New Release!

It’s here! The fifth installment of The Secret Author Series, The Telegram, is now available on Amazon and in Kindle Unlimited! The paperback version is coming soon!

I’m very excited about this installment because it is dedicated to my cousin, Paul Henry Hedrick, who was killed aboard the USS Arizona during the attack on Pearl Harbor. Have a few tissues ready when you read!

TELEGRAM

When cleaning out her recently deceased great-grandmother’s attic, Easton Long discovers a box of telegrams exchanged between her grandmother and a man whose name she has never heard. Reeling after the loss of her beloved family member, a nasty break-up, and the loss of her job, Easton decides to dive deeper into the life of the mysterious man, William.

When Easton discovers William was Nannie’s childhood friend who died during the attack on Pearl Harbor, she cannot resist the urge to see the wreckage for herself. She is drawn to William and his story, one she isn’t sure has been thoroughly told, and soon finds herself on a cross-country road trip with her own childhood friend, Drew Prescott.

While the two set out to reconnect and get over their past issues, they discover much more than they had anticipated. With each step, the mystery deepens… and love grows.

USS Arizona memorial

All About It Blog Series, Week One

I’ve received loads of questions via social media, some through email, and in-person about my many series. In case you haven’t noticed, I do like to genre hop a little, but I do tend to stick with young adult and fantasy. In my upcoming blog series, I will explore each of my book series, so readers will know what they’re getting into when they pick up one of my books (don’t worry, that sounds worse than it is!)

Over the next few weeks, I will spotlight one series with my thoughts and a more in-depth look at why I started it, what readers will find in the story, and why the themes are universal.

Let’s just dive right into the first series, shall we?

This week’s series is THE SECRET AUTHOR SERIES.

My very first published book was The Yellow Note. Sometimes I still cringe when I reread it, but that’s true for any author. Show me one who doesn’t at least wince a little, and I’ll show you someone who hasn’t honed their craft. It’s a process like any other hobby or job, and it takes hours upon hours and thousands upon thousands of words to improve—which I still do every day.

The Yellow Note was supposed to be a stand-alone novel. I put it up on Wattpad just to see what people thought. I was surprised to find they liked it, and when Wattpad put it up as a featured read, it got over three million reads in just a few months. People asked for more, so another book was born—The Postcard. After that, it seemed simple to keep up the theme—a secret person using some sort of correspondence to communicate with the main character… and the rest is history (actually, the rest is The Secret Author Series.)

The Yellow Note Hardcover

Here are some commonly asked questions about this series:

What is the target age group?

That’s difficult to pin down. The themes are certainly universal to any age, but some of the stories are better suited for middle-grade to high-school age (about 13-18), where some are suited for a young adult to new adult age (about 15-25). I’ve had readers in their forties rave about the books, while some even as young as twelve enjoyed the more adult themes.

What are the ages of the characters?

It depends on the book, but most are between the ages of 15 and 25, with a few outliers for supporting characters such as parents, older or younger siblings, mentors, etc.

What is the content rating?

To me, it’s solid PG. There is no sex or heavy petting (there are kissing scenes, but nothing overly heated), no cussing (perhaps the occasional Hell referencing the actual place), no graphic violence. However, in some installments, I do discuss trauma and other intense situations. For example, in The Letter, I discuss PTSD both from combat and from child abuse. In The Text Message, we tackle grief and depression after the death of a sibling. But no matter what the content is, you can rest assured it is managed with care, and to show hope and love.

Why did you start this series?

Amidst all the oversexed, overly vulgar young adult novels out there, I wanted to offer readers something with emotion and feeling, but without all the bad influence and trauma portrayed as a positive thing. I’m not a huge fan of novels that depict abusive relationships as a good thing, or that those people can be changed with just the right amount of love from just the right person. I believe in redemption, but when I write about it, it is hard-earned and deserved. Basically, I wanted to show people that hope can be found in almost any situation.

Should I read the series in order?

No, not at all, unless you want to. I wrote each one to stand on its own, but if you do read them in order, you’ll find a little surprise. Each book is linked to a previous book in at least one way. For example, Conor Hudson is the main character in The Yellow Note. You might catch in book one that her mother’s maiden name was Garrison. In the Postcard, Mark and Hope Garrison are Conor’s first cousins! It’s not directly mentioned, but if you’re careful, you can pick up little gems like that one and many more!

How far have I written in The Secret Author Series?

Well, that’s a loaded question. I initially (after writing The Postcard) decided on a ten-book series, primarily because I couldn’t think of any other forms of communication that would work in a full-length novel. But, as fate would have it, people were intrigued by side characters and stories, and they wanted to know more about them. I found I did too! So, I have also written some spin-off novellas and will continue to do so as long as my alpha and beta readers keep saying things like, “Hey, this would be a cool short story!” or “I’d really like to know more about this character’s life!”

Here’s what we have so far:

The Yellow Note, Book One – follows Conor Hudson as she unravels the mystery of her secret note writer. Along the way, she discovers family secrets, the value of friendship, and a love that lasts forever.

The Postcard, Book Two – follows Aria Scott as she seeks X, the mysterious person sending her postcards with challenges that push the introverted girl way out of her comfort zone.

The Letter, Book Three – follows Penelope Scottsdale as she navigates life with an abusive mother, a tyrannical sister, and a past she’s eager to forget, all while communicating with a deployed soldier—who thinks she’s her sister.

The Text Message, Book Four – Emily Waters navigates a text messaging situation gone wrong, which places her in a tight spot when her deceased brother’s best friend shows interest in her.

SA BOOKS 1-4

Starting Over – A spin-off novella born from a deleted chapter in The Yellow Note. Atticus Stillwell was a bully, but someone took pity on him and saw the truth. Now he pays it forward.

Biology 101 – A spin-off novella from The Yellow Note, this is the history of Jacob and Delilah, two of the book’s most beloved characters.

Falling For Elizabeth – a second-generation novella, this one follows the next generation of The Yellow Note

The Forget Me Not Pact – a surprise prequel novella that dives deep into the lives of a beloved character’s parents (I can’t tell who! I’d rather you be surprised.)

War Changes Everything – a prequel novella that gaps The Postcard and The Letter and follows Walter, the loveable war vet from The Postcard.

SPIN OFFS

New installment coming soon:

The Telegram, Book Five – Easton Long finds a box of telegrams in her deceased great-grandmother’s attic. She never expected they would take her on a cross-country road trip to uncover family secrets and lost love.

TELEGRAM

Future books include the following in the primary series and planned spin-off prequels, sequels, and novellas!

SA BOOKS 6-10

spin offs 2

spin offs 3

I hope you have enjoyed our walk through The Secret Author Series! If you read one of the books and have an idea for future installments, including novella side stories, prequels, or sequels, feel free to send me a message! I’m always open to developing new books with reader input!

Next week we’ll dive into one of my new series, the I’m Pretty Sure About That Series!

How I Blindly Co-Wrote a Book… And Made a Great Friend

Writing a book is hard. Co-writing a book has a whole other set of rules. I had no idea how to write with another author when Crystal Crawford and I came up with the idea to write what we affectionately call our weird alien romance. In hindsight, that was probably a blessing. If I had known what I was doing, I don’t think our book would have become the strange, funny, wonderful thing it is.

Crystal and I first met on Wattpad, a writing app where authors can post their work for others to read. I read her book, I Am Not a Stalker, and she read mine, The Yellow Note, then we started messaging privately about our writing. From there, we started beta reading each other’s books, then I joined her hugely supportive beta reader group (who are also dear friends of mine now). After that, the next logical step seemed to be to co-write something.

Grab I Am Not a Stalker here!

Grab The Yellow Note here!

Even to that point, we had never met in person. We had also never spoken on the phone. We did all of our planning via Facebook Messenger and in Google Docs, proving the level of our itnrovertedness. Is that a word? No? I’m making it a word… introvertedness.

introvertedness

Moving on, with some semblance of an outline and a lot of pantsing, we managed to chug out quite a few chapters on our own from our individual character’s points-of-view—Grace and Alexia. Then came the tricky part. We had to seamlessly merge our writing styles and our characters into a meeting scene, then move forward to complete the book together. It was definitely an interesting experience that taught us a lot.

We had loads of fun on Google Docs, taking turns writing bits here and there, live on the Doc at the same time. It took us a while to get into the groove (and a lot of laughs), but soon we were building something amazing.

What started as a little idea we bounced back and forth became The Extraordinary Extraterrestrial Love Lives of Doppelgangers! We didn’t intend to write a 100K+ word soft science fiction novel, but we did! We also entered the book in the Wattys, a writer’s award presented by Wattpad. WE WON for our category! And it was the day we won that Crystal and I finally picked up the phone and had a real conversation.

Find The Extraordinary Extraterrestrial Love Lives of Doppelgangers here!

We had a lot to discuss that day, including what we wanted to do with our book. At first, we left it on Wattpad, but we decided to leave the platform and self-publish our book. Together, we created Considerate Malice, our joint publishing brand, where we will also publish the sequel to TEELLoD and a NEW superhero series that is under construction! That’s all sort of hush, hush for now, but I can say if you liked TEELLoD, then you will love the superhero series!

Now, here we are, years later, and Crystal is one of my best friends. We still haven’t met in person, but we spend a lot of time messaging and discussing our brand via lengthy phone conversations (that almost always take multiple tangents, with many ridiculous ideas for books).

So, the point of my blog post today is this… sometimes jumping into a project with little to no idea what you are doing can be great. I mean, I wouldn’t recommend it if you’re, say, an architect, but for two writers, it turned out to be a great thing that let our creativity thrive!

And that’s sort of the point of writing, isn’t it?

Behind The Scenes

Ready for a sneak peek into my process? Fair warning, there might be spoilers!

An inside look like this doesn’t happen very often, because I am always rotating my work to keep my brain active! But lately, I’ve been in editing overdrive. I had a backlog of books just waiting to see the world, so I decided to send them on their way while I work on some longer-term things.

So, without further ado… here is my messy book writing process!

There is an ongoing debate in my head over which is better—planning or pantsing. For most of my books, I only plan ahead one chapter at a time, but for some, I try to make a detailed outline. My collaborations are always outlined since it is easier to write with another person when there is a plan. I also write outlines for my epic fantasy series, The History of Goranin. If I didn’t, those books would be twice as long as they already are!

Whether I outline or not, I do tend to take copious notes about ideas, worlds, characters, and anything else that pops into my head when I am in the shower—where all my brilliant ideas hit me.

Here’s a look at some notes from Autumn Awakens, the fourth book in The Immortal Grimm Brothers’ Guide to Sociopathic Princesses:

IMG_7149

Don’t worry… that jumble of nonsense in horrific handwriting does actually make sense to me… and it’s one of the more organized pages!

When I do outline, it looks something like this (which… is probably all wrong but it works for me):

(Contains small spoilers for Eiagan’s Winter)

Outline

After some brief planning or notetaking, I just dive right in. I usually write every day, sometimes entire chapters, other times just a few paragraphs. It really depends on the book. Something light-hearted and fun is much easier than a world-building fantasy with adult characters in death-defying situations.

As I write, I have a team of alpha readers that help me figure out what works and what I should scrap. We share via Google Docs, where we can share comments. After that, there are several rounds of rewrites, editing, and cover design.

Here’s a small outtake from The Telegram that will release this summer:

Google doc comments

Sometimes I buy covers, but most often, I design them myself. That was a huge learning curve, but it is also a lot of fun. For that, I use Photoshop. Then it’s out for a beta read before releasing to the world!

Here is a layout of the cover for Mattie Bender is a Cereal Killer that will release June 15:

Cover

That was a brief look into the process, but if anyone is interested in a more detailed breakdown, I might be willing to do a video series as I write the next (and last) Grimm book! Let me know in the comments if that is something you’d like to see!

The Quiet Voices

Far be it from me to tell someone how to react to anything. I am a red-headed firecracker on a path of destruction most days, then I remember in whose image I was made and try to reduce myself back to humbleness. I say that, to say this. I am not here to weigh in on the state of my country right now, because another empty voice shouting into the void does nothing. I will, though, implore anyone reading to understand one thing—not everyone processes grief and expresses themselves the same way.

It’s true. Sometimes it is difficult to understand or accept when someone isn’t as infuriated as you are—or so you believe because they are not raging around destroying everything. But please understand, some people are called upon to do the repair work, some are here to hold hands and offer warm embraces when it’s just too much, some are meant to soothe the souls in the aftermath—not light the world on fire.

Before shaming your friends for not screaming, ask them what they are doing. So, what am I doing? I am raising a daughter who sees all colors as unique and beautiful, created without mistake in the vision of God—even if you disagree with them. I work hard to ensure I support causes that lift people from poverty, and I work in the community to ensure the hungry are fed, the poor have housing, and more.

I do not want to toot my own horn because there is always more work to do. It is never done, and I can never do enough to be worthy enough to say it is. But I am saddened when I hear “you are part of the problem” because I don’t scream, rage, or light things on fire. I am a creator, not a destroyer. Many, like me, hear quiet voices, and it calls us to action. And there are more like me everywhere, so please, let those with soft voices use them because they often reach those who are afraid of the loudness of the world. They reach people who would otherwise hide in their safe, quiet corners and call them to action.

So, obviously, this blog post is a little different. My country is on fire, and it is scary for everyone. But beneath it all, I see hope. I see the quiet exchanges of love, the warm embraces of strangers of all colors, the pure heart of most people—and it is not violence or oppression.

I want to leave this post with a small story of an interaction I had with a man earlier this year. I’m not going to preach or rage, only offer that sliver of hope (I pray).

I was in a bookstore searching for a children’s Bible, which was surprisingly difficult. I passed a man browsing devotionals several times, apologizing profusely for each time I asked him to excuse me (the aisle was small). We stood there searching for at least ten minutes before he spoke up and said, “When did you become a believer?”

My back stiffened as I turned to face him. I was terrified of this man’s question. Anyone who knows me well knows the series of events that took me from someone who “believed in God” to someone who “knows God.” But boy, was it scary to try to tell a stranger.

He knew that, too. There he was, a tall African American man (maybe 18 inches taller than me), large and well built, wearing a black hoodie and jeans—and me, an average-sized, pale as snow, woman on a mission to find something, staring at him with fear. But he was also a wise man. He knew that fear, and he knew it had nothing at all to do with him and everything to do with sharing my story.

His eyes softened, and in them was the most kindness I had ever seen in my life—ever. And I could also see he was afraid, too. I think he was as scared to share his story as I was.

I almost melted right there, and for the first time, I told a complete stranger the story that dragged me through Hell before it deposited me right at the feet of hope. Then he told me his, which, even though I have not stated his name, I will still keep to myself because a confession of faith is something personal and meant to be told by the individual.

There was a moment of uncertainty, that moment when you know you have connected with someone on an indescribable level, but you can’t quite name it. We looked at each other, knowing how close we had both been to devastation, how close one of us was to leaving earth unfulfilled, and how—by chance alone—we found each other in a bookstore searching for the same thing.

It turns out, we weren’t searching for a Bible or a devotional. We were searching for peace, and for another person who could hear our struggle and absorb some of the pain for us.

I offered my hand, he offered his arm. Before I knew it, I was getting one of the best hugs of my life. It was cozy, wrapped up in that hoodie and massive arms!

Then my husband and daughter walked up just after we separated and finished talking. My daughter shyly hugged my leg and waved to him. He waved in return, then shook hands with my husband.

And that was it. We said our goodbyes with what we came for—connection.

During the madness, I urge you to find those who can connect with you where you are. Force never changed anyone for long, so let your quiet protesters do their work. It’s necessary.

What happened to George Floyd was an abomination, and I pray nightly for his family and friends. I pray for the broken hearts and the fearful, that they may find a way to bridge gaps between us all, to end hate, no matter our color because we cannot know another’s pain until we feel it with them.

_The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it._

A Break to Say Thank You

Today in the USA, it is Memorial Day. For most people, it is a day of picnics and fun in the sun, but it is also a day of remembrance and appreciation. It is the day we honor our fallen, those who gave the ultimate sacrifice to ensure our freedom. Instead of a usual blog today, I wanted to share a little about my first cousin twice removed, Paul Henry Hedrick.

Paul joined the navy when he was young in 1930. Ironically, he served aboard the USS Arizona. There is not much information available (at least that I can find) that details what he did from then, but I can see in census records that he married and had children. In 1936, he reenlisted in the Navy.

As we know, on December 7, 1941, Pearl Harbor was attacked and many lives were lost. My cousin was among them, meeting his fate aboard the very same ship where he’d originally fulfilled his military duties. Today, I wanted to take a moment to thank him for his service, his dedication, and for his life.

Thank you, Paul.

P. S. If you are or know a descendant of Paul Hedrick, I would love to hear from you!

shutterstock_249572872shutterstock_470070425God's Not Dead (1)

The Hardening of a Hero

Have you ever wondered why the heroes and heroines of fantasy novels tend to lose their sweetness and vulnerability when they become a warrior? What is up with that? Don’t get me wrong, I love a good tale about the pushover who becomes the butt-kicking do-gooder but… do they have to lose all of their endearing character traits?

Nope. I don’t think so. And I’m sure I am not alone. When I sat down to write Eiagan’s Winter, I had one plan I mind—my main character would be the personification of depression, anxiety, and anger—a way for me to grasp those seemingly insurmountable circumstances and overcome them. As I wrote, though, I discovered my main character had a lot more to her than grit and fury.

Beneath everything, there was a spark of humanity. She was feminine and soft, and everything you wouldn’t expect a heroine to be. I don’t want to spoil the book for anyone who hasn’t read it, but consistently I receive reviews that start out something like this… “I wasn’t sure I would like this at first because the main character is so unlikeable, but the more I read, the more I saw her layers.”

That’s what I wanted! I was so excited people received Eiagan the way I intended her to be—complex! Let’s face it. We all have our moments when we can’t even stand the sight of ourselves in the mirror. We have days when people are our worst enemy, and we lash out. But we also have days where we are exactly the right soft spot for another person to land.

So, tell me, what books have you read where the main character remained true to themselves, or better, showed more sides of themselves to the world as they fell into their role as the hero or heroine? What characters do you love most because they didn’t harden themselves or turn into an egotistical jerk just to be “strong?” Or maybe the reverse happened. Perhaps the character was hard and softened as they grew into their roles? Send me to all the great books!

blog meme

A Letter to Me

Sigh… I really wanted to be more active on my blog this year, but just about the time my schedule opened up, the world went a little sideways and every idea I had, became useless. I couldn’t exactly tell people all the best places in Savannah to find used books, or where the best coffee is, or my favorite places to write when no one could leave their homes, could I?

Well, even though the world is still a bit confusing, I decided to jump in anyway. The good Lord willing, I plan to post every Monday! I have also started revamping my social media posts, so follow me on Facebook or Instagram if you want to keep up with the latest including character interviews, contests and giveaways, book discussions, and more.

Now that’s out of the way… I decided to get back into the groove slowly by writing a letter to my future self as a way to remind me how resilient I can be. I urge you to do the same! Share them with me if you’d like (I can keep a secret!)

So, without further ado… a letter to me.

Dear Me in Ten Years,

As I write this letter to the future you, I’m ignoring all the alerts on my phone about COVID-19, that virus that rocked everyone’s world and turned society upside down with a bigger thud than that time you forgot to grease the bundt pan and the cake wouldn’t come out. You remember that—you had to whack the thing six ways from Sunday to get it out. The problem was, even though you whacked and prayed, it still came out in pieces. It looked like it went through a blender, but it was tasty all the same.

Life is like that. No matter how hard you try to plan ahead, something always gets in the way. Remember ten years ago when you thought you had it figured out? You just knew you’d finish up your master’s, get a fantastic job in finance, and never look back. Well, now, here you are hating math and loving literature.

Who would have thought? Your fifth-grade teacher, that’s who. Should have listened to him when he said you “should be a writer.” But hey, you’ll never forget the day you sat down (between Lily’s first and second nap) and wrote the first chapter of an idea you had, one that was swimming in your mind for months. It sucked. Like, really, really sucked, but it sparked something deep inside, a talent you didn’t know God gave you. And now, can you think of anything better than being a mom, homeschooling, and writing for a living?

Nope. And that is the point. Ten years in the future, something will be standing in your way again, because there is always something in the way. There’s always something threatening to topple your world, but it doesn’t have to stop your world. Don’t forget that time during a pandemic when you were more prolific than any other point in your life—seriously, woman, you taught your five-year-old how to read, released several books, wrote another, ran a household, and so much more while the world was in an uproar!

Remember to have compassion, empathy, sympathy, and patience, not only with others but also with yourself. Be kind, be loving, and above all, keep putting your faith where it belongs—in God because He did not fail you when you needed Him most.

Love, You

Now you tell me, if you could send a message back or forward in time, what would you say to yourself?

you are going to be just fine.

12 Days of Christmas Blog Hop

Hey Squad! It has been a long time since I wrote a blog post, but I’m back. I hope to send out a blog at least once a month to begin, then weekly once my schedule frees up a bit next year.

This year, I have joined a 12 Days of Christmas blog hop! It begins December 1, so bookmark this blog and check in daily from December 1-12 to catch all the goodies!

Now, let’s dig into this blog hop, shall we? Oh, how does that work, you ask? It’s easy! Just click on the website link for the author each day to enter to win prizes, grab free books and swag, or sign up for their newsletter for freebies! It’s that easy. And if you love their books, show them the love and write a review on Amazon, Goodreads, or wherever you usually review books!

Here’s the schedule to follow (don’t worry, I will send out daily blasts to remind you who is up next once it begins!):

Official_12DaysofChristmas.png

12/01/19
Yaasha Moriah – www.yaashamoriah.com
One paperback giveaway (US shipping only) + $.99 on all books

12/02/19
Verity A. Buchanan – www.verityabuchanan.com
One signed paperback giveaway + bookmark

12/03/19
Melissa Little – mllittleauthor.blogspot.com
One signed paperback giveaway + bookmark

12/04/19
J.D. Rempel – www.jdrempel.com
One personal signed hardback giveaway (US shipping only) + book swag

12/05/19
Claire Banschbach – www.clairembanschbach.com
Paperback giveaway (US only) The Wolf Prince x 1 – discounted ebooks for Adela’s Curse and The Rise of Aredor

12/06/19
Anne Wheeler – www.anne-wheeler.com
$0.99 on all books + 3 paperback giveaways of Asrian Skies

12/07/19
J.M. Hackman – https://jmhackman.com/
One signed paperback giveaway (Spark or Flare) (US shipping only) + related swag

12/08/19
Janeen Ippolito – https://www.janeenippolito.com/
Signed paperback giveaway (US only), super swag + sticker pack (anyone)

12/09/19
H. L. Burke – www.hlburkeauthor.com/blog
Paperback giveaway (US shipping only) Ultimate Nyssa Glass+Free ebook downloads for An Ordinary Knight and Thaddeus Whiskers and the Dragon

12/10/19
Laura VanArendonk Baugh – www.LauraVanArendonkBaugh.com
Paperback giveaway (single) plus a discount on Shard & Shield

12/11/19
Hans Erdman – www.gewellynchronicles.com
6 giveaways of paperback “Aerielands Christmas” (US only) plus a discount on all e-books

12/12/19
​M. J. Padgett – www.mjpadgettbooks.com
Two free e-books (first in each series) plus one download code for a free holiday-themed audiobook

 

 

How I Accidentally Became an Indie Author Series – Developing The Idea By Birthing Characters

Last week we talked about finding inspiration for writing and developing a general idea for your book. This week we’ll take a deeper look into developing the idea into something more tangible. Without further ado, here is step two (at least, the way I write):

Step Two: Developing The Idea By Birthing Characters

I used to just dive right in and start writing, and for the most part, is still do, but I have learned over time that the story flows a little better and requires fewer major rewrites if I do some basic planning. Now, I tend to think about how my character got into the predicament/catastrophe/position he/she is in. What would I do? What does the character think, see, feel, hear, etc.?

It’s important to note you should consider those questions at every stage of writing your story. Your character might change with the circumstances, or she might stay steadfast. It’s up to you, but make sure your choices make sense for your story and your character.

How do you know if your character is doing something, well, out-of-character? You get to know your character first. You should know him/her as well as you know yourself because, really, you are the characters.

For my own work, I usually have a clear picture of what my main and supporting characters look like, so I jot it down. Then I begin to develop other parts like personality, character traits, quirks, likes and dislikes—I might not use them all, but they’re available for quick reference if I want to. And that’s important when writing. No one wants to stop the flow of an idea to try to remember little details such as what color did I say her eyes were? It seems trivial, but readers will notice. If you don’t know your character, it shows.

I recently found a list on The Novel Factory, a website that offers structured writing “rules” and suggestions. I love their page The Ultimate Character Questionnaire. It lists over 150 questions you can ask yourself about your character (not all of which you necessarily need, but it’s great reference material.)

I recommend, as a minimum, to have the following details hammered out for your main character and primary supporting characters (pulled from the questionnaire):

  • Basic Questions
    • Name (first, last, nickname?)
    • Date of birth/age
  • Appearance
    • Height/weight
    • Hair/skin/eye color
    • Ethnicity/race
    • Distinguishing features (tattoos, scars, etc.)
    • Clothing style
    • Mannerisms/quirks
    • Disabilities
  • Personality
    • Catchphrases
    • Optimist or pessimist
    • Introvert or extrovert
    • Habits
    • Strongest traits
    • Weakest traits
    • Friendship qualities
    • Response to conflict/stress
  • Past and Future
    • Backstory ideas (birthplace, childhood incidents)
    • Social status (rich, poor, etc.)
    • Family situation (neglect, positive environment)
    • Memories
  • Love Interest
    • What is their love language (affectionate, standoffish)
    • Sexual orientation
  • Other Details
    • Work, education, hobbies
    • Favorite things
    • Possessions of importance
    • Spirituality
    • Values
    • Daily life (allergies, eating habits, home life)

It’s a long list, but it can easily grow! Having a thorough understanding of your character will go a long way toward helping your story flow, and it will tap into your reader’s emotions. Here is an example from my own work. Conor Hudson is one of my popular characters, probably because she is highly relatable. Most people liked her, despite a few moments of frustration and annoyance. And let’s face it, there isn’t a single person in our lives we haven’t wanted to shake silly once or twice, right?

For Conor, my character map looked a bit like this:

  • Basic Questions
    • Conor Hudson
    • 14-18 through course of the book
  • Appearance
    • Shorter than average, average weight
    • Brown hair and eyes, pale skin
    • Caucasian, Irish descent
    • Minimalist clothing style
  • Personality
    • Somewhat pessimistic
    • Introvert
    • Reads a lot
    • Highly intelligent, gifted
    • Afraid to step outside of her safety zone
    • Steadfast friend
    • Tends to avoid conflict, but grows in time
  • Past and Future
    • Born in Colorado, parents killed in a car accident
    • Middle-class life in Savannah, lives with grandmother
    • Loving grandmother plays a significant part in her life, positive
    • Remembers the night vividly her parents died
  • Love Interest
    • Wants love but is fearful, nervous
    • Interested in boys
  • Other Details
    • Westmore Academy, a private school for gifted
    • Religious, not outwardly mentioned in the book but implied through her thoughts about her parents
    • Values honesty and loyalty

These are only a few traits, and if you read The Yellow Note, you know there are many more!

Homework for this week: Spend some time getting to know your characters. Think about your story idea and what your main character thinks about it. Who are they? What do they see, think, smell, hear… Then check out the linked website for character development questions and work on your main character! If you feel like it, work on some supporting characters, too!

Next week we’ll take a look at developing your idea through World Development!