Thursday, October 10, 2019

When the Writing Gets Tough, Go Shopping.

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When the writing gets tough, go shopping!
What better place to search for characters than a mall, where people of all shapes, sizes, colors and styles happily gather. Without interfering in their enjoyment, I can study and choose from thousands of character traits, personality flaws and secrets – free to the discriminating shopper.
            I’ve tried shopping at home with catalogs. It sometimes works for a minor character, but it’s hard to tell if I have a good fit without seeing the actual character in motion. All those idiosyncrasies that make my characters special come out in public – their walk, laugh, voice. Perhaps what I’m looking for is the way they hold their head, cling to a boy friend, or talk with their hands. Too much personality remains unnoticed on a still life, one-dimensional photograph in a catalog.
            So I settle down to window shop.
My first “purchase” is not your stereotypical hero. His belly’s a bit too large; his face beginning to show the first stages of age. Gray threads his hair and his laugh is a bit too loud. But he also has the nicest smile I can ever recall and the kindest blue eyes. His gentle gaze speaks of trust and honesty and I immediately realize I want him in my book. He will make the best “best friend” anyone can have.
I turn my head at the sound of male laughter. Cowboys. Are they real or wannabes? They lean against the railing and I study them as they study girls. I have my pick of sizes, the tallest being well over six foot. If I take a composite of the group, I just might have my hero. Let’s see – a mustache from the third guy; the blonde’s hair; and the tall one’s smile, his lips lifting a little higher on the right than the left.
I like the tall one’s attitude. As I watch, his face never changes expressions. He’s aloof, trying to look disinterested. His thumbs are hooked in the belt loops of his jeans; one boot crossed in front of the other. While his body language might indicate he’s bored with this activity and wants something more exciting, his eyes tell another story. Twinkling green, slight crinkles at the corners, they laugh and mock and never miss a thing.
As though one entity, they turn to follow a group of girls when they pass. Red-blooded, American boys to the core, but I’m still not sure I can use them, so I study their walks. Only one has the rolling gait of a cowboy—someone who actually spends time on a horse. It’s the tall one; the guy with laughter in his eyes and the crooked smile.
I watch them walk away, and he turns and touches his forehead as though tipping his hat. And then he winks at me.
Oh, yes, I definitely need a cowboy in this book.

Developing characters is such a fun part of writing a story. They soon take on a life of their own and often go in a direction I couldn’t have imagined. I found my cowboy in Tenderhearted Cowboy. Joe is on a quest that I never thought he could complete, but with Sky’s help and love, anything is possible. You can read more about them on my website and I hope you grab a copy of this historical romance and get lost in Joe and Sky’s story.

Barbara Baldwin



  1. Nice way to find characters. Each of us finds a way to bring characters to life. I've enjoyed your stories

  2. Unusual slant on finding characters, but certainly a good idea. Unfortunately when I spend too much time at the shops I also spend too much money.

    1. Tricia, I know what you mean. Take your journal in and not your wallet!


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