Monday, July 30, 2018

Flat Characters

One of the greatest challenges for authors of fiction is to create characters who are multifaceted. It’s tempting to generate protagonists who are all-good and antagonists who are all-bad like the old cowboy shows where the heroes always wore white hats and the bad guys wore black hats. But life isn’t all black and white and our characters shouldn’t be either.

I’m reminded of the Flat Stanley Project in which many elementary teachers engage their students to encourage literacy. It involves the character, Stanley Lambchop, featured in a series of children’s books by Jeff Brown. Stanley is accidentally flattened and makes his way around the world in envelopes. 

In trying to give our characters personalities, authors often create individuals who are flat, predictable and stagnant. When I first started writing, I was guilty of creating flat characters who, although distinctive, were stereotypical in nature.

As I focused on the important skill of character development, I began to improve the depth and breadth of my characters. In my novel, The Dark Room, I worked on developing Stella’s personality to show that, while victims of domestic abuse display a typical profile, they can grow and change as they are educated about abuse. I wanted Stella’s character to exhibit increasing confidence and independence as she began to own her power and believe in herself. Edith and Mike were able to escape their unhappy pasts and find true love in each other. The child, Jodie, began to heal after escaping an abusive childhood, and her mother, Amy, at last had the opportunity to rebuild her life and her relationships after prison.

If character development is to be plausible, it is not always positive. Since this is true in life, it must also be true in novels. Sometimes people change in negative ways. In my soon-to-be-released novel, I Want to Go Home, Abby Jordan and her younger brothers grow and mature from their experience of homelessness, but their mother, Elizabeth, is unsuccessful in overcoming her addiction to alcohol.

While I prefer to read novels with happy endings, and I like to write novels with happy endings, I’m learning to develop my characters in a variety of ways. Some will triumph over life’s inevitable challenges while others will fall flat. However, that doesn't mean the characters are flat. Effective fiction imitates real life. Effective characters imitate real people.

Cindy L. Freeman is the author of two award-winning short stories and three published novels: Diary in the AtticUnrevealed and The Dark Room. Coming soon from High Tide Publications: I Want to Go Home. Website:; Facebook page: Cindy Loomis Freeman. Her books are available through or 

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Public Mistakes

I often feel like an impostor because I didn’t start this crazy ride as an author until after the age of sixty. Everything I know about writing, I learned on the fly, making many mistakes along the way.

In my music career, I felt confident. I had practiced, trained, studied, and practiced some more. I had earned a degree and many certifications declaring me competent in that field, and I had a successful, satisfying career. Of course, I made many mistakes through the years, but I had the confidence to learn from them and move on.

Where writing is concerned, I compare my journey to that of a child actor who is obliged to grow up in front of the camera, immature behavior, acne, bad decisions and all. Lindsay Lohan, Macauley Culkin, Britney Spears and others made poor choices as all youngsters do, but unlike most youngsters, they made them publicly. Even if they’ve learned from their blunders and grown into responsible citizens, they are forever identified by their youthful mistakes.  

I want to become a great writer, creating works of literature that resonate with readers through the ages. When I think about some of my favorite authors: Toni Morrison, Maya Angelou, C.S. Lewis, Charlotte Bronte, Jane Austen, to name a few, I aspire to write as well as they did. I hope, with practice, to grow and improve. In the meantime, my publisher expects me to sell books. So, I must promote myself, establish my brand, and build a public platform. Unfortunately, it means I must make my mistakes publicly, risking humiliation.

One of my novels, Unrevealed, drew the attention of an online troll. Chances are, this person neither purchased nor even read the book, but posted a negative review on Amazon just for fun. Even though all the other reviews are positive, this one nasty assessment decreases the overall rating for Unrevealed. After putting so much hard work into writing a book, it’s hard not to take the one negative opinion personally. Unfortunately, it’s a risk authors take when publicizing their work.

Because I understand how challenging it is to write and publish books and to market them, I am committed to reviewing the books I read. If I don’t enjoy them, I keep my opinion to myself. If I am heartened by what I read, I post an honest assessment on Amazon and spread the word among my acquaintances.

Helping other authors become successful doesn’t threaten my success. Disparaging authors who, like me, are developing their craft, learning from their mistakes, and struggling to sell their books serves no decent purpose and only diminishes the critic. I will continue to make mistakes because I’m still learning. But when it comes to pointing out the mistakes of other authors, I prefer to keep my mouth shut.
Cindy L. Freeman is the author of two award-winning short stories and three published novels: Diary in the AtticUnrevealed and The Dark Room. Coming soon from High Tide Publications: I Want to Go Home. Website:; Facebook page: Cindy Loomis Freeman. Her books are available through or 

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Taking the Plunge

I’ve never been the adventurous type. I’m perfectly content inside my head, and don’t feel the need to take risks. The most venturesome experience of my life was the time my husband and I went snorkeling in the Caribbean. Not a lover of water sports to begin with, I worried that I’d suck the whole sea through my snorkeling tube or perhaps be eaten by a shark. But when it was over, I felt proud of myself for attempting something far beyond my comfort zone.

Once I climbed back into the boat, my life had been forever changed. I had laid eyes on a stunning part of God’s creation that I could have never imagined: living coral, vibrantly colored fish and sparkling, white sand. More importantly, I had accomplished a feat that my timid spirit hadn’t dreamed possible.

Now that I think about it, becoming a novelist has been an even more venturesome undertaking than snorkeling. All my education, practice, and experience prepared me for a career in music education and music ministry. I had a long, satisfying, rewarding career, one that God called me to. But when it ended in retirement, I realized I had always wanted to write, too. Would God sanction this new pursuit? After forty-five years focusing on one discipline, was I brave enough to jump into the water again and swim in a different direction?

Afraid of failure, I had to dig deep for the courage to pursue a new dream. In the beginning, I made a lot of mistakes and took many wrong turns. I worried about drowning or being eaten by a shark in this strange, new world. But I prayed, researched, studied, and attended workshops and seminars. I took the risk and started expressing my thoughts on paper, never imagining my words would be published.

Now I’m writing every day—sometimes all day—and loving it. I’m meeting whole new groups of people: publishers, editors, fellow authors, and readers who enjoy my short stories and novels. Best of all, I know that God has led me in this new direction, and I’m trusting the outcome to God.

Not that being an author is easy. In fact, it requires a good deal of work. But like teaching and performing music, writing is fulfilling, often cathartic, and a true blessing. Like snorkeling, writing is an adventure I never could have imagined. I’m glad I took the plunge.

Cindy L. Freeman is the author of two award-winning short stories and three published novels: Diary in the Attic, Unrevealed and The Dark Room. Coming soon from High Tide Publications: I Want to Go Home. Website:; Facebook page: Cindy Loomis Freeman. Her books are available through or

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Going Home

More than most family occasions, weddings and funerals take us home. I’ve lived over six-hundred miles away from my childhood hometown of Palermo, New York for fifty-one years, but it’s still “home.” My husband and I have made our way up Route 81 to Central New York many times through the years. By car, the journey takes twelve hours or more, a fact that distressed our children when they were young. In those days, there were no electronic devices to keep them entertained.

As I write this blog, my husband and I are headed back to Williamsburg, Virginia after attending our nephew’s beautiful wedding in Skaneateles. In case you’re wondering, let me assure you I’m not operating the vehicle.

Now that my parents are deceased, we no longer return to the homestead in Palermo where I grew up. Rather, we stay with one sibling or another. With the change in venue, the experience is quite different, but home will always be home.

Lately, I’ve been writing a memoir consisting of vignettes about my childhood on our dairy farm. During our stay with my sister and brother-in-law, I asked my sister to read some of the stories and verify the accuracy of my recorded memories. Later, I’ll submit them to my brothers for review.

In some cases, my sister and I, only two years apart in age, remembered the events quite differently. In other cases, we shared a similar perspective. Whatever the extent of our recall, we enjoyed reminiscing about people, places and events that characterized the life to which only a sibling can fully relate.

Going home is unique to each person, and it isn’t always a positive experience. In my upcoming novel, I Want to Go Home, Abby and her brothers run away from all that is familiar. While they are on the run, they long to go home. Yet, home is nothing like it once was. Their father has died, they have lost their house, and their mother has succumbed to alcoholism. Yet, as they experience homelessness, hunger, and fear they yearn to go “home.” The desire to return to our roots seems to be instinctive, even if those roots have changed significantly from what we once knew.

Cindy L. Freeman is the author of two award-winning short stories and three published novels: Diary in the AtticUnrevealed and The Dark Room. Website:; Facebook page: Cindy Loomis Freeman. Her books are available through or