Tag Archive - characters

How to Create Nuanced Characters

Today’s guest post is by Nina Schuyler.

In ZZ Packer’s short story, “Drinking Coffee Elsewhere,” Dina is an incoming black freshman at Yale who isn’t interested in being polite or friendly or accommodating. She’s abrupt, angry, cruel, and at the same time, she’s wonderfully emotionally engaging.

How does Packer do it?

If you’re creating a female character who doesn’t embody stereotypical female traits—nurturing, maternal, you know the list—you have a challenging project, at least if you’re writing for an American audience. (That’s an entirely different topic, which I’ll leave for another time).

In early drafts, there’s a good chance you’ll go too far in the opposite direction. You’ll have a Dina character stomping and growling and swearing through the pages of the story, but she fails to elicit the reader’s emotional engagement.

In your next draft, here are some techniques to create that all-important engagement. Continue Reading…

Crafting Great Characters Starts and Ends with Motivation

This material ran on my blog four years ago, but it’s worth sharing again!

Most fiction writers know that character is at the heart of a story. Whether you are writing short or long fiction, you need terrific characters.

But what’s in a character? And how much do you need to know about your characters before you start writing?

The depth of detail you develop for your characters may vary. It stands to reason that you aren’t going to put as much work into crafting minor characters as you would major ones. And the most important character—your protagonist—should have the most depth.

How deep should you go? That’s a good question. Some writers spend months working on a character: her looks, her history, her family, her issues. But often the details a writer works up are trivial details. Continue Reading…

The Secret Formula to Writing the Commercially Successful Novel

I’ve been writing novels for more than three decades, and while I have learned a lot about how unpredictable the market is, there are some specific characteristics that have consistently set apart novels that see success. You’d think every informed novel-writer would know what these are.

Here’s the thing:

I critique more than 200 manuscripts a year (95% novels). Even the best ones seem to be missing the key ingredients for a commercial best seller.

Why is that?

Because few writers have learned the specific elements that identify a great novel with great potential. And many of those elements are not what the average fiction writer is taught.

Sure, you need a great plot, an intriguing and fresh premise, terrific characters. And your scenes need to be tight time capsules of “show, don’t tell.”

But a terrific commercially viable novel has so much more. And few books or writing instructors teach what these essential elements are.

Continue Reading…

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