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The Temptation to Over-Simplify Secondary Characters

The temptation to over-simplify secondary characters by Jill Kemerer

The temptation to over-simplify secondary characters, especially bad guys, hits me every time I write a first draft. Since my books are short, I don’t have much space to devote to sub-plots, and some of the characters are off-camera anyway.

These bad-guy characters are typically exes—ex-boyfriends, ex-wives, ex-in-laws. You know, the people who shaped the main characters’ internal conflicts. The reader needs to know how they affected the characters, and it’s easy to make them caricatures.

Another reason I tend to draft caricatures is because the reader doesn’t get to experience their point of view in my books. I’m only giving the main character’s impression of them, and let’s face, it a one-sided impression tends to be skewed. For instance, the current book I’m writing features a woman whose husband not only demanded a divorce when she told him she was pregnant, but he also wants nothing to do with their unborn child.

He’s not a villain in the sense that he’s stalking her or trying to kill her, but he’s a villain nonetheless.

The problem? Readers don’t want one-dimensional characters, even if he is the jerky ex-husband who is off-page the entire book.

Even if my readers give me a pass, I don’t want to write caricatures. It’s lazy. And it doesn’t reflect reality.

No one is all bad. No one is all good.

Yes…some people are ethically challenged. Other people have very real mental health problems that causes them to make poor decisions. There are also people who live their lives selfishly, not thinking about how their actions affect those around them, and not taking responsibility for it either.

So, there’s the dilemma. How can we write the “bad guy” without making him a caricature? How can we make her a real person, with motivations we might not agree with but we at least understand? And how can we humanize them enough so the reader isn’t taken out of the story wondering, would anyone really act like that?

I’ll be honest with you–there have been times I’ve failed at this. As much as I try to produce multi-dimensional characters, sometimes the cookie-cutter ex shows up.

How to combat over-simplifying secondary characters?

When I have a character (usually from the past who doesn’t play an active role in the book) who caused my heroine or hero a lot of pain, I come up with reasons why this person would behave that way. Jealousy, greed, narcissism, desperation, chemical imbalance, addictions–all of these can bring out the dark side in people.

When I have an idea why the “bad guy” was so awful, I then try to incorporate this into the main character’s thoughts 0r even a conversation with someone they trust so the reader gets a better understanding, too.

Going back to my current heroine…she’s long suspected her ex-husband had a personality disorder of some sort. This is confirmed later in the story. Their entire relationship was basically long-distance. They only saw each other a few weekends per month because of his job. These details help the reader understand why the heroine would have married this guy in the first place and gives credence as to why he wants nothing to do with their child.

He’s not an endearing character. His actions affect my heroine. But he’s not evil or just bad to be bad. He has problems, and since he’s chosen to cut himself out of the heroine’s life, there’s not much she can do about it.

If the secondary character plays an active role in the book–say the ex-husband is showing up at her house or she has to work with him and he’s lying about her–I would spend even more time weaving in reasons and motivations for the reader to understand why he’s acting like a jerk. Readers can handle a “bad guy” in the book. They will find him or her more believable if they understand why he or she is acting that way.

Readers don’t have to like every character. The book might be boring if they did! But they do need to understand each character.

The temptation to over-simplify secondary characters is basically telling not showing. Hate this ex-husband because he’s a lying, cheating jerk who doesn’t want the baby!

If that’s all his character is reduce to, it makes me wonder why she married him in the first place? He must have had some redeeming quality, right?

When I’m revising, I actively search for ways to make secondary characters more believable. If the character is a bad guy, I try to either make him or her a little less villainous or weave in more reasons for why they act the way they do.

How do you handle secondary characters who are bad guys? Do you have any tips on making them more believable? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

On a side note, I’m linking an OLD blog post I wrote back in 2014, “Strengthening Weak Areas in Your Writing.” I’m still finding lots of weak areas to strengthen!

Have a great day!

Is Improvement Automatic {Aspiring Writers}

Is writing improvement automatic? Jill Kemerer

Way back when I submitted my first novel for publication, I was certain getting published would happen quickly–a year, tops. I believed talent would take me places.

Confidence is a good thing. It pushed me through a lot of hard times.

But reality came knocking quickly, and with it came humility.

When I realized getting published might take longer–much longer–than I thought, I questioned if I had any talent at all. Had I been lying to myself?

Read more

2 Ways I Prevent Writer’s Block {Updated}

2 Ways I Avoid Writer's Block by Jill Kemerer #ww

It’s the final Wednesday of January! Where did this month go? Well, around here it was buried under snow and negative temperatures, but I’ve whined enough on social media sites, so I’ll shut my mouth!

I’ve been writing a first draft, and first drafts are the hardest stage of writing for me. I love plotting–adore plotting! Revising? Challenging, but I enjoy it. Polishing gets me excited because I know the book is THIS close to being finished. But the writing itself…

It would be terribly easy for me to get writer’s block. Every day. I wish I was kidding! For me, getting started is the tricky part. Thankfully, there are a bajillion writing blogs out there, and I’ve experimented with various tips. Here’s what gets me back into my story each day.

2 Ways I Prevent Writer’s Block

  1. At the beginning of each writing session, I read through the previous scene.
  2. At the end of each writing session, I sketch out the next 2-3 scenes.

If I didn’t do these two steps every time I sat down to write, I would stare at the screen for hours.

Reviewing the previous scene jogs my memory and gets me back into the story quickly. And since I have the next 2-3 scenes outlined, all I have to do is review my notes to pick up where I left off.

At the end of the writing session, I’m usually really tired. I’m always tempted to skip my prep work for the next day. But I don’t let myself. I know from experience if I don’t spend 5-10 minutes thinking of the next scenes, I’ll regret it. I’ll end up wasting time and creating more work for myself. No thanks!

**Update: 10-28-2019** Jerry B. Jenkins has a terrific article with plenty of other tips to help with writer’s block. You can access it here, “How to Overcome Writer’s Block Once and For All: My Surprising Solution.”

Here’s the companion video if you’re interested.

How do you prevent writer’s block? What gets you back into your story quickly?

If you’re dealing with the bitter cold like I am, try to stay warm! If you’re in warmer climates, I wish I was there!

Writing Slow and Not Loving It

Writing Slow and Not Loving It. Jill Kemerer

I’m writing a first draft right now. I’m excited about the story. I know the main characters, know the main plot points. Usually, I can estimate a word count goal for the day (depending on what I have going on) and meet it in a set amount of time. Not this time, my friends.

I’m writing slow. I’m talking S-L-O-W.

It’s frustrating.

Yesterday, I didn’t even hit my word count goal, and I worked past six pm. Today, I did hit my word count goal, but it took seven hours to do it.

I want to write faster! What’s going on?

Right now I’m chowing down on a creamy caramel and trying to figure out why I’m struggling to get the words on the page. My thoughts:

  1. It’s January. I live in northern Ohio, and we had a severe winter storm this weekend. Yesterday it was below zero. Today wasn’t much better. I can’t blame everything on the weather, but being cooped up inside with gray skies does affect me.
  2. This is the first book in a new series. I’m still getting to know the secondary characters. I’m creating the town and the feel of the community. Plus, there’s a lot of plot to pack into this story.
  3. I’m in the middle scenes. My mind can’t always keep track of the various plot threads in this phase. I drop things–the faith thread, the romantic tension, the conflicts and goals. And it slows me down because I know I’m not getting it all but I don’t know what I’m dropping. At night, I usually get lightbulb moments–hmm…I forgot to address the emotional fallout from the previous scene. Or this IS a romance, right? Shouldn’t the MCs be getting butterflies?

That’s all I’ve got. Tomorrow I’ll force myself to sit in my office and tap out words until another scene takes shape. Then another. And at some point I will walk away from my laptop–with or without having met my word goal for the day. And I’ll repeat this until the book is finished.

Then I’ll find all the threads I dropped and all the areas I know are flat, and I’ll revise the book to make it shine.

In the meantime, I’ll have another caramel and try not to overthink it.

Writers, what slows your writing down? How do you get through it?

Thank you to everyone who entered The Rancher’s Unexpected Baby (by Jill Lynn) giveaway! The winner is Lori R.! Congratulations, Lori, check your email for further instructions!

What are Your January 2019 Goals?

What are your 2019 January goals?

January 2019 Goals

Happy New Year!!

I’ll be honest, Monday was a rude awakening for me. I’d been playing catch up on administrative and marketing tasks for five days straight, and guess what? Monday was another full day of it. *waaahh!!* *crying face*

That’s the writing life, though. It’s not all writing!

So how was your Christmas? What did you enjoy the most? Or did you have a hard holiday? Some years are like that.

I was not my optimistic self this December. Sometimes I just get gloomy for no apparent reason. I babied myself. Read a lot. Watched Holiday Baking Championship on Food Network. Spent a lot of time with distant family members (yay!). Oh, and I took the month off from tracking calories. The nice thing? I’m in a good groove with my eating habits and only gained a few pounds over Christmas week which promptly disappeared as soon as I resumed my normal diet. I have noticed my back aches more when I don’t work out at least three days a week, so I’m thankful to be back on track with my DVDs.

Let’s see how I did last month.

Jill’s December 2018 Goals:

  • Revise and polish Christmas novella.
  • Finish Christmas shopping.
  • Take time off after the novella is finished to refill the creative well.
  • Create my 2019 Production Plan.
  • Workout 4 days/week and stay in calorie range most days until Christmas week, when we have 70-billion parties with decadent food!

How did I do?

  • Christmas novella revise and polish? CHECK! Finished it early. Woohoo!
  • Finish Christmas shopping: CHECK! Took me until right before Christmas Eve, but I did it.
  • Take time off to fill creative well. SORT OF CHECK. I took time off, read, relaxed, but I didn’t really do much to fill my well. It was more like crashing and burning…
  • 2019 Production Plan? CHECK! I’ll tweak it each month, but I’m happy with the overall plan.
  • Health stuff. NO CHECK. I did NOT workout 4 days/week. My body is scolding me!

Jill’s January 2019 Goals

  • Finalize A Meddled Match: Resort to Romance Series to prepare for February launch! This includes setting up promo, sending out ARCs, uploading to Amazon, etc…
  • Replot and draft rest of book one in the new Love Inspired series! It’s now going to be a Christmas book releasing this December. Aaah!
  • I’m the 2019 president of Maumee Valley Romance Authors, Inc. and need to do several administrative tasks to start the year off right.
  • Health: Log calories daily in MyFitnessPal, stay within calorie range, workout for 30 minutes 4+ days/week.

Side note: My health goals are the same each month. I know some of you are trying to get healthy this year. Two years ago I made the decision to stick to a lower calorie diet without drastically changing what I ate. I also committed to exercising 4-5 days per week. Within six months, I’d lost 20 pounds. Ever since, I’ve consistently kept off 15 pounds. Last year my weight fluctuated 3-4 pounds on any given month, but I stayed below the 15-pound loss mark. I’m happy with that!

I’m not telling you this to brag–I’m telling you it CAN be done. I realize we all have different struggles. You may have significantly more weight to lose or you just can’t seem to take off the last five pounds. You might have physical issues preventing you from certain exercises or foods. I get it. I still want to encourage you. Small decisions every day add up to big results. For me, being consistent has made ALL the difference.

How did you do last month? What are your January goals?

Have a terrific day!

What’s on Your Writer’s Wish List?

What's on Your Writer's Wish List? Jill Kemerer Blog

Are you making your list and checking it twice? No, I’m not talking about your Christmas list–I’m talking about your writer’s wish list! And you can make one whether you’re naughty or nice. *wink*

As we reach the end of another year, I like to take inventory of the practical (and a few impractical!) items I use on a regular basis. I also weigh in on if it’s time to try something new, upgrade existing equipment, or switch services. Sure, I replenish necessary supplies as needed throughout the year, but the once-a-year wish list gives me a valid excuse to spend a few hours thinking about how to improve my productivity.

Here are some of the items on my writer’s wish list, and, yes, I have categories!

Office Supplies

  1. Pentel EnerGel pens with purple ink. What can I say? I’m a pen nerd. I’m down to two pens, and that’s not going to cut it, my friends.
  2. Black and red Pilot G2 pens. See above–I’m picky about pens, and I like to have a variety of colors. I tend to blow through these G2s like they’re toilet paper. I should buy a fifty pack and call it good.
  3. Copy paper for printing. I buy a case at a time when it’s on sale, and, oh look! I’m down to only one full package left.
  4. A new office chair. The left arm of my current chair has lost its padding and the finish on it is crumbling. I lean on it a lot. The right arm seems fine. Sadly, this means I have the worst posture on the planet. I’m working on correcting how I sit. But in the meantime, a new chair has been added to the list.
  5. The PERFECT day planner. I have yet to find it, but the hunt is on and, my friends, the quest is real.

Last year, I stocked up on tape, staples, index cards, paperclips, mailing supplies, and manila folders, so I’m set on those for a while.

Computer Equipment/Software

Believe it or not, I have nothing on this list at the moment. I know, it’s shocking.

I bought a new laptop last year. My black-and-white laser printer is only a few years old. Last year I paid for plugin I’d been wanting for my website, and I hated it, so, thankfully, I have no stars in my eyes for other plugins at this point. I switched newsletter services a few years ago and am very happy with my current provider. So…I’m good. For now. Check back with me next year–this list will likely have something on it.

Oops, spoke too soon. Our internet provider is on my list to deal with. Our rates keep going up, but we have dead spots in our house and a lot of slow internet times. Guess I’ll be making a call soon. *sigh*

Creativity Helpers

  1. Gift cards for coffee shops. When I see a deal on them, I snatch them up. I love getting away for a few hours to explore ideas, and it’s less painful on the wallet when I can use a gift card.
  2. Pretty notebooks. I can never have enough.
  3. A super comfortable chair with an ottoman for my office. This is a long-term goal. I would love a comfy chair in my office to red-line my drafts, research, and dream. Someday…

Personal Items

  1. Hand lotion. Winters are dry where I live, and I keep a tube of thick hand cream on my desk. My hands thank me for it.
  2. Cardigans. I love cardigans or any garment that will keep me warm while I’m working. I bought a cape this fall to keep in my office. It’s easy to throw over my shoulders and it keeps my hands free to type.
  3. Candles. Lighting a candle makes the room pretty and it smells good.
  4. Candy. I can’t help it. Afternoons make me crave caramels. One or two can’t hurt, can they? Don’t answer that!


  1. Books on the writing craft. There are always books to be purchased!
  2. Online classes. I recently found Udemy. Thanks, Kristina Knight and Tina Radcliffe, for sharing it with me! You can find tons of classes on a variety of subjects. The one I’m taking isn’t graded, and I can work on it at my own pace. It suits my needs perfectly.
  3. Magazines. I enjoy buying a variety of magazines throughout the year. They always give me ideas, inspiration, or motivation.

I’m sure there are tons of other things I could add to my list, and I’ll be jotting them down as I get more ideas.

What’s on your writer’s wish list? I love hearing about your ideas and favorite items!

Have a terrific day!

4 Tips to Start and End a Scene #WW

Scenes build stories. How you begin and end them can mean the difference between a reader finishing your novel or tossing it aside.

When you’re writing, it’s fine to put down whatever comes to mind so your brain can push through and get the draft on paper. But when you’re revising, it’s wise to analyze each scene’s hook and ending to make sure they’re pulling their weight.

Here are my “rules” for how to start and end a scene.

1. Don’t bore the reader.

Madeline slathered butter on the bagel. Stan had really crossed a line.

Whoop-dee-doo. Does any reader care if Madeline has butter on her bagel or not? I don’t think so. And while the second sentence gets more to the heart of the matter, the first sentence is what counts.

Try this:

She wanted to chuck her bagel at Stan’s head. The nerve of him, treating her like a five-year-old in front of her boss.

2. Give transition details early in the scene.

Readers need to know how long it’s been since the previous scene, whose point of view we’re in, the location, and any other pertinent setting information. Don’t make them guess!

She wanted to chuck her bagel at Stan’s head. The nerve of him, treating her like a five-year-old in front of her boss. Madeline peeked out of the break room but saw no sign of him. Good. After this morning’s humiliating meeting, she hoped he crawled back to corporate headquarters where he belonged.

3. Tease the reader at the end of a scene.

Stan handed her the report. “Verify your numbers with this.”

Stimulating. I, for one, don’t get excited over a hero handing a heroine a report and telling her to verify her numbers. YAWN…

How about:

“Verify your numbers with this.” Stan’s tone was as icy as his blue eyes. She snatched the report out of his hand.

 She’d verify them all right. And if he questioned her expertise again, she was taking the other job offer, even if it meant a cut in pay. No job was worth this.

4. Check scene hooks and endings.

A quick and easy way to make sure these openings and closings are doing their job is to copy/paste the first and last sentence in each scene in a separate file. When you have them pasted one after the other, it’s easy to spot the duds. Try it! I always find a few that need punching up.

What are you tricks to start and end scenes? I’d love to hear them!

Have a great week!


Sugarplums and Second Chances by Jill Kemerer

Are some mistakes beyond redemption?

When former NFL star, Chase McGill, invites Courtney Trudesta, the widow of his former teammate, to spend Christmas with him and his son in Lake Endwell, he simply wants to repay her for the weekly letters she sent while he was in prison. He didn’t expect to fall for her.

Chase regrets his past and knows it will take more than sugarplums and wishful thinking to heal Courtney’s lonely heart. But with a dose of small-town charm and plenty of Christmas cheer, they might have a second chance at happiness…with each other.

Sugarplums and Second Chances is only $0.99 on Kindle. Purchase HERE!


What Are Your November Goals?

What are your November goals? Jill Kemerer blog

I’ve actually been enjoying the blustery, overcast weather. Winter will be here with the snap of my fingers, so I will take the windy, rainy weather since it comes with yellow, rust, and fiery orange leaves.

Okay, so it’s time for goals. How did you all do last month? Are any of you doing NaNoWriMo? I don’t do NaNo. November is packed full for me, and adding the pressure of 50,000 words would send me over the edge! But I love cheering on my friends who do it, so if you are, I salute you!

Let’s get to goals! First I’ll share my October ones and how I did. Then I’ll set my new ones. Ready?


Jill’s October 2018 Goals:

  • Start writing Christmas novella
  • Line-edit and polish February novella
  • Final edits, His Wyoming Baby Blessing, Wyoming Cowboys Book 4
  • Put Sugarplums and Second Chances up for preorder (previously released novella)
  • Submit two freelance projects
  • Health: Work out M-F at 8am to exercise DVDs, log calories, stay within range.

How did I do?

  • Start writing Christmas novella? Yes. But only by the hair of my chinny-chin-chin. I got about 2500 words in. It counts! Check.
  • Line edit and polish February novella? Check.
  • Final edits for His Wyoming Baby Blessing?  Check.
  • Put Sugarplums and Second Chances up for preorder? Check.
  • Submit two freelance projects? I only submitted one. No check.
  • Health: Yes, I actually stuck to it! Woohoo!! CHECK!!

Jill’s November 2018 Goals:

  • Draft rest of Christmas novella and revise it for plot issues.
  • Finish up marketing and promo for various projects.
  • Submit one freelance project.
  • Health: Work out M-F at 8am, log calories, stay within calorie range.

How did you do with your October goals? Do you want to set new ones? Please share in the comments.

Be realistic about this month with Thanksgiving and the Christmas season soon approaching!

Best wishes to you!

Are You a Comma Master?

Are you a comma master? Jill Kemerer blog

Commas. Where do they go? Why did I throw one there? Does this phrase need one? Are seventeen commas in one sentence too many??? (Yes.)

I consider myself at intermediate level when it comes to comma placement. No matter how much I edit, I always find spots where I’ve misplaced them.

Are you a comma master?

Since I’m in the line-edit phase of a project, I’m overthinking the whole comma thing. Yesterday I got out my cheat sheet, a grammar book, and a CMOS style guide. I still had to look up specific examples online!

Let’s tackle the basics (thank you, Jan R., for graciously sharing these with me years ago!).

Commas go…

  • before a coordinating conjunction joining independent clauses.
  • after introductory phrase, especially if dependent.
  • between items in a series.
  • between coordinate adjectives.
  • on either side of a nonrestrictive word group.
  • to set off parenthetical expressions.
  • in dates, addresses, titles, etc…
  • where there might be confusion without one.

For a more thorough breakdown of comma usage, are a few sites I’ve bookmarked.

The Punctuation Guide

Grammar Book


How are you with commas? Do you have any tips, sites, or books to recommend? I’d love to hear!


Get More Done with a Plan #WW

Get More Done with a Plan #ww Jill Kemerer Blog

When you wake up on Monday, do you have a general idea of what you want to accomplish?

This is typically how my thoughts run…

Keep writing the new book. Put together the guest blog. Create graphics for the new release. Oh, and write my blog post. And what about social media?

Instead of anticipating the week, I start to feel crushed because of the sheer amount of things to do. I tend to focus so intensely on the writing that I end up cramming promotion or not doing it on a regular basis. And forget all the other writer duties. They get shoved aside to that fruitless land called “when I have more time.”

I know, you’re laughing right now. We never have a day with more time!

This summer, I stopped the gerbil-on-a-wheel approach to my writing life. I was nervous about it, but it ended up working out better than I could have imagined.

There IS a better way, and I’m living it as we speak.

I realized I have all the time I need right now. I just have to be very, very deliberate. No more hoping I’ll get everything done. Now I plan to get everything done.

Think about your writing life. What MUST get done each week?

For me, it’s the actual writing (or plotting, revising, editing). Then it’s ongoing promotion like posting to social media and my blog, and admin duties (emails, income/expense report, updating website, etc…).

Additionally, what do you want to get done each week?

For me it’s freelance writing, continuous education, long-term marketing, and brainstorming ideas.

How can you fit ALL of these categories in on a regular basis?

Every Monday, I assign duties to each day. If I have appointments, I assign less to those days. I’m very clear about what I’ll be doing, too. For example, Friday I will be doing admin work from 9-9:30am, revising a novella from 9:30-noon, taking thirty minutes to an hour for lunch, going back to the novella from 1-4:00pm, and drafting a freelance story from 4-6:00pm. Not having to think about it frees my brain to just do it!

In the past, I would have worked on the novella all day, gotten exhausted by 4:30 or 5:00pm and quit. I’m still tired in the late afternoon, but I can always push myself to switch gears and either work on a shorter piece or study a writing craft book.

The result? I’m writing/revising as much as I used to, AND I’m fitting in the other things on my list. I can’t believe it, but I’m actually getting more done.

**I do take five-minute breaks twice a day to check Facebook, Twitter and my emails. I do NOT linger. It kills my productivity and eats into my time.**

What do you want to get done but never have time for? Do you think planning it into your week would help?

Have a terrific day!



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