Thursday, January 8, 2015

How to Write Believable Children, Part 1

I blame Keli Gwyn.

First, she's cute and that's just ridiculous, right? I mean how can I compare with that???? Second, she's just so stinkin' nice and I can't even really be MEAN to her. Third, she had a great idea and hey... my idea-o-meter runs out of juice now and again and instead of teaching folks how to do things I YELL AT THEM to do it better.

I find the yelling to be refreshing and oddly effective but every now and again I get inspired to don the teaching hat and play in the instructional pool. (Which means I might drown, so be prepared to save me. Please).

I am surrounded by children, all shapes, sizes, ages, kinds and psyches.

I'm good at writing them because I've been teaching, studying, working with and torturing children for decades. I keep myself submerged in their ever-changing culture and that's a BIG PART of writing modern children successfully, so the reader buys into it. They sound real. They sound like what you'd hear at church/playground/movie theater (minus the swearing!) and that realism layers into your story. 

Rainey McKinney's identical twins Dorrie and Sonya... A different version of them appears on Rainey's book below:

I inroduced the twins on the opening page of "Falling for the Lawman" because they're amazingly adorable and they're talking to a stud-muffin, big, burly New York State trooper... who happens to have bought the house next door and the farm roosters are driving him crazy. He also meets the heroine, but that's a given! The twins, the roosters and "Beansy", the Nigerian dwarf goat smack the reader upside the head with Farm and Fun instantly. Unless, like the hero, you hate farms and were so glad to leave your family farm years ago...

And when the twins "bad girl" mother comes back home in "Falling for the Lawman", of course she... and THEY.... will need their own book, and it's a book I love because I got to fix Aiden, the shy, recalcitrant boy in "Falling for the Lawman" who is destined to become the twins' brother by the end of the story. The trick to keeping the series effective, is to allow the children's spiritual, mental, educational and physical growth to occur naturally.

(Note to all o' youse: Some readers do not like children. They want romance without children. I don't find this bothersome because I sell a lot of books and I love having kids, single parents, families, friends, etc. in my books. But just so youse know, I get the occasional smackdown for having kids in romances.  

And then I think of Kurt Warner, the NFL quarterback who courted the single mother and created a great fairy tale story... and I know I'm on the right track!)

*Something to think about: A deciding factor in my Waterbrook contract was because I layer families/kids/animals/crazy into romance successfully. To quote an editor: "There is nothing romantic about kids, jobs, single-parenting and lack of time. It's exhausting. But you make it work." My Waterbrook romances follow the three Stafford brother cowboys, Colt, Nick and Trey... and with the first book written there are (pauses to count...) six kids, a nest of kittens, farm dogs, cows, guns, old houses and new beginnings... So not much has changed, right???

Here's part of my old family recipe for writing kids!

I think of the joy of the Holy Family and the somber side of raising a King.

I think of The Cosby Show and how they managed to deal with crazy teens using humor. (and by the way, exploding food is never quite as funny in our own kitchens.) I think of Little House on the Prairie and The Waltons and the families I work with daily. What happens when they don't deal with problems??? And what's the bratty-kid fallout when they do????

Do not watch kids on TV. Most current TV shows with kids have a bratty, in-your-face element of snark/sarcasm and bad acting. Or they make the children look stupid, and one-dimensional (the smart girl with no depth, the jock guy with no brain, the nerd little brother who's wretchedly awkward)  Caricatures of kids don't work. Blech. I wanna slap 'em already!

Think real kids. Stages of development. There's a reason we use terms like "terrible twos" and the "bratty eights" and "touchy tweens", etc.

So here's the basic rundown:

BABIES ROCK. They draw an audience! Check out "Loving the Lawman", the book that got me on the bestseller's list!!!

They cry, mess their diapers, burp, smile, toothless grins, belly laughs, fever spots, teething, they smell amazing even when they're smelly because then you change them and they smell good again!

Toddlers become more unique and should be treated that way. Their intrinsic personalities are showing. The daredevil... the introvert. The puzzle solver. The diva. The optimist. The sharer. The watcher. The screamer....

Like a chrysalis, this evolves not into a butterfly, but into a more defined and reasonable version of the toddler... (this is good to remember when working a series, that the kid who's 3 in one book will be a little different if they're 4 or 5 in the final book).

Use your imagination author's note:



Preschoolers explore everything either visually, manually, orally, physically. :)

They question adults, they grasp concepts and relativity and they're curious on a much higher level than MOST of their two-year old counterparts. Some have speech quirks, some have shut-downs, some have incredibly obnoxious-but-cute "me-first" natures (I call these types "little Ruthys" for good reason!), some are downright brats (Skeeter who is an enduring character in both "Waiting out the Storm" and "Made to Order Family") and some are reclusive by nature or lack of nurture. Just like an adult character, it's clutch to keep the kid in character. Brats don't morph overnight. Extroverts are born, not taught. Shyness should always be in upwardly mobile degrees to sound real. If a child is too shy and doesn't improve, you've stagnated the kid.

Don't do that!!!! Stop yourself and run back into that manuscript and fix the kid to show they're on a path toward maturity and independence, at least slightly!

Orphaned brothers Todd and Tyler are little lost souls until their Aunt Haley takes them in,  but  the two boys are distinctly different in this top-selling story... All they want is a home and a forever family, people to love and cherish them. That's exactly what these two sweet fellows find in Allegany County.
But here's a caveat: Intelligence matters. 

Kids with great retention will handle things differently than a child who struggles to recognize letters/numbers/colors. THEN... personality quirks enter the foray just like they do with your grown-up characters. So if Jamie is a four-year-old boy, bright for his age, outgoing and boisterous whose parents have split up and his father is out of the picture, Jamie is going to behave/act based on his personality/mental acuity/birth order and then he's going to REACT to how the grown ups around him handle things.

And that opens up a whole new kettle of fish!

I could say more (of course!!!) but we'll do that in Part 2 next month, and don't cringe... it's unbecoming! Besides, if you want to improve your skills at writing children it's either listen to the Ruthinator... or open your own daycare.

Honestly, reading about it is so much easier!!!!

NOTE TO EVERYONE!!!! Starting today, my 5-star ranked indie novel "Try, Try Again" (yes with an adorable little girl named Grayce!!!) is on sale for Kindle and Kindle apps for .99! Head on over to my buddy Jeff's place at Amazon and grab your copy and then come on back! 

Hey, let's do a "mixed-up" giveaway today. Five people will win their choice of either any Ruthy Love Inspired or indie book... 


If you don't mind waiting a few weeks.... You can have this delightfully sweet Zondervan e-book/novella from the Year of Weddings series!!!!

Third-year law student Tara Simonetti needs a job to pay the bills and put food on the table. After her father’s untimely death, she’s determined to give her small hometown what he didn’t have: a good, honest lawyer, but law school isn’t cheap. When she answers a want ad that leads her to Elena’s Bridal one blustery morning, she feels like she’s died and gone to heaven. All of the organza, gowns, and pearls she could ever imagine—her dream job, indeed.

Hotshot lawyer Greg Elizondo is there, running the shop, trying to keep it afloat after his mother’s passing. He’s kind and more handsome than Tara cares to admit, but his laser-focus on the corporate ladder makes him the wrong match for her.

As they work to save the shop from its impending closing, their feelings grow. But with Tara bound for the valleys of northern Pennsylvania and Greg set on New York City,  circumstances scream “NO.”

In the midst of juggling Bridezillas, wedding dress orders, and  a re-opening gala, their attraction deepens, along with the reality that their goals are pulling them in two separate directions. No matter how Tara does the math, it doesn’t add up. Can God orchestrate their desires and goals into one happy ending? 

Let me know in the comments what you'd like.... and then e-mail us at to tell me what kind of e-reader you own and what e-mail address you want it sent to! If it's a Love Inspired hard copy you'd like, to see the actuality of how I put cute kids on paper and make them so appealing their own mother won't recognize them, send us your snail mail addy and which book you'd like!

The cat dish is clean... and doesn't smell the least bit fishy! :)

Come on in, the coffee's on!


  1. I have children in some of my books. Does that get me a high five--or something like that?

    I also serve coffee (that liquid I do not drink) in my books.

    The Seekerville pot is brewing.

  2. Do I get a book? I'd like a book book. Or do I only get it if you pull my name out of the clean cat dish? I won't even ask who locked it! Thanks, Ruthy. I love children and other cute creatures in romance books!

  3. I'm out of touch with children. I work with adults all day and there are no little ones in my family. Youngest niece is almost 30 and everyone else is older. Hmm, I think I need your hard copy LI to see what's happening with kids these days. I'm totally ignorant about their culture.

  4. This is a great post, Ruthy!
    I LOVE children (and always feature them--and cats, of course--in my stories!).
    After teaching little ones (first grade, then kindergarten) for 21 years, I don't feel right if I'm not including at least one or two children in my writing, LOL.
    Please toss me in the cat dish for a Ruthy book (if it's print--I don't have an e-reader).
    And I have to say that your LI covers are some of the best (especially the guy holding the twin babies---oh my---so sweet!).
    Hugs, Patti Jo :)

  5. Patti Jo is right, that's an awesome cover.

  6. I have always worked with children. They can be a hoot.

    Count me in for either an e-copy or a print copy thank you.

  7. Great topic to cover! I wish you could have consulted with the writers of a movie I was just watching! When a parent dies the kids are affected! They don't just carry on as if it were same old. Just saying, they need some emotional depth. Can't wait for part 2!

  8. I recommend those wanting to get in touch with kids to volunteer! I help out at our church's Awana Bible club. My younger brother, who actually is a snarky teenager (but not bratty!), works with the K-2nd graders and today he said they asked him if he had kids (no), was married (no), then guessed that he was 44. When he asked the student why she thought he was 44, she said "Because my dad is 44." =P

    But I agree that the kids on the Cosby Show, the Waltons, Little House on the Prairie, etc. seemed much more real/relateable than some of the kids on tv shows today ... ;-)

  9. Nice, Ruthy? I'm not so sure about that. After all, I wheedled and cajoled you into writing a blog post just so's I could learn all your secrets. That's not nice. That's downright sneaky if you ask me. LOL

    Both my debut novel and my first LIH (coming in June) include young children. Readers seemed to like precocious Tildy in said debut novel. They asked how I wrote her and made her so likable. I wish I had a good answer because a shrug coupled with "I dunno" doesn't seem very professional.

    I suppose I did some of the things you suggested in your excellent post. Mostly I just remembered what my daughter and her classmates were like at nine years old. I volunteered at Adri's school A LOT, so I got to see kids in action--in their good moments as well as their not-too-good moments. They have the latter more frequently than I ever imagined. :-)

    When I'm writing a child, I recall what my sisters and I were like back in the day. (Since I write historicals, it doesn't matter that I was a child during the Dark Ages.) Because there were three of us girls, I got to see those birth order traits you talked about in action up close and personal.

    I was the responsible but bossy, er make that take-charge oldest sister. Next came my attention-hungry, drama star, far-too-popular and pretty middle sister. (Yes, I was jealous, but I'm getting over it now that were 55 and 53. Honest, I am.) Our baby sister who came two years later was the sweetest thing then and still is today. She loved being the baby so much that she decided she was still the baby even when our brother came along five years later. He's a hunky sheriff's deputy these days who makes us all proud. (Gotta love having a lawman in the family, right?)

    Anyhow, like you I pull from my life experiences. For those who don't have young children in their lives, I suggest volunteering at a school, offering to babysit a friend's children or grandchildren or simply hanging out at a playground. Kids are quite open, so you're sure to learn a lot in a surprisingly short time.

    I'm looking forward to part two, Ruthy, when you reveal more of your secrets. By then we ought to be able to see that beautiful June cover. Can't wait!

  10. Um, sorry about writing a novella in my previous comment. I'm a card-carrying member of the Wordy Writers Club and have a whole lot of respect for my computer's delete key. :-)

  11. That novella looks amazing! I don't even like weddings, gowns, the planning, etc. (I just packed my dress, flew down to Mexico, tried to keep my relatives from melting, and let my fiancé's family handle it all. And they did a great job- calf roasted underground for five days and everything!)

    I think I almost always have kids in my books. I even have a whole soccer team of six year olds in one. The only thing I don't like in books is when the writer introduces a child and then they go away, only to be brought back when it's convenient. (Like when the hero and heroin want to eat uninterrupted, haha.) We all know they NEVER GO AWAY.

    And having a kid in the mix can be really fun, especially with those first pesky kisses. They help the happy couple know when enough is enough!

  12. I meant "pesky first kisses". Not "first pesky kisses". Very different things. Kisses don't usually turn pesky until you've been married a long, long time and your spouse decided to stop shaving for a few years. :)

  13. Helen, thank you for the coffee and for the kids in books, LOL!

    I do kind of inundate readers with children...

    Sigh.... ;)

  14. Marianne, your wish is my command because you should be getting a book on your front stoop today or tomorrow! I got my mailing out on Tuesday, oh happy day!!!!


  15. Terri, I hear you, and it's one of those things that you don't even think to research or realize you're not up on until you see it done wrong... or do it wrong, yourself and wonder why is it messed up?

    Family relationships are a part of it, but we see those depicted on every drama show on tv. But kids? Not so much.

    And like I said, most of the shows with kids either label them, niche them or have them act like mouthy brats.

    Oh. Yuck.

  16. Patti Jo and Terri, thank you!!!

    I love that cover, too!

    What I love about our art team is that they (and Melissa Endlich, of course, when she consults with them) have taken my stories with family/kids/dogs, etc. and turned it into a brand. I look at the beautiful covers and they weep warmth!

    And that's exactly how I want the reader to feel when they turn that last page, happy, cozy, warm and satisfied. I don't want lingering questions unless that question is "WHERE CAN I GET THE NEXT RUTHY BOOK????" :)

    And yes, I have hard copies of my LI's here, ready to mail for anyone who would like a paperback instead of an e-book!

  17. Mary Preston, you're in! And don't you love how our day jobs or life experiences can be the very research we need for our stories!!! PERFECT!!!!

  18. Eva Maria, that's exactly what we're covering in part two! How trauma affects the child and action/reaction.

    Doesn't that get your goat?????

    When they kind of gloss over the kids as if they're extraneous? Sometimes all you need is a couple of seconds of expression here or there, and they cut it short... and the viewer disconnects.

    My guess is those film editors don't have or don't like kids.

  19. Thanks for the great post, Ruthy!

    I have a girl in one of my manuscripts that I wrote before I had children. I know that if it's ever contracted I'm going to have to go back and give her a rewrite because my real three-year-old is way smarter than my supposedly-smart fictional four-year-old!

    I'd love to be put in the draw for your Year of Weddings novella :)

  20. Jen, that's a totally awesome idea! Volunteering with kids is a great way to immerse yourself in today's family and see what's up. It is very different today in many ways, but the values (or lack!!!) are still the basis for story lines. But how they're handled and what the cause and effect of divorce/death/affairs/drugs/alcohol/abuse/displacement on kids is different these days. And the setting, too. Most kids don't live in Pleasantville, and a lot of them don't have a "Happy Days" life, but showing a family grow in faith, hope and love is so engaging for the reader!

    Great thoughts, thank you for sharing them and I thought your brother was 44 too!!!! :) LAUGHING! BECAUSE THAT'S EXACTLY HOW A LITTLE KID WOULD EQUATE IT!

  21. Keli, writing kids in historicals gives us more leeway, doesn't it?

    When my daughter read "A Town Called Christmas" she MOCKED MY references to the adorable orphaned boys whose father had walked away from them and his responsibilities because I kept it in time... That they were babes, and barely out of nappies, and other things to reflect the attitude and language of the day. (Hero was British immigrant western hunk...)

    But she was right, I'd never use the same language or references today, and I'd be teaching them words, phonics, colors, etc. because times have changed so much.

    It's like jumping from one pond into the next and having different water!

    I'm working on trauma-affected kids and therapy right now, and it's an interesting mix. One doesn't want to hurt her dad's feelings, the other one is warning dad by her actions to back off... and all dad wanted was a nice, normal family, the American dream.

    OOPS. ;)

  22. Virginia, LOL!

    On all counts!

    Like me, kids are a natural part of your landscape and you integrate them into stories seamlessly. I never knew that was SOMETHING until people started gravitating toward it and editors loved it.

    Who knew????

    And writing family-based romances also gives a sense of modern-day Americana to our work, and that invites more readers in to share their hopes/dreams/memories.

    I love more readers!!! :) And if having cute, affectionate, sometimes snarky or adorable or naughty kids adds to the mix, I'm okay with that!

  23. Kara, you reminded me of a story from my bridal store days!!!

    One of my brides was a beautiful young doctor. Great gal, lovely wedding and just so smart/nice/fun.

    Four years (almost) later, she was in a friend's wedding. Now she's got a two-year old and she told me how she wished she could go back and change the advice she'd given parents for three long years, because most of it was wrong.

    She said the reality of having a child, tossing them a sippy cup that had been on the counter for two hours, dealing with temper, meltdowns, etc. was the best education she could get that med school didn't provide.

    So funny... unless you were one of her first-time parents trying to keep the doctor happy!

    I love your growth curve, Kara! It's amazing what we can see with a few more experiences behind us!

  24. All those Gorgeous covers!!! WOOT LOVE IT!!

  25. Tina, I love that Love Inspired isn't afraid to put the family aspect on the cover.

    Most publishers don't do that, and I always wonder why there aren't more covers that embrace the family-themed romance.

    Cowboys and babies. Single mom/Cinderella type stories. (Back to Kurt Warner again!)

    Re-knitting the fabric of the American dream, re-establishing family love.


    Give me that life times 10 because I'm not a sleep-around-singles kind of story teller.

  26. Kids can be crucial. March, the child in my indie series, has been a big hit. There are a lot of things that she does that help to creates conflict between the hero and heroine, as well as bring them together. She exposes the hero's vulnerabilities and brings the humor as well. She's been a big piece of the puzzle.

  27. OKAY, Connor and Martin, that means Julia is getting a book, yay.

  28. RUTHY,
    I have finally processed Charlie's death. I went through the Four Stages and he is In A Better Place. I'm a little worried about Mrs. Thurgood...
    Kathy Bailey

  29. I wrote an adult child in my first book, Lily of the Field, but he was ACTING like a ten year old.

    In Wedding on the Rocks, I had a group of inner city kids visit a ranch for a few days.

    Lastly, I had a baby in The Widow's Suitor. It's birth was the cute meet for the hero and heroine.

    I seem to put a child in every other book.

  30. I like to think I know children from almost 40 years of parenting, aunt-ing, and teaching either Sunday school or children's church for most of my adult life. My fictional children seem to evolve organically. For example, in "Trail," the book I'm shopping around now, Caroline's best friend Martha is the mother of five, so of course Caroline has a relationship with them. She's a former schoolteacher and Martha and Ben hire her to tutor their children on the trail, so there's that, and she has a big heart so she tries to help another family with an abusive and neglectful father. One child, Zeb Wilkins, "rolls over" from "Trail" to the sequel and I had a lot of fun writing him. He's "all boy" but also a good student and he embraces life on the Trail and after. Sometimes Caroline or his parents have to rein him in, but he's not malicious, he's just Zeb. I also have a young immigrant boy, Tomas Kopecky, in my post-world-war I novel "Lost and Found," and I really like him, a tough kid with a lot of heart and hope. Also have a child in the "Lost" sequel, "Well With Her Soul," but little Lydia spends much of the story offscreen because she's been kidnapped. However, that allows me to explore her mother's feelings about getting her back, which are pretty primal. It all ties together, parenthood and the bond you develop. There is nothing like it...

  31. RUTHY,
    I reread my Kirkwood Lake books over the holiday break. I want to cast Mario Lopez as Max.

  32. About disappearing children...nobody does it worse than television. I would like to be the nanny for an offscreen television child...or the detective hired to find them after there's a huge build-up to their birth and then they disappear after a few weeks. They're getting better at explaining it, but still...Even Little Ricky took a powder unless he was needed for a plot line.
    I really like the Heck family in "The Middle." They have snappy comebacks but they're not brats, except for Axl and he always comes around in the end. And I like Henry in "Once Upon a Time." A kid who has had to bear way too much but doesn't let it sour him.
    I also liked The Beaver. Smart writing exposed how kids of that era really thought. If they were white and male.

  33. My schedule seems to be in sync with Ruthy's posts, probably because I need them.

    I have a sassy little girl in my Regency, but other than her, I haven't written about children in my historicals. But in my first comtemporary, I have a little boy who's a main character, in fact he solves the mystery. Because he was abused as a toddler, something he can't remember clearly but senses, the heroine bonds with him, which leads her to bond with his father.

    If I'm fortunate enough to win, I'd prefer to wait for All Dressed Up...since I already have Try, Try Again.

  34. I've never written children into a story, but I'd like to, eventually. I'd have to add tweens and teens if I did though, since I teach middle school and I'm around that age daily. They can be a very quirky bunch, so it could be interesting to add one or two into a romantic suspense book.

    Please put my name in the drawing. I'm not picky on the format, hardcopy or ebook, Love Inspired or Indy, doesn't matter to me. If it's a Ruthy book, I'm going to love it!

  35. Ruthy, I enjoyed your thoughts so much! (And you're right about Keli. She is adorable! AND I hope Tildy gets her own story one day. When she's older. ;))

    I love seeing families and children in books. Making the characters and situations believable takes a certain knack. I think that's why the LI line resonates with tons of readers. They get it right.

    I don't have an e-reader (I'm on the computer so much, I have to give my eyes a break!), but I'd love any of your books. :)

    Ohhh. Side note. You're everything Carol Moncado said you were. Lol (Compliment!!!!)

  36. Ruthy, thanks for the helpful info! I tend to watch young kids at church to get a feeling for them (since my youngest is now 18!). It's hard to remember that far back.

    I do love to write teens, though. That's still very fresh! :)

  37. LOL, Virginia!!! hahahaha I'm glad you clarified that. :)

  38. Kaybee, that's so funny! Yes, "Healing the Lawman's Heart" is Julia's story! I love that you know that!

    I wanted her story to evolve with enough time between the breakup of her marriage and falling in love again because I'm not as taken with story ideas that collapse a marriage and Mr. Right is around the corner.

    I hope you love it!!!

  39. Oh, Kaybee....

    I love Mrs. Thurgood.

    I just LOVE HER. :)

    And while no one lives forever, I'm writing a Christmas story involving Mrs. Thurgood's grand niece and a beautiful little girl named Sophie June... :) You'll love Sophie and the two people who love her most, her biological father Joe and her stand-in mother Carrie. That's all I can say!!!

    Does it help if I say I miss Charlie too????

  40. Kaybee is on the child writing bandwagon! Good for you! Lifting a mug of JOE to you!!!

  41. Rose, I love the idea of writing a guy acting like a ten-year-old! Can I slap him??????

  42. I can't wait to read All Dressed Up in Love. What a beautiful cover!

    My sons are twelve years apart in age, and it seems like there have been boys around my house for years. Plus my I grew up with a younger brother. So I've pretty much got boys down.

    Now I have granddaughters, and I'm learning about the joys of being a girl. I'm pulling out some of my old baby dolls and Barbies, and the girls love them.

    Thanks for the fun post, and please add my name to the dish. Thanks.

    (BTW, am I the only one who sometimes forgets to publish my comment after proving I'm not a robot?)

  43. I love children in romance stories. Especially when they show the softer side of the hero. You can tell a lot about a guy by the way he treats kids and animals. I get a marshmallow heart just thinking about your storybook kids, Ruthy.

    And squuueeeeeaaaaaalllllllll -- a new Ruthy book coming out? Even if it is in ebook format -- that's something to shout out about. I hope Zondervan publishes them in book format next year like they are doing with the 2014 novellas. I only read one because of the ebook format, but now I'm getting them all as book books this year. Woot!

    And what's this about Waterbrook? Did I read that right? Three books? One already written. Please ignore me while I froth at the mouth in sheer reader ecstasy.

    So -- I have allllllll your books. Yeppers I do, so I'd love to be dropped in the ebook novella cat dish puleeeeze.

  44. I love to read books with children and in both my works in progress there are children. Please put me in the cat dish for your new e-novella! This would make a great birthday present for me since today is my big day!

    I didn't get my kid fix at Awanas last night since church was cancelled due to weather.

    I hope everyone has a great day

  45. Fun post, Ruthy--definitely one to bookmark and refer to as often as necessary!

    The only children I've been around consistently (and even that's a stretch, considering how far away we live from them) are my grandchildren. And they do run the age gamut! Numero uno will turn 20 next month, and he joined the Navy last year.

    Then we've got his two brothers, 18 and 15. Then the other set of grandkids, a 12-year-old boy, then three girls, almost 10, 4, and 1.

    So whatever age kid I need to write about, I have at least one example that will be relatively (no pun intended) close!

  46. Ruthy - Maybe I can convince my niece to have a baby on the name of writerly research. :-)

  47. Elaine, that's what I love about Seekerville! We all need the posts, the little reminders of who/what/when/where/how/why!

    When asked to pick favorite books or books that influenced us the most, a majority of people pick coming of age stories they read as adolescents or teens. Why?

    Because those stories meshed with what they were feeling right then. They "synced" and that's an important part of touching a reader. It's why we like some heroines and hate others. It's why we throw some books across the room.

    I had one reviewer read one of my books and her comment was something like this: "What is this book missing???? Sexy scenes!"

    I died laughing, reading that, because when she bought the book (or got it free) it was labeled Christian, so that's funny, right?

    We are never going to please everyone but every step we take toward making our stories rewarding and delightful to read resonates with some readers. And that's perfect!!!

  48. Rhonda, in the first Wedding Blessings book I have an eleven year old, a twelve year old and a ten and a half year old....

    I love those in between, feeling your way through life ages, too!

    And in the following one there's a delightful set of toddler twins, just adorable!

    And in the last one of that series you'll have all of those kids cropping up (trilogy of three sisters!) and whatever form of small, childlike diversion I deem fit for that book.

    And I try to avoid the single parent cliche/tome of rebellious child/overwhelmed mother who forgot about spankings/hero to the rescue.

    And vice versa...

    I tend to see them as cookie cutter designs on romance, but maybe that's just me because I'm a bossy know it all.

    This can be problematic.

  49. Cynthia Herron, LOL!!!!

    I'm never sure what Carol might be saying about me, so I'm glad you heard the good stuff! LAUGHING!

    I'm putting you in the cat dish for a paperback, and I agree with you that Love Inspired isn't afraid to aim their romances at this kind of family involvement and I love that about them!

  50. Missy, it's funny how quickly things have changed with how media portrays kids, so church/Sunday school/school are great ways to see them, but the problem there is that they're generally on good behavior under threat of death.

    The ZOO is a great place to see children interact with animals, kids, grown-ups, time restrictions, doing things against their will! It's a great setting and it's outside so you don't look like STALKER AUTHOR!!!!

  51. Jackie, you know you don't have to check that stupid robot box. It's a Google thing but it should accept your comment even if you ignore the box.


    TRY IT!!!!



    Isn't it precious? And the story is absolutely delightful, a sweet, fun 25K novella and I drew on my bridal experience (8 years working for a wonderful bridal store in Rochester called "Bridal Hall" and the book is dedicated to the ladies I worked with there) to write it... and then pulling it together again for the Wedding Blessings trilogy for Love Inspired!

    I call it "paid research", LOL, and I think you'll love, love, love this story! I'll beg folks to buy it next month, and spread the word because it's my first story for Zondervan/Harper Collins and I had a wonderful time working with their editors. What a great bunch of gals!


    Laughing in upstate, I had so much FUN!!!!!!!

  53. KAV!!!!! YES, WATERBROOK!!!!

    I'm working on the second story now, 3 cowboy brothers, coming home to figure out where it all went wrong...


    I love it, I get giddy just thinking about it!!!! Did I mention THREE COWBOYS??????


  54. Wilani, I'm tossing your name in and you should also be getting a book on your doorstep today from late November or December drawings!!!!

    The weather last night cancelled things all around the country, but better to stay home and let things clear up, calm down or dry up... and then re-gather when it's safe!

    Glad you're here with us today, though!

  55. Myra, that's true! Your own built-in research library of little Johnsons!!!!

  56. Terri, LOL! I've never had to convince anyone around here, we're clearly bent on overpopulating the earth!!!!

    But you try that and let me know what happens! Laughing at the thought of that convo!!!!

    This brings us back to the old tried and true: "Write what you know". Now you can embellish on what you know, but if you keep yourself on fairly solid ground, the story itself comes across as believable, organic and engaging.

    Chocolate doesn't hurt!!!!

  57. Ruthy, great post! I had no idea there were readers who didn't like children in romances! They add comic relief, reveal character and raise the stakes. What's not to like?

    What amazes me is that you have the energy to write after caring for your daycare brood.

    The pictures of the kids and your covers are gorgeous!


  58. Ruthy,

    I'm embarrassed to say, I didn't know you could comment without proving you're a robot. Thanks for the heads up.

  59. Okay, Ruthy, I tried it and it worked. So glad you can't see how red my face is now.

    Have a great day!

  60. Love your post, Ruthy...can't wait for #2. I also love that you write about kids and care so much for kids in your daily life and are making such a difference in their lives! So many kids have a tough home life!
    I am up-to-date on reading your books, but want to be in for the E novella! Thanks!!!

  61. A resounding yes to children in the story!!

    And I agree with Virginia—don't send them away until they are needed for convenience sake. :-)

  62. Ruthy, what you said about the zoo reminded me of the many, many school field trips to the zoo. I volunteered for every one of them because I was afraid my kids would get lost or that the zoo would try to keep them, lol. But then you have a group of five or so that you have to TRY not to loose. Fun times!

    I am half way through Made to Order Family. I can't wait to see how (or if) they reign in little Skeeter. Love her to pieces. This may be my favorite Ruthy book. Such rich, realistic characters. Four dimensional I'd say, if that's a thing.

    Please put me in for The Year of Wedding series book.

  63. Now that I have kids of my own I enjoy reading stories with children as well or when the main characters are parents/guardians (I have to admit I didn't before). I'd love to be in the drawing for your Year of Weddings novella Ruthie! I've been reading and reviewing all of them and it's been so fun :)

  64. HI Ruthy! Good advice for adding children. My first manuscript has 8 children in it, ranging from age 18 to 4. I wrote it based on my experiences babysitting.

    Your covers are beautiful and adorable and make this wannabe mommy squee!! Love to be a in a drawing for one of the hard copies.

    Have a great day!

  65. Ruthy, the book arrived! What a nice Birthday present!!!

    My brother surprised me and took me out to lunch. That is a first!

  66. Ruthy
    I'm always left with the question of "where is the next Ruthy book?" as well as, "why don't I keep the the kleenex box nearby?"

    I adore your books and the children there. I do like kids in books for the same reason someone else mentioned. To see how the hero deals with them. Nothing sexier than a big, manly man down on his knees and playing with a little one or soothing the current "end of the world" event in said little one's life.

    My little guy cracks me up sometimes and I really need to remember the stuff he comes up with. He's currently recuperating from an ear infection, so ear stuff is on his brain. He's told me several times when he can't remember what he did at pre-school that the "information ran into my ear-wax and bounced out of my head, Momma" or the info "fell out of my head while I was playing on the playground Momma"
    I tried that excuse on him when I pretended to forget something he told me. When I said the words had fallen out of my head, he bent over and picked up the imaginary words and said "That's okay momma, I just picked them up and I can put them back in your head."

    I haven't written any children into books yet, but apparently stocking up on stuff in case I need to.

    Would LOVE, LOVE, LOVE an ebook copy of your novella. Gorgeous cover!!!!

  67. I'm trying to think.... all my published books have children in them.... and I write historicals in small towns, wagon trains, homesteads. Generally, there were children her and there. Seems like it would be really odd not to have them.

    There are some stories, some plots, that would feel natural and true without children...for instance, some romantic suspense stories where the hero/heroine are on the run would lend themselves better to a no-children type setting, but some authors (like Debby) do an amazing job of writing suspense with children.

    I have street kids, orphans in the orphanage, and children with families in Stealing Jake, all ranging from 2 yo and up. Each child acts/reacts differently depending on his/her circumstances and age.

    Novellas, too, but not quite as much "stage time" due to the word count. But, again, depending on the story and the plot, the kids might get a LOT of stage time. I'm reminded of Mary'd novella The Advent Bride... the entire story revolves around the hero, the heroine, and the hero's son in the school house, so even novellas might be sprinkled liberally with children.

    I dunno. I just write children the way I see them based on my own children, my nieces and nephews, my pre-K Sunday School class and other children I read about and see in movies and tv.

    And, yes, I'd say that the older shows like Little House and The Waltons are better fits for my characters than some of the stuff that's on tv these days.

  68. Ruthy, I loved your post. And your tips for writing kids well. My current ms has three children in it. I haven't sketched their characters out as much as I probably should. I'll be thinking on that.

    I love your covers. :)

  69. I've wanted to throw books across the room for having too-bratty-mouthy kids in them. Especially teen-agers. I love real kids. A parent who gets walked all-over isn't attractive.

    I'm not talking about normal grumbles or kids going through stages.

    Ruthy, I love your story about the doctor. That's so funny. I had a doctor tell me that I shouldn't let my 12 months old use a sippy cup because I'd just have to reteach him later how to use a real glass. Ha. This doctor had one child. I had 4 at the time. No thanks. I'd rather not clean up the spills.

    It's great that LI features kids on your covers!!! Love 'em.

  70. Great post, Ruthy! Thank you! Children can add so much to a story. My latest story (still waiting to see what will happen with that one) had a 10yo girl in it. It was so much fun to let her comment on situations and issues that the h/h were trying to avoid talking about. Awkward...but then they had to face it. :-)

  71. Janet, it's funny but some folks are really anti-kid... I've even had a couple of reviews who mentioned that, but like I said, there are a lot of readers out there and I seem to have found a delightful niche of them who love these family-style stories.

    YAY!!!!! :)

  72. Jackie!!! Don't be embarrassed, this is something that Google/Blogger did back in the fall/late fall and we've learned to ignore it! But now you know, my red-faced friend! It only started showing up on everyone's page in December and I know that specifically because Tina thought I was bonkers when it first happened to me...

    well, I am bonkers, but eventually it showed up on everyone's feed! Go you, being big and brave and bold!

  73. Aww... Jackie Smith.... I've got you fooled, darling, how nice!!!!


    I assure my parents that I totally use and exploit their sweet babies to sell books and THEY'RE OKAY WITH THAT!!!!

    Who knew???? :) I love my life, I'm so blessed to:

    A. Have my kids actually still love me after all the mistakes made over several decades. I mean no one DIED, so we must have done okay for the most part.

    B. Work with kids and have their love, that means the world to me.

    C. Write stories that touch hearts and souls. #happiestpersonever!!!!! :)


    Skeeter was modeled after Casey, who is now my mother's helper here. Isn't that a hoot, that the in-your-face child is now the sweet, gentle teen that works with kids every day?

    I love it! She is a precious young lady but way back in the day, she was totally "Skeeter"... Time marches on.

  75. Heidi, if you don't win today, remind me and I'll ship you an e-copy to review when it's time...

    I totally fell in love with this story, and Becky Monds was awesome with her advice and direction. I think she thought I'd be insulted by the revisions, but I instantly saw that her take on the story was spot on.... So I jumped back in and readjusted it, and by the time I was done I knew I had a winner on my hands. I don't mean that to sound self-serving at all, it was because she gave me words of wisdom (and caught things similar to what Melissa finds in some books) and it's funny how we don't always recognize those story flaws ourselves!

    Don't be afraid to remind me!

  76. Stephanie, you stinkin' cute thing, you're in!!!

    And I love that you put not just one child or two in, you used a whole CONTINGENT!!!! Go, you! :)

    And I'm glad I'm not alone in wanting to draw in multiple audiences to my work. Building readership isn't just facebook or twitter or instagram, it's putting together the story that gets SHARED by friends... passed around.... talked about....

    And the more folks we have doing that, the more hearts we touch with God's sweet grace and cute kid antics!

    And if there's a tear or two shed along the way, all the better!

  77. Wilani!!!! LUNCH AND A BOOK!!!!

    Oh, happy birthday, dear woman!

  78. Ruthy, you do everything well, including children!

    Waving to Pam and her sweet comment about the little ones I've included in my suspense stories. Must admit that I fell in love with Mary Grace and Joey in my Christmas novella featured in HOLIDAY DEFENDERS. Of course, they were based on my own children so what's not to love. :)

    Children in suspense increase the protective instincts in both the hero and heroine.

    In Protecting Her Child, I had a pregnant widow running for her life, trying to keep her unborn baby safe. Concern for the baby heightened the tension and upped the stakes, IMHO.

    Hmmm? Note to self: Include a child in my next story!



    First, he's stinkin' cute, but second, he's YOURS!!!!

    Now the problem with one kid is that's ONE BOOK RESEARCH because you've got to vary the little darlings!

    Skeeter wouldn't fit into the first Wedding Blessings book due out late 2015 or early 2016.... Because the child I needed in this book had to be self-sacrificing. She is reflective of her single parent father, and I think it works well....

    Whereas Skeeter in "Made to Order Family" and "Waiting out the Storm" has been traumatized by the crimes of her father. She's young enough to feel like she's responsible for family discord and old enough to know that her bratty behavior might be inherited... So while you want to smack her for being an over-indulged brat, her turnaround is so touching and real that all of a sudden you see the whole picture, as if you stepped back and a new screen opened before you.

    I love that kid!

  80. Pam, your kids in Stealing Jake were wonderful!

    We get more leeway with historical children because there weren't causative factors changing every decade. If we just look at technology and kids today vs. ten years ago or pre-9/11, it's a world of difference.

    In a 19th century historical, we'd have differences based on language and setting and circumstance, but not on huge and quickly-changing times so much so when I'm working on those, I don't have to be as cognitive... and I haven't done an elongated historical series, so that would make a big difference!

  81. Jeanne, hello!!!! Mine are always thinner the first round through the story and then I flesh them out.

    That first time through, and maybe the second time too (I edit as I write) doesn't have the polish of a final edition, and I've been consistently surprised by how often church verses will tweak something I know I need to jump in and add!!! And why didn't I think of that on my own?

    Who knows??? My guess is the Holy Spirit is just plain smarter than the Ruthinator!!! And I'll take his direction anytime! I love that you've got three kids in there.


  82. Connie, isn't that a wonderful story???? And she could have just kept quiet, but we both about died laughing because she knew I raised a bunch of kids and still had teens then... and that I worked with kids daily, so talking about families, kids, dresses, cute guys was totally on board when I was at Bridal Hall! We had so much fun!

    I hear you, and yes to the sippy cup to avoid constant messes! Four kids = enough mess of its own accord!

  83. Annalabno, yes, yes, yes....

    If the action or the reaction has no basis in emotion, then why do it????


  84. Meghan, yes to the catalyst kid!

    How often does the truth come out of babes???? Or lead to that discussion because of an inadvertent turn of speech? LOVE IT!!!!!

  85. Back later, I have to go help with homework! Beth's been here for the day but it's time for me to put my 6th grade math hat on!!!!

    I'm bringing fudge tonight, so if you're in the mood for something wonderfully velvet and chocolatey, be here!!!!

  86. Hey Ruthy! Great post! I wrote a set of identical four-year-old twins into my first manuscript and boy, they were tons of fun. :)

    Please drop my name in for "All Dressed Up in Love."

  87. Everyone: listen to Ruthy. I studied her books to learn how write children characters.

    I love having children part of my historical stories. My first book had three children, not counting assorted cousins, brothers and sisters.

    My second book had ten children. I set myself this impossible task as a challenge - could I write a story with ten children and keep it believable? I think it worked.

    My third story (due out from Love Inspired in September) has three children, plus a few more who attend the heroine's school.

    I haven't even counted how many children there will ultimately be in my series coming from Revell. Several families are involved. Amish families = many children.

    So why do I do it? I LOVE CHILDREN!

    But I can't immerse myself in the culture like you do, Ruthy. I have to write about the children I know - - children from a different era. :)

    Such fun!

  88. Hi Ruthy,
    Great topic! Kids definitely add a lot to a story - but I try to make sure they don't overwhelm or overtake the show!
    In my first Love Inspired book (available on line now, btw) called Healing the Widower's Heart, I had a main character, a 7 yr old boy who was grieving the loss of his mother. I sweated a lot over making him real, but I used my son as a model.

    May I BRAG a little!!! I just read that Healing the Widower's Heart received a 4 1/2 star rating from Romantic Times!! And I had my first 'fan' email from a lady who loved it! Happy dancing up north!

    Even though I just had a root canal and the freezing is starting to wear off!

    Congrats on all your great books and new cover, Ruthy!


  89. The covers are lovely and thank you for the insights! I write for tweens (9-12 years) and their parents so am rather immersed in their culture. Plus I have two real ones at home. When I was in the Craftsman course with Jerry Jenkins, I asked him about writing for kids. He said he tried to use children the age of his own kids in books so he could keep up with what was relevant for them. I thought it was a good tip. Now my kids are old enough to read my upcoming novel and their friends give insights too. If you need to think like a kid and don't have one nearby to borrow, reading popular books for their age group helps, too.

    Thank you for bringing your creativity into place here!

  90. Very interesting! I like to read about kids and write about them too.

  91. I love kids. I love books. I love kids in books. :)

    One of my favorite things about kids in real life is that they say the most unexpected things. You never know where there minds are headed. Sometimes their thought processes explain themselves, sometimes not. :) And heaven help their parents if they're trying to keep any kind of secret.

  92. Blogger ate my commemt so I'll sumarize
    Great post Ruthy.

  93. Hey there, so sorry not to check in before now.

    I love writing kids HOWEVER the hardest kids to write, I think, are BABIES.

    I keep forgetting where they are. A baby in a scene has to be somewhere (unless you just have them napping all the time) But, unless they're troublesome, they just need someone to hold them. The last true infant I had in a book was Glynna's baby at the end of Out of Control and all through In Too Deep. That kid would just sort of fade away, a true infant, newborn.
    And I'd be writing along for quite a while and suddenly realize no one had the baby, then I'd have to go back, back, back to figure out where I'd left it, then pull that through the scene.

    What a brat!

  94. Ruthy, Thank you for this post. I have a teen, a tween, and preschool twins in my house. A lot of people might think I'd write novels without a kid in sight, but three of my four books do have children. Ironically, in a contest I once entered, someone told me that kids don't sing a certain song anymore, and I furrowed my eyebrows because mine sing it every vacation.

    So thanks for the post.

  95. Anna, my friendly little newlywed!!!! I love twins (do you know that Mary Connealy has had twins in 47 books so far????? She's not hear to call me a liar, so I'm going to stand by that!!!)

    You're in, sweet thing!

  96. Aw, Drexler, you're a natural with kids.... you didn't need me, but I appreciate the sweet compliment!

    And I love the ten kids, I'm still not sure how you painted such a beautifully romantic picture with all those kids!!!!

    You've made my night, but I just MOCKED CONNEALY and now I see she finally got over here... Like what else has she got to do????? :)

  97. Susan Anne Mason, congrats on that 4 1/2 STARS!!!!!

    Happy dancing across the pond, you can see me if you climb onto your roof and look SOUTH!!!!!!

  98. Elizabeth, I'm so glad you popped in! I agree, reading coming of age books can be helpful... and who doesn't love Junie B. Jones, the quintessential kindergartner/first grader??? I love those books and they're so well done, it's an education in life, kids and humor!

    Great tips!

  99. Natalie, I agree. Then unexpectedness of a comment, or the simple way they butcher words... so funny and/or telling!

    And no two are really alike!

  100. Oh, the fudge!!!!

    Chocolate pecan or plain chocolate, it's a recipe I tried at Christmas time, and my phone ate the pictures so now (GASP!!!!) I must make it again to put it on Yankee Belle Cafe.

    That's punishment.

    making fudge to eat AGAIN. :)

  101. Naomi, tipping my cap your way!

    What is Blogger's problem, honey?

    And just so you know, just because you're paranoid doesn't mean someone... (like BLOGGER!!!!) isn't out to get you!!!!

    I can't wait to meet this baby, Naomi!!!

  102. Keli always has good ideas.

    I think one of the things I noticed about women with kids is that as my lovely wife changed. Married -> Pregnant -> Mother of one -> Mother of two, etc., that my idea of beauty morphed with every change in her life.

    Love kid stories!

  103. Connealy, I missed you ALL DAY.

    But we survived, darling.

    Babies are pesky, aren't they???? 'sup wi' dat????

    Your little boys in Grace's story still make me smile. Piles of eggs, slabs of bacon, burnt biscuits. And always wrestling, I'm still fixing things around here that my boys fell into/through/or on when they were huge, goofy wrestling teens.

    What was God thinking??????? :)

    I brought you fudge.

  104. What? There are readers who don't like kids in a story? But there's so much I can learn about the adult characters by their interaction with kids.

    Loved the post, Ruthy. Looking forward to next month's.

    Nancy C

  105. Tanya, I never listen to criticism like that because it's subjective. Kids will sing all kinds of things, old tunes, new country, Gospel, nursery rhyme songs, etc.

    If the set up is done well, you can have them sing whatever you like.

    BUT... having said that, I'm careful not to 'date' my stories with a specific thing (song/tv/internet) that will nail it into one certain year/month, etc.

    I try to keep that stuff a little bit general so that I have playing room, but I'm glad your fictional and real kids sing. :) Mine do, too!

  106. Nancy, hey, we're here together!!!!

    And yes, some folks want purist romance, boy + girl (no baggage!!!) and then they find HEA....

    I'm happiest when a toddler is wiping his/her nose on someone's new wool worsted pants. :)


  107. Walt, that is exactly how the hero in a romance novel should see the heroine/the kids/the baby!!!


    We don't want him effeminate, but we want him strong enough to be gentle!!!

    You rocked it, Walt!!!

  108. Ruth Logan Herne said...
    I'm happiest when a toddler is wiping his/her nose on someone's new wool worsted pants. :)

    And that's one of the reasons I enjoy your books :-)

    Nancy C

  109. Walt that is beautifully expressed!

    Nancy C

  110. That editor was right Ruthy you do make all the elements including the kids work.

    Please throw my name in the cat dish for an e-copy of All Dressed up in Love, I think I've read everything else.

  111. Hi Ruthy, Great post. And you do well with children because you LOVE them. And they love you.

    Thanks for the great tips.

  112. Tracy, you're in! And I'll give away more copies next month when it releases....

    And thank you, thank you, thank you for your kind words! :)

  113. This is a wonderful set of reminders. Exposure to real children means so much. Not that I would actually open a day care! But in that vein, I'd like to put in a plug for volunteering. Even writers can carve out a few hours to spend with kids who need a boost. (Especially if you're like me, and never taught school!) My personal thing is working with at-risk early elementary kids. For the most part, the second- and third-graders who are referred to our church-based after school tutoring program are there because their parents can't offer them assistance at home. Maybe they don't speak or read English, or they never quite grasped basic math concepts, or they simply have more spinning plates than they can manage--there's a broad range, and a lot of insight into diverse characters available.

    There are lots of other ways to study the differences in kids. An hour once a month in the church nursery, a Sunday School gig, a class field trip, a sports tournament, Scouting, Big Brother/Big Sister...

    Falling for the Lawman in print, please?

  114. RUTHY!!!!

    PLEASE forgive me for being late, but I'm so behind this week due to a bad back, which is finallllllly healing, thank God!!

    LOVE this blog on kiddos, but I have to admit, I was stunned by this comment: "But just so youse know, I get the occasional smackdown for having kids in romances."

    SERIOUSLY???? I have kids in every one of my books, just about, and I think they really enrich the story and deepen the feelings A LOT!! I've never gotten a letter like that, complaining about kids, but PLENTY of them complaining about too much passion, so you sure can't please everybody, eh?


  115. That was so fun to read today.. kids do make life interesting... please add me to the cat dish :)
    dkstevensneAT outlook DoTCoM

  116. I must admit that having tikes of my own has helped a great deal with my writing...but then,so has having a husband. My heroes have much more depth now ;)

  117. I love kids in books.

    My wip has a preteen boy (though I doubt they used that term in 1879) who I am sort of modeling after my own nephew. My nephew will turn 20 next month, and I've just now thought of a few things the two boys have in common that had never occurred to me before.

    Said preteen boy is the hero in the third book in the series (if indeed I actually get that far), so I'll have to have him change and grow throughout.

    I'd love to be in the cat dish for a Ruthy LI, but I'll have to check my collection for ones I'm missing.

  118. A couple of my stories have kids, but I haven't done much with them yet. I decided I needed to finish one WIP before working on another! I taught Kindergarten/preschool for 8 years before having my own kids. I have 4 of my own now to draw inspiration from. Although I think I tend to try and make my character kids better behaved! I already know one of my character kids that needs to show he's struggling more (his dad just died).

  119. Found this post via Jessica at The Church Year. I love children in novels! Some of my favorite comfort reads are books about kids, aimed at upper elementary readers (Eager, Enright, etc.) I would enjoy reading one of your real paper books, so do please add my name to the dish. :)