Avoid These Common Mistakes in Creating Characters for your Story

I do some of my best thinking
while pulling weeds.

                                Martha Smith
Many characters inhabited the early drafts of my WIP: a MG mystery. Like many of my characters’ counterparts—kids—I assigned each character a “friend,” following the example I’d seen so often of kids going around in “packs.”

What fun I had! The snappy dialogue! The endless opportunities to showcase what was on everybody’s mind! And oh, the ballooning plot--sensational! Until along came an editor who, with utmost gentleness and understanding, gave me a reality check.

Each Set of Friends Morphed into One Character

Whoa! Cut! My editor suggested I settle on one character for each set rather than have two: one sidekick for the main character, not two. One antagonist, not two. One little brother, not a little brother and his friend. I edited out the "doubles," the “extras”, and though it was painful eliminating the “friend” appeal I had created, it did clean up the story—a lot. But there was still work to be done.

Each Character Must have a Role

In narrowing down the number of characters in my story, a few things happened.

  • Though my MC’s sidekick lacked other girlfriends, their relationship became stronger. 
  • There were fewer distractions; that held true for the antagonist and the little brother, too. 
  • And then . . . I was told that the little brother would have to go. She knew this would be difficult for me. I loved this character dearly. I had rounded him out so well and he was funny. But that wasn’t enough. 
  • So, I gave him a role. In the beginning he plays a prank on the main character. For the rest of the story, he faded back into the background. Still not enough, she said. 

Each Character Must have Follow-Through

Now it’s your turn to make sure your characters have roles throughout your entire story. You do that by creating a story arc not only for your main character, but for each one of your characters. To use the bigger role I assigned to my little brother character as an example:

  • When he first appears, he brings up the mystery.
  • Early in the book, he plays a prank on the main character, which is directly related to the plot.
  • A little later, he teases her about the prank.
  • Still later, he takes part in one of the main character’s adventures.
  • And two things were added to top it off near the end: 
  • He possesses a secret of his own that he brags about to the main character and her sidekick, which is eventually revealed, and . . .
  • He receives a surprise of his own.

Writing instructors describe the creation of  characters’ story arcs in different ways. The one that has stuck with me is to view your characters’ story arcs as strings of pearls that run throughout your story.

One way you can accomplish this is to highlight your characters’ actions with different color highlighters to make sure they are not forgotten in any section of your book. While creating the story arcs for my characters, I found the dog in my story had disappeared for about thirty-five pages. I went through that section and added him in where he fit, and when he was gone from the story, showed an explanation for his whereabouts. This must be done for each character. And, for recurring items such as a key, a flashlight or a locked door, items I had to check and re-check to make sure mention of them was accurate.

A Word about Multiple Points of View

Editors say that new writers should shy away from attempting multiple points of view. They say it takes experience and skill to pull this off. A good example applies to an adult novel from Audible I recently listened to, which was told in two sisters’ alternating POV’s. There were problems. First, their names were similar, perhaps because they were sisters. I had difficulty jumping from one to other and felt confused about who was who.

The other problem was that unfortunately, I didn’t care about the sisters. The author hadn’t, in my opinion, spent enough time allowing me to get to know each of them. I almost didn’t finish the book because it became tedious rather than enjoyable.

One of my writing instructors dislikes multiple points of view because of this problem. She believes in having one main character that you as the reader can get to know, love and “get into her head” so that you experience what she experiences throughout the book.

Personally, I find novels told in multiple POV’s refreshing. I’ve enjoyed sinking myself into more than one character. But I agree with my instructor: it has to be done right. And as a beginner, I don’t plan to venture there until I have a lot more experience under my belt. But I do plan on highlighting my characters' arcs and making sure they have ongoing roles tied to the plot.

Photo: By Linda Wilson
First Book: Almost Done

Linda Wilson, a former elementary teacher and ICL graduate, has published over 100 articles for adults and children, and six short stories for children. Recently, she has completed her first book, a mystery/ghost story for children 7-11 years old, and is hard at work on Book Two in the series.  Follow Linda at www.lindawilsonauthor.com.

Getting Organized

Writers’ come in many shapes and sizes, so are writing spaces. Some are neat and tidy, or chaotic with papers spread on every surface.  My writing friend is so proud and liberated when his desk and office are organized that you’d think it was always that way. However, in the middle of a project, files and papers are scattered in disarray—but not so for him—he knows what is where.

No matter what your style, we need some kind of order to free our thoughts and stimulate our creativity.

We aspire to write daily and need “our space” to do so productively. But, we have a lot of stuff we need to keep where we can find it, and not forget it exists: our research, our reference and reading library, our notebooks and journals, our article clippings, and our inspiration photos.

I’ll admit that when I’m overloaded and need a break, I like to futz around re-organizing and freshening-up my office. The trouble is sometimes I forget where I filed the book, the folder, or the research I need for a project. So, a digital and paper filing plan is essential.

Tips you might find helpful:

•    Make the plan simple, one that’s easy to maintain, and adjustable when you discover something is not efficient.
•    Make a practice of uncluttering your writing area often.
•    Designate a space for pending items—bills, memos, etc., to handle later. Vertical trays, hung on a wall next to your desk might be a workable solution.
•    Set-up a Waiting for Response folder to follow-up on outstanding correspondence.
•    The tools you use every day are for the surface of your desk, but use drawers or closet space for supplies not used daily.
•    The bookcase is not the catchall. Group books by category for ease in locating.

The Bullet Journal: Is a great for organizing your do list and appointment, today and in the future 4-6 months out.  http://bulletjournal.com/get-started/

Great Tips to Organize Your Office Space  https://www.lifehack.org/articles/productivity/21-tips-to-organize-your-office-and-get-more-done.htmlhttps://www.lifehack.org/articles/productivity/21-tips-to-organize-your-office-and-get-more-done.html

How to Organize Your Office and Boost Your Productivity  https://www.cio.com/article/boost-your-productivity.html 

Deborah Lyn Stanley is a writer of Creative Non-Fiction. She writes articles, essays and stories. She is passionate about caring for the mentally impaired through creative arts. Visit her web-blog: Deborah Lyn Stanley : MyWriter's Life .  “Write your best, in your voice, your way!

Publishing Takes More Than Good Intentions

By W. Terry Whalin

Through the years, I've met face to face with many writers. I know they have big dreams and good intentions. Maybe they want to write a novel or a nonfiction book. Or they want to get published in a magazine and understand the value of perfecting their craft in a shorter form of writing before they try a longer book project.

During our brief meeting together, I listen to their pitch. I often give them some input or direction from my experience. Often I will encourage them saying, “That sounds like a good idea. Write that up and send it to me.” As an acquisitions editor, I only asked for the manuscripts that were a fit for my publishing house. My encouragement to send their manuscript was sincere.

Yet I never heard from them again. I believe there is a chronic challenge among writers. To get published takes more than good intentions. You must follow through with your intention and get your writing into the marketplace.

Here's five tips on how to have more than good intentions and follow through:

1. Divide the Work. Every task needs to get broken into bite size parts. If you are writing a magazine article, then set a word count goal for your production. If you are trying to get more magazine writing, then decide how many queries you are going to send this week. Or if you are writing a book proposal, then tackle the sections one at a time. Or if you are writing a novel, set a number of words you want to produce each day. Make the work or task specific and then move forward and get it done.

2. Make a check list and cross it off. Take your planned writing and write it down every day. Often I will make a list the night for the next day. Then I cross it off when it is completed. It feels good to complete something and mark it off the list—and I know I'm moving ahead with my intentions.

3. Keep taking action. Without a doubt, you will have interruptions and other things which enter your life to cause delays and capture your attention. Recognize these interruptions ahead of time and make an internal commitment to continue moving forward. It will take on-going commitment to achieve what you want with your writing.

4. Create your own deadlines. Editors give writers deadlines for their writing—whether magazines or books. I encourage you to create your own deadlines for your writing and commit to making those deadlines. It will keep your writing moving forward. And if you don't make your deadline for some reason? Set a new deadline and push forward.

5. Get an accountability partner. Verbalize your goal to some other person. It could be a friend, a writer friend, a family member or whoever. Ask that person to hold your feet to the fire and check with you about whether you are accomplishing your intentions or not.

If you follow through with excellent writing, you will stand out in the publishing world. Many people dream and the ones that get it done, follow-through with their good intentions.


Successful publishing is more than good intentions. Discover some action steps here. (ClickToTweet)


Getting a Novel Published
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W. Terry Whalin is an acquisitions editor at Morgan James Publishing. He has written more than 60 books for traditional publishers including Jumpstart Your Publishing Dreams, Insider Secrets To Skyrocket Your Success. Also Terry has written for more than 50 magazines. He lives in Colorado.

Where does your story really start?

I recently went to a writing program where the instructor, writer Amy K Nichols, talked about her first book. She polished and polished the first chapter, as we all do. She got an agent, then sold the book. But after the editor started working on it, she told Amy, "You know, I think your story starts in Chapter 8."

Since then, she's noticed that many people don't start in the right place. Often it's not as drastic as 8 chapters too early. Sometimes it's only a couple of paragraphs.

Now Nichols does a workshop where people get up and read their first couple of pages aloud and the listeners decide where the story should really start. They try to cut out backstory and get right into the meat--or to a killer hook line.

The workshop was really interesting. It made me re-evaluate a short story I wrote that I really like, that I think is better than some the stories I've sold to magazines, yet I just can't find a taker. And you know what? I think Nichols was right. I think the real beginning is about three paragraphs down.

I challenge you to take your current work in progress and read it aloud--to a group of trusted critiquers, to friends who like to read and will be honest, or even just to yourself. This works with non-fiction too. As one travel magazine said in its general guidelines, your article doesn't start the moment you wake up to go to the airport.

Melinda Brasher can't resist photos of teddy bears, animals, and small children reading books (who were perhaps hooked because the author started the story in the right place).  

Her most recent sale is a twist on Rumpelstiltskin, appearing in Timeless Tales. You can also find her fiction in NousElectric SpecIntergalactic Medicine Show, and others. If you're dreaming about traveling to Alaska, check out her guide book, Cruising Alaska on a Budget; a Cruise and Port Guide. Visit her online at http://www.melindabrasher.com

Facts in Fiction

Contributed by Valerie Allen

Not all fiction is fictitious.

There will be readers who know more than you do about a person, place, object or procedure. Criticism will be quick and negative if you get factual information wrong in your writing.

Using the Names of Real People

The answer is both, yes and no. Yes, if it is a public figure with a known and accepted reputation. This would include: Jesus Christ, Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, Jr., Bill Gates, Princess Diana, Mother Theresa, and similar persons living or dead.

The answer is no, if it is your mother, brother, neighbor, coworker, classmate, etc. You need written permission to use names of these private people in your writing.

Names of Places

Again, if it is well known or a generic place, you are probably safe to use the exact name. Such places as Las Vegas, The Big Apple, The Grand Canyon, The Rocky Mountains, and so on. Be careful when using trademarked or copyrighted names.

If the place named is specific or you are using it in a negative sense, it may be better to create a totally different name.

For example, you may use Ft. Lauderdale in your murder mystery, depicting it as a high crime city. However, the citizens, Chamber of Commerce, local media, and state governing bodies may take offense. They may discourage readership with boycotts, or limit it from their libraries, protest to the publisher, or bring a lawsuit.

Likewise, do not use the name of your hometown if it has a population under 50,000. The people in small towns may claim your story is libelous, your fictionalized characters are too similar to real people, and your plot too close to reality.

Names of Companies or Agencies

If you are going to write a story about insider trading, do not use the name of a real financial planning firm. If you are going to write about deliberate medical malpractice, do not use the name of a real hospital, medical company, or physician.

If you create a new name, be sure it is significantly different from the original. The words, spelling, and phonics must not be confused with the actual name.

For example, do not use American Air Lines, America Air Lines, or American Aero Lines. Do not use Raymond James Stadium, Ray James Stadium, R. James Stadium, or Raymond James Sports Arena.

There are specific names, which are so common they have become generic, and are usually safe to use.

For example, there are likely hundreds of George Washington High Schools throughout the United States. The same is true of Main Street, Riverfront Park, the First Baptist Church, and The First National Bank.

Names of Things

Careful here. Most objects and brands are trademarked and you must use a general descriptor instead of the band name.

We all know the following items have specific brand names: cola soft drinks, cotton ear swabs, facial tissue, inline skates, copy machine, an American made motor cycle, and so on. Check all of the logos and trademarks before using their specific names in your work.

Check your Facts

When including directions, landmarks, distance or time check for accuracy.

New Hampshire is west of Maine. Palm Beach is about 50 miles north of Ft. Lauderdale. Disney World and Disney Land are two different places, in two different states.

To write good fiction, you must have your facts right. This will educate your reader and give credibility to your work.

Valerie Allen writes fiction, nonfiction, short stories and children's books. She assists writers with marketing via Authors For Authors  with two major annual events in warm and sunny Florida. Meet the Authors Book Fair in the Fall and the Writers' Conference: Write, Publish, Sell! in the Spring. Vendor tables and presentations encourage networking and marketing to increase book sales. Book Display options are available for authors throughout the USA. Valerie loves to hear from readers and writers! Contact her at: VAllenWriter@gmail.com  and AuthorsForAuthors.com


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So You Want to Write a Book - Now What?

If you're like most freelance writers, small business owners, and other solopreneurs, you want to write a book because you know that having your own published book will boost your business.

Yet, for many reasons, writing a book seems like an impossible task.

Well, it doesn't have to be.

Writing a book is like anything else.

You just need to learn all the parts to the process and then get started.

And you can learn the process and actually write your book in much less time than you probably realize.

Yet, there is more to it than simply sitting down and writing your book.

You'll also need to:

1. Learn how to write a book that people will want to buy—not simply write a book you wish to sell.

2. Take steps to generate interest in your book even before it is published.

3. Learn a variety of ways to use your book to provide additional streams of income.

4. Quickly determine a focus for your book.

5. Learn to create a simple structure for your book so it's much easier to write (and to read).

6. Learn ways to avoid getting "stuck" in the middle of writing your book so you actually finish writing it within a relatively short period of time (this is where so many people have trouble).

7. Learn how to determine if self-publishing or traditional publishing is the best route to take with your book.

8. Learn how to determine the specific market(s) for your book.

9. Learn how to market your book to an agent or publisher even before you write it.

And much more.

Each step needs to be taken at just the right time, in just the right manner, if you're going to successfully write and sell your book.

So - if you're thinking of writing a book to boost your business, take the time to learn all the steps you need to know before you get started.

Try it!

Suzanne Lieurance is a freelance writer, the author of 35 published books, and a writing coach.

Register for her 4-part free e-course, How to Write, Publish, and Launch Your Best Selling Book now at Writebythesea.com.

Shake it Up: A Creative Writing Activity

Are you itching to start a new project? Want to work on something different? Stuck in a rut? Shake things up.

Here's a fun exercise that will get you out of your normal writing routine and will hopefully help you embark on a fun, creative journey.

 Take a piece of paper and write out at least 50 possibilities. Anything goes. This can range from story ideas, genres, and formats to marketing initiatives (create a contest, start a newsletter, plan an event) and social media options (go live on Facebook, post a quote graphic, update your LinkedIn).

Note: If you prefer, you can type up your list - double-spaced - and print it out.

Now, cut these out into individual strips. Put them in a hat or box. Then, when you have some downtime or scheduled writing time, "shake it up," and choose one. Whatever you choose, you must do.

Here are a few optional rules/variations:

1. You have the option to put the first item back, but you have to do the second thing you pick. And then next three times, you are not allowed to choose an alternate.

2. Divide your ideas into different boxes, based on the amount of time the activity will take, and choose based on your schedule.

3. Separate them into different boxes. One for ideas and another for formats. Pick one from each box, and then you have to write whatever idea you pick into whichever format. For instance, if you choose "blue" and "social media post," you must find a way to write a post on that topic, however you interpret blue. Could be the color or emotion. It's up to you.

No matter what you are working on as your primary project, it never hurts to explore a different genre or format. You never know where new ideas may lead! Good luck and have fun.

What items are going on your list? How do you plan to shake things up? Please share in the comments.

* * *

Debra Eckerling is a writer, editor and project catalyst, as well as founder of Write On Online, a live and online writers’ support group. Like the Write On Online Facebook Page and join the Facebook Group.  She is author of Write On Blogging: 51 Tips to Create, Write & Promote Your Blog and Purple Pencil Adventures: Writing Prompts for Kids of All Ages, and host of the Guided Goals Podcast and the #GoalChat Twitter Chat. Debra is an editor at Social Media Examiner and a speaker/moderator on the subjects of writing, networking, goal-setting, and social media.

Point of View and Children’s Storytelling

Point-of-view (POV) is the narrator's view of what's going on.

The POV is who's telling the story. This will determine what the reader 'hears' and 'sees' in regard to the story. And, it determines the ‘personal pronouns’ that will be used.

Having this element of the story consistent throughout is essential.

There are three main POVs in young children’s storytelling: first person, second person, and third person (limited). And, in each of these POVs, the protagonist (main character) must be in each scene – the story is told through his five-senses. If he doesn’t see, hear, smell, taste, or touch it, it doesn’t exist in the story.

1. First person.

This POV has the protagonist personally telling the story. Pronouns, such as “I,” “my,” “me,” “I’m,” are used.

Example from “Because of Winn-Dixie:”

That summer I found Winn-Dixie was also the summer me and the preacher moved to Naomi, Florida, so he could be the new preacher . . .  (The protagonist, Opal, is talking to the reader – italics are mine for clarity.)

Notice the above isn’t in quotation marks for dialog. Dialog would be used if the protagonist talks to another character in the story or another character talks. See examples below:

“But you know what?” I told Winn-Dixie. (Opal is talking to her dog.)

“Well, I don’t know,” said Miss Franny. “Dogs are not allowed in the Herman W. Block Memorial Library.” (The librarian in the story is talking to Opal.)

Children’s books in first person POV:

“Because of Winn-Dixie (Kate DiCamillo)
“Green Eggs and Ham” (Dr. Suess)
“The Polar Express” (Chris Van Allsburg)
“Fly Away Home” (Eve Bunting)

2. Second person.

This POV uses “you” as the pronoun, referring to the reader and isn’t used that often in young children’s writing. But, there are some authors who pull it off very well.

An example of this POV from “How to Babysit Grandpa:”

Babysitting a grandpa is fun. If you know how. (The protagonist is talking to the reader, involving him. Italics are mine.)

Children’s books in second person POV:

"How to Babysit Grandpa" (Jean Reagan)
"Secret Pizza Party" (Adam Rubin)
"The Book That Eats People" (John Perry)

3. Third person (limited).

This POV is probably the most popular in young children’s writing. Pronouns, such as “he,” “she,” “its,” “they,” and “their” are used.

While this is similar to the other two POVs, in that they’re all told from the protagonist’s point-of-view, in third party, the narrator, is telling the story. He’s privy to all the senses and emotions of the protagonist.

Here’s an example from “Walking Through Walls:”

“You will practice by walking through this brick wall. You must repeat the magic formula over and over as you go through it.”
Wang looked at the wall. He tightened his fists, clenched his jaw, and wrinkled his forehead. This is sure to hurt.

“Uh,” he paused, “Master, what will happen if I do say the words to the magic formula out loud?”

“Wang, you are trying to delay your task. It is a good question though. Your tongue will cease its movement if you speak the words to the formula.”
Wang's eyes opened wide and he flung his hands on top of his head. Never to talk again! I am sorry I asked for the formula. What if I slip?

The narrator is telling the reader what’s going on. Again, he’s privy to the protagonist’s thoughts, senses, and feelings.

Children’s books in third person POV:

Walking Through Walls” (Karen Cioffi)
"Owen" (Kevin Henkes)
"Tops and Bottoms" (Janet Stevens)
“Stephanie’s Ponytail” (Robert Munsch)

Be consistent.

When writing for young children, it’s the author’s job to make sure the story is engaging and CLEAR (easy to understand). One quick way to lose the reader is to mix and match point-of-views within the story. Even if you slip just once, you may very well throw the reader off.

One easy error is to slip in a second person POV within a third person story. How this might happen:

The third-party narrator is explaining what the protagonist did then throws in something like, Can you believe it?

That one little sentence has switched POVs and can cause confusion.

Remember to choose one POV and stick with it throughout your story.

There you have it, the three main points-of-view in young children’s storytelling. Which do you prefer?



Karen Cioffi is an award-winning children’s author, successful children’s ghostwriter, and author/writer online platform instructor with WOW! Women on Writing. She is also the founder and editor-in-chief of Writers on the Move.

For more on writing, stop by Writing for Children with Karen Cioffi. And, be sure to sign up for her newsletter and check out the DIY Page.


Brainstorming for Ideas

Plot or Character?

Creating Your Main Character – Hit a Home Run

Book Marketing - To Give Or Not To Give

Recently, I ran a free sale for one of my books and I was fortunate enough to get over 300 downloads. I know there’s a lot of debate about whether we should be giving our books away for free or not but if you’re like me and you’re new to the book biz, you have to do something to get your book into the hands of readers.

I’m not so na├»ve to think all these people will love my book so much that they rush out and buy another one of my books, but I do hope a few will become fans and hopefully a few will leave a review. I know there are people out there just waiting for the next book to become available for free and that this can hurt all of us but I think offering your book for free once in a while to drum up some buzz about you and your books is okay.

The beauty of it is that Amazon makes it super easy.

If you have your ebook in the Kindle Select Program, which means for 90 days your book is exclusively available through Amazon, then you can put your book on sale for free for 5 days. It doesn’t count you anything. Amazon is eating the download fee.

So, other than your original cost to publish the ebook (editing, book cover, and formatting), you aren’t losing anything either. Plus, there’s a lot to gain. I have over 300 people reading my book that would have never known I existed before. That’s pretty cool.

As you probably know, I do a lot of in-person events and I love these! They get me in front of parents and children where I can interact and sign my books to them. It’s great to meet these eager little readers. But, tables are expensive and I get tired standing behind a table all day so it’s not a sustainable marketing plan for me. I have to find a way to get “seen” on Amazon.

The other cool thing is my book soared to the top of the sub-category. For those 5 days, I was either #1 or #2 in one of my categories. I took screen shots and saved the links to these because now I can use that as a marketing too as well. Pretty neat, huh?!

Another side to this is that I give a lot of my paperback copies away, don’t you? Not only that but giving away paperbacks is more expensive. You have your original cost (editing, book cover, and formatting), plus the cost to print and have those books mailed to you. If you also mail these books to give them away, there’s that cost to. Trust me, I’ve done that as well! I give them to ARC readers and to fundraisers and other events that help kids. Recently, I gave several copies away for an Easter Basket that one of the stores who carries my books was sponsoring. I give to the Retired Teachers organization that provides books and a related toy to underprivileged kids. It feels great to give!

So, when you think about it giving away ebooks is really a no-brainer.

Wanda Luthman has her Masters of Arts in both Mental Health Counseling and Guidance Counseling from Rollins College located in beautiful Winter Park, Florida. She has worked as a Licensed Mental Health Counselor, Adjunct Professor, and Hospice Counselor for teens. She’s currently a Guidance Counselor at a local High School. She is an award-winning, best-selling, international author who has self-published 5 children’s books (The Lilac Princess, A Turtle’s Magical Adventure, Gloria and the Unicorn, Little Birdie, and Franky the Finicky Flamingo). She belongs to the National Pen Women Organization in Cape Canaveral; the Florida’s Writers Association; Space Coast Authors; and Brevard Authors Forum. She presently resides in Brevard County Florida with her husband of 22 years and 2 dogs. Her daughter is away at college, like Little Birdie, she has left the nest. To download a free ebook, visit Wanda Luthman’s website at www.wandaluthman.wordpress.com and follow her on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/wluthman.

What to Write About? Hmm

Sometimes it’s a challenge to figure out what to write about. This is often called writers block.

Even though there are a plethora of subjects that call out to you, what do you actually know about?

I personally think you can write about anything, whether you know the topic or not. Thank goodness for Google.

Here are some tips on how to get the writing muse on board. 

Write to Done (1) offers 20 quotes that might get your creative juices flowing. The main point I got from this article is to write about yourself. No one can write a true story about your feelings and life. You are the only person who could truly act in your own book.

I like what Neil Gammon had to say: “The one thing that you have that nobody else has is you. Your voice, your mind, your story, your vision. So, write and draw and build and play and dance and live as only you can.”

Makes sense doesn’t it?

Have you ever Brainstormed? This is a fun way to get those juices flowing.

1. Draw a circle in the middle of a sheet of paper.

2. Put the main idea in it, like what you’d want your genre to be: murder; thriller; romance, etc. Whatever you are thinking of.

3. Now draw three lines up from the main circle and three lines down.

4. Put circles around the end of those lines. Then think of your genre. Let’s choose ‘romance’ just to make it interesting for me.

5. One of the lines I drew out from the main circle may say: “Settings,” the next circle could say “Titles,” and the third, “Characters.” The bottom ones could be, “Mannerisms,” “Dialog,” and “Plot.”

6. From each of these circles you could extend more lines and circles and connect more information like under “Minor Characters," you could put a place or state or country.

Work with each circle drawing off more ideas as you go. Before long, you might have a beginning for a story. It’s a fun way to get those brain cells working.

Other tips to get a story going: 

- Google “How do you brainstorm for a novel?”
- Do you have a short story you can expand into a novel?
- Have you read a book and thought you could write a better ending? Pursue doing that.
- Does something on the news catch your interest?
- Maybe something in the local newspaper?

Whatever catches your interests, write it down and pursue the subject. You never know where it will take you. Have fun and enjoy it. 

(1) https://writetodone.com/stuck-for-ideas-20-quotes-what-to-write-about/ 

Linda Barnett-Johnson is a Virtual Assistant for authors and enjoys writing poetry, short stories, articles about writing and making up quotes. Many of her articles and poetry have been published. She’s a former editor, former assistant editor of Long Story Short ezine, former administrative director of Long Story Short School of Writing. You can locate her website here: www.lindabarnett-johnson.com She also posts new books, writing articles and author interviews on her blog: http://lindabarnett-johnson.blogspot.com/ Always looking for guest bloggers that would post writing tips, articles and anything to do with writing.

New Mystery Reviewed by Midwest Book Review

Title: Lucifer in the Celestial Gardens
Author: A.J. Harris
Publisher: www.murdermysterypress.com
Fiction: Mystery
ISBN:978-0-9993570-0-2 paperback
ISBN: 978-0-9993570-2-6 hardback
Also available on kindle
Library of Congress Control Number: 2017913190

Reviewed by D. Donovan, Senior Reviewer at Midwest Book Review

Lucifer in Celestial Gardens tells of Lou Siffer ("Lucifer"), the son of a small-town Illinois undertaker who is used to seeing corpses in the basement of their house, part of his father's profession and the family routine. He becomes embroiled in death in a different way when scandal strikes the town and Lou becomes peripherally involved in adult matters that include a father's conviction that suicide was not the cause of a death, a corruption case that changes this perspective, and a series of circumstances that lead an already-distant son to feel even more alienated from his father: "My father, my stalwart beacon of integrity had fallen to—what I didn’t know exactly, but from that time forward, I regarded him differently."'

Lou resolved at an early age to never become an undertaker, but death has him on the radar - and so a case that happened twelve years ago continues to haunt him as he grows up to face a real-life dilemma that still holds too many unanswered questions and special interests.

Lest readers think that Lucifer in Celestial Gardens is a murder mystery alone, it should be advised that A. J. Harris weaves fine coming-of-age experiences into events that follows Lou through romance, relationships with parents and peers, and a puzzle that plagues him throughout his life.

From an exciting but controversial project planned for the small town's elderly to events at a town hall meeting, an Odd Fellows Lodge, and more, the scandal that erupts leads to three friends finding their lives challenged and changed.

This book doesn't follow the conventions of formula mystery writing - and this may stymie genre readers who expect a succession of clues, whodunit subplots, and a clear murder scene, perp, and detectives. The strange culture and interactions in Winonka are as much a focus as the corruption and murder in a story that follows a funeral home scandal to its aftermath and lasting impact upon a boy who grows up, interacts with others, and forms relationships against its backdrop.

From retirement home profits and phony insurance policies to a mounting number of deaths, Lucifer in Celestial Gardens is unpredictable, engrossing, and follows murder cases that have no statute of limitations or age restrictions. It's unusual to have the story begin with a young boy who evolves into adulthood against the backdrop of loss and sadness that affects everything around him.

The evolutionary process of disgrace, death, and special interests contribute to a powerfully multifaceted story that moves through time, space, and intrigue to present a solidly complex murder story that's hard to put down.

You can buy this book at AMAZON.

Submitted by:
Mark E. Anderson
Graphic Designer, Owner
Book Shepherd for A.J. Harris, Murder Mystery Press
Web: www.AquaZebra.com
AquaZebra Book Cover Designs

SEO for Authors Part6 - Image Optimization

In Part 6 of SEO and the Author Series, we'll learn that SEO doesn’t stop at text, it’s a part of everything you do online, including your images.

While the search engines can’t READ an image (not yet), you are able to provide that image with keywords and a description in WordPress. It’s this optimization that gives the search engines more details about your post.

Unfortunately, Blogger doesn’t have this capability and I’m not sure which of the other free website hosting platforms do or don’t.

So, this article will deal with WordPress.

The first step – finding an image.

The first thing you want to do is find an image that is perfect for your blogpost. When finding an image, be sure it’s royalty free, public domain, and/or creative commons.

Sites that offer free images include:


You’ll also want to get images that are ‘free for commercial use’ and possibly with ‘no attribution required’ (this is a personal preference).

For much more information on finding and using images, go to:
Where to Find Royalty Free Images

Please note – you need to read the information on these sites to determine for yourself if the images are royalty free and FREE to download.

The penalties for accidently using a copyrighted image without permission can be steep, so be careful.

Creating your own images. 

I create about 95% of my own images, including my website header and social media banners. For the other 5 percent, I buy images from BigStockPhoto.

I started creating my own images a few years ago because I read an article about how two savvy sites were hit with penalties . . . in the thousands.

Here are the articles:

Bloggers Beware: You CAN Get Sued For Using Pics on Your Blog - My Story

(Read the comments also for tips on safe images)

How using Google Images can cost you $8,000

I figured if they could make a mistake like that, I didn’t want to risk it. So, I attended a webinar for Logo Creator software and became hooked.

I even created an image using the software to sell on BigStockPhoto. I love creating images and when I have the time, I’ll get more up there.

The second step – optimizing the image.

1. Image optimization begins with the filename you give the image when you save it to your computer library.

It’s needs to be keyword effective.

So, when I created the Image for this post, I titled it SEO3.

I should have titled it SEO and the Author. But, I’m always in a rush and I have two earlier SEO images titled SEO1 and SEO2.

2. Next, you will upload the image to your website - WordPress or other content management system (CMS).

- Go to your Dashboard then to your Media File.

- Click on Add New.

- Click on Select Files.
- Find the file you saved and upload it.

3. Once you upload the image, you’ll be brought to an optimization page.

If you’re not automatically brought to the optimization page, click on the image and it’ll take you there.

This is what you should see:

If you notice, I filled in the Alt Text and the Description. This is how you optimize your image.

Note: I should have created a more keyword effective title when I created and saved the image to my laptop.

I might have used Not All Blogging Content is the Same.

The reason you want to create a keyword effective title for your image from the get-go is because that’s what WordPress will use as the title it gives the image in your WP Media File.

This is basic image optimization.


Royalty free – copyrighted images that are free of royalties or license fees.
Public domain – Images created in the U.S. prior to 1923.
Creative commons – copyrighted images that under the creative commons license are free to use commercially. You can modify and build upon these images.
Free for commercial use – you can use these images for any kind of business purpose.
Attribution required – you must give credit to the author and the site that’s offering the image.

TO READ ALL THE ARTICLES IN THIS SEO FOR AUTHORS SERIES, GO TO OUR WORKSHOPS PAGE: http://www.writersonthemove.com/p/workshops.html

Karen Cioffi is an award-winning children’s author and children’s ghostwriter and rewriter. She is also the founder and editor-in-chief of Writers on the Move and author online platform instructor with WOW! Women on Writing.

If you need help with your author platform, check out Karen's e-classes through WOW:

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