tagged with: characters

file5791287577951 (2)Now that the elections are over, we can go back to what we enjoy the most – reading. The days are shorter, the nights are longer and cooler, just right to snuggle up with a good book.

But before you reach for that book that’s been gathering dust on your nightstand, stop and think for a moment. What do you look for in a good book? What makes you pick up the book in the first place? I would guess the first thing would be the cover, but you don’t just want to admire the cover, you want to read what is between the covers.

So what tickles your fancy? Is it the plot, the characters, or the beautiful prose? For me, I would say all three, and if you can place all of that in a breathtaking setting, you have a fan for life.

Notice I didn’t mention genre, even though there are certain types I will not read. Horror, vampire and detective novels with lots of blood and gore turn me off. As does erotica.

There was a time when I would have included sci-fi, fantasy and dystopian novels in the list. Then one of my friends decided to venture into worlds unknown and wrote her first sci-fi novel, Story In The Stars, and I was hooked. Then along came Hunger Games and I was drawn in, hook, line, and sinker.

So what was it about these two books in particular that kept me turning the pages?
1. Plot – this has to be compelling enough to keep me reading. While I love descriptive passages, they shouldn’t be so long that they draw me out of the story. Also, even though it is fiction, the plot should be believable.
2. Characters – I must fall in love with them. I must understand their motive and be able to defend them even when they slip up, as real people sometimes do.
3. Prose – Think of it as the special ingredients you add to a meal to make it mouthwatering and appetizing. Every morsel you bite should stimulate your taste buds for more. So it is with your writing. If it is flat, with grammatical errors, typos, lacking flavor, then it will not appeal to your reader no matter how great the story line is.

What kinds of books do you like? What is on your bookshelf or in your kindle right now? If you are looking for a book with a compelling plot, lovable characters, and flavorful prose, pick up a copy of Coming Out of Egypt, now available for just .99c on kindle. Or you can download it for free on Kindle Unlimited.

ebookAJ It took me many years to craft my first novel Coming Out of Egypt, the first book of the Egypt trilogy. I wanted characters who were well developed, who would take on the persona of real people and to whom my readers can relate. By the time I’d completed the first draft, I knew those characters as well as, or maybe better than, my family and friends. After all, I created them. Therefore, it came as no surprise to me when my characters expressed their feelings – in no uncertain terms – about the upcoming presidential elections and the media’s propensity to grab – pardon me – to feed on anything that smacks of sensationalism.

Here is a scene I walked in on recently where Marva, the protagonist, was close to a meltdown over something that was being shown on television.

Snatching the remote from her sister June: “We are not to watch this. This is so painful to me. Have you forgotten what Daddy used to do to us?” She bursts into tears and flings the remote into the corner.

June dives after it. “I want to see that poster …”

Marva goes after her and tries to take the remote. “Junie, women all over the world are weeping now. Whether they were abused or not. This election makes me want to …”

“To what, Sister?”

Marva holds her head and runs from the room.

Cicely, Marva’s former teacher enters. “Hi, girls.”

“Oh, hi, Miss Stewart.”  June doesn’t look up . She is busy trying to replace the batteries that fell out when Marva threw the remote.

“What are you doing? Where’s Marva?” Cicely asks.

June holds up the device, now intact. “She’s upset over what she’s seeing on TV. About the elections.”

“And she should be. As a woman who was abused by her father, I can’t stand to look at that filth either. It reeks of sexism, misogynism, and plain old male chauvinism. I am telling my class they are not to watch television – ever again. Women need to rise up in protest against this sort of thing.”

June stares open-mouthed. “What’s that word? I need my dictionary.” She drops the remote and runs from the room.

I try to sneak behind Cicely’s back to get the instrument, but David, Cicely’s husband and ace detective, enters. He kisses his wife then tilts her chin upward. “What’s the matter, sweetheart? Why so glum?”

She buries her face in his shirt. “It’s this election.  Look at what it’s doing to the girls, to women everywhere.”

He steps away from her, his face grim. “Don’t worry. I’ll catch the perpetrators. And throw them in jail.”

They leave the room, and I grab the remote. After all, I need to see what’s going on because tomorrow my characters will come and ask me to tell them what they missed.

To learn more about these characters go to:

Here’s a neat accessory for laptop users. The nice thing about this laptop stand is not only is it adjustable, but it’s ventilated to keep your laptop from overheating. This will make a nice gift for yourself or someone in your life. If you do get one by clicking this link, I will receive a small commission.

English: Image at the beginning of Chapter 34....

English: Image at the beginning of Chapter 34. Darcy proposing to Elizabeth. Austen, Jane. Pride and Prejudice. London: George Allen, 1894. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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Some time ago I wrote a post about how important it is to create characters that your readers will love and will come to think of as friends. Think of Elizabeth in Pride and Prejudice, or Katniss in The Hunger Games. How can we forget these characters? According to Donald Maass in Writing The Breakout Novel, what makes a character memorable is their inner conflict.

Donald Maass says, “In creating genuine inner conflict, it is not enough simply to create inner turmoil.  True inner conflict involves wanting two things that are mutually exclusive.  It is most effective when it tears your protagonist, or any character, in two opposite directions.” In other words, if she gets one, she may have to give up the other.

In my novel, Coming Out of Egypt, I tried to do this with my protagonist, Cicely. She is a schoolteacher, a Christian, whose only desire is to go on living a Christian life, take care of her ailing father and help two of her former pupils get over the effects of their abusive past. Despite her best intentions, Cicely falls in love with the detective who is investigating the murder of the girls’ father.

Her conflict now becomes both internal as well as  external when the detective, now her fiance, tells her he may have to arrest the older girl for her father’s murder. Cicely doesn’t want to see her pupil arrested for murder because she suspects the abuse is what may have driven her to kill him, if in fact she did.  Also, if her fiance ever finds out that she too was abused as a child, would that mean the end of their relationship?

What conflict does your character face?  Does he/she have to deal with external as well as internal conflict? Share with us in the comment box below.


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I am working on my second book in the Egypt series, and I have to confess this book is causing me some bother, not so much with the plot, or the setting or even the characterization, but with the protagonist. There seems to be some kind of competition going on between my protagonist and her sister, who is also a main character in the book.

Just to give you an idea of my dilemma, here is the plot in a nutshell. My protag Marva is a twenty-one year young woman who suffers major guilt feelings over having killed her father years ago on account of incest. She was never brought to trial, although the detective on the case suspected she was guilty. And she knew he suspected her. This happened in Book 1. In Book 2 she desperately wants to get the burden off her conscience by confessing to someone, but has no one to confess to.  June is now 17, and Marva feels she is no longer needed in her sister’s life. Marva thinks her only solution lies in killing herself – something she attempted in Book 1.

Now this is where the competition arises. As the protag slips deeper into depression, June seems to take over, warning Marva not to confess to anyone as this would disrupt the comfortable new life they have made for themselves. June is beautiful, bright, vivacious and always part of a group. She would be an ideal YA protag. Marva, though attractive, is a loner, introverted and uncomfortable around others because of her guilt feelings.

I chose Marva to be the protagonist because, to my mind, the story centers around her.  She has the most at stake. According to Characters, Emotion & Viewpoint by Nancy Kress, Marva seems to fit the profile of a villain protagonist, even though she is not a villain in this book. According to Nancy, the villain should  be:

  • tenacious
  • a loner
  • resourceful
  • not loquacious and
  • idealistic – this, Ms. Kress says is the most important. Whatever she does, lie, steal or even kill, must be done in the service of her country, her family (as in Marva’s case) or for the sake of right.

Some time ago I featured a blog post by Yvonne Anderson, my friend and critique partner, on the subject of protagonists. Yvonne is the author of the Gannah series. You can read her post here: http://angelasfreelancewriting.com/y-is-for-ys-words/, and after you have read it leave a comment and let me know who you think deserves the star role – June or Marva.

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I always shuddered at the thought of pitching my novel to an agent, so when the opportunity came to pitch my novel Coming Out Of Egypt at a writer’s conference recently, I made sure to prepare myself well beforehand. I researched the agent online to see the kinds of books she was interested in, then I read as much as I could about how to pitch before creating my pitch. I even blogged about it. See http://angelasfreelancewriting.com/blogging-about-my-book-the-pitch/. Then I created three versions of my pitch and sent them to my critique group, who was already familiar with my novel. I was happy when they picked the one I preferred. I practiced and practiced, recording it on my cell phone and by the time I got to the conference, most of my nervousness had disappeared.

I happened to meet Ms. Hardy in the ladies’ room during one of the breaks. She told me who she was and my mouth fell open. She seemed so friendly and down-to-earth, I took the opportunity to introduce myself and let her know I would be pitching my book to her that afternoon. That meeting helped to remove any lingering nervousness I still had. I had another contact with her during her workshop on, what else, how to find a literary agent.

By the time I faced her in the chair that afternoon, I felt I knew her quite well and was able to speak confidently about my novel. She took notes while I spoke and asked questions about the characters – their age, occupation and, since my book is Christian fiction, their religious beliefs. Then came the question I expected, but dreaded: What section do you see your book fitting into in the bookstore?

The fact is that every book in a bookstore has to fit a particular genre perfectly. Even though I consider my book to be a Christian romance, it does not fit the mold exactly and I explained that to Ms. Hardy. My book has multicultural and police sub-genres, which give it, to my mind, more substance than the usual boy-meets-girl, they fall in love, then boy-loses-girl, then he gets girl back. All of this happens in Coming Out Of Egypt, but with more depth. After I’d explained this to Ms. Hardy, she asked me what percentage of the novel I would say is romance. I told her about seventy-five percent, which I believe to be accurate. Apparently, romance readers are more interested in the romance aspect of the story than anything else.

The session ended with her saying she liked my story idea and I should send her my proposal. I had walked with the synopsis and three sample chapters, but she said it’s easier for her to read it electronically, so I e-mailed it to her a couple days later. And now I wait.

Have you pitched your book to an agent? What was the experience like? How long did you have to wait before he/she replied? Please leave your comments below.

This week as promised, I’m bringing you the first blog post about my book Coming Out of Egypt. My protagonist, Cicely, is an attractive Christian young woman who has a lot of skeletons in her closet, which she has managed to keep hidden. Cicely thinks her life is well ordered, but when she meets the handsome detective, David, she instinctively knows that the carefully-woven threads of her life are about to become undone. Which they do, despite Cicely’s best efforts to keep them intact.

In the story, I make use of the extended metaphor, meaning that the metaphor appears throughout the story. In fact, the title Coming Out of Egypt is itself a metaphor for the tortuous journey of the major characters out of their separate places of bondage. However, Egypt is more than that. It is an actual place in the story where Cicely first meets one of her pupils whose life is similar to what Cicely once experienced. And even though Cicely literally leaves Egypt, her path and the girl’s converge once more in a startling and unexpected way that disrupts the harmony of Cicely’s life. She is still stuck in Egypt.

But why use metaphors? I believe metaphors are an excellent way to:

1. Enrich the language by providing imagery which may not be as vivid without them . For example, in my book I refer to Cicely’s Egypt closet, which is not a real closet, but a storehouse of memories relating to her troubled past. The title Coming Out of Egypt is based on the story of the Exodus of the children of Israel out of their bondage in Egypt. It is a story I have loved ever since I was a child, and being a Christian, I’m still blown away by the way God delivered His people from the heavy hand of Pharaoh, the emperor of Egypt. This is the main theme that runs throughout the book.
2. Leave room for interpretation. Readers can explore which of the characters made a transition out of Egypt, i.e. which character(s) showed the most improvement by the end of the story, and which ones did not make it.
3. Express thoughts, feelings, experiences etc. When Cicely finally lets go of her inhibitions and allows herself to fall in love with David, she sees God parting the Red Sea so she can walk to freedom. Later, when her fears become a reality, she thinks that Pharaoh and his armies have won.
4. Prepare the reader for what is to come. In some parts of the story, I use metaphors as a foreshadowing. When Cicely suspects that David may find out about her past, she hears the pounding of Pharaoh’s armies drawing closer.

Metaphors, when correctly used, can add depth and meaning to your story, but according to the experts, writers should be careful not to use metaphors too extensively so that your work sounds like a huge cliché. Neither should you use metaphors employed by other writers, but use your own imagination to create metaphors that will flow seamlessly throughout your work. If you have used metaphors, or have an interest in them, please leave a comment and tell us about it.

Well, we are down to the second-to-last letter. I never thought I would be able to get this far. It just shows what a little challenge plus determination can accomplish. I can’t wait to see what my fellow bloggers have come up with for the letter Y. For this post I decided to feature the blog of my friend and critique partner, Yvonne Anderson. Yvonne’s blog is called Ys Words, and as you will see from the entry below, she does give some Ys words on writing in particular and on life in general. Yvonne is the author of Story In The Stars, the first in a series of speculative fiction about life on the planet Gannah. In this entry, Yvonne’s main characters, Dassa – protagonist – and Pik, Dassa’s husband argue about who should be the protagonist. Let’s listen in:

Author: All right, then, ladies first. Dassa, why do you believe the term protagonist applies to you?

Dassa: Since the book opens with a scene in my point of view, it stands to reason that my character is the one upon whom the whole book hinges. Isn’t that some sort of a writing rule? That the protagonist is introduced first?

Author: I don’t know if it’s a rule, but—

Pik: There is no such rule. I’ve checked with a number of industry professionals, and they tell me—

Dassa: Industry professionals? Name one. Probably a guy who drives a forklift in the Book Bargains warehouse. No—more likely, some agent’s dermatologist.

Pik: Not true! I—

Author: We needn’t name names and draw innocents into this. But I’ve raised this question at conferences and such, and from what I’ve been told, there is no hard-and-fast rule. Generally speaking, the reader meets the protagonist first, but there are legitimate exceptions. So I’ll give a point to Dassa for this while conceding that her argument isn’t definitive. And now, let’s move on. Dr. Pik, why do you think you’re really the protagonist?

Pik: First, and most obviously, readers love me best. You said yourself, when you were submitting your chapters to critiquers for feedback, everyone commented on how much they loved my character. And if you hadn’t submitted anything for a while, it was me they asked about. “What’s Pik doing these days?” No one inquired about Dassa.

Author: Well, that’s true, but—

Pik: But more objectively, I think everyone here will agree that my character is the one that shows the most growth. Don’t several reviewers comment on the impressive character development in this book? Which character are they’re talking about? Certainly not Dassa, who remains a cold fish throughout the entire story. My character gives the story its depth and adds a lively humor. It’s my words in the last line that put a smile on the reader’s face as she closes the book with satisfaction. Dassa is merely the straight man, so to speak, around which my character revolves.

Author: “Cold fish” hardly describes Dassa. It’s true that she never gets carried away by her emotions, but she does clearly feel them. And her role is far more vital than that of a mere straight man. Nevertheless, you raise a good point about the character development. Your character shows amazing growth between his introduction in chapter 2 and that last line of the book that you mention.

So what do you have to say about this, Dassa? Pik seems to have scored two points to your one so far. Can you offer another reason why you should keep your protagonist status?

Dassa: Absolutely. It’s true that the doctor shows the most character growth, but plainly, the reason for that is because he had more growing to do. I may be younger than he, but I was more mature at the beginning of the book than he is by the end. No, don’t argue, Pik, it’s true and you know it. However, all that aside, I believe the biggest reason why I should remain the protag is because it’s my character who has the most to gain or lose. You had a life—a career, a family, and a future—before I came on the scene, and if I had never made an appearance, you’d have gone along your merry way without a care in the galaxy. I, on the other hand, lost everything. The story is more about my struggle than it is about your character growth. Clearly, that gives me every right and reason to be the protagonist.

Author: This is quite the dilemma. All your arguments are valid. I think we should put it to the vote. Readers? Who do you consider the protagonist of The Story in the Stars? I’m asking that question on my own blog today, too, so if you don’t mind, would you go to YsWords.com and cast your vote?

Intriguing, isn’t she? To learn more about Yvonne and her writing, you may visit her blog at www.YsWords.com.

You spent months, maybe years, working on your novel and you have finally typed the words The End. You stand and stretch, then head for the fridge to celebrate. You’re finished! Well, not quite. Go ahead and celebrate with friends and family. You deserve it, but just keep in the back of your mind that you are not finished. Far from it. The real jewel now has to be revised and polished until it dazzles even you. So, hide your flash drive in a drawer for a week or two, then come back and begin the arduous task of REVISING.

If you are fortunate to belong to a critique group, you would have benefited from the extra pairs of eyes and the different perspective each member would have brought to your work. However, they may not have caught everything. If you do not have a critique group, you have even more reason to go back and revise. Here are some things you will look for: (more…)

When you set about the daunting task of writing a novel, your main task is to plot it in such a way that people will want to read it. And by plotting I mean writing a series of events from beginning to end in a logical manner. In order to do this you may use the first tried and true method, which is,

Sit and write, stand and write, kneel and write, whichever works best for you. And you begin your novel, It was a dark and stormy night. This didn’t work for Snoopy and it might not work for you either. So how do you plot your novel? Here are some plotting methods I’ve come across in books.

1. Write down some background information. This may include notes about your characters and what makes them tick. Next, you put your characters in a place or several places, which will be your setting, then you give your main character a problem. How he/she solves (or does not solve) that problem will be your plot.

2. Using an outline. Some authors swear by this. You start with a problem for your main character, then you write a chapter outline of the plot. This is okay, but I have found that I can never stick to an outline. My characters tend to pull me away from it in more interesting avenues, which I can’t resist.

3. Use 3 x 5 cards. If you can still find these in your office supply store, they might be more helpful than the outline. Here’s why. After you have written your plot points on the cards, you can always move them around to see where they fit best, or discard those that do not work. Maybe it’s better if Sally tells Johnny she is divorced after they have gone on their first date instead of before. So you move that card to where you want the event to occur.

4. Draw a bell curve or a graph. Either of these will give you a visual representation of where the climax of your story comes. To do this, use the points you plotted on 3 x 5 cards or in the outline. Again, I find the cards are easier to play around with. Draw your curve and plot the salient points on your curve in the order in which they appear. Hopefully, the high point of your novel or the climax will fall in, or near, the middle of the curve. If it doesn’t, you may have to do some restructuring. The reason for this is, if the climax comes too early, the resolution tends to drag and the reader may lose interest. If it comes too late, the resolution may seem rushed and the reader may feel cheated.

The important thing to remember is, there is no hard and fast rule for writing or plotting your novel. You may ignore everything that was said here and simply sit at your computer like Snoopy and type. However, if you think you need a little bit of planning before you delve into the literary waters, then play with some of the methods above. If you find one, or a combination, that works for you, go for it.

Still on the A – Z challenge, the letter for today is O for occupation. If you are a fiction writer, your protagonist will most likely have a job. I’ve never met one who didn’t. However, the job you select for your character(s) should have some bearing on your plot. Think of the detective stories you’ve enjoyed and the way the author used the character’s occupation to drive the plot. This also adds depth to your story and creates a more memorable character.

Dan Brown’s protagonist Robert Langdon, whose job as a Harvard symbologist lands him some hair-raising assignments, make Dan Brown’s books page turners. And page turners sell. Choose your character’s occupation with this in mind and you may achieve the same result.