Do You Really Know Your Characters?

fall-in-love-with-the-charactersYour main character should be a living, breathing, human being, at least in the eyes of the reader. He/she evolved into the person that they are today, just like you and me. What significant events in their life transformed them? Sounds like a little backstory to me.

You have to make your main character real, and in order to do this, that character must first become real to you. While you don’t have to include every bit of information you’ve developed and highlighted in your own mind, you do need to know that information.

  • What’s your character’s name
  • What does your character look like
  • When, where, and to whom was your main character(s) born
  • Brothers and sisters, their names and ages
  • Family dynamics(warm and loving, dysfunctional, abusive)
  • Where he/she attended high school, college, and graduate school
  • Any flaws-remember nobody’s perfect
  • Political affiliation
  • Occupation
  • Income
  • Goals
  • Religious views
  • Friends (best friend)
  • Marital status
  • Worldview
  • Personality
  • What makes them angry
  • What makes them happy
  • What are their fears
  • And anything else relevant to your story

Take the time to flesh that character out. They will make or break your story.

Think of your favorite book. I bet when you focus in on what made that story stand out, you are going to run into some pretty amazing characters.

-Jan R

 

 

 

Do You Really Know Your Characters?

Antagonist-Friend or Foe?

1-darth-vadar-skull

My main focus for this particular blog is antagonists. I have two in my novel. One is amnesia, and the other is a young woman determined to marry the man of her dreams, even if he belongs to someone else. She uses his amnesia to her advantage, manipulating and deceiving him.

When you are creating antagonists, you must remember they are people too. Help your reader to empathize with them and understand why they act the way they do. Even bad people have weaknesses and can show love towards others. They are more than just a device to move your plot in a certain direction. Flesh them out!

Get into your antagonists head. Help people to see things from his/her point of view if possible. I write in third person omniscient, which allows me to get into the head of any character I choose, as long as I limit myself to one per scene. If this doesn’t work for you, have your point of view characters mull over and try to understand the antagonist’s point of view. You don’t want him/her to be seen as pure evil.

I have to admit, I’m a ‘Star Wars’ geek. If you’re a follower, you know who Darth Vader is. From my perspective, he is the perfect antagonist. The creator of this series, put a lot of thought into this bad guy. He is pure evil, but as Luke stated, “There is good in you, I can feel it.” Luke was right. Vader wasn’t all evil, as a matter of fact, he started out as a good guy. His motivation for turning to the dark side, was to save his wife.

 

You want your antagonists to be strong, smart, and capable. At least as much so as your protagonist. This serves to give the story balance and maintain interest.  It also helps to increase tension and suspense. You know the antagonist is capable of defeating the protagonist. The story could go in many different directions.

Back to the ‘Star Wars saga, Darth Vader was  the most powerful of all the Jedi, even though he turned to the dark side and fell under the control of the Sith Lord. His downfall in the end wasn’t his lack of strength, but his return to the light.  He sacrifices himself to save his son. In a split second decision, he destroys the empire and brings balance to the universe.

Many professionals recommended that you not use abstractions, such as corporations, disease, or war as your antagonists. They are unrelatable, but that’s a blog for another day.

If you do feel the need to use an abstraction, put a human face to it.  Instead of organized religion, you may consider a resentful pastor seeking revenge. Instead of corporate greed, you may consider a Bernie Madoff type. One of my antagonists is a medical condition that a second antagonist exploits to get what she wants.

Hope this post provided a couple nuggets and got you thinking 🙂

-Jan R

Antagonist-Friend or Foe?

If You Build It They Will Come

if-you-build-it-they-will-come-haha-just-kidding-you-still-have-to-sell-itWhen I started writing this blog, I had no idea what I was doing. All I knew was I needed to start a blog. One of the agents I had queried, told me I needed a platform, and while it didn’t guarantee a book deal, it would make placing my book with a publishing house a lot easier.

So I read a book on platforms from Michael Hyatt and went to the WordPress site. I created my blog and decided to write about things I have learned, and/or had problems with during my journey to being published.

There’s so much we don’t know. So much I still don’t know, but my thought was if I shared information, it would hopefully help others to avoid some of the crazy mistakes I have made.

I was excited when I wrote that first blog. I sent it out to the world and waited anxiously for that first view. It never came. I wrote the second blog and again, there were no views. As a matter of fact, for almost six months, I wrote my blog faithfully with only a handful of views. I could literally count those views on one hand for each blog.

I didn’t know what I was doing wrong. I reread Michael Hyatt’s book and looked at a few articles on successful blogs. Guess what? I finally realized that just because you write and put it out there, doesn’t mean they will come. This is not ‘The Field of Dreams’, you have to do your part.

I began reaching out to fellow bloggers. Like me, they were trying to build their platforms as well. I started visiting the websites of bloggers who shared the same interests that I did. Not only did I gain some great information in the process, but I picked up followers. I didn’t have to ask people to join me. I read their blogs, offered comments on their writing, and they responded by checking my site out and doing the same.  I discovered this was a win, win for all involved.

A delightful surprise, was the friendships that arise from exchanges with other writers.  Totally unexpected.

I have added a block of time to my weekly schedule for reading blogs of fellow bloggers (those I follow, as well as new ones I would like to follow). It’s not a chore, it’s fun!!! And you will build your following 🙂

I would caution  that your writing has to offer something. Once those viewers start visiting your site, it’s up to you to keep them coming back.

-Jan R

 

If You Build It They Will Come

Fact or Fiction?(Revised)

_shannon-wheeler-stop-fact-checking-my-story-new-yorker-cartoon-2If your hero is drinking sake in Tokyo, you better know which hand he should use to hold the cup; and when he is sunning on the beach at Cape Cod, remember that there won’t be any palm trees-Dean R. Koontz

You can’t get away with faking background information. If you fabricate a lot of facts on a wide variety of subjects, your readers will catch on.  I know it’s your story, and it’s fiction, but unless you are writing science fiction that involves creating your own world, you better stick to the facts when it comes to background.

Every time a reader knows that you are faking a bit of background information, your credibility slips a notch. When your credibility slips two, three, or four notches, you will lose that reader.

No one is saying that you have to limit your story to places/things that you know, but if you are going to step into unfamiliar territory, you had better do your homework.
There is so much information available, that there is no reason why you can’t write about any country you never visited, canoe making, basket weaving, or the floor plan for Biltmore house. I think you get the gist of where I’m going with this, but keep in mind that very few reference books are perfect.

If you do have to research certain topics, cross-check every piece of information, using two and preferably three sources.

Firsthand knowledge of background information is always more desirable than second hand. There is no better way to learn the sound, texture, smell, and look of  a place or thing, than when you experience it firsthand, but if you are diligent in your research, you can make your background come alive.
-Jan R

Fact or Fiction?(Revised)

Avoid Speed Bumps

1490400252235When you’re writing a novel, you want your story to keep moving forward from beginning to end. If your reader stops at any point while reading, you have set up a speed bump and created an opportunity for your reader to slip out of their suspension of belief.

You want them to continue at a nice, smooth pace until the end, accepting every coincidence and slightly questionable story line. They should be lost in the story not in your words.

Common Speed Bumps of Aspiring Authors

Beautified Prose/Written-eese

“The firedrop from the pommel of Tambre’s sword shot past the shimmering silver mist of her involuntary dispersal.”

Now that was a pretty sentence, but you can’t tell me it didn’t slow you down and make you think about what the author was actually trying to say. If you’re like me, you had to read it several times

Trying to impress others with your words is not the way to go. Be natural, be yourself, and it would probably help if you closed the thesaurus as well.

On-The-Nose Writing

Prose that mirrors real life without advancing your story.

Paige’s phone chirped, telling her she had a call. She slid her bag off her shoulder, opened it, pulled out her cell, hit the Accept Call button and put it to her ear.       

“This is Paige,” she said.

“Hey, Paige.”

She recognized her fiancé’s voice. “Jim, darling! Hello!”

We don’t need to be told that the chirp told her she had a call, that her phone is in her purse, that her purse is over her shoulder, that she has to open it to get her phone, push a button to take the call, identify herself to the caller, be informed who it is.  I think you’re getting the point.

Narrative lumps

Prose that comes out of nowhere and does nothing but describe, is known as a ‘narrative lump’. It can bring your story to a stand still and pull your reader out of the action. Instead of progressing through your storyline, they find themselves on the outside looking in.

I’m not saying you can’t use description. Description is good and helps your reader visualize characters, settings, and much more. But it should be used sparingly. It should add to and enhance your sentence, not distract and overtake it.

One word of caution when using research material to make your story more authentic, remember your research and detail are the seasoning for the story. Don’t make them centerstage. You don’t want to overwhelm your readers with unnecessary information.

Head Hopping

If you switch POV characters to quickly or dive into the heads of too many characters at once, it can Jar the reader and break the intimacy with the scenes main character. In other words, going back and forth between POV characters, can give a reader whiplash. You should never have more than one POV character per scene.

You should also avoid run-on sentences, close the thesaurus (I think you know what I’m getting at), and purchase a copy of ‘The Elements of Style’ by Strunk and White-I’m just saying 🙂

 

-Jan R

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Avoid Speed Bumps

Am I A Writer? (Repost)

 

writerAm I a writer? You ever ask yourself that question? I do, and am still hesitant to tell people I write. I’ve never published a book. I’ve never been paid to write anything. As a matter of fact, my work was rejected because it wasn’t good enough. Side note-it really wasn’t good enough-I just didn’t know it at the time. I was too new to the game to know any better.

Becoming a writer is a process. You may have the desire and a great idea, but if you’re just starting out, you lack the skills and knowledge necessary to produce a successful piece of work.

Think of it like anything else you try for the first time.  Did you start out knowing how to tie your shoes, ride a bike, or read a book? No! You had to learn. They were skills you developed.

Being bad at something you really want to succeed at is part of the process. If you’re not willing to fail, stink, make mistakes, accept corrections and criticism, or seek counsel from experts, then you’re not likely to progress.–Jerry Jenkins

So when can you call yourself a writer? As soon as you’re willing to jump in and put yourself, or maybe I should say your ego, on the line.

If you’ve failed and are still writing, if you’re scared and are still writing, if you’ve stood up to a stinging critique and made your piece better by applying what you learned, if you’ve stayed at it despite that pervasive fear of failure, you are a writer.–Jerry Jenkins.

I hope this cleared up some questions in your mind. I, as mentioned above,  still struggle with the concept-I AM A WRITER 🙂

-Jan R

Am I A Writer? (Repost)