Literary Links

September/October 2005


Good News and Announcements

Good News--An autographed copy of Blythe Gifford's debut historical The Knave and the Maiden is going to be auctioned off as part of the All About Romance charity auction for disaster relief.  Click here for more information.

Coming Soon!--Look for author Ann Macela's debut paranormal romance this October, The Oldest Kind of Magic

Available Now!--A new writing guide for authors.  Michelle Prima has gathered years of experience in research and writing, and written a 14-page booklet for authors, 101 Organizing Tips for WritersClick here for more information on how you can become more organized and more productive.

Services Available--Need to get your home office or house organized? How about research for your new book?  Michelle Prima, President of Literary Liaisons, is now offering organizing, research and errand services through her company, Prima By Design, Inc., a Professional Organizing business for residential customers. She currently works in the Chicago area only, but will provide research services on-line for others.  Contact Michelle for more information.


New On Literary Liaisons

There are many new additions to Literary Liaisons. After reading about them below, check them out on the web site.






101 Organizing Tips for Writers




Fashion and Women's Attitudes in the Nineteenth Century by C. Willett Cunnington

The Nineteenth-Century Church and English Society by Frances Knight

No Plot? No Problem! by Chris Baty

The Railway Journey by Wolfgang Schivelbusch

The Writer's Book of Wisdom by Steven Goldsberry


Feature Title:


Characters and Viewpoint by Orson Scott Card



The Video Library


Finding Neverland



Researching the Romance


Fashion and Women's Attitudes in the Nineteenth Century by C. Willett Cunnington

The Nineteenth-Century Church and English Society by Frances Knight

No Plot? No Problem! by Chris Baty

The Railway Journey by Wolfgang Schivelbusch

The Writer's Book of Wisdom by Steven Goldsberry



Writers' Resources Online


Our Time Lines

Measuring America: The Decennial Censuses from 1790-2000

The Romance Authors Research Index

Romance Novel Synopsis

Victoria & Albert: Vicky & the Kaiser


Feature Article 

Writing Basics: Part One--Creating Characters

by Michelle J. Prima

So you finally have time to sit down and read that romance you picked up three weeks ago.  It was difficult to decide between the two books you had in your hands.  They both had beautiful covers, were both by authors you'd read and admired, and both were set in the time period you enjoy reading.  So why did you choose this book over the other?  The blurb on the back sounded like a more interesting plot line.  You crack open the book, settle down with your cup of herbal tea and begin reading.  But much to your horror, you don't read more then ten pages before you are totally disgusted with the hero, and have no sympathy whatsoever for the heroine.

Why is this?  The story sounded exciting on the back cover.  Why do you dislike the characters?  Because they weren't developed properly for the story.  So you put down the book, disappointed.  Why waste time on characters you can't identify with?  Your time would be better spent fleshing out your own characters for your own story.  Here are a few tips to help you create sympathetic, believable characters for your story.

The first thing you must do is identify the type of story you are writing.  Whether it be a romantic suspense or a British Historical, your characters will need to be shaped accordingly.

The are three Categories of Characters--walk-ons, minor characters and major characters.  Walk-ons appear only once or twice in your story, and are there to serve whatever purpose it is in the scene.  While they may make another character react or change, walk-ons are not themselves developed, since they will not be seen any more in the story.  Minor characters play a continuing role in the story, but aren't there for the entire story. They may be eccentric, or their flaws exaggerated.  They are given more time in the story as walk-ons, but are not as developed as main characters.  The main characters are the ones who will occupy most of your story.  Therefore, they are the ones who should receive 100% of the opening of your novel.  Your readers will expect any character who has an important or pivotal role in the first scene to appear again later with frequency. 

In a romance, your hero and heroine are main characters, but so are their friends or relatives who appear frequently as confidant, mentor or antagonist.  You must properly develop all your main characters according to their importance in the story.  You can do this by starting with a Background Character Interview.  Everyone has a past, and that is what shapes the type of person they become.  You need to do this with your main characters.  Create a past for them, so you know how they will react to situations. 

For example, an only child who was given everything, including a house, vacations and a car by his parents, will have a different reaction to losing his job than someone who has a mortgage to pay, kids to feed and a disabled parent living in his spare bedroom.  A woman who grew up with six brothers will interact with men differently than a woman who grew up with only her grandmother, mother and sisters. 

Determining who your characters WERE will decide who they will BECOME.  Were they criticized constantly that they've become insecure?  Or were they supported and encouraged to take chances and risks?  By answering the "WHY" (why do they react this way), you will make your characters more believable and sympathetic to the reader.  Even characters with negative traits can be sympathetic if you explain why they are that way, and if the character grows and changes to become a better person. 

Make your characters true to the story you are writing.  How many self-employed martial arts expert females were there in 19th century England?  Probably none.  How many are there living in your city now?  Probably several.  While you want to create characters who are different, you need to remain true to the times.  Yes, you can break some stereotypes.  It makes for a more interesting read.  But you need to explain WHY the character is a departure from the norm.  Otherwise the reader will not believe, and will become frustrated and put down the book. 

Related to this are the traits and personalities you give your characters.  Like their behaviors, their personality traits must be tied in to their backgrounds.  A young girl raised in a convent will be more prudent than a girl raised in a brothel with her mother the prostitute.  A boy whose parents always lied to him is going to be more skeptical than one raised in a vicar's home and attended daily mass.  Of course, that is not to say that children raised under any of these circumstances WILL grow up as we expect. And your characters don't have to, but if they do vary from the norm, you must have a very good explanation for the reader early on.

By remembering the above, you will create characters your readers will love or love to hate.



Characters and Viewpoint by Orson Scott Card, Writer's Digest Books, 1988.

The Writer's Guide to Character Traits by Linda N. Edelstein, PhD., Writer's Digest Books, 1999.

Building Believable Characters by Marc McCutcheon, Writer's Digest Books, 1996.


For more information on these books, visit our Features Page.

For more sources like these, visit our Reference Books Page.


Editor's Note

In our Historical Calendar of Events feature below, we make reference to Queen Victoria's Golden Jubilee, celebrated in 1887.  That means fifty years on the throne.  That also means this is our 50th issue, or Golden Jubilee, of Literary Links.  We started our first issue with Queen Victoria's first year as reigning monarch, then progressed through the years with each issue.  When I started this newsletter, I had no idea whether or not we would see that 50th issue.  Between writing fiction, our own reality and forces of nature, there are no guarantees in life. I feel blessed to have been able to bring you fifty issues, and counting.  I feel blessed that I have a roof over my head and food to eat.  Not all of us are as lucky as I am, as evidenced by Hurricane Katrina's wrath.  Please find it in your hearts to donate something, whether it be time, money or a book to escape the harsh realities of life.  Here are some suggested places to start: The American Red Cross, The ASPCA.

--Michelle Prima

President, Literary Liaisons, Ltd.

Q&A Column

Q: When writing historically, is it alright to mix fact with fiction when it comes to town names? For instance, say i don't want to research an already existing town, so i create my own. We'll use Westbrook. Then in order for the reader to get a feel of its placing, i say it is near an already existing town like Derbyshire. And also, say I wanted to take real crown jewels (the crown jewels of ireland) and have them be stolen by one of my characters? (the crown jewels actually went missing in 1907)And also, if one of my characters was english, and she married someone french, would a name such as Lariene, which translates into "the queen" be admissable? And finally, my request. my story takes place during regency england so if it is at all  possible, i would greatly appreciate anymore information you may find and place on your sight on that era. as this is my first time doing research for a story, i feel slightly overwhelmed, but excited. thank you so much for all the help you have already given me through your site. i look forward to the newsletter, and my continual usage of it.



A: Yes, it's perfectly fine to mix fictional town names with real ones.  In fact, it's probably better for you to create your own town because you won't run the risk of getting facts wrong if using a real town.  You should refer to real towns, however, to give the reader an idea of where your fictional town is located.

Regarding the stolen jewels, as long as you are factual with everything else regarding the jewels, it would be okay to use them in your book.  That is, know where they are housed, the security they are under, etc. Was there a political event at the time, that the jewels perhaps were being worn or out of the country?  Those are things to think about when using something real.  You can create a story around it, but don't try to change history.  For instance, if your story is set during the year of a coronation, the jewels would be more easily stolen from a crowded throne room than out of the castle's guarded vault.  But don't change the year of the coronation just because you want to be able to steal them under those circumstances.

Regarding names: If she were given the name at birth, it would be acceptable.  In fact, it could create quite a stir in the French court and give you another story line.  If she were to name her daughter Lariene, however, it would be a slap in the face to her adopted country, and possibly her husband.  It all depends on what the relationship is like between them--that is, if it's a forced marriage, etc.  But more important, what are you going for here?  If you want a controversial name, use it.  If it's just because you like the name, then don't use it, because readers may recognize the translation and wonder why characters are not reacting to it.

Regarding Regency references: If you go to our Writer's Resources Online page: and scroll down to History--European, there are some links to Regency pages, which will give you even more information and links.

Michelle Prima

President, Literary Liaisons, Ltd.


Historical Calendar of Events



Julian Huxley--English biologist and philosopher

Viscount Montgomery of Alamein--British Field Marshal

Marc Chagall--Russian painter

Chiang Kai-shek--Chinese general and statesman



F.T. Vischer--German author

Alfred Krupp--German industrialist

Aleksandr Borodin--Russian composer



Queen Victoria celebrated her Golden Jubliee.

The First Colonial Conference opened in London.

May 22--Britain promised to evacuate Egypt within 3 years in the Drummond-Wolff Convention with Constantinople, but only if conditions were favorable.
Britain annexed Zululand to block the Transvaal government from establishing a link to the sea.

Prince Ferdinand of Saxe-Coburg was elected King of Bulgaria.

March 2--The Hatch Act voted by U.S. Congress authorized the establishment of agricultural experiment stations in all states having land-grant colleges.

U.S. Congress made Yellowstone country a refuge for buffalo and big game.
A "Jim Crow" law passed by the Florida legislature required segregation of black railway passengers from whites.
February 1--The Interstate Commerce Act approved by Congress ordered U.S. railroads to keep their rates fair and reasonable.

The Arts

"Moulin de la Galette" by Vincent VanGogh

"The Flax Spinners" by Max Liebermann

"Walt Whitman" by Thomas Eakins

"Seated Lincoln" by Augustus Saint-Gaudens for Chicago's Lincoln Park

"Amor Caritas" by Augustus Saint-Gaudens


The Deemster by Hall Craine

A Study in Scarlet by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

The Woodlanders by Thomas Hardy

The Aspern Papers by Henry James

Plain Tales from the Hills by Rudyard Kipling

She by Sir H. Rider Haggard

Allan Quatermain by Sir H. Rider Haggard

Operas and Operettas:

"Otello" by Verdi premiered at Milan's Teatro alia Scala February 5

"Ruddigore" by Gilbert and Sullivan premiered at London's Savoy Theatre January 22.


"La Tosca" by Sardou

"A Gown for His Mistress" by Georges Feydeau

"Ivanov" by Anton Chekhov



Daily Life

Pratt Institute opened at Brooklyn, N.Y., to provide training for artisans and draftsmen.

The Pratt Institute Free Library was the first free library in New York State.
Clark University was founded at Worcester, Massachusetts.
Catholic University of America was founded at Washington, D.C.
The University of Wyoming opened at Laramie.
March 2--Teacher Anne Sullivan of the Perkins Institution traveled to the Keller home to start work with 6-year-old Helen Adams Keller who lost her sight and hearing at 19 months of age.

The Theatre Libre was founded in Paris.

Ignace Paderewski gave his first recital in Vienna.

Sir Thomas More was beatified by Pope Leo XIII.
U.S. wheat prices fell to 67 per bushel, their lowest since 1868, as the harvest reached new heights.
The Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island, Mich., opened with 262 rooms and a 900-foot long veranda providing a view of ships passing through the Straits of Mackinac between Lakes Michigan and Huron.
Pittsburgh's Allegheny Courthouse and jail were completed by Henry Hobson Richardson.
Esperanto, a universal language, was invented by Polish oculist-philologist Lazarus Ludwig Zemenhof, who hoped to achieve world peace and understanding.
The Paris Herald began publication October 4.
U.S. telephone listings reached 200,000 by December 31.
Britain's Margarine Act established statutory standards for margarine.
Lloyd's of London wrote its first non-marine insurance policy after 199 years of insuring only maritime carriers.
Richard Sears moved to Chicago, hired watchmaker Alvah Curtis Roebuck, and sold watches through clubs and by mail order.
Gimbel Bros., Milwaukee, Wisconsin was opened by Jacob, Isaac, Charles, Ellis, Daniel, Lewis, and Benedict Gimbel, whose father Adam Gimbel opened the first Gimbel's at Vincennes, Indiana in 1842.
A group of "American hunting riflemen"  organized The Boone & Crockett Club to protect American wildlife from ruthless slaughter by commercial market hunters.
Atlanta's Piedmont Driving Club was founded by local gentlemen who restricted membership to men.
The first U.S. social register was published by New York golf promoter Louis Keller.
New York sugar refiner Henry Osborne Havemeyer, 40, founds Sugar Refineries Co. His 17 refineries account for 78 percent of U.S. refining capacity
Log Cabin Syrup was introduced by St. Paul, Minnesota grocer P. J. Towle, who blended maple syrup and cane sugar syrup to produce a product much lower in price than pure maple syrup.
Herbert Lawford won in men's singles at Wimbledon, Charlotte "Lottie" Dod in women's singles.

Richard Sears won in U.S. men's singles, Ellen F. Hansel in women's singles.
Tipperary beat Galway at hurling, and Limerick beat Louth at football in the first All-Ireland Championships.
England's Thistle lost 2 to 0 to the U.S. defender Volunteer in the America's Cup ocean yacht races.
Cabot Corporation had its beginnings in a lampblack firm founded by Boston entrepreneur Godfrey Cabot.
A railroad trestle on the Toledo, Peoria & Western near Chatsworth, Illinois gave way in August, and a passenger train bound for Niagara Falls with more than 600 passengers plunges into a ditch, killing more than 70, injuring nearly 300.
China's Huanghe (Yellow) River flooded its banks. The resulting crop failures and famine killed 900,000.


Phenacetin, an analgesic drug, was discovered.

Emil Berliner improved the phonograph's sound quality.

H.W. Goodwin invented celluloid film.

Heinrich Hertz's electric waves would be the basis of radio communications.
Tokyo Electric Light Co. brought electricity to Japan in January.
Thomas Edison invented the first motor-driven phonograph and opens a new laboratory at West Orange, New Jersey. Edison's new phonograph played cylindrical wax records.

Ball-Mason jars were introduced by Ball Brothers Glass Manufacturing Co. of Muncie, Indiana.
Western Cold Storage Co. in Chicago installed ice-making machines.
English physician David Bruce identified the source of "Malta fever" or "Mediterranean fever."
Baron Takaki claims Beriberi can be prevented by proper diet, as published in the British medical journal Lancet.
Swedish chemist Svante August Arrhenius advanced the ionic theory that electrolytes split up in solution into electrically charged particles.
German physicist Heinrich Rudolph Hertz showed the existence of electric or electromagnetic waves in the space round a discharging Leyden jar.
The machine calculer invented by French engineering student Leon Bolle was the first machine to automate multiplication using a direct method.
The Comptometer introduced by the new Felt & Tarrant Manufacturing Co. of Chicago was the first multiple-column calculating machine to be operated entirely by keys and be absolutely accurate at all times.
The Canadian Pacific Railway reached Vancouver May 23, the first single company transcontinental railroad in America.
The first Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe train reached Los Angeles via Santa Fe track May 31, and a rate war began between the Santa Fe and Collis P. Huntington's Southern Pacific.
The Sessions vertical end frame designed by Pullman Palace Car Co. superintendent H. H. Sessions reduced railroad-car sway and made it safer to move from one car to another.
The first Daimler motorcar was introduced March 4.


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