The People Speak – Part 1


POSTCARDS FROM THE MUSE

The People Speak – Part 1

By Nandy Ekle

Believable characters have believable dialogue. Your characters should sound like real people, not the narrator. The narrator (you, the writer) has their own voice, rhythm, and way of putting words together; the characters do too.  

This is critical. Without effective dialogue, the characters remain paper dolls. And this is another place where your people watching skills and whatever knowledge of psychology you have is key.

We are writing words for people to read. And since those reading our words cannot hear the words as they come out of our mouths, we have to rely on the readers’ imaginations to fill in the sound. And this is why it is critical to make the characters sound like real people.

Each character has a distinct and personal way of speaking. You may have someone who speaks boldly enunciating each syllable of each word as if they are on a stage and want the entire theater to hear everything said. You may have a character who is timid and hates to be seen or heard. You may have a comic who turns everything into a joke. 

For excellent examples of distinct dialogue which reveals the characters deep down, read anything by Liane Moriarty. Ms. Moriarty is an Australian writer, and her culture and language are different from mine, but humans are humans. Her stories are about characters who act, react, and speak to each other. And they are all very different. And there is never any doubt who is talking when they talk. 

In Big Little Lies, you have the older, brasher, standing-on-a-stage character; the timid, shy, don’t-look-at-me character, and the strong, intelligent, caring character who carries a terrifying secret. Even though this is printed word instead of pictures, we know exactly who is speaking as soon as they open their mouths.

Next week we’ll look at the importance of inner dialogue.

Your homework: Watch and listen to people having a conversation. Pay attention to body language, words, dialect, facial expressions, and tone of voice. These are just some of the things that makes every person’s speech unique.

Advertisements

Character Chart


Character Chart

by Adam Huddleston

I’m not sure where I received this template for a character chart, but I wanted to share it with everyone.  It is only the first two sections of the chart, but if you’d like the rest, feel free to contact me.  Happy writing!

character chart sheet1

Reactions


Outtakes 370

Reactions

By Cait Collins

 

Things happen.  Sometimes they are good and sometimes they’re hell.  We can write great scenes, but if the characters do not react in keeping with their personalities, the story loses its integrity.  Let’s try this.  Your story has three female characters.  Missy is in her early twenties.  She is shy, withdraw, and nervous.  Prissy is about 25.  She’s been on her own since her late teens.  She’s outgoing, friendly and independent.  At 32, Krissy is strong, confident, and a take-no prisoners woman.

There have been a number of break-ins in town recently.  The authorities are looking for suspects, but no one has witnessed the robberies.  People are adding more security to their homes, but not everyone can afford the extras.

One weekend, Missy goes to visit her friend in Oklahoma.  Prissy is attending a wedding in San Antonio.  Krissy attends a conference in Denver.  When they return home, they find they are victims of the bugler.  Two of them have lost jewelry, TV sets, and computers. The police were able to contact the two women to warn them of the break-ins, but Krissy is not answering her cell phone and no one seems to know where she went.  She has no warning.

Based on the information provided, pick one of the women and write a scene about her arrival home and facing the disaster.  Here is my take on Krissy’s response.

Krissy dropped the phone into the cradle.  Her cell phone bit the dust when she was pushed into a fountain by a group of rowdy teenagers.  At least she could phone the police, her boss, and her brother.  Thank goodness nothing appeared to have been taken.  The only evidence of the entry was the banged up door facings and leaves that had blown in through the open doorway.

“It could have been worse, Kris,” her brother stated.  “You could have been here when he came through the door.  You could have been hurt bad.”

“The jerk could have been killed.  I don’t miss.”

“Can I get you something?  I mean, have you eaten anything?”

“There’s a bottle of Merlot in the wine fridge.  Pour me a large glass.” Please,” she added.

The doorbell chimed.  Krissy stormed to the front hall.  Peeking around the curtain, she muttered a curse.  The bell chimed again. She yanked open the door.  A sheriff’s deputy grabbed her into a fierce hug.

“Don’t you ever do that to me again, Kris.  I thought you were kidnapped or worse.  I had to report you as a missing person.   He released her.

“That should have thrilled you.  I’ve been invisible for years.  You haven’t seen me since I chose to take the job with Senator Sellers.  I’ve been nothing but an irritation since you decided there was no relationship.  Not even a friendship.  Go back to your office, report me found, and forget I exist.  I never want to see you again.”

Static or Changing?


Static or Changing?

By Rory C. Keel

Almost every novel has two kinds of characters, static characters and changing characters.

Static Characters

A static character is one that does not change and remains the same through out the narrative. Minor characters are often considered static characters, such as an evil thug sidekick to a villain. Static characters lack the power to change or develop throughout the story.

Most often they are recognized as characters that have traits such as envy, pride, greed and revenge. While static characters can also be marked by any number of traits, they will portray them to a fault.

Changing Characters

Changing characters are truer to life because change is a part of life. A person who goes through a deeply emotional trial or event will usually undergo some kind of change.

A character in a novel will also face these internal and physical changes based upon the pressures of the situation they face in the narrative. Having the power to change makes the character less predictable allowing the reader to be surprised at unexpected changes the author writes.

As you write your characters, can you identify the static and changing characters?

LISTEN TO YOUR CHARACTERS


LISTEN TO YOUR CHARACTERS

Natalie Bright

 

A discussion at a writer’s workshop led by Jane Graves, an award-winning author of contemporary romance, changed the way I think about writing.

Her advice was to, “Hone in on the one thing that speaks to you. Freshness and originality comes from what you can imagine.”

Are your characters waking you up at night? Do their conversations light a fire in your gut? What do they want? Who are they?

I know this may seem abnormal to most folks, but my characters have complete conversations. I have no idea where they are or even who they are, but I know without a doubt that what I’m overhearing is important to my work in progress or something I’ll be writing in the future. My writing took on new meaning and depth when I started listening to what they were saying.

My big dreams were to be an award-winning romance novelist, but the words in my head were mostly kids, more specifically children who lived in the Texas frontier of all places. In the beginning of my writing journey, I pushed the voices out of my head and tried to create romance stories. The whole creative process was a chore; I hated the characters, the dreary plotline, and the editing process seemed like torture. What made me think that I’d ever be able to write a novel?

Janes’ words got me to thinking. What I’ve been obsessed with since a very early age, besides writing a book, is history and stories set in the Old West. Everything about that time period fascinates me and I consume historical fiction and nonfiction like air.

Believe me I’ve tried to change the ages of my characters so they’d fit a publisher’s specs, follow the advice of my husband who said if I’d write a marketable romance it would be easier to sell, and considered the ideas of a well-meaning editor who insisted I add a werewolf to make a western tale marketable. The writing process wasn’t fun anymore until I finally gave in the voices inside my head. I haven’t looked back since.  You are unique, and only you can write the story that needs to be told. Have confidence in your abilities and story-telling instincts. Have confidence in your characters. Let them show you the way.

 

LET’S TALK BOOKS: Outlander by Diana Gabaldon


LET’S TALK BOOKS: Outlander by Diana Gabaldon

Natalie Bright

In keeping with our January theme of characterization, I’d like to discuss Claire, the main character of the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon. I’m late to the party, but admittedly Book One in the series is next to impossible to put down. I’ve been reading every evening instead of writing over the past week. So much for the New Year’s word count goals.

As far as characters go, Claire is not that complex or memorable. She doesn’t really leap off the page, even though the book is written in first person POV. She has likable qualities; beautiful, smart, always wants to help and heal, faithful wife who loves her husband. The guilt she feels about loving two men in different centuries makes for great internal conflict.

Last night I realized her flaw. Claire never does what she is told which always results in something bad. And the consequences are the worst scenario, the worst possible outcome that adds a surprise plot twist and keeps us reading. Gabaldon does an excellent job with story hooks.

SPOILER ALERT

Jamie tells Claire, do not go the Geilie’s house. “I dinna want ye anywhere near her…” he says. Jamie has to leave to accompany the Duke. Of course, Claire is summoned to the witch’s house through deception. We suspect it’s a lie. We know she shouldn’t go, but Claire grabs her healing herbs and of course, the consequences are horrific.

I was so angry at Claire! Why can’t she just do what she is asked? What an idiot! I felt the same frustrated, anger experienced sometimes with raising two teenaged boys. Wow!  It surprised me how much I am invested in this fictional character’s journey.  Now that’s powerful characterization.

Are you reading OUTLANDER by Diana Gabaldon? I’d love to know your thoughts…

 

THOSE PESKY WORKSHEETS


THOSE PESKY WORKSHEETS

Lynnette Jalufka

Character worksheets. They abound in writing books and online. Some are one page; others cover many more. They include details about physical appearance, professions, likes, dislikes, and backstory.

In the past, I’ve rolled my eyes at all that detail. I knew my characters in my head. I only needed to write down how they looked, so they had the same eye color on page 215 as they did on page ten, right?

Wrong.

As I went back to revise my novel, I discovered I needed much more information about my characters. This included speech patterns, motivations, relationships, and their role in the story. There was no way I could keep everything about each character consistent in my head. I needed to fill out those worksheets completely. They can’t have too much information. If I would have included more detail in the first place, I would have saved myself a lot of backtracking. I’ll remedy this when I start my next novel.

Every detail in your character worksheets does not have to appear in your story. Only a fraction should make it into the final work. But because you know your characters, your story will be richer for it, and your readers will come back for more.

The People – Part 4


POSTCARDS FROM THE MUSE

The People – Part 4

By Nandy Ekle

This week, let’s spend some time in that mysterious realm of psychology.

I am not a psychologist, never took more than one or two classes college, but I am observant. And when I need to know something, I know how to find out. Plus, I have spent a lot of time since before graduating high school reading about different theories. And, as a confirmed introvert, I am a people watcher on the highest level. So take my views as you will.

There are a lot of theories that, in my opinion, are pure silliness. If you think long and hard about anything, you can turn it into a huge overpowering mountain. But there’s also a lot that, again, my opinion, are wrapped in truth. 

It helps to know what kind of personality your character has. Sometimes I don’t even realize the depth of my character’s soul until I am well into the story (being an avid “pantser”). But when you think about it, it follows that a person with a serious goal will make the decision to do whatever it takes to meet that goal. But we also know that every single personality type that has ever drawn breath has issues and hang-ups. And this is a great place to draw conflict from. 

Back to The Shining (if I ever taught a writing class, that book would definitely be the text book for my class). Jack’s surface goal is to keep his family afloat. Having lost a job because of his issues is the surface conflict. But it’s so important to him he is willing to take a menial job just to make sure his family is taken care of. Not only that, he puts up with being humiliated to even be in that position. Now, deep down there’s even more to it. He is humiliated with himself. He has not been able to keep his family afloat because of his own bad decisions, and he knows this. Which feeds his “demons.” 

But deeper down, it’s more than his family at stake. Because of the “demons”, he will forever fight (not trying to be a spoiler), but his actual goal is his own healing. And we all know that healing comes from pain. So he must go through ultimate pain to get to the healing. And this terrifies him. (READ THE BOOK)

Your homework, think about your character’s surface goal and what will he give up to attain it. What inner issues stand in his way? Is he covering up something deeper? Is there one last little shred of himself he is not willing to let go of to reach the pinnacle?

Making Your Characters Interesting


Making Your Characters Interesting

by Adam Huddleston

So you want people to read your story, right?  And your story has characters, right?  

Right.

Well, why would a reader dig through hundreds of pages of your tale if they are bored?  Reader’s read for several reasons, but the primary motive for them reading fiction is an interest in the plot and characters.  So, it is imperative that you create interesting people to populate your work.

1.  Make well-rounded characters.  Give everyone strengths and weaknesses.  Make some endearing to the reader and others detestable. Now, don’t go overboard and wear the reader down by explaining every backstory on every single character, but fill out the main cast.

2.  Be sure the reader understands the goals of the protagonist and antagonist.  Make the goals strong and clear and make sure the reader knows when/if they reach those goals.  As an avid reader, I can tell you that it is aggravating to spend time moving through a novel only to have a nebulous ending.

3.  Make the characters relatable.  This admonition is similar to the first, but it is important.  Even if your hero is a muscular, brave, non-human, and you are not, make some part of their personality similar to the what a typical reader’s would be.  The reader wants to be a part of the adventure, and will feel closer to it if they can relate to one or more of the main characters.

I hope these rules help in some way.  Happy writing!   

Physical Characteristics


Outtake 369

 

Physical Characteristics

By Cait Collins

 

 

A few years ago, I had the honor of meeting Pulitzer Prize-winning author, Michael Cunningham.  He was a speaker at my first writers’ conference. I was enrolled in his advanced novel writing class and looked forward to hearing his lectures. He was not the standard speaker extolling his accomplishments. Instead, Michael gave us an assignment. We had fifteen minutes to list twenty physical characteristics of your protagonist.  The list could include physical attributes as well as manner of dress, and smells. And when we had the list completed, we were to write the opening paragraph of the novel and incorporate at least six of the characteristics in that paragraph.

Here goes:

Ageless            long, white blonde hair        tall       slender                        piercing blue eyes

Gold wire-rimmed metal glasses        long, slender fingers   musician’s hands        a pipe stem peeping from the jacket pocket     a brown tweed jacket with leather patches at the elbow

Smelled of apple wood pipe tobacco   pressed dark blue denim jeans          large, blood red ruby ring on the ring finger of his right hand       black leather belt      patrician nosehigh cheek bones         English oak walking stick with a wide gold band at the bottom and a dragon-head handle 

Dark wool muffler      slight limp      high cheek bones         linen handkerchief in left breast pocket           voice of authority

He stood in the doorway. Piercing blue eyes searched the room lingering on the faces of the women in the crowded lecture hall. He appeared ageless. Was he forty or four hundred? White blonde hair fell below his shoulders. He limped toward the lectern at the front of the room.  Facing the audience, he spoke. The voices of the ages filled the room as he told stories of Glastonbury, Tintagel, and the days of Camelot. The authority in his words called to some and ignored others. The sparkle of the blood red ruby on the ring finger of his right hand hypnotized the woman sitting in the last seat on the third row.

“Daughter of King Arthur, it is time.”

Copper tresses gleamed and emerald eyes stared into the beloved face. “Merlin,” she whispered.

I loved every minute of Michael Cunningham’s lectures.