Giving a Heartbeat to Your Characters

Have you ever heard the expression, “he/she is such a character?” That means whomever they are talking about is a person worthy of remembrance for their larger than life personality. Most often that person has a great sense of humor. I tend to remember folks that make me laugh, don’t you?

In fiction writing, the characters in your manuscript are helping you tell the story. You want your readers to become so enamored they can’t put your book down as they experience a life through that of your characters. This focus on creating a cast of players in your story is called “characterization.” It goes beyond eye, and hair color, age or gender. Although those features are important, it doesn’t really make your reader care about the hero or heroine.

Doing a profile is helpful in developing your character’s personality traits. Consider how your heroine reacts emotionally as you plot your story. How does she react to disappointment, anger, or sadness? Does she eat ice cream when she is stressed? Or perhaps she breaks out in hives when under pressure? These are the types of traits that make our characters more human and not just paper people.

One of the traits I gave my hero is rocking back and forth on the balls of his feet when he becomes impatient. He is a military man, and you could just see this as a normal behavior for someone who is an officer in the Army. Looking at your characters through the lens of a camera, as if they were in a movie helps to incorporate mannerisms; such as biting one lip when caught in a lie. Or the wringing of hands to show worry.

Consider likes and dislikes, incorporate them into your story. Do they have a loving family, or do they come from a dysfunctional background? Do they get along well with others? Do they have hobbies? Do they have a gift of music, sports or crafting? If you think about it our preferences make us who we are whether we want them to or not.

Another great tool of characterization is giving your hero/heroine a goal. What motivates them to reach this goal? How will they grow personally if they meet the goal, or how will they react if they don’t reach it? Our characters need to meet expectations, either imposed by someone else, or from within.

When writing Christian fiction your characters my go through a spiritual growth. My heroine lost someone she loved and became angry at God. If God is all knowing why didn’t He stop her fiance from being impressed into the British Navy and leaving her to become an old maid by societies standards? Though her fiance did not die, she lost him to a force larger than they could defeat.

Elaine’s journey is finding that God was always with her and knew better what she needed in life. Isn’t that true for all of us?

Two sources that helped me with my characterization:

Goal, Motivation and Conflict, by Debra Dixon.

The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Character Expressions, by Angela Ackerman & Becca Puglisi

 

Writing Prompt: Describe your perfect day with your favorite character from a book.

Click to Tweet: In fiction writing, the characters in your manuscript are helping you tell the story. 

3 Questions Wednesday with Kristen Hogrefe

Author Kristen Hogrefe

Welcome back to 3 Questions Wednesday, Kristen Hogrefe! This is an exciting and very busy week for Kristen, as her third book in The Rogues Trilogy released yesterday! Congratulations, Kristen.

Let’s see how she answers our three questions—

Who is your favorite author?

Kristen: Limiting myself to just one is nearly impossible, because I enjoy so many genres, but I consider Elisabeth Elliot one of my spiritual mentors. Her books, including Keep a Quiet Heart and Let Me Be a Woman, are ones I re-read.

If you could write about anyone or anything fiction/nonfiction who or what would you write about?

Kristen: One day, I hope I’ll have the ability to research and write either a non-fiction or fictionalized account of my Uncle Billy’s story. I never met him, because he died in Colombia as a child, but through his childlike witness to the people group my missionary grandparents were reaching, many came to know Christ. My mom tells me that on his grave, a church was built. I think there’s a powerful story to tell, but I don’t know if I can do it justice. One day, I hope to be brave enough to try.

If you could spend time with a character from your book whom would it be? And what would you do during that day?

Kristen: I actually did have the opportunity to spend a full two weeks with a “character” from my book! At the very end of the story while Portia heals in Orvieto, she stays with an Italian woman named Maria who teaches her about Italian culture and serves as her guide. My real-life Italian friend and colleague Maria Constantine traveled with me to Italy so I could research the settings in The Reactionary. We spent several days in a lovely Air B&B in Orvieto. There, she taught me some Italian phrases and ultimately gifted me with a deep appreciation and love for Italy as we explored the city and surrounding areas. You can read more about some of our adventures on my blog at KristenHogrefe.com.


Kristen Hogrefe is an award-winning author and life-long learner. Her books include The Rogues trilogy and Wings of the Dawn trilogy, and she also enjoys speaking events that allow her to connect with students, readers, and other writers. A Florida girl at heart, she says yes to most adventures involving sunshine. Connect with her online at KristenHogrefe.com.

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The Reactionary

The Reactionary by Kristen Hogrefe

Three friends. One broken world. One chance to make it right.

Gath survived the satellite explosions, only to encounter one of Felix’s plague initiatives. Somehow, he must recover, re-unify what’s left of their leadership team—and help them find a reason to hope.

Luther devises a diplomatic distraction to buy Portia time for her international mission and him an opportunity to rescue his scientist-father, tricked into operating Felix’s labs. Will he lose them both anyway?

Portia resents that Darius lied about their father, and defying her brother now might secure a much-needed overseas ally. But liberty for all could cost her future with the man she loves and any chance of reuniting her fractured family.

BUY LINK [AMAZON]

Four Beginner Mistakes that Kill a Good Plot

by Kristen Hogrefe

Between wedding preparation and inspiration from Marie Kondo, I’ve been enjoying the minimizing challenge to get rid of stuff and create space. One part of this adventure took me to a dresser drawer where I had stowed my first writing attempts from childhood. (Forgive me, Marie, but I couldn’t part with these.)

The reason for keeping them isn’t because they’re good. They’re hilariously awful, but they show how far my writing has come.

As I perused them, so many plot mistakes jumped off the page. Though beginner blunders, they can still creep into our stories and wreak havoc on our plots if we let them.

#1: Over-villainize the villain.

We get it. The bad guy is bad. However, the bad guy (or girl) must have a motivation for what drives him to villainy.

A recent case that still has people talking is the villain or anti-hero Thanos in the Avengers saga. He sincerely believes that wiping out half the population will make the world a better place and cure the resource problems. Twisted? Absolutely. But the audience has no doubt what’s driving this madman who considers himself a humanitarian at heart.

#2: Make the good guy too good.

The flip side of the villain coin is making the hero/heroine too perfect. I’ll never forget some feedback a friend gave me on a first draft. Although she liked my story, her one complaint was about the love interest.

“Kristen, he’s just too good. Give him a flaw. Give him something he has to struggle with or that annoys her. That’s real life. That’s real love.”

Let’s not fall into the mistake of transposing our own ideals on our characters. If we want readers to relate to them, they’re going to have baggage, personal demons, or a backstory that people find sympathetic.

#3: Dump the backstory at the beginning.

Speaking of backstory, I’m not sure why we writers sometimes feel the need to explain everything. The whole point of plot is to tease the reader to keep reading, to keep wondering.

When we start with backstory instead of action, we “tell” readers everything up front they want to know. As a result, they’re not interested in reading further and usually shelve the book.

#4: Bore with too much description.

This mistake is one that marked many of my adolescent attempts and one my writing students often make. On page one, they interrupt the action with a mirror-length description of their heroine. It usually reads something like this:

Amelia gazed in the mirror at her long blonde tresses that fell in gentle waves past her waist. Her fairness was the envy of every maiden in the kingdom.

She brushed a hand along her floor-length, velvety blue gown which matched her diamond-colored eyes and sighed contently at the vision she made.

Okay, maybe I’m exaggerating, but if I had a coin for every time I’ve read something like this, I’d be booking a flight to another bucket-list destination today.

Jesting aside, this example illustrates how description can both stop the action, and when combined with mistake #2, kill the reader’s interest.

Takeaway for Today

My goal here is not to discourage anyone. If anything, it’s to laugh at our beginner mistakes and even “thank them” (cue Marie Kondo) for what they have taught us.

In all seriousness, though, I do thank God for the gift of writing He’s given us and the creativity to write a plot that will entertain and speak truth to readers. When we work to avoid mistakes that will steal our writing’s effectiveness, we steward our gift well.

Writing Prompt: What beginner mistakes would you add to this list?

[Click to  Tweet:] A few beginner mistakes can kill a good plot and make readers put a book down. Learn how to avoid them and let your plot soar! 4 Beginner Mistakes that Kill a Good Plot via @InspiredPrompt with @kjhogrefe #amwriting #WritingLife


Author Kristen Hogrefe

Kristen Hogrefe is an award-winning author and life-long learner. Her books include The Rogues trilogy and Wings of the Dawn trilogy, and she also enjoys speaking events that allow her to connect with students, readers, and other writers. A Florida girl at heart, she says yes to most adventures involving sunshine. Connect with her online at KristenHogrefe.com.

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Facebook
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The Reactionary by Kristen Hogrefe

The Reactionary by Kristen Hogrefe

Three friends. One broken world. One chance to make it right.

Gath survived the satellite explosions, only to encounter one of Felix’s plague initiatives. Somehow, he must recover, re-unify what’s left of their leadership team—and help them find a reason to hope.

Luther devises a diplomatic distraction to buy Portia time for her international mission and him an opportunity to rescue his scientist-father, tricked into operating Felix’s labs. Will he lose them both anyway?

Portia resents that Darius lied about their father, and defying her brother now might secure a much-needed overseas ally. But liberty for all could cost her future with the man she loves and any chance of reuniting her fractured family.

Release Week Book Sales

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Your First Draft Is Not Your Last Draft

by Fay Lamb

In my writing life and both as a freelance editor and an acquisition editor, I have discovered a disturbing trend among some new and not-so-new writers.

Self-publishing is not a bad thing if the author does it correctly. However, there is a generation of authors who have grown up without accountability for what they create. Some sit down at a computer, plunk out one draft of a story, and head off to publication. There are also some who send their first draft to a publisher. When they receive a rejection, the fault belongs to a “system.” They use that excuse to self-publish.

Say what you want about traditional publishers, but in most instances, they truly are the gatekeepers for an industry currently suffering from credibility issues brought on by mass self-publishing. Granted, there are authors who have studied the craft inside and out and write great manuscripts. Yet they can’t find a home in traditional publishing. The rejection has less to do with a lack of diligence on the author’s part and more to do with publishers’ trends. Those diligent authors who take the time to craft a story find new life in self-publishing by bucking those trends.

A first draft is never an author’s best friend. All it says to an author is, “I’ve taken the story from Point A to Point Z, and I have some bones to build upon.” The next draft, or drafts, however many it takes, puts flesh on those bones.

I’d like to share some very obvious clues that indicate to readers and to publishers that an author has not gotten beyond the first draft stage before submitting or publishing:

  • The author has not taken the time to get a command over the small stuff: spelling, grammar, punctuation, consistency in names, hair color, eye color, even the spelling of key locations. Editors see these mistakes as lazy writing. If an author isn’t keen on these areas, finding an editor, or even a critique group that can offer this support, is imperative.
  • The manuscript usually consists only of bones, taking the form of stilted dialogue. Description and deep point of view (POV) are lacking or lax. A story that engages uses effective dialogue to relay information without the reader knowing the information is being fed to them. Deep POV is the best tool to draw the reader into the story and connect them with the main characters.
  • Speaking of point of view: in a first draft, even the most prolific authors will inadvertently switch POVs within the scene. Revisions will correct this mistake. However, an omniscient point of view is a sign that an author has not studied the elements of fiction. POV should always be one character per scene, and the character with the most to win or to lose should always be the POV character for that scene.
  • Often in a first draft, the plot will lack escalating conflict. Instead, an author utilizes contrived conflict, bringing it in and resolving it quickly before introducing another issue. One reason a synopsis is requested by publishers is to determine how well an author introduces and sustains conflict. If conflict is weak or non-existent, the story isn’t ready for publication.
  • Then there’s that old but relevant cliché: show don’t tell. A first draft is littered with telling words or phrases that draw the reader away from the story. This is easily seen in the use of adverbial time phrases such as suddenly and immediately or when she turned … Other telling words have to do with the senses: she heard, he saw, he noticed, he realized, and a host of other similar actions that tell rather than show.

Don’t make the mistake of believing that a first draft or even a second draft will produce a story ready for publication. Take time to revise and edit, to look for the minor mistakes and to implement the elements of fiction that put flesh on those shaky bones and build up a healthy story that readers can enjoy.


Writing Prompt: Rewrite the following short paragraph, utilizing some of the points discussed above to create a second draft:

Paula heard a noise that made the hair stand up on the back of her neck. Immediately, she turned and peered out the window. What she saw terrified her.


Click to Tweet: “In most instances, traditional publishers truly are the gatekeepers for an industry currently suffering from credibility issues brought on by mass self-publishing.” Your First Draft Is Not Your Last Draft via @InspiredPrompt and @FayLamb.

3 Questions Wednesday with Erin R. Howard

Welcome to 3 Questions Wednesday!

This week’s guest is developmental editor and fantasy author, Erin R. Howard.  Welcome to the Inspired Prompt blog!

First question—Who is your favorite author?

Erin: This is a hard question! I love to read, so there are many authors that I enjoy. Since I am a fantasy author, I will say that my favorite is Ted Dekker. I love the way that he creates his story worlds. You feel as though you are right there experiencing it with the character.

He does write fascinating stories.  Now, second question

If you could write about anyone or anything fiction/nonfiction who or what would you write about?

Erin:  I write urban fantasy, which has fantasy elements but is set in our current world and I love blending these two worlds together. Right now, I have another series in the planning stages that will be related to my current series. After that, I would love to write a dystopian book or a fairy tale retelling.

All of those genres are popular. 🙂 That brings us to question number three—

If you could spend time with a character from your book or another book whom would it be? And what would you do during that day?

Erin:  I’ve always been fascinated with angels, and when I was creating my character Matthias, I not only wanted to show him as a warrior, but also show him as kind, patient, and a fierce protector. But as the story unfolded, I found there’s so much more to him than meets the eye. I won’t give away all of my secrets, {you’ll have to read the story to find out!}, but Matthias is not only a warrior and protector but someone that you need by your side.

Sounds like someone we all would like to know. Thank you so much for stopping by!

Click to Tweet: 3 Questions Wednesday’s guest is urban fantasy author, Erin R. Howard.  Learn more about her and her book, The Soul Searcher, and leave a comment for a chance to win a Kindle book via @InspiredPrompt. #Fantasy #amreading

Don’t forget to leave a comment for your chance to win a Kindle version of The Soul Searcher.


 The Soul Searcher

Elnora’s parents gave her one rule:

Stay hidden away at all costs.

Elnora Scott is used to her survival depending on the decisions of others. Locked away in her safe house, it is easy to follow her parents’ dying wishes until an angel, demon, and seer show up on her doorstep. Now, waking up in a dirty cell, she wishes she would have gone with them when she had the chance, because the very ones who unknowingly ushered the kidnapper to her location may be the only ones who can save her.

When Thea learns that Elnora may be in danger, she doesn’t hesitate to go find her. Thea thought stepping through the portal would be her greatest obstacle, but it only reveals a more sinister threat.

Buy your copy here.


 

Erin R. Howard is a developmental editor, fantasy author of The Kalila Chronicles, and has earned a Bachelor’s degree in Creative Writing/English from Southern New Hampshire University. When she’s not writing, Erin enjoys spending time with her family, fueling her craft addictions, and teaching writing workshops. Erin is a member of the American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) and the KenTen Writers Group. She resides in Western Kentucky with her husband and three children.

You can find Erin at her website, on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest. She also has a blog and newsletter.