Monday, November 24, 2014

How to Create a Believable Character

I do characterization sessions for schools and enjoy helping kids create their own. The following is exactly what I walk the kids through.

If the plot is the backbone of the story, then the characters are the heart. 

Creating believable characters is crucial to a good story. Your characters must have depth, personality, and the ability to evoke an emotional response from your reader.

Many writers envision the setting first and the people inhabiting that world second.  This sometimes results in shallow characters.  It’s easier to build a plot around an individual than force that character into unrealistic situations. Developing a character in depth, complete with flaws, will give you a basis for your narrative.

To build a character:

First, decide if your character is a male or female. Name your character if possible.

Two major factors will determine your character – their background and their personality type. Humans all share similar feelings and needs, but how they respond to those depends on their upbringing and their basic, fundamental personality. Backgrounds are as varied as humans themselves. Race, culture, religion, and economic status all contribute to one’s development as a person. 

What is their ethnic background?
What country?  Or planet?  Or world?
Every religion has morals and standards.

Where and how were they raised?  Positive or negative influences?  Taught responsibility?  Taught right or wrong? A person’s moral compass is easily affected by their upbringing, and you need to keep this in mind when creating your characters. Consider also any childhood traumas.
How many, older or younger?
Both parents?  Other relatives crucial to upbringing?
Upbringing and now – poor, rich, worked hard to achieve more, etc?

“Personality Plus” by Florence Littauer is an excellent book that outlines the four personality traits. Become familiar with these basic personality types – choleric, sanguine, melancholy and phlegmatic. They will also determine how your character reacts in any given situation. If you do not stay true to character, you will find them responding in a dubious fashion. Life altering moments happen for us all, but a sudden change for no apparent reason will be looked upon as a mere plot contrivance. These personalities often line up with the four birth orders:

Choleric- Oldest, leader, powerful, persuasive, insensitive, worker, extroverted, unemotional
Sanguine- Youngest, popular, playful, funny, unorganized, talkative, extroverted, emotional
Phlegmatic- Middle, peaceful, friendly, balanced, indecisive, slow, introverted, unemotional
Melancholy- Only, perfect, scheduled, artistic, organized, sensitive, introverted, emotional

Which of the above personality types fits your character? And it can be a mix of two.
What is your character good at? What are the positive traits? Do they have a good attitude?
Avoid the temptation to create a perfect character! 
People are flawed creatures and the more imperfections and internal conflicts your character possesses, the more intriguing your story. 
Give them weaknesses, impulses and unresolved issues. 
Negative aspects of your character might improve and eventually vanish, but this needs to be developed slowly during the course of your narrative.
Hobbies, studies, leisure, etc. These are often influenced by the personality.
What do they want to accomplish? This can be the force that drives your story.
How do they view themselves? Do they have secrets? Are there things they hide from others?
What quirks or habits do they possess? How do they speak? Do they dress funny? Have any strange rituals? Pet peeves?

Consider how your character appears -

Skinny? Fat? Athletic?


Color and texture

And what other information will you need to know?


Who are their closest friends?
Are they married or seeing someone?
Do they have children?

Characters will always be the drive and focal point of any story. By putting a great deal of thought into your main characters, you will form interesting, relatable people.

Once you have established this foundation, you can begin creating an intriguing tale!

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Writing Successfully from International Best Selling Author, RaShelle Workman

The awesome Alex J. Cavanaugh asked me to share some tips for writing successfully. Thanks for having me. 

Here they are:

1) SELECT YOUR TEAM. Whether you want to publish traditionally or independently, you should have a rocking team in place. For the traditional route you'll need beta readers and an editor or two. As an indie, you'll need a cover designer, beta readers, an editor or two, and a formatter. You might also need a publicist and a personal assistant. 

2) EMBRACE CONSTRUCTIVE CRITICISM. Listen to those you trust. I'm not talking family. They love everything. =) I'm talking about editors and beta readers whose opinions you respect. Allow your story the freedom to grow to its greatest potential.  

I'm going to reveal an insecure truth about myself. Sometimes I think my stuff sucks and I wonder why in the world anyone would want to read what I've written. Then I tell myself (yes, I talk to myself - LOL) that's false. And I remember I've sold more than 700,000 copies of my books and received thousands of amazing reviews. They can't all be wrong. Sometimes our worst enemy is the one within. Know when to tell those insecure voices to shut the hell up. Keep on keeping on. 

4) WRITE WHAT YOU LOVE. There are those who believe it's good to write with the trends. They say that's where the money is and we ALL want to make money. I know I do. And writing to trend may bring temporary success. But to stay in the business of telling stories for the long hall means writing what excites. It also means being comfortable with the fact that the story you tell may never make it "big." My Immortal Essence series hasn't been as financially successful as my Blood and Snow series. At least not yet. =) I still have hope the masses will fall in love with an alien girl from another planet who is exiled to Earth. If they never do, that's okay. The series is one of my favorites. Most importantly without it I wouldn't have been able to write Blood and Snow. 

Traditional editors are still saying paranormal doesn't sell, that contemporary romance is where it's at. And for the traditional world I've no doubt they're right, but that doesn't change the fact that I enjoy writing about witches and vampires and retelling fairy tales that just so happen to live in Salem, MA. It's where my heart is. Luckily I've been able to reach readers who like those things as well. 

5) BE FEARLESS. Remember the publishing world is constantly changing. Allow yourself to move with the ebb and flow. You're going to have amazing sales months and then months that aren't so awesome. That's the nature of the publishing beast. It doesn't mean readers quit liking YOU, it just means you need to fearlessly wait for it to come back around. It will. Find new ways to promote. Don't give up on your stories. 

There you have it. The writing tips I live by. 
Hope they help you on your writing journey. 
If you ever have questions, please feel free to reach out. 

RaShelle Workman is the author of the popular Blood and Snow series. She loves to reinvent fairy tales teens and adults can sink their teeth into. Her stories include vampires, werewolves, witches, aliens, and creatures of her own creation. Her books: Sleeping Roses, Exiled, Beguiled, and Dovetailed have foreign rights contracts with a Turkish publisher. RaShelle is also one of the co-founders of Indie Recon LIVE. Currently, she lives in Utah with her husband, three children, and their three dogs.

Connect With RaShelle

Monday, November 17, 2014

Keep The NaNo Going

It's November and we're halfway through NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). Half the writers I know go scarce every November and are hunched over their keyboards pounding out roughly 1,667 words each day to get to 50,000 by November 30.

To the uninitiated, this might sound like mission impossible, but to those who relish a challenge, NaNo is the opportunity to unleash your muse, forget about editing and write your story down in its raw form.

If you're still at it, here are some tips to keep you moving toward that goal of 50,000 words or whatever goal you've set yourself this month.

1. If you don't outline but need ideas, try to work out plot lines in your mind each day. Forget the nitty-gritty details and focus on the highpoints for the next chapter. It will prevent the agony of having your mind running in circles when you should be writing.

2. Stay connected to your cheering squad — whether it is a group of people also doing NaNo, or friends who will encourage you to pick up the pace when you stall. Just knowing there’s someone slogging along  and/or cheering will help you stick it out.

3. Pace yourself – at 1667 words per day, you’ll hit the 50k mark on November 30. Write more each day if you can. You don’t want to be caught flat-footed if you have an emergency and your writing time is cut in half. Some people do word sprints — they are fun and keep you motivated. 

4. Stock up on food that energizes you — and will keep you going when you’re tempted to doze on the keyboard. You will have some late nights while you try to catch up on, or surpass your daily targets, but don’t ingest anything that will keep you awake for days, give you palpitations, or make you hyperactive. You need to rest to write your best.

5. Never forget it’s all in good fun. If you start feeling tense and stressed, remind yourself there’s no prize other than personal satisfaction and the tag that tells the world you ‘won’ NaNo.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Healthy Writing by Pat Hatt

How do I do it? Do you ever sleep?

Two questions I get asked frequently on my blog. People always get hung up on the time it must take to do everything I do. I blog every day, both the cat and I have over 80K Twitter followers, over 100,000 blog comments, release a book every month, comment on 50-100 blogs every day, etc. I'm not trying to toot my own horn, that's the cat's job. That is just to show there is a lot that goes on. But is there a lot of time involved? Not as much as you might think. Can you do it as well? Yes!

Time is only a factor if you let it be a factor. Yes, social media takes time, blogging takes time, book writing takes time, it all takes time. But get ahead of the 8-ball and the time factor is a distant memory.

Pre-blog posts - have posts set up in advance. You should post at least once a week to stay relevant. So have a few set up and ready to go.

Pre-social media posts - From Facebook to Twitter to any other site out there, there is a program that will do the work for you. For instance you can use Hootsuite and set up tweets, status updates, etc. in bulk. In one day you can have content scheduled for three months out.

Pre is the word of the day. You are always told to live healthy and prevent disease, while write healthy and prevent writer's block, burn out and other pitfalls.

Just think, if you don't have to fret about the need for a post or the need to tweet you will be in a happier state of being and it will show in your writing. Those things will be done and you can enjoy doing what you want to do, write. You can visit more blogs, leaving a worthwhile comment of course, follow more on Twitter, and all the while you are still building content. Your content will be seen by others and they will follow back, return comments, etc.

People will enjoy your content when you enjoy your content. One by one your numbers rise, your reach will rise and you will remain a healthy writer. When content isn't forced it will flow. When you don't "need" to write a post, it will come. It takes some time to get ahead, but after that time works for you and you no longer work for it.

If I want to take a week off or if I want to write a new book, I can and no one will notice. There is no need to take a blog break or shut anything down and there is no need to divide my time. All because I've made time work on my schedule.

Healthy writing is just as important for your writing as exercise is for your health. So get ahead, stay ahead and get back to what you love to do, writing.

Pat Hatt can be found in the East Coast of Canada. He hates writing these things but doesn't mind talking in the third person. He is owned by two cats, one of whom has his own blog, It's Rhyme Time. Yeah a rhyming cat, who knew?

He is also quite the movie and TV buff and a bit of a health nut. As you can probably tell he does not take himself seriously and has more stuff in his head than is needed. Thus the 7 novels and 37 children's books that he has released so far. His newest release being Max Blizzard and The Gem of Camelot. He just likes to set his imagination free and have fun along the way.

Find Pat here - Blog, Website, Twitter – Pat, and Twitter – Cool Cat
Pick up Max Blizzard at Amazon