How to Create Compelling Characters

When we choose a book most times we come for the plot and stay for the characters (or at least that’s my opinion). Recently I downloaded a free ebook on amazon because I read the plot summary and I thought it would be a good read…but a few pages later I realized the main character was annoying and I immediately deleted it.

Well developed characters are just as important as a good plot. The plot keeps the story moving but the characters keep the reader interested. Your job as the writer is to create characters who are independent human beings and not simply people who exist to fill a role in your novel. So it’s important to spend time creating compelling and 3-dimensional major characters; your minor characters can be cliche and 2-dimensional. So how do you as a beginner create such characters  (or confirm that you’ve created such characters? Here are some ways to create compelling characters:

Give your characters a strong desire. A desire, a want, a need; they all create conflict. Don’t just make the character move along in the story just because. Give him/her/it some drive and motivation. The characters needs/wants something and now must go out to get that thing. The stronger the desire, the more conflict and drama that comes from it. And as you know conflict is a major key

Give your character a secret. A secret personality or a secret past that slowly reveals over time will keep everyone interested in your character and will make for an interesting plot twist along the way. Once revealed that secret may change how that character is viewed forever. Also it gives the character yet another source of motivation

Make them vulnerable.  People are drawn to vulnerability and it’s a very human trait. Make your characters vulnerable either because of their desire or their secret and it will draw in the readers

Make them contradicting. Some people are contradicting in their behavior e.g someone who is shy but still rude. It gives the element of surprise because you never know how they will react in a situation and thus keeps the reader interested

Allow readers to feel empathy for your characters. Make them suffer (cue evil laugh), don’t make the villain bad just because and don’t make your good guys perfect. Readers need to be able to relate your characters even if they don’t like them

Draw from real life. We know so many people in real life that can act as inspiration for a realistic character; a best friend, a neighbor or a favorite teacher. Watch these people see how they react in situations and how they express emotions and you’ll get a sense of real people act in different situations

To conclude characters are as important to your story as plot. Compelling characters keep the readers interested and help propel the story (sometimes in ways you didn’t even see when crafting the plot). I intend to use the tips  I’ve outlined when creating my characters.

Most times when I searched for how to create a character all I got were worksheets that made me feel like I was just answering a form as best as I could instead of actually getting to know my characters. This website had the best way to help get to know your characters.

Until next time, remember to work on that book!

Advertisements

The Snowflake Method

In my last post  I discussed listed different ways to plan a novel. Now I’m going a little more in depth into the most popular method.
The Snowflake Method
  • Developed by writer Randy Ingermanson
  • Ideal for writers who like extensive planning
  • 10 step approach but it can be customized to preference with steps omitted
  • It’s a motivator: starts small and then expands the ideas
  • Ideal for fiction writers
STEPS

 

  1. One sentence summary of your story/novel. Ideally 15 words. The story “hook”.Don’t get into naming the character (description is fine) and try to summarize the whole idea of your story  e.g a young girl finds herself in a world of fairytale tasked with saving their world.
  2. Expand the sentence into a paragraph. Keep in mind the three parts of a story: the beginning, middle and ending. Ideally you should create 5 sentences. The first introducing the characters and background  (the beginning) the next three introducing the conflicts (the middle) and the last is the ending (the ending). Bonus: this could be used as the blurb at the back of your book or your book proposal. Three disasters plus an ending.
  3. Introducing your characters and create character sheets/charts. Include their goals, conflicts, epiphany and brief storyline (story from their point)
  4. Expand the paragraph from step 2. Each sentence now becomes it’s own paragraph. One sheet of paper
  5. Expand the character sheets from step 3. Give all the dirty details about each character. One page per main character
  6. Go back to those paragraphs from step 4 and make them even bigger! One page per paragrapg/sentence
  7. Now back to those characters. Develop them more. Include their significance to the story. Take your time (about a week).
  8. Time for the scenes. For each paragraph from step 6, write out the scenes (in one line sentence) the POV, the description of the scene (what happens)
  9. Write a narrative for the scenes. Pencil in any dialogue that pops up in your head. What is the conflict in the scene? Are there any unnecessary scenes? Scenes drive the ploy forward
  10. And now finally WRITE

I know that those seem like a LOT of steps but keep in mind that we can take what we want and leave what we don’t…want.

I have already been experimenting with this method and I plan to do a sort of update/review of it. I find myself struggling with the character creating part (hint hint : next blog post).

If you decide to try it out, let me know in the comments. If you’ve tried it out,comment below. Or just say hi in the comments!

Different Ways to Plan a Novel

Are you a pantser or plotter?
If you’ve always felt like more of a plotter or you’re a pantser ready to give plotting a try, here are 8 ways to plot and plan your story:

(Image above from here)
Are you a pantser or a plotter?
Plotters are the planners of the writing world. They are the ones who can sit down and meticulously outline their stories from beginning to end before beginning to write. Pantsers (or pantsters) are the free spirits; they write while trusting that they will figure things out as they go along. The term comes from the fact that they write “at the edge of their pants”.
I consider myself a free spirit (I go where the wind takes me) and so naturally I am a pantser through and through. The only problem though is at some point (some point rather early) my muse abandons me and I am left stranded three chapters into my story. Or I get the story only in pieces and I am left to fill in the banks. I struggle, a new idea calls to me and I abandon my old idea. And so the vicious cycle goes.
For some people being a pantser works tremendously for them. As they write that’s when the story unfolds, new ideas form and unexpected twists that they wouldn’t have gotten if they had already taken the time to plan out the novel. But for others that is the key to an unfinished story.
I’ve tried one end of the spectrum; trying to make it up as I go and letting my characters lead me but now I’m ready to give plotting a chance.
If you’ve always felt like more of a plotter or you’re a pantser ready to give plotting a try, here are 8 ways to plot and plan your story:

The Snowflake 

  • The most popular method I have found
  • 10 steps involved but you can
Three Act Structure 
  • ACT 1 introduces the characters and the plot situation
  • Act 2 complicates the situation and ends with a climax
  • Act 3 resolves issue
 
Freytag Plot Outline Model
  • Created by Gustav Freytag, a German novelist and 19th century critic
  • Five dramatic structures
  • Exposition or introduction: introduces the setting the characters and the basic conflict. Sets the mood for the story. An exciting even happens to lead to conflict and move the story forward
  • Rising action: conflict is brewing tension is brewing. Conflicts are complicated because characters can’t reach their goals. Secondary conflicts emerge from antagonists
  • Climax: the turning point and change for better or worse.
  • Falling action: conflicts begins to resolve with the protagonist’s winning or losing to the antagonist. Unexpected events add suspense. The main action is over and the story is coming to a close
  • Conclusion: conflicts are resumed. Events happen that allow for Los loosening of tension and anxiety
  • Include image of pyramid
 
Draft Zero
  • An unstructured first draft
  • It’s okay to skip over parts of the story and instead leave notes e.g a conversation between son and mother
  • Use this draft to guide you in terms of plots, scenes and even characters
  • the three acts structure (as mentioned above)
  • The plus refers to adding details about scenes such as setting, characters in the scene, the purpose of the scene and details of the scene
Sign post outline
  • Briefly notes the type of scenes you’ll need include characters, setting and general idea of what is happening
  • This method lays the ground work for scenes but doesn’t need details
  • Gives more freedom up front but you’ll have to do big thinking later
Note card technique 
  • Using flashcards to represent each scene. Include character setting plot details and the scenes purpose
  • Scenes can be subtracted and rearranged
  • Pro: it’s lightweight and portable (assuming you don’t have a bajillion scenes)
  • They give a visual idea of how the story is progressing and a transition from scene to scene
Work backwards
  • Begin at the end of the story and work backwards
  • Write one or two sentences of the stories ending
  • Work backwards to identify characters and events involved in resolving the conflicts to end the story
  • Work backwards still to what had prevent the resolution
Out of all these methods, the one I have decided to experiment with (for now) is the Snowflake Method. I will update on my progress using the method at a later date and my next blog post will go in detail about the Snowflake Method.
If you have an experience with using these methods or have another method you use which I didn’t mention, leave a comment.
Also leave a comment on which method you’d like to try.
If you will be a pantser through and through declare it in the comments too!

The Beginner’s Guide to Writing a Novel

I am not (yet) a published author…far from it. In fact I haven’t even completed a story yet. So far the furthest I’ve gotten was to chapter 10 and then I lost interest. I think it’s been more than 4 years since I declared I would complete and publish my first novel but as you can guess…that hasn’t happened as yet.

On top of failing my writing commitments for years and years now, I’ve also never achieved my goal of being a successful blogger. Like with writing my book I’ve started and stopped many a times. But I’m sure the…57th times the charm right? Haha.

I got the brilliant idea to create a blog to journal my writing progress. It serves a 3 fold purpose:

  1. Keep me accountable for my writing. As I update my writing, I will update this blog. So if one dies both die.
  2. To inform and educate others just like me who want to publish their own novel but are stopped by so many obstacles. I understand…hold my spiritual hand and let’s get this done together!
  3. Well I wanted a blog and to be a blogger…so here it is

There’s no hard and fast rules of this blog. I’ve read a lot about blogging and I feel like there are too many rules. I will try my best to update regularly. I will update with writing tips, reviews of writing tips after I’ve tried them and updates on my own writing. You may be wondering why you should care about my writing but when I become the next big thing you’ll be glad you came along for the ride.

So I look forward (kinda) to this blogging/ writing journey and I sincerely hope that whatever will be posted on this blog will help someone somewhere get closer to their dream.

That was corny. I know. Sue me.

Xoxo

Successful Writer