Writing About Memories

I started reading through the latest posts on the WARA blog and came across Penny's "A Few of Their Favorite Things." I started to respond, but as I nearly finished it, I changed my mind. I wasn't sure what to write my own blog about until that moment of epiphany. I wanted to use what I was writing (a combination of a fictional character and modified memories of my own) for my blog. So here it is. Thanks, Penny, for nudging me toward writing this fictional memory.

Annie had watched her father begin slipping away from everyone and reality for the last few months. It was breaking her heart. He'd been the light of her life for so long. She'd looked up to him all through the years. Okay, they'd had their share of disagreements. But even during those times she'd loved him and he'd loved her even more.

She stood in her kitchen, fighting away tears, and thinking back over time. Her father had done so much for her, spent so much time with her. From the moment she could walk, she'd followed after him and he'd never minded. She'd learned to read sitting in his lap, and learned to give free rein to her imagination as well. Just as her father had done. She remembered him sitting on the side of her bed more nights than she could count reading her stories, sometimes just making up stories. Those had been her favorites. Even now they were the stories she remembered most.

Her mother had been gone from their lives a long time. Actually, she had no memories of her own about the woman who'd given birth to her. Her memories of the special woman were really her father's memories. She knew her mother had the most beautiful hair, soft hair, because he'd told her how he'd enjoyed sitting with her sometimes and brushing it, letting his fingers run through it. Her eyes were an amazing shade of blue...or green...or something. He wasn't really sure because he was color blind, but he loved her eyes and the way they'd danced with life. He'd loved her so much and he'd missed her every day since she'd breathed her last breath.

Blinking away tears, she knew it wouldn't be long before her father, too, breathed his last breath. She wanted--needed--to do something extra special for him at least one final time. What? What could she do that would show how much she loved him?

Her gaze shifted to her collection of receipe books on the end of the nearby counter. A battered and stained cardboard box acted as a book end. The treasured box had belonged to her mother. Her brothers hadn't cared about inheriting it. Her sister hadn't been impressed by it, either. But Annie had wanted it with her whole heart.

She moved toward it, drawn to the box, knowing it held the perfect gift for her father. Her mother hadn't even known how to boil water when she'd married Annie's dad. He hadn't care if she could cook or not. Eventually she'd learned to cook, somewhat.

She thought about the many times they'd made a meal together and he'd shared the gift of another memory of her mother. She remembered how he'd smile, sometimes laugh, when he told her about one of her mother's cooking disasters. He'd told her that he'd eaten every one of them without complaint. He would have bitten off his tongue before telling her how bad they were. He would never have done that to her, knowing how hard she'd tried to please him. She was what pleased him, everything else didn't matter.

Heart pinching and sniffing back tears, Annie reached a shaky hand into that magical box of memories. She fingered through the many tattered index cards on which her mother had handwritten in perfect penmanship receipes she'd copied from magazines and newspepers. She searched until she found the receipe that would mean the most to him: a cherry pie receipe.

When she found it, a smile slid into place and she clutched it to her chest for a moment. Somehow her mother had gotten the impression cherry pies were her father's favorite. She'd made him dozens of them during their short time together. But it wasn't until last year at a family meal with her all of the extended family when he'd chosen a piece of peach pie instead of cherry that he'd admitted the truth. He'd never really liked cherry pie. He'd never had the heart to tell her mother differently.

Yes, this was the receipe she wanted. He would eat the pie because she'd made it for him and together they would smile and laugh once more about her mother. And this would be one of her final memories with her father that she would take out every now and then to think about in the years ahead.


I’d like to think about the voices in our heads. I’m not talking about characters, but the voices that tell us about our capabilities. The voices can sound something like this: You can’t write. You can write part of a book but you can’t write the whole thing. It was a fluke, you did it once, but you can’t do it again. It’s going to dry up, and you won’t be able to write another thing. You didn’t win that contest so they think you can’t write. You didn’t even place in the contest. You got a rejection slip (or ___ rejection slips); you’ll never get published. You can’t diagram a sentence, why do you think you can write? Only your friends and family say you can write…they have to say that. See, you haven’t written in (fill in the length of time)…you’re not a writer. Or, better stick with what you’ve got, you’ll never make it with another publisher/genre/etc.

There seems to be a simple, effective answer to all of the above. It is to write. Just do it. Inigo DeLeon is credited with having said that the only cure for writer’s block is writer‘s cramp. It is true also for quieting the negative criticisms in your head. How can you be productive if you are busy thinking of reasons that you can’t write? The answer is to write about anything. It starts the creative juices flowing.

Try this: Next time you’re stumped,or want to quiet the negative voices, write a paragraph about the old woman that lives in the tumbledown cottage set back off the road. The front stoop is crooked, the house is a wreck, but the yard is magnificent. Every conceivable flower grows there. What is she like? Who is she? How do you know her? Why is there a gravestone out back behind her cottage? Start writing about her and your creative ideas will start to feed on one another, bursting forth into other areas, including your current story. Creative ideas are like rabbits. Give them the slightest opportunity and they become prolific. (By the way, I'd love to read your stories about the old woman...)

It doesn’t matter what anyone has ever said to you about your writing. If you are reading this blog, you have an interest in writing. KEEP WRITING. Just do it. Make yourself sit down and write. Something. Anything. Write a 'to do' list, if that’s all you can come up with for the moment. Just put your fingers on the keyboard, or pen to paper, and DO THE PHYSICAL ACT OF WRITING. Your mind will engage and start to produce. The physical act of writing leads to inspiration. Tell all the voices to shut up and write. Just do it.

Positive voices help us be productive, yet they can have a negative backlash. Remember the Rocky movies? Rocky won because he had, “The eye of the tiger,” a fierce desire (and need) to win. Sometimes positive voices take away the eye of the tiger. We can become complacent, or too comfortable, and thus, less productive. Or we can think we did it once but can’t do it again. Rocky lost the eye of the tiger and had to regain it before he could win again. Firmly put all the voices out of your head and just write…with determination. Just do it.

It doesn’t matter who has given negative feedback, whether it’s an editor, published writer, neighbor, friend, family member, teacher, or another aspiring author. Each person is entitled to their opinion. But they are just opinions. Many famous authors received a ridiculous amount of rejection slips before being published. Rejection can lead to better writing (see the last link below). Just because you are getting negative feedback from one or a few sources doesn’t mean you’re not a writer and not a good one. Just write and rewrite. Now, if every single source ever tells you that you can’t write, perhaps you should reconsider. But if there was one opinion, ever, anywhere, that gave you positive feedback (and I’m guessing there was or you wouldn’t be reading this), you have an audience out there that wants to read what you’re writing. Or, to put it another way, from the last link that follows, “If you like what you write, someone else will too.”

The voices can drive you crazy if you listen to them or worry about what they are saying. Tell them to shut up. There are also voices of emotion. You cannot wait until you FEEL like writing. It’s great when feelings prompt you to write. But what about when they keep you from writing? Ignore those feelings right along with the voices. And, there are voices of duty. Yes, you have a life to live, but these voices will stop you from ever writing if you let them. If you’re not ready to write on your current project, write something else. But write.

When asked for his single-best, most-important, can’t-live-without writing tip, John Grisham replied:
Write at least one page every day, without fail. If you’re trying to write a book, and you’re not writing at least one page a day, then the book is not going to get written.
(http://www.inkygirl.com/john-grisham-first-novel-rejected-28-times-advises-writers-to-aim-for-a-page-a-day/ )

Sit down in a chair with pen & paper or keyborad. Now, write. JUST DO IT.


A Few of Their Favorite Things (Penny Rader)

I recently watched NCIS: Los Angeles during my lunch break and realized one of the themes of this particular episode had to do with prized possessions. Some of the characters had them, while others did not. It got me to thinking about writing and the things our characters treasure. I'm tickled so many WARA members have shared the items cherished by their characters.

In Sapphire and Gold, Alexandra takes her diary with her everywhere. Early in the story she finds a locket that leads her on a quest to find her family. Even though she has physical reactions to it, she keeps it with her. In If Tomorrow Never Comes, Jenna treasures her snow globes, especially one given to her by her grandmother, while Nick would be lost without his camera. In my current story I haven’t yet discovered what belongings my characters hold dear.

I found this Character Generator http://www.archetypewriting.com/muse/generators/character.htm online. Here are a few of prized possessions it came up with:

an unopened package

an old recipe

a set of lock picks

a tattered feather

a photograph that was torn in half

a mask

an empty wooden box

a library card

a scar

a coroner's report

Want to play? Pick a possession from the above list, make up a character to go with it, and let us know why your character values this object. Please share.
Do you have a prized possession? What would happen if you lost it?

Don’t be afraid of your talent.

I’ve spent the last few days trying to come up with a wonderful, exciting, and non-controversial subject for this blog. Didn’t find one.

The Bible is the best-selling book of the world. It has, between its covers, sex, murder, redemption, betrayal, a woman locked on the street and eaten by dogs, a child born in a stable, long trips, taxes, rich people, poor people, enslaved people, free people, people willing to kill for what they want, people willing to be killed for what they want and the list goes on. There is beauty and loyalty, directions, and history. Yet people do not read it for a chief source of entertainment—because there isn’t much. It reads like a news report because that is what it is.

Shakespeare, it has been said and there is a lot of proof of it, didn’t write an original story.He took other’s work and worked it over. He didn’t even bother to change the titles very much in any attempt to hide the fact he was using other’s stories. Writer’s of his time, whose work he pirated, wanted his hide—preferably tacked to a wall. But, when he took a story and bent it to HIS will, then it sang to the multitude. Writers had to bear the indignity of having their words half quoted with his as people on the street had a game of out quipping each other in quoting hisplays. It truly is a wonder he lived. And yet, when he had enough money to buy a sheep farm, he hung up his quill never to write again. His words, the way he wrote them, live on today three centuries later.

Why the writers chronicling the bible didn’t do more for the stories or why Shakespeare quit while he was at the top of his re-writing skills, we will never know. One thing we do know, talent may not be measurable, but it is detectable. Whether your talent is great or small, you have one.As those who choose to write, you’ve also chosen to use your talent. Then, let it OUT! Don’t be afraid that your writing may not sound as wonderful as someone else’s. Don’t worry that someone else seems to be writing hysterically funny lines where yours seems to droop. Each of us are given different gifts to use in different ways.

Where would some of us be without each of those who wrote the Bible? (There are other Holy written works for other religions. I am not as familiar with them so for the purpose of comparison, I choose this one.) Where would we be without Shakespeare and all the lovely lines many of us say without realizing from whence they came? The line, ‘whither thou goest, I shall go…your people will be my people” is a nice line for a wedding, but comes from the Bible and is spoken between two women. ‘Et tu Brute?’ Is from Shakespeare’s play and probably the most quoted.

When we are beginner writers, we don’t often know all of the grammar rules nor can we reliably tell a metaphor from our great Uncle’s left ear tuft. What we do know is that there is a story. Only we can write that story. For, if it were written by someone else, it would be a different story. Each of us have a talent to turn loose if we aren’t afraid to let it run free. Don’t hamper it by telling it that so-and-sot’s talent does it differently. So-and sot’s talent is supposed to do it differently.

Don’t duplicate the Bible. Don’t duplicate Shakespeare. Don’t worry. Just write.

Possessions for love

Pat Davids here.

Some months ago WARA members received a word list for our Mission Possible. In this list were the words, tower, silver, sword, ink, joker, master, rebellion, smooth and erect. Instead of writing a short story, I wrote a poem using those words. The night of our meeting I forgot to bring my Mission Possible piece and it has languished in my computer until now. Since the young man in the poem offers his prized possessions for love, I thought I'd share it with everyone.

Oh, Lady most fair, look down from thy tower.
Behold a sad knight bereft of all power.
Though I drew silver sword from hardened stone,
And was crowned a king, I am still alone.

The stars or’ my head in this inky night
Foretell not the end of this lover’s plight.
See not a king but a joker, a fool.
One who dares seek a most beautiful jewel.

Oh, pearl beyond price, oh, woman so rare.
Tis not thy ruby lips nor golden hair
that leaves this king mute as a tongue-tied youth.
Here in the dark I shall whisper the truth.

Tis the sweet gentleness in thy green eyes,
that pierces my heart as an arrow flies,
swift, straight and sure from the archers bent bow.
How may I win thee? What words must I know?

If gold and jewels be the price of thy hand,
I shall sell my steed, my shield and my land.
A king’s ransom I’ll pay to make thee mine.
For thy smile is heady as the finest wine.

Though I be master in matters of state,
tonight I’m a beggar here at thy gate.
Hoping for crumbs, just thy sigh or a glance,
to tell me my quest does yet stand a chance.

Mount no rebellion against my desire.
My love burns bright as the sun’s mighty fire.
Till thee lay thy smooth cheek upon my breast,
I fear my poor heart shall not know its rest.

The halls I erect, the castles I hold,
Will mean not a thing if I must grow old,
bereft of a joy filled life beside thee.
Oh, Lady most fair, I beg thee...love me.

Making Writing a Priority

Pat Davids here.

I can't seem to do it this month. I can't make writing a priority. Normally, that's not much of a problem for me, but this month it is. I don't have a single deadline hanging over my head at the moment. Deadlines for someone else, not my own, are strong motivators.

How do we keep writing high on our priority list? Why does it fall behind the laundry and then behind the dusting and finally behind Criminal Minds on some weekday night?

How do we put it at the front of the list and keep it there?

Isn't our writing important? Isn't it more than a hobby? Doesn't it deserve more respect than dusting?

What are your thoughts?

The Kick-ass Badass Love of Her Life

When I first thought about writing about something one of my characters held near and dear to their heart, I panicked. Oh my gosh! My characters don't ever do that!

And then I remembered Holly in Holly's Big, Bad Santa, one of my Christmas stories last year. Jared had been her high school sweetheart, the boy she'd hoped to marry after graduation. But he'd left town fifteen years ago, two days before Christmas, and hurt his parents and crushed her dreams. He'd left a note for her in a small box with a sprig of holly. "I have to go. I love you, but I've got to go." She still had that crumpled, tear-stained note after all these years. Now he'd returned. Now he wanted her back, but forgiving the town's bad boy wasn't all that easy. Even if the "bad boy" had returned as the sexiest, hottest badass with a wounded heart that was hard to resist.

Reading further into the story, I realized what a keeper of mementos Holly was, a heroine so much like myself. While searching for socks in a dresser drawer, she found the necklace Jared had given her their senior year in high school. A delicate gold chain with a small green, holly-shaped charm. He'd been so excited when he'd found the necklace in a catalogue and ordered it especially for her. She remembered how she'd sobbed in happiness as he'd ever so carefully put it around her neck. In truth, she hadn't gotten rid of anything he'd ever given her. It was all packed away in boxes in the attic, except the necklace. She'd always needed it closer to her than the attic.

Next I remembered another touching (at least to me) scene in Bah Humbug, Cowboy, a Christmas story published a couple of years ago. Lacey and Devlin had been married for a number of years. Like so many couples, they were both busy and went in different directions much of the time. She often traveled to give private barrel racing lessons and had been gone longer than expected this last trip. Devlin had missed her and looked forward to her return, but her best friend had shown up to wait with him for Lacey's return. Somehow they'd ended up hugging one another in comfort, and then she was kissing him right when Lacey walked into the kitchen and caught them. He'd been maneuvered into a compromising position by the "friend" who'd gotten too interested in him. His guilt was crushing, especially when Lacey looked so angry and so hurt. His precious wife wasn't ready to listen to his flimsy excuses and drove away. He knew they needed some time and space to get past this blow to their marriage. But darkness surrounded him, tore through him as the light that was his life drove away from him. Somehow he'd have to mend fences and get her back.

Christmas had always been a special time for them, with Lacey going all out in decorating. She'd decided to go back to him on Christmas day, determined to make things right. Going home was hard now and she wasn't positive she could get him to forgive her for being so stubborn about what had happened that awful day. Her friend had confessed she wanted Devlin and trapped him when she'd seen Lacey driving up. Her former friend. But that hadn't been all of their problems. Hopefully, they could work through issues within their marriage they'd both been ignoring. She just didn't know what to expect today and she was anxious about it.

Until she walked into the disaster that was her kitchen. Flour and goo covered nearly every counter space. Dozens of cookies sat cooling and there were two big pans of gingerbread cake. Her Christmas recipes! He'd tried his hand at making the foods she usually made for the holiday. How sweet. And what a mess! She grabbed a sugar cookie and followed the sound of Devlin singing in his rich baritone to "Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer," his favorite song.

Then she stopped to stare at the living room. She'd forgotten all about decorating her home with all of their problems. She'd thought of that on the drive here and felt awful. Devlin hadn't had a happy childhood and hadn't celebrated Christmas until she'd met him. Now he loved that time of year. She'd worked hard every year to make the season special for him, going all out with decorations and baking. Evidently he'd taken over for her this year. All of her large Santa collection was displayed on the mantle, on the bookshelves, and on the end tables. Most surprising, though, was the eight-foot plus tree standing beside the fireplace, fully decorated with the ornaments they had bought together over the years. Devlin had just placed the angel on the top. He looked at her from where he stood on a stepstool and grinned like a young boy seeking approval for something special he'd done. She burst into tears.

The Rules

The rules of writing are easy to understand and follow. Every reader knows them. Writers, on the other hand, develop difficulty and subjectional amnesia as soon as a blank page is within their gaze.

First, there is only one rule.

Second, the one rule: write what is necessary for the story.

Third, the hang-up: what is necessary for this particular story?

Fourth, the answer: only the writer can know.

“But,” says the novice writer, “I’m inundated with advice about rules so there must be more?” Of course there is, but they have nothing to do with writing. Those rules have to do with marketing. They have to do with sales. They have to do with a whole herd of different people’s expectations— but NOT THE STORY.

Then what do the rules mean to us as writers? First, we must separate the issues masquerading as rules into three parts. The first is the rule mentioned above. The rest is a whole ‘nother basket of issues, but luckily for us, they too are simple. Remember THE RULE is the most important thing for any story. It is the reason why when a daring author appears to bend or ignore some ‘rule’ the story is still wildly successful. The other two parts are marketability and customer/reader expectation.

Let us delve into some of the many things disguised as rules. If an author is writing with the ambition to become famous as a writer, they must get their writing under publication. To get a story accepted for publication, it must pass muster by an acquiring editor and perhaps an agent too. The expectations of acceptable stories for publication change by what has successfully been published and sold. Therefore, all stories have to meet proven criteria of someone else’s sales to be acceptable now. Those expectations are shaped by the emotion of the times, sales volumes of like stories, genre, and personal taste of decision makers. Let’s take each of them one at a time.

Sales volume and like stories. Famous writers cannot write fast enough to fill the market and they have a limited life span of writing. New writers who are writing similar books are used to take up the slack. As new writers develop their own following and as their own writing voices mature, they will begin to sway the market by their work proving itself acceptable to the market and the buyers of writing will begin to do two things, they will either find more to fill in the gap of a surging market or they will bring in some fine, but unusual writing by a new writer to test the book buying public to see if its taste is ready for a change on the reading menu. For an example, imagine the difference between a Barbara Cartland book and a Stehanie Lauren’s tale. They are two authors with examples of very similar work if compared carefully, but very different in complexity and flavor. Both of these extraordinary writers break, by very wide bounds, the ‘rules’ that are being sported around as definitive ways to write. Yet, Barbara Cartland in her time had more books in publication than any before her. I do not know if the current most prolific writer has passed her in production yet, but few of us will ever come close.

Genre. Each reader of each genre and each subheading of every genre has their own set of expectations (rules) for stories they are willing to read. And these are VERY specific. Many of the rules used to hit newbie writers over the head come from this group of expectations. Cozy mysteries have less description of the victim/treasure than the experience and flavor of the investigator or the town they live in. Cozies are about the people. There are mysteries that spotlight the science of the investigation. Leave out the science and that bunch of targeted readers will go elsewhere for their books. The reason professionals in the writing world tell writers to READ and RESEARCH is that readers must have their expectations fulfilled to wish to continue reading your stories.

The reading is in the genre or subgenre you wish to write in so that you know what these subtle clues are that signal the current set of expectations of what is in a story so that you can scratch the specific itch for which your readers will come to you instead of some other writer. There are two ways to run afoul here. One is to ignore reader/editor/agent expectation. The other is when research goes too far. If during your research of the ancient world you get so fascinated by blowing loess that it is mentioned on almost every page in your newest book, you will quite likely lose the readership that made The Clan of the Bear Cave by Jean Auel a household word for several years. People like details of other places and times. They read for the story more. Too many details and not enough story make for unemployed writers. The fact (unsubstantiated) that all true corsets have twenty-six holes for the tightening ribbons maybe interesting one or two times. Mentioning the number each time each lady removes her corset is too much.

Emotion of the times. Would a story about war and surviving war be really popular during peacetime? Would a wounded hero story be popular then? Would a recovery story about a piano player with only seven fingers be a good bet? It depends upon the writing of course, but there are some subjects that are not as appealing depending upon current events. The overall mood of the public will be different also. This public mood is revealed by architecture as well as the books that are published. Fantasy reading goes really wild when things are easy. Readers want to play what-if. When things are uneasy, confidence is shaken, they go for substantial feelings. Buildings that look solid. Stories that reflect basic values. Then people tend to want to touch base with sturdy tried and true values. In a time when children who are pregnant at ten years of age hit the news, the desire for fundamental goodness and redemption spread the book market. What does this mean for a writer? It means that what is acceptable in phrasing at some other time and place may not be as acceptable now. We do not generally use the word ‘nigger’ these days. Yet, in period writing and other famous writings of the past, words of that nature certainly were. If we write stories set in time periods, the story will be read by people of today. Readers of today are not necessarily going to appreciate the stark language of that time! Therefore, the reader’s emotions of today top the accuracy of yesterday in the competition of publication. There will be stories so well written and so compelling that will reduce any of these problems to dust. But, it will be a rare occasion. Editors are the guides in this area.

Personal taste of the decision makers. Women, today, make more upper level decisions than ever before and along with having decision making personalities are more attuned to women who are decisive. They like women who lead. Therefore, they are more likely to find stories that are about women like them more appealing because they UNDERSTAND them. Have you noticed the trend towards self reliant, decision-making, heroines with deep public responsibilities and abilities? Good luck getting a heroine that wants to sell the ranch she’s inherited so that she can get a desk job and marry a man who only expects her to bear his children, cook for him, and sew on his buttons because SHE wants to be taken care of in all ways. Such is our current ways and times.

If we had more men in the early decision-making on our books and up the ladder, then we might be able to squeak a few by, for a man’s view of a woman’s role is often different from those of workplace- related women. There are still many women in our world whose reason for being is to be wonderful mothers and wives and housekeepers and nothing else. It is their art. They are good at it. They are domestic leaders and shapers of our future. However, their stories are not necessarily those being selected for publication at this time in this current social structure. Again, I point you to Barbara Cartland stories. In her time, the heroines could hardly take a deep breath. They gasped a lot. But, that does not preclude a homemaker as a heroine, it merely means the writing will need to be extraordinary to catch and keep the attention of our new crop of decision makers.

Make no mistake. Publishing is a business. Writing is not. Published writing is a business act. If a writer wishes to engage in writing something that will be published, the writing must be engaging AND it must be of interest (different enough to engage the jaded reading palate) AND it would help if it were similar to an already published and wildly lucrative product. When a writer runs into advice about marketability, these are the qualities people are talking about. This is another area where the advice is to do research. The reading and searching is to find what published book is similar to your own and approach the market who published it to see if it would also like yours. However, a compelling story well written about something entirely new may see print. Try Heart Mate by Robin Owens. She is known for breaking new ground and starting a new genre.

Then there is grammar, word choice, point of view and all manner of things to sling at a new writer: There shouldn’t be an ‘ing’ word. Take out all adverbs. Shorten sentences, don’t you know that we compete with television? People have shorter attention spans you know.

Know this. Every writer makes their own decision on how to make the language express what needs to be expressed. It stands to reason that writers will disagree on the best way to express an idea. Listen to your own writer’s ear and heart. Only the original writer knows the story best. Every portion of a language has a purpose. ‘ing words are as necessary as ‘ly’ words. Long sentences with lyrical phrases are as necessary as passive verbs. Try reading a Stephanie Lauren book. She is a very popular writer in her specific genre area. There are strings of extraneous, repetitive phrases and unending paragraphs of similar emotional content and yet she is a favorite of many—because it works wonderfully for the sentiment and kind of story she writes. Strip her stories like some would have us do as in ‘let no word stay that does not add to or further the story’ or ‘throw out passive verbs and replace them with more forceful action verbs’ and there would be many unhappy fans of hers. There are as many different reader desires as writer styles. Just like there are men with very hairy bodies, there are women who love all that fur. It is wise to attend to all well met advice. It is foolish to follow all of it. Writers should do what is right for their story. When they don’t, it ruins the flavor and individuality of the story.

So, in a nutshell, writing rules are specific to genre expectation and what is necessary to get the story across to the reader as well as the writer can do it. Things like the use of commas and subject verb agreement are grammar rules—cross them up at your peril.

Their Favorite Things (Roxann)

As I told Penny when she first suggested this topic, my characters never have special items or possessions. It put me in an instant panic. What was I missing? What were my characters missing? So I thought back through my last five books and guess what? I have characters who have something important: prized possessions, cherished item, special memorabilia. Okay, not all five of them, maybe, but more than half.

Family by Design's Nick Morelli grew up on the wrong side of the tracks, went away to college and became the owner of a successful construction company. As a child and young man, his dream had been to own an old Victorian house in the country and restore it to its original beauty. He bought the house, finally realizing the first part of his dream, but not knowing that the person renting the house was the girl who broke his heart in high school. He also didn't realize that part of the desire to own the house was because of the dream they'd shared of living in it after they were married.

In Bachelor Cowboy, Kate Clayborne and her sister lost their parents in a tornado when they were young and went to live with their father's maiden sister. Kate poured her heart into her aunt's farmland, hoping someday it would be hers.
“People come and go, Dusty. They move in and out of your life. They
die. And sometimes they leave you something precious. Something
that will be forever. Like land.”

When Nikki Johannson graduated from high school, her Cherokee grandmother gave her a turquoise ring her grandfather had made, long before Nikki was born. When she loses it, it's like losing the grandfather she never knew. But hero Mac is the one with the flashy and well-loved possession.

1967 Austin-Healey 3000 Mk III BJ8

Mac babies his car and his pride is evident when he takes Nikki for a ride in it. I don't blame him!

Thanks to everyone who's posted so far for making me think hard about the things that make our characters one step better. I love learning new things! And this one didn't even hurt.

Thanks, Penny!

Gollum’s Precious by J Vincent

When the topic of writing about the most prized possession of a character was suggested I presumed it would be an easy blog to write. After thinking about my main characters for several days I came to realize that it is a difficult subject due to very slim pickin’s. There’s not even a whimper of a glimmer of Gollum’s enslavement to the ring among the characters that inhabit my mind. Now I wonder, why don't my characters have some object they prize above all else? Notice that I didn’t say I wonder why I didn’t give them precious objects, but why they don’t have them. I give my characters problems to overcome which is only just since they always go their own way even when I object, but back to our topic for the day.

The first characters I considered didn’t cherish possessions but intangibles. Daphne Stratton, in my unpublished Regency Never to Part, prizes her ability to read auras. She thought this ability a nuisance as a child but grew into it, so to speak and finds it helpful in wending her way through life’s pitfalls. After all, you can hardly be led astray or fooled if you can “read” when a person does not speak the truth. Not until she finds a person, the hero, whose aura she cannot read does the full value of this talent become apparent to her. But of objects she treasures, Daphne has none.

My second round of cogitation proved more fruitful. Lady Barry Gromley, the widowed heroine of my published Georgian set circa 1760, A Promise Rose, Avalon Books, 2003, kept the rose given to her by Mr. Prideau as a pledge of love for twelve years. This despite Prideau’s betrayal of his promise rose. He went to America to make his fortune and when he had, wrote her a “Dear Joan” letter. She stores the long dried rose in a paper mache box she made for it the first month she had it. Though tempted to throw both box and rose away after she was forced to marry the much older Baron Gromley by circumstances beyond her control, Barry could not. The box secreted beneath old gowns in the bottom of a trunk in the attic, she strove to forget the rose and Prideau. Lady Barry never completely manages to do this but it fades into the background of the life she builds for herself. That is until Prideau, now an earl, reappears. Retrieving the box that holds that long ago pledge Lady Barry studies the fragile dried petals. Betrayal again or love? Which does Prideau bring?

The other instance starts with a six year old boy rescued from the Terror in France by his aunt as told in A Bond of Honour a Regency set circa 1795, published by Dell books, 1980, and now available as an ebook from
Regency Reads. When the aunt saved the young boy and his infant sister she allowed him to take with him some toy tin soldiers, gifts from his parents. At the end of A Bond of Honour the tin soldiers are discovered to contain emeralds. By the time this boy, Andre Ribeymon, Baron de la Croix, appears in my Honour Series (as yet unpublished) he is a young man (and a British spy) whose aunt had one of the emeralds set in a gold stick pin for his cravats as a memento. This he treasures. She risked her life in saving him, raised him, and he loves her as he did her sister, his mother.

But of equal, if not more, value to Andre are the tin soldiers which once held the emeralds. They are the only keepsake he has of his murdered parents. Andre stores them carefully arranged in an intricately carved box that once held his mother’s trinkets. (How he retrieved that from France is another story.) This box he has on a shelf on a book case in his bed chamber. Whenever he handles the toy soldiers Andre recalls his mother and father and finds solace. They touched them as he now does when they played “battle” with him and the soldiers.

A long dried rose and tin soldiers. Nothing like Gollum's ring. But do they tell you something about my characters?

What object would you like to give a character? Why?


Today, fellow writers, I’m to blog about the special possessions my characters hold near and dear to their hearts. I would so love to do that for you, but when I sat down to write this, my mind went gray and fuzzy—like static on the television. Pass the rabbit ears (if you don’t know—don’t ask) because I don’t intentionally give my characters mementos.

No one told me I was supposed to do that, I whine. Am I always the last to know? How am I ever going to make it in this writing business?

That said, I brushed the dust off the For Sale signs covering my completed manuscripts. All four of them. Sigh…… Anyway, I opened those beauties—in no particular order—and began my valiant search. Guess what? Much to my surprise, my characters do have things that are meaningful to them.

In Make Me Believe, a Christmas story, Kris Kringle Jr, is embarking on the search of his life. He needs a wife, sooner rather than later, and his only means of communication with the North Pole is through a modified View Master. All he has to do is plunge the handy-dandy lever and he can see the North Pole. It’s like . . . magic and he’d be totally lost without it. Especially after the elves show up in their Winnebago’s to help him transform the town and woo the girl.

In Faith, Hope & Gloria, their-cuckoo-for-cocoa-puffs grandma keeps her three cremated husbands in mason jars. On her mantle. Her favorite husband’s jar is decorated with rhinestones and she has been known to carry him along with her on important occasions. Like to the wedding where her daughter faints, the ex-fiancĂ© shows up, and the Elvis impersonators have taken up residence. Grandma talks to the glass canning jar as if its contents had ears. Which, technically it does. Or did, depending on if you’re a half-empty or half-full kind of person/writer.

That said, it doesn’t matter whether the objects you give your characters are priceless heirlooms, toys or canning jars as long as the significance comes across on the written pages. We have a duty to our characters to make them seem as real as possible and if that means giving them silly props to get through their daily lives then we do it.

Now I’m going outside and toss my beret high into the air because I feel like Mary Tyler Moore. I'm gonna make it after all.

I hope.


Prized possessions

Our prized possessions say a lot about us. My most prized possession is a religious picture that hung in my grandmother’s house. It’s in an old oval wooden frame with curved glass in it. It says God Bless our Home. Why do I love it? Because it has been in my family since before I was born. Because it depicts a value that has been honored in my family for generation. I love it because it’s one of the few things I managed to save when my house burned to the ground in 1993. (That picture was the first thing I grabbed. We won't talk about the useless stuff I grabbed after that.)

I’m starting a new book this month. It’s another Amish story and I’m not sure what my heroine’s prized possession will be. It will be something simple, a wedding gift perhaps, or something that came down through her family. Maybe something homemade and valued for the loving care with which it was crafted. Why? Because that is what Miriam will value. Her marriage, her heritage, the things she can pass on to her daughter.

My characters almost always have something they value. In my book Military Daddy, Shane had a muscle car he’d fixed up. He made it shine! He loved that car. How did I use the car to show how much he cared about the heroine Annie?

First off, when Annie’s car wouldn’t work and she needed a vehicle to get around, he loaned her his car. It was a tough move for him, but he was going to out of town with the color guard and the car would have been sitting unused outside his barracks. Having him loan it to Annie showed just how much he wanted to help her.

By the end of the story, Annie needed to be transported from Fort Riley, Kansas to Houston for emergency fetal surgery by private medical aircraft. Neither of them had the money, but to save Annie and his unborn child, Shane sold his car.

Readers loved it. They identified with a man who made sacrifices for his family. He is one of my best loved heroes.

I don’t always know what the key will be when I start a story. I usually realize near the end of the book that I’ve created it without knowing why.

Being a writer is just that way, sometimes.


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