Monday, July 25, 2016

5 Tips to Making your Characters Unique

Developing characters is never simple, and how do you keep coming up with characters after you’ve written several books?  Sometimes it seems like the characters you are working on now are just further extensions of those people you created two stories ago.

Don’t let yourself fall into that trap.  Characters need to be as individual as the people you know. Certainly the people around you all have their individual characteristics that make you laugh, make you nuts and irritate you. 

Consider doing the same thing with your characters. Here are five tips to make them unique.

  1. Give them a flaw.  No one is perfect and your characters shouldn’t be either. Don’t make your hero so heroic that no one can relate to him. Give him a weak spot or a flaw that he can work on. Perhaps it is spending money or smoking too much. This can be something to keep that hero from being perfect. We don’t want perfect heroes who never make a mistake. At the same time, we don’t want a hero with such a nasty flaw they will never recover from it.  Make it simple, but give the character something to work on besides the main issue of the story.
  2. Give them a real life.  No one has the same sort of life, whether it is rescuing damsels in distress or just trying to survive day to day. Give the characters a real life that gets in  the way of the story or what the character is trying to accomplish. Does her mother constantly demand things of him or her? Does her brother constantly get in trouble and she has to stop her life to bail him out?
  3. Make your characters come alive through emotions. This is absolutely critical and one of the main ways to make all your characters unique.  Look for a range of emotions and determine how those emotional reactions will feed into how the character reacts to events in the story. Now you’re going to come up with a character who is different from every other cardboard character out there.
  4. Give your character a secret trait – something they might not even recognize at the beginning. Is she stronger than she realizes and only the test of the story makes her discover that hidden truth about herself? Bring that out. Show the character, first at her worst and then at her best. Or show her at her best before she realizes her worth and how that trait can turn the tide in her favor.
  5. Give your character a quirk. No, we are not talking about a flaw, as we did earlier. This is something different, something unique, yes, something quirky. Like what you ask? Well, what are those things that drive you crazy about the people around you? Does he tend to fall asleep at a moment’s notice? Does she always check the doors over and over to make certain they are locked? Does he not bother washing his coffee cup from the previous day, but just refill it until you take it and put it in the dishwasher? How about refusing to get rid of that old jacket he’s had for years? My Dad had a thing about cars, and he was constantly stopping at car lots when we drove through different towns, “just to check.” A few times we came home with a new car.
    This are all unique things that can make your characters different. They can make your characters someone memorable. Come up with some ideas of your own and then think about how to use them next time you develop a character.

Monday, July 11, 2016

5 Tips to Writing on Vacation

Last week we looked at how to get through the summer and keep writing. Now let's tackle another summer distraction: vacations. If you are heading out on vacation it may be tempting to put your writing work aside, thinking it will be easy to get back to once you return to a normal schedule. Yes, that is true but there are also things you can do while on vacation to keep from breaking the writing habit.

1. Research.  We said it last week and let's repeat it again but this time with a focus on your travels. What better time to do research for a new story than while you are visiting a certain location. Recently I spent time in Vancouver for a week's vacation and since I hadn't visited in several years, I used some of the time to drive around the city to see how it had changed in case I wanted to use it again for a story.  Vancouver's Stanley Park was the location for my opening scene in Deadly Messages, and I'm currently working on a second book set there so it was a good way to get some of that old spark back when dealing with the location. I love walking along the
2. Brainstorming. Don't we all get bored when driving somewhere? What better time to brainstorm a new idea with family members? Let them in on what you're writing or what has you stumped and get some ideas. We spent an hour sitting at the border crossing in a very slow moving line. Talking about ideas for a story helped make the time go faster.

3. Visualize a scene. Consider taking a few moments while you're at dinner or sitting in a coffee shop, or even the airport while waiting for a flight to study the people and situations around you. I get good ideas from overhearing conversations. But I also like to study different locations, such as a wonderful little hotel where we had breakfast. I was able to think about setting a story in a quaint hotel with its narrow halls and stone steps and a little garden off the café.

4. Come up with a new story idea. I love to think when I am out on a morning walk or just wandering the streets. Think about how you might use a similar street in the story, or think about how you might describe the people of the city or the feel of the climate.

5. Use the time to critique. Just like brainstorming, use some of that driving time or while you are sitting around waiting at the airport to go over a scene you are writing with family members. It's a good way to get a fresh perspective and you have a captive audience.

Most of all relax and enjoy your time away so that when you come home you will be ready to write!

Monday, July 4, 2016

5 Tips for Knowing When to Re-write

We all have to do it, even if we hate the thought of it--rewriting. Sometimes there is no way around it. Even the best plotted story can run into a roadblock, or the story written into the mist can hit a hall before you even know what is happening. Suddenly you  can't move forward. Suddenly the characters are not cooperating. We'll look at how to rewrite the story in coming weeks but for today let's look at how to figure out when you've hit a roadblock and there is no other way around it but to re-write.

1. The characters are not cooperating.  I listed that above, but that is a big way to realize that you are heading in the wrong direction. If they don't seem to work in the scenes you are writing, you may be taking them in the wrong direction. Look over what you wrote earlier, look over your character profiles, and look over the characters themselves.  If they aren't working, then you need to re-think where the plot is headed for these people. You may need to do a little re-writing that will send those characters back in the right direction.

2.  You just don't want to write. Sure, there can be many, many reasons for not being able to just sit at the keyboard and having the words flow. But often the problem is that you've hit a point in the plot where the story is going nowhere. You may need to read over your plot again to make certain that it is going where you want it. This might be a good time to re-evaluate your plot and whether it can work in the way you originally planned. It might be time to consider re-writing some of the earlier pages or planning changes in the plot.

3. The story is going in some totally foreign direction and you aren't sure why. Again, this may be
that your plot is not working. This is a good time to try re-writing a few pages and perhaps trying a new direction to see whether you like the re-write better than the original. If you do, then keep heading in that direction.

4. The villain is getting more important than the hero. This might be a function of not having the write characters in the right roles. Again, it might be time to make that hero stronger, or to change the direction of the villain. And if you're going to have a super-villain, great!  Just make certain you are setting up the story that way. That might mean a re-write of some of the earlier pages, but they might also be fun to write with this new bad guy.

5.  The motives are not coming through. Perhaps what you have your characters doing doesn't ring true. They wouldn't take those sort of risks for no reason. Perhaps you need to re-write those motives to make them stronger, or to make those changes in your characters to make them want something more. Motivation is a big factor for your characters' actions. You need to make them strong enough.

If you do find you have to do a re-write, don't despair. Next week, we'll look at how to make those re-writes work for you to come up with a stronger story.

Getting off to a Fresh Start

At the beginning of every new year don’t we always look at different ways to start off fresh? We want to make our resolutions or set goals ...