Showing posts with label character. Show all posts
Showing posts with label character. Show all posts

A Blank Canvas - Your Characters

The last couple of months have been spent packing and moving from our 'retirement home' in Phoenix to our new 'retirement home' in Minnesota. I'm well aware that's not usually the direction one goes to retire. My parents had left me a home and my husband and I decided that for the next however many years we have, we are going to spend them in the Midwest enjoying a slower pace. 

Moving into one's family home is a bit of a challenge. I remember well how my mother had arranged furniture and art. Each day more memories crop up and distract me. But each day, too, I'm working on creating a new and different home, one that reflects the people my husband and I are. Part of the decisions we've already made are to paint, carpet and change all the window coverings. Think blank canvas. 

A blank canvas allows you to find your own place in the world. 
A blank canvas encourages exploration. 
A blank canvas drives one to a new level of creativity. 

And a blank canvas might be the best place to begin when writing your newest character(s). Part of the enjoyment of writing fiction is the unknowingness of the process. You begin with a character or a scene, or maybe only a setting. Somewhere down the road you may know where you want to eventually end - the statement you wish to make with your story. But everything in between is yours and your characters to create. Allowing your mind to be open to your character's possible reactions and thoughts is one great way to keep your readers engaged. Readers like surprises - and if you are like me - you do as well. Creating characters that, well, act out of character is fun. And just like the blank canvas above, it will drive you to a greater level of creativity, it will push you to explore your options and finally, it will help you to create characters that will find their own place in the world of literature. 
D. Jean Quarles is a writer of Women's Fiction and a co-author of a Young Adult Science Fiction Series. Her latest book, House of Glass, Book 2 of The Exodus Series was written with coauthor, Austine Etcheverry.

D. Jean loves to tell stories of personal growth – where success has nothing to do with money or fame, but of living life to the fullest. She is also the author of the novels: Rocky's Mountains, Fire in the Hole and, Perception. The Mermaid, an award winning short story was published in the anthology, Tales from a Sweltering City.

She is a wife, mother, grandmother and business coach. In her free time . . . ha! ha! ha! Anyway, you can find more about D. Jean Quarles, her writing and her books at her website at

You can also follower her at or on Facebook

An Introduction

Introducing Your Characters

The goal of every writer is to create a character that will be loved. Now this doesn't mean your character needs to be perfect - in fact, imperfection is sometimes the thing that makes your character most loved. But something needs to draw your reader in and keep them close.

For many novelists a starting point will be to create a character sheet. This will list important things like name, age, weight, height, hair and eye color, background, etc. Once you, as the author, have an idea of who your character is it is now time to introduce them to your audience. If your character has some physical challenge - a limp, a missing limb, is wheelchair bound - it will be important to inform the reader quickly, but if that's not the case, perhaps the best way to introduce your character will be to never mention any of the things on your list. 

Readers want to be engaged and to figure some things out for themselves. They really want to get to know your character in action first and see how they relate to the situation and world around them. They want to enter a character's head and understand what they are thinking - all of which forms an impression. Tease them. Allow them to envision the character on their own. Create curiosity, or mystique in the opening scene. Show your character's sensual appeal.  And even if it is your antagonist you are introducing, give your reader some hope of goodness. All of which can be done without ever using that character sheet.

What? Why even do the character sheet then, you may ask. Because you need to know your character intimately, but when introducing them to your reader work on showing and not telling. That way your reader can feel empowered by their ability to really get to know and be engaged with your key figures. Yes, it is sometimes challenging and it would be so much easier to just insert a word or two to describe, but refrain and see how it takes your writing to another level.

So now challenge yourself: write that introductory scene!


D. Jean Quarles is a writer of Women's Fiction and a co-author of a Young Adult Science Fiction Series. Her latest book, House of Glass, Book 2 of The Exodus Series was written with coauthor, Austine Etcheverry.

D. Jean loves to tell stories of personal growth – where success has nothing to do with money or fame, but of living life to the fullest. She is also the author of the novels: Rocky's Mountains, Fire in the Hole and, Perception. The Mermaid, an award winning short story was published in the anthology, Tales from a Sweltering City.  

She is a wife, mother, grandmother and business coach. In her free time . . . ha! ha! ha! Anyway, you can find more about D. Jean Quarles, her writing and her books at her website at

You can also follower her at or on Facebook

Writing Monologues

A number of years ago I attended a workshop given by David Page. It was one of the most inspiring workshops I have ever attended. I realize now how important that workshop was to the improvement of my writing, and I highly recommend all new writers (actually all writers new and experienced) to practice writing monologues. The following is just a list of points he gave in that workshop. As I read over them, it occurred to me that they can apply to all writings in the fiction genre. I thought I would share them with you. The list is not long. I hope everyone can find at least one point that will help them.
             1.  If you don’t develop a good character, you cannot have a good monologue.
             2.  Don’t sit in the easy seat when you want to write monologue. Write about
                 something you don’t know about.
                 Note: This is certainly different from what I’ve been told, but you have to
                 admit it would challenge you, and I love a challenge.)

             3.  Learn to do interviews.

             4.  Go to where people tell you not to go -- Taboo Land.

             5.  Find your hook.

             6.  In order to be somebody, you have to see/be everybody.

             7.  Got to feel your character’s heartbeat in their monologue. Should have attitude.
             8.  Monologue does not have to have just one emotion.

             9.  If you write something phony, it brings your work to a standstill.

            10.  Do not write about something you do not have feelings about.
            11.  To make it real-- it has to have connections to other things:  place, personalities
                    that are insinuated, etc.

            12.  Need a tone to your dialogue. Needs to sound individual. Imbed the tone into
                   the monologue.

            13.  When writing a monologue, remember what it is-- don’t make it its own novel
                    within your novel.

            14.  You have to know who you are in order to write good dialogue.

            A monologue has one main character, and the monologue is written from that character’s POV. You can use either or both exterior dialogue or interior dialogue. The monologue must be more creative and more personal than a manuscript that has more than one character.

            Everyone is different, and we all have our own methods, but I like to sit down and write a monologue just for the practice. I have found that it can also help me when I get a bad case of writer’s block. It seems to stimulate my creativity. At any rate, it is good practice for improving your writing skills, especially if you are a young writer.

Faye M. Tollison
Author of:  To Tell the Truth
Upcoming books:  The Bible Murders
                              Sarah’s Secret
Member of:  Sisters In Crime
                     Writers on the Move


Hearing Voices

Do you hear voices? You should. It is important to hear the voice of each and every character in your story.
            Each character is an individual, and as an individual speaks, thinks, and acts differently from the other characters. After all, that is what gives them individuality, makes them their own person. Otherwise, they would all sound alike, flat and boring. It is up to you as the author and their creator to bring your characters to live and give them substance. In other words, you have the duty to your readers to make your characters sound like real people.
            How do you breathe life into a character? First I would suggest taking note of the people around you, the ones you know and don’t know. Watch them for gestures, facial expressions, favorite words they use frequently. Do they sigh frequently as they talk? Do they have a habit of laughing at times that do not call for laughter? Do they frown a lot or have a twitch? Is there a favorite word or phrase they interject often such as “oh,gosh” or “good gosh a mighty?” Does the person have a quick temper or is he/she a mouse?
            Next get your character profiles for each character and study them. Once you have an idea of your character’s personality and background, you need to figure out how you can reflect the character’s personality, education, social background, birth place, gender, and even job-related way of talking. Have their grammar match education and slang match age and lifestyle.
            Don’t forget dialect. This could reflect the area of the country from which the character comes. Foods they eat can show where they were raised or simply show an idiosyncrasy. Be careful, though, not to overdo dialect. It could cause your reader to stop reading your book.
            Be sure to match all the elements to your character. Body language (yes, it is an unspoken voice), thoughts, and speech should all match. Otherwise you could give your reader the impression your character has multiple personalities!

Faye M. Tollison
Upcoming books:  THE BIBLE MURDERS
                             SARAH'S SECRET
Member of: Sisters In Crime
                   Writers On the Move

Utilize Your Resources

One day not long ago my sister called me in tears of sheer panic. It turned out she was taking a course with .which she was having problems. It was a subject that was difficult for me to help her with from long distance, so I asked her, "Have you utilized your resources?"

This is also true for writers. I think most writers have or will at some time have something or someone they know nothing about, and it can be very difficult to write about that thing or person with some basic knowledge. You run the risk of being unconvincing. For instance, your leading character is a lawyer. That fact may not really have any impact on your story, but lawyers do have a certain way of thinking, a certain way of talking. That needs to come through in order for your character to b convincing. But you are not a lawyer so it is necessary to research him or her.What do you do?

Look around you. Look to see what resources you have available to you. There could be a neighbor or someone in your church who is a lawyer. Or you could go sit in on a trial at your local courthouse. Observe their characteristics, how they talk, even (if possible) what their interests are. There may be certain phrases they use frequently, or a particular motion of their hand they do when they talk. Do they have the habit of looking past you or directly at you when speaking to you? Is their voice strong, firm, confident, or hesitant?

Look at the resources available to you and use them. Build your character from the real thing. If it is something like a special type of car, go to the library or even to the dealership and learn about the good and the bad points of that car. There may be a little quirk about that car that you can use to make the one in your story seem special or (no laughing here) have character/personality. It may have the habit of choking down at the oddest time, causing your character some aggravation or to add some humor at a point in your story that works for you.

You may be amazed at how many resources you have around you that are just waiting for you to take advantage of them.

Faye M. Tollison
Author of: To Tell the Truth
Upcoming books: The Bible Murders
                            Sarah's Secret
Member of: Sisters in Crime
                  Writers on the Move

To Beat or Not to Beat

To Beat or Not to Beat

          What is a beat? And what is its purpose? A beat is a little bit of action that can involve physical gestures. They are used to remind you of who your characters are and what they are doing. An example of a beat is:

            “Where are you going?” Charlie grabbed her arm, his fingers digging into her flesh.

They can increase the tension where needed or they can give the reader a bit of relief where the tension is really great.

          A reasonable balance is necessary or you can interfere with the flow of the scene. You have a scene where the dialogue is building the tension (example: an argument that is increasing in tension and building toward a critical moment such as a murder). Too many beats can interfere or disrupt the tension and make the murder scene less exciting. This can damage the flow of your scene and keep your scene from building. In other words, it can slow you pacing. The result can be the loss of your reader’s interest. So your goal should be a proper balance between dialogue and beats.

            Interestingly beats can be used to vary the rhythm of your dialogue. Remember, good dialogue has an ebb and flow to it. The areas where the tension is high you need to cut the beats to a bare minimum. If you have two high-tension scenes in a row, you should allow your readers to relax in the next scene with some quiet conversation containing more beats.

            If you are not sure just where to put a beat, read your scene out loud. Where you find yourself pausing between two consecutive lines, insert a beat.

            Beats can be used to define your character. A good example of this is body language. It can allow breathing room in an emotionally tense scene. To reinforce the point I’m trying to make, beats can accomplish three things: 1) They can increase tension; 2) They can allow breathing space for the reader; 3) They can define your character.

            In looking over your scene(s) there are some questions you should ask yourself:

            1. How many beats do I have? Try highlighting them. 
            2. How often am I interrupting the dialogue?
            3. What are the beats describing?
            4. How often am I repeating a beat?
            5. Do the beats help illuminate the character?
            6. Do the beats fit the rhythm of the dialogue? Read it out loud.

Faye M. Tollison                                                                                                                                                                              
Author of: To Tell the Truth
Upcoming books: The Bible Murders
                             Sarah’s Secret
Member of: Sisters in Crime
                    Writers on the Move

Plot Possibilities...

Writer’s block? Try one of these:

·      Your character gets a phone call that changes everything.
·      There is a car accident.
·      A secret is revealed.
·      The weather changes.
·      The power goes out.
·      Someone picks a fight with your character.
·      Your character gets his/her fortune read, or even just breaks open a fortune cookie. What does it say? What is your character’s reaction?
·      A shiver runs down your character’s spine. He/she has a bad feeling…
·      The car breaks down/runs out of gas/pops a tire.
·      Your character is out of milk.
·      Your character is allergic to ________ and, unbeknownst to him/her, has been exposed to exactly the thing he/she is allergic to.
·      An animal enters the story.
·      Your character receives a mysterious postcard/letter in the mail/email.
·      Your character’s best friend suddenly stops speaking to him/her for no apparent reason.
·      Your character's significant other, brother, sister, mother, father, or someone else close to them says, “I have something I've been meaning to tell you…”
·      A new person moves in next door.
·      Your character is invited to _______. Does he/she want to go?
·      Bring in a holiday, any holiday.
·      “Someone, call 911!!”

Dallas Woodburn is the author of two award-winning collections of short stories and editor of Dancing With The Pen: a collection of today's best youth writing. Her short fiction has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize three years in a row and her nonfiction has appeared in a variety of national publications including Family Circle, Writer's Digest, The Writer, and The Los Angeles Times. She is the founder of Write On! For Literacy and Write On! Books Youth Publishing Company and is currently pursuing her Master's degree in Fiction Writing at Purdue University, where she teaches undergraduate writing courses and serves as Fiction Editor of Sycamore Review.


To Tell the Truth, my first novel, started with a character, and from that character a story began to develop. I wrote the whole story dissatisfied with something about it that I could not quite pinpoint. I rewrote it several times, had people read it and give me their input, and read every book and article pertaining to writing. I went down the list of things needed in order to make your character more dimensional. I took it to my critique group so many times they told me to forget the book and go on to something else. But there was something within me that just would not let me give up on my book. I believe in my story and needed to believe in my main character, Anna Kayce.

What was it about Anna that so frustrated me? So many times I asked myself that question. The funny thing was no one I had gone to had an answer. So how was I supposed to come up with it? I knew it had to be something I was doing wrong, but I just could not figure out what it was. My character was so flat and yet I had done everything that all my resources told me to do.

Just when I was about to give up on my book, I received my Writer's Digest magazine in the mail, and in it was an article that was to change everything for me. It was an article on creating characters. As I went down the list of things you can do to develop your character in a dimensional way, I came to one suggestion on that list which really struck me: Do an interview with your character. I felt my heart speed up and my breath quicken. As is usual with me, I had to mull over this; but it wouldn't go away. It kept nagging at me. So with much excitement I put pen to paper and wrote a five-page interview with my character. For the first time since I created her, I began to feel as if I knew and understood her. There was a connection between us, an emotional connection which just grew from there.

I was able to get inside of her, feel her emotions and needs, and anticipate her moves and thoughts. And that was what had been missing, the emotional connection.

So if you are having problems giving your character personality and dimension, do an interview of your character.Describe your character's physical appearance, give a backstory/history of your character, even learn his/her favorite foods, hobbies, movies, etc. Explore his/her dreams and ambitions. Don't miss anything, but don't get too carried away either. Think of your character as a real person, and I don't think they will let you down.

Faye M. Tollison
Author of: To Tell the Truth
Upcoming book: The Bible Murders

Honoring Your Voice

As a writer, your voice is one of your most powerful assets. Whether you write fiction, non-fiction, novels, screenplays, marketing copy, y...