poetry and prose about place

Posts Tagged ‘character


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'blackberry afternoon'




in black



down the middle

of the street

oblivious to traffic


dark mists

and Avalon

the perfect rupture of sky


from her fingers

black threads

spin skirt

and widow’s weeds


black painted nails

blackened sockets of eye

her lips black also

from a feast of berries



All my best.



Written by jane tims

June 26, 2020 at 7:00 am

writing a novel – draft by draft

with 2 comments

Title: Unknown

Working Title: ‘Crossing at a Walk’

Setting: a writers’ retreat – the renovated Landing Church, the hall and the rectory – now used as a Learning Center, a Sleeping Hall and a home/base of operations

Characters: main character Sadie, a writer and manager of a weekend writers’ retreat; her husband Tom, a retired welder; people from the community; writers participating in the first weekend of the writers’ retreat

Plot: Some of the participants in the writer’s retreat become interested in the carving of a woman’s name in a local covered bridge

Story: Sadie works to make the first writers’ retreat go smoothly, but forgets to keep her own life on track


Wheaton Bridge

Wheaton Bridge (Tantramar River #2) in Westmorland County, New Brunswick. This is the bridge where I found the PHOEBE carving in 1992. We re-visited the bridge in early June and the carving no longer exists, probably lost to necessary bridge maintenance.


As I complete work on the fifth draft of my novel ‘Crossing at a Walk’, I am planning how to further improve the book. I am now at about 82,000 words.  I have defined the story and the plot.  Now I have to complete the editing phase.


This blog has proven to be a valuable tool in writing.  It helps me to check my progress against my first book, and to make sure I don’t forget steps in the editing process.  To help with this process, I have made the table below to chart my progress through the various drafts.


Number of words Tools used Objectives
Draft #1 32,000
  • Write early ideas and scenes
  • Create plot
Draft #2 54,000
  • Story board
  • Table of Contents
  • Create story arcs, character story arcs, other sub-plot arcs
  • Define plot and story
Draft #3 65,000
  • Story board
  • Table of Contents
  • Tables showing occurrences of characters and symbols by Chapter
  • Refine story arcs
  • Define symbols
  • Define characters
Draft #4 77,000
  • Reading start to finish
  • First edit (passive voice, adverbs, repeated words, etc.)
Draft #5 83,000
  • Reading aloud
  • SmartEdit for Word program
  • Deep edit (better word choices, repeated words and phrases, punctuation)
Draft #6
  • Reading aloud
  • Reading start to finish
  • Paragraph by paragraph editing
  • Character by character editing


  • Refine  setting descriptions and dialogue
  • Make consistent
  • Obtain opinions on technicalities, plot and story
  • Consider carry-over elements from first book to second, and second book to third
Draft #7
  • Reading start to finish
  • Beta Reader
  • Final author edit
  • Obtain opinions on readability, plot and story


During Draft #5, I began reading my book to my husband and to the members of my two writing groups. Reading aloud is the first test of my audience and helps me find many errors.  In particular, I am able to hear words I have repeated in near proximity to one another.


Also during Draft #5, I have used a tool I found useful in the writing of my first book.  This is SmartEdit for Word  ( a ‘first-pass-editing tool’ designed to help identify errors and problems with writing.  It is Word compatible and works directly with my Word documents. It identifies clichés, adverbs, repeated words and phrases, punctuation errors and so on.  Although it doesn’t take the place of a human editor, it shows the writer possible areas for improvement. SmartEdit for Word can be used free for 10 days or can be purchased for a reasonable price.  I have found it to be trouble-free and worth the cost.


As I begin Draft #6, my objectives are to make elements in the book consistent. This includes listening for the way characters speak, making certain settings are described completely, and ensuring the story arcs are coherent.  I also have to think a little about the third book in the series, so I know what characters I will need and know if I have to make small plot adjustments.


Have you ever used editing software to help with your writing?


Copyright  2015  Jane Tims

Carving of the name Phoebe on a beam of the Tantramar #2 Covered Bridge near Sackville, New Brunswick

Carving of the name Phoebe on a beam of the Tantramar #2 Covered Bridge near Sackville, New Brunswick


Written by jane tims

July 3, 2015 at 10:10 am

writing a novel – the community as a character

with 9 comments

One of the first things I did as I was beginning my novel is create character sketches for the people in my book.  By knowing as much as possible about the characters, I knew how they would react in any circumstance.

As I wrote, I began to wonder of the community itself could be a character in my book.  Communities certainly have characteristics… they may be tolerant or intolerant, modern or traditional, rural or urban and so on.  Sometimes a community has a mixture of these characteristics.

Famous examples of books where the community has character include Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird (J. B. Lippincott & Co., 1960) and Peyton Place by Grace Metalious (Julian Messner, Inc., 1956).

People in the community in my book will respond to the abandonment and disposal of a church both as individuals and as members of the community.  In any community, places of worship are important.  Churches are important to the community for their religious significance, but also for their historical connections.

Communities in rural New Brunswick, as elsewhere, are not homogeneous.  In my own community, there are people whose families have lived here for generations.  Other families have just moved here, attracted by the community’s rural character and by its nearness for commuting to work.  Sometimes this heterogeneity is a source of divisiveness in a community.  More often people from these different parts of community live together in harmony, coming together for school events, community sports or just neighborliness.

The community in my novel will also be heterogeneous, composed of people of different backgrounds and interests.  For simplicity’s sake, I am thinking of them in three categories.

1.  Many of the characters in the community will be part of the ’embedded community’, people whose families have lived in the community for generations.  These will include most of the members of the church congregation.


folks who were born and raised in the community
they all have good eyesight or wear contacts
second from the left is the Minister, Oliver Johnston

2.  Other characters will belong to the ‘commuter community’.  These will be people who have moved into the community from away.  They love its rural qualities.  The community is also near enough to the city for them to be able to work there.

commuter folk

the one on the right is my main character
the man to the left of my main character is her husband… looks a little like a movie star from the 50s
I went to university with the lady on the far left

Of course, within these groups will be people who have their own interests and loyalties.  For example, there may be members of the commuter community who fit very well with the embedded community.  There will be those who are part of the congregation of the Landing Church and those who are not, those who will be interested in the church because of its historic importance and those who are not that interested in preserving its history.

3.  There will also be a negative element in the community in my book.  This element will behave very badly and I think of this as the  ‘aberrant community’.

Ed Blake

Ed Blake, the ‘bad guy’ in my novel
my sister will say he looks like Spock from Star Trek


To help me plan the interactions between these three community components and the main character, I made a graph to guide my main character’s relationships through the book.

community as character


I want the protagonist’s relationship with the aberrant component of the community to begin on a neutral note and deteriorate with time.

Her relationship with the commuter component of community will begin high and remain that way throughout the book.

A main source of tension in the book will be her relationship with the embedded component of community.  At first, she is an outsider who thinks she can solve everything by moving and re-purposing the church, and her relationship with the embedded community is very poor.  However, during the book, she learns to be more understanding about the community and they learn she is not really so bad after all.    This relationship will grow in a positive direction during the book.

As I write, I will check with my time-line to see if the relationships I am writing about are staying true to my graph.


Copyright  Jane Tims  2012

Written by jane tims

December 12, 2012 at 7:31 am

writing a novel – why couldn’t I invent a ‘character generator’?

with 5 comments


So the poet has decided to write a novel…


Title: unknown

Working Title: unknown

Setting: an abandoned church (in part)

Characters: main character a writer (not a very successful writer) who spends a lot of time at some other creative endeavor

Plot: unknown


Characters are the stuff of novels.  I am sure someone has written a novel without characters, but for me … no character, no action … no character, no growth …

The characters in my novel were not in my head before I started writing.  Once I knew a little about my setting, I began to write and the characters began to suggest themselves.

A lot of writers have said this to me.  Begin the story, and the characters and plot will start to unfold.  Stephen King says (in Chapter 4 of his book On Writing – A Memoir of the Craft, Scribner, 2000): ‘Stories are relics, part of an undiscovered pre-existing world.’   So, with not much more than an idea for the setting, I began to write.

My main character emerged as I started to write about the setting (the old abandoned church).  I like to write in the first person, so this character was immediately ‘I’.  But, of course, this does not mean my protagonist is ‘me’.

Before I had written three pages, I knew my main character, the ‘I’ in my book, wanted desperately to be a successful writer.  But she (still not ‘me’) was also noticing things in the setting that showed she was doing something else with most of her time.  Whether she admits this to herself or not in the book, it will be revealed to the reader.  Or perhaps a clue is contained within this post…

So, I have my main character.  But what about the other characters?  Why couldn’t there be a tool for writers called the ‘character generator’, a simple device a writer could use to build the basic characters.  Get the characters and the story writes itself, correct???

My ‘character generator’ would look a little like one of those oragami-type fortune-tellers we used to make in school.  A number was chosen, fingers flopped back and forth and some ‘secret’ was revealed.

My character generator would be similar, only it would tell the color of the character’s hair, perhaps if he or she was timid or brave, and what sort of work she or he would be good at… a very three-dimensional character… well, it’s a start…

So you think this idea is too ridiculous for words???  Did you know (I discovered this from reading Stephen King’s On Writing ), in the 1920s a writer named Edgar Wallace is credited with creating a Plot Wheel.  When a story-teller came to an impasse, all the writer had to do was consult the Plot Wheel to see what should happen next.  Once the wheel was spun, the writer could read the result… perhaps one result would be ‘heroine tied to railroad track’ or ‘heroine rescued’…  Since then, I suppose many computer-based plot generators are available.  I think I will discard my idea of a simple ‘character generator’.

So, now I have a main character who is a writer, but who spends most of her time in some other creative endeavor than writing.  Perhaps this is where her real talent lies, or perhaps it is a ‘diversionary activity’.  Perhaps she is just using this to avoid facing her fear of never becoming a successful writer.

You see, ‘I’ is not ‘me’.

Copyright  Jane Tims  2012

Written by jane tims

November 23, 2012 at 7:30 am

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