Posts Tagged ‘Character’

As writers seeking the one magical piece of advice making our names synonymous with Stephen King, John Grisham, Sue Grafton and a host of other best-selling authors, we’ve read it a hundred times –

If you don’t have interesting characters, you have no story. Forget interesting! The reader absolutely must love (or hate) your character and feel what they feel, as if they themselves were in the middle of that character’s world.

No argument there. But the biggest problem with advice is it doesn’t often include examples of how to bring those characters to life.

The “experts” advise spending time developing their character; come to know them as if you were playing the part.

This is called character profiling.

I’ve been at the writing game for longer than I care to admit. Through articles, blogs, how-to books, my own research, and a love affair with Google, I’ve produced an extensive character profile in Excel, my writing companion I would be absolutely lost without. As it is with most writing templates, it is an ever-changing and ever-growing work-in-progress.

My character profile is broken down into 36 categories, among them Name, Physical Description, Background, Education, Psychological, Sociological, Relationships . . . you get the idea.

The categories themselves are subdivided into 475 rows of detail. For instance, a character’s physical description includes height, weight, hair color, eye color, physique.

How much or how little of a character profile is recommended is directly related to the role the character plays in the story. A typical story will usually contain three main characters. Protagonist, Antagonist, and Love Interest, perhaps one or two more, and are the only characters requiring a “complete” character profile. Indeed, no more than a physical description is needed for the majority of the characters in the story.

It’s the “complete” in the above paragraph that bogged me down in my early days of writing, when I was naïve and took every piece of advice to heart. I wanted to be “complete” in developing my main characters, making sure I knew how they ate, talked, walked, spoke, and slept, all of which required extensive thought and decision. After all, we can’t have every character born in California and eating pasta every night for dinner.

The more I read and the more I practiced my craft, the less naïve I became. I started to take each piece of advice with a grain of salt, particularly when the advice, some from best-selling authors, often contradicted each other. You know what I’m talking about . . . you’ve been there, haven’t you?

I was spending so much time on the character profile; all it did was keep me from writing the story.

Yes, interesting characters are an absolute must for a good story, but if nothing happens to the most interesting character in the world, guess what? You have no story.

Now when I sit down to develop a story, I work my character profile and story structure in concert. By story structure I mean plots, obstacles, and conflict . . . in short . . . events, all of which need to be worked around the goals and motivations of the main characters.

I create the bare minimum of my extensive character profile, followed by at least an idea of what events will drive the actions of the characters. If I’m lucky, I’ll have a skeleton of scenes and chapters outlined, even if a particular scene/chapter description is simply ‘Detective Finds Body.’

Once I create a basic idea of the structure, I can return to my character profile and fill in only the appropriate details. For example, the fact my main character might have attended elementary school in Kansas is only relevant if something significant happened during that time and contributed to the makeup of the character. Unless I decide to write a scene in a restaurant, it’s probably not important to spend much (if any) time determining what foods the character prefers or how he or she eats.

Take it from me; filling out a comprehensive character profile should be done with extreme prejudice because it can chew up a lot of time otherwise spent writing the story.

More importantly, since the writer’s goal is to maximize show, and minimize tell, there might be a tendency to provide nothing more than a “laundry list” of a character’s traits without considering its importance. I fell into this trap early on and many times “threw” something together just to fill in the blanks.

There is an obvious benefit to using this approach. Rather than get bogged down with what might be called the administrative details, it will encourage you to start writing the story, the goal of every writer.

The biggest reason not to spend too much time on profiling is you might end up “pigeonholing” your character. If you’ve been at this game for any amount of time, I expect you’ll agree that while you draft your story, your character will be shaped and reshaped through the events, conflict, dialogue and interaction between other characters, often rendering your original character profile you spent so much time on, null and void.

Give it a try.

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I am proud to present an interview with Callie Taylor, main character from Waking Up Dead, a unique and interesting novel written by author Margo Bond Collins.

 Thank you for coming to chat with us today. Why do you think Margo Bond Collins chose  you to represent her/him?

Margo was driving to work one day and caught a glimpse of me as I drifted across the Civil War statue in the middle of downtown. Of course, I just looked like fog to her at the time. I had to expend some pretty serious energy to get her to hear me! But once she did, I was able to get my story out.

Tell us a little about yourself?

When I was alive, I was a technical writer in Dallas, Texas. But then I died—I was murdered, actually; I’ll spare you the gory details—and I ended up as a ghost haunting someplace I’d never even been. I’m now a ghost in Abramsville, Alabama. It’s the weirdest damn afterlife. . . and I’m apparently destined to spend it fighting crime.

What is your birth date?

None of your business.

Where do you live? What is it about that area that drew you?

I don’t live. I haunt. And I’m not sure what it is that drew me here. I just woke up dead in Alabama! But I do spend a lot of time with my friend Ashara and her grandmother, Maw-Maw. They’re two of the very few people who can see me!

 What’s your favorite music?

Right now? My favorite kind of music is whatever makes Ashara crazy. I like to change her music over when she’s driving. It’s easier to manipulate electronic objects than anything else, so it’s something I can do.

 Will we be seeing more of you or are you stepping out of the lime light?

Hardly anyone can see me. But my story isn’t done yet! I know I have things left to do; I just don’t know what, yet.

 What do you do to relax?

I drift. It’s kind of like sleeping, but it’s apparently what ghosts do. And when I’m not drifting, I watch a lot of television. Crime shows, mostly. Luckily I found Ashara and Maw-Maw and can interact with them. Until I found them, my afterlife was boring. BORING.

What’s your biggest turn on?

Now? Watching out for the people I care about. I’m no guardian angel—just the thought of all that responsibility gives me the creeps—but I do what I can to care for the people in my life . . . um. Afterlife. .

 What your favorite ice cream flavor, chocolate, vanilla, or strawberry?

Oh. If only I could taste food again. I can kind of smell it, which is nice. But not as nice as eating it was.

 Do you believe in ghosts?

I kind of have to, now, though I’m the only one I’ve seen so far!

 Do you feel the cover accurately represents you?

Sure. It’s a shadowy woman who disappears into nothing. That’s me these days, though when I look at myself, I still see just me, wearing the clothes I wore the day I died. Black slacks, gray button-down shirt, black leather jacket, medium-heel black boots. Casual professional. When I manage to cast a reflection in the mirror, I still look like me. Medium-toned skin, green eyes, dark wavy hair to my shoulders. But some people see me as a shadowy figure.

Waking Up Dead

Callie Taylor expected Heaven or Hell. She got Alabama. . . .

 When Dallas resident Callie Taylor died young, she expected to go to Heaven, or maybe Hell. Instead, when she met her fate early thanks to a creep with a knife and a mommy complex, she went to Alabama. Now she’s witnessed another murder, and she’s not about to let this one go. She’s determined to help solve it before an innocent man goes to prison. And to answer the biggest question of all: why the hell did she wake up dead in Alabama?

 Here is an excerpt from Waking Up Dead

When I died, I expected to go to heaven.

Okay. Maybe hell. It’s not like I was perfect or anything. But I was sort of hoping for heaven.

Instead, I went to Alabama.

Yeah. I know. It’s weird.

I died in Dallas, my hometown. I was killed, actually. Murdered. I’ll spare you the gruesome details. I don’t like to remember them myself. Some jerk with a knife–and probably a Bad-Mommy complex. Believe me, if I knew where he was, I’d go haunt his ass.

At any rate, by the time death came, I was ready for it–ready to stop hurting, ready to let go. I didn’t even fight it.

And then I woke up dead in Alabama. Talk about pissed off.

You know, even reincarnation would have been fine with me–I could have started over, clean slate and all that. Human, cow, bug. Whatever. But no. I ended up haunting someplace I’d never even been.

That’s not the way it’s supposed to work, right? Ghosts are supposed to be the tortured spirits of those who cannot let go of their earthly existence. If they could be convinced to follow the light, they’d leave behind said earthly existence and quit scaring the bejesus out of the poor folks who run across them. That’s what all those “ghost hunter” shows on television tell us.

Let me tell you something. The living don’t know jack about the dead.

Not this dead chick, anyway.

 About the Author

 Margo Bond Collins lives in Texas with her husband, their daughter, several spoiled cats, and a ridiculous turtle. She teaches college-level English courses online, though writing fiction is her first love. She enjoys reading urban fantasy and paranormal fiction of any genre and spends most of her free time daydreaming about vampires, ghosts, zombies, werewolves, and other monsters. Waking Up Dead is her first published novel. Her second novel, Legally Undead, is an urban fantasy forthcoming in 2014 from World Weaver Press.

 Buy Waking Up Dead on Amazon:

http://www.amazon.com/Waking-Up-Dead-ebook/dp/B00FOXWLM8/

 Connect with Margo

Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/author/margobondcollins

Email: MargoBondCollins@gmail.com

Website: http://www.MargoBondCollins.com

Twitter: https://twitter.com/MargoBondCollin  @MargoBondCollin

Google+: https://plus.google.com/116484555448104519902

Goodreads Author Page: http://www.goodreads.com/vampirarchy

Facebook Author Page: https://www.facebook.com/MargoBondCollins

Facebook Novel Page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Waking-Up-Dead/502076076537575

Tumblr: http://vampirarchybooks.tumblr.com/

Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/mbondcollins/

Be sure to add Waking Up Dead to your Goodreads bookshelves: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18428064-waking-up-dead

Book Trailers:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0j_TmvpxxBw

http://youtu.be/KUBg83s4BOU 100%

My Author website:

http://jstrandburg.wordpress.com