Tag Archives: Characters

Good Characters Make them Care

There are so many things to say about a character’s creation and how it defines the quality of the novel. They are the reason there is a story, so they need to be interesting. But how do you know that you nailed it? When your readers care about your characters.

I’ve often listened to people saying that they like this or that book because it makes them feel things. The character was so sweet, they were scared in that part he was in danger or so happy for her. The character needs to raise some feelings in them. It needs to make them care.

Even the most exciting plot in the world can feel shallow to the reader if you can’t make them care.

What ignites that sparkle?

Most things come down to the question, “How would you feel?” In this case, what makes you care? What makes you feel something? Ultimately, what makes you keep reading? Of course, not everyone is the same, but you’ll immediately have a part of the audience covered this way.

What makes you relate to a person if you try to think about people instead of a character? Maybe they are someone you have known your whole life. You know every struggle, every victory, and every moment, good and bad. That creates a fantastic relationship. But you can’t tell the entire story of your character, right? It is boring, and it will make your reader impatient.

What makes your readers relate to a character?

Each one of us has a different life story and different experiences and feelings about it. So, your readers will not necessarily relate to those things. However, we all go through some similar situations. One way or another, they are part of our lives whether we want them to or not. Let’s start there.

You relate to a person not simply because of who they are or what they are doing, but primarily for what happens to them. So, it is not about the character but the situation. Choose a situation that most human beings can relate to. Then, make your character go through it in the first pages.

Show them the way

Everybody can relate to a sad story, to a bad situation that can happen to all of us. That will make the reader relate, but does it make them care? Not necessarily.

Readers need to be able to identify themselves with the situation, but they want more. Most people read to dream, to make things better, so your character has to make it through those difficult situations. It is interesting, and it gives them hope. We all like a story of resilience. It warms our hearts and makes us feel more powerful.

A resilient character who fights their way to victory is something the reader can relate to and aspire to. Your readers would like to live that life, to be that strong – because all of us, at some point, felt so helpless, and we don’t want to. At this point, there is no return – your reader wants to know what happens next.

We all like a hero

We all had bad moments. General situations that could happen to anyone will make your reader relate to the character, but do not stop there.

They want a hero. They want this character who is apparently like them, but who can solve problems and have an inspirational, out-of-the-ordinary life. The kind they would want to live in. They want magic and hope.

How to keep the interest in your readers

A writer’s biggest desire is for their readers to keep reading the story until the very last page. The scariest thing? Readers losing interest somewhere in the middle of it.

What can you do to make your readers come back to your story after they put the book down for some reason? How do you keep them interested?

Keep the interest

The most common advice is to use cliffhangers.

A cliffhanger is a way to end your scene, where your character, usually the protagonist, is facing some sort of life or death situation. Something really dramatic. Is that good? Sure, especially if you are writing an action-adventure novel. In that case, it is perfect. Yet…

If it’s not the case, you may need to rethink that option.

They need to care

A good story touches the readers. They care about the characters and what happens to them. This is your main concern: to make them care.

The most important thing to make your readers care is the character itself . Bring them to life; your characters need goals, a life story, a personality!

After you build the right character, you can end the scene with it in trouble. There are also rules here. You must think of the right kind of trouble – the one that makes the reader somehow worry about the character. You need them eager to know how the character will get rid of the issue.

No one cares if the laziest guy in the office is fired. However, if it’s someone who really makes an effort, or desperately needs their income, it’s more likely that your readers will turn the page to see what happens next. If you want to apply this idea to the villain, it is also possible. Imagine the lazy guy being promoted. Your readers will probably be furious and want to see how far he can go with it.

The character in question doesn’t need to be the protagonist. There are more characters in your book, and their depth is also a good quality mark for your readers. A perfect protagonist surrounded by a bunch of flat characters doesn’t make a good story.

Another way of keeping the interest is to end a scene with your point-of-view character making a decision that might go very badly. He’s facing a difficult situation and decides to take a risk. It has everything to go wrong but still… If it works, it will change your character’s life totally. That’s something your reader will want to know how it ends.

You are also a reader

I can’t get enough of this advice. I don’t know a single author that isn’t also an avid reader. It is crucial to learn and to understand what works.

In the end, the most important is the reader. So, if you still have any doubts about your choices, just put yourself into their shoes. What makes you turn the page?

The Villain: 4 tips for a memorable villain

The villain is a character of great importance in any story. For that reason, you must think about him carefully.

Your villain has to be credible to be memorable. As such, you should spend some time developing your villain before start writing the actual story.

Here you have some tips that might help you.

1. Motivation

Everyone has a goal, something they want, and that must apply to your villain as well.

Every action they will take has to help them, in some way, to get closer to that goal. At least, that is what the villain believes. It doesn’t need to be immediately evident to your reader, especially if you’re writing a mystery novel. Yet, keep in mind that, at some point, the villain’s choices need to make sense to those reading your story.

2. Justify their actions

Real people don’t think of themselves as villains. Our actions always make sense in our minds, and we have good reasons to act the way we do.

Remember that every time your villain takes a decision or chooses a course of action. Your villain has a purpose with every step he (or she) takes.

3. Personality

A plain character is not exciting or fun to read. With a plain villain, we can kill the story in the first few pages.

Your villain needs a life, people that make part of it, fears and hobbies, things they like and others they hate. Villains must be more than the evil goal they have in mind.

Besides, in real life, no one is entirely evil. A couple of positive qualities will enrich your character. It will make it more credible and interesting to your readers.

4. Avoid clichés

The erratic mad man might be fun to write, even read sometimes, but people are beginning to get tired of it. Surprise your readers and remember: if you want them to fear your villain, make it the most unexpected character of your story.

Unexpected

The best villain is the one with a background story, a life, a reason to be evil. Maybe the villain is not exactly a bad person; perhaps he is just hurt.

Think of your villain as a person with a story, feelings, fears, and goals. He is not his actions. The most humanized the villains are, the more realistic they become. Your readers will appreciate that.

6 myths about writing

As with any other profession, you will face many opinions from different people when it comes to writing, who may, most of the time, have no idea what they’re talking about. Let’s talk about the 6 most common myths you’ll hear about writing.

1. Talent does everything

You’ll hear this from those people who say “oh you’re amazing, you’re gonna do it” and from the other side, those who say “hmmm, you’re not good enough…”. It doesn’t matter who tells you this: it’s wrong.

What makes a writer isn’t the talent, but the commitment. No one was born a great writer, you need persistence and hard work.

2. You have to be lucky

You might not think of it like that, but people will tell you this just so you can have a good excuse for failure. Don’t listen to them. Luck is good indeed, but what is it exactly? What you really need is to be positive and persistent!

Resist your fears, your insecurities and just keep on writing, your opportunity will come.

3. You need to live for it

Don’t quit your job yet, nor neglect your family! You don’t necessarily need to do that, nor would I recommend it. Your family, your peace of mind, these things are important too and a good safety net for any unfortunate moments helps stave off any worries when it comes to the moments where you should be writing.

Writing is in itself a habit, you must fit it into your routine and do it every day, even if you may only get 5 or 10 minutes to do it. It’s worth it.

4. Description is boring

We spend an entire afternoon writing the perfect description of a scene and someone tells us that it’s not important and it is boring. Let me tell you: it’s not if you did it the right way.

The descriptions are what make us imagine and feel as though we were inside the story, and without them, these stories would seem empty. However, enough is enough, so don’t give your readers big chunks of information all at once. Place your descriptions naturally inside your scenes and let them flow, without lingering on for way too long. You’ll see that this works wonders.

5. You must describe meticulously each and every character when you introduce them

This is something you might feel is true, especially if you’re a beginner, but it couldn’t be farther from it. Actually, the best way to describe a character, while keeping your reader curious and interested in your story, is to do it gradually, letting them get a feel for things and construct their own thoughts and theories, as they are getting to really know it, page by page.

Giving insight into their personality via their actions, instead of writing it down directly, might also be a very interesting way to get your readers to know your character on a deeper level whilst keeping them interested in how the story is unfolding.

6. The beginning

In order to be a writer, you must start! Not tomorrow, today. Right now. Do not wait for your kids to grow, or for you to get to retirement to write that novel you’ve always wanted. Writing is a long and arduous process, so begin right now. And have some fun!

Who should tell the story?

When you’re writing a novel, one of the first decisions you must make is about the narrator. Who will be the one telling the story? How will they do it? Why?

You’ll face many options, such as: should my narrator be someone external to the story, narrating it in the third person? Should they be the main character, talking in the first person? Or another character completely? Should I have more than one narrator throughout?

Point of View

The most common choice is for you to have just one narrator, despite the fact that many successful books, even some classics, had more than one, having a single narrator is still true for the majority of stories out there.

You can have an external narrator talking in the third person while he’s explaining everything that takes place. He might be like a god, knowing everything that is happening everywhere, or he might be just like a follower of one of two characters, being as surprised as you are for some of the events or how they unfolded.

Another way of telling your story is to give a voice to a character. This is called point-of-view character and with this option, your reader will see, hear, and possibly think, what your character is seeing, hearing and thinking.

The choice of this character can be another headache for the writer and sometimes, writers take the option of switching who’s telling the story along the book. This is called “head-hopping” and it can be dangerous for the flow of your story, so it’s probably not a good idea for a novice writer.

As you can see from this little summary, there are plenty of possibilities and you can explore them all. Nothing is forbidden, as long as it works for your unique story.

Some advice

Above all else, readers want emotion. They will seek out different emotions in different genres, but in the end, that’s all they want, even crave. So when you’re writing you must think of what kind of emotion you want to give them and base your choice (each of the ones you’ll have to make throughout the process of writing) on it.

Make sure that your book gives them what it is they’re seeking in that style of book.

Advantages and Disadvantages of each Point of View

When you choose the first person point of view, your reader will feel close to that character, providing a bigger intimacy which can be very productive. However, your character has to be interesting and have an appealing voice. For example, if your character is an old man with Alzheimer’s it probably will be too confusing for the reader, making it harder to develop empathy, or you might get strong empathy but lack clarity and focus (from the said character) to provide a decent flow for the rest of the story.

With a third person point of view, or an external narrator, you’ll have more flexibility writing your novel, making it easier for you to switch scenes (your narrator will not be stuck in the same room as one character, he can know exactly what is happening outside and that might be useful too).

How to choose?

In order to make a good decision is important that you understand the implications of each point of view and if that will fit your story.

There are a couple questions you can ask yourself that might help you to choose:

Do I want my readers to be able to know what goes on in a variety of different places and the circumstances of various different characters?

Do I want my readers to have access to the characters deepest thoughts?

Do I want my readers to feel what the character feels, or to know what they’re feeling?

In the end, if you still have doubts: experiment! Write the same scenes from both points of view and see what works better for you.

What am I supposed to write?

Have you ever asked yourself if you should write about something or if it is a bad idea? That’s probably one of the major unanswered questions of every writer.

It’s complicated to decide on what you should write and how to go about it. If sometimes you have some sort of inspiration, at other times, you might sit down in front of your computer (or any kind of blank page) and have no clue as to how to fill it up.

There is no simple answer to this question though. I guess it doesn’t really matter, since you need to keep in mind your particular audience and its characteristics or traits.

Genres

Each genre has a specific type of audience, that’s a fact. But, even more importantly, each genre tends to elicit some specific reaction out of its readers. Someone will choose your book by the feelings they believe they’ll achieve with it and that’s, for the most part, determined by the genre. So, you must know, really understand, the genre you choose and what people seek within books in that genre. Then proceed to write accordingly.

The story means what the reader wants it to mean

No matter what the story means to you, the reader will give it a significance of his own and you should take this into consideration. He or she will feel the story according to his or her life experiences and their own particular vision of the world.

Don’t worry. This is often a good thing! Your readers and their emotions will turn your words into something lively, filled with deeper meaning.

What should my major concerns be?

As was said before, the genre you write in makes all the difference, yet, there are some points you can take into consideration.

Characters should be deep and raise or elicit some feelings in your readers. Most of the readers want to feel as though the character could be a friend of theirs. So, it must be somehow realistic, making them feel like that particular character is indeed alive.

You should promote curiosity. The best book is the one you can’t seem to put down. Try to provoke that kind of situation within your story. Make your readers curious enough to the point they want, or even feel a need, to know what happens in the next page.

They often want to feel. Be attentive in your descriptions with the characters feelings and write it down filled with little details, so your readers can feel along with them. When reading a book, people like to be immersed in a new reality. You must make that worth it.

 

A book has within it something magical. The imagination is unique and when shared with other people it can give you something wonderful. Use it in your favor and attract your audience through something wild or unexpected.

Characters also need a soul – 5 tips to write interesting characters

When you’re imagining a story, creating the characters for it is just another part of the job. It’s almost automatic, the way they get into your mind, showing you what they look like, how they think, yet, putting those things down on paper isn’t always as obvious or easy to do.

I’m not talking about poor writing skills here, no. They can be well written and yet, not appear interesting at all or straight up unappealing. So, what can you do?

1. No stereotypes

Stereotyped characters aren’t surprising or intriguing. If you want to write one, you should have a specific goal to accomplish with it, and, even so, you can make your character much more interesting by adding some characteristics that run against that stereotype. It grants something new to the story and your readers will like it.

2. Everyone has a secret

A big nasty secret is a hand full of great scenes for a novel or short story. Give your character a secret, something that he or she tries to hide and do not fully open it up to your readers. Let them strain and test themselves while trying to guess at what it is. They’ll become that much more invested in it…

3. You know those kinds of things you can’t do? He can!

In the world of fiction, everything is possible. In real world we constantly deal with desires and impulses we must control, but in fiction, your character can in fact do it all. Being impulsive and doing unexpected things will actually make him even more interesting. If your character acts on what your readers must try to keep under control, they will keep focus on your story.

4. Action!

A passive character is boring. Let’s face it, we all like to read about that person who does things, changes their life, or the people they love. The person who take the reins of their lives. Let your character be one such person. That will get people invested in them.

5. They need to make sense

Doesn’t matter how crazy your character is, there must be reasons for his or her actions, other than pure craze or randomness. Your character should have values and beliefs that guide their actions. It will make the character itself deeper, more profound and human, and it will help lead the readers towards empathizing with him (or her).

9 quick tips to improve your writing

Improvement. That’s an amazing word and fundamental for all of us who want to continuously get better at our jobs. As I already said in previous posts, there is plenty of competition in the writing field, so, if you want to write for life, you must be good at it.

You might read a whole lot and that certainly helps you in becoming a better writer, but even then, there are some points or specifics regarding your work that seem to lack that special something, right? There always is. I leave you here with some tips on how to improve your stories, your books, or, wherever you’d like to write.

1. Make them cry but also make them laugh

No matter how sad your story is, your readers will be delighted with some giggles somewhere in it. A safe way to do it is by creating a rather funny character, even among the most horrifying tragedy, he or she will have something fun to say, or even do. Your story will be all better for it, and much more interesting, believe me.

The same should happen in the opposite direction. You can be writing a fun story, but come on, nobody likes a full-time clown. So, some serious moments might prove useful.

2. Be logical

You may write about a completely crazy fantasy world, where nothing seems real, however, you should be coherent. Even within craziness, you need some logic. If everything is random and non-logical, people will lose interest.

So, you must decide for some rules when you’re creating your fantasy world, no matter how crazy they are, all that matters is that they are applied from the very first page to the last.

3. Structure

The classical structure of a novel or short-story is a character who needs to, somehow, solve some conflict in order to achieve some goal. You should always keep this in mind!

Now, of course you can fight the classical structure, but, you should be careful and have a purpose for it yourself, such as, getting a specific reaction or surprising your audience in some clever way. However, also keep in mind that usually, the further you move away from that classical structure, the smaller your audience will be.

4. Run from stereotypes

There are many successful stories about stereotyped characters, they usually intend to criticize some class or type of person. You could go there, if you wanted to, but remember, the stories who keep people talking about them, aren’t usually like this.

They have unique characters, deep thoughts and actions. They give their readers something to think about, analyze and interpret, almost all on their own with subtle clues, actions and dialogue within the storyline. Let your readers make up their own mind about a character.

5. Your reader is the most important one

This builds on the conclusion from the previous point. Do not treat your readers as if they don’t know anything. They are important and you want them to be interested in your story, right? So, let them have an opinion, don’t tell them everything, make them think, lead them to take their own conclusions.

6. Paper and pencil is the best way to start out

You might never think about it, but when you sit at your computer you’re being limited by it. Pick up a paper and a pencil and do whatever you want. You can write words, you can draw, make a map, anything you want. And don’t worry, it’s just for you, nobody will see it, so it doesn’t really matter if your cow ends up looking like an ostrich.

7. Take a walk

Writing is a solitary job, usually sitting down, closed off in a room by yourself. But the creativity and fun stories are out there, amongst LIFE. Get out! See people, talk to them, observe them, think about them and their issues. You’ll see your characters become more interesting and your writing improving.

8. You have 5 senses

And so do your readers… You should never forget about that, use it in your favor. When writing your amazing descriptions remember all of them and try incorporate them into your writing. Talking about the smell, the feeling of the wind against the skin, the sound of the forest will make your scene that much more interesting and detail-rich.

9. Nobody is definitively good or evil

If you want your character to be interesting and catch the reader’s attention, you must humanize it. The bad guy could have some positive characteristics and the hero can be a real jerk sometimes. A hero too good tends to become boring and a villain too bad is unrealistic (they can’t be all crazy, all the time, can they?)

The characters and myself

A writer often starts writing about himself or his experiences. Our first characters are usually some kind of reflection of ourselves… what we are, what we wanted to be, what we hate and love about ourselves.

This is normal, expected and actually good practice. It’s important for you to know yourself and explore your own personality, since, when you create a character, you need to explore it and it would be harder if you’ve never done that before. The words, descriptions and everything else you’ll craft around these first characters are kind of who you are, which makes them special.

However, this is just the beginning, and eventually, it comes time to evolve and create something else entirely. You do not want every single character to become a different version of yourself, do you? So, when you finally reach this point, what should you do?

It’s never easy, no matter the circumstances, to see something from other people’s point of view. However, as a writer, this is your job, so you need work at it, and practice it a lot. Empathy is the key here.

So, start freeing your mind from all of your beliefs and prejudices and look at your story from different points of view. Try to write the same scene, narrating it with the different voices of the several characters that take part in it. They surely have different thoughts and feelings and you must write the same scene according to these differences. Is it hard? It very well might be, at first.

Let’s see, there are several ways to accomplish this. Even in real life, you can train this ability with and on other people who cross your way. Try to understand and perceive conflict, disagreements or debates from several of the different perspectives. Put yourself in the shoes of someone who might disagree with you. Why? What’s his or her point of view? Try to understand, empathize with that person and his or her ideas and you’ll realize that you can truly start to understand what he or she is thinking.

Besides, you can’t flood your readers with extensive and exhaustive descriptions, you need to be a bit more subtle and the best way to learn how to achieve this is by actually observing other people and their behavior. People don’t usually lend themselves to be read very easily. You actually need to read in between the lines and realize what they are really thinking to start figuring out who they really are. And, in the end, what helps you get to know that? What was the sign that elucidated you? Keep at it and you will soon find out what stands out.

That’s the one thing you need, to find that something that’ll help you read people, better see a story from different angles and be able to make and write more interesting and realistic characters.

The characters make the story

The characters are the soul of a story. Without good characters, no matter how amazing your story could, or would be, your readers will not identified themselves with it and they’ll get tired.

For me, building the characters has always been the best part of writing a new book. It’s really exciting and sometimes I just start constructing them, the characters, and somehow, a new story is born. It’s just that simple! But I don’t think I realized the true importance of characters until I started writing a non-fictional book. It might seem kind of counter-intuitive but it’s the hard truth.

Somewhere along the way, I felt the need to stop and think about people who were part of my live, portrayed as characters and that was the only way I didn’t get stuck in the first chapter.

The characters move the story along, as what they think, what they do, or don’t do, will determine how the story will evolve. Every single piece of information about them will have an impact on your reader and the way he or she will see the story.

So, in the end, they are what truly matters most, so don’t even think about the many hours you spend building your characters, as lost of time. Create them, think about all the details, and even when they do not matter to the story at this time, they will help you to create a coherent person, a believable one and it might just save you a lot of time latter on.

Create great characters, and end up with great stories.