Wednesday, May 12, 2021

The Root of the Matter

 You've all heard (and probably used) the expression "give them roots and wings". 

The expression is referring to child-raising... the art of parenting. How to keep your child grounded in the strengths of life but raise them with enough courage to spread their wings and jump out of that nest.

Now we all know fledglings that didn't have to be urged to fly.


And we all know people who are still perched on the edge, peering over, waiting for that perfect moment to launch. #FailureToLaunch isn't just a space saying anymore. For a myriad of reasons, our young people tend to seek more protection than they used to, but this is where your fiction has to ignore at least some of the current trends (whiny know-it-all people are not generally romance or fiction heroes or heroines. I, for one, want to slap them) and stick with the tropes that have withstood the test of time:



And then there's this, a link to Writing 101: ALL THE DIFFERENT TYPES OF CHARACTERS IN LITERATURE and oh my stars, this is in-depth. This is a conference class in a blog. This is detailed!!! This is for thinkers! 

I'm not a thinker or a planner... But what I do and what I can teach is to see each character via these points:

1. Where they were in the past.

2. What they've come from

3. Who's hurt them?

4. Who likes them?

5. Why are they:















Now that last one isn't to be confused with having a character who by nature is an introvert. That's different than someone who is simply introverted for a reason. A "Cause-and-Effect" scenario. 

Cause and effect scenarios are how I see books develop. I don't read craft books and rarely read articles on craft. I prefer to "read" my characters. To start the story, get to know them, realize why they act like they do, visualize their past and what effect that has on their present, and then put them through their paces of growth and realization.

I try not to make the process hard. Trees don't have to figure out that the roots send food to the branches once the sun warms the seal every spring. It just happens. It happens because the science of the situation programs the tree to produce sap/blossoms/leaves at certain degrees of soil temperature. Willows leaf out in cool weather and keep their leaves the longest up here.

Catalpa trees are S-L-O-W to blossom out and grow their big, ginormous bean-tree heart-shaped leaves. And they lose their leaves early in the fall.... big, floppy yellow leaves. I see characters like that. Some are willow fronds, some are maple leaves, some are strong, sturdy oaks, some are gossamer Japanese feathery maples, some are ornamental, some give sweetness like the gorgeous sugar maples and some bear fruit every single year, like a mother-lode, caring for all...

Your characters grow, stretch and evolve from where they are at the beginning of the book to where they are at that final page. But their story doesn't "begin" at page one... it begins in their childhood, their military service, their gains and losses, their parents, their siblings, their setting, their everything. When we make sure to bind that thread into the weave of story-telling, we end up with the organic story we all love to read and share. And that's every author's dream and goal.

Thank you for being here today! I've got a copy of my latest mystery "Patterns of Deception" and a copy of my newest and highly acclaimed Love Inspired "Rebuilding Her Life" book one of my new Kendrick Creek series.

"Rebuilding Her Life" AVAILABLE HERE! 

Patterns of Deception (Savannah Secrets series...) AVAILABLE HERE! 

Leave a comment below to have your name tucked in... and if you already have one or the other, let me know! 

Bestselling author Ruth Logan Herne is gearing up for a crazy busy pumpkin season on her pumpkin farm because, like a great book, the beauty of fall begins in the heart of winter with seed orders, planning, strategies, display ideas, creating things, shaking things up and staying in touch with the folks who love you eight weeks of the year... and you don't want them to forget you the other 44 weeks! :) Writing and farming have a lot in common: You plan. You plant. You work. You grow. Then you have something to sell. Rock on, writers and readers! 


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    1. Vince, where did your comment go??? Or was it here before I realized I hadn't finished the post and added pictures, LOL! Ah, it's farm season, my friend... I woke up and thought wait!!!! I DIDN'T GO BACK AND FINISH MY POST!

    2. Hi Ruth: That is just what happened and I figured that you might have actually been in the process of uploading and no comment was needed. I must say that with your posts, the whole is greater than any of the parts. :)

      Now I have to read the rest and see how close it is that what I expected to you write. I do that with your fiction too.

    3. Vince, that might mean I need to shake things up. DYSTOPIAN!!!!!!

  2. Stories always begin and end with great characters. Thanks for the insights--as always--and that article you linked to looks amazing! I'll have to read it slowly, and again, and again...

    1. That stinkin' article goes into so much depth that I had to put swimmies on to avoid drowning at sea! :) It's awesome, right?

  3. "But their story doesn't "begin" at page one... it begins in their childhood, their military service, their gains and losses, their parents, their siblings, their setting, their everything." - love that idea as a reader & I love it when authors like you, dear Ruthy, help me see that in a character as I read. Great post!

    1. I love your wisdom right back, you have a way of discerning the beauty within the words... and sharing them. :) Thank you for that, Meez Carrie!

    2. that's so sweet to say, Ruthy! Thank you :)

  4. Lovely post, Ruthy! Congrats on your latest release. I always love your characters and how they change and grow throughout your stories!

    As you mentioned, all that happened in the past has such an impact on the present, right? And anyone carrying baggage needs to deal with it today before he or she can fully embrace the future. All of us are flawed, and our characters need to be as well. That makes them real and compelling...which is what I enjoy about the characters in your stories. They come to life on the written page!

    1. Debby, I love flawed characters, how that past creeps up on the present even when we protest its effect. Thank you for your kind words... and I feel the same way about your suspense releases... you take that wealth of knowledge and share it with multiple threads so skillfully that the reader takes the ride right along with you.

  5. Hi Ruth:

    I thought I'd jump in and add one more idea to your mix of character attributes which might be helpful.

    That is this:

    In order to create a fully well rounded character, give her the ability to surprise the reader with unpredictable behavior that is still grounded with a reasonable foundation. That's what real people do.

    We can know dozens of things about a person but we can still be surprised by some things they do -- even though we've known them for years. Heck, sometimes they can even surprise themselves!

    When is the last time a character in a novel surprised themselves?

    I don't mean when an impetuous character does something and then immediately regrets it. That character does that a lot. I mean a real head-scratcher of a surprise! :)

    BTW: I was surprised that I was reading your Guideposts mystery, "Patterns of Deception," only to find when I checked my Kindle that I was actually reading "Deception in Death". I guess I'm human or there is just a little too much 'deception' going around.

    1. hahahahahahaha! I love the deception of Deception, Vince! And I like the idea of surprise in a character... I must ponder this great idea!

  6. Ruthy, great post about characters. You do such a good job developing yours. And no need to put me in the drawing, as you know, since you recently sent me both books! I loved Patterns of Deception and have started Rebuilding Her Life, which is excellent also! Thanks for sending the books.

    1. You are so welcome! And I'm glad you loved Patterns of Deception... the story of the WW II codebreakers grabbed me and I loved using that as a backdrop for historical reference... All is not as we see, is it? :)

  7. Hey, Ruthy! Great blog post. Love the lists of chracter types.

    1. Hey Mary! I love you! And the birds are singing, singing, singing and it's only 4:50 AM.... I am in my happy place!

  8. Good Morning, sorry I am late, but did not receive this via E mail yesterday....happens often. I loved RHL but would love to be entered for Patterns of Deception. Thanks Ruthy for writing great books for us avid readers. You're the best!

  9. I’m not a thinker or a planner, either ~ might have to get a whiteboard, though...and highlight these thoughts for easy perusal. Just now developing my characters of my first book (as I go, of course, lol.) Love, Pansy Pantser
    (Thanks for the opportunity to receive a book! Blessings to you and yours and the farm!)

  10. Great post as always, Ruthy!

    I am a thinker and a planner, but I have to be careful not to plan so much that I never start the story. But as you so eloquently point out, we need to know who our character was before the reader meets them. I'm learning to strike a happy medium - I don't need to know the source of every scar before I start writing. The character tends to reveal those to me as we go!


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