Tag Archives: characters

Endearing Characters

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Endearing Characters

The sweet, eighty-seven-year-old woman held my children’s hands and said, “You are so beautiful and so precious. Thank you for coming to see me.”

Kneeling by her wheelchair, I thought to myself, “I’m not going to cry…I’m not going to cry…” My wife did get a tad misty-eyed. I’m getting that way as I write these words. I’ll probably always get that way when I view the photos that someone took of our experience.

Then the dear lady–a national treasure in my book–shook our hands, called us all by name and wished us many blessings. She even signed some pictures for us.

It’s a day I will never forget. My family and I traveled from our home in Kansas to a small city in North Carolina. The city is Mt. Airy, but it’s probably better known as Mayberry. And the precious lady was Betty Lynn…better known as Thelma Lou. And that day at the Andy Griffith Museum was wonderful.

My children live in Kansas but have been raised in Mayberry/Mt. Airy. We intentionally don’t have cable or satellite television, but we do have several DVDs we love to watch, and the favorite is The Andy Griffith Show. The lessons discovered on that series are timeless. As are the endearing characters–like Thelma Lou.

Writers, I’m more convinced than ever that we can change people’s lives, not just by the plots we construct, but also by the characters we create. I want my readers to care for my characters to the point that they say, “I wish that character was real. I’d love to spend time with him/her!”

Recently a lady who read one of my unpublished books sent me an email in which she said, “All the characters are true to life and worth remembering. That sentence meant so much to me.

What characters have you found worth remembering? What characters have left you wishing they were real and could sit and talk with you? Writer, do you long to create characters that will last forever?

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Filed under books, Christian Fiction, Christian Growth, Christian Life, family, Larry W. Timm, Writing

Advice from Stephen King

True story: recently someone who knows that I’m a writer in search of publication had a chance to ask Stephen King  a question by way of a chat session on a website. The question was:

“What’s the biggest piece of advice you could give to new writers?”

Stephen King answered, “I think the most important piece of advice I can give to a writer is let the characters lead and never try to force them into things they don’t want to do.”

Of course he wasn’t advising that we keep our characters out of hot water and never pour on the conflict. While I don’t have a way of asking him a follow-up question, I’m very confident that what he meant was that we have to have authentic characters…people who have personality traits and personal worldviews (i.e. philosophies of life) that stay consistent throughout the story. And these characters must be able to carry the story. Good characters take us on a journey, allowing us to see the story through their eyes.

Do you agree? Name one great character you’ve read recently.

Also, what one piece of advice would YOU give new writers?

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Filed under Christian Fiction, Christian Growth, Larry W. Timm, reading, Writing

“How do I get an oyster cracker out of my nose?”

The little quivering voice of my four-year-old son drifted from his car seat in the van.

“Dad, how…do I…get an oyster cracker…out of my nose?”

The wide, teary eyes that met my glance in the rearview mirror twisted my heart. He was trying to be so brave, but his chin  trembled ever so slightly. Help me was written on his delicate face.

He needed me.

As I pushed back against my urge to wax eloquent about the poor choice that led to the cracker’s ending up lodged in his nostril, I opened his door and told him, “How did you…? I mean…we’ll get it out little buddy.” So I peered up the nose hole in question, but saw nothing. I wanted to ask him if he was sure there was an oyster cracker up there, but I realized that this was no training exercise. This was the real thing. So I pinched the free-flowing side of his nose shut and said, “blow.”

Out came the cracker.

Then he looked at me, relief pulling the corners of his perfect little mouth into a smile. “Thanks, Dad.”

“You’re welcome, son,” I said. “Let’s not put anymore crackers in your nose. Okay?”

He agreed.

What does this cranium cramming cracker caper have to do with writing? Something very important: I put myself in my four-year-old son’s shoes. I felt the worry–fear, even–from his perspective. I got into his head (though not through his unblocked nostril) and imagined what the experience was like through his eyes. The fear. The discomfort. The guilt (he knew he’d done something wrong). The the relief.

I try to live inside the heads of my characters when they appear on stage in the current chapter I’m writing. Many times this vicarious journey is a joy, and other times it is uncomfortable. I’ve tried to imagine the mindset of killers and cops, men and women driven by love, hate, loyalty, revenge, and dozens of other passions. It’s draining and exhilarating at the same time. I may not be able to agree with their motives or actions, but I want to know them. Well. There are great tools avaliable to help writers prepare a character interview of each major character. These aid a writer in getting in the skin of their characters.

I want to paint my characters so vividly that my readers can feel the villain’s stare on the back of their neck, or hear the beat of the endangered heroine heart in their own chest. I want a reader to think, I’ll help you…or…I’ll stop him. In other words, I want my characters to live in the imaginations of my readers. I want the characters to be so believable that my readers feel as if they know them. Or would really want to. Or, perhaps–in the case of an evil character–fear they might meet him.

Have you ever encountered a character in a book that you just couldn’t get out of your mind?

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Filed under Christian Fiction, Christian Growth, Christian Life, editing, Larry W. Timm, reading, Writing

What is suspenseful about suspense?

I’m really hoping that you will take a moment to answer the question I asked in the title to this post. As a Christian writer who writes in the suspense genre, I never want to lose touch with people who love to read. I’m taking a look at what draws you to suspense books, and what keeps you reading.

What types of situations hold you in suspense? What do you want the writer to tell you and what do you want to be left for your imagination to fill-in? What kind of characters are you drawn to? What scares you?

In what ways do you really want to see good triumph over evil? Be specific…example:  I want to see how a neglected child can learn to let love of God heal her inner wounds?

I hope to hear from you. Thanks.

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Filed under Christian Fiction, Christian Growth, Christian Life, Uncategorized, Writing