Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Characters: good guys

Last month I talked about creating bad characters, so this month it's time for the strong and virtuous. The same techniques can be used as in making a bad character but this time the emphasis is different.

First impressions. As with the bad guys, you might not start here. You might have other characters talk about him first, to add to tension, delay his entrance. First impressions may be wrong: the brute may turn out to be a sweetie, or the slob may end up as a hero.

Attitudes. Don’t have to be totally ‘good’ but must include a generosity of spirit.

Actions. What does he do that changes world for better, or helps others?

How do others see the character?. If a baddie insults your hero, the reader can be so indignant they will more readily identify with the character.

How does your good guy react to situations? Not selfishly, except in minor ways. When it comes to the crunch, the good characters do the right thing.

Good guys don’t whine. Their obsessions, if they have any, are appealing.

Making a good character attractive. See my last post about making a bad character attractive, because the same techniques apply. Above all - never let your hero or heroine be smug or self-absorbed!

Good characters care. They relate, they share. They lead, they act, they dream, they do something about it! They have big aims. They do not give up, however tempting that might seem. If they appear to give up, they still go on, later. They are not passive. If they are victims, they fight back later. They do not lack courage, however much they might be afraid and know how hopeless a situation is.

We are in their heads, identifying with their thoughts, fears, secrets and aims. We share their inner conflicts as they choose what to do. They have quirky/appealing personal habits (even small vices). We laugh with them and sometimes at them but never for long. They have possible catchphrases or predictable responses that are appealing, so the reader can anticipate how they will react and get a kick out of that. At the same time, they are not entirely predictable. They have hidden depths, maybe hidden dangers. They are bigger than they seem.

If all else fails and you feel a character is not appealing enough and you want him or her to be, then make that character suffer. Suffering will hopefully engage the reader’s pity, unless you’ve made the character so rotten that the readers are all cheering their heads off.

If you want to see my characters in action - both bad and good - have a look at my books.


Tuesday, March 24, 2009

I was all set to blog more about marketing and promotion, but I'm having problems with a new medication I'm taking and I just don't have the energy. Rather than miss an opportunity to share something, I've decided to post the newest review of my latest release, Sparta Rose.

Getting this book published is a story in itself. After signing with and having my first agent close her doors before anything productive happened, I was successful in signing with a second. I submitted Sparta Rose and she loved it, and after waiting several months, she contacted me and said she had found a publisher who loved my work. Although I'd never heard of the "house," I asked the questions I thought were pertinent, ready through the contract and signed on the dotted line. I later discovered that I'd been lied too, and the company was indeed another e-publisher, like the several with whom I'd already signed, and although they professed not to deal in "print on demand," that was exactly what they did. Rather than cause I scene, I honored my agreement. Unfortunately, something totally unforeseen happened and I asked for, and received my rights back to the story. The beautiful cover that had been designed for me was pulled and promptly assigned to an anthology group.

I secured a second publisher, went through editing, sat back and waited for October 2007 to come. Right before the book was due for release, the editor and owner of the company encountered family problems and put everything on hold. Rather than wait to see if things played out in my favor, I asked for and received my rights back again. The second beautiful cover fell by the wayside. Of course, you realize any good author has already been promoting a book long before it's release, so now I've promoted two covers that will never be... even entered them in the Covey awards. Do you know what a headache it is to have to pull your promotions from every site you've posted to? It sucks.

Luckily, a third publisher contracted Sparta Rose. Another editing, another wait, but at long last, Ellie's story is finally published. Eternal Press released my story this month, and I'm happy to let you sit in on her first official interview:

Our special guest this evening is Miss Roselle Fountain, the heroine from author, Ginger Simpson’s historical, Sparta Rose. Welcome, Roselle.

RF – *Fidgeting* Oh please call me Ellie. I’ve never much identified with such a flowery name. You probably can’t tell by the way I’m dressed today, but I’ve always been somewhat of a tomboy.

INT - *Laughing*. So I’ve heard. You look very nice in your flowered print—very much the lady.

RF – That’s Pa’s doing. He insisted if I was going to make an appearance, I needed to dress more high-falutin’. I’d much rather be wearing britches and boots. *Tugs at the neckline of her dress*. These things are too danged uncomfortable at times.

INT – So, Ellie, tell the readers a little about Sparta Rose.

RF – *Smiles* Well, I can’t give away too much. Ginger would skin me alive, but I’m sure she won’t mind me telling you that it’s got a little romance, a lot of western, and even more feistiness than her last historical romance. My problems begin when Pa hires Tyler Bishop as the ranch foreman. I kinda figured Pa always wanted a son, and Ty proves me right. Their relationship gets me pretty riled up. I have a bad temper at times… I think it comes from this red hair. *pulls a strand forward and grins*.

INT – So, besides your jealousy of Ty, is there any adventure involved.

RF – Oh, you bet. *Squares herself in her chair*. The polecats that live on the neighboring ranch are aiming to get Fountainhead away from Pa. Dude Bryant and his twin boys are meaner than snakes… well at least Dude and Jeb are. Joshua comes across as quiet and a follower. But, *balls hands into fists* I’ll be danged if they’re gonna get my legacy. I actually bought a gun and taught myself to shoot it.

INT – A gun? What do you plan to do with it?

RF – Protect Fountainhead of course. I’m aim to show Pa he don’t need Tyler Bishop around when he has me. I just wish Ty wasn’t so dang good lookin’.

INT – I haven’t heard you mention your mother. How does she feel about you owning a gun?

RF - *Lowers her eyes*. My ma died when I was very young. I suppose that’s why I took up with the ranch hands and spend so much time workin’ outdoors. *Raises a steely gaze*. But, now that Ty’s in the picture, Pa wants me to spend more time in the house doing womanly things.

INT – Would that be such a bad thing?

RF – Of course it would. I don’t much care for cookin’ and cleanin’. We have Cook for that. I’d much rather brand a cow as fry one.

INT – So what about the romance part of the story?

RF – *Chews her bottom lip for a moment* Well, I accompany Ty to a dance in Sparta, and as usual, he gets my dander up there, too. I never should have gone, but those eyes of his make my knees weak. My better judgment flew right out the window. *Takes a deep breath* What happens from then on, you’ll have to find out for yourself. I may look young and na├»ve, but I’m not silly enough to give away the whole story. Miz Ginger is counting on sales to help pay for a face lift or something like that. I wouldn't want to let her down.

INT – I certainly wouldn’t want you to. You’ve given us enough of a teaser to stir some interest. Hopefully we’ll see you on a best seller’s list somewhere.

RF – That would be right nice. It just may happen cause remember, I have a gun. *Slaps hip and fakes a draw*.

INT - Well, here’s hoping you don’t have to use it. *laughs*. Thank you so much, Ellie for being with us today. And good luck in the future.

So far, Ellie is garnering good's the newest I received today. Can't argue with five of these puppies.

Reviewed by Lynn for Review Your Book

Sparta Tennessee-1860

Roselle was a tomboy from the get go. Of course, she would much rather be called Ellie and drop the Rose. That was more like the name of a fine lady. When she was only 3-years-old, she lost her mother to Typhoid. With no brothers, Ellie was compelled to follow to father around.

She had learned to rope, ride, move cattle, and brand as well if not better than, some of the ranch hands. She could mend the fences and even occasionally shoe a horse if need be.

Ellie is now 17-years-old, and her father decides that she needs to start doing things around the house--inside; woman things, learning to cook, washing. How could her father, after all these years, turn her away from what she loves to do? Why was she not born a boy?

Tyler Bishop (Ty) is the main ranch hand. He has a time trying to figure out Ellie. One time, she is one of the guys so speak. Next, she is all female. All Ty know is he is bound and determined to keep her safe, and also he is falling for her.

Ellie is getting tired of Ty bossing her around and being so overly protective of her. Ellie goes out and buys a gun, and she will learn to use it.

Ellie knew that one day she will run the ranch--or will daddy turn it over to Ty? When Land buyers want to buy the ranch, Ellie is bound and determined to stop it. Will her dad and Ty see things her way?

This is a great novel, and being from Tennessee myself, I think it is beautiful around Sparta. You can’t help but learn to become involved with the characters. They seem to grow on you.

If you like a good historical romance, you will enjoy this book. The book is written with such clarity that it keeps the readers interested. You can’t help but care about Ellie, and occasionally she will even bring a smile to you.

It is listed as a Western Historical Romance, but I put it more as just Historical, Civil War Era. I found it such a interesting read that it was hard to put down until I was finished.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

What Type of Writer Are You?

Are you a plotter or do you just write by the seat of your pants?
That’s a question I get asked no matter who’s doing the asking.
Last year I would have told you that I’m a bit of both. I’m more of a plotter when I write mysteries, more of where are the hero and heroine taking me when I sit down to write a romance. But now I’m definitely a plotter. So what changed?

Late last year, I was offered the opportunity to try writing for a new detective series being launched by a book packager. They gave me an in-depth character analysis and a 90 pages detailed synopsis for the plot they had in mind. My job was to write a prologue, first chapter and tell them how I would break the synopsis into subsequent chapters.
While I wasn’t chosen as the writer for this new series, I did learn some valuable tips when it came time to work on my next book.

The first one was the more pre-work you do, the easier the actual writing is.
For example, you jot down what you need and want to include in each chapter. How many characters will you introduce, what scene will the bad guy make his appearance?
Using this method, you’ll be surprised just how fast you can write. And an added plus is you don’t sit there wasting valuable writing time thinking about what comes next. And the dreaded sagging middle becomes a thing of the past.

Another tip I picked up was writing a more detailed outline means inconsistencies jump out at you. Some of them even slap you in the face. You can see what research you need to do, maybe learn about a certain profession, the climate of a particular country. Writing the outline gives you the perfect opportunity to jot down all the questions you’ll need answered.

While I don’t think I could come up with a 90 page synopsis for every manuscript, my days of just sitting down to write without a plan are a thing of the past.

Next time you sit down to write a book, give the detailed outline and synopsis a try. And I’d love to hear if it worked for you too.

Susan Palmquist is the author of A Sterling Affair, Death Likes Me and The One and Only. You can visit her web site at and follow her on Twitter at

Monday, March 16, 2009

Favorite Villains

Some people are concerend about villains being too likable in movies, concerned with villainy being made a desireable thing or a promotion of negative values. A well done villain can promote values, especially in romance, where we like to see the bad guys get thier comeuppance, and the good guys are rewarded for heroic efforts.

I do know without a good villain, the hero has nothing to do. They have to be at conflict or there is no story. One thing to remember is the villain doesn't usually see himself as such. Each character is the star of thier own story. They all have thier own goals, opinions, challenges, and yearnings.
I am going to talk about some of my favorite villains. I don't watch really violent movies so there may be deadlier villains out there, these have some likability, but they are definintely the bad guys.

Magneto. Xmen
He is very easy to relate to. A holocaust survivor, he can manipulate metal. he has already seen what happens when a group of people take over who have an agenda against another group. When the mutant registration act is debated, Magneto forms an army.
He has depth, personality (ok magnetism), a reasonable concern, and an agenda. What he doesn't see is he is becoming what he hates when he decides to kill off all non mutants in an effort to save his own kind.

Alan Rickman: the sheriff of Nottingham in Robin Hood

When the cat's away...The sheriff is out to take over.He was funny in parts, ruthless in others. "I''ll cut your heart out with a spoon." He promised Loxley as Robin Hood fled. When his plans began to crumble he ordered: "Cancel Christmas" Eek!

Severus Snape: Harry Potter
Smooth, snarky, sarcastic. oh my! That voice can melt chocolate! Alan Rickman again.
" I can teach you how to bottle fame, brew glory, even stopper death -- if you aren't as big a bunch of dunderheads as I usually have to teach."

He might have been a hero in the end, but to the kids, he was fear incarnate. Ask Neville!
We were kept in the dark as to his real goal and motivation, sadly we find he was a pawn of Dumbledore, as he was bound to service with an unbreakable vow. (which makes me feel Dumbledore was more villain than hero)
No wonder he was snarky.

Anthony Hopkins: Silence of the Lambs.
EEK! He was smooth, intelligent, and he reads people like a road map. He was respectable, cultured with sophisticated appetites.
“I do wish we could chat longer, but... I'm having an old friend for dinner.”
This villian has four movies, he has ingrained himself in our psyche.
The evil under the social facade of respectability. He did like Clarice. He was willing to sacrifice his hand to save hers. His motivation?
Only he knows.

Darth Vader: Star Wars

Great character arc though he didn't suffer fools graciously. “I find your lack of faith disturbing.” He said to one man before choking him to death. He found good in his heart when he met Luke. "No, I am your father."
He ultimately gave his life for his son and redeemed his soul.

The Joker: psychotic with a twisted sense of humor. Batman movies and comics

Evil genius at its best.
“You… you just couldn’t let me go could you? This is what happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object. You are truly incorruptable aren’t you. You won’t kill me because of some misplaced sense of self-rightousness. And I won’t kill you because…you’re just too much fun."
The evil genius had a respect for the hero, even treating Batman like a kindred spirit of sorts. "I get the feeling that you and I are destined to do this forever.”
This got on the dark knights nerves.

Cruella DeVille:"101 Dalmations:

"We lose more women to marriage than war, famine, and disease. "
"Oh, yes! I love the smell of near-extinction! "

I wonder if she and the Joker are related. Both have that mixture of crazed intelligence and unique fashion sense. Face it, Any one who could club a puppy to death is just plain mean.

Captain Barbossa: Pirates of the Caribbean

"He's a lot like meself, but absent me merciful nature and sense of fair play. (meeting with another pirate) Your master's expecting us... and an unexpected death'd cast a slight pall on our meeting. "

"You've used alot of big words and we are but humble pirates. I am disinclined to acquiesece to your request. That means no."
While everyone else loves Jack Sparrow, I gotta like Barbossa. His humor, his sarcasm, his no nonsense running of his ship. This is not a villain to take lightly. You only have one chance, cross him, and you're done.

"What now Jack Sparrow? Are we to be two immortals locked in an epic battle until judgement day and trumpets sound?"
Jack answers "Or you could surrender." Not likely, even Calypso had a soft spot in her heart for this blackguard.

While we are on the topic of villains, list some of your favorites.

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