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!

In Celebration of Halloween, The Witch of His Dreams

Samhain (pronounced Sow-en), dates back to the ancient Celts who lived 2,000 years ago. Contrary to what some believe, is not a celebration of a Celtic god of the dead. Instead, it is a Celtic word meaning “summer’s end.” The Celts believed that summer came to an end on October 31st and the New Year began on November 1st with the start of winter. But the Celts also followed a lunar calendar and their celebrations began at sunset the night before.

Beautiful Witch 4

THE WITCH OF HIS DREAMS

She comes to him at midnight,

The Witch of his Dreams,

Her eyes a forest green,

Her hair, dark and long,

Her voice, a sweet magic,

Calling out his name,

He could not help but watch her,

Dance among the flowers,

Beneath a waxing moon,

She whirls and cast her spells,

Upon him,

A haunting chant she sings,

And soars into his soul,

On gossamer wings,

She whispers things he longs to hear,

Of secret longings in his ear,

She enchants him with delights,

Though she must fly into the night,

She tells him of her love,

And casts her spell upon him,

To love him evermore,

She steals his heart forever,

Though never shall she return,

For she was only ever,

The Witch of His Dreams.

 

By K D Dowdall

@copyright

 

 

How to Collect Writing Ideas While You’re Procrastinating Online

    writes, “I love the web. In fact, I think it’s the single greatest invention of the twentieth century. It allows people to meet, connect, conduct business, and gather information quickly and easily, all from the comfort of…well, anywhere. It’s also an entertainment mecca. All that art! Music! Films! Literature! And games. The web is an enormous resource center, playground, and time suck.”

Distractions Abound Online

Distractions affect everybody, but writers are especially susceptible. As we sit crafting our prose, sometimes the muse escapes us and we’re tempted to venture away from our writing to find her again. The strongest among us will be able to resist the alluring pull of the Internet’s dazzling distractions. But most of us, in moments of great weakness and in times of desperate procrastination, will succumb to the clicking, often forgetting about the muse completely.

Now, I’m not going to encourage anyone to dawdle. But a little procrastination can be helpful. In fact, I’ve come up with lots of great ideas for blog posts while watching interviews on YouTube. I’ve concocted story ideas from images I perused on iStockPhoto. Tweets on Twitter have inspired poems. There is no limit to the writing ideas that can be found while randomly surfing around the Internet.

Mostly, I’m pretty good about restraining from distractions, but when I do succumb, I put procrastination to work for me!

I Made a Stash File

As I navigate around the Internet while avoiding inevitable tasks, I come across fascinating stuff — stuff I’d like to use — but later (because, you know, right now I’m working on something, sort of). In the past, I used my web browser to bookmark interesting sites so I could revisit them later. Eventually I switched to social bookmarking.

Things started getting spread out. If I wanted to go back to an illustration of an alien I saw three months ago or a mesmerizing poem I found a few weeks back, I would have to scroll through all my browser bookmarks, and then log in to three or four different accounts looking for the item of interest. The system wasn’t working for me.

Then I made a stash file.

Sometimes the Simplest Solutions Are the Best

It started with a text file. I found a particular site that I wanted to use as inspiration for a poem, but I didn’t want to lose the URL or forget where I’d stored it. So, I opened my text editor. I copied and pasted the URL along with a quick note to myself and saved the file to my desktop. Later, when I was ready, I knew exactly where to find it.

I started using that same file for other writing ideas that I found online. Then, I decided to expand my stash file. I created a folder on my desktop and moved the text file into it. Now I could save images to the folder. But for some of the images, I wanted to make notes. So I added a Word document to the folder (Word lets you copy and paste images directly to the document).

Now my stash file is bustling with writing ideas. I still use my other bookmarking systems, but for ideas and inspiration, I strictly use my stash file, and I love it. Sure, paper notebooks feel like home, but when you’re collecting ideas in the digital realm, you need a digital way to store them. I mean, who wants to hand-write URLs?

Tips for Stashing Your Collection of Ideas and Inspiration

You’ll need the following:

  • A desktop folder containing a text file and an MS Word file
  • The ability to copy and paste
  • Some time to waste

Over time, I’ve found a few ways to make this little system quite effective. For example, once I use an idea, I can delete it. This keeps the files short and easy to peruse. I’ve also thought about creating a third document that I can label “used ideas.” Then, I can just move stuff to that document and it will be there in case I need to refer back to it later.

My favorite feature in this system is that I can easily search through the material to quickly find what I’m looking for. It doesn’t matter if my documents grow to 10 pages or 100 pages because I use the Find feature. That’s when you hit command-F (control-F for Windows users) and then enter a word or phrase to search for. Within seconds I can find an item that’s buried in a document. Easy as pie.

How Do You Harvest and Store Writing Ideas?

I’m always looking for efficient ways to keep track of all the great writing ideas I come across. How do you do it?  https://www.writingforward.com

Adventures in Writing The Complete Collection

BEYOND TOMORROW!

Face forward into a windy day and listen
Feel the sun upon your face and dream
Watch the clouds and learn to change
Look to a starry night and know light even in darkness
 
Gaze upon fields of wheat and see the gold
Go barefoot on a stony path and dance
Watch the trees in the forest and learn to see
Look upon mountains high and know the nobility in a blade of grass
 
Hear thunder on a stormy day and feel the power
Feel rain drops fall upon your face and drink
Watch lightening cross the sky and learn to strive
Look onto the heavens and know the magnificence of you
 
Feel the sand beneath your feet and run
Watch seabirds fly and learn to soar
Listen to the ocean and hear the siren’s song
Look to the endless blue horizon and know infinity
 
See life as one brand new so that you will remember
That you have come and gone before
And delight in all you see that you may learn
To look beyond tomorrow that you may know forever

 

By K. Demers Dowdall 

Copyright 2010  

IS THE UNIVERSE CONSCIOUS?

“For centuries,” writes Corey S. Powell, who is a contributing editor at Discover Magazine and Aeon Magazine,  “modern science has been shrinking the gap between humans and the rest of the universe, from Isaac Newton showing that one set of laws applies equally to falling apples and orbiting moons, while Carl Sagan intoned that we are made of star stuff, meaning that the atoms of our bodies were literally forged in the nuclear furnaces of other stars.”

Furthermore, “Gregory Matloff,” writes Powell, “is a veteran physicist at NYC College of Technology, who has ideas that are shocking.  Matloff recently published a paper arguing that humans may be like the rest of the universe in substance and in spirit, with a proto-consciousness field that could extend throughout all of space adding that stars may be thinking entities that deliberately control their own paths.”

“Put more bluntly,” writes Powell, “Stars and the entire universe may be self-aware. A thinking universe. Furthermore, other philosophers and scientists, such as David Chalmers, a cognitive scientist believes this is possible and adding to that academic list is neuroscientist, Christof Koch of the Allen Institute for Brain Science and British physicist, Sir Roger Penrose.”

The bottom line; is the Universe Conscious? The scientific theorem, Panpsychism, means just that, the cosmos as we know it, is self-aware. The entire cosmos is a conscious, self-aware entity, suggest the above scientists, and is too important to ignore.

SPECULATIVE THEORY?

Powell writes that, “Three decades ago, Penrose introduced a key element of Panpsychism with his theory that consciousness is rooted in the statistical rules of quantum physics as they apply in the microscopic spaces between neurons in the brain, states Penrose.”

“He justifies his theorem,” continues Powell, “by adding that, one of the hallmarks of life is its ability to adjust its behavior in response to stimulus and astronomically, that is just what Stars and other Cosmic matters do according to Paranego’s Discontinuity theorem, the ability by objects, like stars to adjust their fuel source, emit jets, in only one direction that tends to alter its motion. This has been found to be consistent throughout the cosmos, states Penrose.”

“It appears,” writes Powell, “that humans and quantum physics have a lot in common regarding consciousness, self-awareness, and the ability to change behavior and form as does the Cosmos.”

My question is, if this is true, does this prove that God does exist? If God is the cosmos, are we part of some larger cosmic design? Does it also prove that psychic abilities are real and very common in humans to alter a direction of some event as time is captured differently in the cosmos? Does this mean time travel is possible, as far as being able to see the past and the future? One day, will we say, “Beam me up Scotty?”

Do these scientific theorems prove that angels and miracles exist? Is our self-awareness absorbed back into the cosmos at the death of our physical bodies, since energy is never lost but only changes form? Are these theorems answers to questions long sought by scientists, philosophers and even religious leaders worldwide?

A PARTICIPATORY COSMOS?

“According to Roger Penrose and his theories” writes Powell, “linking consciousness and quantum mechanics to self-awareness and free will begin with quantum events in the brain that inevitably link our minds with the cosmos.”

Inasmuch, as our chemical composition is made of the same stuff stars are made, does this make us cosmic beings? These are interesting theories with strong scientific data that may answer questions long sought by scientists and philosophers.

Finally, “is this the powerfully evoking sense of connectedness that humans feel with our fascination to the cosmos that Albert Einstein called the cosmic religious feeling?” writes Powell.

Was this cosmic feeling the beginning of often misguided religious fervor throughout our human beginnings that man alone was the pinnacle of creation by our cosmic God?  According to science, we are what stars are made of and we are a part of some larger cosmic design.  As Shakespeare wrote… “We are such stuff as dreams are made on….” The Tempest, Act 4, Scene 1, line 175.

Could that be the Cosmos?

By K. D. Dowdall

To read the entirety of this excellent article by Corey S. Powell, please go to:

https://www.nbcnews.com/mach/science/universe-conscious-ncna772956?cid=sm_npd_nn_fb_mc_170920 via NBC News