Tag Archives: Characters

How to make Your Reader Care About Your Character #2

I am skimming over notes I took from a class about creating characters that your reader will care about.

Disclaimer:  I honestly don’t remember where this handout came from. I’m going to paraphrase the topic and think up my own ideas, but I don’t want anyone to think I’m stealing without giving credit.

It should be a given to an author that they need to create characters that their readers will care about. They do not necessarily have to like the character. Some really great characters are very unlikable. But we need to CARE about them, or we won’t keep reading. Right?

So how do we do this?

1.       Relationships.  (See previous post)

2.       Give them a goal

Ugh. Goals. We all have them, right? We all have something we need to do every day. Some goals we like, others we labor over.  The point is, we can all relate to having to do something.

If your character is wandering around in circles with no clear intent, the reader will not be able to engage.  Even before the inciting incident that is the real start to your story… your character has to have a reason for being… a goal of something that needs to be done (it can be simple, like making dinner)

But soon you should hit the “big goal” that will carry your reader along for the rest of the journey. We have to know what the goal is and have a vested interest in the character getting there.

By the way, the “big goal” needs to materialize in the first 25% of the book or earlier.  This may seem like a given to most of you, but I’ve read some works in progress lately where the author did not understand this. Think about your character’s goal, and make sure it is apparent to the reader.

Everyone wants something.

A reader can connect and care if they have the opportunity to root for your character to get what he/she wants.

So go ahead, give them a goal!

What was the character’s goal in your favorite novel? Do you think this is what made it your favorite?

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How to make Your Reader Care About Your Character #1

I was cleaning off my desk this weekend and I came across a handout from a seminar or class that I don’t even remember taking.  I read through the page and considered my current work in progress.  I’m pretty sure that by this time in my career I am doing what the handout recommends as an almost instinctual part of my writing process.

I almost tossed the paper, but thought there may be some people out there who could benefit from these notes.  And, of course, I tend to learn stuff myself when I write out and analyze notes for posts, so let’s see what happens.

To keep things  short, I will break this topic into 5 separate posts.  One thought to chew on at a time.

Disclaimer:  I honestly don’t remember where this handout came from. I’m going to paraphrase the topic and think up my own ideas, but I don’t want anyone to think I’m stealing without giving credit.

All right:  Creating a character people care about:

It should be a given to an author that they need to create characters that their readers will care about. They do not necessarily have to like the character. Some really great characters are very unlikable. But we need to CARE about them, or we won’t keep reading. Right?

So how do we do this?

1.       Relationships.  Everyone in the world has relationships. They can be good, bad, or just tolerable, but you know what a relationship is, and so does your reader. Seeing a character in a relationship is an easy way to help a reader connect.

Let’s think over some memorable relationships.  I’ll grab a character most people know.

Harry Potter.

Harry lives with his aunt and uncle. Wow, they do not treat him well, do they? Have you ever been treated unfairly? Have you every had to put up with it because you had no choice? Have you ever wished a magic letter would show up and scoot you away? (Well, I’m sure the answer is “yes” to most of what I said, anyway.)

Giving Harry this horrible home life helps us to INSTANTLY connect with him. We feel sorry for him and want him to live up to his potential.  If Harry can overcome the odds, maybe we can, too.

Do you see how quickly and easily the connection is made? In the first few scenes we totally care and we are engaged.

Relationships. Use them.

And if your character is stranded on a deserted island, have him draw a face on a ball so he has someone to talk to. Yes, that has been done, but that helped you to connect as well, right?
Relationships are one of the easiest ways to help your readers care about your characters.

How have you used relationships to develop your characters?

_JenniFer____EatoN

The Big Announcement! Writing to a Deadline AGAIN #4 The Big Announcement!

I am so excited to announce that I’ve just signed a contract with Still Moments Publishing to have my story Connect the Dots included in their 2012 Christmas Anthology.

This is totally unbelievable.  In January, I posted a big boisterous banner proclaiming that I WOULD BE PUBLISHED by the end of 2012.  It was quite a lofty goal for me, and now I will have two stories coming out this year.

I’m giddy with glee.

Hey, Canada.  Look South.  See that big bright light down in the USA?  That’s me smiling!

Oh, guys.  This is just so dern cool.  You have no idea.

Click here to see my query blurb and promo page for Connect the Dots.  Yeah, No explosions.  I was a good girl for Christmas.

Search and Destroy in the Editing Phase

Daily Writing Tips recently had an article explaining bad writing compared to poor writing.  The one part of the article that struck me was the end.

They presented a list which I will admit (giving them total credit) that I copied and pasted below.  I only want to talk about #5, but I am including the entire list, because I think there are a lot of writers out there who can benefit from it.

Here we go:  Total credit to Dailywritingtips.com (If you want to see the whole article, the link is below)

———————————————————————-

Here are some tips on avoiding the pitfalls of bad writing:

1. Be Fresh
The purpose of metaphor and simile is to evoke recognition by comparison or allusion. Write these analogies to aid your readers with your clarity of vision, not to serve your ego, and avoid clichés.

2. Be Clear
When drafting expository fiction or nonfiction, record your voice as you spontaneously describe a scene or explain a procedure, transcribe your comments, and base your writing on the transcription, revising only to select more vivid verbs and more precise nouns and to seek moderation in adverbs and adjectives.

3. Be Active
Use the passive voice judiciously.

4. Be Concise
Write tight.

5. Be Thorough
Accept that writing is the easy part; it’s the revision that makes or breaks your project — and requires most of your effort.

———————————————-

Okay then… end credit to daily writing tips.

(On a side note:  If anyone needs clarification on anything in the list above, let me know and I will do my best to translate.)

Let’s talk about #5.

This is near and dear to my heart, as I have just finished a roller-coaster ride self-imposed deadline of 5,000 words a week to finish a novel in 10 weeks.

I finished my first draft four weeks ahead of schedule, and dropped myself into editing.

Is my story great?  Well, of course it is! It’s my idea and I love it.

Is it well written…

Umm well, it will be.

Now is the tough part.  I need to attack all the sneaky “tell” that slipped in when I wasn’t looking.  I need to describe bronzed skin rather than telling “his skin was bronzed.”

Luckily enough, I have many words to spare, as I ended up short on my word-count target.  I have plenty of room to expand.

Right now, it is “search and destroy” on “Felt” “was” “it” and all those other nasty little tell markers.

I was paying attention this time around, and I tried my best not to have blatant run-on tell passages (as I’ve been guilty of in the past)  which is good, but all of my tell is now “subtle”.  It is the kind that will probably slip past most publishers.  But I don’t just want this to be a good novel.  I want it to be a great one.

Yes, it is this revision process that will make or break this novel.

I am approaching it by not reading for flow yet.  I am just looking for all those “little nasties”.  Once I think I am “nasty free” I will read for flow, and then ship off to betas, trusting them to slap me upside the head for everything else I may have missed.

How do you “search and destroy” during the editing phase?

Writing to a Deadline 15: OMIGOSH!!!!!!!!!!!!

Writing to a Deadline Part 13: Rewriting and resubmitting

Wow.  They were right.

I took out one relationship element, and the rest of the story just fell in line.  I read through my final product and shivered.

Yeah, I actually wrote that…

But that sting is still there… is it as good as I think it is?  Probably not.

Three days until I have to submit.  It’s a holiday weekend.  No one is going to have time to read, right?

This is where friendships you have made come into play.  I looked up every applicable beta reader past and present, and let them know my dire situation.  I even sent it to my very first beta partner… who was nice enough to teach “idiot little me” so much when I first started out (boy did I stink back then)  I haven’t spoken to him in over a year.  You know what?  He jumped on board.

A debut author from the same publishing house I am submitting to saw my plea on Scribophile, and offered to read it.  So did one of my current betas, and my writing buddy who was also in the same boat having to make revisions to her submission for the anthology.

Suggestions come back.  Minor changes.  The last beta to come back arrives five hours before I need to submit.  No pressure.  More minor suggestions.

Make the applicable edits…. And Done.

Funny thing.  I created a PDF, got ready to send, and got a sinking feeling in my stomach.  I checked back on something I had just added that night, and it didn’t flow. Honestly, it sounded HORRIBLE.  I took a few minutes and changed it.  Perfect…. Sometimes, you really need to listen to your gut.

  1. Create a new PDF.
  2. Write up and email thanking the publisher for their suggestions; this is how I used them… yadda yadda… thank you for your consideration.
  3. Attach PDF
  4. Send.

Now the painful waiting process… again.

The deadline has passed.  Whatever happens now, happens.  There is nothing more I can do.

I feel good about it.  I didn’t crack, and I held on to the bitter end.  No matter the outcome, I am proud of this 40 page little gem.  If anything, I proved to myself that I could do it.

Writing to a Deadline Part 12: The Slap of a Rejection

After a week of waiting… Rejected.

Wow.  That stung.  I read the email.  Well, that’s not true.  After the words “Not ready for publication at this time.” I pretty much skimmed it.

Two things stuck with me off the bat.  George was an unnecessary character, and the opening was confusing.  What??????????  George is the catalyst!  Deep breath… don’t scream.

Being a good little camper, I shut down my computer, and walked away.

I stewed over it for a while.  What were they talking about?  How could they say these things?

Then I took my own advice.  It was a nice day.  I got on my bicycle, and just rode.  I thought over those two comments, and cleared my head for an hour or so.  Once I was able to deal with it, I went back to my computer to read it again.

It’s very hard to take your own advice when something happens to you.  I have walked a few people through this very thing, but never myself.  I’ve sent out work before, but they all saved me this heartache by not answering my queries at all.  This time, I got the definitive “No”.

But was it really a no?  I read it again.  It wasn’t a yes, but it wasn’t completely a rejection either.  They gave me a full-page type-written list of areas they thought were lacking in the story.  Someone thought it through, and let me know everything they thought was a problem.

In my own advice to others: “If someone took that much time, they must have seen something in it that they liked.”

I printed out the page, went to my room, closed the door, and read it over and over.  I realized that if I took their advice about the character George, that the characterization inconsistencies that they pointed out with three other characters would just naturally fall in line.

The last line of the email stated:  If you would like to make changes and resubmit before the deadline date, please send the rewrite directly to “********”

Wait a minute… Go past the normal submission channels?  Hop over the other entries right into a special mailbox?

Not quite so much a rejection anymore, is it?  Thank God I submitted two weeks early!

Seven days for a rewrite, taking out a major plot element.

Gotta go…. Got something to do. :-)

Stupid things your Beta Readers Find: Letting Your Villain Off The Hook Too Easily.

This is one of those “type things out to clear my head” posts.

I’ve written before that if one person makes a comment, consider it.  If two people make the same comment, seriously consider it.  If several more people make the same comment, revise.

I’m wavering on this one, though.

When I request beta reads, I ask for people to express the emotion they feel in each chapter.  A few people have said that my villain gets off the hook too easily.

Now, are they expressing an emotional response, or do they think that’s an error on my part?  That is what I am trying to figure out.  Even after questioning them, I am still not quite sure.

For one thing, they all would have squawked at my first seven or so drafts, where he completely got away with it.   I’m at least happy with my decision for him to get caught.

I can’t have him die a horrible death though, because then he can’t come back with a vengeance to really screw with Magellan’s head in another book.

I guess the visceral reaction of people is that if someone kills almost a hundred people with no remorse, he should get no less than that in the end.  The problem is that my villain is just too much fun.  Everyone has said that he makes their skin crawl, but they love it.  He is a great character, and I want him to come out and play again.

I think the problem might lie in the fact that you see him get caught, and you see the initial “punishment”, but you don’t get to see the aftermath… but if I do go and show the reader that aftermath, it will get red-lined because that is not intrinsic to the main-plotline for a POV character to be there to see it.

I don’t really have to show you the aftermath… I can show you the emotional response of the aftermath from another character’s POV.  I can intertwine that into the main plotline as the characters move into the final scene.

That’s it!  I got it!  I knew talking to you guys would help. You are all so smart!

Gotta go!  The idea is bursting out of my head, and I need to write it down before it disappears!

Writing to a Deadline Part 4: “I hate this stinking outline”

If you’re just hopping into the insanity that is my writing life, check out my previous “Writing to a Deadline” posts or this won’t make sense.

Outlining is not a waste of time

Outlining is not a waste of time

Outlining is not a waste of time

ARGHHHHHH I hate this stinking outline thing!

No!  I am not going to give up.  I have an idea, but I just want to start writing dern it!  I know where I am going.  The outline is in my head.  Just let me GO!

But it’s already in my head.

Don’t you just hate it when you argue with yourself?

My problem is I have precious little time to write.  Half an hour during the day while I’m at lunch.  That’s it.  I just can’t “get into a character’s head” at home (Dog, husband, three kids… you get the idea.)

Writing down this outline when I could be writing the story makes me want to throw things!

In my writer’s group last night we went off-topic, and someone mentioned that after they outlined, the story flew out of their fingers because they knew exactly where every scene was going.  They are probably right.  There is a “bridge” that I need and I am not sure how my character will get there. That is usually the fun part for me… finding out.  The problem is I don’t have the luxury of the time to figure that out while I am writing a scene that might end up getting deleted.  Deadline, remember?

What fun is that?

Erggghhhhhh!

Going back to the outline, now.  I’ll let you know how I do.

Lesson Twenty-Five from a Manuscript Red Line: Bullying for Bully’s sake

“Having a bully for the sake of having a bully is a contrived way of injecting conflict.”

Well, I don’t think I can say it any better than the publisher’s quote above.

There was a bully in the Gold Mine Manuscript that really had no concrete tie to the main plotline.  His only reason for being in the story was to have a bully in the Main Character’s “normal” life.

For an intro into where these tips are coming from, please see my post: A Full Manuscript Rejection, or a Gold Mine?  You can also click “Rant Worthy Topics” in my right navigation bar.  Choose “Gold Mine Manuscript” to see all the lessons to date.

Knowing a little about the plotline after “book one” I do know that the “bully” would have a little more of a role, but overall, he was never really integral to the plot.  The author has even mentioned that although she was sad about it, the removal of this character was actually fairly easy.

Why?  Because nothing he did was deeply tied into the main plot.  When he was gone, the main plot was still solid, and he wasn’t even missed.  In fact, after reading a partial re-write a month or so ago… I have to admit that the story is even tighter without him.

Take a look at each character in your novel and ask yourself.  “How does this character drive the plot forward?”

If you have to make excuses for why the character is there, it is time to re-think them.

Yes, I know this is hard.  I have three in my own story, but I need them for later novels, and I don’t want them to just magically appear.

1. Tome, is the main character’s roommate, but a stand-by and watch character.

2. Kilet is integral to a few scenes but is replaceable.

3. Brandon  is only in one scene that does nothing to draw the main story forward (although it does draw a side-plot forward.  He will make another one-scene appearance in book two, and then he is a very important character in books three and four.)

I did cut down Kilet to a very brief background role by replacing his “lines” with a more major character, but the other two characters are still there.

I know, I know.  Yes, I know what you are thinking…  I am just admitting the mistakes that I KNOW I am making.  The Brandon scene is tied into Matt cutting his hair, and if you’ve been reading for a while, you know how I feel about that scene.  That is why Brandon is still there.

Yeah, I struggle with this stuff, too.