The 5 Secrets to Developing Better Characters | BookDaily

The 5 Secrets to Developing Better Characters | BookDaily #AuthorTips

By TA Sullivan

November 8, 2017

The 5 Keys to Character Development

My friend wanted me to attend a writing seminar with her, so I agreed to go. However, the summary said it was geared more for novices, so I didn’t really expect to learn much. Boy, was I surprised.

The instructor, a creative writing instructor from one of the top schools in the south, came in and took her place at the podium. After introducing herself and giving us a brief synopsis of what the presentation was to be about, she asked us to take five minutes to describe her as if she was a character in one of our stories.

The results were pretty much as expected. Most of the attendees gave similar descriptions to this:

Melanie is a 30-ish woman with brown, shoulder-length hair, dressed in a gray suit with a lacy, rose-colored blouse.

She told us to hang on to those descriptions, and then she went on to give us her presentation. That’s when we all learned how wrong we had been in actually thinking we had described a character. What we had described was a one-dimensional, uninspired, and uninteresting person.

A story character should be as varied as someone in real life. They should have substance, not just a description. They should come alive for the reader and become someone that the reader can actually believe in. The 5 primary attributes that each character needs in order to achieve this kind of depth are:

Mannerisms/Traits: These are the tics or compulsions that a character displays consistently. For example, the character paces when nervous or agitated, chews gum or tobacco, hums to him- or herself, blinks excessively, clicks a pen without realizing it, taps the end of a pencil on desk all the time, bounces his or her foot, plays with his or her hair or runs his or her fingers through his or her hair, chews his or her fingernails, rubs at a scar on chin, cheek, nose, etc., stutters, or laughs inappropriately.

Behaviors/attitudes: These are how the character displays his or her feelings. For instance, the character might be belligerent, argumentative, disagreeable, a yes-man, Polly Anna-like, naïve, happy, bland, or teasing.

Scents (what smells are associated with the character, if any): Most memories are related (and often triggered) by scent. Yet, as authors we tend to forget about the smell-factor. Perhaps, because books (even electronic ones) don’t yet include the ability to smell our characters or their surroundings. Still, even a description of an odor or an aroma can evoke a sense memory and help our readers remember and relate to our characters. So, include references to scents whenever possible. As it is, most people have a particular scent, and those that wear perfumes or aftershaves, or use perfumed dryer sheets, usually have a cloud of odors surrounding them. Or perhaps, your character forgot to bathe, was climbing about in a dumpster, or lives with a herd of cats.

Sounds (what sounds are associated with this character): Sounds are another overlooked, yet memorable way to help your readers remember and relate to your characters. Perhaps your character whistles, imitates bird calls, makes clicking sounds (of fingernails on a desktop or keyboard, of tongue against the roof of the mouth) or tapping sounds (of shoes or cane or fingers while texting), drags his or her foot, is associated with a rustling (of petticoats, silk fabric against skin), snapping (of cape or of gum), clomping (of boots or shoes), or wheezing (due to asthma or being overweight).

Looks: Physical attributes are the easiest to describe and usually what we (as authors) tend to focus on. However, since most readers are inclined to let their own imaginations flesh out the character, this is where the author needs to be more sparing. Include only a few basics and let the reader do the rest. For instance, relate your character’s hair color, hair style, eye shape and color, colors worn (bright colors, dull colors), clothes styles, height, weight, or unusual physical features (scars, nose size, ear shape, piercings, missing limbs, or tattoos), but describing the shoe size, exact height, and a detailed discussion of the character’s wardrobe is rarely useful and is, most times, distracting.

With all this new information at hand, she again asked to describe her as if describing a character in one of our stories, and the results were profoundly different. For example:

Melanie, our instructor for the day, was a professional-looking woman, who paced the stage in her enthusiasm. Our eyes followed her tapping heels, while her down-home voice engaged our ears. She was a southern lady, from her warm smile to the hint of jasmine that surrounded her.

Now, which description makes you feel as if Melanie was, or could be, a living person? Which description helps you connect on all levels with this person?

So, the next time you need to describe a character for your story, remember there is more to people than just how they look. Ask yourself: what does the character sound like, smell like, and act like. Add each layer to that character until you have someone so real you can see them standing in the room with you. That’s a character that your readers will remember. That’s the type of character you need to help you tell your stories.

So, how about you? How did you make your characters come alive?

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🐦CLICK TO TWEET🐦 #Authortip from @BookDailycom: 5 Secrets To Developing Intriguing Characters by @tasinator

About the Author:

TA Sullivan was born in the back of a cab in Chicago, Illinois, and she has continued to be unconventional in all that she does.

For over thirty years, she has made her living as a technical and marketing writer and editor in such diverse industries as manufacturing, cellular technology, and computer software. She has become quite proficient in turning boring into something readable and entertaining.

Her first book, “Escorting the Dead: My Life as a Psychopomp,” is an autobiographical look into the world of death escorts and near death experiences. It won praise from critics and readers alike.

Her next book, “On Dreams and Dream Symbols,” strove to expand people’s awareness of their dreams and what those dreams might be trying to tell them.

The first book of her fantasy series, “The Starstone,” came out just last year, and she is readying her second book, “The Globe of Souls,” for release this summer.

You can find out more about her on her website and on Twitter

A Review: MY BARSETSHIRE DIARY by Lord David Prosser

Lord David Prosser writes about his daily life in the lovely Welsh countryside with his Lady, Julia Prosser, in the most delightful way.  Lord Prosser has a natural ability to write about common elements of daily life in the most comedic monologues. Especially, about Oscar, a very spoiled cat, with a taste for blood, human blood. Meaning, that the cat bites and scratches his owners at will. Then there is the bird. Well, you can imagine the jealousy and the Oscar tricks to get his way.  How Lord and Lady Prosser handle this situation is utterly charming and funny.

Lord Prosser manages life at the manor with aplomb, forbearance, and laughter. Although, even for his jaunty style for helping daily life run smoothly – more or less, there are occasions when even he sneaks away into the woods, for a quick cigarette. However, rarely does he succumb to the frustrating moments that life offers all of us. There are so many incredible moments throughout this novel that incited my laugher and giggles throughout the reading of this insightful and charming novel.

For instance, I never knew that being a pallbearer could be an unexpected danger to one and all, as well as hysterically funny. It is the unexpected, even the most exasperating comedic situations in life, that bring laughter and joy. Lord David Prosser presents them to us in the most delightful way.  When I asked David about the bird, Joey the third, he said, “If I gave him a female he’d stop speaking and just squawk all the time. I spent ages letting him teach me his name.” When Lord David wrote this, I laughed so hard, I came down with the hiccups!

By the way, if I didn’t send everyone, HUGS XXX, I would be remiss, because David always sends everyone hugs!  A very hysterically funny and happy read. I highly recommend this book for everyone!

BLOG TOUR FOR THE STONE ARCH SECRET!

New Blog Tour Sign Up! The Stone Arch Mystery by K.D. Dowdall (Jan. 8th – Jan. 12th) Genre: Thriller/ Mystery/ Romance

Reads and Reels, Blog Tours is doing a Blog Tour for my new novel, a mystery, thriller, romance, The Stone Arch Secret,  to be released January 8th, 2018! Go to the shown blog above and see the description excerpt of the story.

 

 

The Witch Minnie Brogan

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Indian summer began like any other when I turned fifteen years old growing up in the small colonial era farming community of Granby, Connecticut. The last fields of the summer harvest had already been shorn of their corn, alfalfa, hay, and tobacco. The wet smell of fresh cut hay filled the air as well as the mingling aroma of tobacco fields that now lay bare of their crops. The large tobacco leafs would hang neatly from wooden poles to dry underneath white-sheeted tents.

The smell of tobacco, sweet and pungent, hung in the air. It was a grown-up smell, a smell of intimacy and secret goings-on. My cousin Garrett and I would sometimes sneak up behind the white-sheeted tents and listen. Giggles, laugher, and strange noises were not unfamiliar sounds to our ears as we listened. More than tobacco leafs nestled under the white-sheeted tents.

Not far from the tobacco field was an ancient apple orchard that looked like something out of a wicked fairy tale. Walking through its darkly gnarled wood was a rite-of-passage experience for anyone under the age of twelve.

To this day memories of Canton road, where I grew up, float across my senses.  I envision its tar paved darkness as it crosses over Salmon Brook, cuts through McLean’s game preserve, wanders by weird old Stewart Duncan’s farm, and the said-to-be-haunted Sperry colonial homestead. Canton Road weaves it way over-laying the swell of land occupied for ten thousand years by the indigenous people like the Massaco Indians who were a part of the Algonquian tribes. Evidence of their inhabitation is still visible by those who know what to look for.

Spirit Pond is one of those places. There are sightings by the locals of ghost warriors that still drink the dark cold waters of Spirit Pond and are not as rare as one would like to believe. Spirit Pond is a large spring fed body of water surrounded by tall reeds and weeping willows. Its dark cold water and deep recesses still hold untold secrets as well as the body of Minnie Brogan.

My rather strange cousin Garrett was drawn to the story of Minnie Brogan and I followed suit. Beautiful Young Minnie Brogan who lived in early colonial times near the old settlement of Salmon Brook, adjacent to Spirit Pond, was said to have met with a ghastly end. It is a haunting legend of sorts and the story appears in the town’s tourist pamphlets as a way of advertising its colonial history to visitors.

It was said that young Minnie Brogan lived a solitary existence in her meager dwelling on the edge of Spirit Pond and tended a few chickens and a vegetable garden. She also grew medicinal herbs. In colonial times, a female living alone who also concocted remedies was sure to raise suspicions of witchcraft.

Yet, Garrett and I doubted this explanation and we would often sit by the edge of Spirit Pond trying to envision that long ago crime when Minnie Brogan was dragged from her thatched hut, bound by her hands and feet, and thrown into the spring fed pond. We wondered how scared she must have been as she slowly sank into Spirit Pond’s cold dark waters.

I personally believe there was more to it than just medicinal herbs. Minnie was young, alone, and was said to be hauntingly beautiful. She was accused of conjugating with evil forces. As a six grader, I had no idea someone could actually be murdered for not knowing how to conjugate a verb (although there were times I was sure by teacher at thought of it).

So, it was in winter when Spirit Pond was frozen-over that Garrett and I would go ice skating and just as often we would look to see if Minnie Brogan’s ghostly apparition would rise up from the ice. Although we never actually saw her ghostly-self rise from the pond, we imagined what she would look like if she did.

I wonder about Minnie Brogan’s secret hopes and dreams that vanished into the dark cold waters of Spirit Pond one nefarious moonless night long ago. Sometimes I even imagine I can feel her presence as I dip by fingers into the waters of Spirit Pond. It is though the earth remembers her and still holds her secret longings. I, too, will always remember Minnie Brogan.

by K D Dowdall

Copyright 2014

Delphi Altair Strange Beginnings Book 1

CHAPTER 1
THE MYSTERIOUS JOURNAL

On the day of her mother’s funeral, Megan Donnelly found a mysterious package, wrapped in faded brown paper and twine, on her dresser. She had no idea where it came from or how it got there. Somehow, despite her grief, the bundle of faded brown paper and twine seemed to have a strange power over her, as if she were spellbound. Megan was about to reach for it when her cell phone rang, startling her. She reached over to her bedside table and saw it was the geeky boy who lived in the house next door.

“Hello, Jake,” answered Megan. Megan was willing to talk to anybody, even Jake Peterson.

“I’m sorry about your mom, Megan. I really am. Is there anything I can do – like help you with your homework or something? Anyway, I was just wondering if you wanted to catch-up on what’s goin’on at school. Or, you know, I just got a brand-new Future Time game and it’s really cool. I thought maybe I could come over. It might help you, you know, take your mind off things.”

“Thanks, Jake,” replied Megan, gulping hard and trying to swallow her pain. “Maybe, but I’m kinda not into it right now. I’ll call you later.” She put her cell phone back on the table. “It isn’t fair”, she murmured. It was the saddest day of Megan Donnelly life.
Megan got up from the edge of her bed and walked over to her dresser. Her ginger-colored bangs fell over her hazel eyes in feathery wisps. She pushed the bangs aside, and as she did she looked down at her black dress shoes. She noticed bits of red dirt still clung to the bottom of her shoes. She inhaled sharply as a wave of grief enveloped her. Exhaling slowly, she picked up the package with her name scrawled on it and sat down on the edge of her bed.

She tore at the brown paper wrapping and stared at the leather-bound journal that included a lock and a silver key on a chain. She looked down at the journal on her lap and ran her fingers over the aged leather binding. It looks really old and it even smells old—like it had been wrapped in mothballs. She considered for a moment something she had not thought of— maybe my mom sent this package! It would be just like her to try and comfort me, but there was no note or card from her or anyone else. Megan slipped the silver chain with the key over her head. It felt warm against her skin. She put the key in the lock and turned it.

Thankful for any distraction from her grief, she shrugged her slender shoulders and flipped it open to the first age-yellowed page. It was written in an old style with ornate flourishes by a skilled hand—like historical letters she had seen in museums. Megan read the title aloud: “The Strange Beginnings of Delphi Altair.”
A strong breeze billowed into her room from the open window. She had not noticed until now that it was a bright sunny afternoon. It was Friday and there would be a football game at school tonight. Everyone would be there. She felt a sudden chill and got up to close the window.

As she turned around to pick up the journal she noticed the book now open to a different page and thought, that’s strange. Oh, well, it must have been the wind, of course, and scooped up the journal into her lap. What she found inserted into the journal was a letter addressed strangely: To Whom the Journal Has Found. Megan, perplexed as to who could have sent her the journal, began to read it in the hopes that it might reveal the sender.

TO WHOM THE JOURNAL HAS FOUND
AUGUST 1950

I found this journal by accident (or perhaps it found me). My mother and I had come to live with my grandmother after the untimely death of my father. The house we came to live in was a very old Sea Captain’s Manor situated on a bluff, overlooking the sea, in a time forgotten town.

One day, a very wet and windy day, I found myself with nothing to do. I was feeling sad and lonely, missing my home in New England, and my friends. In my room there was only a small bed and a very old sea chest. The house was very old and the mist of sea sprays had crept through the windows and doors over the years and I remember still the scent of sea spray on the weathered wooden walls.

Underneath the window sat the old sea chest. “The key to the chest”, my grandmother told me, “was lost long ago”. My very superstitious grandmother saw this as a sign to let it remain unopened and that was that.

Never one to let well enough of alone, I decided to see if by chance a key might have been placed on top of the wooden window frame. People did that sometimes I had been told. To reach the top of the window frame I had to stand on top of the old chest. I carefully climbed up and searched for it. To my disappointment there was no key to be found. As I gingerly stepped down off the sea chest the lid popped open, as if by magic.

I can’t say I wasn’t frightened, but then my curiosity was stronger than my fear. After all, it was just an old trunk with a rusty old lock that broke free, being so old, no magic needed. I slowly walked up to the old sea chest to see what treasure it might hold.
As I began looking through the numerous folded blankets and clothes, I saw a package wrapped in plain cloth. I opened the package to find inside a leather-bound journal. I opened the journal to the first page and on it was written, the Strange Beginnings of Delphi Altair. It was hand written in an old style with ornate flourishes. I felt oddly compelled to read this mysterious journal. Soon, I found myself being taken to a magical and dangerous place and time. I cannot say more. I daresay, to whom the journal has found, keep it safe, whatever you do. So much depends on it.

Megan sat dumbfounded. There was no signature on the written letter and not a single clue as to the author of the journal. Curious, she turned the page and began to read.

THE OLD SEA CAPTAIN’S MANOR

Beside a narrow strip of oyster shell road is an old Victorian Manor sitting high on an ancient bluff over-looking the sea. The manor was built long ago by a wealthy Sea Captain. As time went by, the Sea Captain grew older and bequeathed the manor to his sons who, in turn, bequeathed the manor to their sons.
The Old Sea Captain’s Manor had survived countless storms, gales, and violent hurricanes for more than hundred and twenty years. But oddly enough, when Eastern gale winds blow, the Old Sea Captain’s Manor begins to shake violently on its foundations.

The Tuttle family that came to live in the Old Sea Captain’s Manor was not put off by the manor’s mysterious quirks. A poor family, the Tuttles felt fortunate to live in such a grand place bequeathed to them by a far removed, extremely distant relative.
The gossiping town folk reckoned the Tuttles were strange enough, but the young girl who lived with them was more than strange. Delphi Altair had unusually bright violet eyes and a firestorm of shimmering dark red hair that almost looked purple in bright sunlight. But it wasn’t her looks, specifically, that cast Delphi in a suspicious light in the community. It was her very unusual way of being. The town folks would often say, “There is something peculiar about that girl.” Yet, no one could say exactly why.

Fortunately, the Tuttles did not care what the town’s people thought about Delphi. The Tuttles loved the strange girl that was not their own. Delphi was a foundling. They found her in an old shipman’s basket one cold morning, wrapped in a blanket. Clutched in the infant’s tiny fist was a small star-shaped pendant with a blue stone inset in the middle. A weathered parchment was pinned to the infant’s clothes. The only words written on the parchment were these: Delphinus Decima East of Altair. The Tuttles had never heard of such a place called Delphinus Decima that was East of Altair. So, they shorten the words to make her a name: Delphi Altair. The Tuttles believed it would be best to keep the infant as their own until someone came to claim the child. But no one ever came.

As time went by, the Tuttles had two children born to them, Scout and Scooter, known about town as the “scalawag” twins. By the age of eight, the mischievous and rambunctious boys, tall for their age, were without mercy to little Delphi, teasing and taunting her daily.

Most people in the old seaside town made their living in some way connected to the sea. It was a booming industry and the people in the town did fairly well by it. It was booming, that is, until the blight came to the sea and in turn to the people of this seaside town. In a small town suffering great hardship everything is suspect and nothing is ever forgotten. Someone had to be blamed for the town’s misfortune.

Delphi became the focus of all the town’s troubles. From the very beginning of the town’s decline, there was the question of Delphi’s mysterious discovery by the Tuttles on that cold winter morning. This was the mindset that kept the townspeople eyeing Delphi suspiciously (besides the fact they found her mysteriously strange anyway). Like an unchecked simmering pot, things were bound to reach a boiling point.

Keep Calm and Keep On Writing!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This was written by Writer in Wedges. I don’t have his or her website, So if that writer is on WordPress, I must give thanks because this is simple and very helpful for a writer.

So you have written your story and cannot wait to release it into the world. But before doing that, it is important to take some extra time to make sure your story is properly edited, despite the fact that editing is nowhere near as fun as writing.

Spell/Grammar Check

The first step towards the best version of your story is hitting that spellcheck button and proofreading it to make sure there are no errors. A story which contains spelling and/or grammar mistakes very often won’t be taken seriously.

Remove Adjectives/Adverbs

Sometimes, less is more, and this is especially true when it comes to adjectives and adverbs. Too much of either can suffocate your story. Instead, opt for using a stronger verb or a noun.
Remove Repetition This is very important to keep your readers’ attention. If you catch yourself repeating the same thing several times throughout the story, you know what to do.

Remove Clichés 

Clichés are a deadly sin of fiction writing. Avoid them at all costs. Begin with a Bang. If you explain too much at the beginning of your story (if you “tell” instead of “show”), your beginning might not be as effective as it would be if you jumped straight into action. Mind you, this “action” does not have to be your characters running away from zombies (but hey, I’m not judging), however, if you begin your story with a lengthy description of the weather, many readers might get bored and abandon the story altogether.

Check For Consistency

Make sure your writing is consistent in every way. This can refer to either checking that the names of your characters are consistent throughout the story, or that their motivation corresponds to their actions. The story has to follow the rules of logic (except when its primary purpose is to twist those rules).
Remove Unnecessary Explanation I cannot stress this enough. Just like long beginnings, explanations are often a lazy way out which indicates that an author couldn’t be bothered to write a scene in which s/he would show something instead of telling it. Let’s face it: explanations are boring. There are many things about the characters that the writer has to know, that never make it to the final version of the story. There’s nothing wrong with that. Make sure the readers know only what they really, really have to know in order to follow your story.

Edit Your Dialogue

Editing is essentially, a conversation where the boring parts have been left out. Make sure that your dialogue truly reveals only the necessary information for the story, and cut all those random chats that do not move the story forward.

Get Perspective Okay

So, you have made sure that your short story does not have any repetition, clichés, or unnecessary explanations. Now what? The best thing you can do is to leave your story alone and come back to it with fresh eyes. You can leave it for one day, or a couple of weeks, depending on your schedule or personal preference. However, I find this step very important because it allows you to gain some perspective and to see the possible shortcomings of the story more easily.

Get Feedback

Give the story to your beta readers. They can be members of your creative writing workshop, your family or friends. In any case, they should be people you consider honest and trustworthy, and preferably experienced readers. It is better to have several opinions than only one. However, take their advice with a grain of salt: even though their feedback can be very useful, remember that you are still the author and at the end of the day should do what feels right to you instead of listening to others.

Once a writer has completed these steps, the writer can be assured that at least all of the most egregious  errors are gone and never give up writing!

 

THE STONE ARCH SECRET – A New Novel

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My new novel, The Stone Arch Secret, a romantic mystery, is to be published in January on Amazon! Next week I will publish Chapter One, here on WordPress, please let me know what you think!  My Beta Readers have given The Stone Arch Secret a thumbs up and I am so excited.

Anyone who has written a novel knows how very complicated building a story can be, let alone development of believable characters.  Mysteries have their unique challenges too, for someone like me who is a fantasy writer.  Another challenge, and a very important one, is choosing a title and cover that works for the story content. For me, developing a title is agonizing!  I probably had five or six different titles until this one and this one fit perfectly.

Deciding on a cover that reflects what the story is, is more than challenging, it is exhausting, especially for the designer when the writer doesn’t really know what the cover needs. Fortunately, I have a wonderful, talented Cover Designer, Judy Bullard who understands and is there to present what the author envisions.  She does wonders with whatever title and content needs to be represented, You can find her at: customebookcovers.com.