Friday, March 27, 2020

Writing Through Hard Times - Ideas

This week I have been urging my fellow writers to make use of our long days indoors to get some writing done.  As a result, I started looking through some of my old writing classes and tips.  I realized they  might be useful for writers who are starting out, getting back in the groove or looking for help.  Here are some thoughts on getting your ideas together if you want to start writing something.

When I was working in various television newsrooms,  we usually began every morning with a pitch session. In some places only the managers met, but in others,  everyone had to pitch a story idea. We didn’t use every idea on that day, but we would keep a list for future reference, or get someone started researching the story in case we wanted to do it later. It’s good to always have  ideas for the future and writers can do this too.

At home with your spouse or your kids, you might try a game of "Story Idea." What would make a good story?  It doesn't have to be well thought out, but try going around the dinner table and ask everyone if they were going to write a story, what would it be about?

Who would be the characters?
Why is this happening
Where would the event take place?
What might be some of the complications that might hound your hero or heroine?
What would make them act and what would they do?
Finally, what would be the ending?

You can even do this while talking on the phone. You can always toss ideas back and forth for a story at any time. You can also do it on your own and simply start writing down the plot for a story or even a character sketch for the type of character you would like to write in your next book. It doesn't even need to be a project you might do now. Store those ideas away for the future. In the newsroom we couldn't always get to every story that came up in the meetings, but often, if there was an idea we really liked, we kept it in a "futures" file we could go to when we were stumped for ideas.

You can always put it in a "research" file if it needs more research and that can be another project for a day when you find yourself with nothing to do.

What do you do with those extra story ideas you might not want to use right now? Well, for starters, don’t lose sight of them. Just as we did in our story meetings, just because you don’t make an idea your next project, you can always use it for a later book.

There are more ways than ever to keep track of your ideas, and that way you’re never at a loss for a story to work on during those dry periods or if a possibility for a submission arises.
The best way to keep track is simple:


There are lots of ways to do that and it has never been easier to keep your ideas handy.
  1. Put them in your phone or on your portable tablet or computer. I use the memo function on my I-phone to write down my ideas if I don’t have anything else around. It can be as simple as a few words (if you think you’ll remember the whole idea later). Include as much information as you need to develop it later.
  2. Email it to yourself. I do that with my phone too. There have been times when I suddenly have an idea for a scene and all I have to use is my phone. I’ll go into the email function on my phone, write up the idea and then email it to myself.  I’ve sometimes written partial scenes that way. 
  3. Keep a notebook. That’s an old low-tech solution, but one I have always recommended. I always keep a notebook with me where I can write down random ideas. Remember what I said about listening to people in the coffee shop? Well, it doesn’t do you any good to eavesdrop if you’re going to forget those ideas as soon as you get home, so if I hear an interesting tidbit of information, I write it down.
  4. Keep a file. Again, I can keep a file of ideas on my cell phone or print up a story I see online and put it into a physical file for later. Remember all those wire stories I told you I used to keep? I still have a good many of them I can refer back to when I want to look for an idea. And your file doesn’t need to be physically in a drawer like my old ones. Save the file on your computer and put your stories into an electronic file. 
I always say story  ideas are always around us. Try them, save them, use them. They can get you through some slow days!

Friday, March 20, 2020

Getting Away to a World of Romance

These days when we're stuck inside is a good time to find new authors and new genres to read. It's great to escape into a wonderful book that keeps us interested and takes us away to a new world for a time. Today we've visiting with author Anna Lores and her steamy new book, Power Trio.

Anna tells us she started writing steamy romance novels as a by product of insomnia. One night, with a nudge from her husband to write a book, she borrowed her son's laptop and then set about bringing her very own characters to life.  After a month she was surprised with a new laptop of her very own to pursue her dreams of writing sensual happily ever after books. Now she is working to fill her world with wonderful stories she and her close friends can not just talk about and gush over, but she is racing to keep up with her imagination and growing readership. While everyone else in her house is sleeping peacefully, Anna sheds her title as Supermom of Three to write sexy love stories.

She tells us sleeping might still be a battle she hasn't conquered, but armed with her B. A. in English Literature and all the hot men in her mind calling for their very own story, she is staying busy during those midnight hours writing her next international bestselling spicy romance.

One. Two. Three men. Yes. Yes. Yes…

At the top of her game as a prestigious attorney, Evangeline Zanipolo walked away from it  all. Despite an obvious lack of skill, she tries her hand as a massage therapist. But professional success is not her goal. All she wants is love, marriage, and babies with the two men she's engaged to marry. Then both men dump her, and she's left questioning her life's decisions. Just when she's ready to throw in the towel and try a traditional relationship, three forever-bachelors walk into her life prepared to give her everything she's ever dreamed of...if they can iron out all the kinks.

Sexy businessman Brice Loffiten has always kept his lovers at arm's length, but Evangeline has snuck past his barriers and secured her spot inside his heart. He wants her all to himself, but her insatiable desires have him doubting he'll be enough.

Power attorney, Dylan Russo is back in town and ready to assert control—in the bedroom. But Evangeline might not be ready to surrender to his type of dominance.

Champion Jerry Wynn needs to be number one in a relationship. With him at the helm, the four could conquer anything. But can the other men in Evangeline's life accept him as the head of the household?

Sounds like a great read for these days we're having to stay inside. Here are the buy links:

Amazon US :

Amazon UK:

Barnes and Noble:

Thank you, Anna, for introducing your new book!  Here is the information if you would like to learn more about her and her books. 

Publisher page:

Friday, March 13, 2020

Writing Out the Storm

These are tough times for many people. So much is happening around us that we can't control and that we don't want to consider having to deal with.  No, we can't control so many things around us, it's true. But as writers we are possessed with a wonderful tool we can put to use if our minds get troubled.  What am I talking about?  I'm talking about those magical worlds we constantly create in our heads all the time.

My prescription for dealing with the current crisis (other than taking care of yourself and those around you personally)  is escape.

Escape with writing!  Write out your fears, write out a happy ending, come up with characters you can love or give love to and write out villains you want to seee destroyed. A lot of our fear may live in our heads or we see around us.  This week I should have been in San Diego for a writing conference, but even before things turned very chaotic, I decided as an older, wiser writer, it would not be in my particular best health interest to go.  I cancelled and yesterday, after the conference started, the entire event got cancelled by the County of San Diego.

But for the past week, every day I have been consoling myself by escaping to a totally different world than one where I have to worry about the daily health crisis.  I've been working on a story and that is the prescription I offer to other writers.

Start a new book if you aren't working on one now. Create that world where YOU get to make the choices for your characters so you don't feel so helpless when you return from there.  Every day I get to escape to a small town in southern Colorado where my heroine is facing grief over her grandfather's death, but she is also facing the hope of love with an old boyfriend.  This world can be as peaceful or as dramatic as I want it to be. I get to be in control.

This morning someone on Twitter mentioned that for the first time in her career as a news reporter, everyone in the shop would be covering health and Coronavirus stories.  It made me think back to if that ever happened to me in 35 years of being a journalist. And yes, it did--several times.

The day after Mt. St. Helens exploded, television viewers got only straight coverage of what was happening in the region because life had changed for so many people and as a news producer I was in early and worked late.  That is the way of life of a journalist when big things or threats happen.

The day the Space Shuttle exploded while I sat on the phone with my sister, I immediately hung up and went to work in my news department, because I knew things would be chaotic and if we put on a newscast it would be all about the event. But we would be working all day and probably into the night.

During the Los Angeles Riots we were wrapping up our day when the violence broke out and most of us never went home that night. We stayed on the air for hours on end, with just one story.

It was the same the early morning I woke up to a shaking bed because of the Northridge Quake. I called my dad on the drive to work and told him I was fine but he wouldn't be hearing from me because I would be at work for at least the next 24 hours. Several of us stayed in a hotel near the station when he finally got off our shift so we could be close and get back to work if necessary.

The same was true of 9-11 when I was about to go on the air with a 7am broadcast in Denver.  The second plane hit the World Trade Center and I knew the next few days would be nonstop coverage and I wouldn't be going home.

But what got me through all those chaotic days was focusing on the daily job at hand. Then, eventually  I would go home and get to write something other than breaking news. I escaped into a world I had created somewhere else, whether it was writing a romantic story or an uplifting story of human endurance. I made the decisions so people did what I wanted.

 Now as a full time writer of both fiction and non-fiction , I've found that escape into fantasy can be therapeutic. We as writers can make things come out right. We can do the things that need to be done and then go into OUR world and set a happy or unhappy ending. If you're feeling tense or as though things are out of control right now, take some time to escape into YOUR world. Make your characters cry if you want, make them strong and stand up to a bully or make them turn over the apple cart and do what is needed. We can ride out this current storm by writing it out!

Friday, March 6, 2020

Good News about Writing A Bad Villain

Next week I had been scheduled to appear at a writing conference and be part of a panel on villains, but with my travel  in a state of flux and indecision on whether to attend, I am going to provide a brief look at some of  what I intended to say in the discussion.. 

Villains have always drawn us into books and stories -- whether we hate the villain or find ourselves enjoying them.  Don’t we all know villains that we wanted to absolutely hate, but then we suddenly find we don’t want to see them killed off?  Perhaps we want them to live and suffer. Sometimes we even wish they could turn the page and with the right guidance he or she might come back as a good guy. What is it about some villains that just get under our skin? I wish I had the answer, but after talking to many writers—including some bestselling authors—I’ve discovered that there is no particular secret to creating a villain. 

Just as there is no magic formula to writing a great character, each villain must grow from inside of each of us and take their cues from the story itself. We can guide them in a particular way, but we can’t make the automatically behave a certain way if they don’t want to. They need to come from inside of us—the writer—and it is up to us to breathe that particular life into them. But we can make them special and we do need to make them all individual—as individual as any other character in a book.

    With all that in mind here are some ideas to consider when you start to create your own villains: 

  1. We don’t want them to be ordinary. Our villains need to be worthy of the story they inhabit. Do we want our heroes and heroines to go up against someone common that anyone can destroy? No, we want to make them strong enough that they can connive and endanger the hero and heroine while remaining anonymous if they are in a mystery or very powerful if we see them in true form from the beginning. 
  2. They should be constantly on the page or their deeds the results of their evil deeds should be steadily in the picture. Certainly we don’t want them to take over the story, but they personally need to be around often enough to cause problems for our hero and heroine. If they aren’t personally on the page, their deeds need to bring on trouble, especially just when everyone least expects it, and they need to bring on trouble in a big way. They have to bring in a problem that can’t be solved in a couple of scenes.
  3. A cartoon or cardboard villain is going to get boring very quickly. They need to be as unpredictable and as smart or smarter than your main character. Don’t we all love it when the ordinary guy can out do or out battle a superhuman villain in a simple way? A worthy foe makes your hero or heroine that much stronger when the good guys win in the end.
  4. How about a likeable villain? Well, maybe not too likeable, but think about those villains that you almost wish could get away because with a little rehabilitation they might be able to go in the right direction. We’ve all seen the in books and it takes a good author to create one who gives you that sensation. It could be the villain is nice to animals or helps others when he isn’t thieving from the rich. But if he’s taken bundles from the bank, he will still need to go to jail. Maybe your hero or heroine can take on the dogs he’s been befriending.
  5. Think about the villains that appeal to you as you create your own individual bad guys. Who was it that attracted your attention or made you think – whether in a good way or a bad way when you read their story or watched them in a movie or tv series? Think about their traits or what they do that caught your attention. Can you do that for the villain in your book? You might also look back at famous villains and those we want to see more of in the future.
  6. Don’t forget the secret villain – or the invisible ones that we don’t learn who they are, and even though the hero or heroine might solve their case or fix whatever is wrong that villain might still be out there.  
If you would like to know more about creating villains you might want to check out my new book on villains, written with co-author Sue Viders now available at  Amazon. All our books are available at 

For more information on the writing process, please visit

Friday, February 28, 2020

Tasty Spring Reading

 As someone who spent thirty years around television studios working as a TV  journalist, I have always been drawn to books featuring people who work in the television industry itself. That was what grabbed my interest when I heard about author D.V.  Stone's latest book, Rock House Grill.  Naturally, I wanted to know more about her and her new book.

 Donna is my guest today in My Writing Corner.  Welcome D.V.  Have you always  wanted to write fiction ?  

I always wanted to be a reader. Oh, I dabbled through the years, but nothing ever took. Then, one day about eight years ago, the time was right. I’d been laid-off from a job. The economy wasn’t great, and I was home for the first time since my son was born. It was a now or never moment. I haven’t looked back since.

What are the challenges of being a writer?

 Time. Finding the time to do everything I need to get done. I still work full-time outside the home. There’s a house to run and other obligations. 

Tell us about your road to publication. 

The road to publication has lots of potholes. My first two books are self-published. I’m not going to call them mistakes—but perhaps a leaning experiment. The stories are good. Editing? Not so much. Several times I’ve gone back and re-edited and released. Funny story is Rock House Grill, which was signed by Wild Rose Press, was done on a lark. I always considered myself a fantasy author. I took the NaNoWriMo challenge. In November, it’s 30 days, 50,000 words. Then I sat on it for a while. One day I pulled it out and began sending it to editors and publishers. My editor, Elf, will tell you what a mess it was, but Wild Rose saw something in it and has nurtured me and Rock House Grill. 

How do you come up with your characters? 

Usually, I have some idea of a plot, even if it’s only a line. Then I do research finding one I think fits the character. My favorite is when I write fantasy. Then I research not only the meaning, but then run the meaning through translators.

How do you come up with your plots?

 Sometimes it’s a picture. Sometimes it’s a song lyric. Often a random thought. And once, a name popped into my head, and I needed to give her a story. Gloriana’s book is in the editing/submission process.

Tell us about your latest book, Rockhouse Grill. What made you write it? 

As I mentioned above, NaNoWriMo was the spark. Since the time constraint was tight, the words write what you know was quite apt. I’m a former Emergency Medical Technician and restaurant owner. Not only did it come together it has spawned a series.

What are you working on now?

The second book of the Impact Series is titled Jazz House. I'm very exxcited about it. You'll see some familiar people but the new female main character has many secrets. 

That sounds like fun reading! What advice would you give to beginning writers?

Fear is your worse enemy. Do't let doubt hold hands with it. You may need to thick your skin, but if you have a story--tell it.

Great Advice. Let's learn more about Rockhouse Grill. Here's the blurb.

Aden House, successful but driven chef and TV personality, refuses to slow down. His life implodes one night, damaging him both physically and emotionally. He's rescued by a woman he thinks of as his angel.

Shay McDowell has rebuilt her life after her divorce. She juggles volunteer EMT duties and her job, while dreaming of becoming a chef. She finds her way to Rock House Grill and back into the life of the man she helped save.

Can love be the ingredient needed to survive the many obstacles they face?

All the ingredients are in place for some tasty reading. Here are the buy links.  

Available April 6th, 2020

How can readers get in touch with you?

Thank you, D. V.  for being my guest.  Any comments or questions for D. V.?

Friday, February 21, 2020

Cold Case = Hot Suspense

 One of the best parts of being a writer is that you get the opportunity to meet and get to know other writers. Talking with them about how they work and what they are working on can stimulate ideas and make you a better writer. One of the writers I met many years ago ago who has continued to inspire me as a writer is Donnell Bell, who also writes mystery and suspense like me. We've been to many writing conferences and worked together on various organizations over the years. I've always enjoyed reading her books and today she visits My Writing Corner to present her newest work, Black Pearl.   

Donnell Ann Bell began her writing career at the Colorado Springs Business Journal and Pikes Peak Parent Newsmagazine before turning to fiction. An award-winning author, including a two-time Golden Heart finalist, she is the author of Black Pearl, book one of a series, Buried Agendas, Betrayed, Deadly Recall and The Past Came Hunting, all of which have been Amazon bestsellers. Black Pearl is her latest release, and she’s back to work on book two of the series. Follow her on Facebook and Twitter or sign up to win books and prizes via her newsletter

What made you want to be a writer?

Truth be told, the nuns made me do it. I owe two Ursuline sisters my gratitude for recognizing I had a gift. When my classmates were writing about space aliens and Chips Ahoy cookies, I was writing about a drought-ridden town in which the residents were forced to load up their covered wagons and start over. Years later, I would guess I got the idea from Lizzie and the Rainman sung by Tanya Tucker. Those two nuns literally pulled me out of class and gave me permission to dream and tell stories. I wrote my first published novel based on a song by Tricia Yearwood and Don Henley, called Walk Away Joe. That book led to The Past Came Hunting my debut novel. Apparently, music influences me greatly.

What do you like best about your heroines/heroes? 
I write a cross between an alpha and a beta male. I cannot stand any male who bullies a woman. Then again, I don’t like a woman who bullies a man. I guess you could say I’m not a fan of bullies. But I love strong characters, compassionate characters. That includes my female characters. I was a volunteer victims advocate for the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office. A deputy dressed up in a Pillsbury dough boy-like suit had each of us volunteers come at him in “attack” mode in self-defense class. When it came to my turn, he kept yelling, “You’re such a girl!” The point, to make me Hulk-like angry. P.S. He made me angry, but he was so right about the “girl-part.”

The good news is I realize it and make my characters everything I’m not. My daughter was an All League softball catcher, and a team leader. I am in awe of her strength and poise under pressure. I rode with a female field training officer on a twelve-hour shift and we brainstormed my character. I talked with retired female police officers. That knowledge and those experiences enabled me to write my first female police officer protagonist – who I can tell you is a kick-butt heroine working in a male-dominated profession and everything I’m not. She possesses traits of some exceptional women I admire. I’m exceptionally proud of Allison Shannon, the character I created for my series.

Tell us where you got the idea for your latest book.
I lost my best friend growing up to violent crime. I would say in the back of my mind she’s always with me. Perhaps that’s why I write around the theme Suspense to Close to Home and why I always demand justice for victims. As an aside, although this book was fiction in every sense of the word, it was therapeutic to write.

What advice would you give a beginning writer?
Don’t be in too much of a hurry. One of the best things ever is to see your name on a book. But like the old slogan, I will sell no wine before its time, the same applies to published work. Make sure it’s ready. Study craft. Listen to beta readers and critique partners, and not just a family member who loves you, no matter what you write. Make sure the story holds up, not only in grammar and punctuation, but in content. Make sure you invest in an editor and proofer. Here’s an article I wrote for Romance University and Pikes Peak Writers that writers might find helpful.

Let's get the details on  that latest book, Black Pearl: A Cold Case Suspense

A cold case heats up when a 9-1-1 call puts police at a Denver murder scene pointing  investigators to the abduction of a Colorado teenager fourteen years before. The connection? A calling card--a single black pearl--is found on the newest victim. Is the murder a copycat? Or has the twisted killer, thought dead or in prison, returned to kill again?

The hunt for a multi-state killer is on and brings together an unexpected team: a Denver Major Crimes police lieutenanct; an FBI special agent who investigated the previous murders, a rooke FBI aent with a specialty in psychology; and the only living victim of the Black Pearl killer who is now a cop.

For Special agent Brian DiPietro, the case is an opportunity to find answers. For Officer Allison Shannon, the case will force her to face down the town that blamed her for surviving when another did not. And for both DiPietro and Shannon, it's a chance to find close on questions that have tormented them both for years. 

If you would like more information about Donnell and all her great books and the buy links, here is her website:

Thank you, Donnell, for being my guest and bringing us your latest!  Any questions or comments for Donnell?

Friday, February 14, 2020

Hot Mystery for A Cold Day

We're in the heart of winter here in Colorado and it's the time when you want to curl up with a good book to spend the day because there's are foot of snow outside and the streets on our block are barely passable. What better way to do that than with a wonderful mystery! Today's guest in My Writing Corner, is J. L. Delozier who has a new mystery out that sounds like a just the sort of  book to enjoy on the snowy day. 

Jennifer says she sent made her first story submission written in pencil on lined  notebook paper. Let's find out more about her. 

Tell us about how you got started. 

I wrote short stories in junior high school and took a creative writing class as an undergraduate. After that "write a novel" hovered at number one on my bucket list. When I finally decided to take the plunge, I prepped by reading Stephen King's On Writing and then just went for it.

What do you hope readers get from your books?

Escapism, pure and simple. As a physician, I see enough bad things in everyday life to ever want to write nonfiction. 

How do you write your stories? 

I'm a punster, so the characters develop themselves as the story flows. That sounds touchy-feely, but it's truly how I write. 

Where do you get ideas?

 Often from snippets of overhead conversation, whether that be in person or via the radio or television. For Con Me Once, the idea came from an old GQ article on the "real-life superhero community", specifically a man named Phoenix Jones. The article made me ponder the psychology behind the need for these (mostly) men to dress up in home-made costumes and patrol their neighborhoods. It also made me wonder what would happen if they go embroiled in some heavy shit, and voila! Con Me Once was born. 

As a former Las Vegas resident, the location of the book grabbed my attention. Let's hear more about Con Me Once:

When Frak Lambda, a bumbling superhero wannabe, witnesses a mob hit gone wrong, he ends up running for his life.  Enter the mysterious Keira, whose secret academy claims to turn wannabes like Frank into real heroes. Frank knows a con when he sees one. But desperate for an escape, he joins three other recruits for training in Las Vegas. Against the backdrop of a thousand spandex-clad cosplayers, Keira's true agenda--a multimillion-dollar heist from her mobster brother--is exposed. With their lives and a fortune at stake, Frank and his team of misfits fight to become the heroes they always wanted to be. 

Tell us about your next book What are you working on now?.

 My WIP, working title The Photo Thief, is my first mystery with a significant paranormal element and also my first to mix POV characters: one 1st person, and one 3rd person. It’s been a challenge, to say the least, but hopefully it’ll be worth it. The plot centers around a young adult with a seizure disorder who “hears” old photographs collected by her great-grandfather speaking to her. They ask her to solve their murders—and that of her own mother.

Thanks for introducing us to your books and your writing. 
Here's the buy link:

For more information about Jen, here is her contact information:

Thank you, Jen, for being my guest. Any comments or questions?

Friday, February 7, 2020

A Note to the Wise

Recently I was cleaning out my office area and found a whole pile of notebooks. They had all been used and when I started going through them I realized each one had notes from various lectures, conferences and workshops I’d attended. There were others with a variety of stories I was either working on or wanted to start. A few others had notes where I was developing ideas into stories or plots. In looking them over, I got to thinking about notes in general and came up with what I considered a trio of suggestions when it comes to notes:

Take Notes

Make Notes

Bake Notes

Okay, very cute but what does it all mean?

The first is self explanatory. It only makes sense that when you attend a workshop, you should take as many notes as possible on what you learn at conventions or talks or anytime you have the opportunity to hear a writer talk. Listen to how they got to working on their stories or books and make notes for yourself. You can pick up some good suggestions just from hearing how the process works. I always carry around a notebook in my purse so I am ready to take notes at any time and wherever I am. If I get a story idea, or see something I want to know more about, I’m ready to write it down so I don’t forget later.

Making Notes might also be self explanatory but it doesn’t relate to the first idea. Make notes whenever you have an idea, no matter where you are. Make notes on whatever piece of paper you have handy. You never know if that idea will come again.  I haven’t had many an idea disappear totally from  my brain when I tried to write it down later. As a result,  I now write down whatever idea I come up with as soon as possible.  I have bank withdrawal slips with ideas written on the back, but that’s why I keep that notebook in my purse. It’s works well  for those crazy ideas that might pop up when I might be out and about.

Baking Notes  has nothing to do with cooking. It had to do with what to do with those  ideas or notes once you have them written down. Don’t just let them sit there and gather dust like I did with my notes.  Take them to the next level. Think through all those notes you make and then think about where you might want to take them. Taking all those notes at a conference don’t mean anything if you don’t do something with them once you get home I found some great ideas I had forgotten about because I went to a conference, came home all fired up, remembered what I had been told for a week or so and then let go of everything I learned.  But on the other hand, if you try using some of those ideas and putting them into practice even a few times then you’ll get more out of the notes you’ve made. Even if the ideas don’t work for you as presented, other things might stick and it might improve your output, your outlook or your overall  writing.

Don’t just write it down those ideas either, use them.  Don’ t just keep making notes on ideas. Try them out somehow. Play with them and make use of them. Perhaps they will send your current story into a new direction. Perhaps they will help you figure out what you want to do with a future story. But if you put them into action or expand them, you’ll be better off in the future.

At least you won’t just be stuck with a bunch of notes in a notebook that you can’t remember , either where you got them or what you intended to do with them. So if you are going to make notes, or take notes, then be sure to bake those notes!

Friday, January 31, 2020

Life as Research

         Beginning to write a new book is always a fun project, but then to me the process is ongoing. As I writer, I have discovered that you never know when you will get a new idea for a story, and it's important to keep your mind open at all times.  Some of my story ideas began back in my childhood, from just a line I got from my mother when she told us about the first time she met my father. 
She was very young, but she always said that she knew she would marry him some day and she told her cousins that. I used her exact line in my romance, Home Fires Burning.   "I'm going to marry that boy some day."

      That always stayed with me and I found that as I began writing, just paying attention to events, comments and locations were all learning opportunities and could someday be used in books. My life was one big research project for writing fiction.

        When I was working as a journalist in TV and as a public relations writer, my assignments often began the same way – with research. Whether it was reading over newspaper articles or viewing past stories on a subject, I always knew that when you set out to write about a subject you needed to gather as much information as possible. And if you were writing about a person, you needed to know as much as possible about that person.

That didn’t change when I began writing fiction. The subject matter was important, but even more critical was getting to know the characters involved. If I was going to make those fictional characters move or react in the way I wanted I needed to know everything possible about them. I always say in my classes that it is easier to writer about your mother or husband than it is to write about a total stranger. You know how they might react to a situation or a setting while you would have no idea how a stranger might react. That is why I always recommend getting to know characters first, as soon as writers begin plotting their novels. The best story in the world will seem flat if the characters are flat.

And what is the best way to get to know someone? Talking to the person, of course. We’ve all heard of the benefits of interviewing our characters. We’ve even received question lists and formulas that can help us. But too often these questions don’t go far enough. We need to dig deeper. I always recommend, not just questioning someone, but spending time with that person.  If I can’t afford to spend a few hours a day hanging out with that person, how am I going to make it through the necessary weeks I will spend with that character as I get their story down on paper?

But how does that interview process work? If you’ve never done an interview, (even of your characters) how can you go about it? I actually still employ some of the processes I used when I was actively interviewing people as a journalist – whether it was over a new building project or a down home story about life on the farm. There were some things I learned to do on an interview BESIDES just asking questions. The key was to not only listen but to observe.

Here are some things you can consider as you do your character interview:

Where are you doing it? And how makes that decision – you or the character. Well, it is all up to you, but think about it. If your character is a business woman, perhaps you want to do it in her office. If she is a stay at home mom, you might choose her house or you might do it in a park as she watches the kids.

If you are doing it at the person’s house, then by all means, be nosy and curious. Now I am not saying I used to look in people’s bathroom cabinets when I did interview in homes, but as a writer you can. Think about the setting where this person lives. Is it an elegant home with everything in a perfect place? Does it look like the living room was professionally decorated? That will tell you something about this person – and it’s something YOU might be able to use in your story. Something you might not have considered otherwise. How will others see your character? Like you are him or her now? The same is true of the person’s office. Is it neat and tidy or are there personal objects all around like a bat and ball in the corner or pictures of your interview subject on the ski slopes? Is it in a tenth floor corner office with a stunning view or a cramped cubbyhole in a trailer on a construction lot? See it in your mind so that you can describe it later in your book.

If you are doing your interview in a coffee shop, is your character easily distracted by others? Does he or she nod to people or does she totally tune out the chaos around her. If you are having lunch with your character what does she order and does she cut her meat into little piece before she eats it? Okay, these may seem like extreme things to be paying attention to, but these are some of the little things you can keep in your head as you write. How would your character react if she is meeting a stranger in a coffee shop – someone she needs to get information from to solve the mystery or if she is meeting the hero for a coffee date.

Think about how your character might sound on the phone. Does being on the phone make her nervous and it is obvious she wants to get off and be finished with you? Think about who that person at the other end of the phone might be. How does their voice sound? Certain or hesitant?

Again, these are all little things, but as a journalist I was always observing and paying

attention to every detail possible. I still do that as a writer. We all need to pay attention to details because they can make a difference in how you write that character in your story. Those little details set us all apart, not just as writers, but as people, so including those small details make a difference.

             What about the questions for the interview? That is another area where it helps to pay close attention. I always came into an interview with a list of at least 5 to 7 questions.  But once the person began to speak, I not only took notes on what they were saying, I was writing down additional questions or posing them in my head to ask later. As you interview your characters, you should keep that in mind too. That’s why I mention that we all can get a list of overall questions to ask our characters from writing classes. 

             But… as you ask those questions and write down the answers, consider going off script. Think of other questions that might pertain ONLY to this character, something that might not be on that prescribed list. Look for the unusual, the unique and the quirky. Those can be some of the best answers and can make your characters stand out.

              And mainly, listen to those answers. Write them down and when you are stuck at a place in your book where you don’t know what might happen next, it can pay to go back and look at your interview. You might find some answers there.