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How to Get the Most Out Of Your Characters – Part 2

Part 1 looked at creating a compelling character using realism, emotions, fears, goals and motivations. They’re elements that an interesting and memorable character should have. But there are even more ways to get the most from your characters. The one thing characters do in any given situation is they display certain behaviours, depending what is happening. Actions often speak louder than words, so the reader will be looking at how your character acts and what he says. If you have developed your character well, they will have their own personalities – which in turn determine how they act. How would they act in a tense scene, or a confrontation scene, an action or love scene?And what they say, and how they say it, is also important. That’s why dialogue plays such an important role in characterisation. Characters have to carry emotion not just in their actions, but also in their conversations – characters can sometimes be profound in what they say, in a way that resonates with the reade…

How to Get the Most Out Of Your Characters – Part 1

Your characters don’t just tell a story. They carry the story. Great characters make the story. When planning a novel, characterisation, along with plot and subplots etc., is one of the most important elements. We want characters that are different from each other, not just in personalities or mannerisms, but in how they do things. That’s often how we judge other people, and so we have to ensure they’re interesting enough for readers to want to get to know more about them. Firstly, every writer knows that characters need to be relatable. They don’t have to be loved or even be likeable – they can be hated – but they need to be interesting enough to relate to the reader.And to do this we give characters fears, goals, motivation, weaknesses, strengths and lots of conflict. These ingredients draw the reader in because they are all relatable, too. We all have fears, we all have goals, we all have things that motivate us, we all have strengths and weaknesses and we all have all manner of conf…

Handling Dialogue Tags

Dialogue tags are not as hard to get to grips with as writers think.They’re the ‘he said/she said’ punctuations showing who is speaking, but because the reader is so used to seeing ‘he said’ etc., these tags become almost invisible. And that’s what writers should aim for – to make sure dialogue tags don’t get in the way of the reader’s enjoyment of the story. Attributions are a functional element that shows which character is speaking. It helps to prevent confusion during dialogue. Dialogue attributions can be placed before the character speaks, between the dialogue or afterward, for example: John said, ‘I don’t think this is the right way.’ ‘You know,’ John said, ‘I don’t think this is the right way.’ ‘I don’t think this is the right way,’ John said.​ This functionality allows writers to build seamless dialogue. ‘Said’ is a universally accepted verb that readers won’t even notice, and therefore won’t slow down the narrative. This is why it’s the preferred word, but that’s not to say write…

Verbs and Nouns Make For Better Writing

The strength of your writing comes from the choice of words you use. The general advice is that certain words help strengthen narrative, like verbs and nouns, while others, such as adjectives and adverbs, can weaken it. So why do verbs and nouns make for better writing? Nouns make up a large part of the English language – they denote things, people, animals, actions, places and even ideas. They are as versatile as they are useful because they have so many functions. Every sentence you write contains verbs and nouns, but because writers tend to rely too much on adjectives and adverbs, it often results in a lack of nouns and verbs in the narrative. There are several types of nouns: Proper, Common, Collective, Abstract, Countable and Uncountable nouns. A proper noun is a specific or unique name of a person, place or thing. Jupiter, New York and Samantha are proper nouns. Common nouns, on the other hand, refer to ordinary objects and things, names and places etc., for instance: Tom grabbed t…

Use Commas and Semicolons Effectively

Every writer at some point has probably asked themselves whether they should use a comma or a semi colon, as they are often seen as interchangeable. This is why the humble comma is abused, but both the semicolon and the comma provide different functions in your writing and shouldn’t be confused with one another. Commas are used to show a very short pause in sentences or to separate various objects in a sentence or several items in a list.Semi-colons, however, are used to separate two independent clauses that are closely related. They are also useful when listing ideas or phrases, just like commas do, which is why they may confuse writers. Effective writing is all about using words and punctuation to your advantage to produce the right effect. Commas in the right place can do this, especially when you want to create that momentary pause; a split second hesitation, for instance: Her expression folded, and with her eyes veiled, he could no longer read her. He wondered about the path ahead, t…

Working With Character Voice

Characters are an important element in any story. They have to be the perfect fit; the right personality and the right name etc., so that for the readers, the characters feel like real people. Every one of them is different, yet their stories and experiences are similar to our own. One thing that helps a story stand out isn’t just authorial voice – it’s character voice. Your characters are individuals with their own personalities, traits and flaws. They are their own people. They are not you. And they shouldn’t be anything like you. That’s where a lot of authors fall down. When they create their main characters, they often create them with themselves in mind, and too much of the writer’s personality creeps into their characters. That’s because it’s easier to write about us rather than go to all that trouble of characterising. While it’s not a bad thing to have some little snippets of our own personalities in our characters, remember that your protagonist isn’t you. The characters that yo…

Co-ordinating Conjunctions - Use Them to Your Advantage

There is a lot of mixed advice about using co-ordinating conjunctions such as ‘and’, but’, ‘or’, ‘so’, and ‘yet’ etc. Some people advise against their use in writing, while others advocate it. What advice should you follow? Which one is right? The simple truth is that there is absolutely nothing wrong using co-ordinating conjunctions to start a sentence. This writing myth may have evolved around rigid schoolteachers who taught children that such sentence constructions were not grammatically correct and thus perpetuated the idea that it’s wrong to use them. But it isn’t wrong. That’s because writing is all about balance rather than ‘right or wrongs’. For example, the general advice about adverbs is to cut down on their use and use nouns and verbs to strengthen your narrative. That doesn’t mean that every adverb must be eradicated. It just means to cut back on them to make the writing better. The same is true for adjective use or passive sentences etc. So there is no reason why conjuncti…