Saturday, April 2, 2011

Guest Vickie McDonough on Writing Realistic Characters

Blissful Writing Thoughts is pleased to have guest blogger and multi published author Vickie McDonough here on using the challenges we face in life to make the characters in your novels more realistic. She is also offering to give away a copy of her latest book!


By Vickie McDonough

Two and a half years ago, we had a horrible ice storm in Oklahoma. Power was off to nearly 2/3rds of the state, which was buried under two inches of ice. Trees had split in half, limbs had dropped off like leaves in a heavy fall breeze, cracked ice that had fallen from limbs resembling broken glass. The ground looked the aftermath of a tornado, and the streets were all but impassable.

But let me back up a step. Every fall I plant pansies. They are one of the few flowers that can live through our chilly winters and will sometimes still be blooming in January, if the temperatures don’t get too low. With two inches of ice on my precious flowers, I figured I’d have to replant again come spring. Well, much to my surprise, as the ice thinned, color began to show beneath it—purple, yellow, white. My pansies were not only still alive, but they were thriving—using the ice as nature’s greenhouse and the sun to warm them. When the ice was finally gone, I had the biggest and most healthy looking flowers I’ve ever had. Some blooms even measured four inches across. Amazing! Those little mis-named plants should be called “toughies” because they’d gone through hard times, persevered, and come out even stronger and prettier.

So, how does this relate to writing, you ask? As people, we all encounter difficult times—sickness, the death of a loved one, finanacial struggles, the loss of our home to fire—and sometimes to ice. It’s how we face those challenges that either make us stronger or show us that we have much more to learn. It’s the same with the characters in our books. Don’t be too nice to them. They must face obstacle, challenges, things that are going to make them want to give up and turn back—and sometimes they will, but they must learn something in each situation. Maybe the heroine is not as brave as she thought. Maybe the hero figured he was ready to remarry but realizes he isn’t—just before the wedding. Or, maybe he is.

Isaiah 41:10 says: So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. God never promised that we wouldn’t go through hard times, but He does promise to strengthen and uphold us.

Don’t be afraid to let the characters in your story suffer or face troubles. You know you will in real life, so use trials to make your stories more realistic. And know that when you—or your protagonist—walk through hard times—what you learn in those times will strengthen you and build character. And the next time you—or they—face difficult situations, things will be a little bit easier.

Finally a Bride, the third book in the Texas Boardinghouse Brides series, is now available. Here’s a little sneak peek:

Noah Jeffers returns to town determined to make up for past misdeeds. Will reporter Jacqueline Davis uncover his secrets before Noah can capture her heart? With nowhere else to go, ex-con Carly Payton returns to the Lookout boardinghouse. Garrett Corbett is looking for an upstanding wife, not some jailbird. What will he do when overpowered by Carly’s unassuming appeal? Be on the lookout for romance in Lookout, Texas.

Vickie McDonough is an award-winning author of 23 books and novellas. Her books have won the Inspirational Reader's Choice Contest, Texas Gold, the ACFW Noble Theme contest, and she has been a multi-year finalist in ACFW’s Book of the Year/Carol Awards. She was voted Third Favorite Author in the Heartsong Presents Annual Readers Contest in 2009. Vickie is the author of the fun and feisty. Watch for her new books from Moody Press, Texas Trails: A Morgan Family series, in which she partners with Susan Page Davis and Darlene Franklin to write a 6-book series that spans 50 years of the Morgan family. The first three books release this fall. Also, next year brings the release of a new series from Guidepost Books, Whispers on the Prairie, set in 1870s Kansas. Vickie hopes readers find her stories An Adventure into Romance.

Vickie and her husband live in Oklahoma. She is a wife of thirty-five years, mother of four grown sons and grandma to a feisty five-year-old girl.
When she’s not writing, Vickie enjoys reading, gardening, watching movies, and traveling. To learn more about Vickie’s books, visit her website:

Vickie is donating an autographed copy of Finally A Bride to one lucky commenter. If you don’t win and would like to purchase the book, it’s available online at, Amazon, and Barnes and Nobles and may be available in your local stores.

(for US residents only. Void where prohibited. Odds at winning depend on number of entries received)


Lee Smith said...

I didn't know you could plant them in the fall. I've only heard of planting them in the spring and usually they are fading by early summer because it gets too hot for them. I really like pansies too. As for torturing our characters, (lol) I'm not sure I've perfected that yet. I'm working on it though. ;o)

Thanks for the chance to win your latest book. leesmithwriting at yahoo dot com

Tammy Doherty said...

Great post, Vickie. It's hard to do "mean" things to our characters but so true that we need to. Thanks for the nudge :D

Up here in MA, we call them Ice Pansies - I love how they keep going even into the winter. To me, there's nothing more cheerful than the smiling "face" of a pansy flower!

mrst72443 said...

Oh yes I live in OK and remember that ice storm very well. Oh I love those pretty little flowers. My mama always had so many flowering our yard in "in my growing up days in ND".
I would LOVE to receive your newest book!
Many thanks!

Vickie McDonough said...


I imagine it depends on where you live as to whether you can plant pansies in the fall or not. Most years, mine survive and even bloom some all winter. And don't be afraid to create conflict for your characters. That's what makes a story great.


Wow, I didn't know pansies would grow in the cold of an MA winter. They're even tougher than I thought. :)


Howdy to a fellow Okie! I visited ND a couple of years ago. It's a pretty place--flat in many places--but pretty. Loved the Badlands area around Medora.

Thanks for stopping by!

Toni said...

I loved the blog article Vickie. It's the perfect time of year to write about flowers. I remember my great grandmother grew pansies in her yeard every year. And yes, our characters do need adversity to grow, just like some flowers do. Thanks for the great article.
Sincerely, Debby Lee

Josanne said...

Yes, I do love those pansies! With me as the planter, they have to be quite hearty! I've killed many an unassuming plant. I love how they endure through the winter and remain "smiling" through the spring. I remember the dark evenings by the fireside, sequestered by that unexpected icestorm. Every year since then, I have prayed for no ice storms and no tornadoes! Believe it or not, looking back, some fond memories actually emerged from the experience. It just goes to show you that out of darkness comes the light! I would love a chance to win your book, but I already have one and am enjoying it very much. I think it's the best one of all of the three Boardinghouse books. And I totally recommend reading the first two though, so you can get to know the backstory on the townspeople in the quaint little town of Lookout, Texas.

Salena Stormo - Writer said...

I can't wait to read your latest book, Vickie! Congrats and God bless!

Diana Lesire Brandmeyer said...

I read this book and found that her characters reflect this article. It's a fun book to read.
(don't enter me in the drawing as I have it.) Diana

Ginger said...

Flowers, flowers, flowers. I love flowers, but I've never planted pansies. I prefer perennials, roses especially, so I don't have to replant. How lazy is that?
I love your writing and look forward to reading your newest release.


Katy said...

Certainly count me in on this giveaway. Thanks for hosting this--Vickie's books look great!!

~ Katy

Melissa K Norris said...

Who can pass up a chance for a free book and flowers? Not me. :)
I too grow pansies, only one primrose made it past old man winter this year, but it looks great in the half barrel planter by the door.
I find it comforting to think that God can make me flourish no matter what ice storm maybe at work in our lives.

Sheri said...

I love pansies! They are one of my most favorite flowers. :o)

I would love to be entered into the drawing for Vicki's lastest book. I read the first one last week. Thank you for the opportunity.


Jason and Emily said...

Thanks for the interview and insight into creating trouble for our characters! When you get over feeling awful for tormenting them, it's actually kind of fun to stick them in the middle of disaster.

Thanks for the giveaway. Please enter me! I'd love to read this book!

Ann Lee Miller said...

Thanks for the chance to win Finally A Bride.