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: Wicca Girl, The Flowering

 

 

 

 

 

This story is a heartfelt journey of the present and past world of wise women, often referred to is Wicca Healers that were mercilessly hunted, tortured and executed for witchcraft. Califia Montalvo, the author, weaves a story rich with complex characters, mystery and suspense. The protagonist is Simi, a young girl who is mystified at the supernatural events that occur and appear to be connected to her. As she matures into womanhood she learns to harness this ability to create forces that can change people’s lives. She eventually learns of a surprising explanation of why hers is a life always at the forefront of what appears to be mysterious paranormal events.

There are journeys in this engaging story that relate to the present, in times past, throughout history, that enfold into the story regarding the treatment of women healers during the time of the witch trial executions that lasted over a hundred years, where tens of thousands of women healers were burned at the stake. This historical matter adds to the complexity of the story in a well-thought out manner.

Montalvo’s story is a plethora of fascinating details regarding the women that were persecuted for their intelligence, their communion with nature, and what others saw as inexplicable knowledge deemed mysterious, even evil, as they used their ability heal others. I found this novel to be well-written with interesting details that made me glad I did not live in an early time when any woman could be charged with witchcraft. I highly recommend The Wicca Girl, the Flowering.

 

IF I GO – A new novel by K. D. Dowdall August 2017

 

 

 

 

“A death in the family finds 32 years-old anthropologist, Lilly Allaire, returning to her hometown to solve a deadly mystery that has haunted her since childhood.”

Lilly Allaire returns to her hometown after the unexplained death of her cousin, Dax. Both suffered a traumatic psychogenic event as teens that left them with no memory of the event. Lilly is determined to solve the mystery with her childhood friend, Noah. She falls in love with him, but she is suspicious of his past. Was he somehow evolved and is her life at risk?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Deciphering Book Descriptions

Fresh Eggs

 

 

 

I am reblogging this post for good reason. I am reading books, lately, that don’t seem to have cogent descriptions and left me wondering: what’s it all about?

How interesting and telling are most book descriptions?  Most are not at all. Maybe there should be professional book description writers.  Reading a book description should not be a word puzzle to try and figure it out. It can be daunting to write your own book description, especially if one is so subjective, the premise can be lost entirely. It is  better to have a Beta Reader or a Reviewer with a successful blog write a book description, if the author is having problems pinning down a short description that actually describes.  On WordPress, there are many experienced and talented reviewers and beta readers.

Here is a book description that does not describe the content of said novel : Fresh Eggs – a novel by Rob Levandoski. 

“Calvin Cassowary is ready to do whatever it takes to keep Cassowary Farm in the family for one more generation. Hatching a scheme to specialize in chickens, soon he’s got a million hens laying eggs for Gallinipper Foods, b…ut he’s getting deeper and deeper into debt. To make matters worse, his chicken-loving daughter Rhea starts growing feathers. Filled with as many tears and chuckles, Rob Levandoski’s Fresh Eggs is a provocative father/daughter tale guaranteed to make you ponder the realities of modern farming and think twice the next time someone asks, “white or dark meat?”

What we know about this book:  All we know so far is that raising and selling chickens will get you into debt and chicken farm daughters tend to grow feathers.  So far, so what.  Who sheds tears and why is the owner chuckling? After all, I can’t think of anything worse things than to have a child grow feathers.  Pondering the realities of modern farming?

 

A Review for an Extraordinary Story

come-to-a-memory-31171219COME TO A MEMORY Joab’s Story/Lila’s Story

Come to a Memory, by Francis Webb,  is an extraordinary read. It feels genuine and real. I felt like I was reading a true story from the viewpoint of a little nine-year-old girl, named Lila.  America was barely edging out of the depression era and nerves stretched thin by the inconceivable shock, fear, and confusion of another war, so soon after the Great War.  This story takes place at the beginning of WWII in a small town and a family suffering financial loss like so many others during the Great Depression. What many people forget is that children were the ones that suffered in silence because that was the way children were instructed to behave, but not Lila.

Lila, intelligent, stubborn, and inquisitive, found ways to-be-heard, by throwing acorns at her cantankerous grandfather, as she hid in a tree, and by hiding a real chicken foot in her sleeve during her grandmother’s wake, terrifying ladies as Lila greeted them at her front door, not with her hand but with the chicken foot—claws and all.

Lila’s complex friendship with a Jewish boy from Germany, named Joab, who came to join her 4th grade class, grew slowly during the time before America entered into WWII after Pearl Harbor. Lila’s choice to befriend Joab, over the sneering remarks of children and adults alike, taught both lessons they would never forget.  Through it all, it was Lila and Joab, both suffering for being different, who helped to mend the suspicions of a small town about a little boy who escaped Nazi Germany, though his family did not.  I highly recommend this true-to-life story. This historical fiction, “Come to a Memory, made me cry, made me smile, and made me laugh hysterically.  A story that still lives in the hearts of many, still here, to remember the horror that was.  I highly recommend this story – to one and all!

A Review: A Veil of Time

A Book Review
A Book Review

A compelling tale of two Scotlands-one modern, one ancient-and the woman who parts the veil between them by  Claire R. McDougall

Imagine, if you can, waking up one morning to find you have gone back in time. You find it is difficult to breathe and you might even start hyperventilating. You hear strange noises as you sit underneath an outcrop of stones wondering “if there be dragons”.  You hear the sound of what might be Gaelic and hear what sounds like savages. Early human hunters are now climbing up the stone ridge not far from your hiding place. You suddenly realize, you are barefoot in your summer P.J.s, the ones that bought for a special occasion, rather sheer and lacy. The voices of the hunters are getting closer. You see them now! And, god save me, they see me.  The hunters are tall, broadly muscled and near naked. You close your eyes and click your heels three times, knowing you are not in Kansas anymore.

The following description of A Veil in Time describes perfectly what this book is about.The medication that treats Maggie’s seizures leaves her in a haze, but it can’t dull her grief at losing her daughter to the same condition. With her marriage dissolved and her son away at school, Maggie retreats to a cottage below the ruins of Dunadd, once the royal seat of Scotland. But is it fantasy or reality when she awakens in a bustling village within the massive walls of eighth-century Dunadd? In a time and place so strange yet somehow familiar, Maggie is drawn to the striking, somber Fergus, brother of the king and father of Illa, who bears a keen resemblance to Maggie’s late daughter. With each dreamlike journey to the past, Maggie grows closer to Fergus and embraces the possibility of staying in this Dunadd. But with present-day demands calling her back, can Maggie leave behind the Scottish prince who dubs her mo chridhe, my heart?

Accept your past without regret, handle your present with confidence, and face your future without fear. — Off The Record

via Accept your past without regret, handle your present with confidence, and face your future without fear. — Off The Record

https://jedrecord.wordpress.com/

This is my motto everyday (after I reprimand myself for mistakes made, things undone, self-evaluation, and a little trepidation) and then it is truly a brand new day to begin again, starting anew, knowing today I will endeavor to be my best self!  So, thank you “Off The Record” for another great post.