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Character Development


Sisters in Crime Desert Sleuths Chapter Spring Event: Part IV

Author Donis Casey was the first afternoon speaker. I’ve heard her speak before and always learn so much. She is the author of seven books in a series set in Oklahoma after 1910. Her protagonist, Alafair Tucker, is middle aged with ten children. Donis writes about every day life and the adventures of that time and place. You can learn more about Donis and her books here. The latest was released this month.

During her whole talk Donis stressed the need to be accurate and authentic for the character in that place and time. It is necessary to make the reader care about the characters and believe in them. If an author loves her story and characters it will show. Donis knows everything about Alafair. She described her, in part, as funny, reflective, sad, the center of her family, a legendary cook, nosy and practical. Doesn’t that make you want to meet (or read about) her?

Donis is a “pantser” or somebody who writes by the “seat of the pants” instead of with outlines and detailed plans. She does keep a “bible” or log of details so character’s eyes don’t change color from chapter to chapter and other inconsistencies that drive readers crazy. Each character has a page or section with their details and chronologies from chapter to chapter. Her research notes, details on the setting and other details are noted.


She stressed the importance of trusting the reader to know and remember the details. The color of a characters eyes, or their place in the family, or their favorite song don’t need to be repeated. The writer must be invisible. She used the great example of having Alafair sorting through her thoughts on a problem while cleaning out the ashes from the stove. There’s action and it gives the reader a chance to learn something about her life in that time. To keep it moving Donis suggests reading each passage out loud.

She then went on to discuss each of Elmore Leonard’s Ten Rules of Writing. I’d never heard of this list but it is now in the front of my journal.

Donis is obviously an avid reader and listed some of her favorites as: Larry McMurtry, Lindsey Davis, Nancy Turner, Walter Mosley, Toni Morrison and all the noir writers. She added that you should always write what you love to read.

Donis joined other speakers in stressing that writers should “practice, practice, practice.”

To be continued.



  1. Nice post. Donis really does know her stuff. 🙂

  2. Hmmm . . . I’ll have to check out Ten Rules of Writing! 🙂

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