Monday, November 13, 2017

How to Be Your Characters – Inside and Out

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.


What’s Inside?
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 yetas 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 night? 
  • What’s in her dreams?
  • When she isn’t speaking, what is she thinking, feeling?
  • When she looks in the mirror, whom does she really see?
  • 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 alone?
  • Does her past haunt or help her?
  • What is the “hole” in her heart?

Inside Out 
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?

Wardrobe Switch
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 out? 

(Photos courtesy of Pexel and author.)

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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.
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Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Thankfully Called to Write

by Alycia Morales     @AlyciaMorales

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.

The year isn't over yet. Have you met your #writing goals? via @AlyciaMorales {Click to Tweet}

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.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Don't Take Your Gift for Granted

By Andrea Merrell
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 writers’ conferences.

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 granted.

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 activities.

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).

Writer, what is your gift? Maybe you have many. Whether you excel at writing devotions, crafting exciting novels, creating interesting blog posts, giving encouraging critiques, or praying for others, look for ways to use your gifts to bless the body of Christ, and never take them for granted.

Remember this—a farmer who plants only a few seeds will get a small crop. But the one who plants generously will get a generous crop (2 Corinthians 9:6 NLT).

Can you share a time when you’ve used your gift/gifts to bless others? We would love to hear from you.


Photos courtesy of (FreeDigitalPhotos.net/Stuart Miles and adamr.)


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Tuesday, October 10, 2017

How to Write a Captivating First Paragraph

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.

Write tight.
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.

Show, don’t tell.
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.

Be an artist.
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.

Engage 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.

Use the 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.)


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Katy Kauffman is an award-winning author, an editor of
Refresh Bible Study Magazine, and a co-founder of Lighthouse Bible Studies. She has taught the Bible to women and teens, and her Bible studies focus on winning life’s spiritual battles. Katy is a regular contributor to the Write Conversation and to two websites for young women. Connect with her at her blog, Life with God, and on Facebook

Monday, October 2, 2017

Square Peg ... Round Hole

By Andrea Merrell

We’ve all heard it said … you can’t fit a square peg in a round hole. Unless, of course, you intend to shave off the edges, totally changing the attributes and character of the peg.

Every one of us has our heroes, our mentors, and those we want to emulate. And we all want to fit in. But sometimes—instead of learning and gaining inspiration from those we idolize—we try to become just like them instead of who God created us to be. We can get so caught up in what God is doing in others that we totally miss what He’s trying to do in us.

The truth is we’re all called by God for a purpose. Here are some wise words by pastor and author Bob Gass:

God knows what you were born to be and provided everything you’d need to fulfill your life’s purpose. God sanctified and set you apart. He fixed it so you wouldn’t fit in and designed you so you couldn’t rest any place He didn’t want you to be. He intended for you to wander and feel lost until you found Him. That’s why you’re uncomfortable in certain places and around certain people. It doesn’t matter how hard you try, you won’t fit in because God has set you apart for Himself. Man can ordain, but only God can foreordain. Stop worrying about who does or does not recognize your gifts.

Still not convinced? Here’s another quote by John Mason:

Each person has been custom-made by God the Creator. Each of us has a unique and personal call on our lives … to be our own selves and not copies of other people.

Writer, you have been called by God, and your journey is as special and precious as you are. Embrace your uniqueness. You have a story that no one else can tell. You have thoughts, feelings, experiences, and wisdom that are yours alone. Commit your gifts, talents, and abilities to God, and watch how He uses them—in your life, for His glory, and to bless others. You never know how powerful your words can be until you place them in the Creator’s hands.

Be ready at all times to follow God’s lead, not just in your writing, but in everything you do. Be like the prophet Jeremiah. God told him, “Go wherever I send you and say whatever I tell you. And don’t be afraid of the people, for I will be with you and will protect you. I, the Lord, have spoken!  (Jeremiah 1:7-8 NLT) He also told Jeremiah in verse five, "I knew you ... I sanctified you ... I ordained you."

God's way is always best. If you’re a square peg, don’t even think about trying to fit in that round hole. Keep learning, growing, and moving forward until you find that sweet spot God designed just for you. It will be a perfect fit.

What about you? Have you found that sweet spot? We would love to hear from you.

(Photos courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net/Stuart Miles and Google images.)

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