Author- know your Characters!

How well do you know your characters?

Are they close, like a best friend, or are they a vague notion on a piece of paper?

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The characters will determine the intimacy of how much you get to know them. Minor characters are like ships passing in the night, and there may not be a reason to go in depth about what makes them tick. But, for your protagonist and the sidekick it’s essential. Even for the antagonist is essential – almost as much as the protagonist.
Although you can’t put everything  about your characters down on paper, you should know them. Be familiar with them as you are with your family-even better. After all, they are your creation and you need to understand how and why your character reacts to something you are plotting.
Now granted, just like human beings, your characters will change in time as you go from book 1 to book 10. They must, or they will become flat and boring. A perfect example of this is Harry Potter. If the young wizard had stayed the same frighten boy living under the stairs, you would have never read the rest of the series to learn of all the wonderful adventures (and dangers) that he faced while fighting the evil Lord Voldemort.
Expect that your characters will grow, just as you grow as a writer. Knowing your characters inside and out isn’t just knowing they have blond hair and blue eyes, or they have a southern accent.

Knowing your character involves understanding how they react to situations we, the writer, put them into. How will your hero react to criticism or complement? How will your heroine react when faced with danger or romance?
As a writer, I think we have to know ourselves in order to answer these questions about our characters. Be honest; isn’t a part of us in each one of our characters?

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There are always different character profiles and different ways to come up with them.   Some great computer programs are available to  help you  keep track of all the details. Or perhaps a good old-fashioned piece of paper in a notebook. There you can jot down the traits of your character, both physical and physiological.
I’ve found character casting is a lot of fun. This is where you find pictures of people you think would be like your character, not only in looks but in actions. I love to use pictures of actors from old shows I loved. I remember what the actor’s charter was like, and that’s the picture I borrow for my casting.

I’ve seen or used all of these methods. I feel the ones which work best ask questions about your characters, causing you think beyond the obvious. These methods don’t simply have you filling in the blanks about how tall is your character or their eye color. Instead, they asked the questions about what is your characters favorite childhood memory, what is your character afraid of.
See the difference between the two types of questions? Even if you don’t write everything down, I think a good writer needs this information back of her head.   Putting it down on paper just keeps a clear.
So, let me be noisy and ask you this; is your relationship with your character like a first date, where you’re just trying to find out things about them to decide if there will be a second date? Or does it feel as if you’re in a 50-year-old marriage and you can finish each other’s sentences?

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If you’re still in the dating stage, I suggest you ask more questions. You need to know your characters; you might need to reign them in one day when they take your story in a different direction. If you don’t know how they will react, your story will get away from you. When it gets out of your control, then how will you be able to keep the reader interested?
How do you get to know your character? Share your methods with us.

www.VictoriaLKWilliams.com

Is he who he says he is?

Have You really thought about how little attention we give to what goes on around us? We take for granted the comings and goings of people in our day-to-day life. This could easily be a writer’s dream. Especially a mystery writer like me.

Here’s a good example… I was sitting at my desk working away, minding my own business, when suddenly, I glance out and there’s a guy outside my window. He gave me a wave, and I didn’t really think anything of it when I saw the tools. I remembered the contractors planned to be at my home today to install the hurricane shutters. Obviously he was here to do it.

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But how did I know this for sure; he might be anyone. By being in a uniform, with a letter truck, people don’t give a second thought as to why a worker is there. This deceptive trick is used often on TV shows. The bad guys manage, very easily, to enter a location and then commit a murderer, plant a bomb, or steal a valuable item. All because nobody questions the reason they are there.

We don’t want to make the person being questioned feel uncomfortable, and you don’t want to appear rude. But if you don’t ask questions, how do you know what’s going on? We don’t hesitate to question when somebody rings the doorbell to sell something. We quickly put them in their place with either a yes or a no response. If the person looks like they belong or there is a reason to be there, it’s our human nature to not question. Maybe we’re too trusting, or maybe we’re just too nonchalant, but either way it could be used against you.

Think about the people that come in your life day to day. How many are there that you don’t give a second thought about? If you’re at home, it might be the pool person who comes to clean the pool, or the lawn maintenance man. It could even be someone as common place as a postal delivery employee. If you work in an office do you think twice about seeing somebody come in with a toolbox? For all you know it’s the maintenance man. Or if somebody comes in with a laptop and you automatically assume they are part of a technology team. Or how about someone with a basket of food—is it a lunch person your company has employed or someone with an ulterior motive?

How can it be we’re so self-absorbed that we don’t ponder about the things that are going on around us? Have we become too complacent? Whatever situation you might be in, I hope I’ve put a caution on your mind. It’s time to think about who’s coming into your inner circle and if they belong.

 

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Let the writer explore the possibilities of the people that wander in and out our lives, you take care of the real-life safety precautions.

Remember it’s a mystery or thriller writer who plots about evil strangers…
The writer of Sci-fy brings the stranger as a visitor from the future…
A fantasy writer might create a whole new world where the stranger is from…
A romance writer might think ‘here comes prince charming’…

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It’s all about the prep.

Don’t prepare and you might be preparing to fail.
No matter what you’re doing, the job is always easier when you prepare for it ahead of time. Whether you’re cooking a new recipe, planting a garden, building a bookshelf, or writing a book —preparation is the key to success.

There are those that say they are Pantsers and there are those say they are Plotters…

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But, I think, all in all, each of us does a bit of preparation before we sit down to write that first word. We have a general idea of what our book it’s going to be about. Who are main characters will be and the central setting we will create. A Pantser might stop right there and start writing. On the other hand, a plotter (like me) will sit down and do an outline. We want to get as much preparation done before we start making, making the writing process flow.

Oh, don’t get me wrong, there will be changes. Something comes up that makes your story go in a different direction, but if the outline is done and your notes are organized, then it’s easy enough to adjust and move on.
And so tomorrow begins the month of July. This is one of three months that I participate in NaNoWriMo. To me the preparation for this month (as well as April and November) are critical to my success. Writing 50,000 words in 30 days is more than a challenge it’s a conquest!

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Today is June 30th, and I wait with bated breath for midnight. Why? Because I’m ready to go. My outline is complete, I’ve got my first scene is written in my head and I’m just counting the hours to start. Yet, I can also look back and remember when there were times that I wasn’t so prepared. Because of this, I wasted precious time and word counts trying to figure out where I was going.
To all of you who have no preparations set out–there is less than 24 hours to be prepared. Turn off that TV and get ready!
And to all of you who are prepared and are waiting for that stroke of midnight-—good luck. I hope Camp NaNo is a rousing success and at the end of the 30 days you are pleased. Then you will hold a rough draft of your book in your hands, ready to edit and publish.

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Happy Writing!

Give a little back…

There comes a time in your life when it’s important to not only take, but to give back.

As you reach certain levels of success, you need to take somebody under your wing  to mentor.  Give back to your community and, in a broader spectrum, give back to the world.

I was taught this as a young child. But, of course, my parents didn’t call it ‘giving back’ they said you’re doing ‘what’s right’. We helped the lonely and the elderly who lived in our neighborhood by making sure their lawns were cut, they got occasional visits to keep them company, and treats like plates of homemade cookies. We did our part for church, too, making sure we were there for every cleanup and event the church sponsored. And we gave back to the school in forms of being part of the PTA or helping on class activities.

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It was right after I moved to Florida, getting a job with a man who was a community leader, I learned about giving back to the business community. He taught us it wasn’t just giving back money to associations and good causes, it was about giving of yourself. Giving time was  sometimes more important than giving money. A perfect example was after Hurricane Andrew hit Homestead Florida, many of the large nurseries were destroyed. Nurseries unaffected in other parts of the state sent down representatives and supplies to make sure those businesses demolished could rebuild. The made sure families affected would have food, water and shelter. These nurseries that helped didn’t make any money from their efforts; it was simply good will, and it was the right thing to do. This example of giving back made a lasting impression on me.

When I started my gardening business, I made sure I got involved in the community by joining the Chamber of Commerce and other non-profit organizations. Even if I didn’t have money to help these organizations, I had my time and efforts and I gave freely.

Now, as I enter a new stage of my life as a writer, I’m determined to give back once again. And, although I’m not as knowledgeable as other authors with more experience, I freely give what I can to help new authors starting out. Sometimes a kind word of encouragement is all another writer needs. Another way I give back is to read other people’s books and write honest reviews.

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You can easily do this, too.  Or, become a beta reader when you can. And don’t be afraid to promote another author’s book. By promoting other books in your own genre, you will also promote your own books. As more and more people become interested in the same style of writing as yours, you’ll find the sales increasing.

It’s exciting to be part of the writing community, and I’m thrilled to give back. I know most of us are introverts and tend to prefer working from within our own comfort zone, but with the use of the internet you can easily help another writer get through a  tricking plot point . Plus, I’m amazed at how many great friends I’m making.

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So, as a result, occasionally you’ll find I don’t post a traditional blog. Instead I’ll help support other author’s by posting a promotion. This will give you the chance as a reader to have access to new books and new writers you might not have known. It also gives these authors more exposure, which we all need.

I hope you will enjoy these promotions and take advantage of them. Remember if you enjoyed the book take a moment and let the writer know. Send an email or, even better, write a review on Amazon.

I think you’ll find it feels wonderful to give back!

It Never Changes!

Out of sight out of mind?

Our son recently came home for the holiday weekend and after being at school for a couple months on his own. He’s definitely matured and become a young man, but as he walked in the front door it didn’t matter- my boy was home.
I was amazed myself at how quickly I fell back into the “mommy mode”. Now, I know when he’s a college that he’s safe; there are campus security and curfews. He doesn’t have a car to drive around, and he is supposed to be busy studying. Anything else happens; I don’t really want to know about. But with four days at home, I find myself worrying. If he is out late at night is he safe driving his car? Is he looking out for the other drivers? Has he forgotten everything he learned about safety? Is he eating properly when he’s not home to get meals with us? The list goes on and gets longer the later he stays out past midnight. The worrying has started.

“For goodness sake’s “, I tell myself, ” he’s an adult, there’s no reason to worry about him.” But no matter what my head says, my heart says another thing and I begin to worry about all those little things that mommies worry about, no matter how old your children are. His father just laughed at me, and my son shook his head. But I think secretly he smiled and was pleased to know that somebody was worried about him. The weekend is over, and it’s time to go back. As we load the car with a case of neatly folded clean clothes and a box of extra food to get them through the next couple weeks, I sigh with relief. He’s now somebody else’s worry. Mainly himself, but like I said out of sight out of mind. If he needs me, he only has to call.

I keep telling myself that, and it gets easier each time he heads back to his life of a college student.

AS THE PAGE TURNS…

It was unusually quiet at our house tonight.  There was no loud noise coming from the TV, no sounds of war coming from the computer games, no barking from one spoiled Beagle looking for attention and no shouts of “Get out of that fridge-you just ate!”

Instead soft jazz music played in the  background and the gentle snores from one (or both) of the cats were what could be heard.  Each of us were in our own worlds (or to be more literal chairs).  And what were we doing that kept us so occupied that we did not need any electronic entertainment?  READING!

My son has recently re-discovered Steven King and was engrossed in a book of the writer’s short stories.  My husband was reading a non-fiction about Tuxedo Park and I was finishing up a book about writing: Authors in Bathrobes (Lauren Carr).

We all took a break at the same time, and each declared they were reading the best book.  We even took time to talk about each of the books and have a conversation.  (Do you have any idea how hard that is when you have a teenager?).  When we had finished, we each went back to our book to become part of the story once more.

Before I knew it, my husband was heading off to bed and my son to the shower: the evening was over.  It was a wonderful evening too.  We survived a night of being “unplugged” and would live to brag about it.

As a new writer, I have been pouring over author forums on the internet, trying to absorb as much information as I can.  One word of advise that was repeated over and over was to READ other author’s books.  No problem for me; I’ve been known to read a book a day.  But I was surprised at this advise.  I find that they are right, you know.  When you read as an author, the written word is viewed with different eyes.  Little things grab you, and you see different styles of writing to tell similar stories.

So I will continue to READ, Read, Read and Learn, Learn, Learn.

And hopefully, as a family, we will share more peaceful evenings like tonight!

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