Removing the Cliché from Your Characters

Guest Posting today is Jennifer Slattery

Author Jennifer SlatteryEvery first draft I write seems to be crammed with cliché characters. The Sunday school teacher with silver hair pulled back in a bun. The buff and burly loan shark. The alcoholic husband who burps and slurps and does all sorts of other crude things unfit to share in a blog post.

With four novels in print and two manuscripts in waiting, I’ve learned how to create strong yet unique characters—in drafts two through eight. This includes allowing ugly into the first draft, swapping the expected for the unexpected, and delving deeper into the human psyche. [Read more…]

Can your reader recognize your character’s voice?

voiceOur voice is as much a part of who we are as is the shape of our face. It’s an aspect of our physical being that people come to recognize about us as they get to know us.

My dad was a traveling salesman in the days before caller ID, cell phones, and the Internet. He called home during his trips to make sure all was well. If our mom answered the phone, my dad had no problem recognizing her voice. If either of my two brothers answered, still no problem.

But…if my sister or I answered the phone, my dad often could not recognize our voice. After a sentence or two, he figured out who was speaking or he asked. You see, my sister and I are twins, and even though we aren’t identical, our voices come close.

Just as we—as writers and as individuals—have a recognizable voice, the characters in our novels have voices, too. And they shouldn’t sound like you or like every other character in your novel.

Though the reader doesn’t hear voice in the usual sense, the reader can recognize it through [Read more…]

How to Review Your Story Scenes for Conflict

horses jumping hurdles

Are the hurdles in your story growing harder?

As discussed in “6 Steps to Story Development,” a story needs conflict. In fact, without it you have no story. So let’s take a closer look and see how you can make sure you’re developing the conflict in your story.

James Scott Bell, in his book Conflict & Suspense, defines conflict this way: “a clash between at least two incompatible sides. One of those sides must be personal, that is, having the ability to exercise conscious will.”

At the heart of conflict are your character’s passion and goals. In review, here are 3 questions I posited in “Story Development”: [Read more…]

6 Steps to Story Development

spinning platesWhen you get right down to it the major goal of the fiction writer is to keep the reader reading.

And like the performer who spins plates at the top of a stick, writers must spin several plates too—characters and character arc, plot and plot development, conflict, dialog, show vs. tell, and pacing. If we focus on only one aspect of story development and neglect the others, the story falls flat.

But that’s a lot to deal with. I certainly can’t get my brain wrapped around all those things at the same time as I write.

So what’s the answer?

Focus on one at a time, using these 6 steps. [Read more…]

What do football and fiction have in common?

football field

What do football and fiction have in common?

The first thing we as writers must accomplish with our story is to hook our reader. But if we merely hook them, the reader can get away. So we must also then compel them to read on to the middle and then right through to the end of our story.

We spur our reader to the middle of our story by creating a compelling lead character with whom our readers bond. Next, [Read more…]

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