Paula Writes

Paula Puddephatt – Author

How To Create Believable Friendships in Your Fiction — August 30, 2018

How To Create Believable Friendships in Your Fiction

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Fictional friendships are important.

How do you ensure that these ring true?

I’ve already shared a post about writing romance, but romantic relationships aren’t the only type that need attention – in reality, or in our stories.

It’s worth considering that, in the context of a story, we will often tend to focus upon maybe one to three close friendships.

This is fine. But it’s also useful to keep in mind that our main characters will generally have a wider friendship circle, of some description. It can sometimes be beneficial to include a name or reference here and there, in order to reflect this.

When developing a friendship, consider the backstory – the history behind the friendship.

My main character, Lucy, has been best friends with Charlotte since primary school. As well as going to school together, they used to be neighbours. This does mean that they have a great deal of shared history. Yet, they have also grown apart, in many respects. By the end of the novel, Charlotte isn’t Lucy’s exclusive “best friend” in quite the same way. At the same time, that shared history will always be there – and that would be the case, even if the friendship ended.

Think about the “why” behind the friendship.

There are usually multiple reasons. In the case of Lucy and Charlotte, obviously they would have become friends partly due to circumstances – because they lived so close to each other, and went to school together. So, yes – the met at school, through work, or at the local chess club, part is always going to be there.

But then there will be other factors, including shared interests, shared secrets, a similar sense of humour – or, going deeper, the same core values. Maybe the friends are actually opposites, in many respects? Which can be good or bad – or a bit of both.

All friendships have their ups and downs, and this definitely needs to be reflected.

In some stories, it will a major plot point, or a subplot – but, even if it isn’t, it should ideally be communicated, to some degree. No friendship is perfect, after all. The problems and misunderstandings are part of what makes the relationship feel realistic. In this way, hopefully, your reader will be able to relate, and being able to relate leads to caring.

Make sure that your friend characters are fully developed in themselves, and not simply “sidekicks”, with no other obvious role in life.

They need to have their own lives, and not everything they do will be about their friend, even if said friend happens to be your protagonist.

Hopefully, these tips will help you to create believable friendships in your fiction. You might even start to envy your fictional characters, for having such strong friendships. That’s a good sign, because it shows that you believe in your own characters, and can feel the strength of their friendships.

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Writing Cliffhangers: Creating Suspense Through Your Chapter Endings — August 17, 2018

Writing Cliffhangers: Creating Suspense Through Your Chapter Endings

suspense-chapter-endings

Ending a chapter with a cliffhanger is a powerful device.

Not every chapter necessarily needs to end in this way. In fact, that wouldn’t generally be advisable and, for some genres, would be entirely inappropriate.

That said, not every cliffhanger is going to be a literal matter of life and death – and therefore, they can probably be used more frequently than many writers believe.

In some stories, there won’t be a single life or death cliffhanger – and yet, there will still be cliffhangers, of some kind. A line of dialogue, containing a revelation or an accusation, can often provide the perfect cliffhanger.

A cliffhanger compels readers to continue beyond the chapter they had originally intended to read.

That’s the aim, anyway.

Many writers make the mistake of keeping the suspense going for too long.

There’s actually nothing wrong with providing a resolution to a cliffhanger almost immediately, in the following chapter. More problems will inevitably arise, and the plot will continue.

Delays can sometimes be effective.

So, yes – you can even finish on a cliffhanger, and then switch to a subplot. But do so with caution, because you do risk losing readers, in the process.

As for continually switching between different knife’s edge situations – I don’t claim that this can’t work out, but it definitely takes skill, and wouldn’t work well in many stories.

When it comes to ending an entire novel on a cliffhanger: rarely advisable, in my opinion, unless you’re planning to write a sequel, or the book is part of a series.

Or perhaps an epilogue could provide some sort of resolution. But, in general, I would reserve cliffhangers for chapter endings.

In a previous post, I discussed how to build suspense and tension in your fiction, which definitely ties in with this subject.

I personally do tend to use cliffhangers, of various kinds, a great deal, in my own writing. They’re one of my favourite aspects of fiction, both as a writer and reader.

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Mental and Physical Illness, and Being a Writer — May 5, 2018

Mental and Physical Illness, and Being a Writer

paula-writer

Writing is my therapy and my passion.

I write to survive. At times, that is literally true. If it wasn’t for my writing, I truly believe that I might not be alive today.

I struggle with various mental and physical health issues.

These multiply, over the years. That’s the nature of chronic illness, unfortunately.

I have always struggled with dyspraxia, depression and anxiety, and these conditions have had a huge impact upon my life.

And writing has helped me.

It has saved me.

It has been the splash of colour on the dark canvas of my existence. And yes, life has often felt like mere existence.

It’s not a question of being unable to appreciate the beauty the surrounds me daily. In fact, I would say that the ability to value life’s seemingly most simple gifts has been greatly enhanced.

But yet, there are moments when the darkness takes over, and I wish for nothing but release from the unendurable pain.

And, even though writing has helped me, it has also been a source of stress.

I struggle with stamina, and with concentration, and find it painfully hard to complete long-term projects, such as the novel, on which I am currently – very sporadically – working.

I dislike not being able to write blog posts in one session, and run the risk of abandoning them altogether, because of this. I’m learning to return to posts, but still find it difficult psychologically.

Self-criticism is also challenging.

It’s hard not to give up, when the voices in your mind are telling you constantly how useless you are, and to delete your writing and blog, and close down all the social media accounts you’ve put so much effort into building.

And, of course, there is the external discouragement, on top of this. There are those who are supportive, but not everyone is, and many are the reverse. For me, that includes most family members, and many “friends”.

So how do I keep going?

Because I ultimately want and need to.

Because sometimes, I do receive positive feedback, that clearly comes from the heart.

Knowing and feeling that I am actually making a positive difference – that maybe someone feels less alone, after reading one of my poems, or even just being told that a writing technique, mentioned in one of my blog posts, has been useful to someone.

Encouragement like this truly can, and does, make all the difference.

And because of my characters – because they cannot exist without me and, in that way, are my children.

They are a part of me, and need me, as I do them. And that may not make sense to everyone, but to many other fiction writers, it will.

I’m going to close now, but might return to this subject, in the future. Keep believing.

And, if you’re interested in mental health, from the point of view of writing fiction, addressing these issues, my post on this subject may be of interest.  Also related is the post about my personal writing journey.

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Point of View in Your Fiction: First, Second, or Third Person? — April 3, 2018

Point of View in Your Fiction: First, Second, or Third Person?

paula-writes-an-imagePoint of View is an important consideration, when writing fiction.

Many of us have favourite points of view, which can become our defaults. This isn’t necessarily a problem, as the same point of view may tend to suit most of our writing.

However, it’s always worth thinking about the various alternatives, and experimenting with a few of them. All have pros and cons, which I shall discuss in this post.

First Person

Like many writers, I love, and have often used, first person.

My WIP is written in the first person, from the point of view of my protagonist, Lucy. This hasn’t been without problems, and I have sometimes wondered how different the novel would be, if I had chosen to write in the third person, and use multiple viewpoint characters.

There are specific reasons why I didn’t do so, however – and, on balance, I feel happy with the approach I’ve taken. There is no perfect way in which to tell any story, and there will always be certain compromises.

First person is generally agreed to be the most intimate viewpoint.

The writer, and subsequently, readers, are literally inside the mind of the main character, who is referred to by personal pronouns, such as I and me.

However, first person is extremely restrictive.

I often struggle with the fact that Lucy has to either be involved directly, or told about, every story event, in order for these to be communicated to the reader. This can be challenging, to say the least.

Multiple POVs in first person?

Yes, I’ve seen that done. It’s very difficult to pull off, and each character voice needs to be strong and very distinctive. This is always our aim, of course – but it is of even greater importance, if you’re going to attempt to use multiple first person narrators.

Usually, character names would be used as titles, at the start of chapters or sections, to clarify whose point of view we are in. This seems sensible, to help avoid confusion.

Peripheral narrators are occasionally used, to good effect, in first person novels.

An example of this would be “The Great Gatsby”. The peripheral narrator is someone other than the novel’s main character. Although unusual, this technique works, in specific cases, and if you’re tempted to take this approach, you probably have a good idea as to why.

Unreliable first person narrators can also be used, and it’s worth noting that, to some extent, all first person narrators are unreliable.

However, some are unreliable, to the extent that we actually refer to them as “unreliable narrators”, and such characters will have been chosen specifically and strategically by the author. Philip, the first person narrator of du Maurier’s “My Cousin Rachel”, is an example.

Second Person

In second person narratives, the writer uses “you”, seeming to address the reader directly. Many people feel uncomfortable with this POV, and find the tone accusatory. I tend to feel that this is missing the point. It’s equivalent to saying that I am literally my main character, Lucy, because I write about her from the first person, saying “I”.

The use of any POV is a literary device. When used skilfully, any of them can be effective – and that includes second person.

That said, second person is unusual.

It can work well in short stories and poetry, and for sections of novels, but entire novels in this POV are rare. It would be extremely challenging to attempt one. Experiment with second person, if it appeals to you, as it’s an interesting form, and too easily dismissed.

Third Person

Third person is very popular, and I have written many stories using third person limited. With this POV, characters’ names are used in the narrative, and pronouns such as “he”, “she” and “they”.

There are a few variations, when it comes to third person, so we’ll look at each of these in turn. Keep in mind, however, that third person limited is the most common.

Third Person Objective

This is basically a “fly on the wall” perspective. The story’s narrator doesn’t have access to the inner thoughts and feelings of any of the characters.

It’s an unusual technique, and writing in this POV is certainly interesting, as an exercise. However, attempting to write a novel in third person objective exclusively, would be ambitious.

Third Person Omniscient

Third person omniscient takes things to the opposite extreme. The narrator has access to the thoughts and feelings of every character, and is all-knowing.

Again, this isn’t an easy perspective to write in. Stories can become messy, confusing, and full of head-hopping. A sense of mystery is almost impossible to maintain.

Third Person Limited

With third person limited, the narrator has access to the thoughts and feelings of certain characters.

Third Limited – Single Perspective

In many respects, this is very similar to first person. There are many of the same restrictions and benefits.

It can feel slightly less intimate than first person, and at times, slightly less restrictive. In first person, there will be more blending of the author and character voice than in third.

Third Limited – Multiple Perspectives

Third person limited, using multiple perspectives, tends to be the most versatile POV. The number of narrators can range from just two, to many.

The more viewpoints used, the more challenging it can be, to keep each voice distinctive, and avoid reader confusion. It’s generally advisable to switch perspectives at the end of a chapter – or at least, a section.

 

I hope that this overview of POVs in fiction has been useful.  Don’t be afraid to experiment with this.  Each POV exists for a reason, and has value.

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How To Use Foreshadowing in Your Fiction — March 29, 2018

How To Use Foreshadowing in Your Fiction

foreshadow-in-fiction

Foreshadowing means including some sort of clues as to future events, that will occur in your story.

These are details that readers may barely notice at the time, but that, in retrospect, will make subsequent events seem more logical. That sense of everything falling into place, is what we’re hoping to achieve.

Foreshadowing should be subtle.

It isn’t a case of giving away the plot. It’s more a case of making the plot believable, and is actually most important in those stories which rely upon major plot twists.

If you work with an outline, foreshadowing can, and should, be worked out in advance.

You will probably need to make ongoing adjustments, if your initial outline is prone to altering, as you write – which is certainly true, in my own case.

If you’re a “pantser” (working without an outline), you will need to add any foreshadowing during revisions – and even many plotters will probably end up doing so, to some extent.

Finally, don’t overdo it.

Not every event in your story necessarily needs to be foreshadowed. And, as I mentioned before, subtle hints are what we’re aiming for.

As with so many aspects of fiction writing, it’s a question of balance. Too little foreshadowing can make a story unrealistic, but too much will draw attention to itself.

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Avoiding Filter Words in Your Fiction — March 27, 2018

Avoiding Filter Words in Your Fiction

avoiding-filter-words

Filter words or phrases, in fiction, create distance between the direct experience of a character, and that of the reader.

Lucy heard the door slam. If we know we’re in Lucy’s mind, we don’t need to be told that Lucy heard the door slam. The door slammed. That is sufficient. It’s more immediate, and uses fewer words, to convey the same information.

Whilst there will be instances where filter words are actually useful, these are few and far between. Most of us tend to overuse them.

A few to look out for include: saw, heard, felt, noticed, realised, knew, and wondered.

These are all popular ones, but we will each have our own favourites, so it’s very individual. If you can identify filter words that you personally tend resort to, it should become easier to find and eliminate them, during the editing process.

When it comes to prose style, it’s often these seemingly minor issues that make a significant difference, to the quality of our writing, as a whole.

Removing filter words is a simple task, and definitely worth the effort.

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Building Suspense and Tension in Your Fiction — March 10, 2018

Building Suspense and Tension in Your Fiction

paula-writes-an-imagesuspense-writing

As pointed out in the above quote from Leigh Michaels, suspense cannot be regarded as “a spice to be added separately”. I agree.

However, as with other elements of writing craft, it’s possible to consider and discuss this specific aspect of storytelling. That’s what I aim to do, in this post.

This topic was suggested by a member of my Twitter community, who felt that it would build upon, and complement, my recent post about creating atmosphere.

 

Basically, to create suspense and tension in our work we need to place a character, or characters, in danger.

First things first, though. Your reader needs to care about your characters. I’ve written posts about creating believable characters and character development, which might help, if you’re unsure about this part of the process.

My post on writing dialogue does also tie in somewhat, on the character development side.

When I talked about first chapters, I mentioned that starting with a bang or a chase isn’t always as effective as many writers assume – and the reason for that is that the reader doesn’t yet have any reason to care about the fictional people involved.

Now, let’s return to the danger part.

The precise definition of danger, in this context, will vary, according to genre.

Physical danger – and, ultimately, danger of death – is the most extreme, from a survival point of view.

But the fear of getting caught in the act of burglary – or adultery – are also going to result in feelings of tension.

Or, for a school kid, getting caught cheating in an exam.

And it’s all relative and individual. Someone with agoraphobia can experience terror when stepping outside his or her front door, or entering a store. I know this is true, since I have agoraphobia myself.

The conflict can come in many forms, but it must be important to the specific character.

Keep raising the stakes.

Imagine a graph, with multiple peak points, each slightly higher than the last.

The tension shouldn’t be relentless.

Allow the reader to breathe, now and again – but never for too long.

It can be effective to switch between multiple storylines, leaving the reader hanging. Do so with caution, however. You must create sufficient interest in each storyline, to retain reader attention.

You need the reader to keep asking questions.

Let some answers, or partial answers, trickle through, but hold something back, and introduce further questions. Fear of the unknown is often the greatest fear of all.

Inner conflict is important, too.

A combination of inner conflict and external pressures will push your characters to their breaking points – which is ideal, from a storytelling perspective.

Make that multiple sources of both internal and external conflict.

You know – that world closing in feeling.

The stress is becoming unendurable.

The characters – and readers – can’t take any more.

Sometimes it can help to speed things up.

Experiment with the overall time frame. Could the novel’s events take place in a week, instead of a month – or one year, instead of ten?

Or cut to the action, losing significant chunks of time.

Only make these changes if you feel they would benefit your story – if it seems to drag in places.

Shorter sentences – and paragraphs, and chapters – can definitely be effective, in conveying heightened tensions.

Don’t overdo it, however. It’s a useful narrative technique, but like most such devices, loses its impact, if employed too frequently.

Suspense does tend to arise naturally, but it can still be useful to refer to checklists, such as the one I’ve aimed to provide here, particularly during the revision stage.

For specific advice on foreshadowing, which definitely relates to creating suspense in your fiction, my post on that subject may be helpful.  Also, my post on cliffhangers is relevant.

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Author Bloggers: Should Fiction Writers Be Blogging? — March 7, 2018

Author Bloggers: Should Fiction Writers Be Blogging?

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Should fiction writers blog – or focus purely upon the creation of fiction?

Of course, I’m asking this in the form of a blog post, which in itself, does suggest that I believe in author blogs. Well, yes, I do, but I also recognise many of their associated problems.

So, why should authors blog?

It’s probably one of the best forms of online content marketing, for a start – and content marketing verges upon essential nowadays, for almost all authors.

If you’re a self-published, or independent, author, it’s basically vital, and increasingly, it’s a part of the job for most traditionally published authors, too. Blogging is great for SEO, and gives you something of value to share on social media. Of course, there are other forms of content marketing, which can be equally effective. One of the best is making You Tube videos, and you can definitely build a significant audience this way, whether or not you also choose to have a blog. It’s very much a personal choice, and what you feel comfortable with.

The most obvious reason to blog is that it’s writing.

If you love to write, there’s a strong chance that you’ll enjoy blogging. That’s logical and self-explanatory, right?

Blogging is a chance to explore and share our feelings and opinions, and the process of doing so helps us to develop as writers.

Our posts will also, hopefully, help our readers. It allows us to share our experience and knowledge – and, in a different form, the same passion that drives us to write our fiction. It’s one more way to reach out with our message.

Heard of the KLT factor?

Blogging enables potential readers of our fiction to know, like and trust us, and this is essential for building our author brands. Ultimately, this is what is going to encourage people to buy and read our books.

Now, let’s look at why authors possibly shouldn’t blog.

Basically, blogging can become a major distraction.

The work involved in maintaining an active blog is unavoidably time-consuming. And it’s possible to become obsessed with blogging, to the point where it takes over, and our novels, and other writing projects, are seriously neglected. And yes, I speak from experience.

None of this necessarily means that we can’t blog as writers, but finding the right balance is necessary.

When considering frequency of publication, it’s important to keep in mind that author bloggers are not in the same position as business or lifestyle bloggers. We may not be able to publish on the same sort of schedule as they do – and we probably don’t actually need to.

If blogging simply doesn’t appeal to you, that’s probably an indication that you shouldn’t do it.

As I mentioned before, there are other forms of content marketing, so don’t feel that you have to blog, if you really don’t want to. Your heart won’t be in it anyway, and that will come through, in your writing. It’s also likely that you will abandon your blog, if you’re lacking passion for it, from the start. It’s possible that you actually would enjoy blogging, if you had a specific direction, however – so it might be worth reading on, because I’m going to discuss what you should write about, on an author blog.

Right, so what should an author blog be about?

A point to consider here is, of course, audience requirements.

Who are you, primarily, blogging for: other writers, your novel’s (or novels’) target audience, or both? Of course, there can be some overlap here, but the question remains an important one, and may have an impact upon the direction of your blog.

The classic author blog approach would be to write about writing craft.

This is one of the main areas that I myself do tend to focus upon.

Book reviews are also popular, and would appeal to other writers, but also potentially, readers, who aren’t necessarily writers themselves.

In terms of attracting organic search traffic, book reviews are often successful.

Some authors share samples from their novels.

Others include posts that discuss their characters, or aspects of their works in progress. The possibilities are endless, if you want to get creative.

Because I’ve written poetry, as well as fiction, I’ve included posts about the relevance of modern poetry, the inclusion of fictional elements in poems, and alternative approaches to writing character poems.

I’ve also experimented with various poetry websites and blogs. These can complement our main blogs, if they all link back there. Tumblr does work well for sharing poetry and writing quotes, and might be worth considering, as it falls somewhere between a social media and blogging platform.

Some author bloggers concentrate upon subject areas that they deal with in their fiction, rather than writing about writing, as such.

Personally, I do this, but tend to bring everything back to writing. For example, I have a post, in which I talk about my approach to mental health, in my fiction. Also, I write modern historical fiction, and have a post about that, and another that lists 10 awesome things about the 1980s, the era in which my WIP is set. Interestingly, in my first post on my current blog, about moving to WordPress, I discuss my plans for the blog – and I was by no means restricting myself to writing about writing, at that stage.

Blogging about blogging is an interesting one.

That’s actually what this post is, as is my evergreen content post. Blog posts about blogging will always be popular. Of course, you can always venture into related topics, such as SEO.

And then there’s social media.

Social media is huge for writers, and most author blogs will at least touch upon the subject, in some of their posts. I have my main post about Social Media for Writers, and more specific ones, about using Twitter, Tumblr, and Google Plus, as writers.  Then also, a few other posts that deal with aspects of social media.

For some reason, my post about secret Facebook groups has ended up being (at the time of writing) my most popular post (based upon page views alone) – and that one only came into existence following a negative personal experience that I had, with one particular group.  That led me to take an interest in the subject more generally, and raise the question as to whether these groups should be allowed to exist at all, or whether they should at least be more closely monitored by Facebook.

On the subject of social media, certain platforms work particularly well for bloggers – notably, Pinterest.

If your main social media channel is Twitter, as it is for myself, then you can definitely gain blog visitors, if you aren’t afraid to regularly share links to your posts. On Facebook, blogging groups, such as Bloggers Buzz or The Blogging Breakthrough Community, are probably your best bet – or a more general writing group may be of interest. Google Plus tends to be low maintenance, and will send you at least some traffic. I get very few blog visitors through Tumblr, but find it worthwhile, in other ways, as previously mentioned.

If you’re thinking of becoming an author blogger, I would say to go for it.  It can be rewarding, and I’m always interested to discover more quality author blogs.

My post, discussing the pros and cons of planning your blog posts in advance, may be of interest.

The excellent Standout Books also have a post about author blogs, which comes highly recommended.

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Check out some of my personal favourite writing blogs.

The End: Writing Your Novel’s Climax — February 27, 2018

The End: Writing Your Novel’s Climax

ending-novelsSo, happily ever after, or ending with tragedy?

Or maybe that grey area, in between? A sense of hope, mixed with a degree of sadness and regret, perhaps? Genre can impose restrictions. For example, romance novels require a happy ending – although, of course, a love story can end tragically, as long as you aren’t hoping to market your book as category romance. Beyond genre considerations, the decision is yours. If you do plan to end the story on a tragic note, with a character death, or multiple deaths, my post on killing off characters might be of interest.

A degree of closure is generally expected, and appreciated, by readers.

But that doesn’t necessarily mean full resolution. If every strand is tied up with pretty bows, that can actually leave the reader feeling dissatisfied – but too many unanswered questions will leave the reader feeling less than satisfied, also. As with many other aspects of writing, it’s a balance that you need to find for yourself. Experiment with different endings, if necessary. After readers have stayed with your characters for their entire journey, you definitely don’t want to let them down, at the very end.

Consider your various subplots.

Some of these may ultimately converge with the main plot, as the novel draws to a close. Whilst there may not be full resolution on every B. story, you shouldn’t leave the reader with too many questions, or give the impression that any of the subplots were simply forgotten. If you plan either an epilogue or a sequel, or both, then that could be a valid reason for not resolving every subplot.

Although there are exceptions to every rule, it rarely works to end an entire novel on a cliffhanger – even if a sequel is planned.

Normally, even in a series, individual novels should be able to stand alone, whilst at the same time, enticing readers back for more. If no sequel or epilogue is planned, and you still want to end on a cliffhanger, seriously ask yourself whether you can justify doing so. You’re basically using a device that compels readers to continue – but giving them no way of ever finding out what ultimately happened. That’s just cruel, and could severely damage their trust in you, as an author.

Don’t be afraid to alter your ending.

It happens.  Even if you’re a plotter, like myself, your ending could change dramatically, as you write, and get to know your characters.  Sometimes, you just have to go with the flow.  And, as I mentioned before, experiment.

 

Writing your novel’s climax can be challenging. 

But hopefully, these tips will help you to create an ending, that does justice to your story, as a whole.

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Creating Believable Characters — February 25, 2018

Creating Believable Characters

paula-writes-an-image

Characters are definitely the most important aspect of any story, for me.

Of course, other aspects, such as plot and setting, are also important, but characters are, in my opinion, the heart of fiction.

As mentioned in my character development post, I tend to approach the development of my fictional people intuitively, and my characters feel like real people already, even when I don’t know much about them.

I aim to learn more about them, as I go. That’s how the process works in real life, after all.

I don’t find it beneficial to complete generic character profiles, for the sake of it.

To me, this encourages writers to make things up, simply in order to fill in the boxes – or else, to list, often quite basic and superficial, information, the vast majority of which they know already, such as main characters’ names, ages, and hair colours.

If I have to write down that my protagonist, Lucy, has red hair, in order to remember something that obvious – to me, that would be worrying.

So, what does help your readers to believe in your characters, and start relating to them as real people?

Because, after all, it’s this level of connection that will make readers care about them – and want to invest their time in reading about them.

Backstory is one vital aspect of creating living, breathing characters.

Everyone has a history, including fictional characters. Consider all aspects of this story – first for major, and then more minor, characters.

Think about it, without necessarily writing anything down – at least, initially. If someone’s starting to confide in you, but realises that you’ve been taking notes on them, the whole time, they’re going to become more reluctant to open up. Why should characters be any different, in this respect?

If you relax, and allow yourself to drift into a kind of daydream, but one which you’ve entered with specific questions in mind, you’re likely to make more progress.

Do keep in mind that the reader will only ever need to know a tiny percentage of this backstory material.

And you should definitely not info dump: the natural tendency of many writers, when it comes to backstory.  I cover the subject of info dumping in my post about common first chapter mistakes.

Your characters need to have understandable motivations.

Even if they act in ways that you yourself never would, you must feel empathy towards them, and know why they do what they do.

Once you understand their motives, what drives and inspires them, you’ll need to find ways to convey this to the reader, during the natural course of your story.

We all have flaws, and a character who comes across as “perfect” isn’t going to be popular with readers.

Who is supposed to relate to such a character?

Contradictions, or apparent contradictions, are very real.

How many times do you expect someone to do something, and they do the exact opposite? It happens – and should occur with your characters too, from time to time.

Do traits from real people ever find their way into your fiction?

If so, that’s fine. It’s part of what makes characters believable – or it can be.

A healthy sign is when it’s mixed up, somewhat. One or two traits from a particular real person in any one character is okay, but don’t overdo it.

If you’re anything like me, you will identify aspects of yourself in most, if not all, of your characters – but none should be entirely you, unless you are writing an autobiography, or a memoir.

If you’re struggling at all with the issue of whether to use real people as characters, I’ve written a post on this precise subject.

 

I hope that this helps you with the important, and exciting, task of creating believable characters.

Everyone approaches writing differently, so perhaps the more generalised character profiles will work for you.

But, if these aren’t enough, taking the time to delve into your own mind, and those of your characters, could potentially make all the difference.

 

I would recommend reading my posts about POV and writing dialogue, if you haven’t already. Also, my post about exploring character motivations.

In Literary Fiction, character development tends to be emphasized, so my post on that subject may help, if this is a type of writing you’re interested in.

My short writing craft book, Creating Believable Characters, is available in paperback on Amazon. Alternatively, the Creating Believable Characters Ebook can be downloaded, free of charge, via Obooko.

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