Characters in Fiction Writing (An Outline)


  1. A character is the representation of a person. My guess is you knew that.
  2. The reader should be able to identify with and care about the characters in the sense  that  the characters seem real to the reader.
  3. The characters must do something, and what they do must seem reasonable for them to have done it.


Introduction of Characters

  1. Characters should be introduced early in the story.
  2. The more often a character is mentioned or appears, the more significance the reader will attach to the character.
  3. The main character should be introduced before setting so that the setting can be introduced from the point of view of the character.


Nature of Characters

  1. The nature of characters can be brought out through minimal description and the actions, thoughts, and dialogue of the characters.
  2. The writer should allow the reader to make judgments about the characters; the writer should avoid making the judgments for the reader.
  3. The feelings of the character should be demonstrated rather than told by the narrator.


Closing thoughts and Rules

  1. The nature of characters can be brought out through minimal description and the actions, thoughts, and dialogue of the characters
  2. The one rule about writing is that there are no rules. If it works, it works.


Sidebar – Cardboard characters: What they are and how to avoid them.

  • Cardboard characters.
    • A cardboard character is one who’s a stereotype.
    • They are a character whose every action or reaction is exactly what the reader would have guessed for the situation.
  • How to Avoid Cardboard Characters
    • Avoid them by inventing lives, backgrounds, attitudes, quirks, moods, etc. for all characters.
    • The bigger the character is, the more depth he or she gets.
    • Even the barista whose only scene is taking other characters’ order and bringing the coffee has a unique personality which needs to come out, however briefly.

Creative Commons License
Characters in Fiction Writing by Jimmie A. Kepler is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.


Announcing you are an author and writing a book takes courage.

You are putting yourself out there when you tell family, friends, acquaintances, and even strangers you are writing a book.


People will have different reactions. Some will show support. Others may get excited. A surprising number will be negative. The reactions are all over the spectrum.

If a parent, partner, or spouse isn’t supportive it hurts. I can hurt very deeply. For many writers finishing the first book is a lifetime dream. Just sharing you are writing exposes yourself.

Too often your spouse, parents and friends just don’t get it. They may even be shocked and horrified by what you write. Don’t be surprised if you write romance, erotica, violence, or horror that people are shocked by what you write.

When you write you put your personality into your book.

The book is an expression or who you are. It reflects your mores. Do not fool yourself, people will judge you by what you write. If it has Christian themes they may call you a religious nut. If it has shooting and beatings, they will call you gruesome. If it has sex they may think you are a sex fiend.

You’ll find the judgment of more severe when you have just one book. With only one book it becomes the lone standard by which you are judged and unfortunately, often attacked. When you get two or three or more books the public sees different sides of you. The more you write and publish, the more you bloom. You’ll find your self-assurance increasing. You will proudly declare you are a writer; you are an author.

It doesn’t stop here. Almost all will have an opinion about you and your writing

When you first start writing, you may be timid in letting others know you are writing a book. After all, almost everyone says they are going to pen the next great novel. You know lots of people talk about writing a book, but few really finish one. Dealing with the criticism and praise can be confusing.

You will confront disapproval, pessimism and judgement. You will wonder how family and friends can be so mean in their comments. You will feel worse as you share with beta readers and go through the editing process. It will feel like they are attacking you personally when they are just sharing their thoughts on the quality of your writing.

You have to be thick skinned. You have to listen to the editors and make corrections and grow. The criticism will start dying off as the editing process continues and you show them you are actually going to do this. When they see you can follow through, the kind words will follow. The criticism will decrease unless you have written on a hot topic.

The skeptics will diminish as you complete your project. If you give up and quit, be prepared to hear the I knew you didn’t have the self-disciple comments. Those comments are probably on target.

You’ll find how you react change to others over the writing process. At first you almost apologize for being a writer. Your self-confidence grows as you get further into and then actually finish the book. You become proud of what you have done.

There’s more. You can’t please everyone. Some will not like your book.

This is inescapable. You have to face. If you are the emotional type, this will be hard. You’ll soon learn if your temperament is right for this sort of work. This is really amplified when you are a new author and emotionally attached to your work. You may feel that a rejection of your book was a rejection of you. This isn’t the case, but it is a hard lesson to learn.

Here are a few thoughts to help deal with these experiences.

Realize that how you feel and react is normal.

You are just learning about writing books and the business of writing. Don’t beat yourself up. There will be enough others doing that to you. Be easy on yourself and learn from the experience.

When the hurtful comment is left as a review or when someone says it to your face, don’t take it personally.

Go ahead and take a deep breath, exhale slowly and do not rebut or argue with them. Ask yourself if it is useful criticism that you can try to use to improve your book. If yes, learn from it; use it. It might be jealousy. If so, smile and ignore it. Is it jealousy, or a comment that does not help?

Positive self-talk helps.

It took guts to write your book. Your view is valid. Remind yourself you can be an author. Remember you are creative. Self-talk is okay. Psych yourself up. Repeat and say over to yourself you can write the book. Someone once said, “Fake it until you make it!”

You can do it!

Writing and publishing a book is an attainable object. The one ingredient you’ll need more than anything is persistence. Take a long term view. Set deadlines and meet them! Most of all, enjoy the journey. If your writing touches one life or heart you are a success.

Remember, when people make remark about you writing and your dream of writing a book, just take a deep breath, nod, and carry on. It’s your dream. If you can dream it, you can achieve it.

Hold on tight to your dreams and then achieve them!

Picture Source:

That First Pro Writing Sale


Today I was sitting back and reflecting on the writer’s life. It got me to thinking. How did I get that first sale? That first book review?

Getting that first sale.

The first sale involved learning the system. I attended a Smokey Mountains Christian Writer’s Conference. I wanted to be a writer. I learned some of the basics of magazine article writing. Maybe the most important happening at the conference was meeting editors and publishers. I talked to several publishers who expressed interest in working with new writers.

Writing on speculation

All the editors required that I write on speculation. That means I write on the subject they assign, but they have no obligation to buy my work. It allows them to see if I can follow their rules, meet their deadlines, write saleable copy, etc.  It lets them see how thick-skinned you are and if you take criticism too personal.

A Kind Magazine Editor-Teacher

I had a kind editor who loved taking a few rookie writers under his wing each year and mentoring them. I had to rewrite six times before he bought the first article. My payment was 2 1/2 cents per word which were considered the base professional writer rate in 1981.  I received a check for $12.50, three copies of the magazine – one for me, one for my parents, and one for my wife’s parents. Plus my name was on the by-line. The article was published in a little magazine called “Sunday School Leadership” published by Lifeway Christian Resources. It had a circulation of over 250,000 subscribers. It was read by my church members, seminary classmates, and members of the 40,000 plus Southern Baptist Churches in the USA as well as most directors of Christian education of all denominations.

Have Patience

I wrote an article or two for this editor every year for the next 15 years. It took me over a decade before I got a cover article. Once I did get a cover article, I got one every year until he retired.  The first magazine article is very basic. It is attached and titled: Who Does What?

Where I wrote the piece.

I wrote the article in the Emory University Library in Atlanta, Georgia. I lived close to the campus. It was a favorite place for me to hang out and study.

I started reviewing books.

In 1989 I was approached about reviewing books. At the time I would put a book review about once a month in my church’s newsletter. My editor was on the mailing list and said I wrote good reviews. He recommended me to a colleague. The thought of having someone give me a book for free to read was exciting to me. I bought and read about 100 books a year. The article for the first book I reviewed is attached with the simple title Book Review“.

I wrote this article while sitting in my church bus. I had taken the senior adults from my church to an event in the Smokey Mountains. We had the afternoon free and had gone to tour the Vanderbilt Estate in Asheville, NC.  One lady refuse to visit the house. She was protesting paying homage to the wealthy and decadent lifestyle I think. Even though the cost of the tour was prepaid, she refused to go on it. It was autumn and cold in the mountains. I would not let her stay on the bus by herself. So, I sat out there on the bus all afternoon and wrote. I can write anywhere I think. The dear lady is still living and around 90 years old and still has strong convictions. The picture is of the Vanderbilt Estate.

What is my point?

What is my point? My point is if you love to read and write you can probably leverage it into a paying gig.  You will never get rich. I was reminded at the DFW Writers Workshop this spring that less than one percent of all writers can support themselves writing full time. So don’t quit your day job. If love writing why not go for it? Just write!

Not Everyone Thinks Being a Writer is a Good Idea

One of the extraordinary challenges you’ll face as a writer is the opinion of others toward writing as a profession.

You’ll face varied reactions from friends, family, day job coworkers, acquaintances, want to be writer friends and even members of your writer’s group when you are a writer.

A few people will say that’s nice. Some will start telling you about their great American novel plan. They may even offer to share the millions of dollars you can make together if you’ll just write the book using their idea.


You will find others not seeing you as a real writer if you don’t flesh out their vision of a writer. These are the people who talk about writing, but rarely or never put their behind in a chair and write. They only see the real writer as a person with a print book, who goes from book store to book store doing book signings or doing interviews. Of course, someone else has set up all the interviews and book signings. All they do is leave their five-star hotel room and ride the limo to the event.

Author’s Earning $1,000,000 or more per year.

“As of May 5, 2016, only three Big Five authors who debuted in the past five years are currently making a seven-figure run rate from their Amazon sales—print, audio, and ebook combined. On the other hand, 14 indies who debuted in the same time period are right now doing the same.”

Author’s Earning $100,000 or more per year.

“1,340 authors are earning $100,000 per year or more from Amazon sales. But half of them are indies and Amazon-imprint authors. The majority of the remainder? They come from traditional publishing’s longest-tenured ‘old guard.’

“Fewer than 115 Big Five published authors and 45 small or medium publisher authors who debuted in the past five years are currently earning $100,000 per year from Amazon sales. Among indie authors of the same tenure, more than 425 of them are now at a six-figure run rate.”

Author’s Earning $25,000 or more per year.

“More than 4,600 authors [are] earning $25,000 or above from their sales on Forty percent of these are indie authors deriving at least half their income from self-published titles, while 35 percent are Big Five authors deriving the majority of their income from Big Five published titles, and 22 percent are authors who derive most of their income from titles published by small- or medium-sized traditional publishers.”

“The vast majority of traditional publishing’s midlist-or-better earners started their careers more than a decade ago. Their more recently debuted peers are not doing anywhere near as well. Fewer than 700 Big Five authors and fewer than 500 small-or-medium publisher authors who debuted in the last 10 years are now earning $25,000 a year or more on Amazon — from all of their hardcover, paperback, audio and ebook editions combined. By contrast, over 1,600 indie authors are currently earning that much or more.

Source for the above:

Why so much mention of money?

Too many people use the financial bottom line as the reason to measure success or their reason for writing. They expect to write one book and make a million dollars.

Could it happen? Yes. Is it likely to happen? No.

Others want to see their name on the spine of a book or byline in a magazine. I confess it feels good to see either or both.

Why a person writes is personal. Here’s my story when I first shared my dream of becoming a writer.

My Story.

Summoned to my high school guidance counselor’s office, I learned not everyone thinks being a writer is a good idea.  I still recall the meeting as if it were yesterday.

“What are you going to do now that you failed your physical due to bad vision and you can’t use your appointment to the United States Air Force Academy,” asked my high school guidance counselor.

“I’m going to be an author,” I said.

“You can’t be an author,” she replied.

“Why can’t I be an author?” I asked. I wanted to be the next Kurt Vonnegut, Philip Roth, or Ray Bradbury. They were the best-selling authors of the day.

Her career choices for me came from the father role models on the popular television programs of the era. She wanted me to be the next Mike Brady (the architect dad on The Brady Bunch) or an aerospace engineer like Steven Douglas (My Three Sons).

“Jimmie, you’re a boy. You need a college degree in engineering, math, science, or accounting. You have to earn enough money to support your future wife and family. Forget your silly notion that a man can support himself by writing. It is okay to write for a hobby, but you will need a real job. With your grades and SAT scores you could aspire to be a doctor, dentist, or lawyer,” she said.

I was heartbroken.

Raised to believe I could do anything, because of my high school guidance counselor now I wasn’t so sure.

Has anyone ever laughed at your vision of writing?

Perhaps you have been told you lack life experience or you don’t stand a chance because everyone is writing now that they can simply self-publish on Amazon.

You may have feelings of doubt, thinking if only you had an MFA. If only your family and spouse supported you more. If you could quit your day job. Maybe you are in your sixties like me. You think it is too late. You say I am just too old. If only…

We all experience self-doubt. Friends and family do not always understand our passion.

Everyone faces such challenges. My faith as a Christian also helps me overcome such thoughts. Here are a few lessons I’ve learned.

Some people will never understand your passion for writing. Don’t bother trying to explain. Just let them watch as you write.


Reading is necessary for writing. Not only is reading the fodder for writing, it is fun. It also helps me relax as well as grow.


I know it sounds silly, but to become a writer you have to write. I have heard for years that it takes 10,000 hours to master something. 10,000 hours is five years worth of forty-hour weeks. Maybe that is why it takes ten years for so many to get that first traditional book deal. Do not be a want to be a writer. Write.


This includes proofreading, rewriting, and polishing. No one is perfect. Critique groups help as well as reputable professional editing services. Rewrite as needed.


To your surprise, someone may like and buy what you wrote.


Being rejected is not personal. Your writing may be bad. It may be good, but just not meet the publisher’s or editor’s needs. You may have submitted to the wrong market or not followed the submission guidelines (both guarantee a rejection). Every writer gets rejections. I have been rejected by the best. My rejections include The New Yorker Magazine, Asimov’s Science Fiction, and Poetry Magazine.


Selling a book or an article doesn’t guarantee success. Many times it means the real work is only beginning. Having your work accepted by a publisher feels good. It feels very good. Then comes the question, can you do it again?

Writers’ Groups.

Consider joining a writers’ group. I have belonged to three over the years. I have changed groups as I have changed. Some groups I have belonged to were for critique. Some have been to learn the business of writing. Some have been for the encouragement.

I know the thoughts I have shared are all items you have heard many times before. Sometimes a reminder is good. See the comments on dollars from Author Earnings may even be scary.

Don’t let the negative thinker stop you from chasing your dreams.

We all have people like my old high school guidance counselor in our lives. Do not let their negative words keep you from writing. If you have the urge to write, write! It’s not too late.

The formula really is simple. It is read, write, edit, rewrite, submit, and repeat. If your writing is good enough and if what you write matches the publisher’s need, you just may see your story in print.

Parts of this article were originally published in the June 30, 2014 issue of Author Culture.

Iamge source:


“Shades of Gray: A Novel of the Civil War in Virginia” by Jessica James

Let me start with a confession. I am a man. I read Jessica James’ “Shades of Gray: A Novel of the Civil War in Virginia”. I found the book interesting and engaging. I liked it!

The story is about Andrea (Sinclair) and Hunter. She is a southerner who works as a Union scout while hiding under a floppy hat impersonating a young man. Hunter is the confederate Cavalry commander. The beginning and ending of the book were excellent and deserve five stars.

The middle part of the book slowed down a little for me. A lack of action and repetitiveness had the middle lacking the magic found at the book’s beginning and end. I pressed on in my reading because of all the great reviews and awards “Shades of Gray” had received. I was wondering what I was missing. I am glad I continued reading and finished the book. The last third had me turning the pages and unable to put the book down.

The story line is Andrea is the Union scout with world-class horseman skills that gives Hunter fits. Andrea saves Hunter’s life. Their fates become intertwined. She goes to Richmond as a spy posing as a Southern woman. She is captured and reveals her true identity as a Unionist. She spends time in a dreadful prison. Eventually, she ends up near death under house arrest in Hunter’s home as he makes good on a promise (read the book to find out!).

Andrea and Hunter are inflexible to an obsession. Andre has a volatile temper. She and Hunter have a clash of wills and wits. Their attraction for each other builds throughout the novel. They finally admit their feelings, and nothing but difficulties come their way. About this point, the book grabbed me with their fighting and the plot twists where I just read the book straight through to the end.

Jessica James’ novel is very good. I am a Civil War buff, holder of a B.A. degree in history, former U.S. Army officer and reader of over a hundred books about the Civil War. That said, the book is up there with the best I’ve read on the Civil War. I am glad I continued through the middle and finished the book. Even guys will like the book!

“Shades of Gray: A Novel of the Civil War in Virginia” hit number one on in the romance/ historical category, beating “Gone with the Wind”.

Awards and Honors for “Shades of Gray”: 2008 IPPY Award, 2008 Indie Award, 2008 Book Of The Year Finalist (ForeWord Magazine), 2009 Top Five Best Southern Theme (Virginia Romance Writers), and 2008 Favorite Book by The Book Connection and Bookworm’s Dinner

jak-moustacheJimmie Aaron Kepler is a novelist, poet, book reviewer, and award-winning short story writer. His work has appeared in over twenty venues, including Bewildering Stories and Beyond Imagination. When not writing each morning at his favorite coffee house, he supports his writing, reading, and book reviewing habit working as an IT application support analyst. He is a former Captain in the US Army. His blog Kepler’s Book Reviews was named a 100 best blogs for history buffs in 2010. You can visit him at

Kepler’s Coffee House

Welcome To Kepler’s Coffee House

… where you can follow my journey as an Indie author. You will find tips and resources to help you as you write, publish and chase your dreams are a writer or poet.

Jimmie Aaron Kepler
Writer & Poet Jimmie Aaron Kepler

Howdy, I’m Jimmie Aaron Kepler. I’m an author and poet, just like you. On Kepler’s Coffee house I share my own lessons from my writing journey.

Why do I call it Kepler’s Coffee House?

Each morning for the last decade I have been getting up before sunrise and driving to my favorite coffee house to write.

  • I get there about 6 AM Monday through Friday.
  • I order a tall blonde roast coffee, retire to the same table and write for an hour.
  • I then pack up my laptop and head to my day job.
  • I give my first hour of the day to my writing.
  • This way I write before the worries and cares of the day distract me.
  • On Saturday I follow the same routine except I usually write for three hours and then go for a morning walk.

Over the years I have written three novels, dozens of short stories, over fifty magazine articles, and hundreds of poems following this schedule.

I have also made many mistakes. I want to share my journey to encourage you.

  • If I can do it you can do it.
  • I also want to try and save you time, money and heartache by sharing the lessons I have learned during my journey.

I have been traditionally published as well as self-published over the years. I sold my first magazine article way back in 1981. It appeared in the September 1982 issue of a Life Christian Resources magazine. I was paid 2 1/2 cents a word for the 1500 article. I received a check for $37.50 for the nonfiction piece.

I still am chasing my dream which is to transition to writing full time.

Curious about me? If you want to know more about me and my journey click the photo.

About Jimmie Aaron Kepler

Meet me each Friday at Kepler’s Coffee House to join me on my journey.

Happy writing!