characters

Day 19 – Creating a Voice

31 Days to Plan Your Novel

It is a bad habit of a novice writer to create a story full of characters that sound exactly the same. They may not have the same concerns, but they talk about their unique lives using the same word choices, the same inflection, the same tone. It’s an understandable habit. Every writer has their own voice – the way their writing feels on a page – and we are beaten half-to-death with the notion of developing our own voices as a writer. But unless you are writing a memoir, you are not your character. Your voice should not be your character’s voice.

Developing unique character voices is difficult and, like everything, it takes practice. Begin by observing the way that people in your life talk. Notice the words the use – how often they curse, how detailed their stories are, changes in volume. If you’re having trouble creating voices out of nothing, try giving your characters the voices of the people that you know best.

Sometimes the best writing is an exercise in observation.

31 Days to Plan Your Novel

Every October, hundreds of bloggers gather at The Nesting Place to write for 31 days straight on a variety of different topics, teaching and encouraging and offering tips and tricks to make life easier.

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Day 17 – Life off the Page, pt 2

31 Days to Plan Your Novel

Forgive me in advance, because today’s post could be seen as a little insensitive.

Either directly in a story, or somewhere off the page, death is a great catalyst for action. Whether it makes it into your novel or not, writing about the death of a person that a main character cares about can shake things loose if you’re stuck, reveal qualities abut the character in question, explain motivations that seem otherwise inexplicable, and provide a venue for powerful emotions to be explored.

If you don’t believe me, name one novel whose plot has not be directly or indirectly influenced by a death.

Death drives a plot forward when the death in question is able to influence choices and motivate change. Simply killing off characters because you are tired of them doesn’t work. The death must have some impact on the story around it. Think about the deaths of Dumbledore (it frees Harry Potter to do what he was destined to do), or Eddard Stark (could A Song of Ice and Fire have continued to 4+ additional volumes if he hadn’t died?)

Don’t be afraid of writing about death. It might be the best thing to happen to your story.

31 Days to Plan Your Novel

Every October, hundreds of bloggers gather at The Nesting Place to write for 31 days straight on a variety of different topics, teaching and encouraging and offering tips and tricks to make life easier.

Day 16 – Life off the Page, pt 1

31 Days to Plan Your Novel

I realized today that I was more than halfway through this 31 Day challenge. It’s been a lot of early mornings.

So far, we’ve spent about two weeks on developing characters, and now we’ll work on seeing how our characters behave in certain situations. Next week, we’ll start outlining our novels. If you’re joining us for the first time, head here for links to the rest of the series so far.

Though it might seem counterintuitive to imagine what your characters will do outside your novel, understanding how characters act in certain situations is crucial to keeping your novel going when you’re writing it – this is the issue that regularly trips me up in my own writing. Also, if you still haven’t come up with several plot points for your budding idea, now is the time to give them a test run.

Writing scenes and dialogue that might not ever see the light of day again gives you an opportunity to explore your characters’ new personalities. You have an idea of who they are, now find out how they use it in the world. Writing outside of your novel makes the whole process seem less final and you’re less likely to freeze up with the fear of getting something wrong.

If you are determined to write scenes from your book at this stage, that’s fine – just don’t write like you’re going to take these pages and tuck them into your manuscript when you get to them. Write them, and keep them in mind, but don’t let them influence the rest of your process at this point.

31 Days to Plan Your Novel

Every October, hundreds of bloggers gather at The Nesting Place to write for 31 days straight on a variety of different topics, teaching and encouraging and offering tips and tricks to make life easier.

Day 15 – Why We Love the Antihero

31 Days to Plan Your Novel

An antihero is a character who lacks one or more of the ‘heroic’ qualities – like altruism, nobility, or courage. If a hero is a larger-than-life, and a better person that the reader, the antihero is typically created to be less than their audience in some way – in social conscience, for example.

An antihero may have the appearance of a villain, but it’s more complicated than that. Usually their villainous behaviour comes from pure motivations – think Severus Snape or Dexter.

And we all love a good antihero, perhaps because their characters are more complex. Yesterday I wrote a bit about adding layers of complexity to your villain to make him more believable. Using an antihero as a protagonist builds that complexity right in with the character, and the audience gets to see the internal struggle of a character desperately trying to be good, but falling just short because people just don’t understand why he’s doing all these awful things.

There is a universal appeal to the ‘bad boy with a heart of gold,’ and they are characters with endurance – think Heathcliff, Mr Rochester or the Count of Monte Cristo. They spice up storylines, and leave people craving more long after the book has closed.

31 Days to Plan Your Novel
Every October, hundreds of bloggers gather at The Nesting Place to write for 31 days straight on a variety of different topics, teaching and encouraging and offering tips and tricks to make life easier.

Day 12 – Give Minor Characters a Life

31 Days to Plan Your Novel

I read somewhere that a minor character should be a main character – of a different story. I wish I could remember who said it first, because I agree with it whole-heartedly.

In order to keep this in mind, it’s good to think of the world of your novel as a whole world. Just as you may not fully understand the lives of many of the people you interact with daily, your audience doesn’t need to know all the gory details. If a character is written with his life outside of the main story arc in mind, depth with be added automatically because you (the author) know what he’s doing in his down time.

Does this mean spending hours and hours developing unwritten story arcs for every single minor character? Of course not. But have a look at your character list, choose the minor characters who you think will be most prominent, and spend a few minutes thinking about what they do when they walk off the page. Don’t let them go home and pack themselves into a box until the next time they are blessed to interact with your story. (Unless you’re writing a story where the characters pack themselves into boxes at the end of the day and then by all means, tell us why that happens!)

31 Days to Plan Your Novel
Every October, hundreds of bloggers gather at The Nesting Place to write for 31 days straight on a variety of different topics, teaching and encouraging and offering tips and tricks to make life easier.