Tag Archives: Writing Advice

the-right-writing: Character Questions

(via the-right-writing)

  • What would completely break your character?

  • What was the best thing in your character’s life?
  • What was the worst thing in your character’s life?
  • What seemingly insignificant memories stuck with your character?
  • Does your character work so that they can support their hobbies or use their hobbies as a way of filling up the time they aren’t working?
  • What is your character reluctant to tell people?
  • How does your character feel about sex?
  • How many friends does your character have?
  • How many friends does your character want?
  • What would your character make a scene in public about?
  • What would your character give their life for?
  • What are your character’s major flaws?
  • What does your character pretend or try to care about?
  • How does the image your character tries to project differ from the image they actually project?
  • What is your character afraid of?
  • What is something most people in your setting do that your character things is dumb?
  • Where would your character fall on a politeness/rudeness scale?

These are all solid questions that we should ask ourselves whenever we are creating our characters. To discover more top notch writing advice, tips and examples from the-right-writing’s blog then visit their website. They are a phenomenal resource with a fun interesting posts for writers. 

Link to the-right-writing blog: 

http://the-right-writing.tumblr.com/

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Check this Out: 10 Killer Chapter Breaks

  • The website helpingwritersbecomeauthors.com has provided an insightful article about how an aspiring author may want to consider breaking up their chapters. Not only is this article easy to read, but it’s short and to the point. You can also watch a video about the article too! So, what are you waiting for? Get to clicking the link below. You won’t regret it. Trust me. 😉

Link:  http://www.helpingwritersbecomeauthors.com/11-killer-chapter/

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How to Choose Your Main Characters

Excerpt:

fictionwritingtips:

If you’re not someone who develops character before story, you might find it a little difficult to decide who deserves a place in your novel. Even if you figured out your protagonist, there will probably be several other characters that need to be thought about, depending on your story.

* To read the actual tips themselves then head over here: 

http://writeworld.org/post/118152249970/how-to-choose-your-main-characters

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Mental_Floss: A Handy Gude for Using the Oxford Comma

* The Oxford Comma may seem superfilous at times, but, trust me, when you use this comma wrong you will feel it. Your readres will feel it too. Nothing can take a person out of a story or article faster than a grammar mishap. The link below will clear up any Oxford Comma conundrums, while also providing a good chuckle along the way. Now, embrace the comma. Be the comma. Viva la comma! Or. . .err. . . just click here. . . .

http://mentalfloss.com/article/61309/handy-guide-using-oxford-comma

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Brain Pickings: Famous Advice On Writing

~ The website Brain Pickings recently rounded up some insightful advice on writing by some of literature’s most renowned authors. In need of a motivational pep talk? Inspiration perhaps? Then follow the link below.

As a side note, I find there isn’t anything more comforting than knowing our literary heroes struggled with writing as well. Their words always seemed so flawlessly composed. Effortless. Artful. These quotes, however, prove otherwise. It also doesn’t hurt to gain their wisdom either.

Enjoy the legends; enjoy the solidarity.

Link:

http://www.brainpickings.org/2013/05/03/advice-on-writing/

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Writing Tips Ahoy!

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(Via Chaperoned:)

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“Readers tend to like characters who are struggling to achieve a goal. This simple principle can be invaluable in creating sympathetic protagonists.

Characters working toward a goal are active characters.
Characters who aren’t working toward a goal are reactive.
Reactive characters are much weaker than active characters, and we tend not to like them. Unfortunately, many writers end up unknowingly creating reactive protagonists.” – Odyssey Writing Tips

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PROACTIVE CHARACTERS »»

A proactive character is a character who does things. They make decisions, they initiate actions, and they are driven by a goal that often makes them pick the wrong decisions and actions.
This is important because what characters choose to do is going to create your plot. Why they choose to do it will create your stakes. Together, these factors make you invested in a plot.
Proactive characters drive plot. They don’t just have strong goals; they actively pursue them. That’s one of the reasons people tend to love villains: they have a clear goal, are often centered around the attainment of that goal, and those goals give interesting insights into their personality and choices.
This makes proactive characters are easier to build around and work with as the plot progresses. You can make plots around their goals and find ways for those goals to lead to new ones.
You can get away with having reactive characters in literature sometimes because you’re able to rely on secondary characters to drive the plot and impact your character. (If you roleplay, you don’t get this luxury in RP because everything is centered around character interaction.)
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WHY IS IT SO IMPORTANT »»

Thehappylogophile has an answer:

“Almost every novel has it: down-time. That moment between the adrenalin-fuelled car chase and the point where the slasher leaps out of the tree-line and drags the protagonist’s boyfriend into the undergrowth. It’s a chance for the characters (and the reader) to take a deep breath and process everything that’s just happened. It’s often the point where characters share information, or plot their next move, or take advantage of the lull in death-dealing to “celebrate the wonder of life”. (Cue the sleazy electric guitar.)

So, how does your character behave in the lull? If she takes the opportunity to sit quietly and cry, or goes along with someone else’s suggestion, or her entire plan revolves around waiting to see what happens next, she’s probably a reactive character.

A proactive character is likely to be the one leading the conversation, making plans that include the theme (if not the words) “the best defense is a good offense”, or even taking the opportunity to return to her pre-story goals.”
What you should take away from this is: when a character isn’t driving the plot, s/he needs to have interesting goals/development outside of the main plot to work towards. This way, your character is always developing over the course of the game and still doing something during downtime instead of sitting idly by.

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IS MY CHARACTER REACTIVE »»

“A reactive character is more likely to do what’s “easiest” or “more immediate”. If choosing between two love interests, the reactive character will go with the one in front of him right now. Or the one who tries the hardest to woo him. Or the one that his friends tell him he should go with. Alternately, he won’t make a choice at all — at least, not until he’s either forced to do so by outside events (“Declare your undying love for me, or I’ll start drowning kittens! “) or one of the options is removed (“Now that Laura is dead, you have to love me!”).”

In short, reactive characters don’t make the interesting decisions that give us insights to a person’s personality or develop it.

“A proactive character will make a choice. It may not be the right choice (and often isn’t), but it’s a choice nonetheless: “I’ve considered my options and have decided that I’m really in love with the evil, but incredibly sexy, vampire, and not the sweet girl-next-door who’s always been there for me. How could anything possibly go wrong?”

In roleplay, you can generally characters aren’t reactive when their histories/personality read more like a grocery list of characteristics or events. Proactive characters’ applications are driven by and explore their goals and decisions.

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WHY DO PEOPLE MAKE REACTIVE CHARACTERS? HOW CAN I AVOID IT? »»

A big reason people make reactive characters is often because of the method they employ creating characters. Many times, writers will take a sort of Frankenstein approach — mixing and mashing character traits and then try to flesh them out. They say my character has x, y, and z trait. S/he has these traits because of a, b, and c.

Don’t do that. That approach generally does not work (unless mixed with others). It wastes your time and doesn’t get at the heart of the issues.

Sure, that can be a good approach to generate ideas. However, unless you find a conflict to base those traits around or use them to further that conflict, no one is going to be invested in your character or have a good idea of how these traits manifest and, most importantly, why.

If you need a formula to follow, try starting with:

In order of importance, what are the five most important things to your character and why? (make note of conflicting wants and goals)
Tie in information about your character’s deeper motivations. Try to think about where your character’s sense of worth comes from, who they’re trying to impress and why, which of their own (or others’) priorities these might clash with, what characters may believe others want, their goals/values and how they were established, re-occurring problems in your character’s life (jealousy, financial issues, etc.), what sort of person other characters believe yours is, in what ways your character is uniquely selfish, your character’s opinion of him/herself, your character’s ambitions, what your character works to gain/protect, etc. If you’re having trouble, try this resource.

Ex. Being liked. It is important to my character that he is liked. Peter struggled with it as a child because of his romantic involvement with his goldfish, leading other children to think he was strange. He can be somewhat sycophant because of this and tries to secure that he is liked by making himself valuable to others even when it can be damaging to himself and those around him.

and/or

Character Name wants to accomplish these three goals: being more character trait, obtaining status symbol, and protecting his/her ______. S/he wants to accomplish these things because s/he values ___, ___, and ___. S/he is driven to accomplish them because s/he is good/bad trait and good/bad trait and isn’t above doing _____ and ____ to get these things, which makes him/her good/bad trait, good/bad trait, and good/bad trait (or makes other people view him/her that way).

Don’t use really broad, universal traits. If you’re using characteristics like those mentioned here (reserved, trusting, critical, etc.), it might mean you’re being too broad. Saying your character is angry or selfish, for example, fails to give insight into what that says about your character. Everyone is selfish and angry — just to varying degrees and because of various factors. For example, in this episode of Awkward Black Girl (which is an amazing webseries if you haven’t seen it), the main character Jae is sent to anger management. The characters in her anger management session go around saying why they’re there, and Jay (different character) shows how this gives insight to the things they care about. Pete gets angry when time is left on a microwave and not cleared because he cares about time management, Jae has an outburst when someone doesn’t return her stapler because she wants to feel respected.

My favorite trick to generate ideas for a character application is asking myself:

How is my character broad characteristic (ex. uniquely selfish)? It helps you focus in on a goal, gain insight to what they value, and develop specific ways their characteristics manifest.
The key to creating proactive characters is to have them become involved in solving their own problems/accomplishing their goals, rather than depend on others to solve them. If you want an example, you can go here, where you can read through an author’s personal attempt to make her character more proactive.

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WHAT IF I’M ALREADY DOING IT? »»

(The first step is admitting you have a problem.)

The number one reason players get bored in roleplay or feel “stuck” with what they’re writing is because of something editors deem “episodic writing”. Cheryl Wyatt describes it as happening when “one scene happens then another and another and so on but there is really no point to the scenes”.

It happens when you lose sight of your character’s goals and how you want to develop him or her. (The reason people get so invested in relationship lines in roleplay is because it’s a quick and easy way to create goals and because there are pre-established milestones you can develop your character around. This development is often generic but satisfying as players are more invested in the stakes.)

Episodic writing happens for two reasons: 1) your character is reactive or 2) you’ve lost sight of your goals for your character and you’re letting them be reactive when they have a number of things established that would make them proactive. For example, your scenes/characters might read like this. You can see another great example of a problematic storyline here.

Additionally, you might be limiting the scope of how your character can develop and need to branch out more. Or you’re not thinking through ways you can accomplish the goals you’ve established for your character going in.

How do you fix it? Give your character a goal – or better yet, several goals. Let your character need help accomplishing those goals. This helps you develop character relationships, helps you develop your character (especially when you tie in weaknesses, values, etc.), and gives your character something to do. BAM! it really is that simple.

What kind of goal? There are some amazing resources here.

Then, you can have those goals lead to more and more negative consequences. It’s a bit like that book If You Give A Mouse A Cookie, where a little problem can lead to big ones.

One of the best examples I’ve read (but can’t find the link to) is this:

Jane has become obsessed with growing a certain type of flower to spite her smug neighbor. Despite her best efforts, the flower won’t grow. She tries buying an expensive fertilizer online. She doesn’t realize that buying it has set her back $20 and her checking account is now on a negative. If she doesn’t pay rent, she’ll be kicked out. And on and on and on. Through this, you can help develop your character’s traits. For example, if Jane is too prideful to ask someone for money, this could result in character growth.
Jane is interesting because Jane is proactive. She actively works to grow that mfing flower. Her bad decision/goal leads to other bad decisions/goals.

Tada. You’re now well on your way to making your characters more proactive.

* All advice belongs to chaperoned on tumblr.

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Five Easy Steps to Writing A Book Blurb

~ Writer Amanda Patterson once again comes through with useful tips for the green eared unpublished author. Here is her advice on book blurbs: 

amandaonwriting:

Your blurb will be an important part of your marketing. It is vital to get a reader’s attention. To write a good blurb, you have to make it short. Cut out sub-plots. Add tension to make it dramatic. Try not to mention more than two character’s names, and promise your audience a read they won’t forget.

I’ve come up with this easy acronym to help you create a blurb. I call it SCOPE. Follow these five steps and see if it works for you.

Setting
Conflict
Objective
Possible Solution
Emotional Promise

  1. Setting: All stories involve characters who are in a certain setting at a certain time.
  2. Conflict: A good story places these characters in a situation where they have to act or react. A good way to start this part of your blurb is with the words: But, However, Until
  3. Objective: What do your characters need to do?
  4. Possible Solution: Offer the reader hope here. Show them how the protagonist can overcome. Give them a reason to pick up the book. Use the word ‘If’ here.
  5. Emotional Promise: Tell them how the book will make them feel. This sets the mood for your reader.

I saw The Edge of Tomorrow today, and I decided to write a blurb using this formula.

Example:

  1. London. The near future. Aliens have invaded Earth and colonised Europe. Major William Cage is a PR expert for the US Army which is working with the British to prevent the invaders from crossing the English Channel. Battle after battle is lost until an unexpected victory gives humanity hope.
  2. But the enemy is invincible. A planned push into Europe fails and Cage finds himself in a war he has no way to fight, and he dies. However, he wakes up, rebooted back a day every time he dies.
  3. He lives through hellish day after day, until he finds another soldier, Sergeant Rita Vrataski, who understands what he can do to fight the enemy. Cage and Vrataski have to take the fight to the aliens, learning more after each repeated encounter.
  4. If they succeed, they will destroy the enemy, and save Earth.
  5. This thrilling action-packed science fiction war story will show you how heroes are made and wars can be won. Against the odds.

SCOPE will work for any blurb. Why don’t you try it?

by Amanda Patterson for Writers Write

© Amanda Patterson

If you enjoyed this article, you may enjoy How to write a query letter in 12 easy steps and How to write a one-page synopsis

 

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“There are many myths about writing (writers are tortured artists; writers are drunks; writers are drunk, tortured artists). But in my opinion, one of the most insidious of those myths is the idea that you must be inspired to write. I’ve heard writers say things like, “I just wasn’t inspired to write today,” and “I’m waiting for that burst of inspiration, you know?”

I’ll let you in on a little secret. If you wait for inspiration to strike before you sit down to write, you’ll probably never finish a damn thing. Inspiration is like that hot girl or guy you met at a party one time—and when you talked to him or her, it seemed like you totally clicked. There was eye contact; there was flirting; maybe there was even a bit of casual brushing of your hand over theirs, right? I know. I’ve been there. At the end of the night they asked for your number and said, “I’ll definitely call you. We should hang out.”

But then they never did, and you were left waiting for a call that never came, feeling increasingly like a fool.

That’s what inspiration is. It’s seductive and thrilling, but you can’t depend on it to call you. It doesn’t work that way. The good thing is, inspiration is irrelevant to whether or not you finish your book. The only thing that determines that is your own sense of discipline.”

Malinda Lo’s 2013 NaNoWriMo Pep Talk

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Learning the Essentials of Plotting Your Novel

~ YA novelist Kris Noel breaks down the elusive roadblock that is plotting your novel. Follow the link below for Noel’s advice. 

Link: 

http://krisnoel.com/post/82718055765/learning-the-essentials-of-plotting-your-novel

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25 Writing Tips for Tightening Your Copy

25 Writing Tips for Tightening Your Copy

~ The Write Life divulges 25 helpful tips for self-editing. Useful for those of us without editors of our own. 

Link: http://thewritelife.com/edit-your-copy/

Heather from The Write Life responded to this post and gave all of us a handy printable checklist version of the post here:

http://thewritelife.com/25-editing-tips-checklist-form/

Thank you Heather! =)

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