Writing Character Descriptions that Hook Readers – Written by Angela Ackerman

on Writers in the Storm:

I think we can all agree that characters are the heart of a novel. We build worlds around our story’s cast, spend dozens of hours plundering their psyche to understand needs, motivations, and beliefs, and even envision complete backstories. Then, of course, we go on to produce tens of thousands of words about their vulnerabilities and strengths as they rise, fall, and rise again on the path to their goal. We also revise, dedicating yet more hours to ensure readers understand and care about our characters as much as do.

Yes, it’s fair to say we work hard to make sure our characters live and breathe on the page. But here’s the irony…in all that effort, many of us overlook or underutilize another important area of character description: their physical appearance.

It’s true, a character’s features and physicality can be hard to convey. We may not have a strong mental picture of them ourselves, or if we do, how to sum it all up economically. After all, at the start of the story when we need to provide details on a character’s appearance, we’re also juggling everything else we must show like the action, setting, circumstances, plus the character’s motivation, underlying problem, emotion, and so on.

So we find ourselves asking, does the character’s looks really matter? Isn’t it what’s inside that counts?

Yes…and no.

Continue reading HERE

Updating Character Sheets

In January 2017 I published a blog post, asking if OneNote is a writer’s tool?

Since then many of you know that I use OneNote as a writer’s tool, not only to take notes, but to actively use it to take information, writing notes, reminders, and lists with me.

Since I am a big fan of OneNote, I also use it to create my character sheets.

Writing a series as the one I do now makes it necessary to keep track of my recurring and new characters and what better way is there to keep my characters as close to me as possible at all times than to use OneNotes?

Now, changing from my former desktop to my current laptop has lost me my entire OneNote. It almost broke my heart, until I realized that I did have one local copy on an external memory device. This means I got my brains together when I made a OneNote data backup. Unfortunately, this was an older version of all my notes. Big chunks of the writing notes were missing, and the character sheets were more or less on the basic character drafts.

Nobody can say I’m not learning from my mistakes and this disaster taught me a few things:

1. save your writer’s notes on a current device
2. make sure the data isn’t only on the cloud but also on the device
3. keep your character sheets as current as possible at all times

Point three has caused me sleepless nights. I realized that I occasionally took notes on the characters wherever I was and on whatever piece of paper I found, but rarely updated the character sheets with new developments.

In a series as of mine, there are definitely a number of characters, the planned returning ones and new ones that come up with the story of new books. When I started my series I had fourteen returning characters on the ‘Good’ side and at least eight characters on the ‘Bad’ side to begin with, and no matter how good I am, I cannot memorize every single small development each of these characters took with the progress of the series.

That means, right now, I’m busy searching my finished manuscripts and drafts for the developments that I had not written down in the character sheets.

I’m therefore spending some of my time reading, taking notes and updating character sheets, with the defined resolution to keep my character sheets up-to-date from now on! It is a lot of work, but I know it’s worth it.

After all, I want my books to be comprehensible and with no obvious character flaws.

While I wrote this blog post, I was asking myself if I’m the only one working like this? Am I complicated? Does that make sense? And how are other authors developing character sheets? Where do other authors keep them? If you can give me some advice, I’d be grateful to hear it in the comments. Thank you!