Does your character use a knife as a weapon? Do you know absolutely nothing about knives? That’s okay, because I am here to help with this handy-dandy guide about knives and knife fights.
Characters are the stars of our stories. For some of us, they form with fully-fledged personalities in our first drafts—we know the way they look, dress, eat, sleep, and dream. At other times, a character seems to be flat, stereotypical, cold—refusing to come alive for the author.
Here are two short steps you may want to try to make your characters spark again.
- Give your character one of your physical traits. If you’re writing a romance, maybe your heroine shares the same eye colour or facial features. If you’re writing a thriller, perhaps your villain has the same dislike of his hands or legs that you harbour. It can be a positive or negative body trait—it is there simply to help you connect with your character on a deeply personal level. You are forced to invest your own life in a fictional creation.
- Give your character one personal trait you don’t possess. If you’re the most impatient person at work, make your detective the most persevering and tolerant person imaginable. Perhaps you have never been interested in cooking—make the mother in your family saga an aspiring Nigella Lawson. By creating opposites, you are forced to test your character’s reactions and authenticity.
These tips apply even if your story is not autobiographical. If you’re writing fantasy or science fiction, you can still tweak them to apply. Perhaps your alien shares your fear of giving birth, or your grand wizard possesses the analytical abilities you don’t. As a rule, ask yourself: ‘If I could give my character something of me – what would it be?’
by Anthony Ehlers
Author Tom Pawlik examines character development by explaining the 9 ingredients behind great literary characters.
WHAT IS A CHARACTER-DRIVEN NOVEL ANYWAY?
I don’t write character-driven novels. Heck, I’m not even sure what the term means. I used to think it was when an author spent hundreds of pages muddling around inside a character’s head just to fill the gaps between a couple paragraphs of action.
I prefer to write plot-driven suspense thrillers. But how does the low-brow thriller writer create good characters? I’m still a novice on the subject so this is by no means a definitive exposition, just 9 ingredients I jotted down to make a clever acrostic: CHARACTER.
(Look here for a list of thriller agents.)
1. Communication style: How does your character talk? Does she favor certain words or phrases that make her distinct and interesting? What about the sound of her voice? Much of our personality comes through our speech, so think about the way your character is going to talk. Her style of communication should be distinctive and unique.
2. History: Where does your character come from? Think out his childhood and adolescence. What events shaped his personality? What did his father do for a living? How about his mother? How many siblings does he have? Was it a loving family or an abusive, dysfunctional one? What events led him to the career choices he made? You may not need to provide all this background to your reader, but it’s good to know as the writer. It helps give him substance in your mind as well.
3. Appearance: What does she look like? This may be the least important ingredient to make your character a person to the reader, but you should still know it in your own mind. Not every character needs to be drop-dead gorgeous, by the way. Most people aren’t.
4. Relationships: What kind of friends and family does he have? How does he relate to them? Is he very social or reclusive, or somewhere in between? People can be defined by the company they keep, so this can be a good way to define your character.
5. Ambition: Just as this is the central letter of the acrostic, so too this concept is absolutely central to your character and plot. What is her passion in life? What goal is she trying to accomplish through your story? What is her unrecognized, internal need and how will she meet it?
6. Character defect: Everyone has some personality trait that irritates his friends or family. Is he too self-centered? Too competitive? Too lazy? Too compliant? Too demanding of others? Don’t go overboard on this. After all, you want your reader to like the character. But he’ll feel more real if he has some flaw. This is usually connected to his unrecognized need (see Ambition) and often gets resolved through his character arch.
7. Thoughts: What kind of internal dialogue does your character have? How does she think through her problems and dilemmas? Is her internal voice the same as her external? If not, does this create internal conflict for her? In real life we don’t have the benefit of knowing someone’s innermost thoughts, but a novel allows us to do just that, so use it to your advantage.
8. Everyman-ness: How relatable is your character? While James Bond is fun to watch on screen, most of us aren’t uber-trained special agent-assassins so it’s a little hard to relate to him on a personal level. On the other hand, Kurt Russell’s character in the movie Breakdown was far more ordinary and relatable, creating a more visceral experience. Be careful not to make your character too elite or he may be too difficult to live vicariously through. And that, after all, is the key to suspense.
9. Restrictions: More than a personality flaw, what physical or mental weakness must your character overcome through her arch? After all, even Superman had Kryptonite. This helps humanize your character, making her more sympathetic and relatable.
The goal is to make your readers feel something for your character. The more they care about them, the more emotion they’ll invest in your story. And maybe that’s the secret.
Maybe every novel is character-driven after all.
Okay, first, remember that a kiss is much, much more than just lips. It is lips, but also tongues, teeth, eyes, faces, hands, noses, bodies, heartbeats, breath, voice- and most importantly, a kiss is emotions. A kiss without emotion is just wet mushy lips stuck together. Ew. Gross. The most important part of a kiss isn’t the how, but the who- because of the emotions between the two people.
lips- Lips can slide, glide over each other smoothly, or they can be chapped and rough and dry and get stuck on each other. They can match, top-to-top and bottom-to-bottom, or they can overlap, with one person’s top or bottom lip captured between the other person’s lips (yummy). If there is lipstick or chapstick there is lipstick or chapstick flavor, otherwise, lips don’t have a taste (can you taste yours?). Lips also can smack- the sound of two of them coming together or pulling apart, because they’re wet and warm and soft.
tongue- Tongues are always wet, and always warm. They’re very versatile. They can trace over lips, teeth, or another tongue. They can be smooth and graceful or teasing and flicking. When tongues are involved, there is drool. It’s only sexy when you like the person you’re kissing, or else it’s kinda gross. :P
teeth- teeth can clack together awkwardly, or teeth can bite down sensually. A person biting their own lip is cute, a person biting another’s lips is sexy. A person biting gently is sensual, a person biting roughly is sexual.
eyes- Eyes can be wide open with surprise, half-lidded with desire, fully closed with pleasure. Eyes can gaze lovingly, lustfully, wistfully, hungrily, seductively- it all depends upon the emotions of your characters. Have them do whatever you like, but don’t leave them out- give them at least a mention!
faces- Faces are what the lips are attached to. Noses bump, cheeks flush, ears turn red, foreheads either wrinkle or relax. Kisses can leave lips, quite easily, and become kisses on chins, cheeks, noses, foreheads, ears, necks, throats. Kisses on noses or foreheads are cute and adorable, kisses on cheeks are sweet, kisses on chins, ears, and throats are very sexual. And a kiss on the lips can be all of those! <3
hands- Hands are super-important. In order to describe a kiss, usually you want to also describe the hands. Where are they? Does one character have their hand behind the other’s head or back, holding them close? Are they on someone’s shoulders pulling them near, or pushing them away? Fingers brushing someone’s cheek or palms grabbing someone’s ass convey two very different kinds of situations, even if the kiss itself is exactly the same.
noses- Noses are annoying. They easily get in the way, especially for first kisses! People have to tilt their head to one side or the other, and if they don’t, noses bump. I’d only mention noses if a kiss is supposed to be awkward or uncertain or nervous.
bodies- bodies are either close together, or far away. Someone can be surrounded comfortingly by someone’s arms, or terrifyingly trapped by them. Bodies are warm or hot, they are calm or nervous, relaxed or tense. Body language says a lot. Is your character pulling away, or moving closer?
heartbeat- Hearts can beat fast or slow, and that’s about all they can do- but there are lots of reasons why they do! A heart can beat fast with fear or excitement or nervousness; a heart can pound with lust or race with terror or sing with joy. Hearts can glow, cower, or shatter. When you really want to drive the emotions of a character home, mention the heart.
breath- To me, the most consuming part of a kiss is the breath. The air that someone else has just breathed going deep into your lungs is very intimate. Lips and tongues don’t have a taste, but breath does. Each person’s breath tastes different, smells different, and surrounds a person differently than anyone else’s breath. Breath can be warm and sweet, breath can be hot and sexy, breath can be hot and frightening. It is something that is very present and should not be left out. A lot of writers leave breath out. And it’s so important; it’s the most intimate part of a kiss. Someone else is breathing into your lungs, and it’s either heaven or it’s hell.
voice- Voice conveys much, even without words. A voice can groan, whimper, gasp, moan, catch, whine, scream, sigh. Voice can convey emotion powerfully, and while some kisses are silent, usually they’re not.
emotion- Emotion is the most important- and the thing you try not to say. You want to describe it, through all of the things above, so that it’s perfectly clear what your characters are feeling, without you ever using the “feelings words”. If they’re in love, their bodies will lean close, their eyes will smile, their voices will giggle softly. If they’re nervous, their palms will sweat, their noses will bump, their voices will shudder. If they’re afraid, their muscles will be tense, their faces will grimace, their lips will not open. Emotion is the color that you keep inside your mind as you write; it’s the base line that drives the description behind everything else you say.
Wow, that was a lot! Gosh I hope it wasn’t too much! Keep in mind not every kiss has all these things- this is just a list of things to consider when writing a kiss, and based on how long of a kiss you want to make. Keep in mind that typing “they kissed for a long time”…that’s six words, it takes half a second to read, so that’s a short kiss! If you want a long kiss, you need long sentences that make the reader linger.
So maybe to start off, pick three things on the list to describe in your first kiss. Don’t try to do it all- that would be too much for even the most epic kiss. Just pick what’s most important to this particular scene, to these particular characters, and describe those parts along with the lips, and you’ve got yourself an awesome, emotional kiss.
As with all activities, writing fiction involves getting to grips with professional jargon. The following are some of the more common terms you may come across as you learn your craft and market your writing.
POV (Point of View): the eyes through which the events of a story are seen.
MC: The main character in a story.
WIP (Work in progress): the thing you are currently working on.
Simsub (Simultaneous submission): submitting the same piece of work to more than one magazine/publisher at the same time.
Multisub (Multiple submission): sending more than one work to the same magazine/publisher at the same time.
MG (Middle Grade): generally speaking, readers between 8 and 12 years old.
YA (Young Adult): generally speaking, readers between 12 and 18 years old.
MS/MSS: MS means manuscript. MSS is the plural, manuscripts.
GL: Guidelines, describing what a publisher is interested in seeing.
DL: Deadline: the cut off-date for a submission.
Query Letter: A concise (one-page) pitch of an idea to an agent/publisher, to see if they are interested in reading a manuscript.
Bio: Biographical details as supplied to an agent or publisher, including, for example, any previous writing credits.
Slush/Slushpile: A pile, often large, of unsolicited manuscripts sent to a publisher or editor.
Beta Reader: A secondary reader (after the writer) who checks a work with a view to spotting mistakes or suggesting improvements.
Copy Editor: Someone who edits a manuscript for grammatical mistakes as well as spotting plot inconsistencies etc.
Proof Reader: A person who checks that the proof of a work (the version ready for printing) matches the original manuscript.
NaNoWriMo: National Novel Writing Month – actually fairly international these days. Participants attempt to write a complete novel in one month (November).
The following are the definitions of the lengths of short stories, novels etc. employed by the Science Fiction Writers of America. Others may use different definitions.
Short Story: A work under 7,500 words
Novelette: A work of between 7,500 and 17,500 words
Novella: A work of between 17,500 and 40,000 words
Novel: A work of 40,000 words or more
Flash Fiction: Very short fiction. Definitions vary, but less than 1,000 words and can be as short as 100 words or even less.
Twitter Fiction : Fiction short enough to fit into a Tweet, i.e. up to 140 characters long.
Finally, the following are some of the abbreviations you may come across to describe the various genres of fiction:
SF: Science Fiction (or Speculative Fiction).
HSF: Hard Science Fiction
SSF: Soft Science Fiction
EF: Epic/High Fantasy
DF: Dark Fantasy
UF: Urban Fantasy
MR: Magical Realism
GH: Gothic Horror
1. To join two independent clauses, use a comma followed by a conjunction, a semicolon alone, or a semicolon followed by a sentence modifier.
- The delivery boy knew he carried strange cargo, but still ventured off unafraid.
- The delivery boy knew he carried strange cargo, but he still ventured off unafraid.
- My math teacher doesn’t know how to lecture, she should have remained a student.
- My math teacher doesn’t know how to lecture; she should have remained a student.
- Gregory has not changed physically; but has given himself an excuse to separate himself from the pain of previous experiences.
- Gregory has not changed physically, but he has given himself an excuse to separate himself from the pain of previous experiences.
2. Use commas to bracket nonrestrictive phrases, which are not essential to the sentence’s meaning.
- The bus driver with her ears tuned to the roar decided to take the grumbling bus on a detour across the football field.
- The bus driver, her ears tuned to the roar, decided to take the grumbling bus on a detour across the football field.
- My window as dirty as it is unleashes the beauty of nature on a snowy morning.
- My window, as dirty as it is, unleashes the beauty of nature on a snowy morning.
- King and Lucille, his customized black Gibsons have electrified audiences all over the world.
- King and Lucille, his customized black Gibsons, have electrified audiences all over the world.
3. Do not use commas to bracket phrases that are essential to a sentence’s meaning.
- The man, who has too many ties, has too few necks.
- The man who has too many ties has too few necks.
- The cats, with six toes, are a unique attraction of the tour of Hemingway’s house.
- The cats with six toes are a unique attraction of the tour of Hemingway’s house.
4. When beginning a sentence with an introductory phrase, include a comma.
- After buying the five pound jar of marshmallow spread he set off in search of a bulk portion of peanut butter.
- After buying the five pound jar of marshmallow spread, he set off in search of a bulk portion of peanut butter.
- With this he bestows the responsibility of his own happiness on his mother and father.
- With this, he bestows the responsibility of his own happiness on his mother and father.
- As she begins to gain independence it is natural for Greta to regard the idea of dependency as repugnant.
- As she begins to gain independence, it is natural for Greta to regard the idea of dependency as repugnant.
5. To indicate possession, end a singular noun with an apostrophe followed by an ‘s’. Otherwise, the noun’s form seems plural.
- Though the lobsters claws were bound, the creature made a threatening gesture as they dropped it in the pot.
- Though thelobster’s claws were bound, the creature made a threatening gesture as they dropped it in the pot.
- In a democracy, anyones vote counts as much as mine.
- In a democracy, anyone’s vote counts as much as mine.
- There is a vast age difference between Victors mother and father.
- There is a vast age difference between Victor’s mother and father.
6. Use proper punctuation to integrate a quotation into a sentence. If the introductory material is an independent clause, add the quotation after a colon. If the introductory material ends in “thinks,” “saying,” or some other verb indicating expression, use a comma.
- Tumbling down the hill, Jack yelled: “Damn, I’m sick of this.”
- Tumbling down the hill, Jack yelled, ”Damn, I’m sick of this.”
- Her letter spoke to him in harsh tones, “You never fail to repulse me.”
- Her letter spoke to him in harshtones: ”You never fail to repulse me.”
- He views the problem as a slight delay or a sickness that will eventually disappear, “how about going back to sleep for a few minutes and forgetting all this nonsense.”
- He views the problem as a slight delay or a sickness that will eventually disappear: ”how about going back to sleep for a few minutes and forgetting all this nonsense.”
7. Make the subject and verb agree with each other, not with a word that comes between them.
- The Thanksgiving dinner, right down to the beautiful centerpiece, were devoured by the escaped grizzly.
- The Thanksgiving dinner, right down to the beautiful centerpiece, was devoured by the escaped grizzly.
- The cart, as well as its contents, were gone.
- The cart, as well as its contents, was gone.
- The girl, along with her classmates, like the new teacher.
- The girl, along with her classmates, likes the new teacher.
8. Be sure that a pronoun, a participial phrase, or an appositive refers clearly to the proper subject.
- Its hump decorated in strings of flowers, the programmer rode the camel through the food court.
- The programmer rode the camel, its hump decorated in strings of flowers, through the food court.
- Filled with bad gas, he drove his car to Tucson despite the knocking.
- Although it was filled with bad gas, he drove his car to Tucson despite the knocking.
9. Use parallel construction to make a strong point and create a smooth flow.
- I was glad to be departing for Australia but I was nervous when I left my apartment.
- I was glad to be departing for Australia but nervous to be leaving my apartment.
- The system excels at tasks such as communicating with other computers, processing records, and mathematical calculations.
- The system excels at tasks such as communicating with other computers, processing records, and calculating mathematical equations.
10. Use the active voice unless you specifically need to use the passive.
- A refund was given to him by the hair regeneration company.
- The hair regeneration company gave him a refund.
- A good score was achieved by the team.
- The team achieved a good score.
- A box of chocolates and a dozen roses were presented to the girl by her boyfriend
- The boyfriend presented a box of chocolates and a dozen roses to the girl.
11. Omit unnecessary words.
- I would like to assert that the author should be considered to be a buffoon.
- The author is a buffoon.
- It would be safe to say that Gregory Samsa is not the only character in Franz Kafka’s The Metamorphosis to undergo drastic changes.
- Gregory Samsa is not the only character in Franz Kafka’s The Metamorphosis to undergo drastic change.
- Before going to the supermarket, we made a list of the groceries we needed in order to make the food that we intended to eat for dinner.
- Before going to the supermarket, we made a list of groceries that we needed for dinner.
Six Easy Tips (And really, it’s more like three)
Our big three are these:
Carve out time for yourself — start planning this now. Cut down on social obligations. See where you’re…
Particularly when writing YA and we are trying to make our MC’s angst ridden but feisty, it’s too easy to create a character nobody likes or cares about.
More on likable characters:
Having a likable character does not mean the character has to be a good person. Take Humbert Humbert from Lolita, for example. He is charming and engages the reader, but he is not the sort of person one would like to be around. Many people love villains, but do not identify with them or agree with them.
Finding the information you need as a writer shouldn’t be a chore. Luckily, there are plenty of search engines out there that are designed to help you at any stage of the process, from coming up with great ideas to finding a publisher to get your work into print. Both writers still in college and those on their way to professional success will appreciate this list of useful search applications that are great from making writing a little easier and more efficient.
Find other writers, publishers and ways to market your work through these searchable databases and search engines.
- Litscene: Use this search engine to search through thousands of writers and literary projects, and add your own as well.
- Thinkers.net: Get a boost in your creativity with some assistance from this site.
- PoeWar: Whether you need help with your career or your writing, this site is full of great searchable articles.
- Publisher’s Catalogues: Try out this site to search through the catalogs and names of thousands of publishers.
- Edit Red: Through this site you can showcase your own work and search through work by others, as well as find helpful FAQ’s on writing.
- Writersdock: Search through this site for help with your writing, find jobs and join other writers in discussions.
- PoetrySoup: If you want to find some inspirational poetry, this site is a great resource.
- Booksie.com: Here, you can search through a wide range of self-published books.
- One Stop Write Shop: Use this tool to search through the writings of hundreds of other amateur writers.
- Writer’s Cafe: Check out this online writer’s forum to find and share creative works.
- Literary Marketplace: Need to know something about the publishing industry? Use this search tool to find the information you need now.
These helpful tools will help you along in the writing process.
- WriteSearch: This search engine focuses exclusively on sites devoted to reading and writing to deliver its results.
- The Burry Man Writers Center: Find a wealth of writing resources on this searchable site.
- Writing.com: This fully-featured site makes it possible to find information both fun and serious about the craft of writing.
- Purdue OWL: Need a little instruction on your writing? This tool from Purdue University can help.
- Writing Forums: Search through these writing forums to find answers to your writing issues.
Try out these tools to get your writing research done in a snap.
- Google Scholar: With this specialized search engine from Google, you’ll only get reliable, academic results for your searches.
- WorldCat: If you need a book from the library, try out this tool. It’ll search and find the closest location.
- Scirus: Find great scientific articles and publications through this search engine.
- OpenLibrary: If you don’t have time to run to a brick-and-mortar library, this online tool can still help you find books you can use.
- Online Journals Search Engine: Try out this search engine to find free online journal articles.
- All Academic: This search engine focuses on returning highly academic, reliable resources.
- LOC Ask a Librarian: Search through the questions on this site to find helpful answers about the holdings at the Library of Congress.
- Encylcopedia.com: This search engine can help you find basic encyclopedia articles.
- Clusty: If you’re searching for a topic to write on, this search engine with clustered results can help get your creative juices flowing.
- Intute: Here you’ll find a British search engine that delivers carefully chosen results from academia.
- AllExperts: Have a question? Ask the experts on this site or search through the existing answers.
Need to look up a quote or a fact? These search tools make it simple.
- Writer’s Web Search Engine: This search engine is a great place to find reference information on how to write well.
- Bloomsbury Magazine Research Centre: You’ll find numerous resources on publications, authors and more through this search engine.
- Merriam-Webster Dictionary and Thesaurus: Make sure you’re using words correctly and can come up with alternatives with the help of this tool.
- References.net: Find all the reference material you could ever need through this search engine.
- Quotes.net: If you need a quote, try searching for one by topic or by author on this site.
- Literary Encyclopedia: Look up any famous book or author in this search tool.
- Acronym Finder: Not sure what a particular acronym means? Look it up here.
- Bartleby: Through Bartleby, you can find a wide range of quotes from famous thinkers, writers and celebrities.
- Wikipedia.com: Just about anything and everything you could want to look up is found on this site.
- Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Find all the great philosophers you could want to reference in this online tool.
If you’re focusing on writing in a particular niche, these tools can be a big help.
- PubGene: Those working in sci-fi or medical writing will appreciate this database of genes, biological terms and organisms.
- GoPubMd: You’ll find all kinds of science and medical search results here.
- Jayde: Looking for a business? Try out this search tool.
- Zibb: No matter what kind of business you need to find out more about, this tool will find the information.
- TechWeb: Do a little tech research using this news site and search engine.
- Google Trends: Try out this tool to find out what people are talking about.
- Godchecker: Doing a little work on ancient gods and goddesses? This tool can help you make sure you have your information straight.
- Healia: Find a wide range of health topics and information by using this site.
- Sci-Fi Search: Those working on sci-fi can search through relevant sites to make sure their ideas are original.
Find your own work and inspirational tomes from others by using these search engines.
- Literature Classics: This search tool makes it easy to find the free and famous books you want to look through.
- InLibris: This search engine provides one of the largest directories of literary resources on the web.
- SHARP Web: Using this tool, you can search through the information on the history of reading and publishing.
- AllReaders: See what kind of reviews books you admire got with this search engine.
- BookFinder: No matter what book you’re looking for you’re bound to find it here.
- ReadPrint: Search through this site for access to thousands of free books.
- Google Book Search: Search through the content of thousands upon thousands of books here, some of which is free to use.
- Indie Store Finder: If you want to support the little guy, this tool makes it simple to find an independent bookseller in your neck of the woods.
For web writing, these tools can be a big help.
- Technorati: This site makes it possible to search through millions of blogs for both larger topics and individual posts.
- Google Blog Search: Using this specialized Google search engine, you can search through the content of blogs all over the web.
- Domain Search: Looking for a place to start your own blog? This search tool will let you know what’s out there.
- OpinMind: Try out this blog search tool to find opinion focused blogs.
- IceRocket: Here you’ll find a real-time blog search engine so you’ll get the latest news and posts out there.
- PubSub: This search tool scours sites like Twitter and Friendfeed to find the topics people are talking about most every day.
Anonymous asked: Any advice on how to brainstorm for plots?
TONS! I’ll list some of my favorites, but first, the preparation!
Brainstorming - The Preparation
1) Start with a long walk, a run, or some other kind of exercise if you can. Many writers feel exercise makes them more creative, and there’s science to back up the reason why that’s so.
2) Before you sit down to brainstorm, pick a distraction-free time and place, if you can. Mood lighting, a scented candle, a table fountain—these are all great things to help you feel relaxed and inspired.
3) If you can, pick a pretty notebook and some colored pens, or use a zenware writing program like, Ommwriter or ZenWriter, which can further minimize distraction and get your creative juices flowing. If you prefer using a word document, try choosing a pretty font and text color.
4) Make sure you’ve eaten so you won’t be tempted to get up or snack in the middle of your brainstorming session. It’s ok if you want to have a drink, though. A nice hot cup of coffee is a writer favorite.
Ok, onto the actual brainstorming!
Brainstorming - The Process
1) If you’re starting from scratch, you might first try choosing a genre that interests you, then make a list of all the things about that genre that interest you. Another option would be to write down your ten favorite novels, then make a list of the prominent details of each novel, to see what story details tend to excite you most. Look at keywords on your list to see if you get the starting point of a plot.
2) Try doing some writing prompts to see if a plot develops. You can find prompt sites all over tumblr. Here are some of my favorites: Writing Prompts, Writing Prompts That Don’t Suck, Prompts & Pointers, Photo Prompts, Daily Writing Prompts, and Write World.
3) Pictures are a fantastic idea generator. Try going to your browser’s image search function and type a word that interests you to see what comes up. Fair warning, though, image searches can sometimes present you with things you don’t want to see. You may want to get into the settings and toggle the filters to limit the chances of that happening. You can also search tumblr for pictures that inspire you.
4) Music is a fantastic way to get inspired. Put your MP3 player on random or go to a site like Pandora, and really listen to the lyrics. Imagine the people who are experiencing the things happening in the songs, and try imagining the stories the songs tell into settings and scenarios that interest you.
5) Make a random list! Really—set a timer for 30 seconds and write down as many random words as you can think of, then go back through and see if there are any interesting keywords or patterns that inspire you.
6) I know it sounds crazy, but try a plot generator! Usually they come up with implausible or silly results, but sometimes even the silliest suggestions can spark better ideas. Here are some to try: Plot Scenario Generator, Plot Generator, Seventh Sanctum Story Generator, Plot-o-tron, TV Tropes Story (Idea) Generator, Hatch’s Plot Bank
7) Read through the 36 dramatic situations and see if anything jumps out at you. This link even picks one for you.
8) Start with your protagonist. If you don’t have one yet, think one up. What kind of person has a story you’d like to tell? When you have someone in mind, sit down and just start writing about a normal day for them. Imagine that you are a camera crew following them from the moment they wake up until the moment they go to sleep. Write down everything the “camera” sees. What do they do? Who do they talk to? Where do they go? You can even do little interviews to ask them how they feel about certain things. Very often, other important characters and story elements will start to reveal themselves, which can help you figure out a plot.
9) Go to Amazon.com or Goodreads and pull up a list of books in the genre you’re interested in, Pick a random title and write it down, then write what you think the story is about based on the title. No peeking at the real summary! Do this several times, and if a story idea doesn’t come to you, you might at least have some interesting nuggets that you can combine into a story idea.
10) If all else fails, try stepping outside of your writing zone to look for ideas. Go do some people watching and see if anyone interesting catches your eye. Try listening to conversations as people pass by and see if anything inspires you. Take a little day trip someplace interesting if you can—especially if you can find someplace that might cater to the genre you want to write in, like a historic site, a science museum, or a quaint little town. You can also see if there’s anything interesting in your family history that might give you some ideas. Flip through old family albums or memento boxes for inspiration. You can also try looking around an antique store to see if anything inspires you. And last but not least, if nothing else works, just sit someplace quiet and relaxing and let your mind wander. Imagine adventures you’d like to have, or imagine the story you’d most love to read right now. Who knows? That might give you just the idea you were looking for!
Okay, here are my answers to each question respectively…
- Writing different personalities/tones for each character.
It’s not a matter of forcing these things, just a matter of knowing your characters thoroughly. One fact can lead onto another, which becomes adequate explanation for why one character speaks or behaves in a different way to another. It can be as simple as having an accent (Hagrid in Harry Potter) or repeating a certain phrase (Bones in Star Trek: ‘Dammit, Jim! I’m a doctor, not a ________!).
Try to give your readers a little more credit on their reading ability, too. In a discussion where only two characters are talking, it’s fairly easy to keep up with who is saying what with only a few indicators, even if the speech pattern of both characters is relatively similar:
'Ruth and I were waiting out the storm, underneath the bleachers at school -'
'Those bleachers,' Douglas said, looking at me again, 'are made of metal.'
'Right. And I was leaning on one of the supports, and lightning struck the bleachers, and next thing I knew, I was standing like five feet from where I'd been, and I was tingly all over, and -'
'Bullshit,' Douglas said, but he sat up. 'That is bullshit, Jess.'
'I swear it's true. You can ask Ruth.'
Also, give yourself more credit on your characterisation…! It’s hard to see what you’re doing well in your own work. If you’re worried about it, ask a friend or family member to read over what you’ve written.
Mainly though, just make sure you don’t soften down your characters’ personalities or make exceptions for them. For example, if a character is usually animated and likes to participate in a conversation, then make sure they do! Don’t let them do anything they wouldn’t usually do (or not do what they would usually do), is what I’m trying to say. If you think you’ve written them out of character, then edit away…!
- Writing with a ‘beat’ in mind.
I think in this case, the rhythm will refer to the mood or tone of your piece. There are lots of techniques you can employ to bring about rhythm in your work. Here are just a few:
- Use a variety of short/long sentences;
- Vocabulary choice.
It’s all about matching your writing to what is happening currently in the story. So, if you’re writing suspense, you wouldn’t use convoluted, elegant sentences. It would be short. Quick. Abrupt. Note the hard sounds of those words; the ‘q-ck’ in ‘quick’, the ‘br-pt’ in ‘abrupt’. Writing about a Sunday luncheon with jam scones and soft, buttery cakes overflowing on silver plates might be a bit more floaty and light, a faint dusting of crumbs dappling the dinnerware, layers of lace upon silk spilling from the Lady’s dress to the carpet like a lake.
Poorly illustrated examples on my part in terms of writing skill, but I hope that conveys the general idea. Think of the ‘beat’ as the ‘mood’ instead if that makes things easier.
That said, I really hope this helps… Please let me know if I’ve misunderstood anything, as the question about ‘beat’ kind of threw me for a second!
Sources: 5 Tips About Writing With Rhythm, quote taken from: Meg Cabot writing as Jenny Carroll, Vanished (Great Britain: Simon & Schuster UK ltd, 2011)
I put together this masterlist to help any potential members write their bios and create their characters. I’ll add to this as I find more resources. NOTE: I tagged this in to the RPH and RPCW tags because I thought it would be helpful for other roleplayers as well. However, if any of you RPCHAW don’t think I should be using those tags, you can message me and I’ll untag it.
Bio writing help
- Guide to: Writing the Perfect Bio by struckby-therphelper
- How to: Making a Great Bio by soatyourservice
- How to: Show a Character’s Personality in 3 Paragraphs by curlyfriesrpc
- How to: Write a Biography (and Make It Interesting) by rpcgron
- How to Write a Kick-Ass Biography by poshhelpers
- How to Write an OC by fat-amy-rph
- How to Write Bios by adam-and-ian-help
- In-Depth Characters by keir-reviews
- Matt’s Tips → Aspects You Might Be Ignoring When Creating Your Characters by wehelprps
Character trait masterlists
- 123 Ideas for Character Flaws by amandaonwriting
- 500+ Character Traits by thewritingcafe
- 500 Personality Traits by edwardkenwayrps
- Alice’s Masterlist of Character Traits by niallrph
- Character Flaws List at darkworldrpg.com
- Heroic Traits and Their Faults by clevergirlhelps
- List of Character Traits at fiction-writers-mentor.com
- Lizarps Masterlist of Traits by lizarps
- Negative Personality Adjective List at englishclub.com
- Positive Personality Adjective List at englishclub.com
- Villainous Traits and Their Virtues by clevergirlhelps
Secrets, quirks, and little things to make your character unique
- 100 Character Quirks by hermajestyhelps
- Character Bio Twists by dominicwrites
- Giant List of Quirks by rphelper
- Kazza’s List of Character “Plots” and Secrets by kgillsrpc
- List of 300 Possible Secrets to Give Your Characters at crissverahelps
- List of Phobias by hermajestyhelps
- Secret Masterlist by thatfrenchhelper
- Masterlist of Fears by deadlyanathema-helps
Inspiration for your characters
- Archetypes by thetrolliestcritic
- Archetype Series by okayophelia
- Character Ideas by cinematicroleplayer
- Lyrics to Inspire Characters by rphelper
- Mixes by dovekeepers
- Mixes by haffalump
- The 12 Common Archetypes at soulcraft.co
Name generators and master lists
- 11,692 Surnames by ghostnonny
- Baby Name Lists at nameberry.com
- East Asian Surnames by rptheme-helper
- List of Female First Names by troyeofrp
- List of Male Names by neensofrp
- Most Common Surnames at names.mongabay.com
- Name Themes at behindthename.com
- Random Name Generator at random-name-generator.info
- The Most Popular Names at behindthename.com
- The Ultimate Random Name Generator at atlantagamer.org
All about faceclaims
- A Cinematic Masterlist: PoC Faceclaims by cinematicroleplayer
- A Master List of People of Color Face Claims by thetrolliestcritic
- Choosing The Right FC by the-hardyest-critic
- Face Claim Masterlists by fchelpers
- Favorite Faceclaims by grantairewrites
- Favorite Faces by diagonhelps
- FC Directory by rphelper
- FC Replacements by fchelpers
- Mockingbird’s Favorite Faces by mockingbirdresource
- Underused FC’s by criticalroleplayer
NO GO AWAY
Just kidding. Check out:
Horror is considered a separate genre, but these three genres often overlap.
- Paranormal Romance: Romance with a paranormal element. However, the romance outweighs the paranormal aspect in most cases, but is still an integral part to the story.
- Urban Fantasy: Urban fantasy is often used interchangeably with “paranormal”. It takes place in urban areas and has fantasy, paranormal, or supernatural elements.
- Dark Fantasy: This genre is a cross over between horror and fantasy. It has fantasy and horror elements, but does not focus on them as heavily as other genres. This would be considered paranormal rather than supernatural.
- Gothic Horror: This used to be the name for the horror genre. This genre is not related to the goth fashion style. There are several forms of this genre (English, American, southern) that may involve romance or a sense of being “trapped”. Paranormal creatures (like ghosts and other creatures associated with the afterlife or death) are quite popular in this genre.
See Basic Horror Writing Guide for a general overview and some resources.
There is often a paranormal or supernatural element in horror, most likely some form of ghosts. However, there are also other elements present.
Certain abilities given to humans may fall within this category. This can include telekinesis, clairvoyance, and telepathy, among others. However, these abilities often come secondary to the horror element or the main horror creatures (ghosts, psychological torture, etc.). They should come second if horror is the main aspect of the story. Once these elements become primary, you’ve left the horror genre (primarily).
But, as with horror, including paranormal and supernatural elements must be there to further the thrill, suspense, or horror of the story. With supernatural and paranormal fiction, those elements should be integral to the story.
PARANORMAL VS SUPERNATURAL
This is a personal opinion
Supernatural: Something inexplicable that defies the laws of nature or something that was once a part of nature, only to defy it.
Paranormal: Something that shows signs of being beyond scientific understanding.
As noted in the definitions above, supernatural deals with transformation from the ordinary to the impossible. Paranormal deals with something beyond us, like clairvoyance.
Paranormal fiction tends to be lighter and it often has a romantic feel to it. When I say “romantic”, I do not necessarily mean love, but showing something in a light that makes it better than it actually is. Supernatural fiction tends to fall on the side of gritty horror more often than not.
What falls under each definition depends on who you ask, but abilities (for example, telekinesis) are generally considered paranormal while certain creatures (werewolves and vampires) are considered supernatural.
CREATURES & CLICHES
With this genre comes otherworldly creatures. Right now, the genre is heavy with angels, demons, vampires, and werewolves. While there’s nothing wrong with writing about those creatures, it’s good to expand. After all, supernatural and paranormal are forms of fantasy. You can do anything.
Research some underused creatures and put a new twist on them. Use them as a base for a creature of your own creation. Go nuts with these creatures and make them unique.
They can thrive in one environment and suffer in another. They can be subject to evolution. They can be associated with a certain element or symbol. Give them odd abilities and give them reasons for this. Make up your own mythologies.Yet with the four main creatures mentioned above comes cliches. We’re all sick of them and you should challenge yourself to write outside these cliches, though you can still rework a cliche and make it unique.There is a group of cliches in paranormal romance that stand out from the rest because they are harmful. For example, male love interests who are brooding, possessive, and creepy yet written as desirable.An important point to remember when you’re creating creatures is not to go so far that these become something else entirely. You can’t take away the fundamental characteristics if you’re trying to be unique. That destroys the creature. Your vampires don’t have to sleep in coffins or turn into bats, but you can’t really take away the blood drinking thing, can you? That’s the main characteristic of vampiric creatures (and there are many).More:
- Ten Worst Vampire Cliches
- The A-Typical Vampire
- Supernatural Creatures Inspiration/Definitions
- Vampire Cliches
- Werewolf Cliches
- Werewolf Genre Pet Peeves
- Writing an Overused Supernatural Creature
- Vampire Tropes
- A Guide on Zombies
- Guide to Ghosts
- Describing Fantastic Creatures
- Werebeast Tropes
- Tropes of the Living Dead
- Writing Zombies
- Sea Creatures
- Birds: Mythology
- Cliches in Paranormal Novels
- Is Your YA Paranormal Romance Cliche Enough? (chart)
- Cliches in Paranormal Romance
- Top 13 Paranormal Romance Cliches
- YA Common Cliches: Paranormal Romance
- Overplayed Urban Fantasy Cliche 1 2 3 4
- Fantasy/Urban Fantasy Cliches
- Mythical Creatures List
- Mythical Creatures A-Z
- List of Mythical Creatures
- Magical/Mythical Creatures
Some music to listen to while writing:
Bad Moon Rising | Black River Killer | Blood Circus | Come Little Children | Davy Jones Music Box | Ghost Riders in the Sky | Hell | Hell Hound Blues | Herr Drosselmeye’s Doll | Hotel California | House of the Rising Sun | The Killing Moon | Mr Crowley | Oogie Boogie’s Song | Sympathy for the Devil | This House is Haunted | This is Halloween | Void
- Supernatural Romance
- Books with Angels, Gods, or Demons
- Best Gothic Books of All Time
- Ghost Stories
- Angels & Demons
- Favorite Ghost Stories
- Best Books About Faeries
- Paranormal’s/Urban Fantasies That Don’t Suck
- Haunted Houses
- Paranormal in New Orleans
- Best Gothic Novels/Suspense Novels
- Forbidden Love in Fantasy/Paranormal/Supernatural
- Supernatural and Addictive Fantasy
- Best Shapeshifters
- Books with Supernatural Females
- Bone Chilling Paranormal Romance
- Anything But Vampires
- 19th Century Supernatural Horror
- Gay Horror
- I See Dead People
- Killer Ghost Stories
- Uncommon Supernatural Creatures
- Gothic Paranormal
- Best Adult Urban Fantasy and Paranormal Romance
- Indie Books - Paranormal Fiction
- Humorous Paranormal Books
- Hot Paranormal Romance
- Werewolf and Shifter Romance
- Paranormal Book Lists
- Not the “Normal” Paranormal
- Literary Fiction Meets Paranormal Romance
- Gay Paranormal Romance
- Lesbian Paranormal/Urban Fantasy