Monday, April 28, 2014

Variety is the Spice of Story (Chapter Beginnings)

The following post appeared in Seekerville a couple of years ago, but I wanted to revisit it. In the next few months, I'll share some very specific problem areas I've worked through in my writing. 

While making a final sweep through Claiming Mariah, my historical romance that released from Tyndale February 2014, I noticed that a lot of my scenes started with the hero or heroine’s name. And those that didn’t, started with some other character.

Sure, we've all heard to start each scene with the POV character, but I don't think the rule literally meant to start with their name. At least not every time.

Once I spotted those repetitions, I couldn’t not notice them. And it really started to get on my nerves.

The more I considered paragraphs that started with Slade did this, Slade said that, Mariah turned, Mariah opened, the more I panicked. How in the world could I fix those beginnings? I got some advice from the Seekers, and some examples showing ways to twist things around, and I started tweaking, rewriting, playing with those beginnings.

Gradually, it started to sink in, and I managed to add variety to my paragraphs and scene openings.

Let’s look at some actual examples of before and after scenes from Claiming Mariah.

Mariah felt like sinking through the kitchen floor. Slade Donovan had caught her staring at him. And to make matters worse, he’d stared right back.
A rolling flush swept up Mariah’s neck. Now would be a good time for the kitchen floor to open up and swallow her. Slade Donovan had caught her staring at him. And to make matters worse, he’d stared right back.
In the example above, I got rid of starting the scene with my character’s name and the word felt by showing instead of telling. How did I do it? I read those three sentences, then I closed my eyes and I let myself feel what Mariah felt.

Slade slouched in the saddle and let his gelding find his own way back to the ranch.
The creaking of saddle leather broke the silence, but for once the men were silent. Slade slouched in the saddle and let his gelding find his own way back to the ranch.
Use the five senses to your advantage. I didn’t have to start with “The creaking of saddle leather”. I could have described the setting sun, or “Sweat dripped off the end of Slade’s nose”. Visualize the scene and pick one thing to add color or a bit of spice to the opening line and edge your character’s name away from that prime spot.

Slade hefted his saddle onto his horse, his gaze meeting Buck’s. “I’ve got to go into town and get a few supplies. You feel up to going?”
“I’m heading into town.” Slade hefted his saddle onto his horse, glancing at Buck. “You want to go?”

Break up the dialogue. Stick a bit of it at the beginning, so that you don’t start with a character’s name every time.

Mariah rose early Monday morning to gather the eggs.
While Mariah gathered the eggs, the chickens pecked at the corn she’d scattered on the ground.

The original tells us what Mariah did. The rewrite shows her doing it and paints the scene of what's happening around her, and it manages to push her name out of first place.

Mariah turned from the stove. Dark circles under her brown eyes made them look bigger and more vulnerable than ever.
The pink hue of the rising sun peeked over the horizon as Slade made his way back into the doctor’s kitchen. Mariah turned from the stove, coffeepot in hand. Dark circles under her eyes made them look bigger and more vulnerable than ever.

In this instance, I just rewound the scene backward a few seconds, again sprinkling a little spice into the mix.

Now, here's the cool part. When I decided to revisit this post, I looked at the novella I just completed for Barbour Publishing. The Evergreen Bride releases in October 2014 as part of The Twelve Brides of Christmas Collection. I kind of panicked when I realized I didn't review my scene and paragraph openings before sending off my completed novella. Did every one of them start with a character name? Gulp! I was pleased to discover about half of the scenes started with someone's name while others started with dialogue or description. Whew!

Two examples of the way I start scenes in The Evergreen Bride:
As soon as supper was over, dishes washed and the kitchen spotless, Annabelle excused herself to write a letter to Lucy.
The whistle blew as the train passed through another small, sleepy town on its journey north. 

Here are some examples from Seeker books pulled at random off my shelves. These are some great examples of how to vary scene beginnings.

Something slammed into the roof so hard the whole mountain shook. Grace screamed… 
Calico Canyon, Mary Connealy

Wound tighter than a coiled spring, Matt rode into the Circle W stable, stripped leather, then brushed Thunder's coat. 
The Bride Wore Spurs, Janet Dean

At eight o’clock that evening, Katherine donned the altered gown for the dance. 
A Path Toward Love, Cara Lynn James

“Say again?" Gray kept his voice even, unwilling to betray the kick to his gut Cory's softly spoken words generated.
Look-Alike Lawman, Glynna Kaye

“Jeepers, Miss Alli, you really mean it? We're gonna have a real, honest-to-Pete play?" 
Dare to Love Again, Julie Lessman

The night lay thick as Kayla wound her way along familiar roads. 
Winter’s End, Ruth Logan Herne

Shoulders stiff and aching, Donald Russ trudged to his office.
Whisper Goodbye, Myra Johnson

Okay, that’s the lesson for today. Mix it up. Spice it up. Add a little variety to your writing. But...


Don’t try to twist your sentence structure into something God never intended. If the flow…the cadence, if you will…starts sounding weird, change it back, and keep looking for something that does work, but doesn’t change your voice.

And don’t just look at chapter beginnings. Look at how each paragraph starts. Then look at each sentence, one after the other...after the other. Eventually, you’ll notice those repetitive sentences and adjust them automatically.


There's absolutely nothing wrong with starting scenes and paragraphs with your character's names. As a matter of fact, the bulk of your scenes will start with someone's name. You want to write in such a way that readers' don't notice how you start each scene and paragraph. Variety will accomplish that.

Would you like to play? Throw up a paragraph from your wip that starts with a character’s name, and we’ll have fun twisting the sentence structure around to give you more variety.


Today’s giveaway is a signed copy of Claiming Mariah. Just let me know if you've entered the Kindle giveaway below and you'll be in the drawing for the book.

Pam's Kindle Giveaway 
celebrating the print release of
Claiming Mariah
ends April 30th!!
Don't miss out!

Pam Hillman was born and raised on a dairy farm in Mississippi and spent her teenage years perched on the seat of a tractor raking hay. In those days, her daddy couldn’t afford two cab tractors with air conditioning and a radio, so Pam drove the Allis Chalmers 110. Even when her daddy asked her if she wanted to bale hay, she told him she didn’t mind raking. Raking hay doesn’t take much thought so Pam spent her time working on her tan and making up stories in her head. Claiming Mariah is her second novel.

a Rafflecopter giveaway


  1. I entered your giveaway, Pam. I like the you write so good I don't notice how your chapters and paragraph is start. I only notice if they are not varied. Thanks!

  2. I can't believe I'm the second one to leave a comment. Great post, Pam. Definitely a keeper.

    Here's my paragraph if you want to play with it.

    Rachel coughed again and looked out the window toward the street and Matt. Too bad he couldn't have come in with her. How would she react when Mr. Taylor read the will? It’d be her last communication with Nana, and it was going to hurt when she heard the words announcing Bobby Ray would inherit the inn. She needed to hold herself together. She could fall apart when she got home.


  3. Great examples Pam. I love how you reworked those sentences using the senses. Of course I always did love your wriiting.

    Have a great day.

  4. Oh Pam, this is the kind of stuff that can drive me crazy when I'm revising.

    I notice the beginning of the paragraphs sounding the same and also every-other sentence starts with he/she in that paragraph.
    Then it never fails, I'll change it to add variety and a cp will suggest changing it back. I figure it's because I make a mess of things when I try to rewrite the sentences making them sound unnatural.

    Thanks for the post.

  5. Marianne, you sound just like me. I never noticed until I noticed! lol

    And thank you for the kind words. You are so sweet to say so. :)

    Coffee's on. I'm trying a new creamer. It's called Italian Sweet Cream. And I got the "mix" just right this morning. Mmmmmmmmm...

    We have a variety of teas, croissants, blackberry and strawberry jam, and fruit on the sideboard. Dig in!

  6. Jackie's example: Rachel coughed again and looked out the window toward the street and Matt. Too bad he couldn't have come in with her.

    Nerves clenched Rachel’s stomach, and she pressed a hand to her midsection to quell the jitters. She looked out the window and spotted Matt leaning against the car. (or waiting,loitering, sitting, etc.).


    Smothering a cough, Rachel looked out the window….

    Heart pounding, Rachel looked out the window…

  7. Connie, I know what you mean. I've done that, too. My final read-thru is to try to read my ms with the idea that this is the absolute last time I'm going to get a chance to fix things. That this is what the reader will see.

    If the sentence sounds awkward, or like I worked way too hard to twist it around, then I change it.

    How many options do we really have of starting scenes/paragraphs?

    Noun – Pam slammed the door.

    Pronoun – She slammed the door.

    Dialogue – “I am so mad I could spit.” Pam slammed the door hard enough to shake the walls.

    Emotion – Heart pounding, Pam slammed the door.

    Description – The entire house shook when Pam slammed the door.

    Senses (sound) – The slamming of the door reverberated throughout the entire neighborhood.

    Just mix it up and be true to YOUR gut feeling.

  8. Loved this post, Pam, and I entered your giveaway! I don't have the computer out right now, so I can't give an example, but I'll try to get one in later in the day.

    Jackie, here's something for your sentence:

    Sunlight poured through the window, puddling on the floor at Rachel's feet. A scowl twisted her lips. Why couldnt the day have been gray and dreary? She glanced out the shiny pane. Matt was standing on the sidewalk, arms folded over his chest. It would have been nice of him to come in and offer her a little support through this.

  9. Great reminder post, Pam! This is just the kind of reinforcement I needed on the heels of the all-day Margie Lawson workshop we had in our chapter on Saturday. Do your magic, Pam! I love to watch from the sidelines! :)

  10. Spice.

    I love spice.

    I never get real literal when I explain writing, Pam, so your ability to do that is amazing. I mostly just yell at folks, tell them to shape up and scorn them with an evil look....

    Before I hug them, of course!!! :)

    Hey, my method WORKS, TOO!!!!


    But I can "see" what you're doing this way. And now I'm hungry.

    So thank you. ;)

  11. I loved this the last time you posted it. It's good a second time around. :) Actually, if I was to be honest, I cut and pasted this last time you posted it and I've referred back to it a number of times. :)

    Well done!

  12. Crystal, loved your example for Jackie! Great! :) Lots of visuals. The sunlight. The shiny pane of glass. Matt standing on the sidewalk.

    Yes, weather is a GREAT tool to use. Jackie, you could choose to have it dark and dreary, enhancing Rachel's mood....

    The dark clouds roiling in the sky competed with the nerves churning Rachel's stomach as she waited for the reading of the will.

  13. This is a great repeater post, Sandra. I think I remember it because I always have this little voice in the back of my head telling me to mix things up as I write so things don't get monotonous.

    I love the before/after examples too. The visual learner in me gets very happy with those. I'm not too good at someone just telling me.

    would like to enter the giveaway. may have to wait until I'm home though. Work computers get a mite picky with hitting certain buttons. (thank God they like Seekerville - I'd hate to have to wait all day for the wisdom that is shared here)

  14. Pam, those are great examples! I'm SO GUILTY of doing this! I'll keep this post in mind as I edit my first drafts. Thank you!

  15. Piper, I heard the workshop was good. I hated to miss it! I didn't think I could go. When I realized I probably could, it was too late to register.

  16. Piper, you got to spend a whole day with the magnificent Margie??? Love that woman. She is so sweet!

    Ruthy, I can only do "literal" when I've literally done it and have the examples to prove it. Otherwise, I just yell, too. :)

  17. I've been cut and pasted! Whoot! Thanks Jeanne! :)

  18. DebH, yes, we don't want Seekerville to be banned from the work computers, do we?

    You could tell them Seekerville is your licensed therapist and you need your fix every day.

    Otherwise, you get twitchy.

    Tina or Missy can probably write you a prescription if you need it.

  19. Pam, I loved this post. I have entered your contest.

  20. Oh, Pammy, LOVE this post because I am particularly anal about how I begin scenes and even paragraphs. LOVE your examples and the lesson you have provided here because it's SO good and SO important for us writers to remember writing is a craft that we should always being trying to improve.

    One of my pet peeves is beginning sentences with the same word or pronoun within a paragraph or even two. For instance, I try (don't always succeed), but definitely try to not start two consecutive sentences with the same word. When I'm editing, I actually switch it up when I see that because although I like the rhythm and flow of alliteration, that doesn't apply for a paragraph that sounds like this:

    She watched as he approached and wished she could sink into the floor. She chewed the edge of her lip when he halted before her, his eyes hard. She gulped.

    GREAT blog, my friend, and a great lesson learned.


  21. Wilani, so glad it helped and thank you for entering the contest! :)

    Julie, I'm the same way. I'm not saying I always find those instances, but I try.

  22. I've entered the Kindle drawing, Pam.

    I LOVE the rewrites in the examples you provided! It's amazing how much better they sound...Thanks for this post! Gives me something to think about in my own writing.

  23. This post is soooo SPOT ON, Pamela!

    I am going to refer everyone to this.


    Must go find out when Killer Voices next round will be announced today!!!!

  24. Great post, Pam, and right on time for me as I revise a manuscript!

    Loved your book and I never noticed a thing wrong with it!


  25. Great advice, Pam! It's definitely something I need to start paying attention to. And I am all signed up for the contest!

    Can I get one of those prescriptions for Seekerville, please?

  26. I can't wait to read Claiming Mariah and sure would like to win that Kindle Fire. And...this post is SOOO helpful. I do this a lot - you know start a paragraph with the characters name or a pronoun (She, he). Will definitely use your tips for avoiding this.

  27. I followed you on Twitter, THEN entered your contest. Glad it still counts...

  28. I love the examples you shared of re-working your sentences. So much more feeling to them! Thanks for the giveaway- I'm looking forward to reading your book! I entered your kindle giveaway too!

  29. Love your examples, Pam--great advice here!

    I do try to vary my scene and paragraph openings--even my sentence openings. My biggest challenge is when I look back over a section and realize I've begun several sentences or paragraphs with an -ing word or phrase.

  30. Those are great examples, Pam.
    I find myself over and over starting paragraphs with names or he/she
    I've learned to fight it but it comes so NATURALLY!!!

  31. Tina, I have my fingers crossed for all Seekerville friends in the Killer Voices contest.

    Whether we progress or not, the editors will be giving us all feedback. I love the Love Inspired editors.

  32. Tina, I have my fingers crossed for all Seekerville friends in the Killer Voices contest.

    Whether we progress or not, the editors will be giving us all feedback. I love the Love Inspired editors.


  33. WOOOOTTT!~!!!
    Team Shana: 12:00pm
    1. Dianna Shuford

    2. Kavanagh Rees

    3. Tanya Stowe

    4. Deb Harkness

    5. Therese Travis

    6. Angela Ruth Strong

    7. Shanda Arnett

    8. Tammy Johnson

    9. John R. Pickens

    10. Alexa Verde


  34. Team Giselle: 12:10pm
    1. Jodi Anderson

    2. Victoria Austin

    3. Rachel Delane

    4. Nicole Fabre

    5. Louise Foster

    6. Autumn MacArthur

    7. Sybil Bates McCormack

    8. Alice Myers

    9. Lorraine Nelson

    10. JoJo Sutis

  35. YES!!!!!!!

    Team Emily R.: 12:20pm
    1. Shawna Mumert

    2. Jenna Victoria

    3. Lauryn Eason

    4. Lorelei Bedford

    5. Meghan Carver

    6. Michelle Karl

    7. Jennifer Laird

    8. Caitlin Hemphill

    9. Mary Curry

    10. Amara Brooks

  36. Aw, I came over here to post the finalists to the next round and TEEEEEENA beat me....


    CONGRATS TO ALL OF YOU!!!! I'm so happy to see so many familiar names there! LOVE IT!

  37. YAHOOOO!!!!!!

    Team Emily K.: 12:30pm
    1. Liza Brandt

    2. Annie Wright Burnett

    3. Karen Cogan

    4. Karen Collier

    5. Nancy J. Farrier

    6. Denise Frazier

    7. Barbara Lukow

    8. Janelle Mowery

    9. Connie Queen

    10. Marilynn Rockelman

    Team Elizabeth: 12:40pm

  38. Team Elizabeth: 12:40pm
    1. Leigh Herren

    2. Dena Marie Lopez

    3. Lillian Duncan

    4. Mary Ellen Porter

    5. Lynn Huggins Blackburn

    6. Patricia Rushford

    7. Lucy Sawyer

    8. Dana R. Lynn

    9. Jenna Night

    10. Megan Kellett

  39. Jennifer and Susan, glad you guys found it helpful. When I see stuff like this in my writing, I panic just a bit, but once I start working on fixes, I realize that I can do it and the more I do, the easier it gets.

    Well, until the next book comes around. I might have forgotten everything I did by then!

  40. Donna - We'll send you a prescription, or maybe an "excuse" :)

    Cindy - Glad to be of help. I think after going through a couple of manuscripts looking for stuff like this, it starts to become second-nature at some point to subconsciously vary paragraphs a bit even in the earlier stages of a ms. Have fun playing with your sentence structure.

  41. This is great info for our Killer Voice finalists to apply to their three chapters they have to send in by next week.

    I wish I'd had access to this teaching when I was a newbie, Pam!!!

  42. Pam, good stuff. I don't have as much of a problem with this as I used to, because I had it pounded out of me as a journalist! But while names aren't a problem, sometimes certain words are, like "while," "the," etc. Thanks for the tips to rewrite these to make them more interesting.

    My current WIP is in first-person, so starting with my charcter's first name isn't an issue this time around! Have a great day!

  43. Donna - So glad you stopped by Heidi! And, adding more feeling is one way to think of it. How can I deepen the reading experience for the reader? That should be my primary goal.

    Mary - It does come naturally, and we're also taught to anchor the scene with the POV character, so it just stands to reason that we would start with "Pam woke up early and..."

    I do have to say that I read and endorsed Through the Deep Waters by Kim Vogel Sawyer and I never...not once noticed how she started her scenes. It just didn't really matter to me because the story was that good.

    I just pulled the book off my shelves and thumbed through it. It looked like more of her scenes started with character names than not, but again, it didn't bother me one iota when I read the book.

    Another thing to note...Kim had at least 3 POVs in this book. Getting the POV character's name in the first sentence or two is critical, but even more so if there are 3 or more POVs.

    Just grabbed another novel that I'm reading right now. The Pelican Bride by Beth White. This is one of the best historical romances I've read in a long time! I'm 3/4 of the way through and if I didn't have a lot to do, I'd be reading it right now instead of doing all my other work! There is NO sagging middle in this book.

    Does Beth start her scenes with character names? I don't know! I never noticed. And I'm not going to look. I'm so in love with the story that it doesn't matter. ;) And, The Pelican Bride does have several least 4, so it's pretty critical that Beth reveals the POV character quickly to anchor the scene.

    And, back to our very own Mary Connealy...I'd never notice if you started every scene with a character name, Mary. You're that good at weaving a tale!

    So today's exercise isn't to give you more to worry about. Use these tips if it's something that bothers you when you're self-editing, but write a great story and I doubt anybody will notice if you start 90% of your scenes with your main characters names. :)

  44. Wow, look at all these familiar names on the Killer Voices teams!!!

    Congrats everyone!!

  45. Donna is the new Heidi!

    Sorry about that.


  46. Loved your examples, Pam! I will be looking for this now :)

  47. Pam, what a great post! Like others have said, seeing the before/after examples is very helpful. Another Seekerville post to print! Thanks!

    A big congrats to those moving on to the next round in the Killer Voices competition!

  48. Pam, great post! Wonderful reminders about variety being the spice of life!!!


    Hope everyone is okay after those terrible storms yesterday! Prayers for safety for all.

  49. Congrats to those who made it to the next round of Killer Voices!!! It's sooooo exciting to see names I know in those lists!! :)

  50. Very interesting, Pam. I never noticed if I start every scene with a name, but I'll check from now on.

    I love your pictures of spices!

  51. In my writing today I am flinching everytime I begin a paragraph with a character name now!!!!

  52. I love how even in the comments Seekeville has good information! Yes Misst and Pam, I learned a lot. It was a good day. Wish you could have been there Missy! Congrats to all the Killer Voices who made the next round!

  53. Congratulations to all who are moving on in the Killer Voices. It is exciting to recognize so many names since I have been hanging around Seekerville.

  54. Congrats to all the finalists in the Killer Voice!! I came over to post the list as well. LOL

    But as usual, TEEENA is more on the ball than I am! :)

  55. I'll play. Here's mine from a chapter late in my MS.

    Hudson braced his arms and legs on the culvert's round walls and shouted for Lexie to do the same. "You'll be okay. Just get in front of me."
    The air tugged like a suction cup, and rainwater gushed around their feet..."


    The hero and heroine are taking cover from a tornado, btw. Which is fitting, I suppose, with all the storms in my area and the surrounding states.

  56. Pam, I can't believe how timely this post is. I'm famous for beginning my scenes with the obvious. Or stepping back so far to create a sense of setting that I lose the character in charge.

    I loved your examples and I'm embarrassed to say I found I fell in your befores more times than not. I guess that's what revisions are for, among so many other things, LOL!

    Thanks for the tips, Pam!!

  57. Uh-oh, I've traumatized Mary. Just ignore today's post, Mary and star all your scenes with...


  58. Courtney, I assume we’re in Hudson’s pov, yes? Here are some ideas…

    The tornado bore down on them, and Hudson braced his arms and legs on the culvert's round walls and shouted for Lexie to do the same. "You'll be okay. Just get in front of me."

    With minutes to spare, Hudson braced…

    What would be worse? Being sucked up into a raging tornado, or sucked down into the murky waters of Braxton Creek? Making a split second decision, Hudson pulled Lexie after him into the culvert. They’d take their chances with the floodwaters over the g-force winds heading directly toward them.

    The concrete culvert offered scant protection from the tornado bearing down on them, but Hudson clenched his jaw and jerked Lexie inside the round walls. He braced his arms…

  59. Courtney, how about this:

    Worse than any freight train, the tornado whipped across the land, battering and destroying. Lightning arced across a bruised, greenish black sky. The scent of sulpher rode on the wind. Lexie's pale face and tears ripped through Hudson's chest like an angry bull bent on shredding him. He grabbed her arms and pulled her toward the round culvert. As soon as they were beneath its shelter, she turned and threw herself against him. Broken sobs shook her slight body.
    Prayers for protection and deliverance flowed through him. The culvert might provide sanctuary from the twister, but there was a very real threat of a flash flood. Hopefully the woman in his arms didn't know that, though.

  60. So, I'm reading this with great interest, nodding sagely because it makes so much sense and, thankfully, isn't something I need to worry about. (rolling eyes) I have lots of writing foibles but this isn't one of them...I thought until I gave my first three chapters a once over and went..."Ohhhhhhhhhh!!!!!" It's not just scenes it paragraphs!!! Yikes!!! And thing I'm noticing is that the starting with the character's name often ends up telling instead of showing - at least it seems to in my case. I really, really, really struggle with telling so this will hopefully keep me on the straight and narrow. Thanks, Pam!

  61. Okay -- I garbled a couple of sentences up there but hopefully you get my drift. :-)

  62. I entered your wonderful giveaway. Thank you for the opportunity! Great post.

  63. Pam and Crystal, I love y'all's spins on mine! Thank you! Very creative. That opening is definitely going to get edited.


  64. Hi, Pam! Thanks for the opportunity to enter your giveaway.

    Very timely post. Been a busy day, but not too busy to come out and play a word game with the Seekers. Repetition is something I definitely have to be careful of, especially when revising a first draft. I think we all have the tendencies to fall into a writing rut when we're trying to get those initials words down on paper.

    Here's a sentence from the beginning of a chapter I'm currently working on: Lindi looked at her watch for the hundredth time since lunch.

    Thanks to everyone for their congrats on advancing to the next KillerVoices round. As usual, I was at work late and couldn't join in on the celebration, especially since any social media site is blocked at work. All I can say is "Wow, I have so much to do..."

  65. Also, Courtney, remember that there was nothing wrong with your original version. :) You'll know by the ebb and flow of the scene, the pacing, when you need more, and when you need less. Go with your gut and feel the pacing.

    Crystal, I can definitely feel the electricity in your version! Or maybe that's the storm brewing outside my house in living sound and color RIGHT NOW! 8-\

  66. I entered your giveaway Pam and have the giveaway button on my blog.

    Loved the post and all the examples! It's a definite keeper!

    Have a blessed week!

    Smiles & Blessings,
    Cindy W.

    countrybear52 AT yahoo DOT com

  67. Pam, a helpful post. Thank you. I needed that. I entered the Kindle giveway. Congratulations to those advancing in Killer Voice Contest.

    Here's a chapter opening:
    Amelia watched the children playing. Her heart leaped at their joyful laughter ringing through the trees. Teaching. She was doing something useful at last. Free of college until September, she determined to fashion a school for the nine children in her charge. Amelia turned to see John pull up at the summer house, towing a trailer piled high.
    Thanks for all help with this.

  68. Pam,
    I can definitely relate to the storm! That's what we woke up to here yesterday. Which really disappointed my children because we were all looking forward to church, and the bull riding event afterwards. (This became a whole post on my blog,
    BUT... The weather cleared up and we made itto the bull bash anyway, even if we did miss tthe service.

  69. Dianna, here's my version of your sentence (which, by the way, I am having so much fun with this game Pam came up with):

    Why was it that whenever Lindi wanted time to move faster, it slowed to the rate of mud flowing uphill? She dragged her wrist up and glanced at her watch. Again. A sigh clawed its way up from her toes. One minute later than the last time she'd checked it.

  70. Awwww thanks, Seeker friends. It's so nice to come home from work and see our Killer Voices progress being celebrated. You are the BEST!

    Congrats to all the Seeker friends who are moving on to the next round with me. :) We ALL have a lot of work to do, Dianna!

    Pam, I echo Tina (which is usually a good thing, right?). Very timely help. I'll be rereading carefully.

  71. Thanks, Crystal. I love doing stuff like this, too. I, of course, picked my most boring sentence so I'm sure you had lots of fun with it.

    Pam's idea is a hit!

  72. Congrats to all who've advanced in the Killer Voices!!! Pat, here's a changed version of your paragraph:

    Peals of childish laughter danced on the breeze blowing across Amelia's face. Strands of hair fluttered across her forehead. She smiled. There was nothing like a child's happiness to spur her own joy. Teaching was a wonderful reprieve from the monotony of college classes, a professors voice droning on and on about things she could care less about.
    The rumbling engine of John's truck pulled her gaze away from the nine children in her care. His big black monster pulled to a stop in front of the summerhouse, hauling a trailer piled high. When he stepped to the ground, her heart stuttered. With his button up, double pocketed short sleeve shirt showing every one of his muscles off to perfection and his thick hair glinting in the sunlight, he made an image she could look at forever and never get tired.

    I assume John is the hero. If not... Well, best not to tell the real one that Amelia just noticed another man. ;)

  73. Dianna, depending on Lindi's reason for looking at her watch, there could be any number of ways to reword this...

    Time moved at a snail's pace all afternoon, and Lindi resisted the urge to look at her watch again.

    Worry knotted Lindi's stomach as she peeked at the clock on the wall. Would this meeting never end?

    Would this meeting never end? Lindi pushed back the sleeve of her silk blouse and barely stiffled a groan. Another thirty minutes to go. If she was lucky.

    Hugging the baby to her, Lindi closed her eyes and breathed in the fresh baby scent. She glanced at the clock on the wall, and unexpected tears stung her eyes. Angela would be her any minute, and Lindi's time with Carson would be over. For ever.

  74. Dear Pam the Great! Thank You!
    I feel smarter just from reading this post & the comments.

    I signed up for your Kindle giveaway days ago! Thanks!

  75. Thank you, Cindi!! :)

    Just to let you guys know, we're under a tornado watch here. Scary weather and I might get knocked offline shortly. Pray for everyone in our area.

  76. Hey Connie Queen!!
    1st, Congratulations!!
    2nd, That's really your name? Connie Queen?
    Did you win the last name lottery or what?! How cool! I thought it was some kind of internet persona or nickname for some great, confident chick named Connie!

  77. Hi, Pam!!

    I entered the Kindle giveaway and would love to win a copy of "Claiming Mariah"!! Thanks for the giveaway opportunity!!

  78. Hi, Pam!!

    I entered the Kindle giveaway and would love to win a copy of "Claiming Mariah"!! Thanks for the giveaway opportunity!!

  79. Thanks, Pam! I entered your giveaway!

    Love your ideas for adding spice! The before and after examples really helped. I think my sentences get too convoluted at times, so I need to watch for that, also.

    Congratulations to all those moving on in the Killer Voices contest! So fun to see so many names from Seekerville!

  80. Pam, this is an incredibly timely post for me! Such a relatively easy thing to check and correct -- now that you've pointed it out :-) Isn't it funny how after we notice something we could do better, we notice it in everything we've written?

    Thanks bunches!

    Nancy C

  81. Okay, writers. Time to put Pam's lesson to good use. The TARA Contest is low on entries! Here is the skinny!

    The TARA. We are low in 3 different categories. Inspirational is one of them. The others are Romantic Suspense and Series Contemporary. Deadline is April 30th 11:59 pm.

    We are looking for Unpubbed and Pubbed (but not yet contracted) entries, I would be so grateful.

    Final round judge in inspy is Raela Schoenherr of Bethany House. All entrants will receive targeted feedback on their entry and finalists will be given 1 week to revise before submitting the final entry. (Finalists only will have to provide a 1500 word synopsis to the judging editor).

    This is a great opportunity for unpublished authors looking to take their writing to the next level and published authors wanting to gauge responses to a new project they are working on. All judges have undergone intense training (we host it every year and ask that ALL members attend plus we use different material each year to compare to the comprehensive judging matrix). Entry consists of the first 4,500 words (which is approximately 17 pages) We go by word count when determining an entry’s length.

  82. Wow! Congrats to all you Killer Voice finalists! Cheering you on.

    Nancy C

  83. Thanks for the feedback.

    Congrats to all the people advancing in Killer Voices.

    Tina, thanks for the heads up on Tara.

  84. Pam - awesome post! I'm bookmarking this. I needed this so much.

  85. Dear Pam, Thanks for the post. I've learned so much over the past few days from some great teachers about making sure that every word counts and to make sure that the words you choose convey what you want to express. Thanks for some great tips on accomplishing this.

  86. congrats to all the killer voice finalists.

    speaking about spice I have oil of cloves in my tooth I believe. I know it taste yuck but it sure takes the pain away. (not one to do things the easy way I had to get dry socket when I had this tooth out!) On a plus side the latest meds are controling the head pain much better. there are times I hardly notice I have a headache. It will spike at times but now the worse is around 4 out of 10 and its normally not constant like before. I still tired easy but not the exhaustion or down state the last med had me.

  87. I'm back! We lost satellite service for a while, and had some really heavy rain, but no tornado damage, PTL. Praying for everyone East and NE of me in Alababa, SC, NC, etc.

    Jana, so glad you stopped by. Don't you just love Connie Queen? And I know an author named June Love. Isn't that just the perfect name for a romance author? :)

  88. I'm late chiming in (been out of town) but SO glad I read your post, Pam! I sure needed this, and appreciate the examples you shared. Now to apply this to the story I'm revising. :)

    CONGRATS to the Killer Voices finalists!! How exciting!!
    Hugs, Patti Jo

  89. Hi all,

    I love to start paragraphs with ING words. So I watch for these to make sure two actions can be done at the same time. I will cut some of them.

  90. Hello, cuz. :) I was attempting to grapple with this very thing today--sentence and paragraph starts!

    Thank you SO much for these tips! I only hope I can memorize them all so next time I draft I won't have so many "she jumped" & "he turned," etc. :)

    I've entered the giveaway and already have a copy of Claiming Mariah on Kindle. Had a print copy, too, but I gave it to someone who had never read Christian Historical Romance. I said, "Whaaaat?" and thought Claiming Mariah would be the perfect novel to get them hooked forever. :)

    Hope everyone stayed safe during all these recent storms!

  91. A wonderful post thank you.

    I have entered the Kindle giveaway.

  92. I've entered the drawing, looking forward to reading the new book!

  93. Good morning everyone! I know we've moved to a new topic today, but I wanted to do a wrap-up since I got kicked off the 'net last night due to the storms. All is well here, but pray for our friends who've suffered damage and loss.

    Crystal, thank you for giving Pat some ideas on rewriting. :)

    Bonton, thank you and you're IN THE DRAWING for CM! :)

  94. Sherida, I agree with you there. Sometimes we can add WAY too much spice in a rewrite.

    Just a pinch, or tweak a sentence, add a little to the beginning, or even see if the END of the paragraph works better as the beginning.

  95. Nancy C said: Isn't it funny how after we notice something we could do better, we notice it in everything we've written?

    Yep! :)

  96. Tanya, so glad the post was helpful. Thank you so much for stopping by.

  97. Jackie, Terri, and glad to see you're smiling faces today...or...well, YESTERDAY! lol

    Ohhhhh, Jenny, that sound painful, but hopefully the oil of cloves is helping. God bless you!

  98. :) Patti Jo.

    Anna, I'm sure I have a problem with this too, and I'm also sure I don't even know how to fix it sometimes. Another area I need to work on! Yikes!

  99. Natalie!!! That is SO cool that you gave CLAIMING MARIAH to someone who'd never read Christian Historical Romance to hook them on the genre.


    Just Wow!

    That is just about the nicest thing anyone has ever said about my writing!!!

  100. Mary and Tracey, so glad you stopped by and that you entered the giveaway! :)

    Have a safe day everyone, and see you on the current topic of the day, which can always be found on the Seekerville Home page.

  101. I entered the giveaway.

    Writing is something that I've never considered but I love reading. With so many great authors, such as Pam Hillman, I get to read some fantastic books.

  102. Pam - what a great post! I was just reading my WIP yesterday and noticed how many sentences began with my hero and heroine's names. I was feeling discouraged but now I'm energized! The before/after sentences have inspired me to get back at it! Thanks, Kelly

  103. Oops, I forgot to mention that I entered the Kindle giveaway too!

  104. Thanks again, Pam, for yesterday's timely post. And many thanks to Crystal for reworking my paragraph. It's been much improved through your efforts, Crystal. I love the deeper POV, too.

  105. Thanks again, Pam, for yesterday's timely post. And many thanks to Crystal for reworking my paragraph. It's been much improved through your efforts, Crystal. I love the deeper POV, too.

  106. Pat, it was no trouble. I liked it before! But I did have fun.

  107. Spotty internet, but it's back. Squeezing in to say....

    Cindy A, thank you for stopping by and for entering the giveaway. :)

    Kelly, when I first start looking at a "huge" job like that, I can't imagine how I'll fix it all. But, then I take a deep breath and dig in, one sentence, one paragraph at a time. And after a while, I get into a groove and find it a bit easier to think of fixes.