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Posts tagged ‘character development’

Using your grief and other emotions to deepen your characters

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

Eight exercises to develop curiosity and become a better writer (and person)

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:

  1. 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

Draw on personal pain to write believable characters

I started reading a new paranormal novel last month that I had high hopes for based on how quickly and easily the first few chapters hooked me. The plot was refreshing, unique, and action-filled from the beginning. Interesting, quirky characters reeled me in. But it quickly went downhill from there.

I’m the type of reader who usually doesn’t give up on a book. I always have faith that the author will pull out of the temporary bog and finish, if not strong, at least well. I have only given up on two books in my life. My new paranormal novel was the third.

What went wrong? Read more

The importance of place for writers and our characters

 

In honor of my poetry book, The Dragon & The Dragonfly, coming out next week, I wanted to share a poem from the book.

I wrote this poem last year as I was trying to find my footing after my husband died in 2015. It’s a poem about finding my place in the world again.

Writing and reflecting about place made me think about its meaning for us as writers and storytellers.

Place is an integral part of our daily lives and of the lives of our characters, but how often do we really think about our places and what they say about us?

All This Blue

At the casino hotel, I set up my computer
near the stone fireplace while you arrange
candles on the mantel, tease the barkeep
over club soda and bitters.

At Barnes and Noble, I finger pages
of new fiction while you devour books
on everything from Android apps
to Taoist secrets of love.

At the coffee shop, I scribble poems
about endings, not realizing these words
are the start of a long grief, while you read
quantum physics and chat with local police
in pressed blue uniforms.

Winters, we eat endless bowls of soup
at the Poulsbohemian Coffeehouse.
Summers, we lounge against Fay Bainbridge
driftwood, watch Salsbury Point fishermen.

After you die, I try go back
to our places. But I cannot find you
in the park, the clouds, or the sea.
I cannot find you in fireplace flames
or at the end of a fishing line.

But I do find you in the coffee shop—
in the calm of police uniforms,
in my words that grow strong again,
that find meaning in this place
where even time lies down
in the midst of all this blue. Read more

Ask questions to find your story’s theme

Writers often hear the advice, “write what you know,” but my philosophy is, “write what you WANT to know.” A good way to begin discovering your story’s theme is to ask questions because we come to understand who we are and our place in the world by asking questions.

In the 12-minute video below, the creators of the animated movie “Inside Out” share how the theme of their story emerged for them over time as they went on a quest of discovery.

Read more

How and why you should develop intuition in your characters

This morning, I was working out at the gym on an elliptical machine, not thinking of anything, when suddenly an intense sadness welled up inside me. Having lost my husband over two years ago, I thought it was another layer of grief so I allowed it to rise up and release but instead of releasing, the feeling became more intense and raw. Tears welled up as I continued to work out. I couldn’t figure out what had triggered the feelings and why they were so incredibly strong. And then a thought flashed through my mind—whose feelings are these?

From years of working with and helping people, I know that sometimes I’ll intuit other’s thoughts and feelings, but I’m usually pretty good at recognizing when this happens and setting up my boundaries. For me, this means doing a specific visualization.

This morning, the thought persisted that the sadness I was feeling wasn’t mine. I looked at the man working out on the machine next to me. He didn’t look sad. He didn’t look as if he was in pain. He seemed fine. Read more

Build characters and advance your plot with these dialogue best practices

Dialogue is a powerful way to reveal your characters and move your story forward. In The Craft of Character online class through Coursera.org, authors Amy Bloom and Brando Skyhorse discuss the role of dialogue in character development.

The class is part of Wesleyan College’s Craft Your Story Like the Great Writers specialization that takes students through plot, character development, setting and description, and style. The creative writing specialization covers elements of three major creative writing genres: short story, narrative essay, and memoir. The classes start at $79 each, but you can access videos and certain assignments free of charge.

In a video interview, Skyhorse, author of The Madonnas of Echo Park, and Bloom discussed the role of dialogue. Great dialogue should:

Reveal your characters. One of the ways readers get to know characters is from what they say as well as what they do, and more specifically, what they do to one another, Skyhorse said.  Dialogue should deepen the reader’s understanding of character or advance the plot. Read more