Posts Tagged ‘characters’


Lovin’ Lamar

May 5, 2013

Lots of writers choose picturesque settings for their novels. Tropical beaches, quaint French villages, or exciting cities set the stage so that authors can take trips, gathering research.

Shoulda, woulda, coulda.

Rather than choosing say, Tahiti, I set my latest manuscript in Lamar, Colorado: home of a high school nicknamed ‘the savages’ as well as the Cow Palace hotel, a trucker’s paradise. Truth, not fiction.

Like any diligent writer, I did my research on-line, but decided I needed to take the trek and live it first-hand. While visiting Eastern Colorado, I stayed at the Cow Palace for one night, while doing research. While it wasn’t the Bahamas, they did have a kidney-shaped pool complete with plastic palm trees. Woot! Their breakfast special consisted of six pieces of sausage, six pieces of bacon, two eggs, and two biscuits and gravy. I didn’t starve. When I checked in, I asked for a quiet room on the second floor of the motel. A scruffy eighteen-year-old stared at me as if I’d arrived from OZ. For a minute, I thought he might say it was haunted. Instead, he told me they didn’t put people on the second floor because there was no elevator and that a set of stairs required exercise. Even if I’d been writing a book about obesity, I don’t think I would have thought of that nugget. Truth is odder than fiction.

Lamar was everything I remembered from a brief encounter years ago. It did not disappoint. And while I am slightly sorry I didn’t choose a tropical island to set my story, Lamar offered rich ambiance.  Sometimes a story set in a unique place can offer an abundance of interesting characters and new sensory awareness. What?  Tahiti doesn’t smell like chlorine and manure? Nope. You can only find that, in Lamar.


Character Sketch 103

November 30, 2012

Tips to Know your Character

-Download a character sketch

-Interview your character

-Create questions/details not included in your character sketch and answer them (what’s their favorite ice-cream, what did they have for breakfast)

-Write a letter to your character

-Pretend you are the character and write your resume

-Pretend you are the character and write a letter to your mom

-Pretend you are the character and write a letter to your girlfriend/boyfriend

-If your character could invent something, what would it be?

-Who would your character want to meet (one living and one dead person)

-Jot details that you know but the reader might not


Make your character unique!




May 3, 2012

“You’re a blockhead, Charlie Brown!” When you read or hear that phrase, what comes to mind? A bald little boy sporting an ugly mustard shirt doing something that’s not quite right. And yet, who doesn’t love Charlie Brown? His goofy insecurities make us cringe when he can’t kick the football or direct a play, but there’s something about Charlie Brown that makes us cheer him on.

Writers need to build believable characters, but hopefully they can create a main character that readers will follow. By giving readers a reason to understand the character’s problems, the reader and the character can connect. The relationship that’s formed will keep the reader moving forward, finishing, and hopefully recommending your book.

If your character is a psycho teenage bitch, give us a reason to hope that she’ll change, or at least become tolerable by the book’s end. A main character can be bad, horrid even, but there needs to be an endearing flaw or a reason for their behavior.

We may still roll our eyes at Charlie Brown, but his intentions, however nerdy, resonate. There’s a bit of Charlie in all of us, even if we don’t admit it. In the end, we want to believe that there’s hope and possibility for growth.

Give us a blockhead we’ll love.


Got Plot?

November 24, 2011

My last blog concentrated on voice. I love voice. Developing snarky or surreal characters fuels my creativity. On the other hand, I’m not a fan of plot. Of course you can’t write a book without plot, so I’ve had to learn.

Best summarized, plot must follow five steps.

Step One:  Set-ups and Firsts

            What’s the problem?

Who? Introduce main characters

When? Time period

Where? Setting

Why do we care to read on?


Step Two:  Trigger Hook

            –A major incident, beyond control, high excitement

(ex. Think of the tornado in Wizard of Oz)

            –Hit it by chapter 2-4

Step Three:  Quest

            –a character must search for something or solve a problem

-protagonist must overcome a series of obstacles (and maybe fail a few)

Step Four:  Climax

-think: battle, injury, betrayal, fall, storm etc.

-protagonist is met by their final and most challenging obstacle

-add a twist and a surprise if you can


Step Five:  Resolution

-How has the character changed, evolved?

-How did the problem get solved?

-Remember to resolve all subplots

In the end, plot is really step number one, but stretched throughout the book. The tricky part is presenting the plot, without giving away the result, in chapter one. Outlines help and as always, so does rewriting. Write away!


Writing with Voice

November 7, 2011

Generally, writers fall into one of two categories: those who begin their work by either developing an intriguing plot or by creating vivid characters. In the end, a book needs both to be written well.

For the sake of this blog, I’ll focus on voice. What is it? Voice is the tone and personality of your character. Is your character sarcastic? Shy? Scared? Boisterous? You get the picture. The tone and personality of your character should shine in their dialogue and in their actions. Both, will create the “voice” you need to build a successful character.

When writing, google character profiles. You’ll find lists of questions to get you thinking about your people. Details make all the difference and can really add to voice. Here are a few ideas to get you started:


  1. Does your character have an accent? A stutter or a particular tick? What do they sound like?
  2. Does he or she have a bruise? Where and how?
  3. What is she or he afraid of? Spiders are a bit cliché, but everyone has at least one fear.
  4. What does this particular person crave? Do they allow themselves to eat it or do they only fantasize about it?
  5. Does your character were matching clothing? What about socks?
  6. How does your character feel about religion other than their own?
  7. If your character could own an exotic pet, what would it be and why?
  8. Pretend your character has a bed filled with stuffed animals. What would they name them? Brutus? Fluffy? Giovanni? Tic?
  9. What time of day does your character drink coffee? Black or loaded? Does your character avoid coffee and drink green tea?
  10. Does your character fit a particular cultural stereotype? And how does your character defy this cultural stereotype? Give them depth.

Finding voice must include tone. It must be complex at times, simple at others. Above all, a character must portray an identity that remains consistent throughout the piece. The more questions you ask, the more details you offer, the richer your character will become.