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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10 Questions Your Readers Shouldn’t Have to Ask

Welcome to Twitter Treasure Thursday! So, I’m currently reading a book that has me flummoxed. Yes, flummoxed. Every few paragraphs I have to stop and go back to clarify a fact, or remind myself who’s who, or reground myself in the scene. Worse, I keep finding contradictions that cause even more confusion. Ex: It’s foggy and raining, yet then the sun glints off the windows and blinds the characters…Huh? What?

itchywide-620x349You would think by now I would’ve given up and returned this book to the library. But, nope. Not gonna happen. Sometimes, in my opinion, reading ill-constructed stories improves your own writing. It’s the whole, “What not to do” lesson.

So, with all of that said, I thought this article–courtesy of Rhonda Ryde–was a fitting gem for today. In it, K.M. Weiland discusses basic questions readers should never have to ask.

10 Questions Your Readers Shouldn’t Have to Ask

You want reader’s asking concrete questions. Who stole the Statue of Liberty? How is Westley going to escape the Pit of Despair? Why did Cinderella order glass slippers a size too large?

You don’t want them asking the dreaded four-word question: What’s going on here? Or, worse, the end-of-the-line three-letter question: Huh?

To read the entire article, click here!

For more useful advice, follow Rhonda Ryde and K.M. Weiland on Twitter!

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Photo credit: 

http://www.essentialkids.com.au/

Music Monday – Set Fire to the Rain – Adele

Welcome to Music Monday! As many of you know, music contributes a great deal to my writing process. Whether it’s a song’s lyrics, beat, rhythm, or tone, I find myself constantly inspired by it.

writing-to-musicAs I mentioned on Friday, I planned on being a big ol’ hermit this weekend to catch up on my manuscript. Well, I succeeded! After I got home on Friday night, I locked the doors and hunkered down for two straight days of writing.

To be honest, I didn’t listen to much music the past couple of days. When I write, I need absolute silence. And the only time I broke the silence in my house this weekend was to take breaks to eat and watch an episode of The Mindy Project (FYI: Funniest. Show. Ever!).

However, on my way to work this morning, I set my iPod to shuffle and stumbled across Adele’s “Set Fire to the Rain”. And I fell in love with it–er, more than I already was. It’s perfect for the chapters I’m currently working on.

adele21To me, this is a cinematic type song. It’s dramatic and grand, and overflowing with emotions. Plus the lyrics are amazing and offer up their own serving of inspiration.

As I listen to “Set Fire to the Rain”, I “see” my characters moving, talking, reacting, and feeling. And the setting around them is there, bold, colorful, and believable.

So, if you’re looking for a powerful song that gives a writer a paintbrush and a thousand colors to create moving, vivid scenes, then check out Adele’s “Set Fire to the Rain”.

What song(s) are you in love with right now? Which one(s) offer you inspiration? Let me know! I’m always searching for songs that motivate my writing.

Photo credits: 

http://michaelgalvis.com/

http://reddebtedstepchild.com/blogging-hermit/

http://prettymuchamazing.com/music/stream/adele-set-fire-to-the-rain-lovesong 

https://www.tumblr.com/search/Adele%2021

You Know You’re a Writer When…Alter Ego

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How to Intensify Conflict & Deepen Characters—The Wound

Welcome to Twitter Treasure Thursday! So, as I perused Twitter this week, I noticed a common trend: Character development. Everyone seemed to be talking about it. Tips, quotes, pictures, articles…I’ve never found so many gems about this vital writing topic. It was hard to decide which one to share with you. After much debate, I finally decided to go with Kristen Lamb’s:

How to Intensify Conflict & Deepen Characters—The Wound.

scarsThere are so many aspects to consider when developing our characters. In this awesome article, Kristen Lamb examines one of the most important: WHY? Why do our characters act the way they do? Why are they a control freak, or a know-it-all, or a shy mouse, or an arrogant butthead? It isn’t “just because”. There must be a reason–a why.

Real humans have wounds that drive our wants, needs, perceptions, and reactions and so should all our characters (even the Big Boss Troublemaker-Antagonist). Recently, I was helping a student of my Antag-Gold class plot her novel. She had a good protagonist who was a control freak. My question: WHY?

Yes, genetics will have a role in forging our personality, but genes do not a good story make. Having a character be a certain way simply because we need them to be or act that way will work, but so will a heart with damaged valves.

Wounds drive how we perceive our world, what we believe we want, and how we will (or won’t) interact with others. This is critical for generating story tension and character arc.

To read the entire article, click here!

And for more useful advice, follow Kristen Lamb on Twitter!

Related Articles

Character Development Worksheet

Character Development: Virtues & Vices

100 Character Quirks You Can Steal from Me

Photo credit: 

http://deniedself.com/battle-scars/

Sympathy for a Good Villain

Welcome to Twitter Treasure Thursday! This week, I chose to focus on your favorite character in a story: the villain.

villain21Dun, dun, dun…

Okay, maybe the villain isn’t your favorite character, but they should be high on the list. And, in my opinion, they should rival your favorite character; or at least help them stand out. Personally, I appreciate villains who try to convince you to understand them/sympathize with them (ex: The Darkling from Shadow & Bone, Sebastian from The Mortal Instruments). Or they should make you hate them so much, you love them (ex: Anton Chigurh from No Country for Old Men, Dolores Umbridge from Harry Potter, Hilly Holbrook from The Help). To me, villains should captivate readers just as much as heroes do.

So, with all of that said, here is today’s gem, courtesy of Drew Chial. He wrote a fantastic (and funny) article about creating solid villains, while avoiding cliches and keeping your audience engaged.

Sympathy for a Good Villain

Every time the villain kills a henchman for no good reason, a light goes off in your reader’s brain. Every time their monologue reveals the details of their master plan, the reader questions your reasoning. Every time they choose the sinister option over the one that’s results driven, the reader wakes from your vision.

It’s good to have a clear antagonist, but you don’t want them to be transparent. Sometimes their desires are simply incompatible with the hero’s. Sometimes the hero and the villain share a common destination, only to differ on how to get there. Sometimes they start with the same beliefs only to have them tested by their environments.

Present your case against the antagonist, and let your audience come to their own conclusions. The subtler the evidence, the smarter they’ll feel for putting the pieces together. Too many reminders of who they’re rooting against will pull them out of the experience.

To read the entire article, click here!

And for more useful advice, follow Drew Chial on Twitter!

Photo credits: 

http://blog.d20pro.com/creating-great-adventures-part-1-character-motivation-hate/

http://wifflegif.com/tags/61683-coin-gifs

Friday Funny with Whys, Puzzles, and Lots of Tangled Thoughts

Happy Friday, everyone! Hope you all had a great week. Mine has been…

Yeah, ick with a side of frustration.

First, my job has been crazy busy, so not only have I lost a significant amount of time during the day to work on my manuscript, but also at night. By the time I get home, workout, and eat dinner, I’m too exhausted to sit down and work on my book. In fact, I haven’t worked on it at all the past few nights. I’ve instead opted for things like retail therapy and hanging out with a friend to watch the Delirium pilot.

Second, I hit a snafu with my story’s plot. After I sent my beta reader my last set of chapters, she returned with positive and negative feedback. Bright side, she LOVED my chapter 7. Downside, she challenged me on the general crux–the main “Why?”–of my entire plot.

Truthfully, it’s an old argument between us; one we’ve had since I optioned this book’s archaic version to Hollywood a few years ago. It seems no matter how many explanations I give her, and no matter how many solutions I come up with to make it better, she’s never satisfied. I finally hit my wit’s end last weekend after she yet again complained.

“What do you want me to say?” I snapped at her. “What do you want to hear?”

“I don’t know,” she sighed. “Just something…”

AHHHHH! I had no idea how to make her happy. Nothing I said was the right “something”.

Well, after a mini meltdown and a lot of brainstorming, I finally struck gold. I said the right “something” and she gave me the thumb’s up.

*cue glittered confetti and party streamers*

So, now that that’s finally settled, I need to go back and revise the first seven chapters to thread in my new “Why”. It shouldn’t be too hard–mostly tweaking my characters to ensure their motives align with the story’s altered direction. The real challenge will be figuring out how to unravel my “Why”. It’s so roundy-woo and all over the beepity-beep place, I get a headache just thinking about it.

Ironically, a fellow blog follower emailed me this week asking for advice on how to figure out the overall “Why” of a story. After a small chuckle and lot of thought, I wrote him back and said: A story is like a puzzle. Each piece must matter, and each piece must fit…

Well, everyone, I’ve got about a million puzzle pieces scattered across the floor right now and all I can do is stare at them.

So, in honor of my “Why” week, and all the new plot twists and turns, ups and downs, overs and unders, and–ahhhh!

*deep breath*

Here, enjoy today’s Friday Funny! 😉

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How was your week? Are you scratching your head like me and trying to figure out your story’s “Why”? Or have you already put together that complicated puzzle?

Jen’s Weekly Roundup

In case you missed my posts from earlier this week, here go:

Music Monday – Freak Like Me – Halestorm

NaNoWriMo Tips – How To Deal With Deadlines

10 Tips To Get You Revision Ready