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Put your Favorite People & Places to Work! By Becky Martinez

Finishing a book can be both a relief and letdown.

Yes, we are happy the book or story is finished and we can celebrate a feeling of accomplishment at having finally written The End to the project. But don’t you also feel sad about losing your daily contact with those characters and the place you’ve been visiting in your head for weeks or months? In some ways, moving on to a whole new project or book is comparable to moving to a new city or job.  You have to meet a whole new bunch of people and learn about the new place before you feel totally comfortable.  In some ways, staying in that old location – and with those familiar faces and people – can be more comforting.

As writers we need to constantly move into new places and greet new people every time we start a new book.  But what is wrong with returning to some of those same old people and places? Some writers do this by turning their stand-alone books into a series. They will take the town and/or characters from a past book and insert new people or move lesser characters into starring roles. That is a great idea, but having to concoct a whole story around some of those characters may not work. Instead, why not try putting those characters or places into a series of short stories?

 

Short stories options

When I wrote my novella, Shadows from the Past, I totally fell in love with Redfern Manor. The spooky old mansion where I had set the romantic suspense story stayed in my mind long after my heroine and hero had solved their mystery and moved on with their lives. For months I thought about working on a new story featuring the mansion and I finally started writing a new book about it, but I didn’t finish it. I moved on to other stories and other locations.

But in the past month I got the word that Shadows is being turned into an audiobook, and as I listened to the narrator take me back to Redfern Manor, I fell in love all over again. I picked up some of those old story ideas and realized I didn’t need to write a whole book about the place. Actually, Redfern is capable of accommodating lots of new stories. I decided to write a short story featuring the location.  And not just a short story, but a series.

The process made me realize it’s something other writers can do as well.  Turning a location or other favorite characters into a short story is something I have advocated in the past when I teach my short story classes.  Let’s keep those favorite characters working.  Let’s put those locations to work too. It’s not that they need an entire novel. Take your readers back to your favorite location by giving them short story that takes place in the same location.

 

 You can do the same with your favorite character as well.

Not every character you fall in love with deserves an entire book, but some of them we want to know more about. We want to test them in another way other than being just the second banana in our current novel. Who are these people? We can get to know them better and show them to our readers by giving them their own story.  And here’s the good news, with a short story, you don’t have to agonize over months of writing and re-writing. You can do it all in a month.

Why should you write a short story in a month?  Because you can! Because you can also sell it. Because you might also discover you enjoy writing short stories. Because you can get the feeling of accomplishment out of doing it.

That may all sound like hyperbole from someone trying to sell a short story class – which I just happen to start teaching in the next couple of weeks, but I make those statements because I have found them to be true. I love teaching the short story class because I have done it in the past and EVERY time I teach it I have someone – at least one – person who does write a short story during that month. It might have been a vague idea before we started out. It might have been already half done. But by the time we are finished someone – at least one or two people do it.  YOU can be that person.

 

Sometimes a novel can seem overwhelming. I know when I get about halfway through I start wondering if I’ll ever finish.

 

But a short story… a few scenes… I know I can write them.

Do my characters have to be fully formed? No, it’s a short story. And if I have placed those characters already in a past story, I already know them. Do I have to come up with a complex plot?  Heck no! This is a slice of life story or a problem that this particular character is facing – a decision that can be determined or a lesson that can be learned for a character in a short story.

I can also use the outside world of the novel I am already writing or the world I created for another book. It’s all there in front of me. I simply have to find a way to show it through this particular character’s eyes, but I already know where everything is.

So, put those characters, ideas, and locations to work.  I have to admit I hate leaving some locations behind when I finish a book and some characters I want to continue to keep in my life. So put them to work again.   You’ll get more out of your characters, out of your setting and perhaps out of your promotion too – because readers may want to visit that place again or want to know more about that person.


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Becky Martinez is a former broadcast journalist who writes romance and romantic suspense for The Wild Rose Press as Rebecca Grace. She also regularly teaches classes for Savvy authors and presents in-person workshops at writing conferences. With fellow author, Sue Viders, she has co-written a series of books for beginning and intermediate authors titled Let’s Write a Story. 7 Ways to Plot, Creating Memorable Characters and The Plotting Wheel are all available at Amazon. Their next book on Creating Great Villains will be available this summer.

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