Flex Your Writing Muscles - Childhood Memories (Penny Rader)


Since we've been discussing the impact our childhood might or might not have had on our writing, I thought it could be fun to use writing prompts to delve into our childhoods.  Might give us great fodder for stories.  I hope you'll join in.  Feel free to share.

Free Creative Writing Prompts: Childhood  (Bryan Cohen)

  • How did the following things affect you during your childhood: music, books, the weather, money, love. You can combine them all into one story or do separate entries on each.
  • Write a poem about [y]our earliest childhood memory.
  • You have been given the opportunity to go backwards. You can pick an age and start over again from that age. Do you pick one or not? What age would you go to? Describe your first week with your "old person" memories in your younger body.

How to Write about Your Childhood — Autobiographical Writing (John Hewitt)

"Autobiographical Writing is an excellent way to work on your descriptive skills. When you describe items or memories from your past, you are able to provide details that are often lacking in more purely imaginative exercises. With autobiographical writing you learn how to describe what was rather than what isn’t."

Here a few examples of prompts given by John:

  • What was family life like as a child? How did you feel you fit into your family?
  • Write about your best friend as a child and the experiences you had together. What has happened to that friendship since childhood?
  • Describe your nemesis growing up. Who made your life miserable and what did they do to make it so rough?
  • What was the biggest trouble you got into as a child? Describe what you did or didn’t do to deserve what happened to you.

Reawaken Your Creativity By Revisiting Your Childhood Pleasures (Aileen McCabe-Maucher)

  • This week, honor the small child within yourself by revisiting the activities that brought you the most pleasure as a child. In your journal, make a list of all of the activities that you delighted in when you were a youngster. Think of the things that you used to do that made you lose track of time.
  • This week, spend at least thirty minutes doing the activity that brought you the most pleasure in your childhood. Give yourself permission to be silly and spontaneous.

What do you remember from your childhood? (Jo Middleton)

"I’ve always thought of myself as a person with a fairly poor long-term memory, but one exercise we did on my recent Arvon course made me realise that there are actually a lot of interesting sounds, sights and smells buried in the murky depths of my brain, if only I can dig around enough and find them under the layers of daily life."


"... exercise was based on an extract of a book called I Remember by Joe Brainard. We were asked to close our eyes and imagine being ten. We then wrote down everything we could remember about how being ten tasted, how it smelt, how it sounded and how it felt. It was amazing how easily one memory triggered another, and before long we were all reciting the most amazingly evocative childhood memories. You should give it a go, see what you come up with."

Writing Triggers for Family Memories (Virginia Allain)

Virginia provides "a fresh memory prompt or writing trigger each week here. Use it to prod your memory, then write down what you discover. Your memory writing may be just a paragraph or it could be five or six pages. As you find the memories flowing again, take advantage and get it into written form. ... You don't have to write about every aspect suggested. Choose a part that interests or inspires you and start writing the memories from your childhood."

Here’s one of her triggers:

Remember Something Precious to You

Think back to some object that was important or precious to you as a child. Describe it. Do you still have it or was it lost or broken or given away? Tell why you considered it special. Who gave it to you or how did you get it? Where did you keep it?

This could be something simple like a feather you found or something valuable like a ring given to you by your grandmother. Think back to something you treasured.



What do you think?  Care to share a memory or fictionalize a memory?  Do you have any prompts or exercises to creatively mine your memories?

Events that kicked my writing bum (Melissa Robbins)

Merry Christmas Eve to you all!

I've been a writer since childhood, but when this month's topic came up, four events stuck out in my mind. In college, I took three English classes. My first two teachers hated my work. I learned the concept of subjectiveness early on and the fact that I'm not a non-fiction writer. Although my third English teacher didn't like my writing either, he called me into his office and said I should try this, this, and this. For the life of me, I can't remember what he said or even his name, but the fact that my teacher took the time to help me did wonders for my passion to write.

Fast forward to almost a decade later. My son, Duncan was born with heart defects and remained in the NICU for five weeks. With a new baby and a two year old, writing was put on the back burner, but now I had plenty of time to write. After spending a vacation in Scotland the year before, a story and characters started forming. While my mom watched Emma in the afternoons, I sat in Duncan's hospital room and wrote about a WAAF in WW2. Her background and name are different than the Wren in my stories today, but Jack, my cheeky fighter pilot, never changed his ways, much to the delight of the rest of us.

A couple of years later, my writing had stalled again. My story was going nowhere and I gave up on it. Not my characters, though. Finding the time to write seemed impossible. Then one day after starting a new plot with the same characters, I discovered Fran, a fellow Irish dancer was also a writer. I hadn't found anyone to share my story with that I wasn't related or married to before. I was thrilled. We exchanged first chapters and Fran gave me that kick in the pants I needed to start writing again.

I can't remember how long after that that my computer died and I lost everything I wrote. I know. I learned my lesson. As Fran can attest to, the loss was probably a blessing in disguise. My story was in third person, but since I had to start all over again, I tried first person and found my voice.

My fourth event, fifth if you count the computer crashing, was when I joined Sisters in Crime and WARA. I decided that year I wanted to be a serious writer. I finished that story I spent years working on. Writing is a pretty solitary life. The critiques and encouragement I receive from fellow writers help me immensely both with my writing and in life in general.

Childhood + ? = Writing Career (Penny Rader)

My brain froze when I saw the topic for this month's blog.  I'm not one of those writers who has written since childhood...except for a couple failed attempts to keep a journal (which I stopped after someone read it and repeated the info in front of me).

For weeks now I've been trying to decide what could've possibly happened during my growing-up years that molded me as a writer.  I considered accidentally-on-purpose forgetting to write my post, but then I came up with two things:

My love of reading.  When Sister Mary Renee told my first-grade self I was going to learn to read, well, panic surged. I thought she was going to give me a huge, thick red book and expect me to know what all those squiggles meant.  Once I learned what they meant I was happily hooked and I never stopped reading...which many moons later led to writing.

Playing.  When I was a kid (way back in the Dark Ages) we didn't have cable TV or computers or gaming systems.  We played outside.  A lot.  And used our imagination.One of my favorite things to do was play on the swing set and pretend I was being carried away by a bad guy (though what the 'bad guy' might actually do never occurred to me) and was then rescued by one of the current hotties of the day.

I know, not very heroine-like, waiting to be rescued, but as a kid who was bullied I needed to pretend that Bobby Sherman or Michael Landon rushed to protect me, to save me.


Did a specific event during your childhood inspire you to become a writer?

    A Nest of Songbirds

    While we look back on what inspires us, I wanted to take a moment to include the members of WARA.

    For me, members of WARA are like songbirds. Each has a different song to sing, but together they are a symphony of support, encouragement, and most of all actually wish each of us well. Do you know how rare that really is? I'm not saying that jealousy doesn't burn my buttons, but it is a good kind. The kind that says I get to talk to genius because I am a part of our group. I get to mine their brains for knowledge. I get to ask questions and because of who they are as people, their kindness overflows and I am bathed in truth.

    Truth has many facets, like the faces of WARA. Each with their own tale of work, worth, and wisdom. Each voice raised, sometimes in dissent, but often in assent, is a part of the whole. Without the occasional dissent, there is no truth.

    There is an incredible volume of talent and kindness in all of WARA members.

    WARA is exactly what I need to inspire me forward. They always have been. As writers they seem to understand exactly when my writerly brain needs a new battery. Sometimes I am pitiful. A helping arm comes around my shoulders via e-mail or phone. Sometimes I run forward full tilt, full of so much enthusiasm that I have been advised to consider toning it down a bit. The writing world isn't one to conquer, but to enchant. When I try to enchant and miss. I'm told not to worry, but to try again.

    Try thinking a different way.

    But always try again.

    Always I listen to our nest of songbirds.

    How lucky I am to be a part, however minor, of such a talented group.

    Thank you.

    The Gift of My Dad

    I wasn't sure what to write in response to this month's topic: What one event in your childhood had the greatest affect on your writing career? Then I read all of the other great posts, most talking about memories of their fathers or family and their support.

    There wasn't "one event" that affected me and led to my writing career. But there was a man. I was blessed with the gift of being the daughter of Jack Linus Tolliver. He was interested in anything and everything. And seeing the "what ifs" about so many things in turn allowed me to see them as well.

    He was never afraid to try something that most people would think a bit odd...okay, borderline nuts. One of my favorite memories comes from the time when he was focused on the "magical" abilities of pyramids. He made a small pyramid to put his razor blades under so they would re-sharpen themselves. Bizarrely, they actually did. Then he made a pyramid big enough to set on his head like a hat, this was supposed to make him smarter (or something, I can't remember the outcome he actually wanted). He was always smart to me, so I don't know if that changed at all. But the picture of him wearing the hat is a family favorite.

    My imagination runs wild at times and always has. From the childhood days of covering a table or a group of chairs with a blanket, then sitting underneath it and being in a world of my own making. To wearing a ruffly slip over my head, so that I could become a beautiful young woman with long hair. To spending time on my back, staring up at the ceiling, and imagining a whole different setting to the world around me.

    Those childhood experiences have only allowed my imagination to continue running along the "what ifs." After all I have published 41 novels and novellas and 6 anthologies. I've created all kinds of settings and more characters than I can even remember. And, most imaginatively, I've created a romantic/daring cow (Blossom) with a bullfriend (Ferdinand).

    Thanks for sharing your gift of a wild imagination, Dad. Your memory will stay with me always.

    Nope, Nada, Nothing....

    Writing? Childhood event? Nope. Nada. Nothing. There was nothing in my childhood as any kind of event that precipitated a writer such as me. Then I realized. Maybe.

    Would reading the science fiction section in it's entirety when I was about fifteen fit the bill? Because all of that futuristic reading, as well as other novels had me thinking. It was obvious to me that we needed to find a way to limit human population before we turned the planet into a giant feedlot, like we have for cattle. But who do we trust the decisions to? Hitler had a final solution and no one trusts him anymore. No kidding. But all that shows is that man has his own agenda at who is more fit to procreate than others. Fortunately for man, mother nature and luck has been in charge of who survives and who does not for most of our human history. They need to stay in charge.

    Since I'm scientific by nature, and influenced by the power of love, I found a solution and wondered how it could ever be implemented.

    Only a handful of years ago, it became a story. Or rather the result of my internal ruminations became a story. The Proving Zone: Tory's Story. And then another, her brother's story--In the Zone: Pitin's Problem.

    What are these stories about? How to survive the Proving Zone where you have to walk a thousand miles and survive before you're allowed to have children. You also have to survive your preconceived ideas of love, other people, your own abilities as well as primitive conditions. Each story has a happy, satisfying ending. Why? Because the real world can kick you in the head enough. Everyone deserves their stories to work out--we call that hope in action. We ought to be able to rely on that in our fiction.

    Romance means hope. The world is a better place for it.

    Thank You, Daddy

    It wasn't an event that affected my future and what has become my writing career.  It was a person.

    My dad was one of the wisest and kindest people I've ever known, in spite of having only a 7th grade education.  When he was ten years old (in 1920), his father died, and he stepped up to help his mother and younger brother by working odd jobs.  Over a lifetime his work involved selling magazines door to door, as an usher at the Orpheum Theater (where he met and obtained autographs from many famous people), as a soda jerk, and other jobs.  Later on he worked at Fox-Vliet Drug Company and at Boeing Aircraft, where he was a supervisor in the purchasing department and retired after almost 25 years.  Not bad for a man who never attended high school, much less college!  And throughout working all those jobs, he read.

    While on vacations that took us through 48 states, my souvenirs were always books, usually Little Golden Books.  I even have a book we bought in Havana, Cuba, when I was three.  Before I was able to make out the letters and words, my dad would read to me.  But even that wasn't always enough, and I'd read them by the light of my nightlight. It's no wonder I wore glasses by the time I was six!

    National Geographic Magazine was a favorite source of reading to my dad.  He liked to keep up with what was going on in the world...and in space.  Being a part of Boeing meant being a part of building rockets to the moon, and his interest turned to the stars.  The wonderful thing was that he never pushed the knowledge reading gave him on anyone, but if asked, he always had an educated answer.  He never limited his interests or his reading to one or two things, and he continued to read and learn until his death at the age of 76 in 1987.

    There's no way I could ever be able to thank my dad for the gift of reading he gave me.  If it hadn't been for all the time he spent reading to me and the quiet encouragement he always gave, I wouldn't be here sharing this today.  He was gone before I began to write seriously.  But I know that he's watching over me, smiling and proud.  Thank you, Daddy, for the gift of reading, because without it, I never would have written.

    Cataclysmic Event Led to Writing? No! by J Vincent

    “What one event in your childhood had the greatest effect on your writing career?” is this month’s topic. If it had been cataclysmic I’m certain I would have remembered it. Unfortunately it was not. After much consideration I’ve come up with one thing.
    It’s not really an event; I’m not even certain it happened as I think it did.

    But there came a day in my in my childhood when one of my younger brothers or sister asked me to tell them a story. I don’t recall if it was to make up a tale about the clouds which I know became a favorite of theirs. Or was I asked to make up a saga about the stars! Perhaps they asked for an adventure using the articles and maps found in the Reader’s Digest.

    We had chicken houses and a tool garage north of our house. A single lane size track circled these and connected to the road. Across the road was a milk barn, a sheds for the cattle and huge hay and equipment storage shed. There were wonderful maps to be found in the Reader’s Digest about ancient Egypt for example. Various buildings around the farm would become Thebes, Giza, or Alexandria. The Red Flyer wagon mom used to pull the laundry baskets to the wash line so she could hang up the laundry became our papyrus boats or a dahabeya, a luxury pleasure boat for the Nile. The calves in the calf pen were camels. A side benefit to this was that we knew any country we “explored” better than any of the kids we knew.

    So I was asked to tell stories. I found I enjoyed doing so. I still do. Merry Christmas!


    Unlike Miss Pat, I wasn’t raised on a farm with a lot of animals. My entertainment came from my older sister (not the least bit animal-like) and a brain that operated like a runaway train. Back then, I drove my parents and my sister crazy with my colorful imagination and nonstop energy. Probably still do, but they’ve gotten used to me by now. I hope.

    Anyway, there were two events in my childhood that fed my writing dream. Both were followed with huge doses of encouragement that I gathered up close to my heart for safekeeping. You see, as aspiring novelists, we hold our dreams together with these threads of encouragement.

    I must have been about eight or nine when I wrote this silly poem about our toilet. This is where the crazy part sneaks into the picture. My folks thought it was so good, so creative and entertaining, they scotch-taped it to the shiny tile above the roll of two-ply Charmin. You couldn’t help but see it when you finished your business. I was so proud. For the first time in my life, I felt like a real writer. No one bothered to tell us how weird it was or how their second born daughter might need special care some day. Seriously, what kind of child writes about their bathroom? I’ll bet my dear mom still has it saved it in her scrapbook. Now, that’s pride.

    The other memory comes from this story I wrote a few years later about this young family who is waiting dinner on a loved one when they get a call from the police. You see, the roads were icy. And there was an accident and their beloved is missing. The family, of course, is distraught beyond words. They fear the worst. Then the dearly deceased man turns into an angel, says his goodbyes through a frost covered window and goes to heaven. The end. Pretty morbid stuff for a child—I know. But, the point of this is, my folks had me read it to everyone who stepped foot in our home. I remember handling those pages of notebook paper so much they started to get thin around the edges. Again, the pride my family felt in me was enough to keep me going. And it still is. I only wish my dad could have lived long enough to see my first novel on the shelves when it does happen.



    What one event in your childhood had the greatest affect on your writing career

    Pat Davids here.

    This is the topic for December. First and foremost, I had a great childhood. I lived on a farm. I was the only girl with four brothers. Okay, that part wasn't so great but I learned not to throw a softball like girl. We had chickens, as you can see, but best of all, I had my own horses. Three of them, Tammy, Trixie and Shawnee. I had great friends in school and I learned that books could take me anywhere.

    I think the single event that had the most influence in all of my life, not just my writing, had nothing to do with books. It had to do with horses. My father had agreed to bring the neighbor's stud to our farm to breed to my first mare, Trixie. Since we didn't have a horse trailer and it was only a few miles away, we just drove over. I had learned to ride without a saddle and by that time I thought I was skilled at staying on the back of any horse. My big failure was being unable to stand on the back of a galloping horse. I was twelve and it was heartbreaking.

    When we arrived at our neighbors to collect the stallion, I stood beside my dad holding a bridle while he did the talking. The neighbor frowned as he looked down at me. He asked my dad, "Who is going to ride this horse to your place?"

    Dad pointed at me. "She is."

    The man leaned close. "Clarence, I wouldn't let a little girl like her on this stallion. He's wild and he has a bad temper."

    My dad's eyebrows shot up. "If she can't ride him, I'm sure as hell not going to get on him!"

    Oh, I was so proud. My father thought I could handle a horse that he couldn't. From that moment on, I knew that I could accomplish anything I set my mind to because Dad believed in me. (Okay, I never learned to ride standing up, but it wasn't for lack of trying.)

    Our neighbor didn't have the same confidence in me. His eighteen-year-old son rode the horse to our place while we followed him. As soon as we got home, Dad looked at me and said, "You are not to ride this horse. He is dangerous."

    Yeah, right. I could do anything I set my mind to, remember? No way was I going to pass up the chance to ride a flashy stallion like him. The first time my parents left together, I caught the big pinto, climbed on his back and discovered that some horses have a terrible and uncomfortable gait. Riding him was like sitting on a jackhammer, plus, he seemed intent on biting me. No fun at all. I never rode him again. His colt, however, was an adorable brown and white pinto filly who grew up to have a much smoother gait than her papa.

    So, that is the event that shaped my writing life. I learned to believe I could do anything I set my mind to accomplish. And, I learned that sometimes, what I thought I wanted wasn't the best, after all. That made me flexible. If it doesn't work, don't beat a dead horse, just find another horse to ride.

    Riding stories anyone? What is your favorite or least favorite horse story, real or fiction?

    By the way, I want to wish my grandson a happy 18th birthday.

    It's Raining (Regency) Men!

    Fran wasn't able to post today, so I thought I would steal her date this month. Who doesn't like men in Regency attire? This link/video from Victoriana Magazine cracks me up every time I watch it. Love me some Mr. Darcy, although my favorite Regency hero is Fran's duke.

    And since we're talking about heroes, one of my favorite tumblr sites introduced to me by my Canadian friend is called Hot British Men. What is it about those English accents?

    Heroes Dating Game (Melissa Robbins)

    Happy Thanksgiving to you all! Much to my delight, we have been discussing heroes this month. Since my stories take place during WW2, I have loads of heroes running around, so I thought I would interview three of my soldiers with a bit of dating game fun. Hopefully their girls don't mind.

    Bachelor #1 American, First Lieutenant Jackson Spencer, U.S. Army Air Force fighter pilot

    Bachelor #2, Englishman, Squadron Leader Basil Godfrey, Royal Air Force fighter pilot

    Bachelor #3 Englishman, Warrant Officer Seamus O'Malley, Royal Air Force policeman

    Mel: Hi boys!

    All: Hello Mel!

    Mel: Let's jump right in, bachelors. Where would you take a girl on a first date?

    Basil: A picnic to the Sandwick Castle ruins. The view is marvelous and we'll have champagne and delightful desserts.

    Mel: Desserts? Wow, that would be cool with all the rationing going on.

    Seamus: There's an Italian restaurant in town. I would take my girl there for a romantic candlelit dinner.

    Jack: Antonio's?

    Seamus: Why are you snickering?

    Jack: No reason. Great choice. I hear they have a great chicken fettuccine Alfredo. [kiss] Perfetto.

    Mel: What about you, Jack? The theme seems to be dining. Would you take your date to Antonio's?

    Jack: Of course, I love Italian, but it would depend on the girl and what she likes. For a first date, I would love to take her swing dancing, but if she's up for anything, I would fly her in my plane.

    Mel: Wow, a plane ride? That would be a memorable first date. Next question, what three things do you never leave the house without?

    Jack: Clean underwear. That doesn't count as one of my three, does it? That should be a given. Let's see, my ring and a picture of my girl. My third would be my whistle and flying jacket. The whistle is attached to the jacket, so those two count as one.

    Mel: A whistle?

    Jack: Technically, pilots blow on the whistle when they bale out in the Channel and need to be rescued, but they have become lucky charms. Mine was a gift, so it's extra special.

    Basil: Pilot gear, a cigar, and keys to my Bentley.

    Seamus: All of us should bring our identity cards. If we're stopped and can't identify ourselves, we could be detained as spies. My other items are my cross and pocket watch.

    Mel: What are your best qualities?

    Basil: Debonaire and a great pilot

    Jack: [laughs] I hear I'm a fantastic kisser.

    Seamus: Lalalalala. I don't want to hear that.

    Jack: I heard you're a 'ruddy brilliant' kisser, O'Malley.

    Seamus: Who told you that?

    Mel: Seamus, your face is the color of your hair! Jack, who did tell you that?

    Jack: [shrugs] Girls talk to each other and don't always notice when guys are listening, but to get back to the question, I would like to add that I'm fiercely loyal to the people I care about and would do anything for them and I mean anything.

    Seamus: You would do anything. No doubt about that. Did she really tell the other girls that? Blimey, I can't think right now. Can I skip to the next question?

    Mel: Why are you still blushing? Okay what's your favorite quality in a woman?

    Seamus: Trust

    Jack: Hey, what's that look for, O'Malley? I'm all about trust too. For me, it's a woman who isn't afraid to be herself, even if it goes against the norm and I'll probably get in trouble for saying this, but an hour glass figure doesn't hurt. My girl has nice curves. Ooo, la, la.

    Basil: Loyalty to king and country and a nice bum.

    Jack: Oh yeah, a nice bum.

    Seamus: You lot are terrible! She is going to kill you when she sees you, Jack.

    Mel: At least they're being honest. Next question, you've just been told you have a few months to live, what do you do?

    Jack: Darlin', we're soldiers. Basil and I are fighter pilots and Seamus is a policeman. We could die tomorrow. I, for one, live every day like it would be my last and enjoy it with the people I care most about. Then hopefully, when I die, I could take a few Krauts with me.

    Basil: Spencer is right. If I knew I was going to die, which is a strong possibility nowadays, I would spend my days fighting the Jerries to my last breath.

    Seamus: I would be with my family and my girl.

    Mel: With today being Thanksgiving, how do you make the holidays special?

    Jack: I'm thousands of miles away from my family. So the holidays would be special if I could spend it with them. If not, I would celebrate in the officers' mess with my soldier friends who are like brothers to me. Hopefully, my girl will be there too with lots of mistletoe hanging around.

    Basil: Before the war, my family held the grandest parties for holidays in London or at our country estate.

    Seamus: I love spending Christmas with my family. Dad plays his fiddle and my sisters dance. Mum cooks a goose. Hmm, Christmas pudding.

    Jack: Stop O'Malley. You're making me hungry. Roasted turkey with dressing. Green bean casserole. You're evil, Mel asking a question like that with rationing going on. Can we go back to talking about girls?

    Mel: Okay, I'll put you out of your misery. For our final question, so the ladies can know just how dishy you boys are, which actor would you like to play you in a movie?

    Jack: I would want to play myself, but if I had to choose, Justin Hartley. He'll have to wear colored contacts, though. I have handsome baby blues. [bats eyelashes]

    Basil: Ben Barnes

    Mel: Ooo, Prince Caspian.

    Basil: Yes, but shorter hair in back.

    Seamus: Simon Woods

    Jack: With or without the crazy Mr. Bingley hair?

    Seamus: Not funny, Spencer.

    Mel: Thank you boys for answering my questions. So, ladies, which hero would you choose? For you Connor fans out there wondering where he is, Connor is in the manor library snogging his girl, but he might come up for air and stop by in the comment section, along with my other boys should any of you have more questions for them.

    Now writers out there, did you see what I did? Imagine your heroes and other characters on a dating game and ask them questions like these. Their answers may surprise you.

    Creating a Hero (Penny Rader)

    Since our theme this month is Heroes, I poked around the internet for hints about creating a hero.  Here's a bit of what I found.  Enjoy!

    Build Your Own Romance Hero (Nicole Jordan)     

    • Hero appearance
    • Hero name
    • Basic personality type
    • Making him human and unique

    1. Challenge stereotypes.
    2. What matters isn’t WHO your character is, it’s HOW you’ll write him.
    3. Be wary of the too-perfect hero trap.

    Creating Your Hero’s Fatal Flaw (Laurie Schnebly Campbell)

    Laurie gives an awesome program on creating characters using enneagrams and says “It's easy to find ideas for the fatal flaws our characters will have to overcome, because the enneagram theorists say that each of the nine types has a deadly sin within them. Although the math is off, because there are seven deadly sins and nine enneagram types, so they made up two more sins which fit the types.

    Find Your Hero in Category Romance (Catherine Mann and Joanne Rock)

    • Give him flaws.
    • Give him quirks.
    • Make him studly.
    • Give him an element of danger.
    • Make him worthy of the challenge.

    So if writing your hero as a sexy, take charge kind of guy makes him merely ordinary, how do you create a hero so unique your reader is going to fall for him in a big way?--By showing the little boy within the man. 
    I don’t mean you should have him exhibiting childish, immature behavior, but rather show what hurts him, excites his enthusiasm, makes him proud. Show his soft spot. Is he a sucker for kids, does he love animals, worry about his mother? You can get away with a lot in terms of macho behavior (romance heroes tend to be larger than life in this aspect) as long as he demonstrates what Suzanne Brockmann refers to as the save-the-kitty factor. 

    How to Be aRomantic Hero (Diane Perkins)

     1.      Be flawed.
     2.      Be self-assured.
     3.      Be tough.
     4.      Be controlled.
     5.      Be trustworthy.
     6.      Be ethical.
     7.      Value equality.
     8.      Be physically fit.
     9.      Be sexually generous.
    10.  Finally, be sure to have dark-as-night hair with a habit of falling waywardly across your forehead.

    Romance Writing: Heroes (Loribeth Swanson)
    • He must be well defined by the author to the reader.
    • He is strong whether it’s obvious or subtle.
    • He acts with integrity.
    • If his actions are bad, then he has a good reason to act so.

    Ten Steps to a Yummy Hero (Vicki Lewis Thompson)

    1. Does he reflect current social values?
    2. Does he possess universal hero traits?
    3. Does he compare favorably with current movie and television heroes?
    4. Does he compare favorably with the heroes of best-selling authors?
    5. Does he conform to the specific kind of romance you are writing?
    6. Does he reflect your personal style?
    7. Does his behavior seem well motivated?
    8. Have you put him in heroic situations?
    9. Do you have a clear picture of what he looks like?
    10. Have you fallen in love?

    What attracts you to a guy?  I usually notice eyes first.  And dark hair.  (You probably figured that out from the pics.) A great smile.  And a bit of a five o'clock shadow. Yum.

    What traits are non-negotiable for you in a hero?  I'd love to hear your top three. Or five.  Mine?  Hmmm.  I'm going to go with brave/courageous, selfless, honorable, smart, and a sense of humor. 

    Heroes: A Sampling of Heroes, Starla Kaye Style

    Essentially my view of fictional heroes is similar to what has been previously said by Nina, Rox, and Reese. So I’m not going to add yet another definition. Instead I will share tidbits about some of the heroes from my Decadent Publishing stories.

    Maggie’s Secret Wish, part of the 1 Night Stand series from Decadent Publishing, gave me a chance to meet and fall in love with Ian MacDonald, just as Maggie did. Sometimes it is nice when a reviewer sees your characters and their conflicts they way you do. In this case, the reviewer from Sizzling Hot Reviews did and these are her thoughts:

    Maggie has always picked out losers when it came to boyfriends. Her last one left her after a night of sex and made her doubt her own worth. Her best friend encourages her to send an email to Madame Eve to get back on the dating horse, but Maggie has been having a fantasy that she only shares with Madame Eve…and Madame Eve finds the perfect man to make it happen.

    Ian MacDonald is a dashing Scottish man with a darling accent who is able to make any woman swoon. He writes erotica novels for a living and services women as a Dom part time. Jaded with his life, he takes his friend up on the suggestion to apply with Madame Eve and 1 Night Stand Dating Agency for a hot night with no commitments.

    Maggie’s Secret Wish is an amazing story of a woman who wants to explore her sexuality. Madame Eve seems to know just what Maggie needs and sets about to make it happen. But Maggie is nervous and tries to back out. Even Ian takes some prodding to agree to it. Yet when the two come together, it is combustible! The idea of having a person know you so intimately that they can take care of your every need is a fantasy that everyone has. Maggie’s Secret Wish explores this concept in an exciting and tantalizing way. Just the idea of a man like Ian made me short of breath! I couldn’t imagine having him at my fingertips!

    Starting Over was my second book in the 1 Night Stand series for Decadent Publishing. In this one I had a chance to explore another romance sub-genre that I hadn’t tried, GLBT. I wanted to try this, but I didn’t want to write your typical gay romance. I wanted to show men that any romance reader could feel strongly about, feel the pain they had suffered in the past, and pull for them as they struggled to move forward with their lives. As before, I will show you how a reviewer successfully understood the type of heroes I meant to create. Speedy from The Reader’s Roundtable After Dark said:

    Starting Over
    is a coming of age story for Corbin Bradley who has already come of age. He’s been married and now, as an established and successful businessman, he’s finally come to terms with the fact that he can’t avoid his homosexuality. Through a push by his ex-wife, Corbin reaches out to a high-end matchmaking service and is paired off with Matt DuCharme. Matt had lost his lover and business partner in a tragic accident and had not moved on with his life. Through prodding of friends and his own inner voice saying “move-on” he also reached out to this same matchmaking service and the structure framing the story is set in motion.

    Corbin and Matt each have unique histories and each has believable reasons to feel nervous and skeptical. Corbin is starting a new chapter of his life. As he explores the physical side of being gay, he takes to is it like a sex-starved teenager. Matt, still grieving, struggles with the guilt he feels as his attraction to Corbin unfolds. What I liked best about this story was how sweet and innocent the emotions were, each man experiencing pure, raw thoughts and feelings; one’s we can all relate to. Yet the sex between them was red hot and unapologetic. It was the perfect mix for me as a reader who loves an emotional journey but who is tantalized by the descriptions and visions evoked when reading sex scenes. What can I say? I love a heart-tugging romp fest.

    My point is that fictional heroes vary so much and yet they all share something: they all touch a reader’s heart. Or they should. If they don’t, then the author hasn’t done his/her job.

    What's In a Hero?

    Every person, every reader, and every writer thinks they know what a hero is. But. What is a hero when it comes to romance?

    Let's take a look.

    The list of usual heroic attributes:
    Something about him is out of societies' norm.
    Could be he perfers not to wear wigs when wigs are the fashion.
    Hair. Rarely is a hero bald.
    Teeth. Heroes usually have most of them.
    Height. Rarely is a hero short.
    Legs. Rarely is a hero short-legged or knock-kneed.
    Clothing. A Hero wears clothing that distinguishes him in some way.
    Heroes save or protect something weaker or smaller.
    Heroes are busy. Even stricken with ennui, they seethe about it.
    Things. Heroes own something they treasure deeply.
    Thinking. Rare is the hero who is short on brains.
    Oddly, romance heroes can be blind, crippled, or crazed, but are rarely deaf.

    What's this list all about? It is about definition. We think we have men around us who we watch and think we could be attracted to, but when the reality of story romance heroes begin to be put on paper, if they don't match the norm of expectations, they will fall flat. On the other hand, if they are not also distinguished in an expected form that is actually unexpected for our every day life, their story will also fall flat. It is the combination that intrigues the reader.

    I thought of many of my storybook heroes and spent some time thinking about my life's heroes. They had few things in common. But then, one is fantasy, the other is real. I hope this article sparks some thoughts about how we think about heroes and what our expectations are in our fantasy ones. As well as our writing, we need to read, to understand and enjoy stories from a reader's perspective, for what we write becomes someone else's fantasy. Does your writing really contain a heroic person?

    Types of Heroes

    Like Reese, I'm running late.  Unlike Reese, I can't claim blindness by mascara wand.  (Hope your eye is better, Reese!)  But I'm here and eager to blog about heroes and the different types we write about and read.

    There are many different types of heroes, making it difficult to pick one or even two.  But like plots, there are standards on which heroes are based.  In The Complete Writer's Guide to Heroes & Heroines- Sixteen Master Archetypes, authors Tami D. Cowden, Caro LaFever and Sue Viders list 8 hero archetypes.

    • The CHIEF
    • The BAD BOY
    • The CHARMER
    • The LOST SOUL
    • The WARRIOR
    The list is definitely a good starting point, and each archetype has strengths and flaws.  But don't stop there,   because nobody, not even the heroes we create, should be pigeonholed into a specific "type."  For instance, what's wrong with a swashbuckling (fearless and exciting) professor (expert and analytical)?  Absolutely nothing!  Or what about a lost soul (devoted and vulnerable) chief (goal oriented and responsible)?  Or any other combination that suits the type of hero you like or would like to create.

    My favorites to write are crosses between the Charmer, the Swashbuckler, and the Bad Boy, sometimes all used together, and sometimes used with other archetypes.  My favorites to read probably fall into those same archetypes, but I haven't yet mentally tagged them that way.  I have three super favorites that have never been dethroned, along with several others that made me sigh happily.  Those three include:

    • Nick DeAngelo in Only Forever by Linda Lael Miller.  Nick is an unforgettable hero for me.  He's a charmer, for sure, and although I was often not happy with the heroine's wishy-washy-ness where he was concerned, he's one of my top three favorite heroes.
    • Houston Leigh in Texas Destiny by Lorraine Heath.  Although I haven't read a lot of historical romances in more recent years, this one touched my heart.  Houston is a wounded hero (an archetype that's left out of the above list), both physically and emotionally.  In spite of it, he's a beautiful character and totally unforgettable.
    • John Lee Carter in A Sparkle in the Cowboy's Eyes by Peggy Moreland.  John Lee the Bad Boy had me gritting my teeth at his macho maleness, yet the Charmer in him kept me reading...and laughing.  It's a great balance of characterizations, and all in all, John Lee is lovable. The moment his cluelessness evaporates and he realizes he loves the heroine is one of the best aha! moments I've ever read.  Peggy writes with emotion and a wonderful sense of humor.  I love all of her books, but John Lee leads the pack.
    We each have our favorite type of heroes.  Some like a take-charge and noble Warrior.  Others may have a special fondness for a brooding lost soul.  Whatever they are, they must have three-dimensional characteristics that make them real to us.  And no matter what odds they face or how much the heroine denies her feelings for them, they manage to bring us to a more than satisfactory happily ever after ending.

    “Not the glittering weapon fights the fight, but rather the hero's heart.”

    My Magnificent Seven by J Vincent

    In my Honour series--Napoleonic spy-mystery-romances--I have what I think of as my Magnificent Seven. The movie by that name starred Yul Brenner in 1960. There was this scene of the seven men reining to a halt atop a rise as shown on the dvd cover on the left. Instead of cowboys imagine five English cavalry officers from the 15th Light Dragoons during the Napoleonic wars, specifically the Peninsular War (war in Portugal and Spain). Add two English spies--a serious young Englishman and a young French émigré who pretends to be a fop (an effeminate fribble; a name borrowed from a celebrated character of that kind, in the play Miss in her Teens (1746) by David Garrick and you have my seven. Just like the men who made up the Magnificent Seven my heroes have a variety of character flaws and strengths.

    Take Major Quentin Bellaport from the first book, Honour’s Debt. He’s a fairly ordinary man who quarreled with his father as a young man, stormed off to join a regiment and has never made peace. Not that he hasn’t tried. In the stubbornness department the apple didn’t fall far from the tree as they say. His father has been recalcitrant when it comes to letting by-gones-be bygones. Quentin has a strong sense of honor which he follows despite inconvenience and obstacles. He’s trustworthy, courageous, and determined to repay a nonmonetarya debt. His main flaw is an ability to see a problem from another’s point of view. Fortunately for him, the heroine in Debt is more than ready to teach that.

    In book two, Honour’s Choice you’ll find the serious young Englishman. Hadleigh Tarrant, who orphaned as a child was raised by his uncle, the Earl of Tarrant. Interested in beetles, Hadleigh collects and studies them. The more easy going emigré and fellow orphan also raised by the Tretains, André Ribeymon (the pretend fop), convinces Hadleigh to join him in becoming a government agent. Captured, Hadleigh is tortured but reveals nothing. He is near death when discovered by the heroine of Choice. Recovering, Hadleigh becomes depressed, turns to alcohol as a buffer but then realizing he is in love fights his way to sobriety and the decision to pursue his love. That she is eight years older, a bit of a dowd, and stubbornly resistant to his courting does not deter Hadleigh. He gives up believing it best for her until André hints she is in danger.

    In book three, Honour’s Compromise you’ll find Lieutenant James Vincouer. A young man, brash and bold, he is also courageous and willing to give his life for his friends during the dangerous retreat through Spanish mountains in the dead of winter when the English army is pursued by a force five times larger led by Napoleon. He is almost captured but saved by Spanish guerillas and begins sending intelligence reports to the commander of the English army in Spain which is led by the future Duke of Wellington. Beneath his bravado Jamey hides a broken heart. He of course would disagree with that assessment. Hasn’t he after all given the woman who broke his heart the sobriquet of The Glacier? Aren’t the battle royals they have proof there is no love lost between them? If he has gone out of his way to rescue her, it is only because he is a gentleman, he protests. Jamey doth protest too much but he proves remarkably stubborn in admitting the truth of the matter until Cecilia faces extreme danger.

    Captain Lucian Merristorm is a regency bad boy. He is known for drinking, wenching, and galloping into battle with no regard for death. Most do not realize it is what he desperately seeks.

    Major Lord Blake Danbury, youngest son of a duke. He is besieged by ennui—extreme boredom—and cannot be troubled to be bothered by anyone or anything. Ordered by Wellington to escort a young French lad to England he has no idea how far from lethargic detachment he will come before he discovers the lad is a lady.

    And what of young naïve Lieutenant Samuel Goodchurch who can be taken in by one and all and goes through life quoting from the Bible? Molded, hardened, and scarred by the battles in Spain will he retain the gentleness, the kindness that first guided others to protect him?

    Seven very different men who all share an underlying goodness even when they don’t realize it. Some are more flawed than others; some have longer journeys to travel to the truth of whom they are and what they hold most dear. All share a love of country, the desire to protect the women they love, and a willingness to go to any extent, accept any hardship to do so. Are their flaws more important than their strengths? What characteristic do you consider the most important in your heroes?