Say “snickerdoodles,” and I’m transported to a long ago summer. My first (or perhaps it was my second) 4-H project booklet contained recipes for me to follow. One recipe quickly became a family favorite: snickerdoodles. Dough that had to be refrigerated a long tedious hour before baking. Yummy golden cookies sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar.
I haven’t made snickerdoodles in decades, but their strong association with my childhood means they’re an obvious choice to include in my stories.
Perhaps too obvious.
In the third manuscript of the Misty Willow Series, the story’s hero offers snickerdoodles to the heroine’s nephew. The boy says he’s never had that kind of cookie before. Soon after, the hero keeps his promise in a cute little scene between him and the boy.
I was only a couple of weeks away from that manuscript’s deadline when I received the galleys for When Love Arrives, the second novel in the series. And guess what. On page 25, the boy’s mom reminisces about the two of them making snickerdoodles together.
So did the boy lie to the third story’s hero just to get a batch of cookies? Or did an author—me—forget to include this detail in her series’ style sheet?
Of course, it was the latter. After all, I didn’t know snickerdoodles would show up again in the next story. Apparently it’s my “go-to” cookie.
A lesson learned: when we write, we must keep track of the details. The big ones and the little ones. Cause, you know, changing a character’s eye color in the middle of the story is kind of creepy.
Some details, like a boy’s prior knowledge of snickerdoodles, may not seem all that important at the time, but they can be if you forget about them in the next book. Readers definitely notice such contradictions.
While revising the series’ first story, I created an Excel document with the following columns:
- Appearance (hair/eyes)
- Education / Career
- Other details
Places and their descriptions, such as houses, restaurants, and stores, are listed on another sheet in the document. I learned the importance of adding this information when I was writing the second story.
What kind of tree is by the stone circle? What trees are around the cottage? Where is the sunflower house? How did I describe that piece of stained glass art? Does Elizabeth have “camouflage” eyes or “chameleon” eyes?
The answers weren’t too hard to find. I opened the first story’s manuscript and did a search. Once found, they were added to my Style Sheet document. Now they’re even easier to find.
Other options exist besides Excel. Scrivener users can utilize the program’s templates to record their characters’ physical attributes, personalities, and mannerisms. My internet search for “character bio templates” returned over nine million results. Whatever you use, just remember to include as much detail as possible, even the ones that don’t seem that important.
About those cute little scenes with the hero and the boy in the third manuscript—I rewrote them.
Johnnie Alexander writes inspiring stories that linger in the heart. Where Treasure Hides, her debut novel, won the ACFW Genesis Contest (2011) and Golden Leaf Award (2014). She also has won Best Novel and Best Writer awards (Florida Christian Writers Conferences), and Bronze Medalist (My Book Therapy Frasier Contest). She is marketing director for the Mid-South Christian Writers Conference and president of the ACFW Memphis chapter.
A graduate of Rollins College (Orlando) with a Master of Liberal Studies degree, Johnnie treasures family memories, classic movies, road trips, and stacks of books. She lives near Memphis with Griff, her happy-go-lucky collie, and Rugby, the princely papillon who trees raccoons.
Dani Prescott came to the children’s hospital to spy on Brett Somers–so how did she end up on a date with him? Weeks earlier she’d seen an interview in which he blamed her mother for the plane crash that had killed his parents. But the crash had killed her mother as well, so Dani can’t believe the story Brett’s trying to sell to the media.
Vowing to find a way to discredit the privileged–and maddeningly handsome–Brett, Dani has been following him and taking photos, hoping to find something she can use against him. But when she catches his eye instead, she quickly finds herself offering up a fake name and agreeing to a date. Brett knows this mystery girl is hiding something–but he’s got his own secrets to keep. What will happen when he discovers who she really is? Will Dani and Brett look beyond their own heartaches to discover a love that could heal their deepest pain?
Fresh, flirty, and fast-paced, When Love Arrives is an engaging story that will have readers falling in love with the characters as they navigate the tricky waters between romance and revenge.