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Showing posts from January, 2011

Characters You Can Pinch - Conclusion

Books that have helped me along the way

As promised, below are some books on the craft that helped me in understanding Character development, amongst many other things.  Also, not to discount my fellow writers who helped me by means encouragement, and their words of critique along the way.  All of these aspects combined to get me where I am now.  Of course, I know I'm not finished in my writing journey, yet only just beginning.  That's another thing I've learned about writing, there's always going to be areas to grow.

The Fire in Fiction, Donald Maass
Elements of Fiction Writing:  Conflict, Action & Suspense, William Noble
Writing Mysteries 2nd Edition, Sue Grafton
Don't Murder Your Mystery, Chris Roerden

So the 9-day discussion of Developing Characters You Can Pinch has come to an end.  I hope that you enjoyed reading what I had to share.  I wish you the best in your writing and that your endeavors realize fulfillment.

Characters You Can Pinch - Part 8

Modeling a Character Outline


Who hasn't tried writing a novel from an outline?  I think most of us have given it a try.  Now whether that process works for us, depends on the writer.  But have you ever created outlines for your characters? 


The first time I did this before setting out was with my last novel.  We know the adage show don't tell.  It's three words that enforce any serious writer with the power to become more than they thought possible.  I found that by making up a character outline, it enabled me to know their full background and motivations (agendas).  By knowing their background as the writer, there's less of an urge to fill a page or pages of boring back story.  It allows us to sprinkle the details in.


Below is the process I used broken down into steps:
- Start with noting their name, age, role in the novel
- Add to this by a list of any close family members, friends, supporters and of course the antagonist(s) to the character
- From here brainstorm these re…

Characters You Can Pinch - Part 7

Creating Likable Characters


Likable and realistic characters (see Characters You Can Pinch - Part 5:  Creating Realistic Characters) are related aspects to me.  As with all points of discussion in this blog over the last six days, they all have their place.

Now when I say create likable characters I'm not saying that the reader has to love everyone.  But it does mean there has to be some qualities that draw them in.  If you're trying to make a reader feel for the bad guy, expand on his agenda and motivations.

A simple illustration, a man steals food for his starving family.  If you knew the man had tried everything to get a job, you followed him on this journey and when he fell to the lowest point, without any other options, you wouldn't judge him for his actions.  Although, you might not agree with the robbery, you would be able to justify it, reason with the character's thought process - connect.

And that's the key, right there.  In creating likable characters, t…

Characters You Can Pinch - Part 6

Effective Use of Dialogue

In real life, we don't all sound the same.  In fact, you could tell twenty people in a room to pass on a simple message, and the end result would be twenty different ways of communicating the same thing.  And why is that?  Simple answer is background.  We all come from different places in life, wealthy, poor, happy, sad, another nationality.  The list could go on.

We need to incorporate this same concept to our characters.  Now, this stage is still something I need to be very conscious of.  It's too easy to make your characters sound alike.  In fact, with one novel I had beta read, the comment came back from two of them that in a certain chapter the characters were all starting to sound alike.  At first, I didn't see it.  But I tried to go back over the chapter and look at it objectively.  I figured two people saying the same thing - there's got to be merit.  And, there was.  I ended up re-writing this scene actually.  None of the people in it…

Plug Your Blog Friday

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We finally made it to Friday!  Sometimes, I didn't think it was ever going to get here.  So if you noticed from last week, Fridays are - Plug Your Blog Fridays around here!

While this entire blogging experience is new to me, I'm having fun with it and I hope you're enjoying what I have to share.  But, I'd like to know what you have going on.  Post the link to your blog in a comment below, along with its subject matter.  I look forward to checking it out.

Also, thank you to those that came out last week.  And, of course, there's no harm in "re-plugging" ;O)

Murder Your Darlings

A writer friend of mine, Charlotte Jane Ivory is hosting Murder Your Darlings, and I have sacrificed my first novel to the fire.  Be sure to go over and check it out:  Carolyn Arnold Murders...


Also be sure to check out How to Contribute while you're there.  You could be next.

Characters You Can Pinch - Part 5

Creating Realistic Characters:  Add Complications

When I say to add complications, I'm not talking about internal or external conflicts.  I'm talking about the shades of grey that live in all of us.  We love someone, yet can't stand them.  We want to be liked, but don't really care what other people think of us.  We want to do good, but there's an evil part of us.

If we can find a way to put this into our novels, our characters will become more alive.  And these type of complications aren't necessarily spelled out to the reader in a passage.  These types of complications come as an observation of your characters interactions with others.  (Some of this will be covered in Part 6 Effective Use of Dialogue.)

So, how do you go about placing these complications in your characters?  Have them act one way, while their internal or external dialogue is saying something else.  For instance, you have a character that just broke up with their boyfriend after three years of…

Characters You Can Pinch - Part 4

Repetition of Character Attributes

Okay, so you have a main character who is tall with a large chest.  You pointed this out in a creative way in the first chapter.  Now, he's been moving in and out of scenes for the last hundred pages, but you've never brought these physical attributes up again.

Maybe you're of the mindset that to repeat it would be, well, repetition.  WRONG.

I got this terrific advice from a book on the craft of writing.  Your reader isn't going to remember that your character is a large build on page 100 when it hasn't been mentioned or hasn't affected him in the last 99 pages.

This brings up another interesting aspect when it comes to our character's physical attributes - show how they affect them.  Reference them periodically.  Sprinkle them in.

Building on the example of a tall character who has a large chest:
   Maybe he has to duck to get into a small space.
   Maybe females have to arch their heads back to look up at him.
   Or mayb…

Characters You Can Pinch - Part 3

Using Character Description to Your Advantage"Tommy came in wearing a pair of blue jeans with a brown sweater."The above is straight-forward.  It tells the reader what the character's wearing, but do you care?  What is this line missing?  In one simple word:  Purpose!

Just because you have 75-110k words in a novel, doesn't mean we can be sloppy with how we use them.  Our job as writers is to hook our reader, and keep 'em hooked.  And we're not going to do it when we formulate a character description based on the above-noted template.  We all wear clothes, so unless it's a sex scene (in which clothes wouldn't matter lol) or the outfit has purpose to the scene, lose it.

Make the descriptions you give matter not only to the reader but to the character whose POV you're in.  What about the other character's appearance affects them?

Drawing from the above example, who doesn't own a pair of blue jeans?  And a brown sweater? B-O-R-I-N-G observatio…

Characters You Can Pinch - Part 2

Take Time to Familiarize Your Reader with Your Characters


Okay, so I'm sure we've all read novels where we've skimmed description.  I know I have.  And it's not just when it comes to the layout of a scene, the way a battleship functions, the schematics of a missile.  Sometimes, it's an info dump on a character.

As writers, we've all heard of the expression info dump.  To a serious writer, it's the equivalence of swear words.  So, how do you plug in character information (I refer to background, not physical descriptions) without it becoming those two dirty words?  Make sure the information you give is relevant to moving the story forward.  Does the information provided add depth to the character, make them real, make them characters you can pinch?

My suggestion first off:  keep these type of passages brief and limited, otherwise you risk being guilty of the other dirty words - telling not showing.  

Now, I used to glance over this aspect in my writing.  I le…

Characters You Can Pinch - Part 1

Give Everyone an Agenda

This advice came from a novel I read on the craft, and it's been a tremendous inspiration to me.  Now most of us realize that our main or supporting characters need an agenda.  In fact, they need to have a large one.


Characters are what drive the plot of a novel.   Agendas are what drive the characters.

So, that's a given, most of us realize that.  But what about minor characters - all novels have them.  The ones that show up in the police interrogation room, the guy at the coffee shop, the server at a restaurant.  You name it, every novel has them.  Maybe right now, you're thinking so what?


I'll tell you want.  Those minor, seemingly insignificant characters, give you the writer, the chance to shine.  Think of it this way, what person in real life doesn't have something else going on in their life, in their minds, when we interact with them.  If they didn't, they'd be robots.  We all have concerns, aspirations, responsibilities, and …

Developing Characters You Can Pinch

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As a writer, we all have areas to improve our craft.  And for each of us, that may prove to be something different.  For some it might be grammar, the use of cliches whether it be sayings or plot lines.  For myself, one challenge that I had to take on was character development.

People who read my first few novels, all enjoyed them.  But there was one statement that kept surfacing - my characters needed more depth.  At first, I made excuses.  The common one:  It's the genre.  It's not necessary to have to know everything about their personal life or motivations.


But I was deceiving myself.  It doesn't matter what genre you write it, if the characters are not fully real to your reader - now by real, I mean vivid enough to envision their chest rise for breath, skin accessible enough to pinch - then there's area for improvement.

At the time, I had no idea what they meant by there could be more depth to your characters.  In fact, I didn't even know how to go about makin…

Plug Your Blog Friday

Have a blog you want to get out there?  Well, I just started this one and I'm hoping to make a lot of new writer friends and strengthen the relationships I already have.

So, Fridays are going to be "Plug your Blog" day.  Tell us what you've got going, a latest post, or a summarization of the blog's purpose.  Give us a link.  And if you follow mine, I'll follow yours.  I look forward to meeting you.  Come on...you know you want to :)

Finding Balance

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We all have more going on in our lives besides the current WIP, updating our blogs, and staying connected with other writers whether it be online or those in our community.  Add to this, most of us take part in helping our fellow writers, whether is beta'ing their projects, offering critiques or supporting and encouraging them in other ways.   And all of these aspects are important to being a successful, well-rounded writer in my opinion.  Some go a step further, creating extensive networks and platforms.
Yet the above only covers the responsibility of the writer.  Most of us don't have the ability to focus on our craft full-time.  We have families to care for, day jobs to go to, and correct me if I'm wrong, but we also need some down-time, and a social life.  Also, let's not forget a regular exercise routine.
So just one question:  When are we supposed to find the time?  I mean, obviously a time machine isn't an option (although the thought of one is sometimes appe…

Editing

Is there ever a point when a writer can say, and believe it, that their work is finished?  I don't know about the rest of you, but for myself I find it very hard to say that statement.  In fact, I'm not even sure I'd ever accept edits as being complete until the book hit store shelves.  (And even then, I might pick up a copy and take out a red pen...if I'm not tired of looking at it by then.)

More recently, I decided to go back through the books I've written and give them a really good run through.  After all, how can they ever garner an agent's attention, and eventually a publisher's, if I've never queried them?

Now, the first novel I ever wrote was more to say that I could do it.  I've put it aside for now and set my attention on the my second mystery.  It's also the second in a series surrounding Major Crimes Detective Madison Knight.

The thing is, I loved that book before.  But I haven't read it in over a year.  In that time, I've wr…

The Selling Synopsis

I used the word selling for a reason.  First of all, as writers, we're familiar with the phrase, show don't tell.  With a synopsis, we have to keep up the same adage.  Agents don't want to know how your story develops in a rhyming off of and then...


Three key things stand out to me when I've researched writing a synopsis.
1) Develop a pitch line
2) Keep true to the voice and style of the novel.
3) Tell it in third person POV

Sounds easy, right?  Not exactly.  As writers, we have the task of condensing a full-length novel down to the length of a 1000 words or less.  (Personally, I find about 800 words, single-spaced fits on a page and qualifies when agents ask for a 1 page synopsis.)  Recently, I've gotten on a kick of going back and assigning one for each novel I've written.  And to be honest, it hurts to tear apart a novel that took months to write.  Not to mention the fact, all of the POVs and sub-plots that get lost in the transmission to a short synopsis.

He…

How do you stay motivated?

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Sometimes you have to dig within.  Remember why you write.  For myself, it's really become part of who I am.  It's like getting up in the morning, dressing for the day and going about my responsibilities.  When I fail to do it, something is missing.  Maybe you feel the same way?  If so, you've come to the right place.

One idea that recently presented itself, is how do I celebrate a completed novel?  And by completed, I'm not referring to pristine, and perfect.  I'm referring to that first rough draft, the one you sacrificed other things for just to get your ideas on paper.  Maybe you're thinking it's nothing worthy of celebrating, but I'm here to tell you it is.  Not every one can write a book.  And if you've got that first draft, you've succeeded where many have failed.

Now, what I'm doing to keep me motivated while waiting on my break, the one I'm working hard to make a reality, is rewarding myself with a wall plaque for each book I fi…

So, what is the life of a writer like?

Here's just a few things that come to mind... Isolated.  It's definately a venture one undertakes on their own.  To allow your mind the time to weave fiction in a world unlike anything you know, takes meditation and "quiet time".  What keeps me going is the relief that comes with allowing myself the freedom to explore the realms of my imagination, without restraint, without judgement.  Focused.  Equally important to taking the time to let yourself go where you dare yourself to go, is knowing exactly where you want it to take you.  Is it for the purpose of a select few to read your work?  Or do you aspire to more than that?  Hundreds, or thousands of people who anticipate your next work.  Only you can answer that question for yourself. You can't permit negative influences to curb your writing, which brings me to the next point. Can be full of negativity - if you let it.As with any work of art or craft, it falls under the skeptism of the masses.  And there are people ou…