Cardboard Characters


 

Cardboard Characters

Natalie Bright

One of the most difficult tasks for a writer is to create fictional characters that seem real and believable to the reader. I love books in which characters seem to jump off the page and ones that remain in my head long after the book is closed.

Much Like Cardboard

Are your characters more like cardboard; stiff, emotionless, without personality? They have names and faces, but they are just on the surface of your story and nothing more. The solution: dig deeper into your character’s motivation.

As an author, you must torture your characters. It is impossible to reveal deep character feelings and personalities without applying deep, intense pressure. The ways in which they react to that pressure reveals their temperament and psyche.

Using Character Profiles

Complete character profiles on both your protagonist and your antagonist. There are many great example forms available online.

Don’t stop at the name. Create a birthdate, a history of where they were born, family description, dominant characteristics, weaknesses, and physical limitations. Create historical events for your character that might have happened in their life such as school’s name, college, children’s names, etc.

Write A Letter

Many of my author friends write a letter in first person POV from their character. Don’t think; just free write. Let them reveal their secrets, desires, fears, self-image.

This trick worked great for me on the story I am working on now. My main characters are a young mule-skinner and a Comanche brave. I am alternating chapters between their points of view. I want to show the contrast between how very different their worlds are, yet they are both sixteen-year-old boys. They each wrote me a letter about their different worlds. One holds a great hatred for his father, and the other resents the physical limitations he has to live with. Now I have something to build upon and add the conflict. At this point, writing is more fun than work.

Keep moving forward and thanks for following WordsmithSix!

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The People Surrounding You


The People Surrounding You

Rory C. Keel

For a writing exercise, take a few moments and make a list of your closest friends, relatives, your boss, and co-workers.

Choose the person you like the most and the least; the person who has had the most positive and most negative influence on you; the person who has changed the most and the least since you’ve known them; and then write a write a brief paragraph on each of them explaining why you feel this way.

Notice any quirks they may exhibit such as, do they constantly jerk their head back to flip their hair out of their eyes, or do they run their hand throughout their hair?

Do they chew their food quietly, or smack their lips loudly?

These are the kind of details that add life to your story characters.

roryckeel.com

THE WRITING LIFE QUOTES


“If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it. Or, if proper usage gets in the way, it may have to go. I can’t allow what we learned in English composition to disrupt the sound and rhythm of the narrative.”
—Elmore Leonard

The Writing Life Quotes


The Writing Life Quotes

Natalie Bright

 

“The greatest part of a writer’s time is spent in reading, in order to write; a man will turn over half a library to make one book.”
—Samuel Johnson

The Writing Life Quotes


The Writing Life Quotes

Natalie Bright

 

“Making people believe the unbelievable is no trick; it’s work. … Belief and reader absorption come in the details: An overturned tricycle in the gutter of an abandoned neighborhood can stand for everything.”
—Stephen King (Writer’s Digest 
an interview with King in our May/June 2009 issue)

The Writing Life Quotes


 

“Who wants to become a writer? And why? Because it’s the answer to everything. … It’s the streaming reason for living. To note, to pin down, to build up, to create, to be astonished at nothing, to cherish the oddities, to let nothing go down the drain, to make something, to make a great flower out of life, even if it’s a cactus.”
—Enid Bagnold

Scenes Defined


Scenes Defined

Natalie Bright

Does your scene in your book play like a movie in your head while you write? It takes some concentration and the ability to block out the world around you, but I love it when this happens. I try to focus on every detail, no matter how minute, as I focus on the “moving picture”.

The scene is the unit of story, and in a book usually starts with a character arriving and ends when something has changed. A scene propels the story forward.

  1. Scenes in a book are anchored in a certain place and certain time.
  2. A narrative summary can describe the specifics of your scene.
  3. Scenes usually contain some type of visible action, not just internal thinking from the character.
  4. Do not use italics for internal dialogue, or what your character is “thinking”. Once the standard norm, the point of digging deep is writing inside your character’s head. This one is hard to break. We’ve discussed this several times in our critique meetings. Next time you read a recent release, notice that italics are a thing of the past.
  5. Keep the scene and action moving. No backstory in the first chapter (maybe two). Hook the reader and save the backstory for later.
  6. Skillfully weave your backstory into the story, these can be tension filled scenes into itself.
  7. End scenes (chapters) with a hook—a punchy, pithy statement.

 

INDIE AUTHOR MINDSET


INDIE AUTHOR MINDSET

Natalie Bright

Several weeks ago, at a Western Writers of American conference, I pitched an idea for a book featuring pictures of a cattle ranch, an explanation of the work Texas cowboys do, and original recipes from a ranch house cook. The editor told me that bookstores will never know where to shelve it, and she is absolutely right. She raised several good points that I had never thought about. My idea doesn’t fit with cookbooks because it has picture of cowboys, not that much food. Maybe ranching related, but it’s not a coffee table book because I’m not a professional photographer and my name wouldn’t be the draw. What about regional or local history, but it has recipes.

If you publish traditionally you must have an iron clad genre, theme and target market. That question will be asked of you in the pitch appointment. By the way, my roommate and I had practiced our pitches several times. Yes, she shot down my book, but I wasn’t nervous or offended, and I really appreciated an editor’s insight on my project. Business is business.

The mindset for Independent Authors is slightly different than taking the traditionally published route. I understand retail selling and bookstore shelving labels, but on the other hand as an Indie I can turn my idea into a book anyway. My target market is the local ranching community, a group I am very familiar with. I would sell it at library and book events in my area. Will it be worth my time and expense to have a book in hand? I’ll have to do the math and give it some serious consideration.

In the Indie world of publishing, I see myself as a writer with a gazillion ideas that cross all genres and numerous markets. I want to monetize my work in every way that I can. Parts of fiction books become short stories in anthologies. The theme for my nonfiction book can be rewritten for the magazine market or as a children’s book. Related topics would make great blog posts. If you’re bound by a literary agreement, you are limited in turning those characters, themes, or ideas into something new.

The mindset of a traditionally published author is slightly different which involves a literary agent and publishing house editor. You may have heard traditionally published authors advise, “pick a lane“. It’s valid advice. I am a fan of numerous best-selling authors who write only one genre and do it extremely well, resulting in very successful careers. Write, write, write, and keep writing what you’re good at. It’s a gamble for those who stray. What if your regency romance readers hate your new young adult fantasy? Will it cause your fans to stop buying your books all together?

A good story is a good story. That will never change for readers. Today’s readers don’t care if you’re traditional or self-published, and probably don’t really understand the difference. They just want to be entertained.

Indie Authors are free spirits in many ways. We don’t write to any pre-set list of rules. Indie Authors can define our own story elements such as word counts, settings, characters, and plot lines regardless of publishing trends set by acquiring publishers. We acknowledge the characters that wake us up at night. We set our stories in the places that call to us. We write the stories of our heart, and that can make for a very satisfying work day.

www.nataliebright.com