Posts Tagged ‘self-publishing’

Are You Creating Believable Characters?

November 29, 2018


My wife and I just returned from a marvelous vacation in the Caribbean, on the island of St. Lucia. It was a great time, that passed far too quickly, but I had a lot of time to think about the writing projects I have in the works.

I spent a lot of time listening to new conversations around me. It’s something I believe will prove valuable in the coming weeks, as I return to writing, by helping make my characters believable.

Because, and I know I say it a lot, but I also know I can never say it too often … knowing how to create believable characters is vital for any fiction writer.

If you’re not careful, whether it’s the hero, the villain, an orphan, or an unwilling savior, a character can easily become too predictable.

So, how do you prevent this from happening?

Original and Memorable Physical Descriptions
Think of one of fiction’s best-loved characters, J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter. He has a lightning-bolt-shaped scar on his forehead. This detail alone sets him apart.

Unique body language and gestures, as well as physical ‘flaws’ or distinguishing markers, such as Harry’s scar, help to create a vivid character readers are easily able to imagine.

What physical attributes should you focus on? Think about how they might suggest certain personality elements.

Describe Eyes Carefully
One of the first things many writers do is focus on a character’s eyes. However, too many beginning writers often let that simple attribute stray into the realm of cliché.

Think about other related characteristics. Does your character have a nervous temperament? If so, he might blink more than most people, which might be far more noticeable than the color of his eyes.

Height and Posture
People often infer things about others based on their height. But don’t merely say the character is tall to make him seem commanding. Compare him to something, to make the image memorable.

Posture is another attribute that can say a lot about a character. Hunched shoulders might suggest anxiety, but this posture could also convey that a person has led a life of labor, which might also be seen in rough, callused hands.

Also, consider contradictions. For example, if an ‘ugly’ character has a seductive voice, this contradiction with reader expectations generates interest, since it creates a sense of unpredictability.

Character Development and Environment
Characters should discover new things about themselves in the course of a story. However, sometimes an unchanging status can also be important. It can be used to convey tragedy and inescapable ‘fate’, should this be the effect you want to achieve.

Give your characters core beliefs that are tested and renewed, or altered. A believable character should be just as changeable (and sometimes contradictory) in outlook and opinion as real people.

How does your character’s environment affect his personality? If, for example, your character lives through a war, does this bring out fear or courage, pro- or anti-war sentiment?

A character might discover an inner strength he never knew existed.

Paying attention to lifelike character development also will help you set individuals apart. While some characters triumph over adversity, others fail. It’s a fact of life.

Make Fictional Voices Real
Finally, if you want your characters to feel real, they should talk like real people, so make their dialogue mimic real speech.

Make sure your characters’ styles of speech fit their backstories. If a character has a troubled past, for example, think how this might have affected the way they express themselves.

Think also about colloquialisms (slang) specific to the character’s age group, location and image. If a character swears frequently, is he angry? Or simply expressive and indifferent to social taboos?

Think about what the specific words a character uses suggests about him. To create individual, distinctive voices, create a checklist you can go through for each character.

Checklist
Ask yourself:
1. What is your character’s social status?
2. What is your character’s education level?
3. Is he privileged/underprivileged in relation to other characters?
4. How does he talk to other characters as a result?
5. What does this say about his personality?
6. How old is your character? Does he speak typically for his age, or are there details that convey something out of the ordinary about him (for example, a young character who uses bigger words than normal for his age group may seem precocious).

Including this variety of personality type and language in your story will help to convince your readers your fictional world is just as vivid, varied and interesting as their own, and who knows what kind of new, excited readership that can bring?

I’m willing to find out. Are you?

* * * * *

My novel “Blood Lake” was a Readers’ Favorite Bronze Medal Winner and a ForeWord Indie Finalist. It was also named a 2018 Book-of-the-Year Finalist by TopShelf Magazine.

* * * * *

Gentle Readers, my books have all garnered some terrific reviews. You can see all of them by using the Amazon link below. Check them out. Better yet, buy one and read it. You just might like it.

buy now;

**********

You’re invited to visit my author’s website, BROKEN GLASS to hear the remarkable radio interview about my novel “Blood Lake” on The Authors Show. You can also like my Book of Face page, find me on Goodreads, or follow my shorter ramblings on The Twitter.

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Comments posted below will be read, greatly appreciated and perhaps even answered.

Wish You Were More Creative?

November 1, 2018

“Creativity” – Photo Courtesy Pexels.com

I found September and October this year to be a whirlwind. There were readings and book-signings, followed by writers’ group meetings, then a writing conference, capped just last weekend by another day-long book-signing. All while working on yet another novel.

It’s been enough to strain anyone’s creativity.

But I can almost hear you say, “Wait a second … you’re a writer. Aren’t you supposed to be creative all the time?” It’s a refrain often heard by folks in the writing community.

One great irony about our collective obsession with creativity is that we tend to frame it in uncreative ways. A friend, and fellow writer, told me recently he wasn’t working on anything at the moment, because he was “waiting for a flash of inspiration.”

Many authors marry creativity to their concept of self, but the key to unlocking real creative potential may be to defy the advice that urges you to believe in yourself.

I say that because I believe creativity is not merely an individual trait, but a malleable product of context and perspective.

Everyone has potential, but you can’t sit around thinking someone’s going to sprinkle fairy dust on you so wonderful things will happen.

So what do you do?

Role Play
It’s often as simple as imagining you are someone else. Actors often employ this technique to get into character for a performance but, the truth is, anyone can use it.

Don’t believe it? Think about some of the kids who came to your door yesterday on Halloween.

Some obviously knew they were dressed up, but I’m willing to bet you could pick out the few who were absolutely convinced they were really the character of their disguise.

I find myself using the same acting technique as I try to develop three new novels, all at the same time. They’re a handful, each with a different story-line, but it isn’t as difficult as it sounds.

I spend a lot of time in thought, but when I actually sit down to write, I’m merely getting into character, and it’s just like little Timmy down the street putting on his skeleton costume. I become the character, and let them tell me what they want to do.

When I’m not focused on a specific writing task my actions may be quiet, but my mind is hardly idle. It still spends all day rummaging through old thoughts, assorted memories and current information, putting them all together as new ideas.

We all do it, all the time.

Unfortunately, we allow ourselves to believe such unfocused effort is somehow unsuccessful. We berate ourselves, when the truth is most people spend a lot of their time in this state of “unfocus.”

Humans daydream a lot.

It doesn’t make us slackers; it makes us human.

Harness Your Daydreams
What if we stopped judging ourselves for our mental downtime and, instead, started harnessing it? By giving yourself permission to do something you usually feel guilty about, you may actually be making your fiction more creative.

Try it the next time you sit down to write. Don’t stop daydreaming; become the character. I’m fairly certain you’ll surprise yourself, and finding yourself in an entirely new identity will feel so productive.

* * * * *

My novel “Blood Lake” was a Readers’ Favorite Bronze Medal Winner and a ForeWord Indie Finalist. It was just named a 2018 Book-of-the-Year Finalist by TopShelf Magazine.

* * * * *

Gentle Readers, my books have all garnered some terrific reviews. You can see all of them by using the Amazon link below. Check them out. Better yet, buy one and read it. You just might like it.

buy now;

**********

You’re invited to visit my author’s website, BROKEN GLASS to hear the remarkable radio interview about my novel “Blood Lake” on The Authors Show. You can also like my Book of Face page, find me on Goodreads, or follow my shorter ramblings on The Twitter.

**********

Comments posted below will be read, greatly appreciated and perhaps even answered.

Are You a Dedicated Storyteller?

October 27, 2018


I recently attended the 2018 Fall Rochester Writers’ Conference at Oakland University and, after a day of interesting presentations, plus conversations with a significant number of the other attendees, one resounding thought from it stays with me.

Everyone enjoys a good story.

Telling one, however, isn’t as easy as it seems. It takes a willingness not only to learn, but to understand, the different elements and techniques of the craft, and it involves a heck of a lot of practice.

In other words, dedication.

However, regardless of genre or style, all good stories have common elements. When developing your next narrative work, make sure you’re paying careful attention to all of them.

Setting
The setting is the time and location in which your story takes place. Settings can be very specific, such as the one that begins my novel REICHOLD STREET:

It was late August, 1962, when I first saw Albert Parker. After all this time, I still remember the year quite distinctly. It was my second teenage summer and, like discovering I had a sexual identity, it was a part of life’s first great transition. I had been waiting months for something special to happen, something magical. Something like having Marilyn Monroe show up on my doorstep….”

But they can also be broad and descriptive, such as “…a tired little cottage on a lonely night….”

Either way you choose to go, a good, well-established setting creates the intended mood, while providing the backdrop and environment for your story.

Characters
A story often includes a number of central characters, each with a different role or purpose. Central characters are vital because the plot revolves around them.

However, regardless of how many characters a story ultimately has, there is almost always a protagonist and antagonist.

The protagonist is the main character, with a clear goal to accomplish or a conflict to overcome. They don’t always need to be admirable, but they must command an emotional involvement from the reader.

Antagonists oppose protagonists, standing between them and their ultimate goals. They can be presented as persons, places, things, or situations that represent a tremendous obstacle.

Plot
Hopefully you know the plot is the sequence of events that connect the audience to the protagonist and his or her ultimate goal.

Conflict
While they may sound similar, don’t confuse plot with conflict. While plot is the sequence of events, conflict drives the story and engages an audience. It keeps them white-knuckled on the edge of their seats, waiting to see if the protagonist will overcome the obstacle.

Conflict creates tension and builds suspense, and those are the elements that make the story interesting. Without conflict, you’ve done little more than write a statement.

Theme
The theme is what the story is really about. It’s the main idea or underlying meaning. A story may have both a major theme that is intertwined and repeated throughout the whole narrative, and minor themes that appear more subtly, and don’t necessarily repeat.

Often, it’s the storyteller’s personal opinion on the subject matter.

Narrative Arc
A strong story plot has a narrative arc that has four required elements of its own:

    Setup: The world in which the protagonist exists prior to the journey. The setup usually ends with the conflict being revealed.
    Rising Tension: The series of obstacles the protagonist must overcome. Each obstacle is usually more difficult and with higher stakes than the previous one.
    Climax: The point of highest tension, and the major decisive turning point for the protagonist.
    Resolution: The conflict’s conclusion. This is where the protagonist finally overcomes the conflict, learns to accept it, or is ultimately defeated by it. Regardless, this is where the journey ends.

While every story is different, a successful one captivates its audience and inspires an emotional response. If you have learned to craft a compelling story by engaging an active audience, you can truly call yourself a master of the art of storytelling.

* * * * *

My novel “Blood Lake” was a Readers’ Favorite Bronze Medal Winner and a ForeWord Indie Finalist. It was just named a 2018 book-of-the-year finalist by TopShelf Magazine.

* * * * *

I’ll be signing books at the Books & Authors Event at Leon & Lulu in Clawson on Sunday, October 28.

**********

Gentle Readers, my books have all garnered some terrific reviews. You can see all of them by using the Amazon link below. Check them out. Better yet, buy one and read it. You just might like it.

buy now;

**********

You’re invited to visit my author’s website, BROKEN GLASS to hear the remarkable radio interview about my novel “Blood Lake” on The Authors Show. You can also like my Book of Face page, find me on Goodreads, or follow my shorter ramblings on The Twitter.

**********

Comments posted below will be read, greatly appreciated and perhaps even answered.


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