Tag Archive for: Black Pearl

Putting the Character in Character

Happy Valentines all. So excited today’s my day to blog because it gives me an opportunity to interrupt this session to tell you about the last day of my sale. I’m traditionally published and my publisher places my books on sale, not me.  So, before I get to my blog, allow me to a quick bit of promotion to tell you about this significant discount.

Now, back to The Stiletto Gang’s regularly scheduled blog  and a bit of background on Black Pearl;)

By Donnell
Ann Bell

One of the
hardest things for me to do as a writer is to create characters. Some authors
have told me, “Oh, my character came to me fully formed.” Others say, “Oh, I do
character interviews to find out what makes him/her/them tick.”

Me? I ask my
characters, “Who are you?” and most rudely shout back, “You’re the author, you
figure it out.”

Not helpful.
Makes me want to stuff them in a drawer until they can play nice.

Still, I can
have an amazing plot, but if the characters don’t come alive, then my book is
nothing more than words strewn on a page. No matter what genre you read, books
are all about emotion, and characters bring emotion to life.

What’s more,
without strong, relatable characters, readers might give a book a try, but they
will just as quickly put the book down.

So, because
I need characters in a book, and because my characters are stubborn and won’t
talk to me, I cheat.

Yes, you
heard it here first.

If my
protagonist is in law enforcement, I interview members of law enforcement. If 
my protagonist is an FBI agent, I interview FBI agents. If my killer is an
insane whack job…I interview mental health professionals and read books. (I
fully admit I don’t interview whack jobs). By using these techniques, I find my
muse comes to life and the characters cooperate.

In Black
, my November 2019 release, I came across a new problem. I wrote my
first female police officer. One would think, oh, that’s easy, you’re a woman. Au
, this character really dug in her heels. She had the nerve to
call me, her creator, a fraud.

What did I
do about it? I went to some fellow authors who in their past careers were law
enforcement: Kathy Bennett, Phyllis Middleton, and Robin Burcell. I interviewed
them and asked them about their experiences. These women were beyond helpful.

I took those
results to my female police officer character. But instead of saying, “Great
job,” she said, “You’re getting warmer. You need to know more. You need to get
inside my head.”

she’s not real and I couldn’t shoot her, I did a lot of groaning and pacing.
Then another idea came to me. I’m a graduate of citizens academies for my local
police and sheriff’s office, so I marched into the Gold Camp Police Station one
morning and asked the woman behind the glass partition if I could do a

“Of course,”
she replied and pulled out her clipboard. “Fill this out.”

I hesitated.
“Thank you. I will. However, is there any chance I could do a ride-along with a
female police officer? And is there any chance she could be a field training

The woman lifted an eyebrow. “Will there be anything else?”

I thought
about it. “No that about covers it.”

As events
turned out, there was a female field training officer in the Gold Camp Police
Station at that very moment. The receptionist paged her; she came out to the
front desk, introduced herself, said she was too busy to accommodate me just
then, but two weeks later we did a ride-along on a twelve-hour shift.

She was
amazing. Professional, smart, everything that Kathy, Phyllis and Robin exuded
in spades. I saw how she conducted herself with the public and listened to her
comments in private. Further, she helped me brainstorm my character, and one
remark, she made hit me with such force, I took her at her word. “Please don’t
make her a slut. We don’t get where we are by not being professional and

I went home
after that shift and did my character outline and that’s when my character told
me her name. “My name is Allison Shannon,” she said. “I come with plenty of
baggage, but I’ve risen above it.”

I’ll close
by saying, I’m intensely proud of Allison and she’s one of the best characters
I’ve ever created. But as you can see, I didn’t create her alone. She’s a mix
of some remarkable women I admire. She’s working in a man’s world. She’s
tough, she’s formidable, but vulnerable at the same time, and she’s waiting to
tell you her story.

Thank you
for being with me today.

~ Donnell

About the Author: Donnell Ann Bell began her writing
career at the
Springs Business Journal and Pikes Peak Parent Newsmagazine before
turning to fiction. An award-winning author, including a two-time Golden
Heart finalist, she is the author of
Black Pearl, book one of a series, Buried
Agendas, Betrayed, Deadly Recall and The Past Came Hunting,
all of which have been Amazon digital bestsellers.
Black Pearl is her
latest release, readers can expect book two of the Cold Case series in 2022, and she’s back to work on book three of the series. Follow her on
Facebook and Twitter or





Make Setting Work for Your Story


by Donnell Ann Bell 

Have you ever been reading a novel, only to find yourself skimming over a passage of long, drawn out setting or description? My guess is you did that because you already had a clear visual and were ready to get on with the story. Setting and description belong in a writer’s tool kit and used right are part of an invaluable arsenal.

One of my favorite quotes is by Russian Writer Anton
Chekhov who wrote,
“I don’t need to know
everything that’s in the room, I only need to know what I need to know is in
the room.”
That made so much sense to me, and why I’ve tried to remember it
in my own writing.

What would you write to describe this room?

When I write, I choose locations familiar to me or
spend long hours checking out a town’s Chamber of Commerce page, Google maps,
and then I contact people who live in the area to beta read and verify I have
it correct. I try to sprinkle in popular landmarks, although be careful here;
you don’t want it to read like a travelogue.
best way to mention a landmark is to make it imperative to a scene.

Additionally, because I write mystery, suspense and romantic suspense, if I’m ever going to say something negative about a place, e.g. place a dead
body or a murder there, I change the name or make up a fictitious place

that blends in seamlessly with an actual area.

Writing around the theme, Suspense too Close to Home, I’ve
written about Denver, Colorado Springs, Albuquerque, El
Paso, Texas and in my most recent novel, Black Pearl, which takes place between
Denver and Montrose, Colorado. But the book that I think I did setting particularly
well is in my adopted hometown of Colorado Springs, Colorado, and the best-selling The Past Came Hunting. Because I’d lived
in that city for thirty-plus years, I had a good grasp of the community
and its surroundings.

As I mentioned earlier, the best way to mention a
landmark is to make it imperative to a scene. (In the following scenes my cop protagonist
is on his way to a hearing and my female protagonist is at her job after a
brutal end to their relationship.) I could have described the places first then
written about their turbulent emotions. Instead, I combined both setting and
the emotions they were going through into the narrative. Hopefully, by doing
this I upped the pacing . . . .

Joe walked into the building,
flashing his badge to the security guards and bypassing the metal detectors. He
had the record, the credentials, votes of confidence from peers and
subordinates and the support of the district attorney. Combined, these factors
all but guaranteed him the promotion to commander.

was one lucky cop.

Images of Melanie flashed
through his brain as he entered the Division Room Four of a proceeding already in
progress. So, with so much going for him, why wasn’t he smiling?

to Female Protagonist

On the West side of town,
things weren’t going much better for Mel. With Aaron visiting family in New
York, she cleared the glass shelves of Christmas, Hanukah and seasonal items and
prepared to mark them down. The best way to overcome heartbreak, she reasoned,
was to throw herself into the things going right, namely her son and her job at
Pinnacle Creations.

According to Aaron, they
had thirty days to reduce inventory, then gear up for Valentine’s Day, Thanks
to holidays and special occasions, the floral industry never ended. Unlike

Ideally, I didn’t have to describe a courthouse or a
floral shop because these things are so well known to us. Setting and
description are vital to a book. But like dialogue, external and internal
narrative, emotion, and above all, an author’s voice, they are tools. Too much
of anything is overwriting.

How about you? Any tips on setting you’d like to share? 

Donnell Ann Bell is an award-winning
author, including finalist in the 2020 Colorado Book Award, she is the author
of Black Pearl, book one of a series, and is currently editing book two.
You can find her on Facebook, Twitter, or Bookbub. Sign up for her newsletter




Good Things Come to Those who Wait, But . . . .

Hello, Stiletto Gang and Readers: As I write this, I’m packing my bags and
getting ready for the adventure to start. One daughter-in law is expecting
twins, (a boy and a girl) and another daughter-in-law is expecting a baby boy.

It’s an exciting time as a grandmother, and after 2020, what’s truly exciting is now that the entire family is vaccinated, we can be together again.

But as you know, twins come at their own schedule–they could be on time, or they could come early. My other daughter in law is a registered nurse and as she’s always on her feet, her babies have come early as well.  (My first granddaughter was born in the bathtub!  Talk about unexpected.

We’re going to need a bigger table!

So with all this good news, why am I fretting? I’m also expecting edits on the sequel to Black Pearl, my Cold Case Suspense, while I’m also researching book three. Trying to do
research while chasing around the three “existing” grandchildren is going to be
I have decided to add a few more hours to my day (truthfully night)
to get everything done. My hope is when I return, I’ll be smarter (tons of research)
thinner (chasing grandchildren does that), and have a book on the verge of being released. 
In the meantime, I’ll wait . . . with the following caveat. 

Happy Summer and see you in August with the big