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Writing The Perfect Opening Chapter… and what not to do

The first chapter of your novel is important; its where you’ll hook your reader, introduce your protagonist, hint at the antagonist, reveal their goal and introduce the stakes. And that’s not all, writing the first chapter will set up the rest of your novel, linking all of the plot points together.

Are you overwhelmed yet? I know I am. I thought I knew how to write a great first scene. Turns out, I was wrong and in today’s post I’ll tell you why.

We’re constantly told not to open with a clique start: No starting in the middle of a battle scene, waking up from a dream, or with lots of internal monologue while your character does something mundane like washing the dishes.

But we’re also told to show the character in his ordinary life, just before a pivotal point which will start the story and raise the stakes. BUT make sure it’s not the inciting incident, because that comes a little later. What?

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The first chapter should focus on your main character, don’t clutter the scene with secondary characters, unless they play an important role. Eeh?

Make sure you give the reader all the details; age, weather, time of year, appearance, their fears, a goal and, of course introduce the stakes. BUT don’t bog down the scene with exposition. Right?

World build: Know the rules of your magic system and adhere to them. BUT don’t throw too much at the reader and confuse them.

Start with an action scene to hook the reader, something to show the character actively engaging with the world around him, be careful not to write a passive character that gets led alone. BUT remember the reader doesn’t know the character yet, so why should they care if they get killed in battle.

Please, no prologues. Unless it adds to the story, them yes give the reader a prologue.  Ahh, screams at the conflicting advice and throws a fluffy pillow across the room.

Whilst wending my way through the S**t storm of conflicting information, I wrote a great chapter, but I also got it seriously wrong. I did not ask, Why should the reader care about my Main Characters?

You see, I’d used the checklist of Do’s and Don’ts, but completely forgot the power of empathy. We need our readers to become invested in our characters, right from the start.

And there we have it writer friends, there is no one-stop-post to fix your first chapter. It takes persistence, a continuation of building upon your craft, getting honest feedback, and practice, practice, practice.

Never give up, my writer friends. I believe in you.

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Please share your experiences of writing that all important first chapter, you know I love hearing from you.

Thanks for stopping by, until next time, Much Love.

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© Author Lorraine Ambers and http://www.lorraineambers.com, 2019.
As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

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The Five Stages of Receiving Editorial Feedback

As much as we desire the truth about our writing it can be painful to hear the truth about our work. Of course, it can help us grow and become better, it how we learn and develop our craft. It’s a necessary part of the experience. If I’m being honest, I feel as though I’ve passed a benchmark in my journey, because I’ve dreamed of working with an editor, I just hadn’t expected such clarity from a brief one-to-one at a book fair.

Here’s a fun infographic poking fun at a writers experience of receiving critical feedback from an editor and the emotional process they go through. I hope you enjoy.

What have your experiences with editors been like? Good or bad, let me know if it helped you grow as a writer, you know I love hearing from you.

Thanks for stopping by, until next time, Much Love.

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© Author Lorraine Ambers and http://www.lorraineambers.com, 2019.
As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

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Surviving Writer Purgatory

Sometimes life outside of being a writer becomes hectic, and juggling the many demands of life takes its toll. In times like these something has to give, and I’ve already cooked too many oven chips for dinner and stopped walking my dog every day.

While no writer wants to sacrifice their writing time, that precious outlet for their sanity, there comes a time (usually around doing our annual taxes or Christmas) when they simply must take a short break.

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Here’s my four top tips to help you survive writing purgatory.

Stop berating yourself, this is only temporary: By removing the addition stress of unrealistic goals, you’ll actually increase productivity, be better at problem solving and be back on track before you know it. 

Prioritize your responsibilities: Make a list of all that needs to be done and cut out the unessential. Oh how I wish the world were fair, and that my children would understand that writing was my lifeline, unfortunately they insist being fed and having clean clothes.

Don’t stop planning and plotting: Just because you can’t physically find time to write doesn’t mean you won’t get the opportunity to daydream. Driving somewhere? Use that time to develop a secondary character. Painting a room. Figure out you climactic scene. Stuck waiting in the doctor surgery. Gather inspiration by watching how the receptionist deals with patients, or how the toddle runs his mother ragged, and use those details in your manuscript.

Repeat this mantra: I’m only human. No one’s perfect. I’m a writer, even if I don’t write every day. It’s going to okay.

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What do you do when life gets in the way of your writing? I’d love to hear your coping techniques, so please share them with me. 

Thanks for stopping by, until next time, Much Love.

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© Author Lorraine Ambers and http://www.lorraineambers.com, 2019.

As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.
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Writers, Don’t Let Doubt Stop You!

There comes a time in every artist’s journey when crippling self-doubt sets in. It’s an agonising period where all your hopes and dreams become overshadowed with fear. But before you scoop out the ice-cream and take cover in your bed, vowing to never write again, try a few of these techniques.

Keep track of your success.

When we’re gazing over the yawning expanse of our final destination, it’s easy to become overwhelmed with everything set before us. After all, there is no guarantee of our success. However, taking a look over your accomplishments will offer a glimmer of hope, proving that you can excel at what you set your mind too. Did you ever imagine that you’d write a novel?

Turn to your community.

Sharing your problems can help to alleviate them. Maybe you choose to turn to a blog post like this one, or to connect with like-minded individuals at a writing group, or through your social media. Just knowing there are other people who battle with the same demons may be enough to take the edge off. Remember this is a normal issue, it’s a universal fear, and it’s going to get easier.

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Don’t let fear be the driver

Acceptance in any situation allows us to relax into the moment and let go of our expectations. Easier said than done, however, if you can learn to live with the uncertainty, the doubts and fears, you gain back control to steer your life in the direction of your choice. Whenever I’m crippled by doubt, I work on releasing it by moving forward, redefining my goals, making small steps. Before you know it, the resistance will disappear and you’ll be gliding side-by-side with your creativity.

Take care of yourself

Sometimes, doubt comes at a time in our lives when we have internal and/ or external stress. Learning to listen to yourself, asking for help, or simply knowing when to slow down can be the greatest act of self-love. During those hard times, I choose to read, not only to escape the world but to have it redefined in words that often mirror my trials and tribulations. Reading is wonderfully cathartic and equally as important as writing, so I don’t have to feel guilty about taking time out.

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How do you combat self-doubt? By sharing your tips, you’re helping the writing community, so don’t be shy, you know I love hearing from you.

Thanks for stopping by, until next time, Much Love.

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© Author Lorraine Ambers and http://www.lorraineambers.com, 2019.

 

As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.
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A Writer’s Dream Wish List

We writers are mercurial creatures, each with our own unique quirks, aspirations and preferences that drive us to create stories. Have you ever wondered if all writers desire the same things? I’ve created a fun, whimsical infographic that contains seven, unrealistic desires of a writer. Enjoy!

Do you agree with any of these wishes? Or perhaps you have something different to add to the wish list.

Why not share them with me, you know I love hearing from you.

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Thanks for stopping by, until next time, Much Love.

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© Author Lorraine Ambers and http://www.lorraineambers.com, 2019.
As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.
how to choose a captivating title

Writer Tips on How to Choose A Captivating Title

The title of a book is important; it has the capacity to entice your audience, or have them reject it simply because it did nothing to intrigue them. I don’t know about you, but I find choosing the right title a nightmare. In this post we’re going to offer some tips on how you can hone your choices and captivate your audience with a just a few words.

how to choose a captivating title

Finish your WIP: Sometimes the title simply comes to you, a miracle gifted from the literary gods. If this happens cherish it and continue onwards in your writing journey. However, this is rare! Often you’ll need to finish writing the novel before you can look back and reflect upon the story.

Do your research: Look up other titles in your genre. Not only will this give you a clue as to what works, but it will also tell you your choice is already taken. There’s nothing more disheartening than having an excellent title in mind, only to discover it’s already in use within your genre. Not the smartest move, especially if the other author is a runaway success.

It’s all in the name: You may choose to use your main characters name as a title, like the famous Harry Potter. Perhaps you could use their mythical heritage, like The Hobbit. Or name it after the place they visit or live in, like Caraval, and if you haven’t read any of these magical series yet, I highly recommend you do.

Caraval by Stephanie Garber

Get poetic: Use alliterations, internal rhymes, slant rhymes and poetic prose. Listen to lyrics, pay attention to movie lines and don’t be afraid to play around with words. Be careful not to copywrite, but you’re an artist, so have fun and get creative.

Themes: Once you’ve finished your book you’ll get a clear picture of the themes, key events, and any related words. Check out my post on defining themes in your novel for more clarity on the subject. Using a single word as your title can be evocative and punchy, try an adjective, a noun, or a verb to sum up the actions or feelings of the book.

Characterisation: Take a closer look at your main characters, what are their key traits and how do they correlate to the story, and to each other. Then use them as a title, this is how I named my second WIP Mischief and Mayhem, click on the link to find out more about that work.

The Positive Trait Thesaurus by Angela Ackerman & Becca Puglisi

Key phrase: There’s nothing more satisfying than reading a novel and coming across a sentence that encapsulates the story or characters and relates to the title. Pay attention when writing or editing, and pick out any phrases that could work as a title. Perhaps a resonant, unusual phrase carries meaning for your work.

Check out a thesaurus: Maybe you’re close, you understand your character and have pinpointed the themes. You’ve loads of ideas, but something is not working and the words land flat. Try using a thesaurus to mix it up a little. Word to the wise, be sure to check each word in the dictionary for clarification, otherwise you could end up with a title that makes little sense, and worse still, has no relevance to your story.

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How did you come up with your title? Please share your experience, it’s fascinating to know how other writers make their choice. You know I love hearing from you.

Thanks for stopping by, until next time, Much Love.

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© Author Lorraine Ambers and http://www.lorraineambers.com, 2019.
As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.
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Let me Introduce my WIP: Mischief and Mayhem

Thank you, Ari Meghlen for nominating me for the Round Robin game. The talented blogger, Ari, has created this game to help fellow writers introduce their WIP.

To play the game, I shall introduce my WIP, nominate another writer to introduce their WIP and then they nominate the next person… and so on.

Loved, nymph, magic, enchanted grove, castle, novel aesthetics

Let’s get to it…. I want to introduce you to my WIP “Mischief and Mayhem ”.

What genre is Mischief and Mayhem?

Mischief and Mayhem is a High-Fantasy / Romance novel.

I love worldbuilding and playing with a cast of mythical creatures, therefore, my WIP features fae, djinn, nymph, witches, elves and much more.


How did you come up with the Idea?

A powerless magician and a mischievous nymph can destroy realms with their wicked games, unless they work together to save them.

Theo and Tali, were secondary characters from my first novel: A power hungry magician, originally the antagonist, and a wily nymph became my favourite characters to write. I wondered what would happen if Tali rebelled against Theo, causing him to lose everything he coveted.


Who is the MC of Mischief & Mayhem?

Theo Belvedire is ruthless and wicked; his one goal is to find his estranged father who is trapped in a sacred realm, his one weakness is Tali.

In exchange for a safe haven, Tali brokered a deal with Theo, in exchange for her alliance. Now they’re bound by an enchanted vow, meaning she must assist Theo in reaching his goals, but Tali is cunning and will always find a loophole.


What POV is Mischief & Mayhem written in?

I write in third person POV, telling the story through Tali and Theo.

I love writing duel POV’s so that the reader is fully immersed in the complexities of the love story.


What is the current status of Mischief & Mayhem?

Mischief and Mayhem is current in submission. The novel has been complimented for its ambitious premises, but I’ve had no full requests… yet!


Who is Mischief & Mayhem’s target audience?

My characters are mostly in their late teens and early twenties. Therefore, my target audience is mostly Adult, but it may appeal to people who enjoy reading upper YA and NA. My demographic will most likely be women.

Share the blurb of Mischief and Mayhem

Let me know what you think, I’m always looking for ways to improve my blurb.

Ruthless magician, Theo Belvidere, has amassed power, wealth and dominance. All in a bid to discover his estranged father’s realm. On the eve of unlocking the portal, Tali an unscrupulous nymph becomes severely injured and Theo chooses to ease her pain by overpower her. But Tali is outraged that Theo has manipulated her with magic and rebels by stealing his power.

From ruthless to ruined, Theo loses everything. As a powerless magician, he’s taken prisoner inside the deadly realm. How will he escape to regain his lost kingdom and magic? And what punishment should he mete out on the trickster nymph for sabotaging his plans?


Share a small piece of your WIP

Safety was a luxury most took for granted. Tali had carved hers out with lies, wiles and unwavering zeal. It wasn’t an easy choice. Her destiny wasn’t predicted in the night sky with distant stars and spiralling galaxies. No. Her trail, whilst still blazing, was too complex, too twisted for fairy tale endings.

A flutter of fear caught in her chest, she pretended to caress the hourglass contours of her corset, forcing herself to smile for the guards in black armour. The cold tiles nipped at her toes as she strolled to the courtyard. As a water nymph, she thrived near the Groves she hailed from, but even though she never returned there, she still walked barefoot everywhere, keeping herself as grounded to nature as possible.

How dare Theo question her commitment, after everything she’d done for him? She ruffled the scrunched edges of her skirt, maintaining her playful, nonchalant pace through the fort.

Theo was becoming desperate, his temper flaring and his patience for her—thinning. What would happen when his father arrived? With the Dark Prince at the helm, there would be no need for casual distractions. Her days as his master spy were coming to an end, meaning she would become disposable.

Their relationship, of sorts, was complicated. It had been based on mutual respect and alliance. Anything more was a fool’s game, males like Theo weren’t the committing type. In fact, Tali didn’t think his infatuations lasted more than a month. Not that she was checking.

She shook her head in pity for the girls that longed for him.

Her future relied upon being a commodity to the great Theo Belvidere. She simply had to figure out what that role would become—her side of the vow depended on it.


How will Mischief & Mayhem be published?

I’m seeking representation from an agent, so that I can become traditional published. I’m looking forward to working with a team who will help guide me through the industry. Yikes, I’m excited thinking about it!

Round Robin Nomination

M.L.Davies, I nominate you because I know you’re going to find an agent soon, you write gripping mystery/ thrillers. More people should be checking your work out.  Its been an honour to be your beta reader.

All you need to do is:

  • Write a post next week and answer the following questions:
    • What genre is (WIP title)?
    • How did you come up with the Idea?
    • Who is the MC of (WIP title)?
    • What POV is (WIP title) written in?
    • What is the current status of (WIP title)?
    • Who is (WIP title)’s target audience?
    • Share the blurb of (WIP title)
    • Share a small piece of your WIP
    • How will (WIP title) be published?
  • Link back to this blog post
  • Nominate another writer into the game to introduce their WIP using this “Round Robin Nomination” format.

Happy writing

Author Lorraine Ambers - fantasy romance writer

Tell me what you think about my WIP, you know I love hearing from you.

Thanks for stopping by, until next time, Much Love.

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© Author Lorraine Ambers and http://www.lorraineambers.com, 2019.


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The Incredible Power of Journaling in Six Simple Steps

I’ve written a lot about the importance of selfcare and how writing can be an incredible way to manage your emotions. Even though we know it helps reduce stress and improve our mental health, have you ever considered how to get the most benefit from it? In this post, I’ll walk you through my process of journaling, and then show you how to reflect upon what you’ve written, and how to use it to your advantage as a self-reflective tool in six simple steps.

I journaled for many years, sometimes on a regular basis and sometimes not so regular. And in all that time, do you know what I learnt about myself? Nothing! While it was a great tool for me to understand my emotions and allowed me to dig deep into how they affected me, I never developed any inner awareness, or learnt how to resolve problems.

My mum died when I was a teenager and journaling became my confidant. It enabled me to escape the overwhelming grief and gave my consuming thoughts an outlet. This period of my life has now become my greatest tool as a writer. It taught me how to portray emotions effectively, becoming my first training ground for developing characters. With time, my life improved and my journaling become infrequent and patchy. This was my first big mistake.

The Little Journal Company

Be Consistent.

To gain the most out of journaling it is essential to use it consistently. It doesn’t have to be every day, which can seem daunting, it could be once a week, but sticking to it on a regular basis . Otherwise, like me, you’ll find yourself journaling sporadically and I can’t tell you how ineffective this will be.

Get out of a rut.

Sometimes journaling can become a chore, perhaps you simply don’t know  what to write about. Journal about the mundane, the stuck place, the difficult work colleague, the wonderful summer, or about how flattered you were by a passing compliment. Just keep it going.

Use some of these prompts to get you going:

  • What was the most challenging part of your day?
  • Write 3 affirmations that help you align with your goals.
  • Write a special memory, then write about how this has influenced your life.
  • Use your favourite motivational quote and expand on it… why is it relevant to you and your life, how does it help?
  • What is you goal, what steps are you taking towards it, and most importantly what has the journey so far taught you?
  • Write 5 things about yourself that you love? Now write about what thoughts and feelings came up as you did this exercise.
Daily affirmations

Add gratitude.

Why?  Because it pushes positivity into your journal and therefore into our minds. It brightens patches of our lives that perhaps we’re struggling with. It gives hope! Taking a different perspective of your life can help you appreciate the things you take for granted. Add one thing you’re grateful for into each entry, and see the difference it makes.

Problem solve.

We encounter many problems in life, and some seem insurmountable. By journaling consistently, you’ll begin to clearly see the issues you face, therefore, you can begin to find solutions. Do you need to have an awkward conversation with a friend? Write about what you plan to say, and about your desired outcome. This should bring clarity and relief. Maybe the problem can’t be fixed, maybe it’s something you have to come to terms with like an illness or a loss. Instead, write about how you plan to take care of yourself. Consider areas where you’re being to hard on yourself and practise self-love, allowing yourself to lessen the burdens that hail you.

Self-reflect and review your process.

It’s important to read back, or skim, your journal. Look at everything that’s transpired over the last, week, month or even year – depending on when you choose to review. Imagine you’re the author, and that each entry has been made by your main character. What journey have you been on? What patterns can you see arising? What problems have you resolved and what can you learn from the process. Are you coping with a difficult situation? Are you happier than you’ve previously been? View everything with curiosity and wonder, turn off the self-criticism and really allow yourself compassion and understanding. Keep exploring, and remember you’ll discover far more about yourself if you’re kind.

Author Lorraine Ambers YA fantasy romance

Do you Journal? If so, do you have any other tips to share? Or, maybe you’ve never journaled, but you’re toying with the idea; are you ready to give it a go? Don’t be shy, share your journey with me, you know I love hearing from you.

Thanks for stopping by, until next time, Much Love.

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© Author Lorraine Ambers and http://www.lorraineambers.com, 2019.
As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.
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The ultimate Pinterest 101 for writers and bloggers

There are many ways to drive your audience to your blog and one of my favourites media sites is Pinterest. In this post we’ll be taking a look at how to set up an account, to maximise your chances of gaining new viewers, and how to set up visually enticing boards so that your followers can visually connect with your novel and get to know you a little better.

If you’re new to building your brand then I recommend reading The Importance of Building a Platform and How to Identify your Target Audience. Setting up solid foundations for your business is a vital first step, but don’t worry if you’ve jumped in feet first, sometimes simply beginning is the hardest part and I commend your enthusiasm.

Here are my four awesome tips to get you started!!

One: Set up a business Pinterest account. It looks the same as a personnel account, but has tools and analytics that will aid you and your blog. When setting up your profile, choose an image, or logo, that you’ll use across your social media and get creative with your bio. Now is the time to sell yourself, not your books. Tell your readers a little bit about you, your interests and what you write about. Put some thought into your profile using key words that correlate to you. Mine always featuresfantasy-romance writer. Any content you create here can be echoed through all social media platforms to maintain a cohesive brand.

Inspiration for my second novel Mischief and Mayhem

Two: Pin boards: Use boards for historical research, to identify your characters, or help define scenes for your worldbuilding. A word to the wise, if it’s harmful to your brand, or is personal and you don’t wish to share certain boards, keep it locked from public view. Name each board with titles that use keyword to describe what’s contained within. Add boards that will direct the right audience to your profile, so for authors you could add a library board and fill it with books within your genre. Or, maybe have a board with your dream office space.

Create a unique writing den.

Three: Verify your websites ULR in settings. This took me a few tries and a couple of YouTube videos. But have faith, if I can master technology, so can  you. By linking your website/ blog to Pinterest, it creates a PIN symbol on all of your images, enabling you to link your posts to your Pinterest boards. Don’t forget to install a Pin it button to your blog, this is a vital way for you to gain more followers, readers may choose to add your content to their boards, showing your work to a new audience.

Captivating worldbuilding ideas

Four: Use great images in your blog. A picture says a thousand words, or so I’m told. Pixabay, Pexels and Unsplash are fantastic sites that offer free stock images, that have no attributes or royalties attached. Don’t forget to edit each image when you add it to your blog, in the alt description box, use keywords to help new audience members find your content. Those keywords are used as the primary function of Pinterest, which runs as a search engine using those keywords. So it’s time to get savvy with SEO.

Finally learn SEO 😉

Author Lorraine Ambers - fantasy romance writer

Do you use Pinterest? Is it one of your favourite media sites? Perhaps you have another tip to share, don’t be shy, you know I love hearing from you.

Thanks for stopping by, until next time, Much Love.

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© Author Lorraine Ambers and http://www.lorraineambers.com, 2019.
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How to Write Compelling Secondary Characters

This week I’ve received a comment about secondary characters, and more specifically, how many characters should support your protagonist? In truth, every story is individual; Game of Thrones notoriously has a large cast of characters, whilst The Martian focuses solely on the plight of the protagonist for the best part of the story.

Therefore the plot holds the key to such questions, a better question to consider would be; how can I create context for the MC struggles? What internal or external circumstances, characters or environment will best serve and/or antagonise my protagonist? How can you help develop your protagonists story arc?

Secondary characters can provide powerful purposes within our stories. They can help to advance the plot in ways the protagonist cannot. They create conflict that stymies the protagonists journey. They can help to deepen the theme through dialogue, backstory and actions. Whilst help to reveal elements of worldbuilding through their individual point of view.

Here is a guide of the types of characters who may accompany your protagonist on their journey.

The sidekick – This character can also be the protagonists friend, or family member. Whilst they accompany the hero on his quest, they may well hinder, create conflict, become their confidant and most importantly add an element of comedy or surprise, just like Ron Wesley in Harry Potter.

The Magicians - Margo Meme

The friend – The nurturing companion who is always available to lend a shoulder to cry on. They help the hero to realise their own path, to be there after conflicts to give them the strength to continue onwards. Hagrid from Harry Potter is a great example.

The mentor – The wise soul who gives council, hints at vital clues whilst offering training and experience to the young apprentice. Remember not to make the story too easy, your mentor should lead the protagonist to the answers without actually telling him how to solve the problems.

The love interest – Create romance and tension within the story by adding an element of romance. It stirs internal conflict driving your protagonist to explore new emotions.  You could raise the stakes by forcing your protagonist to sacrifice something in order to save them. Or if romance is not central to your plot, maybe their love interest is merely a way to round out your character, a way to introduce their backstory and reveal another side to their personality.

The Magicians - Alice Meme

The healer – When your character gets injured, or faces a time of great healing, they will require someone who can aid them. This type of character helps the protagonist recover and strengthen up before they move on with their journey. This flexible character will add a fresh dimension to the story as your protagonist fights to overcome their injury/ illness.

The Herold – This character will call the protagonist into action, starting them on their journey. They give instructions in the beginning, like Gandalf who sets Bilbo Baggins off in The Hobbit. Often the protagonists ignores, rebels, or simply persists the call to action until they’re forced to act.

The Magicians High king and Queen meme

The antagonist – Unlike all of the influencer characters the antagonists purpose is to create conflict, to prevent your protagonist from reaching his goals, to stay one step ahead until the climax of the story. Ultimately allowing the protagonist to grow, to improve, to reach a point where they can defeat or overcome the antagonist. They may take form as the bully, the irate boss, the murder your trying to track, or the power crazy queen who needs to be usurp.

The family – Families come in all forms, some supportive and others abusive. Inside each family the dynamic will vary depending on the types of characters involved. You may encounter the herald, the friend, the side kick, the antagonist and a love interest all within one family. We see such dynamic interactions in Hunger games when Katniss sacrifices herself to save her sister.

Author Lorraine Ambers - fantasy romance writer

Have fun, get creative and play around with these side characters as a way to introduce conflict, obstacles, tension, support and stability.

Tell me, how many characters does your WIP have? And apart from your protagonist, who is your favourite and why? Don’t be shy, share your ideas, you know I love hearing from you.

Thanks for stopping by, until next time, Much Love.

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© Author Lorraine Ambers and http://www.lorraineambers.com, 2019.