Authors are not Gurus – Guest Post By Merlin Fraser

One of the problems of becoming a published writer is that people start to think that you have some sort of sage like wisdom that you can magically impart to all who ask.

If only, the Social Media world of Facebook and LinkedIn is littered with all sorts of would be Gurus and their disciples spouting the word and dispensing all sorts of wise words and advice to the uninitiated. Hey ! Don’t get me wrong there are some great people on LinkedIn that are indeed a great source of ‘Writing’ wisdom but most of the rest deal in encouragement and confidence boosting.

Like a lot of writers I get invites to talk to writers groups, of course they don’t want to hear me talk what they really want is for them to take it in turns to read something to me for an instant critique, which again is not something they really want to hear, especially the truth.

Therefore, what I do instead is set myself up as one of them, someone with perhaps more experience in where I’ve been, how I got where I am, the mistakes and pitfall to avoid and so on. What I prefer is a straight question and answer session, and the most popular questions are variations about story plotlines, or how to create characters and make them believable?

Of course, here I’m talking fictional stories, and depending upon the chosen genre it is essential to start the story with something that will hook the reader immediately and then flow in a believable way from there. This is where the creation of the of the characters who are going to bring your story to life comes in.

I have read many great stories that should have pulled my emotions every which way but failed because the characters were poorly created or unbelievable in the role. Whether you realise it or not reading a book is a flat 2D world and it is up to us as writers to turn our story into 3D in the mind and imagination of the reader.

We need the reader to get involved with the story and we achieve this through the characters we create. So decide early what emotions you want from the reader towards each of the main characters. Of course, here is also the place for creating deception in the story by making the reader dislike a character that may later turn out to be the hero or vice versa.

Our characters must, at all times, remain in character, unless in the story they temporarily step out of charter for a reason, but make that reason clear or you run the risk of the reader being side tracked into thinking “so and so wouldn’t do or say that”.

The emotions we create for our characters, in any situation, only come alive if we can also induce them into the reader, we want them to smile or laugh with the character, feel sorrow and pain and yes, even cry real tears with them.

So, where do we find the inspiration to create our characters ? Please do not be tempted to use real people, like family members, friends or acquaintances, remember they might one day read your work and may be less than flattered at your portrayal.

In my Inner Space, Nick Burton Murder Mystery stories I have been told that my characters feel genuinely real, and of course, in many ways they are and hopefully when you meet them they are people you want to know and take an interest in what happens to them. But No; I am not Nick Burton, although I have been told that he and I do share many annoying similarities and one or two better bits.

However, most of the key characters are created out of bits and pieces of real people from my past and of course, but I create their physical appearance to suit the part they have to play. In this instance, the most important piece you take from real people is knowing how they would react to any given situation.

We all know people who when faced with any new or difficult situation will stand well back saying, “Someone should do something” with no intention of ever being that someone.

Then again, I’m sure we also know someone who is first in, taking charge, dishing out instructions and so forth. So you get my drift, we all know a lot of people, from the very old, to the very young. From the very timid to the rash and bold, males as well as females, study them and use them all as required.

Of course, it also helps if you are someone like me, someone who in life has been around many blocks, had many opportunities to travel to far off places and mix with people outside your normal world. In addition, of course, you need to become a serious people watcher and something of a nosey bugger to boot.

Frequent busy places, train stations, airports, cafes and supermarkets are great places to people watch, sit there long enough and the whole world will pass before your eyes. Yet, listen as well as watch, some of my best character quotes, or misquotes have come from complete strangers passing though my life.

Next Question please.

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Character Basics: Physical Appearance [Character Development]

Another great post by Rachel Poli: describe your character’s physical appearance!

 

Rachel Poli

We’re all unique from one another, we all look and appear differently. Yes, people have identical twins or doppelgangers hanging around in other parts of the world, but we’re all made up differently.

Our appearance ranges from different hairstyles, body size and shape, the clothes we wear, and much more. There’s a lot to think about when you’re trying to paint a picture of multiple people in your stories for your readers.

How to describe your characters' physical appearance | Character development | Creating fictional characters | RachelPoli.com

Features To Think About

  • Height and weight
  • Body type
  • Eyes/eyebrows (shape, color)
  • Hair (style, length, color)
  • Skin (looks, feels, color)
  • Face (shape, facial hair)
  • Nose/ears
  • Mouth/teeth
  • Arms/hands
  • Legs/feet
  • Distinguishing features (makeup, scars, freckles, etc.)
  • Clothing style

When creating your character, it’s good for you to know most, if not all, of these features. Of course, your readers don’t need every nitty-gritty detail. I mean, you don’t typically describe your characters’ eyebrows, do you?

No, but if you want to…

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Character Basics: Choosing A Name [Character Development]

I love this post by Rachel Poli about choosing a name for your character.

Rachel Poli

This post contains affiliate links. Purchasing anything from these links will give me a small commission at no extra cost to you. This helps me keep the blog up and running. Thanks so much for your support!

What’s one of the first things you do to create your character? You come up with a name.

Well… Sometimes it’s difficult and I’ll admit I’ll throw in a random name and keep it bolded until I change it later.

For the sake of this post, we’re going to pretend the first thing we always do is name our characters.

A name is the most important thing you can give to your characters. It’s their identity and it separates them from everyone else inside the story and outside. Give them a name your readers will remember and appreciate. When you hear the name Harry Potter, you instantly know who I’m talking about, right?

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7 Helpful And Fun Ways To Create Characters

Rachel Poli provides us with 7 helpful and fun ways to create characters. Thanks, Rachel.

Rachel Poli

Creating characters isn’t always as easy as it seems. Sometimes the characters come to us and other times we have to chase them down.

I do think the creating of characters one of the most fun parts of writing a novel.

Characters go places we’ve never been. Characters can do things we’ve never dreamed of doing. Characters can be similar to us or they can be vastly different.

But how do you create characters that are similar but not exactly the same as the people around you? How can you create characters that have more experience than you in a given field?

7 helpful and fun ways to create characters | Creating fictional characters | Character development | RachelPoli.com

1. Randomize Everything

I have two apps on my iPad: Name Dice and Lists for Writers. The Name Dice is exactly how it sounds. You tap the screen and the dice roll. The first die shows the first name and the second shows the last name. When you’re stuck…

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Antagonists Are People, Too

Rachel Poli published a blog post about Antagonists in our stories. I think she did a great job here. Check it out.

Rachel Poli

It’s hard to have a good plot without someone to drive your protagonist forward. Often times, that someone happens to be a “bad guy.”

Someone who is not nice, someone who isn’t your protagonist’s number one fan, someone who wants the spotlight for themselves and goes about it the wrong way. There are a lot of reasons a protagonist becomes a protagonist. Often it’s something bad, but sometimes it’s not.

antagonistWho is the antagonist?

The antagonist is a character in your novel. Often times they are the “bad guy,” the person the protagonist is trying to stop, the person the readers don’t root for.

However, you have to remember that the antagonist is just as important to the novel as your protagonist is.

There are many different types of antagonists.

  • The Psychopath
  • The Hater
  • The Power Hungry
  • The Insane
  • The Rival

There are more types of villains, of course, but…

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The Ultimate Character Questionnaire (156 questions)…

Chris, The Story Reading Ape has provided us with part of a blog post and a link to the “Novel Factory”, where this particular post was published. The post provides us with the ultimate character questionnaire, asking 156 questions which help us to develop our characters.
(I thought the list was fascinating, even more since I don’t know myself as well as my characters after developing them with the help of this list.) But please, check it out. it is helpful.

Chris The Story Reading Ape's Blog

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This character questionnaire has been collated from a variety of sources. It has been split into categories to try to make it more manageable, but this categorisation is far from perfect and lots of the questions could probably be in more than one category.

If you can think of a question that isn’t here and think it should be added – let us know!

Basic

First name:
Surname:
Middle name:
Nicknames:
Date of birth:
Age:

Physical Appearance

Height:
Weight:
Hair:
Eyes:
Distinguishing facial features?
Which facial feature is most prominent?
Which bodily feature is most prominent?
Skin:
Hands:
Scars:
Birthmarks?
Physical handicaps?
Type of clothes?
How do they wear their clothes?
What are their feet like? (type of shoes, state of shoes, socks, feet, pristine, dirty, worn, etc)
Race / Ethnicity?

Personality

What words or phrases do they overuse?
Are they more optimistic or pessimistic?
Do they ever put on…

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How To Write Characters from the Opposite Gender

I find it very interesting what Rachel Poli has to say about how to write characters from the opposite gender. Have a peek. I’m sure you agree. Thank you Rachel.

Rachel Poli

I’m sure I don’t need to tell you that boys and girls are different. We’re different physically, mentally, and emotionally.

I’m a girl and have no idea what goes through the mind of a boy. Boys have no idea what girls go through. We pretend we understand the opposite gender, but we really have no clue.

With that being said, it’s much easier to write in the female point of view if you’re a female yourself.

how-to-write-characters-from-the-opposite-gender

When I first started writing my mystery series,George Florence, the main protagonist was George himself. It was all in first-person, but some things just weren’t clicking with the rest of the story.

I eventually changed the point of view to third-person with George still in charge, but even that didn’t work out. With the help of my writer’s group, I came to the conclusion that even though George calls the shots for…

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