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Premise Determines How Many Characters You Should Have in Your Novel

When I think about the many novels I’ve written, I realize I don’t always start with a plot idea. Sometimes a topic or theme intrigues me, or I’ll have an image of a character in the throes of a moral dilemma. I remember reading about how C. S. Lewis came up with his Narnia series. He had a picture in his mind of a faun carrying a parcel and an umbrella through a snowy wood. From there, the The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe sprang into existence.

The novel I’m currently writing, a supernatural thriller called Lightning Man, also was sparked by a picture in my head. I saw a man at the top of a mountain, his arms outstretched in a messianic surrender to the heavens, willing lightning to strike him for the tenth time, intending to stop a terrorist by sacrificing his life as he grips the bad guy. From there I had to ask a lot of questions to find my story, and I encourage you to do the same with the ideas that excite you.

I wove a complex plot around that character and climactic moment I saw in my head (it’s taken me a couple of years, but it’s all in place now). But it all started with a picture of a nebulous character. Continue Reading…

How to Create Realistic Characters

Today’s guest post is by Laura Sherman.

Whenever you write a novel, the success of the project depends upon your ability to craft believable, realistic characters. When done correctly, your readers will be drawn to the people in your book. They will empathize with and relate to each individual you portray and might just shed a tear when the book is finished.

As a writer, you know how important it is to do research. After all, you must know about the environment, relevant history, as well as the various topics discussed in your book. These are crucial to creating a realistic setting and background.

What you might not realize is that you also need to research the personalities involved if you wish to create truly three-dimensional characters. That’s the only way to really understand the nuances and characteristics of each individual in your novel. You have to work out how each character will develop throughout the story and who they will become by the end. And that development needs to resonate with your readers. Continue Reading…

Incidental Characters That Make Your Novel Zing

Minor characters are part of your cast of characters. They come “on stage” from time to time and serve specific purposes in the story. They don’t have huge, front and center roles, but they’re important to the overall plot.

The characters at NASA trying to get Mark Watney home from Mars in The Martian have bit parts, but without them, the story fails. Same with the crew of Watney’s ship, his pals who make the hard decision to turn around and go back for him, committing to many months’ delay in returning to Earth.

There are few moments with these minor characters, but if they were removed from the story, there would be no story to speak of. So, remember, they are only minor in the amount of stage time they have in the pages of your book. But they are not minor in value or purpose.

Incidental characters are in a different category. They can be removed from your story and it wouldn’t truly impact it. Their absence would not equate to novel failure. However, I will venture to say that sometimes it’s the incidental characters that add that special ingredient that makes a novel terrific and stand high above the mounds of other good novels.

It may perhaps be counterintuitive to say that incidental characters often have a big impacting role in a story, but I’d like you to pay close attention to this and consider how you might work incidental characters into your story. Continue Reading…

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