In Which I Return To The Schoolroom In Order To Better Understand An Elusive Character

Dear Reader,

Do you ever get the feeling a character isn’t telling you everything there is to know about him or herself?

I’ve been getting this feeling a lot lately, and it makes writing very difficult for an author trying to finish a story by a certain date. Of course, I can always just push through, and discover my characters as I go along—but that’s a pastime best left to the reader side of the equation. No one wants to read a novel written by an author who clearly doesn’t know her own characters well enough to have coffee with them, let alone write an entire 400 page opus about their lives. Reader, have you ever encountered a book like that? I certainly have, often enough to know that I NEVER want to write one!

So what is a writer to do when she has shy and unforthcoming characters who want to shuffle their feet and button their lips when it is most crucial that they reveal themselves in every stunning particular?

Well, I’ve come up with a theory I’m going to call Dear Writer: You Know More Than You Realize! In Fact, You Know EVERYTHING.

Because it’s true, isn’t it? As much as we feel like the characters we write exist outside of ourselves, in our more logical moments we writers have to admit that they don’t. Our characters come from within us, inspired and influenced by the world around us, which we filter back inside of ourselves to produce characters that are well-realized, dead-ringers for actual living and breathing specimens of humanity. Therefore, there is NOTHING we don’t know about our characters. All we have to do is find the right tool to drag the information up out of the recesses of our minds and hearts, rather like those crochet-hook type implements the ancient Egyptians used to poke up post-mortal noses in order to trawl for the brains of the dead. Gross? Maybe. But very similar to the delicacy and precision with which characterization must be handled.

So what sort of crochet-hook type brain-trawler have I been using to help me realize that I know everything about my character? It’s simple, Dear Reader: I’ve gone back to the schoolroom. Remember all of those brightly-coloured Xerox-copied worksheets your grade-school teachers used to pass around for homework and in-class assignments? Ever feel nostalgic about filling them in, with the clock ticking peacefully and your classmates scribbling stealthy notes about who likes who, with check-boxes labeled Yes, No, Maybe So? I certainly do. So I’ve started doing worksheets again, my friends. Characterization worksheets that help me dredge up every last morsel of information I don’t think I know about my characters’ motivations, back-stories, flaws and virtues, physical characteristics and mannerisms—you get the picture. And guess what? The Worksheet System really works! AND it’s fun!

Here are some of the ones I’ve been using, rummaged up on the internet:

Anne Olwin’s Character Development Sheet

The Writer’s Craft Character Development Worksheet by Sherry Wilson

The EPIGUIDE.COM Character Chart for Fiction Writers by Kira Lerner and Toni Walker

I hope the writers among you find these worksheets as fun and helpful as I have—and that you rest assured that you really DO know everything about your characters—even though I am sure they will still manage to surprise you in new and innovative ways, just to keep you dancing on your toes.

As for you readers, I hope the books you read are written by writers who know that they know everything about their characters—and consistently prove it, without tedious information dumps left in steaming, impenetrable piles about the place. Unless you like that sort of thing.

Happy reading and writing!

Love, Morgan.

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In Which I Use Social Media To Ponder Social Media

Dear Reader,

Writers have to do a lot of work when it comes to their books that have absolutely nothing to do with the writing process itself. Before I sold Midnight In Your Arms back in June, I had heard from a lot of other writers that they spend more time NOT writing than they do actually writing. I didn’t want to believe them, but now I know it’s true! The modern novelist as so much more on her plate than the paltry writing of novels. She must keep up with social media, including tweeting interesting tidbits to whichever of her followers might actually be viewing the twitter feed at the exact right moment to see it before it is swept away on the tide of tweet, never to be seen again. She must make sure to keep track of what’s happening on Facebook, including finding new and interesting things to post for her fans and friends. She must also pin all of the things she finds inspiring on Pinterest, and if she has a Tumblr account as well as a regular blog on her official site, she must decide what to post where, and when! Not to mention the very important task of supporting other readers and writers through Goodreads, writing reviews and rating books she has read, when she finds time to actually read a book after all of the social responsibilities and the writing and editing of her own books is finished. There is a lot of work to be done that has nothing, and yet everything, to do with her novel.

Personally, I am just learning to do all of this. It takes time to find a rhythm, a groove in which the individual writer is comfortable. At the moment, I’m trying EVERYTHING out, to see what I like best, and what works for me and my readers. At this point, of course, as I am a debut writer, I don’t really have very many fans, so I can experiment with various outlets without feeling any pressure to perform perfectly right off the bat. And all of the people I have met so far, and who have been so gracious as to support an unknown writer in the earliest stage of her career, remind me that no one is pointing a finger, or rolling their eyes, or judging me for failing to do all the things I need to do perfectly, on schedule, and without a single hiccup. I’m doing all of this for my future readers, of which I hope there will be many, and with whom I can feel like I am truly friends. I want us all to be comfortable together. I want to be reachable, accessible, approachable. I want you all to feel like we’re having a cosy cup of tea and a chat every time you click on a link that leads you to one of my homes on the Internet. That’s the wonderful thing about all of this terrifying technology. What it really does is bring people together, one click at a time. It tears down all the old, insurmountable walls and fills in the treacherous moats that used to separate a writer and a reader—and builds a bridge instead.

Thank you for being here with me, Dear Reader—whether there are only two of you, or there are several thousand. Each one of you is precious to me, not a commodity, not a number or a stat. I truly appreciate and honour the wonder that is you, that is the two of us here, together, communicating across who knows what distance. We live in a wonderful age. Let’s make of it all we can, together.

Love, Morgan.

In Which I Reveal The Shiny New Cover of Midnight In Your Arms!

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Isn’t it BEAUTIFUL, Dear Reader? I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw it! The Avon design team has really outdone themselves this time. It has all of the elegance and glamour of the Jazz Era itself, with the bare-kneed heroine in her little red dress and sleek pumps, that rope of pearls beckoning the hero to grab hold and pull her closer…

I love these new covers that show the heroine alone. It seems so much more intimate, somehow—like the reader is in the hero’s mind, looking at the object of his desire! It makes one feel as though the book is all about the lady, and as most romance readers are women, I think it’s a good feeling to have when reaching for a new romance novel.

I also really love the black background, as if the whole world has fallen away, and only this one special woman remains—the only bright and bold thing in the universe! That’s what love is like, isn’t it? One’s lover is the sole pulse-point in all of creation.

When I look at this cover, I see my heroine Laura Dearborn exactly the I way I imagined her—sexy, feminine—a little bit rakish, a whole lot daring! A brazen femme in a short dress. The perfect embodiment of my beloved Jazz Age.

If I didn’t write it, I would want to read Midnight In Your Arms for the cover alone! Good job, Avon. I’m so happy my book has found a home with you, in such illustrious company.

Love, Morgan.

In Which I Put The Final Touches on Midnight In Your Arms

Dear Reader,Image

The past month and a bit since I sold my book to Avon has been a bit of a whirlwind of activity! I ended up more than doubling the length of Midnight In Your Arms, from just over 20,000 words to nearly 55,000—and I feel the story is much stronger and more substantial now. It’s been given the breathing space and room it needs to spread out into the story it was meant to be! That is always a good feeling for an author. No one wants to feel as though their story has been stunted, compacted into too small a space to really bloom.

I sent the final few changes to my wonderful editor at Avon, Chelsey Emmelhainz—and let me just take a moment to tell you how fantastic it has been working with her! She really gets what I am trying to do with my story, the mood and feel of it, as well as the style of my writing. She makes everything better without making me feel like I’m losing anything—a delicate balance. She is such an intuitive reader, which is the most important thing, I think, for an editor—because she must put herself in the place of (hopefully!) thousands of readers, and see the story through their eyes. That isn’t easy, but she does it with aplomb. I felt really comfortable with her, and the changes she made, from small to significant, have made Midnight In Your Arms into a story of which I feel very proud. It was a skeleton of a story only a few short weeks ago, and now it is fully fleshed out and dancing the Charleston! Whoot!

It’s hard to believe that it’s only been just over seven weeks since I wrote the first draft, sent it in, and got the call from Avon! I wish all projects ran this smoothly, with such satisfying results. I can hardly wait for October to come! Midnight In Your Arms comes out on the 30th, just in time for my favourite day of the year—Halloween! Maybe I will dress up as my heroine, Laura Dearborn, the vampish 1920s medium who reaches across space and time to steal the heart of Crimean War veteran Alaric Storm III.

Now, Chelsey has advised me to celebrate with ice cream, even though it’s only 8 AM my time—and get on with the next story! I think I will do just that. I’ve been dreaming of a new hero and heroine who are clamouring to have their story told. Now that I’ve put the finishing touches on M.I.Y.A, I feel fully justified in indulging—both in ice cream for breakfast, and a brand new love story that makes the past as real as the present.

Love, Morgan.

In Which I Get The Call

Dear Reader,

It happened. It finally happened. I recently sold my first romance novella to Avon Impulse. It’s called Midnight In Your Arms, and will be coming out in time to chill your bones for Halloween 2012!

When I say that it’s my first romance novella, it really is true—I’ve never written a romance novella before. I’ve written two and a half romance novels, however. But that’s another story. Before Avon Impulse started putting out stand-alone novellas, and Harlequin did the same with their Briefs and Bites series, I wouldn’t have known what to do with a romance novella  had I written one. For some reason, even though there are now places for them to go, I still didn’t write one until just under three weeks ago. Let me tell you, I’m sure glad I did! It’s been like an instant gratification party around here ever since. I wrote the story over the space of about 30 hours on May 29th-30th. I sent it in on May 30th about an hour before midnight, using the electronic submission process Avon has now—and a week later, I woke up to an email from Chelsey Emmelhainz at Harper Collins asking me to please call her because she loves my novella and wants to make an offer on it! Her exact words? “I loved it and would like to make an offer on it!” A dozen little words that were music to my ears! Or rather, beautiful paintings for my eyes, since I was reading them :^}

As soon as I swallowed my heart several dozen times, I did just that—and we had a lovely conversation, in which we discussed releasing the novella as a stand-alone book, when I had thought it would be part of a collection, because I had written it in response to a call for submissions for a themed anthology. But Avon liked it enough to release it on its own! So it was even more exciting than I thought—because now I get my own cover, with my own name on it, and all of that lovely, self-important stuff that writers dream about.

I called my husband right away, and told him, and he was so excited! It’s wonderful to have support at home, and I’m really lucky. When he got home from work that night, he brought take-out from our favourite restaurant that is now very far away ever since we moved out of the city, so it was a special treat indeed. I love having someone to share all the special moments with—and isn’t that what writing romance is all about? Bringing two people together who weren’t quite complete living apart. Giving them each someone to love them and support them, cherishing their dreams as if they are their own. That’s what I want to do with each pair of lovers in every book I write. That’s what I want to do with Midnight In Your Arms, which, no matter what happens in my career, will always be my First—and as we all know, your First matters!

And now I will go, because I am elbows deep in edits, trying to make a stable time loop make sense.

You’ll understand when you read it.

Love, Morgan.