Friday, July 13, 2018

Choosing the Right Point of View for Your Story-Part One

By Caron Kamps Widden

I can already hear the groans from emerging writers who are confused about which point of view to use for their story.  Rest assured, even seasoned authors have a difficult time deciding.  In choosing the right point of view, the author sets in motion the vantage point from which the story will be told.  Here are the different points of view an author can use:

·         First Person – “I” or “We” (told from one character’s perspective)

·         Second Person – “You” (rarely used in fiction, from an onlooker’s perspective writing about you -- often used in advertising and speeches)

·         Third Person – “He,” “She,” “It” or “They” (the narrator tells the story through one character’s point of view -- or if carefully divided by paragraphs and/or chapters -- one or more or even several character’s points of view) 

Writers must settle on the best point of view for their story and be consistent throughout the manuscript in order to create a rich experience for the reader.  Many authors swear by first person, writing emotionally charged scenes allowing the reader to get deep inside the psyche of the character.  More often, novels are written in third person, freeing the author to expand the plotline while still delving into the heart and soul of the characters.  In part two, I’ll share more details about each point of view.

Happy Writing.
Caron Kamps Widden is the author of RESTORATION, a novel (2006 Hilliard & Harris) and THE LIES WE KEEP, a suspense novel (2015 Hilliard & Harris).  She is currently at work on her third novel and lives in the Baltimore area. You can find Caron online at:,,,,,

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Layer by Layer

By Chris Pepple, Writer-At-Large for Southern Writers Magazine

When I speak to writing groups, our conversations often turn to character development. How do we let our readers get to know our characters? If you are writing a short story, your readers need to know the intimate details of your characters fairly quickly, so they can love them (or dislike the antagonists) before the ending. You must introduce the characters through conversations and actions early in the story, so your readers can relate to them.

If you are writing a novel, however, you can add depth to your characters by letting the readers get to know them in stages. You can reveal their personalities layer by layer. I have an exercise I use in my seminars that reminds us that what we first see in a person is not always indicative of what the person is actually feeling or thinking. For example, a person suffering from depression often appears very happy at first glance. An introvert may be labeled as shy even though they are quite confident around others and enjoy group social settings. They may just need some quite time alone to recharge later.  

For this exercise, draw a square in the center of a blank piece of paper (make the square large enough to write in). Draw a larger square around that one, leaving room to write between the two squares. Draw another square around that one, still leaving room to write inside the lines. In the first inside square, write a description that reveals the innermost traits of the character you are developing at the moment. Write things that only the character knows about herself: hidden fears, deep worries, hidden depression or social anxiety, secret crushes, easily tired, secretly hates the family’s famous dessert recipe, insomnia.

Just outside of that box and inside the lines of the second one, write what close friends and family members would think about that character: loyal, responsible, easily tired, workaholic, messy, funny, charming, etc. Use the lines between the second and third box to write what co-workers and acquaintances see when they run into the character in a social setting. 

Would they see the character as a nice dresser, dependable, always late, willing to speak up in a meeting, someone they can ask advice about a project? Around the outside of the last box, write the physical description of the person that everyone in public can see. Describe the hair color, eye color, height, and build of the character. Does that character use a cane or a wheelchair?

These boxes remind you of the many layers of your character. When you are writing your novel, reveal your characters to your readers in stages the way we get to know people in our lives. Let readers get to know your characters layer by layer as the plot develops. 

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

The 20 Mile March and the Muse

By Suzanne Woods Fisher

In October of 1911, two teams lined up on the coast of Antarctica with the same goal: to be the first humans in history to reach the South Pole.

One team was led by Norwegian Roald Amundsen. The other team was led by Englishman Robert Falcon Scott. Those two men were highly qualified, respected explorers of similar age and experience. They departed the coast within days of each other.

Amundsen committed to a fanatical discipline, traveling no more than 20 miles per day regardless of conditions. Scott stopped when conditions were bad, then pushed forward to make up for lost time when the weather improved.

As Amundsen’s team closed to within 45 miles of the pole, conditions were favorable to secure victory with one final breathtaking push to their destination. They had no idea where Scott was. For all they knew, Scott could have already come and gone. The team urged Amundsen to get to the pole in one final, relentless push.

But Amundsen refused.

Instead, he went seventeen miles and stopped. He thought if his team reached the pole in one long drive and then hit an unexpected storm, they would be left exhausted and overstretched, risking their lives.

In the end, Amundsen and his team reached the South Pole first. Scott and his team arrived thirty-four days later. Amundsen made it all the way back to his base camp on the precise day he had logged it in his planning journal.
Tragically, on their return trip, Scott and every member of his team perished, only eleven miles from a cache of stored food.   

The 20 Mile March has such a profound message to answer a writer’s question: How do you reach a deadline? So often, writers wait for conditions to be favorable in order to allow inspiration to strike. The problem is, conditions are rarely, if ever, favorable. Writing is hard work, and not every day is “billable.”

As I worked on Minding the Light, book 2 in the ‘Nantucket Legacy’ series, I mapped out a reasonable goal of a daily word count to hit, come rain or shine. When I reached it, I stopped. It worked. I made the deadline with time to spare.

Here’s what I’ve learned from the 20 Mile March: consistent, disciplined action wins out, every time. That doesn’t mean inspiration isn’t a significant part of the writing experience, but don’t wait for it to show up. Plain and simple, just keep writing.
Suzanne Woods Fisher is an award-winning, bestselling author of more than two dozen novels, including Phoebe’s Light, the Amish Beginnings series, The Bishop’s Family series, and The Inn at Eagle Hill series, as well as nonfiction books about the Amish, including Amish Peace and The Heart of the Amish. She lives in California. Learn more at and follow Suzanne on Facebook @SuzanneWoodsFisherAuthor and Twitter @suzannewfisher.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Writing Political Suspense, No Holds Barred

By Doyne Phillips, Managing Editor for Southern Writers Magazine

Having worked in the Arkansas State Senate during the years of Governor Bill Clinton’s administrations I don’t surprise easily when it comes to politics. Clinton waltzed into the Governor’s office with a large margin of votes only to be voted out of office at his re-election bid. That was a surprise! After his loss I overheard a respected member of his party make the statement, “Clinton’s days in politics are over. He will never be re-elected for anything again.” I don’t need to tell you the next surprise was he was re-elected Governor, served several more terms as such and went on to be elected as a two term President. Are you surprised? If so I must add this response, “I am surprised you are surprised!”

Political suspense is full of twist and turns and many times the purpose behind it all, the end results or the reasons for them may never be revealed. Looking back on the choices Presidential Candidates have made for their Vice Presidential running mates there have been surprises. To mention a few there was Richard Nixon and Spiro Agnew, Walter Mondale and Geraldine Ferraro, George H.W. Bush and Dan Quayle, Ross Perot and James Stockdale and last but not least John McCain and Sarah Palin. One can only imagine the back room negotiating that took place to get to these pairings.

One pairing we have been privileged to get an inside peek of was Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush. Reagan’s advisors had recommended former President Gerald Ford and the rumors on the Convention floor were Ford would be introduced as Reagan’s running mate that night. Behind the scenes the negotiations were in full swing and Ford and his advisors were demanding more than Reagan was willing to give up. During the last hours before the introduction was to be made George H.W. Bush had confirmed he would endorse the Party’s Platform in its entirety. This account was written about in detail by Richard B Allen in The New York Times on July 30th,2000. This is a great read which reflects political wheeling and dealing.

As for the reasons things are done, there can be a lot of reasons and many other than the true one may be given. When politicians are up for re-election and have at their power many amazing tools they are willing to use a lot can happen. The one that comes to mind was a political move made by then Governor of Arkansas Orval Faubus. In September 1957 Faubus was up for re-election and it was not looking good for him. It was rumored that the “powers at be” decided he needed to make a power play to win the voters over. The decision was to stand on the steps of Central High in Little Rock, Arkansas and not let those 9 African-American children, known today as the Little Rock 9, in to attend classes. He did this knowing he would lose the battle because desegregation was the law. The image of the Governor standing on the steps of Central High worked. He was re-elected and remained in office until 1967.  On June 11th 1963 Governor George Wallace of Alabama did the same thing at the University of Alabama.  It makes you wonder.

There are no bounds with political suspense. The popular Netflix series House of Cards has shown us that by embracing every known sin to man. The ends justify the means seems to be the rule of thumb in the world of politics. If this genre is of interest you may want to try your hand at writing Political Suspense. No holds barred.       

Monday, July 9, 2018

The Life of a Writer

By Patricia Bradley, Author of Justice Betrayed

A month ago, my alarm went off at 6:03. Once I silenced it, I lay in bed and planned my day: Quiet time. Work on marketing for the third book in the Memphis Cold Case Novels, Justice Betrayed. Send in the edits on the fourth book, Justice Delivered.Time to start the next book in the series.

An hour later, I opened Scrivener, clicked on Pat’s Fiction template and named the new project. Then I stared for the next hour at the blinking cursor… How did I do this the last time?

It happens every time, and I know I’m not the only one who goes through this. And it’s not that I think I can’t do it again. Or is that a fairy tale that I’m telling myself? No. God has given me the story, and I’m confident I can write this next book. I just have to remember how to do it. So I think back over how I wrote Justice Betrayed.

I started with a premise—the series is set in Memphis, so I knew going in that I had to have at least one book revolving around Elvis and this was it…(Picture fist pump) Yeah! I knew someone was murdering Elvis impersonators. Now to get it on paper.

When I first started writing, I made elaborate character charts, plot boards, outlined…the whole nine yards. How’s that for a cliché? But that’s another post.

I don’t outline now. Or make plot boards. And the character charts I make are more about conflicting values, motivation, and goals than what kind of car a character drives. I still log the basics—age, height, and eye and hair color, etc.—because I’m apt to forget. But instead of plot boards and outlines, now I use James Scott Bell’s signposts from his book Super Structure.

However, it was too early for plotting. I couldn’t know the story until I knew why my characters did what they did. The only way I could know that was to discover what made them tick.

With the antagonist in Justice Betrayed, I had to research sociopathic behavior. Did you know that while not all people who are diagnosed narcissistic are sociopaths, all sociopaths are narcissistic? That gave me her core personality—everything revolved around her and what was convenient or important to her. As she talked to me, she became a real person.

Next, I discovered my hero and heroine’s core values and the motivation for their goals. That way I could sabotage those goals. Hehehe. Then I figured out why they should be together, but weren’t. Learning who my characters are is almost as much fun as putting them through the torture rack!

Once I kind-of-sort-a know my characters—and I say that because I really don’t totally know them until I start writing—I let all my research and noodling percolate. As scenes came to me, I jotted them down. I played the what if game. What if this happened? By knowing my characters, I now knew how they would react. It wasn’t long before I was ready to start the first scene, and then the next scene…

That’s where I am with my current work-in-progress, which will be set in Natchez, Mississippi. And tomorrow when I open Scrivener I will begin… Luke Fereday’s nerves thrummed like finely tuned wires.

I really need to write my steps down while I’m working on this new book. 
Winner of the 2016 Inspirational Readers’ Choice Award in Suspense, Patricia Bradley lives in North Mississippi with her rescue kitty, Suzy. Her books include the romantic suspense Logan Point Series and sweet romances with Harlequin Heartwarming. Coming in January is her newest release, Justice Delayed, a Memphis Cold Case Novel. I love connecting with readers on my blog every Tuesday where I have a Mystery Question for them to solve: Twitter: @ptbradley1 FaceBook: Pinterest:

Friday, July 6, 2018

Behind the Scenes of a Movie Night!

By Eva Maria Hamilton 

Looking for a fun way to engage with your readers? If you have a book that relates to a movie (for example, retelling a fairytale, a period specific novel, or even a character based on an actor/actress) consider hosting a movie night.

For my Jane Austen Colouring & Activity Book Series, I hosted my first movie night watching Emma. It was such a blast; I’m doing it again on Thursday, July 12, 2018 with my latest book, Jane Austen’s Persuasion Colouring & Activity Book featuring Illustrations from 1897. I invite you to come by to see how I run my movie nights. Although, I will attempt to outline them here to give you an idea of how it all comes together.

First, pick the night. This year, I chose a Thursday. Close to the weekend, hopefully people don’t have social engagements. I also chose a date where my book is available for pre-order, and will soon be available for sale.

Another big piece is choosing the movie. For me, I’m of course playing Persuasion, but I do have to choose between the many different versions. Things to consider: length (2hrs vs 4), popularity (will people want to re-watch it?), rating (PG vs R), availability (is it on Netflix?), etc.

Once you have all your data, create an Event in Facebook where you will host your evening by creating new posts and chatting in the comments.

Now, it’s time to get the word out. Consider social media posts across all your platforms, and every other relevant place, such as blogs, like this awesome one! I also personally invite people. Facebook has a limit on invitations, so carefully consider who you send them to. I also tell people there will be giveaways. You can guess they’re free advance copies of my book. And as the day draws near, I do a countdown.

When the night arrives, have everything ready to go, such as the movie (which you may wish to pre-watch so you have pre-drafted comments and questions to keep the discussion lively). A time schedule for giveaways. Note: If you want to drive people to your newsletter, or some other place, remember to pin your most important post to the top of the Facebook event page. Also, make sure everything is recharged and your area is distraction free. Your guests may come and go as they please, but as the host, its showtime.

Welcome everyone, and begin the movie at the scheduled time.

One key piece of advice, tell people to like or comment on a post to be entered into the draws or else you won’t know they’re there! You could have a dozen people commenting, and think they’re the only ones who showed up, when in fact a hundred people have stopped by.

As you award prizes, either get their addresses then or set aside time after the movie.

Outside of the Facebook event, keep posting on social media about your movie night, and send reminders to people who said they’d come but didn’t show up.

And most importantly, Have Fun! That’s the point.

At the end, thank everyone for coming and repeat any essential take-away information. For instance, details pertaining to your book’s release.

When it comes time to mail books to the winners, I add in a letter thanking them again and asking them to review the book.

I hope this inspires you.

See you at Persuasion Movie Night!

And maybe I’ll be attending one of your movie nights soon!

I love a good movie!
Eva Maria Hamilton spent years studying people from all different areas of academia and brings that understanding of the human condition into each of her written pieces. An advocate for lifelong learning, Eva Maria Hamilton studied in both Canada and the United States, earning a diploma in Human Resources Management, a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology, an Honors Bachelor of Arts Degree in History, and a Master of Science in Education. She home schools her two daughters, and their collie, while acting as Chief Strategy Officer in her Co-founded business, Test Launcher. Eva Maria Hamilton is the author of Highland Hearts, a Love Inspired Historical novel published by Harlequin. Her novel, Highland Hearts, won 2nd Place in the Historical Romance, as well as the Traditional/Inspirational Romance Categories in the Heart of Excellence Reader’s Choice Awards, and was an Inspirational Series Finalist in the 2013 Gayle Wilson Award of Excellence. Eva Maria Hamilton is also the owner of Lilac Lane Publishing, which is currently publishing a series of Jane Austen Colouring & Activity Books. To discover the other stories she has published, or soon will, please connect with Eva Maria Hamilton online by visiting her at or  Facebook Twitter  Pinterest

Thursday, July 5, 2018

BassPro @ The Pyramid Writing

By Annette Cole Mastron, Communications Director for Southern Writers Magazine

Confession time, I live in Memphis and until today, had never been to Bass Pro at the Pyramid. So on a hot, hazy day in Memphis my husband says, “I need cargo shorts, let’s go to Bass Pro at The Pyramid.” I grabbed the Sky Ride tickets someone gave us, and we trekked to the Pyramid. 

The Pyramid at Memphis made for an interesting skyline addition years ago. This is an article about The Pyramid’s history.  

I worked at The Pyramid in the 80’s and 90’s as a docent for ''Wonders: The Memphis International Series," highlighting various historical art exhibits. It started with the exhibition in 1987 called ''Rameses the Great.'' Followed by ''Wonders'' exhibitions on Catherine the Great, the Ottomans, the Etruscans, Napoleon, China, and the city's seventh blockbuster, ''Titanic: The Exhibition.”

A docent was required to take a 4 week course at University of Memphis learning about the history of each artifact. It was fascinating to see artifacts from around the world. I often thought of spin-off stories I could write based on information learned for these exhibits. Millions of people viewed these exhibitions. 

Today, at Bass Pro at The Pyramid after weaving through the retail store, seeing a waterfall, huge fish tanks, and swamp with gators, we rode over 28 stories up the center in a glass elevator viewing the entire venue below. WoW! 

At the top we walked into The Lookout restaurant and bar with another huge fish tank and various steampunk style iron fish, gator and mythical creatures made of gears, metal and wood suspended from the ceiling. The bird's eye view from the glass floored observation deck offers a 360-degree of Memphis and the Mississippi River is spectacular. 

It’s a wonderful place to catch a quick lunch and soak up the atmosphere. I wrote this blog in “The Lookout” while watching barges on the river head south towards the Gulf. 

What special places in your hometown have you discovered that is unquie for writing?

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

How to Write a Good “Bad Guy”

By Rachel Fordham, author of The Hope of Azure Springs

In real life I like good guys. I prefer to surround myself with people I don’t have to worry about my safety when I’m around (I’m just not that brave). But when writing. . . well, that’s another story! Villains come in all shapes and sizes and when we write them we get to put ourselves in shoes we’ve never walked in and really test our creative power. While writing The Hope of Azure Springs (which happens to be historical romance) I learned a lot from writing a man that I’d never want to have a run in with.

Three things to keep in mind when writing a villain-

1.       If possible give them a back story that makes them human. For example, readers of my debut will come to learn that my main character and the villain have quite a bit in common. He had enough backstory revealed that for a moment we feel bad for him. If all we see is bad, bad, bad our bad guys won’t seem as real. Readers will roll their eyes and groan. No one is all bad. Everyone has a story. Don’t be afraid of showing your characters. You might feel like you are doing it wrong by showing a wound, or a tender side but in reality, you are taking the time to give depth.

2.       Bad guys do bad things. I know I just said to not be afraid to show your villains good side but come on they are bad so show their vile side too. I keep my books clean but even with that stipulation it’s always my goal to make my reader cringe when the villain steps on stage. Don’t be afraid to write him doing something you’d never do. Use discretion of course but don’t be afraid to let your bad guy do evil things (if it fits with your story line of course).

3.       Every story had different plot points but if you are taking the time to create a villain with a back story and who does evil things then you need to make sure the effects of those deeds are led up to and felt throughout the story. Foreshadow coming evil. Sprinkle in clues. Once anything major happens take the time to develop or mourn what’s happened. Weave your villain and his influence throughout the story. Doing this adds to the authentic feel of your writing and helps you avoid hearing that your readers felt it was unrealistic.

The great thing about a good villain even in historical romance like I write is that the opposite of evil is goodness. Done well a villain can make the joyful, beautiful parts of the story all the stronger. And as much as I love a good villain− I love a happy ending even more.
Rachel Fordham started writing when her children began begging her for stories at night. She’d pull a book from the shelf, but they’d insist she make one up. Finally she paired her love of good stories with her love of writing, and she hasn’t stopped since. She lives with her husband and children on an island in the state of Washington. Her Social Media:

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Writer and Priorities

By Susan Reichert,  Editor-in-Chief  for Southern Writers Magazine 

Jack Canfield wrote, “In life the spoils of victory go to those who make a 100% commitment to the outcome, to those who have a “no matter what it takes” attitude. They give it their all and put everything they have into the result they want. I know this seems like such a simple concept – but you’d be surprised how many people wake up every day and fight with themselves over whether or not to keep their commitments, stick to their disciplines, or carry out their action plans. Successful people ALWAYS adhere to the “no exceptions” rule when it comes to their daily disciplines. Done deal. Case closed.”
Jack Canfield always has good advice and I recommend you visit his site for more:
We say, “In a perfect world that would be great, but life gets in the way.” And it is true; life does get in the way.
However, perhaps we allow some of our priorities to take a back seat––pushed back, as we listen to others as they voice what they want.
For writers, it is important we have schedules for writing, otherwise, when life happens writing is set aside and before we know it, days or weeks have gone by and we haven’t written anything.
After reading Jack Canfield’s blog, I wondered if we were making these goals without thinking through what our priorities need to be in terms of our time and effort and/or how we can balance these goals with family, friends and time for ourselves.
Maybe the secret is to determine what is most important and to recognize writing, though it could be your passion, is not your number one priority in life. Family is certainly more important than our writing; taking care of ourselves is more important than writing and we definitely need the interaction of friendships in our lives.
With that said, we have seven days a week, twenty-four hours a day. Maybe we need to rework our schedules making sure we have time set aside for our priorities. That schedule should also include our writing time along with an allowance for flexibility when needed.
To be sure, we need to be watchful of the times we put off doing what we need to do. When we notice this happening, it is time to put on our detective hat and ferret out the culprit.
Most important we want to have a happy, healthy and well-balanced life.

Monday, July 2, 2018

Write the Book You Need

By Marlo Schalesky

When I first started contemplating the idea which would become my latest book, Reaching for Wonder, I was simply intrigued with a concept. But soon after, I found my life going awry. Health problems, marital problems, a stalker for my oldest (then sixteen-year-old) daughter, restraining orders and uncertainties, financial challenges and rocky relationships. I wanted to write a book to help when life hurts. And my life had started to hurt very much.

So, Reaching for Wonder became the book I needed at the time I needed it most. Now that it’s finished and into the hands of readers who are being helped as I was helped, I’ve come to believe in the power of writing the book YOU need.

When you’re walking a similar path as your target audience, when you ARE your target audience, you have the power to not just inform but to transform.

Here are five tips for writing the book YOU need:

·         Before you begin a chapter, ask yourself these three questions:

1) How do I want to feel after reading this chapter?
2) What one thing do I need, as a reader, from this chapter?
3) What internal change am I hoping for by the time I get to the end of this chapter?

·       As you sit down to write, sit with your personal issue for at least fifteen minutes before putting fingers to keyboard. Explore your own hopes, dreams, fears, disappointments, doubts, and “if onlys.”

·       Write quickly! Don’t stop to over analyze.

·       Go back to tip #1. As you edit, ask yourself how you feel. Does the chapter hit at the main need? Do you, personally, feel changed by it?

Put the chapter away for a few days and go on to the next. Come back to it later and re-read from solely the perspective of a reader. You need this book. This is the book for you. This is the chapter you were hoping would speak to you. Does it? Why or why not? What else would you have liked to have read in order to feel as if this chapter was just what you needed when you needed it?

BONUS: How do you know if you’ve written the book you need? If weeks later, months later, you find yourself recalling the lessons of your chapter, your book, and applying them to your own life, then you’ve succeeded! If your book transforms your life, it will transform the lives of your readers as well.
Marlo Schalesky is an award-winning author of eleven books (both fiction and non-fiction), including Reaching for Wonder: Encountering Christ When Life Hurts. A regular speaker and columnist, she has published more than 1,000 articles in various Christian magazines and has been featured on many national radio and TV programs. Schalesky is the founder and executive director of Wonder Wood Ranch, a California charitable organization that brings hope through horses to at-risk, gang-impacted, homeless, and other disadvantaged kids in Monterey County. Marlo lives with her husband, six children, and a menagerie of large and small animals in Salinas, California. Website: Blog:  Facebook: