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Crafting Compelling Characters

Crafting Compelling Characters

I don’t think there’s anyone who would argue against the adage that “character is king.” An irresistible plot is, of course, essential too, but a bad character can destroy even the best plot, for a story is nothing without the people experiencing it. Readers want to know who these people are, why they do what they do, and what makes them tick. That means doing better than slapping in a...

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3 Ways To Improve Your Side Characters

3 Ways To Improve Your Side Characters

Writers often neglect side characters in their novels.  A writer’s attention usually falls on their hero or perhaps their villain. But too often, side characters get slapped on as an afterthought instead of being thought through and used as pillars and foundations, obstacles, and conflict generators. Here are three ways to improve your side characters. 1. Understand the Different Types All characters are not made equal. While many craft teachers...

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Beyond Tall, Dark, and Handsome: How to Describe Your Characters

Beyond Tall, Dark, and Handsome: How to Describe Your Characters

The ability to describe is the key to great storytelling, but when it comes to depicting characters, our first impulse is often to go straight to the basics (height, hair color, clothing) and leave it at that. It’s not that those descriptions are bad, it’s just that they provide surface-level characterization rather than truly characterizing. Dwight Swain, in his book Creating Characters, says, “When your wife says a woman is ‘loud and...

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9 Unique Ways to "Meet" Your Characters

9 Unique Ways to "Meet" Your Characters

Whether you’re on your first draft or tenth, there’s always something new to learn about your characters. Just like us, relatable characters have hopes, fears, goals, pet peeves, and more—the challenge is making all those pieces fit together.  If you’re at a loss when it comes to elevating your characterization, here is a list of unique ways to “meet” your characters to spark some creativity! I’ve often found focusing on...

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How to Write a Self-Insert That Nobody Can Call You Out On

How to Write a Self-Insert That Nobody Can Call You Out On

Here’s the thing: About 80% of the female characters that I write wind up being self-inserts to some degree. For anyone unfamiliar with the term, a self-insert character is typically defined as the fictional version of yourself that lives out your dreams and fantasies in a novel, short story, or most commonly, fanfiction. While the literary community might frown upon or call them unoriginal, I have reason to believe they...

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8 Steps for Writing Believable Characters

8 Steps for Writing Believable Characters

When we think back on the books we loved as kids, the plot details may not be preserved in our memories, but the characters often are. For many readers, it’s the characters that hold a special place in their hearts. They drive the narrative forward, complicate it, and give it meaning. In short, characters are the heart of the stories all writers strive to tell. This comes as no surprise...

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How To Strengthen Characters Using First Person Journaling

How To Strengthen Characters Using First Person Journaling

“God save us from vague generalizations!” These words from Anton Chekhov speak to the enemy of great art: a lack of specificity. When we think of great writers, we often think what makes them great is the ability to turn a general concept into something distinct. You can’t read Stephen King without being struck by his descriptions and the voices of his characters. Take this short excerpt from The Stand: “He...

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Creating Creatures 101

Creating Creatures 101

Welcome to your class on creating original fantastical creatures. Before we begin, it’s important to acknowledge that there’s no one correct method of world building. You may also have varying levels of reality in your new world. Or you may not be a fantasy writer at all. Not to worry, this creative writing exercise will still stretch your skills.  As an ocean science educator, I am going to teach you...

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