Thursday, August 20, 2015

A Cup of Joe and Getting Into Character

Right now I'm working on my fifth book in my Paradise, Colorado series, and I'm very excited about this book. This is Joe Gallagher's story. Joe is the  big brother of Dan from Stranded with the Rancher. The working title of this book is Second Chance in Paradise. 

I like the idea of getting into the head or the boots of this rancher who is actually a pretty funny man of few words. And those words tend to be to the point. Even if that point hurts. 

Why does a writer get into character? We do this so our readers will relate to our protagonist/s. So they care. We want them to care enough to continue to turn the pages and to think about our characters after the book has ended.

But how does a writer get into character?

 I've invited a few of my friends to share their methods with you.

Getting to know my characters is fundamental to my writing process. I cannot write them until in my head they "live, move and have their being." To facilitate this, I fill out a character profile on each major character—kind of like what I'd want to know if I were going to date them. I find photos—actors work best in terms of picture availability—that match the character forming in my head with someone I can study on screen for mannerisms that will make my characters come to life on the page. Then, I take my characters with me wherever I go—to the grocery store, car pool, church, etc . . . I try to see the experience through their eyes, not my own. By the time I've finished this "research phase", I know my characters well enough that I'll know their favorite hymn and what "moves" them. Finally once they've completely jelled, I start writing. My final step will sound weird—but the normal ship sailed without me a long time ago. Utilizing a signature character fragrance found in lotions, soaps or candles, I'm able to quickly step into their essence and write their story each day. 
Lisa Carter-Beyond the Cherokee Trail

Before I write a story, I need to know the characters, especially their internal conflicts and any fears or secrets they might be hiding. Often they've been wounded, sometimes by a misconception, sometimes by a lost love, sometimes by a mistake they've made. Seeing life through the lens of that wound creates a false self, what screenwriting consultant Michael Hauge calls a false identity. Once I understand my characters' brokenness and the baggage they carry, I'm ready to begin my story. 
Debby Giusti-Person of Interest

The easiest and fastest way for me to get into my characters head is to take a walk. The walking is enough activity to keep the left brain occupied so my creative right brain can get into it.  Then I walk and picture myself in their world and imagine their reaction to it.  Other tricks I use:  I have photos of each main character and a list of their flaws, their goals, wants, needs, etc.  I can quickly glance at that list and photo and picture their character. 
Sandra Leesmith

I ask myself what the character is feeling. If I can write realistic emotions, then the rest usually falls into place. If I'm having a particularly difficult time with a scene, I stop writing in narrative form and start making lists. I'll go back and list everything that's happened to my character recently and then write down some basic emotions. "Elise is feeling angry because..., so that anger is going to come out when she..." I'll make a list of the things I want her to feel and unique ways to describe those feelings. I'll also make a list of descriptions to sprinkle in. I work right on through the five senses and then add the sentences I come up with to bland spots in the scene.
Naomi Rawlings-Love's Unfading Light

To write my characters' stories I must know their back story inside and out. Once I have a handle on what they’ve experienced and the difficulties that’s caused, they become very real to me. When writing their story, I feel what they’re feeling, as I would feel the heartache and joy of a dear friend. I don’t use music, fragrances or pictures to trigger them. The fastest way for me to get into their story is to read the previous scene. If that fails, I reread the profile I created that includes everything of importance I know about them. Not what they like for breakfast, but vital stuff like their wounds and issues—Jeff Gerke calls these the poison or knots that keep them from changing—their strengths, goals and motivations. Once I’m engaged by what makes them tick and what they want and why, I’m ready to travel their bumpy road, showing their view of their world--often a skewed view--through their senses and reactions. When I find myself speaking their dialogue as I type, I know I'm connected. 
Janet Dean-The Bounty Hunter’s Redemption

Well, since I AM a character, it’s pretty easy for me to get inside my characters’ heads, especially the quirky ones like Charity O’Connor.I find that brainstorming on the treadmill works wonders in this regard because once my feet are flying, the dialogue does too, and nothing gets me into character faster than writing dialogue. Another thing that helps, crazy as it sounds, is a hand mirror. I keep one close so I can act out character expressions and personalities. Sometimes I even try to emulate people/characters I love and relate to. For instance, my disfigured, sweet and shy heroine Emma Malloy was actually modeled after Francine Rivers’ amazing Hadassah heroine from the Mark of the Lion series. A poor imitation, I realize, but Francine’s depiction really helped me shape Emma and get inside her head. 
Julie Lessman-Grace Like Rain (With This Kiss Historical Collection)

Desperate love of freedom... and an even more desperate yearning to put the past behind her. That's how I got into character for Magdalena Serida, my church-sponsored Chechen refugee in "Refuge of the Heart". War can take a normal person and push them to unheard extremes, but inside they're still that normal person. I had to envision every decision, every emotion from both angles. How would Lena react to this? And how would a war-torn tortured soul see it? And each action then had to embrace both sides. A woman at odds with herself, faced with new chances. Reading about the Chechen insurgency and following news clips on the Internet helped me shape her past, but pretending to be Magdalena helped me mold her future.
Ruth Logan Herne-Refuge of the Heart

The way I get into a character's head the quickest is to focus on three Ps: picture, profession and personality. What a person looks like, what s/he does for a living (paid or unpaid) and what traits s/he possesses can tell me a lot about her/him. I find a picture of a person that looks like my character and keep it handy. Is s/he tall or short, attractive or plain? Does s/he have any distinctive markings, features, etc. that would affect her/his way of relating to others?I use metaphors, similes, language, etc. that someone in my character's chosen profession would use.  If there's a particular jargon associated with the profession, I work those words into my character's thoughts and dialogue. I keep my character's personality in mind and think about how that would affect her/his choices, actions, speech, etc. Is s/he serious, silly, snarky or sweet? 
Keli Gwyn- Family of Her Dreams

I often do a mix of things to get into a character’s head:

Find a photo to keep their face/personality fresh in my mind

Give them a dominant characteristic and perspective on the world that colors their thoughts (a Wyoming rancher is very likely going to see some things differently than a big city surgeon)

Write a few  “first person” paragraphs from the character’s POV explaining to me their background, their goal, motivation & conflict, and their thoughts regarding their love interest. 

Sometimes I ask them questions--it’s amazing what your subconscious dredges up about the interior life of a character if he’s given the leeway to speak his own mind!

Writing the opening chapter helps solidify the character when I can see and hear him/her in action.
Glynna Kaye-Rekindling the Widower's Heart

In the course of getting to know my hero/heroine, I usually zero in on a few key likes/dislikes. I find a favorite (or in one case hated) food. I also tend to associate a scent. And I always (ALWAYS) have a playlist with songs specific to the characters and the book. The playlist is key because once I put that on, I'm in the story. The songs are so familiar to me that my brain tunes out the words, but the tune keeps me grounded in the story and in character. For my upcoming release, Christmas in Hiding (LIS, October 2015), I focused on Christmas scents and foods. If I needed to get into character, I brewed a cup of peppermint tea and had a chocolate cookie with it. Often the tea grew cold as I wrote, but the scent was there to remind me. I also had a sachet with a balsam scent that kept me in the Christmas spirit. Ironically, I didn't use Christmas music while writing this book. My heroine, Callie, loves the song "How Great Thou Art." I had that on constant repeat as I wrote. It never failed to put me in Callie's head and heart.
Cate Nolan-Christmas in Hiding

As for me (Tina here), well, the first draft of getting into character utilizes Michael Hauge's, The Hero's Two Journeys  techniques. Hauge says that our number one job is to draw the reader into the world we have created by identification. How do we help the reader to identify or empathize with the character? By giving them at least two of the following:

1. Make the character the victim of some undeserved misfortune.

2. Put the character in jeopardy. 
3. Make the character likeable.
4. Make the character funny.
5. Make the character powerful.  

Second draft and each one after that is where I really dig in and channel my characters. Yes, really, channel them. If the word "channel" makes you think of Whoopi Goldberg in Ghost, then go ahead and think about walking a mile in your character's moccasins. Whatever gets you in their head and into deep point of view.

A quick refresher on deep point of view. 

"Deep Point of View was a phrase that I came up with when I was trying to explain my writing style. Point of view can be subjective (picture a hand-held camera on top of a character's head) or objective (picture something like a security camera, bolted into place in the corner of a room). In my books, I use subjective point of view, but I'm not satisfied with merely showing the reader what that camera sees from its perch atop a character's head. I bring the camera down, inside of that character's head, so we see the world through that character's eyes. We hear things through his ears. We smell what he smells, feel what he feels, think what he think. With deep POV, I write using words that that character would use. I tell the story with that character's voice. "

 Suzanne Brockmann

Now that you have methods for getting into character I want to show you what happens when you get into character. Pick any Keeper book on your shelf and chances are the author is terrific at characterization. These are books you read over and over again because you know the characters inside and out. Why? Because the author got into character and dragged you alone.

Here are some examples of authors who know how to get into character. They put you right in the scene. 

The Python turned slowly in his chair, and Annabelle felt as if she'd been punched in the gut. 

He was square-jawed and tough, everything about him proclaiming a brash, self-made man-a roughneck who'd flunked charm school the first couple of times around but finally got it right on the third pass. His hair was thick and crisp, its rich color a cross between a leather portfolio and a bottle of Bud. He had a straight, confident nose and bold dark eyebrows, one of which was bisected near the end with a thin pale scar. The firm set of his well-molded mouth proclaimed a low tolerance for fools, a passion for hard work that bordered on obsession, and possibly-although this might be her imagination-a determination to own a small chalet near St. Tropez before he was fifty. If it weren't for a vague irregularity to his features, he would have been unbearably gorgeous. Instead, he was merely drop-dead good-looking. What did a man like this need with a matchmaker?

Susan Elizabeth Phillips-Match Me If You Can

She looked up-and up again-into his face. The Phoenix website hadn't identified which PI held which credential, but based on this guy's polished clean-cut appearance-not to mention his authoritative bearing-she'd be willing to bet he was Secret Service. 

As for her plan to bolt ...she wavered as his eyes sucked her in. Dark as obsidian, they searched, discerned, and reassured all in the space of a few heartbeats, prompting her to draw three rapid conclusions. 

This was a man who would listen, evaluate, and come to sound conclusions.
This was a man who would treat her story with respect.
This was a man she could trust.

The silence lengthened, until the receptionist hidden from her view behind the PI's broad shoulders cleared her throat.

A fleeting frown marred the man's brow, then he released her hand, took a step back, and waited.

The ball was in her court.

Without overanalyzing her change of heart, she took a deep breath and tightened her fingers around the handle of her briefcase. "I can spare a few minutes."

Irene Hannon-Deceived

Reacher took a shuttle from the bus depot to the Portland airport and bought a one-way ticket on United to LAX. He used his passport for ID and his ATM card as a debit card. The one-way walk up fare was outrageous. Alaska Airlines would have been cheaper, but Reacher hated Alaska Airlines. They put a scripture card on their meal trays. Ruined his appetite. 

Airport security was easy for Reacher. His carry-on baggage amounted to precisely none at all. He had no belt, no keys, no cell phone, no watch. All he had to do was dump his loose change in a plastic tray and take off his shoes and walk through the X-ray hoop. Thirty seconds, beginning to end. Then he was on his way to the gate, coins back in his pocket, shoes back on his feet, Neagley on his mind. 

Lee Child-Bad Luck and Trouble

So what do you think? And what are your tips for getting into character?

One more challenge. Stop and think really quick about the hero and or heroine of one of the books on your Keeper shelf (including a virtual Keeper shelf).  Or a memorable secondary character. I bet you remember their names without looking.

Two of mine are Jaine Bright and Sam Donovan (heroine & hero from a contemporary romance-not inspirational). Only a few of you will know what book I am talking about. 

Now, let's open the prize vault!!!

 I have Joe on the mind, so I am giving away a package of Starbucks Morning Joe and one of these beautiful cups (like mine!) to one commenter. 

 P.S. If you haven't read Stranded with the Rancher, holler and I'll mail out a few of those too. 

And because so many writers have sold to Love Inspired this month, let's do a few first five page critiques (first five of any chapter) to get the rest of you off the island. Wave your hand if you want one.

Winners announced in the Weekend Edition.

Tina Radcliffe now lives in sunny Arizona where there are two seasons: hot summer and cold summer.

A 2014 ACFW Carol Award winner, her current release from Harlequin Love Inspired is Safe in the Fireman's Arms. 

Her next release from Love Inspired, and her fourth Paradise series book, Rocky Mountain Reunion, is available in January 2016. 


Helen Gray said...

Coffee's brewing, and my pillow is beckoning.

But I agree about getting into character.
I've been thinking of it as getting into the zone when I'm writing.

Terri said...

Ok, I'm waving both hands and feet. Trust me, don't try and get a mental picture. It isn't pretty. I want coffee, a pretty cup, and a five page critique. Oh, and I'd love to sell this month. Can you pull a few strings?

My last heroine was so different than me that I had to be in her head to write the book. I don't have any handy tricks. I write some backstory and then I make myself think like my character. You provided some great tips, I'll have to try them.

Vince said...

Hi Tina:

I know your perfect hero but I only read that book because I read all the Mackenzie series books and I was looking for something else by the author. Now the Mackenzie heroes were real men! In fact they were a lot like Jack Reacher.

Vince said...

Hi Tina:

I don't try to get into the head of my characters. Instead I let my characters come into my head. Once they are in there I have them totally surrounded. I can actually tell what they are thinking. That's all I need except for a few pictures so I can remember their physical descriptions.

Tina Radcliffe said...

Vince, I have too many characters fighting to get into my head. I have to give them a password so only one can enter at a time. That's what A.D.D writer means to me.

Tina Radcliffe said...

Thanks for the coffee, Helen. All is well in the world because Helen is making the Joe.

Tina Radcliffe said...

hahah Terri! Pick me, pick me!!! I love your enthusiasm.

Tina Radcliffe said...

Vince, figured out the book. WELL DONE. I am impressed.

Mary Preston said...

A fabulous post & such fun comments.

Ruth Logan Herne said...

I figured it out, too, but only because you've mentioned it a few times. (like A HUNDRED...)

Linda Howard's heroes tend to be the tortured bad-boy types who actually get fixed when they find the right woman. I love that even though I know it's fiction and it's not generally happening in real life.

I studied Linda and Nora with piles of books from the public library when I began this writing career. Not because they wrote hot stuff... but because they wrote best-selling hot stuff.

And they did/do it their way. They pack emotion: humor/angst/regret/guilt/joy/snark/sorrow/anger and then they keep that personality quirk alive and untangle it like a double knot in a snow-clogged figure skate. Slowly... while the book pushes on around you. Now that's a neat trick!

Tina Radcliffe said...

Good morning, Mary Preston!!!

Tina Radcliffe said...

Happy Birthday, Ruthy!!!!!!

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Hey, we need cake! If the calendar insists on me getting older (I'm resisting, as ever!!!) we need cake, and not just ONE CAKE.

Carrot cake with cream cheese frosting.

Pinstriped cake to celebrate Yankee True Blue!!!!

Chocolate cake with custard filling and chocolate frosting and ganache.

White cake with lemon filling and whipped mountain frosting!!!!!


Balloons and streamers and confetti and food! Someone should bring music!!!! #danceparty

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Helen, thank you for making coffee! I'll take mine hot and with a dash of caramel creamer!!!!

Janet Dean said...

Tina, fun to see the different ways authors get into their characters' heads or in Vince's case allow characters into his head.

Powerful examples of deep point of view!


Janet Dean said...

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, RUTHY!!!!! Yes, I was shouting and popping balloons so no one misses your special day.

One teeny slice of each cake, please.


Janet Dean said...

Cate, you want music. I want silence. I can't hear my characters with music playing. I'm easily distracted.


Mary Hicks said...

Helen, it does feel so right to have you manning the coffee station—you were there offering coffee first thing in the morning when I first discovered Seekerville! :-)

This is a fun post and so helpful to hear how other writers move ahead in creating a story with 'life-like' characters.

Debby Giusti said...

Great info, Tina! Thanks!

I'm heading to the airport for the Writers Police Academy. Will keep up with comments using my phone. Can't wait to see all the additional input. We could study characterization weekly! Love the excerpts you added...and always love Michael Hauge!


I've brought birthday cake and helium balloons. How many candles, Ruthy? Wait, a lady never tells! Hugs and love!!!

Tina Radcliffe said...

I long for Ruthy cheese cake!!!

Mary Hicks said...

Happy Birthday Ruthy!!! At some point today you should see a little bird in your yard, it'll be the one tweeting happy birthday. I sent him—I hope he doesn't get lost!

Cate Nolan said...

I'm going to need a major mug of coffee before I tackle this pos, Tina! Thanks. And Thank you, Helen. Helen has coffee and all is right with the world.

Lifting my mug in a birthday toast to my fellow NYer. Happy Birthday, Ruthy!

Be back in a bit, after I work through the lessons.

Tina Radcliffe said...

I am on the plane. Headed to humidity!!!!

Tina Radcliffe said...

I too need silence!!! Earplugs are my solution.

Tracey Hagwood said...

TINA! So good to see you and hear your "voice"!

I've read about half of the books you referenced, so it's interesting to hear how they came to be. Anxiously waiting that Paradise book four to appear. I just went to Amazon and put it on my reminder list.

RUTHY"S Refuge of the Heart characters Mitch and Lena, along with secondary character Anna, are three of the most recent ones that have stayed on my mind ever since I read them this summer.

Happy Anniversary of the day of your birth RUTHY! I'll join JANET and have a taste of each piece of cake in your honor.

Deanne said...

Happy Birthday, Ruthy ! I hope it's so much fun !
It's always such a pleasure reading your enthuastic posts,Tina !
I have discvered Love Inspired books a short while ago and am enthuastically making up for last time. Check out my GoodReads list of books I am reading, lol. I was reading other books but now I can't seem to put down the Love Inspired. I am currently reading 3 at once. It used to be I would worry about being able to keep the stories straight but hey it's no problem. I guess having 12 kids has made my mind very well organized and able to keep track of alot. I can't wait to read more of your books and would love to be thrown into the drawing for Stranded with the Rancher and the other goodies. The cup is adorable and would go well with me having a book in hand and one of my 4 purring cats on my lap ! Have a wonderful day Seekerville friends !

Deanne Patterson

Sally Shupe said...

Happy, happy birthday, Ruthy! Thanks for the great post, Tina. If you've got extra copies of Stranded with the Rancher, I'd love to get a copy and read and review it. Congratulations to all the ones who have sold to Love Inspired!

Vince said...


So that's what the new Bird on the Yankees meant after the game yesterday! "Those two two-runners were for Ruth." And here I thought he was talking about Babe Ruth!

Happy Birthday!

♪♫♫♫♪☺♪♫♫♫♪ ☻♪♫♫♫♪ ♫ ☺♪♫♫♫♪

I played to above song on each birthday for many years. I think every guy I knew was in love with this singer.

I'm bringing the best birthday cake ever! (From my POV). A two layer, round, coconut cake with white boiled frosting to kill for! Only my mother could make this amazing rigid frosting using her secret Norwegian recipe.

So how many words do you write on your birthday?

Are you going to write a birthday scene today?

Cindy Regnier said...

Happy Birthday to Ruthy. Tina, I can't wait for Joe's story. I was so intrigued with him in SWTR. I think I commented on this same thing yesterday, but Maggie and Jake along with Bitsy Harmony in Safe in the Fireman's Arms have really stuck with me as characters. Somehow you were able to capture their personalities and transfer them to the page without making it seem like I was "reading" about them, which of course, I was. I fell in love with Jake, but decided to let Maggie have him since he was so perfect for her. I'd be up for a critique, thanks for the offer. And could you put Joe on a rush order status? It's already on my TBR-RIGHT-NOW list and you're not even sure of the title? Oh dear. I see sleepless nights ahead while I daydream about Joe falling in love.

Ruth Logan Herne said...

I love the birthday wishes, and the cake and the noisemakers!!!

I need quiet when I write, mostly... but if there's like background noise that I know is handled, I'm okay.

But no music.

Music pulls my creative brain side into the music and out of the story. Isn't that weird? But I've had whole stories inspired by music... TSO's WHAT CHILD IS THIS? the CD and song that inspired "Try, Try Again", going on sale for .99 TOMORROW!!!

Yes, that was a shameless plug!!! I love the majesty and emotion of Trans-Siberian Orchestra music/stories!

Ruth Logan Herne said...


Hand over the cake and no one gets killed!!!!!!!

"Bird is the word!" New Yankee chant, oh my stars, it's like seeing a new Joltin' Joe!

I'm so glad they didn't trade him!!!!!! :)

HR for Ruthy. Times 2!!!! Go bird!!!

Ruth Logan Herne said...

I loved Bitsy Harmony.... and I can't wait for Joe's story, too. I've been intrigued with him from the beginning.

And the whole Pygmalion twist in "Safe in the Fireman's Arms" was brilliantly done! AND FUN!!!!

I grinned the whole airplane ride as I read it!!!!

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Triple berry cheese cake.

I might have to make that.

But first, I think I might need Tina's Coconut Cake.

Vince said...

Hi Tina:


Just one character at a time.

That would not work for me. There is a lot more room in my head than there is in my character's head. Besides I want to get them all inside my head at one time so I can watch them interact. It takes a village to learn what characters are really like. No hero or heroine is an island. I think you should give a character party and entertain all your characters in your head at the same time. In vino veritas.

Oh, I know, you may be looking thru the same telescope no matter whose head you are in but there is real difference between which end of the telescope you are look through.

Sandra Leesmith said...

I know, I know the book too. smile And that makes me happy because most of the time, I'm so way out of the loop. LOL

Great post Tina. The characters really do make the story. I find the same thing with television shows and movies. I mean the television is so much of the same-0 same-o, but what makes me like a show are the characters. (Hubby has TV on all the time, sigh) Bose earphones help because I'm like RUTHY, JANET and so many others. I like it quiet when I write.

Hallee Bridgeman said...

The hand mirror tool is fascinating to me because I can feel myself making expressions my characters are making as I'm typing. I don't know if I necessarily want to SEE me making the expressions, but I know I do it. LOL

Sandra Leesmith said...

HAPPY BIRTHDAY RUTHY. God gave us all a wonderful gift when He gave us you.

Have a fun and blessed day.

Like VINCE I want to know if you are writing today or do you take the day off?

Sandra Leesmith said...

VINCE, I'll take a giant piece of that cake. It sounds yummy. I have to take a giant piece because I know hubby will want some of it. sigh

DebH said...

HAPPY BIRTHDAY RUTHY!!! Hoisting a caramel creamed cuppa joe in your honor. Did someone mention cheesecake? If it's NYC cheesecake, I'm all for that.

Awesome post Tina! I love your Paradise, Colorado series. The characters that stick in my mind the most of late though have been Mary Connealy's dudes. Especially Seth and Tucker. Don't know why... they just do and I love them.

I appreciate all the input from different writers, because I KNOW I haven't sunk into the minds of my characters enough. All the different ways are giving me ideas on how I can work something out for how I can really get into character. THANKS!!!!!

Would love a shot at a critique even though I don't really deserve one with the severe lack of progress I'm currently muddling through.*sigh* If it wasn't for Seekerville, I'm pretty sure I'd feel completely helpless and hopeless. You all help keep me inspired and encouraged (even when my output is beyond pathetic).

Awesome, awesome learning post. yay.

DebH said...

p.s. no way Ruthy would take a day off from writing, she loves writing too much. it's her birthday, I'm guessing she'd rather have double writing time as a birthday gift.

well, that's my thought anyway...

Sandra Leesmith said...

Ha Ha, DEB H, I think you are probably right on about the writing day off. LOL

Wilani Wahl said...

Happy Birthday, Ruthie!

Tina I love this post. It is very helpful. I am very happy to learn there will be more stories from Paradise. Colorado. I loved Stranded with the Rancher.

Ruth Logan Herne said...

A day off.... :)

You know my BEST BIRTHDAY WISH??? A whole day, uninterrupted, where I can just write, take breaks as needed... and then write again! :)


Or addicted. I love writing, so I was up at 4:00 AM writing away, finishing a novella that's just too stinkin' nice for words! A Kirkwood Lake novella, coming out this fall!!!!

I've got a house full of kids today, so like most working stiffs, I'm working on a birthday, but that's normal, right???? And I'm celebrating with YOU GUYS!!!! SWEEEEET!

Ruth Logan Herne said...

DEB H, I'm laughing because I saw that after I wrote my comment about the same thing! You know me well!!! LAUGHING!!!!

Wait, we're supposed to be talking about characters.

Well. (pauses. Waits. Breathes.)


Mary Curry said...

Ruthy, the fun thing about being a teacher and having an August birthday is never having to work on your birthday,just like I never had to go to school on my birthday.:)

Wish I was closer so I could come mind those kiddies today so you could have the day to write.

Cate Nolan said...

Switching over to Cate now to get to work (though she'd mind Ruthy's Kids too!) -

I'm working my way through this post and there's SO much good stuff. I'm going to do it one lesson at a time, I think.

Lisa - it was so much fun to meet you and chat with you at RWA. Now I'm learning from you. I love your idea of watching the actor to pick up mannerisms. But this -

"Then, I take my characters with me wherever I go—to the grocery store, car pool, church, etc . . . I try to see the experience through their eyes, not my own."

I like the conscious aspect of that. I'm never so intentional in my character development - it's more a getting to know them as I write process, but this is something I could work with along the way. Thanks for sharing it.

And if you're weird, so am I. I mentioned scents in my paragraph above, but very often I use a hand lotion, essential oil, or soap. For one of my characters, it's the scent of honeysuckle because it brings back memories of an important time in their lives. Like you, if I use the lotion or diffuse the scent,I'm THERE.

Sandra Leesmith said...

MARY (CATE) You are so sweet and generous. I don't know if I could do the kiddies. But it would be fun to drop by and give her a big birthday hug.

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Mary Curry, I'd take you up on it!!! :) Laughing!

Janet Dean said...

Cate, I'm sensitive to fragrances. Sad that I can't do scented lotions, candles, a dab of perfume. They put a chemical taste in my mouth or can give me a headache. I have such an aversion that when one of the clerks in cosmetics approaches with samples, I shake my head and run. But I still love the aroma of food. LOL


Myra Johnson said...

Oh boy, did I need this post today, TINA! Attempting (mostly in vain!!!!) to brainstorm the hero and plot (already have the heroine semi-firmly in mind) for (hopefully) a new Love Inspired story. JANET has been giving me some suggestions, and now I need to work with them.


Maybe I need real coffee. Have I been drinking Earl Grey for too long?

Myra Johnson said...

Must add my birthday greetings for RUTHY!!!!!!!

Wishing you a wonderful writing day any way you like it!

CatMom said...

Wonderful post, Tina - - and as so often happens - - just what I needed today.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, RUTHY!!!! Sending hugs and a just-baked Georgia Peach Cobbler just for YOU!! :)

And Tina, I am THRILLED you're doing another Paradise book - - YAY!!!!

Love the coffee and gorgeous cup, so please enter me in the drawing.

Hugs, Patti Jo

Melanie Dickerson said...

Ohmygosh! You guys are way more professional than I am! I never find a photograph of my character. For some reason, that just doesn't work, because my image of that character changes as I write. And a scent??? Are you kidding me?! Wow. I never would have even thought about having a separate scent for each character. LOL! I don't do any of these things. I just . . . start writing. I know some things about my characters before I start, but they usually evolve a bit as I write and I have to go back and revise their personalities in the opening chapters. I do everything in my head. I do like Sandra's idea of going for a walk to ruminate about the characters. I need to do that--mostly because I'm trying to get more exercise! But lately all it does is rain here in Alabama. You'd think this was the Amazon rain forest.
As I was saying. I don't really even know how I get into my characters' heads. I just do it. You guys have a system and that makes me feel slightly incompetent and unorganized. But that's nothing new. HA!

Donna said...

Tina, it's been quite a while since I read Stranded with the Rancher, but I remember Joe! I look forward to spending time with him and their spunky mother with the funny sweatshirts!

Myra Johnson said...

MELANIE, my characters are horrible about evolving--and just when I thought I was getting to know them! I do usually try to find photos to represent them, though. Even if they alter a bit in my mind as I write, at least I have a starting point.

As for a system, yep, sometime I just have to start writing and see where those pesky characters take me. Makes it VERY hard to write a coherent proposal, however!

Julie Lessman said...

Love, Love, LOVE this post, Tina, because there is NO PLACE I'd rather be in a book than in the hero's head, which you have done beautifully here with sooooo many great excerpts!!

In fact, you nailed your hero's description with this paragraph, in my opinion: "I like the idea of getting into the head or the boots of this rancher who is actually a pretty funny man of few words. And those words tend to be to the point. Even if that point hurts."

Okay, DEFINITELY want to get to know this guy better! Can't wait to dive in to your "cup of Joe"! :)

KELI GYWN SAID: "The way I get into a character's head the quickest is to focus on three Ps: picture, profession and personality. What a person looks like, what s/he does for a living (paid or unpaid) and what traits s/he possesses can tell me a lot about her/him."

WOW, Keli, I realllly like this -- down and dirty and straight to the point. In fact, if the profession isn't strong enough for me, I nix it. For instance, in my 2nd Heart of San Francisco novel, Dare to Love Again, the hero was a crotchety, no-nonsense, Jiu-Jitsu police officer, but that didn't do it for me since I needed someone with more strength and authority and in-your-face solitude, so I made him a plainclothes detective. So you nailed it with your description, which I will now make a point of focusing on when I do characters.


Julie Lessman said...


I want to bake you a cyber cake, so you have your choice between an Italian wedding cake (in honor of Tina posting today), devil's food or angel food (whichever fits you better), or carrot cake (so you get your veggies today), so let me know, okay?



Lyndee H said...

Great post, TINA! Congrats on another Paradise book! YAY! Thanks for again reinforcing Michael Hauge's techniques. Good reminders.

SANDRA goes for a walk; I go for a drive. There's something about driving down country roads, with corn stalks waving on both sides, that gets my brain churning. I know I've gotten into my character's head when their problems/resolutions make me cry.

RUTHIE, Happy Birthday! I hope you dance!

Jan Drexler said...

This is a great post, Tina. I'm printing it out so I can study it more carefully. Later. After I meet my deadline.

Happy Birthday, Ruthy!

Keli Gwyn said...

Great post, Tina! Loved all the tips for getting into a character's head--or getting the character in ours. It's fun seeing the many ways writers accomplish this all-important task.

Happy birthday, Ruthy! I hope your day is wonderful--just like you!

Aw shucks,Julie. You made me blush.

Jill Weatherholt said...

This is great stuff, Tina! I've printed it and it will go into a sheet protector. I have a feeling it will be referenced often. Have a great time at the conference!
Coffee...yum! Your book, even yummier!
Happy Birthday, Ruthy!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Chill N said...

Yippy!! I am so glad Joe Gallagher's story is on the way!!!! He was such a memorable character from Stranded with the Rancher. For me, he meets all 5 of the characteristics in that list -- yes, I found him likable from the beginning :-)

So, is Joe's story ready yet?

How about now?

Nancy C

P.S. Don't enter me in the drawing.

Tina Radcliffe said...

Blogger is being difficult!!!

Tina Radcliffe said...

Awe. Thanks, Tracey. Extra cake for you!!!

Chill N said...

RUTHY!! Happy Birthday!

Remember -- Age is a question of mind over matter ... if you don't mind, it doesn't matter :-)

Nancy C

Tina Radcliffe said...

Go, Daeanne! A love Inspired in each hand and one in your toes! B

Tina Radcliffe said...

I do, Sally! You are in the batter bowl!!

Tina Radcliffe said...

This was fun, Janet!!!!

Tina Radcliffe said...

Lol, Cindy R!!!! You are sweet and funny!! You are in!!

Tina Radcliffe said...

Halle! I know! Julie had a great idea!

Mary Curry said...

LOL, Sandra. You're too kind. If you consider that in two weeks, I'll have 34 9/10 year olds all day, Ruthy's gang is - hmmmm how to describe this. I was going to say piece of cake, but there is the Indomitable Mighty Finn. Then I thought small potatoes, but that makes them sound like spare food, so we'll skip that. How about - FUN? Would that qualify, Ruthy? Or maybe you're the FUN part so you have to stay too! Sorry.


Sherida Stewart said...

KEEPER! I'm looking forward to spending more (much needed) time with my characters as I use these ideas. Thank you! I'm a scent-inspired writer as Lisa Carter mentioned. I purposefully bought a bar of sage soap to remind me of my WIP hero. I'm still working on the heroine's signature sent...probably bergamot. A favorite character from a Keeper book is Leif the hero in Hearts of Shadow. He is a dragon shifter who smelled like cinnamon.

Please put my name in for the cup of Joe, and I'm waving my hand for the critique. (Congratulations to all the Blurb2Book new Love Inspired authors!) I've read, loved and reviewed Stranded with the Rancher. I'm so glad there will be a fifth Paradise book, but it will be hard to wait until January for Rocky Mountain Reunion. Thanks for all, Tina!

Happy birthday, Ruthy! To all attending the Writers Police Academy, safe travels and enjoy!

Tina Radcliffe said...

Terrific authors=terrific learning opportunities!

Tina Radcliffe said...

More Patti Jo's Cafe and Bakery!!!!!!!!

Jeanne T said...

I loved this post, Tina. All these suggestions for getting into character are helpful. After having a few people comment that I need to get to know my hero better, this post offers me some great suggestions for doing so. :)

I try to get into the head of my character by interviewing them. Asking about their history/backstory, what led them to be who they are today, what lie they believe, what their dark moment was, what wound came from that, as well as their happiest moment in their past and what their greatest dream is. And then I do what Rachel Hauck recommends, and I keep asking, "Why?" until I get to the root of them, so to speak. When I let them "write" I get a glimpse of their voice as well as who they are. I love doing this.

I really enjoyed Stranded With the Rancher, Tina. I'd love to be in the drawing for the coffee and the mug!

Jeanne T said...

HAPPY HAPPY HAPPY BIRTHDAY, RUTHY!! I hope it's been a wonderful day for you!

Tina Radcliffe said...

Ruthy remembered Bitsy Harmony!!!! I am so tickled!!!

Tina Radcliffe said...

Thanks so much , Sandra. BTW it's 63 degrees in Chicago!!

Tina Radcliffe said...

Jeanne! Great to see you. I can't take credit for this post. I had help!

Loves To Read said...

Hi Tina! Would love to have the coffee and pretty cup. I just loved Adam in Anne Stuart's Barrett's Hill. Written in the 70's, it's an oldie but I still love it. Unique character.

Mary Connealy said...

Great Characters....honestly the two greatest characters I think I've ever read are from Amanda Quick's Mischief.
The woman--Imogen...she is bossy, bright, loyal and naive. which means she's often bossy about things she knows nothing about.
The man--Matthias, some consider the most dangerous man in England.
Imogen 'inherited' a favor from Matthias. It was owed her her uncle and she inherited all his earthly goods. The favor was clearly listed in the will.
She believes her friend was murdered. She calls in the favor, she had a plan to catch the murderer and she needs the help of such a brave man.
Matthias sees she is going to disgrace herself if not get herself killed so he refuses.
She jumps to the insane conclusion that all the gossip about how dangerous he is, is merely unfounded gossip and he is, in fact a very sensitive sort, she worries about his nervous condition. In fact she promises to protect him.
He decides he'll do the favor, but in his own way. His way is to keep her alive and try to protect her from ruinous gossip in Regency England...while letting her believe he is of a delicate nature.
Thus begins one of the funniest books I have ever read. NOT inspirational. But these two, sparring, her 'protecting him', him behind her back being brutally tough while to her face constantly needing to settle his nerves.
By the end, darned if he hasn't developed delicate sensibilities and of course, she's found out how dangerous he is.
She's also wrong about who the killer is and they nearly die...except of course, Matthias saves the day.
Happily Ever After.

Mary Connealy said...

I really love the character Joe Pickett. He's the most honest man who ever lived.
It causes him no end of trouble. Especially since when he sees a wrong done, despite danger and career risk, he will not give up until justice is done. He really wishes he could just turn his back. He's a Wyoming Game and Fish Ranger and he just wants to count elk and check hunting and fishing license.
But then a body turns up.
And no we aren't blaming this on a GRIZZLY. Though that would be very simple.
He is happily married.
His long suffering wife never gives up on him.
I've followed him through maybe 17 books now and loved every one.

Mary Connealy said...

Trying to make a character 'come to life' can really be a challenge. And it's hard to really explain how to do it, but when I finally manage it, I know it. (or think I do.)
To me it's about strengths and weaknesses and quirks.

Mary Connealy said...

PS, Ruthy thank you for calling me a character.
I know you meant to insult me but surely you can do better than that.
In truth, maybe outside my writing, I am the Most Boring Woman Alive. (I wonder if I can get a beer commercial for that?)

Mary Connealy said...

So being called a CHARACTER is actually quite exciting. (I find my excitement where ever I can)

Myra Johnson said...

No, MARY, I think I am the undisputed winner of Most Boring Woman Alive. I'll flip you for it!

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Ruthy loved Bitsy. From the first moment she stepped onstage, she was the kind of fun eccentric I can sit and talk with for hours!!!

And a romance for BITSY????? Gotta love, gotta love, gotta love!!!!

That was just a smile and a half, waiting to happen!

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Mary, you are not at all boring.

Folks in your area talk about you.

I've heard them.

Therefore, not boring.

And of course you're a character, I'm pretty sure if we were to caricature you, you'd be smiling, riding a bronc, cowboy hat flappin', with chaps and boots and a laptop. :)

Okay, that might be over the top, but you know what I mean. So stinkin' knowledgeable about so much and funny.

Oh, yeah.

character. Eccentric. Cute.

J Baugh said...

Really enjoying the posts on this site. I've enjoyed many of Irene Hannon's characters, especially Sam and Laura. I would definitely like a critique!! Please enter my name in the drawing. :) Writing for Love Inspired would be dream.

Thank you!

Mary Curry said...

Tina, you might have to make that a SIX page critique! Tina James just announced another #Blurb2Book sale on Twitter.

Donna said...

I got interrupted while writing my first post so this is part two.

Happy Birthday Ruthy!!!!!!! I hope you were surrounded by little loved ones!

I am going to print this post for when characters are being difficult. Please enter me for the Joe & that beautiful cup!

Mary Connealy said...

Ruthy I have now helped every human on earth write a convincing calf birth scene.


Mary Connealy said...

And Happy Birthday, Ruthy.

I'm thinking of having my age legally changed.

Jackie said...

Great post today! A lot to think about.

I loved Stranded with the Rancher. Please enter me in the drawing. I hope you have a great rest of your week/weekend!

Cindy W. said...

Hi Tina! What a wonderful post, thank you!

If I were to select two characters that are in one of my Keeper books, they would have to be two characters from Sarah Sundin's newest book, Through Waters Deep. The leading characters are Mary Stirling and Ensign Jim Avery. These two characters became my friends. They were so well developed they were real to me. I love to read but I can't always remember the names of the characters after I am done. This book I can and I will. When I reviewed it I had to let people know that the person I pictured as Jim, was a younger Jim Caviesel. I never do that. But this book was so good the characters engaged me from the start pulled me in and still haven't let me go.

I would love to be in for any of the giveaways Tina. The coffee & beautiful cup, your book and (gulp) the five page critique. I'm waving both hands! :)

Smiles & Blessings,
Cindy W.

Julie Lessman said...

LOL, HALLE ... you need to try it sometime, girlfriend. Not only will it help you describe the facial expressions better, but you'll get to see how silly you look when you make certain faces. I now only make those faces when I'm alone with my computer. ;)

TINA!!! Soooo glad you got the car, girlfriend, and praying it's a weekend "to die for"!!


Mary Connealy said...

Tina and Debby will both come back DANGEROUS!

Mary Connealy said...

I'm a Jack Reacher fan but I don't like that one moment because he hates an airline for having a Bible verse. Reacher doesn't come off as a guy will strong convictions of religion and obviously he's not.

But he does seem like a 'live and let live' kind of guy.

I've never thought that shot at religion was in keeping with his character and ultimate I think Lee Child, rather than revealing more of Reacher's character, is instead letting his own beliefs bleed into the book and why do that?

Why take a shot at Christians who read your books? It sounded an off note to me.

Mary Connealy said...

A great character who came to mind after some thought is Scout from To Kill a Mockingbird. To tell such a powerful story, thought the eyes of a child with all the childish lack of understanding...while making sure the reader understands perfectly what's going on, if brilliant.

Mary Connealy said...

PS I got my very first author's copy of Fire and Ice. It doesn't release until Oct. 1st but they are PRINTED!!!!!!!!! It's coming!

Missy Tippens said...

What a FANTASTIC post!! I started it this morning but just now got back to finish.

I think my favorite method was Naomi's. I love the idea of making the list! Lists help me if I get overwhelmed by the big picture.

Missy Tippens said...

LOL, Hallee! I felt the same way about the mirror. But actually, I sit her and make all the noises my characters are making (huffs and sighs and harrumphs). So why not just look at myself while I'm doing it?! :)

Natalie Monk said...

Great post, Tina!!! Filled with character-writing goodies! Definitely a print-out and re-read sort.

I'm so glad Joe gets his own story! I've been wanting to get inside his head since Stranded With the Rancher. I'm reading Safe in the Fireman's Arms now and LOVE it. I'm kinda angsty at the characters right now, though (they're having their black moment, hehe). Love how their sweet friendship is progressing.

Oh, my goodness that teacup! ADORABLE! Unfortunately, caffeinated coffee gives me the jitters. :s I'd love to win a 5-page critique, though!

Carol Garvin said...

Love this post -- thanks, Tina! I appreciate hearing all the different ways writers here 'get into character'. It's way too easy for me to let my main characters all sound alike unless I first spend time before I begin writing, trying to imagine myself being them. I put together a collage of photos for each story, too, and many of the items I include are chosen because they're meaningful to the character, as well as significant in the story. Every little thing helps. :)

Suzanne Baginskie said...

What a wealth of great inspiration and so many good examples in one post. Thanks for all your efforts to put this into perspective for writers to really get their characters inside their heads. A nice read with my morning cup of Joe. Blessings to you.

Vince said...

Ode to a 'Meatless' Friday

What do you do
when they turn out the lights…

What can you do
when they lock the church up tight…

What should you do
When you can't make it thru the night…

Can you really find your way
When there's no place left to pray…

Fasting is good for the soul
yet it's not by bread alone
the sidewalks take their toll
when home is but a poem.

Barbara Scott said...

Tina, I hope you get this late comment. After a week of putting off going to the doctor after hitting my head on the nightstand when I fell out of bed, it turns out I have a concussion. Since I spent the morning in a CT scanner, I didn't get to read your post yesterday. And it's such a good one!!!! Whether I get a chance to stop by or not, always know Seekers are close to my heart. I actually got a peanut butter cookie and a good cuppa Joe at the imaging center. Better than a sucker when I was a kid. LOL

Danielle Hull said...

Thank you for sharing! What a fun and informative post! Gives me a lot of idea! I would love to win the coffee and pretty mug :) Or receive a copy of Stranded with the Rancher!

Tina Radcliffe said...

Barbara! Hope you feel better and thanks for he post kudos!

Tina Radcliffe said...

Elsie and her goofy shirts! You nailed it, Donna!

Tina Radcliffe said...

Thanks, Wilani!! Long live Paradise!

Tina Radcliffe said...

Jessica Baum, welcome to Seekerville!!

J Baugh said...

Thank you! It's nice to be here. :)

Deanna Stevens said...

I enjoyed the comments from the various authors.. Great advise.
I too have Joe on the mind, a package of Starbucks Morning Joe and one of these beautiful cups would be a great way to start my day!
I haven't read Stranded with the Rancher, "HOWDY" ~ Me hollering :)

flipflopprincess said...

I love coming to this blog, I always learn so much! I'm not a writer but have often wondered how one gets into the character when writing a book. I have not read stranded with the rancher but it's definitely going on my tbr list!

Sierra Faith said...

I would love a copy of Stranded with the Rancher if you still have some :)

The first two characters that popped into my mind was Sara from Kristy Cambron's A Butterfly and the Violin. and Crecent Moon from Cress by Marrissa Meyer. :)