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Friday, June 01, 2007

Will your characters keep an editor reading?

My earlier post this week talked about the importance of your story standing out from the crowd. Good simply isn’t good enough. The competition is too stiff. You’ve got to grab an editor’s attention with the first sentence and keep them turning pages. Besides finding your voice and letting your passion shine through your story, your characters are another great place to start.

How is your hero different from every other hero sitting on the bookshelf? Does he/she have specific goals? (They must) How is he/she trying to reach those goals? Is your dialogue real or stilted? Are their motivations believable? Have they grown by the end of the book? Do they have any interesting quirks or hobbies that the reader can identify with?

Okay, I admit I’m not big on character charts. I plan out my plotline carefully, but prefer to learn about my heroes and heroines as I write. The more I get into the story, the more I find out about their preferences, dreams, past hurts, likes, and dislikes. We all have our different styles of writing and that is fine, but it all comes down to the fact that in order to make our characters come alive we have to know them well. The best place to start is the basics.

Where do they work? How old are they? What do they look like? Remember the goal here is to make your characters well-rounded. To make them pop of the page and draw that editor into the story.

It might seem obvious, but in some of my earlier writings I have to chuckle a bit because I couldn’t tell you what my hero did for living. If it never came up in the book, then what was the use of worrying about it? Obviously, that isn’t true. The more I know about my characters, whether I use the information in my story or not, the more the reader will be able to identify with them.

Think about your best friend or your next door neighbor. In the real world, people are tempted, face difficult decision, react differently to these decisions, have obvious strengths and weaknesses, are motivated by different factors, have a past. . .the list could go on and on.

If you like charts, then you can easily find free character charts on line by using Google. An even deeper resource is Brandiyln Collin’s book, Getting into Character. She draws on the method acting theory that theater professional use explains seven characterization techniques and adapts them for the novelist.

Since we are talking about ways to catch an editors eye, here are two more timely resources I’d like to encourage you to look into.

1. Terry Whalin is hosting a free live teleseminar on June 5th where he will be talking about the creation of book proposals and the publishing process. He’s also giving us a chance to ask our own questions. You can register here.

2. If you haven't heard of the snowflake method, it's a great way to delve way beyond the surface of your story. For information on how to get an example of Randy Ingermanson’s snow flake method from Gone With the Wind check out his site. Hundreds have used his method to help organize and analyze their manuscripts.

Happy writing!


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