Monday, August 27, 2018

Developing Your Novel: Putting Secondary Characters First - #Writing Advice

(From the "Most Viewed" files...)

I've been talking about developing a story. Sometimes when planning a novel, we focus exclusively on the main character. But secondary characters are important for fleshing out the story world.

Every novel – and most short stories and picture books – will have secondary characters. In general, the longer the book, the more secondary characters you can fit. These can be family members, friends, teachers or bosses, aliens, mythical characters, or even pets. Some will be nice. Some will be annoying. Ideally, one or more should be trouble.

I’m not talking about villains here (I'll do that next week). But even well-meaning secondary characters can make your main character’s life more complicated. When writing for children, parents are a natural for this role. They may simply want what they see as best for their child – but if that is opposed to what the child wants, it adds complications. These could be strong enough to form the main plot, or could simply be additional challenges the child has to face.

Example: In the Haunted series, Tania doesn’t want anyone to know that she can see ghosts. She’s afraid that her mother would want her to contact her dead little sister, and she doesn’t know how. Her stepfather would want to use her on his ghost hunter TV show, and people would think she was nuts. And her father doesn’t believe in ghosts, so he might think she was lying to get attention. Well-meaning family members with their own agendas make her desperate to keep her “gift” a secret.

Other examples of conflicting desires may be a dad who wants his son to play football, while the son wants to join the band, or parents who don’t want their daughter to date yet, when she’s fallen in love. A parent may be even a greater challenge, if he or she is an alcoholic, seriously ill, or depressed. Then, of course, there’s the issue of a divorced or widowed parent dating!

Even in adult novels, a parent may add pressure. In a romance, Mom may want the heroine to marry and provide grandchildren, nagging her to settle for the wrong man. Bosses can also add challenges, whether by pressuring the main character to do something illegal for the company or simply demanding long work hours which distract from other goals. In my romantic suspense novel What We Found (written as Kris Bock), the 22-year-old heroine has allies and enemies both at work and at home.

Don’t forget friends, either! Friends can give bad advice, have their own agenda, use the main character for popularity or access to something or someone, or even secretly be trying to steal the main character’s love interest/job/position in society.

That’s not to say all friends have to be sneaky betrayers. Even the best of friends might distract the main character with their own emotional problems. In the teen romantic comedy My Big Nose and Other Natural Disasters, by Sydney Salter, the heroine’s main goal is to save enough money from her summer job to get a nose job, so she can find a boyfriend. Her two best friends have their own problems with boys and jobs. In one scene, the main character is late to work, jeopardizing her job, because she’s been trying to protect a friend who had too much to drink.

Exercise: go through your work in progress and list every secondary character who has a role beyond a few lines. Make a few notes on each one – what is their basic personality and role in the story? What do they want?

Then, for each secondary character, ask:

•    Could I develop this character more, to make him or her more complicated?
•    How could this secondary character be causing problems for my main character?
•    If the character is already causing problems, could they be even worse?

If you don’t have many secondary characters, consider adding some. What kind of character could add complications and drama? Make sure any new secondary characters fit smoothly into the plot, and don’t feel like they are just shoved in to cause trouble.

Chris Eboch is the author of You Can Write for Children: A Guide to Writing Great Stories, Articles, and Books for Kids and Teenagers. Order for Kindle, in paperback, or in Large Print paperback. She is also the author of Advanced Plotting.

Chris has published over 50 books for children, including nonfiction and fiction, early reader through teen. Her novels for ages nine and up include The Eyes of Pharaoh, a mystery in ancient Egypt; The Well of Sacrifice, a Mayan adventure; The Genie’s Gift, a middle eastern fantasy; and the Haunted series, about kids who travel with a ghost hunter TV show, which starts with The Ghost on the Stairs. Her writing craft books include You Can Write for Children: How to Write Great Stories, Articles, and Books for Kids and Teenagers, and Advanced Plotting.

Chris also writes for adults under the name Kris Bock. Kris Bock writes action-packed romantic suspense involving outdoor adventures amidst Southwestern landscapes. The Mad Monk’s Treasure follows a treasure hunt in New Mexico. Whispers in the Dark involves intrigue among ancient Southwest ruins. Counterfeits starts a series about art theft. What We Found is a mystery with romantic elements about a young woman who finds a murder victim in the woods. Read excerpts at or visit her Amazon page.

Monday, August 20, 2018

Research is a Must, No Matter the Genre - #Writing with @AmberDaulton1

Welcome Amber Daulton, author of romantic suspense, paranormal, and historical romance novels, sharing her thoughts on research!

No matter what genre an author writes, he or she must first research their chosen time-period or world. I’m a romance author and I love to write in a variety of subgenres, and all of them require in-depth research.

In my opinion, there’s no big difference in writing a novel set in the 1700s than writing one set in the modern era. Authors should research all the locations mentioned in the book to learn about the buildings, the common modes of transportation, the style of speech and mannerisms appropriate for the time and place, and the types of characters they wish to describe.

Even modern books need research like this. For instance, it doesn’t make much sense for a typical hardworking New Yorker to drive a car. Instead, the stressed-out secretary heroine will probably be catching the subway, but the author needs to know what line she’ll have to take, when that bus will arrive in the business district, and how many blocks she has to walk to reach the office. Little details like that might seem like overkill, but you never know what you’ll need until you’re writing the scene. Besides, details always add more depth to the story, but you also need to find a healthy medium to not drown the story and your reader in them.

Research can also lead your novel in a direction you didn’t see or plan. You might realize you need to add new scenes and characters, or kill off a character. For historical novels, you need to check on the etymology of words. For example, you shouldn’t write the word “vampire” in a book set in the 1600s because the word wasn’t coined until the 1700s.

Also, details and facts shouldn’t just be dropped into the story without a good transition or reason. The information should be weaved into the description and dialogue without bogging down the scene. If necessary, spread the details out throughout various scenes and chapters. Don’t tell the reader everything at once. Let them stew over the details for a little while and then give them more later on.

Not every author can do hands-on research and travel all over the world to study locations and cultures. Most of them rely on books, the Internet, or the opinions of friends and colleagues who have traveled to those areas.

I always try to have my research done before I start writing, but sometimes that’s just not possible. When the WIP goes in a direction I didn’t expect, I have to power up the Internet or pull out my textbooks to double check answers and to look for something fresh to help the book’s new flow.

No matter how much research you do, it’s almost impossible to know everything about your chosen subject, but you should at least be able to write a convincing story. For me, research can be more fun than writing. It’s a constant reminder that things always change. Nothing is set in stone, and an author needs to be flexible when plotting and writing the book.

Timeless Beginnings
Contemporary/Time Travel Romance 
Word Count: 30k
Heat Level: 3 Flames

Leonora Harris fled her newly wedded husband’s home in Georgian England, 1725, and took shelter in a cave during a rainstorm. She woke up in a cold, barren land and a handsome stranger with a mechanical carriage offered her shelter.

Undercover American operative Rodger Ramsey never expected to find a runaway bride in the magnificent Salar de Uyuni. Assigned to Bolivia to investigate Communist activities, he just wrapped up his two-year mission in 1963 and followed his heart to the salt flats one last time.
Sparks flew and attraction sizzled. The lost, stubborn woman kicked his protective instincts into overdrive. Rodger took her home with him, determined to help her before he returned to the States, and Leonora flourished under his guidance. Their hearts intertwined. He wanted her, needed her, but could he truly love a woman who believed she jumped two hundred years in time?

Will they find a way to stay together, despite the obstacles between them, or will Leonora survive in this strange new world alone?

(Author’s Note - This is a prequel to Timeless Honor, a time travel romance with Rodger and Leonora’s granddaughter, but can be read as a standalone.)


“I’ll do or say whatever you wish, illegal or not.” Leonora steeled her spine as the words tore up her throat. “I thought you trusted me. What can I do to earn it?”

Rodger ate up the distance between them with three long strides and shackled her wrist in his large hand like a manacle. She stumbled toward him. Tension permeated the air around him in waves of red-hot heat.

“Have you heard of the CIA, Leonora? The Central Intelligence Agency?”

“No, I have no idea what that is.”

“What can you tell me about the communist activities and alliances in this country?”

“Nothing. I don’t know. What kind of questions are these? What are you talking about?”

His head tilted to one side and his lips thinned. Rodger stared at her with a long, hard gaze even as she squirmed, the steel in her spine gone. Stress lined his face and the tendon in his neck throbbed against his skin like a tic. Minutes passed, or maybe just seconds, and air whizzed out through his nostrils. The anger in his face seemed to drain and he somehow looked older.

“How can this be? You told me the truth about everything.” He stepped back and stroked his fingers up her arm. “Though you squirmed under my gaze, you did so after you answered me and only because I intimidated you. You didn’t once respond with a typical facial or verbal nuance to indicate you lied. I feel the truth of your words in my gut and in my soul.”

“I haven’t once lied to you.”

“I just—I don’t understand. This is so unbelievable. I wish you could provide me with some kind of undeniable proof you’re from the past.”

“As do I, Rodger.”

Buy Timeless Beginnings

See Timeless Beginnings on Goodreads

Writing is the fruit of happiness.

Amber Daulton lives her life by that one belief even though she normally isn’t so Zen.

As a fan of contemporary, paranormal, and historical romance novels alike, she can’t get enough of feisty heroines and alpha heroes. Her mind is a wonderland of adventure, laughter, and awesome ways of kicking a guy when he’s down. She probably wouldn’t be too sane without her computer and notebooks. After all, what’s a girl to do when people are jabbering away in her head and it’s hard to shut them up? Write! Nothing else works.

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Monday, August 6, 2018

Writing Tight: Don't Be Wordy - #Writing Advice from Chris Eboch

(From the "Most Viewed" files...)

I do a lot of manuscript critiques. (See my rates andrecommendations.) Even advanced writers often get wordy. Here are some tips on eliminating that problem so your writing is as tight as my current deadlines are (plus other sources with more detail).

One of my pet peeves is characters nodding their heads or shrugging their shoulders. What else would one nod or shrug? We don't nod our elbows or shrug our stomachs. (If you have a character doing that, then definitely specify!) Otherwise, you can simply say he nodded or she shrugged. Yes, I know, this is a tiny, unimportant detail. But trust me, once it's pointed out to you, you'll start to notice and find it irritating!

Another unnecessary phrase – he thought to himself. Unless you have psychic characters, we'll assume he's not thinking to someone else. (In close point of view, you don't need to use "he thought" at all; just state the thought and we'll understand that the character is thinking it. But that's another issue.)

If you have more web browsing time, here are a couple of my favorite posts on eliminating wordiness.

Cut the Clutter and Streamline Your Writing, from Crime Fiction Collective, by Jodie Renner Editing: “Once you’ve gotten through your first draft, it’s important to go back in and cut down on wordiness and redundancies in order to make your story more compelling, pick up the pace, and increase the tension and sense of urgency.”

Cut the Clutter and Streamline Your Writing, Part II, from Crime Fiction Collective by Jodie Renner Editing: “Start by cutting out qualifiers like very, quite, rather, somewhat, kind of, and sort of, which just dilute your message, weaken the imagery, and dissipate the tension.”

It’s a Story, Not an Instruction Manual!, from Crime Fiction Collective, by Jodie Renner Editing: “Whether you’re writing an action scene or a love scene, it’s best not to get too technical or clinical about which hand or leg or finger or foot is doing what, unless it’s relevant or necessary for understanding.

And a warning not to take things too far:

Crossing Words Off Your List: Making the Most of Editing "What Not to Use" Lists, from The Other Side of the Story by Janice Hardy: “The right word for what you're trying to say is always the right choice, no matter what that word is. Most times, cutting that flabby word or finding that strong noun or active verb is the right choice, but once in a while it's not.

Chris Eboch is the author of over 50 books for children, including nonfiction and fiction, early reader through teen. Her novels for ages nine and up include The Eyes of Pharaoh, a mystery in ancient Egypt; The Well of Sacrifice, a Mayan adventure; The Genie’s Gift, a middle eastern fantasy; and the Haunted series, about kids who travel with a ghost hunter TV show, which starts with The Ghost on the Stairs. Her writing craft books include You Can Write for Children: How to Write Great Stories, Articles, and Books for Kids and Teenagers, and Advanced Plotting.

Learn more at or her Amazon page, or check out her writing tips at her Write Like a Pro! blog.