Tag Archives: five tips for writing characters

E is for Editing | #AtoZChallenge

I’ve already given you one post with the basics of editing. I want to give you more good advice, but not from my mouth. I get tired of hearing my voice. I wanted to hear what others have to say. These are all writers who aren’t famous (yet), but are probably where you are today. They get it. The blood, sweat, coffee stained tears (or tea as the case may be). The late nights, confusing word choices, and moments where a character seems to have just popped into a draft like a party crasher.
What are you doing here Greg?! I didn’t invite you. You don’t even know anybody here! Why did you just appear for like five chapters. GTFO Greg! 
Where was I? Oh yes. Not losing it.
Right.
kill your darlings

“Kill your darlings, kill your darlings, even when it breaks your egocentric little scribbler’s heart, kill your darlings.”

Here are some quotes on editing for friends of mine who have been in the editing woods and know what it’s like. (Most of them also attend my tweetchat #writestuff, which happens every Tuesday at 9 p.m. EDT or have joined the Facebook group. You could do that too. It’s nice there. We have cookies.)
These authors write a  variety of genres, but I think editing transcends categories. Their advice will resonate for you. Be sure to visit them at their websites and give them a hello.

K.M Vanderbilt, Website

Let it rest. Come at it again with fresh eyes and you’ll see more places for improvement. alternately… If seeking outside critique, be open to suggestions and percieved flaws. Even if you meant to write something one way, if you’ve missed your mark, it’s not so much about changing your vision, but about how you present it to your reader.

Jeremy Denton, Website

Don’t feel bad for taking things out! You may be removing things but never discard them completely. They may be exactly what you need in a future story.

 

M.A. Kropp, Website

Editing is hard. It’s hard to pull away far enough to cut and rewrite. Just remember that the final story will be stronger for it.

 Clare Argippina, Website

 Cutting a character may feel like betraying a friend, but what remains will be so much stronger you won’t miss them in the long run.

Amy Tasukada, Website 

My big advice would be don’t always edit at the (first) part in the story. Mix it up and edit from the middle or the end first.

Natalie Westgate, Website 

Don’t treat your work as precious – cut what needs to be cut, change things around, and it doesn’t have to all be perfect in one edit.

Stevie Rae Causey, Website

Change the font before you self-edit. It tricks your brain into thinking its new material. It’s easier to lol critically at the new rather than the familiar.

 

Kevin Wayne Williams, Website

Take it seriously, and have someone else do much of it. Retain creative control, but editing is a separate skill. Pay for it if you haven’t got a skilled relative to abuse, but don’t even consider skipping it.

 Alexandra Penn, Website

Read your work aloud to yourself when you need to line-edit, since it means you can’t skim.

I hope these bits of advice gave you a bit more insight into the editing process. Karen Beidelman said it best, “Editing is harder than I ever expected.” You took the words right out of my mouth, Karen, as I sit here, pretty sure I’ll never stop editing Blood Roses and Honeysuckles.
Which piece of advice did you feel the most? Do you have any advice you’d like to share? Let me know down in the comments!
Also…
sprint announcement

Aloha, y’all! 

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D is for Dialogue | #AtoZChallenge

The phone rings a few times and someone picks up. I have a hard time hearing over the sound of WWE blaring in the background.

“Hello?”

“Hey,” I said, waiting for my brother to figure out who I am.

“Hey T!” He got it.

“What are you doing?”

“Nothing much, what are you  up to??”

“Nothing much. Is Mom around?”

“Yeah, hold on a second.”

This is an example of what the conversation sounds like when I call my Mom’s house. It’s boring and bland as dishwater. This is not the kind of scintillating conversation you want to relay in your dialogue in your stories. Continuing with the ABCs of Writing, today we’re at D. D is definitely for Dialogue. If you missed letter A, letter B, and letter C, check them out.

eddie murphy quote2

Now going along with the above example, instead of using this boring beginning for a conversation, I could write a dialogue of my mother not being able to hear me, even after the television volume is set at a dull roar. Or we could dispense with the awkward beginnings all together and dive directly into the meat and potatoes of the conversation.

I’m nosy as hell, which is great for writing dialogue! Listening to others talk is probably the best way to learn how people speak. Do you ever listen to conversations going on around you? Whether you’re at work, public transport, standing in line for a Big Mac or what have you, pay attention to what is being said about you.

You’ll notice a few things:

  1. People who know each other, don’t necessary begin conversations the say way as everyone else. Two friends may greet each other with hugs, a silly handshake shake, a shriek of excitement, or just launching right into the gossip of the day. Two people who aren’t as friendly may be more stilted. Mother and small child will have a very different conversation than the mother and her girlfriend/wife.
  2. The pitch changes, the more intimate the information, the lower the volume (generally). They may lean toward each other a bit to show they’re really getting into that conversation. Or bring a hand up to the ear so whispering can happen.
  3. There’s a lot of “Umms…Uhhh…Like…Err….” and other fillers littering the conversation landscape. Also…pauses happen. (However, too much of this in the conversation makes it boring and drag a bit.)
  4. If you’re not looking at the people, you may miss part of the conversation, because there’s silent communication too. Gestures, significant pauses with raised eyebrows, sideward glances all make the conversation a richer landscape.
  5. Everybody sounds different. They ain’t perfect grammar speakin’ automatons. They may skip over words in excite, use slang, speak with colloquialisms, they swear, make loud exclamations, etc. They have a distinct voice.
  6. They’re not telling every single detail of a situation, but you’re probably able to piece together what’s going on.

 

Those 6 tips that I’ve learned from being a super ninja conversation spy helps me to write conversations that aren’t wooden. But what else can you do to make the dialogue interesting? Make sure you’re not just writing dialogue for your reader. Try to write the dialogue like you’re literally just writing for those two characters…and your reader is listening in. It’s not about the reader, it’s about your characters. Once you  know your characters inside and out, this will be much easier to execute. Yesterday’s post can help you with that point.

Those are it for the ABCs of Writing for today. Do you have any tips for interesting dialogue? Any favorite bits of dialogue you’d like to share? Let me know in the comments down below!

If anyone is interested, I will be hosting a liveshow on my YouTube channel tonight discussing writing goals for the 1st quarter. If you’re interested watching it, but aren’t available at 8 p.m. EDT, don’t fret my pet. It’ll upload onto my channel after the broadcast is complete.

See you tomorrow with letter E!

Aloha y’all!

letter D

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C is for Character | #AtoZChallenge

When you’re reading a story, what grabs you the most- plot or character?

With me, it’s character. I enjoy reading a well-written character, who’s multifaceted and interesting. Of course, it’s easier said than done. I’m not an expert, but I do think I have an idea on how to get your characters moving and grooving in an interesting way. Here are five tips for writing characters who are interesting and realistic:

Joss Whedon quote

Tip 1: Name that tune

What is your characters name? Is there significance to it? (A family name? Has Name a certain meaning? Etc.) What does your character look like? You don’t have to go into every insignificant detail. If you do, it’ll start to feel to your reader like you don’t trust them to make some decisions. Describe parts that are important and that give your character shape. If your character is someone who has a hard lifestyle, talk about those lines on his face, the jagged scar running down her thigh. Those puffy bags under his eyes from his habitual drinking tell a lot about who he is and what he does.

Tip 2: Who are you? Who? Who? Who? Who?

What are the qualities that your characters exhibit? Are they shy? Quick to anger? Incredibly insecure? Do you have friends who have qualities that make them a bit alike so they’re more likely to clash, but on some issues, they’re really steadfast? Don’t be afraid to mix it up and give your character seemingly opposing traits- the shy librarian who has a wild streak. The angry bartender with a soft side for baby kittens. You get it.

Tip 3: So what’cha, what’cha, what’cha want, what’cha want?

What drives your characters? What pushes them to make moves? What is the thing that they want the most? And what is the thing that they need? The need is going to be what really drives the underlying story. Is it love? To have an actual home? Revenge? To deal with grief? Knowing these elements to your characters will make them richer and more interesting to write and ultimately for your readers to experience.

 

Tip 4: It’s a family affair…it’s a family affair…

Here’s one thing that shapes us all in the best (and sometimes worse) ways possible: our families. Who is your character’s family? Is there some mommy or daddy issues lurking in the background? Was the family wonderfully supportive and amazing, but had terrible luck that destroyed things? Is your character’s family gone now and he’s all on his own? Was his grandfather abusive? His mother likes a little coffee in her Baileys? Having that family background and learning her roots will show you more about how she will react in the future to the obstacles (and opportunities) you plop in her path.

Tip 5: My flaws are the only thing left that’s pure


Do not write characters who are perfect. Give them moments where they stumble, crumble, and break down. The most interesting traits of characters are how they react when things don’t go their way. Yes, it can be hard to make your character go through the bad, but in order to get to the good, there must be some bad. It’ll increase the level of tension, make the conflict more intense, and just generally makes for better writing.

 

Did you guess the lyrics? Do you have a favorite character from books or movies? Let me know in the comments! Also, if you like talking about writing, join us at the #writestuff Twitter chat every Tuesday at 9 p.m. EDT. Find me on there: @penpaperpad.

 

Check out my posts for Letters A and Letters B. Come back tomorrow for D!

letter C

Aloha y’all! 

 

 

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