Thursday, May 5, 2011

Where Did You Come From? Developing Characters with Vicki Batman

Please welcome Vicki Batman to the blog today.  She's talking about how she develops her characters.

Where Did You Come From?

Developing Characters

Thank you, Sue, for having me talk about my main character, Allie Palmer, from "I Believe."

To ask how I developed Allie, we have to look at where the idea for "I Believe" originated.

Two years ago at RWA National, I roomed with the fabulous historical/hysterical author, Elizabeth Essex. One morning, I woke up and said to Ms. Essex, "I had a dream," who threw a pen and pad at me with the orders to "write it down." I (follow directions well) scribbled down lots. The dream was about a girl who had to use magic to find her true love and recited a chant.

When I returned home, I developed the full story. Before I knew it:
1. Allie is a college graduate
2. Works as a creative director at a wedding company
3. Drives a new Jeep
4. Has a beautiful apartment and a newly adopted cat
5. Has one sister, two cousins

She sounds perfect, doesn't she? So what's the problem? Who wants to read about perfect people?

The key to "I Believe" is in these first two lines: Loneliness is a four-letter word. And I'd been lonely far too long.

I felt this was a big admission for Allie as she sat at the Singleteener's Club, a group formed with her sister and cousins when they were fancy-free gals. At this meeting, Allie realized--again--she was the only member not married. To top it off, her sister and cousins were knitting. And as they stand to leave, we discover they are pregnant. Somehow, her family had formed another club Allie wasn't a part of. She's missing something big in her life.

So why hadn't Allie found her man? Could it be her attitude? Here's an excerpt:

"You're too picky."

"Yeah, picky," Bitsy said. "Men fall at your feet, even when you treat them like slime balls. And still they come back for more. Go figure."

"I. Am. Not. Picky." My eyes rolled ceiling-ward. "I followed Single-teeners's rules. Remember our standards? Doctors. Lawyers. Accountants. Not delivery men-slash-box company owners."

"Those standards go beyond club requirements." Paige clicked a stitch counter. "Picking boogers from noses . . . ." She snapped her finger in the universal flipped-off gesture. "Gone."

Bitsy perked up. "Moustache and/or beard?"

Snap went Martha. "Gone."

"Zip-up dress shoes—"

"Okay!" I flashed my palms their way. "Point taken, except for nose picking. Did you ever stop to think maybe nothing jived between those bozos and me? No chemistry? That's what a successful relationship needs, as you well know."

It would be easy to say Allie is picky, but underlying her pickiness is superficiality. She needs to get past outward appearances to find the inner man. (Which tends to be the theme in most of my stories--everyone's not quite what they seem.) Frustrated, she says this:

I tossed my hands skyward. "I don't know what else to do. Post a want ad on Facebook or Craigslist? Wave a magic wand?"

A hush cloaked the room. Paige's project fell to her lap. "Did Allie say magic?"

Magic? Here is where the chant (which is a lovely story of itself) comes in. Ultimately, we find the conflict with using magic is the grandmother who had her special "ways," once helped a young woman who'd died when the concoction went bad. As a result, the community shunned the family. If Allie does the spell, and someone found out, she could be shunned too, and that was something she didn't want to experience. And adds more conflict.

Allie is willing to risk all when she says, "I'd give everything away, except for Miss Moxie—we're a joint package—to have a death-do-us-part relationship."

What is life? An adventure! The story takes off on Allie's journey to find her dream man and possibly, using magic to help her. If we're hooked (meaning I've done my job), we'll tag along, too. We'll suffer and rejoice with her highs and lows as she looks for her true love to find her happily ever after.

"I Believe" is available through


This conversation was going nowhere except down the Port-A-Potty. But as I sat there and thoughts passed through what little brains my dad teased I had, I noticed the girls shared a distinct look, like they knew something I didn't. Each lifted one brow, a shoulder raised in a bare shrug, as if they were communicating through . . . telepathy.

How weird. Definitely suspicious. I asked, "What?"

"Nothing," Martha said.

My head went no-no-no. "Not buying it. You have some secret in our club. We'd agreed to be the four Single-teeners, like the fabulous Musketeers. 'All for one and one for all'—remember?"

"We remember." With one final shared look, Paige said, "Okay, fine. But don't get mad."

"I won't get mad. I will if you don't tell me ASAP."

"You might after . . . ." Bitsy's gaze darted to her sister's and then mine.

"Get on with it, will ya." I checked my watch. "I have a date—"

"A date? How exciting," they chorused.

"You've been holding out," Martha said. "Tell all."

Smiling smugly on the inside, and with a knowing grin on the outside, I let them stew over my nugget for a bit. They were way off mark and needed a lesson on how not to mess with the master.

When I didn't volunteer anything, Bitsy said, "I give up. Allie?"

Guesstimating they'd suffered long enough, I pointed their way. "Gotcha."

"I don't get it." Paige's brow V-ed. "You don't have a date, after all?"

I laughed. "Not the kind you're thinking. I have a rendezvous with Miss Moxie."

"Oh." They drooped in their respective chairs like deflated balloons.

"Your new cat," Bitsy said with a snort. "How's that workin' for you?"


Like some of her characters, Vicki has worked a wide variety of jobs including lifeguard, ride attendant at an amusement park; a hardware store, department store, book store, antique store clerk; administrative assistant in an international real estate firm; and a general “do anything gal” at a financial services firm. The list is…endless.

Born in Dallas, a graduate of Texas Tech, she is married to Handsome, has two big boys, two attention-demanding cats, and two adorable poopies.

Writing for several years, she has completed three manuscripts, written essays, and sold many short stories. She is a member of RWA, and the DARA, Elements, and RWA-WF chapters. In 2004 she joined DARA and has served in many capacities, including 2009 President. Recently, she was awarded the 2010 Robin Teer Memorial Service Award.

Most days begin with her hands set to the keyboard and thinking "What if??"


  1. You know I LOVE taking credit for getting this story jump-started! And I love your novella and your short stories. You sure do know how to pack a lot into few words. How do you decide what stays and what goes with shorter romances?

  2. How loverly you posted, Ms. Essex!

    I confess: I'm a pantser. So when an idea percolates, I sit down and type away. However, where the idea ends is where the story ends. Mostly.

    Then it's a matter of what is really necessary in a story. A tad description, a tad of backstory. (In one story, I didn't have a proper name for the husband or wife. Just husband and wife and the story worked!)
    A bit more conflict. In a short, the conflict and plot drive the story.

    AND I write lots of dialogue. So after I get the basic thing down, I revise and revise and revise, critique, revise and revise. Until one day-voila! One more word wouldn't add a thing to the story.

  3. Vicki,

    Lovely post. It's fascinating to see how other author's minds work when building a story. I wish I could just sit down and start writing; unfortunately, that only gets me in trouble (big grin).

    Congratulations on you novella publication (which I won and I'll be reading this weekend). Yea!

    Keep up the great work.

  4. I liked the teaser about how Grandma's concoction backfired so your character is afraid of getting shunned if she does the same. Makes me wonder what she'll do. A "wanna read" book.

  5. Hi, Kathy! Read away and let me know what you think. I sooo suffer from "Am I a hack writer?" lol.

    Hi, Patti. Thank you so much for posting. Backfire is a nice way of saying what happened. It is terribly serious. Please read and let me know!

  6. We all suffer from that "hack writer" feeling. As writers, we put so much of ourselves out there, and we want readers to like what we've written.

  7. I agree with you, Sue. It's my insanity to get over. lol

  8. Great post, Vicki! I haven't had a chance to read your book yet, but it's on my TBR stack! I love the excerpt and can't wait to sink my teeth into it. :) Congrats, again, on your release. You're deserve it.

  9. You're deserve it? *rolls eyes* I think I need a typing refresher course ;)

  10. Thanks, Stalker-buddy. Now let me proof-read.... lolol

  11. I'm so jealous you dreamt your story. I've always wanted to do that. I've downloaded I Believe, and I can't wait to read it. It sounds terrific.

  12. Excellent post Vicki!
    Alot of fun, and great origin of story. It must have been fun rooming with Elizabeth. :) I'm so proud of you, you're doing fantastic and such an inspiration. Take care and I wish you continued success! *Hugs*

  13. Hi, Cara. I have absolutely no idea HOW that dream came about. But the chant... ah, that's a sweet story. Thank you and happy reading.

    Hi, Diana! Ms. Essex is delightful 24/7. Thank you so much for the compliment. Having wonderful friends like you is a BIG PLUS!!!

  14. I'm with Allie. Zip-up dress shoes? Seriously!

    She and I are soooo much alike. Except for the wedding job, the new car, the sister and men falling at my feet. Except for that, we could be twins.

    Oh, and I adopted my cat several years ago. But other than that, twins!

    (Good stuff, Vicki!)

  15. Vicki, it's a delight having you on the blog. I hope you'll come back to visit again.

  16. Hi, Sally. I know! I agree with Allie. Zip up dress shoes are sooo passee. And I actually pictured you when developing her. Especially her rapier wit! LOL. Love you!

    Thank you for having me, Sue. Say when and I'm there!

  17. Vicki,
    Love the book title, love the excerpt and love the author! Best wishes for continued success. :)

  18. I loved this book and highly recommend it to everyone who needs a little magic in their lives.

    I often ask Vicki how she gets her ideas for her shorts and she always mentions something about Handsome!!! The guy is really earning his keep.

  19. Hi, Joya. I'm so happy you like the title. "I Believe" comes from the end. :) Thank you for posting.

    Hi, Liz. Blush. I appreciate the compliment.

    Handsome has to earn his keep. If he continues to say and do crazy things, I'm set for life!

    And happily, no zip-up shoes. Thanks for stopping. oxoxox

  20. Ya 'spose Handsome would give my dh some pointers? Or maybe it's too late to train him. I've been working on him for 48 years.

  21. That's a long training period, Sue.

    You should see my hubby. He's really handsome.

    Maybe the pointers been there but you've been dazzled and not seen them. LOL

  22. Hi Vicki,
    Great post! It's interesting to see how authors get their ideas. I can hardly wait to read it!


  23. Congratulations on your release. Wishing you many, many sales.

  24. Hi, Karilyn. I like to hear how authors get ideas too. Thank you so much for posting and let me know what you think!

    Hi, Linda. Thank you so much. I've been blessed this past year and half and can only pray for it to continue. Happy writing to you!

  25. Hi Vicki,

    I loved hearing how you got your idea for 'I Believe.'

    And I LOVED the novella! The pages flew by when I read it last week. :)

  26. Hi, Angela. Thank you so much!!! In college, I took a class which made me look at things differently. I took a writing class a while back and that moved me to get inspiration from something tiny to a picture. I'm lucky this one was a dream. LOL

    I'm still overwhelmed you 1/ read it; and 2/ LOVED it! Thank you so very much.

  27. Great post, ladies!!!

  28. You got me hooked with the word 'magic'!!! Can't wait to read the whole thing. :)

  29. Hi Vicki,
    What a great post. I loved hearing how you got the idea for your story. Congratulations on I Believe! Can't wait to read more. : )

  30. Ack, I just got the memo about your fabulous post, Vicki! I love how you laid out Allie's evolution - brilliant! The wonderful excerpts have me eager to read the novella!

    Thanks to Vicki, and Sue, too!


  31. Hi, Barbara! This is so exciting to have you here.

    Yep, magic. Funny what one person dreams up, isn't it? I had a blast writing it too.

    Thanks, Kay! Read and let me know what you think.

    Oh, Nancy, words that reached my heart. oxoxox

  32. Thank you so much, Sue, for having me and to all those who read and write--Happy days!