Tag Archives: clues

Writing My Characters

21 Jan

Recently I got a question about how I write my characters. Since I write character-driven stories, characters are important. They have to be real, complex, and relatable. I never put pen to paper if I don’t know who they are. If I haven’t had a shrink session with them in my head, then I can’t write them well. It might be that I have them answer questions, but sometimes I get images, scenes that show me who they are. It’s can be a vibe.

The key to transferring this vibe to the reader is by giving them crumbs instead of the entire cookie. My characters have secrets, or things they’d rather not want others to know for some reason and that’s what I hint at. I don’t necessarily share the secrets, maybe not even any of the secrets, but I sure as hell hint at them. Readers are smart. Spelling things out usually annoys rather than helps.

Currently, I’m writing a main character who is also an antagonist. She is bad. I mean really bad. She has power and wants to keep it, if not get more. She kills without blinking. Now it is extra important that the reader UNDERSTANDS her. Otherwise they won’t accept her behaviour or care about what she experiences. This novel is a puzzle of her and slowly but surely the reader gets to know her. Characters need to grip you, otherwise why would you care? That’s why I can’t read plot-driven novels. I lose interest. I don’t care enough to read on.

Basically I write my characters with great interest and as if they are a puzzle that readers need to put together with clues. Subtle clues. The plot allows room for that, in fact, it helps the character show us who she is. There also has to be a contrast. My character is evil, sure, but she is also fragile and can’t stand violence against women even if that makes her a bit of hypocrite. Conflict is in every novel but there should also be conflict in characters if you want them to be interesting, no matter how small that conflict is.

Make things difficult, and let them show you what they’re made of.

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Writing prompts: Unspoken

24 Nov

Some things are better left unsaid is a saying, right? It could mean that some things we are better off not knowing, but in this case I’ll take it that showing can be better than telling. This set of writing prompts is about how the unspoken can be used to benefit a character, give them some depth with subtlety. Saying things out loud can sometimes make things seem trivial and in this case we’ll use that to our advantage. Oh, the wonderful life of a writer! Let’s play with some imaginary friends…

1. Friends
Showing respect for a friend is best done by actually showing respect. Your character is the friend of an eccentric writer with mental issues. Without being asked to friend regularly shows up and helps out the writer with little things. Show one of these acts of kindness and how both characters respond to this act. Feel free to add a flashback to show the depth of their relationship, but keep the dialogue to a minimum, or at least avoid deep conversations.

2. Grudge
Two colleagues, one (dangerous?) job, and one secret. Drop two characters and a moral dilemma on the page. One character (A) knows more about the other, because of a secret where A is the victim and B the perpetrator. Were they thrown together by fate? Or was it all planned from the start? Either way, A is now in a position to strike a blow, figuratively speaking or literally, that’s up to you. A lot of time has passed, however, and the victim has seen another side to B. Can he/she do what his/her darker side wants him/her to do? Why does he/she want revenge anyway? Make it interesting. A plot twist might not hurt.

3. Jealousy
Character A is in love with Character B, but Character B has just started dating Character C. How does A show (against his/her will) jealousy? Does B pick up on this? If so, how does B handle this? You can make A an extremely proud or shy character. How will A handle this new development without being able to say what A feels? Perhaps B feels the same way as A but can’t say it either. Dialogue could be very interesting here. Riddle it with clues for the reader!

Feel free to make your own variation. Hopefully this sparked something in that wonderful mind of yours. Grab the brushes and start painting a new world in your head. The unspoken words that someone holds in their heart are always the most powerful. They are unspoken for a reason. Tortured characters are the most interesting ones.

“…I gave you painted air – tears I couldn’t weep – truths I couldn’t speak – all the words that caught in my throat…”
― John Geddes, A Familiar Rain 

Unspoken

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