A writer like you: Heather Frost
Meet Heather Frost, author of the Seers Trilogy and Asides, a short story collection.
She owns two typewriters, but does her best writing on her laptop because of features like cut and paste that don’t require actual scissors and glue. Heather enjoys cooking, Lord of the Rings movie marathons, and traveling—especially Europe. Her favorite book is usually what she’s reading at the time, but Harry Potter, Jane Eyre, and The Scarlet Pimpernel are near the top of her all-time favorites list.
Her Seers Trilogy is a YA series about a girl who starts seeing invisible people and learns they are guardian angels and demons, and that both sides of an eternal war want her help. She is currently working on a YA medieval fantasy series.
You’ll love Heather’s tips for balancing your interests, writing strong characters, and knowing where to begin a story.
Let’s dive in, shall we?
Why are stories so important to you?
Through stories—whether I’m reading them or writing them—I get out of my own reality for a while. I can explore new worlds and lives, I can learn about my own life, and I get more experiences than I’d ever be able to pack into one lifetime. Stories bring understanding, empathy, passion, growth, and new perspective into the human experience, and that’s pretty amazing. I recently finished reading The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, and it’s basically an ode to the written word. It expressed a lot of my personal sentiments—stories truly do change lives.
What prevents you from writing, and how do you overcome it?
There are many things that can prevent writing. A big one is time. Working full-time, balancing social relationships, keeping the house clean, and handling the more business side of writing, all combine against a writer sometimes. I’ve found that I need to write every day—even if I’m taking five minutes to jot down notes or do a simple writing exercise, it keeps my creative brain active. Scheduling out a specific time is also helpful; maybe it means waking up early, or getting home earlier on an evening so you can dedicate time to writing.
Another big stumbling clock is writer’s block, but I’ve found a few things that work for me. A big one is to not take long breaks away from writing. Sometimes you need a break, but the longer you stay away from writing, the harder it is to get back into it. Another common issue writers face is getting stuck on a project, or even getting sick of it. It’s helpful to have a secondary project on the backburner that you can pull out if you need a break from a particular project. I try to have a primary novel I’m working on, as well as a secondary, and then I have a list of ideas for short stories and essays that I can turn to if my novels hit me with a brick wall. A last bit of writer’s block advice is to look for inspiration in the world around you—go people-watching and write down your observations, or watch a favorite movie and write about the elements that make it your favorite.
Do you have any tips for writing strong characters?
I love characters! Every writer is different, but for me, characters usually come to me before plot, and I firmly believe that if you have good characters, they will help you create a good plot. There are a couple practical things I do to flesh out my characters--I’ll share two of them with you!
1) The Character Sketch: I’m not artistic, so I really just mean I sit down with my character and write about them. I start with the basics—physical appearance, characteristics. Then I go a little deeper—what are their talents and hobbies? Do they like summer or winter? How did they get the scar on their left elbow? What is their family like? What are the physical characteristics they like about themselves, and what do they not like? Then I go into more of their history so I can understand where they’ve been. A lot of this never makes it into the novel, it just helps me get to know them—and avoid info-dumping in chapter one! You can do this with main and secondary characters, as well as with your antagonist. You can even find “get to know you” questionnaires online that you can use as a guide if you need some help coming up with questions.
2) A writing exercise I love is to write a summary blurb for the book from the perspective of different characters. You always end up writing one for your main character—that’s the back-of-the-book blurb—but what about your secondary characters, or even your villain? It helps solidify them as the main character in their own story, and helps clarify their goals and what they stand to lose. For example, what if Voldemort’s POV made up the Harry Potter burb? It suddenly puts him under the microscope and we can better understand what he’s up against and understand his motivations. To get some practice, you can write character blurbs for characters that others have created—Gandalf in Lord of the Rings, Jasmine in Aladdin, or Obi Wan in Star Wars. How does their perspective on the blurb change the feel of the book? It’s amazing the things you might learn about your own characters by doing this exercise!
How do you know where to start a story?
This is one of the more challenging aspects of storytelling, and we’ve all heard the same piece of advice—start as close to the action as possible. And while that’s true, I have some tips for some different ways you can think about it.
First of all, character backstory is not as impactful in chapter one as it will be later. This is because the reader doesn’t have any feelings for the main character on page one, but later they will be desperate to know more about the character’s past. So don’t give us a lot of the backstory in chapter one! Save it! In chapter one, you’re giving us the bare minimum we need to understand the scene.
Another tip is to think about how you pitch your story. What is the “cool” thing that makes your book stand out? What is the hook? More often than not, whatever that hook is should be the first scene in your book—or you’re teasing the hook. There’s no reason to make the reader wait for the “good part.” Your main character is a thief who steals from a tyrannical king and it sets off a war? Don’t start us in the planning stage of the heist—drop us into the actual robbery so we can get to the aftermath—that’s where the story is. Or maybe we’re already dashing for the exit, or trying to evade the soldiers in the city streets. As with any good thing, there are always exceptions, but really think about the kind of book you like to read and how quickly you like the action to come.
Another tip is to ask yourself this: “if a reader were re-reading my book, would they skip the beginning? Where would they start reading?” That’s often a nice guide to see where the story really takes off.
Beginnings can be really hard, so don’t allow yourself to get stuck! My first draft beginning is always different from the final draft beginning; sometimes the whole scene shifts, and others it’s just trimming back unnecessary detail. But don’t let your editorial brain crush your creativity. Revisions come after your first draft!
What’s next for you?
I’m hard at work on my next book while also searching for the perfect agent for me and my most recently finished project. Publishing is a discussion for another day, but I have published with a traditional small publisher as well as self-published my short story collection, so I’m looking forward to diversifying more with a larger publishing house.
What writing advice would you give other writers like yourself?
Probably my best piece of advice is to trust yourself. Trust in your writing. Trust in the story you have to tell. Trust in your ability to learn from mistakes as you hone your craft. Trust in yourself enough to share your work with others who can help you improve. Trust in your goals and put in the work to achieve them. Trust that you will succeed, even as you face rejection—you’re the one who chooses if your journey stops at rejection, or if you keep going until that YES is found. Trust in your dream enough to live it!
Where can we connect with you?
My FREE THE WRITER takeaway is that we need to take the time before we write the book to get to know our characters. They can actually help us write a better story.
What about you?
To free the writer today, let’s put Heather’s advice into practice and trust ourselves and our goals. When we expect success, we do the work because we actually believe we can get there.