Character Debt

Economic times aren’t bad enough, now we owe our characters a debt? Yes, but we don’t owe them money. We owe them our time and our effort to make them real. I can hear someone yell “Time is money.” I see it more as an investment. We invest in our characters to make them dimensional so our readers fall in love with our story. That pays off in compound interest. Okay, that exhausts my financial vocabulary. To be blunt, writers have to make their characters come alive. That doesn’t happen by filling out character charts on what’s in their closet or hanging on their walls. That only comes when you ask yourself what would this person kill or die for? What matters to your character? What type of person are they that they want or need this thing that matters more than life or death to them?  That takes some thought. You’re searching for their soul—what makes them tick—and that doesn’t come from making snap decisions about their likes and dislikes. You must move beyond the superficial if you want to create outstanding characters. Easily said, but how do you go about doing it? First off, don’t worry about their physical characteristics. You don’t need to go into detail about the color of their hair and eyes, body build, clothes they’re wearing, etc., unless their physical appearance is part of your plot. Josie shops at Goodwill. She’s into retro and doesn’t care what the cool girls at school say. Her choice of clothes, then, is a statement about her personality. Generally, though, physical details are quickly forgotten by the...

Mojo’s Back!!!!!

I finally have a novel idea that I love. It feels so good to have a story idea that I can think about and write notes for and get excited about. It’s been two years since I last wrote a first draft and I’ve been feeling the drought. Hilari is almost finished with a first draft for her second novel since my last one. Way back when I was writing the first draft of Quantum Striker I remember her telling me that she was jealous that I was working on something new. Well Hilari got her payback and then some. But she’s been hogging the creative fairy, and now it’s my turn. I’m not turning him loose until I’ve got this first draft finished. Seriously, though, I was beginning to wonder if I had writer’s block. I’ve spent all my creative energy on developing apps and I was having a hard time coming up with an idea that was big enough for a novel. In the past I would see something or read an article and I would get that first spark for a novel idea. Ooo, that’s interesting. What if… and I’d be off into my creative bubble figuring out a plot. But that didn’t happen this time. I got tired of waiting for the spark to strike so I started trying to force myself to come up with an idea. I thought about themes I like to write about. I looked at my file of book ideas. I picked up and discarded several ideas I’d had in the past for potential story situations. Nothing was turning up the...

Description

I recently hosted a schmooze, where the topic was description, and I came to several realizations in preparing for it. As I looked for different examples of good and bad description it struck me that the least effective ones were where just a basic description of what the character(s) could see around them. One description, in particular, helped me to see this. The description covered an old stone church that had been converted into a school refectory. There was all kinds of history associated with the building, but the description was just a simple list of things the character could see when she walked inside. The part of the description that stuck with me was when the character thought of churches she’d seen back home that were in old trailers with plastic chairs. That image was so strong and full of all sorts of meanings and connotations, it sparked my imagination. But that wasn’t where the story was taking place. And while it was helpful background information about the character, the power of the scene should have been where she currently was. Instead, that one line took me out of where the character and the story were taking place. The old church should have been oozing with possibilities for description. It was a lost opportunity. It made me realize that description needs to be more than simple surface details. That kind of description is forgotten within a page turn. It makes no impact and therefor has no staying power. When I found examples of good description, I realized they had something in common. They were rarely a laundry list...