Category Archives: Writing Advice

Character Development

My class “ Character Development” started Monday night. The class was amazing and I have six more to go. Learning how to make our characters strong, believable, lovable, loathed, and focused is something we all should strive for as writers. For as an avid reader, I want to fall in love with my character or hate them so badly I want to see how the book ends. Most times I follow through with the liking of a character. There are some books by the time it ends I wish the one I fell for would just go away as my alliances has shifted to the villain who is suddenly amazing.

If we just stick to the physical aspect of what our characters look like ,while we may describe them so well our readers can image them in their minds, you can only go so far with looks. Well that is what they say right? So invest in your characters, go to the root of what makes them who they are, what they are and why I should as a reader get so invested in this one person. For if you don’t chances are the book will not be read

So the instructor asked how strong were our characters in our book? Do they make the reader get invested in them relatively soon or does it drag on? The format my professor suggested was very simple and something I am sure most of you are all aware of.

Who? Where? What? How? When? Why?

Simple enough but then break it down even further. Who did what where and how did they do it and why? Or you can say how did it happen to this other character that is in the book? The possibilities are endless depending how big your cast is in the book.

So in my mind I mentally went through the two books I am trying to get published and did the math so to speak to see if the characters in those books matched up to the rigor of those six questions.

Fortunately they did, and I did not even know I was doing it correctly. I was happily surprised. For in those two books the main characters I broke down to the core. Not just the physical aspects of what they looked liked. But I talked about their character: weakness, likes, fears, hopes,goals,strengths and so on. I started each character from birth and worked my way up. By doing that you give your person the best chance of working whether it is to be loved or hated. Without that, for me as a reader, the book no matter how well written, will be either read and honestly reviewed or just not read at all.

Each class I will share what I have learned, in hopes I can pass on some insight to others so we can all somehow improve our craft.

Liberaties in Writing

I have been a bird owner since 1998. In that time, I have raised, bred, and cared for my birds with love and affection.  So when I decided to write a children’s book based on my parrot Jasper, I add some of my experience to the story.   When it came time for me to start looking for people to critique it, I thought of my friend Nita in New Hampshire.  She and I had met on a bird forum years ago and had struck up a friendship. Nita has been a bird breeder for well over 30 years so it only made sense for her to read my MS.

I had taken some liberties when it came to a bird hatching and I knew she would zero in on that part- she did.  She laughed and said you really took some liberties with your writing. I laughed back and then told her I had kept it short due to length and not wanting to lose my targeted audience which are kids.

I mentioned to her how I had just finished reading a book where one of main characters had a cockatiel.  According to this book this bird could sing over 40 songs and not just sing the tunes but the actually words. I have raised cockatiels since 1998 and to date not one has sung the words to any song. I might be able to buy the 40 songs but that was it.  She giggled at this information and decided I did not go  outside the box too much. Thinking back, I have decided to edit and put in a short paragraph to make the hatching  more realistic.

As writers we take liberties though we try to keep it within reason. While I enjoyed the book with the singing cockatiel, it was in the back of my subconscious.  Every time I read about that character I felt a little dread for I knew it would be repeated again about this amazing bird.

So, this reminded me to know my target audience. One needs to do constant research time and time again. You never know who will pick up your book.  These are the people who will buy your book and will decide whether they want to recommend it to others.

What You Know

When I started writing, a common piece of advice I heard was “Write about what you know”.  With me being me, I always thought that sounded like a cliche.  It couldn’t be that simple. I mean writing was an art form that took time and patience as well as skill.  I embarked on writing my first book based on my parrot, Jasper.  It seemed to flow in my mind and on paper.  Once it was completed I placed it aside and started on other projects which were mostly short stories. It seemed at that point what worked for me was writing prompts that would give me a good start on a nice story.  But, in my readings I kept coming across that bit of advice I had heard from the beginning- write on what you know.  Yeah it took a while, but I decided to try that.

The squirrels in my back yard and I have a love and hate relationship. In other words, we tolerate each other  All I had in front of me was this one idea.  Then I started to list all the reasons why these furry critters from hell bothered me so. Soon enough a story started to form.  What I ended up with was a 10 page handwritten story. Funny though the story is constantly being revise to add more reasons.  Hmm, since this worked so well I thought to try it again. 

What happened next was a 20 page handwritten story about my tooth that was giving me fits.  I eventually named the tooth Hank and wrote the story from his point of view.

It finally dawned on me: one doesn’t need to know a volume of information on a particular topic. All one needed was an idea. One sentence, and knowing about that sentence, can blossom into stories that have made my friends laugh.  This revelation opened my eyes up to a world of stories that I did not know I possessed.

Writing on what you know is such a simple concept. Yet, so many writers tend to gloss over when hearing that phrase just like I did. If we just sit down and take a few minutes, the ideas will flow off the page.

To date, that has been the best writing advice I have ever received.  When people ask me where do I get my ideas I give them this advice.  Stop what you are doing and just look around.  Think on what you know, think on what you like or what you don’t like. Think from different POVs.  Going from third to first will completely change a story, the same story you know something about.

Nothing is ever easy. However this advice is.

Write on what you know. It is that simple.