Your Favorite Place

            Close your eyes and visualize the place that makes you the happiest, the most calm. The place that inspires a feeling of awe. Listen to the sounds. Breathe in and take in the smells of the flowers, the earth, food cooking. Reach out and touch the bark of trees, the silkiness of flower petals, the gravel beneath your feet.

            Use your imaginary camera and take a picture and then another one. Pick up a paint brush, dip it in some paint and create a replica of what you see in your imagination.

            Think about how you feel. Are your shoulders relaxed? Has your breathing slowed? Did a sense of calmness flow over you?

            This is your happy place.

            Your task is to create a comparable place for your character. Begin by imagining him in a variety of places and situations. Where does he feel most fragile, most overwhelmed? That’s not it, but it’s important to the story. Now think about one or two places where she’ll feel relaxed. Where the sense of awe comes to her.

            That’s the spot where a portion of the story will occur.

            Write a scene in that place. Add in other characters to people the situation. Remember to include sensory details here and there so that readers will enjoy being there as well.

            Have fun with this one.

Creating Dynamic Characters

            You pick up a book that looks interesting and begin reading. The main character, Sally, is a complex individual who can be friendly, but also rude, motivated but lazy, fun to be with but challenging. At the beginning you are intrigued by Sally because you realize that her life is about to change.

            Her best friend is manipulating her financially and emotionally. Sally is being forced into deciding between going on a vacation with the friend, who wants Sally to pay for the whole thing, or buying herself a badly needed new car.  Meanwhile Sally’s son has lost his job and is moving back home. Sally loves him, but can’t live with him for his sloppiness drives her crazy.

            As the story progresses you begin to understand why Sally behaves the way she does as each impediment arises. You root for her when you think she makes the right decision and lament the poor ones that get Sally in trouble. Ove the course of the story, you see Sally grow and change.

            That is called the character arc and it’s what makes characters dynamic: readers want to see them experience challenges that force them to evolve over the course of the story.

            Your task is to write a story in which a character is met with a series of difficulties that either are overcome or not. If overcome, then the character must change in some small way. If not, there still must be change, but is it positive or negative change?

            At the end the character must be different in some way. It should be large enough that the change affects behavior, status and beliefs.

            Have fun  with this one.

Developing a Strong Female Lead

            Cast aside the notion of the female warrior who is perfect in all ways. Your female protagonist might be athletically gifted, amazingly beautiful and displaying a lovely personality, but then she’s boring. You also don’t want to cast her as only important because she’s dating a man. Female characters, in order to speak to today’s readers, must have the characteristics of real-life women.

            What are the cultural norms in the world you have created? Are the same as the real world in which women are often seen as second-class citizens? Perhaps you’ve given the women emotional, interpersonal, intellectual and creative strengths that allow her to have goals of her own?

            Do you have only one woman in the story or several? What purpose do they serve? If they are only sidekicks to the male protagonist, rethink your story.

            Your task is to write a story in which the female protagonist has agency. She has strengths and weaknesses, she is not the fairy-tale raving beauty and she is strong in terms of how she approaches life. She does not have to be violent, but she could be if needed to advance the plot.

            If there are two female characters, try not to pit them against each other unless there is a reason to do so in order to add tension that advances the plot.

            Have fun with this one.

Life’s Journey

            Characters are a product of their life’s experiences. The things they seen and done are major influencers in who they are at the time of the story. From birth, the people in their lives affect what they believe, what foods they eat, the clothing they wear, the attitude to education that they have.

            Imagine a character who grows up in a loving, fostering home. His attitude toward obstacles life presents will be completely different from obstacles that pop up in the life of someone who was abused in some way. It makes sense. In the first situation the character might love challenges and new experiences while the second individual might be fearful and prefer hiding at home.

            When you create a character you need to construct their life’s journey as a background into who they have become. This is different from a character arc. The arc traces the character’s trajectory throughout the story, encapsulating the events that change her as the story progresses.

            The life’s journey shows the path that she walked as the years passed by.

            Your task is to create a life’s journey for a new character that you would like to include in a story. Graph paper might be the best source as it allows for increments of time spaced out in measured blocks. Start at a point when they first event occurred. This could be birth or the first day of school. Add elements that played important parts, both negative and positive.

            When finished, using the data you’ve detailed, write a memoir-like story of his life.

            Have fun with this one.

An Interesting Main Character

Let’s face it, your readers have to care about the main character. They don’t necessarily have to like the character, but they have to be interested in what he does, thinks, says.

If you expect the readers to spend time with your writing, then you must give them a reason to read. A boring protagonist, someone who has no opinions, faces no challenges, is never confrontational and lives only to please others will not inspire readers to make it to the end.

Main characters are usually imperfect. They have flaws which give them compelling personalities. Those flaws create challenges that the characters must surmount in order to succeed.

Your task is two-fold. First write a brief story about a practically perfect character. Put them in a scene that poses no challenges, no obstacles to overcome. People the story with likable friends, bosses, partners.

When you finish, analyze the piece. If you were a reader, how would you react?

Your next step is to rewrite the story with a flawed character whose life has pitfalls and confrontation. The character struggles to succeed. At the end something changes about the character. Either she overcomes and experiences a cathartic change, or she is deeper into her problems.

This time when you reread, do you sense a difference in your interest level?

Have fun with this one.