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Sunday, March 10, 2013


In my opinion, character trumps plot almost every time. It's the first thing I look for in a book: a character to care about or at least, interest me enough to follow them for an entire book. It's also the first thing I work on when I have a new project. Figuring out who my characters are and what they want and how they're going to get it. Here are a few ways to do that:

Know thy character! Who is she? What does she care about? What does she like/hate? How does she act? Does she have a lucky charm? A tattoo? A motto? There are tons of books and articles about creating characters but two of my favorites are The Weekend Novelist and Wordplay's Crafting Unforgettable Characters (which is FREE!!!).

Change. Whoever she is, she isn't going to be the same person at the end - or if she is, there better be a compelling reason why. Most characters begin as imperfect, lacking something. Your job as the author is to help your character evolve, devise ways to make this happen.

Sacrifice. Call me evil, but I find a good sacrifice satisfying. When people have to give up something important or pay a price for whatever it was they wanted, well, that makes for a powerful ending and some serious evolution.

This week, I'm hoping you'll join me in some practice. Send me (unicornbellsubmissions@gmail.com) the first intro to your main character (keep it under 300 words) and lets dissect it and see if it's doing what you what. If you have specific questions or concerns, mention them. For example, here are three paragraphs from ch. 1 of my current wip, one from he beginning, one from the middle, and one from the end: I'd like your first impression of this character. Does she interest you? Can you tell what kind of a person she is? Would you follow her into the next chapter?

I paddle out, breathing evenly in the early dawn, mist rising from the water. The whole place is quiet and still and silent except for Grandfather. He tells me to hug the shore. The oars are light in my hands. I’ve been practicing since the ice melted. My arms are strong.

I start to shake my head but Grandfather says, “Something to take with you when you go,” and I understand he wants to buy me something, a going away present. It isn’t like him but I think maybe he’s feeling sentimental so I take a step closer, looking hard at what the peddler’s got.

Don’t get me wrong. I love my grandfather, more than anyone. More than the father I never knew but heard so much about, and more than my mother who thought nothing of leaving me. But he is old fashioned like a lot of old people. Always thinking things were better when he was a kid, that ‘the worlds have devolved and all that was good is slowly leaking away.’ I think he’s being a little dramatic, or maybe just remembering wrong. 

Now, send me your characters so we'll have something for tomorrow :)

Or, if you prefer, you could use this prompt to practice: you are walking along the beach when you come across a man's wallet. What do you find inside? What do you do with it? Remember, this is fiction...



cynthiarox66 said...

She seems like the more quiet, mature type. Hard working from the rowing. Considerate and compassionate, but there's obviously a disconnect between her and her grandfather's generation. I'm getting good vibes from this character and would read more! Making a blind guess but is this a coming of age sort of story?

Patchi said...

This is what I got from your character: obedient, diligent, cares a lot about her grandfather. I know she's leaving him, but not where she's going. I like how you mentioned his actions were unexpected and how you introduced her family back story in the third paragraph.

On the editorial side, I think the mist rising from the water should be in a separate sentence.

Thanks for the exercise.

mshatch said...

Thank you both - that was helpful! Care to send a few paragraphs about one of your characters?

cynthiarox66 said...

Already did! :D

mshatch said...

It might be, although I hadn't entirely thought of it that way! It's NA scifi, so...

mshatch said...

your editorial comments is right on. I'll be taking that suggestion!

Chris said...

My initial thoughts are that this girl has had a lot of hardship in her life but she connects with her grandfather despite the generation gap. Maybe the rowing brings them together, or maybe it's an outlet for her. I'm definitely intrigued and I'd keep reading for sure.

I've had a tough time with my WiP and I've been 'practicing' all day. Perhaps you can help steer me in the right direction?