Expanding Your Cast of Characters

20160618_183444a (3)As a fiction writer, I am sometimes asked by readers “where do you get your characters?” Usually that question is followed by “are they based on real people?” My answer is “I make them up.” Followed by, “I would never use a real person that I know as a character.” However, all of my characters are based on the sum total of my knowledge of humanity. I build my characters’ appearances, personalities, speech patterns, and behavior based on humanity as I know it or can imagine it. The limitations on my ability to create characters, then, are the limits of my own experience plus my ability to imagine and extend my knowledge to its extremes.

Part of my job in writing fiction is to create fully formed, believable characters that people can recognize, identify with, or at least be able to envision as a functional being. The more types of people I can imagine, the wider will be my casts of characters. So how do I improve and increase my casts of characters? I have to improve my knowledge of humanity as a whole by increasing my knowledge of the unique individuals whose quirks and personality extremes exemplify the wide variations in human behavior. I have to read. I have to read widely on varied topics, particularly about people who aren’t like me, people who live in places I would never live, doing things the I can’t imagine doing. This means reading histories, biographies, memoirs, news stories, and magazine articles about people from all walks of life.

For example, I am a reader and writer of mysteries. Mysteries are what I prefer to read most of the time. However, a diet of strictly mysteries wouldn’t be enough to help improve my writing, so I  read a lot of nonfiction in an effort to broaden my horizons. I read Red Platoon by Clinton Romesha, American Sniper by Chris Kyle, and 13 Hours by Mitchell Zuckoff. These books gave me glimpses into the lives of ordinary soldiers, special forces soldiers, and former soldiers working in dangerous parts of the world. They also illustrated the varying responses of people, both trained and untrained, when pushed to their absolute physical and emotional limits.

books on bookshelves
Photo by Mikes Photos on Pexels.com

I read Empire of the Summer Moon: Quanah Parker and the Rise and Fall of the Comanches by S. C. Gwynne. Only the most stubborn, most fanatical people were willing to settle on the Texas frontier in the 1800s, an area that saw 300 years of territorial conflict. The brutality of modern warfare could be matched blow for blow by what was historically referred to as the ‘depredations’ of the Comanches in Texas. That people, like Quanah Parker and special forces operators, can go from the visceral brutality of killing in warfare and step into lives as businessmen says a lot about the plasticity of human nature.

I also read The Undoing Project by Michael Lewis about the work of Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky, a pair of Israeli psychologists whose work developed the field of behavioral economics. I read The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable by Nassim Nicholas Taleb about the random, unpredictable events that impact our lives in huge ways. And I read Isaac’s Storm by Eric Larsen about a meteorologist’s failure to predict the 1900 Galveston hurricane. These three books include the issue of scholarly hubris. They discuss how wrong scholars and scientists can be when they think they have all necessary data, but don’t, and the damage to society as a whole that this overconfidence can cause.

Writers, be diligent readers, particularly of nonfiction and particularly of subjects that aren’t already familiar to you. See the world through someone else’s eyes. Expanding your reading horizons will expand your ability to imagine new, unique characters to populate your own stories. Many people live in neighborhoods that are socioeconomically homogenized, work with people who do similar work, volunteer with others who support the same causes, and participate in hobbies, sports, or social activities with those who enjoy those same activities. When you look beyond your own circumscribed lives and interests, you may find personalities that you never knew existed and a range of people you never could have imagined. Step outside your own world and into a wider one to improve your writing.

Let me know your suggestions for great nonfiction books. I’m always looking for more great characters.


N. M. Cedeño writes short stories and novels that are typically set in Texas. Her stories vary from traditional mystery, to science fiction, to paranormal mystery in genre. Her debut novel, All in Her Head, was published in 2014, followed by her second novel, For the Children’s Sake, in 2015. In 2016, For the Children’s Sake was selected as a finalist for the East Texas Writers Guild Book Award in the Mystery/Thriller category. Most recently, she has begun writing the Bad Vibes Removal Services Series which includes short stories and the novel The Walls Can Talk (2017).


Open Mouth Insert Foot by Cher’ley


 This Blog  by Cher’ley Grogg

I wpaint-2985569_640as displaying my art in a local festival when someone told me this fairly famous artist was also displaying his art at the festival. I went to school with the person and I wondered if he remembered me. I found his display and his father was filling in for him. I started a conversation.  “I went to school with your son.” He answered, “I don’t think so.” “Yes, it was from the 8th grade on.” He looked at me and without blinking an eye or cracking a smile he said, “My son is 16.” I looked a little harder at this old man and realized I was talking to the artist instead of his father. “Sorry, I thought you were someone else,” I whispered as I slunk off.

I have also congratulated women on their pregnancy and they weren’t.

Open Mouth Insert Foot, I am a pro at this.

What about your characters? Do they ever do this, or are they always prim and proper? How do you define your characters?

I make a profile for each of my characters (even though I have been known to just add things along the way—therefore open mouth insert foot).  I like to have a general idea of who they are, what they believe in, and how they talk. Where do they come from, who is their family, what is their favorite food, and what really irritates them? I used to even cut photos out of magazines to picture what they might look like.

What makes great characters?

Give your characters interiority

Make them Likable

They need an Objective

Give them a Problem

They need to have Passion about something

Character, give them character to make them distinct

Show characters’ motives through interactions

A couple of these came from Now Novel Blog 


In “The Secret in Grandma’s Trunk”:girls-407295_640

Jordan one of the main characters is a big, sturdy girl who is very likable—but doesn’t hesitate to defend her friends and family.  She’s a problem solver, Brandon comes to her for advice. Her passion is soccer. That’s just a light description of her. She is very deep and multifaceted. Look on page 65 of The Secret in Grandma’s Trunk to see a bit of her personality.

***Have you ever did the Open Mouth Insert Foot thingy? Please share. How about your characters, what’s the worse thing they have said?***

Cher’ley’s Books are listed below and on sale at Amazon and local bookstores. 

Stamp Out Murder”.
 The Secret in Grandma’s Trunk” This is an especially good book for your Tween Children and Grandchildren
The JourneyBack 3The Journey Back-One Joy at a Time and the B&W Edition of The Journey Back
Boys Will Be Boys   The Joys and Terrors of Raising Boys-An Anthology
 Cowboys, Creatures, and Calico 

All About the Girls 5(3)

Image may contain: 2 people    Please join me on my Facebook Fanpage  that’s managed by one of my most faithful fans: Cindy Ferrell

Here’s a link to Cher’ley’s WEBSITE 





Storytelling is storytelling. We all crave it.

by Stephen Buehler

Stephen Buehler - Bouchercon

Story telling is storytelling and everyone loves a good story. It helps make life interesting. When you hear the word ‘story’ most people think of books or short stories- but all forms of entertainment should tell a story – from music to art to magic shows. That’s right, even a magic show.

Tonight (Sunday) I’m performing a magic show – which I haven’t done in years. Recently my interest in magic has resurfaced. I was invited to be part of a show to raise money for a playhouse.

I could have been one of those magicians that just do one trick after another and I would have done a good job with that. I know many tricks. But instead, to keep the audience interested I decided to tell a story within the show. It’s not a complicated story but I’m hoping it adds to the interest level of my performance.

Like any good story – first I created a character, Stefan the Great One! That’s my magician name from when I was a kid.

Magic Show - Prof Nightmare

Like in a novel, I gave him a backstory – he comes from a long line of magicians – his father is Stefan the Mediocre and his grandfather is Stefan the So So. Stefan is full of himself – he’s okay as a magician but not as good as he likes to boast. He’s constantly referring to himself in the third person and when he mentions his name he delivers it with theatrical flair. He longs to be a magician like in the old days but those days have passed him by. He’s a bit of a braggart but he’s likeable because he makes you laugh.

The story of the show is – he promises that he’s going to present the GREATEST TRICK EVER. After performing each trick, he introduces the next trick as THE GREATEST TRICK EVER and if they didn’t like that one, he does another one. It builds the audience’s anticipation – they’re waiting for that big trick. It’s like getting readers to keep turning the pages. His tricks are good, he’s entertaining but he never does the greatest trick ever. Towards the end of his act he gives up his quest. He announces that the management wants a survey of his performance and instead of having the audience fill out questionnaires he’ll do it from the stage. He’s even written down what he hopes the audience thinks of him and has sealed the predictions in an envelope which are given to a spectator to hold. He has three truly random volunteers from the audience answer the survey questions. When Stefan the Great One’s! envelope is opened, his predictions match exactly the volunteers’ answers. It looks impossible. The survey has become the greatest trick ever. A good twist ending.


Stefan’s performance is like any good story. It has a hero. The hero has a quest and a goal. He meets obstacles along the way. It looks like he fails but with one last desperate try he is triumphant.

Story telling is story telling. We all crave it whether we know it or not. It deepens the experience.

Have you ever used storytelling in other works of art or your in life besides writing short stories or novels?


Stephen Buehler’s short fiction has been published in numerous on-line publications including, Akashic Books. His story, Not My Day appeared in the Last Exit to Murder anthology and was a Derringer Finalist. A Job’s a Job was published in Believe Me or Not An Unreliable Anthology. His is seeking a home for his novella, The Mindreading Murders about a magician, psychics and of course, murder. He is also currently shopping around his mystery/comedy P.I. novel, Detective Rules. By day he is also a script/story consultant, magician and a nice guy.  www.stephenbuehler.com

Fork in The Road

propic11_1By L.Leander, Author of Fearless Fiction

I received the letter “F” for the A-Z Blog challenge.  Since my maiden name is Flory I thought about writing about that, but the Forked Road seemed better-suited to this blog.  I hope you enjoy it.

We have all been down the forked road, but why do some take the left fork and others take the right? Is it that left-handed people take the left and right-handed people take the right? I don’t think so.

I read an article once before I took my children to Disney World. The author of the piece said “Most people tend to take the right entrance to an attraction, while fewer take the left”.  In other words, if you want to get in to the attraction, bathroom, or gate, take the left line because you’ll get there faster. We tried it and the advice was right. We did find the time it took to get in on the left was speedier than the right.

We’ve all seen and traveled down many forked roads or trails throughout our lives.  Some curve Forked Roadaround an ancient tree while others are man-made. They may lead to the same place, or not.

Pretend you need a solution to a problem or have a big decision to make. You sit at the tip of the forked road trying to decide which way to go. Confused and anxious, the decision is waiting to be made. It may be a new move, a new relationship, or anything that will make a big impact on your life.  As you sit contemplating, you cannot decide, thinking about all the “What ifs?”

Deepak Chopra, an internationally known  New-Age guru says, “Get rid of the what-ifs.  It’s not an A or B situation. Don’t control or predict what will happen.”  His suggestion is to sit alone in a quiet place and be still. The answer will come; in fact, your heart always knows the right answer. It’s up to you to tune into your thoughts to know the right way to advance.

Decision-making is generally difficult for me and perhaps some of you who read this post have the same problem.  I know the issue, I really want to decide one way or the other, but the thoughts go around and around in my head until sometimes they make me physically ill and unable to reach a verdict at all.

I am definitely not a critical thinker and I’ve made snap decisions that ended up without the answers I sought. Sometimes the decision I made was not a good one, so when the next one comes along I worry that I will make the same mistake again.

A Therapist I know shared with me some insight about the forked road. She told me “A decision is just a decision and if it’s not right you can make another decision.”

That advice helped me to see more clearly that even if I make a wrong decision, I have learned from that one and can make a new choice next time. It also made me think about my fear of making good decisions and why it can actually be a learning experience that will help me each time I have an issue.

Here is a passage from the Bible that speaks of a “fork in the road”.

Ezekiel 21:19  Mark out two roads for the sword of the king of Babylon to come; both of them shall issue from the same land. And make a signpost; make it for a fork in the road leading to a city;roadsign

What do you do when you’re picking an editor for your manuscript? Do you research several editors?  If you get the list down to two do you waffle back and forth between the two choices or do you confidently choose the one you believe will have your best interests at heart?

Do you write your latest novel and at some point come to a place where the protagonist must go one way or another? Which fork in the road do you choose for her/him to follow?

Another bit of advice from Deepak Chopra says; “Find a place of total quiet. Make sure there are nomeditation distractions. Clear your mind and sit silently for maybe fifteen minutes. During that time don’t let thoughts race through your mind, instead, focus on the quiet. You may need to do this more than once, but it will put you in the right spiritual place to make the choice, and the answer will be there. Prayer is a very important part of the journey.”

When you stand at the fork in the road, remember this advice and you’ll make the right choice. But if you don’t, remember, you can always make another one!

Here are a couple of quotes on decision-making.

“Decision is a sharp knife that cuts clean and straight; indecision, a dull one that hacks and tears and leaves ragged edges behind it.”

Gordon Graham

“Don’t even leap to actions and decisions before you’ve found that sense of natural calm, well-being, or enthusiasm.”

Frederick Dodson, Parallel Universe of Self

Courtesy of Goodreads.com

I’d like to share one of my favorite poems by Robert Frost. I’ve always loved it but it means something different to me now that I’m an adult. See if the same applies to you.

The Road Not Taken

Robert Frost

 Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,

And sorry I could not travel both

And be one traveler, long I stood

And looked down one as far as I could

To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,

And having perhaps the better claim

Because it was grassy and wanted wear,

Though as for that the passing there

Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay

In leaves no step had trodden black.

Oh, I kept the first for another day!

Yet knowing how way leads on to way

I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh

Somewhere ages and ages hence:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.

 Poem courtesy of Poemhunter.com

 Here is a link to an article on decision-making.

The meaning of Fork in The Road.

Bios of Deepak Chopra and Robert Frost

There’s even a joke about the Forked Road (a 2000 year old classic)


Books by L.Leander:

Inzared Queen of the Elephant Riders Video Trailer

Inzared, Queen of the Elephant Riders


Inzared, The Fortune Teller Video Trailer

Inzared, The Fortune Teller (Book Two)


You can also find L.Leander here:

L.Leander Website

Amazon Author Page

Facebook Author Page

L.Leander Books Blog

L.Leander’s Book Reviews and Interviews





Basking in Beauty: Past, Present and Future

Gayle_CactusForest_nearLakePleasantThis post by Gayle M. Irwin

The past several days I’ve spent in the sunny southwest. The desert is alive with color and since spring was just last week, I found the timing of my visit very appropriate. While in Phoenix, I saw roses and multiple other types of flowers. Traveling to Tucson, cactus flowers, primrose and other colorful vegetation greeted my friend and I as we walked the trails of the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum. I took endless photos and basked in the beauty that welcomed us.

Cacti Garden_AZ Desert MuseumBeauty was not just in the plant life, but in the animals we saw: captive ones to educate the public about the fauna of the region, and wild ones, like lizards and songbirds, that make the desert their home. I was excited to see otters, herons, and desert bighorn that could not be released in the wild due to injuries but that could still educate people living in and not living in Arizona about their habits and habitats, and I was even more excited to see the wild ones that just “appeared” to reflect their adaptations to the environment. I love seeing and learning about the flora and fauna of a region I visit – there is beauty in nature and in learning about it.

Dougs MustangThere is also beauty in the relationships we share with others. My friends Doug and his family gave me their time, gas, and food as we shared about three days together. We reflected upon the past – the years we’ve known one another, their years of marriage, their kids’ education; upon the present – what we’re all doing now, our concerns and our joys, and the connection we maintain; and about the future – what their kids want to become as adults, my friends’ future vacation and retirement plans, our aging parents and our aging selves. Nature and friendship – two of the most beautiful things we experience in life!

As writers we can create beauty as well. Our characters have relationships with other characters (past, present, future) and sometimes writers weave nature into stories, showcasing the beauty (and sometimes danger) our characters experience. In Sage’s Big Adventure, blind dog Sage becomes lost in the woods (something that actually happened to my real blind dog Sage). The dog’s strong relationship with her people help her return home to them. I’ve seen that and read about that – some pets return home months, even years later, their connection to their humans such a beautiful and strong component to get them home (think of the movie ‘Homeward Bound’ – I cry at the end EVERY time!).

How do you create your characters’ relationships? Do you think about past, present, and future of your characters? Do you bring nature into your stories, and if so, do you showcase beauty or danger, or both?

Gayle_Old Tucson Creek BackdropAs this post goes live, I’ll be returning to Wyoming after four days in Arizona and three days in Las Vegas. In Vegas, I’ll have met up with another long-time friend, a woman who lives in California but who has ties (including the start of our friendship 20 years ago) in Montana; I also planned to have lunch with fellow Writing Wrangler Mike Staton. I’m very excited to see Kari and share my birthday with her with dinner and a show, and to meet and visit with Mike. There’s past, present, and future in these friendships, too – what a beautiful thing!

Have a great weekend, everyone!

Blue Heron

Gayle & Mary outsideGayle M. Irwin is writer, author and speaker. She is the author of several inspiring dog books for children and adults, including Sage’s Big Adventure, Walking in Trust: Lessons Learned with My Blind Dog, and two dog devotion books: Devotions for Dog Lovers: Paws-ing for Time with God and Devotions for Dog Lovers 2: Sage Advice. She is also a contributing writer to five editions of Chicken Soup for the Soul, including The Dog Did What?, released August 2014. She’s also authored a guidebook for owners of blind dogs, available on Kindle. She has a passion for pets and volunteers for and donates a percentage of her writing revenues to several animal welfare organizations. Her speaking engagements include presentations for children and adults about the lessons people can learn from pets. Visit her website at www.gaylemirwin.com.


SageBigAdventureFront-small   SageLearnsShareFront-small   Blind Dog Ebook Cover_updatedMay2014   Dog Devotion Book_Cover_Final   Dog Devotions 2 Book Cover Sage Advice Cover

What’s Next?

Gayle_BozemanFamilyChristian_smallThis post by Gayle M. Irwin

The blue-gray and black Great Dane stretched his large head and giant body from the back seat of my car, as he looked through the rear window of my Subaru Outback. I had just driven away from the home he’d known for the past week, being fostered for an Denver-based organization called Big Dogs Huge Paws. “Blue,” as he was called, was headed for a new home in Montana and I was his ride from a Denver suburb to Casper, where he stayed a few days while awaiting transport to Billings, Montana. Helping dogs go into rescue or go to their new homes is something I thoroughly enjoy, and since I like to travel, transporting dogs for rescue groups fits me to a tee. Yet, like Blue the Great Dane, most rescue animals are nervous about what is happening to them; I am sure they wonder, “What’s happening? What’s next?”

What took me to Denver to begin with earlier this month is also a “what’s next?” story. A dear friend, someone I’ve known more than 30 years, was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer just before Thanksgiving. His surgery took place in a Denver hospital the end of December, and he and his wife were staying at an Aurora hotel after he was released from the hospital following a second surgery. I spent time with them during a weekend in mid-January, learning more about the disease and various scenarios of prognosis. My friends planned to stay at the hotel for a few weeks, meeting with the surgeon and other doctors to learn “what’s next?” It’s a scary, uncertain time for them, and it’s been a scary, uncertain time for Blue … and other rescue dogs I’ve known.

baseball_pitcherLife throws curve balls. Whether at an animal that’s lost it’s home for some reason; a bad health report like my friend; a dip in finances due to lack of work as my husband and I experienced last spring; or some other experience we go through – these curve balls trip one off balance, much as a pitcher tries to do to a batter in baseball. We can’t always control what happens to us in life, and when those curve balls are hurled at us, we wonder “what’s next?”

As writers we often come to a point where we don’t know what’s going to happen next to our characters. We can take scenarios from life and throw those at the characters, being the “pitcher” in the story we’re creating. In the pet rescue children’s story I’ve been working on for the past few years (shelved due to the “curve balls” of other writing endeavors such as the magazine article wave that hit me in 2014) Jasmine, my primary dog character, doesn’t know “what’s next” when the owner she’s known for years abandons her; when she is taken into rescue; when she is transported from place to place on her way to her new forever home – just as many of the rescue animals I work with don’t know “what’s next?” As I’ve written the children’s story, at times I wasn’t sure where the story/the character was going next, even though the story is based on a true rescue account. I didn’t know exactly what happened to the real Jasmine after she was abandoned and before she went into rescue, so I created scenes which would be as near to fact as possible (such as after her puppies are born, she has to protect them from predatory coyotes). For characters in our stories, when we as authors are “stuck,” we can draft out potential scenarios, “what ifs,” and see how those possible pathways might play out for our characters, an “if this then that” plot outline.

Jazmine Transport

Doing a “character study” is also valuable. Asking questions of your character(s) helps you get to know them. Here’s a link to a Writer’s Digest article about questions to ask of your characters: http://www.writersdigest.com/online-editor/novel-writing-10-questions-you-need-to-ask-your-characters. Delving more deeply into our character(s) can help sort out the question “What’s next?” for them and for the entire story.

Although we dream and plan for the future in real life, we really don’t know what tomorrow holds. However, as writers we can plot out the tomorrows for our story and its characters, sometimes with a few curve balls thrown in for good measure (just as happens in real life) to generate a page-turning story. So, what are your hopes for “what’s next” in your writing life? In your current story in progress? May the curve balls that come your way help you to hit a home run, in real life and in your stories!


Gayle & Mary outsideGayle M. Irwin is writer, author and speaker. She is the author of several inspiring dog books for children and adults, including Sage’s Big Adventure, Walking in Trust: Lessons Learned with My Blind Dog, and two dog devotion boos: Devotions for Dog Lovers: Paws-ing for Time with God and Devotions for Dog Lovers 2: Sage Advice. She is also a contributing writer to five editions of Chicken Soup for the Soul, including the latest dog book The Dog Did What?, released August 2014. She also writes for WREN (Wyoming Rural Electric Network), Crossroads, Creation Illustrated, and Our Town Casper magazines, as well as for the Casper Journal, River Press, and Douglas Budget newspapers. She’s also authored a guidebook for owners of blind dogs, available on Kindle. She has a passion for pets and volunteers for and donates a percentage of her writing revenues to several animal welfare organizations. Her speaking engagements include presentations for children and adults about the lessons people can learn from pets. Visit her website at www.gaylemirwin.com.

SageBigAdventureFront-small   SageLearnsShareFront-small  Dog Devotions 2 Book Cover Sage Advice Cover  Dog Devotion Book_Cover_Final  Walking_FrontCover_small  Blind Dog Ebook Cover_updatedMay2014

Writing the Human Condition

Post copyright Doris McCraw








Writers write about the human condition. We tell stories about falling in love, solving mysteries and defeating evil.  Still at the heart of every story is the joys and sorrows of our heroes and heroines. Each person tells the story as they know it, but where do we turn when we want to understand the condition? For myself, it is some of the old and new classics.

Who doesn’t respond to the speech in Shakespeare’s Macbeth:

Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow,

Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,

To the last syllable of recorded time;

And all our yesterdays have lighted fools

The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!

Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player,

That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,

And then is heard no more. It is a tale

Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,

Signifying nothing.

It is probably one of my favorite of all the lines Shakespeare wrote and there are many.








The Helen (Hunt) Jackson poem Two Truths speaks of the dichotomy of love

Darling,’ he said, ‘I never meant
To hurt you;’ and his eyes were wet.
‘I would not hurt you for the world:
Am I to blame if I forget?’

‘Forgive my selfish tears!’ she cried,
‘Forgive! I knew that it was not
Because you meant to hurt me, sweet-
I knew it was that you forgot!’

But all the same, deep in her heart
Rankled this thought, and rankles yet,-
‘When love is at its best, one loves
So much that he cannot forget.’



For the sheer pleasure of reading and hearing life stories about the human condition,  you have only to read Edgar Lee Masters “Spoon River Anthology”.  A classic when published in 1915. To me it still has the power to make me laugh, cry, and be angry. It tells the tales of a small town through the epitaphs of the inhabitants. http://spoonriveranthology.net/spoon/river/

Who hasn’t felt the pain of not being loved like Mabel Osborne as she says at the end of her story?

I who loved you, Spoon River,And craved your love,
Withered before your eyes, Spoon River--
Thirsting, thirsting,
Voiceless from chasteness of soul to ask you for love,
You who knew and saw me perish before you,
Like this geranium which someone has planted over me,
And left to die.

Or the joy of living like Lucinda Matlock at the end of hers:

At ninety--six I had lived enough, that is all,
And passed to a sweet repose.
What is this I hear of sorrow and weariness,
Anger, discontent and drooping hopes?
Degenerate sons and daughters,
Life is too strong for you--
It takes life to love Life.

Who inspires you? Who do you turn to when you want to delve into the human condition?

Until next time, here is to writing that gives us joy, teaches something and brings us together in a common understanding of what it is to be human.


Product Details

HOME FOR HIS HEART by Doris McCraw writing as Angela Raines, available on:

Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords

Follow my haiku post five days a week at: http://fivesevenfivepage.blogspot.com

“Film & Photography on the Front Range” : the stories of the people who made film and photograph history on the Colorado Front Range. You can buy online at: http://www.amazon.com

The Big Picture

Post copyright and written by Doris McCraw 2014







So what is the big picture? Thinking of the answer, high school popped up. There we studied “The Bard”. My favorite was “The Scottish Play, (Macbeth)”. I loved the line from the play “The Valiant” by Middlemass:  “Cowards die many times before their death, the valiant never taste of death but once”.

On into college and it was the study of Camus, Sartre,  Saint-Exupery and Hesse. Enjoyed “The Little Prince” by Saint-Exupery, but Siddhartha by Hesse has stayed with me all these years.

Later “The Art of War” by Sun Tzu and Lao Tzu’s work came out of my study of Japan and Eastern Philosophies and religious studies.

So why, you may ask am I talking about these earlier ‘required’ reading. They are part of the big picture of my storytelling, both verbal and written. The concepts snuck in without my even being aware of them.  Then the big three arrived: Campbell, McKee and Chubbuck that brought focus and question.

Joseph Campbell spoke about ‘the hero’s journey’.  It’s composed of three primary parts:  separation, initiation, return. Our characters, especially in novels do take journeys. Campbell gives an outline for that journey. For a more complete discussion of the concept: http://wikipedia.org/wiki/monomyth

Next McKee and his book “Story”, a must read for screenwriters, but the concepts translate well for other works. A long book, but one that goes into detail of all the elements that create a compelling story.

Finally, Ivana Chubbuck’s “The Power of the Actor” for a way to understand the inner life of characters. Primarily written for actors who strive to create the full character from the script, the ideas also add to the richness of an authors understanding of their own characters.

Do all the concepts of Campbell apply in every situation? Can McKee save a bad story? Will understanding where your characters have been make a difference in a short short story? Perhaps not, but having the knowledge, using it helps to create the big picture that can only help writers create the best story they can.

Just a bit of something I have thought about and wanted to share.  What have been your literary and educational influences? Until next time.


Cover for Home For His Heart

HOME FOR HIS HEART by Doris McCraw, available on:

Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords

Follow my haiku post five days a week at: http://fivesevenfivepage.blogspot.com

“Film & Photography on the Front Range” : the stories of the people who made film and photograph history on the Colorado Front Range. You can buy online at: http://www.amazon.com




Details – A Key to the Story

Post written and copyrighted by Doris McCraw







We write stories, we tell tales, our imagination runs wild. Well, even when we write non-fiction, the stories are still there. But what makes a story one that keeps the reader engaged? My thought- details.

As most of you know, I have researched and been writing about the early women doctors in Colorado prior to 1900.  I can write about when they were born, where they lived and where they died. Basic information. But will that keep the reader engaged? To ‘create’ the story of their lives it would be the details that add the joy and sorrow to what these women did.

Alida Avery

When Alida Avery left Vassar to move to Denver, Colorado in 1874  she probably came by train. To add details to her trip I could talk about train travel at that time.  Fortunately for me, Helen (Hunt) Jackson wrote about just such a trip.  Below is an excerpt from her essay, in Bits of Travel at Home called ” Chicago to Ogden”.

Next morning, more prairie,-unfenced now, undivided, unmeasured, unmarked, save by the different tints of different growths of grass or grain’ great droves of cattle grazing here and there; acres of willow saplings pale yellowish green and solitary trees, which look like ‘hermits’ in a wilderness. These, and now and then a shapeless village, which looks even lonelier than the empty loneliness by which it is surrounded,- these are all for hours and hours. We think,”now we are getting out into the great spaces.” “This is what the word “West” has sounded like.”

Karol Smith day 094

Would I use all of the above when telling Alida’s story? No, but the details of the endless miles of prairie, the solitary towns, that is a commonality that everyone traveling west would have seen. There are such wonderful resources to add the details to your story, you just have to find and use them. By adding the details the reader can see what your character sees. The details help them understand how your character may have felt. To me it helps make them human and relatable.  It brings their journeys into a sharper focus.

9-10-2011 end of season trip 054

How do you find details for your work? What does your character see? Does their environment play a major role in their story. One of my favorite stories, and it was a children’s story by Helen, is “Nellie’s Silver Mine”. This story was one of the first, if not the first children’s book to have setting be a character in the story.

If you wish to read the Guttenburg projects ‘Nellie’s Silver Mine’, below is the link:


Here is to story, both fiction and non-fiction and the details that bring it to life! Happy writing!

Follow my haiku post five days a week at: http://fivesevenfivepage.blogspot.com

Below is the link to my non-fiction piece on the first state film commissioner in the United States included in this book.

“Film & Photography on the Front Range” : the stories of the people who made film and photograph history on the Colorado Front Range. You can purchase online at: http://www.amazon.com




Small Things Make a Difference by Cher’ley

This Blog  by Cher’ley Grogg

An eyelash, a blade of grass, Tinkerbelle, Jack, and an embryo all have something in common they are small, but important. I lived in Texas for quite a while and in Texas the bigger the better. Everything is bigger in Texas, or so I’ve heard. I have come to realize that some of the most fascinating things on this earth are small.

I haven’t seen the movie Jack the Giant Killer on the big screen, but I read the book to my children when they were little, and I’m sure it was read to me when I was a tiny young’un. Jack, the small lad, climbs the beanstalk, kills the giant and gets the goose that lays the golden egg, and he and his mother live happily ever after. From the advertisements, I don’t believe that’s exactly what happens in the movie. But in the book that’s what happens, they live happily ever after and I like to think of life is being happily ever after too. However, I’m a realist, and I know this is not true, but I look for the little things in life that make me happy. Look for the little things that lift your spirits.

Jack the Giant Killer

How amazing is it to walk through the woods and spot those little teeny yellow flowers or those tiny blue flowers that grow wild and they are scattered everywhere for our enjoyment? If there’s a grassy patch, there are little flowers. The tiny buds on trees and bushes that burst forth in the spring are awesome.

The small pleasures of life give us some of the happiest most contented moments that anyone can experiences. Just think about the wonder of viewing a kitten, a puppy or a newborn baby.

One of my pleasures in life is my painting. Here is one of my Magnolia Blossomspaintings.

While under my instructor, during the time when I was developing my fine art, we’d examine paintings by great artists and Lee would tell me to watch for the details. He said to put in the little details. Water color is a looser form of painting, but still it has detail. Just like writing, I’d go back and add a little more color in one area and a little more water in another. I’d smudge it and move the paint around, constantly adding more detail. In writing, I’m painting a picture with words. Details bring the writing picture to life.

For instance, a little baby is soft to the touch. You smell the freshness of her hair. You look at the tiny creases in her arms and legs. and you marvel at her tiny feet. Her perfect eyelashes brush her cheek as she sleeps. Little sucking noises come from her rosy little mouth. There is nothing that beats the feeling when she curls that little hand around your finger, and you kiss her on the top of her head.

Here’s a list of 10 things that make a difference in my life: 

  1. The moment after the rain stops. Everything smells clean, fresh, and revitalized.
  2. A deep stretch. The benefits of loosening your muscles exceed enhanced relaxation. Check out Nursing Degree’s 77 Surprising Health Benefits of Yoga for a little food for thought.
  3. A beautiful sunset or sunrise. Nothing is more inspirational that tuning into nature’s majesty.
  4. Playing a game you loved as a child. Pull out Candyland and tap into the simplicity of childhood.
  5. An extra half-hour of sleep. Hit the sack a little earlier one night and see how this changes your day.
  6. A spa-like shower experience. Remember that commercial reference I made before? You too can get way too excited washing your hair with Herbal Essences shampoo.
  7. A thoughtful question from a friend. When she asks, “What’s your favorite childhood memory?” she’s trying to learn what makes you happy. How beautiful that she cares to know.
  8. A long phone conversation, like you used to have in junior high. Curl up with your cell, call a dear friend, and start reminiscing.
  9. 10 minutes with an animal. Petting an animal is actually quite meditative. If you don’t have a pet, head to your local dog park and make a new furry friend.
  10. Finding money you didn’t know you had. Leave a ten in your coat pocket and then forget about it. Future you will be pretty psyched.

In my book “Stamp Out Murder”, James and Carolyn walk through a wooded area, to get to the Cheat River behind McKeel’s Bed and Breakfast. They touched trees, were careful not to slide down the hill, and took photos standing beside big trees. Carolyn taught James to skip a rock across the water, and they splashed and played in the shallow river like small children. A story poem by me. 

What small something has touched your life? What unexpected noun gave pleasure to you?

Cher’ley’s Books are listed below and on sale at Amazon and local bookstores.

Stamp Out Murder”.

The Secret in Grandma’s Trunk” This is an especially good book for your Tween Children and Grandchildren.

The Journey Back-One Joy at a Time   and the B&W Edition of The Journey BackThe JourneyBack 3

Fans of Cher'ley Grogg,AuthorAnd please join me on my Facebook Fanpage, that’s managed by one of my most faithful fans: Cindy Ferrell

Here’s a link to Cher’ley’s WEBSITE

Enhanced by Zemanta