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How to Breathe Life into Your Characters

Today’s guest post is by author Morgan St. James.

Many novice writers find it  tempting to simply string together a word laundry list to describe a character’s physical attributes or their behavior in routine or off-the-chart situations. Some go a little beyond dry description and use inner thoughts to pump up the situation.

That can represent a pitfall if not used with discretion. I recently read a book that would have really been good but for the excessive use of inner dialogue—an average of at least three or four per chapter. It is better to create characters with feelings, emotions and a physical presence.

One of the most important qualities a fictional character can possess is to seem real to the reader.

Creating characters doesn’t have to be daunting. It is important to remember that the reader sees events through the eyes of the players in the story. Unless it is critical to a specific character, avoid populating your story with characters who are devoid of emotion. Characters that seem like a bunch of paper dolls reading from a script.

On the other hand, it’s easy to get carried away with creating overblown figures. Strive to strike a balance. Continue Reading…

Considerations for the First Page of Your Novel

I hope you know why it’s so important to craft a terrific first page. Surely if your first page is awful, it’s likely your reader won’t read further. And that’s a bad thing.

When we realize that literary agents often won’t read beyond the first paragraph if it doesn’t spark interest, it puts a lot of pressure on us writers to come up with a stellar first page.

But it doesn’t and can’t stop there. A great first page is not going to make up for the next three hundred blah pages.

While there is a ton to learn about scene and novel structure (and my blog contains something like a million words of instruction on those topics, so dig in!), there are some key lessons to learn about fiction writing from focusing on the first page.

Why? Because the elements on a first page should (and usually do) reflect the quality of writing in the rest of a novel. In other words, you can’t just work hard to make that first page sing and then ignore the rest of your manuscript.  Continue Reading…

The Crucial First Page of Your Novel

My latest craft book in The Writer’s Toolbox series just released. Here is a preview excerpt from First Pages of Best Sellers: What Works, What Doesn’t, and Why:

Most authors know that the first pages of a novel are the most crucial and carry the weightiest burden in their entire book. The opening scene must convey so many things that often the author will have to rewrite it numerous times to get it right.

But the first page is especially crucial to get right.

Why? Because if readers don’t get engaged in the story right away, they’ll stop reading. I’ve heard literary agents say that if the first paragraph doesn’t grab them, they move on to the next submission. That puts a tremendous burden on writers to bring their best effort to the table.

When you’re a best-selling author with a following, your fans might be forgiving enough to bear with you through some slow or less-than-masterful pages to see how your novel unfolds. And we’ll see a number of first pages by best-selling authors that appear to be carelessly thrown together, perhaps based on that confidence that their loyal readers will be lenient with their judgement. Continue Reading…

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