Today, while I’m cruising the waters near Alaska :-), multi-talented author, Sharon Clare, is here to visit. Sharon runs really helpful workshops and is not afraid to delve deep into her writing. She also markets her books and others’ through an online game called Second Life. Her book store within that game is called The Book Nook and my book is for sale in that virtual book store. Truly innovative marketing. Today she discusses writing meaningful and memorable characters whose personalities intrigue readers. Please, readers and authors, feel free to give your thoughts in the Comments section below. And Sharon promises there will be an e-book available after her weekend workshop which she mentions below. (For all of you who can’t make the workshop!) Welcome, Sharon!
She’s Not All Bad, She Has Values!
Are you getting any of the following feedback from beta readers, contest judges, or agents/editors?
- Flat, predictable or generic characters
- Characters lack motivation/conflict
- Characters are inconsistent and ring false
- Dialogue all sounds the same
- Can’t connect with, or downright don’t care about characters
Or do you just not know where your story should go next? If so, you may need help with characterization.
When we begin to develop characters to tell our stories, we want to build dynamic characters, real people with values and flaws, histories and dreams, secrets and strengths, characters who will not only change and grow over the course of the novel, but will help lead the way.
The character arc is an evolution. Your protagonist should not be the same person at the end of the story that she was at the beginning. She needs to learn a lesson or two after dealing with all the conflict you’ll send her way, so she may not be her best at the start of the story. She may be painfully shy and come off as arrogant or she may be bitter and have mother issues or she may be insecure with a need to control everything around her. Any of these qualities will make her interesting and may not endear her to the other characters, but you want to endear her to your readers despite her flaws.
So how do you do this?
In the opening scene, give the reader a glimpse of the heroine’s potential, the person she has the ability to become, (just one core attribute you can use to emotionally engage your readers). Share something she values deeply, something that makes her likeable, and show it early on, preferably in the first chapter.
In Susan Elizabeth Phillip’s, Breathing Room, the heroine, Dr. Isabel Favor, is America’s diva of self-help. Until her life falls apart. She’s accused of being the boss from hell, a total control freak, driven, demanding and difficult, and we see from her behaviour that it’s likely true. But the following short exchange between Isabel and the cleaning lady shows us another side of Isabel, a side that shows she values compassion.
Isabel starts off this dialogue:
“Speaking of hookers, did I tell you those two ladies who hang out by the alley showed up at the new job program yesterday?”
“Those whores’ll be back on the treat by next week. I don’ know why waste your time with them.”
“Because I like them. They’re hard workers.” Isabel kicked back in her chair, forcing herself to concentrate on the positive instead of that humiliating newspaper article.
Even though a few paragraphs earlier, Isabel couldn’t help telling the cleaning woman how to do her job, we see that despite her control issues, Isabel is a good person.
So along with your character’s imperfections, be sure to show what he or she values at the onset of the story.
Here are a few ideas for values taken from the more extensive list in how to use core attributes to emotionally engage your readers in the Delve Deep Into Character workbook:
Remember, values can show character flaws as well, but that’s a topic for another day, and an aspect of our weekend workshop!
“Look within—many characters are to some degree a projection of the writer’s own personality.” ~ NYT bestselling author Robert Dugoni
Know Yourself, Know Your Character! We invite you to join us for a unique intensive writing workshop where you will learn a cutting edge technique to delve deep into yourself as a writer, so you can…
Delve Deep Into Character: 7 Steps To Leap From Cliché to Compelling
Please find details of the workshop here on our website.
Coming in the fall of 2014–Soon!
John and Lucy escape the Revolutionary War to the unsettled British territory across the Niagara River with almost nothing. In the untamed wilderness they must fight to survive, he, off on a secret mission for Colonel Butler and she, left behind with their young son and pregnant once again. In the camp full of distrust, hunger, and poverty, word has seeped out that John has gone over to the American side and only two people will associate with Lucy–her friend, Nellie, who delights in telling her all the current gossip, and Sergeant Crawford, who refuses to set the record straight and clear John’s name. To make matters worse, the sergeant has made improper advances toward Lucy. With John’s reputation besmirched, she must walk a thin line depending as she does on the British army, and Sergeant Crawford, for her family’s very survival.
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When American colonists resort to war against Britain and her colonial attitudes, a young couple caught in the crossfire must find a way to survive. Pioneers in the wilds of New York State, John and Lucy face a bitter separation and the fear of losing everything, even their lives, when he joins Butler’s Rangers to fight for the King and leaves her to care for their isolated farm. As the war in the Americas ramps up, ruffians roam the colonies looking to snap up Loyalist land. Alone, pregnant, and fearing John is dead, Lucy must fight with every weapon she has.
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