The key to writing strong, believable characters is to really know and understand your characters as if they’re living, breathing human beings.
You want to know your character’s background, what makes them tick, what has happened to them to make them who they are today, what they dream about for the future, and more.
You need to know all this even if it’s not in your story. I keep separate journals for each of my main characters so I can write about them and write from their point of view.
One tool that has helped me delve deeper into my characters’ motivations comes from human needs psychology which has defined six basic human needs.
Motivational speaker Tony Robbins has written a great article on these needs, “Tony Robbins: 6 Basic Needs that Make us Tick.” The six needs are: Read more
As mentioned in part one of this post, writing prompts can help get us into the flow of our writing. Poetry prompts are easy. Pretty much anything can be a poetry prompt. But what if you’re working on a longer project like an essay, short story, or novel? Learning to develop your own prompts for a specific project can be a powerful tool in your writing practice.
The more we practice developing prompts and writing from them, the better writers and storytellers we will become.
Think about the word practice for a minute. Practice is defined as to do something habitually and also as to pursue a profession such as law. But, really, anything can be a practice.
I’m currently doing a 30-day yoga challenge courtesy of “Yoga with Adrienne” on YouTube. I don’t have a naturally flexible body, so I have to modify many of the poses. This is one of the things I love about yoga—it’s flexibility to fit any body type. It’s called a “yoga practice” for a reason. I love saying the words “yoga practice” because they remind me that I don’t have to be perfect. In order to get better at anything, we have to practice it. Read more
I love to write and I especially love to write poetry, but I also go through long periods where I don’t write. I get busy with work and life. Or roadblocks appear that zap my time and energy and leave me with little creative mojo. 2018 was one of those years. It was a rough year. One thing after another ate up my physical and emotional energy and left me with no extra creative juice.
I didn’t write a single poem from February until the end of November. I was beginning to wonder if I even remembered how to write a poem. I started a few times, but the poems felt forced and contrived.
Then I happened upon a book my friend and writing partner gave me several years ago. “The Crafty Poet: A Portable Workshop,” by Diane Lockward is an incredible book with poetry prompts, essays, and articles on the craft of poetry and much more. What I love about the book is that it gives you a poem, dissects the poem, and gives you a writing prompt. After the writing prompt, you get two more sample poems based on the prompt. Since then, Diane has published “The Crafty Poet II: A Portable Workshop.” Read more
It’s difficult to write about deep painful emotions, even in our characters, unless we’ve experienced them. And, even then, it’s not an easy task.
Strong emotions can be overwhelming. Sometimes we numb ourselves or run away in order to avoid our feelings. I used to do that until I realized on some level that the emotions would fester inside me until I actually did the work of processing my feelings and healing myself. The advantage of doing this when you’re a writer is that you can use what you learn about your emotions to deepen your characters. I wrote about this earlier in “Draw on personal pain to write believable characters.”
But I want to delve deeper into this subject today because I’m working on a scene in my novel where I’m trying to understand the complicated grief my antagonist has about his sister’s death and how it motivates him to do bad things.
Grief is one of the most complicated emotions because it can have shades of guilt, shame, anger, and other feelings mixed in. Read more
Developing our curiosity can serve to make us not only more interesting people but also better writers and more creative artists.
Being curious has helped me dig deeper in my writing, develop an authentic voice, and create more well-rounded characters. It has also improved my relationships and, overall, made me a happier person.
When I was younger, if someone started talking about a subject I wasn’t interested in (history, westerns, reptiles), I’d listen but my attention would wander after a while. Over the years, I learned to look at these exchanges from a different perspective.
I started asking myself, “What can I learn from this person about this subject that I didn’t know before?” Then I’d listen and ask questions. Suddenly, everything became much more interesting, including me! These types of interactions can also be mining grounds for future story ideas and character traits.
Artists need to be curious about their world, but with the stress and busyness of our daily lives, how do we maintain our child-like sense of wonder and curiosity?
Here are a few exercises that have helped me:
- Have an open mind.
Practice looking at things, people, and situations with a clear, open mind. When you find yourself judging someone, let go of the judgment. Instead, ask questions. Read more
Let’s face it. This world can be difficult and confusing at times. Writing or doing any art or creative endeavor (even cooking or taking photographs while out walking) can help us figure out the difficult things.
I’ve written before about how writing poetry is like working a puzzle for me. That’s true on another level as well—not just finding the perfect word for a line but also as a way to puzzle out my world.
As a result, some of my poetry can delve into heavier subjects–illness, death, grief, etc.–which is why I love using humor in my writing. A bit of humor can not only serve to give the reader a reprieve, but it can deepen an emotion I want my reader to feel or an insight I want them to have. Humor can also take your reader on a journey they didn’t expect.
Below is an example of using humor in my poem “The Art of Flow” from my poetry book The Dragon & The Dragonfly (I’ve underlined the humorous bits): Read more
To kick off National Poetry Month, I’m sharing a poem from my poetry book, “The Dragon & The Dragonfly.”
The idea for the poem came from a prompt to write from an animal’s point of view. I’d just read an article about my favorite author Neil Gaiman’s time in Tasmania helping with a documentary on the Tasmanian Cave Spider, so that’s the creature I chose.
How did the poem come together? Read more