Turning Point

girl writer : Disturbed business woman breaking a piece of paper

From an early age I enjoyed writing, even before I truly appreciated the pleasure of reading a good book. For years, I pursued writing fiction by enrolling in writing programs, taking workshops, reading manuals, or spending hours and days researching the Internet. I was a sponge soaking up every bit of information I could find to help me achieve my dream of becoming a published writer.

I wrote stories and submitted them to publishers for consideration. Once I even wrote a three story series about three brothers who found romance with the women of their dreams. All my efforts resulted in rejection—and I cried. Eventually the refusals became easier to take, and I began to try and heed the advice of a few kind editors who took the time to offer a note of encouragement and a bit of guidance. So the process of learning continued.

Suddenly, at every turn, I began to stumble across information about story structure. I’d never been a plotter before, preferring to write from the heart. But there were writer’s blogs, books and workshops galore that described the process of outlining, plotting and planning. Writing a story is similar to writing a stage or screenplay, and once you learn what needs to go where, and when, you’re on your way. It was as if a light bulb had gone off in my head and it all began to make sense.

The result of my first attempt at using what I’d learned about structuring my story—after seven rejections— was a contract from Cobblestone Press for Shaken Vows. Since then, I’ve received contracts on four more stories, all using a structured plot and plan before writing the story. Contrary to my earlier belief, following an outline does not hinder creativity. A plan keeps the story moving at a steady pace and in the direction toward publication.

What turning point have you experienced in your writer’s journey? Is there a memory of when things began to move in a positive direction? Do you plot, or are you one of those smart writers who can put things where they need to go instinctively?


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Character Building


Many elements make up a worthwhile story. Without a good plot, and a solid plan of execution, our stories may sag in the middle, fizzle at the end, or just plain fall head long into the did-not-finish slush pile. A shuddering prospect, for sure. There is pace and tone, and ebb and flow, to keep our readers riveted. A vivid setting our readers can visualize is another major aspect of the tale. All these elements are important—and not a small feat to accomplish— if we want to write captivating stories.

There is an additional element that I believe is even more essential, and that is character development. We want our characters to be real, with flaws and hang ups just like us. As readers, we want to feel their pain and celebrate their victories. So how do we make them real? Just as there are numerous ways to fulfill the other requirements that make up a meaningful story, every author has their own personal formula for creating memorable characters.

Characters can be given a personal profile sheet with their physical attributes, which isn’t a bad idea if you want to maintain consistency in traits such as eye and hair color or limps and twitches. Authors sometimes interview their characters to gain a greater sense of their personalities. Of course, these people are not really real, so their answers come from the author’s head. Another technique is to apply a frame of reference, such as a character in a movie or television show, in which to draw characteristics from. I once built a villain out of a person I know, and that was not such a wise decision as I’ve sweated over her reading my story and realizing the bad girl is the epitome of her.

What are techniques you use to build your characters? Are there other important elements that make a story good?



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