Here are my experiences and how I write characters I love as well as the mistakes I’ve made. I hope this helps in some way and Happy Valentines Day!
I’ve written many different stories with many different narrators and I know a good narrator will keep me writing. The very first book I tried to write featured a main character who had no faults. I originally thought that this would make the character so much better but as I tried to write it, I started hating the character more and more. It seemed impossible for me to relate to the character and made all the tension dissipate before there was really any action.
So I abandoned that project and started on another one. This time I was sure to give my character actual human characteristics and flaws. In fact, my main character was enemy number one when it came to the world she lived in but was the hero as far as the book went. This book actually got completed but I kept reworking it. 12 drafts later I was making the character more empathetic and less cold towards everyone. So I learned that even if a character is evil they still have to be likable.
Not too much later I started writing a character who had lost their memory. This is when I first noticed that half of a character was just what motivated him. It didn’t even need to be on the page as long as I knew what past thing the character had that was affecting the way he reacted now. That is to say, my character was passive and dull because there was nothing motivating his actions. I ended up not writing the most interesting parts of the story because I couldn’t imagine why the character was doing what was supposed to happen.
Not long after that, I finally started writing characters who the readers enjoyed and who helped push the plot forward. The secret to these characters was giving them emotion and reason. They were no longer a puppet with one general concept making them up but were dynamic and relatable. Sometimes these characters would change to plot just because they started moving on their own.
From then on I started building my characters from the emotion up. I’d begun a book by thinking of a situation that would cause a highly emotional response and then create the two characters who would react in the most interesting way in response to said stimuli. Before even writing the story I’d come up with past events, fears, things they hated. By fleshing them out in every aspect I could, I could understand them better and relate to them more.
Another thing I found key was to make characters have strong beliefs. If a character wasn’t either super outgoing or super shy then they were boring. But if I worked with a shy character and put them in situations where they had to be outgoing, that was interesting. I listened to what others said about why characters were good or bad and I found some interesting distinctions. Characters who were emotionally not ready to take on the climax often came across as overly dramatic and a scaredy cat. Their counterparts who were held back by past memories were perceived as strong and compelling.
The thing that makes a character seem the most alive to me then, is responding to the plot in consistent ways that are unique to the character. If they respond differently every time then I can’t relate to or understand the character. If they respond the same way as everyone else the fall flat and become boring, unoriginal, and paper thin. It is their responses that keep the plot engaging and moving forward.
I can distinctly remember one time when I desperately wanted to write but I had such bad writer’s block I couldn’t do anything but google how to get rid of it. This is a list for my past self and I hope it helps you too.
Change your place and state of mind
We have to tracts of mind, scientists say, one it the ‘focus’ mind that we engage when we are learning, listening and processing information. The other one is more of a daydreaming state where ideas flow to you. You’re in this state of mind while showering or driving, the thoughts just flow and you don’t try to censor them. So try to get out and doing something boring so your creative mind will kick into gear.
The first time I heard this one I cringed and clicked away. This doesn’t mean get rid of forever, just move the past few sentences to another document and try again. Starting a paragraph back or even just a sentence has always worked for me.
Write about pineapples
If you just read that and thought ‘what the heck?’ then you’re like me. This was the thing that cured my writer’s block that fateful day. Now when I got this tip from who knows where, they meant, open a new page and get the juices flowing. At the time I just had my characters talk about pineapples. It got me into voice and away from the situation I was stuck at.
Write a later scene
This one is dangerous but it works. If you can’t write where you are any more then jump ahead to a scene you want to write. Be careful, though, I’ve had entire books finished with one or two spots and when I went to fill them in, accidentally changed the ending.
Truth be told, I hate this one but I know it works. I’ve been told that inspiration never finds those who wait. If you do something else like read or draw or play music, anything to get creative, it should get you up and motivated to write!
I hope something here caused sparks that got you ready to write. Oh and if you’re here procrastinating on actually working… Get To Work!
Have a nice day!
I recently picked up a book on acting and directing actors and found some tips you may find useful for developing characters. One of the main ideas is to try to think of yourself and how you are similar to the character. With that in mind as you fill out a character sheet, answer the questions in regard to yourself first. This may help you think of the character in a deeper way. Then ask the tough questions.
What unpleasant truths is the character forced to deal with?
What is the character most knowledgeable about?
How does he/she use their intelligence?
Is the character protecting himself from past pains or avoiding situations because of his past?
What makes him/her laugh?
What makes him/her loose their sense of humor?
What is their blind spot?
What are they doing in this scene that they have never done before?
In what way is this character an artist?
These are the questions I found were most often left out of character sheets that really help me understand the character more. By answering the questions of myself I am more able to relate to my characters and write them more honestly. They seem more human to me when I put little pieces of myself in there with them.
Today I was assigned to stop and listen to the world for seven minutes. This was quite the eye opening thing for me and I ended up continuing to listen on my walk home. I realized there were many sounds I didn’t notice at all before. Taking the time to listen to the world around me helped me write better sentences today. For example:
The hum of motors filled my ears as the cars drove past.
The hum of the little cars was interrupted by rumbling of a truck that sped by.
One of these is much more unique than the other. By listening I found that different shoes make unique sounds that I can use as foreshadowing. I also ended up writing a whole paragraph based off of the lack of sound in some situations. So if you have the chance, instead of ease dropping, just stop and listen to what you usually won’t hear.
This is how I have outlined and organized the content for my most recent novel, Own Most. It is making the process of writing go much faster and easier than it ever has before. By this I mean 20,000 words in 8 days of work, which is much faster than I ever have before. I hope this helps you too.
1 General Plot
This is where I outline the overarching ideas of the book such as plot twists, high action points, and other need to know information
2 Useful Links
This is where I paste the websites that I used for research as well as location inspiration. In general, things I want to get back to later.
3 Character Inspiration
These are pictures that I have pasted right into the document. They show the some of the way I want the character to come across on the page as well as their physicality so I won’t have to hunt through the entire book to find someone’s eye color.
4 Original Draft
This is any scene I had written out ahead of time no matter where it fell in the book. I might have transcribed it from the written word or I might have twenty pages I typed out when I first got really excited about my idea. This is a good way for me to grab text I might be able to reuse without me having to stop and dig through documents to find it.
5 Big Ideas
I’ll have a short list of things I want to convey over the course of the book written out so that I never lose sight of what is important.
6 Plot Points
And here we have the dreaded plot points. I will set out each huge turning point first. I’ll usually have 10- 12 because that’s the number of chapters I usually have. Each of these high points represents the chapter break where I’ll leave the reader wanting more. Then I fill in bullet points of what needs to come between them to create a cohesive story. The key with this is detail. The more individual points I have, the faster I’ll be able to write.
7 Dull Moment Fixers
These are some ideas that I know I want in the book but don’t know where to put them. If I have any symbolism, themes, or foreshadowing I need to reiterate, I’ll put them here. The idea is, if I don’t know what to put on the page next, I can turn to one of these things and keep my momentum up.
This is just what I have been using. I hope you found something here that will help you write your first draft faster!
I will try to people watch every hour
I will try to learn something every day
I will try to write a blog post every week
I will try to send out an email every fortnight
I will try to read a well-written book every month
I will try to speak with an industry professional semiannually
I will try to sell my book this year
I will do it
I had the privilege of being able to go to a writers conference a couple months ago and was able to listen to agents critique other people’s query letters. Here’s what I learned:
- They liked hearing that the novel was completed
- Hearing that beta readers like the book was a big plus
- They want to hear what the main characters motivations were
- Hearing what was at stake could make or break the pitch
- They did want to hear a little bit of world building, but too much can sink it
- It’s nice to hear if you envision the book as part of the series
And most importantly they recommended the blog Query Shark and told us to read every post because that was what covered all the basics and fit most with their style of query.
These were just the main ideas, there is a lot more to know about queries but these were the things I couldn’t find anywhere else. I hope this helps you and have a great day!
Today I had the chance to go to a writers conference. One of the panels I went to was called creating a career. It was led by Jay Bonansinga (writer of the walking dead books), Jody Lynn Nye (prolific sci-fi and fantasy writer and author of The Dragonlover’s guide to Pern) and Keith Kappel (Freelancer for online content such as the Star Wars RPG). What I have written below is just a starting off point to do more research, please tell me if you want to hear more specifics on each topic!
Ok enough intros, here’s what I learned about breaking into the writing industry. Jay recommended taking any writing job you can, you’ll learn a lot about all different types of writing. Jody also recommended this suggesting that video games always need a few dialog lines for NPCs. She also suggested being reading the slush pile.
Let’s dive into that one a little bit more. The slush pile is all of the manuscripts that made it past the twenty-page test and need to be read all the way through to see if they are any good. This job is given to avid readers and you can be one. You would get paid $25-$100 per manuscript and network with the people who would be reading your book and judging how good it is. I hope you can see why this is a great opportunity.
And the last recommendation they told me about was upwork. I haven’t used it yet but I will try to give my feedback on this freelancing website soon.
One of the reasons why I stop writing is because I don’t feel connected to my characters. This makes it hard for me to see where the plot is going and thus why I’m writing. So today I thought I would tell you what I do to understand my characters more while still encouraging the creative process.
One of my favorite things to do is sketch how the character looks. Now don’t click away. You don’t need to be an artist at all. Try just drawing a couple stick figures whose body language represents your character. If you want something a little more challenging, draw the characters wardrobe, you’ll be surprised how much clothing can tell you about a person.
I’ve mentioned how much music influences my work before but this is a different take. Try coming up with a ‘theme song’ for each character. This doesn’t have to be an album, just a few notes you can hum or some finger drumming. Should it be fast paced or slow? Are the notes all over the scale? Feel free to steal from other songs too, just as long as it fits the person you are creating.
My last suggestion of the day is to make some part of your character 3D. This can be a clay sculpture of the character to paper folded into their house. It doesn’t need to be good as long as you know what you’re going for.
If you are still stumped or think your art is too bad, I do have one last thing I try. I pretend I am the character and make whatever they would. Sometimes it’s a paper airplane, sometimes it’s a little sketch of a snail, sometimes I even get out legos. The most important thing it to have fun!
(I’m pretending I didn’t disappear for such a long time).
It’s a question as old as the internet, which is better self publishing or traditional publishing? The answer isn’t simple. What might work for you might not work for someone else. I’m going to outline the pros and cons of both, but they are surmised in the picture above.
Of cores everyone is concerned about money, so we will start with that. It’s true, you do make more money per book sale when you self publish, but there is a lot more than that factoring in. For one thing, if you can’t make a great cover of your own, you will need to pay someone to make it for you if you self publish. People are first going to look at the cover and title, so if you aren’t a pro, you might want to hire one. You also might want to hire and editor, which is another up front cost. Keep in mind, you CAN learn these skills yourself, but remember if you self publish, you have to do everything the traditional publisher would do for you. Marketing plays a small role in this. You will be doing most of your books promotion yourself, regardless, but publishers will do a little. The more books you publish that do well on the market, the more they will be willing to invest in you.
Select one of the fallowing statements:
I am comfortable making the cover, editing the book, formatting it and marketing it or am willing to pay someone a one time fee to do it for me.
I want someone to make the cover, edit the book, format it and help me out with marketing and I am willing to let them take a small amount of money from each book I sell in order to do so.
Next week I’ll be posting about the other pros and cons of both.