Creating Character Connections

This is a guest post from Alicia K.Leppert.Alicia always knew she wanted to be a writer, ever since Career Day in first grade when she walked around carrying a notebook and pencil. Twenty-some odd years later, after a short stint in high school where she dreamed of being an actress, a whirlwind Internet romance including a blind proposal that led to a fairy tale wedding and two pretty-near perfect kids, her lifelong dream came to fruition with her first novel, Emerald City. She lives with her small brood in her beloved hometown of Pasco, which is located in the only part of Washington state that isn’t green. When she’s not writing, she can be found decorating novelty cakes and taking naps–her other two passions. You can connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.

A good story can be read. But a great story must be felt. William Styron said, “A good book should leave you…slightly exhausted at the end. You live several lives while reading it.”

Alicia Leppert Author of Emerald CityI’ve read countless books in my life that were highly entertaining. They had clever plots, lots of action, heroes and heroines doing amazing things. Books that I greatly enjoyed reading. But even as I turned each page in anticipation of what was going to happen next, I often found myself wanting. Something seemed to be missing, something that was key: a connection with the characters. So many stories are told through dialogue and description of events as they unfold, while forgetting to add the most important element–what the characters are thinking and feeling. So many times I’ll be reading a book and think, “Wow! That’s so crazy that just happened! But what was so-and-so’s reaction to that? What are they thinking right now?”

So how do you write a story that evokes feeling? How do you draw readers in so that they begin to feel like they know your characters personally, or are standing in the pages of your book, experiencing it right along with them? The best way to achieve this is to constantly be considering what your characters would be thinking and feeling in every situation you place them in.

It isn’t necessary to reveal everything your characters feel. For the most part, however, readers like to know what’s going through the minds of these characters they’ve become invested in. And when they find out, they become that much more attached to said characters, and in effect, the story. It can be done by a simple gesture, a look, a thought that runs quickly through their mind. A brief statement suggesting how they’re feeling. It’s amazing what these little things will do to create a connection between the reader and the character. They begin to care, maybe even relate. Once they become attached to the characters, it brings a whole new dynamic to the story.

Consider this in your writing, as you move from scene to scene, from one situation to the next. Instead of focusing simply on what is happening and where the story is going, think about feeling. What is being felt by your characters, and what your writing will cause your readers to feel. And then you will have the makings of a great story.

Writers: How do you evoke feeling in your writing and help to create a connection with your characters?

 

A Dream That Changed One’s Destiny

This is a guest post by Erik Olsen. Erik was born in Salt Lake City. He went to Brighton High School and afterwards went on a LDS mission to North Carolina. After his mission he came home and found the girl of his dreams, Wendy Patane, who decided she could put up with him, and so he married her. They have five incredible children, Stettsen, Dallas, Xanthe, Siri, and Chelsey. They currently live in Sandy Utah and love it here. If you’d like to view his website it’s, www.flinsdestiny.com. Or, if you’d like to email him, olsenerik1@yahoo.com.

WOW!!! What can I say about writing? Here’s the deal. Growing up I never desired to be a writer, nor did I think I could ever do so. The patience involved, and the writing skills needed I thought were nowhere to be found in someone like myself. Other people were far more qualified. Strange enough, I found that I really enjoy writing; I guess I just really had never tried it. That is until one strange dream in the middle of the afternoon while on vacation with my family. I don’t know if you’ve ever had such an amazing or crazy dream, but I did.

As you may guess, this dream turned into the series I wrote called, Flin’s Destiny. This dream was so incredibly real that I just had to write it down. Against my will I was forced to write. Ew!!! At least I thought I was forced to write, but now, over six years later, I do it because I enjoy it. Odd huh? Truth be told, I almost feel like I can’t take credit for the series because whoever put this vision, or dream into my head that just had to come out is mostly responsible. Either way, I’m very grateful.

I’m going to let you in on a little secret as of how to start your book. First, place your hands on the keyboard of your computer. Next, simply start tapping at the keys to input whatever comes out of your mind. The beginning of your story may not really matter, and I know this because I had to get rid of a hundred and seventy pages which were the very first pages of my book and they took me over six months to write. So, that being said, if you have a dream in you that just needs to be told and you think it’s worth writing about, do it, just do it!

Cobble Cavern: Book 1 of the Flin's Destiny Series by Erik Olsen, Juvenile Fiction, Fantasy and Magic, Middle Grade Books

Well, if you’re thinking of writing a book, I hope I’ve been of some help to you, maybe not. I’ve found writing comes naturally to some, like my wife. She’s an incredible writer. I’ve had to try and figure it out this entire time. Maybe that’s what keeps me going, the will to get better.

What keeps you writing?

Thanks for listening, now get to creating your own dream!

— Erik Olsen


Be True to You

This is a guest post by Merrilee Browne Boyack.Boyack, is a crazed woman who loves eating and taking naps when she can. She is an estate-planning attorney who conducts her law practice from home. She graduated with High Honors from Brigham Young University with a degree in Business Management””Finance and was a summa cum laude graduate from University of Santa Clara Law School. Boyack is also a professional lecturer, a very popular speaker at BYU Education Week and Time Out for Women. She authored “The Parenting Breakthrough”, “Strangling Your Husband Is NOT an Option”, “Toss the Guilt and Catch the Joy” and “In Trying Times, Just Keep Trying”, published by The Deseret Book Company. And she’s written “Waterfall Memories: A Parable of Motherhood” and “Book of Mormon Children” published by Cedar Fort Book Publishing.

Merrilee and her husband, Steve, have four sons ages 21-30, and two perfect grandchildren. She is a Poway City Councilwoman. Boy Scout volunteer and a community activist. She has received many awards for leadership and community service. Her favorite kitchen appliance is a telephone. Her interests include reading, camping, talking, eating out and helping children in Africa. She has lectured throughout the country, combining lots of humor with an informative style.

My son is a writer. That just seems so incredible for me to say. You see, in high school, Connor hated English class with a passion and most especially hated the writing assignments. He had been a voracious reader until he turned 14 when he quit, cold turkey. Strangest thing.

But something happened to him on his mission. He began to read again and to study. He came home a writer. Since then, he has published his first book on his 30th birthday (Latter-day Liberty by Connor Boyack, published by Cedar Fort). He writes a blog (ConnorBoyack.com) that is read by thousands. He regularly publishes op-ed articles in the newspaper. It’s incredible.

His writing style is highly cerebral and very deep. You have to get out your dictionary and crank up your brain cells to read his stuff. He mostly writes about political themes and is passionate, very opinionated, and serious.

I am a speaker who writes. So my books are funny, practical, and read like a conversation. They are completely different from my son’s in every way.I, too, am a writer. I have been speaking and writing for decades. My first book, The Parenting Breakthrough, was published when Connor was an adult and chronicles raising him and his brothers to be independent adults. My 7th book will be coming out in May entitled Book ofMormon Children: A Collection of Stories Set in Book of Mormon Times. My 8th book will be coming out in July. I have written on parenting, marriage, self-help, inspirational themes, and fiction.

I had to admit, I had a little crisis over it. Should I increase the intellectual level of my writing? Should I make it more cerebral?

But now I have relaxed a bit. I realized that we both have a gift. We both can express ourselves well. But our gift is very different. We write to different audiences and reach them in different ways. And that is to be celebrated.And then I began to try to change his writing. I kept telling him to be more practical, use more stories, lighten up.

As a writer and as a speaker, it is critical to be authentic. You must be true to you. As you are true to your own experience and your own gift, that will ring true to your audience as well.

Of course, sometimes I still think Connor should take a chill pill. I’m still his mom, after all.

Baby Steps

This is a guest post by Joan Wester Anderson.Joan began her career in the 70’s, as primarily a magazine features writer. As time passed, she wrote several books, including Where Angels Walk, which became a New York Times best-seller and stayed on the list for 54 weeks. WAW became the first in a nine-book series published by Ballantine Books. Joan has appeared on hundreds of radio and TV talk shows and documentaries, but says that her most important contribution to the world has been “raising fine children.” You can find Joan on Facebook, Twitter and her website,and herbook onAmazonandB&N.

Lives there a book lover who does not dream of becoming an author? With the advent of computers and an explosion of niche publishers, such a project is certainly within reach. But I wouldn’t recommend it, not for a beginner. For the writing is by far the easiest part.

I began freelancing in the Dark Ages as a temporary measure, to help feed our five young children. I had noticed that whenever I wrote an irate Letter to the Editor at the Chicago Tribune, it was always published (in those days, it took little to rev me to irate status.) One day I added a hundred words, called it a “guest editorial,” and received a check right away.

Amazing! Small sales in newspapers and baby magazines followed, leading to editorial assignments, larger publications and yes, thoughts of a book. By now I’d found a fellow writer, with an even larger brood. Neither of us would ever have time to write a full book, we felt, but if we combined our small reprints, and filled a few literary holes, we might co-author an essay collection. Not knowing about queries, we assembled the manuscript mostly over the phone, our conversations punctuated by background screams and crashes from the toddlers. We flipped a coin to see who got stuck typing the draft, including the cost of carbon paper, then sent two copies to two small Christian publishers who had run some of our articles. We were astonished when one of them actually phoned, and accepted LOVE, LOLLIPOPS AND LAUNDRY then and there. I believe our advance was $200 which, of course, we split.

Mom Knows Best: Classic Stories Every Mom will Love by Joan Wester Anderson, Nonfiction, Christian Family Life

Birthing a book instead of a baby was a novel experience. As Chicagoans, we had access to small radio stations and local TV personalities who invited us on as guests to kibbitz about family life with the audience. Our book was a natural for both Valentine’s and Mother’s Days; at local signings we passed out chocolate hearts along with our autographs. All this attention, and getting out of the house at the same time! Who could ask for more?

My partner eventually opted for a p.r. job where she would wear shoes and be paid regularly. But I had been bitten by the writing bug and went on to author 16 more books (including a series on angels.) Looking back, I believe we had happy career outcomes because we started small and built””letters into essays, into co-authored projects, learning the trade, dealing with rejection and constant financial uncertainty, discovering that, along with ability, a writer must also be a self-starter… all valuable training for the writing and speaking I have done since.

Today so many beginners START with books, biting off huge commitments of time and effort, inevitably surrendering before they’ve truly tested their talents. I long to tell them that selling a filler to Life with Lettuce may lack glamour, but it’s still the best way I know to eventually Write That Book.

You can find the book on Amazon and B&N.

But I’m Not A Writer

This is a guest post by Barbara R. Wheeler.Barbara holds masters and doctorate degrees in social work. She is currently professor emeritus of Brigham Young University where she served on the faculty and was the Director of the School of Social Work. Dr. Wheeler has authored many publications in professional journals as well as chapters in books. She has practiced clinical social work in various settings including independent clinical social work practice for over twenty-five years.

I’m not a writer.When I told my author/friend this, she disagreed saying that “anyone who writes is a writer.” “Not me,” I fired back. But I do have something to say–something that I believe is important andcould enrich the lives of others.

My thoughts refused to disappear but were almost screaming for direction”•to get out of my head. I just had to put them down on paper but where do I start? The same friend told me to just begin writing something, anything, and to not be concerned about words, punctuation or sentence structure. The refinement comes later. So I did. Something happened. I entered a zone where the ideas flowed and believe it or not, they seemed to organize themselves into some kind of order. Then I began to feel the passion, the drive, the “I don’t even want to eat or sleep until I finish this part” syndrome. I was on the path of no return and it felt so “right.”

When A Spouse Dies: What I didn't Know About Helping Myself and Others Through Grief, Barbara R. Wheeler, DSWWhat a life-changing experience! It was like giving birth”•nine months of gestation with off and on pain, discomfort, awkwardness and even sleepless nights. Then came the intense labor and right on the due date, I delivered. It was a newborn that all who picked it up and held it for any length of time would feel more sensitive and tender from the experience. (At least that was my belief). It was beautiful to look at on the outside but, more importantly; it was what was inside that was of real value.

My “newborn” book was about something we all face sooner or later in life”•loss and the normal grief reaction that follows. I wrote about the realities of grief’s journey including how the experience changes us and how we need to trust tomorrow.

I guess I am a writer.