Making your Character Shine From Page One

Happy Monday, everyone! Angela and I have been so focused lately on the launch of our setting thesaurus books, it feels like that’s all we’ve been doing for months. So we’re excited to get back to the normal Writers Helping Writers routine with a guest post by Kate Foster. She’s here today to talk about how to get readers falling in love with your characters on the very first page.

Plot and characters are both vitally important to a good story, but I’ve always been drawn to the people in the story more than to the story itself. In my opinion, characters are the all-important key to sinking your teeth into your readers and tearing out their hearts. Dramatic, of course, but fundamentally, it’s the reader’s heart you want to win over, and the characters are your bow and arrow. Get them right, and you’re on a pretty smooth course to writing an engaging book.

After you’ve profiled your character and know them better than your own family members – and definitely do this detailed, time-consuming background work; I promise it will make all the difference – it’s time to put pen to paper and let them take over your words. Because it’s no longer you telling the story; your character should be in the driving seat.


What makes your character different or interesting?

But don’t wait until the end of chapter one, or chapter two, or even page two to showcase their personalities, who they are, and what they do. No, smash it straight in there on page one, paragraph one. Lure, hook, intrigue. Let the reader hear the character and get to know them right off the bat; give your audience an important detail as to who this person is, what he or she does, what’s happened in the past.

To clarify this, here are a few examples of authors who showed readers on the very first page who they were getting involved with.

‘Bradley Chalkers sat at his desk in the back of the room—last seat, last row. No one sat at the desk next to him or at the one in front of him. He was an island.’ (There’s a Boy in the Girl’s Bathroom—middle grade, contemporary— by Louis Sachar)

Bam! From the very first line, we know in three sentences that no one wants to sit with Bradley, and probably because no one likes him. We know how Bradley feels about this too: isolated. And just like that, we’re touched, we’re sucked in. We’re sad. We want to know why. What is it about Bradley that’s so wrong, so terrible that he sits at the back of the class, alone?

‘The door would splinter off its hinges with a swift kick from his boot like the previous dozen he’d blasted in over the years. But bashing in doors was noisy and drew the wrong kind of attention.’ (Poor Boy Road by James L. Weaver)

Straight away we know we’re dealing with a tough guy—someone violent, someone who’s been doing this for a while. Kicking in doors isn’t an unusual experience for this character, which sets him apart from normal people as, let’s face it, most of us use the doorknob. But we also know that he doesn’t want to get caught. So, who is he? Is he working alone? Voluntarily? Is this his day job?

What these authors have done in their opening lines is dropped in sneaky clues to show (rather than tell) that their characters are different—definitely not run-of-the-mill—which prompts the reader to start asking questions. They’ve injected intrigue and interest in their first pages. And this is essential to make a reader keep reading. What authors mostly want is for their readers to invest time, and money, into their characters. Making this happen from the very first page is critical, and with deft characterization, it’s fairly simple.

As the book opens into that life-changing moment, ask yourself:

  • How can I show the reader that my character is different than other characters? What’s unique about him/her, what’s important for the reader to know?
  • How can I show the reader my character’s personality and voice through his or her reactions (physically and mentally) to the current scene?
  • What emotion is my character experiencing as the book opens?
  • What secret is my character hiding that sits at the root of his/her motivation?

Questions like these will help you to really know your characters before you write your book. And knowing them well—their flaws, strengths, habits, speech patterns, every puzzle piece from the past that has created this imaginary person—is important to being able to make them real, make them whole. Only then can they shine from that very first page.



Kate Foster ImageKate is an Englishwoman who lives on the sunny Gold Coast in Australia with her tribe of ‘lads’ – three sons, husband and male spoodle! She is the editorial director at Lakewater Press as well as a freelance developmental editor and loves nothing more than teaming up with authors to improve their raw manuscripts. She has been a writing judge and mentor for numerous writing contests, including Freshly Squeezed Reads, Nest Pitch, Fic Fest and Pitch Wars. Kate also dabbles a little with her own writing! You can find her online at,, on Twitter, and Facebook.

*photo courtesy: Pixabay



Posted in Characters, Guest Post, Openings, Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Emotional Wounds Thesaurus: A Family Member’s Suicide

When you’re writing a character, it’s important to know why she is the way she is. Knowing her backstory is important to achieving this end, and one of the most impactful pieces of a character’s backstory is her emotional wound. This negative experience from the past is so intense that a character will go to great lengths to avoid experiencing that kind of pain and negative emotion again. As a result, certain behaviors, beliefs, and character traits will emerge.

Characters, like real people, are unique, and will respond to wounding events differently. The vast array of possible emotional wounds combined with each character’s personality gives you many options in terms of how your character will turn out. With the right amount of exploration, you should be able to come up with a character whose past appropriately affects her present, resulting in a realistic character that will ring true with readers. Understanding what wounds a protagonist bears will also help you plot out her arc, creating a compelling journey of change that will satisfy readers.

NOTE: We realize that sometimes a wound we profile may have personal meaning, stirring up the past for some of our readers. It is not our intent to create emotional turmoil. Please know that we research each wounding topic carefully to treat it with the utmost respect. For this particular wound, there is no doubt that some of you have had personal experience with it, either as someone considering suicide or someone living in the aftermath of a loved one’s suicide. If you are suffering in any way due to a past, planned, or possible suicide, there are people who can help. Just call 1-800-273-TALK (8255) and speak to someone 24 hours a day.


Courtesy: Pixabay

Basic Needs Often Compromised By This Wound: physiological needs, safety and security, love and belonging, esteem and recognition

False Beliefs That May Be Embraced As a Result of This Wound:

  • This is my fault.
  • If I had been X (more available, a better daughter/son/spouse, etc.) he/she wouldn’t have done it.
  • I should have seen the signs.
  • If she had really loved me she wouldn’t have done this.
  • Why didn’t he confide in me? Maybe there’s something wrong with me.
  • I’m incapable of true intimacy.
  • I’m good enough when life is light and easy, but when things get tough, I’m not someone that people turn to.

Positive Attributes That May Result: affectionate, appreciative, nurturing, observant, pensive, private, proactive, responsible, sentimental, supportive

Negative Traits That May Result: addictive, apathetic, callous, compulsive, confrontational, cynical, fussy, hostile, humorless, inhibited, insecure, irrational, martyr, morbid, needy, obsessive, rebellious, reckless, resentful, self-destructive, uncooperative, volatile, withdrawn

Resulting Fears:

  • The fear that one will miss the signs and it will happen again
  • The fear of never being “good enough” for one’s loved ones
  • The fear of never achieving true intimacy with others
  • The fear that one is untrustworthy or incapable.
  • The fear that there is something inherently wrong with oneself.

Possible Habits That May Emerge: 

  • Withdrawing from loved ones
  • Maintaining surface relationships as a way of avoiding potential hurt
  • Becoming overly needy and clingy with loved ones
  • Becoming hyper vigilant with loved ones
  • Obsessively watching for signs
  • Overcompensating for whatever one feels guilty about (being less or more strict, smothering loved ones in an effort to pay closer attention, etc.)
  • Trying to be “better” in whatever way one felt was lacking (paying more attention, being more obedient, etc.)
  • Becoming more observant
  • Falling into depression
  • Having suicidal thoughts or attempting suicide
  • Self-medicating

TIP: If you need help understanding the impact of these factors, please read our introductory post on the Emotional Wound Thesaurus. For our current list of Emotional Wound Entries, go here.

For other Descriptive Thesaurus Collections, go here.

Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments

Settings and Symbolism

Wow, you guys. What an amazing week!

A huge thank you to everyone who participated in our big ROCK THE VAULT giveaway and to all those who shared the #myfavoritethesaurus pictures. I think we made thesauruses everywhere officially COOL. And also an enormous thank you to all the wonderful people who helped out with our launch, especially the Thesaurus Club (our street team). We are so blessed to have so many wonderful people support us. If you want to find some of these folks and their blogs, check them out here.

Vault_Day_FinalWhile we didn’t get to the 500 pictures shared that would unlock all prizes in the vault, we did see about 300 of them online, and so Angela and I, being the softies we are, unlocked most of the prizes. Winners have been drawn and are being notified. Once we have acceptance from these lovely people, Angela will post the list. 

And for those of you who happened to buy our new books this week, thank you for welcoming our youngest offspring into the world! We hope that you have many light bulb moments when it comes to description and maximizing your settings. 

school bux

They grow up so fast. *sniff sniff*

While Rock the Vault was a blast, Angela and I would be lying if we said we weren’t looking forward to getting back to a more normal routine. And today, that means me posting at the unbelievably awesome Kristen Lamb’s blog.

If you’re not familiar with Kristen, rectify that posthaste by following her on every conceivable social media platform. She’s one of the most prolific and knowledgeable bloggers out there as well as being an expert on all things networking and branding. If you’ve got a few minutes, drop in and see how Symbolism and the Setting Make a Perfect Marriage.

Happy Writing!



Posted in Setting, Setting Thesaurus Guides, Show Don't Tell, Symbolism, Uncategorized, Writing Craft, Writing Lessons | 5 Comments

Rock The Vault: Final Day To Enter The Draw

ROCK THE VAULT is now over. Thanks so much for joining us this week and working together to unlock the vault. Congrats to winners:

Lucy P, Diane R, Shelley O, Jamie L, Tracy P, Ginger R, Sheila G, Victoria Marie L, Stacey B, Mike D, Nancy W, Candice R, Marilyn W, Leticia T, Candy S, Heidi U, Madelaine W, Sophia S.

Happy writing!

This is it, the last day. Here’s where we stand with the Prize Vault:



Via Cheryl Rainfield

There are still some prizes to unlocked, so please keep sharing your #myfavoritethesaurus pictures on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

The more people share, the more prizes are unlocked!


via Knyghtshadeart @ instagram

Have you entered the draw? Here’s the Rock the Vault entry FORM.

And please visit our Prize Page for the full breakdown of all these unusual and wonderful prizes created just for writers!

You can win books, premiere writing classes with expert like Kristen Lamb, go for lunch with Becca or I…even a fun “mystery” experience in your own city or town.

WritersHelpingWriters2And you definitely want to get your name in for Author Accelerator’s Blueprint For A Book 5-week course.

Imagine what could you accomplish with personalized coaching for 5 weeks. What you learn will change your whole writing career. Click the link about to read more about the prize, and make sure you select this prize option on the Rock the Vault  entry form.

So join us in celebrating our love of words, and our love of writing. Share a picture you’ve taken of a thesaurus online (any thesaurus, not just one of ours). Use the #myfavoritethesaurus hashtag so we can track it.

Let’s work together to unlock all the prizes by sharing 500 #myfavoritethesaurus pictures!






















Posted in Rock The Vault, Setting Thesaurus Guides, Uncategorized | 7 Comments

New Tools, New Articles, and an Invite

Hi everyone,



allianne1965 @ instagram

Becca and I are in the Setting mindset, as you can well imagine, and it has been a crazy two weeks of posting about the setting, sharing new tools to help with setting, and of course, celebrating the setting.

So here are some links you may or may not know about.


Beth Overmyer

Beth Overmyer @ twitter

First of all, we’ve uploaded 4 new tools to the Tools For Writers Page. These Setting tools are straight from our books so that you can download and print blanks if you like.

We have a Emotional Value Tool, a Setting Planner Tool, a Setting Checklist (you want this, trust me), and a Setting Exercise sheet.

Just scoot over to our tools page–they are all listed at the top, so very easy to find. 🙂



Knyghtshadeart @ instagram

Second, we have a bit of a treasure hunt here at Writers Helping Writers. There are 4 Hidden Settings taken straight from our Urban and Rural books that you need the direct URL to reach.

Some of you have discovered these already through our Guest Posts all this week, but if not, you can find them here: Antiques Shop, House Party, Police Car & Ancient Ruins.



Jamie.writer @instagram

Saying that Becca and I learned a ton about setting while writing these books is an understatement. And as we always do, when we learn, we pass it forward. 🙂 So pick your pleasure!

Learn how to create rich and evocative description using personification, turn your setting into an obstacle course to create difficulties for your character or use it as a vehicle for story conflict.

Or, if you like, get sensory in your description to power up every scene, learn mood-building techniques or discover why the setting is the key to delivering active backstory when you need to.

V. Ichizli-Bartels

V. Ichizli-Bartels @twitter

Then, finish off this feast with a post on why it helps to think of the setting as a story garden, and take a mini master class with Becca on a ton of different areas of description.

(Bookmark the podcast with Becca–you don’t want to miss it!)

Now, one last thing…


Wikilimages@pixabayAnd one last thing–if you’re trying to plan a online book event and feeling a bit anxious, or just struggling with marketing in general, I will be doing a Q & A session with Jennie Nash of Author Accelerator that looks at our latest setting book launch from the inside.

This is free to attend, no sales pitches, nothing to sell.  Just me answering your marketing questions, and trying to help anyone who needs it.

I’ve done several successful online events that have have high engagement, so if I can offer insight on planning & running one, I’d like to help. (Believe it or not, I actually like marketing!)

Author acceleratorThe webinar is June 24th at 12PM EST. And if you can’t make it, there will be a recording for people who sign up, which you can do here.

It should be fun, so I hope you’ll come hang out with Jennie and me. 🙂 A big thank you to Author Accelerator for hosting this webinar.


















Posted in Past Events, Rock The Vault, Setting Thesaurus Guides, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Building A Story Garden: The Power Of Settings In Fiction

Bish Denham’s #myfavoritethesaurus

Guys, I have to say thanks for the terrific response to our Setting books. Becca and I are both so pleased you’re happy with the newest family members.

Thank you for the reviews, the tweets, the recommendations to friends, and oh my, the #myfavoritethesaurus pictures! I am LOVING the pictures you’re taking.


Jade_Eby’s #myfavoritethesaurus

Can I confess something?

This was a very nervous release for me. And while every author will tell you nerves never go away, you’d think that ol’ Angela would be a bit more chill seeing as this is her 4th and 5th rodeo. But no, not at all. Poor Becca’s been babysitting a total worrywart for the last few weeks (sorry, Becca!)


Mich’s #myfavoritethesaurus

Up until now, I thought I was a bit freaked out because we’ve had a lot of challenges.

First, someone had this silly idea of doing two books at once again (sigh, me). Double the work at publishing time (nice one, Angela).

Second, halfway through writing these books, Becca and I detoured to create One Stop For Writers. And while we are both so thrilled with our unique online library, it meant a year-long break from the Setting Thesaurus. Finding our footing took time.

Finally we had, well, some outsourced production issues that created delays and caused errors. And, Becca and I hadn’t left ourselves enough buffer time to account for this. So everything really was down to the wire.

So yes, all these things have been swimming in Angela’s Dark Matter, adding to the anxiety, but it was only tonight as I sat down with my print copies (which only arrived today), that I realized WHAT was causing my nerves.

It wasn’t the rushing or stressing that we’d missed a typo or two.

It wasn’t flutters over trying to live up to our other books.

It was that I cared so much about getting this right.

Highly_Betsey J

Betsey J’s #myfavoritethesaurus

Setting is often overlooked, passed over in favor of the characters and the plot. For many, setting is just sort of “there.”

We all know learning how to describe the setting so readers feel part of the world is a skill we need. But, here’s the truth: achieving this isn’t enough. Not if we want to transform the story and elevate the characters into complex, rich beings. People who could be real. Who readers could imagine meeting, talking with, and caring about. Maybe even falling for.

Setting is not a backdrop.

It isn’t just a jumble of sights and sounds and smells and tastes and textures. It is so much more.

Setting can…

     …create conflict or tension

     …foreshadow a coming event

     …encourage the character to make an emotion-driven action or choice

     …remind the character of their past, good or bad

     …poke at old wounds

     …challenge the character to face his fears

     …recreate a wounding event so the character can navigate it successfully and let go of past pain

     …deliver important backstory actively

     …characterize the story’s cast

     …display symbolism or motifs which reinforce a deeper message

     …convey a specific mood

     …steer the plot

     …test the character through obstacles and setbacks

     …give the setting an emotional value and deploy emotional triggers

(Oh, and of course, that other big thing…provide descriptive opportunities to make the reader feel part of the story.)

*To print the Setting Checklist above, visit our Tools For Writers Page. 🙂


Becca’s #myfavoritethesaurus

In writing these books, Becca and I had our eyes opened to the raw power of the setting.

We realized how picking one for a scene must be a deliberate choice as it can directly influence how events unfold and who our characters become.

We became determined to peel back the curtain in hopes of helping others see what we were seeing: that the setting isn’t  simply a piece of the fiction puzzle, it is the story garden where everything grows.

So tonight, as I looked through the two books, I grew calmer. I believe we did what we set out to do: nudge writers to think deeper about the setting, and how to use it to do more.

Because setting is all about “being” more. 🙂



Angela’s #myfavoritethesaurus

Thanks to the pictures your sharing online with the #myfavoritethesaurus hashtag, a new prize has been unlocked: the Hero’s 2 Journeys video series with Michael Hauge and Chris Vogler. But there are still so many prizes to be unlocked!

So let’s see some more of your #myfavoritethesaurus pictures. We’re still a long way from 500 pictures, which will unlock the entire vault!

To enter to win prizes from the vault, fill out this FORM.

ROCK THE VAULT is now over. Thanks for joining us this week–I hope you had as much fun as we did! Watch your inboxes to see if you’ve won anything 🙂

To read up on the prizes & who is eligible, go HERE.

To find out how to help unlock the prize vault, visit THIS POST.

Can’t wait to see your next #myfavoritethesaurus picture!
















Posted in Basic Human Needs, Description, Mood and Atmosphere, Past Events, RAOK for Writers, Setting, Setting Thesaurus Guides, Show Don't Tell, Uncategorized | 8 Comments

The Setting Thesaurus Is Here: Writers, Get Ready To Rock The Vault

Cue the marching bands!

At long last, The Setting Thesaurus is here. Split into two volumes, Urban and Rural, these books are the result of several years’ worth of traveling, documenting, and researching.

What is a Setting Thesaurus, you ask?

Well, imagine having access to the sights, smells, tastes, textures, and sounds your character may experience in 225 different contemporary settings. And that’s just to start.

Not only can you use this sensory detail to create a rich world that will draw readers in, these books can also show you how to choose the right location for each scene so that the setting creates conflict, steers the plot, evokes mood and emotion, provides challenges, and opens a window into the deepest parts of your character, revealing who they are, what they believe, and what motivates their every action.

Thesaurus collectionBut enough about that. After all, The Urban and Rural Setting books are just two of the amazing Thesauruses out there, and this week, we want to celebrate them all.

I’m sure, like us,  you have your favorites.

Roget’s, The Thinker’s Thesaurus, The Emotion Thesaurus, The Dialogue Thesaurus…they help us grow as writers, strengthening our vocabulary and knowledge of writing craft. And whichever thesaurus you cherish most, we want to hear all about it.

Here’s a little nerdy secret about Becca and I: we have a Thesaurus Club. I don’t want to brag, but it’s pretty swell, complete with a secret entrance, underground library and prize vault.

Whoa, what?

Yes, a prize vault. And it’s packed with stuff, goodies we’d really like to pass on to you.

Vault blank FramedSo, we’re providing a challenge to fellow thesaurus enthusiasts:

Post a picture of your favorite thesaurus on twitter, facebook or instagram and add the hashtag #myfavoritethesaurus

The more pictures and hashtags we see, the more prizes will be “unlocked” from the vault!

If 500 original pictures using the #myfavoritethesaurus hashtag are shared, we’ll bust open the vault. ALL prizes will be unlocked and drawn at the end of the week. If we don’t reach 500, whichever prizes are unlocked at the end of the event will be in the draw.

Vault_Day_1_51(I don’t want anyone to freak out, but there’s around $800 worth of writerly goodness going on here. That, my friends, is a lot of awesome.)

The question is, are you up to the task? Can you unlock all these amazing prizes?


Check out #myfavoritethesaurus! Do you have a favorite one too?

It’s easy! Grab a copy of your favorite thesaurus, print or digital. Snap a picture, like this one, and share it.

Throughout the week, Becca and I will be counting pictures using the #myfavoritethesaurus hashtag.

The more original pictures that are shared, the more prizes we will unlock. It’s that simple!

And as you can see, there are already some terrific prizes unlocked and ready to be won. As we count up to 500, we will unlock prizes along the way, and update the prize page.

How To Unlock Prizes In Our Vault


A trio of #myfavoritethesaurus! Come join the fun, and Rock The Vault!

1) Take a picture of your favorite thesaurus book using your smartphone–digital or print. If you like, have fun with it by showing the book in a “setting” of your choosing!

2) Include the #myfavoritethesaurus hashtag when you share it

3) Tag Becca or I

…on twitter: @beccapuglisi & @angelaackerman

…or, on facebook: Becca Puglisi & Angela Ackerman

…or, on instagram: writers_helping_writers_angela

Questions you might have:

Can I upload more than one picture?

–Yes! But each picture needs to be a different thesaurus. You DO have more than one favorite, right? 🙂

Do retweets and shares count?

–No, sorry. We’re going to be counting original photos. BUT, if we see lots and lots of tweets and retweets, we may add EVEN MORE prizes… *hinty-hint*

What is a “Mystery Sensory Setting Experience?” It sounds pretty awesome. 

Oh, it is. Visit the detailed prize listing page HERE to find out all about it & our other AMAZING prizes.

RTV Main PosterReady to Rock the Vault? See you on Facebook, Twitter & Instagram! #myfavoritethesaurus

To enter to WIN some of these amazing prizes, just visit this page and fill out our form.

ROCK THE VAULT is now over. Thank you all so much for joining us during this super fun week! Watch your inboxes to see if you’ve won anything!


(And tell your friends…let’s see the writing community work together to UNLOCK all of these prizes.)

1loveIt is always hard to kick start an event after a tragedy like what occurred in Orlando yesterday. Our hearts are with the victims and their families, and no disrespect is intended by proceeding with this book launch.

Love to all.



























Posted in Past Events, Rock The Vault, Setting Thesaurus Guides, Uncategorized | 16 Comments

Something Big Is Coming…

Today’s a special one for Becca and me. In less than a week, we will be expanding our thesaurus family by adding The Rural Setting Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Natural and Personal Places and The Urban Setting Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to City Spaces.

We are very excited about these books, and hope they’ll change how you think about setting and description. Sensory detail, a large part of each book, is an especially powerful way to draw readers into our story’s world, so we really need to get it right.

Are you up for a short trip, dear blog reader? I’d like to show you exactly what I mean.

Cobble streetThere’s a place Becca and I go, somewhere special. And, well, we have something there  that I think you’ll want to know more about.

You’re in? Great! Let’s head out now. The air is cooler with the sun tucking itself in for the night, and as shadows grow longer, there’s less chance we’ll be seen.

old doorSee that door at the edge of the old Abbey’s courtyard? That’s out ticket past the city walls unseen. Each year, the ivy strangles it a bit more, and few even know it’s here. As far as I know, Becca and I have the only keys. Heavy buggers too, these knobby pieces of iron. Always dragging at our pockets.

Damn, stuck. Help me give it a shove? Just watch the ivy. It’s slick with dew and if a piece happens to slither up against your neck, you’re apt to scream. And, well, clearly a hidden exit is only useful if it stays a secret.

dark path

Ah, that’s better. Out here, there’s lots of tree cover, and dusk is closing in. We should be safe from prying eyes.

I love the woods, don’t you? Each breath is fresh and sharp with the tang of pine. Odd though, how the mist is rolling in so quickly. I can almost feel it, like a wet glove sliding across my skin.

And not to start something, but does it seem..a bit too quiet? Even our shoes are barely scuffing the trail. I don’t know, maybe the fog swallows the sound or something. You’re not from around here and so probably don’t know, but a few years back, a couple came this way on a hike and simply…disappeared. All their gear–backpacks, climbing poles, water bottles–sitting in a pile on the trail. But them? Nothing. No trace.

I know, such a morbid thing to bring up. Still, let’s pick up the pace a bit?


Ahead, that tunnel at the end of those tracks? We’re headed in there.

Oh, the look on your face. Priceless. I wish you could see it!

Don’t worry, it’s barely a scrap of dark. No boogeymen, I promise. Besides, I brought my headlamp, see? Trust me, Becca and I have come this way dozens of times. It’s safe. One hundred percent. Would I lie to you?

So let’s go.

shaftOkay, so I maybe I forgot to mention this part about a ladder. And, you know, going underground. But here’s the thing…if I’d told you about this shaft, you might have never agreed to come in the first place!

And really, you’ve come this far. What’s a tiny bit further? What’s waiting is worth it.

I’ll go first, so you can follow the light down. Hold onto the bars tightly because rust is settling in. If some of the metal flakes away and your hand slips…well, best we don’t think about that.

Ta-da, solid ground. Feels good, doesn’t it? You were a champ, truly. Nicely done.

And guess what? If you open your eyes, you’ll see we’re here.

libraryThis is it: the writing cave. Our very own Thesaurus Club. Pretty amazing, right? Lights. Electricity. High speed wi-fi. Becca and I pulled some strings to make this happen, let me tell you.

No one bothers us here–it’s terrific! We can really dig in get some serious writing done.  When that fireplace is crackling and wood smoke is in the air, well, you’d love it. Home away from home.

Ah, you spotted our vault. Sharp eye, my friend, sharp eye. Manufactured steel, twelve inches thick, twenty bolts, and completely fire, flood, and apocalypse proof. It’s quite the door, no two ways about it.

Vault blankBet you’re wondering what’s in there, am I right?

Sure, I would be too, if I were in your shoes. I mean, that’s some serious hardware for a writing cave.

And…I would like to tell you. I would. But Becca, well, she’s a bit intense about this stuff. And what is behind this door is something we’re going to talk about on June 13, the official release date for our Setting Thesaurus books.

But I wanted you to see it today. I wanted you to know how to get here. So you can come back, on your own, in just a few days.

…Because you are going to want to come back.

…You are going to want to know what’s behind this door.

old key

Mark your calendar. Set a reminder on your phone. Write the date in permanent ink on your palm.

And take this key, the one for the abbey door. Tuck it away. Don’t lose it, whatever you do.

Remember, what happens in the Thesaurus Club stays in the Thesaurus Club.

The next meeting is June 13th, and you’re invited. Don’t be late. You won’t want to miss it, not for the world.

FleuronThe Setting Thesaurus Duo

The Setting Books are almost here, but in the meantime, try out a sample. Becca’s sharing wisdom on How Writers Can Bring Setting to Life through Personification at Live Write Thrive. And her recent podcast on Writing Captivating Novels Using the Emotion and Setting Thesaurus is like a mini master class.

See you on the 13th! :)

Image 1: Unspash @ Pixabay
Image 2: Unsplash @ Pixabay
Image 3: Unsplash @ Pixabay
Image 4: Silberfuchs @ Pixabay
Image 5: Hans @ Pixabay
Image 6: tpsDave @ Pixabay
Image 7: DasWotgewand @ Pixabay
Image 8: skeeze @ pixabay



Posted in Past Events, Rock The Vault, Setting Thesaurus Guides, Uncategorized | 18 Comments

Emotional Wounds Entry: Being Stalked

When you’re writing a character, it’s important to know why she is the way she is. Knowing her backstory is important to achieving this end, and one of the most impactful pieces of a character’s backstory is her emotional wound. This negative experience from the past is so intense that a character will go to great lengths to avoid experiencing that kind of pain and negative emotion again. As a result, certain behaviors, beliefs, and character traits will emerge.

Characters, like real people, are unique, and will respond to wounding events differently. The vast array of possible emotional wounds combined with each character’s personality gives you many options in terms of how your character will turn out. With the right amount of exploration, you should be able to come up with a character whose past appropriately affects her present, resulting in a realistic character that will ring true with readers. Understanding what wounds a protagonist bears will also help you plot out her arc, creating a compelling journey of change that will satisfy readers.

NOTE: We realize that sometimes a wound we profile may have personal meaning, stirring up the past for some of our readers. It is not our intent to create emotional turmoil. Please know that we research each wounding topic carefully to treat it with the utmost respect. 


Patrik Nygren @ Creative Commons

Examples: Being undesirably and relentlessly pursued by someone. Stalkers are typically obsessed with their subjects, either out of a romantic interest or from the perception that  the subjects have rejected or slighted them in some way:

  • a fan whose mail was unanswered
  • an ex
  • a student whose scholarship application was denied
  • an artist whose work failed to win a contest or received a poor review
  • someone with romantic interests whose advances were rejected
  • an employee overlooked for a promotion
  • a parent whose child was disrespected or rejected
  • an athlete/artist/performer who has been replaced by a more talented competitor

Basic Needs Often Compromised By This Wound: physiological needs, safety and security, long and belonging, self-actualization

False Beliefs That May Be Embraced As a Result of This Wound:

  • I have encouraged this person in some way.
  • If I hadn’t done X, then this wouldn’t be happening to me.
  • I’m a target—someone others identify as weak.
  • My judgment is flawed; I should have seen this person as a threat from the beginning.
  • I’ll never be free of this person.
  • I’ll never be safe again.
  • I’ve brought danger to my friends and family.
  • The authorities are powerless to help me.
  • If this person could do this to me, anyone could. I can’t trust anyone.

Positive Attributes That May Result: alert, appreciative, cautious, disciplined, discreet, empathetic, focused, independent, nurturing, observant, private, proactive, protective, resourceful, sensible

Negative Traits That May Result: addictive, confrontational, controlling, defensive, hostile, humorless, impatient, indecisive, inflexible, inhibited, insecure, irrational, needy, nervous, nosy, obsessive, paranoid, resentful, self-destructive, subservient, suspicious, temperamental, timid, uncommunicative, uncooperative, violent, volatile, worrywart

Resulting Fears:

  • Fear for one’s life
  • Fear that the stalker will hurt one’s loved ones
  • Fear that one’s judgment/intuition can’t be trusted
  • Fear of new people
  • Fear of going to new places or going places alone
  • Fear that the stalking will never end
  • Fear of not being believed

Possible Habits That May Emerge: 

  • Insomnia and fatigue
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight gain from eating to comfort oneself
  • Isolating oneself; avoiding unnecessary social interactions
  • Avoiding social media
  • Clinging to those one knows is safe
  • Relying on trusted loved ones to make decisions due to doubting one’s discernment and judgment
  • Becoming overprotective of one’s loved ones and pets
  • Becoming overly suspicious and paranoid
  • Mental disorders (panic attacks, agoraphobia, depression)
  • PTSD symptoms (nightmares, flashbacks, startling easily, irritability)
  • Difficulty focusing on everyday tasks
  • Making changes to throw off a stalker (moving, changing jobs, changing one’s name, altering one’s appearance)
  • Becoming very concerned with personal safety (adding a security system, taking a self-defense class, getting a dog, etc.)
  • Self-medicating
  • Thinking about or attempting suicide
  • Hypertension, gastrointestinal issues, sexual dysfunction, and other physical symptoms associated with excessive stress
  • Performing poorly at work or school
  • Giving up hobbies and activities that take one out of the home
  • Difficulty trusting others

TIP: If you need help understanding the impact of these factors, please read our introductory post on the Emotional Wound Thesaurus. For our current list of Emotional Wound Entries, go here.

For other Descriptive Thesaurus Collections, go here.


Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Level Up Your Setting By Thinking Outside The Box

With the Urban and Rural Setting Thesaurus books releasing in just two weeks (June 13th), pretty much all I can think about is the setting, ergo today’s topic. You guys have no idea how much Becca and I are loving all the tweets, emails, comments and posts from all of you about these upcoming books–thanks so much for your enthusiasm and support! And, because we know waiting is hard, we’ve created a Goodreads giveaway for each volume of The Setting Thesaurus, so stop in and enter if you like. 

Okay, moving on… 🙂

With writers, there seems to be two camps: those who love writing setting description, and those…who…don’t. There isn’t always a lot of middle ground.

Becca is definitely in the former group. She’s freakishly good at world building. Each setting she writes feels like a living, breathing place, yet distilled to have clarity and purpose, so only the most important bits are shown without disrupting the pace or action.

For many, when it comes to describing the setting, the words don’t immediately flow. Some of us (cough-me-cough) tend to write on the leaner side of things, especially early on, and it is only in later drafts we put more “meat” on the setting “bone.”

Here’s the good news: regardless of whether you embrace setting description or not, one way to level up your writing is to think hard about each location you choose. The “where” of each scene is an important factor, and worth the extra time to plan. Here’s two big reasons why:

It Achieves Story and Character Depth

The right setting can greatly enhance our story, providing tests and challenges for our hero to overcome (the Black Gate in The Lord Of The Rings, or the Cornucopia in The Hunger Games), fortify the character, reminding them of their greatest assets (Hermione and the Hogwarts library come to mind) or allow the ghosts of the past to resurface and shape a character’s vulnerability (the sewers in Stephen King’s It.)

lonely1The location can even reinforce a character’s deepest longing (the Notre Dame stadium in Rudy), and act as a tangible reminder of a missing Human Need (The Incredibles’ Bob Parr, an unfulfilled insurance claims adjustor in his cramped office, who needs to be something more, something greater.)

Takeaway tip: When choosing a setting for the scene’s events, look at what is going to happen, and make a list of setting choices that can reveal something deeper about the characters involved. The setting should act as a symbol for one or more of the elements above, bringing forth deeper meaning and making characters and their desires matter more to readers.

It Offers Readers a New Experience

imaginationOne of the big promises we make to readers is that we will take them on a journey that is somehow new and fresh. A way to achieve this is through setting choice. After all, do we really want to show them the same location they’ve read about a million times before? And while genre might influence the range of settings that one might expect to see, this shouldn’t hold a writer’s creativity hostage.

Take the typical party scene, a common sight in many contemporary Young Adult novels. This event doesn’t always have to be at the beach or in someone’s house while the parents are away. Why not have your teenagers sneak into a shutdown construction site or an empty warehouse that’s up for sale, instead? Add some beer, a few spray cans, and the unexpected appearance of a security guard with a stun gun, and you’ve got a unique setting primed for a storm of conflict, plus you’re offering readers something new to experience.

Takeaway Tip: If you start with the scene’s action, make a list of all the obvious places this exchange or event could take place. Then, branch out, thinking about locations that logically fit with your characters’ general location, but offer fresher setting options.

The Setting Thesaurus DuoMake Something Familiar New

Now if you do find yourself using a familiar setting out of necessity, don’t worry. Just strive to make it unique through different factors. The time of day or night, the quality of light, the season, the weather, and the POV character’s emotional filter will all help you transform the location into something tailor made.

Plus, you can turn your setting into an obstacle course to differentiate it further, because setting is also a vehicle for conflict.

one-stop-for-writers-badge-xsmallBonus Tip!

Not only do our two new Setting Thesaurus books have the sights, smells, tastes, sounds and textures of 225 locations to kick-start your imagination, you can find a list of both volumes’ settings at One Stop For Writers to mine for ideas, even if you are not a subscriber of the site.

Simply register (always free) and click on The Setting Thesaurus in the menu. If you are a subscriber, you can access all the entries in full, as the setting thesaurus books have already been uploaded to the One Stop site.

Do you think “outside the box” when it comes to setting? What are some of the more unusual locations you’ve chosen?

Image 1: Antranias@ Pixabay
Image 2: Unsplash @ Pixabay

Posted in Basic Human Needs, Character Wound, Characters, Conflict, Description, Emotion, Empathy, Mood and Atmosphere, Pacing, Setting, Setting Thesaurus Guides, Show Don't Tell, Tension, Uncategorized, Writing Craft, Writing Lessons | 18 Comments