What Are Your Characters Doing?



Okay, you are writing a fantastic story and you have fifty-seven characters in your book. My question is, “What purpose do they serve?” You may think this a silly question, but if you put a character in a book, they had better have a specific job to fulfill. If they do not—delete them!

You know the purpose of your hero and heroine, but it is time to examine your secondary characters. Of course, your protagonists do not live in a world all by themselves, they interact with others. The characters you add must contribute something to move the plot forward. You do not need to give every secondary character a name, especially if they have no purpose. Example, the waiter, the butler, the maid, etc. The exception is if the waiter, the butler or the maid play a part, like planting a clue, killing someone, stealing something, or adding poison to a drink, then name them since you will talk about them later.



Definition of Characterization


Characterization is the act of creating and describing characters in literature. Characterization includes both descriptions of a character’s physical attributes as well as the character’s personality. The way that characters act, think and speak can be presented to the reader either by direct or indirect characterization. Direct characterization is when the author tells the reader what the character is like, while indirect characterization is showing the reader through the character’s thoughts, words, and deeds. Note:  Showing is always better than telling.

You never want to be criticized for having stock characters, flat characters, characters with no dimensions, poorly drawn characters, and so on. Your characters must be believable, people your reader can identify with. That means they are either like that person, or have seen people who act in that manner. Saying that a book’s characters are unbelievable is one of the worst criticisms that can be made in this day in age. Authors use characterization to flesh out their characters, show the characters’ motivations, and make the reader have empathy with the characters.


If you are writing a book with a murderer or a real bad guy, think about having a few scenes with the villain/murder’s point of view. Depending on the length of your book, hold it to about three, and keep the scenes short. The most important point is if you are in the villain’s OIVthe hero/heroine cannot be in the scene—only the bad guy. If the protagonists are there, the scene belongs to one of them and you cannot use another POV.

Use your protagonists’ POV to show the reader everything in the story. It is through the hero/heroine that all the other characters come alive since it is their POV that makes the difference. They will tell/show the reader who the other characters are, what they look like, and what they are doing. The reader will learn everything from the protagonists.

Go through your manuscript and examine your characters and what they are doing. Secondary characters can add a lot to a story, just do not let them take over! There are times a side-kick, or a best friend are so dynamic they try to become the star of the story. If that is the case, give them their own book because this one belongs to someone else! 

Some of TV's favorite break-out characters (as examples)


Kathleen Garnsey - Member since 1988

February Meeting - Microsoft Word Workshop

Join us for our first official meeting of the year as Sharon Kizziah-Holmes (founder/owner of Paperback Press) walks us through a  Microsoft Word Workshop. Learn the industry standard manuscript setup for easy editing, submitting to agents & publishers.

About Our Speaker

In her own words...

My interest in writing novels came in 1991 when a friend suggested we write a book together. I took her up on it. I joined writing groups, including ORA, and a whole new world opened up for me. I’m still a member of many of those groups and absolutely love writing, editing, publishing and doing writing workshops.

I live in the beautiful Ozarks with my husband our Cocker Spaniel, Dude. I have a wonderful, supportive family and many great friends. My life is blessed.

Sharon Kizziah-Holmes, our February speaker

Sharon Kizziah-Holmes, our February speaker

!!!!! IMPORTANT !!!!!

The February meeting will take place at the McAlisters at Battlefield and Kansas Expressway. Critique will be held at the McDonald's across from Hy-Vee at the normal time of 9 a.m. March meetings will resume at Midtown Carnegie Branch Library.

November Meeting: NaNoWriMo and Everything You Want to Know About Scrivner

November is a lot of things to many people: family get-together, holiday shopping, and travels. For writers, it's all those things and then some. November is National Novel Writing Month, also known as NaNoWriMo. NaNoWriMo poses the following challenge: can you complete your manuscript within 30 days?

That might seem ambitious, but the daily goal is a little more attainable: 1,667 words to get to 50k by November 30.

Well, we say attainable, but 1,667 words, for many, is a struggle on many days. And even if you are accustomed to getting out this many words or more on writing days, the rush to your daily word count has a way of seeming a little steeper as the month progresses.

Thankfully, there are writing aids available, which is going to be the subject of this November's meeting.

Kayla Griffith is an artist, teacher, aspiring author and lover of all things techy. She builds websites, professionally creates graphic art, and enjoys playing in the digital world. Kayla has used several (dozens) of online writing tools and apps and Scrivner is one of her favorites because of its flexibility and organization. Scrivner has been a key player each time she’s won NaNoWriMo and an even bigger player as she wrestled those 50,000 words into a viable novel. She has also used it to help others get their manuscripts ready for e-book publishing.

Kayla Griffith, ORA's November Speaker

Kayla Griffith, ORA's November Speaker

Meetings begin at 11:30 a.m., following our critique group at 9:00 a.m., and are typically hosted at the Midtown Carnegie Branch Library, located at 397 E Central Street. Meetings include the speaker’s presentation, news and discussion regarding upcoming literary events and opportunities, and conclude with door prizes.

Anyone interested in ORA is welcome to attend up to three meetings for free. Afterward, annual membership is only $25.

Interested? Let us know if you're coming!

Don't Be Modest, by Yvonne Erwin

Some time ago, I heard an author talk about the five plus one things he wished he'd known before he started writing a novel. One of the points he raised spoke to my heart. He said, "Write about something that scares you." Now, he didn't mean the "boo!" kind of scary. He was talking about writing about the dark stuff, delving into the unknown, pushing the envelope. In other words, writing it real.

I maintain that no writer worth their own spit can write without coming up against an uncomfortable subject sooner or later. It's got to happen or there is no story, no tension. Your work will be one-dimensional. An illustration might be, painting taupe on an off-white canvas. When you finish your great masterpiece, and stand back, crossing your arms over your chest, gazing upon your unparalleled work, what do you see? Blah. But, if you slam a bucket of wild red across the canvas, ah, then you've created interest. You've created dimension.

We worry too much about what others will think about what we write, and I think this happens often within a writers' group. It's difficult to reveal your words, your inner brain workings, to others. What will they think? Will they think it's dirty or lewd, or twisted somehow? Will they be grossed out? Will it be a reflection on me? We should not be so modest.


A writer must write in the moment. If your character is that person who unluckily became a by-stander in a convenience store robbery, and his face is pressed against the cold tile floor, you need to be able show your reader what the floor smelled like (all those rubber soles that went before, spilled coffee, did someone urinate in the corner?), the hoarse panting of someone an aisle over (sounds like a smoker's cough), how did it sound when the doors to the cold storage shattered as a bullet jetted through them, does he taste his own blood because one of the assailants slammed him to the floor (bitter iron paint, spewing from his jaws)?

There are more controversial subjects; i.e., rape, incest, family violence, terminal illness, divorce, death, mental illness, or murder. Point is, at some point you need to pick one and let yourself write about it. Push the envelope. Write about something scary. Let yourself be free with it.


Write about something that scares you to the bone when you go back and read it. And don't be modest. Do you think Stephen King got to where he is by being modest? 

Be honest, write in the moment. Write about something that challenges you.

About Yvonne Erwin

Yvonne Erwin is a contemporary women's fiction writer, living in Springfield, Missouri. Her passions include reading, writing, gardening, cooking, traveling and experiencing new adventures. She seldom goes very far without her camera, which she's nicknamed her "mini-me."

Currently, Yvonne is serving as President of the Springfield Writers' Guild, a chapter of the Missouri Writers' Guild, and is a member of Ozarks Romance Authors. In 2012, Yvonne won second place in the prose-fiction category in the 19th Annual Springfield Writers' Contest Literacy Contest.

Yvonne's first novel, "The Discovery of Joy," was released February 2, 2015, in the women's fiction category. Her second novel, "The Sisters of Madelaine Street," was released September 27, 2016.

Weta Nichols 2016 Finalists Announced

The finalists for the 2016 Weta Nichols Competition have been announced. Winners will be revealed on Saturday, September 17 at the final ORACON event. Be sure to be there! Register now and avoid paying more at the door!

Congratulations to the finalists of our 2016 Weta Nichols competition! And to everyone who submitted -- thank you so much for participating. Your stories were a joy to read.

These are your finalists (listed in no particular order)

Contemporary Finalists

Kristin Helling for The Idea Man

Brooke McBride for Edge of Us

Jessie Gussman for Turbocharged


Historical Finalists

Tim Blane for Love Bird

Olive Swan for Deadly Sins

Bonnie Olsen for Lily's Story: The Sanitarium Years


Paranormal/Sci-Fi/Fantasy Finalists

Athena Prescott for The Earth We Walk - The Pentacle Series

Toni J Strawn for Dream State

Katie Bennett for Delirium


Young Adult/Middle Grade Finalists

Kayla Griffith for The Color of the Mist

Kayla Griffith for The Necromancer of Possum Bluff

Cathy Morrison for Say Something

ORACON Schedule Revealed

Get ready for a fun, informative day as we explore independent and traditional publishing!

8 a.m.  


7:45–8:45 a.m.

Conference Registration & Continental Breakfast; KANSAS-OKLAHOMA BALLROOM

Headshots by appointment with Davis Photographic Design;                            ARKANSAS ROOM A


9:00 AM TO 12:30

Publishing Possibilities: What’s Possible                            

Presented by: Denise Grover Swank

Want to know what avenues are available to you in today’s publishing environment? NYT and USA Today Best-selling author, Denise Grover Swank, has done it all. Starting with her independent publishing career in 2011, Denise has books published independently, through Amazon’s imprints, traditional Big 5, and traditional Big 5 print-only. You don’t want to miss this inspiring morning talk about what’s truly possible!

Publishing Possibilities and Profit

Presented by: Sara Megibow, agent KT Literary Agency

Agent Sara Megibow believes in strategizing with authors on how to make the most of their books and careers. Join her as she discusses how to evaluate your publishing options (traditional publishing, small press or independent) through the lens of profit, including distribution, formats, and subrights. 

No Excuses: Writing Quality Books Through Hospitals, Heartache & Insert Disaster Here

Presented by: Sarah M. Anderson

Regardless of which publishing path you choose, authors are being asked to write faster and faster. How do you meet the demand while still writing quality books? And what happens when life throws you a curve (or three?). Join author, Sarah M. Anderson, who has published more than 25 projects in the last two years—one of which just won the 2016 RITA for best short contemporary!

12:30 – 1:15        Lunch – ILLINOIS BEDROOM


Attendees choose between INDEPENDENT and TRADITIONAL PUBLISHING track.  

1:30 – 4:15

A Deeper Look at Independent Publishing

The Business and Marketing Side of Independent Publishing

Presented by: Denise Grover Swank

Join Denise as she takes you through the business and marketing of independent publishing, including how to create a business plan for yourself and how to help your book find its audience. 

Working with an Editor

Presented by: Holly Atkinson, Evil Eye Editing

Join Holly as she discusses the importance of having your independently published work edited well, how to find an editor that’s a good fit for you, and more.

A Deeper Look at Traditional Publishing

Queries and Agents and Contracts, Oh My!

Presented by: Sara Megibow

Your book is done and you’d like to explore the traditional publishing route. Now, you need to figure our how to query in a way that will grab an agent’s attention, how to vet an agent, what an agent can do for you, and all that jazz. Join Sara Megibow as she digs into the possibilities.


Brave Writers Query Workshop

Have a pitch ready? If you’re brave enough to pitch it in public, Sara will workshop the pitch with you so that you (and the supportive listening audience) can learn what an agent is looking for, and turn your pitch into the perfect query you can take back with you to e-mail those agents with on Monday!

It’s All About That Distribution…

Presented by Sarah M. Anderson

Having published traditionally, small-press and independently, Sarah shares with us her thoughts on the best route for getting your books into the hands of readers.

Q&A With All Industry Guests – KANSAS & OKLAHOMA BALLROOM

4:30 - 5:00

We’ve heard a lot of fantastic information today about the Publishing Possibilities available to us in 2016. Here’s your chance to ask any lingering questions of our speakers!

Awards and Raffles - 5:00 - 6:00 


What are you waiting for?


Monthly Meeting - Saturday, August 6

Join us on August 6 at the Midtown Carnegie Branch Library for Ozark's Romance Authors' Monthly Meeting. It's time to nominate board members for 2016-17, plus we have a lot to discuss about the direction ORA will be taking. Do we want to change some of the board positions and/or add new positions? Do we want to hire someone to handle some tasks? Do we want to continue holding our annual writing contest? What about our conference? These are only some of the BIG decisions we need to make. Come help shape ORA's future!

ORA meets in the basement of the Midtown Carnegie Branch Library in Springfield, MO at 11:30 a.m.

Join our critique group at 10 a.m - 11:30 a.m. Want your work reviewed by talented writers and published authors? Bring twenty copies of up to five pages of your work to share for critique or just listen and offer advice.

NEW! ORA Critique Groups

Hello ORA members! 

Based on membership feedback, the ORA board has been working on building the foundation for critique groups within our membership. We are excited to introduce our new writers’ critique groups at the August meeting.

Kayla Griffith has volunteered to be the coordinator of the groups and will explain more about them at the meeting. She has ten years of experience at creating online critique partnerships and is delighted to fill this role for ORA. 

While there are many types of critique groups, our first set will be the type often referred to as “Concept to Completion.” Basically, each author will bring a new or newly begun story to their group and write it over the next few months with help and input from their critique group members. Getting weekly feedback from fellow writers is one of the best ways to improve writing, and we hope our members can use this powerful tool to become stronger and more prolific writers.

Once the first critique groups are up and running, Kayla can help facilitate others with a more specialized focus. Come to the meeting to find out how to get signed up for this amazing writing tool and find out what other options might be available in the future. 

Monthly Meeting - Saturday, June 4

Join us on June 4 at the Midtown Carnegie Branch Library for Ozark's Romance Authors' Monthly Meeting. We'll be continuing our conversation on craft with Katy Madison presenting Shrek's Guide to GMC.

ORA meets in the basement of the Midtown Carnegie Branch Library in Springfield, MO at 11:30 a.m.

Join our critique group at 10 a.m - 11:30 a.m. Want your work reviewed by talented writers and published authors? Bring twenty copies of up to five pages of your work to share for critique or just listen and offer advice.

Please NOTE: This meeting will be a long one. While ORA meetings tend to last an hour, some topics require more depth and discussion. The June meeting is expected to run at least two hours.

Photo by Eric Anderson

Photo by Eric Anderson

Katy Madison has always loved stories.  As a child she was always lugging a book around.  At the age of eight, after having gone through over a hundred Nancy Drew mysteries, all the Laura Ingalls Wilder books—at least twice—and many others including her full weekly allotment of library books, Katy went to her mother and begged for a new book to read.  Her frustrated mother handed her a romance novel.  Katy fell in love with the romance genre.  She quickly found where her mother hid the rest and began sneaking them out to read.  She cut her eye teeth on books by Georgette Heyer and Mary Stewart, not to mention dozens of Barbara Cartland’s.  With a nod to great Gothic novels like Jane Eyre and Rebecca, Katy offers up her gothic romance Tainted by Temptation.

Katy makes her home with her family and two cats on a tree-lined street in Kansas City.  She thinks there is nothing better than a curling up in front of the fireplace and escaping with a good book while a storm rages outside. Except maybe the beach without the storm, plenty of sun, and, of course, a good book.

The Early Days of ORA

A guest blog by founding Ozarks Romance Authors Member, Kathleen Garnsey.

In December, 1987, on my way to Christmas shop at the mall, I dropped my sister-in-law, Flora Opal, at Shoney's on Battlefield and National for a meeting of a new writer's group called Ozarks Romance Authors. There were several other groups at the time, but none of them wanted to work with romance writers. A woman named Weta Nichols decided the Springfield, Missouri, area needed a romance writers’ group. 

Romance writers back then were looked down upon by other groups, and not recognized as legitimate writers. There are some writers, even today, who don't give romance authors their due credit, but it has gotten better.

Weta, a prolific romance author, wanted a group that catered to romance writers only, whether published or upcoming, so she began ORA. At the time we were a chapter of RWA (Romance Writers of America) and all our members had to belong to the national organization. So in 1988, I joined ORA and RWA and began learning how to write a romance.

Weta Nichols, founder of ORA

Weta Nichols, founder of ORA

ORA soon became a viable alternative for anyone interested in writing. It was Weta's intention for ORA to cater to the art or writing the romance, since no other group would. If you write romance, you quickly learn it is a unique genre that requires certain elements not required in other genres. In a romance, the relationship is the main plot, and everything else belongs to the secondary plot. Everything revolves around the hero and heroine, and their passion to find everlasting love with one another while they work through problems and adversity. The ways in which that happens are unlimited, but the relationship is the primary reason for the story. With that said, good writing is good writing, no matter the genre, and the learning process is always necessary.

In the early days, we had speakers who educated us on writing the romance, and how to use plot, characterization and conflict to create an exciting book that included adventure, and the happy ending of true love found.

We learned how to write love scenes with the secret formula revealed: What is happening in their heads is more important than what their bodies are doing. Once I learned that, I was able to write those scenes effectively with the proper impact for the reader. Many of the presentations were by very successful published members who joined ORA, including:  Lois Kleinsasser, aka Cait Logan/Cait London, Lori Copeland, Norma Brader, Laura Abbot, Carla Kelly, Suzann Ledbetter and Terri Valentine. These ladies contributed a lot to ORA at meetings and conferences and we owe them a vote of thanks and gratitude.

The group decided it needed a newsletter, so Flora Opal and I accepted that responsibility—yes, pre-Microsoft Word and Publisher. We typed, cut and pasted together an eight page newsletter which we took to the copy shop for printing, then folded, addressed and mailed them to our members and supporting RWA groups. The first ORA newsletter was created and mailed in April 1989. Oh, the good old days. We included articles from other RWA groups, and they used articles we wrote, so there was a lot of "how to" articles which everyone enjoyed. Those were fun times, typing and gluing everything for fliers, posters, and anything else necessary for newsletters and conferences. It was a time of learning and creating a writer's group that would survive the years and grow into what it is today.

Our first conference: I was on that first committee and did so many jobs I'm not sure what my title was, but we all worked hard to put on that conference. The date was September 16, 1989 and we called it "The Heart of the Matter." We held a Friday evening wine and cheese party in conjunction with a book signing at the mall. We hired a trolley to take attendees from the Sheraton Inn, where the conference and party was being held, to the mall for the signing. We even managed to get Bantam Books to pay the cost. We had so little money then that we had to beg our members to pay their conference fees early so we could pay for printing costs for conference mailers! We all worried how we would pay the hotel bill if we did not get enough attendees, since there was a minimum charge to use their facilities. I don't have the exact number, but it was a major success with more people than we dreamed possible, over a hundred. We were able to pay the hotel bill and pocket a bit for future endeavors.

At the time we had no idea how many conferences we would have, or who would attend. All we knew was there was a basic need for the information only we could provide for those writers who wanted to write romance, and create a book to be proud of, a book a publisher would accept. We had speakers that addressed query letters, agents, rejections, and success stories. The information has changed drastically over the years—with paper publishers falling by the wayside and electronic publishing taking over the industry in a dramatic and all encompassing way—a giant sweep no one saw coming.

As much as things change, they also stay the same. All of the writing elements we learned "way back then" are being presented to you today. The teachers and presentations may be different, but the information is timeless and necessary. We have the same appetite for writing and creating stories that people want to read. We have always had members from rank beginners to authors on the best seller lists, and every level in between.

Yesterday, today and tomorrow have blended together to form a group that has made a real name for itself, that has developed and grown from a handful of women to the number of authors we have today. We began the Weta Writing Contest at the time of our second conference, although it was not named after Weta until after she passed away. We wanted to honor our founder and thought that would be a fitting tribute since she was so extremely proud of her group and the way it had grown.

The 2016 Weta Nichols Competition is now accepting submissions

The 2016 Weta Nichols Competition is now accepting submissions

I was asked how romance writers were looked at way back then and how has it changed. It may be just me, but I feel romance authors receive more respect today than in years past. The romance genre has a massive readership, and a large part of the book market. Romance novels have been around forever, and will continue to be a viable genre to write. Romance writers should be proud of their genre, and the ability for the romance market to maintain and grow readership.

There are very few "early" members still in ORA, but those of us who are, have truly enjoyed the journey of beginning something that has endured and grown into the fantastic organization it is today. All of our hard work paid off, and as one of those "early members", I want to welcome everyone to the finest writer's group I've ever belonged to, and the one I hold near and dear to my heart. Please enjoy everything ORA has to offer, and know that many came before you, and hopefully many will come after you. My favorite greeting, "Welcome to ORA—the best writer's group around!"

Kathleen Garnsey—Member since 1988



Craft - Continued!

Join us on May 7 at the Midtown Carnegie Branch Library for Ozark's Romance Authors' Monthly Meeting. We'll be continuing our conversation on craft with the discussion of Characterization and Identity vs. Essence.

ORA meets in the basement of the Midtown Carnegie Branch Library in Springfield, MO at 11:30 a.m.

Join our critique group at 10 a.m - 11:30 a.m. Want your work reviewed by talented writers and published authors? Bring twenty copies of up to five pages of your work to share for critique or just listen and offer advice.

NOTE: The JUNE meeting will be a long one. While ORA meetings tend to last an hour, some topics require more depth and discussion. The June meeting is expected to run at least two hours. More information to come at the May meeting.

December Meeting

Monthly Meeting – Saturday, December 5, 2015 - Annual Potluck and Christmas Gift Exchange

We will be starting with our annual potluck dinner at NOON. Instead of a monthly speaker, we will have our Dirty Santa gift exchange. Please bring a $10-$15 gift, wrapped or in a gift bag, if you would like to participate. Regifting is fine as long as the item is in excellent condition and good taste.

The December 5 meeting will be at the Midtown Carnegie Branch Library, 397 E. Central St., Springfield, MO. We'll be at the Creamery for our Mega Critique Group and Write-In in January, then back to our regular location at the Library Station starting in February.

Join our critique group from 10 a.m. to Noon. Want your work reviewed by talented writers and published authors? Bring twenty copies of up to five pages of your work to share for critique or just listen and offer advice.

November Meeting

Monthly Meeting – Saturday, November 7, 2015 – Sherry Foley – “It’s all about that platform”

Sherry Foley

It’s all about that platform! But…wait…what exactly is a platform? Is it a one size fits all? We will discuss the dos, don’ts and dibs on defining what a platform is and how to create a solid on which to stand.

Sherry Foley is the author of the Captive Series and Switched in Death. She also is the managing editor at WinterGoose Publishing. Her next book is based in her hometown of Springfield, Missouri and releases in 2016.

Twitter: @sherry_foley Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Sherry-Foley-Author/253958441304150

Please note that in November, ORA will be meeting at the Midtown Carnegie Branch Library, 397 E. Central St., Springfield, MO. The speaker begins at 1:00.

Join our critique group from 10 a.m. to Noon. Want your work reviewed by talented writers and published authors? Bring twenty copies of up to five pages of your work to share for critique or just listen and offer advice.