Monthly Archives: July 2019

Creating In-Depth Characters

By Rhonda Strehlow

Author Rhonda Strehlow

I recently discovered a folder from my life as an adult educator. It included a tool created by psychologists Joseph Luft and Harrington Ingham, the JoHari Window.  It’s a feedback model used to gather information in such areas as feelings, experiences, fears, knowledge, drivers, skills, hidden agendas, vulnerabilities, motivation, attitude, etc.

As a writer, I see it as a tool to develop our characters.

The concept is that all of us live in four arenas. The arenas are different sizes for each person. Some people have a large Public arena. Others have a large Mask arena. By completing each arena for our characters, we make them more real.

The Public Arena.
What is consciously shared with others. Things that are acknowledged and others see i.e. attitudes, behaviors, values.
The Blind Spot Unknown to the character but seen by others i.e. nervous habits, avoiding eye contact, keeping a ‘safe’ distance.
The Mask Secrets. Things deliberately kept
hidden or concealed from others i.e. things that
are embarrassing, irrational fears, things that scarred our character.
Potential What ‘could be’ if the time is right. Dreams, feelings, inklings that open up our character to possibilities.

Using my protagonist as an example, these are the traits/characteristics I will continue to explore and develop:

Public Arena: auctioneer, college educated, owns her own home, outwardly successful…

Blind Spot: shy, seen as arrogant, doesn’t allow others to get close, always protecting herself, sees herself through the eyes of abusive parents…

Mask: poor, went to college on a scholarship, father is in prison, mother abandoned her, she feels unworthy of her lawyer partner…

Potential: Will she marry her long-time partner and change her arc, or will she leave? Will she buy the auction barn? Will she lose her business? Will she change careers? Will she return to college?

Try putting a few of your characters through the four quadrants. Do you see ways to integrate their strengths and weaknesses into your story to develop robust, three-dimensional characters?


By Ruth Wellens

Webster’s Seventh New Collegiate Dictionary definition of imagination is: “the act or power to form mental images of something not present to the senses or never before wholly perceived in reality; a creation of the mind.” 

Author Ruth Wellens

Children are encouraged to use their imagination with an empty box or with blocks.  We adults must use more creative means. 

Writing, of course, uses the imagination, but the practice of using our imagination can occur anytime or anywhere.  When I walk on the trail after a rain, sometimes I pretend I am walking some place other than the trail.  The birds are chirping, the sky is a deep blue, and the air is damp – like a rain forest. 

Sometimes when the atmosphere is foggy, I transport myself (via imagination) to London.  Why not?  I can’t see very clearly here in Green Bay the same way people often can’t see very clearly in London, England.  The only difference is that London might be considered more exotic. 

How about the shores of Green Bay or the shores of Door County?  What’s on the other side?  Maybe we think we know because we’ve driven to the other side or have been transported there by boat.  But what if it has changed? What if it’s something else?  We can always imagine.

Have you ever wondered what that waitress is thinking – especially when someone decides to create a complicated order?  Have you ever encountered a stranger and wondered what his or her back story is?  What about family dynamics as observed in a park or at a store?  Is that couple holding hands married? Dating?  Having an affair? 

This is the stuff of writers – wondering, creating, “forming mental images … not present to the senses.”

So now that our imagination is primed is that all we need?  Picture the perfect writing day, with daily chores done and no other commitments. We cozy up to our laptop ready to begin.  Only, well, nothing.  Even the most perfect setting does not guarantee that writing will be produced.  Sometimes even when all the stars are aligned, writing still falls flat. 

What to do?  Use your imagination.    

Writing Tips: Day Two

By Valerie Routhieaux

Day Two – Ideas

Today, I’m going to focus on ideas. One of the most frequently asked questions is how do I get my ideas? I’d like to say I think a long time about what to write. I don’t. Thoughts are always there and spawn ideas I can write about.

You can get ideas from news stories, books, movies or something that happens. The way it happened brings forth a great idea for a book.

Talking to people and something they say, or how it’s said, can be a good plot for a story.

There are so many places you can find stories, they’re endless. Even dreams can evolve into a book. For non-fiction books, there might be something that happened–such as a mystery–that hasn’t been solved or a memoir from your childhood could make a good book. History is full of people who did something other people would want to know about.

Think about every book you’ve ever read. Which was your favorite and why? That book started as an idea in the author’s imagination. They took that idea and made a story from it, and that story became the book you read. It might have been a best-seller and it might not. However, you read it, reviewed it and others have done the same.

Jerry B. Jenkins, author of the Left Behind series was on a plane and had the idea to write about the tribulation from the viewpoint of an airline pilot. The series became a reality, which he co-authored with Tim LaHaye. One book led to twelve and then four prequels.

Don’t discount the ideas you have. They all lead somewhere, whether it’s a blog post or a best-selling novel.

You might wonder how a person can take an idea from a book. I read an article once that said, there are no new stories, and someone will always come along and write the story better than you did. Find a nugget in a book and you have an idea, a seed, and a new story comes forth. What are your ideas? Let them germinate the seed for a story.

It’s time to write.

What I’ve Learned From My Writing

By Ruth Wellens

 What I’ve learned from my writing is that it has taught me some things about myself.  I have found it one of the most pleasing, aggravating, rewarding, and frustrating activities I have ever pursued.  While the act of writing has at times been difficult to live with, I have found I also can’t live without it. 

I have stories going on in my head almost all the time.  My ideas can originate from anywhere – a song on the radio, an overheard conversation, a news article, or a casual encounter with a store clerk or a waitress.  Sometimes when I recall the incidents during my day, my mind goes into “what if” drive – such as “what if” this happened, or “what if” someone reacted this way, or “what if” someone was thinking or feeling this way?  It’s at those times when my imagination will begin to develop a story.   

What happens next?

With the idea brimming inside my head, the first draft of writing ensues often without a hitch.  After that, however, comes the difficult task of rewriting.  One of the best steps I can take for rewriting is to set aside my work for a day or two or more and then to go back to it. Rewriting or revision is to see again, and that’s what occurs when the writing is reread after time has passed. Rewriting is writing as clearly and concisely as I can.  It is asking if I have used a certain word or words too often?  It is wondering if this part is needed?  After going over my writing, I go over it again.  Sometimes I just need to stop or I have learned I would never have a finished product.

While I don’t write everyday, I find that if I have a story or idea in my head, I need to get it down on paper.  If I don’t, I’ve learned I get very crabby!