Tag Archives: fictional character

Word Choice for Character Strength

Elizabeth Essex

My favorite things about any book is always the CHARACTERS—I like Pride & Prejudice more than Northanger Abbey, because I like forthright Lizzie Bennet more than I like silly but well-meaning Catherine Moreland. But I love Persuasion best of all because I LOVE sweet, kind, thoughtful, long-suffering Anne Elliot.

That is why I believe every word in your novel should serve two purposes:

— to move the plot forward,

— and give greater insight into the characters

so our readers have an authentic and immersive experience—that is, a unique experience that they witness through eyes, ears, sensory experiences and emotions of our characters.

We can achieve this by using “power words,” “scene-themed words,” but more especially “character-themed” words.

Power Words give strong images & associations and drive up tension

Scene-themed words give us the vital information to tell us where and when we are in the story and what’s going on.

Character-themed words give us insight into the mind and thoughts of our characters

But the MOST POWERFUL WORD is one that does double or triple duty in combining all three of these concepts together.

In my first drafts, I give myself permission to write lazily—to give an easy, generic  description, or fall back into cliché—just to get the action of the story down on paper. But once I can see the through-line of the plot, then I like to go back and find opportunities to inject as much POWER, SETTING and CHARACTER into my work as possible.

Let’s look at six specific examples from my latest Highland Brides novel, Mad, Bad and Dangerous to Marry.

 Ewan Cameron, 5th Duke of Crieff’s joy was a rare and pleasantly exhilarating thing, like the hot tot of strong Scots whisky he tossed back to celebrate the good news—he was going to be married.

In this passage the character-themed phrase is “hot tot of strong Scots Whisky.” I could have said “he took a strong drink,” or “tossed back a bolt of brandy.” But I chose power words that would also place us strongly in the setting—the highlands of Scotland—and tell us more about the hero’s character—he’s a strong Scotsman through and through.

Note also: I’ve made this phrase punch over its weight by adding rhyme (hot tot) and alliteration (strong Scots) for cadence.

He slitted one eye open to see an auld fellow wearing a weather-beaten face leaning over him, inspecting him like a gralloched deer on a game larder hook.

Our character-themed phrase is Our character-themed phrase is like a gralloched deer on a game larder hook. I could have said (and probably did in my first draft), “like meat on a butcher’s counter,” which was a good, vivid description, but did little to punch up the setting and make the circumstances unique to the hero’s world. You don’t even have to know the Scots colloquial power word “gralloched” (gutted) to get a very visceral, vivid picture that is specific to this hero’s life in the Scottish countryside.

Greer knew she was no conventional beauty—she was too ordinary, too sharp-jawed, too flame-haired to be considered bonnie anywhere but Scotland—but she knew she was loved. Which gave one a different sort of beauty—a beauty that came from confidence in one’s merits instead of solely one’s looks.

In my first draft, I had used the rather ordinary phrase “considered pretty anywhere but Scotland.” But I made the phrase work a little bit harder with the simple use of a setting and character-specific colloquial word, ‘bonnie’ instead. It was a small change, but one that deepened both character and setting.

The lass came over the lip of the ridge like the sunrise—sweeping the glen with light and warmth. Not that he had been watching for her, but the peregrine falcons high on the cliff tops had nothing on him for sharpness of eye.

I could have said ‘the girl’ came over the ridge, but I chose the more colloquial, scene and character-specific word ‘lass.’ And then to describe the way the hero had been watching for her, I visualized his world in the highlands of Scotland, and decided that the sharpest eyes in his world would be peregrine falcons, which are native to the highlands. If this book had been set in the slums of London, I might have said the “cutty-eyed kid men of Covent Garden had nothing on him for sharpness of eye.”

[He was] afraid he would startle her into flight like a deer at the sound of a gunshot.

This character-themed phrase is specific to this hero’s life and surroundings. If this were a contemporary-set thriller, I might convey someone’s startlement differently: “the backfire made her hit the deck faster than a combat medic,” or something that would convey an instantly vivid picture of the character’s world and experiences. And this image from the hero’s background—he has stalked deer in these mountains—gives the strong, power word “gunshot” at the end of the sentence foreshadows that very soon in the book, someone is going to take a shot at this lass. 

 Her heart leapt like a highland dancer.

I could have just said her heart leapt—that would have given me a good visceral reaction. But I wanted to go deeper, and convey that this was a joyous reaction, not a fearful one. So I chose “highland dancer’ to create an uplifting image—all that colorful, pointed elegance—that is specific to the characters and the setting of the novel.

Lesson learned: We use a great many words over the course of a full-length novel—but we want to make them do more heavy hitting, but doubling, and tripling their power by adding scene-themed or setting specific words along with character-themed words that are specific to the hero and heroine’s experiences in their world.

Think about your own work in progress—what unique experiences does your character have that you can use in your story to give your readers an authentic experience? Please use the comments to share an example of before and after from your own work!

If you have questions or comments, I’ll be around to answer them, or you can write me at elizabeth@elizabethessex.com, or find me on Facebook, or Twitter and Instagram as @essexromance.

Wishing you all happy, powerful writing!

Source: writersinthestormblog.com

Visit us at First Edition Design Publishing

How to Increase Your Income as a Fiction Writer in 2018

Today’s guest post is by Dave Chesson of Kindlepreneur.

2017 was a wild year for authors.

We saw the rise of Amazon’s book advertising system, AMS, and the fall of most authors’ favorite publishing tool, Pronoun. We’ve seen more competition in Amazon, and even saw Amazon change some of the ways they do things, like the introduction of KDP print.

If Amazon wasn’t enough, Apple has promised to invest more in the book industry and Kobo has partnered up with Walmart, all in an attempt to take on Amazon, the current undesputed book sales champion of the world.

Plain and simple, the landscape is always changing.

That’s why it’s important for us authors to not only look to the future so as to improve our craft but also look at trends and ways in which we can earn more and thus gain a competitive edge in the new age.

More importantly, with the cost of successfully publishing and marketing our books rising, it’s becoming evident that we need to step back, look at our process, and see if there are ways we can get even more out of what we’ve already gotten.

It’s about increasing our writing revenue.

Luckily, there’s new information that can help us to not only market better but also gain more income in ways we may not have thought possible.

Here are three ways you can increase your fiction-writer income in 2018 so as to stay ahead of the pack and gain a new competitive edge.

1. Offer More Formats of Your Book

It’s amazing how many writers leave good money on the table by only offering their work in only one or two versions. With formatting programs like Jutoh, Scrivener, and Vellum, creating ebooks for all markets, and even print books, has never been easier.

But also, thanks to ACX, creating audiobooks is easy too. Audiobooks have become a major source of income for authors, and most analysts project this to only increase over the years.

But offering different formats has another big benefit other than direct sales—it pleases Amazon and the other book markets. One of the major factors as to why one book shows up over the other is conversion rate. Let me explain:

When someone does a search on Amazon, Amazon looks to see which book they ended up buying. If more people choose one book over another, Amazon’s search algorithm will make sure that that higher converting book will show up more—it seems to be the more profitable.

So, having all the different formats will give you a higher conversion rate and thus make Amazon show your book more often and in better rankings.

So, take a look at your titles and start offering your book in more markets and different forms. The future looks bright for authors who do so.

2. Monetize Your Email List Better With These

Many fiction authors have an email list, and if you don’t, you should definitely set one up as soon as possible.

However, most authors only use it to push their books, or network with other authors and email list share. Both of which are great uses. But there are more ways to earn a continuous stream of income and still provide for your readers—affiliate links to useful things.

There really are some useful ways to not only make an affiliate commission in your autoresponder series but also provide value. Below are a couple of the valuable offers any fiction author can offer to readers:

Audible Free Trial Offer: Through Amazon Associate, you can sign up to be an affiliate of Audible.  With that link, if anyone clicks it and signs up for a free trial, they get two free audiobooks, and you get $5. Basically, you can gift two free audiobooks and still make money. If they use their gift to purchase your audiobook, you get even more.

One important fact, though, is that with Amazon Associate, you can’t send the link via email (it’s prohibited). So, in this case, I write a blog post about it, and list my favorite audiobooks, and send an email directing my readers to that post.

Kobo Offer: Unlike Audible, you can email this link directly to your readers. If they click your Kobo affiliate link and sign up for a buyers’ account, they get $5 credit toward a book, and you get $10 credit. It’s not money, but what great writer doesn’t read a lot of books? This will help cut those costs big-time.

Scrivener Affiliate: You may be surprised that promoting a book-writing software like this helps. But in your fiction email list there are a lot of readers that truly want to one day write their book, if they haven’t already. So, getting a peek behind the scences on how you construct your book will be a great opportunity to not only connect with your readers but also make some affiliate sales as well.

If you haven’t tried Scrivener, be sure to check it out and sign up to be an affiliate. Also, you can offer your readers a 20% discount. Just go to a Scrivener discount website and find one, test it, and then send it out in your email. That will help get people over the fence on it.

As you can see, there are a lot of great ways to provide great value to your email readers and make some extra cash as well.

#3: Offer Side Services

Another way authors have been able to increase their revenue while still sharpening their skills is to offer writing or other author services like editing.

Many authors become editors in their genre not just for the money but also for the ability to keep up-to-date, improve their skills, and have an opporunity to network with other authors in their genre.

Also, if you decide to become an editor for a genre, and you have a website, contact us at Kindlepreneur.com and we’ll make sure to add you to our list of book editors. It shows up #1 in Google for the search “book editors,” so that should help you get some opportunities.

But editing isn’t all. Here are some ideas of side author services you could offer:

  • Book cover design
  • Ghostwriting
  • Proofreading
  • Coaching
  • Formatting
  • Book marketing services
  • Consulting for book launches

And more.

A new 2018 for Fiction Authors

As you can see, the world of book marketing and publishing is changing. But we don’t have to radically change in order to keep up. Just a couple things can help you not only stay ahead of the game but also increase your income as well.

Whether you add your book to more formats and markets, add affiliate links to your autoresponder email series, or take on a side author service, there are ways you can earn more, and keep ahead.

Which one will you put into use for 2018? Let me know in the comments.

Source: livewritethrive.com

Visit us at First Edition Design Publishing

Should Your Main Character Be Likable?

I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve gotten the note: “Make your character less difficult. She’s not likable enough.” I didn’t do it on purpose; it’s just that my female characters tend to be complex, like the women I know. It happened when the female leads were opinionated. They had standards and held fast to them. They want. They railed against those who got in their way.

Should Your Main Character Be Likable 2

They were not compliant.

There aren’t that many female characters in literature or TV that can be considered difficult. Check out this list of unlikable characters from literature. There are female characters on there, yes, but the only female on it is Bella Swan of Twilight (a box I’d rather not open on this particular post).

Male characters with those difficult attributes are generally embraced by the public. Think Sherlock Holmes. A Man Called Ove. House. Sheldon Cooper. Nobody would ever call them compliant, yet they are beloved. Even those who may not be beloved (Dexter, Don Draper, Walter White) are still pretty darn popular.

What’s the Explanation?

Unlikable female main characters only seem to inhabit a limited number of genres. If you’re writing women’s fiction and not a thriller or literary fiction, you’re likely to find resistance with an unlikable female lead. Why is that? An editor might tell you that an unlikable female character won’t engage the average reader, and therefore not sell books. Upmarket fiction is a blend of literary and commercial: think generally the type of novel with a theme meaty enough for book clubs and enough plot to keep the average reader engaged. In this genre, I would bet that most female characters are likable.

Non-compliant women threaten to overturn our social norms. My guess is because although American society has made great inroads since women got the vote, it still hasn’t been all that long since women were considered property. Even those who consider themselves feminists are not always completely able to shake free of sexism. We don’t like it when women defy social norms. Celeste Ng’s terrific Little Fires Everywhere explores in part how the bourgeoise take down those women who defy unwritten cultural rules, fearing that their own lives will be called into question.

Also think of Elizabeth Strout’s character Olive Kitteridge. Nobody could call Olive likable. She’s thorny, with standards that others find it impossible to live up to. She messes up her relationships. And she doesn’t care what others think. Essays have been written about her unlikability. Same with Claire Messud’s Nora in The Woman Upstairs. Messud told Publisher’s Weekly, “If you’re reading to find friends, you’re in deep trouble. We read to find life, in all its possibilities. The relevant question isn’t ‘is this a potential friend for me?’ but ‘is this character alive?’”

Should Your Main Character Be Likable?

That’s up to you. Perhaps an unlikable narrator is just not right for your story. Or perhaps you’ve written a deliciously non-compliant difficult woman for a thriller, and you want to keep her that way. Whether or not your character is likable in the traditional sense, their actions must be borne out of a grounded place. And of course, even if your character’s unlikable, they must still be interesting.

But if it’s important to your story that the reader identify with your character and it’s bothering you that your main character is labeled difficult, then there are a few ways you could amend that.

What Makes a Difficult Character Likable?

Here are two TV examples of difficult women. Sophia in The Golden Girls is pretty crotchety, but hey, we can excuse her because she’s super old. And she loves her daughter, and her daughter’s devoted to her.

April Ludgate from Parks and Rec is also difficult. But she loves the resident doofus, Andy. And she secretly loves everyone. And by the end of the series, April has softened considerably.

Perhaps that’s the key—audiences like to see those difficult females actually do love certain people and transform. We know that Sophia’s not going to change because she’s too old, and her blunt snarkiness is key. But someone like April could change.

And this could be true with some of the male main characters I cited. Sherlock Holmes doesn’t really love anyone deeply, except maybe Watson—and he still abuses the poor guy quite a bit. But we forgive him because he’s a GENIUS! And in the newer BBC series, we do see a little character development with him.

In A Man Called Ove, Ove’s backstory slowly unspools. We learn of his despair since he lost his wife, and how important she was to him. There’s a warm cast of characters who believe in him despite his gruffness. He changes, too. He also saves and then cares for a stray cat.

So if you want readers to like your difficult character:

• Make someone else see the good in them.
• Give them something to love. A plant, a pet, a sibling she saves from death (Katniss!), a lost love.
• Add humor. A difficult character with biting wit is more fun to read than one who’s not only difficult but humorless.

Has anyone told you to make your female main character more likable? Do you think the “likability factor” holds true for gender non-binary characters as well? Do you think an upmarket women’s fiction book market would support an unlikable female main character? What are your favorite books, films, and TV shows featuring unlikable main characters?

By
Source: writerunboxed.com

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Sneak Peek at Story Drills: Character Arcs

Today’s post offers a sneak peek at my forthcoming book, Story Drills: Fiction Writing Exercises for Building Storytelling Skills. This exercise examines character arcs. Enjoy!

Character Arcs

In storytelling, an arc is a path of transformation. A character arc is the journey that a character experiences throughout the course of a story, which leads to a significant change.

Changes can occur internally or externally. Characters can acquire or lose knowledge, skills, or emotional strength—or they can gain or lose relationships, material possessions, or status. Some of the best character arcs are a combination of both internal and external transformations.

A character’s arc can be positive or negative. Most heroes emerge from a story wiser, stronger, or better off in some significant way. However, some characters experience a downward spiral—they are on top of the world when we meet them, and then we watch them fall. A character’s arc can also wind through the story’s events—up and down—only to lead back to where they were at the beginning.

An arc is common—some say essential—for a protagonist, but any character in a story can experience an arc. In Star Wars: Episode IV A New Hope, the protagonist, Luke Skywalker, undergoes significant growth, but supporting character Han Solo also gets a meaningful arc that is critical to the story.

At its core, an arc signifies change and gives the events of the story deeper meaning—after all, stories are about conflict, and what good is conflict if it doesn’t produce meaningful change in our lives?

These changes range from deeply significant to superficial. Some characters will start out as store clerks and end up as store managers. Others will save the world.

Character arcs don’t appear in all stories. Stories with minor or nonexistent character arcs are usually plot driven. For example, police procedural series tend to focus more on showing the detective solving crimes in each installment without undergoing much meaningful personal transformation.

There are some common milestones that characters experience throughout an arc, especially the protagonist. These include establishing goals or realizing that they want or need something; facing conflicts and challenges; making difficult decisions; and experiencing the consequences of their decisions (good and bad). As a result of these experiences, the characters are transformed by the end of the story.

Study:

Choose a character from a story you know well and plot the character’s arc, noting the gains, losses, and transformations that the character experiences as the story progresses. Make sure you note the corresponding story event with the change that it effects in the character.

Practice:

Start with the following premise: A child’s mother dies while the father is overseas on a top-secret mission. The child is put in foster care for almost a year until the father returns. Make a list of five plot points and how each of these events changes the protagonist. Then write a short paragraph describing the protagonist’s arc over the course of the story. Feel free to come up with your own story premise for this exercise.

Questions:

Can you think of any protagonists that don’t change over the course of a story? Can you think of some supporting characters who experienced significant arcs? How does a character arc enrich the reader’s experience?

By Melissa Donovan
Source: writingforward.com

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Dilemma: 4 Powerful Steps to Make Your Characters Choose

The Spring Writing Contest is coming soon!

If you haven’t heard of them, the Write Practice’s seasonal writing contests are a great opportunity to get published and possibly win fame and (a small) fortune.

Perhaps you’ve entered before, but haven’t found the winner’s circle. Rejection is a familiar badge of honor amongst seasoned writers, but for many of us it can be tiring, and even tempt us to stop entering contests or submitting to publications.

But what if there was one thing you could change about your writing that could almost instantly make it better?

There is! There is a storytelling element that I’ve seen as an entrant and judge of multiple fiction contests that makes stories work and win, standing out above the rest.

And that single, difference-making element is a Powerful Choice.

When We Forget “Choice”

Unfortunately, this element isn’t as simple as it sounds. Characters yelling and screaming and fighting and kissing doesn’t necessarily count as a powerful choice. Sometimes it’s just noise, not a dilemma.

Other times writers fill their 1,500-word submission with lyrical prose and vivid imagery, but nothing happens. There are no dilemmas to be found. And though it always saddens me to do, as a judge I had to move on from such pieces.

Stories contains many elements that may be fun to write or read. But a story cannot possibly work without a powerful choice. It is central to any successful narrative.

In the same way, a house may be more valuable if it comes with marble countertops or vaulted ceilings. But without a solid foundation, the house is worthless, regardless of how aesthetically pleasing it may be.

In Aristotle’s Poetics, he defines dramatic tragedy as “the imitation of an action.” And while the stories you write are not all tragic, they are dramatic, in that they seek to create an impression of life.

In other words, they imitate life.

And when we imitate life, we are imitating the most basic act of life: a choice, or an action.

A story without a choice may be beautiful for its language or description. It may be memorable for any number of reasons.

But it won’t be remembered as a contest winner, because it will fail to do the most important storytelling job: To imitate the action of choice.

How to Imitate an Action

Imitating an action may seem like a simple chore. After all, “action” is a lot of fun to write, isn’t it?

But genuine choices aren’t just about the action or motion that takes place. Often most of the energy is potential — it’s in the build-up to the action.

And that is where you need to focus your storytelling energy, at least at first. Then, once your character has made his or her choice, you need to spend time on the fallout from this choice. Consequences are massively important to a well-told story, and your reader will want to know how a character’s choices play out.

So let’s look at the four steps to a powerful choice that will make your story a winner!

1. Desire & Goal

Before any choice is made, the protagonist must have a Desire.

Without desire, a choice doesn’t have any meaning. It is simply an item on a grocery list. And story desires can never be so trite and hope to win over a reader.

Then, the desire must be formed into a Goal, a stated or thought objective in the protagonist’s mind. If it isn’t clear to the protagonist — and therefore the reader — that this goal is the “Why?” behind everything he/she is doing in the story, then the story will be confusing and the reader will struggle to follow it, even if it makes sense to you.

So despite how “deep” we want our stories to be, two things must be abundantly clear: What the protagonist wants (Desire) and how he/she plans to get it (Goal).

2. Resistance & Conflict

The next step in a powerful choice is Resistance and Conflict, two forces that will make your protagonist’s goal interesting and worth reading about.

After all, if the object of desire (money, a lover, a new job, getting home, etc) is easily attainable, then it will fail to produce a story that your reader simply can’t put down.

So there must be a reason, or reasons, why the protagonist cannot achieve the goal and get what he/she wants right now. And those reasons must seem insurmountable.

The resistance and conflict can come from diverse places, too. The setting can push back. Family and society can dissuade and even forbid the protagonist from advancing. And a villainous antagonist (and his/her minions or servants) can make life hell for our hero along the way.

Without brutal resistance and difficult conflict, the protagonist cannot be faced with a tough dilemma and driven to the point of making a powerful choice. Devoid of this pushback, the choice would be easy, predictable, and obvious. That’s the last thing you want!

So make sure that the resistance and conflict push your protagonist as far as he/she can go without completely breaking.

3. Risky Choice

Finally, the moment must come when the protagonist imitates the greatest action in all of humanity: the Choice with unimaginable consequences!

But it requires lots of set-up. It can’t be done without a relatable and clear Desire/Goal, or a highly antagonistic pairing of Resistance/Conflict.

To make the choice work, the hero can’t simply choose between an obvious “Yes” and equally apparent “No.” Choosing to kill the bad guy versus choosing to run away like a wimp isn’t really a dilemma.

No, choosing to kill the bad guy who is the hero’s brother or not kill the bad guy who will probably retaliate anyway is a high-risk choice. It’s powerful because of the implications.

And it will have your reader turning pages like lightning!

Shawne Coyne’s The Story Grid teaches about two types of crises that produce amazing moments of choice: The Best Bad Crisis, and the Irreconcilable Goods Crisis. The “bad guy is your brother” anecdote is an example of the “Best Bad Choice.”

Risky choices are just that because there’s almost always something to lose. There are few moments in life when everything turns out okay, and there are no negative consequences.

Which is why the fourth and final step is so important.

4. Consequences

Readers want to know “What happens after …” your protagonist’s risky choice. And if they don’t get a satisfactory answer, they’ll leave your story feeling cheated and bitter.

This doesn’t mean you have to give them an ending that rivals Return of the King, but you need to make it clear exactly what the Consequences of the risky choice were.

  • What did he/she gain? At what cost?
  • Did he/she commit any sins or grievous offenses in pursuit of his/her goal? How were these paid for, if at all?
  • And what did he/she gain, and how is it affecting life now, after the story journey?

You don’t have to tie up every single loose end the story may have — especially if you intend to pen a sequel! In fact, leaving one plot strand dangling while all the others are snugly knotted can be a great way to keep readers around, ready for your next release.

Make sure you thoroughly address how the action ends up, though. Because this, too, is a part of the imitation of an action. Every action has a reaction, and readers know it. They’ll be expecting it your story, too.

Time for Action!

Whether you’re planning to enter the Spring Writing Contest or not (though you really should!), I hope that the value of a well-written action will be central to your stories.

Not only is it solid storytelling, but it’s exactly what readers want. And the best part is that this isn’t genre-specific. This is precisely the kind of journey that readers crave, whether they’ve picked up your Cowboy Romance novel or your Sci-Fi Horror short story collection.

So plan your next story with these four steps in mind. It’s time for action!

What’s the toughest choice you’ve ever made your characters make? Let us know in the comments.

By David Safford
Source: thewritepractice.com

Visit us at First Edition Design Publishing

37 Questions to Ask Your Character

Pretend you are an interviewer for a newspaper, a secret agent, or a novelist, and you are interviewing, or interrogating, a character for your story. Imagine the character is sitting in front of you, you have a new fifty-sheet yellow writing pad and your favorite pencil your cat chewed, and you are about to ask them a list of questions.

Create a character by conducting an interview. Interview your character before you start writing so you can immerse yourself completely in who they are and what they stand for. Interview them and find out who they are.

Why Interview Your Character Before You Start Writing?

When you completely know your character before you start writing, you will have a better understanding of how they will react in different situations. Your character will be more three-dimensional if you know who they are before you start writing.

Your character will be three-dimensional and not flat if you spend time thinking about how they think and feel about life. If you know your character’s worldview it will be easier to keep their personality consistent throughout the story, and you will have a better understanding of how your character will grow and change as they deal with conflict.

37 Questions to Ask Your Characters

These questions will help you find out if your character is kind, honest, loyal, or trustworthy. These questions focus on how your characters think, not what they look like. We will develop their appearance later when the photographer arrives to photograph your characters.

10 Questions

  1. What did you eat for breakfast? Did you make it yourself? What time do you eat breakfast? Do you wash the pan after you cook the eggs or do you leave it for the maid to clean? Do you have a maid?
  2. Do you have a cat? How many cats do you have? Do you wish you were a cat? How many litter boxes do you have? Do you clean the litter boxes every day? Or does your maid clean the litter boxes?
  3. Do you go our for lunch or bring a sack lunch? Do you
  1. take an extra long lunch break and charge the company?
  2. Are you an only child? How many siblings do you have? Are you close or are you estranged?
  3. If you are adopted, do you know your birth parents? Do you want to find them?
  4. Do you call your mother every day, or only on her birthday, Mother’s Day, and Christmas? Are your parents alive?
  5. Do you like to cook? Do you use recipes or make up your own recipes? Do you eat out every night?
  6. Do you put both socks on first, or one sock, one shoe?
  7. Do you have a dog? Is the dog a rescue dog or bought from a breeder?
  8. Or perhaps a hamster? Or do you have any pets?

11 More Questions

  1. Do you iron your clothes? Who does your laundry? Do you do it yourself or do you send it out?
  2. Are you married? Are you divorced? How many times have you been married?
  3. Do you brush and floss your teeth before you go to bed? Do you use an electric toothbrush and a water pick?
  4. Do you have any cavities?
  5. Are those your real teeth, or are they dentures, or are they all capped?
  6. What do you throw into the garbage? Do you recycle?
  7. Do you live in an apartment or a house?
  8. Do you own your own home or rent?
  9. Do you mow your own lawn or use a landscape service?
  1. Have you ever had a garden?
  2. Have you ever eaten a carrot right out of the ground?

16 More Questions

  1. Do you pick your nose?
  2. Do you bite your fingernails? Do you have any bad habits?
  3. What is your earliest memory?
  4. Do you hold the door open for the person behind you or do you let it go and slam in their face?
  5. Do you take chicken soup to your elderly neighbor when they are sick?
  6. If you had a dog, would you pick up your dog’s poop when you go for a walk or sneak off and hope no one saw your dog poop on their lawn?
  7. If your boss asked you to cheat on your invoice and bill your client for extra hours, would you do it?
  8. On Monday morning, are you excited to go to work, or are you sad?
  9. If you could go back in time for one day, where would you go?
  10. You can cure one disease. Which one would you cure?
  11. Do you honk at the car in front of you if they didn’t see the light turn green?
  12. Do you exercise or are you a coach potato?
  13. If a Boy Scout comes to your door selling popcorn, do you hide in the kitchen or buy popcorn?
  14. Have you ever served in the military?
  15. What is your greatest fear?
  16. Would you like me to get you a glass of water? Or would you rather have soda? Wine? Whiskey?

Know Your Characters

Questions like these can help you know your character better. If you’d like even more, read this famous list of 35 questions French novelist Marcel Proust was asked by a friend when he was fourteen years old.

Think of other questions you would like to use in your interview. What questions will help you understand your character’s personality, motivations, and goals?

I wonder how your characters in your current story would answer these questions?

What questions would you want to ask your character in an interview? Let me know in the comments section.

By Pamela Hodges
Source: thewritepractice.com

Visit us at First Edition Design Publishing

Archetypal Characters in Storytelling

The hero, the mentor, the sidekick. We’re all familiar with archetypal characters in storytelling. We’ve seen them before. We know the roles they play.

Archetypal characters shouldn’t be confused with stock characters or stereotypical characters. Although we’ve seen all these characters before and will surely see them again, stock and stereotypical characters are based on character traits; archetypes are based on the characters’ function or purpose within a story.

Characters’ Function in Story

Archetypal characters fulfill a specific function a story. The herald signals change or the beginning of an adventure. The mentor imparts gifts, skills, or knowledge to the hero. The threshold guardian tests the hero or blocks the path forward.

Stock characters feel familiar because they embody a personality type — behaviors and attitudes that we’ve seen in similar characters before. The tough guy, the girl next door, and the wise old man or woman are all examples of stock characters. They may serve a purpose in the story (somebody has to serve the main characters at a restaurant), but what stands out is their personality, which sometimes feels cliché.

Stereotypical characters reflect social stereotypes, which are widely held and often inaccurate or misleading beliefs about groups. Stereotypes occur when traits, behaviors, and attitudes are assigned to an entire group. They often based on race, religion, gender, or geographical origin, and they are usually negative. Stereotypes make irrational assumptions about individuals based on the group to which they belong.

How can we tell the difference between an archetype, stock character, or stereotype? Let’s use the Knight in Shining Armor and a Damsel in Distress as examples. The damsel functions as a plot device, providing the hero with a goal (to save her), and the knight functions as a hero whose primary goal is to rescue the damsel. But the function these characters perform within a story (to save or be saved) need not be assigned to a damsel or a knight. A child could save a puppy. A witch could save a wizard. Or a lifeguard could save a swimmer.

If we remove the personality traits, we’re left with the function: give the hero someone or something to save, i.e., an archetypal function.

Archetypal Characters from The Hero’s Journey

Joseph Campbell discovered archetypal characters that exist in stories throughout time and across space. He presented his findings in the Monomyth (or Hero’s Journey), and Christopher Vogler later adapted Campbell’s findings in his book, The Writer’s Journey. Let’s take a look at the eight archetypes of the Hero’s Journey:

  • Hero: Protagonist who undergoes a meaningful transformation over the course of a story and who often changes the conditions of the story world for the better.
  • Herald: Signals that an adventure (or change) is imminent.
  • Mentor: Teacher and guide.
  • Threshold Guardian: Blocks a threshold that the Hero must pass; tests the Hero.
  • Shadow: The villain and other characters that stand in the Hero’s way; often they embody the Hero’s negative or undesirable traits.
  • Shapeshifter: A character or entity whose motives or intentions are unclear.
  • Trickster: Comic relief; Tricksters are often catalysts for change.
  • Allies: The Hero’s friends and helpers.

You’ll often see these archetypes in various combinations in storytelling. Some stories may not use a shapeshifter while others might have more than one trickster. A single character can embody multiple archetypes. For example, the character that performs the function of the Herald might also be a Trickster. The Mentor could act as the Threshold Guardian.

Other Archetypal Characters

The Hero’s Journey isn’t the only source of archetypal characters. There are other types of stories and other archetypes in fiction. Here’s a small sampling:

  • Anti-hero: This is an inverted hero, the protagonist is not likable or engages in despicable or immoral behaviors.
  • Audience surrogate: A stand-in for the audience, to inject questions and thoughts on behalf of the audience.
  • The Chosen One: A type of hero who is destined for greatness or tragedy rather than earning it.
  • The Cynic: This untrusting character often provides skepticism or challenges the status quo.

This is just a small sampling of archetypes you might find in fiction. You can have a lot of fun identifying archetypes, but make sure each one performs a function rather than represents a behavior or personality type. A common archetype I’ve noticed is The Oppressor, a character who uses their power to rob other characters of their rights, freedoms, and justice. The Misfit is a character that doesn’t fit in with mainstream society and either learns to fit in or eventually learns to be true to who they are.

Using Character Archetypes

Character archetypes can come in handy during the story development process. You might write a draft or outline and feel that it’s missing something. Maybe your story needs one of the character archetypes to mark the stages and progress of your protagonist’s journey.

Have you ever intentionally used archetypes in your stories? Are there any character archetypes you’ve noticed in fiction that aren’t mentioned here? Share your thoughts by leaving a comment, and keep writing.

By Melissa Donovan
Source: writingforward.com

Visit us at First Edition Design Publishing

 

Fiction Writing Exercises: Step Out of Your Shoes

I recently shared a writing exercise that encouraged you to get into a character’s head. Today’s exercise asks you to go a step further and explore characters and ideas that are your polar opposites.

One of the most exciting and challenging aspects of being a writer is creating characters. It is an opportunity to step outside of your own reality and take on a completely different persona. Unless you’re an actor, an undercover agent, or just plain crazy, you don’t get many chances in life to do that.

Writing also lets us explore ideas and share our thoughts, opinions, and feelings on a wide range of topics. To Kill a Mockingbird addressed racism, The Da Vinci Code critically explored religious doctrine, and The Hunger Games examined troublesome aspects of our society, particularly glam culture, class systems, war, and violence among teenagers.

As a fiction writer, there will be times when you need to get into the head of a character who is your polar opposite. You’ll need to have a deep comprehension of ideologies that are not aligned with your own. If you can’t do that, then your story will lack believability.

Today’s fiction writing exercises give you practice in stepping out of your shoes so you can walk in someone else’s.

Realistic Characters

For characters to truly resonate with readers, they must be vibrant and stir the audience’s emotions. Readers need to become attached to the characters, feel sympathy, compassion, even love (or hate) for them. It’s not easy to fabricate people (or other beings) that don’t really exist, have never existed, yet make them seem real. But it can be done.

So how do writers achieve this great feat?

Much credence has been given to the old adage write what you know. Base a character on a friend or family member or yourself. But what fun is that? If you’re an accountant by day, do you really want to play an accountant in your fantasy world too? Probably not. And when you create a character, that’s pretty much what you’re doing, playing a role. You must get into the character’s mind, live the life, absorb the environment in which the character lives. You have to be your character, even if you have absolutely nothing in common with that character.

Fiction Writing Exercises

Each fiction writing exercise below encourages you to get into a mindset that opposes your own way of thinking or existing. Try one exercise or try them all — just make sure to have fun.

Exercise #1: Write a personal essay from the perspective of someone who is your polar opposite.

If you grew up in the big city, write as a country dweller. If you grew up on a farm or lived in a small town all your life, write about an army brat who was raised living in dozens of towns, going to different schools each year. Are you a stay-at-home, married parent? Write as a swinging single making it big in the big apple. If you’re a successful businessperson, write as a prison inmate who grew up on the wrong side of the tracks.

You can also write as your ideological opposite. If you’re Buddhist, write from the perspective of a Christian. If you’re Christian, write from the perspective of an atheist. Are you a political junkie? Write from the viewpoint of the political party you oppose.

For the essay, focus on something you have never experienced or that you disagree with. If you are from the city and you’re writing about the country, write a descriptive essay about a farm setting. If you’re a liberal writing as a conservative, choose an issue and write an essay arguing for the conservative position on that issue.

The idea is to get outside of your comfort zone and explore a different way of life or mode of thinking than the one you know. You can then use this exercise to develop a character who is wildly different from you.

Excercise #2: Write a scene with two characters who are opposites.

Create two characters: one who is just like you (write yourself into the scene if you want) and one who is not like you at all. Write a scene that explores their differences. Here are some suggestions:

  • An old-fashioned rancher and a highly successful, modern urban businesswoman are seated next to each other on a plane.
  • A Democratic state politician and a Republican lobbyist get stuck in an elevator together.
  • Someone who is devoutly religious gets into a deep conversation with an atheist at a party.

There is only one rule here: Both characters must be sympathetic. In other words, you cannot make the character who is your opposite into any kind of villain or antagonist, and neither character will change his or her views or lifestyle by the end of the scene. Your goal is to gain understanding, not make a statement.

Exercise #3: Live your dreams and realize your nightmares.

A lot of people are terrified of public speaking. They may or may not have the desire to get up and talk to a crowd, but it doesn’t matter because their fear prevents them from doing so. And we all have dreams — some are goals that we can or will pursue, but other dreams are far-off fantasies that we know will never come to fruition.

For this exercise, you’ll write a short story or scene in first person. In the scene, you’ll do something that you’ve never done — something you may never do in reality but can certainly tackle in a piece of fiction.

Here are some examples:

  • Greatest fear: Either write a scene where you overcome your greatest fear and face the thing that terrifies you, or write as a character who does not have this fear and therefore faces it with ease. For example, if you have a fear of flying, write as an airplane pilot.
  • Dreams and goals: Have you ever wanted to travel somewhere but haven’t gotten around to it? Do you hope to someday find the love of your life or become a star in your career field? Are you working toward your dreams and goals? Write as a character who is living the life you hope to live someday.
  • Fantasy: Do you have a crush on a celebrity? Have you ever wished you possessed magical powers? Ever wondered what it would be like to live in the far-off future or the distant past? Write as a character living out your fantasies.

The idea here is to do something in writing that you’ve never done in real life. It can be something you might still someday achieve or it could be something impossible or unlikely.

Fiction Writing Exercises for Fun and Focus

Fiction writing exercises like these will help you when you’re writing about characters who are not like you in significant ways. These exercises will also expand the types of characters you feel comfortable bringing into your stories.

If any of these exercises stick and you get really into it, write several pages, or try doing the exercise again with different characters. You might unveil a new side of yourself that you didn’t know you had. You might find it completely uncomfortable and decide to go back to writing what you know, but at least you will have tried something new.

Remember, fiction writing exercises are supposed to be fun, but their purpose is to challenge you to try new things and think in new ways, so be sure to truly step out of your shoes and go beyond your comfort zone.

Feel free to post comments about your character. Who or what will you become? What shoes are you going to step into when you step out of your own?

By Melissa Donovan

Source: writingforward.com

Visit us at First Edition Design Publishing

Personalizing Your Character’s Emotional Wound

Emotional wounds are tricky to write about.

Abuse, betrayal, victimization, and the death of a loved one may exist in our characters’ pasts and so must be explored.

But these are also real life events that cause damage to real people.

So as I talk today about personalizing wounds for our characters, please know that I’m aware of the pain they cause in our world, and I applaud the courageous individuals who fight to come to grips with them every day.

Why Wounding Events Matter in Fiction

Wounding events greatly affect a character’s development, so they’re important to identify.

These painful experiences are deeply impactful, giving birth to life-altering fears, new habits and behaviors, even flaws meant to protect her from facing that pain again.

Wounding events are aptly named because they change who the character is; until they’re faced and addressed, she will never be whole.

But pinpointing what that event might be for a character is just the first step.

Traumas affect people differently; something that would destroy one character may have no lasting impact on another.

The wounding experience should be one that stops the protagonist in her tracks, making it impossible for her to achieve that story goal that will result in personal fulfillment.

However, you can maximize the impact of a traumatic event on a character by making it more personal.

You can accomplish this by knowing the following factors that can impact a wound and incorporating them into your story:

Personality

Some people are simply better equipped to deal with difficulty than others. An anxious or embittered person may find it harder to deal with a traumatic event than someone with an optimistic outlook or an adaptable nature.

So build the necessary traits into her personality before tragedy strikes.

Support

A strong support system is hugely helpful in facilitating healing for a victim. Loyal loved ones, a steady faith, or a supportive community can make it easier for someone to spring back, whereas a victim suffering alone may have a harder time.

Physical Proximity

The closer the danger, the more traumatic it can be.

A violent bank robbery may impact the employees, the customers, a security guard, etc. But the teller with the gun stuck in her face may take longer to recover than anyone else.

Emotional Proximity

It’s harrowing to be conned by a stranger, but someone you know causes even more damage, breeding self-doubt and making it difficult to trust others in the future.

Responsibility

It’s commonplace to replay a horrific event, picking it apart to figure out how it could have been avoided. This often results in the victim blaming herself, even when she was in no way at fault.

So if you need to intensify an already difficult circumstance, add an element of self-blame.

Justice

Seeing the perpetrator pay for what he’s done often provides closure that can set the victim on the path to healing.

On the other hand, knowing the criminal is still out there and free to strike again can cause a wound to fester.

Compounding Events

A trauma is horrible enough, but it often sets other events in motion that the wounded character is ill equipped to deal with.

Someone who has lost a child may also face divorce, be unjustly blamed, or lose a job due to depression.

Compounding events are the equivalent of someone kicking the victim when she’s down.

Just as you can use these factors to make a rough circumstance more difficult for your protagonist, you can also tweak them to soften their impact on other characters.

So as you dig into the backstory to unearth your characters’ pain, consider how deeply you want them affected.

Despite having experienced wounding events of our own, applying them to our characters can be daunting.

I’ll be lurking around the comments section to answer any questions.

Thank you, Jerry, for hosting me today!

By: Becca Puglisi
Source: jerryjenkins.com

Visit us at First Edition Design Publishing

Getting Into Character: Fiction Writing Exercises

fiction writing

Writers are not actors, but sometimes we need to get into character.

To truly understand the nature of a character, a writer must step into that character’s shoes. You can use character sketches and descriptions while you’re creating a character, but the character will remain two dimensional until you can get into the character’s head and understand what makes them tick.

It’s harder than it sounds. Your first impulse might be to act like a puppet master, pulling the character’s strings and controlling every action and line of dialogue. But what you really need to do is scoot over and get in the passenger’s seat. Let your character do the driving and ride along as an observer. And that’s exactly what today’s fiction writing exercises will help you do.

Tips for Getting Into Character

Many artists and creative people talk about entering “the zone.” This is a state of mind in which you’re running on automatic pilot. Your right (creative) brain is fully engaged and your left (logical) brain is snoozing with one eye open. It is in this state that people often get lost in an activity, lose track of time, and produce some of their best creative work.

When you’re getting into character, it’s best to be in the zone. Tackle these fiction writing exercises when you’re calm and relaxed and willing to let your imagination override your logical thinking.

Fiction Writing Exercises for Getting Into Character

Exercise #1: Chat

Launch your word processing software and start a conversation with your character. Most of us have engaged in online chats or text messaging. This is the same idea. If chat is not a comfortable medium for you, then try composing emails back and forth between you and your character.

Before you start, you might want to come up with a list of questions to ask your character. Also, this is a great exercise to use when you get stuck in a story that doesn’t want to move forward. Simply chat with your characters to find out what’s holding them back from taking the next step.

Your chat might look something like this:

WRITER: You’re just sitting there, doing nothing. What’s your problem?

CHARACTER: I don’t know what to do.

WRITER: What are your options?

Exercise #2: Stand-in Situation

Take your character out of the story you’re writing and put the character in a difficult situation. Think of riveting scenes from books you’ve read or movies you’ve seen or use scenes from your own life.

A few quick ideas for scenes that will reveal how your character handles challenges:

  • Your character is late for an important meeting and trying to hail a taxi when there’s a sudden distraction. This could be an accident in the street, a beautiful man or woman walking by, or an emergency phone call from a desperate friend or family member. Does your character hop in the cab and head to the meeting or stop to help?
  • Your character’s arch-enemy is in grave peril and the only person around who can save him is your character. Does your character let the enemy die or save his life?
  • Your character has been grossly betrayed by a close friend or family member. Does your character forgive, seek revenge, or walk away?

Notice that all these scenarios test the character’s integrity. This is a great way to get a handle on what kinds of choices your character makes. Remember: people are not perfect and characters needn’t be either. The most interesting characters are easy to relate to, and that means they are flawed in some way.

Exercise #3: Monologue

Monologues are a great way to get inside your character’s head, especially if the story you’re writing will be in third person. This is your chance to let your character’s voice be heard.

Write a piece in first person from your character’s perspective. Choose a general theme for the monologue and start writing in the character’s voice. Some ideas for themes:

  • The character is relating a significant event from his or her past: the loss of a loved one, a major life transition, or one of those everyday moments that change everything or stay with you forever.
  • The character is faced with a serious challenge or decision and is discussing the options and what the effects of either choice might be.
  • The character is in the middle of an emotional crisis and is overcome by grief, rage, envy, or some other intense feelings.

In a monologue, you can include action cues, but try to write them into the dialogue. For instance, if the character starts crying, make that evident through the narrative. If you’re feeling really brave (or if you’re an actor at heart), try recording yourself reading and acting out the monologue. That will add another dimension and allow your character’s speech, intonation, and inflection to come through.

How to Use These Exercises

Try to pinpoint any areas where you’ve stepped in and taken over. Maybe your character said something that you normally or frequently say. Or perhaps the character did something that is out of character and reflects your behavior more than the character’s behavior. You can edit and revise until you feel your piece has truly captured your character’s attitude and personality.

Later, when you’re working on your story, you can revisit these fiction writing exercises to see if there are any clues about your character that you want to use. You may also use these exercises as you’re writing a story to help you get a better grasp on your characters.

As always, the most important thing when working through creative writing exercises is to have fun, and keep writing.

Source: writingforward.com

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