Sunday, May 23, 2010

The Creation of Characters

By: Linda Leigh Hargrove

I can't remember a time that I didn't make up characters. As a small child, I drew my characters in my margins of the family dictionary. When I got older, I graduated to drawing them on blank sheets of paper my father brought home from his job at the paper plant. I studied people, committing facial details and mannerisms to memory. Then later, in the seclusion of my room, I would draw all my impressions into one face. I was like a little squirrel, stealing bits and pieces from all over the place and storing them away in my makeshift sketchbook. Crafting stories to go along with my juvenile drawings was a natural progression.

When I create characters for my current novels, I still start with a picture. These days, I rarely draw the characters. Most of the time the picture is a clipping from a magazine or a printout from a website. It's quicker that way. There's just so much more that goes into a full-fledged character outline. Recording all their aspirations, goals, motivations, likes, and dislikes. Before long, my characters and I are talking scenes out  (and arguing about plot points). For me, creating characters is half the crazy fun of writing. Although my stories are plot driven, it is the interdependence of the characters that makes the story come alive for me.

I sometimes base characters on real people. But never on just a single person. My characters are more like a tossed salad of a bunch of people that I've known or read about. That's another fun part of creating characters—remixing reality to create the characters I need in order to move the story along. It's very godlike and addictive.

A book that brought more depth to character creation for me was Christopher Vogler's The Writer's Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers. It introduced me to the notion of archetypes, the familiar character types in mythical stories. By studying those character types, I realized that there were patterns to follow and avoid. The Writer's Journey opened my eyes to the possibilities for drawing the reader deeper into the story with characters.

I am an introvert. As such, I enjoy scripting everything out. Life isn't scripted. It's real. There are no do-overs. Once you've said or done a stupid thing, it's said or done. But in writing, I can go back later and edit it, until it sounds very insightful and valuable. Or nerdy and anal, but only if I intended it to be. Characters help me explore and expose the humanness (and sometimes the godlikeness) of the world. Truth be told, I sometimes envy my characters. They are much more memorable than I've ever been.

Linda Leigh Hargrove blends suspense, humor, and faith into compelling stories about race and class in America. Her writings include two novels: The Making of Isaac Hunt (June 2007) and Loving Cee Cee Johnson (September 2008). The former environmental engineer currently resides in North Carolina with her husband and three sons where she designs Web sites when she’s not writing. She blogs at and

Friday, May 14, 2010

The Growlery

By: Tessa Afshar, author of Pearl in the Sand, to be released in September 2010

While welcoming a friend into his special room, the mild-mannered Mr. Jarndyce, a character in Charles Dickens’ Bleak House, says, “This, you must know, is the Growlery. When I am out of humour, I come and growl here.”

I should like to own a Growlery. Modern architects are very remiss, in my opinion, for not including such a room in every house. The world would be a lot more civilized if we all had a place of refuge in which to growl privately. Otherwise, we end up growling at innocent bystanders.

Take the example of the squire’s conversation with Mr. Gibson in Elizabeth Gaskell’s Wives and Daughters: “… your wife and I didn’t hit it off the only time I ever saw her. I won’t say she was silly, but I think one of us was silly, and it wasn’t me.” This is what I would call a thoughtfully-sensitive growl, which essentially happens when people say something mean (though perhaps true) with a smile.

Some people manage to make you want to growl, not by their mistakes or failures, but by their strengths. Dickens depicts Mrs. Joe in Great Expectations as such a person, who “was a very clean housekeeper, but had an exquisite art of making her cleanliness more uncomfortable and unacceptable than dirt itself.” I have been to a few homes whose mistress was a Mrs. Joe, and I found myself wanting to growl by the third hour of my visit.

Sometimes it’s not other people that make you want to growl. It’s the condition of your own heart. When Jane Bennet of Pride and Prejudice says that she wished her sister Elizabeth could find the same happiness she has found with Mr. Bingley, Elizabeth pertly replies, “If you were to give me forty such men, I never could be so happy as you. Till I have your disposition, your goodness, I never can have your happiness.”

Sometimes other people’s growls in our direction reduce us to shame and self-condemnation. Estella manages to do this to Pip with very few words in Great Expectations. After a particularly demeaning blast, Pip says, “Her contempt for me was so strong that it became infectious, and I caught it.” There are few things as unpleasant as growling at yourself with other people’s words.

I hope that with the help of these friends from some of my favorite books I have made a case for building a private Growlery in every home. I expect that if you are an architect or interior designer reading this, you are already taking my scientific evidence into account and planning a complete restructuring of your upcoming projects.

In the meantime, perhaps it would be well for me to remember that there is a place of safety for our deepest growls as well as our silliest. As Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre recounts during some of the worst moments of her life: “One idea only still throbbed lifelike within me—a remembrance of God… Be not far from me, for trouble is near.”

We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. (Romans 8:26, NIV) Oh yes, far better than a Growlery!

Can a Canaanite harlot who has made her livelihood by looking desirable to men make a fitting wife for one of the leaders of Israel? Shockingly, the Bible’s answer is yes.  Pearl in the Sand tells Rahab’s untold story. Rahab lives in a wall; her house is built into the defensive walls of the City of Jericho. Other walls surround her as well—walls of fear, rejection, unworthiness.  A woman with a wrecked past; a man of success, of faith …of pride; a marriage only God would conceive! Through the heartaches of a stormy relationship, Rahab and Salmone learn the true source of one another’s worth and find healing in God.

Friday, May 7, 2010

The Spoils of Eden: A Book Review and Sample Chapter

This review is by Harriet Klausner who agreed to let us post her review of The Spoils of Eden here on our blog.  Harriet was rated's #1 book reviewer, perhaps due to the fact that, as she says herself, "I am a speed reader( a gift I was born with) and read two books a day." You can find her original Amazon review here.

"In 1891, the Hawaiian Board of Health at Kalihi Leper Hospital sends nurse Eden Derrington to the coffee plantation owned by her fiancé Rafe Easton. This is not a social call, as someone informed the Hawaiian Board of Heath that the baby Kip was a resident of the Kalawo leper colony before Rafe found him. Eden is to pick up and bring Kip back to the colony where he will be quarantined as the law forbids the adoption of leper offspring.

Still Rafe wants to adopt Kip and he and his fiancé argue heatedly over the infant and her work involving lepers. They end their engagement and she goes to assists her research scientist father Jerome who at Kalawo runs a clinic while seeking a medical cure for the disease.

Showing moxie by writing about Hawaii after James Michener`s epic, Linda Lee Chaikin's first Dawn of Hawaii saga provides readers with a deep look at the archipelago less than a decade before the kingdom joins the United States. The story line is driven by the lead couple whose disagreement over her work with lepers threatens their relationship. Although the key support cast is never developed beyond thin role representation in conjunction with either of the two prime players, readers will relish this fine inspirational historical."

Monday, May 3, 2010

An Interview with Author Linda Lee Chaikin

The following interview is with Linda Lee Chaikin author of The Spoils of Eden which was just released for May 2010! This will be the first book of three in what Linda Lee is calling "The Dawn of Hawaii Series".  You can find this interview as well as a free download of the first chapter at

Question: Why did you write THE SPOILS OF EDEN?

Linda Chaikin: I was a teenager when Hawaii became a state. At the time, the publicity awakened a curiosity about the Islands. Around that same time a Hollywood movie based on a best-selling novel came out. I read the much publicized novel, and only later after I became a Christian did I realize the injustice to the early missionaries who were portrayed as dour, unsmiling people who went to Hawaii to put clothes on the Hawaiians. As I did my own research I’m convinced the early missionaries were wonderful Christians who suffered a great deal for their work to honor Christ and the Bible. I always wanted to write about Hawaii.

Question: What message did you want to convey in THE SPOILS OF EDEN?

Linda Chaikin: Choosing just one was difficult. The Christian history is stirring and challenging. But the plight of the lepers, and the children in particular, is key. And so I developed Baby Kip’s plight. Also, Eden Derrington is seeking a relationship with her earthly father, one long denied because of her father’s zeal in seeking an answer for Rebecca his wife, Eden’s mother. In the series, Eden will learn that the cry of her heart for a daughter-father relationship is answered in the precious Fatherhood of God through Jesus Christ. Christ. He said: “I ascend unto my God and your God, My Father and (now, because of His death for our sins and His resurrection) our Father! That moves my heart just as it moves Eden’s. It’s awesome.

Question: How did research for THE SPOILS OF EDEN compare to your other novels?

Linda Chaikin: I had already visited the historical places in Hawaii for my 1999 novel, FOR WHOM THE STARS SHINE, which was the runner up for the Christy award that year, and introduced Eden and Rafe in their early youth. I had already collected an abundance of information on the old history and returning to the subject now in 2010 makes it all the more memorable and enjoyable to me.

Question: Did you learn anything from writing THE SPOILS OF EDEN and what was it?

Linda Chaikin: First, I learned anew that God was, and therefore is also today, at work in history. His Providence provides for His future purposes. I’m pleased Hawaii is part of the United States. Secondly. I learned afresh how the sufferings of the earliest missionaries will outlast the secular criticism of their labors. Lastly, I discovered that the materialistic grandchildren of the missionaries became bogged down in building an empire of sugar and politics instead of building the Body of Christ. This, I believe, is the strongest message from Hawaii’s missionary past to the Christians of America in our decaying culture.

Question: What were the challenges in bringing THE SPOILS OF EDEN to life?

Linda Chaikin: I have very frequent headaches due to sensitivities to food and other allergies. After one of these bouts, trying to pick up the fervency in the story where I left off two to three days earlier is always a challenge. Even so, God has allowed me to write over thirty books since the first one came out in 1991, and I’m thankful. The Lord said, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my strength is made perfect in weakness.” As long as He continues to gives me an open door to write—I’ll keep doing what I love to do.. Even now, I’m thinking, “what do I want to write after the Dawn of Hawaii series is completed?”
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