As authors, we hit upon an idea for a story, plot it out and begin writing, only to find that mid-way through the story, something isn't right. The plot isn't working. The characters are dull and not speaking or acting as they should. And that's when we sometimes panic.

When I began writing Debra's Bandit, I came upon this exact situation with Debra. I knew who she was, what her goals and motivation were, and what she wanted most in life. But then, not even mid-way into the story, Debra began to frustrate me. Not only did she stop talking to me, she wasn't interesting to me, which meant I thought readers would feel the same and close the book. It took a while for me to figure out the problem—she wasn't physically moving. She was stuck inside the mercantile greeting customers and filling orders. Not very interesting when she's the heroine of the story.

After more thought on how to better her, I came to two conclusions. One, she needed a helper to get her out of the store so she could interact with other characters, and in different situations. And two, I realized that working in the mercantile was what Debra did best. Debra honestly enjoyed helping people. Filling orders for flour and other supplies was one way she did that. But the most crucial way she helped the townsfolk was by agreeing to run the store until a permanent overseer could be found.

Back in Debra's time, the mercantile wasn't just a place to go for spices. The store was the focal point of the town. People came for the latest news, gossip and a connection to the community. Debra provided that with her friendly personality, and by offering her customers refreshment so they could stay awhile and partake in the latest rumors and newsworthy tidbits making their way around town.

The warm-hearted, feisty woman I originally envisioned Debra to be eventually found her way into the story through rewrites and deleting of old text. I was happy with the end result, because Debra had spoken to me and given me direction to make her shine. Don't sweat this part of the writing process, the having to go back and make changes upon changes. Your story will be better and stronger with your labor-of-love efforts. And like me, you'll come to appreciate the reason computers come with a 'delete' key.