Category Archives: Characterization

How to Make Your Writing Sleek and Smooth

Of course you know the basic rules of fiction.  Of course you don’t drag it down by telling instead of showing, or using weak verbs or passive voice.  I’ll write about each of those eventually, but Kristen Lamb just put up a great post I’d like to share. Every writing offense she mentions falls under her Deadly Sin #7 from the title:  Treating the Reader Like a Moron.  Most of our writerly goofs can fall under that heading – if we’ve done our job as writers well, readers already know that a character is angry or nervous or hurried.  They don’t need the weight of adverbs and exclamation points as well. My favorite part is Kristen’s description of editing:  “Editors are like engineers. We look at a writer’s race car (the manuscript) and look for parts that will cause drag, slow down momentum, or cause so much friction that a … Continue reading

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How to Find Story Ideas in the News

“Where do you get your ideas?” is one of the most common questions a writer hears.  The answer is:  everywhere!  Once you start writing regularly, you find yourself with more ideas than you can write about at any given time.  But one source of story ideas is to take something from the news and re-shape it for the beginnings of a story.  Here are some examples: Last month, a high wind from an arriving storm knocked down the rigging of an outdoor concert stage at our Indiana State Fair.  The band was being held backstage until the winds died, but that didn’t help the fans.  Tragically, seven people from the front-row area were killed by the stage collapse, with dozens more injured.  At the same time, individuals acted heroically to hold the collapsed rigging up and get injured people out to medical care, saving lives in the process. If I … Continue reading

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6 Ways Your Friends Can Help You Write

Friends can be stumbling blocks to your writing:  interruptions, temptations & invitations, not to mention occasional put-downs and other negatives.  But your friends can also further your writing, whether they know it or not! 1.  Borrow your friend’s mannerisms or quirks to make a character come to life. Does she wear heavy jewelry or too much make-up?  Finger a locket when she thinks of an old boyfriend?  Does he have a horse laugh?  Tell hilarious stories that begin with, “but that’s not really how it was?”  Does she jump high, punch the air, or do the hokey-pokey when she’s excited?  Use judiciously, though – you want to add characterization, not make your friend the character. 2.  Tell him or her what you really think.  Admit it, there’s that one thing you’d love to say, but you value your friendship too much to really let loose.  So give your characters the … Continue reading

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Discovering Characters

I don’t like character trait worksheets.  Yes, I know that you need to know your characters backwards and forwards, but I can’t just make a list out of thin air.  Does she like rap or soft rock? Pizza or steak?  Dog person or cat person? Sleek blonde or frizzy brunette?  If she’s a doctor, is she a surgeon or a radiologist?  Obviously, I need to know some things when I start, but many of these list items don’t matter at the beginning. Instead, I tend to discover my characters as I write.  I may have an image of what they look like, and I may know a few key things about them that pertain to the conflict in the book, but the more I write, the more I discover. There’s a scene in my women’s fiction WIP where the mom goes into the daughter’s room the morning after a confrontation.  … Continue reading

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