Posts Tagged ‘fiction’

H. A. Titus is the writer who had the most amazing idea, and WON the spot on Scarlet Inkwell to talk about writing, and share tips and tricks that they’ve discovered. Now, that’s not H.A. Titus there, but it’s fitting because she’s going to be talking about “Hanging out with your characters” and you know, more often than not mine are prone to do things like this!  So, without further ado, onto her thoughts!


We all notice when a book’s characters stand out. They’re amazing and unique, and we just don’t want the book to end because we love them so very much.

I don’t know about you, but a few years ago, whenever I returned to my own writing after reading a book with amazing characters, I winced. My characters felt flat and boring, and they all had the exact same nervous tics, facial expressions, and speech patterns. They were like clones that I trotted out on command, as many as needed for the story.

Since then, one of the most important things I’ve learned with character development is to spend time with them. To authors who can corral their generally well-behaved characters, this might sound a little funny. To other authors, who struggle with just getting their character to do what they want for five seconds, it might sound like an exercise in despair. Nevertheless, spending time with your characters allows you to get to know them better, to understand their reactions and desires.

Work on a story generally begins a month or two ahead of when I actually start writing the story. That time is spent working out plot ideas and just spending time with the characters; asking them questions, writing snippets of scenes in their point of view, and generally treating them like I would treat a new friend whom I’d like to get to know better.

Here are some suggestions for spending time with your characters that I often use:

*The Four D’s: These originated from Brandilyn Collins’ (author of Dark Pursuits and Deceit) writing book Getting Into Character: Seven Secrets A Novelist Can Learn From Actors. They encompass a character’s Desire, what they want most out of anything else in the world; their Distancing, which pulls them away from achieving their Desire; the Denial, which is a circumstance that pushes them so far away from the Desire that achieving it seems impossible. The character can then either discover a new Desire, or the plot continues on to the Devastation, where the hope of achieving the Desire is completely ripped away. The four D’s seem like plot points, but knowing a character’s emotional state regarding their Desire in all stages of the story has a way of adding more tension into the story.

*Building on this, Susanne (C. S.) Lakin, author of The Wolf of Tebron, The Map Across Time, and other books in the Gates of Heaven series, writes a series of blog posts about how she begins building characters. She says she determines and thinks about these three points: the character’s core need, and what they would do if they couldn’t get that need met; the character’s greatest fear; and the incident(s) that wounded them early in lie that got them believing a lie. Knowing these things are essential to creating a realistic character.

*Asking a series of character-building questions. You can find these online (a good series I’ve found is here: or another series I absolutely love is in the back of Alan Watt’s book The 90-Day Novel. I especially recommend the ones in Watt’s book because some of them tell you to write for a set amount of time (usually five minutes or so) about a character’s opinion on a certain question.

*Writing a character voice journal. James Scott Bell talks about this in his book Revision and Self-Editing. Writing a character voice journal sounds a bit strange…basically, you just write in the voice of your character and let them ramble on as long as they want. Using a couple of the character-building questions as a starting point may be useful, but don’t hold your character to answering only those—they will probably begin to ramble, and I’ve found that rambling is a good way to learn truths about your character that are often obscured.

*If you’ve done some character stuff and feel you don’t have a good handle on the character still, don’t worry. Start writing the story. Sometimes even the most reclusive character will reveal something about himself as the story progresses. I sometimes do more character building in the second draft/rewrite of the story, as I feel that I understand the character more thoroughly after sending him/her through all sorts of difficult and nasty situations.

*If you find yourself portraying emotions in the same way for each character, a great resource is The Emotion Thesaurus by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi. This is a list of different emotions and people’s external/internal reactions, as well as progressions of that emotion. It’s a fabulous resource.

And remember this: study favorite authors in your genre. This is a great way to learn how to write a story and characters. Take apart favorite books and see if you can identify a character’s four D’s, the core need, the greatest fear, and the lie. Look for new ways to portray character emotion.

Practice and study. It sounds a lot like schoolwork, but it is effective. Utilizing even one of these methods will help your characters become richer, deeper people.

Let me know what works for you and what doesn’t—and if you have another way of digging into your character’s psyche, please share! I’m always eager to try new things in writing.

Thank you H.A. Titus!  Those are incredible tips, tricks, and idea for fleshing out paper tigers!

Want to keep up with H.A. Titus?

Of course you do!

You’ll find her blog here

And here, is her multi-author steampunk styled ongoing story blog. Check it out! 

These three things have been a hot topic among my Scribe friends this weekend and so I thought I’d give a break down of what the three really mean to a writer, and my thoughts on them, for what they’re worth. I do see an awful lot of books at work(for those who don’t know I work in an Indy Bookstore) and after a while I got  rather good at spotting trends. Not that I’m as quick as those who are high up in the publishing industry in spotting the trends, but then they don’t do any hand selling to customers like I do. I get to see a micro sampling of a writers audience in real-time  which is rather cool.

I’m going to reverse the order of the topics in the title and start with

King Lear Fiction (End of the Story World)

I’m going to lump in here, Dystopian & Epic Fantasy as well as Supernatural Romance and Supernatural Fantasy (set in our world rather than another time and place).   Recently these kinds of books have exploded onto the market, thanks in large part to the success of The Hunger GamesLeviathan, and  Divergent  to name a few. Books like these have similar parts; the teen hero or young person is stripped away from the family (or is an orphan which really is the same thing)  they sacrifice love, their dreams, or themselves.

So far, so good. This is where the story arc can go up into triumph or down into despair.  These stories do a nose-dive. Just like in Shakespeare’s King Lear, where there are  moments along the storyline  that the King could stop the agonizing plunge into darkness and despair, these books have a chance to stop the nose dive and they choose to plumb the  depths of misery.  The heroes actions don’t save the ones they love, the sacrifice is invalidated,  and the evil that they stood against advances often triumphing.   Either literally or figuratively, the character’s world is destroyed. And heroes are so damaged as to make me doubt that they will really ever be happy again. I imagine that they are put on suicide watch by the remaining  supporting characters.

When I’ve read a book like this, my first reaction is Well, that’s three hours of my life I’ll never get back.  And I’m a little depressed. I can’t keep putting that kind of melancholy into my mind, I’ve got my own problems to deal with, thank you very much.

I’m not the only one to feel this way. More and more, readers will ask me as they come in the store “Is this one of those ‘hopeless’ novels? If I answer that it is dark, they’ll put it back on the shelf and ask me for “A book where someone is happy at the end, and they haven’t betrayed  their best friend or lost their little sister.”

It’s an interesting phenomenon,  people who are facing hard times financially or otherwise, want to read a story where there’s a happily ever after.

This is well documented throughout the Great Depression, where movies and books that had a rosier-tomorrow ending enjoyed a huge boost in sales.  People wanted to read stories of hope and adventure.  They tended to read books that promised that things were going to get better, and that if they held on and endured, they’d have a happy ending in their own life.

My best guess is that the market is going to be saturated by the King Lear books soon, and the pendulum will swing wildly back the other way and publishers will be looking for the  encouraging upward swing instead of the dark plunge.

I was  recently reminded by  Luke Alistar,  that we writers  have  quite a bit of power, and we should be mindful of what we are putting in our readers heads.

If you are currently writing King Lear  fiction, please take a moment and think about what I’ve said here.  Why are you writing it? If it’s because that’s the “trend” right now, watch out. We’re getting close to saturation point.

If you are writing it because it’s on your heart, ask yourself what do you want your audience to take away from your story?  Will they be encouraged to face the struggles in their own life?  Or will they be caught in a mental morass of despair? Adjust your story accordingly to what you want them to have, Scribes. And as always:

Encourage one another.