Tag Archive for: Colorado Springs

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





Neighbors and Critique Partners

By: Donnell Ann Bell

Hello! I am the newest member of the Stiletto Gang, and as a mystery writer and a woman who loves shoes, I will do my best to fit in. I
wrote an article for Stiletto Gang way back in the day https://donnellannbell.com/characters/
 Call me biased, but I still think it’s relevant.

Much has changed since that article, however. I’ve
written more books, I’ve relocated from Colorado Springs, Colorado to Las
Cruces, New Mexico, and with the exception of COVID-19, so far so good. This
city, thirty minutes from El Paso, Texas, has an amazing culture and some of
the kindest people I’ve ever met. Imagine (pre-COVID by the way), walking into
the grocery store when somebody sneezes, and from every surrounding aisle,
people shout, “God bless you.” Also, while I may miss Colorado’s green, you
can’t beat New Mexico’s sunsets.

Land of Enchantment’s Sunset 

One of the hardest things about leaving Colorado after
thirty-plus years was saying goodbye to lifetime friendships. Las Cruces has a
way to go to compete, but my next-door neighbor is working hard at making the
list. She arrived on my doorstep with cookies (my downfall), and our friendship
quickly became reciprocal. Like me, she has a creative side. Where I write, she

Tuscany Village by Carol Oxford 

One of the things I love about my new home is my front courtyard. But it was kind of sparse, so I went to work decorating. I found this adorable chihuahua and put him just out my front door. Wouldn’t you know it, though, my artistic neighbor pointed out something was missing.

Every chihuahua needs …
… a friend

One person I didn’t have to say goodbye to although we live
1,882 miles apart is my critique partner, Lois Winston, who I’d met online,
then in person on a transport van that delivered us to a conference. We’ve
exchanged chapters and brainstormed for years. We walk while we talk (because
we’re notorious multitaskers), and I can’t tell you how many “aha” moments we’ve
had via our treks.

I’m also close to Stiletto Gang member Cathy Perkins. She’s
a great conference roommate, by the way (Portland as I recall), and she and her
husband have visited Las Cruces. She’s a major talent, and one day I hope to
see her gorgeous home in the Pacific Northwest. 

Donnell, Cathy & spouses

That’s basically my introductory blog in a multi-cracked
nutshell. Looking forward to sharing thoughts, ideas and hopefully a little

 Do you have a
neighbor you love and/or a valued critique partner? In my opinion, they make
the world a whole lot brighter.

About  Donnell’s latest book: A cold case
heats up when a 9-1-1 call puts police at a Denver murder scene pointing
investigators to the abduction of a Colorado teenager fourteen years before.
The connection? A calling card
a single black pearl—is found on the newest victim. Is the murder
a copycat? Or has a twisted serial killer, thought dead or in prison, returned
to kill again?

The hunt for a multi-state killer is
on and brings together an unexpected team: a Denver Major Crimes police
lieutenant; an FBI special agent who investigated the previous murders, a
rookie FBI agent with a specialty in psychology; and the only living victim of
the Black Pearl Killer is now a cop.

For Special
Agent Brian DiPietro, the case is an opportunity to find answers. For Officer Allison
Shannon, the case will force her to face down the town that blamed her for
surviving when another did not. And for both DiPietro and Shannon, it’s a
chance to find closure to questions that have tormented them both for years.

Bio: Donnell Ann Bell gave up her nonfiction career in
newspapers and magazines because she was obsessed with the idea she could write
a mystery or thriller. An award-winning author, including the 2020 Colorado
Book Award finalist for her latest release Black Pearl, A Cold Case Suspense,
Donnell’s other books have included Buried Agendas, Betrayed, Deadly Recall and
The Past Came Hunting, all of which have been Amazon bestsellers. Currently
she’s writing Book Two of her Cold Case series. For further information or buy information, please go to www.donnellannbell.com