Today’s Writing Tip

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Remember your main character needs to have a fatal flaw. This is what allows your reader to relate to them. It’s also what makes them seem real. Flaws don’t make a person weak, only human.

Often when we think of flaws, we think of some disposition to do evil or propensity to fall prey to some horrible temptation. While this can definitely work, it’s not always necessary. A fatal flaw’s primary function is to stand between your character and what he wants.

Any number of character traits can fill the bill. It could be something as simple as being too honest, outspoken, having too much pride, lack of confidence, too impulsive, hot temper, doesn’t know when to quit, guilt over past mistakes, too idealistic, stubborn, easily distracted, too emotional, perfectionist, indecisive, spiteful, knows everything, control freak, unrealistic, etc.

If you don’t know, you need to figure it out. What do they have to overcome to grow as a person so they can get what they want?

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Today’s Writing Tip

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Have you ever read a story where the characters were entirely flat? So boring you knew they couldn’t possibly be real? These are called “cardboard characters” which refers to those who have no personality.

Usually this won’t be a problem for your protagonist. There are exceptions, of course, such as when your story is so plot driven that the people populating it are simply moving it along. Even when this is the case, it’s important to make them real and relatable.

For your main characters, make sure they have likes, dislikes, and opinions so they act like real people. Let them come alive. Unique gestures and mannerisms help as well as a distinct appearance. Walk-ons or minor characters can be made to stand out in that manner as well.

They say good-looking people are less memorable because their faces are symmetrical. Think about those you remember, either in fiction or real life. Giving distinguishing features to your characters can make them more memorable as well.

Today’s Writing Tip

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Using astrology for character development is helpful and fun. If you’re not familiar with the characteristics of the various zodiac signs, my book “Whobeda’s Guide to Basic Astrology” can help. You can pick up your copy on Amazon here.

For those of you who may be new to the planet, astrology comprises twelve personality profiles with distinct characteristics. More than likely when you start your story, you have a general idea what the characters will be like. However, if they’re too basic, they can remain at the “cardboard” stage and never come to life.

For example, so you know how your character handles money? Is s/he quiet and shy? Emotion or logic driven? Slow, fast, or deep thinker? Courageous or cautious? Bossy or retiring? Providing your character with a Sun Sign and learning a little about its traits will provide these answers.

Another thing astrology comes in handy for is character conflict. As you undoubtedly know, some people get along better than others. Learning how Sun Signs interact can help develop their relationship. Find out how the different signs interact at the most basic level on my astrology website here.

Today’s Writing Tip

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Creating characters that stand out can be a challenge. One way you can add color to your characters is by giving them a regional accent. This will automatically have an influence on their personality as readers will associate them with someone they already know from that locale. If they don’t, then they get to meet one through your character. How fun is that?

Capture their accent in writing by deliberately misspelling their dialog to reflect how it sounds phonetically. This is most easily done if you’re familiar with the accent. For example, I have lived in Texas for over thirty years, so I definitely know what someone from Texas sounds like, y’all!

If you really want to get into this, which also requires intimate knowledge of the region, you can add colloquialisms specific to the area. A few here in the Lone Star State include such things as “I was up all night like a tree full of owls” (insomnia) or “When he got home late, she was on him like white on rice” (chewed him out). These can often add some comic relief as well as further defining your character.

Today’s Writing Tip

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The general rule is to start your story with your main character. However, if this person’s importance fades later, you might want to make it a prologue if that scene is essential to the story.

This is something that relates to yesterday’s blog about when a minor character takes over the story. If he or she steps into the star role, you may need to introduce them in chapter one. If both your intended main and the minor character are both in the first chapter, this isn’t a problem. You just need to open with the main character’s POV. However, if the one taking over doesn’t come on the scene until later, it’s more of a challenge.

If anyone out there has encountered a similar issue I’d love to hear how you solved it.

 

Today’s Writing Tip

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Yesterday I mentioned using character interviews to get to know him or her better as well as a good promotional vehicle. Another way to get to know your characters is by meditating on him or her. If they seem lost or you don’t know what they need to do next, it’s time to evaluate why they’re there. A few things to consider are:

What is their place in the story?

How do they fit into the plot?

What motivates them?

What do they want?

Answering these questions will help you in one of two ways. You’ll either figure out what they need to do or you’ll discover that they’re extraneous and don’t belong in your story. If you really like him or her, file them away for a future story but don’t bog your story down with anyone who doesn’t contribute to the story line and plot.

Today’s Writing Tip

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Have you ever written a character interview? They’re great for introducing the people in your story to potential readers and fans. Who doesn’t want to get to know someone who’s interesting? Someone who has already read your story will enjoy getting to know your characters better as well, especially if they have a favorite.

But did you know they’re also an excellent way to get to know your own characters better? Try it next time you’re stumped about how someone in your story would behave. If you don’t know what he or she will do, ask them! If you’re having to push a character to do something and they’re resisting, find out why as well as what they’d rather do. Sometimes this will result in a plot twist, but it will be more authentic that forcing a character to do something contrary to their nature.

Today’s Writing Tip

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Have you ever thought of what your protagonist’s (or other characters’) favorite music genre or even favorite song might be? Think about how old s/he is and what type of music was popular when they were in their teens & early 20s.

This is particularly useful in character development since it helps define the person. For example, if someone prefers Beethoven to acid rock it clearly tells you something about them. When you’re getting to know a character yourself, listening to “their” favorite music an help you get in their zone as well. When your character comes to life it makes writing so much easier.

This is also a way for readers to relate to a character, especially if they share a favorite song with someone in your book. Just be aware that you can’t include lyrics of a song without permission, but the title works if it’s a popular song with which most of your fans are familiar.

Today’s Writing Tip

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When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up? Is that what you are doing now or did you take a different turn somewhere along the line and wind up something else? I have found that those childhood dreams may get buried, but never entirely go away.  They are deeply programmed in your psyche and aren’t happy when they’re suppressed.

Any career that interests you is fun to research and thus a great one to use for your protagonist. Even if you never got to be what you originally hoped to be, you can do it vicariously through one of your characters.

Who knows what you might discover in the process. It may even motivate you to finally pursue your original dream or perhaps decide it was best left behind. Either way, your subconscious will thank you.

Today’s Writing Tip

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They say to “write what you know.” What life experiences do you have that are worth sharing? Even if you think you’ve lived a pretty boring life, there are undoubtedly lessons you can share and/or help you with character development. Don’t be afraid to let who you are peek through in your stories.

Have you ever thought about sharing your memoirs? If you’re between novels it may be a good time to start writing them up. If you’ve done something unusual in your career, traveled extensively, or have a particular hobby or interest that has brought you some interesting experiences, this is one way to share them. However, you can also use them for your characters, too. Don’t let your life’s lessons and what you’ve learned go to waste.

I’m going to sneak in a plug for one of my nonfiction books here simply because it fits the subject. FHFF06082018frontsm300Family folklore is something that many have never heard of, yet we all have it. What are your family’s traditions for holidays? Favorite stories and recipes? Ethnic origins? Vacation adventures? For more ideas, check out “The Family History Fun Factor”. It’s free on Kindle Unlimited. You can pick up your copy on Amazon here.