Oftentimes When I Start Writing a Story…

There will be a good guy versus a bad guy. My fantasy FROM THE GRAVE seemed pretty straightforward in this respect with Frankenstein Frightface Gordon—a less-than-monsterly monster—as the good guy. Malcolm McNastee—a true blood troll on a mission to end misfits—seemed the obvious bad guy. But then, as I dug deep (please forgive the obvious cemetery allusion) into the story, my characters started revealing who they really are. Their quirks and shortcomings. Their fears and failings. And of course, I love them all the more for it.


Looking Deeper

While Frank maintains his good guy persona, he’s not without his numerous shortcomings. He has a quick temper that he’s tried to put under wraps, which sometimes causes him to be too cautious. He doesn’t initially lead the charge to stand up for exiled misfits. Rather he must be convinced by Georgina—a dragon without a trace of fire—and by his dear, departed granny—from the grave!


Malcolm, on the other claw, isn’t a totally tough creature. He has a big soft spot for his little sister, Nelly, who exhibits some disturbing misfit traits. Plus, Malcolm has his own secrets to hide—secrets that would destroy his perfectly gruesome image. One of Malcolm’s favorite sayings is “Less thinking and more monstering.” But that is not always easy to do. In fact, being a monster is far from easy but wonderfully entertaining, as I hope you’ll discover in FROM THE GRAVE coming October 18 from Jolly Fish Press.


 More Monsters!from-the-grave

For more information on creating characters and details on FROM THE GRAVE, visit these What’s New blog posts:

Monster Writing Prompts: Creating Characters

1/29 Friends

1/21 Family

1/17 Appearance

1/8 Likes & Dislikes


Creating Characters: FRIENDS

Although Frank, in my story FROM THE GRAVE, is a misfit, he has a number of friends. Unfortunately, they are all considered misfits also.


Frank’s best friend Oliver is a half-wrapped mummy who is more interested in reading than staying bundled up. Georgina is a dragon who is quite good at flying, but she can’t shoot fire at all. In fact, all she can do is snort out a blast of water when she sneezes. Stan & Dan are the two heads of one goofy gargoyle. They love to tell jokes—only monsters should NOT be funny.


Frank has an enemy too—Malcolm McNastee. He’s a sinister troll who hates misfits and does everything he can to destroy Frank. How will Frank ever stand up to him???


Does your monster character have friends? Enemies? What are they like? How do they help or hinder your main character (protagonist)?


You can use the Character Chart from Part 3 to explore these supporting characters in your story. Make a separate chart for each one. The more you know about your supporting characters, the more you’ll know how they will interact with your protagonist.

*TIP: Often for me, it is through the writing process itself that I come to know my characters better. Do some planning and research, but don’t wait too long to jump into your writing! Exciting, amazing things will happen when you let your characters out on the page. 🙂

Below is a circle graphic of Frank’s friends. Who are the characters surrounding your protagonist?



Monster Writing Prompts: Part 1

Creating MONSTER CHARACTERS: Likes & Dislikes!

For the month of January, I’ll post some pointers on Creating Your Own Monster Characters. Be sure to come back next week for another quick writing tip!

When I started writing FROM THE GRAVE (Book 1 of the MONSTER OR DIE trilogy, from Jolly Fish Press, coming October 18, 2016), I thought it would be fun to make the monsters basically the opposites of humans. For example:

Monsters hate: sugar, neatness & cleanliness.

Monsters love: sludge noodles & the smell of rotting anything.


But as I began to know my monsters more, I realized that monsters truly love ORDER and RULES. They only allow “mayhem when appropriate.” Hmmm, being a monster isn’t as easy as it looks—which is a very good problem for a writer to have with her characters. Never make it too easy for them. It’s much more fun and exciting to provide plenty of problems.


Now, if you were writing a monster story, what would your characters like and dislike? Make a Word Web to jot down your ideas. Write your character’s name in the center and some LIKES above and DISLIKES below.

Here is a link to a Word Web you can print out if you need one.

For a list of FRIGHTFUL READS, visit my website. What’s your favorite scary story?

Monster on!!!



Quite the Character!

The July Blogging Theme for The Sweet Sixteens (#SixteensBlogAbout) is CHARACTERS. With that in mind, I thought I’d look back on a couple of my favorite past blogs on the subject.

Getting Into Character highlights a simple strategy for helping young authors quickly develop interesting story characters–with just a few hats to set things rolling.

Oftentimes, DIALOG is overlooked in revealing characters. Read Character Talk to discover how the conversations in your story disclose amazing information–and help make the story so much more fun and readable.
Below I’ve included two templates for creating characters. If you want to you use a picture of your own, no problem. Write away!

Create a Character : Girl
Use the picture on the left to help you create a character by completing the form below.

NAME ______________________________________________________

AGE _________________ HEIGHT/WEIGHT ____________________
WHERE SHE LIVES ____________________________________________
TELL ABOUT HER FAMILY ________________________________________
FRIEND (S) ___________________________________________________
ANY PETS ____________________________________________________
LIKES ________________________________________________________
DISLIKES ____________________________________________________
FEARS _______________________________________________________
PROBLEM(S) __________________________________________________

Create a Character: Boy

Use the picture on the left to help you create a character by completing the form below.

NAME ______________________________________________________

AGE _________________ HEIGHT/WEIGHT ____________________
WHERE HE LIVES _____________________________________________
TELL ABOUT HIS FAMILY ________________________________________
FRIEND (S) ___________________________________________________
ANY PETS ____________________________________________________
LIKES ________________________________________________________
DISLIKES ____________________________________________________
FEARS _______________________________________________________
PROBLEM(S) __________________________________________________

Character Talk

If you, or someone you know, is looking for a summer activity, why not try writing a story. When I visit schools, I’m always amazed at the students’ creativity. They invent some of the most fun, unusual, and truly interesting characters. I just help them along a bit with some suggestions.

How can you get started with a story? One good way is to get to know your main character. Take a peek at these pages on my website to help you.

Character Description
A girl
A boy

When you flesh out your character, more than likely you’ll discover what her problem is. You’ll know which characters will help and which will stand in her way.

The biggest improvement needed in the student stories I review is usually dialog. Too often students’ stories have little or no dialog, yet dialog is one of the easiest (and I think) most fun ways to reveal the characters in your story. Here is an example of boring dialog:

“Hi! How are you?”
“Fine. How are you?”
“Ok, I guess.”

This is chit-chat. Readers want more than chit-chat. They want interesting, quirky, humorous, adventurous, tension-filled dialog to emphasize what’s happening in the story. Dialog which shows how the characters react.

Here is a better example of dialog:

“Come over quick,” cried Angela into the phone. “Mosby has escaped again. I don’t know how long he’s been free.”
“Not again,” said Ginger with a huff. “I thought you fixed the holes in the fence.”
“I thought I did too, but he must have found a new way out.”
“He’s a dachshund magician,” said Ginger with a sigh. “Ok, I’ll come help…again.”
“Hurry! We’ll need to scout the neighborhood. He’s so little. A car will never be able to see him until it’s too late.” Angela jammed the phone in her pocket and shot out the front door.

Just from this short conversation what did we discover about Angela?
*She has a dog–a dachshund–who escapes quite often from her backyard.
*She sounds like she is very concerned about him getting hurt.
*She’s enlisting the help of her friend, Ginger, who has helped her numerous times in the past.

What do we know about Ginger?
*Although she’s Angela’s friend/neighbor, she’s not exactly eager to help find the lost dog.
*Even though she seems a bit upset at Angela for letting her dog escape again, she does agree to come help. We assume she must be a pretty reliable friend.
*She sees a bit of humor in the situation, when she calls the dog a “magician.”

Now suppose Angela and Ginger encounter the boy character from the character studies as they search for Mosby.

*How will he react to them? You should know if you’ve fleshed out his character.
*What is his name?
*How will he talk?
*Will he be helpful or rude?
*What secrets does he have?
* Will his secrets impact Angela or Ginger or even Mosby?

Give it a try. Then you can finish the dialog below:

“Hey,” yelled Angela. She waved her arm at a lanky boy ahead. He was walking a pudgy brown dog. “Have you seen a miniature dachshund?”

More from Bruge–Weaving Lace and Stories

Bruge is famous for its lacework. How did they make lace before modern machinery? By hand, of course. The art of braiding this type of lace is tricky. This lace is called bobbin lace. Bobbins are used to hold the threads on a small pillow. Originally, the bobbins were made from bones, so it is also known as bone lace. And sometimes it’s called pillow lace as well. For more pictures, click on this Wikipedia link.

Stories are woven together also. Some of the threads of a story would include the characters, the setting, and the plot. Each story forms a different pattern, just like lace.
I’ve done only a little weaving in my day, on a small loom and knitting and crocheting as well. It’s tough to keep all the strands in line, forming the pattern you want. It’s tough to keep them from becoming tangled sometimes.
So it is with a story too. I work hard at twisting the plot here and turning a character there or weaving in the setting–just right. This week I’m revising a couple short stories and reviewing a middle grade chapter book in progress. I’m untangling a few knots here and there in each, trying to make wonderfully woven stories for my readers to enjoy.
Sometimes that involves a fair amount of unraveling–which makes it especially hard to keep the pattern of the story in tact. But a completed story, intricately woven with beauty and finesse, is always worth all the hard work.
Now, I’m back to my story weaving.

Characters in Real Life and Fiction

Today over at the KIDLIT CENTRAL blog I’ve posted an entry about “Characters & Perspective.” I take a couple of my characters along for an airplane ride. Monsters don’t necessarily travel well.

Where do authors get ideas for their fictional characters? From real life, of course. We mix and match and makeup stuff as we go along to create just the right characters for each story. 
But when an author like me knows such a vibrant real life character like Lucy– the Glamour Dog, then I  don’t have to add much fictional flair to fashion a fun character. 
Take a look at this picture of Lucy after she decided to try Pink Bubble Gum lip gloss.
She’s dog-gone adorable!

Peachy Weekend

I (and a group of local children’s authors) spent a great time last weekend in historic Hermann, Missouri–a scenic wine town along the Missouri River. We stayed at Captain Wohlt’s Inn where innkeeper, Mat Wilkins took special care of all us.
Senior Editor, Lisa Mathews, joined our company and provided us with many interesting insights into children’s literature.

Here’s her explanation of STORY STRUCTURE:

1. Act I: Setup—here is the mood/tone, hook, catalyst, antagonist (which can be a situation as well as a person), the intro to the MC/personality, the issue which will lead to the turning point—conflict must come right away. There does not have to be a great deal of setting and character analysis right at first. It’s more important to have action with a purpose which propels the story
2. By the end of Act I, there should be a problem/turning point (a challenge revealed)
3. Act II—problem intensifies/ a barrier/ complication
4. Character has a temporary triumph
5. New info (a reversal) leads to more problems/ and perhaps a deadline looms
6. Dark Moment—the MC fails (or seems to) and the goal seems even farther away
7. Another turning point—the MC has to make a decision
8. Act III—the final obstacle (MC is pushed to her limit)
9. Climax—she faces the obstacle
10. Resolution

Lisa also spoke of a STEP OUTLINE for help in writing a story.
In this type of outline, a phrase/sentence for each chapter provides a very brief outline of the story and shows the story arc. I was encouraged to hear her explain this concept because it is basically what I do when developing a story. It provides a very loose framework that allows me to know where I’m going—which helps eliminates writer’s block—but it is so basic that it also encourages me to be creative with each new scene. I usually don’t know exactly how the scene will play out or what the characters will say or do. I think it helps keep the story fresh.

The two Peachtree books at the top are by my writer friends, Kristen Nitz and Jeanie Ransom, who also attended the weekend retreat. Here are their websites where you can find out more about them: