Author Archive

Sweet Success for Barb Nickless

Cheers to Barbara Nickless! Her short story is featured in the anthology, Denver Noir (edited by Cynthia Swanson and released May 3, 2022 from Akashic Books.) Denver Noir joins over 100 volumes in Akashic’s award-winning Noir Series of location-based dark fiction anthologies. Denver local Cynthia Swanson (author of THE BOOKSELLER and THE GLASS FOREST) has pulled together 13 contributors who know the city best to pen short tales set in distinct locations from Aurora to Washington Park.

Denver Noir

ABOUT THE ANTHOLOGY:

From editor Cynthia Swanson: “Even a city that boasts three hundred days of sunshine a year has its sudden, often violent storms—and writers have long taken advantage of that metaphor. Renowned authors Katherine Anne Porter, Jack Kerouac, Stephen King, Rex Burns, Robert Greer, Michael Connelly, and Kali Fajardo-Anstine—among many others—have brilliantly portrayed this picturesque but often merciless city. Today, Denver is home to a thriving literary scene, with writers of all stripes finding inspiration in its people and streets. The authors and stories featured in Denver Noir are no exception…”

Brand-new stories by: Peter Heller, Barbara Nickless, Cynthia Swanson, Mario Acevedo, Francelia Belton, R. Alan Brooks, D.L. Cordero, Amy Drayer, Twanna LaTrice Hill, Manuel Ramos, Mark Stevens, Mathangi Subramanian, David Heska Wanbli Weiden, and Erika T. Wurth. Purchase a copy from Bookshop, Amazon, or Barnes & Noble

Barbara Nickless

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Barbara Nickless is the #1 Amazon Charts and Wall Street Journal bestselling author of the award-winning Special Agent Sydney Parnell crime novels and now a new series, the Dr. Evan Wilding books. Learn more about Barbara at www.barbaranickless.com.

 


Darby Karchut

Sweet Success is coordinated by Darby Karchut who is an award-winning author, dreamer, and compulsive dawn greeter. A proud native of New Mexico, she now lives in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, where she runs in blizzards and bikes in lightning storms. Click here to submit your Sweet Success Story.

Sweet Success for J.D.R. Hawkins

By: Darby Karchut

A double huzzah for J.D.R. Hawkins! A BECKONING HELLFIRE and A REBEL AMONG US (the second two books in the Renegade Series from Westwood Books Publishing) have been awarded the B.R.A.G. Medallion.  According to the indieBRAG website: “BRAGMedallion.com is owned and operated by indieBRAG, LLC, a privately held organization that has brought together a large group of readers, both individuals and members of book clubs, located throughout the United States and in ten other countries around the globe. The word “indie” refers to self-published books, while B.R.A.G. is an acronym for Book Readers Appreciation Group.”

JDR Hawkins Brag Award

ABOUT THE BOOKS: 

During the bloody American Civil War, the stark reality of death leads one young man on a course of revenge that takes him from his quiet farm in northern Alabama to the horrific battlefields of Virginia and Pennsylvania. David Summers enlists and sets off for Richmond to join the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia. But once in the cavalry, David’s life changes drastically, and his dream of glamorous chivalry becomes nothing but a cold, cruel existence of pain and suffering.

After leaving Alabama and enlisting with the cavalry, his delusion of chivalry was suddenly quashed when he saw for himself the horrors of battle. Now, after being shot and ending up at a strange farmhouse, he’s found himself being nursed back to health by four beautiful girls, and has learned that his Confederate brethren have deserted him in Pennsylvania after fighting at Gettysburg. Purchase a copy through Amazon.

J.D.R. Hawkins, headshot

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

J.D.R. Hawkins is an Amazon, USA Today and Wall Street Journal bestselling, award-winning author. She is one of a few female Civil War authors, uniquely describing the front lines from a Confederate perspective. Her “Renegade Series” tells the story of a family from Alabama before, during, and after the Civil War. Ms. Hawkins has published a nonfiction book about the war, titled HORSES IN GRAY: FAMOUS CONFEDERATE WARHORSES. She is a member of the United Daughters of the Confederacy, the International Women’s Writing Guild, Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers, and Pikes Peak Writers. Learn more about her at http://jdrhawkins.com.


Darby Karchut

Sweet Success is coordinated by Darby Karchut who is an award-winning author, dreamer, and compulsive dawn greeter. A proud native of New Mexico, she now lives in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, where she runs in blizzards and bikes in lightning storms. Click here to submit your Sweet Success Story.

Waxing Poetic

By: Deborah Brewer

What writer doesn’t want to improve their prose? Let me recommend dabbling in poetry to do just that. Reading, studying, and practicing verse have improved my fiction writing experience in several ways, improving my mood, my vocabulary, and my emotional expression. You might try it too.

Use Poetry to Ease the Blank Page Syndrome

Writers are often intimidated by the emptiness of a blank page. Poetry eases my blank page dread and replaces it with enthusiasm. Writing a very short piece that no one else may ever see removes the pressure from performance. I can revel in my imagination and create something that never existed before without imaginary critics looking over my shoulders. I don’t need to write melancholy verses to enjoy poetry’s benefits either, I can write silly poems that lift my mood. This mindset of joy and confidence stays with me as I write my fiction, helping me overcome procrastination and feelings of inadequacy. If this were the only benefit of writing poetry, it would be reason enough.

Break Out of Your Vocabulary Rut

Writing poetry also breaks me out of vocabulary ruts. Poetry requires rich, concentrated meaning from a very few words. Once I’ve exhausted my memory for poetry words, I call on my second favorite “dinosaur,” the thesaurus, for help. I might also research my poem’s subject online to refresh my memory of descriptive words or enter “Words that rhyme with…” into my online search engine. It’s common for people to comprehend more words than they regularly use in writing and speech. Searching for the perfect word, rhyming, alliterative, or otherwise, is a great way to limber and strengthen working vocabulary.

Find the Emotion in Your Writing

Emotion is at the core of poetry, as it is at the core of fiction. Poetry puts me in touch with my feelings. A poem is more than the mere sum of its words. Word placement, rhythm, and allusions all contribute to the emotion of a poem. While I do want to put more emotion in my fiction, I often don’t because emotions are scary. Writing poems helps me shed this reticence. It provides me with a safe place to play with my feelings and learn how to control their expression.

Now if perhaps, you’re wondering;
In my loneliest girlhood dreams,
Though other creatures joy did bring,
The brontosaurus reigned supreme!

Even writing terrible poems makes for great writing practice. For me, attempting a highly structured poem form, like a sonnet, haiku, or a quatrain, is a more entertaining brain exercise than working sudoku or crossword puzzles. You, too, might enjoy the puzzle aspect of highly structured poems.

Poetic Form – A Closer Look

There are so many variations of poetic form—ancient, classic, and contemporary—that you are sure to find one or two that suit you. Sonnets are grand. Haiku poems are meditative. Limericks are good fun. Odes of praise are usually serious, but can also be silly or satirical. Even highly structured poem forms are often written with irregularities, and you are certainly free to create a form of your own.

To a Button Lost

Oh, button iridescent,
Sweetest pearl of milky white,
Freed from m’ lady’s “precious” sweater

In the middle of the night.
Our dalliance was jolly
As we frisked about the house,
Until you hid between the floorboards
Like a timid little mouse.

Your snub has left me sullen;
My lady is fuming sore.
You have departed, dearest button,
Lost to me forevermore.

To improve my poetic capacity, I did a personal study of haiku poetry in late 2019. I remembered enjoying haiku in grade school and thought I might recapture some of that feeling. I read about the history of the form and its masters. I explored haiku organizations and publications online. I read lots of haiku. Finally, I wrote 50 haiku poems myself.

What is haiku? It’s a very short, poetic form adapted from Japan in the late 1800s, in which two images from nature are juxtaposed to invite feelings of quiet awe and inspiration.

During my studies, I chose some guidelines for my poems that would satisfy most haiku enthusiasts:

  • A seasonal reference (snow, flowers, fruit, falling leaves)
  • A focus on nature
  • Two concrete images with a change to a new image at the 1/3 or 2/3 mark.
  • A story or feeling is created by the marriage of the two images
  • Evokes a sense of quiet, awe, and/or the sublime
  • Uses sentence fragments
  • No rhymes or alliteration
  • No titles
  • A lower-case letter at the beginning of each line
  • The classic, English language grade-school structure—three lines and 5/7/5 syllables—or not

Below is a selection of winter haiku. The first poem changes images after the first line. The second poem changes images after the second line. The third poem eschews the classic syllable count.

a walk with my love
cottontails luxuriate
in winter’s soft light

owls hoot together
on a snowy moonlit night
dogs whimper and bark

tall pines
snowflakes fall
like petals

Freeform Poetry – Laugh at Yourself

When I can’t come up with haiku or don’t want to, I write whatever poems come to mind. One day, reflecting on an experience at a Pikes Peak Writers Conference, I wrote this short poem to capture a memory.

My smile full spent,
I retreat
to scones and tea

But a year into my poetry practice, I found this new poem to be more emotionally open.

Four hundred voices
Eight million eyes—
Refuge in a toilet stall

Perhaps you too have felt that way at a conference.

I’m not a published poet, nor do I aspire to be, but I enjoy and benefit from writing poems all the same. My own poems are included in this blog so you can see the very amateur level of my work and know that you too can write such mood-enhancing poems. If you need a use for your poems, consider writing them inside greeting cards, on bookmarks, or collecting them in a journal. Write poems about subjects you love.

I heartily recommend both the study and practice of poetry. Read some books, take a class, maybe attend a poetry reading. Then set a goal to write some poems of your own. (I usually write a full draft of a poem on the first day, and fiddle with it a few days more.) The practice may not make you into a poet laureate, but your prose will surely wax poetic.

A writer thought writing appealing,
But mostly, she stared at the ceiling.
To enliven her tomes,
She wrote flirty poems;
And now, writes with passionate feeling.

 

For further reading:

Write Like Issa: A Haiku How-To by David G. Lanoue (2017). An English professor and former president of the Haiku Society of America gives insight into the creative process of a haiku master.

Haiku in English: The First Hundred Years, edited by Jim Kacian, Philip Rowland, and Allan Burns (2013). This broad anthology includes poems both ancient and modern, an introduction by poet laureate Billy Collins, and a historical overview by Jim Kacian, the founder of the Haiku Foundation and Red Moon Press.

The Discovery of Poetry: A Field Guide to Reading and Writing Poems by Frances Mayes (2001). Mayes, also the author of Under the Tuscan Sun, writes that “…almost everyone can learn to write good poems.” I hope that means me.


Deborah Brewer

Deborah L. Brewer joined Pikes Peak Writers a decade ago, seeking help with a cozy mystery. When the novel was completed, she stayed for the camaraderie. Now she’s writing short stories. An editor for the PPW 2022 anthology,  Dream, Deborah contributes to Writing from the Peak to help fellow PPW members write better with more enjoyment, and ultimately, achieve their writing dreams.

Sweet Success for Tena Stetler

By: Darby Karchut

Three cheers for Tena Stetler! Her paranormal book, A WITCH’S QUANDARY (The Wild Rose Press, 2021) has been nominated for the prestigious RONE Award in the Paranormal Short category from InD’tale Magazine! Voting in this category begins May 9th. Visit her website for more information.

A Witch's Quandary, cover

ABOUT THE BOOK:

Gale’s engagement is off because she refuses to leave her thriving business in Ireland to follow Dillon to Scotland. Her family and friends are on the emerald isle. Yet, when Dillon returns with the whole story and asks for her help, she must follow her heart.

Becoming a partner in the family law firm was never Dillon’s dream. Now it’s his nightmare. Called to Scotland, his father demands he take his rightful place in the firm or be disowned and disinherited.

During Gale and Dillon’s investigation, they discover the enforcer for the Demon Overlord is also delving into rumors the firm is acting illegally. Magic has been stolen, someone is being blackmailed, and a member of the Witch’s council is corrupt. If Gale and Dillon want a life together in Ireland, they have to unearth secrets threatening to destroy the firm and family. Purchase a copy through Books2Read.com

Tena Stetler, headshot

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Tena Stetler is a best-selling author of award-winning paranormal tales. Some call her crazy others creative. She deals with the voices in her head by writing them down and creating a fantasy world and characters you won’t soon forget. Her books tell tales of magical kick-ass women and mystical alpha males that dare to love them. Travel, adventure, magic, and a bit of mystery flourish in her books along with a few companion animals. Colorado is home; shared with her husband of many moons, a brilliant Chow Chow, a spoiled parrot and a fifty-year-old box turtle. Visit her at www.tenastetler.com


Darby Karchut

Sweet Success is coordinated by Darby Karchut who is an award-winning author, dreamer, and compulsive dawn greeter. A proud native of New Mexico, she now lives in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, where she runs in blizzards and bikes in lightning storms. Click here to submit your Sweet Success Story.

Writers Conferences—What’s The Difference?

By: Margena Holmes

No matter what stage of writing you’re at, going to a writers’ conference can be fun and informative. I have a few conferences under my belt now, and no matter where it’s held, there is always something new presented to the attendees.

The topics presented are as different as the conference itself. Some will focus on just craft, some on marketing, some on building your readership, and everything in between. There are some for Romance writers, Mystery writers, or any writer in general. You don’t have to be a published author to attend a writers’ conference. There are many first-timers who haven’t published anything, to those with multiple books released.

Meals and Hanging Out

How each conference is run varies as much as the conference topics themselves. I know some, like Pikes Peak Writers Conference, budget for meals for all the conferees. That makes it nice as we can sit with people we know or find a whole new group of people. I also love how there is a “host” for each table, usually one of the presenters. Having meals this way makes it easy for us introverts to find a place to sit and get to know other writers more one-on-one. If you get a really fun table host, you’ll laugh your way through lunch or dinner, and get a lot of information not covered in the presentations.

Other conferences* may have lunch and dinner “on your own,” meaning you can go eat anywhere your heart desires. Doing it this way, there were times that I ate alone, as I hadn’t met anyone to hang out with, but another time I found a group of ladies who wrote in the same genre as I did and we went to lunch together and tossed around ideas. We also exchanged emails to contact each other after the conference.

Some conferences will have a formal Mixer, where you can go and mingle with other writers, and there may be a short presentation before dinner is served. Others will have an informal “Bar Con” at the end of the day where you can go if you want and not miss anything if you decline. 

Making It Fun

One writer’s conference does very informal Cosplay themes for each day, where you can dress up in costume. There is also a contest to get your picture taken with the organizer’s father.

Another fun game is getting words or phrases from the staff and writing a short story using those words or phrases. The winner is announced at the end of the conference and the story is read aloud. There have been some pretty entertaining stories!

Advantages and Disadvantages

The past couple of years with Covid have made going to conferences a little harder. Last year PPWC was held online via Zoom, and it was easy to pick the classes to attend via Schedule. The advantage of doing a conference this way is that you don’t have to travel, thus saving money, and also no lines for the restrooms between classes!

Another advantage of attending a conference online is that you may get a recording of the presentation after the conference is over. In case you missed something or had to step away from your computer, you can go back and rewatch the segment. This also helps if there are two presentations at the same time you want to see; you can go back and watch the other one later.

A disadvantage of doing the conference online is there may be more distractions at home than at the conference (though having the replay helps with this). Also, you may think, “Oh, I’ll watch it on this day,” but the day comes and other things take precedence and before you know it, two months have gone by and you haven’t watched the recording. One way around that is to put it on your schedule and don’t commit to anything else at that time (this is where having a planner comes in handy). Treat it like any other appointment that you wouldn’t skip. Your writing is worth it!

There are so many different conferences and many different ways to attend, there’s bound to be one you can sign up for. I hope to see you all at the end of April at PPWC2022! Happy writing!


Margena HolmesMargena Adams Holmes has been writing ever since she can remember, writing her first poem in 1st grade. At her day job, when she’s not kicking young kids out of R-rated movies, she’s sweeping up spilled popcorn from the hallways and aisles (she’s not your mother, though, so please take your trash out). Her days off consist of writing science fiction, short stories, and more movie theater shenanigans. Reading is a close second to writing, and she normally has her nose buried in a book. Her publications are available through her author page. Contact Margena via email: jedi_anegram@hotmail.com.


 

*There are many conferences which are held throughout the year. PPWC2022 is only one of many. Below are links to other conferences you might be interested in.

Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers
Quills Conference
Writers’ Workshop Tour (NEW!)
Romance Writers of America
Tucson Festival of Books
Left Coast Crime

Sweet Success for Tena Stetler

By: Darby Karchut

Congratulations to Tena Stetler! Her latest book, AN ANGEL’S WYLDER ASSIGNMENT, was recently released from The Wild Rose Press. While still paranormal, the book is also a mix of historical, western, time-travel, and a mystery. What a Wyld ride!

ABOUT THE BOOK:

An Angel's Wylder Assignment

Warrior Angel Killian Dugan’s annual trip to the family castle in Scotland is shattered by the arrival of Legion Commander North. Killian’s skills are needed for an urgent time travel assignment. A rogue demon has escaped back in time. He must stop the demon before it can damage the past and change the future.

Killian’s girlfriend Chinoah Grace, a Native American shapeshifter is included in the mission which takes them to the wild west town of Wylder, Wyoming in 1878. She’ll have her hands full fitting in.

Nothing is as it seems. They encounter visions, spirit quests, and a mysterious shaman. On top of it all, blending in as a blacksmith is more physically difficult than he imagined. But not as challenging as keeping his hands off his undercover wife. Will they complete their assignment or run out of time? Purchase a copy through Amazon and other booksellers world-wide.

Tena Stetler, headshot

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Tena Stetler is a best-selling author of award-winning paranormal tales. Some call her crazy others creative. She deals with the voices in her head by writing them down and creating a fantasy world and characters you won’t soon forget. Her books tell tales of magical kick-ass women and mystical alpha males that dare to love them. Travel, adventure, magic, and a bit of mystery flourish in her books along with a few companion animals. Colorado is home; shared with her husband of many moons, a brilliant Chow Chow, a spoiled parrot and a fifty-year-old box turtle. Visit her at www.tenastetler.com


Darby Karchut

Sweet Success is coordinated by Darby Karchut who is an award-winning author, dreamer, and compulsive dawn greeter. A proud native of New Mexico, she now lives in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, where she runs in blizzards and bikes in lightning storms. Click here to submit your Sweet Success Story.

Conference Benefits

By: Catherine Dilts

When I began my writing journey, I listened closely to advice. One universal bit of guidance was to attend writers’ conferences. The Pikes Peak Writers Conference didn’t exist when I became serious about writing fiction. I didn’t have a clue about conferences, or their benefits.

Three Bits of Universal Writing Advice:

  1. Attend a writing conference
  2. Join (or create) a critique group
  3. Write

I began #3 with consistency when I took a creative writing course at UCCS. I learned about goals and deadlines in class. The instructor suggested students form critique groups when class ended. A few of us did, and I ticked off #2 from the advice list. One member became a lifelong friend. That group faded, but I learned the value of exchanging writing evaluations with other serious writers.

After that class, I felt adrift. I craved more professional guidance. A local chapter of Romance Writers of America was the only game in town. Many folks who didn’t write romance joined. It was a lively group of serious published and aspiring authors. The learning experience was valuable, even though it wasn’t my genre.

PPWC2022 logoThen the Pikes Peak Writers Conference began in 1993. I’m foggy on precisely which year was my first, but I was definitely there in 1995. I placed second in the writing contest. I was fortunate that one of the best conferences in the nation took place in my backyard. When I attended my first conference, it knocked my socks off. And checked #1 off the advice list.

I had not yet begun my professional career, and money was tight. The scholarship was a blessing. The welcoming atmosphere helped me believe I belonged. I hung out with my critique group. We fancied ourselves up-and-coming authors. We pursued agents and editors with our amazing stories. It was emotionally awesome.

I was certain I was on my way. I eagerly drank from the firehose of information, wisdom, and encouragement. Over twenty-five years ago, my world was small. The PPW Conference kicked in doors and opened windows I hadn’t even known existed.

Three Benefits of Attending a Conference:

  1. Education
  2. Encouragement
  3. Networking with professionals

Seventeen years later, I finally achieved my goal. I became a published author. I now have nine traditionally published novels, and a dozen published short stories. There are many reasons it took me that long to “arrive.” (Among them are the long stories behind my multiple name changes.) But the fact that I arrived at all, even after that length of time, owes a lot to my early dedication to PPWC.

If you have never attended a writers’ conference, I encourage you to consider PPWC. I wish for you the excitement I felt. Believing that all things are possible. Finding acceptance no matter where you are in your writing development. To make connections with people who understand your brand of crazy. To learn more than you ever thought possible.

Best Things I Got from Conferences:

  1. Friends – Julie was standing in the hallway at her first PPWC. My critique partner Joyce suggested we talk to her. So we did. Later Beth and Sharon attended PPWC with us. And we’ve all been friends ever since.
  2. Finding my tribe – realizing I belonged as a writer.
  3. Professionalism – learning to treat writing as a career, not a hobby.

At your first conference, you might feel like you’re drinking from a firehose. Some things may not apply to your journey. Others may not make sense the first time around. But I’m guessing you’ll feel the same exhilaration combined with exhaustion that I did. Conference might be the spark that gets you going, or keeps you going, to eventual publication.

My journey had a lot of detours and dead ends. I finally arrived, and I owe much of my determination to those early conferences. PPWC was a life-changing experience for me.


Catherine Dilts headshotCATHERINE DILTS prefers writing cozy mysteries and short stories surrounded by flowers on her sunny deck, but any day – and anywhere – spent writing is a good day. Author of the Rock Shop Mystery series, and the stand-alone Survive Or Die with Encircle Publications, Catherine also writes for Annie’s Publishing, contributing three books for the Secrets of the Castleton Manor Library and two for the new Annie’s Museum of Mysteries series. Her short story HazMat Holiday appears in the Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine January/February 2022 issue. Visit her website here.

Sweet Success for Debbie Burke

Until Proven Guilty, by: Debbie Burke

Hooray for Debbie Burke! Her latest thriller, UNTIL PROVEN GUILTY, was recently released from Media Management LLC (March 2022). This is book #7 in her Tawny Lindholm Thrillers with Passion series.

ABOUT THE BOOK:

When the law prevents justice…When DNA isn’t enough…When a lie is the truth.
Investigator Tawny Lindholm and her attorney-husband Tillman Rosenbaum juggle three baffling cases where DNA is supposed to prove guilt or innocence. Instead, it reveals deception and betrayal, triggering a crisis in their marriage, and an unimaginable threat to their family. Purchase a copy through Books2Read

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Debbie Burke, Author

Debbie Burke writes the Tawny Lindholm Thrillers with Passion series. She’s a regular on The Kill Zone blog and is on staff for two senior newspapers. Her first book, INSTRUMENT OF THE DEVIL, won the PPW’s Zebulon Award. Visit the author at debbieburkewriter.com and follow her on Twitter.


Darby Karchut

Sweet Success is coordinated by Darby Karchut who is an award-winning author, dreamer, and compulsive dawn greeter. A proud native of New Mexico, she now lives in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, where she runs in blizzards and bikes in lightning storms. Click here to submit your Sweet Success Story.

Building Believable Characters Part 2:

Strong Secondary Characters

Last month we looked at why it’s important to create believable characters for our stories. You can check that out here if you missed it. Hopefully, you’ve had the opportunity to practice some of the pointers I mentioned in that article.

This month we’ll look at Strong Secondary Characters: why we need them; why they make a difference; and how to create then write them.

Put Away the Cookie Cutter

Just as with your main characters—usually, a hero and a heroine, perhaps an antagonist/villain and/or a protagonist/mentor—readers don’t want cookie-cutter characters. They want to say, “oh, yeah, I know somebody a lot like that” without really knowing one single person. As with our main characters, secondary characters should be a conglomeration of types who remain true to themselves.

Secondary characters should have some relationship to the main character(s). They don’t have to have a connection to both leads, but at least one. Otherwise, they aren’t a secondary character. They could be a walk-on, or a tertiary character, somebody you need in the story to check out groceries or teach a class or perform an operation—but these will be characters with minimal description.

A good secondary character impacts on the main character’s story arc, helps them through it, or prevents them from getting to their goal. They are involved in the life of your main character in some way, getting together, speaking, and sharing memories. The main story plot belongs to the lead, but a secondary character could be the subject of a subplot.

While the secondary character has a backstory, it usually isn’t as important to the plot and story arc as the main character’s is. However, you should know their backstory, even if it never appears on the page, because that’s what defines their reactions and inner turmoil. However, to justify their actions, a little insight into their history can be helpful.

Make sure you create your secondary character with more than one personality trait, just as you would your main character. In truth, a secondary character is simply not the one the story is about—that’s your main character. But as in real life, we all need somebody to bounce ideas off of, to love, to hate, to spend time with.

A great secondary character isn’t a “yes” man to the main character. They can tell the story from their point of view at times, but the main character should hold the majority of the scenes. Limit the number of secondary characters so the reader doesn’t get confused, and make sure their names and characteristics are distinct from others in the story. If you find you need another secondary character, consider combining roles. For example, if you need a firefighter and a next door neighbor, make them the same person.

Secondary characters can be good, evil, or somewhere in between. Just as with creating main characters, nobody is all one way or the other. When thinking about secondary characters, look for at least one contrasting characteristic. For example, if he is loyal to the lead, show one way he is shallow or cowardly.

If you’re concerned the reader may get confused about who is who, you can limit a secondary character to one location. Perhaps she works with the lead, and they don’t socialize, so all their interaction is at the workplace. Maybe he lives next door to the lead, so they meet in their neighborhood. Or the secondary character could be a professional in the lead’s life, such as a doctor, lawyer, or librarian.

Crafting secondary characters might take up word count that’s not available, so one way to overcome that problem is to use tropes. Put a fresh spin on their character so readers will want to invest in them.

There are several kinds of secondary characters:

  • Dynamic – they change a lot throughout the story – but don’t let them change more than the lead
  • Static – they change little but have a substantial role throughout the story – readers will know how they will react
  • Round – they reveal your main character’s true colors, sometimes presenting obstacles, but they grow alongside the lead.
  • Flat – they have one unchanging trait throughout the entire story

In conclusion, like every element in our stories, secondary characters must serve a purpose. Use this checklist to make certain you have exactly the right number of supporting characters, and that they are in the scenes they need be in, and no more:

  • Does the character advance the plot in ways the lead cannot?
  • Are they creating conflict that keeps the lead from achieving their goals?
  • Are they revealing your lead’s characterization?
  • Does their presence deepen the discussion of a theme?
  • Are they motivating the lead?
  • Does their presence reveal elements about the story or lead?

Next month we’ll discuss how to craft convincing villains.

Resources:

https://www.well-storied.com/blog/how-to-craft-spectacular-secondary-characters

https://nybookeditors.com/2016/02/your-guide-to-creating-secondary-characters/

https://www.writerscookbook.com/secondary-characters/

 


Donna Schlachter

A hybrid author, Donna Schlachter writes squeaky clean historical and contemporary suspense. She has been published 50+ times in books under her name and that of her alter ego, Leeann Betts; is a member of several writers groups; facilitates a critique group; teaches writing classes; ghostwrites; edits; and judges in writing contests. She loves history and research, traveling extensively for both.

She lives in Denver with her husband and two cats, finding mysteries wherever she travels. You can find her books on Amazon under both her name and that of her former pen name, Leeann Betts. Follow Donna on her websiteblogGoodreadsBookbubTwitter, and Facebook.

 

Sweet Success for K.L. Emanuelson

Congratulations to K. L. Emanuelson on the recent release of her novel, THE WOMAN WHO RODE DESTINY (March 2022 from Spirit Gate Studios). Enjoy a spicy romp through the Old West of Colorado and New Mexico post-Civil War. If this was a TV show, it would be more “Deadwood” (with all of the same warnings) than “Little House on the Prairie.”

 

ABOUT THE BOOK:

Reb’s just one of the ‘boys, a cowhand who drifts from one cattle outfit to another. Despite society’s dim view of half-breeds, the other cowboys come to respect Reb as a ‘hand who works hard, while caring for an orphaned brother. But Reb guards a dangerous secret—she’s a woman and her ‘brother’ is her fatherless son.

Still, she makes a decent life for herself until she meets the half-Apache gun-slinger, Tor. Her dangerous obsession with him threatens her freedom and may cost him his life.

Reb learns to read and write when down in Santa Fe. She suffers a crushing loss, later dies and comes back to life, only to learn she will be allowed to participate in a sacred ritual where she gains a most unusual Spirit Guide. Stronger now, she faces the mistakes and insecurities of her past openly as a woman. Purchase a copy from Amazon.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

K.L. Emanuelson fell in love with Westerns as a child with her beloved Gramps. After she got out of the Army, she was a working cowgirl on various ranches. She has been a horse trainer for decades and tends to ride dressage more often than Western anymore. She has a ranch in the beautiful Bijou Basin which she shares with horses, dogs and cats. She’s a Storyteller, a poet and historian, with a focus on the American West and early 6th century Scandinavia. Follow her on Facebook.


Darby KarchutSweet Success is coordinated by Darby Karchut who is an award-winning author, dreamer, and compulsive dawn greeter. A proud native of New Mexico, she now lives in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, where she runs in blizzards and bikes in lightning storms. Click here to submit your Sweet Success Story.