Monday, August 17, 2009

Looking Beneath the Surface: Things Aren't Always What They Seem

Missy, here. Don’t you just love this photo? I took it this summer after dropping my daughter off at horse riding camp. Each day that I drove her out into the country to the farm, I would admire the pastoral setting. It relaxed me. And each morning I would roll down my windows and enjoy the fresh air, the quaint duck pond.

So about the third day of camp, I stopped and took this photo with my cell phone. When I picked up my daughter that afternoon, I told her I got the photo. Well, she just died laughing. “What?” I asked, figuring that she was embarrassed (once again) by mom doing something so silly as stopping in the middle of road to snap a photo of some person’s yard.

Then she (with way too much enjoyment) informed me the ducks weren’t real. That they hadn’t moved all week.


So the next day, I slowed the car and took a good look. And yes, sure enough, those stupid ducks didn’t move at all. :) Oh, boy. This mom felt silly. That relaxed, peaceful feeling zipped right out my rolled-down windows, and my peals of laughter rang across the water.

This beautiful, peaceful setting looked good on the outside…but had no real substance.

Kind of like story characters can do if we’re not careful.

So, you have your photos of just what your characters are going to look like…red hair, blue eyes, freckles. And you know her favorite food is pizza. She may even have a quirky habit or two. You know her job. You know where she lives. And you maybe know a bit about her family. You may have even filled out a big ol’ character chart with a gazillion questions.

But do you know enough about your characters to know what choices they’ll make that lead them to the big black moment of the story? Do you know what their character arcs will look like? We have to dig really deep—deeper than hair color, jobs, sibling order, family of origin.

One of the best workshops I ever attended was at Moonlight & Magnolias, and I think I also attended again at RWA National. It was taught by Debra Dixon and titled Climbing the Slippery Slope. Deb’s focus was on how everything we put in the story builds toward that big black moment (BBM).

And I think to do that, we need to know two big things. First, what’s the hero/heroine’s biggest fear? And second, what does he/she long for? Show it fairly early in the story, then show him gradually moving toward security (working through his fears), risking reaching for that longing or dream. But then bam, in the BBM he’s hit with what he fears most. In His Forever Love, my hero’s biggest fear was that he wouldn’t fit in (like he didn’t fit in as a child and teen). He longs for family and to have a place to belong.

He starts off in the story feeling like an outsider but gradually (through scenes where I show small steps) starts to feel like maybe he has a place in the affections of the heroine. He hopes to have his Granny move to live with him, to finally have family nearby. And he starts to dream of the heroine coming to live in his world and being a part of his life with him.

So with a guy like that, what’s his BBM going to be? When he declares his love, is she going to say, no, sorry, you don’t make enough money? Or no, sorry, our beliefs are too different? Or nope, I’ve decided you won’t make a good father to my children? Of course not. I’ve built the story so that even though he’s fearful and scared to fall for the heroine, he finally risks it all. And what happens?


She can’t leave her family obligations—can’t leave her world, the place she fits in so well, to make a life with him. And to add to that he realizes his granny needs to stay in her own world with her new love interest and the heroine. So they all belong together…without him.

In my original ending, I planned to have my hero decide that he’s found his place to fit in, so he chooses to give up his blossoming career to stay in the small town he’s finally growing to love. But as I was nearing the end of the book, it hit me that, sure, that would be a great ending for my heroine. But for me, the story had turned into my hero’s story. For once in his life, he needed someone to choose him. So I changed the ending from how it was in my synopsis. And…spoiler alert once again…I had her give up her secure life (and I revised the story so that it was the best thing for everyone involved if she left) and to go up to Boston to tell him she’s there for him.

That’s how you climb toward the slippery slope. Set up your characters for that fall! And they’ll develop into much deeper characters. We’ll relate to them more and root for them more. They’ll grow and change and work toward earning their happy ending.

What do y’all think? What deepens character for you?


  1. Coffee's on and I had a chance to jog, but just checked the fridge and pantry and all I have is yogurt and cereal. Anybody for oatmeal with cinnamon and a side of fruit?

    I changed the ending of my recent manuscript as the hero's character arc seemed incomplete. I ended up with not only a better arc for the hero, but the heroine came off better and a secondary character got a good ending as well.

  2. Good morning, Walt! Thanks for the coffee! I'll add my new favorite creamer that I think has booted out the Italian Sweet Cream as my fav. It's called Hazelnut Biscotti. Yum!!

    That's so cool about changing your ending! Don't you just love it when something works out so well? I also love how the story develops as we go, and what may have seemed to work in the early stages is replaced with something that makes a much richer ending.

    I hope you have a great day!

  3. I forgot to say in the post that I'm giving away a copy of His Forever Love today! So please leave your contact info to be entered in the drawing!

  4. Goodness. I just realized I didn't offer anything for breakfast. I'm such a terrible hostess. Where's Ruthy when you need her?

    In the Tippens household, we live off Poptarts and cereal. And if you're lucky, frozen pancakes. :) So make yourselves at home and help yourself to my down-home breakfast. I'll even go all out and make you some pancakes in the microwave this morning. And I'll add blueberries on top! :)

  5. Missy, I loved His Forever Love! Wonderful information in your blog. Thanks for reminding us how important it is to think about the character's fear, what he longs for and the BBM.

    That's so funny about the ducks!

  6. thanks Missy,
    This really helped me reevaluate my characters' development throughout the story. It's amazing how much my characters become more and more fleshed out as I revise my manuscript. I realized my hero was two dimensional.

    Something that helps me is making sure I KNOW the backstory of the character. That makes his/her reactions seem so much more believable and fluid within the story.

    What sorts of techniques do you use?

  7. We've got enough ducks in the pond out back to share a few, Missy. :-)

    I love your ending of His Forever Love. Great job! When we force our characters to confront their deepest fears and overcome them--though they should fail along the way as your hero did--we're giving our readers characters they can admire and root for.

    Poptarts piping hot from the toaster and oozing butter. Yum! Thanks Missy. Thanks for the coffee, Walt. I despised oatmeal as a kid, but I'll try a bite of yours.


  8. Missy,

    Great post!! In my current WIP, I changed my hero to be more flawed. He was just too darn perfect, so I made him a reformed bad boy, but the actions of his past caused him to break his engagement to marry the woman who bore his child. He wanted to restore his honor in his family, so he chose honor over love. Now a widower, his greatest dream is to have a life with the one who stole his heart years ago, but she fears his job as a cop since her father was killed in the line of duty. He kept saying he wouldn't give up his job for her, but in the end he resigns. She tears his resignation letter into confetti and tells him his job is a part of him and she will take the whole package. She ends up proposing to him, which works with her greatest fear of losing someone she loves the way she lost her dad.


  9. Oh, Missy, timely post!! LOVE the duck pond story, my friend! And you certainly did a great job of "looking beneath the surface" in His Forever Love (wonderful book, by the way, for all who haven't had a chance to read it yet).

    I JUST encountered this (the need to "look beneath the surface")in my current WIP, where my sister said although she loved the heroine (Katie O'Connor), she thought she was a "little poop" in the beginning. So naturally, this was something I wanted to fix. Because you are SO right -- you DO want to set your characters up for the fall ... AND ultimately your readers, too, so that they "feel" the "fall" right along with the character.

    I find that the best way to do this (set the character and the reader up for the fall) is by building character sympathy with a look "beneath the surface" of what makes them who they are. In the case of Katie O'Connor, the "little poop" who was a spoiled rich girl bent on having her own way, I borrowed a painful 1st-grade event from my own childhood, which I incorporated in a short flashback. I'm hoping the cathartic tears I spent writing this flashback will translate into an emotional bonding with my heroine in a painful social situation that nearly every reader should be able to relate to. We'll see if it works or not ... :)


  10. Good morning, Cara! Yes, the duck incident was hilarious. But I felt kind of cheated. LOL

  11. Consistency is the thing that deepens character. Show them reacting in much the same manner in different situations and with different people, then have their backstory cause them to do something that might seem to be inconsistent on the surface. But because the reader knows the backstory and the the character's inner thoughts, they understand the character and why they did what they did. That really deepens character, I think. And that's the fun stuff to write. The character behaves consistently, then boom, they are faced with a dramatic situation, conflict, and they do something over the top.

  12. Good morning, Pepper!

    I usually do a full backstory, too. I actually write a journal for each character that starts when they're young. It's not insanely long, just entries here and there about events that affect their lives and show how they'd feel about it now. I don't start writing until I've finished those.

    I know you all are probably tired of me saying this, but I also work through a good bit of Alicia Rasley's workbook, The Story Within Guidebook, to make sure I know my characters really well. And I do the Magic Conflict chart in Carolyn Greene's Plotting Notebook (it's like an extended GMC chart).

    Once I've done all that, I usually jot down a basic GMC chart just to make sure I have it in my head. Then I FINALLY start writing! :)

    I'm going to have to learn to be quicker, though, for proposals. I think I spend too much pre-writing time for an unsold book that might never be written. Gotta figure out how to do this!

  13. Thanks, Janet! But your post made me realize I was so asleep when I read Walt's post (before I had coffee) that I didn't even remember the offer of oatmeal!! Goodness, I was so NOT alert this morning.

    And dare I tell y'all that I later fell asleep with a cup of coffee in my hands! I can't believe I didn't spill it.

  14. And speaking of oatmeal...

    Have any of you had the oatmeal at Starbucks?? Oh my gosh, it's so good with all the "stuff" in it! They offer fruit, nuts, and brown sugar. You can have one or all three.

    You need to try it! For a while they had a special where you got a free latte with it.

  15. Lisa, your story sounds wonderful!! I love endings where the heroine proposes. :)

    You know, making characters flawed is hard for me to do. I think it's scary because I'm afraid I'll make them unlikable. But really, I think readers would be more likely to dislike perfect characters.

    It sounds like you've struck the perfect balance! Likable, relatable and heroic.

    Nice job! Have you submitted the book anywhere yet?

  16. Okay, this is going to make me sound really 'green' I'm sure, but now I have to look up The Story Within Guidebook and Magic Conflict Chart.

    Never heard of those before :-( The whole idea of 'the story within' sounds right up my alley though.

    Just because I'm been writing for years, doesn't mean I have a handle on the craft - that's where I really have to slow down and take my time. Character development is fascinating, though

  17. Oh, Julie, I bet your therapy session will be all worth it! I'm sure we'll cry for Katie and immediately love the "little poop." :)

    And wasn't that you who recently told us a horror teacher story on the loop? If so, then you need to put that teacher in the book and have her show up later so a grownup Katie can confront her! We'll be cheering all the way! :)

  18. Melanie, what a great idea! I've never thought to do that. And if I've done it, it was accidental.

    I'll have to think about that in my next story! Thanks for the suggestion.

  19. Pepper, you don't sound green at all! I just feel like I talk about the books all the time and beat people over the head with it. :) I'm glad I haven't made you feel beaten down! LOL

    I would give you the links here, but I still haven't managed to be as techo-queen as Mary. So if you look at my post from Oct. 20, 2008, titled "Write Well, Write Fast", you'll find the links to the two books. The post is listed under the "plotting" topic or under my name if that makes it any easier to find it.

  20. Missy,
    Already been there ;-) I wanted to check those out while they were fresh on my mind.

    It's only been within the last year that I've realized the importance of dissecting characters...but for me,(and this is probably my weird brain working) it happens after I'm already into writing the story.

    A character or storyline will pop into my head, and I have to get it down on paper. While I'm working through that process, the characters develop...and, for me, my first draft is my 'black-n-white' copy. Then I go back in with my creative 'paint set' and add color :-)

  21. Pepper, what a great description of adding in the color!

    And you're not alone at all. I know a lot of authors who can't do prep work ahead. The story develops as they write. So do what works for you!

  22. Missy,

    You asked if I submitted my book yet. It finaled in the Genesis in the cont. romance category, so Melissa Endlich is one of the final judges. I'm praying she loves it because I would like to submit it to Steeple Hill. I've written it with them in mind. I have an appointment with Tina Columbo at the conference. It's in God's hands. :-)

  23. Oh, Lisa, that's wonderful!! I hope all goes well for you at the conference!!

  24. I love the ducks--and kuddos to your daughter for catching that they were fake (what observation skills she has). I look at character development as adding layers. I start with the basic things I know, and then I try to build the characters to match the complexity of real humans.

  25. Thanks Missy for the tips on deepening character. Most editors say they like character driven stories so this skill is especially important. Great tips from the readers as well.

    Your duck story cracked me up. We just pulled into this campground on the Oregon coast and look up to see a bald eagle. We got so excited until we realized he was flapping his wings but not going anywhere. A very realistic kite. Talk about outward appearances. LOL

    But I did just pick a basketful of wild blackberries to put on Walt's cereal and your pancakes. Thanks for the coffee btw

  26. Tara, that's a great point. A lot of the depth is added as we revise and do the layering.

    You know, I'm still learning that revision is my best friend! I'm such a perfectionist that I want it just right the first time. But I need to be more thankful that I can go back and add and change. Over and over! :)

    Thanks for stopping by, Tara!

  27. Oh, Sandra, that's hilarious!!!

    You know, that sense of disappointment reminds me of once, like 20 years ago, some company had this contest where you played this little record that had the theme song on it. I think it was either a record on a cereal box. Or maybe it came from a fast-food chain? (I'm hearing McDonald's song in my head) Anyway, if your cardboard record played the whole song, then you were the winner of a million dollars.

    Well, my record played...and played...and played. I was almost at the end of the little jingle and started screaming in disbelief. Then right near the end of the song, it stopped. I hadn't won.

    It was like having a million dollars yanked out of my hand!! Just crushing. I sat in the floor and cried. LOL

    And I don't know how I remembered that right now! LOL But I guess I could imagine how thrilling it would be to see a bald eagle, only to have your excitement dashed by a kite. (grin)

  28. Missy, I always tell aspiring authors foolish enough to ask for my advice NO BACKSTORY DUMPS.


    writing a backstory dump then cutting it is NOT wasted time. You NEED THAT. It's creating the character more completely in your own mind and all that backstory WILL BE USED. Just not in five unbroken pages of internal musing as the heroine drives to where ever the story really starts.

  29. So, you're saying you really pulled over on the side of the road, opened your window and said peels of laughter...I'm thinking more ... maniacal laughter.

    So, was there any trouble? Did men in white coats stop by with a net?

    Are you getting out as soon as you can prove you're not a danger to yourself or others. Or ducks?

    btw, click on the duck picture and it gets big and you can see those natural looking ducks almost ready to move.

    And let me add, I think seriously, honestly, fake ducks would be even MORE relaxing that real ducks. Nothing makes me more nervous that a duck that might move AT ANY MOMENT!


  30. Hey, did you know Monet actually hired a guy to go out and move his Lilly Pads into position every morning? And if the day was sunny, Monet would freak out and lock himself in his room as he liked his skies grey to make his colors brighter. When I found this out I sotra looked at his painting and felt the same way you felt about the ducks.

    Damn, I wonder how he did his "Haystack" series ... ;)

    Great piece you wrote here!!

    Jacqui Jacoby

  31. Oh Missy, that's hilarious!!!! About the duck pond. LoL I'm still chuckling thinking about it.

    Great point about characters and black moments. I like that you changed it. It's also a bit of a change because I've seen lots of stories with someone leaving the city, but not that many with someone leaving a small town. :-)

  32. Oh, I want to be entered!

    jessica_nelson7590 AT yahoo DOT com

  33. Okay, Mary, so I sounded a bit maniacal. What can I say? I felt a bit like a loon for taking a photo of them (yep, pun intended).

    My daughter was afraid they were going to call the police since I kept stopping, taking photos, laughing wildly. :)

    You know, you have a good point about the fake ducks! Maybe I shouldn't have been so put off. LOL Plus, the pond WAS real.

  34. Jacqui,

    You're kidding!! I had never heard that about Monet!

    Man, what we do for our art...


    Thanks for stopping by.

  35. You know, Jessica, I had worried about my ending being too similar to my first book. So the change ended up fixing that as well as fixing my plot. :)

    Thanks for stopping by!

  36. By the way, I'm having such a good time today working on characters for my new proposal. I'm using The Complete Writer's Guide to Heroes and Heroines: Sixteen Master Archetypes.

    I had lost (or loaned) my copy and bought a new one in D.C. This book is a great resource for me.

  37. Hi Missy,

    Great post. Thanks for that. And I love your idea of doing a journal for your characters. What a great way to get to know them. I think I'll try that.

    I do love this blog and all the wonderful tips we get here! Thanks ladies!

    Please enter me in the draw!
    sbmason AT sympatico DOT ca



  38. Sue, I'm glad it helped! I always love hearing how other people do things. It gives me ideas for things to try. :)

  39. Missy, you fell asleep with a cup of coffee in your hands and didn't spill it? I'm amazed!

    Lisa, Tina Colombo is going by her married name now...Tina James. So don't get thrown if you see that somewhere. Hoping Melissa loves your story!


  40. Hi Missy:

    “Things Aren't Always What They Seem”…

    Nor are things always what lies beneath the surface either.

    Things are a totality of a multitude of variables.

    Your beautiful picture of the pond is not the pond. It could be raining at the pond right now. Beneath the picture of the pond on my monitor there are just electrons. Yet, I choose to see the pond.

    Is the pond any less beautiful because the ducks, which look just like God’s ducks, were made by man? Are ducks once removed from the hands of God less worthy of providing pleasure?

    The beauty of the pond is not in the pond. The beauty is in the perceiver’s mind when that mind is prepared to appreciate the aesthetic experience.

    I am happy you took the picture of the pond and I find nothing silly in the event. I think it is this innocence that makes your writing so uniquely enjoyable.

    It is true you can build characters, but to paraphrase Kahlil Gibran, “Your characters are not your characters, they come through you but not from you, and though they are with you, yet they belong not to you. Your characters are created anew in the mind of each reader; they are part of what you crated and part of what the reader brings to the experience.”


    Missy, ever since Walden, I don’t think it is a good idea to show a pond to a philosopher.

    I’m still happily waiting for book three.


  41. Lest you think I'm brilliant, Missy, I stole that idea from Donald Maass and the Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook.

  42. Oh, Vince, thank you for the grand laugh! (Not quite so maniacal as my pond laugh). But you really did hit on a kernal of truth! And thank you for reminding me about the observer/reader's involvement in the process. Plus, God's part in all of it. I've received messages from readers who've been touched in ways I never imagined by my stories--ways I didn't plan for or plot at all.

  43. Well, Melanie, I think you're brilliant anyway! Especially because you remembered it from his book, and apparently, I didn't. :)

  44. Late to the party again. I loved this post, Missy. :)

    I have a character that I'm trying to get to be like a duck. All calm and smooth on the surface of the water, but churning like mad underneath. :)

  45. Oh Missy,
    You keep mentioning writing books I need to add to my wishlist. AHH! I'm a pastor's wife not a doctor's wife - (You, of all people, understand this :-) and this list is getting ridiculously long.

    All I need now is a generous grandparent, and set of convincing puppy-dog eyes, and a phenomenal babysitter - then...
    I'm going to click my sandals together three times and repeat "There's no place like Barnes and Noble...There's no place like Barnes and Noble."

    Again Missy, thanks for the post. I have 30 minutes with my WIP before I have to start making dinner, and I'm subconciously trying to identify 'what lies beneath' my hero.

  46. I love it, Erica!! Just be sure he moves every now and then. :)

  47. Hey, Gina! So glad you dropped by. But I can't believe all you said was hi! Goodness, are you not well??



  48. Pepper, I DO know how it is! :)

    I have very generous parents and in-laws who have helped us a lot through the years--including babysitting.

  49. Yes, I'm late today but I'm so glad you decided to change that ending. You made me SO happy that it wasn't just another good ol' boy comes home story.

    Now I've got to see what everyone's said, how they look, what they're wearing....

    Oh my, so much to do!


  50. Mary said, "writing a backstory dump then cutting it is NOT wasted time. You NEED THAT."

    That's a very good point! In a ms. I've been revising recently, I had a backstory dump in the second chapter. My crit partner pointed it out, and I realized I really didn't need it there as long as I knew it about the heroine.

    Then later in the story, I brought out the really important elements of that information in a real-time actual conversation, which helped keep the characters actively involved and the story moving forward.

  51. Ruthy, have fun! :)

    Myra, that's a good catch on a cp's part. I'm trying to learn to look for those dumps and to ration the juicy stuff out. :)

  52. Oh, my, you guys have had your share of fun without Ruthy-food but Walt...

    Oh mylanta.

    That oatmeal was to DIE for.

    Seriously, I felt my cholesterol level drop instantly as those little oat neurons zipped through my veins and arteries, chawing there way through plaque.



    Hey, we've played the book game before , you know the writers' books and the only one I own is Donald Maass' Writing the Breakout Novel and Melanie, I love that part.

    Punching them out of character because too many buttons get pushed at once is a reality for anyone with some kind of angst in their past.

    I think it works brilliantly and gives you layered memorable characters.

    Because you THINK you know them but you totally get why they'd do what they do because you've been there, done that.

    And Walt, you philosopher.


    So sweet.

    Okay, it's ninety-butt-zillion degrees here and the kids have all been picked up (alive, which is always a good thing) and I need a shower.

    Missy, loved this. And you.

    And did Gina really stop in and just say 'hi'????

    Is it really her?

    Or a pod-person????


  53. Hi, Missy, your 'ducks' sound alot like characters in all my stories except the current one. I think of those poor souls and think--Need more depth! Need more passion! SO glad all you at Seekerville are great for spurring us on to perfection! (did I just take the Philippians' verse out of context? Sorry!) :)

  54. It was a hit the ground running day, so sorry I am late. But wow, I see we have trained our visitors well. Walt made coffee!! Rock on, Walt.

    This was an outstanding post Missy.

    You are so right. If those characters aren't real to us they aren't going to be real to anyone else.

  55. Hi, A.A.! Well, perfection in the verses I'm familiar with doesn't mean "perfect" as in without defect, but means "completion." So hey, we're spurring you all on to complete the book, aren't we?? :)

    Thanks for stopping by!

  56. Don't forget, anyone who wants to enter for the book drawing (His Forever Love), be sure to leave your contact info!!


  57. Oh wow! This was a great article. You had me enjoying the peaceful ducks, and now you've certainly fixed your lesson in my mind. Thank you.

  58. I'm glad it helped, Sheila! Thanks for stopping by.

  59. Thanks, Tina! I hope the rest of your day is more relaxing. :)

  60. That was friggin' hilarious about the ducks. Haha...... "What?" Haha.... Honest to God, I didn't even notice the ducks in the water until you mentioned it. And as for deepening character...I was told my MC sucked, so I've given up. For now. Back to the drawing board, sniff, sniff.....Penny

    BTW, how on Earth did you change the background? I've been trying to figure it out for months! Any tips???

    Penny, begging and drooling.

  61. Penny, click on the photo to enlarge to see a good shot of the ducks. :)

    And don't let the feedback get you down. Just look at it and decide what feedback you agree with and what doesn't apply. Sometimes you just need to follow your gut.

    I'm not sure what background you're talking about. For the blog?

  62. Thank you for the advice! Unfortunately, my gut instincts have taken a beating since joining Absolute Write and have gone into total meltdown. So, I've pushed my book aside indefinitely while I rebuild my writing confidence and wait for my wounded pride to heal.

    RE the background, yes, I meant the blog's background. I learned how to change the solid colored bkgd, remove the post and sidebar frames and remove the blog title header background but am clueless how to add a background from a thumbnail or JPEG picture or maybe even paintbrush (bmp).

  63. You know, Penny, in the past, I've been totally unable to work after tough critiques. I mean there were times in the beginning, years ago, where I wouldn't write for month--or longer. What worked for me, and you might want to consider trying it, was to wait and only critique after I had at least half the book finished. That way I wouldn't lose my momentum. And I wouldn't lose my vision for the story. I just plowed ahead and waited until a good stopping point to get feedback. I've also waited until I finished the complete book, and I think that was actually best. Because you know, sometimes we have no idea where the story is going. And that one chapter that we got critiqued might actually not even fit in the book anymore by the time we finish (and if left alone till the end, we might end up cutting it out on our own. Or might change it a lot).

    I'm not familiar with that critique group, but I suggest you might want to see if they'll consider letting you wait until you finish the book to critique chapters.

    I've also found that sometimes it's more helpful in the beginning of a story to have people help brainstorm and talk about my ideas. That way I get their input BEFORE I wrote a chapter they'll not like. :)

    As for the blog photo...Tina does our Seeker blog. But I did my own. And I don't know if I could repeat the process! LOL But I think I just uploaded a photo on the edit page. (Go under layout, then edit the header. you can upload a photo there.) I'm still frustrated that I can't move the lettering over to the green side of my blog. It's covering the photo. But there's nothing I can figure out to do. Good luck! :)

  64. I don't want to clog up your comment space with something unrelated to your topic...feel free to delete this...

    IF you are trying to remove the post background (that lovely almond color) and/or from a ROUNDERS Template, I have a text file I think will help. On one of my blogs, I experimented with removing the post and sidebar colors. It's a long process, because attached to those posts and sidebars are wrapper bars and dotted borders. Fun fun fun!

    I've gone into the HTML and experimented with removing certain code and would very much like to pass on what I have.

    I don't know if you can email me via my Google/Blogger profile nor if you are comfortable with providing an email address so I can send this text (Notepad) file to you. I'm afraid that if I paste it into the comment box, additional HTML may be added. But I can do it. It should work okay if you copy and paste it back into a Notepad/text file. Word could possibly add code. Any ideas? (The file is a few pages long).

    When you have time, please visit my blog: to see that I removed the upper sidebar wrap and border frames which I believe is what you're interested in doing. Also, I removed the blog header background that lurks behind your custom header. Not particularly stylish, however...I was experimenting. I want to change the background but keep my post and sidebar colors (most of them).

    Okay, let me know. I'm also willing to help you out step by step if needed...but, then again, you have Tina. Hopefully she can make sense of my notes. Let me know, the file is sitting on my computer desktop, ready to go. I'd love to make your day!

    Ramble over...Penny

    P.S. this in not meant to be a cheap trick to get you to read my crummy story...hahaha.

  65. Thanks for a great post, Missy! I needed this reminder. =)

  66. Patty, thanks for stopping by!

    Penny, I'll give the blog stuff a try once I get my proposal mailed off. Thanks for the info and offer to help!

    Now, I'll go do the drawing...

  67. Great post, Missy! Sorry I'm late coming by. We've been out on a gig.



  68. Missy, this post is so spot on! We can create and mold characters with the greatest of ease, but the proof lays in the choices they make with faced with that life changing decision.

    Oh, so Pinnochio!!

    I loved your pond setting. LOL! You're not the only one to mistake fiction for fact : )

    Great stuff here! Thanks!!