3 Ways to Infuse Character Voice

By Lisa Poisso

Vocabulary and the way a character speaks are the outer layer of character voice—the icing on the cake. Instead of trying to build character voice from the outside in, get under the character’s skin by revealing how they experience and interpret the story world from the inside out.

Character voice bubbles up organically when every aspect of the story is seen through a character’s-eye view of priorities, perspectives, and agendas. It’s less like cobbling together a latticework of characters, setting, and events than it is establishing a running commentary on how the character views everything caught in that web.

“Running commentary” may sound like something suited for first-person or deep third point of view. In fact, continually inflecting the story with a character’s personal concerns is a fit for any point of view whose narrator is also a character. It’s a seamless way to write. The character voice—with all its attendant observations, judgments, opinions, prejudices, preferences, thoughts, and emotions—effectively becomes your framework for worldbuilding.

The idea of character voice often brings to mind a character’s favorite words and phrases—for example, whether a character calls something neat, cool, lit, or dope. That’s coming at character voice from the outside in. To build character voice from the inside out, start with what the character observes in the first place.

1. What Characters Notice

What you know is inside a room will almost certainly be different from what the viewpoint character notices. What gets noticed depends on who does the noticing. Everyone sees the world through the lens of their own mindset, a potent brew of knowledge, experience, motivations, goals, preferences, hopes, fears …

A musician notes different qualities in a concert hall than an interior designer. A six-year-old child beelines right past the collection of R&B vinyl to get to the puppy. The best friend sees a comfy, lived-in nest while the exhausted mom sees dirty socks and a pile of bills on the counter.

This is where knowing your characters’ histories comes in handy. What memories and emotions are associated with the people, places, and things they meet?

TIP: For deep-level character exploration, there’s no better tool than the Character Builder at One Stop for Writers.

2. What Characters Think About What They Notice

Once you’ve worked out what a character would notice in any particular scene, it’s time to express that observation using their unique frame of reference.

Frame of reference is everything. To a character who spent summers at Grandma’s, it’s not simply the blue couch in the parlor; it’s Grandma’s sacred slab of dusty blue granite. To a carefree bachelor, it’s not a twelve-year-old girl; it’s a whiny tween suffering through Nikes instead of Yeezys.

This personal frame of reference often overtakes more logical, objective methods of description. Only narrators immediately know such details as another character’s exact height or age. The viewpoint character must make a guess: a woman so short he’d need to fold in half to kiss the top of her head, a guy about Mark’s age but with less gray hair.

It would be hard to get too specific with these judgments. People are opinionated. They have beliefs, and hopes, and prejudices about virtually everything they encounter. Don’t be afraid to be judgmental; you’re only letting your character out of the corral.

3. What Characters Are Stewing About

Most people have some sort of agenda at any given moment. What’s on the calendar for today?

Find description for what they feel in the Emotion Thesaurus

This dynamic is supercharged for story characters, who are actively struggling toward specific scene and story goals. Like any of us facing a potentially eventful day, characters mentally and emotionally home in on their goals. Are they on the right track? Is today the day they’ll succeed? Or will all the cards come tumbling down?

Even the smallest actions, such as what a character chooses for breakfast, can be influenced by their goals for the day. If today’s the big presentation, will they eat a carefully balanced meal, pound a half dozen donuts, skip food to avoid nervous heaves, or forget about breakfast entirely? The way your character approaches these details reveals what they think is important.

Filling in the Blanks

Dialogue and thought, including vocabulary and syntax, are the external clothing of character voice. What does the character’s speech reveal about their upbringing, education, and experience? Will readers notice favorite words, phrases, or sayings? This characteristic language creates a neat, recognizable package for readers.

Just don’t forget what’s on the inside, as well.

Peering through a character’s lens into the world is often simpler to carry out after the first draft. Once all the story things are on the page, there’s more room to figure out how the character would view them.

At that point, it’s time to add color. How could you describe every person, place, and thing in a way that reveals something about how the character views it? What do those elements evoke for the character? Dialogue, description, backstory and facts, setting—virtually every element of the writing can be shaded through this personal lens.

Source: writershelpingwriters.net

Visit us at First Edition Design Publishing

Fear Thesaurus Entry: Mediocrity

Debilitating fears are a problem for everyone, an unfortunate part of the human experience. Whether they’re a result of learned behavior as a child, are related to a mental health condition, or stem from a past wounding event, these fears influence a character’s behaviors, habits, beliefs, and personality traits. The compulsion to avoid what they fear will drive characters away from certain people, events, and situations and hold them back in life. 

In your story, this primary fear (or group of fears) will constantly challenge the goal the character is pursuing, tempting them to retreat, settle, and give up on what they want most. Because this fear must be addressed for them to achieve success, balance, and fulfillment, it plays a pivotal part in both character arc and the overall story.

This thesaurus explores the various fears that might be plaguing your character. Use it to understand and utilize fears to fully develop your characters and steer them through their story arc. Please note that this isn’t a self-diagnosis tool. Fears are common in the real world, and while we may at times share similar tendencies as characters, the entry below is for fiction writing purposes only.

Fear of Mediocrity

Notes
The fear of mediocrity is a double-edged sword. On one hand, it can drive the character to do their very best, rising to all occasions and overcoming the obstacles that stand in their way on the path to success. The dark side of this fear comes when it is based on external validation. Needing the admiration of their peers instead of basing their success and value on their uniqueness and areas of strength is a recipe for disaster.

What It Looks Like
The character being hyper-critical of themselves
Searching for purpose in life
Wanting to be extraordinary
Difficulty accepting criticism
Becoming anxious as deadlines approach
Being a perfectionist
The character comparing themselves unfairly to others
Needing external validation
Desiring superiority over others
Refusing to accept mediocrity in others
Having unrealistic expectations
The character basing their value on the opinions of others
Being envious of other people’s accomplishments
Being scared to take risks (because they could result in failure)
Being an overachiever
Having a large ego
Exhibiting narcissistic tendencies
Pointing out other people’s flaws (to counteract their feelings of inferiority)
Going to extremes to prove themselves (getting plastic surgery to improve their appearance, amassing debt to maintain a certain lifestyle, etc.)

Common Internal Struggles
Putting off a new endeavor or adventure for fear of criticism
Not choosing a desired career path because it’s too ordinary
The character wrestling with depression when they fall short of a goal
Feeling demeaned at the slightest criticism
Berating themselves over simple mistakes
Becoming resentful when they don’t receive recognition they feel is warranted
Being overwhelmed with self-doubt and feelings of inadequacy

Flaws That May Emerge
Controlling, Extravagant, Haughty, Impulsive, Insecure, Irrational, Jealous, Judgmental, Know-It-All, Materialistic, Needy, Oversensitive, Perfectionist, Pretentious, Resentful, Self-Destructive, Self-Indulgent, Selfish, Vain, Workaholic

Hindrances and Disruptions to the Character’s Life
Being dissatisfied with significant accomplishments
Constantly being plagued with self-doubt about their abilities
The character living below their potential because they’re afraid to take risks
Needing the praise of people the character admires before they can claim success
Being unfulfilled socially or relationally because the character is focused on achieving goals
Always feeling second-best because the character is comparing themselves to others and coming up short
Frequently burning out

Scenarios That Might Awaken This Fear
Being eclipsed by a successful sibling
The character not winning a competition or contest
Being told they will never amount to anything
Being passed over for a promotion
Seeing an ex-partner with someone the character perceives to be better in some way than the character
Observing someone being showered with accolades and desiring the same
Being assigned a ho-hum role or project where there is no chance to shine
Being teamed up with a partner who is superior to the character (in an area of giftedness, with other people, etc.)

By BECCA PUGLISI

Source: writershelpingwriters.net

Visit us at First Edition Design Publishing

Fear Thesaurus Entry: Humiliation

Debilitating fears are a problem for everyone, an unfortunate part of the human experience. Whether they’re a result of learned behavior as a child, are related to a mental health condition, or stem from a past wounding event, these fears influence a character’s behaviors, habits, beliefs, and personality traits. The compulsion to avoid what they fear will drive characters away from certain people, events, and situations and hold them back in life. 

In your story, this primary fear (or group of fears) will constantly challenge the goal the character is pursuing, tempting them to retreat, settle, and give up on what they want most. Because this fear must be addressed for them to achieve success, balance, and fulfillment, it plays a pivotal part in both character arc and the overall story.

This thesaurus explores the various fears that might be plaguing your character. Use it to understand and utilize fears to fully develop your characters and steer them through their story arc. Please note that this isn’t a self-diagnosis tool. Fears are common in the real world, and while we may at times share similar tendencies as characters, the entry below is for fiction writing purposes only.

Fear of Humiliation

Notes
Humiliation is similar to embarrassment, but it tends to have a public angle, occurring in front of a group of people or friends. The resulting unpleasant emotion is one your character will naturally want to avoid; experiencing it enough could create a fear for the character that causes them to go to great lengths to avoid potentially humiliating situations. Closely related to this is a fear of public speaking, which will be added to our thesaurus soon.

What It Looks Like
Being easily embarrassed
The character overcompensating to prove their worth
Disassociating from persons who have caused humiliation in the past
Avoiding people who witnessed a past humiliation
Being suspicious of certain people and their motives
Becoming antisocial
Being reluctant to meet new people
Taking remarks out of context (assuming humiliation was intended when it wasn’t)
Being overly cautious about not tripping, saying the wrong thing, etc.
Declining social or work opportunities where a public mistake or failure is possible
Excessive worrying about making a blunder
Staying in the background to avoid slipping up in front of others
Downplaying accomplishments or skills to avoid attention
Not becoming romantically involved with others (to keep from being turned down)
The character engaging in self-deprecating humor—making fun of themselves before others have a chance to do so

Common Internal Struggles
Having trust issues
The character feeling paranoid that someone is out to get them
Struggling with perfectionism
Wanting to build relationships and new friendships but fearing what may happen
Assuming the worst will happen despite knowing how unlikely it is
Wanting to run away from a humiliating situation instead of dealing with it head-on
Wondering if the humiliation was justified (self-blame)
Self-loathing undermining the character’s self-esteem
Feeling like there is no escape (if humiliation is frequent and ongoing, maybe as a result of bullying)
Growing feelings of resentment causing the character to consider seeking revenge

Flaws That May Emerge
Antisocial, Defensive, Gullible, Haughty, Inhibited, Insecure, Martyr, Melodramatic, Morbid, Needy, Nervous, Oversensitive, Paranoid, Perfectionist, Pessimistic, Suspicious, Timid, Withdrawn, Worrywart

Hindrances and Disruptions to the Character’s Life
Missing out on good opportunities because they include an element of risk or a possibility of public embarrassment
The character lashing out at perceived humiliation where none was intended, causing problems in relationships
Lingering anger over past humiliations causing the character to be stuck—unable to move past the event
Avoiding places or situations where past indignities occurred
Developing a physical tic or pain from a severe humiliation in the past
The fear of humiliation progressing into an anxiety or panic disorder

Scenarios That Might Awaken This Fear
Being set up on a blind date
Having to walk in front of a group of people or down a flight of stairs to make an entrance
The character having to work with a person who once humiliated them
Someone bringing up a humiliating event from the character’s past
Having to revisit the site of a humiliating event
Seeing someone else’s embarrassing blunder on social media, TV, or in person
Being pressured by a loved one or mentor to do something that carries an element of risk
The character’s feelings about a humiliating event being minimized by others

By BECCA PUGLISI

Source: writershelpingwriters.net

Visit us at First Edition Design Publishing

Compassion Fatigue: Is it Relevant for Your Characters?

We know the importance of making our characters authentic, believable, and memorable for readers. But relevance is important, too, because it makes them relatable. Readers see characters who are facing the same issues they’re facing or dealing with the same struggles they’re dealing with, and a bond is formed. 

As an example, look at To Kill a Mockingbird. It was written in 1960, but this story about children navigating a racially-charged culture that is altering their safe and comfortable world is still relevant to us almost 50 years later. 

Are your characters relevant?

Relevance in your stories is about finding an element for your character or story that your reader can relate to in the real world. It might be heavy (a theme, social or political issue, moral quandary, or mental obstacle) or minor (a hobby or interest, dominant character trait, or common missing human need). Either can be effective. And if you can come up with a common thread that hasn’t been used a million times, that’s always a plus. 

To that end, I’d like to share a real-life malady I’ve recently learned about that may be incredibly relevant to readers today.

Introducing “Compassion Fatigue”

When Angela and I were writing The Occupation Thesaurus, we were researching the nursing career and stumbled over a term we’d never heard before: compassion fatigue

Exhaustion, emotional withdrawal, apathy, or indifference experienced by those who have been exposed to repeated trauma, tragedy, and appeals for assistance

This condition is all-too-common in occupations where people are constantly exposed to trauma (e.g. first responders, social workers, journalists, therapists, animal welfare workers). The frequent exposure to horrible events inherent in these jobs leads to a necessary psychological withdrawal as these workers try to distance themselves from what they’re seeing. While a certain level of withdrawal is healthy, serious cases can lead to problems on the job, relationship conflict, and debilitating mental conditions like PTSD. 

Well, you might think: that’s interesting, but my character doesn’t have that kind of job

Due to the 24-hour cycle of social media and news networks, compassion fatigue is becoming much more widespread. The public’s constant exposure to the suffering of others—sometimes on a hard-to-fathom scale—is taking its toll. 

Compassion fatigue presents with the following symptoms:

  • Physical and emotional exhaustion 
  • Moodiness
  • Increased apathy
  • Lack of focus
  • Weight loss
  • Insomnia
  • Increased drug or alcohol use
  • Isolation
  • Feeling hopeless or powerless
  • Loss of interest in things that once brought joy
  • Self-blame (for not doing more)
  • Decreased efficiency at work
  • Denial

This should give you an idea of how detrimental compassion fatigue can be. You may even recognize some of these symptoms in yourself as you navigate the constant barrage of news coverage. This malady is becoming more common, and therefore more relevant, for today’s readers. As such, it might be something that could work in your story, but as with any real physical or emotional affliction, it needs to be handled responsibly and thoughtfully.

Questions to help you decide:

1. Does It Fit for My Character?

The first consideration is whether or not compassion fatigue actually works for your character. We’ve all seen the results of authors trying to force certain habits, personality traits, or emotional responses onto their cast members. The inauthenticity is almost unbearable, leading to a disconnect with readers. 

As with any other aspect of characterization, you have to do your homework and make sure it makes sense for the character. Compassion fatigue might be a reasonable outcome for someone who…

  • works in a job where trauma and tragedy are frequent.
  • lives, works, or volunteers in a war zone or area of high crime.
  • is a caregiver to a chronically or terminally ill loved one.
  • consistently sees trauma second-hand (on the news, social media, etc.).
  • is highly empathetic and compassionate to begin with.

Basically, if your character consistently witnesses circumstances that naturally arouse their empathy but they’re unable to do anything about those situations, they’re at high risk for compassion fatigue. If this is the case for your character, it may be something that can be written into your story.

COOL TOOL TIP: If your character works in a field where compassion fatigue is high or if you’re looking into those careers, The Occupation Thesaurus can lighten your research load. Each entry includes an overview of the job, necessary training, skills and personality traits that will make the job easier, common sources of friction, the job’s possible impact on basic human needs, and ideas for twisting any stereotypes. Work smarter, not harder :). 

2. Have I Done My Research?

As a real ailment, compassion fatigue needs to be represented accurately. If you’ve suffered with this condition, you’ll have firsthand experience and it will be easier to write. If you haven’t, get to work researching. 

  • Find people who have dealt with it and talk to them. 
  • Read medical journals and legitimate sources on the topic. 
  • Join discussion groups and online communities to find first-person sources. 

Gather the information you need so you can write this condition accurately and realistically for your character.

3. Does It Serve My Story?

Like any physical or mental ailment, compassion fatigue doesn’t exist in a vacuum. It will have far-reaching effects on your character that will impact your story, so it should only be included if those effects serve your purposes. Here are a few natural outcomes of compassion fatigue that might do your story some good:

  • It Provides Organic Conflict Options. Insomnia, lack of focus, moodiness—the symptoms of compassion fatigue are going to cause problems for your character at work. Likewise, increased apathy and withdrawal will make it harder for them to connect with loved ones. Good stories require conflict in every scene, and compassion fatigue can provide that conflict at home, on the job, and everywhere in between.

TOOL TIP: The Conflict Thesaurus at One Stop for Writers has been almost doubled to include over 200 scenarios that can drive your story’s arc and push the protagonist toward much-needed change. If you know the kinds of conflict your character’s compassion fatigue will create, you may be able to find them in this thesaurus. If you’re unsure, the TOD for this collection is a great brainstorming resource. For more information on how The Conflict Thesaurus can be used to strengthen your story, check out this bite-sized video. https://www.youtube.com/embed/pfd5IF7h3ng


  • Compassion Fatigue Impacts Human Needs.Basic human needs are universal to everyone. They’re important to us as authors because when one of them is threatened or removed, it becomes a motivator, driving the choices and actions for your character. Compassion fatigue can impact many of these needs. So whether you want your character to make a monumental error, hit rock bottom, or recognize their need for change, it can be used to position them exactly where you want them.
  • It Contributes to Character Arc. What changes does your character have to make in order to grow and evolve by the end of the story? Maybe she needs to learn that she is as important as the people she serves, and she needs to take better care of herself. This might relate back to a wounding event she’ll need to finally confront and deal with—one where she was devalued or mistreated in some way. If compassion fatigue can tie into any of this, it will make it easier for you to map out that arc.

Final Thoughts

Compassion fatigue is just one example of an element that could provide a sense of relevance for your readers. If you can find that one element to connect your character with today’s reader, it won’t matter how different they are in gender, age, race, time period, or geographic location. It will be enough to start that empathy bond that can carry readers all the way through the story to make sure the character comes out okay.

By BECCA PUGLISI

Source: writershelpingwriters.net

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Visit us at First Edition Design Publishing

How to Find the Conflict in a Story: Conflict Mapping and Other Writing Tips

One of the greatest challenges of writing better stories is knowing exactly which scenes to write. The best scenes focus on the core elements of conflict — which means before you can write amazing scenes, you have to find the central conflict in a story.

You may have a great story idea in your head. But the specifics of it — which moments to capture — are unclear. The result is often writer’s block, or a story that feels “off,” meaning it isn’t focused on the right stuff.

That’s where Conflict Mapping can make your writing even better!

Strong scenes come from strong plans. And visualizing the types of conflict between your characters is a great way to do just that.

When Conflict in a Story Is Unclear

Conflict is essential to a strong story.

To give zest to your plot and move it forward, you need to integrate a type of conflict in every scene.

This can be seen as a moral conflict that sparks an internal struggle, or a force of external conflicts that threaten a character in a physical or  other way.

Rarely does a story’s conflict magically appear in our minds. That’s because inspiration frequently comes from other sources: beauty, music, or situations. Rarely are we inspired by a focused sequence of events built around pursuing a goal (which is what a story is), because this tends to happen too quickly to note.

So when we sit down to write, we’re really just translating the image or idea we had into a word-picture.

Except those aren’t major conflicts.

I experienced this in 2012 when I decided to write a murder mystery about a family in New Orleans. My wife and I even went on vacation there, staying just outside the French Quarter.

And while we saw a lot of beautiful things, heard some amazing music, and came up with many interesting situations, strong story conflict did not come to us as we sweated our way through the city.

The beauty, music, and situations that inspire you to write are wonderful—but these alone are not the core conflicts of your story.

How can we translate inspiration and ideas into clear conflict in a story?

Simple: Start by drawing two circles.

Conflict Map: Drawing a Relationship

To begin your Conflict Map, draw two empty circles. Then, connect them with arcing arrows, like this:

Now, decide which two people are in a relationship in your story. You don’t need names. Just people. Mom and daughter? Boyfriend and girlfriend? Owner and dog? You decide. Just put something in there.

The point is that you are intentionally developing multiple characters in a a story, which gives you an opportunity to create conflict between people, particularly between one character and your protagonist.

Once you’ve done this, on the arrow extending from a character’s bubble, write what they want from the other character. It can be physical (preferable) or non-physical (okay — but add something physical to go with it, like “affection = hug”).

Then, consider what the other character might want from the first. Write it on their arrow.

As you do this, consider traits that might be essential to each character. Jot them in the circles. This is the time to create without any fear or reservations.

And to keep it fear-free, do it in pencil so you can erase and alter to your heart’s delight!

Create 4 Relationships

According to Robert McKee, there are four character types that nearly every protagonist has a relationship with in most stories. Whenever I’m building a new story in a new world, I find this to be a fantastic starting place, and it’s what I did as I built the world of my New Orleans play.

The four character types to fill first, as you plan, are:

  1. Friend: What one might want from a friend? What does the exchange of goals look like in friendship?
  2. Authority: How does this relationship create benevolent and/or negative energy?
  3. Love: How does the protagonist think of, and possibly plan to, pursue their love interest?
  4. Enemy: Who opposes the protagonist? Is it direct opposition (contradicting the protagonist’s goal), or competitive (pursing the same or a similar goal)?

Once you’ve established what the protagonist wants from each of these characters, draw arrows connecting the characters to each other. What might the Authority want from the Friend? The Friend from the Love? And so on.

Not only does this give you more characters to work with, but it plants the seeds for plenty of conflict that will blossom into strong scenes. When characters are engaged in authentic relationships, the conflict between them occurs more naturally. It doesn’t feel unclear, nor does it come out of nowhere.

So plan out two (or more) characters who want things from one another that cannot easily be given.

When you have characters in conflict, you have the makings of a strong story.

You can see my protagonist, Isabel’s, relationship with two of these characters below: the Friend (her adopted brother) and her Authority (her mother, Natasha). Note that I hadn’t figured out Andre’s goal, yet. This truly is a way to discover your protagonist’s “world!”

Add Goals and Go

When I was done with my Conflict Map, it was so big that my play couldn’t possibly contain all the characters and relationships. So I cut five of them!

Yet the map was invaluable for planning the relationships and conflict I would need to make the story work. It gave me the seeds of great, dramatic scenes.

And the result was a fun, thrilling play that surprised everyone with its authentic conflict.

There is one thing I didn’t do, though, that I highly recommend you do: Add action verbs to each character’s goal. There’s a big difference between an Enemy who chooses to “annihilate” to get their goal, versus one who “humiliates.”

My protagonist, a bride-to-be, chose to “soothe” her overbearing mother in order to get her goal of “genuine love and approval. The play would have been much different if she chose to blame, lie, or ignore. Verbs matter, and they can help you as you craft these crucial scenes.

You can check out a large view of my final map here. It’s a mess—four pieces of paper taped together and scanned into the computer in three batches.

Every Story Needs Conflict

Conflict is crucial in a plot and between characters and other forces, like the environment, that challenge the protagonist.

To help you come up with conflict, turn to your planning process. Remember, this is supposed to be messy, not a perfect, finished product. A well-executed plan can lead to a wonderful final product.

Whether or not the main conflict in your scene is internal conflict or minor characters blocking your protagonist and their pursuit of their scene goals, or other external obstacles standing in their way, engaging conflicts will advance a plot and keep your readers engaged.

To plan and implement conflict into your story, give Character Mapping a try. And watch as your story get stronger right away!

How do you find the conflict in a story? Let us know in the comments.

BY David Safford

Source: thewritepractice.com

Visit us at First Edition Design Publishing

Fear Thesaurus Entry: Responsibility for Others

Debilitating fears are a problem for everyone, an unfortunate part of the human experience. Whether they’re a result of learned behavior as a child, are related to a mental health condition, or stem from a past wounding event, these fears influence a character’s behaviors, habits, beliefs, and personality traits. The compulsion to avoid what they fear will drive characters away from certain people, events, and situations and hold them back in life. 

In your story, this primary fear (or group of fears) will constantly challenge the goal the character is pursuing, tempting them to retreat, settle, and give up on what they want most. Because this fear must be addressed for them to achieve success, balance, and fulfillment, it plays a pivotal part in both character arc and the overall story.

This thesaurus explores the various fears that might be plaguing your character. Use it to understand and utilize fears to fully develop your characters and steer them through their story arc. Please note that this isn’t a self-diagnosis tool. Fears are common in the real world, and while we may at times share similar tendencies as characters, the entry below is for fiction writing purposes only.

Being Responsible for Others

Notes
While some people crave being in charge of others, many shy away from it. The pressure of being responsible for someone else’s well-being, success, happiness, etc. can be so great that a character will actively avoid being put in this position.

A fear in this area could realistically develop out of a wounding event—whether the character failed when they were put in charge of someone or they were the one who was let down by the person responsible for them. Their reluctance can also stem from other fears, such as a fear of failure or letting others down.

What It Looks Like
Not having children
The character avoiding situations where they’re put in charge of children
Difficulty building deep relationships with others
Taking jobs that allow the character to work alone
Shifting responsibility for others onto someone else
Acting irresponsibly (to keep others from considering the character when someone needs care)
Avoiding leadership roles
Being neutral or apathetic about social and political issues (because if the character expresses concern or notices injustice, they’ll feel compelled to take action for those being mistreated)
Claiming that social problems aren’t real or are someone else’s problem
Claiming that people needing help are responsible for their own misfortune (so the character can avoid taking responsibility)
Selfishness (real or perceived)—because the character’s priority always seems to be themselves, their own needs and desires, etc.
Reluctance to get involved in a friend’s personal problems
Throwing money at problems (because it allows the character to help without getting personally involved and being responsible for individuals)
Staying busy with work, hobbies, personal pursuits, etc.

Common Internal Struggles
Seeing injustice and wanting it to end but being too afraid to take action
Wanting deeper connections but knowing that a certain level of responsibility for the other parties comes with it
Wishing to be less selfish but feeling powerless to change (because it has become an ingrained defense mechanism)
The character recognizing that they’re becoming irresponsible, self-serving, or superficial but also feeling that those traits are protecting them from harm
Being mired in feelings of inadequacy, incapability, and insecurity (because they believe they’re unable to responsibly care for others)
The character recognizing they’re being limited (professionally, socially, etc.) by this fear but not knowing how to change course
Wanting to eradicate the fear but being unable to get to the root of it—because they’re unwilling to face the past or the reasons behind the fear are complicated and hard to unravel

Flaws That May Emerge
Abrasive, Antisocial, Apathetic, Callous, Childish, Cynical, Disloyal, Evasive, Flaky, Frivolous, Inattentive, Irresponsible, Lazy, Self-Indulgent, Stingy, Suspicious, Uncooperative, Withdrawn, Workaholic

Hindrances and Disruptions to the Character’s Life
Being unable to pursue a dream career that requires being responsible for others
Having few deep relationships or many shallow ones
Not being able to have children (if this something the character would want)
Friction with friends and family members who don’t understand why the character won’t engage on a deeper level
Missing out on growth opportunities because the character is too scared to act
Having to avoid people who will ask more of the character than they’re willing to give

Scenarios That Might Awaken This Fear
Seeing firsthand injustice that requires a response
An emergency situation that requires the character to temporarily take charge of a friend’s child
A niece or nephew being orphaned, and the character being the only relative who can save them from foster care
Being offered a desirable professional opportunity that would put the character in charge of others
The character’s concerns about their inabilities being confirmed by a negative influence in their life
A family member needing long-term care for a physical or mental health issue.

By BECCA PUGLISI

Source: writershelpingwriters.net

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Writing Sprints: A Simple Exercise That Benefits Every Writer

How do you defeat procrastination, write more in less time, and do it with less struggle? Two words: writing sprints.

Word sprints are an amazing writing tool that you can use to improve your writing. Sprinting pushes you to write more words fast, by forcing you to start writing and ignore your inner editor.

They also get you to concentrate on one of the most important ways to improve your writing life: consistent practice.

With continuous practice, word sprints can even help you develop a writing habit that will empower you to write and actually finish a novel or a screenplay—and maybe even develop a career as a writer.

But what are writing sprints? And how can you use them effectively?

Writing Sprints Combat a Writer’s Fatal Enemy: Procrastination

I’ve taught thousands of people how to develop a writing practice that works, to use that practice to write more in less time, and to finish their best novels and memoirs. And recently, I developed a three-part series to help you write more (and better), too.

But out of the thousands of writers I’ve trained over the last ten plus years, most of them have struggled in their writing in some very predictable ways: things like procrastination, writer’s block, perfectionism, lack of ideas, and other things that make their writing a miserable experience, and ultimately keep them from finishing their projects.

And if I’m being completely honest, I also struggle with these writing pitfalls. I’m a professional writer, but writing has never come easy for me. Just ask my teachers growing up.

Over the last couple of decades, I’ve also figured out a set of really simple tricks, writing routines, and practices that have enabled me—possibly the worst procrastinator you know—to write fifteen books, dozens of stories, and hundreds of articles.

One of these writing tips is writing sprints. Why?

Because sprints work. They’ll change your writing life—and impact your writing craft in immeasurable ways. If you do them right.

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Before a Sprint, Set An Intention

Before joining a writing buddy or your fellow sprinters for a writing sprint, pause for a second. Ask yourself, “Am I entering this sprint with a focus? Do I know what I’m going to write today?”

Even if you’re a pantser, you’ll have a more positive experience in a writing sprint if you set an intention for each sprint.

What  is an intention?

Studies on productivity and goal setting have consistently shown that when you set an intention, when you visualize what you’re going to do, when you’re going to do it, and where you’re going to do it, you’re much more likely to actually accomplish your goal.

Think about that for your daily writing. What if you started each writing session not by just pulling out a blank page and starting to write, but instead by setting a clear intention on what you’re going to accomplish that day? How much could that change your writing?

Intentions could be as simple as:

  • A word count
  • A page count
  • A scene count
  • A certain amount of time writing
  • A sprint word count (amount of words in a sprint you want to meet)

To learn more about how to set an intention, sign up for my free writing practice.

But for now, just consider how participating in a writing sprint will feel even more rewarding if you set and meet your writing intention.

The thought feels good, doesn’t it?

Write Fast and Imperfectly

Most of your writing problems, whether it’s procrastination, writer’s block, or just not having fun with writing, come from perfectionism. Which sounds like a relief, right? Because then all you have to do is beat perfectionism, and you’ll be a productive writer!

Not quite. First, because perfectionism is incredibly tough to overcome.

After all, you want to write something great, something that will connect with millions of people, something that will inspire people like the books and stories you’ve loved have inspired you.

And so, perfectionism takes hold.

Writing sprints will help you reach your writing goals—and write better books. This post teaches you all about writing sprints and how to add them to your daily practice.

You write a sentence that doesn’t quite measure up to your standards, and then spend a few minutes fixing it. You finally move on to the next sentence, but that isn’t right either. And then, oh by the way, is your book idea itself right? Is it original? Is it inspired? Is it working at all?

Before you know it, you’ve been staring into the distance for an hour, or worse, scrolling through social media, and all you have to show for your writing time is two lousy sentences and a couple of a handful of likes that you gave on Instagram.

There has to be a better way, right?

Most writers have to overcome procrastination at some point in their career. They can be first time writers working on a first draft, or they can be seasoned writers with multiple bestsellers on the New York Times bestseller list. They could rank high in Amazon for certain genre. It doesn’t matter.

Almost every writer, at some point, will have a moment where they’d rather do anything than write their book. Even it that itch is only temporary.

Luckily, there are writing tools to help you get around it.

The best way to do that is to write fast. Really fast. Like, as fast as you’re able, with no editing. This way your perfectionist brain never gets a chance to judge your writing bad.

That’s why writing sprints are so great. They don’t give you time to procrastinate. You have to focus.

You have to write. Now.

What is a Writing Sprint?

A sprint is when you set a timer and write as much as you can for that period of time without editing or doing anything else.

You can enter a sprint with a very specific focus, like a writing prompt. Or, you can use a sprint to add pages to your current WIP (work-in-progress).

You might join a sprinting group only for certain times of the year, like November for NaNoWriMo. Or you might find a tight-niche writing community that you meet each day on your lunch break. By the way, sprints are an amazing way to get you to write each day, even while working a full-time job.

And here’s the beauty of it—you choose how long you want your sprint to be. It could be twenty minutes, or even just a minute sprint. The point of the sprint is to get you to write: fast, and consistently.

Say, for instance, a writer wants to sprint for thirty minutes.

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This is how to use the spreadsheet:

  1. Set a timer. By the way, don’t use the timer on your phone, since this might distract you. Turn your phone notifications off. Use a timer on the microwave or oven—something not directly next to you. Or use a free timer on your computer like this.
  2. Get writing. Try to stay focused and not do anything else during that period. See how using a timer not on your phone will help with this?
  3. Stop when the timer goes off.
  4. Count how many words or pages you wrote. Don’t skip this step!

Let’s say I wrote three pages. I would write that down, and it’s great. Let’s say this means that I finished my word count goal that day. It’s rewarding and encouraging.

At the same time, if you want, you can keep going and see if you can write even more during your daily writing time.

How Long Should You Set Your Timer For?

There’s no perfect amount of time a writing sprint should last. It depends on how you’re feeling.

If you’re feeling really focused, you might choose to set your timer for thirty minutes or ten minutes or five minutes. Or take a note from the pomodoro method and set it for twenty-five minutes.

If you’re feeling really distracted or like you don’t want to write, you might set it for a shorter period.

For me, I often like to set my timer for just three minutes, because sometimes I’m so busy and so distracted that I only have three minutes of focus in me.

On top of that, I don’t always have much will-power, but I know that I always have three minutes of will power in me. So I set my timer for three minutes and write as quickly as I can.

What Happens When the Timer Goes Off?

Ding, ding! That’s it. Your timer goes off—but are you done? What should you do next?

This is my routine:

  • I stop.
  • I count my words or pages to see how I did.

Why do I track this? Because measuring your output is so important. What you measure gets managed.

Don’t forget to track your output after a writing sprint. This is important.

What you can measure, you can manage.

Notice that I didn’t suggest that you measure how good your writing is, or how your writing made you feel.

Instead, measure how many words you can write in a certain amount of time. This will allow you to track your progress.

Which only gets better the more sprints you complete—the more you practice your writing.

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What Should You Do After a Sprint?

You have two options: you can either decide to take a break or schedule the next time for your next sprint.

What you can’t do is go back and edit. That’s because we want to stay in our creative, productive, fast writing side of the brain. And editing will get us into our perfectionist, slow writing side of the brain.

Resist the urge to go back and edit until later.

Instead, if you feel like you’ve used up all the focus and willpower you have, take a break. You’ve earned it!

But chances are, now that you’ve started, you will probably want to write a little more. So then you can set the timer again, and it’s off to the races.

Once you finish two sprints, here’s where this gets really fun, because you can compare your score.

And so on.

Use Sprints to Prove Your Progress

After a few sprints, compare the worksheets you used to track your progress.

Say you write fifty words in the first sprint and 100 words in the next sprint. Well, maybe you can write 125 in the one after.

The focus can continuously be on beating your score, writing as much as you can as quickly as you can on the topic or chapter or story event that you’re working on for that day.

The benefit of this is that it brings the focus to tracking your words, not how good your writing is, which actually encourages you to write more—and the more you write, the better of a writer you’ll become.

The more you write, the better writer you’ll become. Writing sprints will push you to write more, write faster, and eventually, become a stronger writer.

Believe it or not, it’s the people who don’t write much, who get stuck in perfectionism, that never become better writers. And it makes sense, because they’re not practicing writing.

But by focusing on quantity over quality, you actually can improve the quality of your writing faster than if you only focused on quality.

That’s why sprints are one of the best daily practices you can use in your writing, you might even call them the write practice. (Good one, right?)

So give that a try today!

Set your timer, write as fast as you can, count your words, and then, if you’re up for it, set your timer again. See if you can beat your previous score.

Do this alone or with your writing group. Regardless, get going with it and watch as you become a more productive and stronger writer.

Sprint away.

By doing this, you will not only accomplish your word count goals, you’ll be on your way to finishing your writing project—all while having more fun doing it.

Have you ever participated in a writing sprint? What did you like about it? Let us know in the comments.

By Joe Bunting

Source: thewritepractice.com

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Subterfuge in Dialogue

Dialogue—good dialogue—is tricky. Mechanics can be learned; the rules are readily available and are hammered into us by teachers, editors, critique partners, and countless Facebook memes. The hard part of writing good dialogue is nailing the back-and-forth, the natural ebb and flow that turns dialogue into convincing conversation.

This is the part that will make or break you with readers. They’re intimately familiar with conversation; it’s how they communicate, how they connect with others. So when a bit of dialogue falls flat or doesn’t ring true, it’s like an off-pitch violin sawing away in an otherwise harmonious orchestra.

So how do we make our characters’ discussions authentic? One way is to showcase what they’re hiding

In the real world, we’re rarely 100% honest in our communications with others.  It may not be conscious, but we’re always withholding something—hiding how we feel about a subject, suppressing information, agreeing with someone when in actuality we don’t agree with them at all…Much of the time, we’re only telling part of the truth. 

This will be true of your character, too, and for their dialogue to resonate with readers, you need to be able to show what’s being repressed. To discover this, you first need to know what the character is hoping to get out of the discussion. 

When a person engages in conversation, they do so with a certain objective in mind (even if it’s subconscious). When you identify that goal for your character, you’ll know what they’ll be likely to hold back. So ask yourself: Which of the following outcomes is my character trying to achieve with this conversation?

  • Connecting with others
  • Getting information
  • Giving information
  • Persuading someone to their way of thinking
  • Being affirmed or agreed with
  • Gaining an advantage
  • Being proven right
  • Getting attention
  • Gaining an ally or advantageous contact

Once you know what your character wants, it’s a matter of figuring out what they might be holding back during that exchange. Consider the usual suspects:

Emotions

Feelings are largely what make us human. We connect emotionally with others, so being able to accurately communicate our feelings is important. But emotions also make us vulnerable, so in many scenarios, your character may think it’s in her best interest to mask what she’s feeling. If she’s attracted to someone, she may downplay that until she can see how the other person feels. Sadness is often perceived as weakness, so she might not be willing to put that on display. The same is true with fear. Personality also plays a part in how your character conveys emotion, so there’s a lot to consider when figuring out which feelings your character is likely to hide. 

COOL TOOL TIP: One tool to simplify this process is the One Stop for Writers’ Character Builder. This tool helps you explore all the important aspects of your character so you can be sure all their pieces fit together.

When it comes to hidden emotion, the Emotional Range section in the Behavior tab allows you to play with some vital pieces of information: Is your character reserved or demonstrative to begin with? What emotions are they uncomfortable expressing? What is the character in denial about (and is therefore unwilling or unable to access their true emotions)? What situation might cause them to overreact (possibly because it hits too close to home and touches on emotions they’d rather not share)? 

Questions like these provide insight into your character’s emotional range. They can help you determine which feelings your character is comfortable with and which ones she’s likely to whitewash. 

Opinions

We all have opinions about stuff, and we like to share them. But we’re also social creatures, wanting to be accepted by others. Sometimes, those two desires are at cross purposes, meaning we can’t both share our opinions and connect with people. This is why your character might not be entirely forthcoming about his true beliefs at a job interview, on a first date, when he’s meeting his future in-laws, at church, or in any other situation where doing so could undermine his goal in that moment. 

COOL TOOL TIP: The Character Builder’s Family and General Life section (part of the Daily Life tab) contains tons of questions that could flush out their opinions—ones the character feels really strongly about and those they’d rather other people didn’t know:

  • How does the character feel about their job/school?
  • Who does the character despise?
  • What are they passionate about?
  • Are they religious?
  • What topics of conversation will get them riled up?
  • How does the character spend their free time?

Personality Traits

Strengths and weaknesses commingle to form our individual personalities: we’re patient but selfish, generous but impulsive, irresponsible but encouraging. Our strengths are easy to show off because they make us look good. 

But weaknesses? While everyone has them, we don’t want people to know what they are. So we hide the traits we deem as being less valuable, the ones that could hurt our standing with others. Maybe it’s a flaw that isn’t appreciated in society, like cruelty or intolerance. Perhaps it’s something an important person in our life doesn’t value, like a father who can’t stand indecisiveness or a grandparent who thought generous people were suckers. It may not be a conscious decision, but we all highlight our admirable traits and hide the ones that make us look bad. The same should be true of our characters.

COOL TOOL TIP: Figuring out your character’s flaws and attributes (and which ones they may want to downplay) is super easy with the Character Builder. Brainstorm the reasons behind their traits by examining past influences that may have caused them to form.

Then explore various traits to see how they’ll manifest and what emotions might be tied to them.

Information

Rarely do we reveal everything we know. Communication very often is about the give and take of information, so unlike some of the other things we might hide, this one is usually more purposeful. Our characters should play their cards close to the vest, not sharing information that could hurt them, make them feel uncomfortable, or impede their goals. They may choose to hold an important tidbit back until they have a better feel for how the conversation is going or where the other person stands. Information is always currency; in dialogue, it should be doled out carefully and thoughtfully.

Knowing what your character wants out of a conversation and what he’s going to hide while engaging in it will help you write dialogue that rings true, because readers will see themselves in those ambiguous moments. Granted, there’s a knack to writing the inconsistency between your character’s words and what they really think or feel. That’s a post in and of itself. For now, this tip sheet has some great advice on how to write subterfuge in dialogue. (You can see all our tip sheets about various aspects of storytelling on the OSFW Tip Sheets page.)

What else might your characters hold back in their conversations?

By BECCA PUGLISI

Source: writershelpingwriters.net

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How to Prepare for Writing a Book: 4 Simple Steps You Can Do Now

You’ve been thinking about it for months, promising yourself that when it arrives you are finally going to knuckle down and write your manuscript. Then you realize, you have no idea how to prepare to write a book.

It doesn’t matter if you visit your favorite coffee shop or have the best book ideas in the world. If you don’t figure out your ideal writing process, it’s unlikely that you’ll actually finish your entire book.

If you want to be a successful writer, start your book writing process by evaluating your creative process and when and how you produce the best work.

This may seem overwhelming. Here’s the good news: You don’t have to just jump into it feet first.

There are things you can start doing right now to set yourself up for a solid writing routine and good actual writing that will do your rough draft (or final draft) justice

How to Prepare for Writing a Book: 4 Steps to Get You to the Finish Line

It’s near impossible to walk up to the start line of a marathon and run the race successfully. Doing something that difficult takes preparation.

Writing a novel in a hundred days is like running a marathon. If you want to do it successfully and not completely destroy yourself, you need to prepare for it.

Wondering how to prepare for writing a book? Here are four things you can do to get yourself ready for writing your novel:

1. Think Through Your Beginning, Middle, and End

I know many of us hate the idea of plotting out our books before we start writing. We like being free to go wherever the Muse takes us. We don’t want to spend a period of time on a mind map or chapter outline.

If I could offer a piece of advice:

If we give ourselves a hard deadline, we need to know how much distance we have to cover by that date. Understanding the direction and basic plot of our novel is a MUST before we start trying to write it in a tight time period.

Take some time think through your book. You don’t need to outline it in detail or use a special formula. You just need to get the basic ideas down.

Take a page out of many a bestselling author and other professional writers who plan before they write: A book plan can help them stay on track, which many writers need when writing on a deadline.

To help you get started with this plan, consider these questions:

  • What is your book genre? Are there any fresh ideas you can build on it that genre?
  • What is the big idea for your book? Can it withstand the length of an entire manuscript?
  • How does your book start?
  • What is the problem the characters have to solve?
  • What do you characters want? What’s stopping them?
  • How will you raise the stakes in the book?
  • What happens next? How will things escalate?
  • How does your story end?

Having a basic outline in your head will help give some direction to your writing so you can hit your deadline.

At the very least, I would encourage your to write a brief summary, or back cover copy for your book idea, if you don’t want to develop a detailed outline. And this goes for nonfiction books as well as fiction books.

2. Starting Writing a Little Now

Writing is like working out. The more we do it, the easier it is. And, just like working out, if we haven’t done it for a while and then jump right back into it, we are going to be sore and we might even hurt ourselves.

You don’t need to start writing at your 100 Day Book pace, but it wouldn’t hurt to get your writing muscles warmed up a little.

Try writing for a few hours two or three nights a week. That way when you sit down on the first day of 100 Day Book, or another deadline that you’ve set for your book draft, it isn’t the first time you’ve tried to run in months.

Here are some actionable steps you can take now to practice writing before you start your book: 

  • Pick a time of day that you can write for fifteen minutes and tackle on of our writing prompts.
  • Pull out your favorite book title, or think of a temporary title for your book idea. Now, write a scene that speaks to that title in some way.
  • Write a reaction paragraph to this story event: A person comes home to their house and finds the lock broken, the house trashed, and everything preserved but their treasured family heirloom.
  • Find a writing space that makes you feel energized. Clean it up if it is a disheveled environment, maybe even place two or three of your favorite books that have a powerful book cover design on your desk for inspiration. Then, put on some energizing music (preferably lyric-less music, if you’re like me) and spend ten minutes to write about what you’re grateful for today.
  • Find an accountability partner. Spend a bit of time one or two days a week to write together in a writing sprint.
  • Write a book review for the last book you read and loved. Concentrate on what really caught your attention.

3. Write a Few Short Stories With the Main Characters

The hardest thing for me to get right in a novel is each character’s voice. When I’m comfortable with a character’s voice, writing the character is like putting on an old sweatshirt. The character fits comfortably.

If I don’t spend time getting to know my characters, they all come out sounding the same.

One way to get comfortable with your characters is to write a few short stories with them as the protagonists. The stories don’t have to have anything to do with your novel.

Put your character in a coffee house and force him or her to deal with an angry barista. Have a cop give your character a parking ticket. Take your character on a terrible date.

Putting your character in a difficult situation will help you get to know your character’s voice so when it is time to start the book, you don’t need to spend time writing characters you are uncomfortable with.

4. Dream About Some Scenes

Before a novel really starts to flow, I need to get a few critical scenes in my head.

As I’m preparing to work on a book, for several weeks right before I fall asleep at night, I’ll intentionally try to imagine a scene from the book.

Ideally, I’ll spend the night dreaming about the scene, and then when I wake up in the morning I’m ready to write it. It doesn’t always work that way, but more often than not imaging scenes in this way makes them easier to write.

Before you jump into writing your novel, try journalling out some of the scenes you think you might want to include. Focus on the emotional flow of the scenes and character reactions.

You don’t need to write the scenes in full. Just let them start to play in your mind. Try watching the scenes like you are watching a movie. Then play the scenes out through different characters’ eyes.

If you have a few good scenes in your head, your writing will go faster.

Prepare to Write

Yes, you might not start writing your book until the 100 days begin in the 100 Day Book program begins, or whenever you’ve decided to start writing your book.

But you don’t have to show up to the 100 Day Book program unprepared.

Set yourself up for success by getting ready for the difficult task of writing a novel. When you have a writing method and strategy that works for you, you’re far more likely to reach your book writing goals.

This could be developing a chapter by chapter book outline, or just getting the bare bones down on a piece of paper.

And when you start, we’ll be here cheering for you!

Do you have tricks for how to prepare for writing a book? Share them in the comments.

By Jeff Elkins

Source: thewritepractice.com

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Fear Thesaurus Entry: A Secret Being Revealed

Debilitating fears are a problem for everyone, an unfortunate part of the human experience. Whether they’re a result of learned behavior as a child, are related to a mental health condition, or stem from a past wounding event, these fears influence a character’s behaviors, habits, beliefs, and personality traits. The compulsion to avoid what they fear will drive characters away from certain people, events, and situations and hold them back in life. 

In your story, this primary fear (or group of fears) will constantly challenge the goal the character is pursuing, tempting them to retreat, settle, and give up on what they want most. Because this fear must be addressed for them to achieve success, balance, and fulfillment, it plays a pivotal part in both character arc and the overall story.

This thesaurus explores the various fears that might be plaguing your character. Use it to understand and utilize fears to fully develop your characters and steer them through their story arc. Please note that this isn’t a self-diagnosis tool. Fears are common in the real world, and while we may at times share similar tendencies as characters, the entry below is for fiction writing purposes only.

A Secret Being Revealed

Notes
You better believe your character has something to hide. Small indiscretions—cheating on a diet, lying to a loved one—are one thing, but big secrets have the ability to completely destroy your character. If they’re hiding a shame-based secret, one that is tied to who they are at their core, or something they believe could train-wreck their life (or someone else’s), the fear of it coming to light can push them to rearrange their existence around keeping it hidden, resulting in massive fallout in many areas of the character’s life.

What It Looks Like
Being evasive
Withdrawing from others
Claiming that events from the past happened differently than they actually did
Living in denial about what happened
Changing the subject when certain topics are broached
Deflecting—turning the attention off of themselves and onto someone else
Picking a fight about something else if someone is getting too close to the truth
Having relationships that only go to a certain depth, limiting their intimacy with others
Signs of nervousness or agitation in specific situations
Physical ailments, such as insomnia, incontinence, acid reflux, acne breakouts, etc.
Seeking treatment for anxiety, panic attacks, and emotional volatility
Staying busy (to avoid thinking about the secret)
Self-medicating with alcohol or drugs
Engaging in risky behaviors
Discomfort and weirdness around people who know about the secret or were involved in it

Common Internal Struggles
Feeling guilty for not being honest with others
Knowing the secret should be shared but being too afraid of other people finding out
Obsessing over interactions with others to see if they might suspect the character of hiding something
Fighting to avoid thoughts about the secret; doing anything to keep from facing it
Engaging in unhealthy behaviors to cope, then feeling ashamed
Struggling with anxiety
Feeling unworthy or unlovable
Burying the secret so deep that the layers of coping mechanisms and lies the character has constructed make it difficult to address

Flaws That May Emerge
Addictive, Confrontational, Dishonest, Evasive, Flaky, Inflexible, Inhibited, Insecure, Irrational, Nervous, Oversensitive, Paranoid, Reckless, Self-Destructive, Timid, Uncommunicative, Volatile, Worrywart

Hindrances and Disruptions to the Character’s Life
Being seen by others as dishonest, flaky, or evasive
Sabotaging relationships with people who get too close to the truth
Having to avoid certain people (because they share the secret, they’re nosy, etc.)
The character having to remember all the lies they’ve told and to whom
Difficulty remember past events clearly because the character has lied about them in different ways to different people
Suffering from a mental health condition brought on by the stress and anxiety
Being unable to pursue a hobby or occupation the character is passionate about (because the secret is tied to the character’s identity or it’s too close to the source of their secret)

Scenarios That Might Awaken This Fear
Someone saying something that makes the character think they might know what’s being hidden
The character being given an ultimatum by a spouse or partner that requires them to come clean
Encountering someone who knows about the secret or played a part in its genesis
Being blackmailed by someone threatening to go public with the secret
New evidence being found and the case being reopened (if the secret is related to a crime)
Attending therapy for an unrelated issue and the secret being unearthed in the character’s memory.

By BECCA PUGLISI

Source:writershelpingwriters.net

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