The Heart of Christmas

Merry Christmas! It has been a while since we journeyed a blog post together. This year has had many challenges for my family, but I am delighted to say Thoughts On Plot will be reconnecting with all of you every week in the new year.

This Christmas I am so grateful for family and friends. Friends like Beth Vogt who sends little reminders that God has not forgotten me and friends like Jessica Patch who ping me on Facebook to see if I am doing all right. Then there is Lisa Jordan who makes sure I don’t fall off of the grid too long. So many others have taken the time to connect. For all of my amazing writing friends, thank you!

The heart of Christmas is summed up in the very heart of what each of those friends and family members do for me, for each other. Have a Merry Christmas and experience a slice of the joy the good news of our Savior brings!

For the writer in you: The Christmas Season is filled with more emotion than many other seasons. Take out a journal and write your emotional journey this season. Jot down poignant moments that you can bring to mind in the future to help you write certain emotional scenes.

Who gave you a glimpse of the heart of Christmas this year?



Music Monday: Holiday Romance

I love Christmas and I love holiday romances. Here are a couple of holiday songs that really make me feel like lighting the fire, fixing a cup of cocoa and snuggling with  my man.

Phil Wickham’s rendition of this classic Christmas song is soooo romantic. I just love it.

Francesca’s song is so soft, beautiful, and yes romantic in tone. I actually kept this song on repeat for days as I wrote the ice skating scene in my Christmas novella, Hope Under Mistletoe. It’s available for .99 right now!

Hope Under Mistletoe - High Resolution cover (1)

Which Christmas songs make you want to curl up by the fire and watch the lights from the tree twinkle while you sip cocoa or cider?

Action Verbs – An Endless Christmas with Author Cynthia Ruchti

Cyn Softer photo 2 Cynthia RuchtiToday I am happy to welcome my friend and amazing writer Cynthia Ruchti.

Cynthia Ruchti tells stories hemmed in Hope through her novels, novellas, devotions, and nonfiction, and through speaking for women’s events/retreats and writers’ conferences/workshops. She draws from 33 years of experience writing and producing the 15-minute daily radio broadcast, “The Heartbeat of the Home.” Her books have received recognition from RT Reviewers’ Choice, PW Starred Review, Selah Awards, Christian Retailing’s BEST Awards, CLASSeminars Award of Excellence, Golden Scroll Awards, and more. She serves as Professional Relations Liaison for American Christian Fiction Writers, is a board member of the Deliver Hope ministry, and is part of the worship team at her church. She and her husband live in the heart of Wisconsin, not far from their three children and five grandchildren.


Epiphany. It means one thing in the church calendar year—the day commemorating the Magi visit to the Christ Child—and means another in writer terms.

Writers view epiphanies most frequently from the alternate definition—a sudden insight, a moment of revelation. We discover the protagonist’s true, heretofore- unknown motivation. We realize in a flash how to extract a character from the corner into which we’ve painted him or her. It suddenly becomes clear how the book needs to end. We discover something about ourselves while writing about imaginary characters and their conflicts.

Writers love epiphanies. Almost as much as readers do.

Many of us considered it an epiphany moment when we discovered the true power of action verbs. He stormed to the car vs. He made his way to the car. She drove her point with dagger-like words vs. She spoke harshly.

Aha! Epiphany! Richer, more engaging sentences, more visual, captivating scenes.high res An Endless Christmas

As I reread the first chapters of the book of Luke during my Christmas preparations this year, I noted the action verbs in the prophet Zechariah’s perspective about the coming Messiah—Jesus. He blessed God for sending Jesus, whom He knew was mere months away from being born. In Zechariah’s blessing (Luke 1:68-75), he referred to God’s activity, not merely theological concepts. He listed, among others, these action words on God’s part:

 He comes to help and delivers his people.

 He raised up a might savior

 He brought salvation from our enemies and from the power of all those who hate us

 He shows the mercy promised

 He rescues from the power of our enemies

Mary’s song of praise when explaining to Elizabeth that she’d been tasked with carrying the Messiah in her womb (Luke 1:47-55) includes these action words:

 He scatters those with arrogant thoughts and proud inclinations

 He pulls the powerful down from their thrones

 He lifts up the lowly

 He fills the hungry with good things

 He comes to the aid of his servant

And why? That too is an epiphany for many of us. Why did God act by sending Jesus? “So that we could serve him without fear, in holiness and righteousness in God’s eyes, for as long as we live,” Luke 1:75 CEB. We don’t need to wonder why. It’s spelled out clearly.

Some may believe faith—and writing—are passive. But compelling writing—and compelling faith—use action verbs.

How is that playing out in your Christmas reflections this year?

Mary’s Song – Music Monday

by Jill Kemerer

Now that December is only a day away, we can go full throttle with Christmas music! Of course, some of you go full throttle much earlier–which I applaud–but I tend to wait until after Thanksgiving. Probably because I’m too lazy to unearth my CD’s. Anyway…

Years ago, I bought a compilation Christmas CD and first heard “Mary’s Song” by Kelly Price and Wynona Judd. I bawl every time I listen to it! The song really drives home the reason we celebrate this time of year. Jesus was a baby–Mary’s baby–a child to cuddle and protect. And He willingly took on human form from birth to adulthood, all the while knowing He would die to save us from our sins.



Honestly, I have a son, and I can’t imagine looking at him as a baby and knowing he would die to save the world. Powerful stuff. Songs like this help me dig deeper into why we’re celebrating and force me to take the decorations and cookies at face value–they’re fun, but not all that important.

Do you have a Christmas song that really speaks to you this time of year? I’d love to hear it!

Have a blessed Christmas season!!

Merry Christmas – A Season For Family

Photo by moniquef12

Photo by moniquef12

This Christmas I feel so very blessed for each one of you who have read my blog and traveled with me on this journey!

Over the next few weeks my blog will be going through a holiday renovation. No, we are not taking away the Super Sleuth Challenge, or writing tips, or other fun features. I’m just inviting some incredible author friends to join me.

Watch for the big event week to launch the new year here at with prizes, surprise unveiling of the newly extended blog family, and fun for all.

Until the first week of January, my blog’s elves will be working their magic…okay, maybe they don’t have pointy ears. I can’t wait to see you in the new year!

From Christmas Programs, to baking cookies, shopping, family gatherings, and the wonder of the season, I am running full tilt ahead. This holiday I’ve spent a bit less time online and more time with family.

Sometimes it is okay to take a deep breath and find joy in the simple things. I hope you are able to do that this season as well.

Settle back with a cup of hot chocolate and watch the tree lights chase one another, sprinkle reindeer food in your yard, bake goodies with your children, go sledding, and read an amazing book.

Embrace the joy of the Savior this season above all else. A tiny baby revolutionized the world, may He revolutionize your heart.

This year I’m excited to help direct the children’s Christmas musical at our church. I’m singing with my kids, sorting through costumes, practicing lines, and enjoying the fun they bring to the season.

We will be baking tons of gluten free, egg free, milk free goodies that taste amazing! A yummy and messy adventure.

But most of all, just being together as a family is the best thing about the season. Time to share hugs, adventures, and Jesus.

Until the new year, what are you planning to do to celebrate the season? Do you have a favorite snack, tradition, or event? 


Merry Christmas! – A Time For Family

1409260_26919826Christmas has always held wonder for me. I love buying gifts and seeing the delight on the recipient’s face as they open them. Especially really little ones who don’t know your suppose to open the paper instead of chew on it. But more than the gifts, the time with family is treasured as we remember the birth of Christ.

Yesterday my youngest son surprised me during our family devotion time. I asked the kids to say one of the verses that go with the Christmas story and encouraged them to say what comes next. Out of nowhere my five year old says, “In the City of David.”

As you can guess I was a bit surprised because I haven’t done that verse this Christmas yet with the family. Where did he learn it? Charlie Brown’s Christmas.


But there it was in the middle of a cartoon. The meaning of Christmas. In all of the lights, decorations, shopping, presents, and even sadness for those who’ve lost family this season, I pray that none of us will lose sight of the meaning of Christmas.

We celebrate the greatest gift of all time. We celebrate it with gusto because it is the very fabric of our faith. 

May you find joy in the reason for Christmas this year. May you find peace in it’s promise. May you find comfort in its message of hope for the future. 

I will be taking a break from blogging to be with family and celebrate this season. My next post will be on January second. My prayers are with each of you whether you look forward to this season or you face this season with new challenges, remember you are never alone. God be with you!

Merry Christmas From My Family To Yours!

How To Unwrap Your Character’s Layers – Christmas Present Style

1327969_79334845Presents have a way of making a person curious. If you don’t believe me, just ask my children who have been snooping around the house all in a guise of innocence, looking for that stash of  presents.

Then there is the whole shake it and see what might be in there moment. After all, they aren’t really looking in the package. It is just using the intelligence God gave them, right? (Kids are great at using our words to their benefit, hehe.)

After they shake it and make sure no one is looking, they look for a loose piece of tape, you know, just in case it needs smoothing. They couldn’t help it that the piece that was a touch loose and  just flew open when they touched it, showed the end of the package.

Any Mom knows you either find an amazing hiding place, cover the ends of the package with paper, or make that tape cement tough. Terrible as it sounds, sometimes I catch myself giggling as I add an extra layer of tape.

My kids are pretty good and don’t give in to their curiosity for a present hunt very often, but just in case, I come prepared. DUCT TAPE! (Just kidding.)

So what can Christmas Presents teach us about Writing? 

Unwrapping a character on the page should happen in layers. It builds the anticipation for the when the character is completely understood. Motivations, actions, romance, change, all of these are revealed a bit at a time.

My Book Therapy has helped me to understand a bit how to layer a character by using the lie journey interview.  As you are unwrapping your character’s layers on the page you might find this helpful. The following includes some of the ideas of MBT wrapped with a bow.

Unwrapping Your Characters Layers Christmas Present Style:229786_4190

*The Shake Up – Something happens in the beginning of the novel that shakes up your character and reveals that they need to change. The reader can see the character’s lie and something that the character needs to change.

*Loose Tape. Through the experiences on the page we get a sneak peak of the loose ends their life holds. What are their strengths and flaws? We see their strengths, flaws, successes and failures in their journey and it shows us little sneak peaks of their identity. This reaches just below the surface to the actions that show their response to the inner layer.

*Cover Up. When a character feels vulnerable they try to smooth out the loose tape. Keep their lives more private.

*Finally Unwrapping. Something happens in the character’s life that rips them apart. It shows their pain, their motivation, and their final decision to overcome it. This digs deep to identify the core change of our character.

There are many nuanced levels along the way. Next week’s posts will break these steps up into smaller parts, making them easier to create.

What fun memory do you have of kids snooping in presents at the holidays?