Writing is a tough profession. The competition in today’s publishing world makes the strongest writers think twice about their commitment to excellence. But those of us who are lured by the magnificence of story are committed to creating a world where our readers slip into the shoes of our characters and are whisked away to an amazing thrill filled with uncertainty.
A writer has a gauge by which she measures her stories, the one she is currently writing and the future projects that are being shopped at publishing houses.
My personal barometer is for each reader to Expect an Adventure. This aspiration is a two-way street. If I don’t have the adventure of a lifetime while I’m writing the story, then how can I expect a reader to feel the same exhilaration? When I laugh, cry, hate, love, argue, discover, run for my life and leap high mountains, I expect my readers to take the same plunge. Oh, the span of emotions that expands the human heart.
What is my criteria? Simply stated, each book has to have deeper characterization than the previous novel, a more intricate plot, and a setting that challenges the storyline. No pressure there!
My quest begins with dynamic characters. I insist upon an unlikely heroine—a woman who is qualified and able to solve a problem, but odds are against her success. She’s a feminine creature, capable of feeling a variety of emotions, and she’s mentally strong, a woman who uses her wit to meet each new challenge. This woman may or may not be Christian at the beginning of the story, but she will find faith by the end, and she will learn to solve her problems through a Christian worldview.
The hero is a strong man who appreciates many aspects of the heroine. They differ in views and argue, but they learn to work together while they step from one danger to another.
The villain is motivated by greed. He’s highly intelligent and charms his followers with power, money, or wit. I much prefer hiding his identity so my readers can be a part of the heroine’s journey.
While I’m developing my characters, I’m thinking about a plot line that presents the heroine with a nearly impossible goal. My plot must parallel the heroine’s chosen profession and put her into danger. But she’s willing to stand and fight! She flexes her mental muscles and goes to work.
Plotting involves asking myself questions. What is the worst possible thing that could happen to my character? How can I raise the stakes in every scene? How can I keep the reader on the edge of her seat and glued to the pages of the book? My personal standards must meet the demands of today’s readers.
Are my readers breathless? Filled with excitement? Do they sense the danger? Are they swept away in a romance?
I’m always looking for the best place to set my story, and that doesn’t mean a resort unless a murder takes place there. What setting interests or terrifies my heroine? My research has taken me from Sudan to riding the line with the Border Patrol to interviewing treasure hunters in West Texas, who were serious about their secrets.
What about you? What kind of characters peak your interest? What plots rob your sleeping hours? What settings send chills up your spine? I’d like to know!
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