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

Stone Hearts

Reblogging: Stone Hearts, by poet, Delia. . A real, tell-it-like-it-is poem about the social jungle and trying to find authenticity where there is little to none. Delia often writes, real, raw and authentic prose and poetry that will catch you unawares, and reach inside you, grab you, and make you see beyond the obvious. K. D.
via https://artemisdelmar.wordpress.com/2017/04/13/stone-hearts

10 Great 10 Minute Fixes to 10 Common Plot Problems!

Some years ago, I found this interesting and these helpful fixes to writing problems that I come in handy. Good fiction takes time. You cannot sit down at the keyboard and pound out the Great American Novel in one or two sessions. (Take it from me; I’ve tried.) Says the author of this piece of writing. I don’t remember who the author is and if anyone knows, please let me know. I would like to give him or her credit!
No, we must be patient with our art and our craft, we must read, we must study, we must write. And write, and write. Then we must think, cut, rewrite, polish and look again.
But there’s such a thing as agonizing too much over your writing. Just as excessive reworking with charcoal and gum will ruin a drawing, too much scrutinizing and amending will sap the vitality of your original words. Most aspiring authors fall victim to this from time to time, causing needless pain, delay and, frankly, stunted results. It’s the hard parts that get you. When you come up against a knotty structural problem, take a breath and do what professionals do:
• Calmly evaluate the problem.
• Decide whether it really is a problem.
• Work out a solution.
• Implement it.
• Move on.
• Revisit the situation later.

1. I’M MISSING A CRUCIAL PIECE OF INFORMATION.
You’re writing a key scene, and you realize that you really need to know something, but it’s either impossible to find out or too costly in time or money to do so.

10-MINUTE SOLUTION: If you can’t find the exact data you need, get as close as you can and wing the rest.
Recently I was on a conference panel with other authors discussing intensive research, and after everybody shared exciting (or humiliating) stories about our quests for authenticity, we all agreed on one thing: When the chips are down, make it up.
You might be surprised at how much you can make up in a convincing way. Maybe you need a recipe for the perfect poison and have no idea where to begin. Invent a character who’s a chemist, and have that character develop a poison that’s as lethal as cyanide, as innocent-smelling as strawberries and as traceable as water.
Be bold!
2. MY ACTION IN THIS SCENE DRAGS.
We’ve all been there: You’ve got an action scene that’s starting to bore even you. Granted, your story is moving forward, but it feels cumbersome.

10-MINUTE SOLUTION: Resist the urge to pile it on; rather, tighten what you’ve got.
You could spend hours—days!—trying to inject more life into a scene, but the best solution is often just the opposite. Usually a quicker pace will do the trick.
One of the easiest, most effective ways to tighten prose is to turn full sentences into fragments and opt for one-line paragraphs.

3. ONE OF MY CHARACTERS IS STARTING TO SEEM LACKLUSTER.
Sometimes you get too careful with a character, especially if you’ve based her on yourself or a close friend or relative. If this seems to be the case, consider adding weirdness.

10-MINUTE SOLUTION: Give her an obsession.
Obsessions are great because they’re simple to drop into a character’s personality, and you can use them repeatedly to spice up your plot.
Think what you can do! Give a ghetto hooker a fixation on growing the perfect eggplant in her window box, turn the commander of a space station into an incurable pack rat, bestow upon your straight-A prom queen a fascination with arson, twist a fat, old cop into a joyful, compulsive transvestite.

4. I HAVE TO COMMUNICATE A LOT OF INFORMATION, AND IT’S OVERKILL.
You’re at a turning point in your novel, and you’ve got one character revealing information to another, or making connections in his head as the puzzle pieces fall into place. Or your omniscient narrator is explaining a lot of stuff to the reader. And it doesn’t feel natural.

10-MINUTE SOLUTION: Turn narrative into dialogue.
Don’t underestimate the modern reader’s ability to infer, generalize and make connections. A professional’s first instinct is to cut exposition, but when you’ve sliced away all but the essential and you’re still looking at an awkward block of text, turn it into dialogue. Scope around for a handy character for the first one to talk to. Then, give the two some back-and-forth, something to disagree about. Create a little conflict while delivering your basic facts.

5. I DON’T KNOW WHAT SHOULD COME NEXT.
You’re writing something new; perhaps you even have a rough outline. You’re galloping along, happy and breathless, and you finally bring a scene or chapter to a satisfying conclusion. Then you get that uh-oh feeling.

10-MINUTE SOLUTION: Have a 10-minute brainstorm.
I actually feel great in this situation: I love to brainstorm, and I know I’m about to have ideas I’ve never had before.
Flip to a fresh page in your notebook or computer notepad, check the time and give yourself 10 minutes to write down anything and everything that might come next. Record every idea that comes to you, even if it seems ridiculous or awful. Keep going. If you do this with a feeling of open exploration, you will come up with a good idea of what should come next.
The answer is a paradox: The more honestly and thoroughly you brainstorm, the sooner your material will sort itself out. The chaff will be obvious—and there will be wheat.

6. I’VE GOT A COMPLEX PLOT, AND ALL MY FINAL UNRAVELING FEELS FORCED.
You’re proud of your plot, and you want to show the reader that you’ve thought of everything. This one’s as tight as a drum! But now it feels as if you’re ticking off boxes on a checklist, and the effect is artificial.

10-MINUTE SOLUTION: Choose some loose ends to leave loose.
Readers will know they’re in good hands if you pay off your suspense. This is key, and it bears repeating: Suspense is the most important aspect of a book to build and bring to a satisfying climax and conclusion. This holds true in any genre; even the most sedate literary novels are built on a foundation of suspense. In this way, Mrs. Dalloway and her flowers have everything in common with Hannibal Lecter and his fava beans.
Challenge your impulse to wrap up everything with a bow, and you might achieve a more natural result.

7. I NEED A BRIDGE BETWEEN TWO SCENES, BUT I’M AT A LOSS.
Transitions can be the bane of fiction writers. I think this goes back to composition teachers in high school, who insist that there “be a link” between every idea. Oh, the contortions we used to go through to satisfy that requirement! Forget it.

10-MINUTE SOLUTION: Insert a chapter break, or use the magic word.
An excellent way to bridge two scenes is to actually separate them. A chapter break can eliminate the need for a bridge altogether. Pick a novel you like and study the last and subsequent first pages of chapters. You’ll find that most modern novels freely jump forward (even backward) in time, or sideways in space (from one character’s viewpoint to another’s, for example), and the overall effect is smooth. Give it a try.
The magic word is meanwhile. Rather than a big-deal transition, meanwhile might be all you need.

8. MY ENDING MADE MY CRITIQUE GROUP GO, “SO WHAT?”
You’ve written your novel, you’re at the point of bravely hearing any and all criticism, and you’ve just found out that your ending leaves your writing buddies cold. You feel (understandably) frustrated, and maybe a little angry. Now what?

10-MINUTE SOLUTION: Add passion, violence or both.
A weak ending, of course, may signify major problems with the rest of the book. But not necessarily. If you’ve built convincing characters and worked out a believable, suspenseful story, but things still fall flat at the end, this could be because you haven’t gone far enough. Some authors simply take their foot off the accelerator toward the end, either from fatigue or from an unnecessary sense of restraint. Whatever the case, if you discover you’re one of them, you’ve got to ramp up the emotion.
Now, you don’t want to be cheap, but be advised that exploitation works. Readers expect to be knocked out of their socks, and it’s really OK to give them that.
So try heightening the ending you’ve already got. A good way to do it is to add passion or violence—or both.

9. MY AGENT/EDITOR WANTS ME TO CUT 10,000 WORDS!
Many authors on the brink of getting published are told by a prospective agent or editor, “I love this novel, but it’s too long. If you can cut it by about 10,000 words (or whatever terrifyingly high number), I think I can sell (or publish) this.” They don’t want any specific cuts at this point; they just want the manuscript to better fit a common format.

10-MINUTE SOLUTION: Micro-edit your way to success.
You can spend lots of time rereading your manuscript and painfully strategizing what hunks to cut, but an excellent way to quickly trim it to size is to cut one word per sentence. This technique is pure magic. Or, you can divide the number of words you need to cut by the number of pages you have, and come up with an average words-to-cut per page. Of course you won’t be able to whittle down your whole manuscript in 10 minutes, but take it as a challenge: Time yourself, and I bet that once you get the hang of it, you can blow through 10 pages of a draft in 10 minutes. This is a job you can do in the interstices of your day; you don’t have to find large spans of time for it.

10. THE WHOLE THING STINKS.
Every author is stricken, at least once per book, by Creeping Rot Disease. CRD begins as a dark feeling that takes over your mind and heart when you least expect it. You look at your manuscript and the feeling creeps over you that all you’ve done is foul a perfectly good stack of paper. It’s lousy. It’s not original. It’s nothing any agent, let alone editor, would look at twice. I’m wasting my life, you think. I’m a fool.

10-MINUTE SOLUTION: Take a break!
Believe me, when CRD strikes, you are in plentiful, excellent company. Terrific authors have drunk themselves to death trying to self-medicate against CRD.
The better solution is to take a break. Turn off your computer, close your notebook, cap your pen (because the problem is not with your manuscript, it’s with you) and do something completely different, like:
• Walk outside. Pay attention to the first great-looking tree you see. Hang out with it for a while. Get some good coffee. Phone a friend and spill your guts.
• Prepare a mini picnic lunch and open the window. Make a sketch of a simple object, like a bowl or a bottle. Or do anything else you can to break the stream of negative thoughts.

 

SPECULATIVE FUTURISTIC INSPIRATION

SPECULATIVE FUTURISTIC INSPIRATION

Creative Writing Prompts by Melissa Donovan, https: http://www.writingforward.com

Get inspired by the future. How would people in the Middle Ages respond to a television? What would someone from the 1700s think of a helicopter? What would a person from the early twentieth century think of a computer, or more specifically, the Internet?

They would think these things were magical — either illusions or genuine supernatural occurrences. They might even believe the persons yielding the magical objects were witches, wizards, or gods.But you and I both know that’s not the case. Televisions, helicopters, and computers are all very real, and thanks to modern technology, most of us have access to them.

We humans have a tendency to believe that we are at the apex of knowledge — that right now, we know as much as we ever will. As much as we love fictional, futuristic stories, we tend to think of them as fanciful. Sure, a great writer or a skilled filmmaker can help us suspend our disbelief for the duration of a book or a film, but sitting in your living room on an ordinary day, it all seems rather unlikely, doesn’t it? People bouncing around in time? Fighting intergalactic wars in outer space? Come on.

But if you stop to wonder what our world will look like 100 or 1000 years in the future, these fantastical ideas don’t seem so crazy. What incredible inventions will be developed over the course of the next millennium?

Asking questions about the future is an excellent way to generate ideas for speculative fiction. Let’s Take a Trip to the Future Let’s do some thought exercises to flex your imagination. You’ll need to envision what the world looked like in the past, what it looks like today, and what it might look like in the distant future.

Use these questions to spark ideas and then write anything you want: a poem, a story, a personal essay, or just a short scene. The goal is to engage your imagination, remove barriers that block all the possibilities, and open your mind.

Medicine

Some of humankind’s greatest achievements have been in medicine. We now use all the technologies at our disposal to diagnose, treat, and prevent illnesses — from pills and vaccines to X-rays and MRIs. From a device as simple as a stethoscope to one as complex as microscope, we’ve made wellness possible in ways that couldn’t have been imagined a few hundred years ago. What is yet to come? How will health care change in the future? Will we walk through a machine that scans our bodies to detect any possible ailment? Will there be a heal-all pill? And for each advance we make, will another new devastating disease rear its head?

Travel

Advances in travel are awe-inspiring. There was a time when humans were limited to travel by foot. Then came the wheel, which made the cart possible. Later, ships carried people across water. Eventually, trains made high-speed, long-distance travel possible. Next, the airplane. Then, spaceships took us higher and submarines took us deeper. Where will we go next? Will intergalactic travel ever be possible? What about teleportation? Time travel? A thousand years ago, it’s doubtful most people believed traveling to the moon was possible. Where will we go a thousand years from now?

Personal Technology

Technology has grown rampantly in the past few decades. Since the 1970s, almost all households in developed countries are equipped with more than one television, stereo, and computer. We can store an entire library of books, movies, and music on a device that fits in the palms of our hands. Two hundred years ago, if you wanted to talk to someone, you had to go to their house. Fifty years ago, you had to find a phone and dial their number. Today, you reach into your pocket, pull out your device, and press a button. How will personal technology advance in the next 100 years?

Have Fun!

It’s not easy for everyone to imagine things that don’t exist yet. It might help if you can summon your old history lessons. If you can conceptualize where we’ve been and contrast it with where we are now, you might start getting ideas about where we’ll be at some point in the future. Run with your ideas, even if they seem crazy, absurd, or impossible. The purpose is to let your imagination run wild and to have fun.

Once you’re done, come back and tell us what inspired you. What did you write? Was it fun to explore the future? Will you keep writing?

How to Give Your Narration Flavor

How to Give Your Narration Flavor is certainly a way to add life and personality to each of your characters. Great Post!

A Writer's Path

by Andrea Lundgren

Readers frequently talk about the style or narrative flavor of authors they enjoy. They’ll say, “That sounds like something __ wrote,” or “This reminded me of ___” or “The tone of that was flat.” But sometimes, we authors we sometimes don’t know what gives us our writing voice. What makes writing sound different or interesting and engaging?

Our voice is really the flavor that is distinctly ours. It’s like the spices that make Italian different than French or German cooking. They may have similar topography or features; in certain portions of those countries, there may just be an imaginary line between one part and another, to where the climate, soil types, and weather are identical. Similarly, our writing might be similar to that of another in genre, plot elements, and character types but yet be unique because of the “spices” we employ.

View original post 734 more words

Stone Hearts

Reblogging: Stone Hearts, by poet, Delia. . A real, tell-it-like-it-is poem about the social jungle and trying to find authenticity where there is little to none. Delia often writes, real, raw and authentic prose and poetry that will catch you unawares, and reach inside you, grab you, and make you see beyond the obvious. K. D.
via https://artemisdelmar.wordpress.com/2017/04/13/stone-hearts

palabras DelMar

Stone hearts
And stoic faces
Bodies moving
Unfamiliar places

Trying to adjust
Appearing to fit in
Harboring inside
What can’t be shared at all

Internally digesting
Events that make you cringe

Knowing that it’s yours to keep
Preserving classification
Your privacy in tact
No one privileged enough
To get through the external hallowed out remains

Who dares dig deep?
Into your darkest night
Tunneling through
That formidable wall

Destruction
Obscurity
Gloom
And despair

Grunts of dejection
Exhaled in the night

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A Tuesday Review: The Son of Nepal by J.J Sylvester (Book 1 of the Sons of Thunder)

Visit J. J Sylvester’s website and see a sample of his books: via  https://theeverplanes.com/2017/04/23/the-son-of-nepal

5 Stars!  This intriguing novel, The Son of Nepal, by author J.J Sylvester, is a fascinating and uniquely beautiful story. It is told with a Middle Eastern flair for story-telling, that I found utterly enchanting. When a novel can transport the reader to a different place and time – that is extraordinary. It is beautifully written, with a lush cadence like prose that moves brilliantly through the entire novel.
Johannan, our hero, is very brave in his pursuit to find a cure for his beloved’s blindness and gives himself over to be used by a Great Spirit, such is his desire to return the gift of sight to his beloved. What is Johannan to learn from his quest, as he searches for months on end to find the magical cure, but only a true heart, he has been told, will the Great Spirit choose to grant Johannan’s wish. Johannan suffers great hardship in his pursuit to find a cure for his beloved, and therefore, he should be rewarded, shouldn’t he?
Will the parables this novel evokes ring true or will they not? We are often told: be careful what you wish for, true love conquers all, think before you leap, and everything comes with a price!” What price will Johannan pay or will the Great Spirit, bestow on him the happy life that Johannan has sacrificed so much to achieve for his beloved?         Johannan’s story is powerful and is so meaningful, even about our own lives, that we should take heed, for we are vulnerable as well. Is what we wish for honorable and good? It is only in our hearts, that will it ring true. I highly recommend The Son of Nepal.