Monday, August 1, 2011

From Seed to Fruition: Building Characters From Inside Out

Gooooooooood Morning, Seekerville!!!!!!!

So nice to see you all here this mornin'!
We're talkin' story development today, there are TWO GIFT BASKETS to give away, including copies of my new 4-STAR novel:
a September Love Inspired release
And baskets are a lovely thing
to get in the mail, aren't they???

There's this one..... Notice I tucked Glynna's new book in there. ;)
You remember the whole mustard seed thing, right?

From the tiny seed,

the great tree groweth?

Story building works the same way. A tiny seed can be planted almost anywhere. From anything. Like the fields that had good seed fall on bad ground, some story lines develop better than others. But it’s in this development that branches grow.

And then we prune. Artful pruning, the blessing of any horticulturist. (Had to throw ONE BIG WORD in here for Mary Connealy's sake, she's so stinkin' smart, a total Miss Smarty Pants. Oh my stars.)

So let’s say we’ve got the story seed growing. Maybe several. Now we need to choose.

Ever felt like this when you're planning a story??? ;)

STORY IDEA: He’s a white knight type sheriff, a man of great principle, well-regarded in his hamlet of Shadowville. She’s the suspected terrorist, the femme fatale, the one thing that can bring him down. And everyone knows it but him.

(Like a bad-boy hero who turns to good, the femme fatale needs to have a REASON to be a danger to the hero either physically, mentally or emotionally. Just being a crazy woman DOES NOT DO IT. Ask any man. They apply that to us UNIVERSALLY... men are such... men.)

Of course in some cases...
That's perfectly fine, LOL!

So we’ve planted a seed. But this SEED sprang from somewhere (I love George Lucas, don’t you???) so this story could have a prequel.

And that would be a Young Adult novel, where this tragedy-bound young woman is pushed out of the inner circles, left on her own, reviled, ignored, mis-treated:

Novel by Gene Stratton Porter

She’s the ultimate success story. Prom Queen. Beguiling. Sweet-beyond-sweet. A town princess who must leave her cozy nest because of some strange or compelling circumstance. Let’s say she’s adopted… And she realizes her mother/father never knew about her, thought her dead. So she’s compelled to search them out, but this takes her to a strange, new place where she’s ill-received. Suspected. Her past is brought into question. Her future is shaky at best because she’s ‘one of THEM’… Whoever THEY are...


Pine nuts/seeds from pine cones....

All seeds do. Do not ask which came first.

I don't know.
And that’s the children’s story, the prequel version done for 4th-6th graders, where a young girl is tucked into a town and no one wants to accept her. Think Ray Bradbury’s “All Summer in a Day”, the story of the little girl who saw the sun when she lived on Earth, and no one in her Venus classroom believed her. So from this seed you can organically grow a tween-type book that shows the whys and hows of this girl’s life, her neediness, her resolve, her strange history, her shaky future. And because it’s for kids, you should think HatchetHolesBridge to TerabithiaThe Great Gilly Hopkins

Think DEEP because we remember deep books from that era. We shrug off the inane ones. Now you’ve got a tween basis for a story. A strong story.

But let’s move back up the ladder to the adult version. Because that’s how EASY it is to story-build in a creative mind. Work backwards… Move forwards.

Moving forward on an unmarked road isn't always EASY, but it can be satisfying...

Imagine. Envision. Predict. Foresee and foreshadow.
RESULT: Automatic depth.

And even if you NEVER WRITE THOSE TWEEN OR YA NOVELS, you now have a depth of story to work from. A deep, simmering cauldron of information to pull from, because now you know the woman’s history, her thoughts, her mode, her reasoning. You can deepen her character in ANY DIRECTION YOU CHOOSE because you know her.

I don’t do actual biographies for characters, but I let my mind delve into what happened TO them, to reveal things about them. “The past steps on the heels of the present, whether you like it or not, Jacob.” (Sarah, Plain and Tall)

This is a universal truth even when our characters work to bury the past. That in itself affects their present and future. They cannot get away from it.

I keep a cache of great YA novels, including The Yearling, Katherine Patterson’s books, The Pearl, Anne of Green Gables, Where the Red Fern Grows, etc. These books are great inspiration for character development, they are HUGE and well-written. Re-reading strong YA books helps me remember what it was about the emotional development of the story that compelled me to keep them on my shelf. Because isn’t that an author’s greatest honor? Right up there with making people cry? To have his or her book tucked on a “keeper” shelf?

After it’s been passed around to all friends and family, of course, thereby building readership! :)

I love me some cookies while I'm reading... writing... walking... breathing... Sigh... ;)


Coffee. From my Keurig or a shop, I don't care. I live on coffee. Love the stuff.

And here's a look at basket #2, featuring Mended Hearts and Winnie Griggs' newest release.
We just love Winnie Griggs in Seekerville!

Toss out a snippet of your character development today. No long passages this time, just some bare bones. I find that brainstorming plants seeds of today that might become tomorrow’s ideas. I love new ideas. I love telling stories.

I just love the heck out of what I do and still have trouble believing someone is PAYING ME to do it.

God rocks.


  1. I'm one of the first to post? What an honor. I have a new book and have just introduced myself to my main character. A slave girl who due to a freak accident finds herself free, but stranded in a snow storm. She distrusts others, desires to lead her own kind of life, and has no idea she is not who she thinks she is. Since my story is a fantasy fairy tale, there will be handsome heroes who want to save her, evil forces trying to kill her, and a heroine's journey to take.

  2. Good morning, Ruthy! As always, a stellar post.

    In a rare fit of Betty Crocker-like behavior, I made some scones. They turned out all right, so I figured I'd share some here.

    Cranberry-pecan and raisin-pecan.

  3. A rare fit eh? Love it.

    When my husband makes scones he swabs the top with maple syrup. YUMOLA. Pass me a raisin pecan please.

  4. Dawn!!!!! I love it already!

    Are you looking at the YA market for this? AND... Did you know that 50% of YA readers are actually middle-aged women looking for a good read without going to extremes?

    Isn't that awesome?

    Go for it, girl! So is she really a princess? This is very WILLOW... and I love me some Willow! Such a great story. So what's going on in her head? What's her internal angst? Why can't she be happy? Ever?

  5. Oh, thank you for the scones, Erica-my-pet! :)

    Rare, huh? Especially in 90 PLUS degrees. But these are delicious and hardly need butter. But maybe a pot of this homemade sour cherry jam from my pantry shelf would be good, hmm?

  6. Oh, that Tom. Maple syrup. Oh, yumbola, is correctomundo.

    Hey, sharing coffee here. Jamaiican Me Crazy (Wolfgang Puck) AND Folger's Gourmet for the Keurig. Delicious.

  7. I'm so the YA fan (and writer)... and I love the metaphor as you play it out.

    What a timely post for me, too! I'm working on my characters for my novel about a modern-day flood, and I'm figuring out how three sisters shaped the relationship they have as the novel starts. Heavy stuff, but it will be really helpful as I revise the novel.

    Thanks so much for the ideas!

  8. GOOOOOOOOD morning, Ruthy
    and Seekerville
    and COOKIES!!!

    Great post. I love story creating. boy, oh boy! My brain bounds with ideas!

    So - new one?!?

    My heroine- pirate who wants to win her father's love by winning a bet - capturing wealthy plantation owner's son and holding him for ransom.

    She's smart, sneaky, tough,distrustful, in control, and can weild a mean saber - but she has a soft spot for animals, kids, well...just all things 'innocent' because her 'innocence' was stripped away pretty early.

    She's searching for authenticity - something real in the middle of all the lies, deception, and treachery of the pirate world. A truth kindled in her youth, before her father kidnapped her and brought her into his world of men.


    Ahem...I get a tad carried away when it comes to a good YA storyline.

    Ruthy I love this unique take on character development! Who would have thought to use YA and kid lit as a way to flesh out your characters? And I love that you have noted so many classics. Except for Where the Red Ferns Grow...I can't bear to read a story where the dog dies.

    Okay -- here's my character development snippet:

    Struggling to overcome a less than stellar past, my heroine can’t quite let go of it. Everything she says and does is shadowed by ‘what used to be’. The product of a dysfunctional family, she turned inward to survive her childhood and now she’s an ‘alone in a crowd’ kind of woman. She desperately wants to change that – become part of a community, develop friendships, but she finds that wanting and doing are two different things. Trust is a major issue and the lack of it is nearly her undoing.

  10. Kav first.... And I love this too, it's just something I've always done. Some of Kayla's angst in Winter's End was from a grown-up "Gilly Hopkins" from "The Great Gilly Hopkins" by Katherine Patterson. How would a grown-up cast-out kid feel if she was tough as nails as a youngster?

    So here's your snip:

    Struggling to overcome a less than stellar past, my heroine can’t quite let go of it. Everything she says and does is shadowed by ‘what used to be’. The product of a dysfunctional family, she turned inward to survive her childhood and now she’s an ‘alone in a crowd’ kind of woman. She desperately wants to change that – become part of a community, develop friendships, but she finds that wanting and doing are two different things. Trust is a major issue and the lack of it is nearly her undoing.

    First question: Why does she feel stuck to the past? Guilt? Sorrow? Bullied as a kid? Sexually abused? If her past is coloring her present, it's usually a related dysfunction. Fear of commitment, of men, of belonging, of loving, etc.

    Second question: What is it that makes her yearn to trust? What is the hero's key that turns the lock of her heart? Is it timing? Is it shelter? What's thrusting her forward? Usually God pushes us forward with multiple circumstances. We suddenly have to be part of a church group because it desperately needs us and we're toooooooo darn guilty saying no. Or we're pushed to face our fears because helping someone (a child, a dog, an elder, a man) becomes more important than our intense internal fear or dislike. So what's her thrust? Why does she need to change?

    A lot of people go through life NEVER CHANGING... never taking that step. So we need an impetus for her. Thinking out loud here...

    And drinking coffee while baby crows in high chair.

  11. Ahhh, I love starting the week with a dose of Ruthy. It sets things spinning in the right direction. I'm not sure if that's clockwise or counterclockwise, but you get the gist. To top it off, this morning I had an email from eHarlequin that my copy of Mended Hearts is ready to be downloaded.

    Guess what I'm doing tonite!

  12. Shakespeare, the three sisters/friends/classmates thing totally works for me. I love series writing and branching out, laying buds for other stories. Love it!

    In yours, their age has a lot to do with it. Teens are so much more emotional, foolish, unpredictable, or (in the case of mean girls) totally predictable, but changing them, having them mature is a huge part of the pattern. Growth opportunities. And I never study archtype charts, but that's just me.

    I have four sisters. Four brothers. Six kids. In-laws. Friends. Friends with kids. Kids friends. You get it, my life is kid research, so picking out a family triangle is just a matter of targeting people who shall forever be un-named, LOL! I love this, kiddo!!!!

  13. Pepper, very Amazonian. So making her believable is your first step. Making her lovable is your second. And that's not easy with a guy pirate, so it might be tricky with a girl, but totally doable if we invest in her lost innocence, her father's rash decisions, the tenderness she hides within.

    One idea... Move the story forward and have this in her past, rather than the present. Have her trying to mend her ways (the femme fatale has a conscience after all) and gets tripped up. Some great historicals have used this and become classics. Just a thought as I'm mulling while grabbing another one of Erica's scones...

  14. Good morning, Seekerville! Love the "good luck" illustration, Ruthy. That's EXACTLY how I feel when I start with the seeds of a story. So many different kinds of seeds. So many types of soil to plant them in. Decisions, decisions, decisions. And each decision can take a character or story in a totally different direction. Great idea to adapt "seeds" from "classic" books!

  15. Good morning back at you, Miss Ruthy,

    What a great analogy of seeds taking root to grow into wonderful stories. I think my brain is a tangle of roots and I love it when one takes hold and blossoms into a wonderful thing. But like Glynna, the roads to decide on once the poor thing sees the light of day. my my

    I think I'll kick back and have one of Erica's scones topped with Tom's maple syrup and daydream for a bit. A writer's heaven. Right? Then to work typing away.

  16. I so enjoy learning from the women of Seekerville. This post is very enlightening to me in regards to a different way of character development.

    My newest hero brewing is a young man who was abandoned at birth (Christmas Eve no less). His birth mother left him at the place of business of the man who helped her through the birthing.

    The story opens near Christmas with him coming to the aid of pregnant heroine who is in a situation where she feels giving up her yet unborn child might be the only solution to her problems.

    It's deja vu all over again.

  17. Glynna, Sandra, good morning to you!


    Don't you love that part of the creative process? My "mom" mind wants to help. To heal. To guide.

    So I have to find out what's making that hero morose, what happened to his brother, his sister, his first wife...

    And then figure out how to fix it.

    I love fixing loners. They're soooo... alone!

  18. Excellent post, Ruthy! I love getting inside my characters. All that stuff that happens to them ensures conflict.

    Love the gift baskets you put together, Ruthy! Two lucky winners today! Yay! Won't be long until Mended Hearts is on the shelves! How about giving us a peek at the story?

    I love pine nuts. Has anyone tried to harvest them? Roast them? Seriously all those pine cones are just laying around, waiting.

    Thanks for the cookies, Ruthy and scones, Erica!


  19. Great post, Ruthy, love that! I would hang out longer, but got farm chores and then work at 9. Have fun, all! ;-)

  20. Loved the post, Ruthy!! Perfect timing as I work on my new proposal.

    Will be back later to read comments. Must go to the church to help send off our Kenya mission team! Please be in prayer for them for the next 2 weeks. Two of my good friends and the daughter of one of them are going.

    Thanks! See ya later.

  21. Yes, Ruthy, God is awesome!!!

    I like to ruminate about my characters for a few months, letting their characters develop organically. The hero is usually harder to figure out than the heroine. (Men. Isn't that always the way?)

  22. Thanks for thinking out loud, Ruthy. I've spent the last hour answering the questions you posed and it's led to some interesting stuff. I'm quite excited. I thought I knew my heroine but she suprised me! Now I'll keep this posted close to the computer while I head into major edits/rewrites. Thanks for taking the time to think out loud!

  23. Deb, I love the issues that presents. Reflection, foreshadowing, God's plan, circumstances touching hot-buttons of emotion.

    And so much of this one is the way you choose for your hero to 'see' his abandonment.

    In Reunited Hearts, hero Trent Michaels (so stinkin' yummy) needed to prove himself worthy again and again so he erred on the side of stellar behavior, military honor, goodness, goodness, goodness.

    In Yuletide Hearts, our hero "Matt Cavanaugh" spent his crazy dysfunctional childhood making trouble, a kid bereft of family, abandoned by his parents. So he needs to make amends. Fix things. And he does it through hard work and military service, but both heroes come through in singular fashion although both were abandoned as children.

    Whichever slant you take, I love this premise. Totally.

  24. Seeds--love the analogy, Ruthy! You just never know what seeds of ideas are going to germinate over time.

    In fact, I attended a workshop at the Iowa Summer Writers Festival several years ago that was entirely about "seed ideas" and how to collect and nurture them in a journal. I did okay for a year or two with the system, but now it's just one more partially filled spiral notebook cluttering my desk.

    Along with note card files, a whole file drawer of newspaper clippings, etc., etc. Although I do browse through my collections from time to time in case anything pops out at me.

  25. Oh, Andrea, SUH-WEEEEET!

    And I was tickled pink with the Romantic Times review that described Mended Hearts like this: "...all wrapped around a complicated and utterly compelling romance."


    That's a sweet blessing, for certain!

    And God bless Melissa Endlich for giving me that chance, that shot at the dream!

  26. Kav, you're welcome! I like thinking with people, it opens doors I didn't see.

    And I don't always take their advice, but that doesn't matter, it's the thought process that counts for me. Because that leads me to a series of 'what-if's...

    annE Goldsmith guided me that way years ago when she was with Tyndale. She said: go deeper. Ask why. Don't let things happen TO your heroine, let her actions cause a reaction.

    And she was right. By making the heroines more pro-active (Think Belle Tanner in Husband Tree, or Kayla in Winter's End, or Sarah Slocum in Waiting Out the Storm)they then have to accept responsibility for how they act and react.

    Instantly you've created a deeper dimension.

  27. Janet, DUH! I should have done that, shouldn't I, because Mended Hearts is such a good book.

    With some tough elements.

    The full RT review is here:

    I just posted it this morning.

    The story:

    Jeff Brennan reminds Hannah of a past she can't forget, and offers a future she doesn't dare embrace because she bears the weight of too much and too many on her heart and soul.

    And he's a hard-working, ambitious young executive, slated for greatness in the family business, but that takes long hours and dedication, two things that touch too many of Hannah's internal buttons.

    But when time and the wiles of two aging, staunch women thrust Hannah forward, can she handle the rigors of day-to-day life, the life she excelled at before?

    Or will she take the smart road and run, screaming?

  28. Missy, I love kids on mission trips!

    God love 'em all.

  29. Character development starts in my head. I play around with a character and possible stories surrounding the character. In fact, I think my characters actually develop out of story ideas. For Beth, I learned about Beth as I wrote her story and then went back to plug in what was missing. Since Tiffany is book 2, I already know a lot about her and her background because of book 1. My seeds, though, came from true living people and my desire to reach out to women like Beth and Tiffany - to touch hearts and impact lives for the better. Kathi Macais and I discussed our issue driven writing and decided she's "foreign" missions and I'm "home" missions. :D

  30. Oh, Myra, I commiserate. But I've pulled a couple of fun ideas from those story logs and I'm nurturing a few along, as well, LOL!

    It's amazing how browsing those notebooks/cards gets the brain working again.

  31. Dawn Ford, I love it!

    I have this fantasy fairy tale that's been percolating in my brain for years. I have an island nation divided into regions and each region is run by a Governor). The Governor's eldest son has to be married by a certain age (before he becomes Governor) or else all the maidens in the region have to come to the palace for a pageant(Ruth style). What nobody knows, including the heroine, is that he's met the heroine once before and believes himself in love with her. On one of his riding his horse in disguise ventures, he comes across the heroine who has twisted her ankle and can't walk. He gets her safely home without her ever finding out who he is. You can imagine her angst when he chooses her for his bride, everyone's confusion when he chooses a farmer's daughter over the elite maidens in the region, and his trepidation when he discovers his bride is in love with another man... who happens to be him, but she doesn't know it yet.

  32. PS - Ruthy, please include me in the drawing. :D

  33. RUTHY!!! What a completely COOL idea!!! Never thought of doing this, but I guess I actually DO do it, only with my own life! :)

    Many seeds of my stories come from somewhere in my past, be it my own story or my family's, so in essence that's kind of what you are talking about, right?

    But I NEVER thought of doing it this way -- delving back into the past of fictonal characters, imagining their life stories, early and later, as novels, so this is WAY cool!


  34. Great post Ruthy. I usually begin with a kernel of an idea and a nugget about my character and then the brainstorming begins. Always a fun, exciting exploration to discover what makes them tick.

    Jodie Wolfe

  35. Ruthy, great thoughts...great cookies.

    Recipe for great characters is there and very good. But alas no cookie recipe.

  36. morning everyone!

  37. Ruth,
    It is a YA story, much along the lines of a fairy tale with a twist. My character will have lost the woman she thought was her mother at a young age leaving her to grow up in the servitude of those who would take her in. However, she has a secret ability which makes her seem to be cursed. Strange things always happen around her. The cruelty she has experienced has left her unable to trust anyone or anything. Her journey home will challenge her to believe in things she cannot see and a love she has never known. How can she trust when all she knew to be true was a lie, she doesn't believe in the good that is promised, and she struggles to trust herself. Of course, there will be cute heroes and some tempting hotty evil guys too. What's a story without them?

  38. Short on time here, but I wanted to comment. I love the character development ideas here. My characters develop in fits and starts. Sometimes a little tidbit, and sometimes an entire arc will come all at once.

    I love the baskets. I'm not much on Whoppers, but I'd love to win Glynna's new book.

    andeemarie95 at gmail dot com

  39. Linnette,
    We are in the same world, girl! I love the idea of the Governors. Have you read the Hunger Games series by by Suzanne Collins? It was my favorite book series I read last year. I'm so stoked they are making it a movie. But that always makes me nervous b/c my world doesn't always mesh with a Hollywood producers idea.

    So, very Cinderellish/Ever Afterish. She doesn't have an evil stepmother, though, does she. I just want to pluck the eyebrows out of those characters. (sorry to digress)

    Kav, you can read my ramblings any time you want. :)

  40. I really do need to take some time and work on developing my characters but that would mean putting down this really good book I’m reading called Small-Town Hearts.
    Still I’ll give it a try. In the second book of my historical trilogy (wagon train story) Wesley is a doctor whose father was a doctor. Wesley’s mother had an incurable disease and Wesley watched her suffer until she died. Because his father spent so much time trying to find a cure, Wesley’s childhood was dark and lonely.
    Wesley has all kinds of issues to deal with now that he’s traveled west and met Marybeth. Marybeth, my heroine, is the problem. In book one she was a minor character. The preacher’s daughter she was a ray of sunshine. Her only flaw is she can’t cook. Now that they’ve settled in a new community, Marybeth’s perkiness is killing my story.

  41. The characters in my current WIP are BRATS! They are refusing to do anything until Thursday when my grandsons go back to school.

    Sigh... I suppose I will just have to play with the grandkids for the next 3 days.

    Pass the cookies - three please, one for me, one for Ethan and one for David!

  42. Good morning.
    My new series.
    Character sketch.
    book #1 Rafe is a control freak
    Book #2 ethan is a shallow charmer
    Book #3 Seth is a lunatic PTSD from the Civil War...but he's always been a little crazy.

    There's your bare bones.
    The heroines
    book #1 Julia is a control freak, guess why she clashes with Rafe?

    Book # audra is a mild mannered sweetheart who's life is a total mess thanks to the men she's let run it. She's taking over and she's practicing on Ethan.

    Book #3 Callie is a tough Texas Cowgirl who's crazy husband took off and left her. She's afraid he's dead and if he's not, he will be once she's done with him.

  43. Wow, now that I've laid my problem out I see the answer. Marybeth's got to suffer if she wants to be able to reach Wesley's heart. It makes me a little sad when I think of what I've got to do to Marybeth. Thanks Ruthy... I think ;)

  44. Dawn, no evil step-mother. There are some jealous young women in the elite families who make her life tough. This story is all in my head for now, though. I'm finishing the revisions on a contemporary story right now. That series comes first. :D

  45. Linette, that's a great take: Foreign missions and home missions.

    Love it. Each life should have a mission, a vision, a goal.

  46. Linnette, I love the spin on the fantasy story. How stinkin' fun is that?

    And it's a great spin on old tales. Go for it, girl! I think writing the occasional fantasy grounds and improves our work in other genres because the approach is different and gives us a new 'spin' on the same old, same old.

  47. Such a great post! Love the YA books in terms of character background!

  48. Julie, same thing, right? You and I delve backwards, but I've found over the years that elements of books I love and embrace isn't necessarily because that book is better than the author's other books (Sweet Hush by Deborah Smith is an example) but because the story touched our life, our buttons, our memories, etc., it strikes a chord.

    (note to all: When I enter a contest, is it WRONG to pray for judges from horribly dysfunctional families with addictive personalities??? Huh??? :) For me, that's like stacking the deck, LOL!

    Anyway, yeah, Jules. I just love to go that teeny step further and equate what another author set up and build. It's not stealing, actually. Really. Not MUCH, anyway. ;)

  49. Jodie, yes. Me, too. Or a situation will occur and I'll think...

    What next? What if????

    I know we (read: I) talk about character building a lot, but when I read a book if the characters are:

    Did I mention stupid?
    Out of date (unless it's intentional, because that's GREAT conflict tension)
    Thin (not weight, personality)
    Overly perfect
    Overly stupid (I may or may not have mentioned that already)

    You get it, LOL! I love great characters and that binds me faster 'n a shot of super glue to a scabby knuckle.

    (try it, it works like a charm)

  50. 'Morning, Susanna!

    Cookie recipe: Oatmeal Raisin OR Chocolate Chip, your choice:

    Vanishing Oatmeal Cookies (Quaker Oats)

    l cup butter
    1 cup brown sugar
    1/2 cup sugar
    2 eggs
    1 teaspoon vanilla
    1 1/2 cups flour
    1 teaspoon baking soda
    1 teaspoon cinnamon (I double this)
    1/2 teaspoon salt
    3 Cups Quaker Oats, any kind

    1 cup raisins or chocolate chips or both.

    Cream butter and sugars. Add eggs and vanilla, beat well. Add in dry ingredients, mix well. Stir in oats, raisins, chocolate chips. I've also added toasted coconut to this recipe and it's awesome. Drop by rounded spoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheet, bake at 350 for 8 minutes (for small cookies) 10-12 (for larger cookies)

    Cool on wire rack. But I prefer to just eat them warm...

  51. Dawn, I'm playing with a similar set up about a displaced woman.

    The 'femme fatale' in a YA because of what she's suspected of being.

    Don't you love how ideas crop up and we grab hold? And we will take this story in very different directions, but how fun it is to have the chance! I love the idea. Totally.

  52. Andrea, I had to WRESTLE the whoppers out of Beth's very pregnant hands, so I'll sub in something else (if I remember) if you win.

    Reminding me will never be considered an insult, LOL!

  53. Great post (as usual!) Ruthy! I can read your posts and actually feel energized! (of course the pics of food and Derek J. don't hurt either *wink*). ~ Thanks for all this info. and motivation! ~ I've brought Georgia Pecan Pancakes to share (some folks like pancakes any time of day, teehee). Hugs from *very warm* Georgia, Patti Jo :)

  54. Dawn, don't apologize! Oh my stars, part of our fun is when we get cross-convos going about this that and the other thing.

    That rocks.

    And spurs ideas.

    And do not ever worry about people stealing ideas. That used to concern me. Then I realized that NO ONE is going to write a Ruthy-story but me. And I can't write a Mary story. Or a Myra story. But that's the fun of it, we all love to write about fixin' what's gone wrong and makin' it better our own way.

  55. Seeds, huh?

    The seed for my main character started with my Grandmother's story - but my heroine really doesn't resemble Grandma. Out of that seed, just one snippet grew to become the character. I'm sure there are a lot more snippets to discover! A lot like branches of a tree.

    Branches like the hero's sister, who's just waiting for her own story. It will be interesting to see what she does with her life...

    Ruthy, I just finished "Waiting Out the Storm" yesterday. Loved it. Doesn't hurt that I have a 12 year old crippled Border Collie. Anyone who loves old dogs and Border Collies is a winner. "Made to Order Family" is coming up next.

    Thanks for the cookies and scones! Breakfast is always great at Seekerville.



    Because Mended Hearts is hot on its heels and it's....




    And a touch disturbing, but then life these days is kind of disturbing, right? So hustle back to the beach and read that book, Jamie!!!


  57. Jamie.



    Oh my. Perky????

    Then we have to make her angry about something. Or her perkiness has been stolen or removed by ANGST AND TRAUMA, WOMAN!

    He's morose and dealing with a past of darkness and yearning, and she could FILL HIS NEEDS IF:

    And that's what you need is an obstacle so big, so high, so deep that she can't scale it. They need to meet in the middle.

    So she needs trauma. Or a commitment that leaves her unmarketable. Or a life issue (Like the heroine in Sparks' A Walk to Remember) that renders their relationship impossible.

  58. Jan, time off for Grammy-business is allowed and encouraged.

    Extra cookies all around, and David...

    My sweet husband and grandson are both 'David'....

    A king's name. And I love Ethan. It made the short list for one of the girls. :)

  59. Mary, I LOVED Out of Control. I loved how you reflected their control freak status.

    I died laughing several times. Really. They powered up the portable defibrillator THREE SEPARATE TIMES to bring me back.

    Obviously it worked.

  60. Jamie, good girl.

    Now rile that sweet thing up and tell me how it goes.

    Think: catastrophic. Because we optimists really need a COMPLETE RIOTOUS SHAKING UP now and again.

  61. Thank you Ruthy this has been very productive. I've been in writers block for weeks. Now I have all kinds of ideas! But before I bring poor Marybeth's world crashing down around her I'm going to hang out with Megan and Danny a bit longer.

  62. Virginia, thank you!

    Patti Jo, I love me some pecan pancakes!!!! And I promise when we meet that I will PRONOUNCE PECAN PROPERLY, in true Southern fashion. None of that harsh Yankee clip-tone when speaking of Southern grown pecans. I learned my lesson in a Nashville restaurant, LOL!

    Amazing things, pecans.

  63. Good Morning!! I like the baskets! :) I so want to go make cookies right now!!! :) Hope you have a wonderful day!

  64. Jan, I'm so glad you liked Waiting Out the Storm! I loved writing that, researching it, working with sheep farmers and dog owners. Oh my stars, it was delightful and went years on a shelf before it was published, but I loved it.



    And Rocket? Oh my stars, someone told me last night they just sat and cried when they read that because they'd just had a dog put down.

    James Herriot (All Creatures Great and Small, etc.) often said a dog lover should always have TWO dogs. Because nothing lives forever.

    (I use that line with puppy customers, Jan.) :)

    And I love how you talked branching out. That's just how I see things. And every tree has SO MANY BRANCHES!!!

  65. Jamie, good girl. First things first, my friend! ;)

    And I love Megan and Danny. And Wellsville. The Balloon Rally. Chocolate stores.

    And families.

    And HEY.... Megan is in Mended Hearts as well because she and Hannah are working together...

    And Miss Dinsmore (the classic high school teacher) is in Mended Hearts, too. And HELEN IS IN IT!!!! (nodding to Helen, whom I'm MISSING RIGHT NOW...)

  66. Joanna, great names! And you spell Zach the same way we did for our son, which means WE'RE REALLY SMART!!!


  67. Good Afternoon, Ruthy,

    Great post, as always, and extremely helpful as I'm delving into a new story.

    I kind of went a different direction, for me at least, with this heroine. No dysfunctional family or tragic past. In fact, she comes from a wonderful supportive home. Loving parents. Adorable twin siblings who just turned seven. We, and the hero, meet her in the moment when all that support and love is stripped away and she’s forced into a harsh terrain, faced with pain she’s never experienced, with hostile people, a thousand miles away from anything even remotely familiar. She either has to buck up, or get swallowed up.

    Can’t wait to read Mended Hearts!

  68. Mary left her character sketches. Great job, C-man.

    Here's the sketch for this years Men of Allegany County series:

    Trent Michaels, perfectionist, needs to do it once, do it right, prove himself worthy.

    Danny Romesser, easy going, loves big city life, life in the fast lane kind of guy tucked in small town.

    Jeff Brennan, always trying to erase his father's mistakes, the dark smudge on family name, workaholic, steeped in past.

    Matt Cavanaugh, town bad boy come back home to make amends but not everyone's in a lovey-dovey forgiving frame of mind even though it's CHRISTMAS!


    Alyssa Langley, weak self-esteem, always trying to smooth things for others at serious cost to herself and others.

    Megan Romesser, tough, cute, sassy small-town businesswoman who does what it takes to get the job done and nothing gets in her way.

    Hannah Moore, tortured soul, hiding out, shadowed past, mental health issues, heartbroken by things she couldn't control and Hannah's a type A who used to take control as a matter of course.

    Callie Burdick, tough-as-nails, hard-working home builder single mom who does whatever it takes to make ends meet, but loves building. Scaling rooflines. Wearin' flannel, blue jeans, work boots and hard hats. Love her!

  69. Good post, Ruthy! I did a lot of that back-and-forth, past-and-present type of development with my current H/H. Their pasts inform so much of their characters. My hero was the black sheep, the rebel, living in defiance of his preacher father's teachings -- or so he thought. Then one day a chance comment makes him realize that, though he took a radically different path, everything he has done in his life reflects his father's values and teachings.

    Meanwhile my heroine spent her life being taught that, as a woman, she has no value except in taking care of other people. Now she's a widow, and with no one to take care of, she's completely lost. Our hero needs to make her realize that she has value in herself, and that she doesn't have to justify her life, she can go ahead and live the life she wants.

    I made homemade Greek honey bread yesterday, so enjoy; and also some peach iced tea for us non-coffee folks!

  70. Very cool way to think about your characters Ruth!

  71. Good heavens, Ruthy
    I get to work and then come back to check my email during lunch and BAM
    My inbox looks like this:
    Ruth Logan Herne
    Ruth Logan Herne
    Ruth Logan Herne

    You popular gal.
    And I love digging up a backstory
    And oh, I want to go and write down a few character sketches right now. what fun!

    I love to watch how the story changes as you develop the characters. When I wrote a few pages of a journal from my heroine's perspective as a teenager, then wrote a few pages of a journal from my villainess' perspective as a teenager, it made both of them much more three dimensional.

  72. Oh, I love some of those YA books you mentioned! I grew to love them even more as an adult reading aloud to my young students. Seeing their reactions was priceless! I've been thinking about a new story idea. Some of the things I love are going into it: the story of Ruth/Naomi/Boaz, the old West, and Australia. So my "Naomi" and her family leave the big family spread in Australia for a new start and free land out west. The young sons take American wives. Tragedy strikes. The women are left and the MIL decides to go back home and my "Ruth" stays with her. So who is still keeping the big spread going? My hero : ). It's still taking shape..lots more details and I'm contacting Aussie friends to help me with some things. I'm very excited about it! Blessings~Stacey

  73. Great way to start a week...RUTHY's post!! I am so anxious to read Mended Hearts so please count me in! I passed your books on to church library, and they are VERRRRRY popular!

  74. I loved Girl of the Limberlost, and one not mentioned here even more, S.E. Hinton's THE OUTSIDERS.
    The movie is just okay (many young actors who would grow up to be Hollywood's leading men, that's for sure!), the novel is fantastic though.

    I've got a contemporary romance brewing in my head.

    Bare Bones:
    Russell's problems started when he was convicted of felony endangerment for hitting a woman because he was texting while driving. For the first time, his good looks and daddy's money can't help him.

    Unnamed Heroine had plenty of problems before Russell almost killed her, the least of which is the dog she was walking that day was a seeing eye dog in training she was responsible for. But the biggest one comes when Russell shows up at her door with a puppy.
    I'm not sure what her backstory is yet, but she'll tell me once I start to write her out I think.

  75. Love this post.When I started work on my current WIP, I did a short synopsis about each character which contained a small amount of back-story, their present conflict, and their love interest. However, my current WIP has 4 main characters (I know! It’s a lot, but if I had to appease the industry, I’d name two of them main characters and the other two could be secondary/subplot), and the entire synopsis for the four is 388 words, so I’ll give an abbreviated version.

    Isabelle Garrison is a self sufficient, well bred, slightly spoiled, intelligent and charming woman who knows how to get her way. Don’t be fooled by her well-to-do appearance—she could outwork most men!

    Beau Denton is a brash man living for the day and fleeing the past. His impetuous manners cover a wonderfully gentle heart. Did I mention he’s stubborn? Good match for Isabelle. :p

    Jo (Josephine) O’Connell is stubborn, rash, and completely blunt. She doesn’t know the meaning of “you can catch more flies with honey” but she’s kindhearted and a lot of fun to write.

    And lastly is Isaiah Morris who is levelheaded, generous, talented, and understanding. He knows a thing or two about fighting, though, and nothing turns up his thermometer more than injustice and Jo O’Connell.

  76. And I love a good YA book. I’ve been wanting to read a series one of my teachers used to read aloud to the class after lunch—Summerhill Secrets by Beverly Lewis. I’m so enjoying reading everyone’s character snippets!

    Pepper—funny you mention pirates with yours! I was just saying the other day “I want to write a good pirate story. Could call it ‘Blood and Swash’ (I was teasing about this—it was the name of the book in The Ghost and Mrs. Muir). I had seen a few pirate stories, but not many. After saying that, I saw them everywhere! Lol! Good luck and I want to read it when it gets published!

    Nancy—it’s taking shape! It would be an adorable story and I hope you start writing it soon!

  77. Ruthy,

    Add Melanie's THE HEALER'S APPRENTICE to the list of wonderful YA books. It's on my Kindle, and I love it!!! Mel's story, not the Kindle. The Kindle's okay, but I'm still a book-in-hand type of gal.

    Also reading OUT OF CONTROL...does Mary always write a great book? Well, YES!!!!! Love it!

    Started LOVE BY THE BOOK, Cara's latest, this AM as I sipped my second cup of coffee! Great prologue! Delightful story.

    SMALL-TOWN HEARTS? So, so good! Loved the ending. Only one problem, I always wanted to eat something very sweet whenever I picked it up...thank you for a 5-pound weight gain, Ruthy! :)

    My WIP features a military guy whose faith is built on rock. The heroine struggles in sandy soil and needs to climb onto firmer ground before she can move forward. Add a killer on the loose and a ticking time bomb for lots of suspense in THE COLONEL'S DAUGHTER, a 2012 release.

    Creating characters is the best part of writing, IMHO! I always ask God to get involved. What type of hero or heroine needs to be in this story, Lord? He provides the inspiration, and I get to do the work! :)

  78. A Ruthy recipe! Yum!

    And thanks for the encouraging words, Ruthy! :D I am itching to start that story. I have a map somewhere that I drew out of all the regions years ago. I also have names. I love the name of the country. Or is it the region? Hmm... I need to dig it all out. :D

  79. Pepper, that's a great idea. I love the idea of journaling.

    The reality....

    Oh my stars. Too many thoughts, too little time. Pass the beer nuts.

  80. Thank you Miss Eva! Cannot wait to get my hands on that first book, girlfriend!

    Stacey, I love that remake of Ruth's story! Girlfriend, that rocks! It's not always in the telling, it's often in the re-telling. Great!

  81. Jackie, I'm SO STINKIN' GLAD you passed them on! Every writer's goal is to develop an audience one reader at a time and libraries are the BEST!

    Thank you!

    You're in, chickie!

  82. Ruthy, so excited for your newest release! Looks good!
    Character building is hard sometimes, but it makes the books worth reading. Great post!

    please enter me
    crazi.swans at gmail dot com

  83. Ooo, Dawn
    Sounds really cool!
    Love 'twisted tales' ;-)

  84. Nancy, that's a strong beginning.

    First, the puppy's a winner. Totally. :)

    Gotta love a puppy! But she's got to be really ticked at him, thinking money fixes anything/everything.

    And yeah, she'll tell you. Because maybe she was training the dog because of a family problem, a past history. OR... she's a softie, and helping is what she does best and he's been able to buy his way way too long. Very good concept, Nance. Excellent.

  85. Kirsten, you've thrust a cupcake into danger, LOL!

    I love doing that. Because every cupcake has a crust. :)

    That's a good concept for building on, totally out of the element adventure, man-up time. Wonderful!

  86. Thanks Ruthie =)
    And I hoped it was understood, but I definitely want a chance at Mended Hearts. I'd like to enjoy one of your novels at home, not the hospital ;-)

  87. Great post Ruthy! And thanks for the plug.

    Oh, and am glad to hear y'all love me here at Seekerville because that definitely goes both ways! :)

  88. Beau and Isabelle sound like a fun pair to use as the main event for book one. I know, Jane Austen got away with it in Pride and Prejudice but....

    That's when romance for us newbies could be mainstream with romantic elements!

    But this sounds just plain fun, Whitney. Delightful with a side of snark. And I don't see what's keeping Beau and Isabelle apart, but if the external conflict reflects the internal personality clash, oh, baby. Watch out!

    (I love Isaiah's name. My youngest son took Isaiah as his confirmation name... Luke Abraham Isaiah... Isn't that just lovely???)

  89. Deb, I'm with you. I firmly believe in God's hand and the not-so-gentle nudges of the Holy Spirit that help me to finesse characters. And I know some folks might laugh at that, but I know it's true. Simple as that!

    I loved The Officer's Secret. I know, I know, I keep saying that but it was wonderfully and seamlessly done. Bravo. And I'm glad you got a kick out of Small-Town Hearts and that LI let me go a little lighter with that one. It was so much fun to writer.

    Spoiler alert: tissues needed for Mended Hearts. If I did my job right, that is!

    Hey, we'll diet together. Pass the salad, honey. ;)

  90. Nancy, Faye, I gotcha!


    We love you too, honey. Goes full circle. And try the cookies, I think the scones have gone a bit dry as the day wore on.


    Hey, will I see you in St. Louis? I'm so excited to be able to go this year!!!!

    Happy dancing in upstate NY!

  91. The cookies are Yummy! And yes, I'm gonna meet you in St. Louis next month!

  92. Hi Ruthie:

    Looking forward to the next book in the series. Can't wait to get my greedy little hands on it.


  93. morning (well it is here!) im late commenting today. Blame in on a great book by Pam (I loved stealing Jake even though I will be so tired today thanks to a very late night)
    love seeing how a book come together and ideas etc.


    Tina at lunch break at work Radcliffe

  95. Ruthy—Isabelle and Beau would be my pick for the main characters. Here’s what’s keeping them apart:

    In the gold rush of 1897’s Alaska, Bostonian, Isabelle Garrison, and daughter Elizabeth, follow the dreams of her husband Daniel in his search for wealth in the gold fields of Fortymile. When the stage is held up en route and she witnesses the murder of Daniel, she is determined to find the masked outlaw and bring him to justice. Forced to settle temporarily in Alaska until she can afford passage home, she never bargains for the likes of fellow lodger, Beau Denton, and wonders if she can ever soften her heart towards the mule headed man to fall in love again. And say goodbye to Daniel.

    Beau Denton is searching for much more than gold in the fields of Alaska. He’s searching for redemption, love, and now for the murderer of a friend he knew far too short a time. Beau cannot resist the feelings Daniel’s tenacious widow stirs in him anymore than he can refuse the mutual affection he shares with her nine year old daughter and newborn baby girl Malinda. But when he finally thinks he can escape old memories, a chance meeting with a shadow from his past causes Beau to wonder if he will ever truly be free.

    I love the name Isaiah, too! Thanks for commenting. : )


  96. Oh, and I just have to say that I love that you used a quote from Sarah Plain and Tall. I've mentioned it before, but the children's books by Patricia Machlachlan are some of my favorites, as are the movies.

  97. Winnie, SUH-WEEEET!

    HELEN!!!! I've been missing you SOOOOOOOOO much! 'Sup, dude?

    Everything okay? I've actually had to (sigh...) PLUG IN THE COFFEEPOT TWICE THIS WEEK.

    I'm so stinkin' spoiled by the love!

  98. Hi, Ruthy! It's evening already--is it too late for scones? I just got here and now I have to go. Jase is crying. Screaming, actually. Bye!

  99. Jenny, g'day, Mate! Awesome to see you, my "Aussie" friend!

    Teeenster, you're welcome. Best oatmeal cookie recipe I've found. Really. Truly. And I use Quaker Oats to make the oatmeal spice cake with broiled coconut topping.

    An anorexic's nightmare because you CAN'T STAY AWAY.

  100. Oh, Whitney, I love it. Truly. Positively.

    (note to self, research Alaska and steal Whitney's great idea and pass it off as mine)

    Seriously, that's wonderful. And I've just recently completed the Alaskan Bride Rush that LI put out last year (gotta read/study/examine/learn) and it's such a fascinating area to play in. And Mary did a great job in Golden Days.

    So one thing: if she's well off, why does she have to wait to earn passage? Was she banished because she married beneath her? Pushed aside because she was leaving? They lost their money in a bad insurance deal?

    Thinking out loud.

    Love this. Love when the past sneaks up and bites you in the derriere even when you KNOW it's going to because... just because.

  101. Whitney, I love Sarah, Plain and Tall. It's on my keeper shelf. Great simplicity and depth. Every author's goal.

    To say so much with little. That's been such a big thing in my writing with the awesome gals at Love Inspired. I've learned not to wax on... To create and arc a shorter scene with feeling and substance. And you KNOW how I love to talk. It's a sickness, really. ;)

  102. Cara, I sooooo totally understand!

    Grandma and Mommy duties rank first and foremost.

    After chocolate and coffee.

    I'm just sayin'.

  103. Ruthy—I’m going to leave you alone after this! I know you are busy, so I’ll try to be short. Thanks for the encouragement. A few positive words go a long way for an unpublished (or even published, right?) writer.

    I didn’t put that in the synopsis about Isabelle, but you guessed it just fine. She married beneath her. Daniel worked at a shipyard and she met him while she was in college at one of the Seven Sisters colleges for women, in her case, Wellesley College. So she has a broken relationship with her parents to add to the conflict. I may never use the scene where her father banishes her, but I wrote it pretty early on.

    I am going to have to do a lot of research and reading about the time so the books you named will go on the list. I didn’t know whether I wanted to set it in California or Alaska, but really… is there any choice? Alaska is beautiful! From pictures, anyway. Would love to visit someday. :p

    Sarah Plain and Tall has an almost magical rhythm to it that I have not found in any other book. So simple, but it almost sounds like music.

    Thanks again!


  104. I love YA books, so I find the idea of imagining characters' backstories as YA and children's books fascinating.

    And I would love to win a gift basket.

  105. Ruthy, what a great post. The deeper character issues are something I really struggle with and I've enjoyed this conversation, although came in when it was way too long. lol

    More than characterization, I have a question. Do you think the current publishing environment is requiring deeper, darker past secrets? I think one can be insecure just because one's family members were always critical of everyone, for example. Is that enough? A childhood without unconditional acceptance and therefore not being able to accept one's self?

    Would love to win a prize!

    cathy underscore shouse at yahoo dot com

  106. Oh my goodness, Ruthy-kins. You've outdone yourself. You make coming up with plausible backstory and inner conflict sound...sound...


    And we get to munch on cookies while we think and brainstorm. Mmmm, love the crunch. Anymore left?

    I absolutely love YA stuff {{{hi melanie!!}}}. Imaginations go so creative when they target the young adults. Now, why can't I do that for old adults?

    Well, not old. Just older. More mature.


    You've got to keep stories fresh and interesting. They've read it all before, dontcha know? Gotta keep'em guessing.

    I"m going to grab a few more of these to-die-for cookies and go read a great YA for motivation.


    Great job, Ruthy!!

  107. Whitney, no thanks needed! It was fun, and I can totally see that happening. It makes perfect sense and the rugged, austere Alaskan setting... Perfect. And you can strike so many balances with multiple conflicts like that. Room for healing and growth. Marvelous.

    Melanie, thanks for coming by! You're in because baskets are just so much fun. ;)

    Cathy Shouse, hey, girlfriend! That's a great question and I think it's yes and no...

    Yes because people will actually talk about things they barely dared alluding to thirty years ago...

    And yes because the condition of the American family has deteriorated as a unit and the effect of that is felt on kids, right? So that plays into story lines effectively and in a timely manner....

    But also no. If you think to Dickens, Shakespeare, Michener, Steinbeck, Fitzgerald, they all played in dark arenas in their own way. So I think it's more popular and has bled down to romances, but I think it's always been around. But yes, definitely more darker back story than we were used to.

    But I think you can weave a great story without huge dark background. I did that with Small-Town Hearts and called it Ruthy-Lite because they were both from normal families and had conflict with each other, but no festering past. And that was based on a "You've Got Mail" premise so it felt right keeping it lighter and merrier.

    Every now and again I like put the Kleenex box aside, LOL!

  108. Okay, there is just no way I an read ALL those comments.

    Ruthy, who knew you had so many groupies!

  109. BUT... I DID read AusJenny's comment!

    Thank you, dear heart!

  110. Thank you for summing things up, Ruthie! Very interesting to see your thoughts.

  111. I'm soooo late.

    Still stuck at that road sign apparently...

  112. Pam, I pay 'em to come. Hey, whateer works. ;)

    And I love that nice shout out from AusJenny, too! The girl's got good taste in books.

    Audra, hey! Ummm....

    type, darling.

    Write faster. Because I'm dyin' for some more fun, frolic and adventure in those mountains of yours with those hunk-a-licious guys.

    Can't wait!

    K.C., hey, the scones are beyond brittle, but I've got some left-over white hots, an upstate NY staple during grilling season!


  113. I could've sworn that I left a comment here yesterday. ;-)

    I recently finished a short story that I'm hoping will make it into a Christman anthology. My heroine is a cop that lost her fiance when the car he was driivng was struck by a drunk driver, an accident that happened in front of her.

    Also, Ruthy, please do not include me in the drawing as I have won three of your books but purchased only two of them. Will buy the next one. :-)

  114. Pam Ruth glad you liked my post. I have to say Pam's book is in my top 5 for the year so far. Im so tired tonight thanks to the late night (I use lights out by 10.30 not 12.30.)

  115. Great post Ruthie! Cookies, Starbucks...what more could a girl ask for?

    I'm just introducting myself to my heroine as well. She's emotionally scarred from her late teen years in her home town and now she's coming home to confront the shadows that have followed her since she left. I have a long way to go....

    Smiles & Blessings,
    Cindy W


  116. This baskets look good! I'm headed for the coffee! I guess I should be headed for something cool to drink since the temp will be 101 today - heat index of 110. Staying inside!