Tips on Creating Composite Characters

Ashley, the main character in Tall Boots, is
based on a neighbor of ours who wanted nothing
more than to wear tall, black shiny riding boots

By Linda Wilson   @LinWilsonauthor

Beware the “wooden” character. I created one of those once. My character was the villain in my story. Stiff as cardboard, poor soul. He appeared on the scene angry. He stayed angry during the entire story. You can imagine how boring his personality was. There was no compelling reason to include him in the story except that he was the bad guy. What was worse, he had no redeeming qualities. During the editing process, I searched around for a story to tell about his life, and to discover something nice about him. That helped.

In his article, “Creating Composite Characters,” R.J. Lee wrote, “Character creation is one of the most difficult aspects of writing fiction. One way to create characters with real characteristics and with whom your readers can relate is to create composite characters.”

Tom Sawyer is a composite character. Samuel Clemens said at the time The Adventures of Tom Sawyer was published in 1876, that the character was based on three boys he knew. And experiences in his own life.

Learning about composite characters can help shape your characters. It is also fun. I’m preaching to the choir here, but it’s amazing how many traits you can pick up by studying people. Always with Your trusty notebook in hand, jot down interesting traits, sayings, even jokes you hear in other people’s company. Here are some things to watch out for:

  • fingernails
  • hair color and style
  • jewelry
  • clothing
  • mannerisms
  • accent
  • shoes
  • how they smile, frown and laugh
  • any scars, tattoos, and the like

Dig Under the Surface

Observe emotions. What makes the person tick? What are their facial expressions when they’re telling a story? Do they appear happy? Sad? Nervous? Do they say one thing but it’s obvious they mean another?

Since our characters often reveal traits of our own, we authors can mine our own life and the lives of people we know. As children’s authors, we look back to our childhoods. What were our physical characteristics, good habits, bad habits, emotional state? Who were our best friends? Status at school? What was our home life like?

Make Lists and/or Charts

Pictures cut out of magazines and posted on your bulletin board can help breathe life into your characters. Post all the pictures of your characters together. Characters’ traits can be listed in “Positive” and “Negative” columns. Soon, their traits narrow down to people as close to reality as possible. Visit the pictures and traits until you’ve gotten to know your characters and have become fond of them.

Once writing begins, these traits need to become pliable. Your character will need to depend on what kind of person s/he is as revealed by struggles the character faces in the story. 

Recently while working on my WIP, work-in-progress, the second book in my Abi Wunder series, Secrets in the Mist, the main character Abi visits her new friend Jess one last time at the end of summer before school starts. The two friends have only a night when the moon is full and the temperature is just right to see if the ghost will rise out of the marsh in Jess’s neighborhood. 

Abi wants to be brave, believes she is brave, until she comes up against the luminescent presence of the ghost they’ve been seeking. The sheer brilliance of the ghost’s glow strikes fear in Abi’s heart, and suddenly her bravery melts away into the black of night.

Making your vision of your characters and their traits concrete by putting them down on paper—their pictures and their personalities—will go a long way toward helping you develop your story. Before you know it, your characters will take on lives of their own. Perhaps, as many authors say, your characters will write your story themselves!

The series by Angela Ackerman & Becca Puglisi, which includes The Emotion Thesaurus, The Conflict Thesaurus, and The Emotional Wound Thesaurus, is a terrific help in shaping characters in our stories.


Creating Composite Characters from 

Cowgirl in New Jersey
Linda, about 5-years-old
What a character!

 Linda Wilson writes stories for young children. Visit Linda     at Click the links for free coloring pages and   a puppet show starring Thistletoe Q. Packrat. While you’re there, get   all the latest news by signing up for Linda’s newsletter. 

 Find Linda’s books at  Amazon Author Page.

 Connect with Linda: FacebookTwitterPinterestInstagram  

What to Do During Dry Spells if You're a Freelance Writer

 by Suzanne Lieurance

Once you get your freelance writing career going, you’ll probably find that it can be either “feast or famine” most of the time, meaning you have too much work to do, or not enough, or worse yet, periods when you have no writing jobs at all to do.

If you think about it, those dry spells are probably not so bad, except for the damage they can do to your checkbook.

After an extended period of “feasting” on one writing project after another, you probably need a little “down time” to recharge and get ready for the next cycle of work.

But that “down time” from writing assignments can be very productive—and it should be.

Use that time to look for new opportunities, and even create some opportunities yourself.

Make a list of businesses you want to send a LOI (letter of introduction) to, then spend an entire day doing nothing but getting these LOIs written and sent out (you probably already have a basic template for this that you just customize for each business, so it shouldn't be too difficult to get 30 or so LOIs written and sent out).

Develop a class or workshop on writing that you can offer online or even at a local school or community center.

Create a short e-book, tips booklet, or other informational products you can sell yourself, directly from your website (or blog), and get other writers to sell these items for you, too (you can create an affiliate program for your products).

Or get back to that novel you’ve been wanting to have time to write.

Or try your hand at writing in a different genre than you're used to.

You might really like it and you can create another lucrative income stream with books you sell in this genre.  

Once you’ve created something new, write a media release about it and send it out.

Also, remember this, even if you have a great website for your writing business or a professional profile at places like, don’t simply sit around waiting for clients to come to you.

Eventually, once you’ve developed a name for yourself in the writing world, you should have at least some clients who will contact you initially, but until then you need to do all you can to get your name before prospective clients and the public in general.

Start thinking of ways to do that.

The main thing is to avoid feeling discouraged at slow times.

If you use these times productively, they too will pass, and you’ll be ready for another busy work cycle before you know it.

Eventually, after you’ve had some practice budgeting for these slow periods, you’ll probably even find yourself looking forward to them (and you'll finally finish writing your novel).

Try it!

And for more writing tips and resources delivered to your e-mailbox every weekday morning, get your free subscription to The Morning Nudge.

Suzanne Lieurance is an award-winning author with over 40 published books and a writing coach. 

She offers The Monday Morning Shove, a live group coaching program for writers who want to get and stay focused, so they reach their writing goals.

Five Ways to Break Through the Competition

By Terry Whalin (@terrywhalin

While many people are publishing books with over 4,500 new books every day (including the self-published books), the competitive nature of this work is rarely discussed. Editors and agents get pitches and proposals from many different authors. What are some of the difference makers that every author can use to break through the competition?

As a writer and an editor, I’ve been in publishing for decades and met thousands of authors. Plus I’ve been studying publishing and interviewing hundreds of bestselling authors about how they practice their craft. In this article, I want to give you five characteristics which will make you stand out from the competition. 

Be an Action Taker

Fear of failure and rejection may be holding you back on taking action and getting your writing into the market. Here’s the truth: every writer (including me) gets rejected and tries things that fail. In the face of such challenges, I continue taking action and encourage you to do it too. It’s been decades since I published a devotional in The Upper Room because I hadn’t tried it. Susan King, a long-time Upper Room editor, encouraged me to submit. I followed their guidelines (key) and submitted four devotions. Three were rejected and one was accepted. Last year, on May 12th my devotion reached six million readers (follow this linkto read it). Yes it up to 300 words but you have to send the right words. If you don’t pitch or submit then you can’t get published. Have to take action even if you fail.

When you attend a writers’ conference and an editor or agent invites you to submit, take action and do it. You would be shocked at the few writers who actually follow through and send the requested material. Yes you risk rejection but taking action is the path to possibly getting published. And I would encourage you to follow-up even if the editor made the request weeks or months ago. I've had some authors approach me with their material even years after they pitched it originally. Admittedly they are a bit hesitant but still reach out to me. Here's the good news, after ten years, I'm still actively looking and read their submission. Whenever a professional opens the door, you have an opportunity to march through it but have to take action. If you move forward, then you increase your desirability to other professionals.

Be Connected to Your Readers

Writers dread this word—platform. Editors and agents are looking for authors who have a connection to their readers or audience. Desirable authors have a platform. I understand (from my own actions) that it will take work and effort for you to build these connections. Every writer begins with a limited number of connections but the greater your connections, the more you will become a desirable author to others. The sooner you start this process, the better. Here are some action ideas for you: Begin or grow your email list. Begin or grow a blog. Increase your connections on your LinkedIn account. Take these steps to get connected to your audience.

Always Learning New Things

Desirable writers invest and attend writers’ conferences and are always learning something new. They try different types of writing and have learned to write a query letter or a book proposal. Then they submit their work with excellence. There are many different types of writing and I have a list in the first chapter of Jumpstart Your Publishing Dreams (follow this link to the sample).  

Continually Pitching 

Desirable authors are always pitching something new. There is always something new to write like a magazine article that ties to your latest book or a guest blog post or a news release to the media or a pitch to a podcast. The list of possibilities is endless. Everything I publish begins with pitching someone. It’s a key part of the business no matter how much you have published. 

No one said the life of a writer would be simple or easy but it is filled with great opportunity. You can break through the competition and become a desirable author. Our writing changes lives and I know this fact because years ago a book changed my life.  

Which of these ways resonated with you? Let me know in the comments below. 


Discover five ways to break through the competition. This prolific writer and editor gives the details here. (ClickToTweet)


W. Terry Whalin, a writer and acquisitions editor lives in Colorado. A former magazine editor and former literary agent, Terry is an acquisitions editor at Morgan James Publishing. He has written more than 60 nonfiction books including Jumpstart Your Publishing Dreams and Billy Graham. Get Terry’s newest book, 10 Publishing Myths for only $10, free shipping and bonuses worth over $200. To help writers catch the attention of editors and agents, Terry wrote his bestselling Book Proposals That $ell, 21 Secrets To Speed Your Success. Jim Cox, Editor-in-Chief of Midwest Book Review wrote, If you only have time to read one how to guide to getting published, whether it be traditional publishing or self-publishing, Book Proposals That Sell  is that one DIY instructional book.  Check out his free Ebook, Platform Building Ideas for Every Author. His website is located at: Connect with Terry on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.

Fitness for Writers || Tips for Action


Fitness for Writers - Tips for Action by Deborah Lyn Stanley
Fitness for writers includes: A daily writing practice to stay fit and physical exercise to support writing endeavors. As writers, we need both.

Let’s start with tips for maintaining physical fitness to support our writing time.
1)    Walk! Walking is a great exercise. We are after a refresh time, not a full-blown workout. 10-20 minutes is good.
        Listen to audio classical music or your favorite tunes.
        Listen to writing craft audio books.
        Record notes that come to mind & transcribe later.

2)    Eat healthy foods, drink lots of water! Soda, coffee and tea don’t count here—Chips and chocolate don’t count either.

3)    Remember to be realistic, watch your expectations and make adjustments. Create a plan that will work for you long term.

4)    Exercise in spurts. Spread the good through-out the writing day to keep empowering thoughts, ideas and typing.

5)    Promise yourself breaks; every 1-2 hours take one. Spend 10-20 minutes moving—Do you have stairs in your house? For your break, go up and down.
Avoid “a quick snack” and eat a meal. Your brain with thank you.

6)    Be innovative, use a standing writing desk. Even above your treadmill. Walk between 1-2 mph. You may find you are more creative and have less back and leg aches.

7)    Other ideas include stopping for:
       Several push-ups, pull-ups, squats, or sit-ups
       Use a balance ball chair. How you sit matters. Bad posture strains the neck and the spine.
       Place your computer screen at a distance to avoid strain with the top of the screen at eye level
       or slightly below.
       Move & Stretch regularly, make it a routine

Be proactive concerning your health and well-being.
Your writing will thank you.

Tips for writing daily, which is sometimes a hurdle.
1)    Stock the tools for your favored writing area, desk or office with all you’ll need. Include reference books, your goal plan, and project list.

2)    Write every day. Start with journaling for 10-20 minutes to get the wheels rolling, then dive into your specified project for the day. Make this your practice.
Also, use your journal to create a strategic plan to reach your goal(s).

3)    Include writing exercises. Write poetry or short pieces using a prompt.

4)    Free writing is a great starter. What are you thinking about? Start writing about it and let it flow. You just may find inspiration for a future story or article. Let your creativity bloom!
       *Free write with limitations, such as no ‘being’ verbs, or without using pronouns.
       *Use a dictionary or newspaper. Choose one word at random to start.
       *Use a line from a favorite poem or story as your inspiration.

5)    Create a Metaphor List to draw from.

6)    Use your Commonplace Book to jot down notes, any which way line breaks, in the margins--whatever, record ideas for writing a story or poem from a different perspective—note anything that comes to mind. You’ll remember as you read it later!

Have Fun & Keep Writing!

Deborah Lyn Stanley is an author of Creative Non-Fiction. She writes articles, essays and stories. She is passionate about caring for the mentally impaired through creative arts.
Visit her My Writer’s Life website at:   
Visit her caregiver’s website:

Mom & Me: A Story of Dementia and the Power of God’s Love is available:

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What Are the Requirements for a New Edition of Your Book?

Confused About New Editions

                         What Are the Requirements for a New Edition of Your Book?

By Carolyn Howard-Johnson, author of the multi award-winning
 #HowToDoItFrugally Series of Books for Writers.

My friend Judith Briles decided to reimagine her whole series of brilliant (if I do say so myself!) how-to books for writers and do it in what seems like no time at all. I have been involved with a variety of new editions for my #HowToDoItFrugally Series of books for writers over a period of time that has spanned more than a decade. That contrast should convince writers that there is no one set way to do it right. You might be considering a new edition to boost sales, to celebrate a historical anniversary or publishing anniversary for the book itself, or to make it fit a new project or the style choices of a new publisher.

To maintain the traditions of the book industry, though, authors (and publishers) should plan on these five essentials or it to be considered a true new edition:

1.    A new ISBN number.

2.    A new cover.

3.    An "Edition Number" addition to the title of the book.

4.    A thorough look at the book to be sure grammatical and formatting efforts are up-to-date.

5.    A substantial update of specifics like internet addresses.

6.    New revisions or updates of the general content of the book.

If somehow a factual error slipped through in an earlier edition, consider using an errata feature in the front or back matter of the book. (The publishing world borrowed the Latin word errata as a more formal approach to admitting an error.) And here are two good reason to decide against a new edition:  

1.    A new edition—just like the first—requires time and effort to publicize it.

2.    A new edition needs to be paid for. But then, you've been through that before and have an idea of the cost. You'll still need to factor in inflation and any fancy ideas you have for the new one.

I am including part of my sell sheet I'm using for the new third edition of my winningest book from the #HowToDoItFrugally Series of books, "The Frugal Editor" for you. (See below.) It may give you some ideas for your own new edition or at least for some of the processes that may be involved in developing one:

Why a Third Edition of The Frugal Editor?

It surprises people when they learn that grammar rules change over time. Or that what they learned in high school or advanced grammar classes in college is either passé or may not apply to fiction. It also surprises them to learn that a perfectly edited book is never perfect because there are always so many disagreements among experts. And even experts are often misinformed. The worlds of grammar and style choices are filled with myths and misinformation like, “Never use contractions in your writing,” “Never use fragments,” and “Never end a sentence with a preposition.” As my client base grew, I kept running into more flagrant publishing world scams perpetrated by "professionals." Thus, a new edition of The Frugal Editor was a must! So here is a smattering of what is new:

       The Third Edition has been reorganized and my publisher tells me I outdid myself with about 50% new (helpful!) material including new “Editor’s Extras” based on my own school of hard knocks!

Authors will love the all-new sections including:

o    Beta readers and peer reviewers

o    What you probably don’t know about custom dictionaries

o    Up-to-date rules for accommodating gender-specific and other cultural needs

o    A chapter for word-lovers and poets

o    Quickie reviews of word processors for you

o    What even traditionally accepted front and back matter can do for your book sales, your career, and your readers

o    Political Correctness considerations change and grow with each passing day. So, yes! Lots of updating here!

o    And a few new grammar terms I coined for the sake of making it easier to understand--and more fun.

The Third Edition of The Frugal Editor still includes the basics that make you into an on-your-own editor when you must be. Few writers other than Stephen King can afford to hire an editor for every query letter, every media release, every media kit, every blog post. So until your career is so star-studded you can afford a publicist and editor on a retainer basis, writers need to know both the basics of editing and the little-known secrets.

The third edition is still loaded with reader favorites like what authors need to know about book covers—but it’s updated!

New information will dispel myths like these:

o    Agents are a cantankerous lot. (Nope! In The Frugal Editor, twenty-one of the nation's best tell you their pet peeves and they do it in the best of spirits.)

o    If your English teacher told you something is okay, it is. (No! Language rules have changed since you were a sophomore. Anyway, your English teachers likely have no background in publishing, so apart from basic grammar, how much help can they be?

o    If a manuscript or query is grammar-perfect, you'll be fine. (No! Lots of things that are grammatically correct annoy publishers.)

o    Always use your Spell and Grammar Checker. (No! Some suggest you don't use it at all, but The Frugal Editor will help you make it your partner instead of your enemy.)

o    It's easy to avoid agent and editor scams by asking other writers. (The Frugal Editor gives you a to-do and not-to-do lists to help you avoid being taken.)

o    Your publisher will assign a top-flight editor. (Maybe, but don't count on it. The more you know, the better partner you’ll be for an editor!)

o    Formatters and editors will take care of the hyphens, ellipses, and all the other grungy little punctuation marks that English teachers avoided teaching because they didn't know how to use them either. (Chances are, you'll catch even great formatters and editors in an error or two if you know your stuff!)

“Careers that are not fed die
 as readily as any living
  organism given no sustenance.”

More About Carolyn:

Carolyn Howard-Johnson brings her experience as a publicist, journalist, marketer, editor, and retailer to the advice she gives in her HowToDoItFrugally Series of books for writers and the many classes she taught for nearly a decade as instructor for UCLA Extension’s world-renown Writers’ Program. The books in her HowToDoItFrugally Series of books published by Modern History Press include the third edition of The Frugal Book Promoter and the third edition The Frugal Editor which won awards from USA Book News, Readers’ Views Literary Award, the marketing award from Next Generation Indie Books, and the coveted Irwin award in its earlier editions. It will soon be available at this shortened URL provided by representatives at

Featured Productivity Tool: Virtual Meetings

While many people love connecting face-to-face, there's a lot to be said about the power of virtual meetings. Networking events are great ways to meet new people, while saving time, energy, and money. Think of all the things you can do in lieu of traveling to in-person events. For instance, you can attend more virtual meetings!

I recently spoke with Innovation Women founder Bobbie Carlton; John Chen, CEO, Engaging Virtual Meetings; and virtual event designer Robbie Samuels about their love of virtual events and how to be better attendees. 

When in a virtual meeting, turn on your camera, Robbie says. And don't be backlit; let people see you. Bobbie recommends being aware of your surroundings ... and the amount of time you spend speaking. John says, if you are hosting, don't wait for everyone to arrive to start the program. Reward those who are early and on time. 

We all agree that using the Zoom chat to engage is a wonderful way to stand out.

John suggests finding ways to start or keep the conversation going. For instance, ask questions. That will get you noticed by the host, speakers, and other attendees. Bobbie says to be a "volunteer scribe." When someone says something interesting, type it in the chat. Adds Robbie, When a resource is mentioned, find the link and share it.

For more tips ... 

Watch our conversation: 

Goals for Virtual Meetings

  • Robbie: Meeting hosts, figure out your Zoom settings. Get Robbie’s checklist 
  • Bobbie: Get comfortable with public speaking. If you are in the audience, take a step for getting comfortable: ask a question on camera 
  • John: Read the first three chapters of his book: Engaging Virtual Meetings. Also, engage in the way that works for you! 

Final Thoughts 

Whether you are attending virtual events to further your writing, marketing, or your business goals, approach them the same way attend live ones. Prepare ahead of time: make sure your online presence matches the way you introduce yourself and that your profile pic looks like you. Be present and attentive. And follow up with new connections in a timely manner. It'll be a win for everyone involved!

* * * 

For more inspiration and motivation, follow @TheDEBMethod on Twitter, Facebook, and Linkedin! 

* * *

What's your best tip for virtual meetings? Please share in the comments. 

* * *
Debra Eckerling is the award-winning author of Your Goal Guide: A Roadmap for Setting, Planning and Achieving Your Goals and founder of the D*E*B METHOD, which is her system for goal-setting simplified. A goal-strategist, corporate consultant, and project catalyst, Debra offers personal and professional planning, event strategy, and team building for individuals, businesses, and teams. She is also the author of Write On Blogging and Purple Pencil Adventures; founder of Write On Online; host of the #GoalChat Twitter Chat, #GoalChatLive on Facebook and LinkedIn, and The DEB Show podcast. She speaks on the subjects of writing, networking, goal-setting, and social media.

No Need To Worry About Amazon's Kindle Prime Lending Program

How Is Kindle's Lending Program Kin to Libaries'?

What Might Ann Landers Say About
Amazon’s Kindle Lending Program

By Carolyn Howard-Johnson

I often use a “Q&A a la Ann Landers” format for my SharingwithWriters newsletter. I became a regular reader of her columns when I started my first job in journalism and part of my duties were to make her column fit the “society page” layout. In other words, it was an edit-to-fit task. No way would I interfere with her copy! Gasp! I cringed every time I had to delete something, but I learned much from her—about life and about editing! I am still hearing from readers of my books who don’t quite understand how the concept of borrowing a book benefits their marketing campaign.


How do you feel about the free borrowing feature offered by Amazon to their Prime members for their Kindle books?

I don't think any of us would have objected to library lending back in the days before Kindle. Yes, there are some differences—not least of which is that libraries bought the books they lent. But benefits of lending programs still exist—whether we’re talking library or Kindle's lending or online Peek-Inside features.
Here are some of them:

  Libraries buy books for their shelves, too. An e-book that does well in a library may also be considered for their system wide purchases. That can be quite a Ka-Ching for books so chosen by large library systems. Sometimes 50 books or more. Online entities logarithms might reward oft-read books with more exposure.

  Amazon provides a stipend from their huge KDP Select global Fund when customers read their books from the Kindle Unlimited and Kindle Owners’ Lending Library. It’s based on how many pages the reader actually turns (or reads). Amazon announce the amount to money that goes into that fun regularly.

  Loaned books allow people who can’t afford a book (or won’t spend the money) to read them. Most authors want their books read. Great readership can create sales greater momentum in a still wider world of readers.

The same concept applies to readership in general—purchased, lent, or borrowed—that will likely increase the buzz about a book which results in more sales.

  Activity on book lending gets noticed by Amazon’s algorithms. The more action you have on you Amazon account, the more likely Amazon’s logarithms will be to peg your book for additional exposure.

There is another big advantage. If your book is available to borrow on Amazon's Prime program, reviewers are often just as happy accessing your book that way instead of having you send a hardcopy to them. That's saves time and money for the author or publisher. In fact, that is one of the tips I give in one of the books in my #HowToDoItFrugally Series of books for writers.  It is How to Get Great Book Reviews Frugally and Ethically.
One last thing: Borrowing of any kind over paper that also must be shipped minimizes your carbon footprint. That’s important for authors who are also greenies.

More About Today's Author:

Carolyn Howard-Johnson brings her experience as a publicist, journalist, marketer, and retailer to the advice she gives in her HowToDoI series of books for writers and the many classes she taught for nearly a decade as instructor for UCLA Extension’s world-renown Writers’ Program. The books in her HowToDoItFrugally Series of books for writers have won multiple awards.
Howard-Johnson is the recipient of the California Legislature’s Woman of the Year in Arts and Entertainment Award, and her community’s Character and Ethics award for her work promoting tolerance with her writing. She was also named to Pasadena Weekly’s list of “Fourteen San Gabriel Valley women who make life happen” and was given her community’s Diamond Award for Achievement in the Arts.
The author loves to travel. She has visited nearly 100 countries and has studied writing at Cambridge University in the United Kingdom; Herzen University in St. Petersburg, Russia; and Charles University, Prague. She admits to carrying a pen and journal wherever she goes. Her Web site is

PS: The typewriter featured in this article is the very one Carolyn used for personal projects back in the day she was trimming Ann Landers' columns to fit what people then called the "Society" page of the newspaper she worked for.




What Is More Valuable Than Fame

By Terry Whalin (@terrywhalin) Many writers believe writing a book will make them famous. They believe getting their book into the market wi...