Friday, May 22, 2015

Write the Scene

Writing a scene seems straightforward enough, but I want to journey past the basics and  into a few other areas of scene that have been on my mind.

If you've been in my online class the basics are not new. You have permission to eat donuts while I review scene and ignore sequel for today. Please save me a maple glazed donut.

The Basics of Scene:

The goals of scenes are to elicit emotion and move your story forward. 

Just like your book has GMC (Goal, Motivation & Conflict) , your scenes have GCD. 

Structure of Scenes:

Goal->Character wants something
Conflict ->2 characters with incompatible goals
Disaster->hook, unexpected development

In many inspirational and sweet romance novels the conflict and disaster are what is called "low tension." The conflict provides enough worry factor to satisfy the reader, but generally does not involve world peace. The disaster at the end of the scene can be as simple an internal monologue of worry or "what am I going to do now?"  Or it can be a real "gasp" hook as in suspense or action novels.  Varying your disaster in each scene provides more interest for your reader so they don't predict what's next.

And remember that disaster is why you do not end your scenes with going to bed. The reason we end with disaster is so the story advances, the tension increases and the reader keeps turning the pages. 

Additionally, every scene asks a question: Take the scene goal and turn it into a question. Will xx get xx? The character should always be in worse shape at the end of the scene than at the start.

 An example of scene GCD:

  • Goal: Daisy wants the land that borders the river and plans to purchase it today after selling her cows at market. (The scene question is, will Daisy get the land?)
  • Conflict: She goes to the claim office and discovers the price on the land has gone up.
  • Disaster: Not only that, but Cade (her mortal enemy) tells her he intends to buy it and the only way she can have that land is to marry him.

Cheesy, but you get my point. 

And here are some real disaster scene endings from books on my shelf- notice the variety of different types of tension in the disaster endings.

The fire engine’s horn sounded before the vehicle pulled away from the curb.Maggie shook her head, willing herself out of the daze that had wrapped itself around her.
“I’m simply going to have to stay out of his way,” she murmured. “Because Jake MacLaughlin is an exceptionally dangerous man.” 
Safe in the Fireman's Arms-Tina Radcliffe 

The doctor looked up from her crouched position. "Less than ten years, and these markings on the rib cage-" she pointed at the tiny lines "-are lacerations made by a knifelike instrument. It would appear a crime has occurred on your island, Sheriff Grant. And my assessment says it's murder." 
 Grave Danger-Katy Lee 
 Reel wondered if Robie was still coming after her. She wondered if right now he regretted not killing her.
Her phone buzzed. She looked down at the screen.
Will Robie had just answered her.
The Hit- David Baldacci

And yet, once again I will mention my post 7 Things You Need to Stop Doing Now as I reference scenes with no goals.

So, if ham and cheese on rye with the hero is your only scene goal, the conflict better be that the waitress hates your heroine and wants the hero and the disaster is she poisoned your heroine.

Resources for further research on Scene:
Scene & Structure-Jack M. Bickham
Writing the Perfect Scene –Randy Ingermanson

 And just for fun here is Joanna Penn from the Creative Penn talking about how she writes scenes.

I've laid the foundation. Now let's talk about a common practice I see with newer writers. If you think I'm talking about you, you're right and wrong. We've all been there and done that. and have the shirt. 

Writing Around the Scene 

Writing around the scene usually occurs when your hero and heroine are about to share the stage in a monumental way. The writer leads you up to the scene nicely and then stops right on the edge of the precipice. 

The next thing on the page is either hours later, the next day, or worse, reflection by one of the characters on the scene that we never saw (this reflection is called sequel btw).

Don't do that. Why? Because you are cheating your reader and subconsciously making them very cranky. Allow me to explain.

Scenes are live.

Everything you say happens in a scene must play out in real time. TIME IS REAL IN EACH SCENE. -Michael Hauge

 Yes, we all use techniques to show the passage of time, however that is used to avoid the stuff readers skip over, like sleeping, showering, using the loo.

BUT passage of time techniques must never, ever cheat your reader.

Every scene is not only going to provide GCD (Goal, Conflict, Disaster) and advance your story, but it also is an opportunity to endear your reader to your protagonist. To get them into the skin of our character. To make them root for your hero/heroine. Make them care. It's also an opportunity to elicit emotion. 

When you make your readers part of the journey then they think about your characters long after they close the book. 

Now on to more sticky scene stuff....

A while back Mary Connealy mentioned the fear that writers have as they sit, hands poised over the keyboard ready to tackle a difficult scene. Let's address that because again, it's another writerly phenomena we all experience.

Fear of Writing the Scene 

We are neurotic writers who talk to people in our heads, and our fears include:

  • Fear of the audience
  • Fear of the editor
  • Fear of ourselves
  • Fear of the art

This begins with some basic neurosis as you self-talk.  

What if I can’t get what’s in my head onto the paper?

Who am I to tell this story?

What if I fail?

What if it’s misinterpreted?

What if they don’t hear it, taste it, feel it as I do?

What if I freeze in the clutch?

What if they find out I'm a fraud?

What if my editor hates it?

What if I get one-star reviews?

The first step toward writing past your fear is to IGNORE YOUR HEAD. (AND STOP READING REVIEWS -You know who you are and yes, I am talking to you!)

You are not alone in your fears, so just go ahead and write the scene.

The writer does not know what he knows. You must remain with a difficult scene for as long as it takes to dig deeply into yourself and discover more of what you know. You not only complete the scene, but add to your store of writing skill.

The "short breath" writer is facile and easily discouraged. When he exhausts what he knows, he rearranges and never learns anything new. He repeats and re-repeats. The "long breath" writer plunges deeply until he finds what he needs. He emerges from the depths of "self" with new material, new techniques. He learns from himself.

Dare to Be a Great Writer-Leonard Bishop

Now I leave you with a thought provoking technique to consider when you sit down to write your next scene:

Every scene has a "hot spot," the moment that the rest of the scene is built around. One way to determine the best length for a scene is to locate that moment and draw a box around it. Then read backwards from there. Read the previous paragraph and ask yourself whether or not it  (or all the sentences in it) contributes to that hot spot. Then repeat the paragraph before that and repeat the process. By alternating the traditional linear reading, you get a more objective perspective of each line and are able to cut those that interfere.

Novelists Essential Guide to Crafting Scenes-Ray Obstfeld.

Here's the promised quiz for today:

Which of the three areas I mentioned today do you struggle with? What's your greatest fear as a writer? 

Are you afraid of critiques? If not, then let me know you want to be considered for a critique of a scene. No longer than ten pages. Two names will be drawn and announced in the Weekend Edition.

And if you're a reader, I'll give you this triple header in print or Kindle-all three if you haven't read any of them, or just the ones you haven't read.

And you have another chance to win Safe in the Fireman's Arms, and Healing the Lawman's Heart here on Soul Inspirationz.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

The Characteristics – And The Characters – Of A Christian Novel

Winnie Griggs
Hi Winnie Griggs here.  I’m so glad the folks here at Seekerville allow me to keep coming back for visits – I always have such a great time.
Today I’m going to switch gears just a little bit and instead of discussing a craft topic per se, I’d like to talk about the characteristics, and especially the characters, of a Christian novel.
But first, let’s take a minute to talk about what Christian fiction is.  A previous iteration of the Christy Awards website explained it this way:
"Christian fiction is a category of stories written by novelists whose Christian world view is woven into the fabric of the plot and character development.... C.S. Lewis resisted the label "Christian" for his novels, contending that he was simply creating a story. But whether overtly or subtly, Lewis’ fiction came out of his understanding of God and of the universe He created, out of the knowledge that God cares deeply about His creation that has been damaged by sin, and He joined the human race to build a bridge back to himself. This bridge between God and humanity will in some way inform and characterize every Christian novel.
"... Fiction published for the Christian book market does not include the gratuitous demonstration of sin—whether language, violence, sexual situations, or the more hidden sins of idolatry and self-worship. Credible characters in a fallen world, of course, will sin. But the Christian novel’s presentation of the grit and grime of human circumstance will not be done for its own sake or to titillate, but to point the reader toward hope, toward God.
"Because the essence of Christianity is a relationship with God, a Christian novelists’ well-conceived story will in some way, whether directly or indirectly, add insight to the reader’s understanding of life, of faith, and of the Creator’s yearning over His creation."

In other words, the what makes a novel Christian fiction is not that it is “preachy” or moralistic, nor does it necessarily contain a ‘conversion’ scene.  Instead, these books use a Christian worldview to tell stories of fallible people facing real-life problems.

In many ways, writing novels for the Christian market isn’t all that different from writing secular fiction.  To do it well, you must know your craft, have a vivid imagination that you can tap into, and you must be able to tell a story in an engaging, entertaining manner.
The key difference comes in being able to weave one very important additional thread into your stories - that of the Christian worldview.  Christian fiction strives to illustrate that added dimension of spirituality in the characters that populate their pages.
However, the first thing you need to understand is that, the mark of good Christian fiction is not that it is overtly “preachy” or moralistic, nor does it necessarily require a ‘conversion’ scene.  Instead, these books use a Christian worldview to tell stories of fallible people facing real-life problems.
That’s right, characters in a Christian novel should indeed be fallible and flawed, just like real life Christians.  Many new writers make the mistake of thinking that because the book is a told from a Christian worldview, that their protagonists, if they are Christian, should be perfect or at least near-perfect characters.  That simply because they have a deep faith, they should be able to make all the right choices, should never succumb to temptation and be perpetually happy and satisfied with their life.  Nothing could be farther from the truth.  Not only is that not realistic, as even the bible affirms, but it’s not very interesting or entertaining either.  Because really, who wants to read about perfect people.  Perfect people are boring.  
If you have a ‘goody two shoes’ character who always forgives the wrongs inflicted on him, who never struggles with temptation, who never has to deal with personal flaws such as jealousy, pride or anger, then how can your reader possibly feel any connection or sympathy for him?  And if your heroine has no real conflict in her life, if she doesn’t have to struggle with her decisions, and if she doesn’t fail occasionally, why would anyone be interested in turning the pages of her story? 
As a reader you want to see the characters you’re investing your time in, be torn over decisions, see them struggle with temptation, watch them stumble occasionally, because we learn the most about a character’s true moral fiber when we see how he deals with tough temptations and trials.  And we also want to go on a journey with these characters - a journey that illustrates a character arc that ultimately leads to growth and change.  But how can a character grow and change if they are already perfect to begin with?
We also don’t want to infer that if someone is a Christian, everything will go smoothly in their lives and that, as long as they have true faith, they will never stumble and fall.
So, if the characters in Christian fiction are as flawed as those in secular novels, what makes them different?  The difference is in how they will view their own flaws and transgressions in light of their beliefs, the added nuance to the remorse they feel for having failed to make the right choices, and how they seek to make things right not only with the injured party, but with their creator. 
As authors, our goal is not to ‘preach at’ our readers or to shoehorn in heavy passages of theology.  A spiritual message, no matter uplifting or how biblically sound, without an entertaining story to deliver it in, is merely a sermon, not a novel.   Instead, we want to depict in a realistic, engaging manner what it looks like for someone who is striving, perhaps not always successfully, to follow a Christian lifestyle and still deal with trials and temptations.  In other words, we want to convey the message that there is more to life than what we see on this earthly, physical plane of existence.  And do that in a way that resonates with readers and rings true to how they themselves deal with matters of faith - or how they wish they did.
Of course this extra thread we weave into our stories, that of faith, does hand us an additional responsibility, and means there is more work we must put into our writing.  At the same time it gives us an opportunity to add additional depth to our characters, and it gives us more layers and nuances to explore and tap into as we dig into the values, passions and ambitions of our characters.  
So when you’re digging into your character’s backstory, trying to unearth what molded and shaped them into the people they are in the now of your story, you need to also consider what his or her spiritual environment and upbringing were like.  
Some questions 
you might want to think about: 
·         Did he grow up in a family of devout believers, or were his parents of the apathetic or “in name only” variety.  What about his friends and others he looked up to?
·         Did he attend church regularly as a child?  What about now?
·         How does he feel about organized religion?
·         Was her faith ever tested and if so how and what was the outcome?  If not, what will happen when that test finally comes, because it always does? 
·         How familiar is she with the Bible?   Does she perhaps have a favorite passage, or one that speaks to her on a deep personal level?
·         Does she turn to prayer only in times of need, or does she have a regular robust prayer life? 

Those are just a few examples, but such questions are important for you to answer, whether they show up on the page or not, so that you can truly understand where your character is spiritually as your story opens.  And it can help you to see where you need to take her.  Because, in a work of Christian fiction, part of the character’s story journey will deal with that added dimension of a spiritual arc.  The hero and heroine are not only in conflict with each other as they try to reach their HEA, but there should be some aspect of conflict in their relationship with God - some area of their faith that needs to be changed, deepened or restored. 
And all of this doesn’t apply only to your primary characters, you can use the struggles of secondary characters and the consequences of their choices to highlight your faith message so that the choices your protagonist makes become more vivid.
For each of your characters, as with real life individuals, faith is a deeply personal matter and is something they must work out for themselves in their own way.  And because of this added layer we focus on in our stories, far from handicapping us, writing Christian fiction gives us room for added dimension and creativity.

So what do you think – agree or disagree?  And what can you add to this topic?

Winning the Widow's Heart 

To help his dying sister, Nate Cooper once broke the law and paid a heavy price for his actions. Now the ex-con turned saddler hopes for a quiet life and new beginning in Turnabout, Texas. Being declared a hero for saving a child’s life, however,  leaves Nate feeling like a fraud. 

Since the violent death of her husband, single mom Verity Leggett has attempted to lead a safe life, avoiding danger and excitement at all costs. And her daughter's handsome rescuer Mr. Cooper seems like a perfectly responsible man, one she can finally rely on. 

When his secrets come to light, however, will Verity be able to get over his past and see Nate for the caring man he's become? 

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Revise and Re-Submit: A Gift You Can Take to the Bank!


We now return you to our regularly scheduled program! :) 


“Substitute ‘damn’ every time you’re inclined to write ‘very;’ your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be.” — Mark Twain

I spewed the first time I read this because it's so stinkin' true

Hi, my name's Ruthy and I am learning to revise. Yes, I'm like 30 books in, and I'm still learning to hone my craft. 

Newsflash: I consider that a SMART THING because you know what happens when we start resting on our laurels? We're likely to get thorns in the bootie. So here's what I know:

Re-writes and revisions are not the enemy. Once you get over the bitter disappointment of fallibility and realize that while Harper Lee wrote one literary masterpiece, it took her 2 1/2 YEARS to re-write the book in publishable form. And that was after having a full year off (funded by friends) to write the original!

I know writers who fuss and fume if asked to reconstruct or readjust time lines... (looks guiltily away from camera) but in the end, the book is better!

In order to effectively revise your manuscript, you need to separate two things:

1. Your emotional ties to the best story ever created...

(Wincing, here, because really?????  REALLY???????? Get over it and move on, we're grown-ups, aren't we?)

2. And your original version that is now engraved in your brain.

The first is fairly easy. If you need help, e-mail me and I'll give you the kick in the pants you need and (Bonus!!!!) I'll tell you to get on with it and stop acting like a big ol' baby. (I tell myself this very same stuff, so we're in this together!)

(This is Joe Williams, our Tlingit Indian guide in Ketchikan, Alaska who gave me lots of details about the town, the history and the setting, including a possible idea for a historical/contemporary pair of books!)

The second is what we're talkin' 'bout today. How to take a book that's concrete in your brain, and reconstruct it:

1. Make a plan. What are you keeping of the original book? What will you delete? If the suspense thread isn't working, did an editor make suggestions? If the romance is dragging, how can you pick up the pacing? Did the editor offer advice about how to fix your sagging middle?

How can you implement these? I usually give myself a day or two to work my head around these suggestions, to re-visualize (I'm a visual writer, I see scenes, and then I write them) and then see how things can be connected. It's clutch for me to go into the revision/rewrite with a plan. If I don't, I make more work for myself. Note to everyone: I DON'T NEED MORE WORK. (Thank you, just wanted to get that off my chest!)

2. Determine which major threads are being tossed, if any. If none, this will be easier, but then that would be more like an edit, not a revision. And for a revision to work, you start at the beginning, examining every sentence and word for anything that will throw your new baby off-track. References and implications from the original story might not flow with the revised edition. So I look at the opening... If the opening works, BONUS! SWEET! PARTY!!!

Because then you can feel like you've accomplished something by doing pretty much nothing! But if it doesn't, then rewriting the beginning is the Most Fun Ever. I love writing openings, and by doing that, you've started the revision process mentally, physically and emotionally. By the time you are done writing the new opening, you've re-invested yourself in the story! It's amazing how an author's brain works.

Did the editor/contest judge/agent make a suggestion? Well, dust off your ego and try it, for pity's sake.

 You've got nothing to lose and writing is a practiced art. If you're targeting a particular editor/line/publisher, listen to what they say. Read what they've published recently. And if this is from a contest or a submission, etc., and you've been asked to revise and re-submit, please note that this is better than an invitation to the Queen's Ball. 

Editors are crazy busy. If they didn't like it, they'd have sent a "not for us at this time" form rejection. An R&R is a Huge Invite to the Royal Wedding. It's not given out lightly and should never be ignored. By ignoring it, you're sending a silent message that you're unwilling to change and adjust per request (AARRGGGHHHH... this is a bad message to send, my pretties!) or that you don't have the time to take suggestions and put them to work...( ouch, again, because it takes time to forge a new career or polish an old one!) or that you don't like being bossed around, and your work is good enough, as is.

That silence can be deafening and editors are smart, savvy people. 

"If it sounds like writing, I re-write it." Elmore Leonard

3. Start inserting your new plotlines into the story. This always seems tricky at first, because it can be tedious... but then you might get to a whole chapter that needs nothing, and you fist-pump the air!

Work chapter by chapter to catch old threads and delete them... and to create new in their place. Don't worry about perfection here, worry about re-designing your story. We clean this up in the final read-through, picture darning socks, or better yet, cleaning the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. Rewriting a book is easy by comparison!!!

Do not be afraid to delete. I keep an open word document for deleted scenes, just in case I decide to use them again. I rarely do because they were written for a different book... but I find that I'm a little less nervous if I hold them in a spare file while I work! (kind of like a kid and her blankie... We're so needy!)

4. Work steadily. If you take long breaks, you lose the mental "new" thread. Force yourself (discipline!!!!) to go through the book, chapter by chapter and insert the changes. I often use a mini-reward system to get me through this. Gardening time in summer... baking time in winter... a handful of M&M's .... a chance to watch Castle... Mini-rewards are my way of logging progress.

5. Once done, you want to now go back and re-read everything. I usually give myself a day or two off here, to work on something else and clear my brain. Then I come back fresh. The longer you take to revise a book or a proposal, the harder it is.


Letting half of a fixed story vegetate allows us to let the original story infiltrate our defenses! :) It makes the whole process lengthier and more difficult than it needs to be. If you grab hold with a plan and push through, your chances of a successful and less painful revision are much higher... and you will be nicer to your family and have less gas.

(I'm not sure about that last claim, but an un-nervous tummy should produce less gas. I'm just sayin'...)

(Commercial Interruption, more Alaska pictures!) 

Dave and his new BFF
Mendenhall Glacier, the one we could get closest too, but there are monster glaciers in mountain valleys all over. A-stinkin'-mazing!
I've had some books accepted with no revisions. I've done complete re-writes on others. The world hasn't ended in either case, so it's all good! We learn as we go, and I hope you jump into revisions with both feet from now on. Get 'er done! :)

I've just come back from an Alaskan cruise, a gift to us from our kids (Yes, Show Your Children This Line and Make Them Feel Guilty) so I'm bringing Alaskan-inspired goodies to the table. And new story ideas! 

We took an excursion into the Klondike up a fun and VERY SCARY TRAIN. I loved it!!!! :)
We've got a full breakfast menu, including grilled salmon and veggies, scrambled eggs, sourdough toast, pancakes and maple syrup I brought from the sugar maple groves of New York! 

Come on inside, leave a comment and I'll toss your name into the cat dish for one of several copies of "Healing the Lawman's Heart", a story of love and loss, faith and hope.

With cute kids, a tough heroine and a wonderful state trooper hero who just wins your heart... 

This book is on sale NOW!!!! It was released yesterday, e-versions go on sale June 1, 2015... So if you don't win it, of course I want you to go buy it! You sillies! :)

When she isn't touring Alaska and central Washington, Ruthy Logan Herne is living her dream of writing sweet stories for traditional publishers and the indie market. She loves God, her family, coffee, chocolate and dogs, she thinks romance rocks. She's been married for a very long time, she lives on a farm in upstate New York, has a lot of kids and grandkids and thinks her crazy busy lifestyle suits her. She's thrilled to be paid for making up stories and regularly pinches herself to see if she's dreaming! Find her on the web at Ruthy's Website or on facebook as ... um... Ruth Logan Herne. (laughing!) And yes, send her a friend request, she'd love to get to know you, chat with you, pray with you and be your friend!

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Coloring Outside the Lines

with guest Rachelle Dekker.

I have never been a “rule-follower.” I don’t always break the rules, but I do find myself bending them from time to time. Part of it may be the rebel in me that always has to learn the hard way, but part of it comes from the constant creative flow that works its way through my brain. The question of Why? that follows me like a shadow. It dares me to wonder if things have to be done by the rules, and tells me that if I’m brave enough to color outside the lines my experience might be greater. I may unlock secrets others are too afraid to find. 

This part of me is loudest when I sit down to write. Getting published is difficult. There are many steps, many channels and people that have to buy into the story you’re essentially selling. And one of the major questions everyone is chasing is: What’s hot in the market right now? What rules do we need to follow so people will buy the books we’re selling? 

There’s nothing wrong with these questions—publishers and agents should be looking at them. They want to do right by their authors, and frankly, authors have to sell books in order to continue writing. So what happens then, as a writer, when the story you need to tell is out of fashion, by all accounts? Or when it doesn’t fit into the mold that people are comfortable with? 

In the seven years I’ve been actively working on getting published, I have been faced with this problem more often than not. My stories are too edgy, too different, too risky. I want to write religious fiction, but in a secular way. I don’t want my heroine to be saved by a man. I don’t really want to write romance. Why can’t I write about an assassin? Why can’t I write about vampires? Why can’t I write dystopian? The answer to these questions was always the same. Because that isn’t what sells. (Note: I’m talking about the Christian market here.)

There were many times when I thought about just doing what they asked. Giving in and writing what was popular. Now, please hear me when I say I have nothing against what is popular in Christian fiction. It’s beautiful and fantastic and I enjoy reading it! The only problem is that my heart was always pulling me in another direction, and in order for me to write authentically I had to follow my heart. So every time I heard, “This is fine, but I’m not sure it’s what’s right for the market,” I stood at a crossroads. Follow the advice of those who probably know better than you, or follow your gut. 

The decision wasn’t easy, because I really wanted to be published, I really wanted to write and make a living doing it. But I couldn’t ignore the calling in my spirit to be brave and follow the path less traveled. So I continued to write stuff that was outside the box and trusted that the leading in my spirit wouldn’t guide me astray. 

For me it was all a lesson in faithfulness—and trust. Trusting that if I was faithful to my calling then whatever purpose my calling was meant to have in the world would unfold, but I had to be faithful even in the hardest of times.  

Thankfully, I eventually found a publisher that was brave enough to jump off the ledge with me! I remember one of the first times we were at an event together, me and several representatives from my publisher. We were seated around a large round table, listening to the keynote speaker. She was an esteemed figure in the literary world, a top-ranked expert, and she said, “Don’t write or buy dystopian fiction; it’s on its way out.” I’m paraphrasing, of course, but it was something very similar to that. Fear exploded in my chest. I had just sold a novel fitting this exact description to the people sitting around me. I braved a glance at them and I was immediately encouraged. Their faces said, Don’t worry, we’ll prove her wrong. And I was thrilled to have continued to practice faithfulness in my craft. 

Write what your heart is telling you to. Follow the path even if you’re walking it alone. You never know where it will lead you, but if you are faithful to your calling, then you are exactly where you should be. 

What is your calling? Does it ever feel like the world is telling you there’s a right way to follow that calling, but your heart is leading you down another road?

The oldest daughter of New York Times bestselling author Ted Dekker, Rachelle Dekker was inspired early on to discover truth through storytelling. She graduated with a degree in communications and spent several years in marketing and corporate recruiting before making the transition to write full time. She lives in Nashville with her husband, Daniel, and their diva cat Blair. 

Visit her online at

Twitter: @RachelleDekker

Instagram: @rachelle_dekker

Rachelle is featured in the current Christian Fiction Online Magazine too!
The Choosing (A Seer Novel)

Like all citizens since the Ruining, Carrington Hale knows the importance of this day. But she never expected the moment she’d spent a lifetime preparing for―her Choosing ceremony―to end in disaster. Ripped from her family, she’ll spend her days serving as a Lint, the lowest level of society. She knows it’s her duty to follow the true way of the Authority.

But as Carrington begins this nightmare, rumors of rebellion rattle her beliefs. Though the whispers contradict everything she’s been told, they resonate deep within.

Then Carrington is offered an unprecedented chance at the life she’s always dreamed of, yet she can’t shake the feeling that it may be an illusion. With a killer targeting Lints and corruption threatening the highest levels of the Authority, Carrington must uncover the truth before it destroys her.

Leave a comment for an opportunity to win a copy of The Choosing (which releases TODAY on Amazon!) Winner announced in the Weekend Edition.

Monday, May 18, 2015

“Tips for Introducing Characters in Ways that will Hook Readers”

Janet here. I’m excited to announce a definite title for my next release The Bounty Hunter’s Redemption, LIH, January 2016. The title fits the story perfectly. I’m hoping for a rugged unshaven hero on the cover resembling Nate Sergeant. Of course, if the pretty heroine Carly or her adorable seven-year-old son Henry should join Nate, that will work great, too!
For writers to hook readers immediately, we need to create relatable characters who are knee deep in unanticipated change that threatens or distresses them, propelling them to act. Those actions start a chain reaction of events, the plot. 
Editors know what readers want. Love Inspired editors want the hero and heroine together on the page as soon as possible. In recent years I've also seen that they want both points of view pretty quickly, too. No time to dillydally.
The first meeting of the hero and heroine is sometimes called the set up or the Cute Meet, though whether that first meeting is cute or not, depends on the story you have to tell. 
Some stories don’t open with the hero and heroine meeting immediately. A few paragraphs, even a few pages, may focus on one character, but when the hero and heroine meet, make it matter, make it exciting, make readers care and want to spend time with these people as they journey toward their happy ending.
Let’s zoom in the lens to look at the opening pages when the hero and heroine meet. How can we introduce the characters in ways that will hook readers?

·         Start with the point of view character’s goal. Strong goals are interesting. Strong goals reveal a lot about the character. Strong goals produce action.

In the opening of Courting Miss Adelaide, milliner Adelaide Crum faces the committee of four men who will decide if she gets her goal of rearing an orphan. The interview shows the times, the attitude of the men involved—reminds me of Missy’s subtext post—and an intriguing peek at editor Charles Graves that hints a romance is possible. This scene sets up the entire book. Adelaide never gives up her desire to be a mother, but as she grows and changes throughout the story, she wants more, a voice in town, a voice for women. If you want to read an opening with the goal as the hook, go here.
·         Start with the hero and heroine in conflict. Strong goals and/or motivations create conflict in and between characters. 

In the opening of Courting the Doctor’s Daughter widow Mary Graves confronts Luke Jacobs about the validity of his remedy. Sparks fly as these two go toe to toe in a scene that reveals Mary’s motivation. If you want to read an opening with strong conflict between the hero and heroine in the opening pages, go here.

·         Start with humor. Spunky characters sometimes use humor to mask pain and fear.

In The Substitute Bride, I open the story with Elizabeth Manning fleeing her father’s home before he can marry her off to the rich old codger who promised to pay Mr. Manning’s gambling debts in exchange for his daughter's hand. In the train station, Elizabeth switches places with a mail order bride with cold feet. The humor hopefully hooks readers and makes them eager to see what will happen when this gutsy heroine collides with widower Ted Logan. To read an excerpt go here.
·         Start with a dilemma or danger. Suspense authors often start with a heroine in danger. The rest of us may start with a dilemma that makes readers care.

In Wanted: A Family pregnant widow Callie Mitchell’s in a pickle. Her house is practically falling down, endangering her and her goal of providing a home for unwed mothers. When stranger Jacob Smith shows up offering to restore her old Victorian in exchange for room and board, Callie doesn't trust him, but the strong motivation for her goal overrides her reservations. To read an opening that begins with a dilemma, go here.  

·         Start with a shared past. A shared past that looked promising or was painful makes this meeting all the more interesting.  
In “Last Minute Bride” in the anthology of Brides of the West, An Inconvenient Match and The Bride Wore Spurs, the heroes and heroines knew each other before the story starts. Their pasts cause conflict between them that influence their behavior now. To read excerpts of each story, click on the title.
  • Start by giving the reader the sense of impending trouble.
In The Bounty Hunter’s Redemption, my January release, the book opens with Carly Richards standing at the grave of her dead husband Max. Though she looks like a grieving widow, Carly's relieved Max is dead. She vows to run her seamstress shop and take care of her young son, as she’s always done. The scene ends like this:

     “…She’d been a fool to hitch herself to Max Richards. She’d never trust a man again.
     Carly grasped Henry’s hand, then with one last glance at the grave, at the overall-clad men already covering the casket with shovelfuls of dirt, she stepped away from her past.”
You don’t believe she’ll never trust a man again, do you? Is it even possible to step away from one's past? These few lines foreshadow the possibility of trouble ahead. Carly thinks she’s experienced change with the death of her abusive husband, but more change is headed her way.  

Which brings up an interesting point. When do you start the book? Before the trouble starts? During the trouble? Or right after the trouble?

All can work.
In The Bounty Hunter’s Redemption I start the book before the trouble starts. 
Let’s chat about openings, what you like and what you don't, as we sip coffee or tea and nibble on fruit, scones and apple fritters.

Leave a comment for a chance to win a $10 Amazon gift card.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

The Weekend Edition

We've spotted some great writer bumper stickers lately. Seen any good ones?

We Have Winners

 Giveaway rules can be found here. Please drop us a line to claim your giveaway at All prizes not claimed in 8 weeks go back into the prize vault. We wish we could contact all our winners individually, but we'd rather write books! And P.S. - if we forget to send  your prize DO let us know after 8 weeks per our rules. 

Our Mother's Day winner of a copy of any Seekerville author's release, available on Amazon, to a favorite mom of your choice, (it doesn't have to be your mom). In E book or print is Kelly Bridgewater.

 Missy Tippens has been digging around in her giant stack of how-to books, reading up on the use of subtext in our writing. Monday she shared what she's learned! Mary Cline is the winner of The Doctor's Second Chance, now on shelves and in e-book format! 

Tuesday  Myra Johnson borrowed a few hints from online dating services for her post "Tips for Crafting a Catchy Query Letter.” No, Myra has NEVER actually used one of these sites, but when it comes to grabbing the attention of your dream editor or agent, there may be a thing or two we can learn from the dating world. Sally Shupe is winner of a $10 Amazon gift card!

 "Writing All Over the Road" - was our Wednesday post with Bestselling author Dan Walsh who talked about all the crazy choices fiction writers face in today's ever-changing literary world. Should you pursue traditional publishing? How about a small indie press? Self-publishing? Or maybe you should be a hybrid? Dan explored the options he's faced in his own writing career and talked about where he thinks the majority of our writing energy should be spent. Winners o their choice of either his new devotional, Perfect Peace, or his new suspense novel, When Night Comes (ebook or print) are Kelly Goshorn and Bettie.

Thursday Inspirational Romantic Suspense author Debby Giusti teamed up with the amazing Barbara Vey, to share photos and highlights of Barbara's Reader Appreciation Luncheon 2015!  Sarah Claucherty is the winner of cute SWAG from Debby and a copy of her latest Love Inspired Suspense, Stranded.

Catherine West  was our special guest Friday with her post, "Writing Through The Difficult Times." Kathryn Barker is the winner of Bridge of Faith.

Next Week In Seekerville

Monday: Love Inspired Historical author Janet Dean will discuss how to bring story people onstage in her post, "Tips for Introducing Characters in Ways that Will Hook Readers." Leave a comment for a chance to win a $10 Amazon gift card.

Tuesday: What a kick! We are hosting debut author, Rachelle Dekker (daughter of Ted Dekker) today in Seekerville. Stop by for a dose of "Coloring Outside the Lines," and you could win a copy of her debut novel from Tyndale, The Choosing.

Wednesday:  Ruth Logan Herne is back with "Three R's: Revise, Rewrite and Resubmit: A Gift You Can Take to the Bank." How to take it on the chin and make the story better! She's giving advice on revisions, taking direction and dealing with Writing Reality 101.  Of course there is a cat dish and a giveaway of  Healing the Lawman's Heart.

Thursday:" The Characteristics – And The Characters – Of A Christian Novel." Winnie Griggs will discuss what a Christian novel is and is not, as well as list some of the questions we should ask and answer about our characters when penning Christian Fiction. Winnie will give away books to two commenters. They can select her current release or any title in her backlist, international winners welcome.

Friday: 2014 ACFW Carol Award winner,  Tina Radcliffe is your hostess with a back to basics post, "Just Write the Scene." Guaranteed to be a painful day of writing growth. Bring your notebooks and pens. There will be a quiz and a nice giveaway too.

  Seeker Sightings 

Monday, May 18th, join Missy Tippens on Lyn Cote's blog! She'll be doing a giveaway!  

Available for preorder, The 12 Brides of Summer Novella Collection. In four volumes. 

Mary Connealy is in Volume #2 releasing July 1st. Pam Hillman is in Volume #3 releasing August 1st. More information here:

Random News & Information

Links courtesy of Seekers & Villagers

Love Finds You series comes to Television (BeliefNet)

23 Extraordinary Facebook Advertising Facts (Jeff Bullas)

The Daily Word Counts of 39 Famous Authors (Writers Write)

The Art of the Book Blurb (Writers in the Storm)

Indie Author Tip: The Difference between eBook Conversion and Formatting (Indie Author News)

King of the Golden Hill: An Analysis of 50 Years of Bestsellers. (The Passive Voice)

There’s an App for That – 22 Apps and Tools Every Writer Should Know About (

Revise Wisely: Tips From an Indie Author (Booklife)

Copyediting or Proofreading? Getting the Most for Your Editing Dollar (The Book Designer)

Two Hot Leads From : Cindi Myers Market News's Blog:

There’s still time to sign up for Harlequin’s Back to Basics Boot Camp, which kicks off May 22 as a prelude to their So You Think You Can Write competition. The free, online, interactive Boot Camp aims to help authors polish their manuscripts for the competition. Find out more here.

British publisher Mills & Boon, British bookseller WH Smith, and ebook retailer Kobo Books are teaming up to sponsor the Romance Writing Life competition. The competition is open to aspiring romance authors in the UK, the United States or Canada. Both self-published and never before published authors may enter the competition. Submit your synopsis of no more than 500 words and a first chapter of no more than 5,000 words by July 14, 2015. Finalists will be asked to submit a complete manuscript. Submissions may be in any romance subgenre — contemporary, historical, paranormal or new adult. The grand prize winner will receive a publishing contract with Mills and Boon. There is no fee to enter the competition. For all the details, go here.

 No Limits Quote of the Week:

That's it! Have a great writing and reading weekend!