Who Lives Here, Really?

- by Charlotte Hubbard

collageLast year I sold a new Amish series to Harlequin’s Love Inspired line. I quickly concocted a new setting, new characters, and the ideas for several potential stories, and then when the editor bought my series I wrote a complete first chapter of the first book. Because I’ve had two other Amish series in publication for a while, I then went back to those worlds to complete some books. Now I have this new collage hanging above my computer so I can write the rest of this Harlequin book, entitled DEBORAH’S CONFESSION.


But who are these people?? (You can probably name several of them, but because I haven’t watched TV for more than 20 years, only Johnny Depp and Sean Connery conjure up any meaning for me. The others are merely compelling, provocative faces rather than real people who’ve led various lives on the screen.)


When I concocted this collage to give me a visual reminder of traits and emotions I’ll be dealing with in this series, I knew I’d be coming back to this point of writing about them after living in those other two series worlds . . . and even though I’ve reread the first chapter I wrote, and have now written a couple more chapters, these folks still feel like relative strangers to me. It’s not a comfy, cozy feeling. It’s more like Who are you people? And why did I think you had stories to tell?


I know my heroine Deborah—middle row, far right—the best, and I know Noah, next to her, second-best. I totally understand why she’s hiding the ordeal she’s just endured at the hands of the bishop’s bully of a son, just as I understand why Noah hesitates to forgive Deborah for breaking their engagement a few months ago. And I know that all the other characters are siding with Deborah rather than Noah.


And I truly love the new setting—an abandoned church camp, which Noah’s mom and her two sisters have bought by selling their farms in Coldstream, Missouri so they could start a new Amish colony at Promise Lodge. Can you picture the timbered lodge building and the long wooden tables in the dining hall? Can you feel the breeze in the shade of tall old trees as you squint at the sun diamonds sparkling on Rainbow Lake? Can you smell the chicken Rosetta fried for dinner?


Me, too.


So how do I make these characters feel like longtime friends who find themselves conflicted about the hometown they’ve left? How will Deborah confess what she walked into, unawares? And what happens if she tells the truth and Noah won’t believe her?


Only one way to find out: stop writing this blog post (and turn off the email and Facebook) and start writing on this book again! It’s a discovery process that only happens when the author is fully engaged in coaxing her characters to reveal themselves and their deepest needs.

See you next month.

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