6 Ways You Can Know Your Characters Better

C2Do you ever get feedback from a beta reader, editor, or critique partner to the effect of: “Something is missing from what you (the writer) know about your characters versus what is showing up on the page.”

Writers have a tendency to bring their characters to life in their heads before they come to life on the page. Or hold on to who they thought the character was, and refrain from letting the character evolve as the book goes on–and subsequently go back and edit according.

And most commonly, through the editing process, they edit away certain characteristics or motives and forget what is left.

Below are some tips and tricks I tell my authors or writers at conferences to help them better understand their characters:

  • Letters: I love this tip. Write an open letter or diary entry from your character’s POV. Get their voice out and make sure it’s different than yours.
  • Family Map: Do you have a complete cast of characters? Don’t hesitate to do a family tree or historical family map that covers time or territory.
  • Color coding edit: Writing historical, mystery, or setting-sensitive subject matter? Don’t forget to print out your manuscript, get the highlighters out and color code important things like clues, red herrings, character traits, setting quirks and more to make sure everything is cohesive.
  • Dialogue: If you did a blind test (with no dialogue tags) would you know who is speaking? Characters must have unique ways of speaking that are different than one another. Dialogue is the one way they can speak for themselves, don’t let it go to waste.
  • Sketch: Write a character sketch with only characteristics that you’ve written in the current draft of your book. No extra notes. Is it complete? Add back in what’s missing.
  • Follow this checklist!

Continue reading 6 Ways You Can Know Your Characters Better

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Why Agents Edit

typeAmong the many things we do for our clients it includes editing their work. Sure, the crux of our job is selling our authors’ books, but getting the projects to the point of selling involves anything from a light copy edit to complete overhauls.

We all know there are so many layers to get published: write the book, get an agent, get a book deal, publicize, have a writing career that spans many more books. And know that each opportunity requires its own mental stamina to achieve success. However, I still see so many aspiring writers putting an emphasis on getting an agent and think perhaps the rest falls into place. If it’s so hard to get an agent, then it must all be downhill from there, right? Wrong.

One of the big parts of our agent responsibilities is getting our client’s projects ready for editors’ eyes.

Why Agents Edit:

Because we know the difference between creative writing and book publishing. There is a lot of really good writing that doesn’t get published. Publishing is where creative writing meets Hollywood: Does it have a hook? Can you sell it in a sentence? Are the characters memorable? Is their journey compelling? Does it start when we meet the characters at an interesting point in their lives? Getting published requires some stripping down of overwriting and self indulgence. Getting published is about making your writing accessible to mass readers.

Because the competition is fierce. Sometimes I feel like this is the title of my blog. I do harp on it, but it’s only because I want everyone to know the stakes to ‘make’ it. It doesn’t make it easy when you know how many other writers there are out there trying to get published, too. But that information has to light a fire under you and make you want to revise and want to write the best book you can. Competition is about writing better than you did the day before, and the book before this. You are your own competition. Make that your mission.

Because we need to know that you’re able to work in a collaborative environment. Continue reading Why Agents Edit

“Stories fueled by intentions never reach their boiling point”: Writing advice from Bret Anthony Johnston

Do you write with a strict outline or a loose concept?

While there’s no right or wrong answer there are pros and cons to each strategy. A strict outline can keep your thoughts on track and provide you with motivation even when writer’s block may hit. And a general concept might be too broad and leave you without a narrative arc. However, being strict with your outline can give you tunnel vision and you might be missing out on a new, more truthful path for a character, which is something a loose idea lets you play around with.

Continue reading “Stories fueled by intentions never reach their boiling point”: Writing advice from Bret Anthony Johnston