Thursday, October 4, 2018

Planning Your Novel -Part 5 Deep Heroine Characterization

by  Elva Cobb Martin (updated March, 2020)

Planning an Heroic, Determined, Compassionate Heroine --start with a picture or two.

Here are a couple of the photos I've chosen for my heroine in my historic romance, Marisol, showing her two sides as a lovely Spanish lady and a trained sword-fighting foe when necessary. (And, yes, that talent is going to be necessary). I love having an idea of how my heroine might look as I plan and write the story.
(Do  you recognize Catherine Zeta Jones?)

My heroine: 

Doña  Marisol Valentin 

Physical Description: Medium height, long, curly, dark hair, hazel eyes with a tinge of gold,  dark arched brows and thick lashes, skin color and texture from her English mother – creamy ivory; face structure – oval/oblong with high cheek bones; straight nose, full lips and gleaming straight white teeth, small but strong hands with long, tapered fingers; general body structure – small bones, lithe, well endowed, much stronger than she looks. Had Spanish father and English mother.
Special skills:  Trained in sword fighting. Is excellent horsewoman and Flamenco dancer. Raised on an Andalusian Stud Farm in Cadiz, Spain

Don't forget my premise for this novel:

Love, forgiveness, and determination can overcome the most horrifying experiences and poor choices when God is invited into the equation.

Here are some characterization details I'm working out for Marisol that will help develop and bring my premise into realization. Of course, some of this may very well change as I write the story. I keep my plotting outline fluid!

Internal Goal/Motivation – to overcome her terrible past and find love, security, respect. She falls in love with widower privateer Captain Ethan Becket, but sees little hope for that relationship due to her terrible past with the murder of a Spanish noble who attacked her. 
Spirit of Rejection  - desperately wants to be part of a loving family circle but doubts she's worthy.
 External Goal/Motivation-  Escape from Spain to New World. Later, help Captain Ethan Becket find and rescue his sister from Spanish captors thought to be living in Cartagena.
Core need: to find true love, security, respect and a new beginning.
 Greatest fear: That ALL her past will be revealed and she’ll suffer great consequences, even to being garroted (in Spain) for murder. And Ethan Becket will never understand if he learns of the murder.
The incident that wounded her earlier in life that got her to believing a lie.
Her stepfather tried to marry her off to a rich, wicked don she refused to marry. One day the nobleman attacked her but she managed to stab him, accidentally killing him. She had to flee her home and live by her wits and charms. She escaped from Spain by becoming an indentured slave on a ship bound for the colonies.
Character Arc:  
Persona (face she shows to the world):  A very capable, sometimes harsh, sometimes vixen, fearless young woman.
Essence: An insecure, frightened, low self-esteem, young woman, who longs to escape her past and find love, family, and security.
Will become: a strong, godly young woman willing and able to fight and sacrifice for  others.
Spiritual Arc
Marisol starts out as a nominal believer, not sure what blessings faith affords. Even though she repented her past sins, she still feels like soiled goods and knows she’ll go to prison or to  execution if the murdered nobleman's family finds her. She is sure no one will believe her version of the attack vs. the version of the man’s family, who are wealthy and of the Spanish nobility.
 She Will Become: Marisol will discover through scripture and experiences that God wants to wipe away all that stains her mind, will and emotions and help her become a true woman of God worthy of respect and love. The battle she will face when the murder catches up with her will serve to strengthen her, not to destroy her, and will build a strong faith in God’s justice and belief in his love for her.

Romantic Arc
Marisol falls in love with widower Captain Ethan Becket, but many hurdles stand between these two ever finding love and a HEA.

Do you like this heroine so far?  Please do leave a comment and share the blog on your social media by clicking the square links below.

Marisol, Book 1 in my new historical series, was released by Wild Heart Books in November, 2019.  It has spent time on Amazon's 100 Bestseller's List for Women's Religious Fiction

Thanks for stopping by.

Blessings on your writing,
Elva Cobb Martin

Elva Cobb Martin is President of the SC Chapter of American Christian Fiction Writers. She is a former school teacher and a graduate of Anderson University and Erskine College. She has two inspirational novels published with Lighthouse Publishers of the Carolinas. Summer of Deception, a contemporary romantic suspense, and an historical romance, In a Pirate’s Debt. Both have spent time on Amazon’s 100 Best Sellers List for Women’s Religious Fiction. She has indie published a Bible study on Amazon, Power Over Satan, on the  believer's authority in Christ. Decision, Charisma, and Home Life have carried Elva's articles. She and her husband Dwayne are semi-retired ministers. A mother and grandmother, Elva lives in South Carolina. Connect with her on her web site,on Twitter; Facebook;  and Pinterest  
 Link to her romance novels and non-fiction works 
on Amazon: 

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Planning Your Novel Part 4 - Characterization Special: Dancing Horse Heroine

By Elva Cobb Martin  ---Check out the above YouTube Clip!

If you're planning a novel, I assume you've studied a lot about characterization and how best to plan and detail your characters. But today with the above YouTube clip I am sharing with you something I've run across with planning my Spanish heroine in my current wip (work in progress).

In my research I ran across the Spanish horse or the Andalusian breed which has had a large influence on the bloodlines of the beautiful Lipizzaner breed of horses of the Spanish Riding School of Vienna. That's why it's called the Spanish Riding School, but it's in Vienna, Austria.

I've had horses myself and love them. I am thinking about making my heroine more special than ever by setting her on a Spanish horse stud farm where she has learned the beautiful dancing with the horses like you see in the clip. Don't you think this will make her a much more special character that readers will love?

Remember, one of my first points in planning your novel in Part 1 was Research and More Research! I've spent some time studying out the Spanish or Andalusian horse and had a great time doing it. My novel will be much richer as a result. These horses are still being bred in several nations and very popular all over the world, not just in Spain or Austria.

In the clip you can see where the Lipizzaner got it's beautiful dressage genes! And don't you love the Spanish guitar accompaniment?

Of course, I've got MUCH research on this subject I may never get to use in my novel, but that's fine. I'd rather be on the rich end rather than the skimpy one.

Here's a few quick notes from my research for you horse lovers like me!

Spanish horses, including the Andalusian, originated from Arabian and Berber horses from North Africa. They were brought to Spain in the 8th Century. (Think Muslim invasion and takeover of Spain which continued several centuries and hence the mosques still standing there).

During the 15th and 16th Centuries (think of the Catholic deliverance of Spain, Queen Isabella's Empire, and Columbus) these majestic high-stepping Spanish horses became the status symbol of the royal courts throughout Europe. 
Note: my photo may be of Isabella...and it might not be. But you get the picture. ( :

1580: When the importation of horses from the Spanish Peninsula became more difficult, the Vienna court under Archduke Karl II decided to develop their own breeding farm in . . . Lipica. He sent buyers to Spain and they brought back stallions and mares. They became the foundation of the Lipizzan breed. And, yes, I have the rest of the exciting story about even these Lipizzan horses and all they went through during the various European wars, even their rescue during WWII by our own General Patton. But that's another story. . . for another day.

Have you planned a special talent or work for your main character that people will love to learn about? This is the kind of thing that makes an historical or a contemporary novel much richer. In my contemporary Summer of Deception novel, I shared the growing and making of tea by my hero. You can find the novel here:
I also have a beautiful Arabian horse in this novel named Haidez.

Do join the fun and tell us about your character's special talent or work. Please click on the social buttons below to share if you found this blog helpful.

Elva Cobb Martin

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Planning Your Novel Part 3 "Pitches and Book Tags"

by Elva Cobb Martin

In Part 2 we talked about "Premise" and how it will actually help you write your pitch. Never mind pulling your hair out. You can access Parts 1-2 in my archives.

So what is a pitch (or log line) and how does it differ from a book tag?

A pitch is a one or two sentence nutshell that explains what your book is about. 

Imagine someone asking you, "What is your book about?" (Some one like an editor or agent that you may run into at a conference and you only have a few moments to tell them about your book). 

Here are some examples of pitches:

1) Jacob Marshall must avenge his father's honor by implicating Serena Jones' father, only to realize revenge often hurts the innocent.

2) Rachel York determines to unearth the truth about her brother's reported death by taking a position at an historic tea plantation, only to realize the truth may destroy her new found love and could even cost her life.  (This was my pitch for Summer of Deception which helped snag a contract and can be found at )

Want to try your hand at a pitch?  Here's a simple template that has helped me:

(Your protagonist) _________MUST __________(critical plot goal) BY ______________(action or conflict)  
ONLY TO REALIZE __________________(what the character learns about life that helps him change his goal during journey of book

Tags are a briefer hook, like back cover copy first line or byline in a movie. You'll need this for your book cover and tweets.

To boldly go where no man has gone. (Star Wars)
Don't go in the water (Jaws)
Collide with destiny (Titanic)
Power comes with a price (The List by Robert Whitlow)
Can love survive a summer of deception? (for my novel Summer of Deception)
Falling in love with a pirate was never part of her plan. (for my novel, In a Pirate's Debt).

My Premise for my current wip helped me write my Pitch. Of course, it's an inspirational romance.

To recap, my tweaked premise for my wip is: Love, forgiveness, and determination can overcome the most horrifying experiences and poor choices when God is invited into the equation.

Here's a rough draft of my pitch:

"Marisol Valentine flees after murdering the Spanish nobleman who sexually assaulted her only to find herself caught in a net of kidnappers for the King's colonization of the New World which threatens to derail her forever from love, security and decency until she discovers a God who can work good even from evil."

How's that for a long sentence? But it gets the job done--for now. ( :

Thanks for stopping by. Please do leave a comment and a sample pitch, if you have one. And share this blog if it has been helpful.

Elva Cobb Martin

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Planning Your Novel - Part 2 "Premise"

by Elva Cobb Martin

Planning your novel can get that dream you have (like an illusive bubble in your head and heart), down on plain white paper or on your computer screen.

In Part 1 of planning a novel, we talked about:

a) Reading/immersing yourself in your genre and time period

b) Jotting down your initial storyline
c) Researching and more researching

You can find Part 1 in my archives.

Today, I want to talk about the first of three important "p's" in planning your novel: Premise, Pitch, and Pictures.

Stavros Halvatzis has several good blogs about Premise that helped me. Click

To recap, he says: 

The story or moral premise is a short description of the entire story in its essential form. It's the essential core or meaning of the story and the chief theme of your story.

A unique premise contains a strong set-up and pay-off, it generates dramatic questions, and gives the writer a blueprint for writing a successful story.

It can be thought of as the two-part genetic code of a story: one part identifies the virtue which leads to victory, while the other identifies the opposite, which leads to defeat.

Here are some movie examples he sites:

1) The Ten Commandments, Braveheart, The Firm, Gladiator
    "The hero must do the right thing to eventually achieve the goal (carry the day, save the world), even if it sometimes means he has to sacrifice himself."

2) In There Will be Blood  
      "The pursuit of wealth and power, at the expense of love and family, leads to loneliness and defeat."

After studying premise this is what I came up with for my work-in-progress, an inspirational historical romance.

"Love, forgiveness and determination can overcome the most horrifying experiences and poor choices."

Can you see the two main parts of my story? (Terrible experience & Happy Resolution) Can you see that it will be an encouraging story for those who have suffered from bad experiences or poor choices? Does it bring to mind dramatic questions like: What horrible experience did the heroine endure? How will she find love and forgiveness to overcome the effects? Does she have enough determination to move forward to a HEA? My heroine, Marisol Valentin, will find what she needs to overcome! She will illustrate my idea of a strong, determined woman who will not let circumstances destroy her or keep her down. And, of course, she will have to discover the great power of Christian faith to do this.

Do you see that from my premise, I actually have my beginning, middle and end of my story? 
     The Horrifying Experience (and all it entailed)
     Working to Overcome (risk, hindrances, conflict, people)
     Accessing love, forgiveness and determination to a HEA

Sound like the 3 acts? Maybe so.

Can you come up with a premise for your novel? It will help you write your story, and keep you on track to your planned ending.
Please share it in the comments. I'd love to read it.

Premise is different from the Pitch which I will discuss in my next blog. Premise will help you write your pitch!

Thanks for stopping by. Please leave a comment and share this blog on your social media if it was helpful.

Elva Cobb Martin

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Planning Your Novel - Part 1

by Elva Cobb Martin

Are you planning your first novel or trying to get started with your next one? I give God the glory for two novels recently released by Lighthouse Publishers of the Carolinas, Summer of Deception and In a Pirate's Debt. You can check them out on Amazon at this link:

This summer I am researching and planning my next novel which will become a series, I hope. Here are the steps that have helped me in the past and, I believe, will assist me again.

1) Read, Read in Your Genre --and Time Period if Historical.
I find it very important to immerse myself in the genre I'm hoping to write. In your genre, find the best, most successful authors you can and read and study what makes their novel interesting to read. I often take notes and write in the margins!

If writing an historical, find books in your time period. Since I'm planning an historical series set in the 1700's like my pirate novel above, I am reading novels of established authors set in this century. It's amazing how many great ideas come to me as I soak up stories set in my chosen time period and place. Reading a contemporary novel,or one set in the Regency Period, or during World War II won't help keep me on target, so I save those novels for another time. I also look for movies set in my time period and save them in my TV groups. I take notes on setting, dialog, dress, conflict, historical tidbits, etc. 

4) Jot Down Your Initial Storyline
My basic story idea is of a heroine, an indentured servant, who has a bad past she's carrying like baggage, even after she becomes a Christian. (See the "lie" she believes and the spiritual plot possibility of her overcoming?) After a terrible incident in Spain she fled for her life to the New World as an indentured servant. She falls in love with her master after he becomes widowed, but she feels like soiled goods he will never be interested in. She desires to find respect, security and love and will go to some lengths to find them. (See the motivation and goals unfolding?) And, of course, I will give the widowed hero problems, conflicts, and goals to complicate the romance possibility we will pursue from Charles Town to the Spanish Main. Of course, some of these details will likely change as I write the story! (More on characterization, lies, motivation, and goals in Part 2.)

3) Research and Research Some More
Having the Internet has made research so much easier. Seldom do I have to make a trip to the library for research. This novel will have a heroine who is an indentured servant. Yesterday I googled "Indentured Servants in America" and came up with great information. I printed some articles and saved some to my computer. I already know this story will be set mainly on the Spanish Main in Cartagena so I googled that and came up with some great articles and maps.

How do you plan a new novel? I would love to hear your comments. Next time I will share Part 2 that works for me.

Elva Martin

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Creating a Hero Part 4 - Man of Steel and Velvet

by Elva Cobb Martin

If you missed Part 1-3, click here:

My definition of  a man of steel and velvet is one who may have great physical and mental attributes, but who also has received Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior. And everything in his life is influenced by this relationship and his love for God's Word.

William Wilberforce (played by Ioan Gruffudd in the movie, Amazing Grace) was a definitive man "of steel and velvet."
This one man's passion and perseverance changed the world. His courageous quest ended the Trans Atlantic Slave Trade in the British Empire in May, 1807, in England, and in the U.S. in January, 1808. (Then our Civil War followed in 1861 to bring freedom to the slaves already here.)

Our Bible has several heroes who might fit this bill. Some of my favorites are Joseph, Gideon, and a lesser known one, warrior Jephthal, who was born of a prostitute and turned out of the family by his half siblings. But in war they ended up begging him to return to lead them in battle. His prayers for God's guidance are recorded in Judges 11-12.

Aubrey Andelin authored the book, Man of Steel and Velvet. He lists six qualities of steel and six velvet qualities of men. Find it on Amazon here

These 12 characteristics are great to consider when building our memorable heroes.

Steel Qualities

  • Guide, protector, provider
  • Builder of society
  • Masculinity
  • Character
  • Confidence
  • Health
Andelin says the steel side of a man makes women and children feel secure.
Arouses admiration of all. Makes a woman feel womanly.
Velvet Qualities
  • Understands women
  • Gentleness
  • Attentiveness
  • Youthfulness
  • Humility
  • Refinement
The author says the velvet side of a man promotes good human relations among people and awakens love in women and children.

I believe only a man who has chosen to be led by God's Holy Spirit can hope to excel in these characteristics.
Our culture vitally needs to be reminded of these qualities as some  increasingly work to erase man's masculinity, blur the roles of men and women, and redefine the family.
Who is your definitive "man of steel and velvet?" History, movies, and novels evidence quite a few. Some of us even have the great pleasure of being married to one. ( :
Thanks for stopping by. Have a blessed Mothers' Day, all you dear mothers and grandmothers.
Here's a pic of one man of steel and velvet--and a little "steel and velvet" growing up. (Our  Christian law officer son and grandson we'll be seeing this weekend.)

Please Click to tweet this blog:

Elva Cobb Martin is vice-president of the South Carolina Chapter of American Christian Fiction Writers. She is a former school teacher and a graduate of Anderson University and Erskine College. She has two inspirational novels published with Lighthouse Publishers of the Carolinas. Summer of Deception, a contemporary romantic suspense, and an historical romance, In a Pirate’s Debt. Both have spent time on Amazon’s 100 Best Sellers List for Women’s Religious Fiction. Decision, Charisma, and Home Life have carried Elva's articles. Jim Hart of Hartline Literary represents her. She and her husband Dwayne are semi-retired ministers. A mother and grandmother, Elva lives in South Carolina. Connect with her on her web site,on Twitter; Facebook;  and Pinterest
 Link to her romance novels and non-fiction works on Amazon:

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Creating a Great Hero - Part 3 Horatio Hornblower

by Elva Martin

What makes a great hero? Click here if you missed
 Part 1 - Atticus Finch
 Part 2: Captain Blood

We've covered several characteristics of great fictional heroes and today we'll look at Horatio Hornblower, the wonderful British Royal Naval officer during the Napoleonic Wars era created by C.S. Forester. The eleven-volume Hornblower Saga follows an English seaman, Hornblower, as he rises from Midshipman to Admiral in England's Royal Navy. This historical series and hero has thrilled generations and become the subject of films,radio and television programs. I'm told even Winston Churchill read these novels on his way to Royal Navy meetings during WWII.

Two fave actors of mine who have played Hornblower are 
Ioan Gruffudd                                     and Gregory Peck.
So what has made Horatio Hornblower a great hero to so many?
Having read the books, listened to audio, and seen movies of several in this series, my first thought is that here is a man who possesses all the other qualities of heroes we've talked about but adds certain other interesting qualities.

1) He is man of the strongest principles, especially those relating to British Royal Navy Protocol

In the West Indies Admiral Hornblower is suspicious that the American ship Daring has been hired by Napoleonic former soldiers and supporters to rescue Bony from his St. Helena island prison. 

Sharpe, consul-general at New Orleans warns Hornblower,
"Daring's an American ship, my lord."

That was an important point, a very important point. Daring had an ostensibly legal errand, and she flew the Stars and Stripes. He (Hornblower) could think of no excuse for taking her into port for examination. His instructions had been very strict regarding the treatment of the American flag.

So the during the rest of the book Hornblower chases the Daring to stop her rescue of Napoleon, but he does not cross British protocol in doing so. This brings up the next unusual quality possessed by this hero.

2) He is possessed with amazing ingenuity and finesse to carry out his job as British Admiral of the West Indies

Hornblower has confirmed the French captain of the Daring is on a secret mission to rescue Napoleon from St. Helena Island but how can he stop him without firing on the American flag and causing an international incident? He comes up with the Big Lie (at least he thinks it is a lie). He apprehends the much larger ship, the Daring, and goes aboard. The French Captain, who is also a Count, has to allow him aboard and show him proper honor as he is the English Admiral of the West Indies. Here's the amazing dialog.

"Ah Count Cambronne," said Hornblower, (to the French captain) and then made himself speak French. "It is a pleasure to meet you again."
"And to what do I owe this pleasure, milord?" asked Cambronne. He was standing very stiff and straight, his cat's-whisker mustache bristling out on either side.
"I have come to bring you the very worst of news, I regret to say," said Hornblower. Through many sleepless nights he had rehearsed these speeches to himself. Now he was forcing himself to make them naturally. "And I have come also to do you a service, Count."
"What do you wish to say?"
"Bad news."
"It is with the deepest regret, Count that I have to inform you of the death of your Emperor."
"The Emperor Napoleon died at St. Helena last month. I offer you my sympathy, Count."
Hornblower told the lie with every effort to appear like a man speaking truth. 
"I received the news two days back in Port of Spain," said Hornblower. "In consequence, I cancelled the arrangements I had made for the arrest of this ship."

Hornblower suffered mentally by telling this lie because the Count would not believe him until he gave his word of honor as a gentleman. But he did give it, believing it was for the peace of the world in peril from a renewal of the deadly war with France they had just won. And the Count believed him and called off his mission. In the next port, Hornblower learns the shocking news that Napoleon had, indeed, died on St. Helena three weeks earlier. He recouped the honor of his word.

3) Though a mighty warrior who will give the enemies of England no quarter, he is still a compassionate forever true lover of Lady Barbara and needs healing of jealousy of her first husband.

In the last volume of the Hornblower series, Admiral Hornblower in the West Indies, he has finally married Barbara when she became a widow after her arranged first marriage. Something she says to him, when death seems imminent for their whole ship during a hurricane, heals his old jealousy.

She not merely said that she loved him; she had said she had never loved anyone else. Hornblower, huddled on the deck of a waterlogged ship with a hurricane shrieking round him, was suddenly aware that an old hurt was healed, that he would never again feel that dull ache of jealousy of Barbara's first husband, never, as long as he lived.

4) He is a great leader of men who will follow him to prison and even to death. . .

In most of the Hornblower books the reader sees this heroic characteristic carried out in many situations.  

Don't miss the next part in this series as we hone in on "The Man of Steel and Velvet." --Heroes, who not only display most of the characteristics we covered so far, but who also have a life-changing, empowering, relationship with Jesus Christ.

Thanks for stopping by. Would love to read your comments, and please do share this blog by clicking on the small icons below.

Blessings and Happy Mother's Day coming,

Elva Cobb Martin is vice-president of the South Carolina Chapter of American Christian Fiction Writers. She is a former school teacher and a graduate of Anderson University and Erskine College. She has two inspirational novels published with Lighthouse Publishers of the Carolinas. Summer of Deception, a contemporary romantic suspense, and an historical romance, In a Pirate’s Debt. Both have spent time on Amazon’s 100 Best Sellers List for Women’s Religious Fiction. Decision, Charisma, and Home Life have carried Elva's articles. Jim Hart of Hartline Literary represents her. She and her husband Dwayne are semi-retired ministers. A mother and grandmother, Elva lives in South Carolina. Connect with her on her web site,on Twitter; Facebook;  and Pinterest

 Link to her romance novels and non-fiction works on Amazon: