3: Creating Characters

What I know so far

I love Scrivener... even though I am having a little trouble learning how to make Version 3 do what I loved about Version 2. (That reminds me, I need to email them. Once I hear back, I’ll put up a tutorial.) But, there are a few places where I think it fails. I don’t like using it for initial plot creation; outlining, character/world building, etc. So, I have other programs for that…

Building worlds and people from the ground up writing repair plotting

Building worlds and people


For the initial outline (and just about everything else in my life), I use Workflowy. You can play with a sample on the Workflowy website without setting up an account. Whatever you put into it is synced between the IOS app, Android app, and the Mac app (this is still in beta, but works very well).

Here’s what my outline looks like so far:

Writing Repair

  • Christmas Romance
    • Characters
      • Jace Thibodeaux
        • Lives in Boston
        • From Louisiana
      • Brent Mills
        • Lives in Colorado
        • From Colorado
        • Thinking of moving to Boston
    • Settings
      • Denver Airport
        • Snowy
        • Quiet because most flights are canceled
        • (find out which terminal most flights to Boston are from)
      • Brent’s Parent’s House
        • Large, log-cabin
        • Snowed in except for snowmobiles
      • ? Jace’s Apartment on Beacon Hill ?
    • Plot
      • Chapter of Jace (day in the life stuff)
      • Chapter of Brent (day in the life stuff)
      • Meeting
        • Instant attraction
        • friction
      • Huge Conflict
      • Compromise
      • Failed compromise
      • Separation
      • Jace goes home
      • Grand Gesture
      • Forgiveness
      • Happy for Now

Not a lot, obviously, but once you know the main emotional beats of a plot, filling in the blanks is relatively easy. It just takes some brainstorming.

Brainstorming Characters

Some days by brain can get stormier than others. Today, it is zero degrees F (don’t be so sure that stands just for Fahrenheit) outside, and my office isn’t much warmer. I have a Dyson heater sitting on my desk, blowing right on my keyboard so my fingers won’t get frostbit. (And I could really use another on on my poor toes) So, my brain is more likely to fizzle than storm today. I’m glad I did most of this yesterday.

Settings and Story Shop

Settings are characters too. Since I don’t want to do any location research for this book, I needed places I’ve lived. Luckily, I’ve lived in all four corners of the U.S. and a lot of places in between, so I have a ton of them banked.

The first question was, what could drive the two together that they couldn’t escape? This could be situational; a business deal, death of one of their relatives that the other was close to, blackmail, etc. These seem to be the main ones I found with my extensive Hallmark/Lifetime holiday research.

The cause could be environmental, too. Since snow is the obvious winter choice, I’m going to throw that in too.

The winters in Maine are more brutal than in Colorado, but I sort of miss the Rockies, so I want the rural setting to be there. Like I said in the plotting post, the other person needs to be from an urban setting. Since I can look out my window and see Boston across the bay, that’s the obvious choice.

I went to the second software I use for story building, Story Shop. I got in on the Kickstarter for this and bought lifetime access, and I almost feel guilty about that. I’ve already gotten so much more than my money’s worth.

StoryShop world creation for Christmas Romance

World Setup for Christmas Romance

I bought a picture of a snow covered cabin that will probably be used on the final cover, but is absolutely on the mock-up I already made. My world creation was underway.

Settings and Elements for Christmas Romance: Story Shop

Settings for Christmas Romance: Story Shop

Since I worked at the Denver Airport when I lived out there, it makes a pretty easy setting for me to write. And because I’m only using the pictures for reference, I downloaded pics off the internet and attached them to the Airport element, so I won’t have to look for them later. I just click on them and they come up in a new window.

Denver Airport Element: Story Shop - map, pic of airport, taxi stand in a blizzard

Denver Airport Element: Story Shop – map, pic of airport, taxi stand in a blizzard

Two settings is about all I’ve come up with so far, but it’s a start.


Now, I need people. Stories are about people–but, you already knew that.

I went to my preferred photo-buying website and started hunting. The guy from Boston needed to fit a stereotype. Trendy suit, sort of stuffy, but good-looking. He needs to seem like a fish out of water on the ranch in Colorado.

Then the Colorado guy needed to be down-to-earth and homy. I couldn’t find any pictures like what I had in mind, so I just went with a face.

Then the names. There are rules about names in a novel. I have that post written somewhere, but I don’t think I’ve posted it yet. I’ll come back and link it when it’s up. (Have I mentioned that I’m scatter-brained?)

The names of all the characters have to be very different. No two characters should start with the same letter or have the same sound. No Jason and James, no Stacy and Tracy. Even if the characters are twins–maybe especially then–be careful. These things are confusing and frustrating to readers.

I used a random name generator for most of it, mixing the results. Then I gave the Boston guy a Louisiana last name, because I want him to have come from there originally.

Christmas Romance Characters: Story Shop

Christmas Romance Characters: Story Shop

I’m going to want Brent to have a mother, a sister, an ex… the plot’s starting to come together in my head. But, I haven’t cast them yet. I’m far enough along to do the next step.

Mock Cover

I always need inspiration to finish a project. One of the things I’ve found that motivates me is to make a mock cover. It very rarely ends up looking anything like the cover I publish with, but it gives me a prod toward getting to the finished product. I can guarantee I spent as much time on this cover as the wonderful people at Harlequin spend on theirs–about three minutes.

This is also where I probably lose all credibility, but it seriously is part of my process.

Cheesy Christmas Romance Mock Cover

Cheesy Christmas Romance Mock Cover

Tomorrow, I’ll go further into creating the characters.



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