Something To Think About # 1

SupermanflyingYour lead character doesn’t have to leap tall buildings in a single bound, and he doesn’t have to stop speeding bullets with his bare hands, but he darn well better know the difference between right and wrong, and he better be kind to animals, and it sure wouldn’t hurt any if he brushed his teeth regularly.¬† Dean R. Koontz – How To Write Best Selling Fiction

I think you get the picture. Your main character needs to be likable and relatable. It would help if he had a few flaws as well. Nobody’s perfect.

Something to think about ūüôā

-Jan R

 

 

 

Something To Think About # 1

Help Your Reader Connect!

500-words_TestI just read through and edited my novel for God knows the number of times, I’ve lost count. That’s a problem in itself. I should be more efficient and effective with my time, but I’ll save that issue for another blog.

While my work is grammatically and structurally sound, the scenes flow, and there are no obvious plot holes, something’s missing, and I need to figure out what it is.

I followed all the rules, but it takes more than rules to pump up that novel and make it interesting enough for someone to want to purchase. You need to cover all of the basis, not just the technical ones.

I went back and did something I haven’t done in six months. I hate to confess, but I haven’t been reading. I love historical romances and have at least twenty sitting on a shelf that I haven’t read. Why? I don’t have the time.

I picked up one of them this past weekend and began reading. What was it about the novel that was drawing me in? What was it this novel had, that mine didn’t?

One thing that jumped out at me was character development. I have distinguishable and I think likable characters, but the depth that you get from introspection, from getting into the characters’ heads, is missing. I’m lacking that something that helps the reader connect with the characters and care about what happens to them.

I know my characters. I don’t need an explanation for why Josh did what he did. I don’t need to include what motivates him for myself. He is real to me and I care about him. I know everything about him. But my reader doesn’t.

My reader only knows what I tell them. You have to make those characters come alive and be as real to your reader as they are to you. Give them some details ( don’t over do it with mindless chatter-that creates another issue). Help them to understand your characters and why they act the way they do. Yes, you want the characters to be likable, but there’s so much more.

I’m getting off on a tangent. This blog was supposed to be about reading, and I’m morphing it into what I discovered when I picked up that novel. I guess that’s okay.

Hope you were able to take something from this blog.

-Jan R

Help Your Reader Connect!

Empathy Is A Must

582dab8d5a4e7If you want to draw your reader in, you have to figure out a way to get them to empathize with the main character in your novel. They have to connect. Help them to see and feel what your character is going through.

In order to do this, you need to change the focus from the us/them mentality. People don’t listen to facts because of their own personal bias. They accept or reject them depending on whether they line up with their beliefs/agenda or not. Think about the USA today and the divide between the Democrat and Republican parties. Ouch! Maybe not!

You have to change your methodology and come in a little sneaky. Instead of lining your prose up from the us/them point of view, you want to look at things from your main character’s point of view. Your reader will be pulled in immediately, not because of the facts of the situation, but because they empathize with the feelings of the character. They are seeing things through his/her eyes.

I’m not a Malcolm X fan, but if you pick up the book entitled Malcolm X you will be pulled into his story immediately. It was an autobiography that followed his life and the events that brought him to the beliefs that he strongly supported and fought for.¬† The story allowed you to look into his head. You could see what he saw and feel what he felt. You may not have agreed with his point of view, but you understood where he was coming from and empathized with him.

That’s the same technique you would use in a novel to draw your reader into the story. You have to present things from your character’s point of view. You reader has to see what they see, feel what they feel, and experience situations as they would.

Something else to think about.

-Jan R

Empathy Is A Must

Your Protagonist

protagonist-versus-antagonistYour protagonist is the most important character in the novel. He/she will be in every moment, even if not in every scene.

It’s recommended that you have only one main character in your novel. However, some do have more. Romances, for example, usually have two main characters and are for all intents and purposes, two stories running simultaneously.

Things to keep in mind when developing your main character…

  • Introduce them in the beginning. You want your reader to bond with them more than any other character.
  • Make them active. Nobody wants to read about someone sitting on the couch doing nothing all day.
  • Give them a cause greater than themselves. Dream big.
  • Create conflict around them that battles against their flaws.
  • Make your protagonist complex. Nobody wants a goody-goody two shoes that skips through life with no adversity.
  • Keep your protagonist in character. Be consistent. If you show a change in what one would expect the character to do, you must show a reason.
  • Draw on yourself, friends, people you look up to, to build your character.
  • Create sympathy for your character. You want your reader to care about them and what they are going through.
  • Make them virtuous, clever, and generous. You want your reader to like them.
  • Make your character attractive. I know this isn’t politically correct, but it’s what works.

Something to think about.

-Jan R

Your Protagonist

Antagonist-Friend or Foe (Revisited)

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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‚Äôt work for you, have¬†your point of view¬†characters mull over and try to understand the antagonist’s point of view. You don‚Äôt 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 sacrificed himself to save his son. In a split second decision, he destroyed the empire and brought 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 ūüôā

-Jan R

Antagonist-Friend or Foe (Revisited)

What’s Your Character’s Core Desire?

800x800-the-desire-map-ombre-on-white_4How well do you know your main character? Do you know his/her deepest longing? If your answer is no, you need to stop and take a closer look at your character arc. What is motivating your character? If you can identify that, you know their core desire.

Does he/she want to be loved or save the world? Does he/she want to be respected or rich? Whatever the desire, it has to be something your reader can relate to.

Your character may have more than one desire. I know most of us do, but our minor desires usually lead us to our core desire. That one thing that we really want more than anything.

A great example I read described a young girl who was abused by her father. As you probably guessed, her core desire was to be loved by him, or maybe you thought to get even. Not sure how your mind works ūüôā At any rate, the only thing he seemed to be interested in was astronauts and space exploration. So the young girl set her sights on becoming an astronaut. Now she may have found her studies fascinating and developed an interest in space along the way, but her goal was to earn her father’s respect and love by becoming the one thing that piqued his interest.

After you’ve identified your main character’s core desire and put him/her on the path of achieving it, the fun begins. What can be thrown in to threaten his/her core desire? What can throw him/her off, and how can it be fixed?

You have to know your character’s core desire. It helps you understand what kind of things he/she will seek in life, and what kind of things can mess his/her life up.

Something to think about.

-Jan R

 

What’s Your Character’s Core Desire?

Don’t Forget Those Minor Characters(Revisited)

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I received¬†this critique a while back in regards to four minor characters in my novel.¬†“A lot of new characters have been introduced, and they all run together in my mind. I think more time needs to be spent developing these characters as individuals rather than some generic group of friends.”

I didn’t provide much description of the characters, because they¬†were only in one full chapter and part of another. I didn’t think descriptions were necessary. They served one purpose and one purpose only. They did their job and disappeared.

Not long after that I was looking at Writers Digest and bumped into an article on Minor Characters. Maybe somebody was trying to tell me something.

According to Elizabeth Sims, If the person is important enough to exist in the world of your story, let your readers picture that existence.

When you introduce minor characters, you should have one or better two details.  He was as wide as he was tall, and talked with a lisp.

Even characters who exist in passing, should exist in the readers eye. For a literally glancing description, make it visual. The freckle faced boy stuck his tongue out at us, then turned to go inside.

If you have a group-Pan the crowd and then zoom in. Give one or two details describing them all, and then move in to one person as the representative.¬† The demonstrators walked down Main street waving their signs and shouting obscenities.¬†¬†“Where is the Mayor, ” shouted a tall gray haired man at the front of the line.

So there you have it. I guess I need to go back and give my minor characters¬†some life¬†ūüôā

-Jan R

Don’t Forget Those Minor Characters(Revisited)