Monday, March 26, 2012

So You Want To Be An Author

Many readers have emailed me asking what it takes to become an author. The easiest way to answer is by posting a collection of writing tips I've learned over my years in the business. Starting this month, a new post will share some insight and, hopefully, help you achieve your dream.

So - Attention Everyone - Class is now in session.:)

CHARACTERIZATION

Characterization isn’t about the fool at your last holiday party everyone laughed at then dissected on the drive home. It’s the life of your hero, heroine, and all secondary characters beyond their height, weight, and eye color in your novel.

Let’s do a cast call.

Starring Roles;

Johnny the Hero
Liz the Heroine

Supporting Cast;

Fred – Johnny’s best friend
Pam – Liz’s best friend
Marge – Johnny’s mother

Walk-Ons;

Taxi Driver
Waiter
Hairdresser

Of the above group, the only roles needing a characterization are the stars and supporting cast. The Walk-Ons are too minor to worry about.

Award-winning author, and mentor extraordinaire, Beth Anderson spent many a long night explaining to me why creating a characterization is important to any well-written book. Since we don’t have forever here, I’ll crunch it down.

You, the author, must know the history of your characters. Their past events are what make them be the people they are today. It is what has driven them to be honest, strong, or steal. You won’t know why your hero runs into the burning building to save the heroine if you don’t understand his history.

So how do you so this? Very easy, but a little time consuming. Don’t fudge on this. It’s too important to writing a novel that will impress an editor and create a reader following.

The stars need an extensive characterization. Following is the simple process;

1 - Park yourself at your computer. Each characterization will take several hours so relax and enjoy.

2 - Choose one of the lead characters.

3 - Imagine you are that person. We’ll use Johnny for the example.

4 - Just type. Bang out his life starting at boyhood. Write in his voice. It’s amazing how your phrases will alter as he ages. Bring him up to the starting point of your novel and no farther. Include every detail no matter how insignificant it may seem. Let your mind run on and you will be Johnny, living the high points, and lows, of his youth and what drove him to the man where your story begins. You’re in Johnny’s point of view. Did he pee his pants in third grade? What really happened? What did he see, smell, and feel inside?

Don’t worry about punctuation, grammar, or spelling. Just type. No one else will ever read your work.

Do this with your heroine as well.

You have finally finished your stars. It’s time to begin on your supporting cast. They’ll take much less time since they aren’t nearly as important. You don’t have to start in their childhood. Type up a brief bio, something similar to an obituary of a famous person.

I took Beth’s method one step farther to help me drop the back-story, which we’ll discuss Friday, into my novel.

Below are the four easy steps;

1 – Print out each characters history.

2 – List all the high-points on a separate sheet of paper. The order doesn’t matter.

3 - As you write your novel drop in a line or two of back-story at the appropriate time to enrich the action of your character.

4 – Cross off the lines used and write next to them which page you’ve inserted it.

This method will help you build stronger characters with real motivation your reader and editor will love.

I'll be back on Friday with more writing tips. Until then...

Happy Reading!

Sloane Taylor
www.sloanetaylor.com

15 comments:

  1. Very good advice. You don't have to tell all but have to know all. The writer is the puppeteer.

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    1. "The writer is a puppeteer", beautifully phrased, Julie. Thank you for commenting and I hope to see you again.:)

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  2. Lots and lots of work! That's what it takes. Some great points Sloane. Funny, bc I was just king of thinking along these lines... How does an author stay positive? Tough to do with so much competition and limited resources in some cases. But you're right. What you write has to be good :) Kara

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  3. Lots and lots of work! That's what it takes. Some great points Sloane. Funny, bc I was just king of thinking along these lines... How does an author stay positive? Tough to do with so much competition and limited resources in some cases. But you're right. What you write has to be good :) Kara

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  4. You're right, Kara, and don't we all know it.:) The mindset is what keeps us positive. Of course, I lost mine years ago so...:)

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  5. Thanks so much for your writing tips - keep them coming. Judy

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    1. You're very welcome, Judy. Thank you for coming by. Hope to see you Friday.:)

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  6. GREAT Post, Sloane! Thanks for sharing!

    hugs, Kari Thomas, www.authorkari.com

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  7. Hi Kari, GLAD you liked it. Great to see you again.:)

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  8. Terrific advice! I have to remember to fill in more back story before I leap into character. I get so impatient, though, and try to keep it all straight in my head.

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    1. Melissa, I've read your books. All of them. You do a great job of teasing the reader with back-story.

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  9. Thanks, Sloane. This is why these 'fictional' characters parade every night in my sleep. As for back story, I hate it when it's dumped in a story instead of my getting to know the person a little at a time. I mean people don't just come up to a total stranger and tell them their life story. Whoa wait a minute, people use to do that to my father all the time. But in real life it just doesn't happen.

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  10. Absolutely, Yasmine! Fiction has to have some reality to it.:)

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  11. Thanks Sloane, What a great exercise! I have shared it with a couple of people who are in the midst of writing books. Thanks.

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    1. You're very welcome, Jeanette. Thanks for stopping in and sharing the post. Friday will have a new one. Hope you find it worthwhile.

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