Teaching a Writing Workshop 

This month, Wright and I spent some time at Wildrose Cottage, catching up on some much needed book promotion and re-stocking of the Wildrose series at various stores that market my books. Since the setting for the series is in Fairfield County, the interest in the books and various related topics are sometimes demanding for this author who does not live locally. So…I plan a number of events during the week before my hubby flies home for the weekend.

This time, I had a high school class reunion planned, a book signing, and a radio interview all in the same week. Of course, I wanted to look my best so my high school chums would at least recognize me! 

The radio interview was first. The hour long prerecorded “Talking with Tina” was scheduled for Wednesday. We arrived at the cottage on Tuesday and I was looking over my talking points on the way to the studio. I was a bit distracted to say the least. Getting out of the car, I tripped over the car stop, did a three point landing on the cement on my right side. Thank the Lord, nothing was broken but my face and arm was skinned, and (oh no!) my Brighten sunglasses which probably saved my face from further damage, were ruined. Needless to say, no interview happened that day. I rescheduled with Tina and went to the cottage to ice myself down. I attended the reunion with wrist band on wrist, scabs on nose and forehead, and purple lips. So much for looking good! Oh…vanity. The Lord knows how to keep us humble.

 Book signing

 Book display in the Hocking Hills area

“The Character Takeover”

(Excerpt from FIWR Writers Retreat)

When writing an inspirational novel, the writer must be able to birth a living, breathing personality, a person so real that the reader cannot separate the created form from reality, fact from fiction. To create a mere character from your imagination is somewhat like painting a picture. In the beginning, the work is flat with little detail. However, if you can breathe life into your character with enough desirable traits, shortcomings, and realistic physical attributes so that she shoves you—the writer, out of her way, then you have created in the minds of the reader, a living person. When the reader can identify with the character and mentally interact with the person you have created, now that is a great character.  

 ©2005 Ruth Carmichael Ellinger

I learned never to empty the well of my writing, but always to stop when there was still something there in the deep part of the well, and let it refill at night from the springs that fed it.

Ernest Hemmingway

The Power and Beauty of Story

The Power and Beauty of Story
Story telling or story writing is the most dynamic and effective expression of the human heart. With skillful crafting, a story has the power to influence us to action, to change our perspectives, to challenge us to overcome difficulties, and to motivate us to higher levels of achievement throughout our lives.

When a person dies, that unique gift or talent that God has given him, that unique place in this time world that belongs to him and him alone, dies with him. Therefore, it is imperative that we tell our story; that we use our gifts for the purpose for which God has intended.

Teaching through storytelling

Jesus taught through the medium of storytelling. His parable often began with, “Once there was…”
He told stories that people could easily understand, could identify with, and His point was driven home by a divine motive to help humankind. He was the master storyteller, using simple but thought provoking language that often left His audience speechless, inspired, and awakened to their own soul need. As Christian writers, we endeavor to intertwine the same qualities into our own stories.

Preserving a Legacy through Story

Everyone has a story to tell. When I write a story based on fact or an oral history or family legend, I adopt the role of storyteller. Some family stories stick indelibly in our minds, lodging there, impacting us with their poignancy, their humor and inspiration. Some stories evoke strong emotion: sadness, joy, dismay, wonder, and awe.

You can probably think of some story that has affected you deeply, a story that should be told, and a story worth remembering. That was why I felt Elizabeth’s story (The Wild Rose of Lancaster) should be told. It was too great a tale, a real life story that could not be left untold. Elizabeth was too colorful a personality to be left unsung. I mist tell this story.

There are many ways to organize your own storyline, and there is no right or wrong way, no formula that must be strictly followed, but here are ten steps that I use when writing story and they are not necessarily in this order.

Ten steps in Writing a Story or Family Saga

Where to Begin

1.  “Muse” on your idea, that continuous theme that has stuck with you and caused you to think and rethink the particular circumstances that made the story worth remembering. Let this story take root and germinate. Build and expand on your ideas. Do not hurry this process. Live with your characters for a while, get to know them and become familiar with the setting.

2.  Create a note file of ideas, thoughts, situations, and circumstances you want to focus on. Include the setting, time period, and significant local events. Think about the conflicts and obstacles your characters might face and incorporate them into your story outline.

3..Develop a theme that you can weave throughout your story. Examples: Right prevails, loss and recovery, crime doesn’t pay, love conquers all, inherent goodness, failure and success, overcoming the odds, etc.

4..Choose an appropriate setting. This can be real or fictional, but it must be a place familiar enough to describe and depict accurately. The reader must be able to see it, to feel it, to experience the location.

* When I wrote the Wildrose series, I chose my own home county and the town of Lancaster OH, a place where the story took root. Research is absolutely necessary if you use a real location.

5.  Gather material from personal or oral history, from libraries, the attic, friends, family histories, records, journals, and online archives.

   *I used Elizabeth’s own stories and written records from the Davidson family history.
   *I gathered heirloom postcards, photos, and treasures from the attic, every personal piece of memorabilia I could find that belonged to Elizabeth or her family.
*I researched the colorful history of my Scottish ancestors.

6.  Research the setting carefully.
The library and the internet are wonderful resources. I bought numerous books on Fairfield County and the village of Lancaster. I studied the town patriarchs, the county foundational stones.

* I located old city maps, bought historic newspapers from e-bay, perused library records on local geography. I studied the climate, the flora and fauna of the area, native birds, trees and flowers.
*I walked the streets of the town, to choose my street locations, climbed Standing Stone, and talked with the local people.

7.  Choose your characters.
Sometimes, this is the first step because we relate the characters to the storyline itself. We write about people and the circumstances that shaped their lives. Once your characters are firmly in place, you are ready to name them, put them in a house, and give them a family. You understand their weaknesses, their foibles, and their strengths.

My characters were already chosen when I began the Wildrose series. I created extensive character charts detailing the character’s personality and developing them further from oral and written history. I read their letters, journals, postcards, and began to piece together the past. My characters came to life, like the ‘dry bones’ in the Bible.

Scenes began to play before my mind. I began to write my story and as I wrote, the inspiration began to take over and sometimes the story moved of its own accord. I found my characters voices and expanded on them. My ancestral heritage came naturally into the script, coloring their personalities with echoes from the past and painting in the scenery with interesting detail.

8.  Create a chapter outline with ideals you wish to incorporate into your storyline. Your characters should tell the story through their actions, conflicts, events, and dialogues. A good storyteller tells the story in such a way that the reader is unaware that the writer is present.

9. Write to a “target” audience. Whom do I want to reach? Who would benefit by sharing this story? Where is the market?

10. Consider your own personal goals in telling this story. Create a mission statement. What do you hope to accomplish? What do you want the reader to come away with? What relevance can the reader apply to his or her own life? Can you develop a tale that would be in keeping with the integrity of your characters and your own spiritual ideals as the author?

Most importantly

From a Christian perspective, can you make your reader laugh, cry; feel that life is worth living and that the bend in the road is not the end of the road? Is your story idea meaningful enough to challenge someone who needs to know that God is the answer to life’s perplexities, to life’s adversities, and to all that affects our relationships?

If you can say “yes,” then…just do it. Write your story.

Florida Inspirational Writers Retreat

At the ICRS

Rejection? Ted Decker, author of suspense novels (not my forte BTW) is still a success story of perseverance. His first submissions were all rejected. Then finally…the rest is history.
This photo of Ted and me chatting at ICRS where he was promoting “Sanctuary". I’m trying to understand what makes this man tick and I’m sure he’s thinking I’m from Mars. But…hey, we both look happy!


The idea of, “show” don’t “tell” is disappearing from much of today’s writing. In fact, it’s “tell everything” and leave nothing to the imagination is forced upon the reader. I recently finished a four book series by a well-known, best selling inspirational author and took nothing away from the entire read except that B. ended up with B. instead of C. The buzz throughout the entire series was the trendy reliance of FaceBook, Twitter, and smart phones, messaging, texting, and vibrating throughout the whole read. Four books!

I didn’t have to think because what the characters were thinking, doing, or even anticipating was spelled out  or explained through the narrator using FB, Twitter and phone messages. I was back in kindergarten.
Not only that, the author used “beats” (the characters bodily actions, facial expressions, feelings and emotions) after almost every sentence of dialogue. The “beats” between dialogues were so long and constant that I wanted to scrap the series. The characters were constantly moving; picking something up, setting something down, changing positions, chewing, blinking, biting lips, breathing, changing facial expressions—doing something. 

As the reader, I didn’t have to imagine a thing. Every circumstance was explained to me like I was brain dead and couldn’t think for myself, couldn’t see in my mind’s eye or understand how the character might feel or react. 

If the character was happy, I couldn’t possibly imagine how he might respond. The smile that lit up his face was described in vivid detail down to the creases in his face, his curved lips, muscle twitches in his jaw, the sharp intake of breath through his nose. I was made to see this with a paragraph long beat after only one sentence of dialogue and I didn’t even want to see it. 

Don’t get me wrong, I like descriptive narrative to set the tone, and a few beats between dialogue can add dimension, but constant movement combined with expository narrative and a continual analytical explanation of the circumstances takes away from the story. 

The overuse of “beats” makes the reader feel like he is forced to view every single movement, have every thought explained or talked about down to brushing teeth before hopping into bed. During every chapter, I got a constant update on how the character’s heart was beating—skipping, almost stopping, slowing, beating faster, harder, fainter, thumping, quickening, racing…on and on. By the last book, I’m sure the character has some physical heart condition since nobody’s heart gets that much action! 

C’mon…are there no imaginations left in the reading world? Must every jot and tittle be explained to the ignorant reader? The muse can still work in my brain so please, writers, don’t offend the reading world by doubting their ability to think.

Why did I read the entire series? Well, since the author was so popular, I thought I had to be missing something. What I discovered was missing during this lengthy read, was my own imagination, my own intellectual ability to form an opinion or draw a conclusion. It was all done for me!
In the words of another author:

 “If you tell the reader that Bull Beezley is a brutal-faced, loose-lipped bully, with snake’s blood in his veins, the reader’s reaction may be, ‘Oh, yeah!’ But if you show the reader Bull Beezley raking the bloodied flanks of his weary, sweat-encrusted pony, and flogging the tottering, red-eyed animal with a quirt, or have him booting in the protruding ribs of a starved mongrel and, boy, the reader believes!”

—Fred East, WD

Ruth Carmichael Ellinger2013

Just Do Something

The Amazing and Horrible Critique Group

A writer who desires to be published should welcome the critiques and advice of fellow writers and not take the attitude that they are throwing bricks at his or her writing. Well, perhaps they are lobbing a few bricks your way but remember— it is in the best interest of the writer to take the advice of experience.

A number of things might need improvement in your manuscript. Are we not all human? Error, mistakes, and blunders are going to happen! Just write that down as a given.

From the point of view of those who read your work, (not counting your Mom, best friend or Granny) an impersonal perspective is always best. In a down to business critique group, fellow writers with an editor’s eye will often catch grammatical errors that you miss, present ideas for improving style, help with bogged down dialogue and basic content problems, better beginnings and more satisfying endings. And for those doing the critiquing…we hope you correct with kindness and a true desire to help your fellow writer. The “golden rule” applies well here.

Build a better writing foundation with the experience and expertise of others. Just take those “bricks” you think the critique group is throwing at you and build a stronger and better manuscript that will wow the publisher!


Carl Sandburg, Writer

During our winter break, we visited the home of Carl Sandburg near Flat Rock North Carolina. I'll have to say, I was not impressed with the house itself. It is kept as it always was, a 1950's very boring motif with nothing exceptional about the furnishing or decor. It was like living in a library but not a very nice one. Books were in every room on painted plain white bookshelves. His wife was interested in raising prize-winning goats with amazing success.

The view from the front porch is breathtaking though. Actually, it takes quite a lot of breath to hike back to the house. No matter about our opinion of his writing or his house, he remains one of the 20th centuries best-known writers.

Sandburg in 1955, January 6, 1878 - July 22, 1967 (aged 89)
Journalist, author, poet, story writer

Married to Lilian Steichen, three children,

Margaret, Helga, and Janet

Sandburg is remembered by generations of children for his Rootabaga Stories, and Rootabaga Pigeons, a series of whimsical, sometimes melancholy stories he originally created for his own daughters. The Rootabaga Stories were born of Sandburg's desire for "American fairy tales" to match American childhood. He felt that the European stories involving royalty and knights were inappropriate, and so populated his stories with skyscrapers, trains, corn fairies and the "Five Marvelous Pretzels".
Sandburg earned a Pulitzer Prize for his collection The Complete Poems of Carl Sandburg, Corn Huskers, and for his biography of Lincoln, Abraham Lincoln: The War Years.
Sandburg’s most famous description of the city of Chicago is as "Hog Butcher for the World/Tool Maker, Stacker of Wheat/Player with Railroads and the Nation's Freight Handler,/Stormy, Husky, Brawling, City of the Big Shoulders."

Scribe of Life

Why become a writer? For some, there is an intrinsic need to chronicle the events of life with all its joy and humor, tragedy and triumph. We write this down so the stuff of life will not be lost. Our notations, our observations, our spiritual and emotional experiences are tacked to the bulletin board of life for others to read. We create new beginnings and happy conclusions. We solve problems and turn the ordinary and unattractive into astonishing beauty. We write the words down so that nothing of life is lost; all parts are gathered up and saved for another generation. 

When we are gone, others will remember the important things, the beautiful things, and yes, the painful things that wring the very withers of our heart; that cause us to learn wisdom, to have compassion. Our scribblings will be a guide for other seekers. Another “scribe of life” will take up the pen when we are gone. From the beginning, it has been so.

Ruth Carmichael Ellinger
From “Where I Write” 2008

 Robert Burns (25 January 1759 – 21 July 1796) was a Scottish poet and lyricist. He is widely regarded as the national poet of Scotland and is celebrated worldwide.
He is regarded as a pioneer of the romantic movement and after his death he became a great source of inspiration. His influence has long been strong on Scottish literature. As well as original compositions, Burns also collected folk songs from across Scotland, often revising or adapting them. His poem (and song) "Auld Lang Syne" is often sung at “Hogmanary” (the last day of the year).

The Scottish Poet and Writer, Robert Burns 
with his love, Highland Mary
The poem, Red, Red, Rose, was written especially for her

A Red, Red Rose

O my Luve's like a red, red rose
That's newly sprung in June;
O my Luve's like the melodie
That's sweetly play'd in tune.

As fair art thou, my bonnie lass,
So deep in luve am I:
And I will luve thee still, my dear,
Till a' the seas gang dry:

Till a' the seas gang dry, my dear,
And the rocks melt wi' the sun:
I will luve thee still, my dear,
While the sands o' life shall run.

And fare thee well, my only Luve
And fare thee well, a while!
And I will come again, my Luve,
Tho' it were ten thousand mile.

The written word forms its own identity and travels to unexpected  and exciting destinations

Some time ago, an author wrote asking permission to use a portion of a ballad that I had included in book #1 in the Wildrose series, The Wild Rose of Lancaster.

After thinking about the author's project, I said this would be fine as long as credits were included for the publisher and myself as the author. I soon forgot about the request and about a year later, the author sent a book with my excerpt marked in the manuscript. The poem/ballad had been developed into a song with music and used in a variety of historical dramas and musical presentations. Who would have imagined! I was quite flattered to think my little offering had traveled so far. Here is a copy of the melody. You just never know...


The all important "review"


(even if you know what you’re talking about)

Reader and user reviews on the internet are not always a positive thing if the “write a review” person is biased and irresponsible with his or her comments. Over the years, I have noticed that critiquing the works or products of others is a driving ambition with those who peruse the internet for such opportunities. Their voice must be heard. I am a believer in freedom of speech but I am also a proponent of responsible and careful speech. There are professional and assiduous book and product reviewers and then there are the professional nitpickers and fault finders.

Authors and other professionals respect the honest evaluations of editors and product reviewers who offer advice and constructive criticism. In fact, most welcome this form of feedback because it brings better success to their profession. However, the “review the book, product or person” section on the website page that allows anyone who logs in the freedom to comment can lead to some really ugly stuff.

Not everyone is qualified to review. Concerning authors, certainly not everyone can be an expert in every genre: fiction, nonfiction, political history, or contemporary issues.

My comment to the reviewers -- leave the reviewing to the pros and the rest of you wanna be experts just stay away from the review page.

Visiting our local LifeWay Christian Bookstore and took photos of my books on the shelf.  I still wonder how it all happened.

Stopped in to see Kimon Woosley, local LifeWay Christian Bookstore manager. Be sure to drop in and see the new look…so nice.

169 Brandon Town Center Drive


 This wee sign hangs on my secretary. Noting the books below, I see the title, "Mary Queen of Scots." This book did not have a happy ending, nor did Mary
There is nothing more frustrating than to read through an entire book, even wading through the uninteresting, yawn, yawn, part, and then to discover the end of the book has only been a long introduction to a sequel…or…the ending just ENDS with no resolution to the conflicts, no satisfaction for the reader, nothing but ending into thin air. It is only then that I have been tempted to throw the book across the room in pure annoyance and disappointment. How tragic to waste my valuable time. Please, please, writers…create an ending that is at least bearable, or satisfying, or preferably…happy!

Why Write Historical Fiction?

Historical fiction is a great communicator of historical facts, and if presented in a story form, historical fiction is educational, exciting, and quite entertaining for the reader. The past is more than dry historical facts, names and dates that are memorized by rote. This kind of history reading can be drudgery, but add a good story to the mix and interest is immediately piqued and understanding history becomes palatable and pleasant!

History combined with story and a set of real or imaginary characters, is the best way to “teach” history. Historical fictions based on fact provide limitless entertainment and a window into our exciting and not so exciting past, and all the while, we are learning from those who lived before us. We have connected historic fact in a meaningful way to our present life. Long dead historic characters take on life, interact during key events, speak, live, love and die with courage.

History is about people, good and bad, about their causes, just or unjust, and about good and evil. The lives of these historic characters have shaped the present and contributed to our overall culture. 

A skillfully written and well-researched historical fiction using notable characters, the notorious along with the heroes, is an effectual way to help us remember the errors and triumphs of our history. We understand how events in previous centuries have changed the course of our lives, the course of nations.

In every age of time, people are still people. They have strengths, weaknesses; they experience fear and doubt, love and hate, failure and success. Remember the old adage: “Those who fail to learn from history, are doomed to repeat it.” Sir Winston Churchhill

So…write on all you historical authors. Make the past come alive!




Preserving a Legacy Through Writing
@Ruth Ellinger, 2010

We all have a story to tell, a yarn to spin, a legend, or a chronicle about our family member who has inspired us with their exploits or,  who after we have uncovered them, we slam the door and lock the proverbial skeleton back in the closet. Truth be told, we probably all have a bit of both in our lineage.

I would like to pass on a few thought about our legacies, our heritage, and see how important it is for us to preserve a legacy for those who follow.

My mind goes to Prov. 1:14
Every wise woman buildeth her house: but the foolish plucketh it down with her hands.

We are all building something in this life and whatever we build; it will be left as an inheritance for our family and for all the world to see. It is important that we leave something memorable for those who follow. We have one opportunity to leave something good, a lasting heritage to our family, a legacy that will be remembered for generations to come.

Someone may have left you an unpleasant legacy, something we would rather cover up than remember, but we can change that with our generation. We can leave a lasting memory. This may not be tangible such as a large bank account, diamonds and gold, or ocean front property with views of Cape Cod, but we can leave a legacy of love, hope, laughter, praise, the heritage of a brave soul, of overcoming, of courage and hope.

That kind of legacy is far more valuable that any material possession someone may leave you in a will.

We live in a changing world, a world with an uncertain future, and we want to leave some footprints for others to follow. My book, The Wild Rose of Lancaster is about the footprints of someone who impacted my life and left me a legacy to follow, to remember and too write about.

I have written for many years, mostly non-fiction for a variety of publications, but The Wild Rose of Lancaster was from the legacy of memories left to me by my grandmother Elizabeth Davidson Carmichael. I filled in the blanks with historic facts and characters that I felt would enhance my story. I took many components of her life and wove them into a story that I felt would honor her faith and her memory.

I was born in Columbus Ohio to Arthur and Margaret Carmichael and was raised in Fairfield Co. with my four siblings on a farm near Sugar Grove. I attended Berne Union and O.U. when it was still a the High School. I was writing even then, and won my first writing award in sixth grade.

With marriage came the responsibilities of a home and family so I put my writing aspirations on hold until my family was raised and I could devote myself to my dream of writing this story. I have always had it on my heart, but finding the time was always a problem. My husband was in the ministry and although I loved it, my duties as a pastor’s wife overshadowed everything else. After my mother passed away in 1999, and my father ten months later, I became keenly aware of the passing of an entire generation and with that passing, the need to preserve our own family legacy with this book.

And so I began. I wrote in fits and starts at first, but finally settled down to writing the entire ms. And finding a publisher who liked my story. That is another story altogether.

I made a character sketch and built their personalities on those I knew personally, on letters, postcards, and any information I could gather from my grandmother’s life. Elizabeth loved to talk about her family, so a lot of my story was taken from her own memories. I often stayed with her in her latter years when she was sick, and she would tell me stories of her life, of her family, which I committed to memory.

The  name “Wild Rose” alludes to Elizabeth’s personality, her nature, her independent and self-sufficient ways, which I feel, was part of her ancestral heritage. Her father’s ancestors were from the Highlands of Scotland, and when Elizabeth married Samuel Carmichael from a lowland Scottish clan, they produced my father, Arthur Carmichael, which we often say inherited the best and worst of both clans.
I build my characters from those I knew best and from postcards, letters, and a box of papers that almost were thrown away at the farm sale. I took the components of her life and wove them into a story that I felt would honor her memory and honor God.

The story is about Elizabeth, the protagonist, who is widowed at 22 and is devastated by the loss of her husband. She has a two year old to raise in a world that is not too friendly to women. She struggles with bitterness and grief , then loses everything, her home and all her possessions. In a fit of rage, she hurls her things from an upstairs window just as her brother rides up to her house.

Elizabeth returns home for a short time, then launches out on an independent life of her own. The book tells her story of overcoming her bitterness, her inadequacies as a woman in a man’s world, and her ultimate triumph over adversity.

The background and setting. I placed the story back in time an additional 35 years to incorporate the colorful history and beautiful setting of Fairfield CO., a place I know and love. I used the actual historic scenes in the town of Lancaster, so you might recognize the streets and  areas I have written about.

In fact, so many have written about the setting, that we put together a brochure that takes you on a self-guided tour of places that appear in the book. Next year, we are hoping to do a reenactment of Elizabeth’s Women’s Suffrage speech in the bandstand in Zane’s Square.


Teaching through storytelling

The Power and Beauty of Story
Ruth Ellinger©2010

Teaching through storytelling

Jesus taught through the medium of storytelling

Story telling or story writing is the most dynamic and effective expression of the human heart, and with skillful crafting, a story has the potential to influence to action, to change a person’s perspective, to challenge, to overcome difficulties, and to inspire to higher levels of achievement throughout a lifetime.

When a man dies, that unique gift or talent that God has given him, that place in this time world, which belongs to him and him alone, dies with him. Therefore, it is imperative that we tell our story; that we use our gifts for the purpose for which God has intended.

Writing a Novel or Family Tale/ Preserving a Family Legacy through Story

Everyone has a story to tell. When I write a family story based on fact or a story I have heard, I adopt the role of storyteller. Some family stories stick indelibly in our minds, lodging there, impacting our lives, challenging us with inspiration, courage, wonder and awe. Some stories evoke strong emotion, sadness, joy, dismay, and revulsion.

You can probably think of some story that has affected you deeply, a story that should be told, a story worth remembering. That was why I felt Elizabeth’s story (The Wild Rose of Lancaster) should be told. It was too great a tale, a real life story, to be left untold. Elizabeth was too colorful a personality to be left unsung.

Ten steps in Writing a Novel or Family Saga
(From the Wildrose series)

Where to Begin

1.  “Muse” on the idea, that theme in the story that has stuck with you, that has caused you to think and rethink about the circumstances that made it worth remembering. Let it take root and germinate. Build and expand on your ideas. Do not hurry this process.

2.  Create a note file of ideas, thoughts, situations and circumstances you might enlarge or recreate and set in place with characters, time period and local events. Think about the conflicts and obstacles your characters might face and incorporate them into your story.

3..Develop a theme that you can weave throughout your story. Right prevails, crime doesn’t pay, love conquers all, inherent goodness, failure and success, overcoming the odds, etc.

4..Choose a good setting. This can be real or fictional, but it must be a place familiar enough to describe and depict accurately. The reader must be able to see it, to feel it, to experience the location.

When I wrote the Wildrose series, I chose my own home county and the town of Lancaster, a place where the story took root. This only makes sense. Research is absolutely necessary if you choose to use a real setting.

5.  Gather material from personal or oral history, from the closet, the attic, friends, family photos and records, journals, online archives. I located  material from my family’s own oral history and from the Davidson family history.

   *  I had many heirloom postcards, photos, and treasures from the attic. Every personal piece of memorabilia I could find I tried to incorporate in the storyline if it was appropriate to the theme.

*   Talk to those who knew her. Gather my Scottish history, the colorful history of my ancestors.

6.  Research the setting carefully.

The FC Library, the internet. I bought numerous books on FC and Lancaster. I studied their patriarchs, the county foundation stones, and the history from every aspect and view.

7.  I found old city maps, bought historic newspapers from e-bay, studied library records on local geography. I studied the climate, the flora and fauna of the area, native birds, trees and flowers.

I walked the streets to choose my locations, climbed Standing Stone, talked with the local people.

8.  Choosing characters

Sometimes, this is the first step because we relate the characters to the story first. We write about people and the circumstances that shaped their lives.

My characters were already chosen when I began the Wildrose series. I created extensive character charts detailing the character’s personality and developing them from oral and written history. I read their letters, journals, postcards, and began to piece together the past. My characters came to life and like the ‘dry bones’ in the Bible, they came to life and scenes began to play before my mind. I began to weave my story and as I wrote, the inspiration began to take over and sometimes the story moved of its own accord. I found my characters voices and my ancestral heritage came naturally into the script, coloring their personalities with echoes from the past.

9.  I outlined what ideals I wanted to incorporate within my story line and what were my personal goals in telling this family tale.

10.  Write to a “target” audience. Who do I want to reach? Who would benefit? Could I create a tale that would be in keeping with the integrity of my setting, my characters, and my own writing goals as an author?

Most importantly

Can I make my story meaningful enough to challenge someone who needs to know that God is the answer to life’s perplexities, to life’s adversities, and to all that affects our relationships?

Just do it.

The Writer and Writing
When a person dies, that unique gift or talent the Lord has given him for this time world, a gift that belongs to him alone, also dies with him. Therefore, it is imperative that we use our gifts and talents for that purpose God has intended.

Writing Award news in Tampa Tribune

A Writer’s Prayer

Oh, Lord, make me respect my mind so much that I dare not write what has neither meaning nor moral. Let my time be valuable enough to spend it wisely. Help me choose with equal care, my friends, my books, and the things my eyes should watch because all influence my life. Show me that, as in a river, the depths hold more of strength and beauty than do the shallows. Keep me from caring more for much writing, than for careful writing, for books more than “the Book.” Give me an ideal that will let me write only the best, and when that is done— stop me. Repay me with power to teach others. Then help me to say from a disciplined mind a grateful…Amen.

For he shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways. They shall bear thee up in their hands, lest thou dash thy foot against a stone. Ps. 91: 11-12

Antique Rustic Book Collection

How often have you read a great book that can transport you from your easy chair to another setting and time? If you can see detail and color, feel the wind and rain on your face, empathize with the character’s pain and heartbreak, or cheer them on in the triumph of success, then you have read a great book.

A book can take you inside the story and into the lives of the characters to experience another life, another time and then—to see the author’s labor of love become tarnished by a film version of the book that is unworthy of the author’s unique writing style and true intent is quite disappointing.

When someone says to me; “Have you seen this move? Blah, blah, blah.” My response is predictably; “Have you read the book?”

The book version of whatever movie is produced to represent the book, is more than likely a dumbed down, discounted, and altered version of the story. Why is this? For one thing, any film that endeavors to contain all the events taking place in the book would require days to watch, and the expense would be phenomenal. Not only that, to portray characters in a setting the author has clearly created from his or her own point of view would be an exercise in mediocrity.

Reading the book allows the reader to get into the author’s mind and feel the same emotion, understand the author’s true intention for writing this story. Reading the book opens your eyes to what the author is portraying in a style that cannot be duplicated into a film.

Perhaps there have been a few, but as a whole, it’s a thumbs down on film versions of good books. Most are altered to the point that the theme of the book may be all that is left. The rest of the author’s creative endeavors become the work of a scriptwriter.

I say, if you want to know the real story, stick to the book!

When I write, I have two friends who sit by me to offer their opinion on my work. I often read to them and talk to them about various aspects of the writing project. What I like best about these two friends is that they just sit there and smile. Since they are stuffed with something, they have no room to talk. This first one is “Coldwater Cat.” I bought him from coldwater Creek some years ago and he has been my silent listener ever since. Here, he holds a sign that says, “Unwind.” It is created with old typewriter keys, scrabble letters, and an assortment of other letters of the alphabet. The sign reminds me to relax as I write. I love Coldwater Cat. And…he requires no litter box or food!



To become a writer of inspirational fiction, thee is one fundamental rule—you must write. How simplistic does that sound? Writing is not rocket science. The plain truth is obvious; unless you put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard, you will never become a writer. Yes, inspirational writing requires inspiration, but it also requires the exercise of repetition, trial and error, preparation, perseverance, and an amazing amount of perspiration. 

Fiction writing is an act of faith, a belief that God is leading you into this special area of creativity, a medium through which you will witness for God’s Kingdom through your writing. First, you must believe in yourself and in your ability to put words into a comprehensible form not previously existing. Writing inspirational fiction is an art form fashioned from the imaginings of your own mind and then placing those words in an understandable design for others to read. This is what being an author is all about. Images, scenes, and plots are crafted into sentences, then paragraphs chapters, and finally the completed script. Interwoven into the manuscript is the plot and subplots. 

Finally, from the printed page, we read about a segment of someone’s life, a scene from life that can inspire us to have faith in God, to believe, to do hard things, to know that love conquers all and underneath are the everlasting arms. This is altogether an exhilarating process of imagination and creativity.
It is said that the pen is the tongue of the soul and the heart is revealed in things written. For a writer to capture the reader, error free technique and perfect sentence structure alone, is not enough. You must capture the reader with your passion, words and images that the reader feels are coming from your heart. 

I write because of an inspiration within, because the Spirit compels me to write my stories and this is not simply my own choice. To me, it is a moral duty, an obligation to my readers to write the truth in a way that allows them to see themselves reflected in a spiritual context. Readers can relate to the circumstances written in the story, work out similar problems, consider who they are in relationship to God, and where they are going in that relationship.
Words are easily written just as they are easily spoken. Those same words placed in neat columns on a tablet, of read from a page in a dictionary or thesaurus are innocent in themselves, yet the same words can be mightily used under the influence of the Holy Spirit.

Words have the power to persuade for good or evil. If words fall from the lips of an resentful or abusive person, or are written with the thread of bitterness, how unworthy is such an effort. If a person desires to write a story in noble and gracious style, let the writer first have a gracious and noble heart, then his writing and instruction will be a reflection of his noble life.


I don't believe I am an exceptionally great writer when it comes to the finer points of literary excellence, but I know I can tell a story. I would define myself as a storyteller. I find the "rules and regs” of writing often restricting, and when I am involved in story, some rules just might fly out the window and my own voice takes over.

 My edits sometimes return inundated with red marks and terse little notes saying I must stick to the King’s English and stop using so many ellipses in dialog. While writing something particularly exciting, I sometimes misplace modifiers and dangle participles, but—I can make my readers laugh and cry and see inside themselves.

When writing narrative and story, I employ the entire spectrum of human emotions and apply them to where we find ourselves on the stage of life. The stories become real to me and I am right there with my characters. I write from the experience of life itself, from my own heart-voice. I want my readers to believe that hope springs eternal and inspiration truly comes from the Almighty. I want my words to point the way to the cross and for my readers to know they are in safe hands when trusting in the providential God.

So…just write the story.

So what is story? Some stories are written from a vivid imagination, woven like threads in a tapestry to become alive with color and contrast, with sight and sound. Some stories are mere ideas, thoughts, and reflections, methodically and carefully framed into words that tell the tale. Still others, like my own, are the experiences of life lived, of stories and events more wonderful than a fiction writer could ever produce. This is where I write. And God, who is the Master Author, holds the pen.  (from Christmas Comes to Ernie) 
                 ©Ruth Carmichael Ellinger/2001


In the creative process, a writer’s style is a very personal part of his creativity and exclusive to that writer alone. Style is a reflection of the writer’s personality and voice. What style of writing works well for one writer may not necessarily work for another, so your own voice woven throughout the text is what determines your unique writing style. 

When I read a work of fiction, style and voice are evident throughout the manuscript, and if I read the same author’s work again, I become so acquainted with the style that if a ghost writer took over the writing, I would be aware of the change. 

Some writers are gifted in writing fiction and have a voice and style suited to that genre. Some writers and their stylistic presentation is better suited to nonfiction, teaching, and scholarly writing.
When I write nonfiction, I follow a format that is loosely organized into a teaching style, but when I write fiction, I mull over a subject or idea for several months before I ever begin to write “Chapter One.” This work is basically addressed to fiction writers and their writing endeavors.



In inspirational fiction writing, choosing the right characters to fit your idea is highly important. From my imagination, possible characters that want to be included in the imaginative idea, present themselves like actors trying out for a starring role. They march across the stage of my imagination in full costume. At this point, I ask myself, “Can these bones live?” Each character who is vying for a role must fit perfectly into the genre or theme of my story. 

If I feel that “green light” inspiration from the Lord, I continue the interviewing process. Believable characters, both good and bad, must be created for the story. Each character should have a distinct personality complete with human traits and flaws that make up the whole person. I muse over each character’s physical appearance, their facial features and their talents and abilities.

 Flaws, both physical and emotional, are part of their personality profile and must be included. I note with detail the eye and hair color, every detail of their physical appearance, which I keep in a separate file for reference—just in case I might forget what color eyes the character was given in a previous chapter. A character can’t have blue eyes in one scene and brown in the next chapter.

I search magazines and the internet for an actual image most like the one I have in mind and place this image beside my characters biography. The chosen character is given a date and place of birth, family circumstances and connections, weaknesses and strengths within the family structure. I peruse magazines and the internet for images and information on period clothing, the setting and location where they live, and the local history of the area. This file of information is kept for reference for each character in the book. 

This “character” notebook adds depth and dimension to each person’s part in the story. This enables the writer to study each person and his or her role in the story. Throughout the writing process, I add information I feel is pertinent to the development of the book.

After the character selection is completed, I often have minor characters show up unexpectedly and without permission to audition for a role. If they fit into the grand scheme of things, I am often obliged to include them in the script.
I don’t mind this intrusion at all. These “seat of the pants” actors add interest and viability to the storyline. One such character who appeared suddenly on the scene for a role in my last historical novel was the Revolutionary War rifleman and militia leader, General Daniel Morgan. 

He was a vivid and controversial character of his day living in the same timeline as my protagonist. He eventually wormed his way into a starring role in my book, Sword of the Wild Rose, book three in the Wildrose Trilogy. Morgan’s compelling character convinced me that he should be included in the script and he remains a favorite of readers to this day.


As the personality of the selected characters becomes more pronounced, conflicts and circumstances arise, opinions clash, and scenes take place before our eyes. The story continues to unfold in my mind’s eye and many unexpected twists and turns take place and this adds even more drama to the storyline.


After I become thoroughly familiar with the setting and the location and history of the area I have chosen to write about, and when I feel myself empathizing with the characters and their various predicaments, I am now ready to write their story. As I write, I paint in the drama and create meaningful dialog while the story plan or plot remains constant in the book.


This beginning process takes place in my head. I create a rough draft or outline of characters and events that I want to include in the story. The outline is sketchy at best, but the main idea and characters are in place. Then, I sit at the computer keyboard and write the opening, all-important first chapter of the book. I spend much time on this first chapter, revising and rewriting. From the first chapter when the curtain is drawn and we see the characters and the setting described in language that will captivate out readers, the plot will follow, introduced a little at a time and thicken as the manuscript progresses. 

The storyline develops and branches out as we write. Sometimes the characters take over the scene and our outline may take a completely different direction. That’s okay. We can change our outline to fit the character’s whim and the change is usually a better plan than my previous idea. 


At various points, I continue researching, always gathering more information and insight. If possible, I take field trips to the location I am writing about. During these research jaunts, I have discovered several errors in the historic scene taking place in the book and I have been so glad that I took the time to make the effort to carefully research my topic. The physical location should be accurately described, especially when writing historical fiction. The geographical landscape should appear to the reader in vivid color. I study books and maps, history and personal profiles of characters and happenings that occurred during that period of history to insure accuracy and authenticity.


The genre thread or theme should remain constant throughout the story and the picture becomes like a tapestry, woven together to make a completed work. The entire project, beginning to end, scene by scene, fits together into one momentous manuscript.  

Open the door with the first chapter and leave it open for the characters to work out their circumstances in their own way. It is very thrilling when the characters appear eager to work out their own problems. The writer becomes like a bystander watching the course of events play out, sometimes for good, and sometimes ending in conflicts that must be resolved. However, we have selected characters that we can trust to resolve a particularly difficult situation, so let it happen. 

I know my characters well and the basic concept of theme of the story and if my characters are heading in the right direction toward a satisfying ending, I allow them to work out their own dilemmas. The story just comes, unfolding like a scroll. If, at some point, the story lags or stalls and the characters seem to grow weary or dull, I move away from the keyboard and do something entirely different or write something totally unrelated. I  do some gardening, take a walk, phone a friend, lay it aside for a few days, and somewhere down the line, the story line returns with fresh insight. 

Writing a historical novel or work of fiction is a journey without any maps. We are heading toward a destination, but not sure how to get there. The first chapter is point “A” but how to get to point “B” and all the points between and at the same time, arrive at a gratifying ending. This can sometimes present a struggle, some musing time, but eventually, by way of trial and error, we arrive.


When I begin to write the first sentence of the first chapter, I have already imagined my characters personalities and know them well, know how they feel, how they will react in a given situation. The characters have sufficient flaws and quirks to make them real and enough strong moral convictions to help them overcome in the conflicts. I focus on the opening chapter of my book and find words that will paint the scene in vivid color for the reader.
The first scene is vital to the success of the book. It can either cause the reader to continue to read or put the book down to look for something more interesting. Most intelligent readers will give the writer the benefit of a doubt even if they are not totally captivated with the opening scene, but less devoted readers will be lost.

After you have completed the first chapter, go back and re-read the text, cut about 1/3, and settle on what not to say and save for another time. Believe in the scissors more than the pencil. Don’t reveal everything in the first scene! Create enough tension to keep the reader moving forward with the story as it moves into the next chapter.


Conflict in love and war and life in general is what story is all about and presenting conflict in such a way that you keep the reader turning the page is what makes a great read and a successful writer. What can you say about conflict? It is not always pleasant but this is life and will be so until Jesus brings the curtain down so learn to write about the conflicts of life in a way that is compelling to the reader. 

The circumstances of just plain living are a constant unfolding drama, pure fodder for the inspirational writer. We have not yet arrived in heaven, so the sufferings here on earth require writers who can point “the way” through life’s perplexing situations, to Christ, the answer, and the comfort and guidance we find in God’s word, the Bible.


Write from where it hurts, not just from the sunny side of life. I read one person’s manuscript where everything just turned out peachy, but life isn’t always peachy. I find it irritating to read stories of flower strew pathways all the way to heaven’s gates. To be realistic and believable, you must include the pain…remember the hurt. Include the humiliations and embarrassments, the misfortunes. If we don’t incorporate these into our story, it will read flat and dull, without shape or meaning.

A writer must include the unlovely, the unsightly, the smelly, the filth, all that surrounds humanity. A skilled writer can craft words that respectfully describe this varied landscape we live in, including the  strange and peculiar, the charming and lovely, all the people living in this world—the good, the bad, and the ugly. Sin and the results of sin are an inherent part of the unregenerate world and there is a courteous and conscientious way to describe life’s issues without offending or being gross with details nobody wants to read. In short, writing about bad things in an acceptable way, in good taste.

(more next post)
©Ruth Carmichael Ellinter2012