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Two tips to build characters and jumpstart your plot

How well do you know your characters? If you’re stuck or blocked in your writing, it may be a signal that you have more to discover.

Speaking at a workshop sponsored by the Nevada chapter of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, Susan Brown, author of “Hugging the Rock” and several other children’s books, said when she gets blocked, it helps to learn more about her characters. That in turn helps her raise the stakes of her story.

Brown suggested these writing exercises:

Tip 1: Write letters to your characters and then have them write back.

Through letters, Brown has learned interesting nuances about her characters that led to new plot twists.

Tip 2: Interview your characters

Some of the best insight you’ll gain about your characters can come from asking them interesting questions. The answers may not end up in your manuscript, but you’ll have a deeper understanding of your characters.

Here are several interview questions from Brown’s list:

  • What physical mannerisms do you have? Tug your ear? Jiggle your leg?
  • What is under your bed?
  • What do you reach for when you open the refrigerator?
  • What are your personal rituals or habits?
  • What is the worst thing that’s ever happened to you?
  • What are you really bad or really good at doing?

To find more writing tips and inspiration, visit Brown’s website.

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