Wednesday, May 18, 2016

# Guest Blog # On Writing

Writing Realistic, Well-Rounded Characters by Julie Shelton

On Select Wednesdays, I post tips and strategies for writers. Today, I'm pleased to have guest author Julie Shelton, who is here to share some writing strategies that have helped her gain acclaim for her BDSM fiction. (#5 and #7 are big take-aways for me! )

Her latest title, Passion's Magic, is the fourth in her Doms of Passion Lake series. Speaking of taking it's Julie!

by Julie Shelton
One of the things my writing has been universally praised for is the realism of my characters and dialogue. So I will be sharing a few tips on creating realistic, well-rounded characters and writing realistic dialogue.

1.      Before you start writing the actual story, jot down notes about each of your characters. Something more than just the color of their eyes or hair, although that’s important, too, especially if your characters are going to show up in more than one book. Write down things that have happened to them that have made them the way they are. Get to know them before you introduce them to your readers. When I first thought of Jesse Colter, my hero in the three Sarah books, all I had was a name. Over the next four months I created his whole persona, what he looked like, what his background was, how he walked, how he talked. But even though I had complete control over Jesse and felt that I knew him inside and out, he still managed to surprise me. By the time I started writing the first words about him in the actual book, I suddenly found myself typing “son of an alcoholic father and a Native American woman who abandoned him at birth.” Nowhere in my original profile of him was he Native American. Nor had I known that his mother had abandoned him at birth. But I went with it, because that one detail just all of a sudden explained certain aspects of his appearance, personality, and behavior. So know your characters, but be aware that they can still surprise you. And if they do, let them. They have a habit of knowing what’s best for them and taking over from time to time.

2. Mention the most important things that have affected how they live their daily lives at least three times during the course of the story, but don’t just list them. And don’t keep mentioning the same details from one retelling to another. Add new information. Leave other bits out. In one instance, you might describe the characters thinking about a particular event, how they felt when the event happened, what they did as a result of the event, and how it has affected their decision-making processes and the impact it has had on their lives. In another instance, have the character tell all these things to another character, but don’t just make it one long narrative. Show how the teller reacts as he/she is telling the story. And how the listener reacts as well. Have the listener asks questions, make comments. Another time you might consider recounting the entire scene or series of events in a dream or a flashback. By the time the last mention of the event has occurred, allow it to be an example of how much the character has grown by contrasting how he/she reacted to the event when it happened and how differently he/she is reacting to it now.

3. Listen to the way real people talk. They rarely speak entirely in complete sentences. They use slang. Use the way a character talks to help define him as a person. For instance one of his personality traits could be that he always uses big words and sounds very professorial. Or uses the latest street slang. But be consistent. Don’t just have him talk that way once or twice, but every time he opens his mouth.

4. Don’t add “he said” or “she said” after every sentence. Instead put an action in its place. Something that avoids the over-use of adverbs. Something that helps reveal how the character is feeling or what he is thinking without actually saying what he/she is feeling or thinking. For instance, instead of this:
“I have plans for you,” he said teasingly. “Plans you will like.”
“What are they?” she asked nervously.
“Don’t worry. You’ll find out soon enough,” he said cryptically.

Try something like this:
“I have plans for you. Plans you’ll like.”
“Oh, yeah?” She gulped as her stomach started to twist into knots. “What are they?”
He gave her a wolfish grin. “Oh, I wouldn’t worry my pretty little head about that. You’ll find out soon enough.”

In the second example it’s still clear who is speaking and you are also showing their state of mind without the over-use of adverbs or “he/she said”. It also shows that he is playful and likes to tease and she is more serious, and it reveals that without actually saying in so many words that he is playful and likes to tease and she is more serious.

5. Like all writers, I get writers block. I have two ways to work through it. I go back and edit the previous day’s work, which is usually all I need to do to get back into the swing of the scene. I always try to end in a place where I know what’s going to happen next so I can pick it right up the next day. But that’s not always possible. If I’m really stumped, I have a wonderful beta reader and critique partner with whom I can brainstorm ideas. We email them back and forth and all those emails get copied and pasted into an idea file for each book. We’ve come up with a lot of really wild things, some of which have actually made it into my books. But it always gets my creative juices flowing enough to at least give me a place to start and I can usually take it from there. Brainstorming is an invaluable tool for me.

6. A lot of my characters are southern, so they drop their g’s at the end of most words, like askin’ instead of asking, goin’ instead of going, etc. They also say gonna, wanna, and y’all. That’s the way we southerners talk, so I use phonetic spelling for a lot of their dialogue. But only in their dialogue. Not in the narrative part of the book. It makes for a more realistic portrayal of each character if they say “dontcha wanna go?” instead of “don’t you want to go?” Or when someone says “Have a nice day,” it’s much more realistic to have your southern cowboy reply, “Right back atcha, sugar,” rather than “Right back at you, miss.”

7. If a scene really isn’t going well, to back to where it began and take the character in another direction. Say, for instance, a character who is brooding over some problem fixes her lunch and eats it alone at her kitchen counter, while trying to come up with a solution to the problem. If that’s not working for you, have her decide she needs a change of scene. Have her go out for lunch and meet up with a girlfriend who insists on knowing what the problem is and who provides suggestions for how to solve it. Not only is this a much livelier scene, but it also adds dialogue, as opposed to being straight exposition. But don’t delete the original scene. Put it into the idea file or a deleted scenes file. What doesn’t work for this particular character in this particular book might be just the thing for another character in another book.

These are just a few tips that might get you looking at things in your own books and seeing different ways of approaching them. Have fun and Happy Writing!


From fairies in the garden to handcuffs in the boudoir, Julie’s writing has run the gamut. In between she managed to graduate cum laude with a B.A. in French from Georgia State University followed by a Master’s Degree in Library Science from Emory University. Having thus procured these two necessary but ultimately irrelevant pieces of paper, she launched a successful career as a children’s librarian, followed by an even more successful career as a professional storyteller and puppeteer. She published Kidstuff, an award-winning, monthly newsletter, as well as Puppets, Poems and Songs, both major language arts resource for early childhood educators.

At various points in her life, if asked what she would like to be, her answer would have been (in rough chronological order, since some of these lofty ambitions overlapped): a fairy, a princess, a ballerina, Nancy Drew, Cherry Ames, a paleontologist, Scarlett O’Hara, thin and beautiful, an actress, and a writer. Now, at age 73, her answer to that question would most likely be, “younger”.

Followed closely, of course by a writer. Oh, and a princess. Some dreams die hard.
Now retired, Julie lives in a suburb of Atlanta, Georgia.

Connect with Julie:
Amazon author page:
Facebook Fan Page:
Twitter: @JulieCShelton


Passion's Magic
by Julie Shelton
Book 5 of the Doms of Passion Lake

Molly Duncan, forty-one, has come to Passion Lake for three things. A new job. A new life. And a new Dom. Her Dom husband has been dead for four years and she desperately wants the closeness of a loving D/s relationship. So she accepts a job at the Passion Lake library and buys an old semi-run-down farm suitable for boarding horses. Horses were a huge part of her life growing up, until she met and married Tom and entered his world of BDSM. Now she hopes to combine both of her passions.
Enter Jared Thompkins, seven-time World All-Around Rodeo Champion and circuit heart-throb. His career ended by injury at age twenty-eight, he’s ready to settle down and find a submissive of his own. A woman he can love and cherish and dominate the hell out of. On the recommendation of his older brother Mitch, he applies for the position of stable manager.
Molly sees a handsome, cocky, young cowboy with a swagger for a walk and a panty-melting grin. Jared sees a lusty, voluptuous, mature blond who’s ready for what he can give her.
The attraction between them is instantaneous and explosive. Each is exactly what the other has been seeking. Now all Jared has to do is prove to a wary Molly that it’s not just sex. He’s in it for the long haul. And a thirteen-year age difference is not the insurmountable obstacle she seems to think it is.
Until something happens that could destroy everything.

For more gab, please join me on Twitter or Facebook. I love talking to people!

J. Rose Allister is the author of more than twenty-five books, primarily romance and erotic romance. A former editor and submissions director, she now works as a mild-mannered hospital secretary by day, naughty writer by night.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for being here today, Julie! I got a lot out of your writing tips.


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