Monday, April 24, 2017

Ten Habits of Highly Effective Christian Writers

with Lisa Carter. 

 So, you feel a calling from God to use the talents He’s given you for the work of His kingdom? 


Now comes the tougher part. The God-directed call to touch readers’ hearts is a worthy goal. But like any ability or skill—athletics, music—writing must be honed. It is part art and part craft.

Many people say they’ve always wanted to write a book. Few have the patience and stick-to-it-iveness to battle self-doubt or the self-discipline to see the goal accomplished. 

To become a highly effective Christian writer according to God’s definition of success will require faith and courage. To become the writer God has called you to be will necessitate a willingness to step outside of your comfort zone, your routine and open yourself to growth and change.

These habits are not just for writers of Christian literature but for all Christian writers—whether their writing journey takes them to the CBA or ABA markets. 

Here are some tips to live and write by:

1. Be a person God can use to glorify His name.

•Be humble

•Be teachable

•Be in the Word and get to know Him

•Be about prayer 

•Be surrendered to His will for His timing and His way

2. Glue your butt in the writing chair and write every day.

3. Read and study the master writers in your genre in both the ABA and CBA markets.

4. Join ACFW, RWA and other professional writing organizations to dialogue with other published and unpublished writers.

5. Meet regularly with a local circle of like-minded writer friends for encouragement.

6. Attend the best writer conferences your budget allows—at least one conference a year.

7. Learn to edit yourself brutally.

8. Develop Teflon-coated skin when the rejections start to pile up.

9. Related to #8, persist, mature and endure.

10. It’s worth repeating again— Be a person God can use to glorify His name and that others will enjoy working with.

Habit #1 would seem self-evident to a Christian writer. But caught up in deadlines, submissions, or whatever—it’s all too easy to neglect the heart preparation that it takes to become all God desires for you to be. You can only write as good a story as the story you are living. He is much more interested in who you are in Him versus any book you could ever write. 

Make it your goal to become a vessel of honor that God can use to pour out His vision and His heart for a world that desperately needs to hear the good news about Him.

Attitude and self-discipline are essential qualities for every highly effective writer. Put your money and time where your mouth is and work hard at your craft.  Have a servant’s heart. It’s not all about you. Have a generous spirit that helps other writers along their writing journey, too. Writing is a collaborative partnership—you, God and others.

No matter where you are on the writing journey—unpubbed, debut or multi-published/award-winning—I find that periodically I need to check my attitude and my motivations so that my writing will indeed be about Him and not me.

Be willing to give back to God your dreams and expectations. Make your one desire Him—not publication, bestseller lists, etc. Try not to tell God what to do, how to do it and when. Remember—there is a God and you are not Him. As Amy Carmichael, missionary to India, once said, “He is to be preeminent in all things.”

Is He above all things in your life? Who sits on the throne in your life? Who calls the shots? Or has the dream taken precedence over the ultimate Dreamweaver?

After making a lifestyle of the ten habits of highly effective Christian writers listed above, lay those dreams within the palm of His Hand. 

There is no safer place for them to be.

Are there other habits of highly effective Christian writers that you would add to the list? What has been your experience?

Today’s Giveaway—Indicate in the comment section if you’d like to be entered in the giveaway for one of the 2 copies of The Deputy’s Perfect Match. Winners announced in the Seekerville Weekend Edition.

Lisa Carter's novel, Under a Turquoise Sky, won the 2015 Carol Award for Romantic Suspense. Her latest contemporary romance is The Deputy’s Perfect Match. The bestselling author of seven romantic suspense novels and a Coast Guard series, Lisa enjoys traveling to romantic locales and researching her next exotic adventure. A native North Carolinian, she has strong opinions on barbecue and ACC basketball. She loves to hear from readers.


The Deputy’s Perfect Match

His Librarian Sweetheart 

Still nursing old heartache, deputy sheriff Charlie Pruitt vowed he'd never get close to another woman again. But that's easier said than done when librarian Evy Shaw arrives in his small coastal Virginia town with a secret—one Charlie's determined to uncover. When Charlie joins Evy's all-female book club, he gets more than he anticipated when the romantic reads stoke a real attraction to Evy. Falling for the pretty librarian wasn't part of the plan, but when the truth behind Evy's suspicious behavior comes to light, will love be enough to bind them together?

Saturday, April 22, 2017

The Weekend Edition

If you are not familiar with our giveaway rules, take a minute to read them here. It keeps us all happy! All winners should send their name, address, and phone number to claim prizes. Send to

Winners of Ruth Logan Herne's Peace in the Valley are Connie and Marcia!

Monday: Winners of Ruth Logan Herne's Their Surprise Daddy are Jenna Victoria and Cynthia Herron. Winners of Ruthy's upcoming Peace in the Valley are Meghan Carver and Terri Weldon!

Tuesday: Winner of a copy of Laurie Schnebly Campbell's Believable Characters: Creating with Enneagrams book is Hellie Sinclair!

Wednesday: Debby Giusti was our hostess with a great overview of The Writer's Journey, by Christopher Vogler. Debby held three drawings. Each winner will receive a copy of her May Love Inspired Suspense and the first book in her Amish Protectors seriesAmish Refuge! They will also receive a two-in-one that features Debby's story, Plain Danger,  and The Shepherd's Bride, by Patricia Davids, for a total of THREE stories! Congrats to the winners: Josee, Natalie, and Jackie!

Thursday: Winner of Shannon Vannatter's Love Inspired release, Winning Over the Cowboy is Bettie.

Monday: Lisa Carter is our guest with her post, "Ten Habit of Highly Effective Christian Writers." Stop by to see the list and comment, You could win one of 2 copies of The Deputy’s Perfect Match. Thank you, Lisa!

Tuesday: Sandra Leesmith will share how plot whisperer, Martha Alderson, helped her deepen her plot in her new WIP. Be sure and comment because Martha is offering a free hour consultation. Sign up on her website for free monthly plot tips.

Wednesday: Join Glynna Kaye today for "Flying at Night: The Search for Your Story's Core" and an opportunity to win a copy of her May Love Inspired release "The Nanny Bargain."

Thursday: Candice Sue Patterson is our special guest today. Her post is "It’s All in the Details:  Make Your Scenes Come Alive." Do stop by to chat. Candice is giving away a print copy of How To Charm a Beekeeper's Heart! And because Seekerville loves this delightful book we are giving away an ecopy!

Friday: Today we bring you The Best of the Archives with Ruth Logan Herne. Comments are closed on Friday to allow us all more reading and writing time!



Join Ruth Logan Herne today over at with her buddy Jill Weatherholt as they talk about Ruthy's newest release "Their Surprise Daddy"... with fiction taken straight from the headlines and a wonderful giveaway! Stop over and chat with us to get your name in that famous cat dish of Ruthy's!

Glynna Kaye welcomes spring and a new release at Love Inspired Authors!

Tick ... Tick ... Tick ... Only ONE MORE WEEK to win a character named after you in Julie Lessman's next book, a signed copy, and two of Julie's other books, paperback or e-book! How?

Just check out Julie's interview in InD'tale Magazine where she talks about writing "Passion With a Purpose" in the world of Christian Romance. Then head on over to Julie's website to enter her InD'tale Magazine contest to win a character named after you in her next book, His Steadfast Love, due out this summer, a signed copy PLUS your choice of two of her books!
Oh, and you'll want to take advantage of the FREE SUBSCRIPTION to the fabulous  InD'tale Magazine as well, so what are you waiting for -- here are the links! InD'tale Magazine HERE  

Thanks for the link love!

Why Do Readers Stop Reading? (Writers Helping Writers)

11 Ways Exercise and Writing Are the Same (Book Launch Mentor) 

The 25th Annual Lone Star Writing Competition is open. Deadline June 4, 2017.

Wait...Who Looked at This? (Janet Reid, Literary Agent)

[Bracket] Shorthand Helps You Draft with Lightning Speed (bookbaby Blog)

The Decline of Organic Facebook Reach & How to Outsmart the Algorithm (HubSpot)

Freelance Writing IS a Viable Career (Don’t Listen to the Naysayers) (Jane Friedman)

K-lytics: The Easy Way To Use Data To Improve Your Book Sales (The Creative Penn)

Writing Cinematically: 10 Movie Techniques to Apply to Your Novel (Novel Rocket)

Leave a comment and let us know you want your name in the box-for the box. Winner announced in the next Weekend Edition!

Have a great Weekend!

Friday, April 21, 2017

Best of the Archives: Romancing the Proper Stranger for Professional Purposes Only (Of course!)

Ruthy here! I wrote this in our early days, and I've updated it to reflect current times... but the original concept is clutch. Sometimes you have to go out of your comfort zone to research stories, and cold-calling or e-mailing professionals scares people.

Most professionals don't bite. If they do, you can have them arrested and that's more story fodder! :) So this was written to help the shy folk among us (of which I am not one....) to reach out and ask those questions. For us to "get it right", we need to make sure we're on the right page with timing, setting, career, climate, local customs and calendars. Because how something is handled here on the East Coast might be VERY different from how it's handled in Washington or Oregon or Idaho... All states I've set books in.  So here is that blog post from May, 2010:

One of my standard jokes around historical authors is that I write contemporaries because no way I would ever get caught doing research. Of course that’s not true because you can usually tell a poorly researched character/setting/plot/mood/situation by its lack of affect on the whole book. I hope that’s one thing I’ll never be accused of, LOL. Others????

Well, that’s another blog post, my friends!

In this day and age poor research is pure laziness. Quote me on that. Really. I mean it. Quote me. I think we should consider t-shirts, with that as our slogan. One of ‘em, anyhow. With the advent of Internet access to almost anything and anyone, expert advice is a push of a button away…

But what about BEYOND THE INTERNET? Historical authors can blame sources for misinformation or plead lack of information, or variances of region. When you’re writing contemporaries, an expert's glimpse at your info might be one reader away. We get one chance with that doctor/nurse/computer tech/daycare provider/geologist/cop/evidence tech, etc. One chance. And if we blow it, don’t think they won’t talk. Nothing bugs people more than an author messing up their profession, so let’s examine how to get it right the first time.

When I approached a well-known agent after getting The Call from Love Inspired, I sent the opening chapter of "Winter’s End". She called me right away and asked if I was a hospice nurse. When I said no, she wondered how I’d hit it so exactly. She had gone through hospice with her mother the year before. I had no way of knowing that. I had gone through it with my mom twelve years before, but twelve years is a long time... and a lot can change in that length of time.

Enter Kathy Kennel, VNS, Rochester and Monroe County. When I decided Kayla would be a hospice nurse, I snail-mailed the VNS. I was unpublished but not afraid to laud my contest wins/places and whatever else I needed to grab the necessary help. 

I used the same technique with the Philadelphia Police Department for “Neither Race nor Creed” a contemporary romance about a police captain dealing with an inter-racial romance that would set his extended family reeling and a serial killer stalking University City. Detective John Moore of the Southwest Detective Bureau got in touch with me and acted as my expert, my advisor and a cheerleader by the time we were done. I set up a time to meet with him personally in Philly (I had two boys go to school there) and I took him fresh homemade cookies and my thanks. (This book hasn't been published as yet... it's a suspense and I felt like God was leading me away from suspense...)

I used that same method this past month to procure an appointment with a pediatric cardiologist, a doctor who is probably way too busy to meet with me, but in the interest of accuracy agreed. 
The cardiologist's advice became a cornerstone for "Reunited Hearts" the first book in the "Men of Allegany County" series.

Here's a sample letter:

Dear Expert-of-the-Hour,

My name is Ruth Logan Herne and I am an award-winning local author. (remember you don't have to be published to be award-winning, darlings....)

RUTHY NOTE: Do not say that if it isn’t true… sheesh… but that first line is where I sell myself. And if you don’t have all that much to sell yet, then fake it ‘til you make it. Don’t ever be afraid to respect yourself as a professional writer regardless of your current status. The office or professional you’re approaching does not know that two judges creamed you in the Genesis or that the Lonestar asked you politely to never, ever enter again. Sell yourself.)

I am currently researching a contemporary novel that pits the expertise of an off-the-cuff suspense novelist against the wiles of a somewhat jaded but totally hot police detective.

RUTHY NOTE: Get what I’m selling here? This is where I pitch that A: I know what I’m doing, and B: My work is savvy enough to hold a person’s interest beyond 2.7 seconds.)

Part of my job as a novelist is to accurately portray the chosen professions of my protagonists. To that end I need your help, or the help of someone within your department. (Unit/building/site, whatever fits the chosen profession) I have a short list of questions…

RUTHY NOTE: it doesn’t matter if it isn’t a short list, people love to talk about themselves and their jobs, at least the ones that volunteer to do this kind of thing do, so just call it a short list for brevity’s sake, okay?

that I need answered, and would like to be able to contact my advisor by either e-mail or phone as I complete the work. Properly representing the NYPD is very important to me.

RUTHY NOTE: And it should be, no matter how small or mundane the job. If you’re giving it credence as your H/H’s profession, then take the time to comb the incidentals, even if there’s very little of it you actually USE. The background basis in knowledge is a huge part of presenting a realistic setting for the job/position and actions and reactions involved in your setting. With the exception of Tchaikovsky, each harmonic ping of a good song adds credence and depth to the listening ear. The same is true of a well-drawn novel. Tiny snips of professional background help augment the realistic nuances of your story. Remember you’re not using this to overwhelm your story with yawn-a-minute detail.You’re researching to seamlessly weave pragmatic bits of the profession into the story so that it doesn’t feel like a twelve-year-old’s paint-by- number Christmas project. 

I’ve been able to find several credible sources through Internet and personal research, but true accuracy comes straight from the source.

RUTHY NOTE: This shows that you’ve already researched the job/profession and aren’t a complete dufus. No one wants to hold your hand, but most professionals are honored to be asked to act as an advisor on a project like this. And if they say no, you move on to the next prospect.

I will be happy to note the assistance of the NYPD and my advisor in the book’s acknowledgements. Looking forward to hearing from you, I am,


Ruth Logan Herne

To keep the letter to one page and not overwhelming, I put my name, address, phone, e-mail and website in the header. That leaves me a full page to play with. That sounds obvious now, but it wasn't obvious to me when I was new.

When Joan Marlow Golan, (former Executive Editor from Love Inspired) read "Waiting Out the Storm", she asked me if we owned a sheep farm.

I don’t think I’ve ever even TOUCHED a sheep. Okay. Maybe once.

Was I a vet technician, she asked?Nope.

Then how did I know so much about sheep? About sheep farming?

The answer to that is fairly simple. I like to annoy people, (HUSH, CONNEALY)
 only some of them aren’t annoyed. Some actually like to have gab-fests and act as my experts. (Ruthy note: Even way back here, in 2010, Connealy was making fun of me!!! What the heck????)

I found Mary Jarvis, a helpful sheep farmer and Maremma owner/breeder from Wisconsin via the Internet and used her for certain aspects of the story. I found Nancy Wood at the Marathon, NY Maple Festival, and then she introduced me (JACKPOT!!!!) to Al Ostrander (you can see Al and Rita’s B&B HERE) who ran the STAR program (an accelerated breeding program for innovative sheep farmers that I was featuring in the story) for Cornell University, information I'm using again for a series set in the hills of Idaho.

Al took me through the sheep barns, answered questions, showed me his personal sheep farm operation and helped me make sure that my heroine would be able to handle the work I attributed to her as a woman farmer, working alone most of the time, right down to the type of fencing she'd be able to use for rotational pasturing.

Ask everyone. Don't take ‘no’ personally. Ever. If that’s one thing my sales experience taught me is that ‘no’ is just a word that means you haven’t asked the right person.

Ask and ye shall receive. Eventually.

Knock and the door will be opened.

Remember, most people are honored to be asked. Those that aren’t are probably not the best advisors anyway. It’s better for both of you for you to look elsewhere.

Strong stories begin with characters who go more than skin-deep and a strong reflection of their profession and their professional setting as needed. 

Getting it right the first time saves a whole lot of hassle later on!

We're closed for comments today, so everyone can catch up on their writing, but.... I'm so happy to show you what JUST RELEASED from Love Inspired:

On sale across the country, and featured at Walmart for $3.88!!! What a great deal that is!

And then we've got books 1 and 2 of the Double S Ranch on shelves across the country, too!!! Sharing space with "Their Surprise Daddy"!  It's a Ruthy-party at Walmart and Winco and Krogers and wherever paperbacks are sold!

Back in the Saddle & Home on the Range are on shelves nationwide!

I am over the moon... 

I'm on the shelf next to TOM CLANCY! :)  And next to myself!

Oh be still my heart!

Enjoy your writing today... and every day! God bless you, my friends!

Inspirational author Ruthy Logan Herne is living her dream of writing sweet books that make people laugh... and cry. She lives on a small farm in upstate NY with lots of cute kids running in and out, dusty shelves and more than one cluttered counter. She loves to hang out with readers and writers on facebook, she's @RuthLoganHerne on twitter and you can browse her website or find her at to see what's happening....

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Writing Inspirational

with guest Shannon Vannatter.

Thanks for having me back, Seekerville. I’m excited about my topic today.

We want readers to dive into our books, vicariously live a fictional journey with our characters, and thoroughly enjoy the ride. As inspirational writers, we also want to share a spiritual truth. If we get on our soapboxes and start preaching, readers stop reading. It’s a delicate balance.

When I discovered inspirational romance as a reader, I started with Love Inspired and Heartsong. I remember one of the first longer lengths I read. It was coated in Scripture. The heroine thought in Bible verses, quoted Bible verses, dreamed Bible verses. It got on my nerves and then I felt bad that it got on my nerves. Time passed before I picked up another longer length. Thankfully, I realized the book I’d read wasn’t the norm.

If I want to read scripture, I’ll read the Bible, which I do nightly. When I want to read fiction, I want to get lost in the story with a spiritual thread seamlessly woven into the character’s intriguing journey. 

There are readers, who aren’t Christians, who read inspirational fiction because they know it’s clean. I’ve met them. Imagine if we beat non-believing readers over the head with our message. If they finish the book, they might not pick up another. 

So how do you intertwine your spiritual message without shoving your Bible down the reader’s throat? Here are some tips: 

  • Don’t preach. 

Don’t have one character preach to another. Instead, have one character impart spiritual wisdom gently a bit at a time. Like you would a dear friend who needs Jesus. Think of your reader as a dear friend.

  • Don’t let your character preach.

Reader’s aren’t stupid. They’ll catch on that you’re preaching to them through your character. The only time you should let a character preach is if the character is a preacher and the scene is during a church service. Even then, don’t let the preacher monologue and cover the whole sermon. Let your character hear what they need to hear and then go into their thoughts as what they heard sinks into their heart. 

Just like in real church. I get caught up on something the preacher said that applies to me or that I’ve never thought of before and I miss part of the sermon because I’m still thinking about it.

  • Stay off the soap box.

Don’t have a character get on a soapbox and pretend your conviction is his or hers. This is a hard one. It’s so tempting to let your character spew your views. But even if your reader is a Christian, they may not share the same conviction or opinion you do. And the thing you never, ever want to do is offend your reader.

One exception, you can use an elderly character to state the truth. But keep it short and loving or maybe even crotchety. Elderly people are expected to have a strict view on things. If your reader doesn’t agree, they’ll roll their eyes or laugh at the old codger. But you still squeezed something you believe strongly in there. And you might plant the seed of conviction in a reader.

  • Don’t dump your spiritual truth.

The spiritual thread is much like backstory. Sprinkle it lightly here and there. It should weave through the entire book until resolved. Not on two pages. Weave your spiritual truth in as if you were gently witnessing to a non-believing friend while trying not to overwhelm them or turn them away.

I once read a book where six characters were stranded in a perilous situation. It was a page turner. I couldn’t sleep, couldn’t wait to see what happened next. There wasn’t really a spiritual thread, but it was a clean, nail-biter read. One character prayed a few times, but not out loud. Once the characters survived their ordeal, the praying character invited them to church. They all went and got converted right then and there. 

After what the characters had endured, I can see that happening with one character, maybe two. But not five. If the author had the praying character gently witness to the other characters a bit during their ordeal, it would have made more sense. Or even if some of them had converted one or two at a time during their ordeal. But to have all five become Christians at the end of the book disappointed me. And you guessed it, I haven’t tried that author again.

  • Don’t write fifty pages and then suddenly send your character to church.

If your character is a believer or struggling believer, make their faith an integral part of their values and beliefs from chapter one on. You don’t have to have them preach or get on a soap box to do this. Show their values and beliefs in the way they live, behave, react, and think.

  • Don’t make all of your Christian characters preachers, Sunday school teachers, song leaders, or church leaders. 

Your characters should attend church if their Christians. If they’ve been a Christian for a while, they can be active in the church. Let them help with the fundraiser for needy children or Vacation Bible School. But your fiction should reflect real life. There are lots of pew warmers out there. If all of your fictional characters have important positions in the church, it’s not very realistic.

  •  Don’t make your Christian character perfect.

No one is perfect, except Jesus. Let your characters have flaws. Let them struggle with something. Let them make mistakes and suffer the consequences. Make them learn from those mistakes. If your publisher allows it, let them fall, and then lean on God to get back up. 

  •  Don’t make them holier than thou. 

Christians are just sinners saved by grace. No better than anyone else. The only difference—we have eternal life and convictions. The only time your character should be holier than thou is if they’re supposed to be unlikeable. Even then, consider knocking them off their high horse by the end of the book.

  • Don’t allow your character to remain unchanged.

In Christian fiction, your character should grow spiritually as they grow as a person. If they’re a Christian at the beginning of the book, they should be closer to God by the end. If the character is a non-believer, let them at least be curious or seeking the truth by the end of the book if you don’t convert them. Show their growth through dialogue and thoughts. Even the bad guy can ponder on what makes the good guy so happy.

  • Don't rescue your character with a miracle.

I believe in miracles. But your reader will be more satisfied if you challenge your characters to solve their own problems while leaning on God. Have them turn their problems over to Him as they sort through them. But don’t pull down a miracle out of Heaven that solves everything. Your reader will be disappointed. 
Trust me on this one. I once read a book where the character had a real, life-changing health problem. Just as I got used to the character’s new situation and thought he could handle it, the author threw in a completely impossible surgery that fixed everything. I haven’t read that author since.

  • Don’t coddle them

Christians live in this fallen world just like non-believers do. Evil touches our lives. When we become Christians, life doesn’t automatically become rosy. We still have problems and challenges. But we have peace. Let your characters deal with real-life problems. And show their faith by how they handle their problems by leaning on God.

  • Don’t overdo it with the Bible verses.

I sort of covered this one in the intro. I use Bible verses sparingly – one or two per book. And usually as a thought—when my characters are wrestling with something. One time, I went through five scriptures of the Roman’s road as a preacher led a man to Jesus. But it fit that book and the characters. 

Depending on the publisher, you could go a bit heavier. I’m reluctant because of that long ago read. I have my characters read the Bible. I’ve even had characters read the Bible together and discuss the meaning of the scriptures they read. But I’d caution on writing a Bible-quoting character who speaks only in scripture. Unless he’s a street preacher maybe.

  • Don’t make every come to Jesus moment happen during a sermon or at the altar call.

Let your character accept Jesus as their savior silently in Sunday school class. In their car on the way home. Kneeling by the side of their bed. In life, people wrestle with Jesus, unwilling to give in, and often hit their knees wherever they happen to be when they finally surrender. To make an impact on readers, our fiction needs to reflect life.

  • Don’t get doctrinal.

I like to call denominations – flavor. What flavor Christian are you? Every denomination has different beliefs. Readers are diverse. They don’t all believe like you do or attend the same kind of church that you do. Stick with universal truths. We all need Jesus.

As Christian writers, our first goal has to be entertaining readers. If readers aren’t entertained, you’ll never get your message across. Since we want to impact lives, we must strive to present the gospel without getting in the reader’s face. Without cluing the reader in on what we’re doing. Handled delicately and realistically, the spiritual thread in your book will reflect real life and maybe touch a reader’s heart and soul. 

I hope these tips help you write that book. I’m giving away a copy of Winning Over the Cowboy (Winner announced in the Weekend Edition) and I’ll be here all day. Pop in and let’s talk. 
Share with us when you discovered Christian fiction and why you love it.

The Rancher Stakes His Claim 

When she inherits half a dude ranch after losing her best friend, Landry Malone is determined to see Eden's legacy flourish. That is if her friend's broad-shouldered cowboy brother will give her the chance. Chase Donovan isn't happy that his sister left their family business to an outsider—and he's determined to test Landry's mettle, hoping she'll give up her claim. Soon Chase is impressed by Landry's ability to rise to every challenge he puts in her way—and worried that his attraction to the perky spitfire seems to know no end. Finally working together to ensure the ranch's future, will their business partnership be the foundation for something more?

Shannon Taylor Vannatter is a stay-at-home mom/pastor’s wife/award winning author. She once climbed a mountain wearing gold wedge-heeled sandals which became known as her hiking boots. Shannon writes inspirational contemporary romance and it took her nine years to get published in the traditional market.

Shannon hopes to entertain Christian women and plant seeds in the non-believer’s heart as her characters struggle with real-life issues. Their journeys, from ordinary lives to extraordinary romance through Christ-centered relationships, demonstrate that love doesn’t conquer all—Jesus does. In her spare time, she loves hanging out with her family, flea marketing, and doing craft projects.



Wednesday, April 19, 2017

The Writer's Journey

By Debby Giusti

I hope you’re rejoicing in this beautiful Easter season of resurrection, new life, baby chicks and flowers in bloom. We’ve survived SPEEDBO.  Many of us have manuscripts to revise or portions of a story to complete so I thought it might be beneficial to take a look at the twelve stages of the hero’s journey Christopher Vogler presents in his book, The Writer’s Journey.

You may recall my February 15, 2017 blog entitled, “The Mentor's Role in The Hero's Journey,” where I talked about Joseph Campbell, a writer, professor and mythologist, born at the beginning of the 20th Century. In case you’ve forgotten, Campbell studied mythology extensively and deduced that all myths, whether passed down as oral tradition or written expression, contain the same basic format. That format—or template, if you will--is found worldwide, and is common in the stories from all cultures, tribes, peoples, races and nationalities. He named the structure “The Hero’s Journey” and published his findings, in 1949, in a book entitled, The Hero With a Thousand Faces. 

In the 1980s, Hollywood story analyst Christopher Vogler studied Campbell’s work and instantly connected with “The Hero’s Journey” and the mythical elements found in all stories. After accepting a job with Walt Disney Company, Vogler penned a seven-page memo, which he titled “A Practical Guide to The Hero With a Thousand Faces.” The memo circulated through Disney and then traveled to other Hollywood studios as more and more people recognized the value of Vogler's formula for successful story creation. Eventually, Vogler expanded that first memo into a book called The Writer’s Journey, which provides a more in-depth look at the mythical structure. 

Let’s take a look at the stages Vogler presents in The Writer’s Journey:

The Twelve Stages of the Hero’s Journey

The Ordinary World

Each story should start in the hero’s ordinary world. We need to see the hero in his own world before he embarks on his adventure. In today’s face-paced fiction, we sometimes only have a glimpse of that ordinary life for a paragraph or two, but even with only a short introductory narrative, we can get an idea of the hero’s surroundings and the way he lives before the real action begins. Remember to provide a glimpse into your hero or heroine’s world at the beginning of your story, but don’t remain there long because the reader is eager for the action to begin.
Example: Think of Belle walking through her small town at the opening of the movie, Beauty and the Beast.
Vogler writes: “If you’re going to show a fish out of his customary element, you first have to show him in that Ordinary World to create a vivid contrast with the strange new world he is about to enter.”

The Call to Adventure

This is the inciting incident. A problem is presented to the hero that will send him out of his ordinary world and into a new adventure. In a romance, this is where the hero meets the annoying heroine or is forced to work with her on a project
Example: A bank robbery propels our hero cop into an investigation to find the robbers and solve the case.
Vogler writes: “The Call to Adventure establishes the stakes of the game, and makes clear the hero’s goal: to win the treasure or the lover, to get revenge or right a wrong, to achieve a dream, confront a challenge or change a life.”

Refusal of the Call (The Reluctant Hero)

Often the hero is afraid to charge forward or isn’t eager to accept the call to adventure. Instead, he wants to remain within his ordinary world.
Example: In a romance, the heroine may be hesitant to get involved with the handsome hero because she’s been jilted or left at the altar.
Vogler writes: “The hero has not yet fully committed to the journey and may still be thinking of turning back. Some other influence—a change in circumstances, a further offense against the natural order of things, or the encouragement of a Mentor—is required to get her past this turning point of fear.”

Mentor (The Wise Old man or Woman)

The mentor—best friend, teacher, parent, old sage—encourages the hero to accept the call. He provides guidance and may even equip the hero for the adventure.
Example: Think Lou Grant in “The Mary Tyler Moore Show.”
Vogler writes: “The Mentor can only go so far with the hero. Eventually, the hero must face the unknown alone.”

Crossing the First Threshold

The hero enters into the adventure. From this point, there is no turning back.
Example: In The Wizard of Oz, Dorothy sets out on the Yellow Brick Road.
Vogler writes: “Movies are often built in three acts, which can be regarded as representing 1) the hero’s decision to act, 2) the action itself, and 3) the consequences of the action. The First Threshold marks the turning point between Acts One and Two.”

Tests, Allies and Enemies

The hero faces escalating problems and challenges. Friends offer support and help; enemies cause harm. It is at this stage that the hero begins to learn the rules of the special world he is about to enter.
Example: In “The Karate Kid,” Mr. Miyagi trains Daniel in martial arts.
Vogler writes: “Countless Westerns take the hero to a saloon where his manhood and determination are tested, and where friends and villains are introduced. Bars are also useful to the hero for obtaining information, for learning the new rules that apply to the Special World.” 

Approach to the Inmost Cave

The hero nears the dangerous place and may pause here to prepare for battle.
Example: In military movies, the hero and his company of soldiers will pause before the battle to prepare for the mission.
Vogler writes: “When the hero enters the fearful place he will cross the second major threshold. Heroes often pause at the gate to prepare, plan and outwit the villain’s guards.” 

The Supreme Ordeal

The hero must confront his greatest fear and is caught in a life-or-death battle with antagonistic forces. In a romance, this is the black moment when it seems that the hero and heroine will never get together again.
Example: In “E.T.,” the alien appears to die on the operating table.
Vogler writes: “Every story needs such a life or death moment in which the hero or his goals are in mortal jeopardy.” 

Reward (Seizing the Sword)

The hero has survived the ordeal and takes possession of the reward, the magic elixir, needed knowledge or some type of prized treasure. Personal conflicts are reconciled at this point as well.
Example: In “The Wizard of Oz,” Dorothy escapes from the Wicked Witch’s castle with the broomstick and ruby slippers.
Vogler writes: “In many [romance] stories the loved one is the treasure the hero has come to win or rescue, and there is often a love scene at this point to celebrate the victory.” 

The Road Back

The hero is chased by the antagonistic forces. He again must battle evil as he tries to return home. This occurs at the beginning of Act Three.
Example: Elliott and E.T. escape in the moonlight bike scene.
Vogler writes: “Some of the best chase scenes spring up at this point, as the hero is pursued on The Road Back by the vengeful forces she has disturbed by seizing the sword, the elixir or the treasure.” 


Another life and death moment as the hero battles evil.
Example: The final battle scene in Star Wars when Luke is almost killed, appears to be dead and then miraculously survives.
Vogler writes: “The hero is transformed by these moments of death-and-rebirth, and is able to return to ordinary life reborn as a new being with new insights.” 

Return with the Elixir

The hero returns to the Ordinary World, but he must bring back some treasure, whether new knowledge or something concrete.
Example: Dorothy returns to Kansas knowing she is loved and that “There’s no place like home.”
Vogler writes: “Unless something is brought back from the ordeal in the Inmost Cave, the hero is doomed to repeat the adventure. Many comedies use this ending, as a foolish character refuses to learn his lesson and embarks on the same folly that got him in trouble in the first place.”

A final caveat from Vogler’s website: “Following the guidelines of myth too rigidly can lead to a stiff, unnatural structure, and there is the danger of being too obvious.  The hero myth is a skeleton that should be masked with the details of the individual story, and the structure should not call attention to itself.  The order of the hero’s stages as given here is only one of many variations – the stages can be deleted, added to, and drastically re-shuffled without losing any of their power.

Can you see any ways to use the twelves stages of The Hero’s Journey in your own stories? Do you recognize the various stages in the movies you love to watch? Has this overview provided inspiration or confusion?

Breakfast is served: Hot cross buns and hard boiled eggs dyed in an assortment of colors, fresh fruit and sausage. The coffee is hot. So is the tea. Enjoy!

Leave a comment to be entered in three drawings. Each winner will receive a copy of AMISH REFUGE, my May release and the first book in my Amish Protectors series from Love Inspired Suspense. The winners will also receive a copy of another May release that features my story, PLAIN DANGER, and THE SHEPHERD’S BRIDE, by Patricia Davids.

Happy writing! Happy reading!

Wishing you abundant blessings,

Debby Giusti
Check out the new look: 

By Debby Giusti


Miriam Miller barely escapes the ruthless attacker that killed her mother and kidnapped her sister. Running deeper into the woods, she’s running out of hope…until she falls into the arms of an unlikely bodyguard—a peaceful Amish farmer. Something about Abram Zook inspires her trust, but even in bucolic Willkommen, Georgia, Miriam faces danger. Both from the men pursuing her and from her growing feelings for the caring—though guarded— widower who protects her. Because if she falls for Abram she’ll have to embrace his Amish faith as her own—or lose him. With each minute, her abductor creeps closer, pushing Miriam to an inevitable choice: stay and risk her heart…or leave and risk her life. 
Preorder HERE