Thursday, April 14, 2011

Grab Your Hard Hats! We're Building in Seekerville!

I can't think of a better way to start the day, mud 'n all. Mike Rowe. Such a cutie. And ready, willing and able to put his hand to any job at all.

Now that's sexy!

A hero should always be able to get the job done, conquer obstacles in his path, figure out what needs to be accomplished and then do it. Even if it's scary. Or draining. Or life-sucking. Like those snakes in Indiana Jones and the Temple Whose-a-ma-jiggy. Whatever.

And then take a shower.

Building characters is like building a house. Or a business. Pretty much anything you put your hand to. Ya' gotta start with a firm foundation. Now I lost my firm foundation about fifteen years ago, but that's a whole other blog and I'm pretty sure Life-style Lift won't lift what's gone south.

Gibbs. NCIS. Patriot. Marine. Strong. Faithful. Lost wife and daughter. Guilt-stricken. Just enough vengeance to make you know this guy's got your back. Funny. Sincere. Quiet. Total alpha WITHOUT over-the-top alpha physical qualities.
Let's start with Trent Michaels from "Reunited Hearts" because I know him well, I've fielded lots of drooling e-mails about him and he's a great guy to begin with because we've talked about unforgettable heroes. What makes them tick. What makes us want to 'fix' them. Care for them. What makes them stand out. And yesterday Patty talked about building conflict,
stretching for internal conflict and that was a perfect segue into today's post on building a character.

Building analogies WORK for visual learners:
A sandwich....
Bread or roll = book's beginning and end
Filling: Layers... meat, veggies, cheese, mayo, peppers, tomatoes, onions, Italian oil... Picture these as your scenes. Your "content" to bridge from one part of the roll (beginning) to the second part of the roll (end)

If you're not into sandwiches, how about this building analogy:


No matter what else happens in life, you can never go wrong with cake. Promise.

Plain cake is well... Plain. Boring. Don't try to convince me otherwise, you're wasting your breath.
Jeeps creeps, are ya' kiddin' me?

Another great analogy.

Cake...frosting....pudding....jelly....ganache (look it up, it's SOOO worth it)...custard....fudge sauce....more cake....frosting and decorations.
Again, it's the layering that pumps in the conflict and scenes needed in the middle.
Picture weak conflict as cake without eggs.
Using brown and white eggs is an amazing teachable moment about skin tone. Inside: it's an egg. Color makes no difference. Lovely lesson.

That is the only FLAT analogy I'm giving you except maybe Matza bread.
Matza bread is also flat. (that reminds me there is now a SESAME STREET SHALOM show that teaches about Jewish customs. Great learning opportunity. Adorable. Beautifully done.
Okay, off topic.)

I wanted to do a secret baby story ever since I heard about West Point's policy on marriage and parenthood: Cadets cannot be married or responsible for a child. So what if the heroine hides the child because the hero will lose his West Point appointment?

That's a good beginning. It makes sense to me. Stupid reasons for secret babies annoy me. But self-sacrifice? I can believe that.

OR: a threat to the child if fatherhood is revealed? I could be convinced of that as well, because certain men draw dangerous interest. Safety of the child would come first to a mother, right? But to make it real I can't just SAY IT. Although I'd like to. It would make my job easier. And I'd have more time for bon bons and foot rubs.

But the boss won't let me, so I have to build that platform, that foundation. And that's where "WHY?" comes in.

Why would going to West Point matter that much to anyone?

Here's a list:

Family honor
Love of country
Love of service
Pride in the appointment
Give-back mentality
Need for respect
Need to prove one's self
Love carrying major league cool weaponry
Babe magnet

The military academies are in a class of their own. A friend whose son was a West Point graduate told me stepping onto that campus was like entering another world. A world of right and wrong, respect, integrity, work ethic, equality, faith and honor. She said it amazed her how openly people worshipped, how respectful everyone was to guests and one another, and the overall feel of being there was something she'd never forget. So for Trent I combined a 'Give Back Mentality' with "Need for respect" and "Need to prove one's self".

And the babe magnet aspects aren't too hard to take, either!

But that only begins my platform. Again: WHY does he need to give back? Is it a personality glitch? Is it atonement for past wrongs? Is it payback?

WHAT happened to him that made him want to serve? To be recognized, although humble? Be a leader?

His parents dumped him as a four-year-old child. Trashed him. Led him out into a field along I-86 and drove off, leaving him to wander in the cold and snow. A pair of hunters rescued him, and the whole town kind of adopted him, their boy. Their little man. The 'town' son. So he's surrounded by love, but abandoned by the one person who should love him most: his mother.

Now my platform is spreading. Thickening. It's becoming more supportive, like building a nice basement, but you've gotta have some solid 2X4 action going on to lay subflooring, right?

Trent longs for respect. He longs for a family. He needs to prove himself.


Being dumped messes with the ego. His fragile sense of self is wounded. He started out the day with parents and a little brother, and ended it with no one. Nothing. Abandoned and left to die. That's a tough thing to hand a kid.

And then he had to identify his little brother's remains because Mom and Dad dumped little Clay two counties east of where they dumped Trent.

Now we have guilt. Sorrow. Loss.

Four-year-old Trent is pretty sure he could have saved Clay if they'd dumped them together. That's a lot to put on four-year-old shoulders, but I'm sure we've all known kids like that. Kids that carry old souls in young bodies.

Trent is an anomaly. Sure, he grows up in a nice town with a lovely foster family. He's a football star, a town favorite, a grid-iron magician that sets hearts on fire every Friday night under the lights as he leads his hometown team to a state title.

But everyone knows his story. Everyone watches. Everyone shares the pride in his success, and a part of him would just like to be normal, with a typical family, a normal boy, then a normal guy.

He falls in love with the boss's daughter in high school. Things go too far, and he realizes he disrespected her because it was HIS JOB to shelter her. Not take advantage of her. So when she leaves him and goes off to school, his GUILT from Clay, from enhanced responsibility, from that inner-ego makes it seem justified to him. He'd let her down by making love to her.

She was right to leave.

Bringing Trent back home was easy. He "OWED" the town. They'd saved him. Cherished him. Loved him. Watched over him. So the very thing that set him apart while growing up, became his reason to return.

Honorable men pay their debts.

Helping the hometown climb out of an economic downturn was the least he could do.

External conflict was easy-peasy: She'd taken his child and lied and he'd be totally emasculated to trust her again.

Internal conflict had to show why he grew up to be who he was, what he was, why he was. And that started a long, long time ago.

Come on inside. Easy breakfast this morning because time's short today! Grab a bagel, fixin's on the side, yes, fish and onions and cream cheese and fruit and garlic spread and olives. I love cream cheese and green olives on toasted bagels. To die for.
Oh, so delish!
We're doing a drawing today for a Seekerville Goodie Basket that includes a little good stuff to read, and a little good stuff to eat. Stop by, tell me about how you layer conflict and why it's hard for nice people like you and me to MAKE PEOPLE SUFFER.

Sigh... ;)


  1. "No matter what else happens in life, you can never go wrong with cake. Promise."

    Can't go wrong with West Point either!

    This is great Ruthy! Super.

    I'm still learning the layering thing. Sandra Byrd helped me with this, big time, but I'm trying to take those lessons and improve. We shall see.

    Our heroine, May, is looking for her purpose. She tries this and that, fails miserably, but all the while, is really quite good at some things. But she doesn't see it.

    In fact, at any given moment, her strengths can be construed as weaknesses. But at the right time, with the right opportunity, she shines.

    Hopefully this will come across. :)

    Thanks for a fun post, as usual!
    may at maythek9spy dot com

  2. Okay...

    Layering conflict...

    Let's see...

    Guess I don't have to worry about the Genesis thing anymore so...

    Internal conflict:
    She had her heart broken by her HS boyfriend. It never truly healed. She was engaged to a guy who was a lying, cheating... well, you get the jpg. She doesn't trust herself anymore. She feels foolish and gullible and now her HS boyfriend is weasling her way back into her life and she doesn't like it.

    External conflict:
    The ex-fiance won't just let things go. He's in and out [showing up places etc.]
    The HS boyfriend is around all the time [they're in a wedding together, their families are best friends who do holidays together etc] and she wants absolutely nothing to do with him.
    Except that every time she needs him, he's there for her [like when the aforementioned ex-fiance shows up]

    I think that's it.



    Or maybe we can just stare at Gibbs for a while.

    I got a newtome Ruthy book today =D. Plus I found my cord for my camera and was able to get my pics from meeting Beverly Lewis and Julie Klassen uploaded. [Can you guys see that? Couldn't find a 'public' link...] Twas lots of fun.

    And I got some writing done yesterday. Always good.

    I'm in for drawings. Drawings are fun =D.

    carol at carolmoncado dot com

  3. The coffee today is CEO coffee.
    It took many years for me to become a CEO. Gotta flaunt it.

    I really loved Trent--and enjoyed being his boss.

    Ugh. Typed out some layers. Didn't like how it looked in black and white. Erased it.


    helengray AT boycomonline DOT com

  4. Ruthy, that story is amazing, I tell ya. Totally amazing. Talk about a sympathetic hero. I haven't read a single word of the story, and yet I'm already crazy about Trent. You done good, girlfriend!

  5. I like how you went through your building process, Ruthy! And Mike Rowe is a wonderful picture to start off the post. :)

  6. Building conflict, huh? Since I'm just getting started in fiction, I can't tell you how I've done it in the past, but here's my plan for the future.

    Make my character want something really bad, then dangle it just out of his/her reach. Back them into a corner, then ask - what would be the worst thing that could happen to them at this moment, then BAMM! I'll hit them with it and watch them squirm.

    Hmmm - I don't think I'll have any problems making my characters suffer.

    In the end, I'll let them get that thing they wanted so badly and I'll help them out of all the messes I've written them into.

    Makes me glad I'm the author and not one of my characters!

  7. Oh, blogger....

    Why do you hate me this morning????

    (Ruthy lament after writing an answering comment to SEVERAL WONDERFUL PEOPLE...)


    Where are those cream cheese and olive bagels?????

  8. Okay, back here, revisions complete and I'm tickled pink with Yuletide Hearts!!!! I've been listening to "Breath of Heaven" and "Joseph's Song" to keep me in Christmas mode while tweaking the book.

    I love it. :)

    KC, you're right on track, sweet thang! And I love that pic of you and May. So fun. And sometimes layering is the simple addition of one word or phrase, here or there. There is such a thing as TOO MUCH...

    Thank God for editors.

  9. Carol, good morning! Blogger at my earlier comment to you and KC, but the gist was:

    I'd 'axe' the fiance. I think it's too much back and forth, keep the hero (always a good thing) and make the reader happy by focusing on the romance. The bad engagement is great backstory for internal conflict and mistrust, but I'd get rid of him.

    Just my take, though!

  10. HELEN!!!!


    Laughing in upstate, because I always knew you had it in you!

    Remember layers don't have to be big. A thin glaze of raspberry on yellow cake makes the chocolate frosting come alive and half the folks don't even know it's there.

    Tiny and thin layers help, too. Glad you loved Trent!

  11. Keli, g'mornin'!

    Aw, thanks.... My poor little lost boy....

    Seeking and searching.

    What woman wouldn't want to make him happy???? ;)

  12. Camy, I love Mike. And Ford has him and Jeter doing their commercials...

    Oh my stars, talk about double-teamed!

    Gadzooks. What's a girl to do? I would trust either one of those guys.


  13. Jan, I LOVE how you think. Just a hint torturous....


    You sound like you're well on your way to creating that just-out-of-reach dream or goal...

    And then snatch it away...

    Were you from a big family??? Is this payback???? ;)

  14. I love to put green olives on stuff too! I love a green olive pizza.

    I'm not a writer, but I don't like conflicts in my life so I know it would be hard to write about conflict. However, I do know conflict is good when writing books. You have to have some conflict for the plot to thicken and see what happens.

    And Ruth, I love the song Breath of Heaven. It's so good.


  15. Oh No I now have christmas carols stuck in my head again! I guess its better than Bob The Builder can you fix it (and I dont even have kids!)
    The more I hear about this story the more I need it. I will be doing my order tomorrow (I know I keep saying I will but!) The aussie dollar is good so that helps. then I will patiently wait 6 weeks for them to arrive! (Amazon is so much quicker than Christianbook but so much dearer)
    I have to say the food made me hungry today.
    Oh and Ruthy is at my blog also today!

  16. grabbing a bagel with olive cream cheese and out the door. I'll be back.

  17. I knew this was a Ruthy post when I saw the hard-hat photo. I could so handle the layer cake or sandwich, but not the bagel with all those olives! :(
    But, food aside, Ruthy--what a fabulous premise for a story. How awesome. You are rocking the writing world my friend. And for someone who doesn't like to make people suffer, well... I'm just saying. Clay has suffered.
    I think it just goes against our nature to see people sad and hurting. I usually have to play a sad song and 'get' into being sad when writing a scene where they're breaking up or leaving.
    T. Swift has a SAD song-well a few actually, but this goes
    "Now I'll go sit on the floor wearing your clothes-all that I know is I don't know how to be something you miss."
    Ha--pretty sad. Thanks for the post.

  18. Ah, Mike Rowe in the morning! And green olives besides. As usual, a fascinating post.

    I got hooked on Ruthy's books because she creates such complex heroes, heroines and scenarios. Nothing like wounded characters to engage me and get me turning those pages faster. The thing about human suffering is it makes us,well, human and also more reliant on God's strength and grace.

    I choose to think that because the thought of Ruthy liking to pull wings off of flies for a good story is not a good alternative!

    Cinnamon raisin gluten free bread this morning!

    Peace, Julie

  19. Oh man, Ruthy, I'm ready to go write a hero ... as soon as I wipe the drool from my face!!! I gotta say, girlfriend that NOBODY writes macho men quite like you, and it's WAY too early in the morning to be sighin', droolin' and palpitatin'... for Trent's sake, I haven't even had my coffee yet!!!

    LOVE this post, sweetie -- the hard hat, Mike Rowe, Gibbs, Trent -- and the food doesn't hurt either. The analogies are delish and spot-on!!

    The worst part of this post??? I have to write a kitchen scene with the girls today instead of a love scene. Sigh. All that motivation gone to waste. Talk about conflict!!


  20. Hey Ruthy, you're speaking to me this morning! I'm having a glimmer of a light bulb moment. Have to say that my hero is turning out to be a bit two-dimensional...he's purty darn near perfect which is beginning to annoy me. Plus it's making my heroine look like a basket case! LOL.

    So the cake got my attention (thank you for that -- I'm a visual learner)and your layering example using Trent is flicking the switch on that glimmering light bulb. I can see where I need to be thinking cause and effect with my hero.

    Question: Did you have that all layered before you started writing? Or did those layers appear as you worked on your WIP?

  21. Well, in thinking about it, the exfiance only shows up 2xs and only one of those in person. Both times it drives her towards the hero. And provides a lovely contrast between him and the hero.

    I'm off to pretend to teach something about civil rights. Or civil liberties. Or how to be civil.

    Or something...

  22. Love Mike Rowe! And Gibbs…Well he’s Gibbs what can I say! Even love the Man from Snowy River especially when he’s chasing wild horses and takes his mountain horse off that ridge in slow motion.

    And Trent! Ruthy, you did it again. He’s just swoon worthy.

    I just started writing the second book in for a series (takes place in 1870 Montana Territory) and this is what I have so far on the hero.

    He’s the son of a white rancher and Sioux mother. His father had to leave the ranch to his cousin since Indians couldn’t own or inherit land. Constantly proving himself, prove his worth
    Marries the daughter of a white cavalry officer. The officer murders his daughter and grand-daughter while Nathan is out on a roundup. This leads to guilt to the max. If he hadn’t married Sarah, she would be alive. His fault for bringing her down.
    New school teacher arrives and he falls for her. But doesn’t want to “ruin” another woman’s life. Oh! And her parents were killed in an Indian attack on their wagon train

    This is just the tip of the iceberg. We just started getting all of this out a couple days ago.


  23. Patsy, yes. Love it. We did it at Midnight Mass this year.

    Not we, really. My friend, Mary Kay. Trust me, you do NOT want to hear me try to reach Amy Grant-notes. ;)

    But I love it....

    Jenny, hey, mate! Headin' over!

    And Carol, only two times? Then that might be a-okay super dandy fine-a-licious.

    And it all comes down to what an editor decides is fine in the end, right? That's the important person to please.

    Hey, making sponge candy this weekend.

    Cannot wait. Haven't had any since Christmas. Oh, yum...

  24. Lindi, my talented and beautiful friend, those words...




    I love songs, books and people that make me feel real. Thank you for sharing that! It rocks.

  25. Julie, no wing-pulling. I'm such a stinkin' nurturer that I hate putting people through things....


    In retrospect I KNOW it helped me be a better person, so I do it...


    With no joy....

    Until the happy ending. ;)

    I am a Seeker Sap. Totally. But I play a mean person on TV.

  26. Kirsten....

    I love this.

    I love the twist of the evil father officer murdering his own daughter because she defiled herself by marrying outside of her kind. Not too long ago this was true in modern times, if whites married blacks. Now you see mixed couples everywhere, and on college campuses, color is a non-entity.

    I love that. GREAT STORY BASIS! Really, truly.

    Just wonderful.

  27. Kav, I'm so guilty of that!!! And no, they don't start out as layers.

    They start as an idea.

    So the idea of a wronged cadet came first.

    Then the why's and what's?

    What makes him tick and why does he carry such angst? And why does he try SO HARD because there's a limit to perfection, right???

    So inside, there was the little boy wanting to be good enough and special enough that his parents wouldn't want to dump him off.

    I love Trent. ;)

  28. Thanks so much for the encouragement, Ruthy!

    Nathan's story excites me. I've been looking forward to writing it since he sauntered on the scene in the ms of his cousin's story.


  29. Ruthy, I LOVED Reunited Hearts! My book review will be coming soon, I hope. Can't wait to read the next book in the series. :D

    Layering, huh? Well, first Beth has an immediate situation. She has started doubting her fiancé's integrity and fidelity. An event that punctuates those doubts sends her running.

    But, how did she end up with him in the first place? He was a sweet-talker and she was deep distress. Not only did she lose her amazing big brother in a tragic way, but she blamed herself. Her dad blamed her.

    Now she realizes she made a mistake running to a man rather than God. Now, she's running from the man only to end up in the path of who reminds her of her beloved brother.

    She fights the attraction. After all, she's engaged even if she plans to break up. And it was her lack of judgement that set her and her brother in the path of the semi. She also made a mistake in judgement about her fiancé, so how can she trust her judgement when it comes to this guy? How does she know for sure that he's for real and not just another Kyle?

    She suffers dire consequences from her poor judgement about her fiancé and therefore struggles with issues of trust, forgiveness, fear, and either moving on with life or allowing her tragedies to paralyze her.

    She's learned the hard way that love without trust/trustworthiness only leads to an abyss.

    But, she's stronger than she thinks. She makes a decision regarding her future and sticks with it. Even after she suffers dire consequences from that decision, she stands firm, unrelenting and fights for her future - her purity, her sanity, her self-respect, her relationship with God and even the man of her dreams.

    Does that work, or is it confusing? I'm eyebrow deep in revisions and my mind is a little fried.

    Please add me to the drawing. :D

  30. Food and handsome heroes. Who else but Ruthy!!!

    Wow. Feels like I've been away from Seekerville forever!!! That's what a cross-country move AND the birth of a new granddaughter will do for you!

    Still working out of boxes (and will continue to do so until we can actually move into the house we're buying), but at least I have Internet and a workable office set up in our temporary apartment. Even wrote a couple thousands words this week--FINALLY!!!

    Now back to layering my characters...

  31. Good morning, Ruthy! Before I even read a word of your post, that shot from "A Man from Snow River" caught my eye! Love that movie! :)

    You're SO right about building foundations for our stories that won't blow away in a strong wind--or even in a light breeze. I just finished "Reunited Hearts" and can attest to the fact you did your homework! Congrats on yet another fabulous story!

  32. My problem is ... even though I'm sooo nice since I'm constantly being beat up. I like to torture everyone else. LOL

    To make characters memorable they have to have layers, dimensions. Or they're cardboard.
    They need hopes and fears and dreams. They need gentle moments, comedy and conflict.
    That's life. They even need a few dull moments.

    That's why I like a piece of hot cake without frosting sometimes. But yes... I do love frosting.


    tpins313(at)gmail dot com

  33. MMM-mmmm, love those pics! And the food ones aren't bad, either. :D

    And whaddaya mean 'why it's hard for nice people like you and me to MAKE PEOPLE SUFFER' ???
    I have no problem making my characters suffer... just tuck those pinkies in the thrumb screw and turn it until their owner squeals.

    My problem is explaining their visceral reaction when it's their thumb being screwed!

    Excellent post, Ruthy. Now that I'm hyped up with all this angst I think I'll get back to my wip.

    Anita Mae.

  34. Lovely post, Ruthy! I "feel" his inner struggle. Being left on the side of the road gets to me big time! Great, great conflict. I am so into this story...

    Heard on the news yesterday about a mama who let her son out of the car and then drove the rest of her children and herself into the Hudson. I keep thinking about the kid she didn't kill. How's he going to grow up being the one that lived? What questions will be ask himself? How will he relate to others?

    That internal conflict is so important. And healthy--or unhealthy--childhoods make the difference.


  35. Hi Ruthy,

    I loved Trent too! Great hero.

    Most times I find internal conflict easier than the external conflict. What does that say about me? LOL!

    Love your food analogies. Now I'll be craving that pink cake as I think of layers for my characters!

    Oh, and congratulations to Myra on the birth of her beautiful granddaughter! How exciting. And you don't look old enough to be a grandmother. Hope they say the same about me one day!!

    sbmason at sympatico dot ca

  36. That picture of the eggs was just like ours- one of my kids said, 'Hey mom, they put up a picture of our eggs'!
    Great post...

  37. Well, if it's got the Ruthy stamp of approval then... =D It would take some major rewriting to take those 2 things out, but if an editor said to... you're right. I probably would. [But the hero decks the ex-fiance in book 2 so it's all good.]

    I've been pondering the newest WIP when I wasn't a. sleeping or b. talking about economic policy [not civil rights/liberties - oops that's next week]. My eyes glazed over. I'm sure my students' did too.

    So new one...

    External: confirmed bachelor has just inherited his sister's 4 kids on the eve of his move cross country

    Internal: is a confirmed bachelor because his fiance died weeks before the wedding but he feels the best way to take care of the kids is to get married [Dunno how the fiance died yet, but I'm guessing it's something he thinks he could have prevented - like canceling a date last minute or something]

    External: is down to her last dime, needs income/place to live

    Internal: feels she owes Andrew's sister because sister helped her many times, was her best friend for the better part of a decade, feels like she's giving up her chance at happiness by marrying Andrew

    But then Andrew loses his job and becomes Mr. Mom [like the Lonestar song] and Ruthie goes back to work to support them and we've got a whole new set of issues to work with... ;)

    I finally made cookies yesterday so those are over there for a midmorning snack.

    And like everyone else, I <3 Trent Michaels. Almost as much as I <3 Tom Linscott. That's saying something ;).

  38. That strawberry cake is a must have. Terrific post. You nailed motivation on this time honored theme.

  39. Teenster:

    We must learn how to make the cake. I'm in.

    Linnette, wow... I love that she's running from guilt and tragedy. And that she's got the wrong fiance.

    But she's not guilty, right? So (and don't get mad, I'm thinking out loud here...) what you've got to be careful of is having everything happen TO her, rather than have her be her own worst enemy at times. Having bad stuff happen TO her can work, but having her totally mess up because of youth or timing or bad decisions, etc... In other words, don't let her feel the blame and be totally blameless. Most of us are self-scarred in many ways. And it doesn't have to be big...

    This is a strong set-up, but you know that. I would just hack away at that flooring to see what might have caused that little wrinkle in the sub-floor that caused that squeak in the stair stringer...


    DEB... I love military heroes. You got to marry one.


    And Deb and her sweet hubby have been great inspiration for my next serviceman, Matt Cavanaugh, our bad-boy-turned-marine in Yuletide Hearts. Deb and Tony know military. Love God and country. What a lovely pair!

  40. Julie, I had to add a girl scene this week...

    And it was fun and very funny, but I LOVE romance scenes... Even unrequited love romance scenes...

    The longing...

    The wistfulness....


    And your heroes are beautifully done. Strong. Macho. Tough but gentle.

    Love 'em!

  41. Myra, our cross-country vagabond, welcome back! And public congrats on that beautiful baby. Wonderful thing, babies!

    And Glynna, I'm sooooo glad you liked it! Oh, happy day! ;) Thanks so much and be sure to grab a fresh bagel on your way to work, honey.

  42. Anita Mae, YOU SCARE ME.

    Oh myanta, what a hoot! Girlfriend, I am not letting you stand in a buffet line behind me, even if it's only got plastic knives.

    Are ya' kiddin' me?

    And Tina P, yeah, avoiding cardboard at all costs. One thing I've found judging contests and doing occasional critiques here and other places, is that sometimes it's that one last re-write, that one last step of deepening the novel, re-structuring things, re-laying your foundation....

    I love that stuff. I really do. If I'm told I need to go right and I shifted left, I figure it's a new adventure. I think that's appreciated too. And they keep paying me, always a good thing.


    Think of the strength of a spider web. So thin. Fragile in appearance. Easily swept down.

    But that web can mean death. Food. Torture. Pain.

    Layering isn't about size. I think of it more as a timing thing. Know when to wax on.

    And know when to fade to black. Mary Stuart was great at that. Daphne Du Maurier too. Faint subtleties that wrap you in a story.

    Love 'em.

  43. Deb, YES.

    What a story for that surviving child. His age and speed probably saved him. And the realization that what was happening was wrong. And terrifying.

    But what a story that makes, only not so much when it's real.

    So sad. Don't you just wish you could have taken that mom for coffee and Ruthy-cake and sat down and held her hands and said, hey...

    Let me help. If things are rough, I'll take a couple of the kids to the park. They can stay with me.

    We'll make more cake.

    Hopelessness is the absence of God, but there's a darkness that lurks in mental illness and exhaustion that wears the weary soul. I cannot imagine how that young mother must have felt.

    God be with them all...

  44. This comment has been removed by the author.

  45. Susan, you liked it??? OH YAY!!!

    The check's in the mail. ;)

  46. Layers.


    I'm slow getting around today aren't I? And here I missed HOURS of opportunity to make fun of Ruthy.
    this is tragic.

    But as to the topic of layers.

    My book Deep Trouble releases in May. My heroine is searching for a city of gold because her father died searching for it and his lifelong obsession with proving the Kindgom of Quivera existed made him a laughingstock in the academic world.

    So, she is working to restore her father's name, more than for herself. But it's not really his good name so much as it's all the years her father spent searching while neglecting his wife and daughter.

    Shannon needs to prove her father's life wasn't wasted. She needs to prove he was searching for something so important that it justfied being emotionally unavailable to her all her life.

    Her whole sense of self worth hinges on her finding this city of gold and proving her father gave her up for something important and not just for his pride or because he didn't love her enough to put her first.
    Then along comes Gabe, Mr. Common Sense, wanting to shoot her crazy theories full of holes. But her heart is too fragile to give up. So Gabe throws in with her search to keep her alive until she comes to her sense.
    He's got 'rescue fantasies' because he didn't take good care of his mother. More layers.

  47. By the way, I LOVED Reunited Hearts.

    I'm sorry, I'm not teasing you enough.

    I'm sure all this nice-ness will pass. There's plenty of day left.

    I also want cake now, desperately.

  48. Oh - that was AMAZINGLY helpful, Ruthy. WOW.

  49. It's so nice to see a new analogy that doesn't involve layers and onions! Who wants to eat an onion? I would way rather sink my fork into delicious cake!

  50. Mary's being nice to me?

    Oh mylanta, record the date and time!

    Wait. We're in cyber space. DONE.

    Mary, is this the werewolf story, dear? Because I can't WAIT for that one.

    I love Shannon's need to make sense of a man's foolishness. That, right there, will get her more trouble than the pretty little thing bargained for. But then, ain't that the truth?

    In Small-Town Hearts (June, 2011, Love Inspired) I take the sweet left-TWICE-at-the-altar, HOW EMBARRASSING CAN THAT GET??? candy store operator and turn her safe, small-town life upside down. And since everybody dies famous in a small town, nothing gets by the sweet people of Jamison, NY...

    WAY FUN.


    And his grandmother's determination to open a tribute store to her late mother, the founder of Grandma Mary's Candies...

    Who grew up in Allegany County and started her business on her front porch along Route 19...

    Of course just down the road from the heroine.

    He's the East Coast VP in charge of marketing and distribution, a guy whose usual haunts are Market Street in Philly... The Upper West Side of Manhattan or Union Square... Inner Harbor.... Faneuil Hall in Boston's Harbor.

    Jamison, NY? Umm... Not so much.

    So then we layered him. His family. Her family. Their home. Their dreams. Rough economy. Roots and wings...

    I love how it came out. And we see that even a tough East Coast exec can realize how important family is... and how hard it is to let someone try those wings that first time...

  51. Joann, HUGE THANK YOUS!

    Glad it helped, chica!

    Mandy: Cake: YES!

    Now that's my kind of analogy! ;) Hits close to home!

  52. Great post! I'm starting to believe these people in Ruthy's books actually exist somewhere. I keep expecting to run into them when I visit small towns nearby. After all, I think I'm in the state as these hunky men . . .

  53. Grandma Mary's Candy?

    I'm a little weepy.

    Not that I, Grandma Mary, am good at making candy. But maybe it was Grandma's skill at EATING candy that is earning the tribute.

    That would fit me to perfection.

  54. Ruthy, I didn't take offense at what you said and I hope you don't think I'm arguing with you. I'm just trying to clarify so I know how to make my book the best it can be. I really appreciate you input. It makes me think and examine what I'm doing to make sure I don't leave loop-holes in my story.

  55. Linnette, I love it when you get all worried.

    Makes me feel powerful rather than just tied up with cute babies!

    I think you have to go with your gut. We always know our own stories best, so it's hard to see the layering unless you, well...

    see it, right?

    So from here it sounds fine, sweet thing, and then it's just in the telling, right?

    Strong conflict, strong emotions...

    I love those kind of stories!

  56. Thanks, Ruthie!

    And the telling is exactly what I'm working to ween out right now. That was really the only problem the agents assistant editor had with my manuscript. And it permeates the entire manuscript. Not the obvious telling, but the little sneaky, subtle tellings that are hard to catch without really thinking things through.

    When I sent the proposal in, she went to my website and read everything there, checked out all five of my blogs (yes...I know! But they're for different things. But maybe I should consolidate. Anyway...).

    Then, she emailed and asked if she could see the rest of the manuscript. She read the whole thing! and apparently liked it. She's been so very helpful to this newbie author even though she's up to her eyeballs in manuscripts. I thank God for her!

    How many babies you have?

  57. Renee Ann....


    And it's fun to mix REAL places (The Texas Hot, Beef Haus, The Howe Library, etc.) in with fictional people in a fictional town.

    I love that!

    And if ever there was a great place to visit, Allegany County is it. Campgrounds, sweet towns (gotta visit Angelica, the town that inspired "Jamison", NY...)

    The balloon rally in Wellsville!

    Oh so fun!

  58. When your day starts off with Mike Rowe and Leroy Jethro could anything go wrong??

    Absolutely love your construction zone, Ruthy! Building characters is something you do best.

    Nice way of building Trent to show all his internal stuff (NOT intestines). Poor kid. I want to cuddle him -- and the grown up version -- and make everything right.

    And cake!

    This is a good day all around!!!

  59. A great look into your mind at work Ruthy!

    I think in my current wip I need to make my characters suffer more. They just seem to be getting off too easy lately :)

  60. That is so sad about that little boy! I am sure you tell a really great story around it though!!

    I would hang out longer, buuuut I had to substitute today and I still have a K of words to write a blog post. Probably going to be a super short blog post. Always good to "visit" with you Ruthy!! :)

  61. I'm waiting for the day we talk about gorgeous heroines.

    I also want chocolate cake with a thin layer of raspberry.

    And,I guess, now that Genesis is over, I can talk about my stuff. This wasn't the story I submitted, but it is one where I'm fleshing things out.

    Making my characters suffer is not easy, but I do know it's necessary.

    Hero (Medieval Japan setting)
    The women he loved betrayed him and killed his father, leaving him with a desire to commit suicide after she was stopped. However, his older brother, now the head of the family, has ordered him not to take his own life. He obeys his brother, but will never trust a woman again.

    However, when his older brother is killed investigating a plot against the regent, the Hero must finish the mission alone. No longer restricted by his brother's orders, will he find a reason to keep living?

    How's that?


  62. I'm a chapter away from finishing Reunited Hearts so I'm glad there are no major spoilers here. I thought this was the best secret baby story I've ever read ('cuz in general I dislike secret babies). Secret for an honorable, if misguided, reason.

    Love Trent. Love, love, love Trent. Because he's an all-around good guy. Not perfect, but really good.

    I like to think about what the character wants and find reasons why he can't have it, both external and internal. I also like to find a way to turn a strength on its head.

  63. Great post Ruthy! Can't wait to get my hands on your newest book!

    And I love cake!

  64. Great post, Ruthy!! And I am about to begin reading Reunited Hearts!!!

  65. Fish on a bagel?


    Great post, Ruthy. Loved all the layering, building points.

  66. Audra, hugs back at ya'... And thanks, kiddo!

    Eva Maria, our newest flight-to-the-mainland gal!!! So happy for you wherever I see you. Just wonderful!

    See, there's this part of us, the NICE part that wants to plunk a Band-Aid on things and make them better.


    Come on kid, we'll work on being toughies together!

  67. Casey, back at ya'.

    I love your work ethic. ;)

  68. Walt, that's great conflict, but you know that.

    The trick with that (and I have no doubts you can pull it off...) is to make the reader see strength in suicide...

    Because most of us don't see it that way. So there's a big twist for you to work on, to 'sell' that notion. And that's your finesse at work.

    The typical response is revenge. Or misplaced anger. We all understand that to a point. But suicide sounds like giving up. How can a hero give up? And even if it's part of an honor system, will Americans buy into the logic?

    You know I'm just thinking out loud here, right???? No offense, just hammering out devil's advocate stuff...

    Remember Here Come the Brides? They linked up the younger, less forceful brother with the 'leader' of the women.

    I hated that because his older brother was a much better match for her. I was a teenager and STILL remember thinking they messed that up. She'd have never fallen for him.

    (Note: Abnormal from early age, ya' see?)

    So then it comes to how you handle his desire for suicide? Is it funny? Because it could be. In a snarky I-don't-really-want-to-die kind of way.

    The conflict is powerful. Now it's all about fleshing it out and making it draw in the reader, the editor.

  69. Patricia, THANK YOU, SWEETIE! What a lovely compliment and I'm embracing it wholeheartedly because I feel the same way...

    And the fun thing about this is that Melissa was the one who decided Trent should know on the opening pages... That we should drop him into an alternate universe and see what happens.

    What a great idea. No dragging it out, they had to duke it out from the beginning.

    Fun twist!

  70. Faye, I love the pic! AWESOME, DUDETTE!

    And I love cake too. Too much.

    Sigh.... ;)

    But cake is worthy of calories. Good cake, anyway! Thanks for coming over!

  71. Jackie, I hope you love it!!! Either way, you can talk to me, chickie!

    I'm tough. I can take it.

    PAMMERS.... lox and bagels? With onions? Cream cheese.

    Yiddish origin. Or Swedish... Anyway, lox is a form of smoked salmon, done in brine, popular in Jewish bagel houses and just all around popular around NYC...

    Pretend it's grits, honey. ;) Or catfish.


  72. oh dear. Like my Inky Sister Anita Mae, I don't have any trouble making people suffer either...

    Fun post and comments AS USUAL!

    Okay, so where did Mike Rowe come from? I assume he was on a tv show at one time? I think he does truck ads now, right? funny and cute!

  73. Eeek! I had to scan most of this because I just started Reunited tonight and I didn't want any spoilers. I have a secret baby story out on sub right now so I'm always curious to see how other writers do them and what I can learn. I'm loving yours so far! And I have to tell you, I'm feeling some author intrusion in there because there are some lines that sound just like YOU. I LOVE it. :-)

    Anyway, it's a great story and the characters are sooo empathetic. I can't wait to see what happens with it. Great job, Ruth!

  74. LOVED this post, Ruthy!! I'm learning so much from these Seekerville posts. And I LOVED Reunited Hearts--especially Trent *sigh*. SO enjoyed reading that story while eating the YUMMY chocolate candy basket I won from you---WOW!!(a great book and great candy--what more could a girl ask for!!). Thanks again sooo much! Blessings from Georgia, Patti Jo :)

  75. Oooh. Love the pic from Snowy River! Yummy. : )

    Writing conflict within and around characters that involves elements the writer deeply cares about, or a subject close to home, can be difficult to do, even to fictional characters. I don’t know that writers LIKE to make their characters suffer (okay, maybe a little, depending on the situation), but watching characters grow through conflict is rewarding.

    I almost think that I approach conflict differently in every story. In some stories, it’s out there, immediate, and easy to see. In other stories, it’s a little harder to get at; it makes the reader dig to see why a character is that way, or wants something.

    Thanks for the useful post. Please enter me in the contest.



  76. Speaking of plain cake.

    A plain Betty Crocker butter cake right out of the oven with a gallon of Bluebelle vanilla ice cream can't be beat.

    Hmmm, but if I've got a gallon of ice cream, it's not a plain cake anymore, is it?

    Oh well...scratch that! lol

  77. It's interesting that suffering is in the question today because I just finished watching a Joni Erikson Tada about that very topic. What Joni said definitely applies to writing fiction. I think it's hard to make people in your story suffer, because we can all relate to the hardship and pain of suffering. It makes us sad, fearful, anxious. But just as it is in real life, it's necessary for refinement and growth. I think that's key to writing a story that is interesting and appealing to readers. We want to know how the character deals with suffering and how they become better...or worse...from it. Building that up, in my very limited experience, starts with an act or event, in a person's life--just like it happened in Trent's--that becomes the core of the story. Then everything that happens in the story branches off from that. It almost writes itself. Every person that interacts with that core event is involved in shaping and resolving the conflict. I hope this makes sense. : ) It's almost midnight and the brain is getting sleepy!
    travelingstacey at bellsouth dot net

  78. Hi Ruth:

    Sorry to be so late. I only have a few minutes a day on the computer these days.

    "No matter what else happens in life, you can never go wrong with cake. Promise."

    You have just given a whole new meaning to Marie Antoinette’s: Let them eat cake.

    I like the realism in “Reunited Hearts”. What I would like to see next is a realistic “Runaway Bride” romance. “Hearts on the Run”.

    Also, I ‘d like to see internal conflict where the hero thinks he is going mad because he truly believes that he was abducted by aliens as a child. (His older brothers perpetrated the hoax and have long forgotten about the incident.) This would be a ‘hospice’ of the mind -- as dark as you want to make it. Usually romances don’t deal with madness but I think you could do it. Besides, the hero is not really mad.

    Walt: there is no need to talk about beautiful heroines. The readers are the beautiful heroines.


  79. RUTHIE - it's been a busy day, so I just saw your response to my comment. How did you know I'm from a big family? Had 5 younger brothers, no sisters. I'm still miffed at Mom about that!

    I'm thinking that if I just channel some of that animosity I felt at having to babysit "the boys" all the time, I might just be able to put my characters through the wringer!

  80. DEB, I didn't see Mike until my niece showed me Dirtiest Jobs, the TV show where Mike showcased America's grungiest jobs by DOING THEM...

    And he's so stinkin' adorable even when dirty! Straightforward, straight-shooting. Gotta love him!

    PATTI JO, I'm so glad you liked it! YAYAYAYAYAYAYAYAY!!! Chocolate and romance.

    I'm all in!

  81. JESSICA! Good luck with your story! I'm not sure what it is about a secret baby story, but they've got a general appeal.

    Maybe we all secretly wish our angels had dropped us down a different chimney????

    And you know it's funny, when you know an author, you do 'feel' them come through. A turn of phrase. Timing.

    I noticed that when I hear authors speak at conferences, so if an author is very warm, sweet, and genteel, I'm probably not their demographic.

    I like humor. Some snark. The occasional bullet from my friend Connealy. And I like quick reparte in a book, and it's amazing how much you can tell about an author's books by how they speak.

    Fun that you caught that!

  82. What a great post Ruthy! I loved all of your analogies.

    I'm having a hard enough time trying to layer a great sandwich let alone my story. I've got peanut butter and jelly down pat but having problems getting other layers that will be able to co-mingle with the P & J.

    Thank you for the chance to win a Seekerville goody basket. You all are the best!!

    Smiles & Blessings,
    Cindy W


  83. I'm not a writer so can't say anything about building conflict lol but I did really enjoy your post. It was very interesting and entertaining to read.


  84. I have to admit, the green olives on a bagel kinda grosses me out.

    However! Your building of character was delicious. I'm in the throes of crafting characters for my new story right now, so it's hit me at a good time - thank you!

    I'm anxious to read your book.

  85. Hey, Ruthy! Sorry I'm a day late! Blame edits deadline, my kids' spring break, and my mother coming for a visit.

    Whoa, I am totally wanting to read the Trent story now! Need to get that book! Sounds like you did a wonderful job with building the conflict!

    Great post!

  86. Stacey, that not only makes sense it's wonderfully put. Thank you so much for adding that in today!

    I like the analogy of things branching out of the core experience. It works well for plotting.

    And we could use either a tree with growing branches....

    Or the big bang theory.....

    Or a spider web.

    Great stuff.

  87. Vince, having raised 4 EVIL BOYS I can totally see how fun the second story would be.

    Except to the kid who thinks he was taken aboard an alien spaceship, LOL!

    Runaway bride....

    Gotta think on it. Is ONCE enough to be a runaway bride? Or does it have to be multiple grooms left at the altar?

    Hmm.... ;)

    You give me food for thought, my friend!

  88. Jan, good guess, huh????

    Only someone who's had to deal with that can really grab hold of the feel of TORTURE BY PROXY....


  89. Cindy, on days like that, when nothing goes with PB&J, we punt...


    And serve Spaghettios or French Toast.

    Easy peasy. ;)

    And LEANNE!!!! We love readers over here. Totally. I invite my readers to come and hang out because touching base with readers helps make us real.

    Gotta keep on keepin' on, you know? And since it's spring and we've already had the first garter snake invasion of my kitchen...


    I love real people. Come back often. Keep us company.

  90. Jennifer, in all honesty? I don't eat it like that. I chop up (or get sliced) green olives and mix 'em with cream cheese. It's great in celery, too, if you like green olives.

    And no carbs if you use celery! Well, not enough to lose a gasket over.

    Bagel? Whole other story! There was another pic on the web where the olives were STUFFED with cream cheese and the pimento was added...

    They looked like ghoul eyes.

    Very spooky. I couldn't eat 'em because I wouldn't have PICKED THEM UP.

    Oh mylanta.

  91. Melanie, my friend and author of greatness!

    Thank you! And I just got a call from someone reading Reunited Hearts....


    Her boss wondered what was wrong and she told her she was reading this book she couldn't put down.

    Oh my stars, humbling moment. Lovely phone call. Lovely lady!

  92. Conflict? That's what I try to avoid in life..... and sub-plots? Nah, I'll stick to my simplicity and the conflict of who had the toy first... Thanks for the good read though, it is food for though. I did enjoy the food visuals, layered cake and all...
    justin underscore autumn at

  93. Ruth Logan Herne said... Gotta think on it. Is ONCE enough to be a runaway bride? Or does it have to be multiple grooms left at the altar?

    I would love to hear the feedback on the runaway bride issue!! :)

  94. Ruth Logan Herne said... Gotta think on it. Is ONCE enough to be a runaway bride? Or does it have to be multiple grooms left at the altar?

    I would love to hear the feedback on the runaway bride issue!! :)

  95. Strawberry cake..yummmmm. you can never go wrong with any kind of cake....though cheesecake may beat regular cake for me...LOL