Today’s guest blogger is award-winning author Jayme
Mansfield. Her newest book, Rush, released this month, and Jayme is giving away
a free copy. To enter the drawing, leave a comment below and include your email address.
By Jayme H. Mansfield
Once again, Halloween has come and gone. Although it
isn’t my favorite holiday, it provides a fun excuse to dress up and be someone
else for a change.
But for us fiction writers, we have a little secret …
we “dress up” and become different
characters all the time. Now, I’m not saying put on a cowboy hat or a Batman mask,
or swipe on a little face paint, or slip on a furry bunny suit. Instead, when
it’s time to delve into the world of fiction, create a full-blown story, and
hang out with your characters over the course of thousands of words, it’s time
to put on the full disguise—the internal and external persona that makes
characters come alive.
This is an exciting and revealing place to start. Instead
of determining your character’s hair and eye color, height, choice of shoes,
straight versus crooked teeth … you get what I mean ... first go inside the heart,
mind, and soul. You won’t know everything
yet—as the character must grow and change over the course of the book—but
you’ll discover that what’s on the inside impacts what’s on the outside.
A Few Thoughts to Consider:
What does she think about when she can’t sleep at
What’s in her dreams?
When she isn’t speaking, what is she thinking,
When she looks in the mirror, whom does she really
What does she wrestle with that no one else would
suspect or see on the outside?
What's her demeanor with others versus when she is
Does her past haunt or help her?
What is the “hole” in her heart?
Now, like a favorite sweater, turn your character inside
out and see what’s there. The color and texture is slightly different, yet made
from the same fabric. What’s on the inside of your character that might dictate
outward appearance and actions?
Perhaps your character’s rough upbringing results in
unshaven stubble on a daily basis. Or, toss in a juxtaposition and instead, he
is obsessed with immaculate hygiene to compensate for an out-of-control and
messy childhood or past marriage.
Maybe your high-powered executive refuses to wear high
heels so she can walk quickly every place she goes, but is actually fearful of
who or what may be after her.
Don’t forget the eyes. There is truth that they are the
windows to the soul. What color and shape are your character’s eyes? Are they
adorned with wrinkles of age and wisdom, glassy and dull with despair, or
bright and youthful with hope and anticipation? Maybe your character chooses to
wear dark sunglasses. Hmm?
If becoming one character isn’t fun enough, we fiction
writers get to trade out personas and switch to other characters—try on their
pants, walk in their shoes, and wear their hat, so to speak. It’s quite a
thrill to get to know others so well. And if you really want to get wild, take
a whirl at writing in first person POV (point of view). But I’ll warn you, you may
begin to look, feel, act, and believe that you actually are that person. Let’s
just hope it isn’t the antagonist!
What ways do you get to know your characters inside and
Jayme H. Mansfield is an author, artist, and educator—and
feels a bit incomplete when she’s not juggling all three balls. Jayme H. Mansfield is an author, artist, and
educator—and feels a bit incomplete when she’s not juggling all three balls.
Her award-winning debut novel, Chasing
the Butterfly, is a book club favorite and Amazon bestseller. Her new
novel, RUSH, provides a tension-filled,
moving tale of a pioneer woman’s determination to survive. The story is based
on the life of Jayme's great-great grandmother.
Jayme lives in Lakewood, Colorado, where she and her husband
have survived raising three hungry, hockey-playing sons. Currently, a very
needy Golden Retriever runs the roost. When Jayme isn’t writing, she teaches
art to children and adults at her long-time art studio, Piggy Toes.
Visit Jayme at www.jaymehmansfield.com
and sign up for her entertaining newsletter about writing, art, and education.
November has descended upon us like fallen leaves piled high in a myriad of colors, and as the sun sets each night, I can't help but notice the golden hue beaming through the trees like liquid gold. I can't explain how it makes me feel other than to say I am reminded of God's goodness.
Once again, He has proven Himself faithful, even when I may have proven unfaithful for the zillionth time. Sometimes in life, I lack in stewarding my gifts and talents. At least I imagine I do. Did I write that novel like I promised I would? Did I succeed at what I put my hands to do? Did I do what God requested of me, or did I choose my own path through 2017? Or any other year, for that matter? These questions rise within me at this time of year, and I figure I'm not alone.
Stewardship has been solid on my heart this year as I've struggled to walk in obedience to the things God has called me to do: write, make healthier eating/exercise choices, and get my finances in better order. I have a confession: I'm not sure I've been a great steward in any of these areas this year. But God. Despite my shortcomings, He is merciful. He is gracious. He is blessing. He is pouring out favor. And He is ever faithful.
And the year isn't over yet.
I've found some successes. Maybe I'm being too hard on myself. Maybe I've found the successes He hoped I would, and I set my own expectations too high. As a perfectionist, I aim to please, and I push myself beyond my personal, comfortable limits. High Achiever could be the title of my autobiography, if only I truly believed I met my own goals. Instead, I look back on my year and note what I didn't accomplish rather than all I did accomplish. And I momentarily forget the struggles I've faced in the past ten months as well. Life never goes as I plan it. And I remember grace. I remember I don't have to be perfect. I don't have to believe I haven't achieved anything I set my heart and mind to do. Because the truth is, I have achieved more than I thought I could or would. Because I don't walk this path alone. I walk it alongside Father, who holds my hand and guides me into His will.
And I have two more months to do even more. Because I am thankfully called to write. And it's November, which means I have thirty days to write the very rough and down and dirty draft of that novel that He's put in my heart. That I've pondered for two months, itching to put words on the screen, to replace the blinking cursor with the blessing of story. That I know I'm supposed to get out of the very depths of my soul, to breathe life into, and to eventually present to the world. And I am thankful that the calendar has turned a page and NaNoWriMo has begun. No more waiting. Let the writing begin.
And may I glorify the Father who has blessed me with the gifts and talents He poured into me when He formed me in my mother's womb. I pray the same for you as you look forward to the end of another year and what you have left to accomplish and look back on what you've done thus far. May God grace you with strength, determination, endurance, and the gift of time.
Helen Keller once said, “I cried because
I had no shoes until I met a man who had no feet.”
I recently underwent a corneal transplant which resulted in
using only one eye for a couple of weeks, then not seeing clearly for several
more. When my vision finally began to improve, it was necessary to stick with
my old glasses for at least three months until my vision “settled.” Needless to
say, it was not an easy task.
Not a good scenario for a writer and editor who spends most of
her time on the computer.
A week after my surgery, my friend Cindy Sproles underwent a
serious surgery of her own where they literally drilled a hole in her skull to
correct a hearing problem. After the surgery, her hearing in that ear was only
about 10 percent. She had to wait, as I did, for healing to occur.
Not a good scenario for someone who works part-time, leads a
ministry, serves as a managing editor for a publishing company, and teaches at
A few weeks after our surgeries, Cindy asked how I was doing.
She said, “I can see and you can hear. Together, we make a whole person.”
Funny story, but it made me think about how easy it is to take what we have for
The truth is God has given each of us gifts. Writers have the
ability to craft stories and pen words that will touch the hearts of readers.
Editors have an eye for detail and structure and can help polish the prose of
writers. Some have the gift of a listening ear, while others possess the
ability to encourage those who are struggling. Within the writing and
publishing industry, there are many gifts: marketing and promotion, design,
teaching, mentoring, managing projects, social media, putting together
workshops and conferences, and a host of behind-the-scene projects and
The Bible tells us we are one
body in Christ Jesus (Romans 12:5 NKJV). In verse 15, we’re told to be
happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep (NLT). All the
parts of His body are connected, and each part depends on the other. That means
our gifts are to be used and shared with each other.
Many times, we fail to look at
our gifts as we should. We might feel entitled, take them for granted, or push
them aside, planning to use them tomorrow.
In Matthew 25:14-30, Jesus tells
the story of three servants who were given talents, or gifts, according to
their individual ability. Two handled theirs correctly while the third man
buried his. In the end, not only did he lose it, it was given to one of the
others who used his as expected.
After two eye surgeries, I will
never take my sight for granted. I’m sure Cindy would say the same about her
hearing. In the same way, I never want to take the gifts God has given me as a
writer for granted. He gives to us so that we might expand His kingdom, bring
glory to Him, and bless others. When we bury our gifts—whether from fear,
timidity, or procrastination—we rob ourselves and others of God’s blessings.
When we use what He has given us to the best of our ability and invest in the
lives of others, we bring honor and glory to the giver of every good and perfect gift (James 1:17 NIV).
Today we welcome Katy Kauffman as our guest blogger. By Katy Kauffman
I normally don’t buy a book unless the first paragraph wows
me. Do you?
A captivating first paragraph draws readers into your world of
ideas and principles, stories and lessons. Whether you’re writing a memoir, a
devotional, a Bible study, a Christian living book, or any other kind of
nonfiction book, craft a first paragraph that wows readers and makes them want
to step into your “world.” Here’s how.
Don’t bog your readers down with too much detail in the first
paragraph. This is your chance to open the door that looks into your world of
ideas. Don’t make the door too heavy to budge.
Don’t tell them that they need your book—share a story that
illustrates why they do. Or give an alarming statistic. Include a picture of
the people you’re writing about. Let your readers “see” with their mind’s eye
why they need to keep reading your book.
As you paint a picture of why potential readers should buy
your book, use the best colors. Pick vibrant words to make your point. Use bold
strokes to get their attention when needed, and finish the paragraph with
subtle movements to keep them reading. Don’t give away everything in the first
paragraph, but gently point them to the next one. Keep them moving through your
world of illustrations and ideas.
the mind, and touch the heart.
When people consider buying a nonfiction book, they are probably
wanting to deepen their knowledge of a particular subject. So engage their
brains. But don’t forget to engage their hearts. People are often motivated to
action because they sympathize with a need, hate an injustice, worry about a
problem, or love a cause. Connect with their minds and their hearts as you introduce your subject. You will probably
need your whole first page to do this, but get started in the first paragraph
as you share a story, give an alarming statistic, or ask a thought-provoking question.
most effective voice.
What voice, or style of writing, best suits your purposes? If
you’re seeking to warn, find the wording that acts as a wake-up call to the
reader. If your purpose is to encourage, write as though you are speaking to a
friend. If you’re sharing a story to begin your book, be the narrator that
peers into the lives of the people you’re describing and unfolds the plot layer
by layer. Choose the right voice that will appeal to your target audience and
will effectively deliver your message.
Which of these 5 elements would you like to see in a book’s
first paragraph? Which appeals the most to you? Share in the comments below,
and happy writing.
A captivating first paragraph—never write a book without it!
(Photo courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net/David Castillo Dominici and nanetus.)