Who’s Who In Mackworld

Welcome readers to Week 18 of the MFRW Blog hop.

Week 18: How I work up Character/Setting Profiles.


How do I “do” characters and setting?

You really want to get into this? Surely there are better things to discuss, like plot points, the beach, coffee. 

*waits for MFRW to change their minds* 

NO?  OK, well this isn’t going to be pretty.  You might want to grab a rain poncho or something.


My characters come to my mind, as if they had popped into the office and made a request. Imagine that you are the receptionist for a small company and a woman comes in.

“Good afternoon, how may I help you?” My fingers move from the keyboard to grab the pen and notepad.

She looks around nervously. “I have an appointment with Mr. McDaniels for ten.”

“Please fill out these forms.”

I pass the clipboard across the counter to the woman as I open a new client screen. When she returns the clipboard,  I enter her name, address, the reason for visit, and any other pertinent information. I begin to process what I’ve entered and then it gets weird. It’s like I trade places with the “boss” whether he’s a private eye, a counselor, or a physician. The character then tells me the details of her visit.

As she tells me what’s going on and what her concerns are,  I begin to learn who she is.

Now, in reality, I may be working at the day job.  I may be doing housework or I might be driving in the car. All of this goes on inside my brain until I can get to a point where I can sit down and start jotting thoughts down. A friend gave me a character development worksheet that I fill out, but to be honest it’s only partially filled out before the story fully develops.

I’ve said before that I am a plotter –  I have been using the W method that the wonderful Karen Docter taught me. This gives me a basic outline that I can fill in the important scenes in between the 9 major plot points. This still allows the freedom to “pants it” while I am making my first draft.

Usually as I am learning my character,  the details on setting come out from their first “visit”.

I have had some characters come to me fully developed and practically begging me to write their story, and then others seem a little shy and I have to play twenty questions to dig the information out of them.

Bran, the brother in Kiss of the Dragon came to me fully developed, showing up in my “office” stark naked, fully muscled, demanding my full attention RIGHT NOW.   Unfortunately,  I was really green when I did the draft of that one during nano and it needs major revisions, which is why it’s still in the files.

Julia from Red Wine & Roses was the shy one.  She was hesitant to talk about herself.  I had to pry the information from her while Derek wanted to talk inside my head for hours. Great dude,  shut up while I find out about Julia!

Settings: As I learn the character and their story,  the setting becomes clearer. Whether it’s the town they are in, the state, or a small little convenient mart, it’s part of them, part of their story.

I know it would make more sense to make up characters by sitting down and deciding OK, this one will be a male,  dark hair, beard no wait a goattee,  blue eyes, a scar above his brow, thin lips, tats on his arms and chest, a scar on his thigh. Let’s say he got the scars from a car accident. Let’s call him Joe.  It doesn’t always work that way. By the way,  this is the description of a character for a piece that I’ve been working on in the background, kind of a pshycho-thriller. If you are judging by appearances you might think he’s the antagonist but he isn’t. He’s sort of an antihero. but I don’t have my W worked out, or what his goal is, or his end game. We just met a few weeks ago, so I don’t even know his name yet.

Nathan’s story unfolded quickly. It was like I was a fly on the wall watching his story unfold like a movie behind my eyes if that makes sense.






Be sure to Preorder your copy of Tempting Fate: Charity Anthology today!

You can go to the blog hop and check out what other authors have to say about this by clicking on MFRW BLOG HOP.

Write on my friends, write on!

Memorable Characters


Characterization is the concept of creating characters for story. A literary element that is used in dramatic works of fiction.  Characters may be presented by means of description, through their actions, speech, thoughts and interactions with other characters.

Characterization is the way in which an author chooses to convey information about their characters. It can be direct, as when the author tells the reader what his character is like.

Ronald was a cunning lad. Both desperate and greedy, what he lacked in integrity was made up for in boldness. Determined to rise above the class of his parents he set lofty goals that he would reach by any means necessary.  Thievery was his personal expertise.

It can also be conveyed indirectly by showing what the character is like by portraying his or her actions, speech, or thoughts.

Ronald stood on the platform watching the travelers until he spied a gentleman wearing an expensive wool coat, carrying a leather briefcase.  He tugged on his cap and shoved his hands into his pockets following a safe distance behind. He wasn’t going to spend his life working the mines like his father, being ground into nothingness at an early age. He had gone without dinner for the third night in a row and he wasn’t about to make it a fourth. 

He sniffled, pulling the collar of his jacket closer to lessen the effects of the chilly air. He moved casually next to the man, who had taken up conversation with a curvaceous woman with blonde hair.  While the man engaged in conversation with the woman, Ronald stealthily slipped his hand into the man’s pocket and withdrew his leather wallet without him feeling it.  Head down, he moved towards the next car, tucking the pilfered wallet into his own coat.

Indirect Characterization shows things that reveal the personality of a character. There are five different methods of indirect characterization:

Speech What does the character say? How does the character speak?
Thoughts What is revealed through the character’s private thoughts and feelings?
Effect on others toward the character. What is revealed through the character’s effect on other people? How do other characters feel or behave in regards to the character?
Actions What does the character do? How does the character behave?
Looks What does the character look like? How does the character dress? What is their general appearance?

Descriptions of a character’s appearance, behavior, interests, manner of speaking and other unique quirks are all part of characterization. For stories written in the first-person point of view, the narrator’s voice is essential to his or her characterization.

This is a crucial part of creating a compelling story. The characters need to seem real.  Authors convey this by revealing details about their characters that make them appear as a real person, not a fictional creation. It gives readers a strong sense of the character’s personalities, complexities and motivations.  It makes them come alive and become believable.

How do I create great character and avoid the flat Stanley or Mary Sue?

I think everyone knows what these terms mean, but let me clarify.  A flat Stanley is a two-dimensional character that is no more than a cardboard cutout. Readers do not relate to flat Stanley, they are perceived as contrived puppets that the reader hears the author’s voice from behind the curtain.

A Mary Sue is a ‘too good to be for real’ character. They have no flaws, they are able to overcome ridiculous odds, and can do just about everything imaginable. Lara Croft, Harry Potter, Nancy Drew are all examples of a Mary Sue.  You can test to see if your character is a Mary Sue here.

In creating your characters, choose details that make them life-like.  Show the little quirks, the annoying habits.  Does your self-conscious female character twirl her hair, or try smoothing the fabric over her tummy to not show a bit of a tummy bulge?  Does the male MC clear his throat constantly?  Does he comb his fingers through his hair? Think about memorable characters and what they did that made them memorable.

Tell the reader directly and indirectly about your character.  Let them develop; don’t force your author’s views on them. Describe their appearance in some manner even if you want to leave it vague for the reader to fill in a face on their own, they will at least need a framework.  For instance if your character is a skinny computer geek,   you want to give the basic body shape and personality instead of having your reader imagine some shadowy shape of Arnold Schwarzenegger.  You still want the m to be able to fill in some things from their imagination.

Portray your character’s thoughts and motivations.  What makes them tick? Their inner thoughts will convey who they really are. If they are behaving out of character then why?  Use their actions to further show their personality and temperament.  Are they a hot head? Are they easygoing?  Are they talkative or shy and quiet?   Show your other character’s reaction to your protagonist’s words or actions.

Use their dialog to reveal something important about his or her nature. Is the antagonist misunderstood or truly evil?

Ask yourself these questions:

  • What does the character look like?
  • How does the character behave towards others? How do others behave toward the character?
  • What does the character care about?
  • What adjectives does the author use to describe the character’s personality?
  • What does the character think or say?

Weaknesses like vices, imperfections or flaws, make him or her appear more human-like, causing the audience to identify him or her with that specific character. This is a good characterization for a character in most fiction and non-fiction stories.  Indiana Jones was afraid of snakes so of course later on in the story he is going to have to face snakes.

Make the effort to create fully developed characters in your story.  Characters can make or break a story,  and can kill an otherwise great story.  Most readers  would say that characters are the most important aspect of any good story.


Titles and Characters

My guest this week for the Tasha Turner Coaching Virtual Blog Tour is Allison Bruning.  Allison writes historical fiction with a dramatic flair.  As I read through Allison’s contribution I realized I only did half of the assignment myself.  OOPS!  For my faux pas on this assignment, you can check out http://lacipaige.blogspot.com/.   Now, I”m going to turn things over to Allison.

This week on the Tasha Turner Virtual Blog Tour we were asked to share how we came up with the title and characters of our books. The title is easy. It’s the first name of my main character, Calico Marie Turner Lutree (Known to the Shawnee as Snow Vision Seeker Buffalo Woman).  When I was developing my characters I knew very little about the Shawnee. I knew the Shawnee were a large and powerful tribe from my home state of Ohio. I had heard some of the stories growing up about them but nothing else. I was eager to learn more about their world and ways.

This may sound weird but when I started developing my characters I made them go through an application process. I wanted to know everything I could about them before I ever began to lay out the story. I copied off a three page character bio that looked like an employment application, cut out photos from magazines for their profile picture then began to fill it out. It’s surprising what you can learn about your characters when you sit down and begin to explore their lives with them. Of course there were some sections that didn’t apply to them such as what do you like to watch on television? Where did you go to high school? What’s your favorite website? I would love to see those answers from someone who lived in the 18th century! I could just Calico’s answers “A website? Well I guess if I’m looking for a certain type of spider I would have to go to the site where they build their web.” LOL!  When I had begun the application process with Calico and her twin sister, Rose I knew who their parents were. It wasn’t until I had begun to explore deeper into their lives that I had met Alexander, Pierre, Creek and the other supportive characters in the series. I completed the same process with the secondary characters as I did with Calico. Doing so opened up a new world for me. A world that would grant me more story ideas and plenty of subplots to play with.

After I had finished the character bios I felt like there were still pieces missing. I was having such a hard time with doing the bios for the Shawnee characters I had almost quit. Little Owl was getting on my nerves and the Shawnee characters just weren’t talking to me anymore! It was beginning to feel like a hopeless situation. One of my writing mentors at the time told me, “O honey, you can’t write about something you don’t know about. It’s impossible. Perhaps they’re not talking because you don’t know anything about their world. You can’t expect them to be like the white characters in your book.” Her words relighted my spark of inspiration. I enrolled at the University of Kentucky in the undergraduate anthropology program (I had initially wanted to get a second BA so I can go to grad school for cultural anthropology, what I ended up instead was getting a better insight into my characters.) I began to explore the Shawnee world through anthropological articles, books and even went out to talk to Native Americans. Calico’s Shawnee name, Snow Vision Seeker Buffalo Woman, was given to her by a Native American. It means:

Snow  – Her skin is white as snow

Vision Seeker – She is medicine woman who has visions

Buffalo Woman – Her hair is as crimpy as the buffalo’s fur.

Most Native Americans were reluctant to talk to me. “Oh, great, another white person who wants to tell OUR story.” It was hard to break the barrier between us but eventually some did come around to speak to me. I even called a chief of one of the Shawnee tribes in Oklahoma. We talked for an hour. He spurred me onto an Anthropological book that had been written well about his people called, Shawnee: The Native American Tribe and its Cultural Background by James H. Howard. I thanked him and immediatly bought the book. I learned so much through my research my native characters began to talk to me. I couldn’t type fast enough!

One world of advice I would give to any author who wants to take the plunge into exploring a world that is not their own, especially when it comes to Native Americans, be careful what you read. There is a lot or propaganda and bias historical reports out there on Native Americans, especially the Shawnee. Ask yourself when you are reading a historical document whose point of view am I reading this from? What is happening in the author’s neck of the woods while he or she is writing this? Analysis the document well. If it seems biased against the culture you are wanting to depict them THROW IT AWAY IMMEDIATELY.  I had the hardest time finding research that supported the Shawnee so I went directly to the source. If I hadn’t done so I don’t think I would have been able to accurately depict Little Owl and his people.  As Little Owl would say “I am Shawnee!”

The Executive Director of the Kentucky Young Writers Connection, a non-profit agency of writers who promote young authors throughout the state of Kentucky. Allison originally hails from Marion, Ohio. Her father, Roland Irving Bruning, was the son of German immigrants who came to the United States at the turn of the 20th century. Her mother’s family had been in the United States since the 17th century. Allison is a member of the Peter Foree Chapter of the  Daughters of American Revolution. Her linage traces to Private Reuben Messenger of Connecticut. Her educational background includes a BA in Theater Arts with a minor in Anthropology and a Texas Elementary Teaching certificate. Both acquired at Sul Ross State University in Alpine, Texas. Allison received National Honor Society memberships in both Theater Arts and Communication. Allison was also honored her sophomore year with admission into the All American Scholars register. She holds graduate hours in Cultural Anthropology and Education. In 2007 she was named Who’s Who Among America’s Educators. She is also the recipient of the Girl Scout Silver and Gold Awards.

Allison lives with her husband in Kentucky.  Calico is book one from the series, Children of the Shawnee. It is available at http://amzn.to/JSNRpm. She is currently working on the sequel, Rose.  She is also working on another series, The Secret Heritage, which traces the life of her great great grandmother at the turn of the 20th century in Ohio. Allison’s interest includes Ohio Valley history, anthropology, travel, culture, history, camping, hiking, backpacking, spending time with her family and genealogy. Her genres include historical fiction, paranormal, romance, and suspense.

You can reach her at:

Facebook: http://on.fb.me/xxJ249

Facebook Fan Page http://on.fb.me/plvkxJ

Twitter: @emeraldkell

Blog: http://bit.ly/whteQI


Puppet Masters

A fiction writer starts out as god in their created universe. It’s an ego thing really, and all about the illusion of control.  We create fictional characters to fit into our fictional worlds and begin to manipulate them like puppets on a stage.

Wasn’t it Shakespeare that referenced all the world’s a stage and we but players on it ?  I believe it was: All the world’s a stage, And all the men and women merely players; They have their exits and their entrances, And one man in his time plays many parts, His acts being seven ages.

The expression of the world being a stage goes back to Roman times, but Shakespeare gets credit for it.  This is what we start off doing as writers.  We set our stage and move our characters about, creating a powerful euphoria of being god of our universe.  Then, if we’ve done a good job as a writer our characters begin to rebel against their strings.  They don’t like the scenario you’ve come up with and protest your ministrations.

For nonwriters, this type of discussion can be disturbing and makes them think us writers are all nuts!  We’re not by the way, or at least not entirely.

Some writers claim it’s writer’s block, but I have a different philosophy.  When my characters have become more person than caricature, they start showing their personality.  For instance  Kyle, the leading man in Faere Guardian, is very particular about his clothes.  He doesn’t think he is, but when I put him in an Armani suit, he fidgeted and messed with his tie.  His stance was uncomfortable and a scowl quickly developed making deep furrows in his brow.  Of course what else would you expect from a brooding Scot?

However, when I put him in more relaxed attire such as khakis and a polo, he was quite comfortable and the scowl lines disappeared.  Of course that’s also part of being a writer, cueing off the subtleties of your creations.  I could easily ignore his discomfort and force a certain look, but then that would be counterproductive to the point.

Sometimes I wonder if it’ not a matter of developing your characters, but learning the characters that come to you.  Just like our real life friends, we have to learn their personalities, and determine how they react to the scenarios they are put in.  If we are the puppet masters of our creations, doesn’t that imply that they are flat characters that we can manipulate to our whims, and not take regard of the characters goals and desires?

In essence, we are not to be puppet masters, but rather stewards of our created worlds.  We work our magic like a  conductor directs a symphonic orchestra, building to a crescendo in one area while subsiding in another. Just as the orchestra needs to practice before a concert, a good writer often has to rewrite or revise a first draft.  Those subtle undertones that are going on behind the main melody will soon overtake the melody and make a tumultuous statement, building to that pinnacle moment.

That’s the goal of a writer, to be a masterful storyteller, not just a puppet master.  There are plenty of examples of bad writing out there.  I don’t want mine to be one of them.  Of course based on my rantings here, I’m sure there are those who are already decided that I don’t have the talent.  That’s ok, you can write your own blog in your style.  In the meantime, I”m passionaltely pursuing my dreams in the way I know how, and learning more along the way!