Friday, April 21, 2017

{{Gone Fishing!}} Friday News & GIVEAWAY!

Hey Alley Pals...

As you read this, Hubby and I are waving from the road as we head outta town for a rare weekend getaway! WithOUT kids! And fine, you caught me. We're not really going fishing. But probably hiking. And hot spring(ing). And enchanted treehousing! Lots of other ings like eating and frolicking. You get the idea. ;)

While I'm away, you have the chance to win an amazing new book and hear all about the exciting happenings happening (ooo, that was redundant) here on your alley.

First up, is Cara Putman's awesome new legal suspense, BEYOND JUSTICE! (PSST... today's giveaway!) This book is hot off the presses and seriously addicting. (I'm currently procrastinating way too many things to keep my nose buried in my, err, kindle app.) Leave a comment by Sunday night telling me about your favorite (or dream) weekend getaway to enter to win. Be sure you leave an email address so I can contact you about claiming your prize. :)



Laurie Tomlinson has a fabulous giveaway happening over on her website www.laurietomlinson.com Her debut novel WITH NO RESERVATIONS from Harlequin Heartwarming and a KINDLE FIRE are up for grabs so be sure you head over and enter to win all that goodness!!!

ALSO ... Big news for book LOVERS! Especially those who love romantic comedies, Krista Phillips is looking to add some hungry readers to her street team, The Phillips-ians! (PSST... street teams get early reader copies and freebies!) Inquire here!

Pardon me while I scoot on outta here...

Have a blessed weekend! See y'all when I get back!

<3 Amy



Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Just What Makes STORY for You?

What makes a good story?

Is it the plot?

But a plot without characters is floppy at worst and a really great word-painted scenery at best.

Is it the characters?

But characters without plot is a monologue dragging without purpose or end.

Is it the dialogue?

But dialogue without characters to speak it and a plot to give it purpose is just dialogue for the sake of meaningless dialogue.

What truly makes a good story?

What makes it for you?

I’ve been mulling this fact over the last couple of weeks as I’ve read books I’ve enjoyed…and some I haven’t. Or watched a movie I really loved. Even as I talk with friends about classic stories I could consume over and over again, I’ve paused to consider the talking points that keep bringing me back.

It’s about ordinary characters that are thrust into extraordinary circumstances that demand they rise to the occasion.

That’s really all it’s about, isn’t it?

We see that in ourselves. We project our lives onto these ordinary characters and hope that if we were in their shoes, that we would rise to the occasion. That we would be rescue the damsel in distress. 
That we would speak those words of truth or anger or love. That we would get the prince. That we would stand up for truth and fight for what is right.

Think of your favorite movie.

Got a title? (Share it in the comments so others can explore what you’ve discovered.)

What is the quality in that movie that keeps you watching it over and over again?

For me, it’s Last of the Mohicans. A fairly violent movie that I only watch about once a year, but a
film that keeps me coming back—and for many reasons.

But the main one?

I admire Cora.

An ordinary woman, who within the first twenty minutes of the movie, receives a marriage proposal that she doesn’t accept.

She’s normal. She’s average. The daughter of a British colonel.

And yet, in the face of extreme danger, the loss of a perfect and safe world, she stares danger straight in the face, raises her one shot pistol, and defends her ground. Her safety. Her sister. She’s strong. She’s gentle. She’s just seeking the right place to land. And yet, there are moments of open vulnerability where the viewer sees she is absolutely frightened and at a lost. But she is not overcome.  

I can relate to her. And I want to aspire to her strength and courage. Because I don’t know if I could do what she did in the face of such vicious brutality. But I hope that I would. That I would rise to the occasion like she did.

What makes story for you?

Take that. Weave it into the dialogue. The plot. The characters. Focus on that. Let it become what drives your passion and your story. And it will drive the readers’ as well.


Leave a comment…let me know your favorite movie and why. Besides, my Netflix queue is looking kinda sad right now. ;-) 

CLICK TO TWEET:


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Casey Herringshaw is a homeschool graduate and has been writing since high school. She lives in colorful Colorado where she gets to live her dream stalking--er--visiting with her favorite CO authors. 

   

   

Friday, April 14, 2017

Writing Collaboratively

A few quick notes

I wanted y’all to know that Canteen Dreams is FREE, yes free!, for a limited time in all ebook formats. You can access those here. The audio book for Canteen Dreams also just released. It’s currently available on Audible and will be available on iTunes, etc., shortly. Crazy exciting times around here!
And don’t forget to enter the Grove Girls Spring Fling giveaway! Simply click on the image to be magically transported to the post where you can enter.

Good luck! And happy spring!
Tricia Goyer and I are co-authors in a new Guidepost cozy mystery series. We’re both head down writing our first book in the series, and it’s a fun time of exploration. When you write on a Guidepost series, it’s a little different from writing a book for yourself. I thought today I’d take you behind the scenes and show you how these books come to life.
First, I love writing on these series, because they are a collaborative process.  The first two series I auditioned for and either wrote with from the beginning or got brought in when someone had to bow out (Patchwork Mysteries and the Secrets of Mary’s Bookshop). The last series (Sugarcreek Amish Mysteries) I came in to help Tricia while she was under some intense deadline pressure and we wrote three novels and a novella together. It was such fun! Now we’re on the Mysteries of Martha’s Vineyard series from the beginning and writing with some of my favorite writer friends including Janice Thompson, Ruth Herne Logan, Deanna Dodson, and Lisa Ludwig.
Second, because these books are collaborative, all of our characters and settings overlap. That means earlier this week I was spending time online trying to orient myself to Tisbury and Vineyard Haven, Massachusetts. We have a Facebook group where the authors and editors for the series work together to keep the details organized and flowing together. We also have a series guide so that we can keep people, locations, and descriptions consistent across books written by eight different authors.
Third, I’m writing about a place I’ve never been which means I need to do research. Google maps becomes my friend when it comes to seeing the maps but then photos of the actual streets and locations. I’m a detail person, so I love getting them right. That means I can go a little crazy, like taking screenshots like the one below and uploading them to the group, so we’re all seeing the same things.
Fourth, working with another writer to write one book is like a dance. Tricia and I have been friends almost from the first day  Is tarted writing. I’ve shadowed and done light edits on some of her books and we’ve taught together at writing conferences, so we knew what we were getting into when we agreed to write together. The flow of the who does what changes with each book. With this one, Tricia generated the idea while I worked on another book we were writing. Then I fleeshed that idea out to a chapter-by-chapter synopsis, so we both know what is happening in each chapter. Then I started writing the book, tackling chapters one through four, while she started at chapter five. She’s then editing mine for flow, and then I’ll do the last edit. That means as I have ideas or want to make sure she knows something, I’m adding notes like this to the chapters I write.
This way she knows who I’m thinking of when I write about a character, and she can see the same person. I can also include research details for her, and she can do the same for me.
I hope you’ve enjoyed a peek into how a collaboration among authors can work. 
The following two tabs change content below.


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Thursday, April 13, 2017

The Writer's Business Plan

Mom: Aww! You drew our family! Annabelle: Um, no Mommy. Those are birds....

As a mom, I've said MORE THAN ONCE the phrase, "Do as I say, not as I do."

Like when I ask them to clean their room but they look at mine, which is pretty much the catch-all most days for the rest of the house and I'm doing REALLY good to walk through it to the bathroom and not trip and fall flat on my face.

Or when I tell them NO POP because it isn't healthy for you while I'm nursing a Dr. Pepper.

Or... well. I think you get the drift. It is easy to know what you SHOULD do, but the execution thereof throws a wrench in things sometimes.

So a few weeks ago, Pepper and I had a little mini one-night writer's pow-wow. We chatted about brainstorming and story ideas and business plans for our writing.

Or should I say.

HER writing.

Between the two of us, we came up with a fun color coded spreadsheet of her next year and a half of publishing with goal dates to finish and yeah. It made the business side of my brain VERY happy.

But then I went home and tried to write out my OWN plan. Because I've been a bit haphazard lately and the idea of being organized like that sounded really nice.

Uh, yeah.

The plan is still unwritten.

Why is it that it's so easy to tell someone ELSE what they should do but so very hard to then do it yourself???

*sigh*

Business plans are funny things though. It's one of the things Pepper and I talked about. I truly believe God wants us to be wise, and making a business plan for our careers is a wise thing to do. Wise as serpents and gentle as doves, right?

That said, we can make our plans all we want, but in the end, we turn those lovely plans over to Jesus and say, "Okay, here is what I came up with. Feel free to tweak, throw it out, scrap the whole thing, if it is crap. Cause I only want this whole writing thing if YOU are behind this, Jesus."

So over the next few weeks, I'm gonna be trying to work on my own business plan. I'll even color code it like I did Pepper's cause ya know? Colors make us ALL smile.

And then I WILL follow my own advice and lay that puppy down at Jesus feet and let him do with it, do with ME, what he likes. It may end up looking nothing like my plan, but what I'm sure of, is if I'm obedient to God and follow Him, my plan will look like a kindergartner's drawing in comparison to what actually happens.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Sometimes Inspiration Catches Us Unaware




There are times I can stand on top of a mountain top and not sense inspiration. 

There are times when I can stand on a crowded city sidewalk with pedestrians bumping into me and feel the enveloping power of Jesus and story.

You too? Weird, huh?

Doesn't it seem like we can try so hard to call up inspiration and yet feel so empty? Without a puff of an idea. A thought. A word. 

Other times we are bowled over by something so small that it mushrooms into the perfect book?

So, story time: Last month I went to Israel with a tour group. With all my heart I wanted to have a spiritual experience, not a touristy--souvenir--bragging experience. You know, inspiration. I was kinda leery because this trip was hubby's idea and it should have been mine too...but it wasn't. He wanted a historical trip. I wanted a fulfillment of "the trip to Israel." Friends asked how I felt about going. All I could say was I felt like I was standing on one side of a closed door with Israel on the other. I don't know. I can't see it. I have no clue.

The flight to Germany alone was incredibly long. I couldn't sleep. I was cramped. I wanted to wiggle my legs. I was thirsty. I'd been awake for 25 hours. 25 cranky hours. And I didn't know what I was doing. 

THEN The plane decelerated. I opened the window shade and saw land on the east side of the Mediterranean. It was Israel. I blinked my eyes and looked again. This was Israel.

I grabbed my camera, shot photos, poked my husband and pointed. Look! Israel.

Then I realized.

I was going to Israel.

I would see places Jesus went. I would see, hear, smell, touch, taste, breathe in Israel!

On my own I could not have begun to imagine the magnitude of this trip even with all I had been told ahead of time. A Palestinian Christian, a very godly and historically trained man, was assigned to our group. As we drove to each place, he'd pick up the microphone and say, "Remember in the Bible where we are told..." he then would point to the area around us. This is where it took place.

Then I knew I was in Israel. The place where godly men and Jesus, the Son of God walked.

Photo by Mary Vee, the setting for the Good Samaritan
The tour guide merged historical and cultural information to make Bible events so vivid for us. One day the bus drove away from the rich green valleys to the dessert. The guide pointed and said, "This is where Jesus set the Good Samaritan story. See the desert and the hills? No man should have walked by himself in a place like this. Thieves could hide in so many places. There is no water. No shade. What was he doing here? 

"But the Good Samaritan didn't ask that question. Instead he helped the man."



I could write pages more on what our tour guide revealed to us. How he opened the images and words of the Bible stories and made them real. How God used the things the guide said to touch our hearts and bring God praise.

When I came back home I was asked which place meant the most to me. I thought long and hard considering the many places we visited. The answer would be the same as if I had walked through a beautiful garden where flowers bloomed along the walkways and trees blossomed filling the air with fragrance. Could one spot be picked as the best? No because each inch had its own unique inspiration. God's story infused.

That's when I realizedI that inspiration comes not by my asking, nor by my desire, but by my openness to engage in what is in front of me.

What better time than Passion week to receive inspiration.

1. You'll find it in nature.
2. You'll find it in people.
3. You'll find it in worship.
4. You'll find it in music.
5. You'll find it in Scripture.
6. You'll find it in family.
7. You'll find it in art.
8. You'll find it with your eyes closed or opened.
9. You'll find it in the air you breathe.
10. You'll find it in a baby's giggle.
11. You'll find it in colors.
12. You'll find it in clouds.
13. You'll find it away from the computer.
14. You'll find it in cooking.
15. You'll find it in the mail.
16. You'll find it in a cemetery.
17. You'll find it in a flag.
18. You'll find it above you.
19. You'll find it under you.
20. You'll find it around you.
21. You'll find it inside you.

Inspiration is waiting for you walk away from concerns, worries, trepidation, doubt, and negativity and engage in what God has for you.

I can't wait to read your comment(s)!

Help others--tweet or FB share this post

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Mary Vee -  Rock climbing, white-water rafting, zip lining, and hiking top Mary's list of great ways to enjoy a day. These activities require lots of traveling, which is also tops on her list. For some crazy reason, the characters in Mary’s young adult mystery/suspense fiction stories don’t always appreciate the dangerous and often scary side of her favorite activities. Unbelievable.

Mary studies marketing and writing skills, and pens missionary and retellings of Bible stories on her ministry blog, God Loves Kids. She has been a finalist in several writing contests.

Visit Mary at her websiteblog, and her ministry blog to families: God Loves Kids. Or chat on Facebook or Twitter


Mary has a new release. A Virtual Tour of Italy. If you have ever gone to Italy, plan to go, or wish you could, this virtual tour will take you there. Color photos. Videos. And more! Click here to learn more



All subscribers to Mary's newsletter will receive her novella, an intriguing suspense/mystery. Come, read a good story. To get your free gift, sign up for the newsletter at Mary's website  Never Give Up Stories. Join the adventure!

Friday, April 7, 2017

My Own Lazarus Story


If you've been around the Alley a while, you've heard me share about my journey to publication time and again. I would like to share a perspective of my journey that has some parallels to a well-known story.

Last Sunday at church, I had the privilege of giving a testimony about my writing after the pastor's sermon on the story of Lazarus. I'll give a quick summary of John 11 and highlight some keywords:

Even though Lazarus had been dead for four days, Jesus knew that he would show God's power and glory in this circumstance. After he was so moved by Martha and Mary's mourning over their brother, he asked the people to move away the tomb's stone--even though they were worried about the smell of death- the stink. Lazarus comes out of the tomb, fully ALIVE, and those who loved him unraveled his grave clothes and welcomed him back to life. 

 Funny, I'd offered to give a testimony based on my writing journey before I even knew what the sermon would be on that chosen date.

And, just as always, God met me and showed me how tightly knit Lazarus's story is to my own writing journey. I'd love to share my testimony with you all...especially since some of you play a big role in it.

The Sisters:

Pensacola 2015

Eight years ago, I had a story that I wanted to publish. Fortunately, I entered the Genesis contest--and fortunately, I didn't final. I actually realized from the feedback that I had a lot to learn. So, I became part of the ACFW crit group and met the lovely Ashley Clark. That was the beginning of a beautiful friendship--one that would be crucial to my journey along all my highs, lows, and in betweens.
ACFW Conference 2016

After my first conference (encouraged greatly by none other than Ashley Clark), I walked away
thinking, I am on my way. After all, I had met with an agent, talked with a publisher--oh yeah, baby. I am getting published any day now. Um, yeah...we all know that's very unlikely. So, as I look back, and wonder what the purpose of that conference was...and I realize, I not only met Ashley face to face, but I met Pepper Basham...the gal who would invite me to be an Alley Cat a month later--a step into a life-changing journey.



The Stink:

The next years were difficult. I mean, having five novels subjected to rejection and criticism is never easy. It STINKS. Just like the four long days of Lazarus's death...I had several years of STINK when it came to my publishing pursuit.

But I had these amazing friends during that time--the Alley Cats and a handful of others. They encouraged me and prayed for me. We are writers at all different stages, but some how, the Alley Cats and I grew past our love of writing and found a sweet sisterhood.

And I knew this to be true when my unwavering focus on publishing--wavered, and a non-writing life crisis thrust me into the darkest season of my life.

Even though my prayer requests had nothing to do with writing, and my outbursts had nothing to do with the writing wait, these women became my lifeline. They spoke truth to me when everything around me was as dark and cold as a tomb. And they prayed. And prayed. And lifted me up when I was so far in the stink and despair I couldn't see God anymore.

The Stone:

And that's when God did something amazing. He rolled away the stone and met me in my writing. I wasn't writing for publication anymore, I was writing because God drew me close to Him as I poured my heart, and my writing became my place of worship.

I found worth in my writing that didn't hinge on publication. It was the catalyst for amazing friendships, and an intimate place for fellowship with the Creator.


The Grave Clothes:

Pensacola 2015
If I were Lazarus, and I was stepping out of the tomb, my Alley Cats would be the sisters who'd unraveled my grave clothes. They were the ones who prayed me through the stink, who spoke truth to me in love when I couldn't see past myself. 

Even now, when I have two novels coming out this fall, I realize that this past decade wasn't just a writing journey. Sure, writing is my passion--a sweet gift God gave me to meet Him in a creative way. But this journey?
The goal of publication was a nice motivator, but the actually living and breathing along the journey was what mattered most. It's the part that satisfied more than an earthly goal, but a powerful testimony of God's faithfulness to Christ-centered friendship, and a loving invitation to create alongside the Creator for nothing more than my own heart.


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Angie Dicken is a mom of four children and lives in the Midwest with her Texas Aggie sweetheart. An ACFW member since 2010, she writes historical, historical romance, and dabbles in contemporary romance. Her debut, The Outlaw's Second Chance from Harlequin Love Inspired Historical releases in September of 2017, and her novel, My Heart Belongs in Castle Gate, Utah from Barbour, releases in November 2017. Angie is represented by Tamela Hancock Murray of The Steve Laube Agency. 
Sign up for my news at www.angiedicken.com
Social media:
Twitter: @angiedicken
Pinterest: pinterest.com/agdicken




Thursday, April 6, 2017

Release Day Tips from Author Pepper Basham + GIVEAWAY



Our special guest today is none other than our fearless leader Pepper Basham! Today marks the release of her latest novel, Just the Way You Are. She was writing it when I (Laurie) met her, and I fell in love with her characters, Wes and Eisley. Since I'm releasing my first novel next month, I asked her for some book launching advice since this is her fifth release, and she was so gracious to answer some questions:

What advice would you give an author who is preparing for her very first book launch? 

Get help! :-) Enlist people who are gifted in areas where you're weak, if you can. Singing Librarian Books was a great place for me to start with Sydney Anderson. She helped organize the FB party like a DREAM. Also, if you have a street team, spend time getting to know them and building hype. They're going to be your BEST cheerleaders on your journey. I seriously cannot IMAGINE being on this journey without them.

How did you prepare differently for this release than your first?

Hmm...well, I'd learned from my last ones how to prep better. Making memes, getting some blog post opportunities - but, like I said before, the biggest thing for me has been my street team! Now that I'm not building one and we're established as a true team, they all come together so beautifully to help promote my books. I'm floored by their support and the fun we have! It helps that I won a CelebrateLit tour for this book too. That's been an AMAZING boost for the launch - and Sandy Barela has been WONDERFUL to work with. She's so encouraging!

How has your launch team changed?

They've grown! I started with about 25 people and a 1/4 of them were AlleyCats :-) Now I have a wide range of ages and places - about 1/2 are faithful reviewers/promoters, and I'm learning (with the help of the amazing Rachel Dixon) how to provide more accountability with them while also continuing this fantastic partnership we all have together. I'm serious. I LOVE these ladies. They're amazing.

Any real/humbling moments to keep you grounded on release day? :)

Well, on most of my release days, I've been at work all day, so...I've had to wait ALL DAY LONG to celebrate. And even if I share my cool news at work, people sort of nod and grin, but they're not screaming like crazy on the inside like me. For the most part, it's a day like any other...except THIS time, I'm only working part of the day so I can party the rest of the day :-)

Though I have to say, last year when one of my books released, one of my kindergarten classes made a big sign for me of congratulations and posted it in my office with a bouquet of flowers. They'd all signed it in their "new to writing" way. It was the BEST EVER!

What's the number one thing (or a few things) you never expected about releasing a book when you were still a pre-published author?

Okay, this might burst your bubble, but here it goes. I expected bells, whistles, big sales, life changing moments...and, although I had a great launch party and book signing, and so many people supported me, my expectations and reality didn't quite match up. Of course, I'm a writer, so my imagination CAN get a little carried away.

Another thing that is much sweeter that's happened since releasing a book is the genuine response from readers. I am humbled--SO humbled--when a reader takes the time to not just write a review, but email/message me personally about how my story touched them. Wow! What a God-moment, right? And I've even received a few handwritten notes of gratitude. So humbling and sweet.

Any last advice?

The biggest advice I can give for anyone who is starting this journey besides WRITE is: remember why you love writing and hold that reason close to your heart. There are going to be days, weeks, and maybe even months when hard stuff happens and our expectations and reality don't meet. Remember WHY you write. The joy of just placing words into stories. Remember that for those times when reality hits...and it's tougher, more stressful, or more discouraging than you thought. God has cultivated this love of writing within you and the joy can be resurrected at any time if we hold to the reason we love story first and remember WHO we're ultimately pleasing when we use our gift of story :-)

About Just the Way You Are:

Single mom, Eisley Barrett, prefers to keep romance housed within a centuries-old mystery, but when she travels to England to unearth the secret, an actor with a sordid past offers her heart a very different type of discovery.

Wes Harrison has a past he's ashamed to confess. Suspicious and cynical, he's managed to avoid romantic entanglements since a tragedy upended his career and life, that is until American Eisley Barrett comes along. Her authenticity and kindness upend his bitter assumptions and send his heart into unscripted territory.

When his past threatens to ruin a second chance at love, can some Appalachian matchmaking and letters from the grave salvage their unexpected romance?

Humor, love, mystery, cute kids, crazy families, and culture clashes make this Britallachian Romance a unique and delightful romantic comedy sprinkled with adventure.

Click here to buy a copy of Just the Way You Are and leave a comment for the chance to WIN a paperback when they release! :)


Friday, March 31, 2017

It's Friday!




It's that time for weekend. A time to catch up on whatevers. It is also a time to be lost in thought, laugh, maybe even kick back and read a book or watch a program.

The weekend is usually the time when I notice weird things, like quotes. Quotes can be found literally anywhere. Some aren't worthy of our eyes. Some are intriguing, they stir us to deeper thinking or take us to a happy place.


I recently saw/heard these quotes in my world. They all touched a chord for me:


Quotables

"Progress always involves risks. You can't steal second base and keep your foot on first." Frederick B. Wilcox

"If there's any one enemy to creativity, it's self-consciousness." Andre Dubus III

"Your work cannot be good all the time, but it must be good when it's time." Celine Dion

"Get close to the audience." Celine Dion

"The ones who change the world are the ones who can't wait to get out in it." United Airlines

"The way you collaborate with people can make all the difference in the world." Adam Lavine


On a show, a coach said after two competing individuals left the mentor room: "It seems they had digressed." Seeing the before and after, the two competitors clearly had not risen to the tutelage they received from the coach. I hope no one ever feels led to say that about me.

I was immediately stirred to a thought after hearing that coach's words and applied it to my own life. In our stories, we have a great opportunity to create quotables. These short phrases and sentences are what draw readers to our work.



Now for Alley Cat news. The Alley Cats have burst onto the bookshelves both digitally and paperback with new works. Stories that touch the heart.

Here is the Alley's latest release. Pepper Basham's April 6 novel: Just the Way You Are:



And recent published books by other Alley Cats:



 Click here for When Fall Fades

Click here for From Winter's Ashes

by Amy Leigh Simpson









     

Click here for My Heart Belongs in Castle Gate

Click here for The Outlaw's Second Chance

by Angie Dicken






    



Click here for Shadowed by Grace


Click here for Beyond Justice


by Cara Putman









Click here for Sandwich With a Side of Romance

Click here for A Sandwich Romance Novella Collection


by Krista Phillips




  

  Click here for With No Reservations
  by Laurie Tomlinson









 Click here for Andiamo! Let's Go to Italy
 by Mary Vee








We Alley Cats long to walk with you on your writing journey. Scroll down to past posts for some tips and craft information.


Hey, let's chat. I have two questions for you today:

1. What is the last book you downloaded, bought, was given. OR What book are you currently reading. OR What book do you so wish you could get your hands on a copy?

2. Share a favorite quote. Stir our hearts. It can be from any source (well, there are a few sources we probably shouldn't quote.)



Have a relaxing, profitable, laughable weekend.


Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Character Arc - The Shapers


http://lotr.wikia.com/wiki/Gandalf
Last time we talked a little about Character Arc in general. Today we’re going to look at the various aspects that shape that character arc. I love chatting about characters because they’re the bedrock of your novel, and one of the aspects that makes for a great story is watching these characters grow, change, and (in HEA books) become better/stronger than they were in the beginning of the book.

I posted a picture of Gandalf the Grey because I absolutely love his character - AND Ian McKellen does a superb job of playing him. 

Again, what is a character arc? Well, it's the growth, or decline, of a character overtime. In most of the novels we read, the character arc is a growth from a lesser developed character to a more developed one. 

I’m focusing my discussion on character growth instead of decline, since most books take this perspective.

Just like "real people", characters are shaped by several different aspects of their environment. We can incorporate one main ‘shaper’ into our novels, or use a variety of them. Here are the primary character ‘shapers’.

1.      Circumstances
Lots of novels use circumstances to shape characters. These can be circumstances from the past (which is a big one) or those happening in the story’s present. For example, in my debut novel, The Thorn Bearer, my heroine struggles with a very deep wound from her past (her father’s abuse), but is also faced with countless circumstances in her present (jilted, Lusitania, war). These circumstances have shaped who she has become and also continue to shape her growth.
 
2.      Other people
Both in the past and present, characters are shaped by those people around them. In A Twist of Faith, my heroine, Dee Roseland, has most of her character arc through her relationships with the people in her present life that contradict the distorted relationships she knew from her past. Circumstances influence her some, but the biggest ‘shapers’ in her character arc are the people in her life.

3.      A character’s own self talk
This may sound weird, but it’s powerfully true – not just for our characters but for ourselves. The voice we hear the most, is the one in our heads. Our own. It has an amazing about of influence on our thought patterns, actions, and growth. That’s why what we tell ourselves has such a lasting impact on us – so filling our minds with Scripture is a mighty weapon against the ‘lies’ that many times sneak into our self-talk. The same thing happens to our characters. What lies are they telling themselves that must be changed in order for them to become who they need to be by the end of the story? In my upcoming novel, Just the Way You Are, my heroine does a whole lot of self-talking, and the reader gets to watch how her insecurity-talk changes as she moves through the story. 

4.     
In fiction from those with the Christian world view, characters are shaped by their faith...which can go along with self-talk, but more than that it’s the Holy Spirit within our characters, guiding and shaping them through all three of the previous ‘shapers’. As in our own lives, God the Spirit has a powerful voice to slice through the lies, the influences, and even the misinterpretation of circumstances, to place our thoughts and hearts into right perspective…and this would be true for our characters too :-)

Remember, shapers are purposefully placed tools in the hands of an author. Usually, they’re not halfhazard designs to add a little pizzazz, but strategically placed plot points to deepen a character’s arc. Just as God “works all things together for the good of those who love him and are called according to his purpose”, as authors, the ‘shapers’ we place in our characters’ lives serve a purpose – a plan.

As a side note: Sometimes the character arcs are very clear for the protagonist, and sometimes the greater character arc happens in different characters than the protagonist, because of the protagonist’s existence. I think Darcy and Lizzie grew a little as characters because of the influence of each other in their lives, right?

So…what are some shapers you’ve noticed in what you’re reading or writing? Do those shapers usually come in the form of people or other things?

Share your thoughts :-)