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Creating Great Secondary Characters

Almost every novel has a range of supporting characters to help bring the story to life and who revolve around the main character. These secondary characters aren’t just there to make up the numbers. They’re necessary if you want to tell a complete story. Writers use them to create different viewpoints, reveal important details and involve them within subplots, they support the protagonist and they help the story arc to evolve. They also help the story move forward. The main character needs them, whether they are friends, family, strangers or enemies. They are there to help, motivate, challenge or even create conflict with your protagonist. Ultimately, they all have the same purpose - to help get the story from the beginning to the end. They bring added dimension and depth to your story. So who are secondary characters? Secondary characters usually have some dialogue and interaction with the main character. They may have their own scenes, or be part of a subplot. Characters that s…

Give Your Novel Lasting Imagery

Creating visceral imagery is always a subject worth revisiting as a reminder to writers for their stories to leave a lasting impression with their readers and open the door to reading more of their work. Novels are meant to leave an impression. The imagery you use is important not just for the story, but for the reader, because that’s the kind of thing that makes the story memorable – it remains in their subconscious. Strong imagery conveys a sense of the story, the characters and the entire scene. This is drawn from vivid description, where we create the kind of lasting images that will stay with the reader. The strength of your description is what creates lasting imagery and emphasises the story and characters; the very thing that lifts them from the page. Some writers are visceral with the way they show imagery, some writers like their narrative raw, while others are subtle in the way the engage words, emotions and senses to bring the reader into a deeper level of the story. This als…

Putting the Thrill in Thriller Stories – Part 3

Along with the obvious things like great characters, a tight plot, carefully woven sub plots, conflicts, emotion and motivations, there are a few more aspects to help put the thrill into thriller stories. Whether readers realise it or not, all stories are about the human psyche. It’s not just a story. It’s about why people do what they do, because human behaviour lies at the heart of every story and the best thrillers capitalise on this. They bring reasoning into the story – they show us why characters behave in a certain way, they show us the motivations and emotions behind their actions, and by doing this they make their characters intriguing, interesting, clever, sinister...all the things great characters should be. Readers want to understand how a character’s mind works. It’s simple psychology. Because to understand the characters is to empathise with and care for them, and that pulls them right into the story. And with thrillers, there are all manner of human traits and behaviours …

Putting the Thrill in Thriller Stories – Part 2

To make a thriller work, it requires a lot of aspects to come together, like a tight plot, complex characters that will bring different layers to the narrative, the escalation of danger and higher stakes and dilemmas and problematic situations that create drama and tension. That’s why readers love that heightened sense of realism and the dark undercurrents that exist below the surface of the story. They love the twists and turns. They love to get involved with the story and the characters. Ultimately, they want the protagonist to win. It can’t be said enough that conflict is essential to every story. It’s the fuel that drives characters and situations. In any thriller story, conflict should escalate around pivotal situations and events, and if you’ve planned the story and plotted correctly, the conflict should happen naturally. Don’t manufacture conflict just for the sake of it. It has to evolve because of the plot and because of how the characters act and react to events and each othe…

Putting the Thrill in Thriller Stories – Part 1

No novel is simple to write, but some genres, like crime and thrillers, have a different level of complexity that requires a lot of thought and planning to tell a complicated story, while engaging the reader and keeping them guessing what will happen next. When we think about thrillers, we imagine a fast-paced novel full of action, danger, suspense, drama, lots of conflict and all manner of plot twists. They tend to rely heavily on plot, and most of the action is driven by escalating events, right up until the final page. Thrillers are meant to thrill because, right from the start, every scene should push the story forward, it should be paced properly, the characters should be larger than life and stand out, and the stakes should be high. But before you put any thrill into a thriller, you first need a tight, well thought out plot. This is the skeletal structure that will support everything that happens within the story, and because thrillers are generally more complex in nature – there t…

Use Body Language to Characterise

There’s one thing that writers don’t use to their advantage as much as they should, and that’s body language. Sometimes, it’s not what characters say that catches the reader’s attention, but how they react to others and the situations around them. Little things like facial expressions, gestures, ticks, movements and posture all convey silent communication; they help the reader understand and interpret what characters are really thinking and feeling. Writers are good at telling us what the characters looks like, what they wear and what the characters say, but how they act and react to other characters and what goes on around them is rarely exploited. We might see snippets of movements between dialogue, known as narrative “beats”, but often what we get are stock gestures like licking of lips, tilting the head, hands in pockets, running hands through hair, smoothing of ties and so on. This doesn’t give the reader much depth or character insight. Body language should allow the writer to sho…

Use Fear in Your Fiction

Fear is described as an emotion, but really, fear is a primal, negative reaction to something or someone. More often than not it is driven by the unknown, since humans fear what they don’t understand.  The sense of fear is something writers can evoke in their writing, especially in horror or psychological stories, but creating and exploiting fear isn’t solely for the horror or psychological/crime genres.Fear is something all characters will feel, whatever the genre of story, because it’s a real, tangible emotion that the reader will completely understand – it’s the one emotion that affects all of us. Writers use fear in different ways to provoke their characters, create tension and atmosphere and underpin different moods. Not only that, but a sense of fear can make your descriptions more vivid and realistic. There are two ways you can create fear. You can do it through your characters and you can create the sense of fear through narrative and description. A Character’s Fears Every characte…