Category Archives: Creating Characters

Writing for Comfort

By Debbie Delvaux

Writing for comfort.

When I was a young girl, I never had the opportunity to really be one of the gang as I was always feeling left behind. Being the second of two daughters and very shy at times.

I would try to keep up with my sister and her friends. You know like the story goes of the second left behind or the tag along. Sigh!!

Well anyway, when I would be finding myself alone and no one to play with, I would either swing and drift to another world or walk the neighborhood and imagine myself as a member of their family.

The older daughter or just a secret agent disguised as one of their own members.
So many lives to pretend to be and yet so little time to be them when you would hear your mother call to supper and then to bed.

But as a day would go on, I would still try to live that life and be off somewhere when the television got too boring or the weekend too long with nothing to do.

To this day I can see myself in one of those many secret lives and that has given me the chance to now sit at my laptop, make that life come true and with no interruptions except when the telephone rings or one of the cats grabs my leg for attention.

Many of the lives spent elsewhere have given me comfort when I had hard times, bad times, or even silly times to say I will try that in a story someday.

So in retrospect, I have been given a gift of imaginary lives and way to live my own life the way I wanted it to be.

How I Started Writing – from a Newbie

By Laura E. Aronis

I didn’t think I could write! Me? I couldn’t imagine having enough imagination for something as enormous as a whole book! Characters? Plots? Climax? Resolution? No way! I was content to read other amazing works of fiction, often rereading them over and over again, (which I didn’t realize was setting me up for being a writer.) 

I might have an idea come to me on occasion, or I might daydream about some scenario taking place around me, but I NEVER thought of putting pen to paper and writing it out! That would just be too embarrassing! No one would want to read something that came out of my head, that’s just silly! Until one day… The day that the idea was just too good, the scenario too exciting and the characters too interesting for me to keep them inside and risk them leaving me as I slowly thought of new adventures and stories. 

I didn’t know how to begin, so I started with something that looked a bit like this:

Jack: Let’s go up the hill.

Jill: I do need a pail of water.

Narrator: Jack and Jill went up the hill to fetch a pail of water. 

Jill: Jack! There’s a boat– (Wait, that’s a different story) Watch out!

Narrator: Jack sees a large boulder coming straight at him and tries to run but…

Jack: Ahhhh!

Narrator: Jack yells as he falls down the hill. There’s silence as his crown (head) breaks.

Jill: (gasps)

Narrator: And that’s the end of Jack. But wait! What’s this? Jill is tumbling after!

The End

Obviously, I knew that wasn’t the way to do it, but I had to start somewhere. I took what I had written and started over, thinking about how other writers had done it and began:

Jack was bored. Nothing interesting ever happened in Kilmersdon, the town where he and his wife, Jill lived. He watched his wife knitting tiny little socks and could take it no longer. “Let’s go up the hill,” he said. Jill finished counting the stitches in the row she was working on and smiled at her husband.

“I do need a pail of water,” she said. Jack took Jill’s hand and they walked out the door. Jill grabbed the wooden bucket that always sat just inside the door of their thatched stone cottage. They walked side by side down the lane that led to the small school, as that’s where the well was located.

They enjoyed the late afternoon sunshine and each other’s company as Jack chased Jill along the old stone wall and up the steep hill that the neighborhood children had to climb every day. 

Suddenly Jack slipped on some loose stones on the path and tried to catch himself by grabbing the top of the wall, but the large stone he managed to grab was loose and came off in his hand. It landed on top of his head, crushing his skull.

“Ahhh,” he said as he started to roll down the hill, much to Jill’s horror. As she tried to run after him, her foot got caught in her skirts and she came tumbling down the hill after her husband. 

The End

So, it doesn’t matter how you start; if you have an idea, just start. You may end up with a morbid nursery rhyme that parents will sing to their babies long after everyone involved is dead and gone.

Writing Perspective – Day 27 of 31

By Valerie Routhieaux

Day 27 – Dramatic Through Lines

Today’s tip comes from the book, Story Structure Architect by Victoria Lynn Schmidt, Ph.D.

Selecting a Dramatic Through Line. A dramatic through line is the main direction of your characters whether you have a plot-driven or character-driven book, the through line is what makes your characters achieve their goals—in most cases staying alive to the end, especially when you’ve got a lot of dinosaurs chasing you as in Jurassic Park. Or aliens coming to take over your world as in Independence Day.

It might not be staying alive that drives your character. It might be finding love as in romances, finding the reason why as in mysteries.

Your through line is what keeps your readers reading, and the more dramatic you make it, the more they will keep turning those pages.

There are five types of dramatic through line:

1. The main character succeeds

2. The main character is defeated

3. The main character abandons his goal

4. The main character’s goal is undefined

5. The reader creates the goal

No matter what kind of story you’re writing, there wouldn’t be a dramatic through line without characters. What are your favorite types of books based on those five types of dramatic through lines?

Tomorrow’s Perspective: Conflict

Writing Perspective – Day 26 of 31

By Valerie Routhieaux

Day 26 – Beginnings

The Hook—good beginnings.

Every writer wants his or her work accepted. How do you make a good beginning that will keep the publisher reading your work, and see your story published? It doesn’t matter whether it’s a short story, poem, or novel. If you don’t grab the publisher in the first few paragraphs it won’t see the light of day.

To help with that, several years ago, I bought a book called Hooked by Les Edgerton. There are a lot of good ideas to not only keep the publisher reading but your reader as well.

The beginning of your book sets up the problem, the scene and you meet the characters. It gives just enough backstory to keep the publisher interested, but not too much that it ends up in the slush pile. You want to avoid the slush pile at all costs.

I’ve heard authors will spend more time on the beginning paragraphs and the first chapter of the book than the rest of the book.

If you don’t know what hooked you with your favorite book, take it off the shelf and read the first paragraph. Not only were you hooked, but more importantly the publisher of that book was too.

I admit I’ve struggled with the opening. I want to get it right. I want to build tension. I want to set the scene. Before I presented Thread of Evidence to my publisher, I read it at Writer’s Guild to get feedback. I value their feedback. I had way too much boring information in the opening paragraphs, boring information best left for other parts of the book and filled in as backstory where it wouldn’t be boring, or taking it out altogether.

You want to give your reader/publisher the setting, what is going on in the opening paragraph. Your publisher/reader needs to know in that opening if they are reading a historical novel, science fiction, contemporary romance, mystery, or another genre.

Does this grab your attention? Why or why not?

————-

Ten-year-old Jo-Ann Carter stood in the drawing room, arms crossed, with a stubborn expression on her face. Her pale green eyes flashed angrily as she watched her mother tie a blue-gray bonnet beneath her chin, matching her long flowing fitted-waist satin and taffeta dress. She stomped her black-shoed foot on the floor, a pout on her face. “I want to go too!”

—————–

That is the opening paragraph of Scarred. Do you want to know what comes next? Wanting to know is the reason behind every book on bookstore shelves and on your bookshelves. You wanted to know what’s next. Keeping your publisher interested will keep your reader interested. Keeping your reader interested will result in books sold and money in your pocket. And that is what every author wants, money in their pocket. It won’t happen without a good beginning. So, get the hook right and you will be on your way.

Tomorrow’s Perspective: Dramatic Through Lines

Writing Perspective – Day 24 of 31

By Valerie Routhieaux

Day 24 – Show vs. Tell

Showing versus telling has been one of those areas that always confused me. However, when I did the research on it, I can say with certainty that yes, yesterday’s example from New Horizon’s – Predators and Blue Fire was a perfect example of Showing.

Not only was I giving you an example of how not to give too much information at once, but also showing you the action instead of telling you what was going on.

When you watch a movie, you don’t need anyone to show you what’s going on in the scene, it’s evident. However, how do you make that same scene come alive in a book so the reader can see the scene in their head as they read? You do it through showing.

Show the reader a person is cold with stamping feet, shivering, blowing on mitten-less, glove-less hands, fog in the air as the character breathes. Those are clear images of showing. Don’t just say your character is cold. You’ve done nothing to show your reader.

Dress your reader in layers – a heavy knit sweater, wool knit hat, large overcoat. What time of year is it? Sweat dripped from his brow and clung in cloying stickiness to his skin. Snow crunched underfoot. He had to crack the ice in order to get water from the well. Humidity hung in the air and took the breath away as she stepped outside. Her nostrils felt like they would freeze together as she stepped into the windless starry night. Color flooded the landscape and crunched underfoot as she walked in the countryside. The air was soft and gentle, the trees budded with new life. Green tongues poked their way through the earth after a fiercely cold winter.

Can you see it? Can you feel it? That’s showing and that’s what you want your reader to see and feel when you write your stories. There are times when you need to tell. Keep the telling to a minimum.

Tomorrow’s Perspective: Avoid Shortcuts

Writing Perspective – Day 23 of 31

By Valerie Routhieaux

Day 23 – Reader Engagement

Today’s writing tip concerns the info dump. When you start writing, people tend to start with the backstory and tell everything about the situation and in doing so, lose their audience before the end of the first paragraph.

You want your reader to know your characters, their personality, and the time period they live in or the planet they’re on, depending on what genre you’re working with.

However, there’s a right way and wrong way to do that. I once picked up the book Ben Hur from the library. I couldn’t get past the first couple of pages because it was all information about the time period. How do you overcome that and get your reader interested in your book? Sprinkle it in where appropriate. Not all at once.

You might start with a paragraph showing location for your character but get to the dialogue as soon as possible. Interaction between characters can show as much information about the time period, genre, location as several pages of info dump does. And it does a better job of keeping your reader engaged in the story.

As your story moves along, your reader will get a good idea of where your characters are and what they are doing from the dialogue. Yes, the description is necessary to the book, but don’t over describe. Don’t under describe either. You don’t want to leave the person wondering what just happened and cut him out of the story.

Remember, your reader is on the same journey as your characters. Let them look around the location and see where they are. Build tension with dialogue. You won’t get tension in an info dump.

Below is an excerpt from my book New Horizons – Predators and Blue Fire. I hope it shows you what I’m talking about. Information, but not too much. It’s the end of the first chapter.

———-

They finished a late-night snack when the plane went through an electrical storm. Lightning flashed around the plane, but there weren’t any clouds in sight, at least none Shanara could see as she gazed out the window. It reminded her of movies about a spacecraft forced through space at an excessive speed.

She expected to see dark billowy clouds below them, indicating rain, but there was nothing. She also found it strange that flying above the clouds, they would get caught in an electrical storm, something she would expect below the clouds. However, she couldn’t see the sky or clouds.

The seatbelt sign came on, and everyone put their seats in an upright position, preparing for the worst. Only the worst didn’t happen, at least not from what Shanara could see, or not see.

“That was a strange storm. What can you see out the window?” asked Michael.

“Nothing. I mean, literally, nothing. Before the storm there was an ocean beneath us, now there isn’t even water.”

Suddenly, the plane took a sharp turn upward, and Shanara could see the mountain peak in front of them.

“Where did that come from?” asked Michael.

“I have a feeling we’re not on earth anymore,” said one of the passengers, her eyes glued to the window.

“I bet you’re right. Nothing looks familiar,” said a male passenger.

As soon as the plane righted itself, the captain came on the intercom. “I know many of you are wondering where we are. So are we! Our navigational charts are useless. We passed into what is known as the Bermuda Triangle, and though I’ve flown this route many times, nothing like what we experienced has ever happened before. Some of you saw an electrical storm out your window. That wasn’t an electrical storm. It was a wormhole. I know what you might be thinking. You’re not in the Twilight Zone. However, wormholes are a theory which just became fact. We are looking for a place to land and hope we can find a civilization who will not shoot first and ask questions later. For now, please remain calm. You will know what is happening at the same time we do. Captain Fredericks out.”

“Okay. Now I’m glad I packed as much as you did,” said Michael.

“That’s not our moon,” said a male passenger behind them.

“No, it’s not,” said Shanara, seeing a larger moon than she was used to seeing.

“Look over there. Is that another planet?” pointed a woman, a few rows ahead of them.

Shanara focused on the terrain below them and the moons or planets she saw out the window amid a vast array of stars. It was clear they were no longer on Earth, but where they were, she hoped they would soon find out.

—————-

I hope this helps show you how to give your information to the reader and keep your reader engaged in your story.

Tomorrow’s Perspective: Show vs. Tell

Writing Perspective – Day 20 of 31

By Valerie Routhieaux

Day 20 – Magic

I hope some of you look forward to these tips and I’m glad I can help. I’m not an expert. This is what I’ve gleaned in my time as a writer and now author.

I’m still going through the world-building points. There are six of them. This one is the fifth—magic.

Magic is a broad field. It can come from any direction. Through science, through the supernatural, through technology.

Consider what you know today and where you are technologically. Now place this same knowledge in a different by-gone era and people would accuse you of witchcraft. We know the supernatural exists. All religions have some basis in the supernatural. It isn’t a far stretch of the imagination to tap into the supernatural.

You also don’t need to use the supernatural or magic in science fiction alone. Consider the best-selling book of all time, the Bible. God presents His people with signs and wonders throughout the Old Testament with the plagues of Egypt, and Elijah calling down fire from heaven and going to heaven in the whirlwind. In the New Testament, you have Jesus’ resurrection, and signs and wonders done by the apostles. These are factual representations of a mighty God.

As a Christian author, I showed God’s mighty power with the supernatural in two of my published books, Manifest Destiny and Freedom’s Cry. Magic can be presented in different ways. Consider JK Rowling’s Harry Potter series. Not everyone had magic and not all magic was good, some were bad.

How you present magic will bring your reader into your world or leave him or her standing at the door. It must be done in such a way that it’s natural to the story.

Is magic something your characters dabble in and learn, fearful that anything will happen and what happens when something does? Is magic a way of life for the people of your world and everyone has magic, some more than others? Is magic a magicians’ conjuring trick? Admit it, you enjoy a good magician’s trick. You’ve even tried it yourself.

When considering magic as the main topic of your story, you need to present it at the beginning. Even if your main character is unaware of his or her ability with magic, it must be shown at the onset of your story. Then your audience will be waiting for it to manifest in your character or will wonder how he or she will use their magic.

You can also use magic as a surprise element for your character. Again, it must be a natural outcome for the character, even if it is a surprising one. Once presented, your audience will wonder what’s going to happen next. Don’t disappoint them.

There’s also magic in the world around you. Watch nature and see how it fits together. It’s an amazing world we live in. Use it in your writing to help develop your characters. You never know where you’ll find a bit of magic.

Have you tried using magic in your writing?

Tomorrow’s Perspective: Culture

Writing Perspective – Day 19 of 31

By Valerie Routhieaux

Day 19 – Religions

Thank you for your interest in writing tips for novels, short stories, and blogs. It doesn’t matter what you write, it helps to know how to write. I hope I have helped you.

I am still discussing science fiction and world-building. Today I will focus on religion. Every culture has a religion of some type.

When creating your world, you need to know what fuels the hearts and minds of the people in your story. What do they believe? Do they believe in one god or many? Do they believe in the true God or no god? How do people interact with their gods? Do they have religious leaders to tell them what their gods want from them? What kinds of gods are they? Are they benevolent, malevolent, or manipulative? Do they make demands of the people or do they take care of the people?

Religion plays as much a part of your story as any other part. Your reader will want to know, even if they don’t realize it, what the people believe in the story you create. They want to know how it all fits together. It’s your story. Tell it in such a way that your reader will want to be part of the world you create.

Tomorrow’s Perspective: Magic

Writing Perspective – Day 18 of 31

By Valerie Routhieaux

Day 18: World History

Welcome to today’s writing tips. I’m still on world-building as there is so much to it that can also apply to other genres, not only science fiction.

One of the things you need to concern yourself with in your world is the history of the world your characters live in. What took place to put them in the position they’re in? Is it the result of peace, or is there a war going on?

History is important to every genre. To learn the history of what you’re writing you need to do research. In science fiction, you’re making up the history of your planet or world. What will your characters face? Will they be accepted or not? Was there war? How was peace achieved? Is it an uneasy peace in which war could break out again with little provocation?

Aside from wars, how did the planet come to exist? Was it part of creative design? Was a god responsible for the planet or the solar system? What kind of technology does the world have or not have? What about different societies or classes of people?

No matter what genre you write, you need to consider all the factors that make up your story. In science fiction, you can set your creative imagination free to roam. What obstacles do you face in your writing? Thanks for reading.

Tomorrow’s Perspective: Religions

Writing Perspective – Day 17 of 31

By Valerie Routhieaux

Day 17 – Inhabitants

Today in world-building, I will discuss the inhabitants of your world. Are your inhabitants a completely different alien race? Are they human or non-human? Are they mythological or magical? Are they monsters? Are they on earth or another planet?

There is a lot you can do with your story. You can base your mythological, magical, and monster stories on earth or create another planet for your story or don’t name the planet or place of origin as was done with Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit. All you have is a map of Middle Earth, you don’t know where it’s located.

In the Star Wars universe, George Lucas introduced you to a myriad of creatures, supposedly human in nature, some looking half animal and half human. In the wizarding world of Harry Potter, you know you’re on earth, particularly the UK in an unseen magical world only seen by wizards. Any human, muggle, who came in contact with wizards either have their memories wiped of all knowledge or are sworn to secrecy about wizards, as Harry Potter’s muggle family was.

Where do you start with your story? First, determine where it is. Are you on earth or in another galaxy? Next, determine your inhabitants. Are they humanoid, or extraterrestrial? Then you need to determine how they are the same as or different from humans. Do you have a combination of humans and extraterrestrial species? What are their life spans?

Once you determine your characters, you need to consider where they live and how they live? What are the main biomes of the planet? Are the plants and animals friendly or dangerous? Will they kill you or can you live side by side with them? Even on earth, we have deadly plants and animals. We have deserts and rain forests, and every ecological system living together to make the earth a living breathing planet. You need to determine the amount of land to water. Do your inhabitants dwell on land or in the water? What makes your inhabitants unique to what we’ve already seen from other authors? What makes your inhabitants stand out? Remember, if you thought of it, someone else has too, so how different can you make them to what we’ve already seen in books and movies?

Tomorrow’s Perspective: World History