Breathe Life Into Your Characters

Writers are told to breathe life into your characters. But how? Some how-to experts claim that to write believable characters you must fill out page after page identifying every mundane detail of their lives. Is it wrong to do so? No. Some writers may need tool to learn who their characters are. Unfortunately, many writers take this advice to heart and spend days, weeks, months crafting the “perfect character” whose wooden speech and actions leave readers cold. There are four basic points you need to understand in order to create realistic, relatable characters. The Basics Yes, your character needs a name, a background, and likes and dislikes. But details will not make your character real. Breathing life into your characters takes understanding people and, dare I say it, liking people. More importantly, it takes understanding yourself. If you don’t understand why and how you react to the triumphs and tragedies of your life, your characters will fall flatter. No, you don’t need a degree in psychology, but you need to understand basic personality types and how they are likely to react to different trials and triumphs. Don’t know where to start? Document your daily emotional reactions. Explore why you reacted […]

Without Sequels Your Reader Won’t Care

You’ve got a fantastic idea for a book of fiction. A great conflict drives the story and you write action scene after action scene in a burst of creativity. But without sequels your reader won’t care. No, not the sequel to the book. The sequels to your scenes. Sequel is one of the most important parts of your story. What Is a Scene’s Sequel  Most authors of how-to-write books use the term scene and define that term in the same way. For the sequel, different authors label it differently, but the functions remain the same. Dwight V. Swain calls this unit of storytelling a sequel and describes as “a unit of transition between two scenes.” James Scott Bell calls it reaction and Robert McKee calls it the “emotional transition.” Merriam Webster defines sequel as “consequence, results.” Think of it this way: your protagonist fought a battle (real or figurative) with the antagonist. Win or lose, both your character and your reader need a moment of recovery. That moment of recovery, the sequel reveals how your protagonist reacts to this win or lose. It can be a few sentences or paragraphs or pages. There are three parts to a sequel: Reaction, […]

The Importance of the Last Act in Story Structure

Seven days remaining in November means NaNoWriMo participants are nearing the end of their commitment to write 50,000 words this month. For some, that means their work-in-progress (WIP) is nearing the end of the story arc. Other writers may have many more words to scribble or ponder. Regardless of where you are, the importance of the last act in story structure, the last act of your WIP, is as big as the first act. The Beginning of the End People will disagree where the beginning of the end of a story is. But if you get the last point of Act IIB wrong, your story will end with a reader’s whimper instead of the reader’s satisfied sigh. The last plot point of Act II, often called the dark night of the soul, is when it appears all is lost. The antagonist has delivered a shocking blow, and the protagonist can’t see a way to go forward. She looks back at herself for a moment. She must face her flaw or fear—the lie she believes about herself or the world. Facing what she’s become, what she’s done, she’ll like or dislike. And in that mirror of self-reflection, she will see a […]