C is for Compelling Characters (A-Z of Writing)


Hi Everyone

Whatever story you are writing, you have to create compelling characters. This does not mean to say they all have to be ‘nice’ characters, on the contrary, some villains make the most compelling characters because as human beings we are naturally curious as to why a person has become in that state of being and that’s what keeps us intrigued. Therefore a flawed character can be just as attractive as someone with an endearing personality. Think about how many TV programmes there are nowadays, that explore the reasons as to why a serial killer became that in the first place. We want to understand the reason why someone speaks, acts and behaviours in the manner in which they do, so that we can find a part of ourselves that connects with them in some way and causes us to want to know more. It becomes a challenge to us, a mission, to want to solve the puzzle of their personality.

There are exceptions to this. If you are writing a children’s book for 3-5 years, the last thing you want to do is bring a nasty character into the story as this would most likely scare a child of that age. With this age group, it is more about a child being compelled by the main character because they can relate to a problem the character is experiencing.  For example losing their Blankie or favourite toy. The reader wants to know how that problem is going to be resolved. This is the ‘hook’ that pulls the reader along to the end and needs to be intertwined with a degree of tension, built gradually to a peak and then to a successful conclusion.

To create a compelling character in a novel from someone who seems to have the most wonderful personality and the most perfect life, they usually have to have something happen to them in the story that affects them in some way. The more major way the better, as it adds curiosity and drama to the plot, increases tension and compels the reader to find out how they deal with that event and how it affects  the people around them. Remember ’cause and effect’ and as you write your story, keep thinking of this in your head. You need a ’cause’ to create a puzzle that needs to be solved and you need to explore the ‘effects’ of this on the main character and consequently the other characters. As the reader gets into the mind of the characters and feels for them, they will want to know more and read on.

But what about non-fiction books?

With non-fiction books, the book is often written by someone with experience in their field. They have been through it, done it and come out the other side. They are imparting the knowledge of their experience to the reader. So in effect, they are the main character and they become compelling when they are viewed as an expert with a human touch, that other people can relate to and learn valuable information from, to inspire and to help them. Another thing a non-fiction writer may include in their book, is case studies, these are often based on real-life people, whose identity has been kept anonymous but who have been through similar experiences to that of the reader. They are compelling because as they pop up throughout the book, they offer various solutions to solving a problem or issue that the reader needs to be resolved.

As always, your comments are most welcome.

Write soon

Sandra

Researching what your reader wants to read


Hi Everyone

Today’s post is in response to a comment from hutchagoodlife. To find out how you can research what your reader is wanting to read.

I recently wrote a non-fiction book proposal about redundancy and this involved a lot of research. This is what I did and what I would advise you to do, in order to increase your chances of giving the reader what they want and of getting published.

  • Google your subject – paying attention to the top 5 websites and browse them thoroughly
  • Use Google Keyword search tools for finding out what words and combinations of words are most searched for
  • Search the web in general for your subject matter and note and explore your results
  • Read as many books as possible, written by other authors on the subject/genre for which you want to write
  • Read books by the publisher/s you are going to submit your work to, to see what’s been done before
  • Look through magazines/newspapers, watch TV programmes on your subject
  • Devise a market research survey or questionnaire and find a suitable place to action it – then ensure you do take action by noting the results
  • Join social networking forums relevant to your subject and find out what everyone is talking about –  A good one for me is LinkedIn
  • Go to your local bookstores and ask them for a print out on books that you can buy relevant to your subject, if there is a lot, choose between 5 -10. – Different bookstores will have some different titles that you can potentially buy but there will always be crossovers, which is when you can start to see patterns emerging of the most popular titles that you need to study
  • Go to visit your local library and look at books similar to or the same as your subject – Pay attention to how many times each book has been taken out – That way you can compare the most popular titles with the most unpopular ones and analyse why you believe they are better

The amount of time you spend doing each of the above, will most likely be different for a fiction book to a non-fiction book and although all are relevant, you may find that some work better for you than others, depending on what it is that you want to write about.

Whatever you are writing about, ensure you put a different slant on it, to what has been done before. Stay positive, stay focused and believe in your-self.

Good luck.

If you want any more help, please let me know.

Write soon

Sandra