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3 Fun Exercises to Help You Create Irresistible Characters

I would like to introduce you to Desiree Villena. A writer with Reedsy, a marketplace that connects authors with the world’s best publishing resources and professionals. In her spare time, Desiree enjoys reading contemporary fiction, writing short stories, and giving (mostly) solicited advice to her fellow writers. You can check out Reedsy at Twitter / Instagram.

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There are two crucial pillars that hold up a good novel: first, there must be a compelling plot, and second, there must be nuanced characters who undergo this journey. Plot goes hand-in-hand with the central conflict and its resolution, so these elements are often intertwined!

Of course, not every story requires an examination of the deepest crevices of a character’s soul — but the complex layers of a protagonist often still bubble to the surface, even when they’re not explicitly explored. Just as a charismatic and thoughtful person charms others, well-developed characters are irresistible to readers, literary agents, and publishers alike.

So how can you craft characters who will feel believable, evoke sympathy, and rope your readers in? There’s no one single way to achieve this, but the three exercises I’ll be sharing with you below can get you thinking about the many facets of a round character.

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1. Let your protagonist win the lottery

This is a common thought experiment when thinking about the question: “What do you want to do with your life?” Before we get distracted by questioning our own raison d’être, let’s consider  how this exercise works.

Assume the prize for hitting the jackpot is hefty — so big that physiological security is no longer a remote  concern for your character. Without having to worry about survival, what would your character do with their money and, more importantly, their time?

What they choose to do has profound implications for their personality, their aspirations, and their skills. If your character decides to use that money to open a pottery shop, they must be somewhat entrepreneurial and industrious. They might be passionate about pottery, or they’re perhaps less aware of social issies than wider society, considering the fact that they didn’t choose to funnel their resources to a charitable cause. This exercise might also flag up certain areas of specialty you have to research, if you want it included in the story.

The decision of how to use this prize also opens up options regarding their interests and background, e.g. whether they’ve studied this art before, or if it was part of their family history or business. In any case, it’s fun to imagine this kind of scenario, since there are so many possibilities available.

You can frame this writing exercise as an interview of the character by a news outlet, or a conversation the character has with a close friend, outlining their plan. And of course, not every story setting has a lottery, so you can tweak the prompt to suit your needs (maybe your character unknowingly dug up a pot of gold) — just to make it feel more realistic, even if you don’t end up including their “lottery plan” in your actual story.

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2. Trap them somewhere alone

In a modern setting, your protagonist might get trapped in a broken elevator — or, if you really want to push your character to the limit, perhaps a crashing plane. In a sci-fi setting, the place could be a lonely and malfunctioning spacecraft (think The Martian). In a medieval setting, it could be a random sinkhole in the middle of an empty forest.

What you want to do in this scenario is the reverse of exercise #1: you want to remove practically all possibilities from your character and see how they react. Are they angry, or are they anxious? Is your character debilitated by the seriousness of the circumstances, or is their brain whirring, trying to find a solution? If they’re working on a course of action, what skills do they have to come up with and realize this plan?

Even if they’re not being uncannily resourceful and clear-headed, you can delve into what’s going on in your protagonist’s mind. Who and what are they thinking of, now that they’re coming dangerously close to death? Are there any regrets? Do they have certain memories that make this situation especially traumatic, or escape more difficult?

If you’re up for a challenge, try weaving in the emotional or psychological entrapments your character feels into your story. Let the physical space be a metaphor for the obstacles your character faces in life. This way you can explore both the mannerisms and inner thoughts of your protagonist, and the internal struggle that builds onto the central conflict of your story.

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3. Create a social media account for your character

Now I know this doesn’t make logical sense in every scenario — 15th-century knights don’t usually stop on their way to battle to post a quick Instagram story — but it’s an entertaining exercise to develop the social life and behaviors of your protagonist. And of course, you don’t have to actually create an account on Facebook or Twitter; just describing it will suffice.

What can you include in this description? Well, anything, really. Is this account used to keep in touch with close friends, or is it for a practical purpose like book marketing? (Meta!) How many friends or followers do they have? Does your character interact a lot, and what kind of content do they share?

Indeed, just by picking a social media platform, you’ve already determined some things about the character. If it’s Facebook, your protagonist might be the eloquent and argumentative type — as opposed to Twitter, where the character limit means Tweets are more concise and oftentimes quippier.

Feel free to experiment with the tone as well. Though this prompt probably gets you thinking about a contemporary setting, if your character’s from another era, you can definitely use the appropriate vocabulary and language style. (You might know of fanfiction social media accounts where the fans roleplay as book characters on Twitter — this is somewhat similar to that.) Here’s your chance to work on the voice of your character.

And that’s the nice thing about exercises like these: they don’t just make you ponder all the details you’d normally include in a character profile, they also let you experiment with your portrayal of your characters in a fun and creative way. Hopefully these exercises give you some inspiration for writing characters who are hard to forget!

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I want to say a massive thank you to Desiree. I’m sure you’ll agree she writes excellent post and that Reedsy is a valuable writing resource. I know I’ll be checking out their posts. Once again, You can follow Reedsy at Twitter / Instagram.

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

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© Author Lorraine Ambers and http://www.lorraineambers.com, 2020.
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Blackbirch: the beginning by K.M. Allan

I want to introduce the fabulous author K.M. Allan and her debut novel Blackbirch – The Beginning. I had a little fun with Kate’s interview and asked her to answer four random questions. Hopefully, something a little different from the other interviews she’s done, to give her readers another dynamic to how she develops her stories. Let’s begin…

K.M. Allan – Author of Blackbirch the Beginning

What was your hardest scene to write?

There are a few action scenes toward the end of the book. To ensure it was clear; who was standing where, and what was happening, was a skill I had to quickly learn. I confused some of my early beta readers, even though it all made sense to me, but I think I got there in the end, and it was a nice surprise to learn that I like drafting action scenes.

What is your favorite childhood book?

I was a huge fan of The Babysitters Club series and really wish I had of kept them all. I am pretty sure at one point I had most, if not all, of the books.

What is the most difficult part of your artistic process?

Definitely getting started. I can be inspired and organized, all ready to write, and procrastinate instead. Once I start writing it’s great, it’s just the act of getting started that’s difficult.

What was your favorite scene to write and why?

There’s a scene where Eve Thomas is being watched by something or someone she can’t see and it was interesting trying to capture the tension and creepiness on the page. I remembering being alone when I was drafting it and needing to go and be around people afterward, so hopefully, that means I pulled it off. 

If you want to stalk, I mean follow Kate, you can find her hanging out at Facebook and Instagram; talking about her kitten Dash, and letting us know how her series is coming along. Go check her out – she’s really friendly!!

Social Media Links

https://www.facebook.com/k.m.allan.author

https://www.instagram.com/k.m.allan_writer

Welcome to Blackbirch. It’s a place no one forgets. Except for Josh Taylor. 

The fatal car crash took more than 17-year-old Josh’s parents. It stole his memories and returned him to his birthplace, Blackbirch, a tourist town steeped in a history of witchcraft. 

Amongst friends he’s forgotten and a life he doesn’t want, Josh is haunted by nightmares so believable he swears the girl in his dreams is real. Kallie is so captivating he ignores her blood-stained hands, but he can’t overlook the blue glow summoned to her skin. 

Kallie says it’s an ancient magic they share and a secret worth hiding, because as Josh discovers, they aren’t the only gifted ones. 

To restore his memories and find the true cause of the car accident, he must learn what’s real. And what secrets Blackbirch has buried in its woods.

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Buy Links

The book can be bought at Amazon, Barnes and Nobel, Book Depository, and Kobo. All the buy links are here: https://kmallan.com/blackbirch/

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I’ve had the pleasure of working with Kate on this series, her characters are truly compelling and her story hauntingly beautiful. Tell me my wonderful community: Have you read Blackbirch the Beginning? Do you think it’s something that might interest you? And what magnificent projects are you working on at the moment? 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, 2020.
The Eternal Scribbler Guest post

Guest Post – The Eternal Scribbler.

As writers we have to a pretty hefty job of carrying all those characters, worlds, ideas around in our heads desperate to come out and be added to the blank page.

Today I want to talk about the first few pages of your book.

The first pages of a book are what sell it. You can have a fancy cover, great blurb and a dazzling plot – but if you fail in the first few pages, you could have lost your chance to shine.YA fantasy romance Author Lorraine Ambers Desk Beta Readers

This is one of the reasons I usually write my first chapter last or at least after much more of the book is written. This allows me to move the scenes around and sometimes find a mid-scene that works better for the first chapter.

From publishers to readers, those few pages have to be gripping (not talking suspenseful, unless…you know…you’re writing a suspense novel!) but they need to draw the reader in and make them want to keep reading.

No point having the best action scene, romance or climatic ending ever if nobody is able to actually get to it.

So take those first few pages extremely seriously.

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Here are some thoughts on what you should have in your first chapter (preferably in the first few pages)

• Voice – Don’t wait until you are further into the book before you show your voice, get it right out onto the page at the start. If I’m reading a book I want to know the author has a strong command of writing, a voice that can clearly be heard through the words.

• Senses – Engage the reader immediately with sensory detail. If you get to chapter 3 before we even have a plethora of sensory information, then you’ve missed something. Be aware of getting caught just using sight and sound. Use all five of the main senses to fill out your world. Whether it’s the sharp smell of horse manure in the street, or the bitter taste of fruit on the turn. Let’s get some details!!

• Location, location, location – No we don’t need to know the longitude and latitude, but we need some detail about where this story is set. Character and dialogue can often place a story, but don’t forget to set the scene. Are we storming a castle? Trudging through a muddy field? Maybe even just listening to a grieving mother in the kitchen of her small apartment. Give the reader some direction as to where they are when they start reading.

• Characters – Now, some writers state they want to meet the protagonist or antagonist in the first chapter. Since my manuscript doesn’t actually start with meeting my protagonist but in dealing with the aftermath of her going missing, I ignore what “some writers” suggest. You don’t have to have your MC right in the thick of it, but make sure whoever you have on stage first has an important role in the plot, even if they just throw in a set of magic beans and vanish. Those magic beans better be pretty important!

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But these characters need to be interesting or likeable. While characters we hate are fun too, it’s recommended we don’t add them at the beginning as it can drive a reader from continuing – so keep your obnoxious, love-to-hate-them characters for later on.

Make sure there is some depth to these characters. That means they react, they emote, they live the scene. Let’s not just follow them around with a camcorder seeing what they might do. Give them a voice, give them a purpose, give them a mental state!

• Plot – your first few pages should touch on the plot. It should hint or whisper or build on something that is coming up. We don’t want to see characters going through daily routines and ending with nothing. If you haven’t even hinted on what the plot is about then you’ll be boring your reader.

Readers want to get a sense of something happening. Not sure what, so they will want to read more. Nobody…and I mean NOBODY wants to read about your character brushing their teeth, picking out clothes and then leaving for work. Unless all that banality ended with you exposing that this mild-mannered, mousy gentleman is actually an assassin off to execute a government official – you should probably skip it.

So think carefully on what you are putting in your first pages. Think about the books you love and re-read their first pages. See what those authors did to catch your attention.

Happy Writing!

For more great content, find Ari over on her blog: http://www.theeternalscribbler.wordpress.com/

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