Characters’ Core Philosophies, Values, and Mottoes (Penny Rader) 
I’ve been working on my characters for my wip and I’ve been struggling with what their core philosophies are, what their values and mottoes might be.  And I figure if I’m having trouble with it, maybe someone else is, too.  So I hit the internet.  Here are a few snippets of what I found:

…usually the essence of who the person is and how they’re going to react in your book is the answer to that simple question—what is their motto?

Susan Gable defines a motto as: A deeply held personal belief, stemming from the characters backstory, that impacts the way s/he views and world and behaves.

This motto is a quick way to boil down to the bones and find your character’s internal motivation and conflict.  What world view do they have to change to resolve their internal conflict?  What is ground zero for their character arc?

Character Motto (Cyndi Faria)

One of the most useful tools I use to keep my characters true to their personalities is by developing a “motto” using the Enneagram. A motto is a saying that encapsulates a character’s world view.

One of the most powerful aspects of your character are the values he or she holds deep within. Creating a character with a strong internal moral compass adds depth to your character and power to your story.

Values are psychological objects. Although we cannot see or touch them, they are every bit as real as any physical object. People may dedicate their entire lives or even give up their lives to pursue their values, as so many loyal patriots have done fighting for values of freedom, equality and human rights during the past two centuries.

The author lists 100+ Common Personal Values.  There’s also a link to Society’s Values. 

Value systems create opportunity for conflict and give characters depth. Once we’ve discovered those values, the plot comes alive as characters struggle to be true to themselves.

Ask – What three things does your character value the most?  The most important thing for X is: survival ….. adhering to the rules ….. scientific discovery …. family ….. avoiding love … finding love …. and so on.

The motto is the soul of your character, a core philosophy they hold dear. It can range from “The glass is always half-full” (or empty, depending on your character) to “Do unto others before they do unto you.”

It’s important to understand that your character doesn’t have to be consciously aware of his life motto, nor does he have to articulate it to the reader.


So…what are some of the philosophies, values, and/or mottoes held by your characters?  Do you have special techniques to share about how you create/discover your characters’ philosophies/mottoes?

Manipulating Our Surroundings (Roxann Delaney)

Environment and all the things continually going on around us help set our moods.  Those moods then affect how we react and what we do in any given situation.   Whether we can do something about that--manipulation--is up to us.

Writers and others who create can be especially affected--both good and bad--by their senses.  There are many ways each of those five senses work for or against us.  Our job is to learn how to best control and use them to our advantage.

HEARING  --  Most writers have a problem with noise distracting them and keeping them from the concentration necessary to string words together that make sense.  (Yes, we can string words together that don't make sense!)  That's the downside of noise.

But there's an upside to noise, too.  With the ease of downloading music and even making our favorite tunes portable in every sense of the word, writers are creating music playlists to set the mood and tone of their characters and storylines, not only for one or two scenes, but throughout an entire book.  For instance, Deborah Harkness, author of the best-selling A Discovery of Witches, posted the playlist of all the songs she listened to while writing the book on Facebook.  But music not only can set the mood of our stories, it can also set our mood to write.  A bouncy, fun tune can get us moving, when before, we may have been battling inertia.  If nothing else, turning on the radio can evoke random emotions and help lift our moods.

SEEING -- Writers tend to work with visions in their minds, and then translate those visions into words that convey them to readers.  I think this is why Pinterest has become so popular.  Writers use them as motivation and for ideas, setting the mood in their mind to write a character or scene, while others use it as a way of communicating without words.  As Napoleon Bonaparte said, "A picture is worth a thousand words."  My favorite type of pictures are those that evoke peaceful feelings.  Not only pictures, but colors affect our moods.  Think of your favorite color and how it makes you feel.  Chances are, that feeling is pretty much universal.

SMELLING -- Nearly any store you walk into these days has a large display of scents, aromas, and ways to use them.  Incense grew in popularity in the 60's and 70's.  Scented candles quickly followed throughout the '80's and 90's.  Scented oils followed, with different ways of diffusing them into the air.  Peppermint can perk you up, while Lemon is known to help with alertness.  Even a few companies have added scents in their ventilation systems for better productivity.  Can't sleep?  Try Lavender to help relax and drift off to sleep.  Don't like Lavender?  Try a hint of Jasmine.  And if you're a disbeliever of how effective scents can be, think of what happens when you smell cookies baking. ;)

TOUCHING -- We don't often pay a lot of attention to our tactile sense, but our body is more aware of it than we realize.  Hot, cold, smooth, rough.  Kittens wouldn't be so lovable if they weren't soft.  Nobody would want to go down a slide made of sandpaper.  Some people find velvet disturbing, while others don't care for satin.  Do you sleep better on crisp sheets in the summer than on flannel?  Do you prefer wearing a well-worn t-shirt to a brand new one?  I bought a new throw this winter, and although it isn't thick, it's softer than any I've ever had or found.  It was originally for my bed, but somehow it made it into the living room, where every one of the grandkids has taken control of it at one time or another.  It's soft.  It's warm.  And it's comforting.  Even the cat loves to knead it with his claws and sucks on it!

TASTING --  The first thing I think of when I think of how taste (food) affects us is chocolate.  It isn't necessarily the taste itself that makes it so beneficial to mood, but the serotonin that's produced in our bodies when we eat it can lift our spirits.  And after hearing last night on the news that a study has found that chocolate also increases our metabolism, increasing the burning of its own calories, well, I'm not going to give it up.  But chocolate/sweet isn't the only taste that can have an affect on us.  There are five elements of taste perception:  salty, sour, bitter, sweet, and umami (savoriness). For most of us, we've craved each of them, at one time or another.  Sometimes we choose a particular food or snack because it comfort us.

Just for fun, try eating in the dark.  Dark dining, where restaurants serve their food in the dark, has become a trend in several large cities.  While I'm not sure I'd enjoy dropping my food in my lap at a restaurant--even if the lights are out--it might be fun to try it in the dark at home...and alone.

Take some time to think about your senses and how each of them affects your mood.  In time, you'll learn how to manipulate your moods with your senses, whether it's tasting, seeing, hearing, touching, or smelling, and use them to your advantage.  And don't forget to use those five senses in your writing to make it come alive!

Why did I choose the blue and black Yin Yang?  Because I like it! ☺

Nose Art: Research or a Distraction? (Melissa Robbins)

This is a timely post to say the least. All four of my kids (8,6,4,2) are home from school for Spring Break and as I write this on Thursday, I haven’t seen the sunshine since Sunday. That’s four days of straight rain, people. This ain’t Seattle. Rain and four kids stuck inside equals a BAD spring break. Anyway, knowing all four would be under foot, I’ve made a point get up at my usual 5 am writing time and really focus on writing, not email or Facebook. It worked. I managed to meet and surpass my writing goals without taking time away from my children.

Those same four crazy kids certainly help my imagination. My eldest struggles with reading and writing so we have focused on that this week. Emma has such a vivid imagination and we worked on characters, a setting, and a plot for her story about a pink otter, a mermaid, and a princess who floats on a large leaf boat, traveling the high seas. Although, I discovered she would rather be a director and act and leave the script writing to the professionals.

On Wednesday, my kids and I visited our Museum of World Treasures. Growing up in DC, I’m a wee bit spoiled on the whole museum thing, but my kids loved it and being that my story takes place during WW2, that section of the museum is my personal favorite. However, my American and English characters cringed when my four year old daughter informed me the German naval officer’s uniform was her favorite. A German? And a sailor at that. My RAF flyboy, Connor stomped off to pout. There is also a display of a dispersal hut with two airmen mannequins. One of them wears the Army Air Corps patch on his shoulder. My son has the same patch on his leather jacket, a gift from my father, who is as big of a WW2 nut as I am. Duncan must have forgotten or didn’t realize his patch used to belong to a pilot. His blue eyes lit up and I was like, ‘That’s it!’ That is the look I want to give to my flyboys in my story, because they love flying so much.

I have said it before on this blog that drawing affects my writing. My sketches inspire my creativity, but they can also be a distraction. When I should be writing or critiquing a fellow writer’s work, I’m sketching. My latest deviations have been nose art for my pilots. I got a new set of illustration markers and coloring with my kids makes for a great activity. Did I mention it has been raining all week?

Anyway, researching nose art has been uber fun. Those flyboys were so creative and naughty and the artists really were considered the most essential members of a squadron. Did you know that Walt Disney himself created the Flying Tigers emblem? The Royal Air Force didn't showcase nose art as much as the Yanks did, but as Connor would say, “If that ruddy Jerry can have Mickey Mouse on his plane, I can have a raven.” He is referring to Adolf Galland, one of Germany’s top aces. I’m sure the two have dogfighted on occasion.

Drawing the nose art has been a creative experience for me since it was considered an expression of the pilot’s personality. I tried to reflect the cartoonish style of the 40's. So here is my latest deviation from writing. I have several sketched out, but these are the ones colored.

“Bacon” – 1st Lieutenant Jackson Spencer, P-40. Bacon is Jack’s beagle. It’s my favorite of the lot. Snoopy wearing his pilot helmet and goggles was a popular nose art figure, but I wanted to be original with Jack’s.

“Raven: Harbinger of Destruction” – Flight Lieutenant Connor Buchanan, Spitfire. A fellow writer friend came up with the raven for Connor since he hails from Maryland (half English), but also because of all the war mythology and the Tower of London attached to the raven. The ‘harbinger of destruction’ is funny to me because not only does Connor destroy German planes, but he’s very rough on his own.

“For King and Country”- Squadron Leader Basil Godfrey, Hurricane. I like this one on so many levels. Plus the Grim Reaper appears less creepy wearing a Union Jack cloak versus a black one.

“Spyder” – Pilot Officer Johann “Spyder” Snyder, Hurricane. There are conflicting reports as to how Spyder earned his nickname. Did his squadron leader not want to use Spyder’s German name or it is because Spyder is so handsy with the ladies, it’s like he has more than two hands???

“Rosie” – Flying Officer George Rosegate, Spitfire. The fox was Connor’s idea. George is too modest and shy to put a fox on his plane, but Connor knows how sly George is on the inside. The rose in the fox's mouth represents his hidden romantic side.

What Affects Writers and Their Writing? (Penny Rader)
I poked around the Internet to see what I could find about what affects writers and their writing.  Found some interesting pieces and posted snippets below.  I do hope you’ll click the links and read the entire article by each author and perhaps find something of benefit to you.

Book Writing Tips: How Does Where You Write Affect Your Writing? (Lisa Tener)

 … where you write can affect your creativity and productivity, as well as your tone, how well the writing flows and the quality of the writing itself.

Try writing in:

  • A cafĂ© 
  • Your office
  • By a warm fire with a cup of tea
  • Outdoors (if you’re not in New England in January)
  • Bed
  • Curled up with your cat or dog on the couch
  • On a plane, train or ferry

Compare the writing and see how the venue affects it. What works?  
Breaking Out of Writer’s Block (Apryl Duncan)

Common Causes
Unrealistic Goals
Neglecting Our Writing

The Cure
Change of Scenery
Rewrite Another’s Work
Use Real Pictures
Object Focus
Building Blocks
Life Events
Butt OUT of Chair (L.S. Taylor)

Yes, L.S discusses something I’m in dire need of: exercise.

  • Resistance Training
  • Sports
  • Water
  • Sleep
  • Stretching

Fear – And How It Affects Writers (Laura E. Bradford) 
Fear leads to stagnation.

Stagnation leads nowhere.

… fear also leads to writers closing Word documents and saying "Maybe tomorrow. Maybe next week."

… take that fear and put it into your work. Don't let it paralyze you. View it as something positive--something to help you improve.

Healthy Eyes: Tips for Reducing Eye Strain (Robyn Chausse) 
In this article, Robyn discusses:

  • Office Ergonomics
  • Rest and Exercise
  • The Stretch
  • Zen Vision
  • The Painter
  • Lubricate

Knowing Your Personality Type Can Make You A Better Writer--Here's How

The Keirsey Temperament Test is a well known psychological test derived from Jungian psychological theory.  Through a series of short questions, the test will assign you a basic personality type--there are 16 possible types. Finding out your personality type can provide insights into your writing style, its strengths and its weaknesses.  If you are having problems with deadlines, writer’s block, or other wiring related difficulties, this test might lead to a solution.

Note from Penny:  This is pretty cool.  There’s a link to the test, which takes 10 minutes or so.  After you take the test, click the link called Your Personality Type and Writing.  And then, if you want more info about personality types, there are several more links to check out.

After you take the Kiersey Temperament Test, you might be interested in Andrea Wenger’s posts about the 16 Writing Personalities.

Music Affects My Writing (Steven Symes)

Part of my writing methodology involves music, since I have found music to be one of my writing muses.

I actually create a soundtrack or a playlist of songs. … I listen to different parts of the soundtrack or score as I write different parts of the story, since the music has the general feel I want to create for the story.”

Plotters vs Pantsers: How to Make Sure Writers Block Doesn’t Kill Your Dream (Glen C. Strathy)

Novel writers fall into two basic camps. On the one hand, plotters are those writers who like to plan their novels from beginning to end before they start writing. Pantsers (or pantsters), on the other hand, simply sit down and start writing, trusting that they will figure everything out as they go along. (The name comes from the fact that they write by the seat of their pants.) Both approaches have their advantages at certain times, but both can fall prey to different forms of writer’s block, which can prevent them from finishing their novel.

Fortunately, whether you are a plotter or a pantser, you can avoid this problem by knowing when to adopt a little bit of the opposite approach. 
Sensory Tips for the Distractible Writer (Therese Walsh)

I am so distractible. Dealing with that aspect of myself is one of my greatest challenges as a writer. Though my doc has assured me that I do not have an adult version of ADD, I’ve wondered a time a two.

Being distractible can be caused by a whole slew of things—like genetics, parenthood, stress, and anxiety—but that doesn’t mean you can’t do anything about it.

Check out Therese’s article for more tips:
  • Minimize visual distractions
  • Maximize visual helpers
  • Minimize auditory distractions
  • Maximize auditory helpers
  • Maximize olfactory helpers
  • Maximize gustatory helpers

That Only Happens to Other People! - When Tragedy Affects a Writer's Livelihood (Karen Carver)

"What if" you were in an accident or came home from the military missing one or both hands? "What if" you were diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis, Parkinson's Disease, Diabetes, or Multiple Sclerosis? And what if you were a worker who made his or her living solely from writing or data entry? What if an accident or disease were to dramatically affect or possibly cut you off from doing what you love - writing? And what about that loss of income?

Writers' Dreams – How Do Dreams Affect the Writing Process (Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen)

Stephen King – Part of my function as a writer is to dream awake

James Hall – The more you pay attention to your dreams, the more you seem to dream or the more you recall what you’ve dreamed  
Writing Ergonomics: Top Tips for Proper Posture, Alignment, and Movement (John Soares)

Freelance writers and everyone who writes or works at a computer needs to pay attention to proper body posture/position, alignment, and movement — if you want to be a faster writer and be a happier writer, you must learn about ergonomics.
  • Your Writing Chair
  • Your Writing Posture
  • Your Typing Hands
  • Movement at the Computer
  • Using a Laptop

I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Getting into the medieval mind-set

In researching for the medieval period, I work hard to learn as much as possible about the life led at that time. I have a lot of research about how the basic society functioned, the attitudes toward men and women, etiquette rules, clothing, how the hair was worn, the political environment, common jobs, basic lingo, and many other pieces of helpful information. All of this is needed in order to create a believable and fairly accurate presentation of the period.

I also enjoy finding trivia things for different time periods. Today I'm sharing some interesting items I learned about the Middle Ages.

Animals could be put on trial for crimes against people. The accused animals, believed to be servants of the devil, were brought to court, a lawyer was appointed, and they were tried for their crime. Rodents, birds and insects were tried in absentia. Larger domestic animals, including pigs, bulls, cows, sheep and dogs appeared in court. Some animals were found innocent, granted pardons or reprieves. Some wild animals were excommunicated by the church. If they were found guilty, they could be sentenced to death. Hundreds of animals were executed by hanging. ;

Bathing in medieval times: Medieval English people actually bathed regularly in public baths, in contrast to the belief that they rarely bathed. ;

Sex in medieval times: The Church dictated the accepted positions for having sex, believing that anything beyond the “missionary” position was unnatural and a sin. A woman using the woman on top position could receive three years’ penance. Oral intercourse and having sex from the rear could also involve being punished with three years’ penance. ;

Symbols of virility in fashion: The codpiece was a flap/pouch that could be attached to the front of the crotch of a man’s trousers to exaggerate the genitals. They were often stuffed with sawdust or cloth. And a shoe called the poulaine , with long, pointy-toes, was supposed to have suggested the size of the man’s penis. Clearly, the longer the point, the more virile the man.

Condoms in the Middle Ages: The preferred method of contraception was practicing coitus interruptus, but some men used a condom more to prevent venereal diseases. It wasn’t until the 1600s that they were used for contraception. Early condoms were made of animal bladders or intestines, snakeskin, or sheepskin tied with twine, and they were reused. ;

Spermicide for women: Women would make a “pessary” of ground dates, acacia bark and a touch of honey. The moist paste would be soaked up by wool or cloth and inserted inside the vagina.

Me, me, me, me, me!

Pat Davids here?

The question of the month is what affects my writing? That’s a loaded question this year. I could name a number of things that have affected me recently, but the biggest thing that affects how I write is...ME.

I’m the one who plays spider solitaire for hours when my deadline is looming. I’m the one who decides the kitchen floor needs scrubbing again tonight or that the closets have to be organized this very day and I must go shopping for baskets and shelves at once. I guess it’s a good thing I have deadlines or my house would never get cleaned. I’d like to blame my poor writing on something else, but I’m the one putting too few or poorly chosen words on paper.

However, the same goes for my good writing. I’m the one responsible for painting vivid scenes and happily-ever-after endings. It’s my talent, it’s my drive, it’s my dream.

My life is well suited to writing at this time. I only work at the hospital when I want to. I don’t have kids who have to be driven to ballet lessons or soccer practice, or both in one night. I’m in a good place as the writing life goes, but I honestly got more done when my writing had to be squeezed in between work and family.

Years ago, when my dreamed seemed almost within reach, when I could almost taste it, I worked harder. I wanted it so badly. Then, like a large plum falling into my lap, I got that first sale. My drive has slowly gone downhill since that time. But that’s just me. I guess I need a new plum to go after, to work for, to struggle for. I’ve always worked better under pressure.

What about you? Do you work better or less effectively under pressure? Is writing pressure or a pleasure?

Celebrating Women

Today the collective voice of women is being heard around the world, celebrating the progress we have made over the years.  At the same time, we in the U.S. celebrate the 101st birthday of Women's Right to Vote.  We are proud and grateful to those who went before us and fought to give us a voice.

We are women, hear us roar.

We are no longer the silent partners of men.  Every day, the voice of women is being heard, and one of the most powerful ways it is heard is through romance novels.

According to RWA (Romance Writers of America):
  • Romance fiction generated $1.358 billion in sales in 2010.
  • 8,240 new romance titles were released in 2010.
  • Romance fiction sales are estimated at $1.368 billion for 2011.
  • 74.8 million people read at least one romance novel in 2008. (source: RWA Reader Survey)
  • (source: Business of Consumer Book Publishing 2011)
Those statistics are nothing to ignore or deride. Romance novels, whether contemporary, historical, suspense, inspirational, paranormal, or any of many sub-genres, outsell every other fiction genre. Be proud, whether you write or read (or both!) romance.

 As romance writers, our job is to show that women are as individual as snowflakes. But whether blonde, brunette, redhead, white, black, brown, tall or short, they share one thing in common.  Our heroines prove over and over that love really can conquer all.  Our heroines' strength is a reflection of our own and lives in our souls and in our hearts.  We are the mothers, the sisters, the grandmothers, the daughters, the friends.  Without us, there would be no tomorrow.

Be proud.  Roar.
There is in every true woman's heart, a spark of heavenly fire, which lies dormant in the broad daylight of prosperity, but which kindles up and beams and blazes in the dark hour of adversity. - WASHINGTON IRVING, The Sketch Book

To Write or Not to Write? by J Vincent

Whether I write on any given day is determined by one main factor--Mindset. Perseverance and determination are a large part of that mindset. The will to do something, after all, is what drives most of us. If I decide, really make your mind up to something, I almost always succeed. Combine the will to write with waking up with a brilliant idea for your work-in-progress (WIP) and the words can hardly wait for your fingers to hit the keyboard. But how often does the brilliant idea strike? Rarely.

What else do I do to increase the chance of getting words down on the page? Setting a schedule or making goals, whichever way you want to phrase it. Like this blog. I had decided I MUST get it written earlier than the day before so I wrote it down on a schedule. I don’t feel like writing this right now but I am. Mindset.

Another thing that affects my writing in the positive column is Encouragement. This can be a good review, a compliment on my writing, someone asking a question about writing and valuing my answer, or words of understanding when it comes to writing and its inherent difficulties. Oddly enough a bad review or criticism can also nudge me to write in the “I’ll prove them wrong” mode.

Let’s say I’ve got the right mindset—determination, a schedule/goal, and encouragement. Then I awake to an allergy attack, or a bad cold, or the flu, or a sick child, significant other, or parent for whom I am responsible--these can ring a death knell on writing for the day. The best way to handle these type of situations is to just deal with them. Take my meds, drink my fluids, and provide such for the others depending on me and surrender the day to write again another. Stuff happens as they say. But if the situation is long term as in caring for another, I have had to learn to adapt. Stealing moments to write is part of “taking care of myself” in this situation. And taking care of self is of utmost importance to writing. There are times when the strongest mindset on earth won’t enable me to get some writing done. I’ve learned that beating myself up when this happens is only detrimental to moving forward and writing another day.

Also vital to my writing is saying “no” to other’s. When are you going to write if you have to bake cookies for school, take mom to the doctor, help sis with her uphostlry project and have dinner for twelve all on the same day! I used to be one of the worst at “no” saying. It did get easier with practice and with admitting I’m not superwoman. (Why did it take me sooo long to stop believing I could be her?) Believe me, even if you fit into the costume you aren’t. There’s only so many hours and so much energy. Reserve some for writing, is an important lesson I had to learn.

Plodding, slogging, trudging are some of the adjectives that come to mind when I contemplate how I decide whether to write or not. One of htese is what I usually do. Luckily, every so often comes that time when words fly onto the page—pure magic. The wonder of that convinces me to keep slogging.

It is the month of St. Pat forgive my paraphrasing— “May the plot rise up to meet you. May your computer never crash. May your characters warm your heart; may their story land on best seller lists, and until we meet again, may God give you many magic word-flying days!


This month we’re blogging about what affects our writing. I wear my heart on my sleeve so anything and everything affects me.
First the bad. Life. I’m not saying that life is all bad, but let’s be honest. Sometimes it sucks. It takes a true warrior to get out bed and face what the day offers. Sickness. Death. Job loss. Income that barely covers the bills. When was the last time you filled your gas tank? These things weigh heavy on our hearts and our minds. We’ve got responsibilities and as much as we’d like to stay home and write, most of us can’t afford to do it. But, we could, and should learn how to write around the burdens we carry on our shoulders and in our hearts. If only we could learn how to bottle all that emotion and pour it out when we need that depth for our characters. Our manuscripts would come alive before our eyes.
And now the good. Life. I’m not saying that life is all good, but let’s be honest. Sometimes it’s just so awesome we can’t stop smiling. Wedding and babies renew our hope. Promotions at work. An evening out with friends. Finding a dollar in our pocket. Getting a bargain. Finishing yet another chapter of our work in progress. These things should be celebrated. Sprinkling positive life experiences into our manuscripts builds up to the happily-ever-after we hope to end with. It's the light at the end of the tunnel. It's what romance writers strive for.

It's what I hope for all of us.