Knowing When To Show #writerwednesday

“Show the readers everything, tell them nothing.”

—Ernest Hemingway

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The fact that Hemingway wrote in a sparse and telling style, and said the above quote all at the same damn time makes absolutely no sense. But that doesn’t make him any less right. 

Well, at least half right.

Telling has its place in fiction, but every story you write definitely needs more show than tell. The reason why is fairly simple; we don’t read fiction to have someone tell us a story. In my opinion, we read fiction to experience the story through the character and the world that an author creates. 

How and when to show.

In last week’s post, we talked about how “show, don’t tell” is all about using descriptive language and using it properly. 

As an author your main goal is to provoke feelings in your reader. One of the best ways to make that happen is to focus on small details and group them in a way that when the reader closes their eyes, a vivid picture is created in their mind.

Use your character’s senses

Your words may be black writing on a white page, but the world in which your character exists should feel three-dimensional—full of sights, sounds, smells, and textures that they should take notice of with their senses. Try to ground your character in the setting or the scene using them. 

However, you don’t want to use all of the senses at once!

Noticing all five senses will result in sensory overload for the reader. I like to pick three senses--the three that I feel will make the biggest impact—and describe those in detail. Tailor this to your character’s personality and your reader will immediately connect with them. 

Use it to foreshadow events.

Foreshadowing is one of those writing devices that is difficult to do well. Show your character’s actions and reactions to hint at a future event in a way that feels significant and memorable.

Use strong verbs.

Strong verbs often imply movement. Worlds like accelerate, deploy, explore, ignite—these words invoke action that will pull the subject from one sentence into the next. However, just like telling, this bit of advice should be used sparingly. Weak verbs have their place in literature and shouldn’t be omitted completely. But if you’re looking to create tension, or draw attention to a particular scene, use strong verbs. 

Don’t use too many adverbs.

Stephen King’s quote from his memoir “On Writing” about adverbs paving the road to hell, has somehow become an unbreakable commandment for writers. While he had a point, I think that with adverbs, the writer is telling the reader what to think when they are afraid that they aren’t expressing themselves clearly. Also, if you’re using strong verbs, adverbs are rarely necessary.

When you come across an adverb in your manuscript, look at the verb that it modifies and decide if you really need it. 

But for goddsakes, don’t delete all of them. That just makes your book stiff and boring. 

Be specific.

The more specific you are, the easier it is for you to show your reader what your character is experiencing. Show us with strong verbs how they react to plot points, and how interact with the other characters. Couple this with just the right amount of telling and you will have created a dynamic scene. 


Again…this does not mean that you should write a page and a half description of your character’s dress. 

Get your characters talking!

Dialogue always shows. It’s immediate and always conveys forward movement. Just be careful about using dialogue as an info dump. Backstory has its place, but that place isn’t in a conversation between your characters. If your character says something like “As you know…” and begins to tell the reader things that they didn’t know about your character, you’re neck deep in an info dump. Take the time to determine if this information that your reader needs to know. If it’s not, don’t include it. If it is, find another place for it in your story. 

Use your character’s emotions.

Your character’s emotions are always the best way to cue your reader in to their personality traits. Their word choice, quirks, mannerisms, vocal cues, body language—all of these can be shown by describing your characters emotions. 

And now that we’re talking about body language, we’re ready to dive into the one time that I think you must always show and don’t tell: when you’re describing your character’s emotions. We’ll start that blog series next week!

Thanks for reading and happy writing!

Tasha

Knowing When To Tell #WriterWednesday

“Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.”

—Anton Chekhov

For some reason, the rumor on the internet about “show, don’t tell” is that it is hard to spot and difficult to master. I don’t pretend to be some sort of genius at this, but I think that quote from Anton Chekhov illustrates it easily and brilliantly. It’s one that I keep in mind when I’m writing. But if I’m being honest with myself, it’s a little disingenuous to say, “I know it when I see it.” The truth is, it hasn’t always been that easy for me to spot in my own writing. You only need to look at the first chapter of my first full length novel, In Her Closet, Book One of The Lust Diaries. I somehow managed to do too much of both!And a lot of the confusion can be credited to the way this particular bit of writing advice is explained.

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First, let’s define “show, don’t tell.”

In very simple terms, showing allows readers to experience the story a long with your characters rather than observing them. Telling summarizes and instead of allowing the reader to form their own decisions. Showing gets your reader involved in the story and evokes emotion. Telling distances the reader from the events and characters in the story.

Wordmakers, if you’ve been paying any attention to my posts on character development, you know that unintentionally creating distance between your characters and your reader is the last thing that I want for you. But those brief explanatory definitions, you would assume that telling is all bad and has no place in fiction. That couldn’t be further from the truth. Telling is not all bad. Like any other piece of writing advice, there is a time and a place to use it. 

“Show, don’t tell” is really about using descriptive language. 

When you’re revising your book, telling language will stand out in ways that will make them easy to spot so that you know when you’re doing it wrong. 

Here are a few ways to spot “telling” in your writing:

You give your readers conclusions instead of clues. Often this is a sign that you don’t trust that your writing will provide the evidence they need to come to the conclusion themselves.
You use vague, abstract language. If you can’t visualize what’s happening in the sentence—if it doesn’t create a picture in your mind—you’re probably telling. 

You sum up what happened. This typically happens at the beginning of a scene or at the end. Quite often, in an effort to get to the point, or “the good stuff.” Or maybe you just want to wrap it up neat and tidy with a bow. This is a sure sign that you’re telling.

You use too much backstory. Important scenes should be shown to your readers in real time. Past perfect tense is usually a good sign post for this particular mistake, ie. had watched. In The Basic Character Creation Workbook I explain when and how to use your backstory, but if you’re unsure, eliminate it altogether if it doesn’t enhance the scene in any significant way.

You use too many adjectives. Wherever you see an adjective in your writing, look at the noun or pronoun that it modifies and you’re using them creatively and to make an impact. 

Your verb usage is weak. The above mentioned adjectives are usually combined with linking verbs—verbs that connect an a a subject with an adjective or a noun, ie. was/were, is/are, felt, appeared, seemed. These verbs are weak because they don’t show any action. Replace these with more active verbs and you should eliminate the telling language. 

You use too many filter words. Saw, smell, heard, felt, watched, noticed—these are all filter verbs that describe what a character is perceiving or thinking. This is problematic because they tell the reader what the character is thinking or feeling instead of letting them experience it directly. 

You tell your reader what your character is feeling. When you name an emotion, you’re telling. This is actually the easiest one to spot and fix. Instead of naming emotions, use actions, thoughts, reactions, and body language to show what your character is feeling. 

These are all great ways to spot telling in your writing, but in my opinion, the easiest way to know when you’re telling? It’s boring. True, Hemingway is a beloved novelist, and he sure as fuck told us everything that happened to everyone in his books so this definitely something that can be left to up to interpretation. It’s just my opinion that we don’t read fiction to be told a story, we fiction to be entertained. 

Having that said, there are definitely times that you should tell. 

If you’ve written an intensely dramatic scene. If emotions are high and intense, showing too much will seem melodramatic. This is the perfect time to sum things up or gradually ease the tension with a bit of telling.

When you’re revisiting a static setting. If your characters have been to a location before, it’s fine to minimize the descriptive language you use to ground your character in the setting.

When your character is moving from one location to another. If the trip between the coffee shop and where your character works isn’t important, the reader doesn’t need a turn-by-turn navigation from point A to point B. 

When you need to convey a passage of time, a change of location, or swap point-of-view. A sentence or two to transition the reader to the next scene, location, or point of view will do. Give them just enough to anchor the reader in the scene and dive into the important stuff. 

When the details won’t advance the plot. We don’t need to watch your character work through a bit of complicated code while waiting for important information from his colleague. If there isn’t something in that code that will advance the plot, leave it out. No matter how smart it makes you sound.

When you need to write an action or fight scene. The pace of an action or fight scene should be fast and adding too many details can slow it down. Show the important details, and tell what isn’t. 

When you want to minimize the importance of a particular detail. This shows a reader that this detail is not something they need to remember. Minimizing that importance of an important detail can also be a foreshadowing trick.

When it’s part of your character’s personality. Your character might be the sort who doesn’t pay attention to detail. Some people are just more matter-of-fact. Telling important details can make it obvious that this is how they see the world. 

In summary, if you have factual information to tell your reader, It’s fine to just tell it. 

Showing a telling scene, will slow down the pace of your book. There is, however, one place in your writing where you should always show and not tell: when you’re talking about character emotions. We’ll talk about that next week.

Until then, 

Happy writing!

Tasha




How to Conquer the Dreaded “White Page Syndrome." #WriterWednesday

Before we dive in, I want to let you know about a wonderful writerly conversation that I got to have last week with the ladies at Marginally Podcast: A Podcast about Writing, Working, and Friendship.

It was a fun conversation and we talked about damn near everything there is to talk about when it comes to writing and making it fit around our daily lives. You should definitely check out that episode if only for my characteristic liberal use of the f-bomb and nerdy soliloquy to my process journal. 

Onto this weeks blog post! 

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We've talked pretty extensively about characters the last couple of months and if you've purchased The Basic Character Creation Workbook and put it to good use, you probably feel you know your characters upside down and inside out.

But for some reason, you’re still struggling with white page syndrome. This, wordmakers, is a classic case of analysis paralysis. 

Listen. I totally get it. It happens to all of us. 

This is the point when I like to do a focused free write. 

What is a focused rewrite?

A focused free write is loosely defined as writing without stopping about a specific topic for a set amount of time. I first discovered free writing when I read The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. She recommends an exercise called morning pages where you sit down and write three pages of longhand, stream of consciousness writing first thing in the morning. I’ve been writing morning pages for years and I decided it might be a good practice to employ for those days when I’m fighting that hateful blinking cursor. 

You can either set a timer for fifteen or twenty minutes or write until you fill the page. But the most important thing to remember while you're writing is to WRITE FROM YOUR CHARACTER'S POV. These prompts and questions are a lot more effective if you use them this way to find your character's voice and set the tone for your novel. 

Creative Writing Prompts 

  • Childhood memories can shape a person and can potentially effect how you relate to the world. Ask your character to describe one of their earliest childhood memories.

  • It's very easy to find things that you don't like about yourself, but so much steer to point out things that you do like. Ask your character what they see as one of their best qualities.

  • Religion and a relationship with a higher being can give your character purpose or drive them to dedicate their lives to sin in every form. Ask your character about their religious beliefs. Are the same ones that they had as a child? If so, why? If not, how and why did they change?

  • Personality traits are often attributed to where a person falls in the birth order, while certain negative traits have been assigned to only children. Is your character an only child? Ask them about how they feel about that and what benefit that see in it. If your character has siblings ask them about the pros and cons of sharing their parents with brothers and/or sisters.

  • People are often changed by love, but some are initially resistant to the vulnerability of being in love or they believe that even the slightest crush is love at first sight. Ask your character if they have ever been in love and if they have, how did they know?

  • Even the most confident person can be plagued by insecurities, especially when it comes to body image. Ask your character if they are insecure about some part of their body and in what way does that manifest. If they aren't insecure, ask them why they are confident about their physicality. Did they work hard to get that way? Or are they comfortable with their body regardless of their level of fitness?

  • Being comfortable in your own home is  important to humans. And more than likely, there is a room in your home where you feel especially happy or cozy. Ask your character which spot in their is their favorite and why.

  • The class valedictorian is often admired from afar but folks rarely ever get to know them. A coworker who always seems to overdeliver keeps everyone in the office on their toes. Ask your character if there is a fellow student or coworker that they admire. 

  • You can’t be friends with everyone and more than likely, there is one kid in your school that you couldn’t stand for whatever reason. Or you have that one coworker that never pulls their own weight. Ask your character about the worst classmate or coworker they have every had.

  • Adversity builds character. Ask you character to tell you about a time when they succeeded at something because they just refused to give up. 

  • Every city or town has its own culture, it’s own vibe. The residents of that city or town often embody that in their slang, their dress, and the type of music they like. Ask your character if they are a typical representation of the people from their home city or town. Or if they’re different, explain how and why.

  • Kids often tend to have a favorite toy or game they like to play. Ask your character what their favorite toy or game was when they were a little kids.

  • Don’t set your purse on the floor or you’ll stay broke. Don’t cut a baby’s hair before their first birthday—they’ll have “bad hair” and bad luck. If your right palm is itching it means you’re going to get some money, if the left palm is itching it means that you will lose some. These are all superstitons and some people believe in them whole-heartedly. Ask your character if they have any. 

  • Birth and death can alter the dynamics of a family or friend group. Has there been a death in your character’s family or in their close knit circle of friends? Ask you character how they were affected by that death and how it changed their lives.

  • Making friends is easy when you’re a kid but it gets harder when you become an adult, especially if you’re relocating for a job to an area where you don’t know anyone. Ask your character about a friend that they have made recently. How did they meet? What do they have in common? 

  • Your first best friend is often the most important relationship you have as a child—outside of their parents of course. Ask your character about their best friend from childhood. Are they still friends with this person? Why or why not? Tell your story about your first best friend as a child.

  • You can learn a lot about a person when you see how they keep their house or car. Is your character messy? Is cleanliness important to them?

  • Some people will live and die for their city, while others can’t wait to see their hometown disappearing in their rearview window. Is your character the dying to get out or would they rather have keep their lives small and live in the same fifteen to twenty mile radius? 

  • What’s your character’s sign? Are they a Scorpio rising or a Leo moon? Do they fit the characteristics attributed to that sign? Why or why not?

I hope that these prompts help you defeat that dreaded blinking curser! These twenty or so questions and others are available in The Basic Character Creation Workbook now available on Amazon. 

For the next couple of months we’re going to pivot a little bit to talk about that age old bit of writer advice, show don’t tell and when and how to use it. 

Until then…

Happy Writing!

Tasha


Whose Story Is It Anyway? #writerwednesday

This week, I want to take a bit of a break from the deep dive into characterization conversation we have been having to talk about point of view (POV). 

This tip is often glossed over, but I think it’s an important decision that needs to be made when you approach the page—preferably before you start writing. 

In The Basic Character Creation Workbook, I talk pretty extensively about the five characters that every story needs. Some writer’s call these archetypes, but I disagree. Archetypes, in my opinion, are far more in depth than these character designations, however here are the ones I feel are essential for a well rounded story.

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Five characters every story needs

1. The Protagonist: 

This is your main character and the story is often told from their POV (point of view). They have the most to lose. Your readers are meant to identify with this character the most.

Their journey is the source of your story’s theme and their actions and reactions drive the plot!

2. Antagonist: 

They directly oppose the charter and they are the primary obstacle between your protagonist and their goal. This can be an actual person or a aspect of your characters personality.

3. Sidekick: 

They are the Robin to your protagonist’s Batman. Loyal and supportive to your protagonist, this character’s goals align very closely with the main character, but they often different in very important ways that often compliment each other. In the case of Batman and Robin, Batman has genius level intelligence, is in peak physical and mental condition, a master at martial arts, and is a master of stealth; Robin is in non-lethal combat, detective skills, acrobatics, hacking, and is a well-trained tactician. Together they are a formidable team, but Robin—the sidekick—wouldn’t be as formidable without Batman. 

4. Mentor:

Your protagonist learns from or is aided by this character. The Mentor will often accompany the protagonist on their quest or journey and will protect them from any dangers along the way. The mentor’s main purpose is to be a moral compass for the character and keep them on the straight and narrow. Their loyalty can be swayed if the protagonist opposes them in anyway. 

5. Love Interest:

The protagonist is in love with this character, but the love interest may or may not be in love with them. This character’s purpose is to be the catalyst that sets the protagonist on their inner and outer journey. They can be supportive or oppositional depending on how committed they are to the protagonist’s goal. Meaning, if they think the goal will serve them, they’re behind it 100%. If it doesn’t, they will try to talk the protagonist out of it. The Love Interest can also be combined with characters 2 through 4.

Point of view

Now that we’ve ironed that out, let me throw you for another loop. These roles you have chosen do not determine point of view. Point of view (POV) refers to who is telling the story which means, you can tell the story from the skeptic’s POV or the antagonist’s POV or all of them alternately! The most important thing to remember is that changing the narrator does not change the role of the character in the story, but it does shift to include that character’s perception and is influenced by their beliefs and experiences? Is this confusing? Let’s talk a little bit about point of view (POV).

There are four different types of POV:

  • First—I go.

  • Second—You go.

  • Third (deep/limited and omniscient)—He/She goes (most commonly used).

Which one should you use? That’s a stylistic choice, but I will break them all down for you to make it a bit easier to decide how your characters will tell their story. 

First Person

Historically, first person point of view has been considered a big no-no. Most teachers and editors at major publishing houses strongly discourage it. It’s often misnamed as the favorite point of view for newbies. Why? The most common complaint is that writing in first is easy. It’s just you telling a story to the reader. The writing is often labeled as weak and is just the narrator telling the reader about the events in their life. Writer’s of first person fiction also tend to write summaries instead of scenes, leaving the reader outside of important events in the character’s story. I’ve read a lot of first person fiction like this and I understand why readers, editors and publishers feel that way. Reading a story inside of one character’s head can get extremely boring, which is why I don’t agree with the first sentiment that writing a first person character is easy because if it’s done well, it’s not easy at all.

Having that said…

I love reading and writing in the first person. In my opinion, first person point of view packs a powerful intimate punch. If you’re looking to have your reader completely immersed in the character, this is the POV you want to use. It also gives you an immediacy that writing in third doesn’t. Everything in first person is happening right now. In fact, I have switched from third to first as a plot device to point out the urgency of a scene before. It creates a bond with the reader and a believability that this is not a character created for their entertainment but a real person. Maybe that’s my own personal observation, but that doesn’t make it any less true. 

So how do you use first person point of view to connect with your readers? 

Balance. They key to doing it well is to make sure you’re not drowning your reader in exposition. What’s exposition? Exposition is used to introduce background information about events, settings or characters. Basically, if your novel is heavy on the exposition you’re telling me everything that is happening to the character instead of letting me read along as it happens to them. Avoiding this info dump is exceedingly difficult when you’re writing in the first person because you don’t have another character’s head you can jump into to give the reader a different perspective, but if you keep these next few points in mind it should make things easier.

First, get your character’s talking. This will not be the last time I say that dialogue is the key to eliminating telling language. In fact, I will say it so many times that it will become second nature to you. Well, I don’t know if that’s true, but I’m speaking it I not existence. Get out of your character’s heads and MAKE THEM TALK TO EACH OTHER IN REAL TIME. Relaying important conversations via summary and exposition is boring and it leaves the reader feeling left out of the action.

Which brings me to my next point…

First person narrators tend to fall into the trap of telling the reader about things that are happening instead of walking them through it. I’m not saying you have to give me a live action, play-by-play of everything your character eats, what they do in there day, or the number of times they brush their hair (unless it’s important to the narrative). I’m saying that I want to see your character move through this world that you have created. Put them in motion!

Scenes tend to be another pitfall for writer when they choose a first person narrator. I know what you’re thinking…of course I’m writing scenes! But if you’re writing in first person, chances are you are not. What you’re doing is giving your reader a recitation of events. It’s not a scene unless something happens; some sort of action, some sort of conversation that is important to the plot. Scenes show your character interacting with their setting or the other people in their world. Now, that’s not to say that there is no place in your novel for a summary of events. But if it’s something major, happening in “the now” to your character, that deserves a scene, not a summary. Scenes give the reader of a deeper understanding of a character’s feelings and reactions. 

Second Person

This is probably the least popular POV to write. It is most often used in do-it-yourself tutorials and choose-your-own-adventure novels. There are times when second person POV occurs naturally and should be used. It shares a lot of literary similarities with first person point of view, but still offers it’s own unique perspective. 

Second person can be a very powerful point of view. It instantly makes the reader part of the story and calls them to action in a way that first and third persons do not. It intensifies all the emotions in your writing because you attribute them to the reader instead of the character. They experience the story as if it’s their own.

Second person dialogue can be tricky. Similar to writing in first person, it’s very easy to lapse into a dense and exhausting narrative full of telling language. All of that telling can create distance and you lose the potency of this point of view. The most effective way to eliminate that is to pair it with first person, POV. 

Example:

It’s the middle of the night or maybe the wee hours of the morning and you are at my door pressing the bell impatiently.  It’s late and I’m slightly grumpy having been disturbed from a deep sleep. I open the door. The night is balmy, a light breeze blows ruffling your gorgeous hair.

You’ll say, “I know it’s late.” Then with a hesitant smile you’ll ask, “May I come in?”  

I step aside and you step across the threshold, brushing against me gently as you pass.

In this passage you’re aware that you (the reader) are not the narrator. There is someone else telling the story and addressing another character. 

Third Person

Third person is the favored and most common point of view used in storytelling. Newbie writer’s often choose first person POV when they are writing their first novel, unaware of how limited it can be. The inclination to choose first is most often driven by the desire to create intimacy between the character and the reader. If that is your aim, third person deep is similar to first person and can do the job nicely. But unlike first person, third person deep still allows room for the more objectivity. The first person narrator is unreliable in a way because they can only tell the story from their point of view. And just like real life, they can exaggerate or downplay their experiences or misinterpret the actions of other characters. If done right, the end result is so subtle that the reader barely notices it. In comparison, third person is usually used to tell a story from two or more points of view, exposing all perspectives and giving a larger interpretation of the story. 

Of all the ways to tell a story, third person is the most flexible. If your story or character development stalls, you can easily switch to another character. Or even if you are using third to tell the story from one character’s perspective you an step outside of that character for a wider or omniscient point of view. Third person omniscient allows the reader to experience the plot and action of the story without being influenced by the character. That flexibility can definitely give you more freedom, but you have to remain aware that stepping outside of the character too often can create a distance between them and the reader. 

Choosing the right point of view can make or break your novel. I hope that this will help you decide who tells your story and how they will do it!

Happy Writing!

Tasha


7 Ways to Write Characters Your Readers Love to Hate #WritingWednesday

In last week’s post I gave you 9 Ways to Write Characters Your Readers Will Love. This week I have some tips to help you write characters that readers will love to hate. 

You may find this surprising but its a lot easier to get your readers to hate a character. It’s really simple human psychology. All of a person’s good and wonderful deeds fade if they do or say something horrible. And when a character is completely loathsome from the get-go and your reader will never forget them. 

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Here’s a few ways to write characters we love to hate.

1. Make them a bully and/or a sadist. The east way to make a reader dislike a character is to show them deliberately causing an innocent person physical or emotional pain and suffering. If they derive some sort of pleasure from it, we will despise them even more. 

Sadistic villains may torture might torture the hero into divulging information that they don’t have. They can make demands that are impossible to fulfill so that everyone around them is constantly terrified of punishment or crushed by guilt and disappointment. 

This villain often that lacks depth. We rarely know anything about them except for their hunger for everyone’s suffering. It’s easy to see them as pure evil.

This tool is so powerful that it’s often used and misused. In order to avoid creating a cliche, it might help to keep in mind that bullies and sadist are not necessarily in love with inflicting pain and emotional distress—it’s the power that gets them off. The need to control someone else’s body, and someone else’s life is the driving force behind their actions.

2. Make them a murderer or a vigilante. This seems odd to say but killing someone doesn’t make a character likable or worth of hate. Crazy, right? Unlike bullying, murder can be justified if the intended victim is even enough, the killing can be justified. “Some people just need killing.” If the intended victim is evil enough, the murderer becomes a hero. 

Murder—and all other crimes, for that matter—only transform the character into a villain if they do it for selfish reasons, or if innocents are caught in the crossfire. A motive can make all the difference. A cold blooded killer can be sympathetic if they are avenging the deaths of innocent people. A con man who targets lonely, single mothers and drains them of every cent to their name, will not. 

3. Make them self-serving and/or self-aggrandizing. There are few things that are more annoying than a know-it-all or a self appointed expert. It’s strange dichotomy when you really think about it. We can’t stand folks who are shiftless and lack ambition, but we can’t stand a social climber or a clout chaser either. Shame and woe upon those who insinuate themselves into places where they are unwanted or uninvited. And that disdain for an interloper or self serving opportunist will linger until they have proven themselves and/or earned the respect of the group. 

This character is recognizable and can garner quite a bit of sympathy at the beginning of your story because at one time or another, we have all felt like an interloper. Be it at a new job, a new school, or a new neighborhood, we have all longed to be accepted by that new group. To make this character we love to hate, they must remain an outsider. They can never be vindicated. They must always remain too different to be accepted that fact can drive them to react in negative ways. 

4. Make them break promises. A character that breaks your hero’s trust will be a betrayal that your reader will take personally. Depending on the damage it causes, this breech of trust may even be unforgivable. This character will have a long way to go to make amends and until then, they will be see as a villain. 

5. Make them classist/and or elitist. Any character who presents as someone who believes that they are superior to others is easy to dislike. Some folks are distrustful of educated people and may even harbor some resentment toward that person. Formal speech or eloquent diction can be intimidating as well. 

6. Make them mentally unstable. This is a touchy one, but we are fearful of people who frequently experience breaks with reality. They can’t be reasoned with. They won’t talk it out. There’s no way to get them to see things from your point of view. While most people who are mentally unwell are only a danger to themselves, there are a select few who are dangerously and criminally insane and must be handled accordingly. Consider the recent Ted Bundy documentary for example. No matter how “charming” and “attractive” the media portrayed him, there is no way you can see him as a good guy after you’ve learned of his heinous crimes against women. 

7. Make them rude and/or difficult to be around. We all know what makes a person rude or difficult, but I’ll list a few: no sense of humor, a whiner, a complainer, callous, and apathetic toward others, judgmental, hypocritical. You get the jest. Slather your villain in some of these negative traits and your reader will immediately see them for who they are.

One important tidbit to remember is that everyone is a hero of their own story. None of these heroes would be interesting if all they portrayed  were the negative qualities. Find ways to justify their actions and you can effectively soften your villain into an antihero. And that, word makers, would be a worthy opponent for your hero!

Until next week…happy writing!

Tasha

9 Ways to Write Characters Readers Will Love

Hey word-makers!

I’m back after a little blogging break and ready to ring in the New Year real proper like. I hope that your holidays were happy and if they weren’t happy, at least they’re over, right?

Right.

So let’s dive back into my favorite writing topic; CHARACTERS. I swear I’m gonna get off of them one day, but that day ain’t today.

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I recently received a review for In Her Closet that spoke to my little writer heart. Here’s part of the review:

“I found Yves to be unlikable but in a very relatable way. The sort of woman who most women wished they could be or are afraid of becoming. She did what she wanted, had sex when she wanted and in the words on Destiny's Child Independent part two-She did them boys like they used to do her. I wish there were more heroines like this, but I know the reason there aren’t.”

[Insert fist pump gif]

That shit right there made me so happy, you guys. I’ve stated before that when I wrote Yves Santiago, it was with the an exact intention to give her all of the “negative” traits that we often see in romance heroes. Traits that we easily forgive once he falls in love because love redeems all things. I wanted to know if we would feel the same about a heroine. It feels good to know that I was successful. 

However, as much as I have championed purposely breaking the stereotype and suggesting some ways to make unlikeable characters more relatable, I realize that this is difficult task. Not everyone wants to do that, nor is every story meant to have an out-of-the-box character. Some times you just need a Joe Smoe or a regular-smegular girl. 

But no two readers are alike so, how can you encourage empathy for your character?

1. Make them pretty.

I’m gonna go ahead and tackle this one first, because it’s really the easiest way to get this done.

None of us wants to admit that we’re this shallow, but there are literally thousands of books and movies out there to prove us wrong. Screenwriters and film makes have it easy. All they have to do is throw Trevante Rhodes up on the screen and instantly we’re all dialed in. 

Oh, that was just me?

My bad. 

But like I said, they only need to trot out a physically attractive person to get the viewer’s attention. A novelist doesn’t have that option so we have to be more deliberate. We have to describe the character in a way that suggests attractiveness. We do that by showing how other characters respond to that attractiveness. Maybe we wax a little poetic about the timbre of a hero’s voice or how flustered and shy he becomes under our heroines advances. The secondary and tertiary characters that they interact with can compliment their looks or express jealousy or envy because they won the genetic lottery. 

However, it’s important to be careful with this because you can turn off a certain segment of readers who are sick to death of reading about incredibly attractive people. I must admit that I feel this way about blond haired, blue eyed, heroes and heroines. There are so many blond and blue eyed characters in romance that one would swear the bulk of romance are written in Scandinavia. Yes, our shallow asses love to read about someone who is not only attractive to us, but is attractive to the people in the world you have created. Just shy away from too much sameness when you’re describing them. 

2. Make them a victim/savior/martyr.

These three things could be used as plot devices to raise the stakes and increase tension, but depicting any of your characters in this way can also make your reader interested in their journey.

A victim will be pitied and the reader will hope that they are ultimately delivered from their suffering. When writing victims there is some danger of making them appear weak, but you can combat this by illustrating that they had no choice and give them either the courage to endure, or make them brave enough to rescue themselves. If they are a victim of psychological or emotional abuse, you have to make sure you’re really explains why they can’t just leave their situation.

A savior will always be the hero of a story. There’s not much you can do wrong here. Your reader will undoubtedly admire their courage to accept responsibility for others and take care of the people they love. However, the savior can look reckless and foolhardy if he rushes into the conflict in a way that makes everything worse or only interfering just enough to seem like a meddler instead of a true hero. 

The martyr is probably the most difficult of these to do well. Sacrifice doesn’t always win sympathy, especially when or if the reader feels like it was a needless sacrifice. There must be some reason for it beyond being noble or admired for that alone. Your character must really have no other choice but to make that sacrifice. It also needs to make a significant and positive difference in the lives of the supporting characters. 

3. Give them plans, purpose, ambition, and dreams. 

A lot of newbie authors make the mistake of letting the story happen to their characters versus letting their characters actions drive the plot. This cream a character with no initiative who seems to be pushed around by the plot until the writer runs out of things to put them through and decides to write “the end.” The best way to combat this is to always have your character arrive on the page with a purpose or plan. This way  the the plot point is presented you have a thing that your character is trying to achieve. 

In addition to plans and purpose, if you’re treating your characters as real people they will have hopes, dreams, and hopefully ambitions. The are easy things to get your reader to sympathize with, especially if you ground them in the five categories of human desire. These are things that every human needs to survive and thrive. Your reader will indentify with them even more if your character puts great importance on that dream or desire. 

If your story is about your characters plan—also called a quest—you characters journey toward obtaining their goal is immediately sympathetic. This is why we root for Luke Skywalker, Katniss Everdeen, and even characters like Dexter Morgan or the murderous and deceitful heroes of dark romances. We get caught up in their plans and dreams even when those things are appalling or criminal. 

4. Make them risk it all. 

Real tension and conflict is create when your character has something to lose. Be it a social, physical, or a financial risk, make them do what is right or necessary in pursuit of their goals—even up to breaking the law or turning a blind eye when someone else commits a crime. From that moment on, their fate is tied to that person or event and we will root for them to overcome it. 

In that risk, however, there must be some sense of fairness. They shouldn’t be sneak, underhanded, or a cheater just for the sake of presenting some sort of negative trait that they have to over come That won’t garner much sympathy. Readers will respond warmly to a character who is brave and at least attempts to play fair, but will find it difficult to connect with a character who is morally bankrupt.

5. Make them a positive and/optimistic about their goals.

Your characters attitude toward other people, their inner dialogue with themselves, and their approach to the plot points in the story can sway the reader from ambivalence to like. A character who takes responsibility for their mistakes, responds to their trials and tribulations with self-deprecating humor, and always strives to improve themselves will show your reader a struggle that they recognize. We’re all trying to be better people aren’t we? And in that way, your character is just like us. A character that is written the complete opposite way can also be endearing, but the ones who feel, think, and struggle just like us are the ones that we love to love. 

6. Make them selfless. 

Doing a courageous thing without seeking recognition is probably one of the most difficult things to do in real life so it would definitely be commendable in a fictional character. This is not something the should be forced into, it should bring them fame or fortune, and should be approached with modesty, and humility. Selflessness is a form of sacrifice, so of course it will garner sympathy.

7. Make them dependable and reliable.

In the words of Tony Montana, “all I have in this world is my balls and my word and I won’t break them for no one.” A character who is a good guy, who keeps his word no matter what will be easy to fall in love with. Especially when everything and everyone tries to make their word impossible to keep. Never underestimate the impact of a promise. Promises kept and promises broken are a reoccurring theme in fiction.

8. Make them clever. 

This is different from intelligence, because intelligence can be misinterpreted as elitist or snobbish. Clever is being smart without flaunting your intelligence. It’s using your street smarts to get out of sticky situations. It’s conquering a situation with self confidence and being surprised that it words. Readers love a character who solves a problem with exactly the right facts when they need them, but they don’t like a pompous know-it-all that flaunts that knowledge. 

9. Make them perfectly imperfect.

Now that I’ve given you a long list of squeaky clean, perfect character that we love to love, now I’m going to tell you to give them some imperfections. Your character needs some flaws or they won’t have anything to overcome and your reader will have nothing to root for. So scuff them up a little bit. Make them a smoker. Make them brutally honest. Give them anxiety or a deep rooted need to always drink green smoothies for breakfast whilst complaining about how awful they taste. Dig into their backstory and give them a limiting belief that makes them feel real. 

Any of these 9 things will make your character an instant favorite that will stick with your reader. If you need a little bit of help crafting that character, pick up a copy of The Basic Character Creation Workbook!

Thanks for reading and happy writing!

Tasha

How I Set Up My Writing Journal #TipTuesday

How I set up my writing journal.

A few weeks ago, I was a guest on Rachael Herron’s podcast How Do You Write. It was a fun conversation during which I had a chance to nerd out about journaling and tarot and writing processes because that’s what I do. Pop over and give it a listen! 

After that call, my thoughts turned toward goal setting and planning for 2019. Part of that planning involves me looking back through my writing journals from this year, and taking note of what I have accomplished and deciding what projects I want to focus on in the new year. Which made me think that I should share this part of my process with my fellow word makers.

Keeping a journal specifically for writing has become the best and most useful tool in my writer’s toolbox.

Whether you use a cheap spiral notebook, loose leaf paper and a binder, a beautifully bound journal, or your Evernote app, getting in the habit of keeping what really amounts to a writing logic one of the easiest ways to stay productive and keep yourself on track. I know that a lot of writers recommend this, and I’ll be the first to admit that it doesn’t work for everyone. Establishing a habit of any kind takes commitment, and sometimes that feels like added pressure on top of the writing itself, so feel free to skip it. But for those of you who are looking for a way to focus on your writing in a way that will help you discover your practice, here you go!

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How to start your own writing journal.

First, make a short term commitment to start. I’m sure you’ve all heard that it takes 21 days to make or break a habit so that’s a good way to start. 

During those 21 days, set aside a time and place to plan each entry in this way. 

  • Date

  • Title of story/article

  • Projected word count

  • Article topic or scene/chapter you’re writing that day (this can be a brief synopsis of two to three sentences)

  • What is points need to be made in this article? Or what needs to happen in this scene/chapter?

  • Who is in this scene/chapter?

Then close your journal and get to work! 

Once you have completed your writing for the day, come back to your journal and ask yourself these questions.

  • Did you meet your projected word count?

  • How do you feel about what you wrote today?

  • How do you feel about writing today? Was it hard? Easy? Fun? 

After you write your twenty first entry on the twenty first day, reread your journal and write an end of month entry that sums up your 21 days of writing. In this entry, ask yourself these questions:

  • How many words did you write? Was that more or less than the month prior? Do you want to set a projected word count goal for the month?

  • Have you completed all of your writing projects? If yes, GREAT! If no, why not?

  • Did your writing journal keep you on track?

  • Will you continue to use your writing journal as a habit trader to hack your process.

Keeping a writing journal is the best way to have a real inventory of your process over time. Before long, you will recognize patterns, identify the point in your book where you always feel blocked, and learn way to get around it, or just keep a record that will be an amazing way to look back on your accomplishments for the year.

Happy writing!


There’s Levels to this sh*t: The Character Hierarchy #WriterWednesday

As authors we all know that all characters are not created equal.

To put it bluntly, there’s levels to this shit and how you handle these characters can let your readers know which characters are important to the story and which will exit stage left without making an impact. But how do you determine the importance of a character? 

Characters will typically fall into these three levels of importance:

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Main characters: 

These are the characters that you spend most of your time developing. You’re telling their story. The stakes are higher for them and they have the most to lose. Their desires and actions drive the plot.

Secondary characters:

Secondary characters serves as devices to challenge the main character or as key pivot points in the plot. They show up multiple times in the story. Their actions and desires may serves as plot twists but don’t play a role in shaping the overall plot.

Tertiary characters:

This character is the is the background, the colorful tapestry that populates the world just beyond the peripheral view of the main and secondary characters.

How to use each character in the hierarchy.

It’s important to remember that there are levels of importance to the characters in your story because each of them have different roles. We don’t need to know their deepest inner conflict just because they made it to the page, but the reader will certainly remember the chain-smoking neighbor how routinely drops bits of wisdom on your main character while the share a cigarette on the front stoop. Here’s a few ways that you can use each of these three characters effectively.

Tertiary characters

Unless you’re writing a book about an agoraphobic character who never leaves her home, your character will live in a world populated by people who aren’t involved in their every day lives. In a previous post I talked about stories about place. Tertiary characters and your setting help to shape these stories and make them more impactful. 

Make them part of the scenery.

These characters don’t necessarily need “speaking lines,” but they can and should interact with your character in a some simple way. They can be the barista who hands out encouraging affirmations with your coffee or the Uber driver that test you a colorful story on your way to the airport. But be careful with how you handle these “walk-on” characters to make sure they don’t spend too much time on the page. 

Here’s an example to illustrate how to use tertiary characters in your story.

Down on our shared stoop, my elderly neighbor Mrs. McKinney sat perched on the second step, working on what looked like her second cigarette. I sighed wearily and sat down next to her.

“Morning, Mrs. Mac.”

“Mornin’, little girl.”

She knew that I was twenty-five years old, but anyone younger than Mrs. McKinney must seem like an infant. The woman had to be at least seventy. She may have been pretty once, but now she was so heavily wrinkled that she resembled hand-wrung washing. She had a long salt and pepper grey braid that hung down to her waist, blue eyes slightly clouded with cataracts, and a crabby attitude that scared the neighborhood kids. There was a Mr. McKinney, but he died a couple of years ago. Mrs. McKinney hasn’t been the same since. She seemed a bit sadder—a bit slower. Her kids tried to make her move to a nursing home, but she put up such a fuss, they decided it was better to just to leave her alone. They came by from time to time to check on her—take her to the grocery store, doctor’s appointments, and such—but mostly it was just Mrs. McKinney and like ten cats. She kind of smelled like stale cigarettes and dirty kitty litter, but who was I to judge? Especially since Maniac was one of the feral kittens she fed who had run into my apartment the day I moved in and never left.

“Can I bum a cigarette off you?”

Mrs. McKinney looked at me with her rheumy, blue eyes and tapped out a cigarette. “If you have a habit, you should be able to support it.”

I took it and pinched it between my lips. “I know, I know, but I thought I would try to quit.”

“Didn’t stick, huh?” She passed me a tattered book of matches.

I grunted, struck the match, and lit the long, thin cigarette. Mrs. McKinney smoked Virginia Slims. They tasted like shit, but they would do in a pinch. 

In Her Closet, The Lust Diaries: Book One

Later on in the novel, Mrs. Mckinney and Yves share a cigarette on the stoop and have a conversation that bookends this one. She’s important, but we don’t need to know much more about her other than her interaction with the main character. This scene, among others, paint the world of Yves Santiago. 

Tertiary characters are also a good place to illustrate diversity in the world that you’ve written. 

There has been a lot of conversation over the years about diversity and how mainstream fiction is overwhelmingly white. Unfortunately that message has been distorted and I will probably write a post about it someday, but I wanted to highlight this as one way that authors can tell a diverse story without stepping into #ownvoices territory.

Having that said, when you’re crafting this character, make sure you are playing into negative stereotypes. Some authors will say the exact opposite and they encourage sticking to stereotypes when you’re crafting tertiary characters, but honestly, I feel like that is boring and lazy writing. There are plenty of negative stereotypes in literature and film. There is absolutely no reason why you need to add to that catalogue by making all of your bad guys black, or every spanish speaking foreigner a day laborer. DELIBERATELY BREAK THE STEREOTYPE! 

No author is expected to include every marginalized person in every story, but making the “scenery” of your book colorful and diverse is a good place to start. Make your small town less white and affluent. Paint a real picture of the world around you.

Secondary characters

At tis level, your character will get some development if only to establish how they relate to the main character and what purpose they serve in the plot. The reader should notice this character, and anticipate that something pivotal or important is supposed to happen when they appear on the page. They still shouldn’t be scene stealers but the scenes that feature them should be memorable.

How do you make the secondary characters memorable?

Make them eccentric, or odd.

When I think of eccentric secondary characters, the first that comes to mind is Mrs. Havisham from Great Expectations by Charles Dickens. A chain smoking heroine, trapped in a bygone era who lives in a mansion that’s falling down around her tends to stick in your mind, dunnit? We don’t know much about Mrs. Havisham. We don’t ever really find out why or how she came to be this way, but she plays a very important role in how Finn and Estella relate to each other. 

This is eccentricity at it’s finest. 

Exaggerate their seemingly normal human traits.

In Jeff Lindsay’s Dexter Series, he paints Dexter Morgan as a khaki wearing and achingly normal blood splatter analyst who’s flat affect and dry humor hide a sadistic, sociopathic, serial killer. He does this so effectively that the reader is completed to root for him to escape the punishment he deserves for the crimes he has committed.

Or maybe that was just me.

In each book, Dexter struggles with trying to appear more normal while still appeasing his dark rider. 

I realize that Dexter is a main character, but you can apply these same attributes to a secondary character to make them more interesting. 

Give them an obsession.

There are definitely levels to an obsessive character with the most obsessive being the one you want to stay away from—unless that is part of your plot. For the most part, you want them to bel less Joe from You written by Caroline Kepnes and more Elijah from my trilogy The Lust Diaries who cyber stalks Yves with nothing but the best intentions. 

The difference between secondary and main characters is how often they appear on the page—and no there is no set number of scenes or chapters. However, be careful when and how you introduce them because if they  are super impactful, your reader may spend the rest of the book wondering about the sleepy Jamaican artist your character had to deploy her ninja skills to escape instead of focusing on her true love interest. 

Main characters.

This character is usually the reason why you started writing your book in the first place. As previously stated, the stakes are highest for them. They have the most to lose and their actions and desires drive the story.

Your main characters require the deepest characterization and would benefit from a run through The Basic Characterization Workbook. Their back story, central problem, goals and motivations will drive the plot. 

Once you have all of that done there are a few ways to signal to the reader that this is the character that they should care about. 

Their choices make changes.

Your main characters should be informed by their central problem—the damaging belief or inner conflict that they have to overcome or face to achieve their goal. Make those choices important enough to have a real affect on the story.

Make them the focus.

This particular way of writing a main character is effective if your story is told from alternating points of view, while the main character never really appears on the page. Everyone sees them, listens to them speak, and talks about them behind their back which elevates their importance. In fact, their absence becomes the big even at the center of the story, and makes this off screen character the vehicle for the plot. 

Tell the story from their point of view.

This, more than any other device, is the most potent way to elevate the importance of your character. Telling the story from their point of view allows the readers to sympathize and empathize with characters that resemble themselves, a loved one, or even an enemy. 

If you establish character hierarchy early on, it makes storytelling much easier. Knowing the roles each character will play will give your story balance and continuity. 

Have you read a truly memorable character lately? Tell me about it in the comments!

Happy Writing!
Tasha

End at The Beginning: a #NaNoWriMo2018 wrap-up post

If you've been following me any amount of time, you probably already know that I treat #NaNoWriMo as a time to create and test new processes. This year was no different.

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This year instead of writing a new novel, I decided to plot.

And fellow word-makers, it was the smartest thing I've ever done. What made me decide to do this? Well, I finally started implementing all of that good advice I read and listened to about getting my shit done. Completely wild, right? Imagine buying and read 20 odd books on being an entrepreneur and downloading fifty-eleven podcasts on entrepreneurship and never implementing a thing? Don't say you heard it from me, but I’m pretty sure that someone we know is guilty of that shit.

I’m the someone we know, you guys. That someone is me.

What is batching?

Batching is a productivity and time management hack that is designed to maximize concentration and decrease distraction. As a result, it increases your productivity, creativity, and mental sharpness, while decreasing the fatigue, procrastination, and stress that comes with creating content. For this particular post, let's call that content BOOKS.

There are lots of ways to batch, but the one that I use exclusively is the Pomodoro Technique. The technique uses a timer to break down work into intervals, traditionally 25 minutes in length, separated by short breaks. There are lots of free tools to get you started. I use an app called Focus Keeper. It’s free on iTunes. After spending some time deciding what I want to work on and choosing one of my meditation apps, I get to work! 

How batching helped me plot like a bawse.

Okay now that I’ve explained batching and how I use it for productive and time management, here’s how I applied it to my process to make plotting and planning more efficient, and dare I say, fun!

Back in October I published a The Basic Character Creation Workbook. This is a stripped down version of my character creation process, which because I was simply laying the ground work for novels that I want to write in the future, is a great baseline. I’m the sort of writer who’s plotting and planning process lives in character development. If I get hung up somewhere in my book, I can almost guarantee that it’s because it’s because of something I don’t know about my characters. Shit gets real sketch if I skip or skimp on this part of the process. It hurts when I do that so I don’t do that. 

Also in the month of October (aka Preptober) I did a blog series called 11 Days & 11 Ways to Plot Your Novel. I’ve always known there were different ways to plot a novel, but researching all of the different ways was very eye-opening and informative. It also encouraged me to fully incorporate Romancing The Beat, a plotting process that I’ve been implementing in small doses but never making a full commitment. 

Using these tools I chose four books that I wanted to plot and plan and then I created a schedule to make actionable. There was a bit of a SNAFU at the beginning because NaNoPlotMo didn’t start on a Monday. Not gonna lie…that stressed me the fuck out. I didn’t want to start in the middle of the week but I didn’t want to lose four days of work on these projects either. As luck would have it, I picked up a small editing job that filled those four days so it all worked out. 

Please excuse my neuroses. Here is the schedule:

What did I accomplish?

I plotted and planned four short novels:

  • A Secret Baby/My Best Friend’s Sister romance which is the first in a series spins off from The Truth Duet

  • A Submissive Male/Friends to Lovers Romance, which is a standalone novel from The Lust Diaries world)

  • My VIRGIN HERO book. You guys, this is basically competence porn with handy lady and an eager inexperienced guy and I live for every word of this plotting because these two…PHEW!

  • My NOLA LOVE NOVEL which will be modern gothic romance that I can’t wait to dive into.

What did I learn?

Like always, focusing on writing during NaNoWriMo gives me a huge boost of motivation. I work with authors all the time, and while that is fun, it doesn’t allow me to focus on my own writing in the way I would like. Batching my novel planning process was clutch and it allowed me to take care of my ideas so that I don’t get Big Magic’d. 

I also gained more faith and belief in my current process. Probably need to finds some wood to knock on before I type this, but I think I’m getting close to perfection with this thing. *Fingers crossed*

How about you? Did you win #NaNoWriMo? Did you discover something new about your process? Let me know in the comments!

Tasha

Characterization: Likability VS. Relatability #writerwednesday

The dreaded unlikable character.

When Yves Santiago, my main character from The Lust Diaries, first came to me, I knew she would be what folks like to call “an unlikable character.” I crafted her that way intentionally. Why would I want my main character to come across as unlikable in a book written completely from her point of view, you ask? Well, after reading god knows how many books and equally as many reviews, I noticed that readers were willing to accept pretty much anything from the hero as long as he was able to redeemed in the end. He can be promiscuous, gruff, mean, and sometimes, a downright asshole and readers would still titter about how they wanted him to be their book boyfriend on Twitter. I 100% admit to enjoying romance novels with a gruff, brooding, borderline asshole hero, but I also wondered what would happen if I gave those same characteristics to a heroine?

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What exactly is an unlikeable character?

An unlikable character is a character that has little or no pleasant or appealing qualities. Yves Santiago was promiscuous, emotionally unavailable, bad with money, impulsive, caustic and rude when challenged, and on top of that, she’s a shit friend and isn’t the greatest sister, daughter, or Auntie. 

Yves just messy AF. If she were a real person, I would only deal with her in small doses because while her drama is entertaining, I would not want to be pulled into that vortex on a daily basis. 

Now you’re probably wondering how I wrote this completely undesirable character and managed to escape a shitstorm of 1 star reviews. 

That’s easy. 

I realized pretty early on that a character doesn’t necessarily need to be likable in order to be relatable. Now when it comes to crafting characters, relatable doesn’t always mean the same thing that it does in real life. Relatable just means that her life experiences, her feelings, moods, and actions all make sense, which is where good character development comes in.

This is how you make sure your unlikable character is still relatable:

1. Make sure your character’s motivations inform their thoughts and actions. 

Yves Santiago is the queen of bad decisions and most of those decisions were about the men she chose to lie down with. But people make bad decisions in real life and we don’t completely write them off, right? Right. And we don’t write them off because, more often than not, we realize that they have some sort of underlying issue—a reason for their assholish behavior. It should be the same for your character. 

During your character development, you should discover your character’s central problem that will explain and inform their terrible, awful decisions and seemingly random actions. Once you’ve found that central problem, share it with the reader—I suggest that you make part or all of it known to the reader in the first act. 

Why the first act? 

The first act is where you introduce your character and foreshadow/hint at the conflict. It’s also the place where you want to get your reader invested in what happens to your character. That doesn’t mean you have to show your whole hand, you just want to foreshadow the central problem and put them through trials that will reveal how the central problem keeps them from living their best life. 

2. Make them worth saving.

It’s very rare that someone is all good or all bad. A hot mess like Yves is redeemable because even though she constantly makes bad and selfish choices, she’s always striving to be a better person. The same goes for your unlikable character. The first and easiest way to do this is to have them acknowledge that they are a horrible person because of some significant event that happened in their past. Your backstory can go a long way toward helping you find your character's central problem and knowing it will help you foreshadow the conflict and the resolution. 

3. Give your unlikable character likable friends and/or family.

This can pretty much be summed up with “who is in your character’s crew?” Who do they roll with every day? Who seems to be able to not only endure their bullshit but actually seek them out and enjoy their company? Everyone has that someone and your character should too even if they don't acknowledge them. 

The likable friend can also be a mirror for your character. A good, likable friend can help you explain or illuminate your character’s issues in a way that doesn’t feel they are making excuses for being an insufferable asshat. 

For Yves, that character is Ava Marie. She calls Yves on her bullshit constantly and loves on her when she needs it. Yves serves that same purpose for Ava in The Truth of Things. These two are alternate between being at each other’s throats and weeping because they haven’t spent enough time together, but their friendship feels genuine. Giving Yves that sort of relationship makes her flaws seem less intolerable. 

Note how I said less. Yves still had to do the work on her own to overcome her central problem and find her happily ever after. 

But that’s it friends! Keep these three tips in mind while you’re crafting your unlikable character and they will be well-rounded, relatable and most importantly, memorable. 

Do you need a little help crafting your unlikable hero or heroine? Grab a copy of The Basic Character Creation workbook!

Happy Writing!

Tasha