A Peak Inside the Story: R+B


You got it (or in case you missed the title and the picture ha): I’m featuring R+B on the blog today! This story still doesn’t have a name. Lovely.  Is it just me or is that one of the hardest parts? The silly TITLE. So for now, let’s call this work R+B – or Rob.


My inspiration for this story comes from a couple different places.

I read Reedeeming Love by Francine Rivers and really enjoyed the Biblical story retelling. I believe the story the author drew from was fairly vague so she had a lot of fun with the details.  Her romantic plot line…..GAAAHH   The  understanding guy.  The lost girl.  The details.  The hints.  My favorite love story by far.

And – what I love about Rivers’ writing so far – she fits God into her stories with ease, making it sound completely natural and not preachy.  So why not write my own retelling drawing from these details?

The history. The exact time period keeps changing, but I love the vintage style.  I love the old-fashioned romance.  My notes for Rob consist of Alaskan census information during the 1930s and major events in Alaskan history.  Not my favorite history topics but interesting nonetheless!

I wanted to write something new.  Something different.  My repertoire lacks a  villainless story.  Yes, there are characters against my main characters, but no big baddie with henchmen and scary entraces.

I’ve never written a story about some one’s life without adding a huge villain, so something new will be learning to keep it interesting without fight scenes (except maybe an occasional brawl with the main guy *cough cough*).


Ruth Holmes is far too young to be a widow.   When her grieving mother-in-law Mara announces she’s traveling back to her hometown, it doesn’t make life easier. Following Mara into the Alaskan wilderness, Ruth must learn how to survive in a town with a surplus of rough trackers and miners where the only gentleness is in the peaceful stream flowing beside her tent.  

Born and raised in a cabin outside a growing Alaskan town, Harrison Boaz’s life changes when he earns a share of his father’s farm land.  He soon discovers this new business to drain his freedom and squash his mountain adventures out of existence. Fighting the tug of the wilderness, Harrison struggles to fulfill his duty of keeping the family business strong.


The starring lady in Rob is Ruth Holmes. She looks a little murderous upset in this picture but still resembles Ruth slightly.

She’s young, stubborn, slow to seek friendships, and perhaps – with what few friends she has-  loyal to a fault.  And VERY underdeveloped…


Harrison Boaz:  gentle and quiet, yet adventurous.  Also,  he may (hopefully!) have his own POV in a couple chapters.


This picture from Pinterest is my original inspiration for what Ruth and Harrison look like. Especially the red nails and lipstick and the peacefulness.




The rest of the cast is a little rough right now…but these three have definitely made their way into the story: a nosy businessman from out of town, a girl with a talent for trouble, and a not-so-wise mentor.

PicMonkey Collage5.jpg



wilderness.  animal tracks.  mud.  coffee on the stove.  cinnamon.   freshly cut crops.  white tents.  dust-covered faces.  dogs.  cold streams.  warm fires. 


Rob is in the DRAFT 1 stage right now.  After plotting, I gave in and created a scene list so I could (hopefully) eliminate some wasted time staring at my computer screen, thinking of what to write next.

Goal words:  75,000ish
Genre:  Romance, Christian

I’d like to push up the goal words once the first draft is done, but for now 75K is longer than any previous story I’ve written.


GUYS.  I can’t wait to write a romance.  Writing the scenes that are SO ANNOYING to read. You know the ones – where the couple is so amazingly close to looking at each other and then…..they don’t.  It makes the end so much more fulfilling.  Unless it’s one of those stories that ends with the main character dying *wink wink*

Also, the different plot lines.  I have several lines that will be so fun to intertwine so the focus isn’t completely on the two main characters.  Throw some politics and craziness in there to mix things up.

Annndd there’s Rob!  Messy and thrown-together with underdeveloped characters, but I’m excited!

What is your current story about?  What stage are you in: plotting, drafting, editing?



Writing Buddies & Why You Need One


When writing The Dove of Hope, I had a full-time buddy that chatted with me on Google Hangouts every day.  We talked through plot problems, shared our favorite writing excerpts, and celebrated break throughs.  We both wrote 50K words that month and both finished our FIRST full-length novel (YAY!).

Now my “writing buddies” are whoever will listen! I grabbed my sisters (11 and 13) to help me outline R+B, a recent story idea.

SIDE NOTE: One of my favorite writing tips is think of what the reader would expect, and make the opposite happen.  

So I talked through a few scenes in R+B and asked my sisters what they thought would happen next or how a certain character would react.  Lemme tell you, it was SO MUCH MORE HELPFUL than I thought.  Originally, I thought I would listen to what they thought would happen and switch it up so readers wouldn’t expect the plot.

A few times they came up with the same thing I had outlined, so I made a note and moved on.  But the rest of the time – oh my goodness, they gave me such exciting ideas!!

So, here are the reasons why YOU need a buddy when writing – and like my sisters, they don’t have to be writers themselves.

 A fresh look is ALWAYS helpful.

I think we’ll all agree that it’s both ridiculously hard yet necessary to let someone read your work. Whether it’s during the outlining process or during DRAFT 5, you need it. Whenever you prefer to share your work.  A new set of eyes will help you find plot holes and weak characters.

 In the blogging world, it seems much easier to find people willing to talk which is a huge bonus to blogging for both writers who have support at home and those who don’t!

Encouragement is a must.

Seeing someone get excited after reading your story is amazing.  Yes, it’s hard to let someone in, but you’ll be glad you did.

My sisters have read (without my knowledge at the time…..girls)  a few of my stories. And the fact that they remember little things about the characters makes me SO SO happy.

You can work through problems.

Just like having my sisters’ opinions during outlining -it’ll save some time if you know your plot isn’t predictable BEFORE the words are on paper.

If you’re frustrated trying to figure out how to make your villain seem creepy or your climax more powerful, ask for ideas.

You don’t have to be an unsociable hermit.

We’ve all seen it happen during NaNoWriMo.  You lock yourself away, fingers flying, eyes locked on the screen.  Let’s not even talk about that last day when you’re scrambling to meet the goal and  may or may not be heard from for hours.

With a buddy, it forces you to come back to reality and chat – which is important.  And this is coming from an introvert 😉

It’s a 2 way street.

If you have a friend who is writing a story, then not only do you get help writing your masterpiece but you get to experience some one else’s amazing work! It’s so exciting to see my 11 year old sister ask for character name ideas for her own story after she helps me with mine. ❤


So next time you’re having some trouble with your plot, find someone willing to listen and start brainstorming! ((An amazing place to do this with online buddies is here – NaNoWriMo.org))

Do you have a writing buddy? Have you ever written a collab story (a HUGE goal of mine)?


The Importance of Planning

When I started the September writing challenge, I took a step back and evaluated my current novels for several hours. Attempted to plan and organize my ideas, I looked over my plots, settings, characters,  etc.  This led to lots of changes. A lot.  Despite not writing anything in September,  the changes I made will help in the future when I do finally sit down and write.


Take The Davidson Effect. I almost threw out the entire story. Instead, I took out four main-ish characters, threw two of them into another story and the other two into my “character pit” for later use.


The Stone Brothers? Changed the time period by 60 years. Considered (still am) taking out the two main characters. Added two characters from TDE into this story.  The new characters are actually going to visit the coffee shop (the main setting) from From Behind the Counter since they’re now in the same time period.  I love it when I can casually connect characters across novels!

Magical bird takes flight.

The Dove of Hope: changed the personality of the main character, developed all characters and plot more, and actually created an in-depth outline. Made the story more “mature” instead of sticking to my 13-year-old mind’s view of what makes a story exciting and interesting.

I cleaned up the Pinterest storyboards as well, cutting TDE down from about 422 pins to 120.  Now everything feels crisp and new!  My novels are slightly more planned now.

Even as a pantser,  I can appreciate how this helps.  Just like in chess, you have to plan your moves in advance to save you trouble later on.  Ignoring my lame attempt to connect the picture with the post (it’s late….), here are a few advantages of planning:


// It helps create a more complex story.  Most people plan a couple scenes in their head before they write, but I’m talking about taking a look at each piece of the novel briefly.  Characters, plot lines, resolutions, surprises, relationships, etc.  It doesn’t have to be long, but try to figure out how each aspect of your novel is going to connect.

// You can decide what’s needed and what’s not before you start writing.  Granted, there will be things you have to remove and redo in your story afterwards but you could save yourself a little editing time if you determine beforehand whether or not to remove that one random character.

// You can evaluate the complete story.  I don’t know about you but when I wing it, I tend to forgot a few things.  With TDE, I rewrote the story several times and it just never worked.  Examining the story before I dive into writing yet another draft helped me determine what wasn’t working.  You don’t have to hope something will workout.

// You can avoid several roadblocks.  One of the fun things about being a pantser is even you don’t know what’s going to happen before you write it. It’s exciting to not have an idea before you get there.  Staring at a blank screen because you’re not sure where to go next, however, doesn’t help the story get done. If you write down a brief overview of a couple scenes (doesn’t have to be detailed or EVERY scene) you have in mind, it helps keep the story moving.  You may have an easier time transitioning from scene to scene if you know where you’re headed.

All of this said, you can’t plan everything.  Those times always come up when you’re a couple hours into writing, brow furrowed, eyes locked on the screen, cold tea beside you, enthralled in the story, and you add an impromptu plot twist or a new character.

What do you think about organizing before writing? Are you a planner or a pantser?

Camp NaNoWriMo – September Edition

So there’s not technically a NaNoWriMo in September (it’s definitely not the national novel month). But, hey, they already have Camp NaNoWriMo so why not just take the challenge whenever you feel like it?


I’m not going to sound like a broken record and describe how I missed writing while at camp but one thing’s for sure. I need to write. Big time.

(Oo and I’m writing a big end-of-summer camp post now – just waiting on pictures!)

This entire summer three stories needed to get out of my head and onto paper and two of them have been bugging me for years. I’m writing them this month because, despite school starting, I don’t have a huge work load (yay for gap year/breakish thing!). I have told myself this so many times but hopefully this time, with the blog, I can stay on target and at least get some words down on paper.


…And being the procrastinator/non-planning type I am, I just decided to make my own challenge today, ten days before September, so here goes nothing!

the stories

The Davidson Effect and The Dove of Hope. Both stories that I’ve written before and *ahem* did not cooperate. TDOH has one complete draft from 2012 that I’m rewriting and TDE needs a whole new first draft. Yay.

The third story is a children’s story about a bear cub. That’s all I have so far haha. The main purpose of this story is to draw my own illustrations to go along with it.

the plan

I’ll be treating this month just like a Camp NaNoWriMo: make my own goal and try to reach that goal in one month.  For this challenge, I’m going to low-ball it….20 K words. That’s about 667 words per day.

The goal is to pick one story and write the entire 20K words on that plot, but it may turn out to be words strewn here and there between the three stories. That’s the fun in not planning until right before the challenge I suppose!

Are you doing any challenges this month? What stories have been itching at your brain?


Sorry for the short post! I’ve been home for 10 days today and can’t wait to tell you guys about camp. I just need those photos from the camp photographer *crosses fingers they’re posted soon*.

Tips on Character Creation //Guest Post: Abigayle Ellison

A couple weeks ago, I wrote a post on developing characters – a.k.a my favorite part of writing!  They are the core of any novel.  If your character can’t win the hearts of readers, chances are the readers won’t read his or her story.

Creating interesting characters, however, can be tough.  And every writer develops their characters differently, which is why I asked my friend and fellow blogger, Abigayle from The Left-Handed Typist, to share her thoughts on how to create great characters.

Without further ado, here’s Abi!


Hello, everyone! I am so happy to be doing a guest post for Madison today! One of the most important elements of your story is having strong characters. Unfortunately, while they can be born overnight, they need time to grow just like real people do. These are some ways I help develop my characters. 🙂

I have found that one of the most important things to do before planning a character is to know their environment. That seems reasonable enough, doesn’t it? Well, what this means for me is that I have to conceptualize a basicplot with a beginning, climax, goal, and ending. While it may seem like a lot of unnecessary, preparatory work, it will save you time in the end. Imagine having to rewrite a character because all the sudden the plot is going somewhere they wouldn’t. Oops.

The first thing I always do when I actually get to brainstorming a character is decide what they are going to look like. Appearance is so important! I think it’s even more important in a novel, because, unlike a movie, you can’t take it all in at once. Instead you get to feed it to the reader gradually. Still, appearance is rarely a conscious decision, as a character usually comes to me with a face. However, you would not believe how smart it is to write all the details of that image down. I can never keep the eye colors of my characters straight! In fact, that is one of the key things I do: write it downThis may be even more important to do with characters who are less prominent. They may need a defining feature to stand out in the reader’s mind and you’ll want to write that down, too.

The next thing I need to consider is personality. While some characters come in a package deal and never need much thoughtful development, that is rarely the case with a main character. Main characters need special attention and love. One of the best things I have found to make myself form the person before sticking them in testing situations is to answer a series of questions. Character charts can be very helpful for this (Google fictional character charts), as can putting your character through the Meyers-Briggs personality test. I like to be prepared before I start writing. 😉

After this basic development, I have to throw my character into the playing field. However, I like to be somewhat of a plotter. So, I give characters tests in my head. I try them out in scenes I’ve come up with and go through it all a million different ways until I’m comfortable with how each character responds and takes action. I’ve been complimented for having such solid first drafts. That is because they are the first written drafts. Every major scene has passed at least a dozen drafts in my head. I find that the most natural time to do this for me is at night when I should be sleeping instead of directing my mental novel film. Don’t ever pass by the chance to try it out when you’re in the perfect environment, even if it does mean trying out the different reactions on your face . . . in public. You know it’s worth it!

It is only at this point that I feel any character auditioning to be my lead lord or lady has the right to appear in my first draft. Now, for those of you who like to jump in cold turkey (pantsers), don’t worry! I have never known anyone to be able to start a story without an idea of what it’s about and who’s in it. Even if you don’t realize it, your brain has probably already decided on appearance, personality, and the like. I just like to go over it intentionally before I get started. If your characters form better under the pressure of your pen than the command of your brain, that’s perfectly fine. Do what you need to do. The point is that at the end of the day, you have a character that has formed into someone strong, unique, and impressive at the expense of your toil and tears. If your current method isn’t working for you, get creative! Maybe you need to just jump in, or maybe some more planning would benefit you.

How do you create strong characters?


Thank you, Abi, for the wonderful tips!! And for being my first ever guest writer! *squeals*  Be sure to check out her blog, The Left-Handed Typist, to read more of her posts.

6 Steps to Developing a Character: Featuring Hunter Bruckman

My favorite part of writing isn’t writing the actions or humorous dialogue between characters or shoving my characters together (although those are all fun). My favorite part is coming up with the characters and trying to make them as complex and real as possible.  I love it.  It’s probably why I have tons of characters planned but have only finished a couple stories: the planning is just so much more fun.  Developing different types of people for stories stimulates my creative side which is fantastic.  I get to decide every little thing about them!

To help me out with this post, I’m using my favorite character, Hunter Bruckman, from The Davidson Effect.

The steps to developing a fun character can be summed up in six steps.


Step 1: Start with an idea.

When coming up with a character, you most likely already have some idea of how this character will act or what role they will play. For Hunter, he was a character who was going to oppose the protagonist, Travis, in The Davidson Effect. He wasn’t necessarily evil or the antagonist, but he hindered and disapproved of Travis’ reckless behavior. Who do you want your character to be? The love interest? The faithful sidekick? Or are they just a character who pops in the story? Regardless of what you choose, this character will have some effect on the other characters.

Step 2: Find a name.

Next, choose a name for your new baby.  I tend to use names of people I know when I accidentally  base the character on them but random name generators like this one come in handy when a spontaneous character comes into the story (some of these spur-of-the-moment characters have become my main characters in other stories!). For Hunter, I used a random name generator to find a first name and shifted through the last names until I found one that went well with “Hunter.”

Step 3: Put a face to the name.

One of my favorite steps in developing a character is finding an actor/actress to “play” them in the novel.  Just having a picture in your mind or even a random lady or gentleman from a stock image works, but I prefer finding someone who gets their picture taken often. That way I can find dozens of pictures of them showing different emotions while playing different roles and sporting different looks. It helps me to better picture the actions of my character in my head if I have a visual.

In Hunter’s case, I used both actors and a picture in my head because no actor seemed to fit him exactly at first. I went through several actors that looked sort of like him. He has a dark tan, black hair, and is built like a soldier – well, he is a soldier.

PicMonkey Collage

I finally found an actor, the adorable Bob Morley, that fits him exactly! Every once in a while, I find another guy who reminds me of Hunter so I add him to my TDE Pinterest board (if you don’t have a Pinterest board for your novel, you should!) but Bob Morley is my go-to search if I need new pictures of Hunter.

PicMonkey Collage1

Step 4: Give the character at least three strong attributes.

This step goes hand-in-hand with Step 1. Now is the time to get a concrete idea of what role the character will play in the story. How do they appear to others in the story?  Are they sarcastic? Are they a good teacher? Are they clumsy and nervous? Nail down three ways the other characters might describe your new character.

You want to choose three attributes because one or two just isn’t enough. People have more than one side.  They can be loud and funny around friends but deathly shy around strangers.

Hunter is stoic and judgmental but is a good leader. A bonus – when you come up with these attributes, there will be consequential characteristics that you’ll notice. Hunter is a good leader so he is patient and won’t give up on another character (consequences of being a leader), even if he is verbally judging their work.

Step 5: Add some random attributes and causes.

Now that you have at least three strong attributes, it’s time to give the character some secondary ones. These range from weaknesses and fears to likes and dislikes to secret hobbies and past times. Not every grumpy person acts mad and shallow all the time so you need to give your character some habits and characteristics that appear when they aren’t grumpy.  Even if you don’t share with your readers that your character used to watch Man vs Wild, it will bleed through when your character knows what plant is safe to eat when they’re lost in wilderness.

For example, Hunter is very stoic but he loosens up and relaxes around his partner, Ellie.  He isn’t afraid to tell others just how he disapproves of their behavior *cough* Travis *cough* but he’s quiet when in the presence of an authority. Despite his powerful and sometimes scary actions, he has a soft spot for children because he lost his mother and wants them to feel comfortable when he wasn’t. There are exceptions to his strongest attributes and some things that overpower his normal behavior.

Remember to come up with a reason/cause to why your character acts the way he does.

  • Action:  Your character knows how to build a fire.
  • Cause:  Your character’s father used to take the family on camping trips.
  • Weakness: Your character is afraid of water.
  • Cause: Your character almost drowned as a child.
  • Knowledge: Your character is an expert on a certain type of plane.
  • Cause: They once got stuck next to a pilot on a train ride and got lectured about his work.

Make them as random as you want!

Step 6: Play around with situations & write!

Finally have fun with the character and see what happens.  Stick them in imaginary situations that may not happen in your story and see how they change in front of you.  A lot of times once you start writing they change by themselves. Without you thinking, your English teacher has a Scottish accent and your pirate decides they have a secret fear of water. You’ll learn more about your character and they’ll become more complex as you write. I’ve had characters change gender, gain and lose siblings, go from a futuristic world to modern day, switch from secondary character to main character, gain 100+ pounds, fall in love with an unplanned character, etc.

Now I don’t follow these steps in order every time I make a character.  When I created Hunter, I was playing around with a story with a fellow writer. We came up with a situation and put our two characters (Mine: Travis, Hers: Ellie). Neither of us had used those characters before so we just went along with the story. Ellie finds Travis unconscious in the snow and when he wakes up, he explains he was knocked out from behind and needed to get back to a base not far from them. By the end of the story, Ellie had been “fired” from serving at the base as a teen soldier when her partner and friend, Hunter (hey!), was supposedly killed.  She found out he wasn’t dead when I made up Hunter and we also found out that they had been love interests. Hunter was a spur-of-the-moment character and all it took to come up with him was one situational story!

After the story, I gave him a last name and found a face to the image I had made up in my head.  The attributes and secondary characteristics came up during the story when either I or the girl I was writing with wrote dialogue as if the two characters had known each other for years, mentioning something personal about the other character.

If you have someone to brainstorm with, it makes coming up with a complex character much easier. If not, these steps have worked with nearly every other character I’ve come up with.

Thanks for your help, Hunter!


How do you come up with characters? Do you like to plan them out or start writing from scratch?

A Peak Inside the Story: The Davidson Effect

So far there have been a random toss of posts – beauty (falls under the create category) , history (the learn category), and an odd “hello” post. Why not complete the mix of posting one post for each category and have something about writing? I apologize for my unorganized logic.

So let’s get things started! This little fellow  – The Davidson Effect – is my second completed not really novel. I’ve had over five gutted drafts and dozens of Google Docs filled with quotes and ideas and brainstorming. And somehow I still have no draft to edit because I can’t make up my darn mind about the plot.

To give you an idea of the story, here’s a collage (psst collages are the best).


~Meet the Characters~


The main character is Travis Davidson: a sarcastic know-nothing little squirt who is taken down his high horse (being the son of a rich city figure will do that to you. It’s not your fault, baby) throughout the story. He’s a mix of these three fellows.

This story probably has the most characters of any plot I’ve worked on so bear with me.

We have Team Travis:


Beau and Stacy are adorable, nerdy kids. Beau has always got his nose in a book and Stacy is very tech savvy. Augustus worked for Travis’ father as head of security and helps Travis escape when the fighting starts. Sebastian – or Bash – is a trainer at Fort Albatross.

The other characters, who own/live in Fort Albatross (see below) – Team Albatross:


Bernard Bruckman, a rich and influential city man, owns the old military fort on the edge of town. Hunter is his first in command, his right hand man, his first guy to yell atwhen trouble strikes….you get the idea.

Aaand Team Charries Who Can’t Decide Whether to Stay in the Story or Not and Might Make Me Write a Sequel Just for Them (Nice name, right? We’ll go with Team Sequel for short): 


As you can see, the people have no idea what they’re doing. I have a kid and grown-up version of Ryder and Lexi’s actual name is Amanda. She changed it to Lexi. Thanks for that, by the way.  Meg was supposed to be the love interest while Cat is Beau’s sister and Steven is Stacy’s brother. We’ll see if they can squeeze their way into the story without having too much going on.

I have a love-hate relationship with the ones that managed to stick with this story. It’s weird. Like I don’t like Stacy’s character as much but she needed to stay. Ugh, come on, Stacy.

~See the Location~

The story takes place in a large city called Fort Albatross, named for an old military fort on the edge of the city. After the city is attacked by mobs of masked men, some people manage to make it out of the rioting (including Travis) and are welcomed into the military fort.

There are seriously no good pictures when trying to find buildings/features in my mind. Ugh.


The fort sits on a small peninsula on the edge of a lake, a bridge branching across the span of the lake on the city-side. The training buildings and offices square around a large courtyard where training later takes place after the city is attacked. A high fence surrounds the property on the three sides that aren’t against the lake.


That’s all for now! If I keep writing, I’m afraid I’ll let something important loose. 🙂


How did you like this look into the story? Want to see more? What stories are you writing?