Posts tagged with: craft

Building Worlds

World building is the creation of detailed settings for out characters. Think – “giant terrarium” where we, writers, get to play God! It’s one of my favorite parts of being a writer. A story’s world is more than just a setting. Setting, like the two-dimensional background on a stage, lacks depth, history, emotion and all those other imperative aspects to a great book. World building goes beyond a date and location. It surrounds the reader, sucking them into the world’s society, culture, and the characters’ baggage.

If you can pick your characters up and skip them to another century or planet, and the story reads just fine without major changes, your world hasn’t been developed enough. It should be so intertwined with your characters that moving them would be like ripping them from a woven web of details and trying to stuff them into another. It just doesn’t work if you’ve built your world well. 

We all know how important world building is to SciFi and paranormal books, and even historical books, but it is equally important to contemporary books. If your hero is an FBI agent, he needs to speak the correct slang and understand the proper procedures (even if he doesn’t follow them). Where did he grow up? Does he uphold or fight against the dictates of the FBI code? All of these details, woven into external and internal dialogue, builds this character’s world, the world that may (and hopefully will) clash with the world of the heroine.

Young adult writers must build a world from the point of view of a teen. Knowing and using current slang, gestures, pop culture, world views, and technology are imperative to building a YA world. YA authors must put in the research, just like historical authors must check to see when vocabulary words, slang, and everyday items were used in centuries past.

Jumping from century to century, in historical books, also requires research to create a realistic, believable world. Details that impact character discussions, prejudices, beliefs and behaviors include:

local and national government,





social and family rolls,

daily habits,

health issues of the time

Society can change even decade to decade. I remember this every time I try to find pictures of my three kids. My nineteen-year-old’s memory box is full of prints of her as a baby. My eleven-year-old’s box has only a few prints because the rest of them are saved as digital pictures on my computer. So even over the course of eight years, life has changed.

My last Scottish historical series, The Highland Isles, features Highland warriors from the early 16th century. This was a time when King Henry VIII was interfering with Catholics in both England and Scotland, but he still celebrated Christmastide. Move forward to the late 17th century (the setting of my upcoming Highland Roses School series), and Scotland was so against Catholicism that they outlawed Christmas celebrations, calling it a popish (Catholic) holiday. Even when the official ban was lifted, Christmas wasn’t reinstated as an official holiday in Scotland until 1958 (400 years of no Christmas!).



Every great story must have a rich, color-packed world, which is more detailed than a pencil-sketched setting. However, be sure to sprinkle the details in as needed. Dropping in large amounts of world detail can bore a reader like a large background dump. Even in SciFi books, the details of the world must come naturally, using literary vehicles such as dialogue and interactions with the different aspects of the world.

If your story takes place outside of normal history (steampunk, SciFi, paranormal), you need to define what makes your world special. Capture it in notes or on a collage of pictures so you can refer to it while writing.

I’m a very visual person, so I make collages of my characters and the basics of their world. I keep them near me while I write. I also create a soundtrack for my book’s world and listen to it while I write. I’ve even gone so far as to drink my character’s favorite drink and light a candle (for that flickering candlelight) while writing because it helps me to step into my created world. My goal is to really understand where my characters are living and, therefore, what my characters are feeling and thinking.

What worlds have you created? How do you ensure that you’ve included enough detail?

For more information about me and my worlds (books), drop by my web site. While you’re there, sign up for my newsletter to be the first to know what worlds I’m currently creating.



We’re three weeks into the Winter Writing Fest, and whether you’re writing, plotting, or editing your middle could be a bit dull.
Let me tell you what I know about story middles.

They can be expanded into a huge massive saga and not hold one ounce of story muscle. Or, they can be elusive and cause the author to stare at the muse-sucking blinking cursor. Yet, they can be so wonderfully written and with every page the reader is drawn into the world you’ve built, and slowly, they become emotionally attached to your characters.

Writing the middle can suck, if you don’t know where your story is headed.

I’m a devoted panster. (Right hand held over my heart) I have been since the day I picked up a Crayola crayon and put it to my Bugs Bunny coloring book, my mother’s grocery list, the wall. (Yes, Bill Gates and I were wearing cloth diapers then.) I made up my stories as I went, drawing pictures and telling my story to my younger sister, who couldn’t talk yet. I’ve tried over the last ten years to get serious about plotting ahead, but in the end my story goes off in a totally new direction (damn characters). However, I have learned I MUST know several things before I start a new story, which helps my middle from becoming boring. What are they? Read on to learn how things work in my mind.

First, I need to learn my characters’ dreams and what drives them to go after those aspirations. (Everyone fantasies about obtaining something but not everyone is willing to do the hard work to succeed.) In order to learn my character’s most intimate desire, I dig deep into my hero’s, heroine’s and my antagonist’s hearts.

Why the villain’s? Because his/her desires are going to conflict with the hero’s or heroine’s dreams.

Okay, it’s a recognized fact that everyone wants love. So, if you said love, you’re grabbing the easy answer. You need to dig deeper. What kind of love and love for what. Love has many forms. The heart-wrenching or warming love between to people. They love for something bigger than any of us: God, nature, the universe. The love of money or power over others. Or the love we feel when we do something; helping someone, drugs, alcohol, creating something, achieving something no one else ever has, or the moment your character sees life slip away. What does you character love? And what are they willing to do to feel that love.

Next, I know the inciting incident that will set my hero on a path. That is my beginning. I’m going to use the movie Apollo 13, since many have seen the movie, as an example. (This where your character is an astronaut in the line-up for a flight into space in years to come. Then the guy in front of him, breaks his leg and suddenly it’s his time. His love is to walk on the moon just became real.)

Then, I decide what is going to make my hero change. (An explosion causes severe damage to Apollo.) At this point Jim Lovell, realizes what is more important to him then walking on the moon; His wife, children, family and friends back on Earth. And the lives of his crew.
Finally, I decide how my story ends. Of course, I always want an HEA. If you haven’t seen Apollo 13, I’m not going to spoil it for you.

Okay, now how do you keep your middle from sagging. ( I’m keeping it simple.)

In the first half of your middle, you write scenes that will show case your heroines trek to achieve his dreams. He will do anything to feel that power of love. He will also need to come up against challenges and make decisions that don’t sit well with him, because they go against his moral compass. He does them out of selfish love. Jim Lovell makes such a decision concerning his best friend during training.

In the second half of your middle, you’ll write scenes showcasing how heroic your hero really is. He now has a clear vision of who he truly is and what he really wants. You, the writer, should throw everything you can at him to make him fail. The universe threw everything at Jim Lovell, his crew, and the men and women of NASA, until the final black moment. (Again no spoiler.)

From there, it’s happy ending for me.

Okay recap:
1) Know your characters.
2) What is the incident that starts it all?
3) Write scenes where hero works toward achieving his dream. Make it a roller coaster ride, with scenes of achievement and scenes of conflict and defeat.)
4) What is the incident that occurs which makes your hero realize his true self, or love?
5) Write scenes showing him/her as the hero working toward his goal. Challenge him until the moment he triumphs. Write lines that personifies your character. (“Go ahead. Make my day.” No need to tell you who spoke that line.)
6) Write a satisfying ending.

Much of what I’ve said here today comes from the teachings of Michael Hauge. I took his workshop last year and it was like a light bulb went off over my head. I recapped my workshop notes here:

What I Learned From Michael Hauge – PART 1

And here:

What I Learned From Michael Hauge Part 2

Hope Ramsey also did a wonderful blog on middles here:


I think it’s so important for writers at any level to read different author’s POV on craft subjects. What clicks for me, might not click for you. And reading about craft helps us better our skills. So, has anyone learned about middles from another source?




Emma didn’t know what woke her— the excitement of the celebration to come in a few hours or the moonlight streams shimmering through the window, but something had.  Her heart, like an Olympic sprinter’s, drummed against her narrow chest as she brushed her bangs from her eyes.

I’m Not Your Prop


If you don’t think secondary characters are as important as the main characters of any story, you would be completely wrong. They are not simply props. They play many important different roles; The side-kick, The Tempter, The Skeptic, The Driver, The Mentor, and The Mixture to name a few. I’ve listed definitions of these roles below.

Often, SC (secondary characters) disclose bits of backstory (truths) which exposes our hero’s motivation for championing a cause. They can unmask aspects of personalities which our characters (not necessarily the heroes) are determined to keep hidden from the world. They can explain why characters make the choices they do. They can do all this in a few words.


Sometimes, secondary characters remind the main character of their humanity, shifting their decision in championing a cause and thus changing the plot’s direction.

They remind the cast of characters why the hero’s quest is important, especially when the hero has given up hope.

They can reveal to the reader unseen forces that add to the plot’s mystery or suspense. Or their can throw in a red-herring depending on their own motives.


SC can offer the reader hope when none seems possible.

They can hold a memory or essential information and be the key to the hero’s success.

They can offer different perspectives and change the plot, or add another story line. (Sequel?)  

They can be the one whose death exposes the hero’s heart and changes his direction.

Secondary characters have power and authors should take as much time to develop them as they have their heroes.  You should know their backstory even though it’s not be revealed to the reader as much as your main character’s history. Their backstory is what drives them which effects the storyline. Knowing it makes them real and thus gives their words and actions validity. Give them substance!

Don’t confuse secondary characters with extras.  Extras are those characters who walk into a book once or twice. Extras certainly need a voice (not cliché’, unless intended to be so) but their backstory is non-exist to the reader.

Every character is important to the story. They all hold threads to the plot. They all add texture to the overall story.  Take the time to make each as real as possible. Your reward will be a keeper book.   



The Sidekick

This character represents the faithful friend who always stands by the protagonist.

The Tempter

This character is the right hand of the antagonist. It’s a secondary character that can help you create new subplots and obstacles the protagonist will face throughout the story.

The Skeptic

Although the role of the secondary character who complicates the achievement of the protagonist’s goals is usually taken by the tempter, it doesn’t always have to be like that. Sometimes there are characters who help the antagonist by standing in the protagonist’s way without having anything to do with him.

The Driver

The role of the driver is to make the protagonist act in order to set the plot in motion. When the protagonist has doubts about whether to take a path or not or gets stuck because he doesn’t know what decision to make, it’s the perfect time for the driver to take part in the story. It’s not necessary for the secondary character to solve all of the protagonist’s doubts. It’s much more interesting if the hero only receives clues that lead him to decide which path to take. It’s just a little push because the final decision should rest with the main character (if it didn’t, he wouldn’t gain knowledge from experience).

The Mentor

This secondary character requires special mention. Apart from giving the protagonist a key to solving a particular conflict (which is also the role of the driver), he also has the function of guiding the protagonist (for a longer period of time than the driver) and sharing knowledge at crucial moments in order to return him to the right path.

The Mixture

Not everything is black or white, and the secondary characters we’ve mentioned don’t have to be exclusively limited to their role. Sometimes we can mix different types of characters to create new roles and add depth to the story. The role of the pseudo-villain is a clear example of how mixtures work – the tempter (or helper of the antagonist) redeems himself towards the end of the story and becomes a driver or sidekick who helps the protagonist achieve his goal.




The Same…But Different: Using Popular Tropes to Make Your Romance Novel a Familiar Favorite With an Exciting Twist

Romance novels are all about the tropes. What’s a trope? A premise / plot device so popular a bajillion (that’s a scientific term) books have used it. Like an accidental pregnancy. Or a woman who falls for her brother’s best friend. Or a secret baby.

Maybe this is one of the reasons people sometimes criticize romance novels for being formulaic. And, sometimes, they can be. I’m a total sucker for a good brother’s-best-friend story, but I don’t want to read the same brother’s-best-friend story over and over. I want the same trope, but a different story.

As writers, it’s important to make sure that, if we’re using a familiar trope, we’re putting a unique spin on it. But how do we do that?

There are all kinds of strategies, but here are a few ideas to get you thinking:

  • Take a familiar trope into a new time period, location, or world.
    • Example: The Selection by Kiera Cass
      •  The Trope: A Bachelor-style competition where a prince will choose his wife
      •  The Twist: Make it dystopian
  • Turn the trope on its head: 
  • Blend two (or more!) tropes together:
Free Falling in Love by Ava Blackstone

How many tropes can I fit into one romance novel? Let’s see: (1) Mistaken identity, (2) Opposites attract, (3) Friends to lovers, (4) Office romance

When I sat down to plot Free Falling in Love, the fifth book in my Voretti Family series, I knew I wanted the hero, Alex, to switch places with his brother Matt. Because—come on. They’re identical twins. You didn’t expect me to write an entire book featuring a hero who had an identical twin without the two of them switching places a couple times, did you?

The problem was, I watched waaaay too many versions of The Parent Trap growing up, so the idea of Alex and Matt deciding to switch places felt predictable and stale.

Not to mention that, over the course of the previous four books in the series, I’d given Alex, a responsible, color-inside-the-lines personality. Why would this Type-A rule follower choose to switch places with his unreliable twin?

He wouldn’t.

Time to scrap the whole idea?

Not quite, because putting the twin-switch trope together with Alex’s rule-following personality gave me an idea. I could make the twin switch an accident. So, through a combination of a flat tire and bad timing, Alex’s coworker, Nikki, mistakes him for his twin. And he doesn’t realize what’s going on until after she blows his mind with the Best Kiss Ever.

Poor Alex.

Don’t feel too sorry for him, though. He gets the girl in the end.

What about you? What romance novel tropes have you used in your books? How have you made them your own?


If you’re thinking this blog is about setting, you’re totally wrong.  Maybe I should’ve changed the title so you wouldn’t have thought so, but after I started brainstorming ideas for a blog it actually fit.

My original idea was to write about two lessons I learned many years ago from my creative writing professor which, yes, would’ve pertained to setting, but then two of my Ruby sisters had also mentioned on our private loop that they planned blogs about the subject. Although I knew we’d approach the subject matter from different angles, I kind of figured our readers would say enough already.  So I’ll save my thoughts on setting for another time.

Anyway, going back to my creative writing classes— since I know you’re all dying to know what they were—the first one was free writing. We all know what that is, right? You just write whatever comes to mind without stopping for a length of time and the writing doesn’t need to follow rhythm or reason. It’s a way of freeing your muse. Thinking about that lesson helped me put a twist on the second lesson, which was setting sense and had to do with experiencing your world.

When we think of seasons we contemplate visions of spring, summer, autumn and winter and all the elements that make them unique. But for today, we’re going to think of seasons in term of our character’s lives.

People in different seasons of their lives have very different points of view on just about everything. I know I think differently than my children on many topics, including their view of texting to friends while talking to me as multi-tasking. I also have a different point of view than my parents on many subjects.

However, age is not the only factor that determines our mind set.  My views are not always agreed upon by friends who are my age. Everyone’s  POV has been shaped by many dynamics such as; their racial background, their educational level, the region in which they live, their talents, their experiences with others (job or social networking), past and present world events, handling health issues, religion, and their relationships with family members, to name a few.  To make characters really come to life we need to know which forces molded them—backstory.

A woman of ninety who has been totally blessed all her life is going to look at death differently than a girl of sixteen. And a girl of sixteen who has been blessed will face death differently than a girl who has been repeatedly abused by her father.

A man who has a family that depends on him for support is going to go to a job interview with a different mindset than a man who has no one but himself to worry about. And a woman is going to have a totally different mentality in the same situation.

Two homeless families will have a different outlooks on their future because of their relationship with each other and their faith in God.

Two men hear gunfire. One is a hunter. The other is a vet who has seen the worse side of humanity.  Each will react differently to the discharge.

A person who has never had a new car is going to feel differently about their new car than the person who buys a new Porsche every year.

Those are simply examples, but I think you get my drift.

I remember while cleaning for my grandmother I found dozens of pieces if cardboard maybe six inches in length. Each had many different colored threads spooled around them.  The threads were extras that came from clothing that had been undone.  She also kept sheets of used aluminum foil of all different sizes in a box. They were to be reused.  My grandmother lived through the great depression.  Many things she did all her life were based on the time she lived through.

Each season of life as well as how much we have been seasoned influences our POV and fuels our motivation in doing everything. So it should be for our characters.



Autumn Jordon is sneaker-wearing Ruby who authors light-heart contemporary romances and seat-edging mystery/suspense novels.  Join her newsletter at and receive a free book and many short reads, available only to her subscribers. 

Suspense Or Mystery 101

When I began to write romantic suspense, I tossed out several reams of paper. Why?  Because no matter how I tried I couldn’t keep my villain hidden. He kept voicing his POV and writing his own chapters. I nearly ripped my hair out by the roots fighting with him to stay silent. Then I read a wonderful book, How To Write Killer Fiction by Carolyn Wheat.  Ms.Wheat set me straight and confirmed what my villain was telling me all along.

Is there a Who-dun-it in suspense? Of course there is. When the villain is revealed, among a few other elements, that makes suspense different from mystery. In a mystery, an act of violence begins the story, but most times the action is set off stage. The reader is invited into the dilemma and introduced to an already seasoned hero who solves the crime logically and through scientific methods. There is a small circle of suspects, clues and red herrings. Information is withheld from the reader and the said reader is kept in the dark two steps behind. The hero grows very little during the story. The story is all about who killed X? The villain is not exposed until the last scene and the end result for the reader is an intellectual satisfaction.

A suspense novel starts on even keel, showing the everyday life our hero or heroine. Then BAM, a nightmare occurs.


Excerpt from His Witness To Evil:

Stephanie masked her sigh of exertion while lifting the Coleman cooler she’d borrowed for their trip. She lugged the container to her old SUV. She knew how her son felt. She wished she had the money to take them away on exciting excursions like their friends had this summer. To places like Disney World, but she couldn’t even afford a day trip to Hershey Park, America’s chocolate capital. Em’s special diet, because of her allergies, took up a third of her take-home pay. After paying the mortgage, utilities, car insurance and miscellaneous expenses, she was lucky to save a few dollars a week.

She chewed on her bottom lip. Hopefully, next week Bobby and his friends would be off on new adventures, their summer vacations a distant memory.

The howl of a diesel engine jerked Stephanie from her musing. The squeal of brakes, crushing metal and shattering glass made her spin around.

Other basics of a suspense: All action is on stage. The protagonists’ world expansions. There are surprises. The villain can be revealed to the reader immediately and can have a POV.

Yeah! This made my villain happy. Information is given to the reader but withheld from the heroes. In other words, we know what could happen if the wrong path is taken by our hero.  The reader sits on the edge of her seat, screaming at the heroine and hero not to go there.


Excerpt from His Witness To Evil:

“I don’t want to kill no kids, Victor.” Mac danced in place ready to dodge Victor’s wrath.

“You will do as I say,” Victor snapped.

She looked at the dead driver. His lifeless stare pleaded to her for justice.

“Don’t trust her,” Sheriff Morse ordered, turning his gun on her.

Stephanie refused to flinch under Morse’s scrutiny.

Gene moved in front of her. “Frank, what the hell are you doing? You’ve known Stephanie all her life.”

“There is too much at stake, Gene. She saw me kill that guy. I’m not going to jail.” Morse’s tongue skimmed his lips. “Why the hell are you trying to protect her anyway? You two have been fightin’ like junkyard dogs for years. You complain every day she’s milking you dry. This is your chance to be rid of your mistakes.”

“Steph was never a mistake to me,” Gene’s voice rose in response. Then it softened. “I was hers.”

Tears threatened to blur her vision and she blinked them away. She squeezed Gene’s arm and glanced at her ex-husband’s profile. He remained focused.

“Touching,” Victor said. “But, sorry, no. They must die here.”


The suspense story is all about the hero or heroine prevailing. Emotional satisfaction is what the reader gets from a suspense novel. And since I write romantic suspense, love also must be found.


Excerpt from His Witness to Evil:

After a week, her touch was familiar. His heart melted. He grabbed her hand, holding her in place as he turned and smiled down on her. Her nipples pushed against her white T-shirt. He gently brushed a knuckle across one peak. “No. It was hell without you.”

“Mmmm. Same here.” She pulled back and lifted his arm around her, curling into him.  Looking out over the lake, she sighed. “I could stay here forever, if you’d let me.”

“I wish we could.” He gathered her closer and kissed the top of her head. “But eventually Bobby and Em would have to go to school.”

“I could home school.” Her chuckle was strained.

He felt her pain. He smiled while his heart wrenched. He would like nothing more than to forget about the world and stay here with her and the kids. But they couldn’t. “Sooner or later Ben will call. We’ll have to go back.”

“I know.”

Steph moved away. A cold void took her place.

She drifted to the other porch column. Leaning against it, she folded her arms across her chest. Her lips pressed together as if she was forming the right words behind them. “I know I said that our time together here was going to be enough to last me a lifetime, but—” Tears brimmed her lids. “I was wrong.  A lifetime won’t be enough.”


John stepped toward her. “I don’t know what—”

“I know, you don’t know how we can be together. So, Ben will call. We’ll go back, and I’ll identify Victor. You’ll toss him in jail and throw away the key. You’ll drive off in pursuit of the next bad guy and me…Well, I’ll go home and wonder where you are. Wonder if what I felt was love.”

The woman knew how to make a guy feel like a heel.

John pulled her into his arms. She buried her head in his chest and cried softly against him. He kissed her head and smoothed her hair. “Steph, I didn’t think I’d ever love again,” he whispered softly, cupping her chin and tilting her face up until she looked at him. “Like a bomb, you dropped into my life. Every defense I’d put up to protect myself from ever being hurt again came tumbling down. You opened up my heart. As much as you don’t want to live without me, I don’t want to live without you. I love you.”

He kissed her gently. Her arms wrapped around him and held on.  “Somehow, we’ll figure this out. I promise.”

Evil’s Witness, now titled His Witness To Evil, was my 2009 Golden Heart Entry and Golden Leaf Winner.  To learn about my more recent releases please visit my website  Don’t forget to join my newsletter.






No part of this post may be copied or reproduced without the expressed permission of the author, Autumn Jordon.



I was going to title this blog ‘I’m pissed’ but it’s not about me being pissed as a writer but more so as a reader who recently mentally threw a digital book I bought for $5.99 against the wall. Why? Because the author totally, blatantly portrayed the book to be romantic suspense and she stated that even though there was a love triangle involved and there was sex, it was not erotica. COUGH Right? As romantic suspense fan she hooked me with the first chapter, but after that… hmmm The only thing that hadn’t happened in the bedroom, kitchen, living room, bathroom during the first 40% of book was that the donkey didn’t show up to bring in a new element into the trios tryst. I didn’t finish the book.

I’m sure the situation she created happens or has happened somewhere in the world throughout the centuries, and she is writing fiction after all, but to sell the work for what it is not in my opinion is wrong.

Did I return the book? No. Maybe I should’ve, but I learned a valuable lesson from this author and for that I’ll let her keep the royalty she earned by making the sell.  Will I buy from her again? Even though her writing was top notch, I will not. She lost my trust, not through her writing but through her marketing of the book.

In any genre, there are element degrees: comedy, suspense, drama, mystery, fantasy, love, sex, etc.  The writer’s voice is her style in using the different elements in different degrees. Unfortunately, the cyber book shelves, just as the brick and mortar books shelves only allow us to classify our books in a general genre. It’s only through our marketing that we can let our readers know of the sub-genres and sub-subgenres the work could be classified.  

I write a light comedy contemporary romance series that I tell my readers is written in Hallmark Holiday movie tone. In doing so, I believe I’m letting my readers know the level of sexual tension and the degree of comedy and drama they can expect. The first book in the series, PERFECT, which is a Christmas romance, was given a one-star review shortly after its release because the reader believed for some reason that it was a Christian book. I felt bad that I hadn’t specifically written out that it was not a Christian Romance, but I never said it was.

Writing blurbs and marketing material is hard.

I also write romantic suspense and romantic mystery. I try very hard in writing all of my blurbs to let the readers know if they are getting more of a suspense with their romance or they’re getting more of a mystery. Or if the story is more suspense/mystery with romantic elements. Again, even though, I’ve tried to be up-front, some readers will flat out review the works as failing to meet their idea of the perfect romantic suspense or romantic mystery. All I can say is I tried and the 99.99% of the readers who’ve reviewed my works tell me I’ve done okay in marketing my books.

Do you believe the publisher’s and/or the indie author’s has a responsibility to convey to the best of their ability what genre or sub-genre their work falls into?   Have you purchased a book only to learn it’s not want the author led you to believe it to be?  Have you returned books for the reason, never to buy from the author again?


Autumn Jordon is an award-winning, sneaker wearing Ruby who has a new release out titled PERFECT FALL. Learn more about her and her work at and join her newsletter AJ Revealed





I Hate You

Okay. I bet the second you read my blog title an ex-significant other popped into your mind and you’re recalling what it was about him or her that caused conflict between the two of you and ended the bond.  Think back to the turning point in your relationship.

Was it something he did or didn’t do?

While eating out, did he/she always pick at the dinner you ordered because he decided yours looked or tasted better than the dinner he ordered?

Did he/she always leave the television on when leaving the house or apartment?

Did he/she never wash or clean out his car? And was happy to have a backseat filled with garbage?

Did they constantly make promises and always had an excuse for not keeping them?

Or was it something he/she said?

Like beginning every sentence with “Hummm”

Or “I told you to…”

Did he/she never let you finish your sentence?

Or did it seem the relationship was all about them?

You always went out with his/her friends but not with yours?

You attended all of his ball games but he/she always found an excuse to miss your book signings.

She/He always wants sex with the lights off and never in the afternoon.

Or were there outside influences that strained the relationship?

He/she hated your dog, or cat.

Her/his family always had to be consulted concerning decisions that should be made by the two of you. Or the family interfered on their own.

His/her job took priority over everything.

Maybe there was a habit at first you thought was kind of cute but then it became really annoying.

He called every one of his buddies MAN.

While in the shower, he sang his version of We Are The Champions, inserting I am instead of we are.

He always swiped a cookie or veggie from the tray you just finished making for a party.

He always wore the same ratty shirt on the weekends.

I’m sure many of you could add more really great examples.

My point in listing all these examples is that they are character flaws and by giving your characters a flaw, your reader will connect with them and identify with your hero or heroine’s reaction. And that is what you want as a writer—a connection with the reader.

Perfect characters are boring characters.

Think about your favorite sitcom. One of mine is Everybody Loves Raymond.  Every character in that show is memorable. All have huge flaws.

Raymond, of course, is lazy when it comes to helping with the children and around the house. He loves golf and sex and would do about anything to have more time doing both, including telling his white lies.

Deborah, his wife, her flaw in my book, is she puts up with Raymond. But she can also be admired for sticking it out with the guy.

Robert, Raymond’s older, much taller brother, is insecurity about being second in line to his baby brother. And he has this freakish way of touching his chin when eating.

And Marie and Frank, Ray’s parents… well there isn’t enough room on this blog to list all of their faults.

The only characters who seem perfect are Ray’s and Deborah’s three children.  GRIN. Kids are always perfect!

In my 2009 Golden Heart entry, Evil’s Witness now titled His Witness To Evil, my hero, John, a FBI agent, is very curt. He is a loner with deep wounds. John wears a tiny rubber band around his ring finger and constantly snaps it. This works the heroine, Stephanie’s nerves. She is the target of a Mafia lord and under a lot of stress, so this little repeated action becomes the catalyst for her to express anger over her situation. It also does something else. When Steph blows her top and she presses John about it, she learns of his internal conflict. It reminds him of his daughter who was murdered out of revenge against him.


Now let’s go back to the lists above. I’m going to pick a few and show an example what conflict and emotion can be developed from the trait, flaw or habit.

A) Leaves the television on. Perfect internal conflict. Character was abandoned. Afraid to come home to an empty house.

B) Hmmm.. Heroine yells, “Hmmm. That is all you ever say to me. You never share what you’re thinking.”

Hero thinks, I really don’t want to do Thanksgiving at the grandfather’s house again, especially this year when it’s going to be the old man’s last.  I’ve lost enough this year.

C) Sex in the afternoon:

“I’ll get these reports to Mr. Gillings right away.” Marcy tapped the papers into a uniform pile, surprised Bill had agreed to all of her terms.

“You have time.” He stood and second later she heard the door lock clink.

“What are you doing?” Her nervous chuckle echoed off the walls of her office as he walked toward her. It was Saturday and there was no one in the building. “I told you, I’m not going to have sex with you.”

“If you want my support, you will.’”

Marcy’s heel landed home, in his nut patch.

How’s that for conflict?

I know you’re all avid readers. Do you have an example of a character with a flaw you’ve read you’d like to share?







Autumn Jordon is an award-winning, sneaker wearing Ruby. You can join her newsletter at or follow her on Facebook and Tweeter.

How Physical Traits Influence Character

Confession: I forgot what day today was. Literally forgot it was Thursday; thought it was Wednesday and I’d have another day to write a blog post. And since I spend the bulk of Thursday night (and Wednesday morning) at the animal shelter, I didn’t have much time to think of fresh content. Luckily, I found this intriguing little self-reflective post from 2009 when I was undergoing a significant physical problem that challenged my identity and had me wondering how a character’s physical appearance impacts their emotional life.

It’s awfully cute and a little bit painful. My dad was still alive back then; my son wasn’t even conceived! Life was simpler, and I was honestly a different person with very different priorities and goals. If I could go back in time, I would tell myself so many, many things…

Many of you know that I had shoulder surgery last January [2009] to repair a ring of detached cartilage and muscle, a volleyball-induced mess that had been keeping me from all of my favorite hobbies and a chunk of my duties as a zookeeper. Though I didn’t know the extent of the injury before the surgery, I’d hoped the surgeon would provide a relatively quick fix—the most likely procedure would require a three-month healing period plus another six to nine months of rehabilitation. It didn’t sound too bad. I felt obligated to quit zookeeping, though, just before the surgery. I couldn’t see a way around it, and besides, wouldn’t it be nice to spend the year of recovery writing?

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