten

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  21. Oh, Cara, I relate! I have to write chapters before I get into my characters. I said in-depth planning SHOULD make for faster writing. :-) I'm going to try that with the next book.

    Janet

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  22. Good morning Janet,

    LOVED LOVED LOVED Wanted a Family. Great story. Great characters.

    Janet you always find the most interesting tidbits of history to wrap a story around. Great going.

    Run out and buy this folks. You won't be sorry.

    Your spread is yummy. Thanks a bunch.

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  23. Hi Christine, Whatever way we get to know our characters, once we do, we have the foundation for our story.

    Your characters sound wonderful! For your perfectionist hero to have made a mistake that leads to someone's death has to make a huge impact on his actions. Excellent!!

    Thanks for supplying the creamers! I drink my coffee black but these are tempting.

    Janet

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  24. Great breakfast and great post, Janet!

    For my April LI, A Family for Faith, my heroine feels like a failure at motherhood. So when she meets the hero, a widower who has his dead wife on a pedestal--and who happens to have a needy pre-teen daughter--she feels inadequate and like she'll never be considered good enough. That drives a lot of her decisions and is a big hurdle for her to overcome.

    Hope you all had a great weekend and are ready to jump back into work today!

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  25. Good morning, Kirsten! Thanks for your congrats and interest in Wanted: A Family!

    Your heroine's failure is impacting everything she does. Love it! Pushing herself beyond her limits will lead to making mistakes, bringing more of a sense of failure. She has some tough lessons to learn. Great stuff!

    Janet

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  26. Sandra, your lovely words about my story made my day!! Thank you!! You're not only a wonderful author, you're a publicist. :-)

    I love your view that historical writers wrap their story around a tidbit of history. A perfect way of saying historicals aren't history lessons.

    Janet

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  27. Good morning, Missy! Thanks! I'm not a pro at this. I'm still learning to use weaknesses and strengths to drive character actions, thus the plot. Instead of the other way around, but trying a new way to get the story on the page isn't easy.

    A Family for Faith is a lovely story! Readers will put themselves in Faith's shoes and feel for her. And for the father who is clueless about how to rear a teenage girl. :-)

    Janet

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  28. nice post. love a chance to win this book thanks

    ABreading4fun [at] gmail [dot] com

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  29. I have Janet's book on the way - yeah!
    can't wake up this morning - have to drive back to home to Houston and don't feel like loading hte car or driving. My dad kept waking me up asking stupid questions - well I did have his cell phone in my purse but it's because he didn't feel like keeping up with it the other day and didnt' ask for it back and these things sorta get lost in the purse. hmm maybe I should say get 'reorganized' in the purse - that's a better sounding description! :-)

    Susanna

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  30. Definitely print worthy :).

    Hanging out here in Denver. Not happy with some of the service at the hotel, but oh well.

    This book jumped into my cart a couple weeks ago as I walked by the book wall at Walmart. Not sure how THAT happened ;). But I couldn't find it to bring with me on my trip :(. It'll be near the top of the TBR pile when I get home.

    Right now, I'm going to finish Tina's Rancher's Reunion because I didn't read A WORD in the 9 hour car ride yesterday and I have a meeting to get ready for in a couple hours and Tina's fits the time bill nicely.

    Characters? Well, too much out there in Genesis to discuss at the moment... But some of them have issues...

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  31. Fabulous information, Janet! Will definitely be coming back to this. Can't share my character cuz of Genesis, but you've definitely made me ponder her more.

    And I already have this AWESOME book and loved it to pieces.

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  32. That breakfast sounds great! And Janet, I really enjoy your writing. I know this book is going to be great.

    plhouston(at)bellsouth(dot)net

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  33. This book looks so good Janet. I love your premise... :)

    Making sure my characters have strengths and weaknesses is something I still work on. And making sure they will eventually balance each other out is a mystery I long to solve! :)

    But my current heroine I am writing believes she can not make a wise decision. As she looks back on all the mistakes she has made she can't see a single good decision in any of it.

    But her strength lies in her loyalty. (though this does come back to bite her in her black moment...isn't that usually how it works???)

    LOL, anyway, go back to your deadline and best wishes on your next book!! :D

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  34. I sure am glad I have a couple empty binders - too many print worthy Seekerville posts to keep track of otherwise! Thanks Janet!

    It always amazes me how these characters take on a life of their own - after all, these people came out of my own imagination - but then something will come out of their mouths that will just floor me. Where did THAT come from? So I start digging deeper, and find that there's a lot more to these people than I thought when I named them.

    Don't enter me in the drawing - I bought the book a couple weeks ago and it's residing toward the top of my TBR pile, right under Sharpshooters in Petticoats!

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  35. Janet,
    Congratulations on your new book! Thanks for a great post on characters. I rely heavily on my character worksheets and then listening to my characters as they tell me their story.

    I would love to win a copy of your book!

    edwina(dot)cowgill(at)yahoo(dot)com

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  36. I love your latest book cover, Janet! It's so soothing and makes me want to crack open the book!

    I totally use Shirley's rule of six all the time. It's sooooo useful!

    Camy

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  37. Janet, I hope some day I'll be able to do this the way you describe. I don't know why but I have never been able to work out my characters by jotting down things like this. I have always had to do it in my head. Which sometimes takes a lot of time! Sometimes not so long. And then when I start writing the story, the character sometimes turns out very differently than the way I had thought they would be! It's a little weird. Definitely not something I can explain. Oh well. It seems to work, but sometimes drives me crazy!

    Your book sounds great. It's sitting on my shelf right now calling to me!

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  38. Hi Janet,

    Congrats on your new book. I have it in my TBR pile!

    Loved this post. Just what I need to figure out right now at the climax of my wip. Better late than never, right?

    Cheers,
    Sue

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  39. Hi Janet:

    You wrote:

    “…give an example of your character’s weaknesses and strengths…”

    This makes me feel like I am wired wrong.

    My answer is this:

    “I’ll have to read my WIP to find out”.

    Like God, as an author, I don’t build in flaws in my characters from the start. That would not be just.

    I don’t like this ‘character-driven’ approach. I mean, who do you want writing your story: a character or you!

    Characters are looking out for their own self interest. They are like players on a baseball team. It’s the manager who sees things from the team’s POV and who is graded by how well the team does.

    Of course, some players are team players and will 'take one for the team' but many won't.

    I think characters should flow from the story. If you build in flaws, then the character has those flaws whether the story needs it or not. How many stories are fair to middling because the characters were not that good in creating a great story?

    I like to create a great story, one a storyteller would revel in. Then I like to write the ending which I feel will have readers standing up and cheering.

    Then I go to central casting and hire the characters that I need to make my story come alive. Then it is my job to write a story that leads logically to the great ending.

    The great ending is a goal that acts as a motivational magnet to keep me writing. I can always see the 'promised land' on the horizon. It is also a force that pulls the characters towards the team’s goal of a great story.

    I did all this in my current WIP so there will be a test of this idea. It may be terrible but I loved it!

    I think this may be a male thing. As the captain of the ship, I’m not going to let a deck hand determine where the boat goes.

    If the character objects, he can walk the plank.

    “If this be heresy, link me with Martin Luther, and so be it.”

    Vince

    P.S. I’ve read your wonderful book and have reviewed it on eHarlequin -- it seems like ages ago. I’m already anticipating your next book. :)

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  40. Thanks for this great post, Janet! I sooo needed these reminders about characters today--am still "getting to know" the heroine and hero of my current WIP. I did a character sheet for them both, but like some others here have said--I need to write more of their story to get to know them better. ~ Mmmmmm....the breakfast is yummy! ~ Looking forward to reading more of your books (yes, I'm behind *sigh* but I LOVED: COURTING MISS ADELAIDE!!!)

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  41. P.S. Sorry....forget to leave my e-mail! pattijomoore(at)yahoo(dot)net

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  42. P.P.S. OOOPS! SO SORRY, Janet...I'm blushing BRIGHT RED, and obviously need more coffee! I just typed the incorrect e-mail address for myself*sigh*.
    It should be: pattijomoore(at)yahoo(dot)com

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  43. Thanks for your interest in Wanted: A Family, Apple Blossom!

    Blessings, Janet

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  44. I'm adding to the congrats on your new release, Janet! Thanks for a thought-provoking post. Love the Rule of Six theory . . .

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  45. Hi Susanna,

    I can relate to losing things in my purse. I'm always digging for something. I tend to buy large purses with lots of compartments, but then don't put them in the same place. A huge time waster.

    With some breakfast and coffee, hopefully, you've gotten the energy to pack and are ready to head out. Drive safe.

    Hope you enjoy Wanted: A Family when you get time to read it.

    Hugs, Janet

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  46. Hi there, Carol!

    Bummer that the hotel service at the hotel isn't up to par. How's the weather in Denver?

    Wanted: A Family jumped into your cart? Yay, all those gymnastic lessons paid off. ;-)

    A few hours with Tina's Rancher's Reunion will soothe everything that ails you, including poor service and a nine-hour car ride!

    Characters with issues are my favorite kind. We call them heroes and heroines. Life isn't easy with all that baggage they carry.

    Janet

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  47. This is a helpful blog. Thank you.

    For my first attempt at writing, I didn't find it difficult to create characters because they were largely based on myself and people in my life that I know very well. However, I am now sticking myself in to the mind of a 12 year old boy and a bunch of trouble makers. It's a bit of a stretch.

    I found that writing out a basic description of my main characters did help. I gave them a brief background as well as focused on specific attributes that would draw them through the story.

    I think by having the brief reference helps me stay on track but also allows me a bit of space to "get to know" my characters.

    We'll see how it pans out.

    Thanks for the blog :)

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  48. Hi Joanne,

    Thanks for your lovely words about my book.

    I didn't think about the Genesis and other contests when I asked you to share your characters. Proud of everyone for getting your manuscripts out there! Pulling for all the friends of Seekerville!

    Janet

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  49. Hi Patsy,

    I brought lunch--chicken salad stuffed into juicy ripe tomatoes and fresh sliced peaches and pears. Strawberry shortcake for dessert--my mom's recipe--with a dollop of vanilla ice cream. Dig in!

    Anything for fans of my writing.

    Thanks!!
    Janet

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  50. Hi Casey!

    I've got a secret...just between us. I'm still working on all this stuff too. Hope that makes you feel better because every book is a new and sometimes daunting challenge. Sounds like you've nailed it to me!

    Thanks for the good wishes! I need them. :-)

    Janet

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  51. Thanks Jan! I'm honored to have Wanted: A Family on your nightstand. Callie and Jake are strong enough to bear the weight of Mary's Sharpshooter in Petticoats. I'm starting it tonight! Yay!!!

    We may think we know our characters but like real people they surprise us now and again. That's when writing feels magical.

    Janet

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  52. JANET ... oh, AMEN to this blog, my friend!! As a character-driven author, I LOVE it when my characters tell their own story -- soooo much fun!! Especially a crazy and driven character like Charity O'Connor, for instance, who demands her story be what she wants it to be!!

    Finished Wanted: A Family a few weeks ago and absolutely LOVED it, -- your best yet!! I was SO overdue for my Janet Dean fix, that I savored every single syllable, I can tell you that!! Review coming soon ...

    Hugs,
    Julie

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  53. Hi Edwina,

    Your characters tell you their story? What did you do to get them to talk? Use steel knuckles, a cattle prod, a whip? I may slap mine around until they cough up their ending.

    Oops, reread your comment. The key is listening! Who knew? LOL

    Janet

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  54. I am with you and Julie, Janet.

    I get to know my characters as I write.

    There was one time where something came out my fingertips and I literally didn't realize what I was typing until I saw it on the screen. It made everything about this character fall into place in so many ways. And for other characters too. This one little tidbit - I still don't know where it came from - in something that happens 3 books in the future impacted so much 'now'.

    Finished Tina's.

    On to Bathsheba. Talk about a hero with issues... But a heart after God's own.

    I have 3 hours until DH gets done with his conference. I should write or something until then.

    Oh - the weather in Denver? Gorgeous.

    Back home in SW MO? Snowing ;).

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  55. Hi there, Camy!

    The cover of Wanted: A Family is soothing. Kudos to the Love Inspired Art Department. Callie and Jake have a few obstacles before they feel like that cover looks. Isn't that why we read? To share in the rough ride to their well-deserved happy ending?

    Cool that you find Shirley's Rule of Six useful! It really makes us dig deeper.

    Janet

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  56. Hi Melanie!

    Your comment proves the process isn't simple. However ugly that process may feel sometimes all that matters is that we get the story on the page with characters that readers relate to and care about. In your head, on paper--whatever works.

    Grab Wanted: A Family off the shelf, gal. Callie and Jake are dying to pop off the page and into your heart. :-)

    Janet

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  57. Hello Sue,

    Always better late than never. :-) Use whatever works for you. Writing books isn't a walk in the park.

    Thanks for the congrats!

    Janet

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  58. LOL Vince! I'd never argue with your process. Sounds fantastic actually. Thanks for giving a shout out for the other side. You're even a wonderful writer in your comments.

    May be more a matter of what comes first for each author--the chicken or the egg. The plot or the characters.

    When you plot do you have it all laid out? Or do you plot by the seat of your pants? I'm a mix. I try bits of everything.

    I love character back story and how what happened in their past creates strengths and weaknesses that will show me what these people will do in my story. How their weaknesses can mess them up. Or strengths can make them heroic.

    You said: I like to create a great story, one a storyteller would revel in. Then I like to write the ending which I feel will have readers standing up and cheering.

    All writers want the same. How we get there varies. Even how I get there varies. LOL

    I did not know you'd reviewed Wanted: A Family on eHarlequin. Will have to look. Could cyber strawberry shortcake convince you to put it on your nifty blog? :-)

    Janet

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  59. Hi Patti Jo!

    You are behind with my books. Thanks for your interest and wishing you the best with delving into your characters. Have you considered threating their lives? Remind them that you can dispose of them if they don't cooperate. LOL

    Janet

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  60. Hi Renee Ann,

    Glad the Rule of Six resonates with you. Digging deeper isn't easy. By the sixth try, we're bound to find a nugget of gold.

    Janet

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  61. Hi Farrah,

    Your story intrigues me! Wishing you all the best with it. A twelve-year-old boy would be a challenge. Toss in some troublemakers and you're in for a wild ride. Have fun!

    Janet

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  62. Hi Julie!

    I love your characters!!!They're deep, driven and take nothing lying down. Talk about emotion... whew, you know how to pack it on the page, girl!!!

    You savored every syllable? Wow, what more can an author ask!! Thanks bunches.

    Hugs, Janet

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  63. Wow, Carol! Love when something like that happens. How exciting!

    Bet you're glad to be where the sun is shining! Enjoy!

    Janet

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  64. Rule of Sixes--gotta remember that one! Great post, Janet! I'm with you--I need to just start writing and let the characters come alive on the page before I can really get to know who they are.

    But very often they tend to keep important secrets until well into the book and then spring all these delicious new insights on me! It makes for extra work layering in the info in earlier chapters, but usually it's so worth it!

    And to Vince, all I can say is, "To each his/her own." We each have to adopt the writing practices that best suit our style and personality. If I tried to plan everything out ahead of time:

    1. I'd go absolutely bonkers.

    2. My characters and plot would probably turn out very cookie-cutter-y.

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  65. Hi Myra,

    Always something new to learn, to try. :-) Glad you like the sound of Rule of Six.

    Writers use different processes. Just so we get the job done. Seat of the pants works beautifully for you! I love your books!

    Janet

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  66. Shhhh, no other soul shall know our secrets. ;)

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  67. Just had to pop in and say how much I loved Janet's books. I look forward to each and every one.

    No need to put me in the drawing since it is already on my keeper shelf.

    Peace, Julie

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  68. Great post. Character development is so important in a story, but especially one labeled "romance" because they so often ARE the plot. I like a romance with well developed characters AND a well developed plot. I'm not demanding, am I? :p

    -Whitney

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  69. Ooooh. My current works in progress have interesting strengths/weaknesses. In one, the hero is an arrogant, and hurting, doctor. Though he claims not to believe in God, he really just has the issue of being mad at God. He’s also angry at himself. His late wife, who had little education, died of TB, by running out one night after looking at one his medical books and believing he could contract it just by being there. And, he finds that she was pregnant, too. He blames himself for attending to everyone else and showing his wife so little attention when she needed it most. He doesn’t want to fall in love again, if someone caught his eye, because he believes he would be unfaithful to her. With his work. SO, he’s a bit of a recluse, with a lot of anger, resentment, and guilt. His nature is also to be mischievous and intense, very strong and proud, which is both a strength and weakness for him. His heroine is an idealistic young woman, fervent in her belief in God and the good in people. She wants to change things, make them better, and gets easily frustrated when she offers help (she’s pretty well off) and people refuse it. So those are both her strengths and weaknesses, as well.

    My other WIP isn’t fleshed out so much, though in a way, I feel I know them very well, too. But I won’t go into that right now. : )

    Please enter me in the contest!
    -Whitney

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  70. You know this character-driven discussion is interesting because I think it's an apples and oranges Vince-method vs. Janet-method. And Vince, I don't think it's a guy thing because I know lots of women that plan a book that way, but maybe a personality thing? Because you like to captain the ship, NOT doing that with your book would feel wrong. Weird. Out of step.

    And Janet, I agree, that's super GOOD to have those differences, because we may go at this from opposing corners, but in the end we all come out with a book.

    I see it like Christian churches. We may attend different buildings, but there's one goal, one Savior, one Christ.

    So regardless of how you go about the book, if it grips the readers heart and soul when it's done, then the method works.

    And who decided to MAKE ME THINK ON A MONDAY????

    REALLY?????

    Oh my stars, time for more coffee. Possibly main-lined. I.V.

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  71. Janet its our draconian copyright laws I think. we do get some of the LI books but they seem to be the older ones. I looked into a Dec release and its not available in Australia. But your older ones all are 2009 and earlier but last years and this years are not. Not sure why but its a pain must be something to do with the publisher and there rights for publishing in Australia.
    Im holding the order of till the end of the month to get Ruthy and Missy's books also.

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  72. Great post, Janet. Much to think about in it. Congratulations on your newest novel. I get to know a little about the characters only after writing the first few chapters. Character development is more difficult for me than plotting a story. I like the suggestions you gave.

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  73. Hi Janet:

    I think a writer should pantser whenever possible within the confines of the story. I don’t think it is possible not to pantser to some extent.

    I’m really a ‘targeter” and not a plotter.

    I know what the story is about. It has to be something I am very interested in and something that provides many natural springboards for comedic ideas.

    Next I write what I think is a great ending. I have no intention of writing most of a novel only to discover later that I can’t come up with a strong ending.

    Given the above, I pantser as much as I want to as long as my story leads naturally to its ending. As such I’m not a plotter who plots every scene in the book. If some great scene ideas occur to me, I’ll try to make a place for them. (As long as I can still get to my great ending.) A true plotter would be driven nuts by this.

    My goal here is to show another way to approach writing a novel.

    I’d like to know what you think of my review before I write an expanded version for my Philosophy blog. The review was very good.

    Vince

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  74. I just found out I won some Seekrville books this week from Barbara Vey's anniversary bash, I'm so excited! One is a copy of Wanted: A Family and I plan on passing it along to my cousin, she'll love it I'm sure since she loved The Substitute Bride as much as I did. ;-)

    XOXO~ Renee

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  75. Janet, love your use of strengths and weaknesses for characters. Love it!

    I focus on wants and needs and fears, but I really like the strengths and weaknesses. I'll be sure to use it in my WIP.

    Blogger is jumping up and down on the page right now. Don't know what the problem is. YIKES!

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  76. Like you, I have to write at least three chapters to get my characters rolling. Also to decide how to handle the romance. Once those first 30-50 pages are done, I sigh with relief! :)

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  77. Thanks for your silence, Casey. :-)
    Not everyone can keep a secret.

    Janet

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  78. Hi Julie Hilton Steele,

    I'm thrilled that Wanted: A Family is on your keeper shelf!! A huge thank you and a second piece of strawberry shortcake!

    Ah, Julie, is Pastor Steele, a relative?

    Hugs, Janet

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  79. Hello Whitney,

    You know what you like. Nothing wrong with that. Getting it done is the tricky part. :-) I love the sound of your doctor hero and wealthy heroine! Whoo, I can feel the sparks just thinking about those two. Excellent job!

    Janet

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  80. Ruthy, dear, You're the voice of reason, loaded with sense--common and otherwise--and a terrific person and writer. The reason I love you. And your books.

    Coffees on the way!

    Janet

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  81. Jenny, whatever the reason our books don't make the shelves in Australia, all of us here at Seekerville value your loyalty and interest in our books. Few people would go through the trouble and expense that you do in order to read them. So thank you from the bottom of my heart!

    Hugs, Janet

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  82. Hi Pat Jeanne,

    Glad you like the suggestions. I'm open to trying things--if they make sense to me. Some techniques seem to make the writing harder, not simplier.

    Janet

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  83. Thanks Janet now the dollar is at parity makes it so much easier and it is cheaper to buy books from america than here (LIH is around $8 - $9) here even with the dollar so good books are not coming down in price. So by buying from Christianbook (best postage rates) really helps. Also I got birthday money. problem is there are to many books I want! I can get barbour and other ones fairly quick for the kindle which I am now loving.
    I have won several seeker books over the years which is a bonus but sometimes when you find an author you love you have to keep buying.

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  84. Hi Vince,

    I love hearing others' processes for writing a book. I like the term targeter. Though it does make me want to go shopping. ;-) Seriously, you know where you're going with plenty of leeway to get there.

    I heartly agree when you say: I don’t think it is possible not to pantser to some extent.

    I suspect writers are a mix of panster and plotter/targeter. They just lean more heavily one way or another.

    I've never written the ending first. I find that fascinating! Do you read the endings before you buy a book?

    I looked but couldn't find the review on eHarlequin. :-( I'll look again.

    Janet

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  85. Yay, Renee!! Wasn't Barbara's party a blast? I'm tickled you won the copy of Wanted: A Family! I'll send that to you as soon as I get the list of my winners addresses.

    Thanks so much for spreading the word to family and friends!

    Janet

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  86. Hi Debby! Hope you find using character strengths and weaknesses to be helpful in your plotting.

    In your wonderful but scary suspense stories, I'm sure characters think about or exhibit oodles of needs and fears.

    Bloggers not jumping with me.

    Janet

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  87. Love it Debby! You're giving a sigh of relief at the time the writing gets harder for me. LOL We ought to write books as a team.

    Janet

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  88. I went looking for the Rule of Six, but haven't found it yet. She apparently does classes on it occassionally.

    A character weakness. My hero in one of my WIPs feels responsible for his father's death and he has his own death wish.

    Put me in for a copy of the book, please. However, if I don't win, I will definitely be picking up the book.

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  89. Debby, I'll tell Shirley, she has some Rule of Six followers in Seekerville. She'll love it!

    Janet

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  90. Jenny, you have a Kindle, but can't download books more cheapily from publishers and Amazon than ordering paperbacks? I don't understand this.

    Janet

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  91. Hi Walt,

    I'll ask Tina to mention in the Weekend Edition if Shirley's teaching another class on Rule of Six. There seems to be an interest.

    Your story sounds very emotional. Was he really responsible for his father's death? Or does he have a skewed view of the situation? The latter would be a weakness. If he has a death wish, I'd certainly see that as a weakness. I suspect this isn't a romance.

    Thanks for your interest in Wanted: A Family! I appreciate it.

    Janet

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  92. Great post Janet and Congratulations on the release of your latest novel!

    The idea of digging to 6 sounds like something really interesting. I'll have to try it out. Thanks!

    Eva Maria Hamilton at gmail dot com

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  93. Loved this, Janet! Your characters are AMAZING and very memorable so I'm glad you taught this. Great work!

    Cheryl

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  94. Actually, Janet, it is a romance.

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  95. Hi Janet:

    I should have left a link to my review:

    http://community.eharlequin.com/review/peaceful-indiana-1900-turn-century-love-story

    No, I would never read the ending of a book first. I think that is an unforgiveable sin. But many women do it. They not only want a guaranteed HEA, they want to verify it. The old Regan saying: “Trust but Verify.” In fact, they want a specific HEA. Perhaps they don’t want the ending to be too much like their ex-husband’s second marriage.

    Wouldn’t that be awful? To read a romance in which the hero and heroine closely mirror your ex-husband’s courtship with his current wife? Would you want them to have an HEA? Now I think I know why some women read the endings. : )

    I always lean something when I vist Seekerville.

    Vince

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  96. P.S.

    What I need to lean is how to spell late at night!

    The next person is number 100!

    Vince

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  97. Janet the problem is some books like harliquin books are not available for Australia. yes ones that are available are cheaper by kindle but some are not available or they are ones I really want to have a copy of so I can share or put in the church library.
    I get a list of some of the free downloads each week but some are not available to aussies. Its a pain. The books I have on my wish list at christian book are ones I cant order as an ebook at present. If I wait several months or a year or so maybe but I cant wait that long.

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  98. Hi Eva,

    Getting to six isn't easy. :-) But the harder we have to work, the deeper we go.

    Thanks for your interest in my book!

    Janet

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  99. Thanks Cheryl! Your characters are awesome! Guess we're have a Mutual Admiration Society here in Seekerville. :-)

    Hugs, Janet

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  100. Good news, Walt. A romance means your wounded hero will fall for the lovely heroine and they'll live happily ever after. The poor guy needs that! I've never read a death wish in a novel, but I have confidence you can handle a tough topic.

    Janet

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  101. Thanks for the link, Vince! Will check it out. I want to thank you for taking the time to give your thought-provoking reviews. And for appreciating and promoting the genre we love here in Seekerville. Romance.

    I'd never read the ending either. But I know women do. Maybe you're on to something. LOL

    Janet

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  102. What a bummer, Jenny. Love hearing you can't wait for books. I understand the feeling perfectly!!

    Janet

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  103. Hi Jenny & Janet:

    I have the same problem when I try to buy eBooks from Australia – especially the Mills & Boon Medical Romances. I am not allowed to download them but I can download form Mills & Boon from London but not some of the Aussie Medicals. I think Australia has some very strange copyright laws. Even in the USA, eHarlequin does not have the same Medical Romances in paper as they have on sale as eBooks. It can be madding trying to get a Medical title!

    Also, many Kindle books cost more as eBooks than they do as paper books. Sometimes this can be twice as much!

    This just happened to me because I tried to buy “True Grit” and it was much more as a Kindle. This is too bad for me because I needed the Kindle because of the larger type size.

    So don’t think Kindle is always cheaper. Often it costs more. I even just discovered this with a new romance novel yesterday.

    So it’s not just an Aussie problem. In a way, eBooks are so convenient that they can sell at a premium. Just consider the 'search' feature -- perfect for doing reviews.

    Vince

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  104. Mmm, thanks for the brunch. :) I really appreciated the post today. I have been working around my characters, and the tips helped to hone them. I'm glad that I found Seekers!

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  105. I love Callie's story Janet and can't wait to read.
    I am not an author but your ideas make sense. Should I ever get back to my stories I will use these. Thanks..

    misskallie2000 at yahoo dot com

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  106. Hi Jaimn,

    The Seekers are glad you found them too! All the best wishes with creating your characters!

    Janet

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  107. MissKallie2000--love the name! :-) Thanks very much for your interest in my story.

    Janet

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