Monday, October 18, 2021

Deciding What Setting to Use, Part 1

Where does your story take place? Is the setting of your story real, imaginary, or somewhere in between?

If you aren't sure, maybe I can help. Here is my take on the different kinds of settings you can use for your novel.  

1. Real Settings 

There is a distinct advantage in using a real setting for your story. You can go there. Walk the streets. Smell the wind. Listen to the traffic – or non-traffic – noises. You can stop by the local diner and try the daily special. Or if traveling there is impossible, you can do a virtual visit using Google Earth or Google maps street view.

But the disadvantage to using a real place as a setting for your fictional story is that your perception of the area might not match up with someone who actually lives there. Every place is someone’s hometown, and you run the risk of getting some little detail wrong.

It’s a little easier if you’re writing an historical story, since you don’t run as big of a risk of a reader having intimate knowledge of the setting you’re using – especially if your story takes place in an earlier century.

I breathed a deep sigh of relief when I got a letter from a reader after I published my first novel, The Prodigal Son Returns. I had set a few of the scenes in the real town of Goshen, Indiana, in the 1930’s, using my memories from the 1960’s and my dad’s descriptions of his memories of the town from his childhood to add details. But there is always the fear that the descriptions don’t ring true – until I received that note saying that the town I described was just the way this reader remembered it, down to the location of the barber shop on Lincoln Avenue.


2. Imaginary Settings 

The advantage to creating an imaginary setting completely out of your head is that it’s yours. You get to decide what the weather is like, who lives in this fictional place, and what happens there.

The disadvantage with a setting like this is that you have to create an entire story-world out of your imagination (which is the main attraction for some authors!) Tolkien did this with his Lord of the Rings trilogy. He was so successful in bringing the reader into his story-world that millions of people felt like Middle Earth was a real place – even before the movies were made!

I’ve never written a setting like this. These are usually reserved for science fiction or fantasy stories, but it’s intriguing, isn’t it? To create that perfect world where imaginary beings live and breathe? I might have to try it sometime.

3. Somewhere in between 

I have to confess that this is my favorite setting for my stories. This where you take an imaginary setting – a town, ranch, neighborhood – and nestle it into an existing real place.

The advantages of this kind of setting are huge. For instance, in my current Work in Progress, a contemporary cozy mystery, my setting is in the Black Hills. I’ve created my fictional town of Paragon and placed it in a particular spot. Of course, there isn’t a town there. Or even a crossroads. But it is in the middle of the Black Hills National Forest, which satisfies the requirements for the stories in the series.

However, the surrounding area is real. So, my characters can have lunch at Armadillos (my favorite ice cream shop,) or drive into Rapid City to buy groceries at Sam’s Club. And since I live in this real setting, I can be sure that my descriptions of the climate, traffic, the change in the atmosphere when the tourists arrive on Memorial Day weekend, and the EVENT that is the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally are all accurate. When Emma walks out of the Sweetbrier Inn on a late April morning and encounters snow – that’s reality. In a fictional setting.

Another way to use this kind of setting is to set an historical story in a real place. My series, The Amish of Weaver’s Creek, takes place in the very real Amish settlement of Holmes County, Ohio. One reader who had grown up there told me that he felt like he was visiting his childhood home because my descriptions were so accurate.

A creek in Holmes County, Ohio - the inspiration for Weaver's Creek
But Weaver’s Creek and the Amish community surrounding it in a corner of Holmes County is all fictional. I set it a certain distance from Millersburg, Berlin, and Farmerstown – all real towns of the area – and used historical maps to make my descriptions of those towns fit my story setting of the 1860’s. Then I created my own map of the Weaver's Creek area - the farms, the houses, the roads, and where each family lived. The result is a small area my readers can become familiar with inside of a larger area they can visit. 

How does that happen? How do our minds gently erase a portion of a map and overlay an imaginary community where none really exists?

How can we all know the Hundred Acre Woods, Hogwarts Castle, Plum Creek, or Deep Valley like they are in our back yards - when we've never actually been there...

Betsy's home in Deep Valley

...and if we are able to visit in person, we feel like we've come home.

Laura's Plum Creek

That's one of the intriguing things about reading and the imagination, isn't it?

Next month, I'll be talking about the kind of research that a writer can do to make their settings take on that feeling of reality.

Meanwhile, let's talk about settings. What book setting would you love to visit if you could?

Sunday, October 17, 2021

Sunday Scripture & Prayer Requests

Last Supper, by Dagnan-Bouveret, 1896. [PD-US]

James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to Jesus and said to him,
"Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you." 
He replied, "What do you wish me to do for you?" 
They answered him, "Grant that in your glory
we may sit one at your right and the other at your left." 
Jesus said to them, "You do not know what you are asking. 
Can you drink the cup that I drink
or be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?" 
They said to him, "We can." 
Jesus said to them, "The cup that I drink, you will drink,
and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized;
but to sit at my right or at my left is not mine to give
but is for those for whom it has been prepared." 
When the ten heard this, they became indignant at James and John. 
Jesus summoned them and said to them,
"You know that those who are recognized as rulers over the Gentiles
lord it over them,
and their great ones make their authority over them felt. 
But it shall not be so among you.
Rather, whoever wishes to be great among you will be your servant;
whoever wishes to be first among you will be the slave of all. 
For the Son of Man did not come to be served
but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many."

Mark 10:35-45

The Seekerville bloggers are praying for YOU and for our entire blog community. If you have any special intentions that need additional prayer coverage, leave a request for prayer in the comment section below. 

Please join us in praying for our country!
God Bless the USA!

We are so grateful for all of you—for your friendship and your support! 

May the Lord bless you and keep you safe.      

Saturday, October 16, 2021

Weekend Edition


If you are not familiar with our giveaway rules, take a minute to read them here. It keeps us all happy! All winners should send their name, address, and phone number to claim prizes.  Please send to If the winner does not contact us within two weeks, another winner may be selected.

Monday: Jan and Pam teamed up to give us great a checklist for entering contests. 

Wednesday: Ruthy rolled into town with a shout out about three new books releasing, "The Path Not Taken", "Embracing Light in Wishing Bridge" and "Jingle Bell Heist"... and the winners of copies of "The Path Not Taken" are Sandy Smith, Denise and Becky! Congratulations, ladies!!! 

Friday: Winnie applied Disney's 12 Principles of Animation to Writing. The winners of her 'pick any book from my backlist' giveaway are Edwina and Lucy Reynolds. Congratulations ladies!.

Monday:  Jan is here talking about settings. Have you thought about where or when your story is set? Is your setting real, imaginary, or somewhere/when in between?

Wednesday:  Debby Giusti will blog about the importance of the first three chapters of your story, and what you need to include to hook your reader and your editor's interest!
Friday: Pam

RELEASING ON 10/26!!!! "The Path Not Taken", book two of Ruth Logan Herne's Kendrick Creek series! You can preorder now at Amazon but keep an eye out for it in Walmarts and select groceries nationwide!!!!

A Deja-Vu cover reveal from Jan Drexler!

The re-release of "A Home for His Family" is sporting the same cover as the original release back in 2015! How fun is that? Releasing in January, 2022, this two-in-one is available for preorder now!

 An Amish Spring Anthology and Debby Giusti is one of the authors.

To learn more join the FB Reader Group

Available now at your favorite bookstores!

Relationship Thesaurus Entry: People Who Are Dating by Becca Puglisi at Writers Helping Writers

4 Key Crossroads Your Protagonist Must Face by Lewis at The Novel Smithy

21st Century Writing by Bob Hostetler at Steve Laube Agency

Managing Deadlines by David Rawlings at Learn How To Write A Novel

7 Ways to Create an Empathetic Antagonist by Sarah Tinsley at Live Write Thrive

Ideas to Help You Create Paperback Book Spines by LA Sartor at Book Brush Blog

NaNoWriMo Prep: Planning Your Novel's Beginning by Janice Hardy at Fiction University

Rising Action in a Story
by Gloria Russell at Write To Done

Don't Give Up On Your Writing Dream by Julie Lavender at The Write Conversation

Friday, October 15, 2021

Applying Disney's 12 Principes of Animation to Writing


Hello everyone, Winnie Griggs here. Recently I came across an article that described Disney's 12 principles of animation and as I was reading over the list I was making mental comparisons to how they might apply to writing as well. So today I thought I’d document those thoughts and share them with you.


These principles of animation were first introduced by animators Ollie Johnston and Frank Thomas in their 1981 book The Illusion of Life: Disney Animation. Through examining the work of leading Disney animators from the 1930s onwards, this book shows how Johnston and Thomas boil their approach down to 12 basic principles of animation.

So here they are, along with my writer takeaways.

1. Squash and stretch

This principle states that an object’s mass remains constant no matter how much pressure or tension is applied. So when you stretch something it gets thinner and when you squash it, it gets wider.

My writer takeaway: You need to really understand who your character is at their core, regardless of what image they project.  

2. Anticipation

This principle applies to the fact that you should prepare the audience for action. If you’re going to have a character leap you should show that character bending his knees first.

My writer takeaway: Foreshadowing is important. This goes to that old adage that states if you’re going to shoot somebody in scene 7 make sure you show the gun in scene 3. Foreshadowing is an important device to build tension and suspense, it makes your reader keep turning the pages to see what is going to happen next.


3. Staging

The purpose behind this principle is to direct the viewer’s attention to what is of greatest importance. This can be done by placement in frame, by the use of light and shadow and/or by the angle and position of the camera.

My writer takeaway: Not only is description important, but which elements you chose to describe and the emphasis you place on them is key as well.  When using description it is important to identify what you want to describe, why, and what response you want to evoke from the reader


4. Straight-Ahead Action and Pose-to-Pose

This principle states that the artist has two ways to handle drawing animation. The first involves drawing start to finish frame-by-frame resulting in fluid, realistic movements. The second method has the artist draw the beginning frame, the ending frame and then the frames for some of the key motions in between the two. This allows for a little more control in building the dramatic effect in the movement of the character or object

My writer takeaway: There is no one right way to approach writing your scenes. Whether you write linearly, hit the high spots first or approach them in some other fashion, as long as you have command of your process you can pull your reader in and keep them turning the pages then you’re on the right track.


5. Follow through and overlapping action

This has to do with following the laws of physics. Not everything on an object or body will move at the same rate, nor will they stop at the same rate. For instance when a runner stops, their hair or clothing may continue moving.

My writer takeaway: It was a little more difficult for me to find a writer takeaway from this one, but what I finally decided was to liken this to the fact that not every character’s arc will follow the same trajectory or have similar timing. And your character arcs will contribute to but not necessarily follow at the same speed or path as your story arc.


6. Slow in and slow out

This refers to the principles of acceleration and deceleration. Most objects need time to accelerate and decelerate to and from a stop. In the world of animation this is depicted by having more drawings near the beginning and ending of a particular action.

My writer takeaway: The set-up portion of a story will require more focus and detail than the rising and falling action of the middle. And to a lesser extent, this may also be true of your wrap-up at the end.


7. Arc

Most objects follow a specific path or arc when they are in motion. Deviating from this projection without a valid reason makes the movement seem erratic rather than fluid.

My writer takeaway: The events and action from one scene to the next should follow a logical path. This doesn’t necessarily mean expected or predictable (that would be boring!) but when something unexpected does happen, the reader can see how it logically followed from what came before.


8. Secondary action

This principle states that by adding secondary actions to the main action (e.g. adding swinging arms or whistling when a character is walking) helps to add more realism and dimension to the primary action. However, the secondary action should never diminish the primary one.

My writer takeaway: Secondary characters and subplots are wonderful ways to add context, dimension and color to your story, but they should always remain just that – secondary.


9. Timing

This principle refers to the number of frames dedicated to a specific action sequence which affects the visual speed of that action on film and how realistic that action appears. In animation, timing helps to establish mood, reaction and personality.

My writer takeaway: It’s important to have your protagonist(s) front and center for the majority of your story (a high number of ‘frames’) so that they remain the stars of your story and are not usurped by the secondary cast.

10. Exaggeration

This principle refers to the fact that a perfect imitation of reality can make an animation look static and dull. Adding in just a bit of exaggeration in form or motion adds interest  and makes the piece more dynamic.

My writer takeaway: As writer’s we don’t want to depict a perfect imitation of reality either – no trite everyday dialog or depictions of the kind of coincidence that often occurs. By paring things down, focusing on your core story and characters you can provide your reader with the best experience

11. Solid drawing

This principle states that before you can succeed in animation, you need to know the basics of drawing, including three dimensional shapes and forms, light and shadow, anatomy in motion and the proper use of symmetry and asymmetry. Consistency in the design of the world being depicted is also important.

My writer takeaway: This one should be obvious – know your craft, the basics of good storytelling. It’s okay to break the rules but only if you understand them first and are subverting them for a reason.


12. Appeal

This principle states that the animated character have something that appeals to the reader, a power to captivate or draw them in. That doesn’t necessarily mean they are sympathetic, villains can also have a strong drawing power.

My writer takeaway: Make certain your story’s characters have the power to engage your readers. Cardboard characters that are one-dimensional, whether all good or all evil, or characters that are too passive or too bland give your reader nothing to engage with, no one to root for or against.

And there you have it! My writer takeaways from Disney’s 12 essential principles of animation. What do you think? Have you heard of these principles before? Do you agree with my takeaways or would you have interpreted any of them differently?

Leave a comment to be entered in a drawing for any book on my backlist.


Wednesday, October 13, 2021

New Ruthy Book!


It's going to be a busy fall for Ruthy readers! 

We kick off with "The Path Not Taken", the second book in the Kendrick Creek TN series.... and I love, love, love working in the Smoky Mountains!!!!!! This newest book releases October 26th but you can pre-order on Amazon right now...

We follow up in November with the much awaited  "Embracing Light in Wishing Bridge", the beautiful 4th story set in Wishing Bridge, NY, a location that's become a fictional favorite for so many... and the touching and poignant story of a young Amish woman's quest for her stolen babies.... and where that quest leads. In a story of suspense and whole heart, Ruthy's story takes a Solomon-style quandary and a heart-wrenching solution in a story filled with faith, hope and love.

And then her final contribution to the Guideposts "Savannah Secrets" is releasing in December! WHAT A GREAT FOURTH QUARTER!!!! :)

"Jingle Bell Heist" is coming out in December and if you've been following Julia and Meredith's adventures as private investigators, you'll love this holiday story and if you haven't read this series, here's the link to Guideposts... because it is truly so much fun! 

The new year holds more Love Inspired, another Wishing Bridge and a spring mystery so as long as folks keep reading, Ruthy keeps writing!

Here's the blurb for Kendrick Creek's "The Path Not Taken": 

A second chance to follow her heart…

in this novel by USA TODAY bestselling author Ruth Logan Herne

She never thought she’d see him again…

Or tell him they have a son.

Ten years ago, Devlyn McCabe refused to let her secret—their child—be the reason Ryland Bauer stayed. Now Rye’s back to make an offer on her property, and she can’t keep hiding the truth. Rye will do anything to be part of his son’s life. But he’ll have to reveal the real reason he left if he wants them to become a family…

I love this beautiful story. It touches heart and soul, it questions choices and opportunities, and it shows how tragedy... the holiday fire that swept down the Smokies and through the little town of Kendrick Creek... doesn't just change the landscape: It changes everything.

Here's a chance to win it before you can buy it! 

Leave a comment below and Ruthy will throw your name into the cat dish (I haven't dragged the cat dish out in a while!) and she'll get to the Post Office once pumpkin season is over... she promises! :)

Bestselling multi-published author Ruth Logan Herne is so blessed to be doing exactly what she loves doing: Writing great books, running a really fun pumpkin farm, taking care of a lot of cute kids as needed and looking forward to all the adventures the good Lord sends her way. The ups... and the downs... the character building moments. God is good! Check out Ruthy's website, email Ruthy at and/or friend her on Facebook!

Monday, October 11, 2021

Checklist for Entering Contests


Hey kids! Do you know what time it is?

It's contest time!

One thing almost all published authors have in common is that we got our feet wet in the publishing industry by entering contests. 

What does that mean? I believe that learning to navigate the writing contest world is great training for becoming a successful author!
Opportunities abound for entering contests! One reason for the timing of this post is because the deadline for ACFW's First Impressions Contest is THIS FRIDAY! OCTOBER 15th!

So this post is your head's up!

This is a rewrite of a post Pam Hillman did *way too many* years ago – but contest time is here again, so I thought it was time to bring Pam’s fabulous post out of the archives, dust it off, update it, and bring it out again!

So with Pam’s permission, here’s her updated post:

Checklist for Entering Contests
by Pam Hillman/Jan Drexler

My former boss always said that my attention to detail was what made me good at my job. And just for the record, I quit my former job a few years ago to write, work in the Christian publishing world, and manage the books on the family farm. It wasn't like I was fired from that day job! Just sayin' :)

So, this slightly OCD trait also comes in handy when preparing manuscripts to send out, whether to contests, agents, or editors. But if you’re not detail-oriented, not to worry. Here are some tips to help keep you on track.

Keep in mind that some of the tips below do not apply to all contests. This list of tips is to help you get in the habit of doing all the steps every time you enter a contest, so that you can whip out an entry in a matter of hours. If something doesn't apply, you just mark it off your list.

Once you’ve got the content of your manuscript and your synopsis polished to a shine and the deadline is approaching, then:

1) Review the big picture rules

a. Does your manuscript fit neatly into one of the categories?
b. Do you know who the finalist judges are?

c. Have you looked at a sample score sheet if available?

d. When is the deadline?

2) Review the rules specific to your manuscript and your synopsis

a. Check the margins

b. Check font and font size

c. Check to see if there is a title page. A lot of online contests have moved away from title pages, but it never hurts to check the rules, just in case.

d. Check header. What exactly does the contest require in the header? What does the contest forbid in the header (like your name or pseudonym)?

e. Double-check the contest's formatting rules. Do they have a formatting example? Check it out!  

3) There are few contests, agents, or editors that require you to mail in your entry but keep these things in mind in case you hit one of those.

a. Did you include enough books or copies of your manuscript? If books for a published contest, did you sign them?

b. Did you double-TRIPLE-check the mailing address?

c. Pay a bit extra for Delivery Confirmation. You'll be glad you did. 

d. And especially if you are mailing in your entry, you might want to print out the mailing address for one last check when you get to the post office. In your excitement, it’s much too easy to get to the post office and seal that sucker up, forgetting all about the return postage and/or your check.

Entering unpublished contests have changed a lot over the years as the bulk of them have gone online. On one hand, the process is much, much easier and cheaper, especially since you don't have to print or mail anything. Isn't that a blessing? Contests with 3-5 print copies of a 20-25 page manuscript added a chunk of change to someone's contest budget. Also, for you young whippersnappers, us oldies had to pay for printing, postage to mail our entries, and a SASE envelope with enough postage for the contest to return all our judged entries. I like online much better.

But online contests don't come without problems. Slow internet, incompatible software, corrupted files, and failure to confirm your entry or payment can knock you out of a contest.

A year or so before I sold, I found out about a contest that was low on inspirational entries, so with hours before the deadline, I entered two manuscripts. One went through fine, but for some reason the other one kept converting from 35 pages on my computer to 39 on the coordinator's computer. Same two computers and the same coordinator as the other manuscript, minutes apart. It was the weirdest thing I'd ever seen and neither of us could fix it. The coordinator bent over backwards to help, but in the end, I had to make a decision. In desperation, I chopped 5 pages off the end, and sent it in with 2 minutes to spare. The manuscript was within the page count at that point and wasn't disqualified. (It finaled and actually won the contest. Go figure...)

Once a contest lost my digital entry. Just literally lost it. I can't remember if they gave me a refund or if they had someone read for me. In the course of writing this post, I found another one that I'm still not sure I ever got the results on. Let it go! Let it go! It never bothered me anyway....

Always, always, always make sure you use an email address that you check regularly and especially check your email after the fact if you end up entering a contest with mere hours to spare. Contest coordinators are amazing at bending over backwards to let people fix issues, but in fairness to other entrants, once the deadline has passed, there's nothing they can do. Stay on top of your entry and don't be disqualified for something that could be prevented just by being aware of your email trail.

Generally when you enter a contest, you will receive at least two emails. Possibly more.

1) Payment confirmation. Most of the time, this email will come from PayPal as that's the go-to for most online payments these days. PayPal allows non-users to pay with a debit or credit card, but the email will still come from PayPal.
2) Entry confirmation receipt. This receipt will be from group/chapter hosting the contest OR the contest coordinator's private email, depending on the software the contest is using. It confirms that the contest coordinator received your entry. Again, generally speaking, #1 and #2 go hand in hand and are automated responses when you complete your entry. This email will usually let you know if you need to look for additional emails.
3) Additional emails might land in your inbox once contest coordinators have laid eyes on your manuscript pages and made sure they meet the guidelines.

By checking your email, you ensure that you've completed the process, sent in your manuscript and received payment. The best laid plans can go awry even after you do everything perfectly, hit submit, but then go off to celebrate your achievement... only to find out that there was a glitch with your PayPal account. 99% of the time, you will receive an email confirmation immediately from PayPal. If you have time to wait 24 hours, do so. If the deadline is looming, it wouldn't hurt to check on the status of your entry.

It never hurts to check and double check everything. You’ll feel better, your package will be neat and tidy, and the coordinator will be forever grateful.

Jan here – I’ll add one more thing to Pam’s great advice at this point. Don’t…please, just don’t…make sending in your contest submission the last item on your to-do list before you head out on a week-long break from the internet! If the contest coordinator needs to get in contact with you, you need to be reachable. (You wouldn’t believe how often that happens!)

Then you sit back and wait for the results...or...

better yet, write another book!!!

Jan here again - I mentioned the First Impressions contest above. You can find out all the details of that contest for newbie, pre-published authors HERE! And that deadline is THIS FRIDAY! 

Another ACFW contest for unpublished/pre-published authors is the Genesis. You have a little while to get ready for this contest, but you MUST have a completed manuscript to enter. The contest opens in early January 2022, and the deadline will be in March. Details for the 2021 contest are here.

And if you're itching to learn about more contests, be sure to sign up for Tina Radcliffe's newsletter. She scours the interwebs to bring us the details! Here's all the info you need: Inside Edition

So, let's talk contests!

Any contest war wounds? Lost submissions? You sent in your fee, but forgot to send in the manuscript/books? You sent in everything except your fee? You entered your manuscript in the least likely category that it could ever possibly final in? 'fess up! :)

Or are you brand new to contests? Would you...could you...take the plunge into the contest waters?

Just remember - contests are how many of the original Seekers sailed off Unpubbed Island!


Sunday, October 10, 2021

Sunday Scripture & Prayer Requests

"Christ and the Rich Young Ruler" by Heinrich Hofmann,
1889, Riverside Church, New York. [PD-US]

As Jesus was setting out on a journey, a man ran up,
knelt down before him, and asked him,
"Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?"
Jesus answered him, "Why do you call me good? 
No one is good but God alone.
You know the commandments: You shall not kill;
you shall not commit adultery;
you shall not steal;
you shall not bear false witness;
you shall not defraud;
honor your father and your mother
He replied and said to him,
"Teacher, all of these I have observed from my youth."
Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said to him,
"You are lacking in one thing.
Go, sell what you have, and give to the poor
and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me." 
At that statement his face fell,
and he went away sad, for he had many possessions.

Jesus looked around and said to his disciples,
"How hard it is for those who have wealth
to enter the kingdom of God!" 
The disciples were amazed at his words.
So Jesus again said to them in reply,
"Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! 
It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle
than for one who is rich to enter the kingdom of God." 
They were exceedingly astonished and said among themselves,
"Then who can be saved?"
Jesus looked at them and said,
"For human beings it is impossible, but not for God. 
All things are possible for God." 
Peter began to say to him,
"We have given up everything and followed you." 
Jesus said, "Amen, I say to you,
there is no one who has given up house or brothers or sisters
or mother or father or children or lands
for my sake and for the sake of the gospel
who will not receive a hundred times more now in this present age:
houses and brothers and sisters
and mothers and children and lands,
with persecutions, and eternal life in the age to come."

Mark 10:17-30

The Seekerville bloggers are praying for YOU and for our entire blog community. If you have any special intentions that need additional prayer coverage, leave a request for prayer in the comment section below. 

Please join us in praying for our country!
God Bless the USA!

We are so grateful for all of you—for your friendship and your support! 

May the Lord bless you and keep you safe.