How to Keep Readers From Hating Your Characters

Welcome to Twitter Treasure Thursday! So, as many of you know, I optioned a YA novel to a producer in Hollywood in 2011. Back then, I was still new to the writing scene. Everyday, I learned a new lesson, achieved a new skill, and had an “Ah-ha!” moment. I hadn’t even shared my work with anyone outside of my family until those executives in LA asked to read it…Which is probably why my manuscript never made it off the cutting room floor.

I didn’t know how to fix the problems agents and publishers pointed out to me. And I especially didn’t know how to fix its main flaw: Unlikable characters.

Over and over again, I heard things like, “I just don’t love your characters” and “I like your story, but not your characters” and “I need to care about your characters, and I don’t.” These comments hurt every time I heard them because liked my characters and I cared about them. But I couldn’t figure out how to get others to feel the same way.

In the end, this issue was my manuscript’s greatest downfall.

Since then, I’ve made it my mission to write strong characters that readers care about (even if they despise them), and I think you need to you as well. Because, trust me when I say, no matter how great the rest of your story is, unlikable characters will ruin it.

So, today I thought I’d share this article from author, Jody Hedlund: How to Keep Readers From Hating Your Characters. It offers some great advice that will keep you from making the same mistakes I made with my optioned manuscript.

2. Make sure the reader understands the cause of the flaws. One way to generate reader empathy for our character’s flaw is make the negative trait a result of something that the character didn’t choose to happen to her. For example, maybe she was abused or teased or rejected at some point in her life. When we share the history that drives the negative traits, readers will be more forgiving of the negativity.

3. Never give the character an unforgivable trait or action. We might have made our character likeable, but then she does something (or several things) that the reader finds unforgivable, completely unlikeable, and irredeemable. The event or action leaves a bad taste in the reader’s mouth and often they’re unable to resume their fullest love of our character after that.

To read the entire article, click here. And for more useful advice, follow Jody Hedlund on Twitter!

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Deep P.O.V. Part One—What IS It? How Do We DO It?

Welcome to Twitter Treasure Thursday! A couple of weeks ago, I had dinner with a friend. As we ate, we fell into a conversation about POV. Specifically, deep POV. Now, to be honest, up until that conversation, I’d only heard of this term, I’d never truly understood it (which is funny, because now that I do understand it, I see that most of my stories are written in deep POV–doh).

 So, what is deep POV? Well, I’d sit here and explain it to you, but why should I when author, Kristen Lamb, has already done such an fantastic job in her article, Deep P.O.V. Part One—What IS It? How Do We DO It?

Deep POV is simply a technique that strips the author voice completely out of the prose. There is no author intrusion so we are left only with the characters. The reader is nice and snuggly in the “head” of the character.

Okay, clear as mud. Right? Right.

As an editor, I see the intrusion much more than authors. It is actually shocking how much you guys interrupt. In fact, you are like my mother chaperoning my first date who would swear she was quiet as a mouse.

NOT.

To read the entire article, click here. And for more useful advice, follow Kristen Lamb on Twitter!

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Show, Don’t Tell: How to Write the Stages of Grief

Welcome to Twitter Treasure Thursday! Well, I should start calling it Social Media Treasure Thursday since I keep finding my articles on sites besides Twitter, but whatever. The point is to find useful writing tips and share them with you, so I will!

Today’s article (thanks to Pinterest) focuses on a task most of us writers find difficult to achieve: Getting readers to feel. 

As an avid reader myself, I tend to have three different reactions to an author’s attempt to move me: 1) Sniffle and cry. 2) Shrug indifference. 3) Roll eyes and snicker. Obviously, all writers hope to elicit the first reaction. But, let’s face it, writing genuine emotions (especially grief) and getting readers to believe them is tough!

Thankfully best selling author, Ruthanne Reid, provides us with some great tips in her article, Show, Don’t Tell: How to Write the Stages of Grief:

The power of story largely resides in its power to evoke emotions. Our favorite works all tend to follow that path. We read about a heroine who succeeds against impossible odds, and we are bolstered by her courage. We read about the ridiculous antics of a teenage boy who’s too smart for his own good, and we share both his embarrassments and his triumphs.

Empathy is the ultimate form of “show, don’t tell.”

To read the entire article, click here! Also, if you’d like to read some examples of stories that, in my opinion, evoke genuine emotions, consider these ones: The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. If I Stay by Gayle Forman. The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein. (If you have others to recommend, leave a comment!)

For more useful advice, follow Ruthanne Reid on Twitter!

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How Many Spaces After a Period?

For this Twitter Treasure Thursday, I cheated–a little. I didn’t find this article on Twitter. I actually went on the hunt for it after I found this picture on Facebook:

DoubleSpacePersonally, I was always taught to use one space after a period, not two. But I know others were taught to use two. In fact, my old college roommate used to go on and on about how much it annoyed her when people used one space, not two…I told her it annoyed me when people used two, not one (follow? 😉 ).

At last, I decided to settle our debate and figure out who’s right: Team One? Or Team Two? Brian A. Klems, online editor for Writer’s Digest had the answer:

The “two spaces after period” rule was established during the days of typesetters, when additional space was needed to show the difference between the spacing between words (which was smaller) and the spacing between sentences (which was larger).

…The point is, it’s not only widely accepted, it’s expected that you use only one space after a period. Sorry two-spaces, it’s time to make the switch.

So…I win, College Roommate.

Kidding!

To read the entire article, click here!

For more useful advice, follow Brian A. Klems on Twitter!

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How To Write Good Dialogue: Ten Tips

Welcome to Twitter Treasure Thursday! So, one of my favorite things to write is dialogue. Simply put, it’s fun!

Plus, I find it easier to convey a story through a character’s words. For example, while writing my last story for the NYC Midnight Short Story Challenge, I struggled getting the scenes in my head onto paper. About halfway through my first draft, I realized why: I only had one character. Therefore, I couldn’t rely on back and forth banter like I usually do. Instead, I had to–*gulp*–depend on longer, more detailed descriptives to convey what was happening.

Now, I’m fully aware many writers don’t share my love of dialogue. In fact, I know many struggle with it (just as I struggle with writing those darn descriptives). But fear not! While skimming Twitter this morning, I came upon this helpful article via K Grubb (@10minnovelist):

How To Write Good Dialogue: Ten Tips

conversation

5 – Read Out Loud
After writing a scene of dialogue, put it away for a while. Then go back and don’t just re-read it, read it out loud! That’s right: read it out at the speed and with the emotional tone you would as if you were the character speaking it. Reading your dialogue out loud helps you to hear if it works.

Whether you love writing dialogue or not, I recommend you check out the full list of tips here!

For more useful advice, follow K Grubb on Twitter!

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Critique Etiquette: The Ultimate Guide for Giving and Receiving Feedback

Welcome to Twitter Treasure Thursday! As many of you know, I love to participate in NYC Midnight Challenges. Not only have they pushed me outside my writing comfort zone, but they’ve introduced me to the fine art of critiquing.

Since my first NYCM Challenge in 2013, I’ve critiqued approximately 500 short stories for my fellow competitors. During this time, I’ve learned a lot about the critiquing process. And I’m not just talking about how to write proper critiques, but how to give and receive them in a proper fashion.

criticism-cartoon-1 Believe it or not, there are general etiquette “rules” writers need to follow when giving and receiving critiques. And, trust me, I’ve learned from experience not all writers are aware of these.

To ensure you’re not one of those writers, I highly recommend you read this article by author, Angela Ackerman:

Critique Etiquette: The Ultimate Guide for Giving & Receiving Feedback

When Giving a Critique: it is the critique partner’s job to pay the submission the attention it deserves. Some important points to remember:

Focus on the writing, not the writer. No matter what shape a story is in or how green the writer may be, a critter’s job is to offer feedback on the writing itself, not a writer’s developing skills (unless you are praising them, of course).
Offer honesty, but be diplomatic. Fluffy Bunny praise doesn’t help, so don’t get sucked into the “but I don’t want to hurt their feelings” mindset. Your honest opinion is what the writer needs to improve the story, so if you notice something, say so. However, there is a difference between saying “This heroine is coming across a bit cliché,” and saying, “This character sucks, I hate her—what a total cliché.”
Be constructive, not destructive. When offering feedback, voice your feelings in a constructive way. To continue with the cliché character example, explain what is making her come across cliché, and offer ideas on how to fix this by suggesting the author get to know them on a deeper level and think about how different traits, skills and flaws will help make her unique. Give examples if that will help. Bashing the author’s character helps no one.

To read the entire article, click here!

For more useful advice, follow Angela Ackerman on Twitter!

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6 Keys to Revising Your Fiction

Welcome to Twitter Treasure Thursday! Yes, I’m fully aware it’s been a few months since the last one. Sorry! Just blame my manuscript and crazy life. 😉

Anyway, to kick off 2015’s Twitter Treasure Thursday features, I found an article from one of my favorite resources: Writer’s Digest. While skimming their Twitter feed, I came upon an article all about revising. Since I’m about to jump into the fourth revision of my manuscript, I decided to check it out.

resized_all-the-things-meme-generator-revise-all-the-revisions-b120e9As expected, the article offered up some great tips courtesy of playwright and author, Monica Trasandes. I actually chuckled at one point because Trasandes uses the same trick I do when chopping out beloved sentences and paragraphs….When you read it, you’ll get it. And I strongly encourage you to read it since Transandes provides such excellent advice!

6 Keys to Revising Your Fiction

4) Be tough, others certainly will be

Assume every editor or producer you ever meet, within five minutes of shaking your hand will be thinking of ways to say no to you. Why? Saying yes will require that they convince others of the work’s merits—editors if it’s prose or financiers if it’s a play or a film. That will mean a lot of work on their part—probably unpaid.

Assume every editor is looking for a reason to say no. Don’t give it to them.

A teacher of mine, at Emerson, Pam Painter, would write DB on manuscripts, which stood for “do better.” She was saying, ‘this really isn’t the best you can do, is it?’ You have to be willing to ask that of every sentence you write.

To read the entire article, click here!

For more useful advice, follow Writer’s Digest and Monica Trasandes on Twitter!

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