I will thank the Lord with all my heart as I meet with his godly people. How amazing are the deeds of the Lord! All who delight in him should ponder them. Psalm 111:1-2 NLT

Friday, November 12, 2010

Veterans Day, Characters, and remembering

One day while shopping, a middle-aged man stood behind me in line wearing a T-shirt with the word "Army" emblazoned on the front in large white letters. I asked him if he was in the service and he said he had just recently retired. I stuck out my hand and thanked him for his service to our country. He looked slightly bewildered, maybe even shocked at my boldness. He thanked me and said he wished more people were as appreciative.

Having two sons in the military, I am personally acquainted with the strain their duty puts on the family and home when they are fighting overseas for our freedom. So I often stop in restaurants or stores to thank individuals in uniform for their sacrifice.

So what has this got to do with writing you ask? Because this is surely not about me – it’s about our characters! It’s about giving our characters some unexpected trait, job, or personality quirk. Stay away from predictability or canned stereotypes.

Put a woman in a man’s job. Did you know my daughter is a Boilermaker? She is! She works in power plants across the U.S. with her husband welding tubes and rods so we can have electricity. Who would have thunk it? How neat would it be to have your heroine do something out of the ordinary like my daughter?

Give a villain a “good” side. Maybe the only thing likable about him is his devotion to his grandmother or the elderly. Make us see some good quality in him, some saving grace in his personality.

Make your hero do the unexpected like buy a bouquet of flowers – of which he is allergic to – for the heroine. It's like when my girlfriend was describing the “automatic starter” for her car. I told her I have one of those at home – my husband. In the worst of weather, he gets out of bed, cleans the snow and frost from my windows, and starts my car for me. No big deal? It is when he worked every night until midnight and wouldn't get into bed until 2 a.m.

These are layers, neat little things that make even your worst character likable, memorable and interesting. Throw away the cookie cutter! Give them something that impresses the reader. In turn, this will do the same for your book.

Jennie Atkins

Taking time to be thankful:

Yesterday was Veteran’s Day and I am thankful for all the young men and women serving our country now and in the past. If it wasn't for them, their devotion to our country, even to the point of sacrifice, we wouldn’t have the freedom we have today.

So to them I say THANK YOU and God Bless!

The MBT Ponderers have put together a Thankful Basket. If you’d like to have a chance to win our basket of goodies, leave a comment during the month of November. Share a thought about a blog post or tell us what you’re thankful for!


  1. Yeah! I get to be first. Jennie, great post and good reminder to make our characters real. Got me to thinking about villain and figuring out his good side. Realized I need to put a few touches of that through out the book. And thank your sons for me for serving our country.

  2. OOh, I like your ideas, Jennie . . . I haven't given my heroine a job yet. Maybe she'll be a boilermaker, or have some other non-traditional kind of job!

  3. Jennie,

    Thanks for this post! You got my brain cells moving this morning. :) I am thinking on one of my main characters and figuring out how to make him more likeable. Thanks for giving me some ideas. Please thank your sons for their service.

    I am thankful for my husband, his brothers, his fathers and others like him who have served our country so selflessly.

  4. Great post,Jennie! Taking the norm and adding a twist creates tension and adds depth to our stories!

    I'm so honored by your sons' sacrifices for our country! Thanks to all of those who have served!

  5. Pat, yes even our villains need at least one admirable quality. I always hated watching sit-coms where there was a grumpy old may that everyone hated. That's because they never showed his good side!

  6. Beth,
    My next novel has the woman being a grease monkey and I LOVE it! It gives her something unusual and adds to her *spunky* personality.

  7. Jeanne,
    Thank your family members for me as well. I love the quote *We live in the land of the free because of the brave*. It takes a special person to go out and do what they do!

  8. Lisa,
    Yes, adding those unique items in about our characters adds depth and tension without even trying.

  9. Give my villain a good side? Really? Are you sure? Great post Jennie! And thanks for reminding us to be grateful for our men and women who sacrifice their lives to make ours safe here on the homefront.

  10. Excellent, and how neat that this appeared near Veteran's Day, that you have 2 sons in military, etc. And your husband is a hero. Gentlemen of that calibre should be run through color photocopiers so there could be more on the planet.