Hi everyone! Briana here. I’m still getting settled in my new place, so today’s blog post comes from the lovely Sarina Langer, a dear friend and one of my editing clients. I’ll be back with a brand-new vlog on Friday. Enjoy!
Character creation is one of my favourite parts when I plot a new WIP. It’s a bit like meeting new people for the first time, wouldn’t you say?
Intriguing, relatable characters ensure your readers will be invested until the very end—but how do you rock your character creation?
Today, I’ll share some of my character creation secrets with you! I even brought you a present 😉
Strengths and Weaknesses
You’ve probably already heard this a hundred times, right? The reason I’m including it anyway is because it needs to be exploited until there’s nothing left.
You can go easy—your MC’s strength could be that she’s an excellent archer, and her weakness could be spiders. (I know I relate to the latter)
Or, you can make it a little more complicated. Your MC’s strength (let’s call her Sara) could be unwavering loyalty to her brother and optimism even in the darkest situations.
Her weakness could be the memory of her parents dying, or a hatred for killing. Remember her strength being that she’s good with a bow? A weapon? CONFLICT
The more complicated your characters are, the more your readers will fall in love. Your readers are just as complicated—all humans are—and we love seeing ourselves in fictional characters!
Wants and Fears
So, our girl Sara has seen her parents die and now hunts for dinner with a bow to keep herself and her brother alive. Losing her brother is a natural fear, but what other fears might this attachment cause?
Seeing someone else die?
Returning to her childhood home?
Losing the necklace her mother left her?
Sara’s wants can be simple: survival. But what does her survival look like? Does she want to make a new life somewhere? Does she want to stay on the move? What does she want for her brother?
How does she fear she might fail?
And, now that you know all that…
Your character’s knowledge vs. the reader’s
It’s tempting to write something like ‘Karen, who was Sara’s mum but died when Sara was ten, was still in Sara’s memories’ because the reader needs to know, right? They do, but Sara wouldn’t think this. Sara knows who Karen was. Sara knows how Karen died.
She wouldn’t think ‘Karen, my mother who died when I was ten’, she’d think ‘Mum’.
So, unless someone asks her directly, she’d have no reason to be this detailed. Honestly, she’d probably try to forget about it. We’ve just decided she’s seen her parents die, after all—pretty traumatising!
Your reader definitely needs to know, but in your character’s own time. It’s whenever your character is ready—not when you are ready, or when your reader might be ready.
Take your sweet time introducing it
You don’t introduce yourself to someone new by saying ‘Hi, I’m Sara, I watched my parents die six years ago so I’m depressed and protect my brother because he’s all I have left. I learned how to use a bow because I need to keep us fed and alive, but I kinda hate killing people and animals. I’m just trying to survive, you know?’
You’d be reserved. You’d say ‘I’m Sara.’ and hope this person you’ve just met moves on. No one ever asks if you have parents, so this new character wouldn’t either unless there’s a good reason—and giving your reader that information isn’t it.
Feed your readers info slowly. Let them get to know your characters like they would a real person.
If in doubt, ask yourself: does my character say this to teach the reader something, or because it fits with the plot, pacing, and their personality?
Have a freebie!
To help you create believable characters, Briana and I have attached a downloadable mini character questionnaire for you. It’s my own version, and I use this myself for every character I create. There’s room for a picture or two of your character, and it should help you create believable characters without overdoing it (:
How do you create your characters? Do you have a method, or is there something you struggle with every time? I’ll stick around for a while, so ask away!
Today’s post is going to be a little different. Instead of talking about writing, I’m sharing some book recommendations. February is Black History Month, and in honor of that, I’m reading books by authors of color.
If you, like me, want to celebrate talented people who aren’t often celebrated by mainstream media outlets, check out some of these book recommendations.
The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
Young Adult Contemporary
Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed.
Soon afterward, his death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Protesters are taking to the streets in Khalil’s name. Some cops and the local drug lord try to intimidate Starr and her family. What everyone wants to know is: what really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr.
But what Starr does or does not say could upend her community. It could also endanger her life.
My reaction: This book made me feel a million different things, and I bawled like a baby. Please read this book.
The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead
Adult Historical Fiction
Cora is a slave on a cotton plantation in Georgia. Life is hellish for all the slaves but especially bad for Cora; an outcast even among her fellow Africans, she is coming into womanhood – where even greater pain awaits. When Caesar, a recent arrival from Virginia, tells her about the Underground Railroad, they decide to take a terrifying risk and escape. Matters do not go as planned and, though they manage to find a station and head north, they are being hunted.
In Whitehead’s ingenious conception, the Underground Railroad is no mere metaphor – engineers and conductors operate a secret network of tracks and tunnels beneath the Southern soil. Cora and Caesar’s first stop is South Carolina, in a city that initially seems like a haven – but the city’s placid surface masks an insidious scheme designed for its black denizens. Even worse: Ridgeway, the relentless slave catcher, is close on their heels. Forced to flee again, Cora embarks on a harrowing flight, state by state, seeking true freedom.
As Whitehead brilliantly re-creates the unique terrors for black people in the pre-Civil War era, his narrative seamlessly weaves the saga of America from the brutal importation of Africans to the unfulfilled promises of the present day. The Underground Railroad is at once a kinetic adventure tale of one woman’s ferocious will to escape the horrors of bondage and a shattering, powerful meditation on the history we all share.
My reaction: I love, love, love this novel. Colson Whitehead is going places. Read this book right now.
Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward
Adult Literary Fiction
An intimate portrait of a family and an epic tale of hope and struggle, Sing, Unburied, Sing examines the ugly truths at the heart of the American story and the power – and limitations – of family bonds.
Jojo is thirteen years old and trying to understand what it means to be a man. His mother, Leonie, is in constant conflict with herself and those around her. She is black and her children’s father is white. Embattled in ways that reflect the brutal reality of her circumstances, she wants to be a better mother, but can’t put her children above her own needs, especially her drug use.
When the children’s father is released from prison, Leonie packs her kids and a friend into her car and drives north to the heart of Mississippi and Parchman Farm, the State Penitentiary. At Parchman, there is another boy, the ghost of a dead inmate who carries all of the ugly history of the South with him in his wandering. He too has something to teach Jojo about fathers and sons, about legacies, about violence, about love.
Rich with Ward’s distinctive, lyrical language, Sing, Unburied, Sing brings the archetypal road novel into rural twenty-first century America. It is a majestic new work from an extraordinary and singular author.
My reaction: Confession time: I have yet to read this book. Nevertheless, it’s at the top of my list.
Endangered by Lamar Giles
The one secret she cares about keeping—her identity—is about to be exposed. Unless Lauren “Panda” Daniels—an anonymous photoblogger who specializes in busting classmates and teachers in compromising positions—plays along with her blackmailer’s little game of Dare or . . . Dare.
But when the game turns deadly, Panda doesn’t know what to do. And she may need to step out of the shadows to save herself . . . and everyone else on the Admirer’s hit list.
My reaction: I couldn’t put this book down, and it kept me guessing the whole way through. If you like mysteries too, you don’t want to miss this one.
Of course, these are just some of the many fantastic books by black authors out there that deserve your consideration. For more books by authors of color, check out this list on Buzzfeed and this one from The Root.
What are your favorite black-authored books?
What are your favorite black-authored books? Check out some recs from @brimorganbooks. (Click to tweet)
Quick life update blog post because next weekend I’ll be moving into my own place. I’ve been living with my parents and am looking forward to being independent once again. There’s nothing quite like having your own space to decorate and do with as you please.
I’m also looking forward to having full control over my schedule. Being able to come home and write or edit without other people around will be nice. I love people, but sometimes I need solitude to work. If I can get into a good routine in my new place, I know I can thrive.
I’m so thankful for the writing community on Twitter and the internet in general. I’d never be where I am as a writer without the encouragement of my online friends. I’m also thankful for my critique partner Amanda—who is a phenomenal writer in her own right. We’re putting out a horror anthology this year about the seven deadly sins and seven heavenly virtues. Look out for that if you like spooky things! Also, we’re recording a vlog about our friendship and collaboration!
I am so excited to be moving on to this next phase in my life, and I can’t wait to share the journey with you. Also, if we’re friends and you’d like to send me a card or anything, email me or drop me a DM on Twitter, and I’ll give you my address! I want to fill this new home with love and light and positive energy, and I can’t do that on my own.
What are you excited for right now?
What’s next for author @brimorganbooks? A move, and other changes. (Click to tweet)
So uploading this video… made me kinda anxious??? Anyway, here it is. To everyone who asked for this, I hope it helps you somehow. Remember: you’re stronger than you think. Go easy on yourself. And I promise you’re never, ever alone.
- Crisis text line: Text HELP to 741-741 if you don’t feel comfortable calling someone.
- National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Helpline: 1-800-950-NAMI (6264)
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
My biggest focus for this round of WIP edits has been characterization. I’m immensely thankful for my friend and editor Coryl’s insight on this topic—when I asked them for resources, they were more than happy to provide.
One of the places they directed me was author K. M. Weiland’s website. For those of you who aren’t familiar with her website, you need to check it out immediately. She not only offers information about her books, but also tips, tricks, and advice for writers of all skill levels. Naturally, I was most drawn to her posts about character-building. According to Weiland, most of what makes a good character arc in a story can be summed up as follows: What lie does the character believe about themself?
This single question changed my whole approach to character development and helped me come up with more well-rounded characters. In my novel Reflections, for example, Rama believes that she isn’t good for anything after her assault, and that she’ll never see her body the same way again. Without giving too much away, that’s all proven false by the end of the novel.
Another tactic that changed my character-building for the better is author and YouTuber Jenna Moreci’s character templates. For some reason or other, most character worksheets don’t help me. They’re almost always far too detailed, and then I get distracted. After watching this video, I gave Jenna’s method a shot. It’s still a decent bit of work, but nowhere near as complicated as it used to be. Now, there’s also the added bonus of viewing my characters as full-fledged individuals with goals, histories, secrets, and complicated relationships.
If you’re struggling to develop fully formed characters, give one (or both) of these two different strategies a try. Also, if you have any tips for building characters, feel free to share them with me!
What do you think of these character-building tips? What advice do you have for creating realistic characters?
“What lie does your character believe about themself?” (Click to tweet)
How wild is it that it’s 2018 now? (And honestly, praise be.) I’d planned to do this post in January, but now is so much better. At the beginning of every year, I try to come up with a list of things to check off in the new year. Right now, that means strengthening my self-discipline as an artist.
Whether you’re a writer or a lawyer or something else, I’ll bet you’ve made some new year’s resolutions. Like me, you might have some negative associations with the concept. Instead of using “resolution,” why not give “goal” a try? Personally, I have a few goals this year:
Finish Girls’ School. I’m still on the second draft, and I really think I want to query this one. That terrifies me, but we’ll see what happens. I don’t want to do this all on my own anymore.
Move into my new apartment. February 17! (If we talk to each other a lot and you’d like my mailing address, feel free to reach out.)
List the Reflections audiobook. After having (finally!) found a great narrator, I’m thrilled to say that this audiobook should be available by summer.
Query Girls’ School. Just “query.” Focusing on the only part of the process within my control. After writing the query letter and sending the MS to agents, it’s out of my hands.
Read 1-2 books per week. I want to become a better writer, so I’m going to read more books. Also, books are neato.
Determine a consistent posting schedule. Not only for this blog, but also for YouTube and my newsletter. I’m busy, but not too busy to connect with friends and readers.
Draft a new project. Not quite sure which one yet, but I’m thinking it’ll be a YA thriller or horror novel.
Publish horror anthology with my critique partner. Sorry, Amanda! We’re still doing this! I’m just not sure of the timeline right now.
Audition for a theatrical production. I miss the theatre like crazy. I’m putting myself out there this year and going out for more auditions.
Learn to make bath bombs. Because I love bath bombs. Also because selling them could be a new side hustle.
Most of my goals relate to writing, but that’s because I’m trying to make more room in my life for the work that most fuels me. This year I’m making my art my big focus. I encourage you to do the same.
What are some of your goals for this year? I’d love to hear from you!
What goals have you set for 2018? Author @brimorganbooks is sharing some of hers. (Click to tweet)
This video is the first of (hopefully) many spooky ones to come. Today, I’m going to tell you a little about the Enfield poltergeist, and why it’s one of the most controversial paranormal cases to date.
What true crime case, unsolved mystery, or paranormal event should I cover next?
I got to watch people performing my play! I still can’t believe that happened, y’all. You should also watch this video if you either a) haven’t read my play or b) don’t know what it’s about.
Have you read or seen Touch? What did you think?
Author and playwright @brimorganbooks got to see her play performed, and she had a lot of feelings. (Click to tweet)
Hi everyone, it’s Briana! I’ve had a hectic month, so today’s post is from Richard Moore, and it’s about doing the things that fuel your creative soul. I’ll have a brand-new post for you sometime next week!
When I was 14 I remember I would spend my lunchtimes rebuilding old PCs so I could try and sell them. I also programmed my own (rather average) operating system. I’m glad I followed what I was interested in, rather than what others suggested I should be doing. I was often called a geek but I remember it as such a fulfilling time.
Later, when I started selling, I spent money and time at weekends on courses and guidance to improve myself. Again, I got a weird reception on this and it was suggested I should just be chilling at home on the weekends rather than out learning. I thought about it but usually I just didn’t want to. So I didn’t.
Now, if I’m into something I dive deep into it and make that interest into something that can improve my world. There is belief that we should “do” a certain thing—something that fits in.
But if you let the voice within speak up a little, you often find there is great fulfillment in something completely different.
Whatever that is, run with it.
Richard Moore originally worked 60 hour weeks in the City of London, before deciding to build his own businesses and help others do the same.
After building companies from the trenches up, by taking ownership of sales teams, coaching leadership roles and consulting with multi-hundred million pound organisations, Richard created his own company to help others get massive traction as they launched their businesses.
As he did this, Richard invested in many of the companies he helped to create and shared with the world his views on business, through the weekly live Q&A‘s he runs online, to speaking gigs in front of business owners in his space and his weekly blog. Richard also created products such as the EightStepStartup course, the Basics of Sales course and direct mentoring of established businesses.
Most of you know I’ve been struggling with depression. If you are too, you’re not alone. And if you’re having trouble writing while depressed, this video might help you.
What tips or advice do you have for writing with depression?
Struggling with depression but still want to write? Check out this vlog by @brimorganbooks. (Click to tweet)