I find character development can either make or break a story. Invincible heroes and everyday villains many can find boring, and people are quick to drop a story if some sort of connection can’t be made. Descriptives like hair color and attitude only go so far as well, and that’s why for me I wanted to go a bit further in my characters than just surface deep attributes.
When it comes to building a character for a story, it helps to have a process in doing it. For me, I want to know why they are there. Do they fulfill a requirement for the story, or are they just fluff? How important are they to the plot? Trying to make everyone have the spotlight is hard, and juggling a cast versus one central person may be that much harder.
As a new fiction writer, I am among those writers who sometimes don’t do the best job of presenting dialogue in my stories.
One of the traps that we new writers fall into is adding descriptive words to replace “said” after every part of dialogue. Instead of simply writing “said”, writers often try to break up that monotony by replacing “said” with terms like “exclaimed,” “declared” or “shouted.” Sometimes these replacements work, but sometimes, if read in successive dialogue exchanges, these descriptive words can be completely awkward.
Before addressing people who read books for information, inspiration, or entertainment, I want to address the difference between Beta Readers and Editors. There used to be a clear definition and description between the two, but somewhere along the way, the lines became blurred. This has become quite a frustration to both Beta Readers and Editors.
Why? Because Beta Readers are not editors. They are not skilled writers who are necessarily knowledgeable about the technical/mechanical aspects of writing. Beta Readers are simply regular readers who love to read, and though they may have some knowledge of spelling, grammar, punctuation, and the rest of the technical/mechanical aspects of a story, many do not, and they aren’t interested in trying to find those errors for the writer and report them to the writer.
As one may have noticed who has read any of my stories, they often (possibly always) involve something of darkness in them. This is indeed part of my life’s focus, near to heart, and part of the fundamental aim of OOM.
It recently occurred to me that dark things can fall into three categories:
In the first part of this article, previously posted here, I mostly addressed why a Christian writer should write well, though I also touched on some ways we can do that. In this article, I will address more ways in which we actually can write well.
In the first article, I mentioned learning. What do we need to learn? Every writer should have a fairly good knowledge of the basics of writing: spelling, grammar, punctuation, sentence structure, and how to know when to begin and end a paragraph. Every writer should also know how to properly write dialogue. These are the mechanics of writing, and if you find any of these items difficult, you can still be a good writer. How? You will need to hire an editor. I will address editors more in depth later in this article.
What do writers need to know, in addition to the technical or mechanical aspects of writing? Writers need to know how to tell a story: how to choose the best words to write descriptions, action, dialogue, conflict; how to create deep characters that readers can relate to and how to give these characters strengths and weaknesses, as well as showing character growth in the main characters from the beginning of the story to the end of the story; and above all, how to weave the story together in a way that will grip the reader’s attention from the very first sentence until the very last sentence of the novel.
That all sounds like a tall order, and it is. If you are a writer, you, most likely, are also a reader, or, at least, you should be. Reading books is one way to learn how to write a good book. Reading books should also show you what not to do as a writer. I’m sure all readers have read at least one poorly written book in their reading time: a book that had lots of grammatical errors or had parts where the reader became bored or confused, or the book rushed the ending leaving the reader feeling as though some important information or action was missing, or names of characters or places were written differently in sections of the book—either changing the names or the spelling of the names, or a change in the description of a main character. Maybe the ending left the reader hanging and there is no sequel; the book is supposed to be a stand-alone.
There are many things that can pull a reader out of the story or disappoint a reader.
As a writer, do you know that you make a promise to your reader with every book you write, no matter what genre you write?