Writing tips can be a writer’s best friend. This month The Print Posse is sharing some of our favourite writing tips. Gabbie explored another approach to Show Don’t Tell and Yanicke discussed the use of strong verbs as well as filter words and naming emotions.
I’m taking the opportunity to look at characters. I learnt the importance of this from Kaz Delaney and Laini Taylor. Their lessons on characters sit at the forefront of my mind each time I sit down to bang away at the keyboard.
Tip: Know your characters
That may sound obvious but you do need to know your characters before you can write them. Not just names, you need to know as much as you can about who they are – values, beliefs, likes, dislikes etc. The more you know them, the better you understand how they react, how they speak and most importantly, what they want.
Character profiling can help with this. I took my Write Club students through this a few weeks back and they were surprised at how hard it was at first. The reason? They did not have any depth of understanding about their characters.
Try it for yourself. You may discover something about your characters – or even your storyline – you weren’t expecting.
Character exercises also expand your knowledge of who these people really are. Try taking the MCs out of their usual settings and throw an unusual situation at them. How do they react? Perhaps try interviewing them. What would their responses be?
Anything you can do to gain greater insight into the minds of your characters will strengthen their portrayal.
“Character development is vital when writing a strong story. Weak characters make for weak stories.” – Beem Weeks
You want your characters to be real and relatable no matter how unreal the situation might be. For this to happen, your characters need a goal, motivation and conflict. This is referred to as external or internal GMC and is outlined in depth in GMC: Goal, Motivation and Conflict by Debra Dixon.
Essentially it is this:
Goal – What does your character want?
Motivation – Why do they want it?
Conflict – What’s stopping them from getting it?
Your characters need to struggle towards their goals. Make them sweat! If things come too easily for them you might find the story starts to sag and no one likes a soggy middle.
If you are a fan of George R. R. Martin’s work, you will see he is a fan of this strategy. He is good at throwing obstacles in the paths of his characters. Each one has a goal and the motivation driving it. His work is full of complex characters as the author knows them intimately. All his characters endure conflict. And then some.
And as much as audiences love and hate the people in his stories, one thing is clear: he knows his characters.