Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Blood on the Pen by David W. Huffstetler & How to Keep Your Characters Motivated

How to keep your characters motivated.

It’s important to start with interesting characters, and they keep the author motivated. When I was struggling to get someone, anyone, to read one of my stories, I got some valuable feedback from an editor. I wish I could remember his name to give him credit, but he said that characters without problems are boring. You could take that a step farther and say that characters without problems are not reflective of the real world. I write about people who challenges that you can find in the folks around you. Jack Harden, the big Texas Ranger, lost his wife to a drunk driver a year ago. The antagonist, Eddie Carter, suffered through a strange childhood, taught some twisted philosophies that drove a troubled person even deeper into psychosis. So, it isn’t terribly difficult to give them problems, since we all have problems.

Now, that sounds easy, doesn’t it? It isn’t if the problems you give them are things you haven’t experienced. That requires research, and how do you research behaviors? If a character is a cocaine dealer, are you ready to take that trip down Drug Alley to study him? That takes a kind of courage I’m not sure I have, and it’s risky. An alternative might be to find someone on trial, read the transcript, and see if it takes you where you want to go. How did the accused defend himself? What did he say? What specific behaviors do the prosecutors accuse him of having done? This has become easier today with so many notable trials being televised. You can watch the facial expressions and demeanor of the accused, the fact witnesses, the expert witnesses, and a host of others. You don’t have to be like Truman Capote and visit murderers in prison, but, when your characters are people you’ve never met, the challenge is to get to know them.

Of course, not every character needs to be sinister to be interesting. That odd way the lady down the street stokes her cat when she talks to you. The mole on her face that you don’t want to look at, but you just can’t help it. Why doesn’t she have that thing taken off? You can leave that very question for your readers to answer. The dramatic and the mundane all work together, once you have a picture of who this person is.

Jack Harden is a modern-day Texas Ranger haunted by his wife's death a year ago.

But when a murderer strikes, he is called into duty. Now he must battle the urge to kill the drunk driver responsible for her death and the hunger to kill himself as he hunts for a serial killer who wants him dead.

Elsie Rodriguez is assigned to report on the murders for her newspaper and ordered to stay with Jack Harden. He's old school, tough, and doesn't want her there, but, despite his gruff manner, the big Ranger triggers something inside her. Something more than just her Latin temper.

Can she pull him back from the edge of sanity? Or will death win again?


Educated in Dallas, North Carolina, David Huffstetler holds degrees in Engineering and Business Administration. He has worked in the area of human relations and spent fourteen years weaving through the maze of politics, including participating in a Federal Law suit as Chairman of the Workers’ Compensation Commission, with a sitting governor over issues of separation of powers. David has served on Boards of Directors for numerous professional organizations including Crime Stoppers, SC Workers’ Compensation Educational Association, SC Safety Council, the SC Fire Academy, and the Governor’s Advisory Committee on Workers’ Compensation. He has advised governors and legislators on matters of public policy and legislation. His wealth of experience is broad and brings deep insight to his writing.

David’s work as a senior manager with a major industrial concern took him to international venues and exposures that helped feed his urge to write Disposable People, a dramatic expose of the working conditions and politics that engulf undocumented workers. Disposable People is a top-ten “Suggested Book” at Tufts University in Boston, MA.

He turned the frustrations and rejection that plagues thousands of yet-to-be-published authors into the heralded mystery/thriller Blood on the Pen, with a serial killer disposing of literary agents. David, an avid history buff, led him to write Dead in Utah, the story of Joe Hill, the controversial musician and union organizer accused of a double murder in 1914.  His books receive praise from mystery readers across the globe.

As an editor, David edited a treatise on the South Carolina workers’ compensation laws, as well as, Shannon Faulkner’s novel Fire and Ice. Shannon was the first female cadet at the Citadel. She received national publicity for her federal lawsuit and was a guest on Good Morning America.

Blood on the Pen blog tour site
Tribute Books Blog Tours Facebook

NEXT TOUR STOP:  Tomorrow at The Book Connection


  1. Wendy, thanks for hosting David today. We appreciate it!

    David, I like how you said - if the characters can keep the author motivated - then that's half the battle. If they're interesting to write about, then I bet the rest just flows from there.

  2. Yes, the characters drive the story. Authors see that when they proofread their manuscripts and find things they don't remember writing.


The old grey donkey, Eeyore stood by himself in a thistly corner of the Forest, his front feet well apart, his head on one side, and thought about things. Sometimes he thought sadly to himself, "Why?" and sometimes he thought, "Wherefore?" and sometimes he thought, "Inasmuch as which?" and sometimes he didn't quite know what he was thinking about.

Thank you for taking time out of your day to leave a comment. It's appreciated.