Get Your Manuscript Past the Gatekeeper #7: Let’s Talk About Character Development Part 1

Get past the gatekeeper

Based on personal experience as a first-reader intern for a literary agency, I’m sharing what can get your manuscript past the gatekeeper (the intern!) and into the hands of the agent.

Use of Formal Language

prince PKO_0001172prince PKO_0001172Are there places in your book where the language feels a little too formal?

Watch for use of contractions.

They are best used in dialogue and less in the narrative.

Read your story aloud to check.


Remember your audience

And when it comes to language, always remember your audience. For example: You can have mature characters but make sure when writing for tweens, for example, you think like a tween. The reader needs to believe that this is a 12-year-old boy that is going through all of this. His thoughts, actions and reactions need to match that.

The Dreaded “Voice”

Watch for “breaking the fourth wall” like in the TV shows Malcolm in the Middle and House of Cards where the characters speak directly to the camera. This can take us out of the story. In fiction writing this is called breaking the frame of the novel and this style of oral storytelling can reveal an author feeling around for the voice in his story if not done well.

Be consistent!

Be consistent with your character’s voice. Does one character speak formally unlike the others? Carry that through the story. You don’t want your readers to say “Oh, he wouldn’t say that. That’s so out of character.”

Character Growth:

Build up your characters as you write them. Show us their faults, their desires, their conflicts with others – show us their reactions. Reactions are stronger than “telling” us how they feel and even stronger than “dialogue” as what they “tell” is not always the truth – but it’s our reactions that show who we are, right?

swish skid markTIP: Incorporating dialogue and body language can provide another character’s point of view without breaking away from the voice the scene is written in.

Now go. Work on building characters to care about!

It may help you get past the gatekeeper.

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About Donna: Donna Galanti is the author of A Human Element and A Hidden Element (Imajin Books), the first two award-winning, bestselling books in the paranormal suspense Element Trilogy, and the middle grade fantasy adventure series Joshua and The Lightning Road (Month9Books). Donna is a contributing editor to International Thriller Writers the Big Thrill magazine and blogs at Project Mayhem. She lives in Pennsylvania with her family in an old farmhouse. Visit her at

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About Joshua and the Lightning Road:

Twelve-year-old Joshua Cooper learns the hard way that lightning never strikes by chance when a bolt strikes his house and whisks away his best friend—possibly forever. To get him back, Joshua must travel the Lightning Road to a dark world where stolen human kids are work slaves ruled by the frustrated heirs of the Greek Olympians who come to see Joshua as the hero prophesied to restore their lost powers. New friends come to Joshua’s aid and while battling beasts and bandits and fending off the Child Collector, Joshua’s mission quickly becomes more than a search for his friend—it becomes the battle of his life.


3 responses to “Get Your Manuscript Past the Gatekeeper #7: Let’s Talk About Character Development Part 1

  1. Pingback: Top Picks Thursday 07-30-2015 | The Author Chronicles

  2. Good point about the contractions slipping in – something to check for.
    Body language – we use that in real life, should show up in writing, too. great point

    • I agree on body language! It’s fun to see how what people say and how they react can contradict each other – and we can bring that to life in our characters. Subtext!