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Bringing Memorable Characters to Life

August 29, 2023 by in category Ages 2 Perfection Online Class, Online Classes tagged as , , , ,

Bringing Memorable Characters to Life

Presented by: Sally Kilpatrick
Date: September 18 – 29, 2023 (two weeks)
Registration Closes: September 26, 2023
Pricing:  A2P Member fee: $15
Non-A2P Member fee: $25 

About the Workshop:

Characters, whether hated or beloved, keep readers coming back for more. People can often forgive plot holes, sagging middles, slow openings, and any number of other storytelling sins as long as we writers give them characters to love. In this course, learn tricks and techniques for creating characters your readers will remember long after they put down your book.

About the Presenter:

Sally Kilpatrick is the USA Today bestselling author of six novels. She has won multiple awards, including the 2018 and 2019 Georgia Author of the Year, the Maggie Award of Excellence, and the Nancy Knight Mentorship Award. Her latest release is a Christmas romcom novella, The Not So Nice List. She lives in Marietta, GA with her one husband, two kids, and two cats. You can find her at www.sallykilpatrick.com or on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook as @Superwritermom.

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Character Goals

February 23, 2022 by in category Ages 2 Perfection Online Class, Online Classes tagged as , , , ,

Character Goals

Presented by: Jen Bokal

Date: March 12, 2022 9AM PT

Pricing: A2P Member fee: No Charge

Non-A2P Member fee: $10

About the Workshop:

To many writers, a novel plan is akin to a soul-killing outline learned in grammar school, complete with Roman Numerals and indentations. Yet, to sit down at a computer and begin working without any intention—other than to write a novel—often ends up with an unfinished manuscript and a frustrated author. This workshop with help to develop characters and their goals, along with exploring how they can reach those goals in a dramatic and engaging fashion.

About the Presenter:

Jennifer D. Bokal penned her first book at age eight. An early lover of the written word, she decided to follow her passion and become a full-time writer. From then on, she didn’t look back. She earned a master of arts in creative writing from Wilkes University and became a member of the Romance Writers of America and International Thriller Writers. She has authored several short stories, novellas and poems. Winner of the Sexy Scribbler in 2015, Jennifer is the author of 16 novels/novellas. Included in her titles are the Ancient World Historical series the Champions of Rome and the Harlequin Romantic Suspense series, Rocky Mountain Justice and the connected series, Rocky Mountain Justice: Wyoming Nights. She is also the author of Coltons Secret History, Book 3 in the Coltons of Kansas series and Coltons Internal Affair, Book 9 in the Coltons of Grave Gulch series—also from Harlequin Romantic Suspense. Happily married to her own Alpha Male for more than 25 years, she enjoys writing stories that explore the wonders of love. Jen and her manly husband live in upstate New York with their three beautiful daughters, two very spoiled dogs, and a kitten that aspires to one day become a Chihuahua.

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Using Journal Entries in Your Manuscript

September 12, 2021 by in category The Writing Journey by Denise Colby tagged as , ,

Early on, I wanted my heroine to have a journal. Not quite sure why, but capturing her journey through a journal stuck as I brainstormed my scenes. Some writers write character journals for their characters to help them see things from their character’s perspective. But for me, I wanted my heroine to actually have a journal in my story.

Have you read many books using journal entries throughout the story?

I actually have come across a very limited amount of books using journal entries throughout the story. In my manuscript, there is an entry at the beginning of every chapter. I was excited a few years ago to find a book that had this and found that it worked. But I haven’t found a lot of books this way, so that’s a good thing.

I’m even considering it to be possibly a thing I do in all of them, but we will see.

I’m curious to know if this is something that appeals to readers or not.

I have seen a journal or diary entry as a plot point or in a scene. I actually have some of those as well since her writing in her journal is part of her story.

Do you write in a journal? 

If you do, do you ever worry about someone reading what you wrote?

My heroine gets handed a journal upon her start as a teacher. In it, she’s instructed to write down the events of her days to capture what happens as a female teacher who moves West to teach in small pioneer towns.

Olivia finds her journal to be a close confidant. She enjoys documenting her observances about the places she’s been and the people she meets. Given that it’s 1869 and traveling by train across the country is a new and unprecedented event, the importance in capturing the momentous occasion is not lost on her.  

She’s also very protective of her book. It never leaves her side and she would never leave it out so that someone could read it. But even if they did, she is very careful what she writes, never putting to paper her own thoughts and opinions, just in case someone else might read it and pass judgement on her. 

See judgement stings and her fear of being judged stems from…well…I don’t want to give too much away.

Creating realistic journal entries

I created a small diary in Olivia’s hand, so that I could think like her and feel what it might’ve been like all those years ago to have a small diary to write down words that could be read one hundred years later.

Denise M. Colby created a mock journal in her characters hand to get a sense of what she would say. This is the title page opened and dated 1869
My character in my story keeps a journal, so I created one and wrote in it as if I’m her. I even changed the handwriting to fit her personality.

What she was doing was so new in 1869. 

Traveling across the country, women came west to teach in one-room schoolhouses and in order to make a difference in the life of a child, and for herself as well.

I wonder, in real life, how many of them kept a journal? And if they had any idea that we would be reading what they wrote so many years later?

Denise loves journals and has several laying around her home at any given time. She wrote about her bullet journal page design ideas for writers in an earlier post and this year she started a journal just for her word of the year quotes. The one she uses the most is her prayer journal. Check out her how to start a prayer journal page on her website.

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Masked Eyes Still Tell Tales

April 20, 2020 by in category A Bit of Magic by Meriam Wilhelm tagged as , , ,

I’ve heard it said that eyes are the window to the soul, but I’ve always been more of a total face person. I like to see smiles, dimples, scrunched up noses or puffed out cheeks. By getting a look at the total face, I think that it’s a whole heck of lot easier to predict what is going on in a person’s head and how to respond. When I’m creating a character, I never stop at just describing the eyes. I mean… do you?

So, what do you do when the only thing that isn’t covered by a mask is a pair of eyes? Unfortunately, during this pandemic, wearing a mask has become as common as wearing a t-shirt and getting to really “see” the person you are trying to communicate with can be uber challenging.

Lucky for me, I also take a lot of my cues from raised eye brows, crinkled crows feet, squinty eyes and furrowed brows. I’m far more comfortable with smiling eyes, bright eyes and even sleepy eyes than I am with angry or worried eyes.  And it can really throw me off when those eyes are covered by thick or fringy bangs, glasses or the bill of a cap pulled taunt over a forehead. But if you practice real hard and pay close attention, I theorize that a pair of eyes, peeking out from behind a mask, can actually give you some clues to maneuver by. It’s sort of like learning a foreign language and I got a crash course while dropping by Costco the other day. Flashing, angry eyes mean – for your own good –  get as far away as possible, as soon as possible. Sad eyes need a nod of support and happy eyes, well just enjoy those – they may be few and far between these tough days. One other clue to how a stranger might be feeling could be found in the mask they are wearing. I’ve included pictures of a few that I’ve made. How can you not feel happy when wearing something so whimsical?

So until the day comes when we can all greet each other with an upturned smile or a downturned frown, a hug, a giggle or a hoot—take care, be safe and stay home—then you won’t need to wear a mask!

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Figuring Out What Our Characters Want

October 12, 2019 by in category The Writing Journey by Denise Colby tagged as , ,
Blog title page Figuring Out What Our Characters Want by Denise M. Colby. Black and white background faded photo of people walking around

When writing a story, writers need to ask the question “What do we think our characters want?”

On the surface that may sound like an easy question, but when I was a new writer, I found it very challenging. Probably because I had a hard time knowing what I wanted for myself. 

Never one to make decisions quickly, choosing what to wear or what I wanted to eat for dinner was not always simple. Deciding on what restaurant to go to or what movie to watch was a loaded question in our house, since my husband and I usually came from opposite ends and had to find a compromise. For some reason, as a younger me, I would discount my own desires or not really care. I even had a ex-boyfriend ask me what I wanted once, and even though I had basic goals and dreams, things I liked to do and be a part of, I was unsure how to answer specifically. 

Maybe I was too afraid to be so definitive. Or I wanted to make sure I would be really happy with my decision. Or I liked to blend in with whomever I was hanging out with. Who knows. All that’s to say, asking “What does our Hero want? What does our Heroine want?” over and over made me realize I had to dig deeper in defining myself as well as my characters if I wanted to write a story.

So how do we get inside our characters head and ask what they want?

Background pic of helping hands with words overlaid saying Five Different Techniques to Help You Dive Deep in figuring out what your characters want. Blog post by Denise M. Colby

I worked on five different techniques to help me dive deep:

1. Pay attention to the world around you. Not just in general, but to each individual.

I started paying deeper attention to the different nuances in my friends and family. Never wanting to judge, I purposely didn’t focus on differences or quirks, but as a writer, that’s what makes our characters unique and special. And it’s those quirks that we love in our friends and family, isn’t it?

2. People watch.

Take a look and watch people’s faces for reactions and try and guess what they are thinking. My husband and I love to do our date nights at Disneyland. It’s a great place to people watch. There are so many different personalities to watch and observe and try and figure out a background story for them.

3. Pay attention to what vehicle someone drives. 

I don’t know why, but I love trucks. And when I see a vehicle I like I tend to look at who is driving it and what their story is. I probably could make up a lot of stories this way, but right now I’m focusing on time periods without vehicles, so I’m packing away these observances for a later time. But the exercise has helped me practice defining characters. If it’s not a vehicle, you could pick some other item such as a house, a pet, or clothes. What type of person would choose…

4. Make a decision and stick with it. 

I don’t know why, but this has been difficult for me. I ask too many ‘what ifs’. Just pick one and write from that perspective. If you need to change it later, that’s okay. Decisiveness helps you move forward. Originally, I couldn’t decide on any particular personality and so my heroine was everything. There was no uniqueness that I could specifically use to forward her story. I had to go back and be more clear-cut and unambiguous. Which leads me to my last point.

5. Be more specific with the smaller details.

In the beginning I was really vague with what I thought my characters wanted. It made it harder to write a scene. When I started my second book’s draft, I had defined my characters more before I wrote and had a stronger idea who they were and what they wanted. I found it was so much easier to write from their point of view that way. All those decisions made a difference!

faded picture of people standing in circle with different shoes and title overlay It's All In The Details Blog post by Denise M. Colby

So as you work on your first book or your twentieth, I hope this gives you some fresh perspective in helping you flush out your characters. I had jotted notes down about this blog topic early on in my writing journey. It was one of those aha moments that really helped me break through a hurdle I had in flushing out my story.

Since then I’ve learned more about myself, too. 

Thanks for reading,


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