Tag Archives: reader

From the Archives: IT’S ALIVE!!! Creating Characters that Come to Life

To celebrate the one year anniversary of my blog (March 13th), I’m publishing select posts throughout the year under the title “From the Archives” for those who may have missed them the first time around. Next up…

IT’S ALIVE!!! Creating Characters that Come to Life

Do the characters you write about become real to you? Do you sometimes find yourself wondering what they’re up to as if you could simply call them up and chat? I must admit I have done that once. Okay maybe more than once.

Sure, they’re a figment of your imagination, and you’d do well to remember that, but creating good fictional characters involves more than mere physical description. In fact, some authors don’t provide a physical description at all; they leave it up to the imagination of the reader. What I’ve learned is that physical description is the least important part of good characterization.

If you want your characters to come to life, to know what they would say or do or feel, you need to get into their heads. You need to understand what motivates them. To do that you need to know where they’ve been. What has happened to them in the past? What was their childhood like? What environment did they grow up in? What are their likes and dislikes? What are their hopes and fears? What have they experienced that would give rise to any quirks, phobias or disorders? Do they have any special talents or abilities? Do they have any unique expressions? How do they treat other people?

“Sow a thought, and you reap an act; Sow an act, and you reap a habit; Sow a habit, and you reap a character; Sow a character, and you reap a destiny.”  ―    Anonymous

Of course, all of this is up to you. The answers to these questions come from your imagination. When you create a character that goes well beyond physical description, it is as if you have brought that character to life. They not only become real to you but they become real to your readers. The reader becomes invested in your book and that is the main goal.

“I will go to my grave in a state of abject endless fascination that we all have the capacity to become emotionally involved with a personality that doesn’t exist.”  ―    Berkeley Breathed

Would You, Could You, Read a Fiction Book?

dr. seuss 2I was at a party last night when the topic turned to the latest “must read” books. My ears perked up as I listened to the discussion. They happened to be works of fiction and a few people chimed in with comments like:

“Oh, I can’t read a book if the story’s not real!”

“Why would you read about something that never happened?”

“They’re a waste of time!”

“I learn so much from those self-help books. What can you possibly learn from fiction?”

Really? They have absolutely no idea what they’re missing.

As typical, my thoughts on this subject swirled with another post I recently read. I wish I could remember who wrote it but my brain seems to have filed away that bit of information. Anyway, it was about finding time to read and the author asked for responses in the poetic style of Dr. Seuss. The next thing I knew, this little ditty started to form in my head. Hope you enjoy it.  Happy Friday!

I need to read.
I need to read.
Read, I need.
Fill my need.
I beg and plead.
But don’t make it that
fiction, you love to read.

Do you like
to read a book?

I do so love to
read a book.
But I don’t want fiction
on my nook.

Can’t you read fantasy?
Why must it be reality?

I do not like fantasy.
Realism is the only way for me.
Fiction has no legitimacy.
If it’s not true, then I won’t read.

I do so like
to read a book,
but I can’t have fiction
on my nook.

Could you read
Catcher in the Rye?
Could you read
The Sheltering Sky?

I cannot read
Catcher in the Rye
I cannot read
The Sheltering Sky
I cannot read such
subliteracy.
I can only read
Non-fiction, you see.
I do so like to read a book.
but I won’t put fiction on my nook.

Would you read
Sophie’s Choice?
Or something else
by James Joyce?

Not Sophie’s Choice.
Not James Joyce.
Not Catcher in the Rye.
Not The Sheltering Sky.
I cannot read it if it’s not true.
No made-up worlds will ever do.
I do so like to read a book
but I won’t have fiction on my nook.

Would you? Could you?
Read Animal Farm?
Or Hemmingway’s
Farewell to Arms?

I would not,
could not,
read Animal Farm.

Or Hemmingway’s

Farewell to Arms!

You may like them.
You will see.
Try Ironweed,
Fifty Shades Freed?

I would not, could not read Fifty Shades Freed.
Nor Ironweed! You let me be.

I would not like Tales of the Beadle Bard.
Or Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card.
I would not like Stephen King’s The Stand.
Or any book by that woman Ayn Rand.
I would not like Melville’s Moby Dick.
Or that strangely titled book, Ubik.
I do so like to read a book.
I just don’t want those on my nook.

Twilight! Wuthering Heights!
How about At First Sight?
Could you, would you try
Tender is the Night?

Not Twilight! Not Wuthering Heights!
Not at First Sight or Tender is the Night!
Please tell me, you got that, right?
I would not like An American Tragedy.
I would not like The Guide to the Galaxy.

I would not like Sense and Sensibility.
Not even The Studs Lonigan Trilogy.
I would not like The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie
Or anything by that guy Salman Rushdie

Say!
Emily Bronte?
Or Charlotte Bronte?
All Quiet on the Western Front?

I would not, could not,
Read a Bronte.

Would you, could you,
Read Pearl S. Buck?

I would not, could not, read Pearl S. Buck
I’ve already told you, I don’t give a –
Not even a book by Harper Lee.
I do not like fiction books, you see.
Not Lord Jim. Not Lucky Jim.
Not even Rudyard Kipling’s Kim. Not even on a whim!
I will not read a fiction book.
I do not want them on my nook.

You will not read
a fiction book?

I will not
give them,
a second look.

Could you, would you read
On the Road?

I would not,
could not read
On the Road.

Would you, could you read
Tobacco Road?

I would not, could not read On the Road.
I will not, will not, read Tobacco Road.
I won’t read a world that’s fantastical.
I treasure my books that are biographical.
I will not read a mystery.
It must be truth from history.
I will not read a work of science fiction,
where alien creatures are the main depiction.
I will not read a silly romance.
It’s hardly worth a second glance.
I will not read a romantic suspense.

Reading illusion doesn’t make sense!
I will not read
a fiction
book!

I do not want them
on my nook!

What is this aliteracy
that you claim?
Read them! Read them!
You’ll never
be the same.

Damn!
If you will let me be
I will try them.
You will see.

Say!
I like to read a fiction book!
How many will fit on my nook?
And I would read all ever wrote!
And I would read them as you gloat!
And I will read them in the rain.
And in the dark with severe eye strain.
And in a car until I get sick.
They are so good, what’s a little ick?

So I will read them at the doctor.
And I will read them while I proctor.
And I will read them in my house.
And I will read them with my spouse.
And I will read them here and there.
Say! I will read them ANYWHERE!

I do so like
to read a book
Now it must be
FICTION
on my nook!

IT’S ALIVE!!! Creating Characters that Come to Life.

Do the characters you write about become real to you? Do you sometimes find yourself wondering what they’re up to as if you could simply call them up and chat? I must admit I have done that once, okay maybe more than once.

Sure, they’re a figment of your imagination, and you’d do well to remember that, but creating good fictional characters involves more than mere physical description. In fact, some authors don’t provide a physical description at all; they leave it up to the imagination of the reader. What I’ve learned is that physical description is the least important part of good characterization.

If you want your characters to come to life, to know what they would say or do or feel, you need to get into their heads. You need to understand what motivates them. To do that you need to know where they’ve been. What has happened to them in the past? What was their childhood like? What environment did they grow up in? What are their likes and dislikes? What are their hopes and fears? What have they experienced that would give rise to any quirks, phobias or disorders? Do they have any special talents or abilities? Do they have any unique expressions? How do they treat other people?

“Sow a thought, and you reap an act; Sow an act, and you reap a habit; Sow a habit, and you reap a character; Sow a character, and you reap a destiny.”  ―    Samuel Smiles

Of course, all of this is up to you. The answers to these questions come from your imagination. When you create a character that goes well beyond physical description, it is as if you have brought that character to life. They not only become real to you but they become real to your readers. The reader becomes invested in your book and that is the ultimate goal.

“I will go to my grave in a state of abject endless fascination that we all have the capacity to become emotionally involved with a personality that doesn’t exist.”  ―    Berkeley Breathed

Use Adverbs in Moderation

What did I do when I thought my novel wasn’t long enough (refer to my post on Word Count)? I went shopping. No, I don’t mean the mall. I went to Lolly’s Adverb Shop and I filled my cart. Still don’t know what I’m referring to? Watch this.

Didn’t make it through the whole thing, huh? Yeah, me neither. Sorry about that. I hope you don’t have that tune stuck in your head all day.

So I tacked on the adverbs (did I just admit that?), especially in the first three chapters. {CRINGE} Oh the horror!

Despite what we learned from watching School House Rock as kids, adverbs aren’t exactly a writer’s friend. Some well-known authors aren’t fans either.

“The road to hell is paved with adverbs.” ~ Stephen King, On Writing

“Substitute ‘damn’ every time you’re inclined to write ‘very;’ your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be.” ~Mark Twain

I’m not saying you should avoid adverbs altogether. A few sprinkled in your writing make it more interesting but use them sparingly. Overutilization can bore the reader. If the removal of an adverb weakens the intended meaning of the sentence then consider using a better verb.

So, what is an adverb? The short definition: a word that modifies a verb, adjective, other adverb or phrase and typically (yep, that’s an adverb) ends in –ly. But there’s more to it than that so look up the formal definition and check this out:

http://www.momswhothink.com/reading/list-of-adverbs.html

In addition to increasing the adverb count, I went on incessantly (LOL) about the setting and the characters and blah, blah, blah. I did the one thing that I don’t like to read in other novels. Anyone read The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo? Great book, right? How many of you wanted to toss it after the first twenty pages or so? I wanted to torch it. I had just left the world of finance. The last thing I wanted to do was read about it. I suffered through it because I heard it was worth it but I came close to giving up.

If you are an aspiring author like me, do yourself a favor: chill on the adverbs and the lengthy descriptions. It slows down the action. It can cause the reader to lose interest and if the reader is an agent, well…that really, totally, truly, seriously (okay, I’ll stop) sucks.

Need ideas on how or when to eliminate adverbs?  Visit http://grammar.quickanddirtytips.com/eliminate-adverbs.aspx