Category Archives: Character

Character is Where It’s At!

I once did an event with an author many years ago. A student asked about plot and I said, “Your character makes decisions and choices. And those choices move the plot forward.”

“Not always,” my co-teacher said. “Not in a plot driven novel.”

I had read this person’s work and while I found it okay, I wasn’t grabbed by the characters. They weren’t interesting. They were flat and, even in exciting moments, I could close the novel because I just didn’t care.

Like in real life, I want to know the people of books so if they fail or lose something or go through a hard event, I am rooting for them. If they get that kiss or lose that boy or find their mother or lose the kingdom, I want to laugh or weep for them.

Knowing your characters helps you be able to write a well-rounded character. Even if all the details don’t show up on the page.

Here are a few things to ponder.

  • Why is this the right character for this novel?
  • Make your antagonist the lead of the book. What happens to the story?
  • How are your main character and the antagonist the same?
  • What are the most important things (people) to your main character?
  • To the antagonist?
  • Morally, how is your main character different than other people in the novel?
  • How are they the same?
  • Every character should have a truth. What are the truths of your characters?
  • Every character should have a want. What are the wants of the characters in your book?
  • How is your character’s wants pro or con to her moral fiber?
  • Finding out you are more like your mother than you had hoped may be a negative for you. Who is your character similar to? How does this help or hinder who she is?
  • If you have to write a song for your character, using the tune to Imagine Dragon’s THUNDER, what would the words be?
  • Everyone has secrets. I have secrets no one knows unless they were somehow involved in specific incidents in my life. What are your MC’s secrets? How does this motivate her? Change her? Influence her decision making?
  • Your character has to leave, now. What does she take with her?
  • Zombies are coming. Your character cannot get her invalid father out of the house and must run for her life. What does she tell him before she closes the door?
  • What minor details (favorite color, favorite treat, favorite shirt etc) does your character show in your book already?
  • If your character had ten adjectives to describe herself what would she say?
  • What would you say?

Answer these questions–and make up your own and share them–for all the major players in your writing. And if you like these kinds of questions, let me know and I’ll come up with a few more.

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Exercising Your Character

“The best index to a person’s character is how he treats people who can’t do him any good, and how he treats people who can’t fight back.” Abigail Van Buren

  1. How does your main character treat others?
  2. Choosing three other characters in your book, decide how they really are, by the way they treat people they know.
  3. By the way they treat strangers.
  4. How does your MC feel about animals? Why?

“Whoever is careless with the truth in small matters cannot be trusted with important matters” Albert Einstein

  1. Does your character lie? Why or why not?
  2. What would happen if she did lie? How would the story be more compelling?
  3. What is the worst thing your character could do? Why is this the worst?
  4. Write a scene where your character lies, and is caught, by someone who is important to her.
  5. Do only the *bad* people lie in your book?

 

“If ye love me, keep my commandments.” Jesus

  1. I think another way of saying this is, Actions speak louder than words. How does your character show her love? Her commitment? Her anger?
  2. Write a scene where your character harms someone by her actions.
  3. Our bad characters cannot be purely evil. How is your antagonist good?

 

“Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.” Abraham Lincoln

  1. Your MC ends up with information she shouldn’t have. What does she do with it?
  2. All characters must have weaknesses. What are your character’s weaknesses?
  3. There should be a point, in every character’s growth, when they realize they have all the power, or none of it. What happens to your character when they hit this place in the book?
  4. If you MC realizes she is more like the bad guy than she thought, well, that can be very interesting. Write a scene where your MC comes up against the darker part of herself.

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Character, Character, Exercises, Uncategorized

Merry Christmas Days . . . Lots

Merry Christmas day #16
With the snow that’s (finally!) showed up, I think now is a good time to focus hard on sense of place.
Is it cold? Is it hot? What’s the weather like? Is the sky grey? Does the field next to your characters house smell like cow poo? Is there a rustle of wind off in the distance? Did someone blare their horn so hard that it broke? (I did this the other week, believe it or not)
I hate sense of place, but it’s needed to make a story great. So when I work on it, I really take a look around me, I try to focus on my character and imagine what I would be feeling if I was where she was. Sometimes it helps, sometimes it doesn’t. But at least it’s SOMETHING. And whatever I can do to get the story moving.
Merry Christmas day #17
Do you remember the first time your heart shattered into a million pieces? Do you remember the second time it did? Maybe it was because a loved one passed on. Maybe the person you loved didn’t love you back? Maybe your first born child got a tattoo? Whatever it was, do you remember that emotion? Do you remember that sinking feeling in your gut that you thought would never go away?
Use that. Put that into your story. Let your character feel it, too. (even if you don’t think she deserves it) Good emotion not only makes you feel, but it also makes your reader feel, too. (they might hate you for it, but at least you made them feel something)
Push that heartbreak out onto the page, and let those emotions run wild!
Merry Christmas day #18
Do you remember your first Christmas? Reach back into your brain and see if you can find that memory. Do you remember the excitement? The butterflies inside your belly? You must have been little, did you know what was happening at the time? Did you know why everyone was being so kind?
Maybe your character remembers her first Christmas? Maybe it was also her first memory with her sibling, or parents, or grandparents?
Write about it. Write about memories. Maybe a good flashback is what you’re missing, and you didn’t even know it!

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Preparing for NaNoWriMo

On Thursday I wrote a long list of things we could do to prepare for NaNoWriMo and for some reason, when I went to post, it wouldn’t.

I pitched a fit and stomped off.

Went to the TH evening party and it was a lot of fun.

Never resent.

You have today and tomorrow to think about a few questions so you can jump into NaNo a little more prepared.

BTW, if you want to play with WIFYR, email Bruce here: wifyrdoesnano@gmail.com and make your goals. Bruce will add you to the list. The goal is 1,000,000 words as a group! Woot woot!

Novel questions:

  1. Who is your main character?
  2. What does she want?
  3. Have her write a note to you.
  4. Ask her 25 personal questions and write this interview down.
  5. Who are her friends?
  6. Her enemies?
  7. Her family?
  8. What is she afraid of?
  9. Can she sing?
  10. Dance?
  11. Is she funny?
  12. Snarky?
  13. Does he have a crush?
  14. A true love?
  15. What is the scariest thing that can happen to her?
  16. Will it happen to her?
  17. What do you see as the climax of the story? Do you have a general idea?
  18.  Name three things she will lose during the telling of the story.
  19. Are you trying to teach a lesson?
  20. What are you willing to give up to complete your 50,000 words?

Also, every Thursday evening, from 7-10 pm we will meet at Kyra Leigh’s house, eat and write.

Last year this was a lot of fun. This year it will be even more fun because I won’t have to clean every TH in anticipation of people arriving at my home. YAHOO, KYRA LEIGH! Anyway, if you want to bring potluck (which is what gets you into the house) and write for a few hours with fellow NaNoers, let me know. We have room for about 15 people.

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Filed under Ann Dee, Character, CLW, Exercises, Kyra, Plot, Voice, Writing Marathon, writing process

Making True Change–For Good

Change, though I mostly hate it, is good.

Especially if we change who we are into someone better. You just quit smoking? Excellent change! You’ve read a self-help book and now love who you are, even a little bit more than yesterday? Keep going, you’re on the right track! You’re picking up your wet towels so the roaches can’t rest under them? Woot woot! BIG change!

Change is good in our books, too.

I once read a novel that was supposed to be The Next Big Thing. The main character wanted something, and she went out and got it.

The problem was what she wanted. It wasn’t something we shoot for if we want to be happy people. And that’s okay. All characters don’t have to be like me. But this girl, she never really changed going after her weird goal or when she got what she wanted. She was static. Stagnate. Boring.

BORING!

The book flopped because there was no character growth. No moral struggle. No putting herself at risk and overcoming because of her choices.

#46

How does your character change?

Why?

Is this significant? Is it enough?

Did you character get there in a way where she was stretching and growing and becoming new somehow?

Was she at odds with herself, morally, to make these changes?

 

 

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Happy, Happy Birthday, Elise!

#39

Write the perfect birthday party for your main character.

Write the worst birthday party for your main character.

Now, do this exercise for the antagonist and one other character of your choice.

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Filed under Character, CLW, Family

Lose More Weight, No Diet, No Exercise–Even at 35!

Yes! We are now at number thirty five. Who’da thunk?

We have four chickens and a TURKEY.

And I’m going on a walk.

PLUS I’m trying to figure out HOW to make this murder mystery shape up. I have the most of the words. Now I need to put them in order.

#35

This writing prompt requires no pen, no paper, no computer.

Give yourself 30 minutes private time where you just think.

Close your eyes.

Imagine your book, published.

Let the ideas come to you, think about the way the story unwinds, and then think about those trouble spots.

How might you fix them?

What could help?

No need to push or worry or struggle.

Just relax. Imagine that book in your hands.

If you take a nap, who cares? You went to sleep thinking of your novel.

Let your brain work out those troubles while you shower, or nap, or wash dishes.

Envisioning, relaxing, letting your brain help you, all of these things are a pretty cool part of the process of writing. When you finally come upon a fix, it almost feels magical, like the Muse stepped in. But no. It was you.

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Filed under Character, Exercises, Life, writing process