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A writer discovers characters by inspiration or by accident. Their stories are so incredible or inspirational they must be shared. The blessing of imagination allows characters to share their personal histories with the writer who becomes the ghostwriter.
As a writer of historical fiction, my research requires discovering descriptions, timelines, and eye-witness accounts of real-life men, women, and children. Thankfully, names, ages, maps, photos, non-fiction books, and documents are a click away. Occasionally, I visit my local library.
However, most of this awesome information won’t be used in my character’s story. Some of the facts will give way to the fictional plot with history used as needed for believability. The fun is in blending the two, much like an abstract painting. I love adding flesh to the bones.
How do seasoned writers keep track of all the information gleaned?
Here are a few I’ve learned through the years. Share your methods in the comments below.
10 tips for researching, organizing, culling, and utilizing your character’s story
- Research begins by discovering who your characters are, what they will do, and where the story is set.
- Create a project folder on your computer. Add subfolders such as characters, settings, backstory, maps, calendars, resources used, and deleted scenes.
- Search online for needed technical, historical, or world building resources.
- Copy and paste needed information into a document with the website link and source credit for a later reference or to use in a blog post.
- Save documents in the appropriate subfolders in your project folder.
- Print documents if preferred but slide them into plastic sleeves. Keep them in large, white three-ring binders which have the clear plastic on the front and end that allows you to slide in a custom label. Add tabs between subjects as needed for quick reference.
- Use character development worksheets which include physical descriptions, personality types/disorders, fears, passions, greatest desire, and morals or lack of.
- Find or create worksheets to help brainstorm what is going to happen. What will force your characters out of their usual routines? Who or what is threatening to kill, steal, or destroy their greatest desire? What is at risk? Will they win?
- Write your story using only what you need from your research to create sensory and emotional scenes.
- Blend in bits and pieces of the main character’s past as needed but keep the story moving. Readers want to sympathize with your main character and experience thecurrent action of the story.
In the consciousness of morning, but with my eyes still closed,
I prayed to Daddy God about my concerns.
A vision of a his hand emerged from warm shades of light.
His white-robed arm reached across the oak-stained table
toward my child-sized hand
and gently covered it.
I’m not generally a fan of romance, but Patty Wiseman has created a believable character in Ricki Sheridan. She is a Game Warden with a tough persona, strong sense of duty, and an independent spirit. But Ricki has a weakness. Her caring heart led her into a relationship with a man that betrayed her trusting nature.
Needing to clear her head and heal, Ricki flees to a mountain lodge where she joins a group hike. She’s not mentally or emotionally prepared to accept Kory Littleton or that unexpected moment. When her past follows her, everyone’s life is in danger. Ricki knows she must put her past in order before her heart can move forward.
Patty Wiseman does a good job keeping the story and characters’ emotions flowing into a memorable story that would make a good movie.
The excitement of having books published these days wanes as a certain entity no longer allows family and friends to post reviews. For authors who publish with small press or self-publish, family and friends are the first readers. They desire to post honest reviews.
Unfortunately, unethical authors have ruined this venue for everyone. I understand the actions taken by this company. However, without reviews, our books are not promoted. Without promotions, our books are not found by readers who are searching for books like ours.
Indy authors must pay for ads, give books away, and be constantly seeking benevolent readers to give honest reviews. Hiring marketers or a publicist isn’t an option for starving authors who would rather write.
What to Do?
- Encourage family and friends to promote books on their social media outlets, and websites.
- Read Indy author’s books and post honest reviews on all venues, social media, and websites. (see my Recommended Reads page)
- Share, share, share.
The point is to get authors’ names and books into the search engines where readers discover them. These readers will purchase books from the seller and leave reviews on the site–as long as they don’t become “friends” on social media.
What options have I’ve missed? Let me know in the comments.
- Marketing is hard and depressing
- Maintaining a social media presence requires a certain degree of pretense
- If one doesn’t constantly comment on other’s posts, one doesn’t have a social presence
- Book fairs, community events, and speaking engagements are mandatory but mind numbing
- Empty promises from people for reviews, promotions, or feedback, reiterates rejection
- Extroverts don’t understand the struggle
- Long periods of isolation are required for recovery from social functions
- Book publishers should provide free professional marketers (One can dream)
- Writers need words of encouragement from readers and publisher
- Discouragement leads to further withdrawal from being social
I’d rather be writing!
Are you an introverted novelist? How do you cope with marketing?
But what if, by the time your daughter was seven-years-old, she was screaming, “I want to die.”
This happened to Charity Marie. “Time stopped in that moment. I lost the ability to breathe…”
Her journey with daughter, Libby, thus far, is heart wrenching. This courageous woman deals with struggles few parents can imagine. Less than 1% of children develop paranoid schizophrenia, a neurological brain disease with no cure.
Read her incredible story of love, heartache, and determination.
She needs us to care.
Visions of Liberty: Parenting a Child with Severe Mental Illness
Any hope my daughter Libby would outgrow her fears ended unexpectedly one sunny summer day in July 2017, as we stood in a local children’s hospital room listening to my ten-year-old describe a skeletal figure holding a knife dripping blood, standing behind the doctor.
As she cried and told us she thought the figure would kill everyone in the room, my parental identity and dreams for her shattered into a million pieces. I listened to her say once again she wanted to kill herself, which she’d been saying for three years. For the first time, I understood a little better why.
It hurts. I can’t even tell you how much.
She was admitted to the local behavioral health hospital for a ten day stay and prescribed medication for anxiety and depression. And over the past six months, we’ve tried to pick up the pieces and find our new normal as she continues to suffer from debilitating hallucinations, delusions, paranoia, and other symptoms she can’t control. We’ve witnessed her battle every day against demons we can’t see or understand.
Since then, her medication was changed and she’s now on a heavy cocktail of medication to control the worst of her symptoms, which has thankfully restored some, but not all her ability to function. It wasn’t until December 2017 we really began to understand the battle we face will be lifelong and will get harder as she ages.
She’s had three subsequent inpatient stays for continuing symptoms since July and as of January 2018 has been admitted to the nearest residential treatment center for long term care, two hours away from us.
The loneliness and isolation are very hard to take. Some days you just need to feel like someone else cares, that someone will do something, anything to help make the situation a little better. In the last 30 days we’ve had so many medical emergencies, I’m mentally, physically, and emotionally exhausted in ways I’ve never experienced. We haven’t had a good weekend in six weeks.
And I’m doing all of this while working full time. I don’t want or need pity. I do want solutions, help, support. I want to see change. This illness is hard enough without the roadblocks making it worse. I shouldn’t be fighting with medical professionals and the insurance company to get her treated. I shouldn’t be facing bankruptcy because the medical costs of her care are so high. Where will we be in six years or as Libby approaches 18? I don’t know, and I’m honestly scared to find out.
Schizophrenia is a brain disorder that needs so much more understanding. Until it impacted me, I didn’t know about it either. No shame in that – but everyone needs to understand more than they do.
Together, we must do more to help people who are struggling with mental illness – any mental illness – to cope better, to BE better, and to heal. If we all try to understand a little more, try to be kinder, we can give hope to those who are struggling and those trying to help them.
Behavior has a reason, even if it seems it doesn’t and it’s NOT because someone is just “crazy”.
As a society, we must do better to understand mental illness and to support those affected.
Read more about this family’s struggle and leave encouraging comments.
Please help Charity Marie with Libby’s ongoing, lifelong medical expenses and care for severe mental illness.
Charity Marie is an Award-winning children’s author, a paralegal for a personal injury law firm, as well as a licensed realtor.
There is a niche for readers who like quick reads and for writers who love creating shorter than normal stories. A blog called, The Drabble, offers the challenge of writing fiction, non-fiction, or poetry of 100 words or less.
Give it a try.
My story was inspired by a co-worker in Branson Mo. who was a cave diver. One day he explained the dangers of going so deep into a dark cavern. “People have died because they didn’t plan for extra canisters of air to make it out.”
Horrified, I asked him why he’d risk his life like that. He smiled and said he couldn’t imagine a better way to die. “Just close your eyes and go to sleep. Very peaceful.”
The thought of cave diving still scares me. In my short, I wanted readers to experience both the fear and peace. Let me know how I did.
Here is my published submission called, Cave Diver.