Create Believable Criminal Characters

image by geralt

All characters should have flaws. Only some will be inherently mean. How mean should a criminal character be?

I met young men in an eight-year prison ministry. Inmates, called cadets and incarcerated at a juvenile correctional center, attended our church’s monthly Bible study.

So, what were they like?

All had been convicted of committing crimes against others,

    many were gang members,

        some were manipulative,

            some were repeat offenders, and

                a few would be transferred to an adult prison at age 21.

image by Dieter_G

I noticed other behaviors.

All loved the time to give their prayer requests for family and friends,

    almost all participated in the Bible study activities,

        many voiced appreciation that we took time to visit them,

            some offered to pray the closing prayer, and

                a few said God had put them there to get their attention.

Here are stories that taught me many of these young men weren’t inherently bad.

Put on the Dots

I’d written the verses of the Twenty-third Psalm on large strips of paper and displayed them around the room. I gave each cadet three sticky dots to adhere to the verses that spoke most to them. They wandered around the room reading and re-reading the verses before they placed their dots on the panels.

By far, the verse receiving the most dots was: “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.” (King James Version) Most thought they walked through “the shadow of death” and coveted God’s presence.

Kindness

In one activity, the cadets each read a verse from an easy-to-read Bible version. They didn’t have to read, but one cadet slowly stumbled through his verse. What touched me was the cadet sitting next to him who gently helped him with the words he didn’t know.

Christmas

At Christmas, I moved nativity people, animals, and the angel around as I told the story of Jesus’ birth. Afterwards, while the other cadets moved to an activity, a tall cadet approached me. In the rumble of chatter from the other cadets, it was as if he and I were in our own vignette. He looked into my eyes and respectfully asked, “Is Christmas Jesus’ birthday?” He’d had a revelation and wanted to make sure he’d heard right.

Lights Out

image by amo

One evening, my husband and I led a study near the guard station. Our guard stepped out for a moment. The room went black. As guards ran up and down the halls, my husband and I sat in the dark with ten maximum security cadets. We and the cadets remained seated until the back-up lights came on three minutes later. We had experienced no fear.

Transformation

A cadet knew I was an author. Through the prison activities director, he sent me a short story he’d written about a criminal’s remorse, forgiveness, and redemption.

If our story criminals are to be believable we must look deeper inside them, judiciously using positive and negative traits.

Create believable criminal characters using positive and negative traits. Click to tweet.

What have you observed that would make a criminal character realistic?

COOKING UP KISSES – has earned an Amazon #1 bestseller ribbon in two categories!

Five scrumptious e-book romance novellas, all for $0.99 or free on KindleUnlimited. Here’s the link.  Here are the blurbs:

 

 

 

THE INVISIBLE WOMAN IN A RED DRESS BY ZOE M. McCARTHY

Candace Parks lives a passionless life in Richmond. The computer programmer returns to the empty family home in the Blue Ridge Mountains solely to evaluate her job, faith, and boyfriend. Her high school crush, Trigg Alderman, who barely remembers her, visits his Gram next door. Sorting her life out? How about nothing of the sort!

 

LOVE ON A DARE BY MARY MANNERS

Alana Mulvaney’s life is in a holding pattern. Consumed by day-to-day operations of the family business, Alana has no time for fun or romance. But a little fun and a whole lot of romance is just what Alana’s sisters have in mind when they learn childhood friend Donovan O’Reilly has returned to town.
Donovan O’Reilly has loved Alana Mulvaney since he moved in next door to her at the age of five. But he broke her heart when he was forced to leave town, and now that he’s returned home to Winding Ridge he has a second chance to prove himself. But is it too late to earn her trust…and her love…again?

HUMMINGBIRD KISSES BY DELIA LATHAM

Toni Littlebird believes that when she meets the man God created for her, she’ll know—and she’ll love him in that very moment.
But then Dax Hendrick roars into Hummingbird Hollow on a noisy, crippled Harley, stinking up the air and chasing away her beloved hummingbirds. One look into the intruder’s eyes and her heart sinks. He’s “The One.” She’d been right about knowing, but wrong about something far more important: She will never love this man!

HEARTS ON THE HARBOR BY ROBIN BAYNE

Cara Peyton is content with her life, her trendy Baltimore bookshop is perfect for her. But when her ex turns up to remodel the store, asking for a second chance, she’s torn and unsure about risking her heart again. Can he convince her to trust him, and God, before the job is finished?

 

 

HIS VALENTINE PROMISE BY DORA HIERS

Another Valentine’s Day and Quinn Randolph prefers to spend it with her sweet rescue lab. Who needs men and their broken promises? Especially Pierce Karson’s! Years ago, his desertion shattered her. Now he’s trying to steal the property she targeted to expand her florist shop! Pierce only wants to belong…and for Quinn to choose him. His Valentine Promise…

When Do Writers Believe They’ve Arrived as Authors?

image by andreas

Many writers think they’re bona fide authors when they’ve published a book. Today, anyone can publish books through CreateSpace, or the like. Others think accumulating thousands of fans shows they’ve arrived. But what about authors who have smaller followings of loyal fans? For me, I think what makes an author is what makes an accountant, a teacher, a hairdresser, or a pastor.

Here are personal examples of what I mean.

Teacher

A young man in the school where I taught accepted a teaching position because he needed a job. He didn’t prepare lessons, which put him on probation, and he complained about the students. At the day’s closing bell, he left faster than his pupils, taking home nothing. He taught, but he wasn’t a teacher.

image by Mohamed_hassan

After gaining a BA in math, I taught junior high science and math for three years. I didn’t have a degree in education, but I spent hours preparing lessons, searching for creative ways to get math across to my students. When at first I wasn’t reaching students on a person-to-person level, I consulted the department head and learned what students needed and wanted. I applied what I learned and connected with my pupils.

I didn’t want to pursue teaching as a career, but it was important to me that those children left my class prepared for next year’s classes. I think I was a teacher. Now I enjoy teaching in Bible studies and workshops for writers.

Author

image by Thedigitalartist

I wrote five completed manuscripts before I received a contract. On the first, I gained an agent, but the book was rejected for “not standout writing.” I studied books on the craft, attended writing conferences and workshops, joined critique groups, and entered contests for the feedback. For the second through fourth manuscripts, the rejections got better, inviting me to submit other stories. A publisher contracted my fifth. For my sixth manuscript, my publisher thought it was a good story, but the protagonist was unlikeable and too much about her sport was distracting. I reworked it four times before I received a contract.

For my seventh book, I tried some techniques I thought readers would enjoy. A different publisher contracted the book quickly.

Arriving

Then last year, I was invited to be part of a Valentine’s Day e-book collection with four other authors. I’d have no editor to help make my book shine. So, I hired an editor. I may never recover the cost, but I couldn’t publish something substandard.

That’s when I realized I’d arrived as an author.

Although the collection earned #1 bestseller ribbon in two categories on Amazon, which was wonderful for me and the other authors, I discovered striving for excellence for readers is what makes me feel like I’ve arrived as an author.

This means I’ll continue to learn my craft, subject my stories to criticism, and work to promote my books so readers in my audience can find them.

Is a published book or lots of fans what makes a writer feel like they’ve arrived as an author, or is it something more? Click to tweet.

What has or will make you think you have arrived as an author?

COOKING UP KISSES – has earned an Amazon #1 bestseller ribbon in two categories!

Five scrumptious e-book romance novellas, all for $0.99 or free on KindleUnlimited. Here’s the link.  Here are the blurbs:

 

 

 

THE INVISIBLE WOMAN IN A RED DRESS BY ZOE M. McCARTHY

Candace Parks lives a passionless life in Richmond. The computer programmer returns to the empty family home in the Blue Ridge Mountains solely to evaluate her job, faith, and boyfriend. Her high school crush, Trigg Alderman, who barely remembers her, visits his Gram next door. Sorting her life out? How about nothing of the sort!

 

LOVE ON A DARE BY MARY MANNERS

Alana Mulvaney’s life is in a holding pattern. Consumed by day-to-day operations of the family business, Alana has no time for fun or romance. But a little fun and a whole lot of romance is just what Alana’s sisters have in mind when they learn childhood friend Donovan O’Reilly has returned to town.
Donovan O’Reilly has loved Alana Mulvaney since he moved in next door to her at the age of five. But he broke her heart when he was forced to leave town, and now that he’s returned home to Winding Ridge he has a second chance to prove himself. But is it too late to earn her trust…and her love…again?

HUMMINGBIRD KISSES BY DELIA LATHAM

Toni Littlebird believes that when she meets the man God created for her, she’ll know—and she’ll love him in that very moment.
But then Dax Hendrick roars into Hummingbird Hollow on a noisy, crippled Harley, stinking up the air and chasing away her beloved hummingbirds. One look into the intruder’s eyes and her heart sinks. He’s “The One.” She’d been right about knowing, but wrong about something far more important: She will never love this man!

HEARTS ON THE HARBOR BY ROBIN BAYNE

Cara Peyton is content with her life, her trendy Baltimore bookshop is perfect for her. But when her ex turns up to remodel the store, asking for a second chance, she’s torn and unsure about risking her heart again. Can he convince her to trust him, and God, before the job is finished?

 

 

HIS VALENTINE PROMISE BY DORA HIERS

Another Valentine’s Day and Quinn Randolph prefers to spend it with her sweet rescue lab. Who needs men and their broken promises? Especially Pierce Karson’s! Years ago, his desertion shattered her. Now he’s trying to steal the property she targeted to expand her florist shop! Pierce only wants to belong…and for Quinn to choose him. His Valentine Promise…

How Much Time in a Week Does an Author Write?

image by Kidaha

When I started writing, I couldn’t have imagined what my weeks would look like after my books published. For the last seven years, I’ve been a full-time writer. Let me rephrase that, a full-time author. I’ve learned there’s a difference, as I’ll show.

Background

I work five days a week. Often, I work a half-day on Saturdays to make up for non-writing half days I allow each month for

image by geralt
  • teaching a weekly Bible study,
  • attending a women’s church meeting,
  • hosting a prayer shawl ministry,
  • meeting with a writers group, and
  • fulfilling doctor and hair appointments.

 

My normal workday is from nine to six. Besides trying to keep up with emails, here’s what my writing week looked like last week:

Monday

  • Reported last week’s progress and this week’s goals to my writing accountability group.
  • Polished the writing-craft blog post I drafted last week, downloaded photos from Pixabay, and put the post on WordPress.
  • Worked on my book cover for CreateSpace. I have an e-book that was published in a collection on Amazon. I’m putting my book into a print version on Amazon. The cover and manuscript must be reformatted for print. (This took my husband and me hours more than I’d scheduled.)

Tuesday

  • Drafted a post for the Seriously Write Blog. I’m a regular contributor.
  • Practiced reading Chapter 1 of one of my other books. The publisher asked for an audio copy for promotions.
  • Sent e-book copies of yet another book to two winners for last week’s Author Cross Promotion Giveaway.
  • Worked again on the book going into print. Researched how to test for embedded fonts, etc.

Wednesday

image by joshborup

Published a Facebook Author Page post.
Recorded practice sessions of Chapter 1 on QuickTimePlayer.
Worked to get the print book’s cover and manuscript into a PDF-acceptable format for CreateSpace.

 

 

 

Thursday (only a half day available)

  • Published my writing-craft blog post, promoted it, and replied to comments.
  • image by goramx

    Reworked the back cover and manuscript PDFs and submitted the cover and manuscript to CreateSpace.
  • Recorded Chapter 1 on editable GarageBand (learning curve).

Friday

  • Drafted a post for my next week’s blog post.
  • Contacted upcoming conference’s bookstore. Asked for the procedure for putting my books on consignment.
  • Ordered a test copy of the print book from CreateSpace.
  • Edited the Chapter 1 audio on GarageBand and saved as an MP3.

Hopefully, you noticed I spent no time this week writing my new book. Many weeks are like this one.

The Solution

For the last several months, my husband has taken on additional tasks in supporting my writing career. To vacuuming, laundry, and shopping, he has added several book-marketing jobs, editing tasks, and learning to use CreateSpace and GarageBand. I’m so thankful God called my husband to team up with me. I hope to spend more time writing.

Other than when authors are on tight book deadlines, just how much writing time do they fit into their schedules in a week? Click to tweet.

Who in your cache of family and friends could you recruit to take over a non-writing task or two?

COOKING UP KISSES – has earned an Amazon #1 bestseller ribbon in two categories!

Five scrumptious e-book romance novellas, all for $0.99 or free on KindleUnlimited. Here’s the link.  Here are the blurbs:

 

 

 

THE INVISIBLE WOMAN IN A RED DRESS BY ZOE M. McCARTHY

Candace Parks lives a passionless life in Richmond. The computer programmer returns to the empty family home in the Blue Ridge Mountains solely to evaluate her job, faith, and boyfriend. Her high school crush, Trigg Alderman, who barely remembers her, visits his Gram next door. Sorting her life out? How about nothing of the sort!

 

LOVE ON A DARE BY MARY MANNERS

Alana Mulvaney’s life is in a holding pattern. Consumed by day-to-day operations of the family business, Alana has no time for fun or romance. But a little fun and a whole lot of romance is just what Alana’s sisters have in mind when they learn childhood friend Donovan O’Reilly has returned to town.
Donovan O’Reilly has loved Alana Mulvaney since he moved in next door to her at the age of five. But he broke her heart when he was forced to leave town, and now that he’s returned home to Winding Ridge he has a second chance to prove himself. But is it too late to earn her trust…and her love…again?

HUMMINGBIRD KISSES BY DELIA LATHAM

Toni Littlebird believes that when she meets the man God created for her, she’ll know—and she’ll love him in that very moment.
But then Dax Hendrick roars into Hummingbird Hollow on a noisy, crippled Harley, stinking up the air and chasing away her beloved hummingbirds. One look into the intruder’s eyes and her heart sinks. He’s “The One.” She’d been right about knowing, but wrong about something far more important: She will never love this man!

HEARTS ON THE HARBOR BY ROBIN BAYNE

Cara Peyton is content with her life, her trendy Baltimore bookshop is perfect for her. But when her ex turns up to remodel the store, asking for a second chance, she’s torn and unsure about risking her heart again. Can he convince her to trust him, and God, before the job is finished?

 

 

HIS VALENTINE PROMISE BY DORA HIERS

Another Valentine’s Day and Quinn Randolph prefers to spend it with her sweet rescue lab. Who needs men and their broken promises? Especially Pierce Karson’s! Years ago, his desertion shattered her. Now he’s trying to steal the property she targeted to expand her florist shop! Pierce only wants to belong…and for Quinn to choose him. His Valentine Promise…