Story or Character – Which Came First?

Welcome to the blog! Thanks for stopping by. Today I have Trevann Rogers talking about how some of her characters came to be.

Here’s Trevann!

I’m often asked if I come up with the story or the characters first. That’s an easy one–it’s always the characters.

My process is interesting and substantially out of my control. Something will catch my attention–usually a song or music video–and someone pops into my head. Naturally he or she is not yet three dimensional, just a kernel of some emotion that has snared my heart. Yes, I said heart. I fall in love with all my heroes and heroines.

I remember once I watched a video by an artist who wasn’t usually my style, but the song hooked me–Time Waits for No One. It’s the tale of a woman telling her man that she wasn’t going to wait for him forever.


At the end of the video, it cuts to a street musician, standing on a dark city street in the light of one lone lamp post, playing a soulful, wailing guitar. I know it sounds simple but trust me, it was one of the most compelling– and one of the sexiest– images I’d ever seen. I wondered, was he waiting for someone? Was he lonely? Did he have anywhere to call home? Did anyone appreciate how talented he was, or how beautiful? I played the clip many times as his story revealed itself to me.

He was a street musician, making his way on his incredible talent, musical and otherwise, while he waited for his life to happen. Late one night, he nodded to two pretty young women as they walked by his spot under the street light. They smiled at him…and none of their lives were ever the same.

This bit of fantasy turned into a sexy short story, then a part of the backstory for my incubus rock star wannabe Cheyenne and the two vampires who inadvertently change his life forever.

And these characters changed mine. As for their stories, HOUSE OF THE RISING SON is the first, but there are more–they’re still unfolding. Stay tuned.

HouseOfTheRisingSon72smHouse of the Rising Son
Living After Midnight, Book 1

Cheyenne is a half-human incubus whose star is on the rise in the Unakite City rock scene. His father, the leader of the supernatural races, would prefer he keep a “low profile”, but screw that. Cheyenne has as much music in his veins as royal incubi blood.

Alexander’s future is all set—finish law school, join the family firm, and marry someone who’d be good for business. Not that he has a say in any of it. He’s barely met the woman his father expects him to marry.

As Cheyenne’s musical career takes off, his carefully constructed life begins to unravel, exacerbated by an ex-lover who can’t let go, a crotchety barkeeper with a dirty mind and a pure heart, a drag queen who moonlights as a nanny, and Alexander—who’s not sure if he’s falling for the incubus or the rocker.

Cheyenne denies who he is, while Alexander hides what he wants. Together, they learn that getting what they truly want means being who they truly are.

You can find House of the Rising Son on:

Barnes and Noble:


All Romance:

Samhain Publishing:

Trevann Rogers writes urban fantasy and LGBT paranormal romances. Her stories incorporate an unquenchable addition to music and her love for vampires, Weres, incubi and rock stars. Like these elusive creatures, Trevann learned long ago that sometimes being yourself means Living After Midnight.

You can find Trevann online at:
Twitter: @TrevannRogers

Cindy here again!

Thanks for guesting, Trevann. Music helps me come up with stories too. I usually have the story first though, then the characters.

Happy writing!

How to Develop a Gripping Character

Welcome back to the blog! Today I have Laurel S. Peterson talking about creating characters.

Here’s Laurel!

Copyright Ute-Christin Cowan

Copyright Ute-Christin Cowan

Many ways exist to develop a good character, and I imagine each of you has your own favorite way. I like to start with an exercise I got from Elizabeth Eslami, the author of the short story collection Hibernate and the novel Bone Worship. Liz suggests writing for twenty minutes, beginning with All s/he wanted was….

This opens up an initial character desire—chocolate ice cream, maybe, or a new Porsche, or a trip to the Seychelles. Then, Liz says to write for an additional twenty minutes to figure out where that desire originates. Did chocolate ice cream remind the character of the last day he spent with his mother before she died, when they watched the ducks and he bought her a chocolate ice cream that dripped down the front of her blouse? Or maybe the new Porsche would finally make him a viable candidate for marriage in the eyes of his socialite girlfriend.

Everything in the story can connect to that desire. Desire propels us to action; if he wants a Porsche to get the girl, then he needs a good job. What skills or evil manipulation should he employ to get that job? Who stands in his way? Why doesn’t that person, maybe the son of his employer, want him to have the girl, the job, the car? Does he want the job for himself, so he can become company president? Does he also want the girlfriend—because she is beautiful? Because she is perfectly placed in society to advance his own plans for… a house in the Seychelles? Because what he really wants is to sell this company and retire early to play professional tennis?

This set of conflicting desires leads to theme. Does greed drive both these men? If so, how can the writer develop that theme? Maybe the girlfriend is also driven by greed, but greed for attention or beauty products or a personal shopper at Bloomingdale’s. Can the writer portray the setting—Wall Street, Montana oil country, Hollywood—in such a way that the reader sees greed everywhere: in the contrast between chauffeur-driven cars and guys with pedi-cabs, between women buying farmer’s market vegetables and men diving for food in dumpsters. All elements of a story can be used to reinforce a character’s internal state.

My protagonist Clara Montague, from my new book Shadow Notes, is driven by her need to understand the origins of her psychic gift. To do that, she needs to understand her mother, a mother who has always shut Clara out. But now, there’s been a murder, and if Clara can’t get her mother to talk to her, they may both end up dead. Greed definitely informs my book; prying into someone else’s griefs and past can be greedy, and Clara’s determination to own that information about her mother is mirrored in other’s characters’ greed for power and information.

We are driven by needs and desires. Why are so many of us sitting in front of our computers writing novels? What do we want that to bring us? Is it money? friends? a sense of competence or success? We can’t always name those motivations clearly for ourselves, but when it comes to our characters, the better we know what’s going on under the surface, the more we can employ those motivations to make our characters come alive on the page. What tools do you use to bring your characters’ motivations to life?

I’d love to hear from you, and good luck!

Shadow Notes will be released by Barking Rain Press on May 17!

Find her on Facebook:
Check out her website:

Cindy here again!

Thanks for this suggestion. I like the exercise and will try it with my next story.

Happy writing!

4 Ways to Brand Your Hero

Welcome to the GWN blog! Today we have Cyndi Faria talking about branding your hero!

Here’s Cyndi!

Author Photo B-W



Cindy, thank you for having me guest post for Guelph Write Now. As always, I’m excited to be here!

Over the past month, I’ve been paying special attention to how writers, whether in books or movies, brand their heroes. This marking happens around the halfway point and can be presented in the following ways:

1. Secondary Character Dialogue

2. Physical Wound

3. Clothing/Uniform Change

4. Identity Realized

The above methods are used to remind the reader, and main character, of the theme, inner conflict, and the fear/path the main character must overcome before they can move into essence and defeat the villain.

To highlight by example, I’ve chosen several movies below:

After Earth:

Kitai Raige wants to be a fearless Ranger, like his father Commander Cypher, but Kitai’s emotions keep getting in the way of his advancement. He joins his father on his father’s final mission, but the ship is struck by asteroids, leaving the two stranded on the uninhabited planet Earth. However, Cypher is badly wounded and must convince his son he has the power to overcome his fears and save them both.

About the 50% mark, Kitai arrives at the falls overlooking a great expanse. Because of his emotional reaction to the treacherous environment, he’s used up valuable resources, and his father tells him to return to the ship. Kitai is not willing to give up. He blames himself for his sister’s death and for his father’s estrangement from the family. After an emotional breakdown, he questions his father, saying “You wouldn’t treat your Rangers this way.” His father shoots back: “You’re not a Ranger.”

Only by accepting who and what he is—a kid who doesn’t really want to be a Ranger—will Katai forgive his father, overcome his fear, and save both from death.


Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade:

Indiana is searching for his father. They’ve had an estranged relationship. His father still sees Indiana as a careless kid and Indiana wants to be seen as a man.

Around the 50% mark in the movie, Indiana, using his whip, swings out one window and crashes into another only to be hit over the head with a vase. His father is holding the broken vase when he realizes he’s hurt his own child. He exclaims, “Junior!”

In this way, both physically injured and verbally named (Junior), we begin to understand the relationship between father and son and what must change. The father will show he’s more childlike and Indiana will prove he’s no longer a child.


Cowboys and Aliens:

Waking as an amnesiac, a man is searching for his identity. He’s short tempered and emotionless and learns he resembles a wanted man, Jake Lonergan, which he denies.

Around the 50% mark, Jake is inside an upside down paddle boat in the middle of the desert. And aliens exist. Under a stream of rain, he removes his shirt to reveal a wound he has no memory of receiving. He believes the wound was inflicted by one of the aliens. A beautiful and mysterious woman, Ella Swenson, has been following him. She tells him the answer to finding peace lies within. By reinstating the theme of the movie, Jake begins to move into essence and we start to see the softer side of Jake. However in the next scene, Jake and his group are ambushed by outlaws. The outlaws call him boss and confirm Jake is a wanted man.


Man on a Ledge:

The movie opens with a man on a ledge of a New York skyscraper. Through the first half of the movie, the police are trying to identify him and we know something is up. Lydia Mercer is the detective in charge of talking him down. They share a cigarette and she hands off the butt to her ally for DNA identification.


About the 50% mark, she sticks her head out the window and says his name—Nick Cassidy. She marks him as a fugitive for all of New York to target. Now we know the reason he has escaped from prison—to absolve his family name and bring the men who put him in jail to justice.


Next time you’re watching a movie or reading a book, look for similar ways the writer has branded their hero.

Happy Writing,


Cyndi Faria


Cindy here again!

Thanks for being here today, Cyndi. This is some great information. I will pay more attention when watching movies and see if I can spot how the writer branded the hero.


A Man’s Advice on Giving Birth

Welcome to the GWN blog! Today we have Bill Hopkins talking about creating characters.

Here’s Bill!

Unlike real life, giving birth in fiction to characters can be as hard and complicated or as simple and easy as you make it. Follow along and do as much or little as you want. I’ll give you examples using my amateur sleuth, Judge Rosswell Carew.


  1. Make a biography for your character. We don’t need a multi-volume work. Just choose age, sex, work, height, weight, color of hair, color of eyes, physical characteristics, etc. JRC is medium height, bad eyes, supersensitive hearing and sense of smell, scrawny mustache, and average weight for a guy who’s almost forty.


  1. Next, what does your character want? Make it short, clear, and concise. JRC wants to be a detective because he’s tired of all the repetitious stories he’s hearing on the bench. And his theme in life is that being just is more important than being legal.


  1. What’s the background of your character? I don’t go into JRC’s schooling much because being “in the military” (no branch designated) made a bigger impact on him.


  1. What are your character’s quirks? JRC doesn’t like his sidekick to touch him, he’s touchy about the way people try to give him the nickname of Ross, he’s a perfectionist, and kind of a general PITA.


  1. What would it take to make your character suffer a gut wrenching moment? For JRC, it would be running out of espresso, missing a meal, or watching a friend die. He does, after all, care about people.


  1. How does your character talk? JRC has his own way of saying things, as do all the characters in my books. I try to make the dialog unique. If you heard it aloud, you’d immediately know which of my characters was talking.


  1. What’s your character’s name? Rosswell Carew is a name hard to forget. John Smith is easy to forget. But how about John Wayne Smith? Don’t give your babies dull names. (Frank Jones or Bill Hopkins). Don’t duplicate names (Annie and Annabelle). Don’t use the same letter(s) to start two or more names. (Max, Mike, and Mark shouldn’t exist in the same book).


  1. Have you interviewed your character? I’ve never interviewed JRC in writing, but I love that kind of blog. That sounds like something I need to do next!

Cover Courting MurderCourting Murder: When Judge Rosswell Carew makes the gruesome discovery of two corpses on a riverbank in the Missouri Ozarks, he’s plunged into a storm of deadly secrets that threaten both him and his fiancée, Tina Parkmore. Unsatisfied with the way the authorities are conducting the investigation, Rosswell, who’s always nurtured a secret desire to be a detective, teams up with an ex-con, Ollie Groton, to solve the case before the killer can murder again. Rosswell uncovers a maze of crimes so tangled that he must fight his way to a solution or die trying.




River Mourn front cover


River Mourn: Judge Rosswell Carew travels to Sainte Geneveive, Missouri, searching for Tina Parkmore, his kidnapped fiancée. When he witnesses someone tossed from a riverboat ferry, he’s plunged into a nightmare world he never knew existed. Rosswell is astounded when he discovers what he saw and the fate of Tina are intertwined. Unable to interest the local authorities in the case, Rosswell teams up with his faithful research assistant Ollie Groton to discover the truth. The excitement never lets up until the last page.

Available September 2013 from Deadly Writes Press



About Bill:

Photo of Bill HopkinsBill Hopkins is retired after beginning his legal career in 1971 and serving as a private attorney, prosecuting attorney, an administrative law judge, and a trial court judge, all in Missouri. His poems, short stories, and non-fiction have appeared in many different publications. He’s had several short plays produced. A book of collected poetry, Moving Into Forever, is available on Amazon. Bill is a member of Mystery Writers of America, Dramatists Guild, Horror Writers Association, Missouri Writers Guild, and Sisters In Crime. Bill is also a photographer who has sold work in the United States, Canada, and Europe. He and his wife, Sharon (a mortgage banker who is also a published writer), live in Marble Hill, Missouri, with their dog and cats. Besides writing, Bill and Sharon are involved in collecting and restoring Camaros. Courting Murder is his first mystery novel.


Courting Murder by Bill Hopkins


A Judge Rosswell Carew Mystery

ISBN 978-0-9830504-38

Southeast Missouri University Press

Publisher’s page:

Author’s website:

Author’s FaceBook page:

Author’s Page on Amazon:

Amazon order page:

LinkedIn: Bill Hopkins

Twitter: @JudgeHopkins


Cindy here again!

Great advice, Bill! I read a book once that had five characters with names starting with M. So confusing.

Happy writing!



Torturing your characters

Today I’ve got Mary Marvella on the blog with an excerpt showing her torturing her character.

Here’s Mary!

Do you like to mess with a character’s head? My heroine thought the man she once loved but can’t afford to love again was visiting for a while. She could handle her attraction to him for a FEW days?

See what I did to her?


     “Un huh. But I couldn’t let you leave without a goodbye hug.” She grinned and whispered loudly, “I had to hear what you said to Electra.”

     Hugging Deidre felt more natural every day.

     Margo joined him at the door, while Electra stormed up the stairs.

     “It’s a good thing I’ll be able to track Electra’s spending after you leave to go back to wherever you’re stationed,” I commented.

     “Leave? Darlin’, I’m here to stay,” Jay announced. “I thought you knew.”

     “To stay?” I squeaked. “Stay?”

     “I retired. I’d been in the Marines for twenty years.”

     Margo looked as though she couldn’t breathe. Jay turned Deidre loose and reached for his wife, his ex-wife. She pulled away and stepped back. Her eyes looked like saucers and her complexion paled.

     “What’s wrong?” He looked at his daughter. “Does she do this often?”

     “No,” Dee pulled away and grabbed her mother’s arm. “Mom?”

     Margo still hadn’t spoken. She looked about to pass out, but she still stood.

     “Where do you hurt?” Jay asked, though he didn’t try to touch her again.

     Margo shook her head. What the hell was wrong with her?

     “Should I call someone?” Jay asked.

     She shook her head again, then left the room toward an area away from the kitchen.

     Jay knew he must have looked confused, because Deidre said, “Her bedroom suite is that way.”

     “Should I stay?” he asked.

     “No, I think something you said caused her reaction.”

     Jay thought about what he’d said. “You mean that I’m staying?”

     “Ah, guess she didn’t realize you retired. I don’t remember telling her.” Dee shrugged. “I figured you already had.”

     “No, your mother and I don’t have much communication.”

     “Is that why she was so startled when you picked me up on Electra’s birthday? Maybe you two could do better about communicating, now that you’re back. Do you ever write her? I don’t remember seeing a letter from you to her.”

     Jay didn’t know how to respond. He couldn’t tell her the last letters he’d written her ten years ago had been returned unopened, so he didn’t see the point in writing to her.

     “Daddy, you could email her.”

     “Not without her address. Besides, I’m here now and we’ll act like adults where Electra is concerned.”

     “And where I’m concerned, too?” She looked so eager and young and vulnerable, younger than seventeen.

     “Yeah, where you’re concerned, too.” He couldn’t tell the kid he wasn’t her daddy. She loved him, though he didn’t deserve her love.

     “Check on your mama. I’ll head out.”

Could I have been kinder to her? Of course! Is she in trouble now? Do you want to see how she handles the situation?

Blurb From Margo’s Choice

Margo’s Choice is a Southern Women’s Fiction story.

Margo Lake isn’t looking forward to seeing her ex husband Jay again. After 16 years of separation the marine still knows how to push her buttons. She has never stopped loving him, at least in some ways, though she really doesn’t like him.

When she learns he isn’t coming for a visit but is retiring, she fears what he can do to her heart if she lets him inside for even a second. Even more, she fears for the heart of her youngest daughter, the child who adores him, the child he doesn’t believe is his.

Jay has finally had his fill of war and danger. He is ready to retire and get to know his daughter better, be with his family. He wishes Margo would come clean and tell her youngest daughter he isn’t her father. Then he could forgive her lies and maybe they could all have honest relationships.

Cindy here!

Oh, she is not happy! I have to admin I have a hard time torturing my characters. I don’t like conflict. 🙂 You can check out Mary’s book on Amazon: Margo’s Choice. Check out Mary’s website at: and

Happy writing!


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