Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Characteristics that shape a story

I've been in sort of a funk the past few months - heck, most of this year! Recently, however, I saw a headline that poked my inner muse.

When authors talk about what inspires them, you get a wealth of answers. The real answer? "Everything." The headline that caught my eyes this time was, unfortunately, one of the many obituaries that have been in the news. We've lost a lot of people this year, and often when we see "who died today," we remember them by a distinguishing characteristic. Sean Connery, for instance: "Bond. James Bond." with a hint of a lisp and one cocked eyebrow. 

One recent death gave me a brilliant idea for a character. I guess that means there will be another book to follow Hillendale 4!

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What am I talking about? 

I don't want to give away something I haven't written yet, so I'll use COOKIE THERAPHY as an example. When I started writing it, I went with a characteristic for my main character. Elizabeth Lambert is a klutz. I started with an accident - minor, but you know how klutzes can be (speaking as one myself). I knew who the hero was, because I had to redeem a previous series character who had transgressed. Two compelling characters (or at least they were in my mind!). I had no idea when I started (this is called pantsing - flying by the seat of your pants) what her story was until I started writing, and right there, in Chapter 1, I found her backstory. A minor incident that triggers a hidden trauma. 

“That’s okay, I’ll buy the box.” She grabbed one from the stack and snapped it open—she needed a cookie now. While she headed to the checkout, Elizabeth took out a cookie, but when she tried to close the box, the plastic edge sliced her left palm. She dropped the box and clutched her hand to her chest.

What else could go wrong?

Blood oozed through Elizabeth’s fingers and she blinked to fight off the cloud of gray that threatened her vision. She squeezed her eyes closed while panic took over, screams echoing in her head, blood everywhere, people running, ducking under desks.

 A case of being inspired by a characteristic. 

I'm hoping to do a cover reveal for you next week, so you can see how nature has inspired me, and if I want to use the mysterious characteristic that inspired my NEXT book, I guess I'd better finish writing Hillendale 4!

What unique characteristics have you seen in your favorite book friends?


  1. Always exciting when inspiration shows up when you're not looking for it.

    1. Yes it is, even when I don't have time to tap into it immediately.