Shaun Takes Over and Talks About Character

            Hi! I know this is Carrie’s blog and you all look forward so much to hearing from her, but today I have commandeered it and I may do that once in a while because she is such an incredible woman and I don’t want her to be so overworked that her magnificence dulls.

An adorable Florida man who moved to Maine
Look! It’s Shaun!

By the way, this is Carrie’s husband. Actually, it should be Carrie’s Husband because that is the actual title I have come to be known by to a good portion of our friends. My birthname is Shaun though, if you didn’t already know, and I am okay with being Carrie’s Husband, because she is that crazy awesome!

            But I digress. I am not an author by any means and Carrie asked me to talk about something to do with writing, maybe a prompt. Ugh, my brain hurts already! So, I took a few minutes to mull over what I would have a hard time doing if I was trying to write a book (I have tried and many accolades to you writer folks.) and I came up with so many ideas it is embarrassing. But I got stuck on one and that is, character traits and/or development. Heck, maybe these are two totally different subjects to you, but as I said, writing is not my bailiwick.

            I thought, “I have no idea how to give words on a page human traits and make them feel real to people. How would I do that?”

Well, I decided that I would sit down and just think and reminisce about the people in my life who influenced me as a young person and who helped make me who I am today.

            My mother and father divorced when I was two years old and I never saw him again until I was nine years old when he came back into my life bearing my two-year-old half-sister. He and my mother eventually got married again, my mother adopted my half-sister. They had another child, my younger brother, and eventually got divorced again when I was in my early  twenties.

I never really liked my father nor did I mesh with his viewpoints on life, although as we both matured, we grew into a polite relationship of acceptance. In reality I just gave up on arguing with him and trying to make him see anybody’s point of view other than his own. Within this paragraph, there are hundreds of story possibilities, but I am only telling you this so that I can say that I was raised and influenced mainly by my mother and my grandfather. There were times when my mother and I lived on our own, with roommates (friends of my mother’s), and also with my grandparents.

Thinking about my mother, father and grandfather brings back so many memories, both good and bad, and to replicate their personality traits would be relatively easy because even as my memories seem to fade, memories of them are still strong and vibrant. 

           So, to make that supremely realistic character I am going to ask you to not think about those people in your life that are so easily remembered, but go beyond them and dig deeper. Think about someone whom you may have forgotten, someone who may not have been in your life long perhaps, but still left an impression, good or bad. We do need both kinds of characters after all.

Just writing this is causing me to remember people that I have forgotten. People who I didn’t otherwise know, but for a brief, chance meeting, but who still left an indelible mark upon me. Such an experience, possibly long forgotten by you, can help you create a character of difference or help you get out of a rut where you feel your characters are not deep enough or possibly seem to similar. 

            I don’t know if anything that I have written will be useable advice to you, but I can say that I have been thinking about this off and on for about four hours now and I have had a great time. Regardless of whether or not I have helped, I would recommend taking this thought journey! I am not one into yoga or meditation but just sitting quietly and pondering this I have basically run the full gamut of emotions and rejuvenated many memories that had faded from the forefront. Truth be known, my eyes are watery ,but that is just part of the process and sometimes I can be an emotional wimp. If there were no emotions involved, it doesn’t seem like a worthwhile experience whether you are trying to create a better character or you are just reminiscing.

            Carrie and I have spoken about character building, in many ways, on our podcast Dogs Are Smarter Than People and I would invite you to listen if you haven’t yet made that journey. There’s a link below.

            Thank you taking the time to read my ramblings and may you have a happy and safe 2021!


Thanks to all of you who keep listening to our weirdness on the DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE podcast and our new LOVING THE STRANGE podcast.

We’re sorry we laugh so much… sort of. 

Please share it and subscribe if you can. Please rate and like us if you are feeling kind, because it matters somehow. There’s a new episode every Tuesday!

Thanks so much for being one of the 256,000 downloads if you’ve given us a listen!





And to hear our podcast latest episode for DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE about cats on Tinder and other bad advice click here.

Our first episode of LOVING THE STRANGE is here. It’s about loving places for no logical reasons.

The visuals for our podcasts are all on Carrie’s YouTube channel. You can like and subscribe there, too!

Let in the Good and Make Your Writing Career Grow – Dogs Are Smarter Than People, the Writing Podcast

Dogs Are Smarter Than People: Writing Life, Marriage and Motivation
Let in the Good and Make Your Writing Career Grow - Dogs Are Smarter Than People, the Writing Podcast


The author Gwen Hawes has a book that’s all about writing a romance, but I think a lot of her elements really apply to more genres than that.

One of those elements is what she calls, “whole-hearted.” It’s when the lovers are at the end of the book and you think, “Wow. Have they grown or what? Look at how big their hearts are now. Look at how different their lives are. Those are some whole-hearted people right there.”

And that’s what story (with a positive ending) is all about. It’s about making those characters whole-hearted, and allowing us readers to see their journey.

There’s a line in this song from Hamilton that always resonates with Carrie and it goes:

Look at where we are

Look at where we started

The fact that you’re alive is a miracle.

Just stay alive. That would be enough.

These lyrics get her because they are so true. Life is a process. We start at one point. We move on to another. And when we look back and take stock? That’s where those wow moments happen.

That needs to happen in books too.

And a really good way to bang that difference home is to set up a mirror image at this whole-hearted point of the book that reflects something that started happened at the beginning of the book.

What exactly are we talking about? It’s like this:

Beginning of a series: Wizard gets on a train and goes to magical school.

End of series: Wizard sends his son off on that same train to that same magical school.

Beginning of a book: A girl rides in her grandmother’s car on her way into the remote Maine woods and sees a man pointing at her.

End of a book: A girl drives her own car through those same woods and a man waves goodbye.

See what we mean?

But the thing is that this isn’t just true for our characters. It’s also true for us. A lot of times we believe lies about ourselves. We think that the opinion from a random critique or of a single publisher or reader means more than our process, our art, our our own understanding of self worth.

This is about letting a rejection or a criticism change our whole entire identity.

We stop believing in our creative purpose or our skill and in ourselves. Right? Instead of trying to improve our craft, we give up and internalize the criticism from “Hey, Arthur Levine didn’t like my story,” to “I am a failure. I suck. I should never write again.”

That’s not whole hearted. That’s not where your journey should be. Look at how much better you are now than when you were five, ten, 15, 20-years-old. Be proud of how much you’ve grown and accomplished and learned. Even if that’s just knowing that a lot is two words and not one. That’s growth, baby. Hold onto it.

Shaun is proud that he no longer spells quite – quiet.


Dog Hint For Life: Rejoice in where you are now. Luxuriate in it. Gabby and Sparty were both rescue dogs. Gabby was malnourished, constantly chained to a tree for the first year of her life. Sparty was roaming the streets of the South scavenging for food. Now they live on the coast of Maine and they get to frolic and feed. And be loved. They enjoy that every single day.

Writing Tip of the Pod: Write change. Write mirrors. Look at where your story started and have it journey somewhere else.

And when you do those things? That’s usually when your writing career starts to grow. By understanding the journey of your characters, you get to make your own journey even better! How cool is that?

Shout out: The music we’ve clipped and shortened in this podcast is awesome and is made available through the Creative Commons License. Here’s a link to that and the artist’s website. Who is this artist and what is this song?  It’s “Night Owl” by Broke For Free.

Writing News

Our podcast DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE is still chugging along. Thanks to all of you who keep listening to our weirdness. We’re sorry we laugh so much… sort of. Please like, share and subscribe!

Dogs are smarter than people - the podcast, writing tips, life tips, quirky humans, awesome dogs

31702754 copy


Carrie Jones, the New York Times bestselling author of Flying, presents another science fiction adventure of cheerleader-turned-alien-hunter Mana in Enhanced.

Seventeen-year-old Mana has found and rescued her mother, but her work isn’t done yet. Her mother may be out of alien hands, but she’s in a coma, unable to tell anyone what she knows.

Mana is ready to take action. The only problem? Nobody will let her. Lyle, her best friend and almost-boyfriend (for a minute there, anyway), seems to want nothing to do with hunting aliens, despite his love of Doctor Who. Bestie Seppie is so desperate to stay out of it, she’s actually leaving town. And her mom’s hot but arrogant alien-hunting partner, China, is ignoring Mana’s texts, cutting her out of the mission entirely.

They all know the alien threat won’t stay quiet for long. It’s up to Mana to fight her way back in.

“Witty dialogue and flawless action.”—VOYA

“YA readers, you’re in for a treat this week. Hilarious and action-packed, this novel is sure to be the perfect summer read.”—Bookish 

“Funny and playful, with a diverse cast of characters and a bit of romance and adventure, Flying is the perfect light summer read.”—BookPage

Order Your Copy:

amazon bn booksamillion  indiebound

Cough. That was pretty self-promotional, wasn’t it?

The Final Time Stoppers Book

What is it? It’s the third TIME STOPPERS book! It’s also one of the reasons that I forgot about ENHANCED’s release.

Time Stopper Annie’s newfound home, the enchanted town Aurora, is in danger. The vicious Raiff will stop at nothing to steal the town’s magic, and Annie is the only one who can defeat him–even though it’s prophesied that she’ll “fall with evil.”

Alongside her loyal band of friends Eva, Bloom, SalGoud, and Jamie, who still isn’t quite sure whether he’s a troll or not, Annie journeys deep into the Raiff’s realm, the Badlands. The group will face everything from ruthless monsters to their own deepest fears. Can Annie find the courage to confront the Raiff and save everyone, even if it means making the ultimate sacrifice?

What People are Saying About The Books:

An imaginative blend of fantasy, whimsy, and suspense, with a charming cast of underdog characters . . . This new fantasy series will entice younger fans of Harry Potter and Percy Jackson.” –  School Library Journal

“The characters show welcome kindness and poignant insecurity, and the text sprinkles in humor . . . and an abundance of magical creatures.” Kirkus Reviews on QUEST FOR THE GOLDEN ARROW

“An imaginative blend of fantasy, whimsy, and suspense, with a charming cast of underdog characters . . . This new fantasy series will entice younger fans of Harry Potter and Percy Jackson.” – School Library Journal on TIME STOPPERS

How to Get Signed Copies of Any of Carrie’s Books: 

If you would like to purchase signed copies of my books, you can do so through the awesome Sherman’s Book Store in Bar Harbor, Maine or the amazing Briar Patch. The books are also available online at places like Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

For signed copies – email for Sherman’s or email info@briarpatchbooks.comand let them know the titles in which you are interested. There’s sometimes a waiting list, but they are the best option. Plus, you’re supporting an adorable local bookstore run by some really wonderful humans. But here’s the Amazon link, too!

First Drafts Suck But So Do A Ton of Other Things

Dogs Are Smarter Than People: Writing Life, Marriage and Motivation
First Drafts Suck But So Do A Ton of Other Things


Hard writer truth time:

First drafts suck.

Almost everything stinks the first time you do it. That’s because it’s THE FIRST time you do it. But, we tend to expect to have our writing be perfect somehow.


Guitarists don’t expect to be Mark Knopffler the moment they pick up a guitar. Singers don’t expect to be Norah Jones the first time they sing. Sculptors don’t expect to be Michelangelo.

Here’s the Thing:

Being good takes practice.

And even if you’ve written 100 novels already? There is a high likelihood that your first draft of your next novel? It’s going to suck.

But it’s not the end of the world. The end of the world is when you give up.

So, how do you make your sucky first draft better?

Think about it.


How to Get Past Your crappy first draft. Three secret ways to write better
You can do it


You want to make that first draft a better second draft? Think of these three things to start off right.

  1. Think about what your character wants more than anything in the world. Make sure you have that in your story.
  2. Think about what your character would never do – not ever. Revise your story so that this becomes a high moment of tension, of possibility.
  3. Add tension to every page. EVERY PAGE!


Sometimes, it’s hard to catch the ball in your mouth, especially the first time. Try again anyways. Once you do it right, you get the ball… in your mouth! Score!

Dog Tip for Life
Dog Tip for Life

The List in My Head

Usually, I have a little list in my head of THE COOLEST THINGS THAT HAPPEN TO CARRIE IN ONE WEEK. This is how I keep the horrible things from bothering me, and believe me thanks to Sparty’s breath smelling like the litter box and Gabby having some doggy indigestion, things haven’t been too swell around here. (Note: How goofy is the word ‘swell?’)

And, I think I already have a winner for the COOLEST THING THAT HAS HAPPENED TO CARRIE THIS WEEK!

I was out taking photos and all strung up with cameras and lenses when I saw a librarian walking across the parking lot.

She also saw me.

Her face lit up.

I instantly panicked and stressed about the overdue books in a bag in my car. I wondered if I had enough cash in my camera bag to cover my fines. Would she tackle me? Would she slap my wrists with something? I didn’t know… Maybe I could outrun her, hide in the produce section of Hannaford’s Maybe…

But then she smiled and said, “Carrie! I read your book!!!”

And then I remembered that she isn’t a librarian in my actual town. Doh!

And then she told me that she read my ancient, old book because another librarian talked about it on a listserv and then she said the most amazing words an author can hear: I LOVED IT, CARRIE. I really loved it.

YAY! A librarian I know loved Tips on Having a Gay (ex) Boyfriend.

But it gets better than that because then she hugged me!!!!

There is nothing better than a librarian hug. Except maybe a kid hug. But they are pretty close.

I hope you all get hugged by librarians this week or at least dog kissed. Gabby would be happy to provide the service:

And speaking about kissing… let’s talk writer advice here with:

Lines of Desire and Character Wants

Desire. It sort of sounds like erotica, but desire needs to be a part of all story. Not the rated-x kind, but the kind that relates to your character and your character’s longing.

Humans are always wanting, needing, and desiring.

We are born. We want to be fed. We want to be held. We want sleep.

And we want hugs. Usually. But not all of us.

And so it goes all our lives. When it’s about your characters’ multiple levels of desire, it is often about yearning.

What is it that your character yearns for above all else? This is also often called the super objective. This is the place where readers connect with your character – this yearning. It’s what resonates with them. Why? Because they yearn too.


A lot of writers have super objectives and desire lines inserted into their characters without even realizing it. Their character pops out yearning and it’s merely a tweaking of that in prose.

But sometimes? It isn’t that easy.

My Post-6 copy

So what do you need?

You need two main things: A concrete desire and an internal desire are the big ones that are meant to drive your character through most (if not all) of the book.

What is concrete? It’s something real, tangible. It’s making a team. It’s getting a kiss. It’s saving a town.

What is internal? It’s what happens on the inside. This is where the characters emotional desires are pulling her or him through the book. It could be a want for home, family, friends. It could be to feel worthy. It could be to feel loved. This propels the character through the book, too.

Screen Shot 2017-10-21 at 11.12.12 AM
Sparty just wants a good cuddle

So, along with that, in theater when we do character studies, we think about these three questions in every scene we play. So in writing, we’d think about these things in every chapter we write.

These are the characters’ questions:

I want –

I need –

I must have –

And we fill in the blanks. In each scene, we see those three objectives and how they relate to our character. We can do that with novels too. What is it that the character wants, needs, and must have (super objective, greater than all other objectives, the desire line of objectives)?

The super objective or must have is what creates that arc throughout the entire piece/novel/play – the want that provides the throughline and arc.

Pretty cool, huh?

Random note: You can do this for more than just your characters. You can do this for your life. What is it you want, that you need, that you absolutely must have?


You want to make a difference in the world. I know you do.

According to its website, Amnesty International is “a global movement of more than 7 million people who take injustice personally. We are campaigning for a world where human rights are enjoyed by all.”

Zara in the NEED books was big into writing letters to political prisoners via Amnesty’s network.

This link brings you to a page where you can sign a petition to add your voice to thousands of others who are calling for an end to the assault on Syria’s Easter Ghouta.


Random Marketing and Book Things

My nonfiction picture book about Moe Berg, the pro ball player who became a spy was all official on March 1 and I’m super psyched about it. You can order it!

Kirkus Review says:   A captivating true story of a spy, secret hero, and baseball player too.

The Spy Who Played Baseball








The podcast, DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE, has a new podcast that came out yesterday.

And finally, I made a little video for my TIME STOPPERS books. Hopefully, the link works. I’m a bit worried about it not showing up.


Does Bono Like Donkeys? How to Create Character – Sort of

Dogs Are Smarter Than People: Writing Life, Marriage and Motivation
Does Bono Like Donkeys? How to Create Character - Sort of


This episode, Shaun ruins Carrie’s donkey farm dreams by mentioning that there is no money in donkey farming.

This sounds sad, right?

It’s not. Because we also talk about the three awesome elements of conflicted character. See Carrie’s blog post for a more in-depth discussion.

Writing Tip of the Cast: 

Conflicted Characters need objectives, motivations, and obstacles.

Dog Life Tip from Sparty: 

Do not buy a donkey farm. There is no money in donkey poop.