Jill Weatherholt

Writing Stories of Love, Faith and Happy Endings While Enjoying the Journey


Prick or Treat!

Image courtesy of www.boston.com

Image courtesy of http://www.boston.com

When I was in the 7th grade, I begged my mother to let me get my ears pierced. When she finally agreed, my mother, sister and grandmother headed to the jewelry store at the mall. I was so excited, it was a day I had dreamed of for years. I sat in the chair and the clerk pulled out his piercing gun. I immediately fainted.

Everyone is afraid of something, most are afraid of many things. I’ve always had a fear of needles. The day I chose to confront that fear, I ended up stretched out on a bench in the middle of the mall. According to my sister, a crowd quickly formed. One man asked if he should call 911. As a teenager, my sister was mortified. She told the concerned man, “No, she just got her ears pierced.”

Fear humanizes us. As a species, it’s something we all share. When I develop a character I need to know her fears. A character without fear is automatically unbelievable and more difficult for a reader to make a connection. The fear could be something as simple as a fear of worms to something more integrated into the plot, such as a fear of dying alone.

Discovering what my character fears, why, and how she overcomes or tries and fails to overcome her fear, will tell a lot about her. These discoveries will contribute relevant elements to my plot. Fear is a powerful emotion and when it comes to character development, the possibilities are endless.

In everyday life, people deal with fear in different ways. Some conquer them by purposely exposing themselves to the things they most fear. A person with a fear of fire may decide to become a fireman. Now he runs toward the fire instead of away. As for me and my fear of needles, being a Crohn’s patient has forced me to face that fear. Every six weeks I receive intravenous infusions which often take a few attempts before the needle finds the vein. So far, I’ve never fainted.

With Halloween right around the corner, tell me, what are you afraid of?


Almost Heaven

Image courtesy of www.flickr.com

Image courtesy of http://www.flickr.com

How glorious a greeting the sun gives the mountains! ~ John Muir

I admit it; I was born in West Virginia. In fact, my entire family is from West Virginia. Growing up, I heard all the jokes, “West Virginia…one million people and fifteen last names.” The one I heard most often was, “How could you be from West Virginia, you have all your teeth?”

I was a year old when my family left West Virginia for the Washington, D.C. area. That was home for forty years. I often wonder if I would be the person I am today if my parents hadn’t decided to make a drastic move from West Virginia. Would I have married young and not gone to college? Would I have a job? How different would I really be?

I thought about this as I reviewed some of my earlier writing. I concentrated solely on my characters. I missed the world surrounding them and the impact the setting could have on their lives. The setting should have played an important role in how my characters talked, where they worked, how they dressed and how they socialized. Instead, my characters were having floating head conversations.

When I read a book, I expect the setting to ground me in the story in the most physical sense. I want to be provided with a time and place, but I don’t want the description to be so long it stops the flow of the narrative. The setting is more real if it unfolds slowly within the story, and brought to life with small details. Put some dirty dishes in the kitchen sink or a shattered window in the bedroom.

As a writer, if it’s easy to take my character from their current setting and drop them elsewhere, without a notable difference of who they are, I haven’t done my job. The type of world I create will determine the behaviors and reactions of my characters. I want them deeply affected by the time and place in which they live, but I have to be careful. Portraying a small town girl from West Virginia who only wears bib overalls, has no teeth and who says “Hey y’all” every time she speaks is an insult to my reader, especially if they’re from West Virginia.

I’m proud to say I was born in West Virginia; it’s a part of me and my heritage. Known for its scenic mountains and diverse topography, it’s a beautiful state. Despite its beauty and all it has to offer, I know I wouldn’t be the person I am today, if my parents hadn’t made the decision to move. They believed you could not get to where you want to be by staying where you are and for that, I’m grateful.

I’m curious, where were you born?


Blues Traveler

Photo courtesy of www.morguefile.com

Photo courtesy of http://www.morguefile.com

“A fool’s paradise is a wise man’s hell!” ~ Thomas Fuller

Many years ago, my friend and I traveled to a small island off the coast of Venezuela for a girls get-away. Our all-inclusive package promised pristine beaches, deluxe accommodations and five-star dining. It was the vacation from Hell.

Upon arrival we discovered our “deluxe accommodations” were a dimly lit room with cinder block walls, frequented by gargantuan sized roaches. The “pristine beach”, located across the street from our resort required mukluks, if you didn’t want to lose a foot. As far as we could see, the beach was covered in broken glass, cans and other waste. It started to rain and we wanted to cry.

Back in our room, which reminded me of a jail cell, I tried to make contact with our tour guide. We hoped the bus we took from the airport, with a grass-thatch roof, had dumped us at the wrong resort. Unfortunately the guide only spoke Spanish. He had difficulty comprehending my attempt to recall four semesters of college level Spanish many years earlier. No one on staff spoke English. We later discovered we were the only American guests, everyone else was German. We were on our own, but at least we had some five-star dining to look forward to.

We never figured out who rated this resort five-star dining, but I lost ten pounds out of fear of eating. Living with Crohn’s Disease, I have to be careful. My adventurous friend tried a little of everything and raced to the bathroom after every meal. As the week progressed, her clothes became loose and she ate less.

The first night in our room we turned on the TV hoping to find something in English, instead we found snow. Every channel was fuzzy, white static. We decided to call it a night.

As I finally drifted off to sleep, following hours of bug patrol with my Mighty Bright Book Light, I heard a loud explosion. The ceiling fan that once whirled over my bed stopped as did the air-conditioning. In the other bed, my friend, the deep sleeper, was oblivious.

I jumped from my bed and took a peek out the window. The entire complex was black. I heard voices in the distance, but they were getting close. They yelled in Spanish right outside our door. My stomach turned over as I realized, the resort was under attack.

I vaulted onto my friend’s bed to warn her of the impeding attack. I told her there was an explosion and men were right outside our room getting ready to take over the resort. Half asleep she rolled out of the bed and headed toward the door. I thought she had lost her mind when she opened the door and stepped outside.

Huddled on the floor, behind the door, I feared for my friend’s life. Within a few seconds she came inside and rolled her eyes. “You’re so paranoid. A transformer blew, it’s on the side of our building. They’re maintenance men trying to fix it.”

Back in bed, I once again went on bug patrol. Moments later, the ceiling fan began to rotate and the air-conditioning began to hum. I thought about my reaction to the blown transformer and smiled. I do have a good imagination.


I need some advice…

Image courtesy of wikia.com

Image courtesy of wikia.com

“Advice is like snow; the softer it falls, the longer it dwells upon, and the deeper it sinks into, the mind.” ~ Samuel Taylor Coleridge

As writers, we’ve all received advice at some point in our lives, whether it’s show don’t tell, dump the clichés or lose the passive voice. My favorite was, stop head-hopping. At the time, I didn’t even know what that meant. Good advice sticks and helps us grow as writers.

When I really enjoy a book, I’ll e-mail the author to let him or her know how much I enjoyed their writing. As I started studying the craft, I would slip in a couple questions asking what craft books they recommend or any advice they might have for a new writer. The best piece of advice I ever received was from a published writer whose work I admire. She told me to write from the heart and I’ll find my voice.

Since we’re all here to learn from one another, please share your best piece of advice. Maybe your advice will help someone reach their writing or life goals.