Monday, November 7, 2011

Who is that guy?

I'm doing an interesting and very educational thing with a book. The third book in the Kincaid Bride series. Over the Edge, the crazy brother's story. At my editor's suggestion I'm taking out a character.

Not taking out a character like I'm a a HITMAN or something, that would be rude. No, my editor asked a very smart question, "Do we need this character?"

He didn't say "Get rid of her." He said "do we need her?"

So, I gave it a lot of thought. This is a secondary character and I know what motivated me to create her, but I mentally examined the book, thinking of scenes this character was in and I asked myself, what is it she does in this scene that will be hard to have someone else do?

I couldn't think of a thing. Oh, she does stuff that someone else will have to do, but they can do it, easily.
Out of Control
So, because I was afraid to make such a drastic change in some way that was irreversible…what if I'd forgotten a scene and her existence proved crucial? I saved as a new document the book with a new name "Over the Edge without sister."

And I started deleting. I'm about a third of the way through the book with this single goal (though I'm remembering the other requests from my editor but those aren't my main focus now), get rid of the little sister. You know what? I haven't missed her yet.

In fact, it's been so SIMPLE to get rid of the sister that I've had a real AH HA moment and that's what I want to share today.

How to decide if characters are necessary.

Have you ever been writing along and realized that you don't remember where some of your characters went? Maybe they are in the room but they haven't spoken or moved or in any way been pivotal to the scene for so long that you forgot all about them? I do this a lot. I'll admit here that it's mainly with small children and babies. Babies are especially hard to manage because they have to be SOMEWHERE. They can't just nap in another room all the time. They can nap a LOT but not all the time. So someone has to hold them and I have to remember who's holding them. Babies are difficult. Toddlers, my thing with toddlers is I'm always worrying about them staggering (toddling) into a hot fireplace. You've got to be careful about stuff like that.  So toddlers are a little more interesting than babies but they're also active. They move. You've got to keep track of them.
In Too Deep
Let's get away from little children. Do you have a (okay, this is cowboy talk but it applies) band of outlaws? How many? Who are they? Do I need a band or will one villain do for the whole book?

Do I have hired hands in the bunkhouse? Okay, we need some cowpokes in this book, but do they need an identity? Can one foreman speak for all the parts of the cowhands? So the bunk house can be full but there are no recognized, developed characters.

And there's another thought. Developing characters. I knew how this sister felt. I knew what was going on with her. I knew her backstory. But how well developed was she really?

I remember reading a book for an aspiring author and at the end of it I said. 'You've got three bad guys. But the way they come and go, you can combine them and only use one."

"But," my poor defenseless aspiring writer said, "It's an older woman, a young woman and a middle aged man. I can't combine them."
Over the Edge
Yes, they're very different from each other but they all serve the same purpose and you're cluttering up your book with a bunch of characters who enter a scene, need to be developed, then vanish only to go to the NEXT bad guy when it's time for more trouble. I can't keep up with your bad guys."

Are there characters in your own work you can combine? Could you have one guy take over what three guys are doing? You may have to change their voice--their dialogue. (You'd BETTER have to change their voice because each character should have his own) but you won't have to change the ACTION hardly at all, just change who's doing that evil thing.

I may yet find that I need this sister for some scene so I'm glad I saved the original. But for right now, the only real work of cutting her is now I have to have punk brother who formerly said "us" and "We" and now he needs to say "Me" and "I" and that's a lot of work. But it's not changing the story at all.

You can pare away characters and simplify your book somethin' fierce. (that sounds like cowboy talk, too!)
Cowboy Christmas
Of course you can't get rid of your hero and heroine. But what about the rest of your characters? Are they just confusing. Do they clutter up a scene? Could you give your readers a break by tossing out a few of them?

Go pick a section of your manuscript and throw out a character and see if you even miss her.

What do you think? Do you have characters in your book that need to go?

And solidarity with all those who totally abuse and ignore Thanksgiving, I am giving way a copy of my Carol Award Winning CHRISTMAS ROMANCE. 

Cowboy Christmas

Leave a comment to get your name in the drawing. Even if you already have it, throw your name in and donate it to your church, or ask me to sign it to someone for a Christmas present.

Then you just have to hope and pray I'll let them think it was all your idea.


  1. Sorry. The guy on the cover of Over the Edge doesn't look crazy, he looks cuuuuute. ;-) Can't wait to see how that story turns out!

    No need to enter me in the giveaway I already have CC and I gave a copy away last Christmas LOL!

    XOXO~ Renee C.

  2. Very interesting Mary! I probably need to do some of that with a couple of MSs.

    But here's a thinker for you... what if, in THIS book, they're maybe not strictly necessary, but what if you wanted the sister to have her own book next? By deleting her, you've deleted the next heroine?

    The series I'm thinking of in particular is more family saga along the lines of Julie's [but not near so long and involved etc, but family saga nonetheless].

    Anyway - that's my question.

    And my other question is for all y'all in general...

    Golden Heart entry needs to be mailed by Wednesday if I'm going to do it. Feel like one prayer with regard to it has been answered [$$ - as I'm not currently an RWA member and would join as a part of entering], but am still unsure about entering - is the MS ready for GH? Etc.

    I have another 'fleece' out before the Lord about it [because that $ could be used elsewhere too]. If any of you would pray for God to answer that fleece the way He'd like it to go, I'd appreciate it. Not going to mention what the particular fleece is - at least not at this point - but God knows :).

    I have Cowboy Christmas, but can always use free gifts :D.

    carolmoncado at gmail dot com

  3. And what are the release dates on these again?

    Besides not nearly soon enough?

  4. Hey Mary,

    The reminder to combine character is a good one! Just in time for me.

    Jan K.

    Please enter me in your draw:

  5. LOL! I've often wondered which characters I could do without. Instead, of writing them out of the story, I killed them off. ;)

    I recently realized I had to write a character in. She has to be there for 'historical' reason and now I'm having the challenge of finding legit stuff for her to do.

    I'd love to be entered.


  6. Wonderful timing! As part of my nano-NANOWRIMO challenge, I decided to actually start looking at specifics of my first manuscript that I hadn't thought of much before (ie: birthdays and ages and such). And I, too, realized that a couple of my secondary characters really could go, as they weren't needed and made the whole thing more complicated. I haven't actually started editing yet (*blushing*), but it certainly did help to realize that! Although I'm thinking about adding a character or something... But that's yet to be determined. :)

    Plus, going back through my characters made me realize that I had made something complex that really didn't have to be. My heroine was supposed to have lost both of her parents to small pox, which then led to her being taken in by her neighbors. When she's older she learns that she has an older brother she never knew about...

    You know what I realized? Why couldn't the neighbor-family I created be her actual family, and the older brother she never met be her actual brother? Is it so bad that she already knows about him, and he's just been living somewhere else with a family of his own? *Sigh* Why didn't I think of this before?? Simplify, simplify, simplify!

    Thanks for the fun and timely post! :)


  7. Hmm, some real food for thought here.

    Maybe some coffee and Cokes to go with that food will help.

    Everything's set.


  8. Interesting topic, Mary. I'm thinking through my current book and I think I have it pretty well pared down. I probably err on the side of too few characters rather than too many.

    I am curious about your answer to Carol's question. No spin-off with a little sister?

  9. Praying , Carol!!

    I did this with a contemporary ms that I wanted to send to Avalon but it was tooooo big. So, I realized two characters were 'bad guys' in different ways, had to end up as one bad guy who was more complex. Also, I had to cut a secondary childhood friend character who was struggling with her own romance issues... because she really didn't belong there!

    Those two changes saved about 12K words and got me under their word count requirement. :)

    Mary, those covers are DELICIOUS! I've always thought your books are total eye-candy... :D

  10. Amber, I totally agree with your MC knowing she has a brother. Wouldn't the neighbors have mentioned it? I think that was a perfect change and can't wait to read that book!

  11. Virginia,

    Awww, thanks so much! :D I've been so afraid of edits before...but now that I've dipped my toes in I'm starting to realize that it could be very rewarding to see my little manuscript grow and mature. :)


  12. Thanks again for helpful stuff. I already have Cowboy Christmas, actually my Mom has it right now, maybe we could use another copy to pass around.

  13. I can't wait to read the rest In Too Deep and Over the Edge. Out of Control was so good I'm anxious to read the other brothers stories. Keep up the great work!

  14. I've written out a character, and like you, don't miss her.

  15. Renee I agree witht he cover he doesn't look crazy but cute.

    I dont need Cowboy Christmas as I hae a copy, so does the church library and I gave it away as well. (it was going out on special and I got a few copies) But I do have a special friend in America who I know would love to think I thought of her for Christmas.

  16. Great advice. I've cut a character a time or two and it felt sooooo good:) I haven't looked for a character to ax in my current WIP, but I think I will.

    I'd love to win your Christmas book! Fingers crossed.

  17. I can see from the posts that adding unnecessary characters is fairly common. I'm a big offender--I love casts of thousands! It took a while to learn characters who are clear in my mind might not be clear to readers. Fortunately, editors and crit partners can easily spot them.

    Another problem for me is sticking in too many characters at the beginning of the story. They might be important to the plot, but I need to add them in gradually.

  18. Mary, this is a lesson that writing for LI has taught me well, (I think)...

    That if someone isn't conducive to the story or isn't getting a story of their own, you can often excise them with little or no loss because it's fiction.

    Not family.

    Great post. And I love the crazy brother, just love him. I'm pretty sure he might be family. Does he fight on facebook?

    Oh. A hundred years plus too early????

    Well, give him time, LOL!

    Can't wait to read book two. I loved Out of Control THIS MUCH.

    And The Connealy (that's like "The Donald") is coming to Yankee Belle Cafe on Saturday....

    Yes, every now and again our very own Ree Drummond/Mary Connealy lets us into the prairie kitchen.


    Leaving carrot cake today. Practicing for tomorrow at the cafe. Enjoy!

  19. I've taken big chunks out of a story--like really big--but never a character. I tried to kill a character who refused to die. And I accidentally killed a character and realized the story was better that way, poor guy . . . Anyway, I'd love to be entered!

  20. Mary, great post. In my book that's coming out next spring I combined 2 characters. At first I was against doing it, but after it was done it made a whole lot of sense.

  21. Super info, as usual, Mary.

    Thanks as always!

    I'm still working through book 2, developing characters. This will save me a lot of time - to be frittered elsewhere no doubt... :)

    You're in good company with Over the Edge. Brandilyn Collins' new book shares the same title. Interesting how they mean almost completely different things.

  22. Mary,

    Great information! I was just thinking about this in a current wip. I have a house full of children, but I decided the story needed the house full of children. So I ended up doing as you suggested with ranch hands where the oldest boy does most of the talking for everyone.


  23. Hi Mary!

    First, I bet you're happy the Decatur bridge is open!

    Since, I write shorter fiction, I do try to keep secondary character's at a minimum but in longer fiction, I see the need because of sub-plots.

    So, is there a magic number for secondary characters?

  24. Whoa, Mary--great post! Craft things don't always make sense to me, but this one hit the mark. Especially for people who deal with several different of points of view, this is a fabulous suggestion.

  25. I can't wait to read In Too Deep and Over the Edge! When are they going to be released? Soon, I hope!

    This is great advice, Mary. I guess I'll have to line up my secondary characters and give them the once over. BUT I'm not cutting a single dog, nor siree -- rats, I can see where one dog could do a good job of representing the pack but those little furr-faces are so cuuuttte I don't want to give them up. Rats.

    Don't enter me in the draw please since I already have a cowboy of Cowboy Christmas (it was my first Mary Connealy book ever and one of the first Christian Fiction books I ever read!) Is it any wonder I haven't strayed from the genre since?

  26. great thoughts, Mary! Since most of my books center around one family, it's really easy to get inundated with the lot of them. Sometimes it feels like I'm walking a very thin line between just enough and too much family.

    Hopefully I haven't confused readers too much. ;)

  27. Hi Mary, Great food for thought. I usually need to add characters, not delete them. But I have done that before and it is freeing.

    Can't wait for your new releases.

    Have a great week.

  28. I love your books Mary and would love to have this one too. Thank you for doing the giveaway.

  29. Hi, Mary. I love the covers of your books. It's sort of refreshing to have the hero in the foreground, and the heroine in the background. And very cute heroes, I might add!

    This is a post that makes you look hard at your story, and the parts of your characters. Secondary characters are needed. They round out your heroes and heroines. But just how many you need is subjective and based on each individual story.

    I LOVE Thanksgiving, even more than Christmas. Sure, TV shows/movies and commericails go right from Halloween (when did it become such a big deal?) straight to Christmas. Doesn't anyone care about Pumpkin Pie, Autumn leaves, the last kiss of Fall before Winter arrives, our country's history?!

    Put me in the drawing, of course!


  30. I've never tried to get rid of a character but now I'll go back and look at all of the secondary ones in a new light. What's even better is now I'll question their existence more thoroughly 'as' I'm writing in the future. Thanks!

  31. Excellent post, Mary! I've gotten rid of secondary characters' points of view, but never erased a character.

    I love secondary characters but need to ensure they don't get too big for their fictional pants. When I wrote my novella, the secondary characters kept popping up in scenes. My editor suggested I keep the hero and heroine together more. In once scene, I replaced a secondary character with the hero. An easy fix that made a far better scene. I wondered why that didn't occur to me. One of the many blessings of having an editor.


  32. Mary, you've addressed the very issue I'm dealing with in my revisions right now! (Have you been peeking over my shoulder? - Or have you placed hidden cameras in my office?)

    I'm in the middle of cutting out four characters I thought were important to the story, but after enforced reflection (yes, I got one of those "is this person necessary?" suggestions), I realized they were only important to the extended story I'd like to use as a series. They were just in the way for the romance.

    So instead of developing the sister, I've mentioned her. Okay, the hero has a sister. If her story is ever published then she won't be coming in out of the blue.

    The best friend was added in an earlier revision - I needed someone for my heroine to talk to - but in this revision she's being cut and another character is taking her lines.

    Nobody is going to miss her - except Ruthy. I had named her after our own coffee-loving Ruthy. Oh well, maybe she'll be back in another book.

    The other two characters I'm cutting have just disappeared. When necessary I've given their lines to someone else, but I don't even miss them. That's how unnecessary they were!

    Loved Out of Control, can't wait to read the other two in this series, but I still have some serious Connealy-catching-up to do. Absolutely put me in the drawing!

  33. Whitney - we're Thanksgiving celebrators at our house! I agree, it's too important of a holiday to just get lost.

  34. Great post, Mary. I haven't yet considered throwing out any characters. Good thought to ponder. :) Of course, I'm wondering if I have enough characters in my book yet. :)My challenge is making sure the story world is full enough of people to be realistic, if that makes sense. :)

    I'm coming back to read later. Got kiddos to get to school right now. :)

  35. Mary, you have the hunkiest guys on your covers. Ooo, baby.
    You've definitely given me something to think about. Great advice. Thanks.

  36. Mornin' Mary!

    As Ruthy said, writing category has sure taught me about superfluous characters and keeping things simple.

    I hear you on keeping track of the babies and toddlers, too. You can't just stuff them in a drawer until you need them again. :)

  37. FYI, Harlequin is having their "So You Think You Can Write" event this week. Today you can submit your first page for a possible editor review.

    Lots of great information and ideas.

  38. Oh my. Mary, I had to do this with The Merchant's Daughter. I basically had two bad guys. One bad guy was in the first half of the book and then he died. Then the other bad guy, who only showed up once in the beginning of the book, took over in the second half of the book. My editor suggested I get rid of the second one and, maybe, possibly, let the first one live until the end of the book.


    I nearly panicked for a while, but I did it. It was actually easier than I thought it would be. And I think it definitely made the story stronger and the plot cleaner and even more suspenseful.

    I also had two maids, secondary characters in the story, who were kind of interchangeable, so I had to either cut one or make them more distinct. So I made them more distinct, fleshed them out just a little bit and made them exchange a few lines and scenes. This all sounds complicated, and it is some work, but it's worth it if it makes the story better.

    Nobody said writing novels was easy. At least, they better not say that in front of me! Ha!

    Looking forward to the next two books in this series, Mary! Your cowboys are so much fun.

  39. And I'm not going to be able to enter The Merchant's Daughter in the RITA because they already had their quota of entries. Trying not to think how disappointed that makes me feel. :-(

  40. Renee, you like the cover on Over the Edge? I'm glad.
    Bethany is doing such great things with the covers.

  41. Oh there she is.
    BTW, the crazy brother may be the cutest one so far!

  42. The release dates for these books are
    In Too Deep February 2012
    Over the Edge August 2012

    If you click on the titles under the pictures, that's a link to Amazon and you can get all the info you need about the books.
    Over the Edge has just in the last few days appeared on all three of them are there now.

  43. I had a housefull of children in Gingham Mountain. But I took two of them away. It was just to many characters to keep them all juggling.
    And, if anyone remembers, there is a strong secondary story with the Calico Canyon crowd, poor Grace finding out she's pregnant again, and snowed in again.
    At first there was a Petticoat Ranch subplot, too but it was all just too much and since Grace had the connection to Hannah, the heroine of Gingham Mountain, Grace stayed and Sophie went.

  44. Looking forward to reading Over the Edge. Thanks for the giveaway


  45. I've always sort of regretted cutting the Petticoat Ranch subplot though. It was a sweet story about Clay McClellen handling (badly handling) his oldest daughter liking a boy for the first time.
    Pretty funny.

  46. The now missing sister did exist with the idea of her being in a book of her own. But is that fair? If she holds no place in this book for any other reason?
    Plus I've got ideas for the next books and she's not in them so far so I doubt we'll miss her.

  47. Abbi thanks so much. I'm so glad you liked Out of Control.

  48. AusJenny, if you win, give me your American Friend's name and I'll mail it straight to her.
    That can go for anyone who has a gift destination in mind that you can take it to them personally.

  49. Renee, you ACCIDENTALLY killed off a character?
    I'm picturing you typing and somehow your keyboard...veers off a cliff?
    Or you blew up a building and forgot he was inside?

    Writing in an interesting business isn't it?

  50. Hey, Mare, GREAT blog ... even if it does smart a little bit this morning. You see, TODAY is my deadline to have cut 50,000 words from Steven's story, and this has my FIRST experience with cutting characters as well, and it ain't pretty. I had to cut a ton of kids, and have been the book at least four times now, finding something I missed EVERY SINGLE TIME because unfortunately, I sow those characters in SO darn much. Sigh.

    But ... it is a MUCH tighter book now, I'll give you that and ... ahem ... WAY shorter! ;)


  51. KC I did a booksigning with Brandilynn Collins last spring and she had Over the Edge a her featured book. It was fun talking about it. VERY different books. Both fantastic (hey! I can say that if i want!)

  52. ROSE!!!!!!!
    I'm so happy the Decatur Bridge is open I could CRY!!!!
    Onawa IA has the best chinese food on the planet. (I know, who's have ever guessed?) but I've been to great, expensive, big city chinese restaurants and it is NOT AS GOOD.)
    Great library that is open just the right hours for me.
    My doctor and my dentist are over there. A Pamida, which is kind of a small town version of WalMart. A Mcdonalds and Dairy Queen and Subway.

    A huge grocery store.

    I have MISSED that town. My small town has one of the very few bridges across the Missouri River and it's a thoroughfare, semi-trucks go across it 24 hours a day. It's been closed since shortly after Memorial Day due to the Missouri River flooding.
    It has been majorly missed.

  53. JULIE this is what I'm finding, the SMALL references to the sister. The zillion times her brother says 'WE' instead of 'I'. It's hard to ferret them all out.

  54. Kav I re-read your post a few times because at first I thought you said you weren't cutting a single dog or a single rat.
    Then I thought maybe you WERE cutting the rats.
    Then I decided you were just saying, "Rats, I don't like killing off characters."
    As in "Wow, I don't like killing off characters."
    At any rate, your comment was certainly attention getting...because I was dismayed to find you have a bunch of vermin (rats) in your story. I don't like rats.

  55. Jan, sweetie, you're on to me.
    I'm disconnecting the cameras right now.
    But what will I do for NEXT MONTHS blog post, huh?
    You'll have to take the responsibility for that, girl.

  56. Why didn't you just kill her off?? I mean, that would build tension right? ;-)

    My problem with most of my stories is I don't have ENOUGH characters most of the time. I have my two main hero and heroine, but sometimes I need a mentoring friend for these characters. And I forget about them.

    Heaven knows what I would do with babies!

    Fascinating post, Mary. Though I still want to know why you didn't kill her off... ;-)

  57. Jan you make an important point here. And Ruthy touched on it, too.
    If you're writing a contemporary, set in a town, then you can just brush up a character. Have her be just barely mentioned, then move on, but she exists and you can use her in a series.
    HOWEVER in a western, set on the frontier, in a log cabin, that sister is either there or she isn't. If she isn't, then she doesn't exist, because no way does the brother show up without his little sister. What'd he do, leave her in a snow drift to fetch her later?
    So if (as I had planned) she is going to be a heroine someday maybe, then I need her in this book.
    So giving up on her means giving up on a basis for a series someday.
    Oh well, if I really need her, maybe I can fetch her from the snowdrift.
    If I wasn't already started on the next series, with a slim Kincaid connection but not this sister, I might have tried to keep the poor girl somehow.
    She was kinda a brat anyway.

  58. I'm just now finishing the crazy brother and I am so in love with him. He's been through so much and he's got this vulnerable heart and this wild streak that he had long before his terrible accident in the cavern, then his trauma during the war.
    POOR SETH!!!!!!!
    But I always love the book I'm working on RIGHT NOW the best. Ah, Ethan, he's coming in February and he needed someone to love him so badly and he found her, but risking his heart was so dangerous to him, he feels things too deeply.

    So I love Ethan, too.
    Then of course RAFE because he's my perfect Alpha Male, it was so easy to love him.

    Writing is fun.

  59. Sorry about the Rita Melanie. I heard it filled up.
    Did it do that unusually fast this year?
    Note to self...enter the first day.

  60. Well, Casey darlin' that is a very cold blooded approach.

    I like it.

    I'm not done yet. Killing off young girl children is a little tense. Not a real FRIENDLY thing. But honestly, how many times I have created a character just to kill them off.

    Which gives me an idea for my next book btw.

  61. Good morning, Mary!

    Great advice on cutting characters. I always have issues with having too many. For example, the main family in my WIP has NINE kids. I have no problem keeping track of them all, but we'll see how others do. Not every kid has a specific voice (mainly just the oldest three and the youngest child), but they're essential to the story...I think...

    Although this post has given me resolve to lump a few secondary characters together. They were annoying me anyway.

    I'd love to read Cowboy Christmas, so sign me up!

    And I agree. Writing IS fun!

  62. LOL, Julie, I can't even IMAGINE the effort it would take to eliminate characters from your books!!!

    This post has definitely given me food for thought, Mary. The story I'm working on now has several "crowd scenes"--classes, committee meetings, volunteers at work--so it's hard to write a realistic discussion and only have two or three speaking.

    (Plus the walk-on "extras" give me a chance to honor several friends and family members by naming characters after them.)

  63. Rude to kill off characters??? Then Mary, I think you've been guilty of being rude, haven't you??? ;)

    Great post! I remember Donald Maass saying to do this. To combine characters when possible. It sure simplifies things.

    Missy--who's big on not skipping Thanksgiving as well!! You won't see any Christmas decorating going on around here until December. It's against Tippens law. :)

  64. Hi Mary...this is great! I have gone from one extreme to the other in trying to figure out how to improve my first story. Cut these people or keep them, totally change the ending, cut the prologue,etc. Your post gives me a good starting point with characters. I was there a good guideline as to how many point of view's you should have in a story? I put in the hero/heroine's pov's, but I also added the pov of a few other characters, too. Too much? That's another thing I thought about changing. I'd love to be put in the drawing! Blessings~Stacey

  65. have Tippens Law?
    I like that.
    I need to make some laws.

    None of you want to know who I'd arrest first!!!!!!

  66. Very interesting post Mary! I can't wait to see how the book comes out!

    I do love me some Christmas books and cowboys so would love to win. Thanks for sharing your books and ideas with us.


  67. travelingstacey in a book like a Love Inspired or a Heartsong there are very strict rules about ONLY two POV characters, though in a suspense don't they sometimes like you have a villain POV character?
    It would qualify as an exception to the rule.
    But in longer books it's pretty wide open. I have occasional characters who get one POV scene in the whole book.
    I'll have maybe eight or ten POV characters.
    HOWEVER do NOT be willy-nilly about POV. Give the scene to a main character if at all possible and if you do give a minor character a POV scene HAVE A REASON FOR IT!!!!!
    Make these decisions deliberately.

  68. Stephanie, nine kids? That sounds like it will be fun. Chaotic but fun. It becomes a real balancing act in a crowd to have the reader know what's going on even while there may be characters in you book that DON'T know what's going on.
    But you can do it.

  69. Oh my stars, 70 people and just brushin' high noon on the East Coast...

    and 70 degrees here right now. Sunny. Breezy. Gorgeous! The other shoe will fall soon enough, but for today, I'm sittin' pretty!

    Hey, lunchtime.... And pre-lunch for our West coast buds. I've got fresh chicken salad... Yumola.

    And it's splendorific GREAT on an asiago bagel from Panera, lightly toasted. If you're high protein to prepare for cute Christmas sweaters and jeggings....

    Just eat the chicken salad. Virtually NO CARBS.


  70. Oh, look at Mia being nice to you! And I get to have supper with her tomorrow night, and I bet we make fun of you BEHIND YOUR BACK Connealy.

    Or sit and stare aimlessly, wishing we could be more like you!


  71. Oh, Whitney, I'm with you. Except that I um, tend to push Christmas a smidge... But I love Thanksgiving and Easter because they're not commercialized.

    That makes them more special in so many ways.


    I am so sad in my heart right now. Just... heartsick.

    Of course Mary KILLED me once. And no doubt will again. Whereas I made a WHOLE STINKIN' FAMILY OF MARY'S in Small-Town Hearts... It was the family name. And I didn't even get so much as a THANK YOU NOTE from Connealy.

    Not one stinkin' note.


  72. Aww...poor Ruthy! As a teaser, I'll tell everyone here that she has her very own character in my Sawyers series. Ruth Benton is a wonderful, generous woman who runs a down-home diner which is the hub of the town. Of course, she dispenses advice along with her pot roast and decadent peach cobbler.

    I couldn't cut that character in a million years. Everyone else would starve!

  73. Ruthy, Ruthy, Ruthy,

    I didn't cut you completely! I mean, you're not in this story, but I love the character too much to eliminate her!

    All of her scenes are saved in a file, so no worries. She's in there drinking coffee and trying to keep up with her four boys and hunky husband.

    I'm not sure if she'll stay Amish, though...

  74. Thanks for the advice, Mary. You're the second person who's told me that whatever I write, make sure it makes sense and that there's a reason behind it. Good stuff!

  75. Hi Mary!

    Wow. It's so amazing how Seekerville seems to line up with where I'm at in my writing. I was thinking a couple days ago that I should combine several characters, but I wasn't sure if it could be done.

    I've got the heroine's best friend, 3 coworkers ages 23-50, and a 30-something mother of three that I might try to roll into one character. Also, I've got 6, 7... no 8 POV characters including the villain and his reluctant assistant, who later has her own story in book 3.

    Do you recommend cutting characters before the first draft is finished? Or is it better to leave possibly unneeded characters until the story is done and the plot is worked out?

    Thanks for the awesome post! And I've been eyeing Cowboy Christmas for some time, but I'm trying to freeze my book-spending, at least for a while. I'd love to win a copy, though. :)

    Your covers look GREAT!!!

  76. I am doing a Ruthy character soon. She's a sweet, beautiful, young, innocent maiden, (yes, Ruthy I used your name but fictionalized the girl's personality) swept away in flood waters and washed up on shore right at her soon-to-be beloved's feet.

    It's as beautiful and romantic as any flashflood you've ever read.

    I have to be a little bit careful because I have a sister named Ruth. So when I tried to explain to my sister that I was making her a serial killer and please don't feel back when you get shot and fall off a skycraper onto electric wires, than on downward to a jagged iron fence with spikes along the top.

    See, the Seekerville Ruthy would totally go with that. My sister, it seemed to sort of pinch her feelings.

    So my Ruthy character had to wait.

    The book is still in the proposal stage (though I'm writing it) so it's all just a pipedream at this point.

  77. This is a great challenge, Mary! You've opened my eyes to some characters in my manuscript that may not be necessary. Hmmm... Thanks!

  78. You got me thinking I need to tighten up and delete some extra characters in my WIP.

  79. Oh, I forgot that you're currently attempting to KILL ME OFF IN A FLOOD.

    Because why wouldn't you???? Right????

    Your sister is a lovely woman undeserving of the grief this RUTH gets. Oy.


    Okay, Mary's right again. (HATE THAT, BTW.) I've used additional pov's in my LI's on a limited and 'consult with Melissa' basis... And if it's necessary, we do it. Because sometimes life hands out family grief, and seeing a family unfold and/or re-group... sometimes you need that other POV.

    But at 60K if you push too much, you lose the impetus of the romance. And then they'd stop paying me.

    That equates BAD in Ruthy-world.

    And did I mention that I just sent in my proposal for next November's book.... MY SECOND CHRISTMAS BOOK!!!!

    Oops, sorry, attention should be on Mary, today.

    So. Mary. How 'bout those Chiefs???

    (Nebraska has no major league anything, except Warren Buffet and Connealy. I mean Warrne alone could buy and maintain a team... What's up with that??? There's NO MAJOR LEAGUE TEAMS IN NEBRASKA.)

    I'm just sayin'...

  80. Excellent post, Mary! Thanks for the reminder! And, yes, I'd love to have a copy of your book! :D

    Did I ever tell you that when I went home in June I dug through my bookshelves and found some of your books that I haven't read yet? Yeah. Sad. My TBR pile is a mountain high, but I was so glad to see that I DO have more of your books than I first thought. :D

    I have characters from book one that will warrant a mention here and there in book 2, but I'm trying to keep the characters paired down as best I can.

    I'm even considering doing the entire book in the heroines POV. Anybody else do that? I started Beth's story that way and discovered that I really did need Adam's POV sometimes. But Tiffany's story? Hmm... Guess time and writing will tell.

  81. Hi Mary:

    This is the perfect post for me today. Sunday I cut all my characters out of my 20,500 word NANA WIP. Of course, I didn’t want to. I think the Pantser gods got me. There was a flicker and all my words were gone. The file was still there so there was nothing I could do to recover a file that was never lost.

    I was going to back-up at 20,000 words but the loss happened just before I was going to back up. This has never happened to me in all the decades I’ve used a computer. I’ve lost files before but I was always able to recover them.

    I did back up the 77-page outline and I’ve even emailed it to myself. What hurts is not the storyline, it’s all the pantser adlibs the context simulated. I can recall many of the punch lines that were so funny but I cannot remember the set-up for those lines. Anyway, I’m not sure what to do now. It will be an education trying to rewrite the first 20,500 words and see what happens. Will it seem better or worse? I have no idea. I don’t know if I’ll try to finish NANO now.

    I was thinking now is a good time to think about cutting out a character. But then characters do more than move a story. They can provide tension and conflict. The three gang members may have disputes among themselves. Yes, one gang member can move the story along but with three of them there could be an interesting power struggle. (One wants to kill the hero right away. One wants to wait. One can't make up his mind.)

    In “Petticoat Ranch” did you really need four daughters? Was it necessary for the children to have age appropriate spats? A widow with one child has been done many times.

    The four daughters were very interesting. They made the story more fun to read and more entertaining.

    I think there is a second test: does having this character in the story enhance the reading enjoyment? Is it a better story from the reader’s point of view because of the added character – even though the character could be cut?

    There may be a third test: do you need added characters for sequels? If so, they can be given lines to move the story from time to time or they could be interesting characters in their own right with high entertainment value. This could make readers more likely to buy the book featuring that character.

    Writing is so complex it is hard to say anything that is not easy to provide counter examples.


    P.S. My wife is loving “Ten Plagues”.

  82. I love your book covers, Mary. Of course I love westerns so that helps.

    In the book I'm working in now, there's an elderly couple I may need to get rid of. I'm going to write the whole ms before I give them the axe.

  83. That was a very helpful post Mary! But it was hard to stay focused ... great covers :) I know I want to collect them all.

    Secondary characters are my downfall. They sidetrack me from the main story. The creative part of me loves to explore characters and what makes them tick. Must stay on track!

  84. VINCE!!! I hate that.
    Did you say you've emailed it to yourself and THAT is gone?

    Have you checked your SENT folder because send files, with attachments, can be opened.


    Just hate it.
    I do know this, though. What you rewrite...I promise you it will be BETTER. And nano doesn't count computer glitches so you've still written 20,000 words. Your count goes on from there.

  85. Jamie, all those secondary characters that you love KEEP THEM, keep a word document file with info on them. Whether you leave them in the book or not, they can be in their own book someday right?????

  86. Linnette???? When you went home???
    Where had you been darlin'?

    Glad there is a lot to read. The only thing worse that a towering tbr pile is NO tbr pile. Horrible feeling.

  87. But Ruthy you survive the flood. What did you want when you were my heroine? Did you WANT to sit in a chair knitting lace through the whole book?

    C'mon. You KNOW you want flood waters to drag you through six states sitting on a half crushed covered wagon box.

  88. Got me thinking, Mary. My heroine in my wip has a brother, or at least I planned it that way. Except I'm nearly 20k in and he hasn't shown up or been mentioned yet. He's supposed to be come important later, but now I'm wondering whether I really need him. If I do, I'll have to at least acknowledge his existence in the earlier portion of the story.

  89. Mary~ Good post. My heroine has a sister and a best friend who each have one major important role. The sister could do the friend's part, but the friend could not do the sister's part.

    I've toyed with the idea of combining them. I don't want to really, but I'm at least aware that it may need to be done at some point.

    I Want To Win Cowboy Christmas!

    please enter me. Thank you.

    andeemarie95 at gmail dot com

    Ruthy~ Your seventy sounds good, but I can't complain, we're sitting at about 58 right now.

    Thanksgiving is a lovely holiday, and it gets shorted every year. Just last night a friend on facebook shared a funny pic of the Turkey pointing at Santa and saying, "Get back in the sleigh and Wait Your Turn!" I got a kick out of it.

    I want to win Cowboy Christmas, in case I forgot to mention it. Thanks.

    andeemarie95 at gmail dot com

  90. Mary, didn't say it this morning, but I agree with so many here--your covers look great, and the stories sound wonderful!

    Question for you: have you ever been in a place where you needed to add characters? If so, what did you consider before doing that--how did you develop the characters, what showed you needed them?

    Carol, I'm praying for you right now. May the Lord give you clear direction and wisdom regarding entering GH.

    Vince, I'm so sorry you lost all that great writing! As a plotter, I always worry a little about losing the stuff that just flew off my fingertips onto the page that hadn't been "plotted" out a head of time. I'll pray that you remember all the good stuff!

    I've been saving to my computer but also to Dropbox, a great online storage place. It's "saved me" a few times now to have my wip stored somewhere else.

    20K words. That's great! Sounds like an interesting story.

  91. That's a great suggestion Mary. Everyone needs their own love story, even secondary characters. I think that's why I love your trilogies.

  92. Hi Mary:

    I emailed myself the outline I did in Orange Beach, 77-pages of how to write the story. The 20K was the first draft of the story itself. That is gone. And I don’t think NANO can count them because I have to send the full MSS to be word counted to be counted a winner.

    Of course, I could append my outline plus what I’ve managed to write up to then. That’s an idea. But it’s on the honor system so I don’t think I would do that. Maybe I could ask for a Mulligan. :)

    Oh, well, here is some good news. My WIN chapter sent me an email this am that has a link to six Writer’s Digest books that are now free on Kindle. I paid $18 for just one of them and it was very good book. (Hooked). So if I download the others, that will bring my acquisition cost per book way down. : )

    You can thank, Lacy Williams, WIN ACFW.


  93. Great post, Mary!

    I took out a major character in my current WIP...of course, he was killed early on. Still, he wasn't needed in the beginning.

    And, in fact, in my last story, I took out an old boyfriend that my heroine didn't need. His name was Arthur. I actually like Arthur, but he had to go...

    Maybe he'll have his own book one of these days! :)

    Love your new cover! Hunky hero!

  94. Oh Gee I hate to hear about you authors getting rid of characters, I didn't realize this happened now I will be looking and miss them I am sure. I really like Mary's Cowboys and would love to be in the drawing to win a book.
    Paula O(

  95. FYI the sister that I'm writin gout of my book is named MISSY!!!!!!!!

    Sorry Tippens. Maybe next time. But always know i thought of you.

  96. Great points Mary!

    Eva Maria Hamilton at gmail dot com

  97. LOL! We're transplanted in South Carolina from Missouri. I should have said, "When I went home for a visit." or "When I visited my home state." Bad writer! *slaps one hand and then other*

    (Thanks for the "Darlin'" Needed that little hug today. :) And don't tell me it was sarcastic. It was said with genuine affection and that's that! ;-)

  98. Jeanne T, the adding character that comes to mind is Belle Tanner being added to Montana Rose.
    Here's a look behind the curtain :) The Husband Tree and Montana Rose were both finished before they sold as a series. Stand alone books. In different states and times.
    Then the series came up and I thought, yeah, I can combine these. So everything you read in Montana Rose that involveds Belle Tanner is completely added to a finished book. But I did KNOW Belle Tanner. I knew how she'd act, what she thought. So though I added her I didn't have to create that character.
    I just had to be true to her.

  99. In Wrangler in Petticoats I saw I had a problem with Sally McClellen being taken home by Logan so I created Wise Sister. Of course I ended up falling in love with her.

  100. Just ordered "Ten Plagues" and am eagerly awaiting its arrival.

    Enjoyed today's post and the thoughtful responses. It all makes great sense.


  101. Mary! I finally get a character named after me and I have gout??

    Oh, wait. You're writing me OUT of the story. Not gout.

    Hmm. Not sure which is better.

    ;) Just know that I'm waiting for a new MAJOR part. And make me pretty and skinny, okay? And rich. And nice. Okay?

  102. Hey, Ruthy, it was gorgeous here today, too. I grilled hotdogs for lunch and ate outside! My face got a little sunburned.

  103. I've always wondered how authors keep so many characters straight. Especially if they have multiple novels published. I never thought about having to cut characters though. Because typically by the time the book gets to me, the reader, it's gone through editing. But I can see how characters could be cut especially if they don't serve any purpose to the story other than being there.

    I'd LOVE LOVE LOVE to win Cowboy Christmas. I don't think my cousin has that one yet, and I know I don't!

  104. Oh, Vince.

    We've all had that happen, my friend. Now I e-mail myself the current word count every day. That way if lightning strikes my computer during the kids' lunch, I still have my WIP.

    Oh I am SO sorry.


    But Mary's right (I said this TWICE today. I'm obviously getting soft)

    It will be better. It doesn't feel better right now, but I promise you, it will be better. Every bit of practice we get makes us better, so you hang onto that thought.

    And maybe a little nip of something in your iced tea, dear. For medicinal purposes only, of course.

  105. Babies are the worst! I always forget about them because they're so unusually QUIET when writing a novel.

  106. My editor mentioned that killing a character would make the hero's motivation stronger, so I gut shot her out of the book.

    My husband asked, "Was that hard?"

    I said, "Kind of. I mean, she had kids and I felt bad about that."

    And he replied, slightly horrified, "I meant was that hard to rewrite. You know these characters aren't real, don't you?"

  107. Missy I read gout too before seeing you were written out (seems you were just too good for the book).
    At goodreads we had a discussion on to many characters in the book. Someone was reading a book and after just a couple of chapters was having trouble with so many characters being introduced. I think most of us agreed we don't like to be overwhelmed by characters and especially ones who are not part of the story. There is nothing worse than trying to remember who a person is or why they are being mentioned.

  108. Missy, my Missy was a little girl. Nicknamed The Crybaby.

    Which,now that I think of it, is a lot like you.
    but she was going to grow up into a beautiful girl with wild blue eyes and have a fantastic book of her own.

    Ah, what might have been.

  109. Sherri, you GUT SHOT a mother?

    Wow, that's the kinda ruthlessness that can really make a book.

    It's a little scary in a wife I suppose though.


  110. I haven't read the book but someone said "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" is like that. Crazy crowd of multiple characters that are really hard to get straight at first.

    Which Steig Larson couldn't get published until he DIED. So let that be a lesson to you.

  111. Ohhhhh, Vince. So sorry!!!

    And I saw that link for the free downloads but I'm always worried about downloading stuff from a site I'm not familiar with, and the sitewas freereads or something like that. If it worked for you, maybe I'll do it, too! The 'hook' book sure looked good. (Wow, lots of double o's there).

    Sherri!! That was so funny! I just love your hubby's reaction. :D

  112. Oh, she's little? Hmmm, then it's probably a good thing you just deleted her. Which is cold-blooded to, you know. Just saying. All characters live somewhere, don't they?

    Really? I gave the great Mary Connealy an idea for her next story? Well. Life is now complete. Then I expect to make the acknowledgement page.


  113. Great post, Mary
    And I LOOOOOOVVVVVEEEEE Ethan's pic on the cover of Over the Edge.
    Can't wait to meet the sassy gal who sets him straight. :-)

    I think I need to reevaluate a few stories with that in mind. But I also use a lot of secondary characters as main characters in consecutive books. How do you decide which to keep for book #2 and which to toss? (you may have mentioned this in the post, but I'm on foggy brain this evening and it's very possible I don't remember it :-)

  114. This is a very interesting post, Mary. Now I'm curious about whose sister is being eliminated! I'm looking forward to the next two Kincaid brides books since I enjoyed the first one so much.
    I've read Cowboy Christmas (gave it to my daughter last year); it's another great one.
    And speaking of great books, my book club read Doctor in Petticoats for our October meeting; we all loved it. A couple women had to borrow my copies of the rest of the series since they enjoyed the book so much.

  115. I appreciate your advice, Mary. I recall entering a contest where the comments focused on my synopsis with its "bunches of characters," lol. I guess I shouldn't have mentioned all of them - only the major characters, not the woman who keeps the dress shop and the guy who runs the stable. After some study and practice, I've managed to improve that! I will now take a closer look at my finished and my WIP and see if those bunches are taking over the manuscript too!


  116. I'm super late joining in today (busy day) but wanted to say you've really given me something to think about, Mary! that I think about it, there might be one or two (or more) characters who are cluttering up parts of my WIP. So now not only do I need to de-clutter my closets, but my story as well, LOL. ~ Thanks for this post, and please enter me in your drawing (and all the guys on your covers are SO cute!!). ~ Blessings from Georgia, Patti Jo :)

  117. Virginia -

    All the books were free on Amazon yesterday.

    Vince - I am so sorry my friend :(. I say add 20K to your MS by copying twice or something and counting it. You wrote them. Fair and Square.

    I'm up to about 566 today. Better than the last few days but still not stellar. Tomorrow is my birthday so I'm planning to take the afternoon 'off' for a couple hours and write while eating lunch at a restaurant where they'll throw my food at me.

    Thanks to those who said a prayer. Got a very nice, very encouraging email from an author today but the other fleece is still out and waiting...

  118. Thanks for this post, Mary. It seems like a lot of work to remove someone, so maybe I'll just write tight in the first place. With what I'm working on now, I'm thinking I don't want both her aunt and her mother to be living. We just need one female member of her family.

    cathy underscore shouse at yahoo dot com

  119. Get rid of the little sister? And you haven't missed her? You know what you may have started?


    Mary, you have the most GORGEOUS covers!

    I'm drooling. The books are fantastic and the covers? icing on the cake.

    Sorry I missed the fun yesterday. Looks like you had quite a time!

  120. While I am not currently writing a book, I can understand what you are saying. I am looking forward to your next book! Would love to win Cowboy Christmas. It is actually on my wish list! Joy

  121. Very good point. I will have to be watching as I edit my novel! Thanks.

  122. Mary thank you for the post. I will go back and see what I can do. I enjoyed your post and learn from you almost daily. Thanks again.

    Glenda Parker

  123. Ohhh. Goooood post. VERY good. Need to think about this in my NaNo novel. But maybe AFTER NaNo ;).