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Kiss and Tell (part one): Creating a Swoonlicious Book Boyfriend

Kiss and Tell (part one): Creating a Swoonlicious Book Boyfriend

Anyone who hangs around me for any length of time - online or in "real" life - learns pretty quickly that I'm an avid collector of book boyfriends. My husband has resigned himself to this collection, goodnaturedly tolerating my swoons over fictitious heroes and pretending not to notice that most of them are based on Henry Cavill or Chris Hemsworth.

(Now, before anyone starts clutching their pearls... He's not threatened because he knows I know they're fictional. After all, my husband is my very own Mr. Knightley and that's the best kind of hero anyway.)

Since I first met Prince Charming on the pages of Cinderella (a book I had memorized before I could technically read), I have been adding to my book boyfriend collection. And while Prince Charming joins Frank Hardy, Gilbert Blythe and Thane Andrews (Roses for Mama by Janette Oke) in my book boyfriends hall of fame (another way to say 'book boyfriends I've loved since middle school"), more recently I have amassed quite a swoonilicous collection of new book boyfriends. And don't tell Charming, Frank, Gilbert and Thane, but this new crop is even more swoonilicious! 

Of my reads from the past three years or so, there are five heroes that I have quite a crush on. See, I fall in love with book boyfriends while I'm reading their particular story but more often than not when I move on to a new book, I move on to a new book boyfriend as well. (It's not cheating if they're fictional! The internet says so!) However, these five guys made such an impression on me that a) I can't quit talking about them and b) I put them on a shirt. 

Kiss and Tell (part one): Creating a Swoonlicious Book Boyfriend

In case you haven't met them yet, let me introduce you! Meet James MacDonald (aka #myJames) from Carla Laureano's Five Days in Skye, Ty Porter from Becky Wade's Meant to be Mine, Charlie Lionheart from Joanne Bischof's The Lady and the Lionheart, Vance Everstone from Dawn Crandall's The Cautious Maiden, and Wes Harrison from Pepper Basham's Just the Way You Are. Ironically enough, three of these swoonlicious fellas look like Henry Cavill. For those of you taking notes, that's not a MUST but it certainly helps ;) 

Since I debuted my book boyfriends shirt, I've been asked this question more times than I can count: 

How do my heroes get on your shirt???

Now, aside from the potential awkwardness beget (begotten?) from a question such as this one, I have been mulling over a list of characteristics that make these five book boyfriends (and your future heroes) shirt-worthy.

  1. Falling in love hits HIM in all the feels. Obviously, it needs to hit me in the feels too (I still have not recovered from Vance's redemption or Charlie's sacrifice) but when it makes the hero's voice go husky, his throat tight, his control fray... these things are sure to have me swooning right off my fainting couch (also known as my trusty recliner). For example, watching tough, cocky, bullrider Ty Porter or smoldering, flirty James MacDonald fall hard in love is truly a swoonilicious pleasure.
  2. He's not afraid to share those feels, when appropriate. I'm all for macho heroes but there's something particularly yummy about a guy who isn't afraid to tell a girl how he feels. To tell her he's scared, too. To tell her that he's trying to rein in his desires because he respects her, but also to tell her that he has those intense desires to rein in. To let his voice get all raspy and his jaw tight. I'm all a'swoon just thinking about it! (But please, for the love of all things swoony, don't make him smarmy!! If a guy's every thought is some sort of innuendo, nope. He can express desire but right on its heels must be respect. Vance Everstone & Wes Harrison are great examples of this desire/respect balance.)
  3. He is a man of integrity and character...Eventually. He can be a bad boy at the start but the process of redemption must be a key element to his story. I'm telling you right now, there is nearly nothing as sexy (am I allowed to use that word??? Where's Julie Lessman when you need her? LOL) ... anyway, there is nothing quite so swoonilicious as a redeemed rogue. If you look at each of these 5 heroes, you'll find a bit (or more) of redeemed bad boy in each one of them.
  4. He is a protector at heart. A shirt-worthy book boyfriend doesn't have to be a Navy SEAL or an FBI agent or a First Responder (though, now I'm swooning at the thought) but he has to have some sort of protective instincts. If someone tells him to stay put when his woman is in danger, he better not stay put. And if he's forced to stay put because he's stuck in a hospital bed with a possibly-mortal injury of his own... well... then he at least needs to be growly about not being able to come to her rescue. Even if your book is not a suspense novel, this protective side can come out around kids, dogs, and the heroine in other ways that are just as meaningful. Worthy of note is that none of my 5 shirt-worthy book boyfriends are in a suspense novel. But if you've met Charlie Lionheart, you can't say he doesn't have protective instincts!
  5. He's a goooooood kisser! Ok, this last one isn't essential but y'all there is something to be said for a kiss that has you using your book as a swooning fan. (Please be cautious of using your kindle in the same manner... it doesn't have quite the same cool-air effect and a miscalculated swoosh could leave you a bit bruised. Don't ask me how I know this.) We'll talk more about what makes a gooooood kiss the next time I'm on Seekerville! (July 13th, if I did my math right.) 
Now, take this advice with a grain of salt because every reader has her own preferences. Some like flirty heroes. Some like brooding Mr. Darcy-types. Some go for the nerds. Some get weak-kneed over the bearded lumberjacks (I'm looking at you, Beth Erin!) and others prefer a scruffy cowboy or a dashing Brit. It also depends on what kind of chemistry the hero has with the heroine, and the overall quality of the story.

Dear readers, the stuff of fairy-tale romance and happily-ever-after is in our soul's DNA. God has set eternity in our hearts (Ecclesiastes 3:11) and I believe this is one reason we crave the Prince Charming who comes riding in on a white horse to defeat evil and whisk away as his bride. Sound familiar? Yes, that's basically the plot of every fairy-tale and nearly every romance ever written. But it's also THE plot. It's the story God has been telling from the beginning!

One day Jesus WILL come riding in on a white horse as our Prince of Peace to defeat evil and whisk us away as His bride (Rev 19) to the ultimate happily-ever-after (Rev 21). As we wait for it play out in reality, we read little reflections of it in the meantime. This is why we collect book boyfriends... and this is why certain heroes make it onto my shirt. Because in their stories, I see The Story. They remind me that THIS is love, that someday my Prince will come... in a tale as old as time.

Until then, I'll keep collecting book boyfriends and adding them to my shirts. I've already got a list going for the next one ;)

    Kiss and Tell (part one): Creating a Swoonlicious Book Boyfriend


    Authors: What do you find most difficult about writing a swoony hero?
    Readers: Who are some of your fave book boyfriends?

Let me know in the comments & you'll be entered to win ONE BOOK of your choice from ONE of my book boyfriend lists found here:

(I told you I talk them about them alot LOL)

Giveaway is open internationally, provided Book Depository has the book of your choice and ships to your location. Void where prohibited by law.

The Queen of Charts: Sharing One Way to Plan a Story

Missy Tippens


The Queen of Charts: Sharing One Way to Plan a Story


Let me reintroduce myself. I’m Missy, the Queen of Charts. I love a good planning chart and have a whole folder full of them on my hard drive to prove it. Because I learn best by seeing examples, I’ve shared some examples of my files in previous posts, hoping they might be a help to our readers. Here are links to two of those posts:



Today, I wanted to share another GMC chart. FYI: GMC is taken from the book GMC: Goal, Motivation and Conflict by Debra Dixon. I also modified my chart after using Carolyn Greene's Magic Conflict Chart from her out-of-print Prescription for Plotting notebook (she said will have a new edition coming later this year!). In addition, I've added some brainstorming notes that I made after reading The Story Equation by Susan May Warren and also hearing her present workshops at conferences.

I used these charts for my recent release, “Her Valentine Reunion,” part of the mulit-author collection, BackTo You.

Warning…SPOILER ALERT!! If you own this boxed set and want to read my novella first, please run do that. Or if you don’t own it yet and want to read it first (It's only 99 cents!), here’s a link. Then be sure to come back. :)

In these examples, I’ll be copying and pasting directly from my planning notebook file (you can even see when I had a gem of an idea :)). Sometimes the story doesn’t end up exactly as planned, but for the most part, this one did.

You’ll see that for each character, I plan the following:
External goal, motivation and conflict (EG, EM, EC).
Internal need (what they truly need), goal (possibly misguided), motivation, conflict (IN, IG, IM, IC). Plus, something to consider.

GMC Chart for Her Valentine Reunion

Victor
EG: Go to High Hope/Dahlia (changed town name) to buy a golf course or invest in a struggling country club
EM: To look at establishing himself in High Hope/Dahlia and supporting the community.
EC: His ex-girlfriend, whom he did wrong and who wants him to stay away from her, works at the place he wants to buy—and hopes to take over the business when her uncle retires.

IN: to belong
IG: to earn forgiveness by being a better person (atonement/sense of duty toward hometown)
IM: he’s been aloof and superficial to protect himself in the past but has had an epiphany; he’s made peace with his newly discovered cousin and wants to have that relationship (but needs to change to do so; his almost-fiancée said he needs to accept people the way they are)
IC: it seems impossible to overcome his reputation and no one seems willing to forgive.
Consider: You can’t earn love and acceptance. It’s a two-way street, and you must first risk loving others.

Abbie
EG: Move back to her roots and make a happy, single life for herself near family and friends. Also making her place in uncle’s business so she can maybe take it over someday (a nice living for her single self).
EM: Hearing about the mistake Victor made being away from his grandmother before she died.
EC: Victor shows up, and he’s talking about buying the place she works—the place she wants to keep in the family and take over when her uncle retires

IN: Security/loyalty
IG: be independent and follow God’s plan for her life, even if it’s not what she always envisioned
IM: She’s been rejected/used in the past and doesn’t trust others easily
IC: It’s hard to be strong when Victor is around, reminding her of past hopes and dreams
Consider: If you try to be independent and not acknowledge the truth of your desires, you’ll never get what you need. 

The Queen of Charts: Sharing One Way to Plan a Story


Additional Brainstorming Notes:

Victor
Wound: parents were not involved in his life. They were always busy with their own jobs and didn’t prioritize him, their only child. Praised him when he was successful, so he felt he could earn their attention. Grandmother was only one who showed unconditional love (and he ultimately let her down). Even his job success never seemed to impress his parents. With grandma dead now, he feels adrift—except for the tenuous relationship with Hardy. It’s a life-line.

Lie: (child) I must not be very lovable, so I need to be really good at something to earn attention and love.
Lie: (adult) People want to associate with me when I’m successful. That’s power to have them want my attention. I like my ability to give them things. If I lose my successful business, I am nothing.

Biggest fear: Everything I have crashing down (failure at business). Because that would mean loss of power, and thus, loss of worth.

IDEA!
To stay in High Hope/Dahlia he’ll have to sell his business. So buying the country club would be his way to stay in High Hope and be near family, which he dreams of having (and belonging). But to buy it would be to go against the one thing Abbie wants (to keep it in her family and take over for her uncle someday).


Abbie:
After he treated her so badly in college (Victor hid fact he needed to succeed more than he needed her), she felt used. Felt like she wasn’t worthy of love. Felt less than. Took a big hit to her confidence. Took a long time to get over that. Men she dated didn’t help. She had to do it on her own and through friends and family.

Her biggest fear (potential): 1. being found lacking    **2. Being used/taken advantage of or made a fool of
I think I like #2 better. Rather than be used or made a fool of again, she’d rather be single. Not so risky. So feeling God wants her to be single is less risky than having to trust Victor again.

Wound: Victor ignoring her and keeping her out of his life even while supposedly dating (because she didn’t have/offer anything to advance his goals).

Lie: I’m safer being alone, not depending on anyone else for my happiness. Nothing and no one is worth risking having your love thrown back in your face.

Missy again…

So that’s a peek inside my plotter’s brain. It’s a great way for me to think through my story and to make sure I have some decent backstory before I start writing.

Often, the next step is to think of scene ideas for each block on my GMC chart. I think of scenes that will show, for example, my heroine’s external goal, or my hero’s internal motivation. This is also a great way to make sure I’m not just telling with a backstory dump. Once I have a lot of scene ideas jotted down, I try to put them in some type of chronological order that makes sense and seems to progress in rising action. This won’t be all the scenes in the story. But it’s a nice skeleton to start with. And of course, that changes as I move forward in the writing—because the story sometimes goes in surprising directions.

I hope y’all found this helpful! I’d love to hear whether you use any sort of GMC chart. How do you plan your characters?

Giveaway! I’d like to offer to look at your GMC chart or, if you don’t work that way, to look at 1-2 pages of your brainstorming notes. I’ll give feedback or offer additional ideas. Just let me know in the comments if you’d like to be entered.

So, are you ready to read Victor and Abbie's story? :)
The Queen of Charts: Sharing One Way to Plan a Story


Join some of today's best-selling Christian Romance authors as they introduce you to four new couples who reunite for a second-chance at romance. This inspirational romance collection from Love Inspired authors Cheryl Wyatt, Missy Tippens, Jessica Keller, and Kristen Ethridge will warm your heart and each quick, satisfying read will keep you in the spirit of Valentine's Day and holiday romance all year long with stories of true love and happily-ever-after.




Also! Don’t forget to pre-order Cowboys of Summer! Next month I’m going to talk a little about how this city girl wrote her first cowboy story. :)

The Queen of Charts: Sharing One Way to Plan a Story


As the summer weather sizzles, relax by the pool with stirring tales of handsome cowboys and the spirited ladies who wrangle them into romance. Six of Christian fiction's most beloved authors join forces to bring you a collection of humorous, romantic and heartfelt novellas set against the sultry heat of summer.

***************
After more than 10 years of pursuing her dream of publication, Missy Tippens, a pastor’s wife and mom of three from near Atlanta, Georgia, made her first sale to Harlequin Love Inspired in 2007. Her books have since been nominated for the Booksellers Best, Holt Medallion, ACFW Carol Award, Gayle Wilson Award of Excellence, Maggie Award, Beacon Contest, RT Reviewer’s Choice Award, and the Romance Writers of America RITA® Award. Visit Missy at www.missytippens.com, https://twitter.com/MissyTippens and http://www.facebook.com/missy.tippens.readers.


Tips for Adding Visual "Texture" to the Telling of Your Tale

When you hear the word “texture,” what do you think of?

TEXTURE can be defined as a “visual or tactical surface characteristic and appearance of something. To give a particular texture to impart desirable characteristics.”

Today I’d like to touch on three simple tips to lend visual “texture” to your story—creating an inviting appearance on the page that better enables the painting of word pictures in your reader’s mind.


Tips for Adding Visual
 

1 - Build in white space for visual “texture” – Have you ever flipped through the pages of a work of fiction and been dismayed with page after page of unbroken blocks of text? You’re certainly no reading wimp, but it lookskinda intimidating, doesn’t it? Unfriendly. Boring even. Very likely you returned that book to the shelf or made the switch on your Kindle.

As authors we need to be aware of the visual impact of the story we’re writing, noting that a reasonable amount of visual white space on a page is more engaging than wall-to-wall words.


Tips for Adding Visual

Most authors, however, often use double-spaced 12-point Times New Roman or Courier New to create their masterpiece because that’s the form in which many publishers prefer to receive it. But in that “oversized” format, it’s also difficult to determine if we’ve inadvertently fallen into fat blocks text and how it will look to a reader on an actual printed page.

A year or so ago I decided to try a different format when drafting my books. It’s something I did as an unpublished writer (saved paper when printing to revise), but I’d gotten away from it the past nine years when required to submit in a publisher-preferred configuration. In MS Word, I formatted the manuscript as landscape rather than portrait and as two columns, setting the margins and font size to mimic two side-by-side pages of an open printed book

Below is an example of my first stab at it.


Tips for Adding Visual

While readers of ebooks can change font size and thus how paragraphs appear on the screen, you could still do something similar in a standard ebook format to see what the impact might be, particularly if you’re publishing as ebook only. Give it a try and see what you think!

Amazingly, the format not only permitted me to remain aware of needed white space on a “printed” page—where to shorten paragraphs or weave in dialogue to break up a chunk of visually unfriendly text—but it also helped keep a more accurate eye on “real” scene and chapter lengths. It also converted easily back to standard manuscript structure for publisher submission.


Tips for Adding Visual

2 – Lend visual “texture” by varying word arrangement - When revising your draft, have you ever cringed when spying sequential paragraphs starting out with the SAME word—most often a character’s name?

Jo shook her head. “No.”

Jo smiled even though she didn’t feel like it.

Jo couldn’t believe her eyes.

Jo. Jo. Jo. One paragraph right after another. UGH.

Most paragraphs are at least several sentences long, and that’s when it’s especially easy to miss this repetition. (I’ve seen books with as many as 4 paragraphs in a row starting out with the same character’s name.) So “texture” the first lines of your paragraphs by varying how they start.

“No.” Jo emphasized the word with an adamant shake of her head.

She smiled even though she didn’t feel like it.

Unable to believe her eyes, Jo gasped.


Tips for Adding Visual

3 - Add visual “texture” with a blend of dialogue - “Texture” your narrative paragraphs by breaking them up with a mix of dialogue. A reader’s eyes are drawn to those indented paragraphs and quote marks, to what the characters are saying. You don’t want a string of unattributed dialogue peppered all the way down a page, forcing a reader to “count back” to figure out who is speaking. But dialogue and its accompanying white space visually invite a reader to keep reading.

Can you think of a time when you put a fiction book down because it was visually uninviting? Are you aware of the importance of “white space” or is that something you as a reader and / or writer haven’t given much thought to? What tips can YOU share in our comment section today about adding visual “texture” to the paragraphs of your tale?

If you’d like to be entered in a drawing for a copy of my April Love Inspired release, Mountain Country Courtship (the final story in the 6-book Hearts of Hunter Ridge series) please mention it in the comments section, then check the Weekend Edition for winners!

Glynna

Tips for Adding Visual
GLYNNA KAYE treasures memories of growing up in small Midwestern towns--and vacations spent with the Texan side of the family. She traces her love of storytelling to the times a houseful of great-aunts and great-uncles gathered with her grandma to share candid, heartwarming, poignant and often humorous tales of their youth and young adulthood.







Tips for Adding Visual
Mountain Country Courtship.After being jilted at the altar, the last place Denny Hunter wants to be is in his hometown. Yet he’s back in Hunter Ridge renovating a run-down old inn with the lovely Lillian Keene. He doesn’t know she’s a runaway bride—or that her niece has serious matchmaking plans. But in this Hearts of Hunter Ridgebook, Denny and Lillian discover that the most important restoration starts with the heart. CLICK HERE TO ORDER.

Subplots 101



Subplots 101


Think back to your school days. Specifically, to your high school English class.

Think of that reading assignment you enjoyed…until you were in class the next day and the teacher started throwing out words like ‘theme’ and ‘plot.’ Why couldn’t you just enjoy the story?

The thing is, you can enjoy reading a story without dissecting it. But if you’re going to write a story – a good story – you need to know the details that you ignored in your high school English class.

Today we’re going to talk about subplots.


Subplots 101


First, we need to know what a plot is. The basic definition is: The main events of a story presented by the writer in a sequence.

The subplot is a parallel but secondary plot line that supports the main plot. The subplot usually involves secondary characters who interact with the main characters as the plot and subplot intersect.

Think of the plot as an interstate highway. If you’ve ever traveled across the country on I-70, you might have noticed that the highway often intersects with the old highway, US 40. Look at a highway map (like Google maps) to see what I mean. The span between Indianapolis and St. Louis is a perfect example.

I-70 is the main plot. It takes you straight from Indianapolis to St. Louis in a sequence of cities and rest stops. But US 40 takes a parallel route, with stops in small towns and views of rural America that you don’t see from the interstate, adding interest and depth to the journey.

That’s what a subplot does for your story: it adds interest and depth to the plot. But don't forget that the subplot also needs to be directly related to the main plot. You don't want to have two completely different stories going on at the same time. Like the highways, they need to intersect on a regular basis.


Subplots 101


The decision to use a subplot, and how many subplots, depends on your story. In my stories for Love Inspired, I usually have one subplot. In my longer stories for Revell, I will have several subplots.

In a shorter novel, it’s important to concentrate on the main plot. You want your characters to get from point A to point Z without a lot of detours. The action moves quickly, and you don't have a lot of time to wander around in secondary character's stories.

In a longer story, you need subplots to give the story substance. In a story of that length, you have the time to explore all the issues and ideas that the main plot might suggest.

For instance, in “The Sound of Distant Thunder,” my September 2018 release from Revell, my Amish characters are dealing with the effects of the Civil War on their Ohio community. How many issues are brought up in this main conflict? I found several! I use subplots and secondary characters to explore the choices and challenges my characters face.


Subplots 101


I’ll use my book, Naomi’s Hope, as an example. (spoiler alert!)

The main plot centers around motherhood and loss. Naomi’s adopted son, Davey, is curious about his birth family and longs for a father. As Naomi deals with the fear of losing her son, she needs to learn to trust God to keep Davey safe and to bring the situation to the conclusion that pleases Him.

For one of the subplots, I used Naomi’s sister Mattie as the secondary character who has a parallel experience. At the beginning of the story, Mattie is dealing with the burden of infertility. She becomes pregnant, but then suffers the loss of the child part way through the pregnancy.

Subplots 101
Do you see how Naomi’s and Mattie’s experiences are similar? Both love a child that they must face relinquishing through no choice of their own. They both learn that their response to the situation makes all the difference.

By including Mattie’s story, I broaden the effects of Naomi’s story. Naomi’s situation tells the story of motherhood and loss from one perspective. Mattie’s story provides a different slant, strengthening the effect of the theme of the story.




If you’re a writer, how do you use subplots in your stories? Have you thought about the role they play?

If you’re a reader, what are some of your favorite subplots?



Subplots 101


I’m giving away a copy of Cheryl St. John’s “Write Smart Write Happy” to one commenter today. Even though Cheryl wrote this book for writers, I think it provides wonderful inspiration for anyone who wants to take control of the details of their life so they are free to enjoy whatever creative endeavor they engage in.






7 Tips for Getting That First Draft Done


by Guest Lindsay Harrel

7 Tips for Getting That First Draft Done


I’m a planner, through and through. Call me Type A, Uber Organized, whatever—that’s me. I love lists and calendars and scheduling myself to the brink.

But then, inevitably, life happens: a kid gets sick, I get sick, I don’t have the energy for writing, my dog eats our dinner right off the counter (true story), my husband has a work emergency and can’t come home to watch the kids. Et cetera, et cetera.

And I fall further and further behind on my oh-so-lofty goals.

It’s then I’m tempted to say, “What’s the point? I can’t do this! There just isn’t enough time.”

I’m guessing you’ve been there a time or two (or fifty…who’s counting?). But I’m here tell you that it IS possible—you CAN get that first draft done. I’ve written three books in the last three years as a work-from-home mom (I currently have a 3 year old and an 11 month old), so if I can do it, you can too.

7 Tips for Getting That First Draft Done


In fact, I’ve compiled a list of tips to help you work toward completing that first draft.

1.     Understand your weaknesses—and plan against them. We all have those writing pitfalls we fall into when it comes to procrastination and not making progress on our first draft. Do you get too tired to write if it’s past 7 pm? Try waking up early and writing at 5 am. Is your problem getting distracted at home because of all the unfinished chores you see piling up around you (or because of the TV)? Don’t let it be an issue; change up your locations and see where you write best (the library and Starbucks are a few of my faves).

2.     Commit to smaller writing sessions if you have to. I usually write during my children’s naptime and I can hammer out a scene if I write fast enough (and my kids sleep as long as they’re supposed to!). But there are days when things don’t go according to plan—and that’s okay. Train yourself to think in smaller chunks. Can you find 15 minutes before dinner to write the dialogue for that important scene you’ve been ruminating over? Or maybe you can’t manage to get up a whole hour before everyone else in your household, but you COULD manage a half hour. Remember that any time spent writing is forward motion—and all of that time adds up in the end.

7 Tips for Getting That First Draft Done


3.     Think creatively when it comes to your schedule. Just because you’ve always done something one way doesn’t mean you have to continue to do it that way, especially when you’re trying to write a first draft quickly. For example, if your family is used to fancy dinners that take an hour to prepare, throw in a few crockpot meals here and there. Or, use Evernote to dictate your story into your phone while you fold laundry or are driving to the school pickup line, doctor’s office, or wherever you’re going. Things don’t have to be as black and white as you sitting at your desk in complete silence writing one whole scene at a time. Get creative and make more time in your busy schedule for writing.

4.     Remember that you are only one person. Something’s gotta give—you cannot be Superwoman (or Superman, if any guys are reading this!) all the time. Inevitably, you’ll falter in some area and will feel guilty (even when you shouldn’t). It’s okay to ask for help. Get the kids to do more chores. Ask a friend or family member to babysit. See if someone else can volunteer at church just this once. Of course, you don’t want to shirk your duties in other areas, but there’s a beautiful balance that’s possible when you remember that you don’t HAVE to do it all—and you shouldn’t expect yourself to.

5.     Keep your editing hat far, far away. If you’re a perfectionist like me, it’s really difficult to write a bad scene and be okay with it. But I have learned over the years that if I don’t just write during a first draft WITHOUT editing, then I’ll never make any progress. If I write something particularly cringe-worthy, I tell myself, “You can fix that later.” Having that knowledge in the back of my mind helps me to pound out the story without worrying so much about the final outcome.

6.     Make sure God is part of the equation if you’re a believer. I recently finished what will be my third published book, The Secrets of Paper and Ink, which won’t release until next February. I have always prayed over first drafts, but not like I did with this book in particular. This time, I felt God calling me to write with Him. That idea came from a session by Allen Arnold I attended a few years ago at the American Christian Fiction Writers conference. In this case, “writing with God” meant that I put aside my need for reassurance from critique partners and just relied on Him while writing my first draft. And you guys, I felt such a peace throughout the drafting process. There would be times when I’d question whether I was crazy to do it this way, but when I’d pray about whether to send the story to someone, it just didn’t feel right. I’m not saying you need to do this—critique partners are VERY important!—but just remember to immerse yourself in prayer and ask God for direction as you write. He may lead you to a theme or a story plot you hadn’t anticipated. Just keep yourself open to what He has for the story, even if you had something else planned.

7.     Remember—you and your calling are worth it. It’s easy to let other things in our life take priority over our writing. Sometimes, they should, no doubt. But other times, it’s just an excuse. I firmly believe that if God’s called you to it, He will equip you and give you the time you need to do it. There’s no way I’d get it all done with two little boys and a husband if that wasn’t the case. I have a dear friend who likes to say that she’s actually a better mom because she writes. It doesn’t take away from her life—it adds to it in so many ways. It is worth the time and energy it takes to write stories that will bless others.

Don’t let fear, indecision, unpreparedness, or anything else become your excuse for not getting that first draft done. You CAN do it. Don’t allow anyone—including you—tell yourself differently.

7 Tips for Getting That First Draft Done


YOUR TURN: What is something that’s held you back from writing in the past? What can you do to overcome that? Is there some way we can be praying for you in this regard?

Thanks for having me today, Seekerville! To show my appreciation to all of you lovely readers and fellow writers, I’m giving away a copy of The Heart Between Us (U.S. residents only), which releases TOMORROW! This book is a testament to the fact that anyone can get a book completed, as I wrote it with a toddler running around trying to eat up all my attention and edited it when I was seven months pregnant with my second son. J

Please let us know in the comments if you'd like to be entered.

About Lindsay
Lindsay Harrel is a lifelong book nerd who lives in Arizona with her young family and two golden retrievers in serious need of training. She’s held a variety of writing and editing jobs over the years, and now juggles stay-at-home mommyhood with writing novels. Her debut novel, One More Song to Sing, was an ACFW Carol Award finalist in 2017, and her second, The Heart Between Us, releases this month (March 2018).

When she’s not writing or chasing after her children, Lindsay enjoys making a fool of herself at Zumba, curling up with anything by Jane Austen, and savoring sour candy one piece at a time. Connect with her at www.LindsayHarrel.com.

7 Tips for Getting That First Draft Done


Megan Jacobs always wished for a different heart. Her entire childhood was spent in and out of hospitals, sitting on the sidelines while her twin sister Crystal played all the sports, got all the guys, and had all the fun. But even a heart transplant three years ago wasn’t enough to propel Megan’s life forward. She’s still working as a library aide and living with her parents in her small Minnesota hometown, dreaming of the adventure she plans to take “once she’s well enough.” Meanwhile, her sister is a successful architect with a handsome husband and the perfect life—or so Megan thinks.

When her heart donor’s parents give Megan their teenage daughter’s journal—complete with an unfulfilled bucket list—Megan connects with the girl she meets between the pages and is inspired to venture out and check off each item. Caleb—a friend from her years in and out of the hospital—reenters her life and pushes her to find the courage to take the leap and begin her journey. She’s thrown for a loop when Crystal offers to join her for reasons of her own, but she welcomes the company and the opportunity to mend their tenuous relationship.

As Megan and Crystal check items off the bucket list, Megan fights the fears that have been instilled in her after a lifetime of illness. She must choose between safety and adventure and learn to embrace the heart she’s been given so that she can finally share it with the people she loves most.
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Conflict and Tension, Part 2: Be mean to your characters



Conflict and Tension, Part 2: Be mean to your characters 
by Melanie Dickerson

As I spoke about in Conflict and Tension, Part 1, Conflict is one of the most important factors in any novel. We discussed in that first blog post how much and what kind of conflict and tension we need. Now I want to address some of the comments my post received, in which writers said they struggled with being “mean” to their characters, or not wanting to hurt them, as this is something I've struggled with too.

I recently came across my notes from a workshop Davis Bunn taught a few years ago. I don’t know if it was a paraphrase of something Davis Bunn said or a direct quote, but I had written, “Forget your attachment to your characters. Detach.”

We want our readers to feel an attachment to our characters, to feel what they’re feeling, and to empathize with them. But it can be a problem if we as the author are too attached to those characters. I had been taught this (or read it somewhere) early in my writing endeavors, but I’ve needed to be reminded of this recently! More on that later.

Conflict and Tension, Part 2: Be mean to your characters


In my first published novel, The Healer’s Apprentice, I was plotting as I wrote. I reached a point where I thought, “If the heroine gets deathly ill, that could work well for the plot.” But I cringed inwardly. I didn’t want my heroine to get sick.

Wait, WHAT!? This was a no-no and I knew it! I couldn’t let compassion for my character cause me to pull back from a conflict that would make the story better. Basically, it came down to this: Did I want to write a great story? Or did I want an imaginary friend? Seriously. Think about it. Do I want and need to write a great story that keeps readers engaged and sells lots of books? Or do I need an imaginary friend who’s happy with me for protecting them from harm?

It sounds silly, but it’s true. If Rose, my heroine, had been a real person, then I would never want to make her get seriously sick. I’m not sadistic or into being cruel to people. But this was a story, and I could NOT let myself feel sorry for my character, or get too attached to her. I needed to detach from my character for the sake of the story.

And so I let her contract meningitis and get to the point of near-death. And that led to a lovely scene where the hero was able to show off his heroism by finding and saving the heroine, who was stranded in the woods. He was in great anguish over the heroine’s possible death, and it pushed him to declare his love for her as soon as she was recovering. That led the heroine to selflessly refuse his proposal of marriage, in order to save him from the consequences that would ensue if he gave up his rights as the oldest son of a duke to marry a peasant. That's a mouthful, but just know that it produced a great chain of events and lots of lovely angst. And angst is conflict, and conflict is good.

Conflict and Tension, Part 2: Be mean to your characters


I came up against this problem in the last book I wrote, The Orphan’s Wish. I was too attached to my hero, though I wasn’t really aware of it at the time, and it made it so much more difficult to write the story. I knew bad things needed to happen, but it was hard, and I found myself smoothing things over for my hero. I let him get out of his difficulties rather too easily. But through rewrites and editing, I worked hard on fixing this problem, thanks to great editors and a great agent, who read the story and said the words you never want to hear: "This needs more work." 

But it just goes to show, you need to keep reminding yourself of good writing techniques and principles. Or I do, anyway.

Keeping your reader engaged is so important, and conflict and tension are key to this. You have to continually ask yourself, What is keeping my reader turning the pages? The answer is . . . a question. You have to plant questions in your reader’s mind and keep them in suspense. And the question could be, Will the heroine’s—and hero’s—secret identity be discovered by the bad guy? (The Noble Servant) Or, Will the hero realize he’s in love with the heroine before he marries the wealthy land-owning widow? (The Golden Braid) Or, Will the hero find out the heroine is not who she pretends to be? (The Silent Songbird) Or, Will the hero be able to rescue the heroine from the villain before the villain kills him? (The Captive Maiden)

Conflict and Tension, Part 2: Be mean to your characters


The possibilities are endless, and one question won’t necessarily carry you through till the end of the story. You must be prepared to let one question be answered—let that conflict be resolved—if that is what works for the story. But if you do, you MUST HAVE A NEW CONFLICT to take its place, more tension, more reasons why the reader will want to keep turning pages.

And that will be our topic for my next post, Conflict and Tension, Part 3.

So, discussion time. Have you caught yourself holding back because you didn’t want to be “mean” to your characters? Are you being "mean enough" to your characters? Also, what questions are you forcing on your reader so that they will keep turning pages to get that question answered? I will give away a copy of my Little Mermaid retelling, The Silent Songbird, to one commenter.


Conflict and Tension, Part 2: Be mean to your characters
Orphaned and alone, Aladdin travels from the streets of his Arab homeland to a strange, faraway place. Growing up in an orphanage, he meets young Lady Kirstyn, whose father is the powerful Duke of Hagenheim. Despite the difference in their stations, Aladdin quickly becomes Kirstyn’s favorite companion, and their childhood friendship grows into a bond that time and opposition cannot break.
Even as a child, Aladdin works hard, learning all he can from his teachers. Through his integrity, intelligence, and sheer tenacity, he earns a position serving as the duke’s steward. But that isn’t enough to erase the shame of being forced to steal as a small child—or the fact that he’s an orphan with no status. If he ever wants to feel equal to his beautiful and generous friend Kirstyn, he must leave Hagenheim and seek his fortune.
Yet once Aladdin departs, Lady Kirstyn becomes a pawn in a terrible plot. Now, Aladdin and Kirstyn must rely on their bond to save Kirstyn from unexpected danger. But will saving Kirstyn cost Aladdin his newfound status and everything he’s worked so hard to obtain?
An enchanting new version of the well-known fairy tale, The Orphan’s Wish tells a story of courage and loyalty, friendship and love, and reminds us what “family” really means.

(Oh my heart. I'm still attached. LOL!)


Conflict and Tension, Part 2: Be mean to your characters


Melanie Dickerson is the author of fairy tale retellings set in Medieval Europe, as well as a trilogy of Regency romance novels. Her 14th book releases June 26th. When she's not plotting mean things happening to her characters, she's writing, spending time on facebook, reading devotionals (which she has an addiction to), or panicking over a deadline. Oh, and you can frequently find her in Seekerville, blogging and commenting. Visit her Amazon author page, where you can click the "follow" button and get notified whenever she has a new book out.






Redeeming Darth Vader

Redeeming Darth Vader
Jan Drexler
When we talk about antagonist we love to hate, Darth Vader has to be at the top of the list.

Who can forget the scene in Star Wars IV when Darth Vader comes striding out of the smoke of the laser fire, the sound of his ominous mechanical breathing adding an unknown power to his imposing figure? Just the sight of him was enough to strike terror into the faint of heart!

Face it. As much as we cheered for Luke, Leia, and Han in that movie, Vader was the one who stole the show. He was unforgettable.

He was the quintessential antagonist.

What is an antagonist?

There are two basic kinds of antagonists in fiction: personal and impersonal.

The impersonal antagonist is a force the protagonist needs to fight against. It might be a major weather event, or a natural disaster. It might be something like a mountain that needs to be conquered or a war that needs to be won. Or it might be the lies that trap the protagonist in a dead-end life.

Redeeming Darth Vader


The personal antagonists are more apparent. These characters are the bullies, the rivals, or the murderers...anyone that the protagonist has to strive against to meet his goal.

How do you use an antagonist in your story?

In my first book, "The Prodigal Son Returns," I had an antagonist that worked well for my character, Bram. A 1930's era Chicago gangster was on the hunt for him after finding out that Bram had been an informant for the FBI. As Bram hides out in his childhood home - the Amish community in northern Indiana - this antagonist is an impersonal threat in the background for most of the story. Will he find Bram or won't he?

But the story needed another antagonist. One that was more personal. One that would force Bram to make decisions that would propel the story forward.

I decided to use Bram's estranged brother, Samuel. In this book, Samuel was the perfect foil for Bram. He reminds Bram of all the reasons why he left the Amish community in the first place. When Samuel appears in the story, he comes across as a bully. Someone who forces Bram to dig deep into a past he would rather forget.

Redeeming the antagonist.

When the book was finished and I had the opportunity to write more Amish stories for Love Inspired Historical, I kept thinking about Samuel. Would he always remain an antagonist?

My August 2017 release, "An Amish Courtship," was my chance to let Samuel tell his side of the story. I had learned a lot about writing between my first book and this seventh one, and I was finally able to turn Samuel into a sympathetic character.

In this book, he starts out in the same place where we left him in Bram's story. Samuel is a bully with no friends, lost in his own self-pity. But he couldn't stay there if I was going to show readers how he was being redeemed. He had a lot to learn, but with the help of a good woman - Mary, the heroine - and his own antagonist to work against, he discovered how to trust God and became the man he always wanted to be.

Like Bram, Samuel had two antagonists. His rival for Mary's affections was one, but the other one was internal. Impersonal. Samuel had to fight against the self-image his dysfunctional childhood had seared into his heart and mind. But his trust in God and his love for Mary conquered the antagonist and Samuel found redemption.

Redeeming Darth Vader


Redemption comes at great cost.

In Star Wars, The Return of the Jedi, Luke saw Darth Vader's redemption, but at the cost of his father's life. George Lucas knew the value in bringing Darth Vader - Anakin Skywalker - full circle, back to the man he had once been rather than the monster he had become.

As the author, you get to choose if and how your antagonist can be redeemed. And that's a story we all need to hear.


Who are some of your favorite antagonists?



Redeeming Darth Vader
Redeeming Darth VaderI'm giving away one copy each of "The Prodigal Son Returns" (in a 2in1 volume) and "An Amish Courtship" to one commenter so you can read Samuel's journey from antagonist to hero for yourself. Be sure to tell me you want to be in the drawing!





















Questions as a Starting Point


Questions as a Starting Point
Photo Credit: ©Elaina Burdo    

Questions are always a good place to start a writing project, and to keep it going.

When I first started writing, my questions lined up with the five standard “W” questions (and one “H”). Who is the main character of the story? What is the conflict? Where does the story take place? When does it take place? Why is this story different? How am I going to structure the story? Many stories start with a simple “What if . . . ?” question. See if you can identify these stories:

What if a man was accidentally marooned on Mars?
What if a boy and girl from feuding families fell in love?
What if a girl fell down a rabbit hole and ended up in a strange world?
What if books were outlawed and firemen started fires rather than putting them out?
What if the captain of a whaler becomes obsessed with hunting down and killing one specific whale?

The first book I wrote after becoming a Christian was Redeeming Love, and it didn’t come from a question. It came from the life of a prophet, Hosea, and how God used him to show how deep God’s love for His people is. I had been writing steamy historical romances set in California between the 1840s and the 1880s. God’s love for each of us was so different from the love I had been writing about. His love is patient, passionate, persistent. He pursues us. I wanted readers who had followed my career to know what real love is. The book of Hosea laid out the entire story, but a question could have started it. What does real love look like?

I thought Redeeming Love would be the last novel I ever wrote, but questions kept coming up about what it means to walk by faith. And the best way I could think to answer them was by studying Scripture daily and writing a story with a cast of characters who play out all the possible answers—with one person clinging to the teachings of Jesus.

Questions as a Starting Point


How do I share my faith when people don’t want to read the Bible or hear the name of Jesus? This question launched A Voice in the Wind. Hadassah, a Jewish-Christian girl with weak faith, finds herself the sole survivor of her family after the fall of Jerusalem in 70 AD. The cast of characters live out their ideas of hedonism, tradition, paganism, idol worship, and self-reliance. Hadassah is tested on every front, and her trust in God deepens. What I learned in the months of writing this story is God is always faithful and people notice those who follow Him. A life of faith brings persecution, but persecution builds strength of character. People watch how we live, and eventually ask why we live the way we do. And when that question comes, God gives us the words to speak.

Here are questions that started a few of my stories:
An Echo in the Darkness—How many times can you forgive someone who hates you and wants to destroy you?
The Atonement Child—Is there forgiveness and restoration for someone who has had an abortion?
The Scarlet Thread—What does sovereignty mean?
The Last Sin Eater—What is the difference between guilt and conviction?
And the Shofar Blew—What is a church? How do you build one?

Questions as a Starting Point


My newest book, The Masterpiece,started with how early childhood trauma shapes the way a person thinks as they grow up. How can survivors be turned into victors? How does God use the worst things that happen in life to good purpose? Both Roman Velasco and Grace Moore are impacted by traumatic childhood experiences. How do they handle temptation? Each is a survivor, but what trials will it take to make them victors? The Masterpiece is a love story about two people with opposing points of view about life and eternity, and how God works behind the scenes so that they will be equally yoked.

Questions are a good starting place for Bible study. Right now, I have mentors on my mind. What does it take to be a good mentor? How many examples of mentors can I find in Scripture? What do these mentor-mentee relationships teach me? I’m beginning to see an older woman in my mind, one who has made many mistakes. She meets a young woman just starting adult life, and she’s falling into the same problems and making the same (bad) decisions that destroyed the older woman’s relationships. I imagine grown children for the older woman, children with major problems. I see her wishing she had lived life differently and hurting when she sees what’s happening in the younger woman’s life. Should she step up, step in, or mind her own business? How does a baby boomer relate to a millennial?

And so it happens. One question starts me thinking and presses me into God’s Word for answers. Can we redo life? Can the past be untangled? How would that look? The quest begins.

Questions as a Starting Point


New York Times bestselling author Francine Rivers returns to her romance roots with this unexpected and redemptive love story, a probing tale that reminds us that mercy can shape even the most broken among us into an imperfect yet stunning masterpiece.

A successful LA artist, Roman Velasco appears to have everything he could possibly want—money, women, fame. Only Grace Moore, his reluctant, newly hired personal assistant, knows how little he truly has. The demons of Roman’s past seem to echo through the halls of his empty mansion and out across his breathtaking Topanga Canyon view. But Grace doesn’t know how her boss secretly wrestles with those demons: by tagging buildings as the Bird, a notorious but unidentified graffiti artist—an alter ego that could destroy his career and land him in prison.

Like Roman, Grace is wrestling with ghosts and secrets of her own. After a disastrous marriage threw her life completely off course, she vowed never to let love steal her dreams again. But as she gets to know the enigmatic man behind the reputation, it’s as if the jagged pieces of both of their pasts slowly begin to fit together . . . until something so unexpected happens that it changes the course of their relationship—and both their lives—forever.

Read the first chapter here.
More information here.

Questions as a Starting Point


New York Times bestselling author Francine Rivers has published numerous novels—all bestsellers—and she has continued to win both industry acclaim and reader loyalty around the globe. Her Christian novels have been awarded or nominated for many honors, and in 1997, after winning her third RITA Award for inspirational fiction, Francine was inducted into the Romance Writers of America Hall of Fame. In 2015, she received the Lifetime Achievement Award from American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW). Francine’s novels have been translated into over 30 different languages, and she enjoys bestseller status in many foreign countries. She and her husband, Rick, enjoy spending time with their children and grandchildren.



5 Tips For Writing on a Tight Deadline…Plus Book Release Celebration!

Missy Tippens

Did you ever miss out on a writing opportunity for fear of not meeting the deadline? Did you ever back out of a project because of panic?

I nearly did the same. But I joined in anyway, and then stuck with it (even when panic hit)…and now I have a new release to celebrate! First, the celebration. Then I’ll share how I managed to push through on this project to get to see the birth of a new story.

5 Tips For Writing on a Tight Deadline…Plus Book Release Celebration!



This is the new book baby. (Blurbs below.) Welcome to the world, Back to You! I'm thrilled to be part of this set with three wonderful writers: Kristen EthridgeJessica Keller, and one of our founding Seekers Cheryl Wyatt!

5 Tips For Writing on a Tight Deadline…Plus Book Release Celebration!


Back in August when I was invited to take part in this collection, I was in the midst of caregiving for two family members. I didn’t know how involved I would be months down the road and was afraid to commit. But I had a burning desire to write again. And I think that desire, and this opportunity, were both God-given. So I took a leap and agreed to join in this collection as well as two more (coming later this year).

I sat down with my calendar, wrote in all the deadlines and planned time in for critiquing as well as professional editing. Then, guess what. Caregiving responsibilities ate into that carefully planned schedule. I finished the story way later than planned. Critiquing had to be done quickly (BLESS YOU, JANET DEAN!). Then editing had to be done quickly. (BLESS YOU, BETH JAMISON!)

When I got the wonderful feedback from both ladies, I found out my ending didn’t make sense. I needed to do some re-writing. Thankfully, during that time, I found out we had a little extension on the deadline, so I was able to take my time with the re-write. But of course, life intervened once again, and I had to hurriedly send off the manuscript from my phone while at the hospital. Only to find out I had missed a message about formatting.

Time to panic? No. I managed to make a bit of time (using hired caregivers) to come home and work on my computer. I took an afternoon to format correctly, write a reader letter, do all the backmatter, etc. And I made my deadline!

If unexpected life events have rerouted your writing journey, I hope you’ll be encouraged today. You, too, can push through. I thought I’d share what helped me.

5 Tips For Writing on a Tight Deadline…Plus Book Release Celebration!


1. Use your calendar! Plan well, and build in lots of cushion. If you’re afraid to commit to something, look at your calendar and make an honest assessment. You might be surprised to find you actually do have time. Break the work down to a weekly or daily word count goal. You probably know how much you can reasonably manage. Be realistic yet don’t be afraid to challenge yourself. You can do this!

2. Use secondary characters. Back in August when I started my story, I decided to use a secondary character from another story (Victor from one of our Seeker boxed sets). I knew that would help speed up the process. I already had a town and a few basic characters. I just needed to redeem that bad boy, Victor!

5 Tips For Writing on a Tight Deadline…Plus Book Release Celebration!


3. Shake up your regular writing methods! I know, we all cling to our plotter/pantser tendencies and don’t like to mess with it. I usually spend almost as much time planning a story as I do writing it. But once I got behind on my schedule for this novella, I knew I needed to make some progress…any progress. So I just jumped in and started writing chapter one. I had so much fun doing that! If you’re a plotter/planner, as soon as you have some basic character planning, try jumping in and writing. If you’re a seat-of-the-pants writer, you probably already get to work quickly, however, you may run into road blocks. If that happens, try shaking things up a bit and plot/plan a few scenes ahead. You may find it helps you move along quicker.

5 Tips For Writing on a Tight Deadline…Plus Book Release Celebration!


4. Don’t let fear or panic stop you from attaining your goals. Ask for prayer support. Talk to writer friends who’ve been in your situation. They can probably help you calm down and get back to work. Also, ask for help from your local friends and family, or even hire help if you can. With assistance, you may be able to create more time to write.

5. Don’t forget to dream! Stretch and challenge yourself. Sure, life may throw a wrench in your carefully-planned schedule. But you can probably find a little bit of time to write, even if that means scratching down notes on a scrap of paper or making a note in your phone by talking to Siri. And start small if you need to. Short stories or novellas are a great place to jump back into writing.

Our wonderful boxed set is only 99 cents, so I hope you’ll all go buy a copy of Back to You today! I’ll also be giving away two copies to commenters. Please let me know if you’d like to be entered!

Have you ever let fear or panic keep you from a writing opportunity? What’s your advice for writing on a tight deadline?

5 Tips For Writing on a Tight Deadline…Plus Book Release Celebration!


Join some of today's best-selling Christian Romance authors as they introduce you to four new couples who reunite for a second-chance at romance. This inspirational romance collection from Love Inspired authors Cheryl Wyatt, Missy Tippens, Jessica Keller, and Kristen Ethridge will warm your heart and each quick, satisfying read will keep you in the spirit of Valentine's Day and holiday romance all year long with stories of true love and happily-ever-after.

Love Knots by Cheryl Wyatt

A bread-twisting bride and her runaway groom are reunited unexpectedly in an inadvertent business move that may not be accidental after all. Charming charter boat captain Carl Anders returns to his childhood home to devote his life to leading beachside adventures for families year round as well as tourists during Cupid Cove’s upcoming Valentine season. He runs into rough waters when he discovers he moved his business into the same nautically themed strip mall containing the bakery of the former best friend-turned-first-love that he jilted at the altar. 

Newly-famous pretzel maker Brindle Case tangles with a repeat rejection upon discovering her almost-husband doesn’t regret walking away from their wedding before the ring and vow exchange ten years ago. Can he convince her that silver shores sometimes require souls to sail through hard seasons and trust that God’s will is best lived in God’s time? She must become willing to abandon her bitterness at a different altar in order to walk away with a bigger blessing the second time around. Will she hold on to the hurt of their past, or embrace the second chance to retie their hearts together, this time forever?

Her Valentine Reunion by Missy Tippens

What happens on the very day Abbie Rogers makes a preemptive strike against Valentine’s Day funk by declaring herself content to be single? Why, Victor Wallis, the man who broke her heart, comes crashing back into her life, of course. Not only that, he declares himself a changed man, and he truly seems to be. She even finds herself falling for him again. But when he makes a move to take over her family’s business, Abbie’s not certain she’ll ever be able to trust the only man she’s ever loved.

Their Sweet Reunion by Jessica Keller

Wedding planner Lesley Marks is only three weeks away from the biggest event of her career. If Bridal Features Magazine decides to cover the wedding she’s put together for the senator’s daughter it could translate into years of success for her little company. But the bride-to-be is difficult to please. When vendors begin to back out at the last minute Brom Gilbert—Lesley’s ex-fiancé—comes to the rescue. But working alongside the man Lesley once loved proves harder than she anticipated, especially because the wedding falls on the four year anniversary of when she and Brom were supposed to be married. 

Dance with Me, Valentine by Kristen Ethridge

Clair Bell has struggled to put the past behind her since her boyfriend left without a trace years ago. She's built a life around helping others as the director of the Port Provident Retirement Community. As the annual retirement prom approaches on Valentine's Day, Clair is shocked to find that one of her residents has invited a date that she met while playing an online game. But when that date happens to be Rob Landers, Clair's ex-boyfriend who has returned to Port Provident to make amends for his past, Clair knows she can either use this moment to clear all the what-ifs and move forward in her life or be dragged down by the clinical depression which has held her for years. Can two people who have faced life's storms in their own way come back together to dance in the rain once again? Is there hope for forgiveness and a chance at true love once again?

Click here to purchase your copy!


*******

After more than 10 years of pursuing her dream of publication, Missy Tippens, a pastor’s wife and mom of three from near Atlanta, Georgia, made her first sale to Harlequin Love Inspired in 2007. Her books have since been nominated for the Booksellers Best, Holt Medallion, ACFW Carol Award, Gayle Wilson Award of Excellence, Maggie Award, Beacon Contest, RT Reviewer’s Choice Award, and the Romance Writers of America RITA® Award. Visit Missy at www.missytippens.com, https://twitter.com/MissyTippens and http://www.facebook.com/missy.tippens.readers.

Conflict and Tension, Part One



Conflict and Tension, Part One
by Melanie Dickerson
                          

It’s my first official post as a Seeker! I’m excited to be here on a regular basis, and I pray that I will be a blessing, as much as Seekerville and its Seekers have been a blessing to me these past ten years.

When I tried to think of something helpful to share with fellow writers, I thought of Conflict and Conflict’s first cousin, Tension. Without these two elements, your novel will be boring. And as any reader knows, boring is the kiss of death.

Conflict and tension are essential across all genres. But conflict and tension are slightly different in different genres. For example, in a thriller, the conflict and tension may be life and death drama—the hero is running for his life. He’s been shot, tortured, his wife murdered, and now he has to stop a killer before he detonates a nuclear bomb and destroys half of North America.
Conflict and Tension, Part One
Crestock Images
In a romantic suspense, you might have the hero and heroine running for their lives. But in a romance you wouldn’t see them get tortured, they wouldn’t be trying to save the world, and you probably wouldn’t have a close relative murdered in front of them.

So how do you keep up the tension and conflict in a romance?


You can give them a conflict of interest. For example, in the movie While You Were Sleeping, Lucy is falling in love with Jack, but Jack’s whole family believes she’s engaged to Jack’s brother Peter, who happens to be in a coma. Lucy is afraid to tell them the truth—she’s never even met Peter and certainly isn’t engaged to him—because she has no family of her own, is really lonely, and Peter’s family has practically adopted her.

So you have Jack suspicious of her, afraid she’s going to hurt his family when they realize she’s a fraud, and he’s trying to prove that Lucy isn’t really engaged to Peter. Yet he’s falling in love with her. But how can they tell each other how they feel? She’s engaged to Peter. So the conflict involves Lucy losing her newfound adopted family if she tells the truth, the tension of keeping this huge secret, and the fact that she’s falling in love with her fake fiance’s brother.

Now, I’m not the best at teaching the craft of writing. In fact, I don’t claim to be a very good writer. (The bad reviews that criticize my writing? I'll be the first person to say they're mostly RIGHT.) But I do think I’m a good storyteller, and when my book is putting me to sleep, I know I don’t have enough conflict. I know I need to identify or strengthen my characters’ motivations and the obstacles that are getting in the way of their goals. (And here you have the three-way interaction of Goal, Motivation, and Conflict, which Debra Dixon talks about in her book GMC: Goal, Motivation and Conflict. Which, if you haven’t read, you need to. Or at least read the posts about GMC in the Seekerville archives.)

In The Golden Braid, my heroine Rapunzel is a poor peasant who has a fear of men, which was instilled in her by her mentally unbalanced mother. The hero Sir Gerek is determined to marry a wealthy woman in order to show up the older brother who cast him out of the house. They don't stand a chance of falling in love. Or do they? When Sir Gerek is forced to teach Rapunzel to read, her biggest goal in life, I use their fears and goals to keep up the conflict and tension, and to keep them from admitting their feelings, as they start to enjoy spending time together. External events also intrude to cause tension and danger.

Personally, I think it’s easier to keep up the tension in a romantic suspense story, or a story that has a lot of action and danger. The scenes where my hero and heroine are running for their lives, bullets (or arrows, in my case) are flying thick and fast, flow from my fingers to the page more quickly. That kind of conflict propels the story forward. After all, a threat to your life is definitely a conflict of interest. But in a romance or women’s fiction, most of the conflict and tension has to be more subtle and complex.

One thing that can be hard to maintain is the tension between the hero and heroine. We know they are going to fall in love and probably get married at the end. They can’t hate each other until the very end and then suddenly decide they’re in love and want to get married. (I've read books like that, and I didn't like them.) But they also can’t fall in love too soon, or if they do, there must be something keeping them apart, keeping the conflict going, and it must be believable.


Conflict and Tension, Part One
Crestock Images


In my first published novel, The Healer’s Apprentice, my hero and heroine pretty much like each other from the very beginning. The tension and conflict comes in because of class issues—he’s the oldest son of a powerful, wealthy duke and she’s a peasant. That could be overcome eventually, but there’s another problem—he’s been betrothed to a duke’s daughter since childhood, betrothal being a bond almost as binding as marriage in that time period. And he is a man ruled by a strong desire to do his duty and always do the right thing. So even though they are in love, there is enough internal conflict to keep them apart until the end. Add in some external conflict, and it’s even more fun.


Conflict and Tension, Part One
Crestock Images


And stories that have lots of conflict are just more fun to write, because it's fun to enhance my story's angst factor. It’s fun to cause problems for my characters and NOT give them what they want too soon. The more real, believable conflict, the more fun I’m having. And the more fun I’m having, the faster my fingers type. 

In my Regency romantic suspense story, A Dangerous Engagement, Felicity is in danger of losing her head--literally. She's just learned that the house party she is attending with her aunt is full of insurrectionists bent on overthrowing the government. The hero is a government spy who has infiltrated the group. He suspects Felicity is an innocent who got caught up in this mess against her will. He discovers that's true pretty early in the story. So that conflict is overcome, but I needed more conflicts, so I had her get engaged to one of the insurrectionists--and immediately regret it. Whenever one point of conflict is overcome, I better have two or three more to replace it. Never let all your conflicts get resolved until the end.

And that’s Part One of my series on Conflict and Tension. It’s such a huge topic, I’d like to talk about it some more in a future post. 

Time to discuss. What conflicts and tensions are your characters dealing with? Is it enough? Is it appropriate for the genre you're writing? And if you’re not a writer, as a reader of romance, what’s your favorite kind of conflict? Characters who hate each other from the beginning but gradually fall in love? Or characters who like each other from the beginning but have to overcome other obstacles to get to their Happily Ever After?

I’ll be giving away your choice of a paperback or Kindle copy of A Dangerous Engagement, my romantic suspense story set in Regency England, to one commenter.


Just as merchant’s daughter Felicity Mayson is spurned once again because of her meager dowry, she receives an unexpected invitation to Lady Blackstone’s country home. Being introduced to the wealthy Oliver Ratley is an admitted delight, as is his rather heedless yet inviting proposal of marriage. Only when another of Lady Blackstone’s handsome guests catches Felicity’s attention does she realize that nothing is what it seems at Doverton Hall.
Government agent Philip McDowell is infiltrating a group of cutthroat revolutionaries led by none other than Lady Blackstone and Ratley. Their devious plot is to overthrow the monarchy, and their unwitting pawn is Felicity. Now Philip needs Felicity’s help in discovering the rebels’ secrets—by asking her to maintain cover as Ratley’s innocent bride-to-be.
Philip is duty bound. Felicity is game. Together they’re risking their lives—and gambling their hearts—to undo a traitorous conspiracy before their dangerous masquerade is exposed.

Melanie Dickerson is the New York Times bestselling author who combines her love for all things Medieval with her love of fairy tales, and her love for Jane Austen with romantic suspense. She is a Christy Award winner, a two-time Maggie Award winner, winner of The National Reader's Choice Award, and the Carol Award in Young Adult fiction. She earned her bachelor's degree in special education from The University of Alabama and has taught children with special needs in Georgia and Tennessee, and English to adults in Germany and Ukraine. Now she spends her time writing stories of love and adventure near Huntsville, Alabama. 
Kiss and Tell (part one): Creating a Swoonlicious Book BoyfriendThe Queen of Charts: Sharing One Way to Plan a StoryTips for Adding Visual "Texture" to the Telling of Your TaleSubplots 1017 Tips for Getting That First Draft DoneConflict and Tension, Part 2: Be mean to your charactersRedeeming Darth VaderQuestions as a Starting Point5 Tips For Writing on a Tight Deadline…Plus Book Release Celebration!Conflict and Tension, Part One

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