The W Plot Diagram

It’s been a long time since I posted. I’ve been finishing up my latest novel Beneath the Ice. I need to let it sit before I start editing it again. I hope to have it ready to submit for publishing next month.

While I took a break, and ad popped up on my Facebook. It advertised how to Plot Your Novel in 5 Days. It sounded interesting. I logged in to take the free course. What’s a week? I thought.

A while ago I came across a newspaper article about a murder that wasn’t a murder, back in the late 1800’s. The whole story was too fantastical not to capture my interest. I played with the plot, set it in the 1920’s in Stillwater, Mn, then added a detective as a main character. The story fizzled. I had the beginning and end. So this detective needed to solve a murder that would over the course of a couple years not be the murder they thought it was. Confused? So was I. How could I write this zany story?

I decided to apply this Plot-in-a-week to the story and see what came out of it. What a journey it became. What I learned about plotting filled in details to the plot structure I already knew.

DAY 1-What is your protagonist’s core want? That got me thinking. My main character is a detective and he wants to solve a murder. BUT what does he really want? I wrote something down and played around with it for a day.

DAY 2-What is the main goal and what obstacles need to be overcome? Now I needed more. So his goal is to solve a murder, and obstacles are Organized Crime in that prohibition era, that is ripe with dirty cops and bribery. I went back to his core value. What if he were a moral man who wouldn’t take bribes? Okay, then what if the dirty cops in his station pressed him to leave the case alone. After all the girl was a dancer or prostitute, they didn’t matter. What is my character’s reaction to that? more writing.

DAY 3-What is the “inciting incident” or the “all is lost” moment? I looked at what the bullet points I’d written so far. I needed two dead bodies. In order for the end to work I needed a body he finds in the present to remind him of the body he’d found 3 years ago. Now the plot began to work. I went back and quickly filled out what happened to the first body from the newspaper article and added a character profile that would work. I was on a roll.

Day 4- The PLOT W-This is where it all came together. We were supposed to write the inciting event, then at the bottom of the first V, the first major setback. At the top of the next (upside down V) the major triumph. At the bottom of that V, the major low, the all is lost moment. The last was the climax and end.
My muse flowed. I had all the main points along with the points in between. When I was done I looked at it and I had my novel ready to write. I have a map. I may take detours, but I know where I have to be at the 5 main points. I can’t let myself get so far off course I can’t get back.

On the zoom call for that day, they picked (randomly) 4 plot diagrams to critique. Mine was chosen and they loved the idea. They liked that I took the details farther than just the 5 points.

DAY 5- The wrap up. What did I learn? What is my next step. Now just go write.

If you are interested you can look for Plot Your Novel in 5 Days or any of their other sessions. If you want more help you can find them at

Photo by Karolina Grabowska on

The Oxford Dictionary

We have come to take the dictionary for granted. From my earliest years we were sent to the bookshelf where a thick, heavy book full of words to enrich and enhance our speech as well as our read sat. Looking for the proper spelling of a word, you might come across an interesting word. There might be a word that would catch your eye in passing that would stay with you for years.

Today I watched the movie The Professor and the Madman. How did the Oxford come to be? It’s a fantastic tale that we never knew.

What does the Oxford Dictionary mean today? We have at our fingertips any word we need. There had to be an original list so the Scholars began a tremendous undertaking.

They read books and old manuscripts looking for words and tracing their origins. The movie chronicles this journey as it relates to two men. The story intrigued me as I realize how far we’ve come since then. From heavy tones to paperback pocket size, then to auto correct as we type.

Words woven together creates stories. They tell truths and lies. The use of common words or the crafting of less used words they can make us laugh and cry. How often do you use the dictionary in the written word? Have you ever just looked at words around the one you questioned.

Take an evening and watch this movie. The next time you look up a word use a dictionary you have on your shelf among the myriad of writing books.


Every story needs it to engage a reader. Why do we read stories or watch movies? We are presented with a problem and we want to see the struggle the Main Character endures in order win. This is a great article that addresses this when writing.

Lockdown can be productive

This time of shut down has been productive for me. I have finished my novel and now I’m editing it. I’ve been posting and getting great critiques. Being able to post one to two chapters a week and getting immediate feedback has pushed me to be productive. I’m a Procrastinator with a P.
This novel will be published this fall. I’m hoping the title BENEATH THE ICE is a good one. I checked Amazon and there are a number of books with a similar title. I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or bad. They are, for the most part, in the same genre.
Let me give you a brief synopsis.

While Detective Andrea Watson is watching ice blocks being cut from Blue Lake, she sees something in the ice that causes her concern.  She discovers body parts encased in netting.  She and FBI Agent Fletcher Peterson are on the search for a serial killer. 
She deals with a misogyinistic police department, a pesky reporter, as well as a interested parent. Will she and the agent be able to find the killer before he kills again?

While helping others and reviewing their work I find my own writing is getting better. I honestly am talking myself into pitching it to an agent next month. Maybe I can bypass the self publishing route and get an agent and publisher.
I need help with crafting a pitch and query letter. The idea of that is daunting.

Cover Artists

Cover art is the hardest part of publishing. You have an idea but nothing you see on stock photos that are free seem to fit your vision.

I’ve looked at many artists’ sites and they seem to be more in the fantasy, science fiction, or a basic box cover.

Here is an artist I found that seems to fit my vision. I have a children’s book I’d like to get published. It’s about A Dragon with a Bad Habit. I’m hoping to find a publisher

Here is Kristen’s web page. Contact her for artwork.

Character Development

I came across this post and found it to have a number of points that new writers need to know and and older writers need to revisit.

Character Development: Create Characters That Readers Love

by Joe Bunting | 14 Comments

Readers love great characters. Think back to your favorite stories of all time. You might remember the story points, or you might not. You might remember the best bits of dialogue, or you might not. You might remember the setting descriptions, but let’s be honest, you probably don’t

 Character Development - Create Characters Readers Love

But the characters? You’ll remember the characters for the rest of your life.

How do you do that? How do you create great characters? The short answer is character development, but what is character development and how can you use it to create characters readers love?

That’s what we’re going to talk about in this article.

Table of Contents

Ready to get started with this characterization lesson? Let’s do it.

What Is Character Development?

Character development is the process of creating a character and then throwing them into a story so that they evolve and display their full personality.

Note that one of the first things I mentioned above is to throw your character into the story. 

Some writers spend months or years building a character, figuring out their every personality trait, filling out long surveys about their favorite foods and what kinds of clothes they love to wear. 

They spend so much time on characterization, they never write their book! And if they try, they can’t figure out why their character doesn’t feel like the ones in their favorite novels.

That kind of characterization is fun, but it can easily veer into navel-gazing. 

Instead, put your characters to the test.

The best form of character development is the following:

Five Steps of Character Development

  1. Give your character a goal.
  2. Make it hard for them to achieve that goal.
  3. Set up a difficult choice, a dilemma, for your character.
  4. Have your character choose.
  5. Show how your character’s life is different after the choice.

Interestingly enough, those are the same five building blocks of a story. 

Below, we’ll talk more about how to accomplish each of those things, but for now, just remember this: “To create and develop a character, put them into a story that tests their character and see how they respond.Tweet thisTweet

Create a Character Sketch

One of the best tools for character development is a character sketch, or character profile. This is where you record details about a character to better understand them. 

I’ll summarize the process below, but for a full guide, you can read about how to create a character sketch using Scrivener, one of our favorite writing tools, here. (By the way, if you haven’t heard of it, here’s a review about whether Scrivener might be for you.)

You can mix and match elements to create your own character sketch template, but here’s what a character sketch might contain:

  • Character name
  • Photo (I just find something on Google image search to serve as a likeness)
  • Character type (see 8 types below)
  • One sentence summary
  • One paragraph description (including a physical description, occupation, flaws, good attributes, and mannerisms)
  • Goals (what do they want)
  • Conflicts (what keeps them from getting what they want)
  • Narrative (what do they do in the story)

Remember, the best way to do character development is to throw characters into a story. Don’t sketch characters for their own sake, but to find where they fit into the story.

8 Types of Characters

This is obvious, but most stories contain many types of characters, not just one. Below, I’ve listed the eight types of characters.

When you’re creating your character sketches, write what type of character they are beside their sketch.

  • The Protagonist. The protagonist is the character at the center of the plot whose choices drive the story and whose fate determine the story’s outcome.
  • Point of View Characters. Some stories have multiple central characters, e.g. Game of Thrones. The term for a central character when there are multiple ones is a Point of View character. These characters carry the narrative, and in a story told in third person limited point of view they will be the only character whose thoughts and emotions the reader can see.
  • The Villain. Not every story has a villain, but for the ones that do, the villain is the chief source of conflict. Also known as the antagonist.
  • The Mentor. The mentor is a character who steers the protagonist, helps get them out of trouble, and provides chances for reflection. A mainstay of the hero’s journey plot structure, in many types of stories, without a good mentor, the character’s journey will end in tragedy (e.g. think about Hamlet, who had no mentor).
  • The Sidekick. A sidekick is a character who supports the protagonist. Besides the protagonist and villain, they have the most opportunity for characterization, and provide dialogue opportunities and an insight into the character’s mindset. Sidekicks appear in all genres, from romance (e.g. Mercutio from Romeo and Juliet) to adventure (e.g. Samwise Gamgee from Lord of the Rings) to mystery (e.g. Inspector Beauvoir from the Inspector Gamache series) and more.
  • Side Characters. Side characters often have fully developed personalities, long interactions with the protagonist, and perhaps even deep backstories. However, they rarely make decisions or change throughout the story.
  • The Chorus. A term from playwriting, these side characters may have names and vague descriptions, but they do not have fully developed personalities and are chiefly there to serve as bystanders.
  • Suspects. Specific to mysteries and thrillers, suspects have fully developed personalities and they serve as objects of exploration for the investigator. They should all have motives and appear at least somewhat guilty of the crime, if only to serve as red herrings

For more on each of these character types, check out our guide, 6 Character Types Your Protagonist Needs Around Them.

What Makes a Good Character

On my podcast, Character Test, my cohost and I have found that there are four criteria that you can use to evaluate a character, to test and see whether a character is good or not.

Here, I’m not talking about whether they are morally good, but whether they are interesting, relatable, entertaining, and worth following. In other words, this is about figuring out will readers love them.

Also, this is what makes a good character. If you want to know how to make a good character, scroll down to the Character Development Steps section.

1. Good Characters Have Goals

Good stories are about characters who want something and experience challenges to get what they want. 

Desire is central to good stories, good characters, and to the human condition itself. Good characters have deeply held desires and are willing to make sacrifices to achieve those desires. 

That being said, those desires don’t have to start out as anything big

As Kurt Vonnegut said, “Make your characters want something right away even if it’s only a glass of water. Characters paralyzed by the meaninglessness of modern life still have to drink water from time to time.”““Make your characters want something right away even if it’s only a glass of water. Characters paralyzed by the meaninglessness of modern life still have to drink water from time to time.” —Kurt VonnegutTweet thisTweet

2. Good Characters Face Challenges to Their Goals

As nice as it would be for your character to get everything they wanted without having to do any work, it would make for a very boring story! 

I like what bestselling author Kristina McMorris told me: “I only give my characters a happy ending if they’ve worked really hard for it.” Kristina’s novel Sold on a Monday was on the New York Times bestsellers list for twenty straight weeks, so she knows what she’s talking about!

3. Good Characters Make Decisions

Good characters take control of their own fate. They take action. They make choices, and they suffer the good or bad consequences of those choices. 

Bad characters let life happen to them. Bad characters allow others to make choices for them. They never take action in their own lives, and it’s their lack of decision-making ability that makes them boring.“Bad characters let life happen to them. It is their inability to make choices that makes them boring.Tweet thisTweet

4. Good Characters Are Epathizable 

I made this word up but I think it’s going to stick!

Editorial note from Alice: Stop trying to make “empathizable” happen, Joe. It’s not going to happen.

You can empathize with good characters. Even if they are villains (especially if they’re villains), you can understand where they’re coming from, and maybe even relate. 

Good characters, in other words, are human.

Bad characters are so foreign or perfect or evil that you can’t relate to where they’re coming from. 

Bonus: Good Characters Change

Many will argue with this, but not all good characters change. In fact, you can tell a great story where the protagonist doesn’t change. 

Take James Bond. In a few novels and films he changes (e.g. Casino Royale) but in most, James stays the same stoic, cocky person he started out as. And the novels are still great!

Or Inspector Gamache, my favorite detective from the series by Louise Penny. Inspector Gamache starts out as the perfect gentleman, thoughtful leader, and unerring investigator and ends each novel the same way. There are a few individual books where he goes through deep inner turmoil, but even then he re-emerges the same, amazing person, just a little bit stronger and surer in his ways.

There are many great stories where the character changes. It’s especially a hallmark of the hero’s journey (which is itself a form of character development). But it’s not always a requirement of a good character.

Character Development Steps

Now that we’ve talked about what makes a good character, how do you actually develop a character readers love? The answer is that you lead them through a good story.

You might think that you, the author, creates a good character. And to some extent that’s true. But the story tests the character, forces them to reveal the deepest, darkest, best, and most intimate aspects of their character. 

Without a great story there would be no reason to get to know your characters. 

Even more, from a writing perspective, it’s the storytelling process where we first discover who these characters we’ve made are. It’s by putting them through conflict, giving them difficult choices, and seeing how they solve those problems that we see what our characters are actually made of. 

That means you can’t start this process soon enough. 

Instead of spending all your time dreaming up individual traits of your characters, throw them into the story and see what happens. That is how you will get to know them.

One quick note: I’m indebted to Shawn Coyne and Story Grid for much of my thinking of each of these five steps. To learn more, visit Shawn’s guide, Storytelling’s Five Commandments.

1. Desire. Find something your character wants right away.

What are your character’s goals? What does he or she want? 

There are two types of desires: felt needs and deep-seated desires.

If you’re like most people your character will want many things. At the same time, they probably want one or two things that are deeply held, maybe even subconscious. 

For example, a character might say she wants an outfit so she can be cool. That would be an example of a felt need. But in reality, whether she’s willing to admit it to anyone or not, she might want a family, since her parents were killed in a car crash. That’s a deep-seated desire. 

Often a scene, chapter, or even book will begin with a felt need, but then center on the deep-seated desire in the middle and climax of the story.

In my memoir, Crowdsourcing Paris, I began with a felt need to go to Paris, but the book centers on my deep-seated desire for authenticity and self-acceptance.

What does your character want?

2. Conflict. Make it hard for them to get what they want.

The established storytelling advice is appropriate here: “In the first act, put your character up a tree. In the second act, throw rocks at them; in the third act, bring them down.”

To take the analogy further, it’s their desires and goals that put the character up a tree. It’s the conflict you create, perhaps through an antagonist, that functions as the rocks. 

What obstacles do you need to put in front of your character to keep them from getting what they want?

And what lengths is your character willing to go to get what they want?

These challenges build and build until finally, the character has to do something. They have to choose.

3. Dilemma. Setup a difficult choice, a dilemma, for your character.

Choice is the heart of character development. THIS is the real test of our character, and the moment where we see their true self.

Shawn Coyne says there should be a crisis, or a dilemma, in every scene. That’s a lot of choices for your character! But it’s brilliant, because their dilemma is both what drives the drama of the story as a whole and also what 

The choice must be difficult. This isn’t a choice between whether your character wants pizza or hamburgers for dinner. 

Instead, the dilemma is between two very good things—for example, love or money—or two very bad things—would you rather be struck blind and never get to see the love of your life again, or have the love of your life maimed before your eyes.

In Crowdsourcing Paris, I faced the difficult choice between whether to do a series of very embarrassing, uncomfortable, and, in the end, life-threatening adventures; or give back the $4,300 my audience had given me to complete the adventures and not go to Paris. Tough choice!

How can you give your characters a major dilemma? 

If you want to know more, read about the all-important literary crisis moment here.

4. Choice. Have your character make the choice.

The climax of every scene, act, and book as a whole is when the character who has been faced with a dilemma finally makes the choice and takes action.

Yes, that’s right. Your character has to take action. 

A character who passively allows situations to carry him or her through the chaos of life doesn’t make for a good character.

No, your character must choose and take action on that choice.

This is where your character shows who he or she is, which also means this is the best example of show don’t tell.

5. Change. How is the character’s life different now?

Now that your character has made a choice, how is their life different? What has changed? Are things better? Or are things worse?

Resolve the tension you’ve built and show the change.

Those are the five steps of character development. Note that if an average novel is fifty to seventy scenes, that gives you a lot of opportunities to develop your character! 

However, that’s also the point, because character isn’t revealed all at once, but slowly, challenge after challenge, choice after choice.

Character Development Tips and Tricks

The five character development steps above show you how to reveal your character through story, but over the centuries, writers have figured out a few shortcuts to help us create even better characters. 

Here are a few character development tips and tricks. Check back for more as we update this list!

1. Flaws

Every good character is broken in some way. Why? Because every person is broken in some way, and it’s our flaws that make us human and relatable (maybe even empathizable!).

As the saying goes, “Success builds walls. Failure builds bridges.”

What is wrong with your character? It might be deep-seated, like inherent selfishness (e.g. Han Solo), or it might be something simple, like they can’t help but spill food on themselves (e.g. Clara from Inspector Gamache).

2. Orphans

There are ten times more orphans per capita in literature than in the real world.

I made that statistic up, but think about it:

  • Luke from Star Wars
  • Harry Potter
  • Frodo from Lord of the Rings
  • Pip from Great Expectations (or pretty much every Charles Dickens hero)
  • Jane Eyre
  • Every superhero ever (Spiderman, Batman, Superman, Supergirl, all of them)
  • Kvothe from The Name of the Wind
  • At least half of all Disney characters (Bambi, Aladdin, Frozen, Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella)
  • Anne of Green Gables
  • Any Roald Dahl protagonist
  • Daenerys Targaryen and Jon Snow (and pretty much every other character in Game of Thrones eventually)

Every one of these characters is an orphan. If you expand it to losing one parent, the list goes on even further.“In literature, orphans are gold.Tweet thisTweet

Why do writers love orphans? For two reasons, I think: because they’re immediately empathizable and because they are the masters of their own fate (see step four above!).

3. Highlight Strong Appearance Traits

Whether it’s a very long nose (Pinnochio) or vast physical strength (Jean Valjean from Les Miserables), we often remember characters by one specific trait that they have. 

When you’re describing your characters, don’t describe every aspect of their appearance. Choose one or two physical traits that are especially striking and focus on them. Your reader will fill in the rest with their imaginations.

4.  Voice

Good characters have their own unique voice, their own unique way of talking.

Perhaps they speak with a Long Island accent with lots of slang, or maybe they insert profanity every other word. Whatever it is, find a few verbal ticks that your character has. Even better, keep track of them on your character sketch so you don’t forget!

Note: this is often one of the hardest parts of character building. George R.R. Martin talks about how he has to write several chapters from each of his point of view characters’ perspective before switching to a new character because it’s so difficult to transition into a different character’s voice.

5. Your Character’s Fate Is Often Determined by Their Mentor

For your protagonist, the mentor figure is often the most important character. In fact, the presence or lack of a mentor often determines their fate. A hero with a good mentor will often succeed, whereas a hero without a mentor or with a corrupt mentor will fail.

Choose your mentor carefully!

Character Development Writing Exercise

Now that you know everything about developing characters, let’s put your new knowledge to practice! Use the creative writing exercise below to practice developing a strong character.

And if you’re to create a character sketch for your novel, check out our guide on how to create a character sketch with Scrivener.

Good luck and happy writing!

What is your favorite characterization tip above? Are there any I missed? Let me know in the comments.


Let’s put your character development to use with this creative writing prompt:

  1. Choose one of the character types above and spend five minutes sketching out their character using the character sketch template above (Character Name, type, one-sentence summary, goals, conflicts).
  2. After your five minutes are up, write about your new character as he or she goes through a scene using the five character development steps: desire, conflict, dilemma, choice, and change. Write for ten minutes.

When your time is up, post your practice in the comments section. And if you post, be sure to give feedback to at least three other writers.

Happy writing!Joe Bunting

Joe Bunting

Joe Bunting is an author and the leader of The Write Practice community. He is also the author of the new book Crowdsourcing Paris, a real life adventure story set in France. It was a #1 New Release on Amazon. You can follow him on Instagram (@jhbunting).

DNA- Who Knew this could happen?

I read this when it was posted on my True Crime All The Time group. After reading it I found it fascinating and all kinds of plots popped into my head

By Heather Murphy

  • Dec. 7, 2019

Three months after his bone marrow transplant, Chris Long of Reno, Nev., learned that the DNA in his blood had changed. It had all been replaced by the DNA of his donor, a German man he had exchanged just a handful of messages with.

He’d been encouraged to test his blood by a colleague at the Sheriff’s Office, where he worked. She had an inkling this might happen. It’s the goal of the procedure, after all: Weak blood is replaced by healthy blood, and with it, the DNA it contains.

But four years after his lifesaving procedure, it was not only Mr. Long’s blood that was affected. Swabs of his lips and cheeks contained his DNA — but also that of his donor. Even more surprising to Mr. Long and other colleagues at the crime lab, all of the DNA in his semen belonged to his donor. “I thought that it was pretty incredible that I can disappear and someone else can appear,” he said.

Mr. Long had become a chimera, the technical term for the rare person with two sets of DNA. The word takes its name from a fire-breathing creature in Greek mythology composed of lion, goat and serpent parts. Doctors and forensic scientists have long known that certain medical procedures turn people into chimeras, but where exactly a donor’s DNA shows up — beyond blood — has rarely been studied with criminal applications in mind.

Sign Up for On Politics With Lisa Lerer

A spotlight on the people reshaping our politics. A conversation with voters across the country. And a guiding hand through the endless news cycle, telling you what you really need to know.

Tens of thousands of people get bone marrow transplants every year, for blood cancers and other blood diseases including leukemia, lymphoma and sickle cell anemia. Though it’s unlikely that any of them would end up as the perpetrator or victim of a crime, the idea that they could intrigued Mr. Long’s colleagues at the Washoe County Sheriff’s Department, who have been using their (totally innocent) colleague in IT as a bit of a human guinea pig.

The implications of Mr. Long’s case, which was presented at an international forensic science conference in September, have now captured the interest of DNA analysts far beyond Nevada.

The average doctor does not need to know where a donor’s DNA will present itself within a patient. That’s because this type of chimerism is not likely to be harmful. Nor should it change a person. “Their brain and their personality should remain the same,” said Andrew Rezvani, the medical director of the inpatient Blood & Marrow Transplant Unit at Stanford University Medical Center.

He added that patients also sometimes ask him what it means for a man to have a woman’s chromosomes in their bloodstream or vice versa. “It doesn’t matter,” he said.

But for a forensic scientist, it’s a different story. The assumption among criminal investigators as theygather DNA evidence from a crime scene is that each victim and each perpetrator leaves behind a single identifying code — not two, including that of a fellow who is 10 years younger and lives thousands of miles away. And so Renee Romero, who ran the crime lab at the Washoe County Sheriff’s Office, saw an opportunity when her friend and colleague told her that his doctor had found a suitable match on a donor website and he would be undergoing a bone marrow transplant.

“We need to swab the heck out of you before you have this procedure to see how this DNA takes over your body,” she recalled telling him.

Mr. Long agreed. He welcomed an intriguing distraction from his diagnosis of acute myeloid leukemia and myelodysplastic syndromes, both of which impair the production of healthy blood cells.

At the time, he said, “I didn’t even know if I would live.”

Editors’ Picks

Are the Patriots Vulnerable at Last? Don’t Bet on ItWhat Are the Benefits of Probiotics?Their Soccer Club Vanished. They Kept Coming.

Four years later, with Mr. Long in remission and back at work, Ms. Romero’s experiment persisted, aided by her crime lab colleagues. Within four months of the procedure, Mr. Long’s blood had been replaced by his donor’s blood. Swabs collected from his lip, cheek and tongue showed that these also contained his donor’s DNA, with the percentages rising and falling over the years. Of the samples collected, only his chest and head hair were unaffected. The most unexpected part was that four years after the procedure, the DNA in his semen had been entirely replaced by his donor’s.

“We were kind of shocked that Chris was no longer present at all,” said Darby Stienmetz, a criminalist at the Washoe County Sheriff’s Office.

If another patient responded similarly to a transplant and that person went on to commit a crime, it could mislead investigators, said Brittney Chilton, a criminalist at the Sheriff’s Office forensic science division.

And it has misled them, Ms. Chilton learned once she began to research chimerism. In 2004, investigators in Alaska uploaded a DNA profile extracted from semen to a criminal DNA database. It matched a potential suspect. But there was a problem: The man had been in prison at the time of the assault. It turned out that he had received a bone marrow transplant. The donor, his brother, was eventually convicted.

Abirami Chidambaram, who presented the Alaska case in 2005, when she worked for the Alaska State Scientific Crime Detection Laboratory in Anchorage, said she had heard about another disconcerting scenario since then. It involved policeinvestigators who were skeptical of a sexual assault victim’s account because she said there had been one attacker, though DNA analysis showed two. Eventually the police determined that the second profile had come from her bone marrow donor.

Similar scenarios could also create confusion around a victim’s identity — and in fact it has, said Yongbin Eom, a visiting research scholar at the University of North Texas Center for Human Identification. In 2008, he was trying to identify the victim of a traffic accident for the National Forensic Service in Seoul, South Korea. Blood showed that the individual was female. But the body appeared to be male, which was confirmed by DNA in a kidney, but not in the spleen or the lung, which contained male and female DNA. Eventually, he figured out that the victim had received a bone marrow transplant from his daughter.

The specifics of Mr. Long’s situation raise an inevitable question: What happens if he has a baby? Would he pass on the genes of his German donor or his own to future offspring? In this case, the answer will remain untested because Mr. Long had a vasectomy after his second child was born.

But what about everyone else? Three bone marrow transplant experts who were surveyed agreed that it was an intriguing question. They also agreed that passing on someone else’s genes as a result of a transplant like Mr. Long’s was impossible.

“There shouldn’t be any way for someone to father someone else’s child,” said Dr. Rezvani, the Stanford medical director.

That’s not to say that other forms of chimerism haven’t created comparably confusing scenarios. Fraternal twins sometimes acquire each other’s DNA in the womb; in at least one case that led to unfounded fears of infidelity when a man’s child did not seem to be his. In another case, a mother nearly lost custody of her children after a DNA test.

But a donor’s blood cells should not be able to create new sperm cells, Dr. Rezvani said. Dr. Mehrdad Abedi, the doctor at the University of California, Davis, who treated Mr. Long, agreed: He believed it was Mr. Long’s vasectomy that explained how his semen came to contain his donor’s DNA. The forensic scientists involved say they plan to investigate further.

Everyone who has reviewed Mr. Long’s case agrees on one thing: He is a living, breathing case study of one, and it’s impossible to say how many other people respond to bone marrow transplants the same way he did. It’s simply one of those curious possibilities that forensic analysts may want to consider when DNA results are not adding up.

For his part, Mr. Long said he hopes to meet his donor during an upcoming trip to Germany and to thank him in person for saving his life.

How To Train Your Brain To Write

Training, is the key word. When you want to run a marathon you have to be motivated to even want to do it? Why would anyone want to run? That’s my question? I hear people say I feel this rush and I love it. {shudder}

The whole concept of getting outdoors and walking, jogging or worse running is totally foreign to me. However the process is the same. I love to write. There are times I don’t feel motivated, I don’t have a story, I will go out to my favorite writing site and look for contests to enter. I will google writing prompts and scroll through them until I find one that hits me and my brain begins to form a plot out of the prompt.
In these instances I don’t plan, I just write what I think the story is about. Sometimes the writing is in detail and other times it’s about the basic action.

I’d love to say “Write something every day.” We all know that in our busy schedule we may not be able to do that. The same with running. If it’s a past time we fit it in our lives when we can. If it’s something we love, we push other things aside to MAKE time to run.

A marathon is like the National Write a Novel in a Month. We prep for it in October and then on November 1 we start writing. We move everything aside so there is time to write every day. Sometimes we write more on a day to plan for those days when our schedule is full.

I am just 5 days from the finish line and I have 5,106 words left to write. I don’t want to be like the Hare in the fable and not finish or have to madly write at the end. I will plug along today and every day until I get to the end.

This is what I feel is training your brain. If you look for stories in life, you’ll find them. If you keep a running idea of what you like to write, you can always fit a story in to that narrative. I just wrote a story for a contest the other day. I have a setting I love and it’s a bit on the weird and spooky side. I fit the prompt into that idea and wrote almost 3,000 words about a camera that captured the subjects when they were filmed. You can train your brain to write, if you just write to train your brain.