After publishing three devotional collections, I’ve jumped with passion into writing my first novel. A true story from the life of my great grandmother stirred my imagination and my compassion. But my WIP is rough at best.
During the recent Mid-South Christian Writers Conference, I enrolled in the “First Chapter Critique Group” led by award-winning novelists, Johnnie Alexander and Patricia Bradley. Other members of the group also based their work on family stories, both contemporary and historic. Not allowing the specifics we know about our story to control the fictional account we create isn’t always easy. It requires us to write with the backdrop of the facts we know, while developing memorable characters, great scenes, and a riveting story that’s mostly all made up.
To gather more insight into this, I also attended Johnnie and Pat’s workshop: “Creating Characters with Personality and Pizzazz.” They loaded their mini-class with reminders of what it takes to bring our characters alive on the page. From both groups here are hints I brought home with me:
- Ask your character what motivates him/her?
- Ask your character what he/she fears?
- What can’t your character do in the beginning? How will that change by the end?
- Develop your character’s personality (Myers-Briggs helpful here)
- Elicit emotions that deepen the connections of your characters with your readers.
- Get to know your characters better by channeling them. Tap into your own emotions – (For the protagonist you might close your eyes and imagine; for the antagonist, think “evil.”)
- Develop your character’s point of view.
- Incorporate strong and realistic dialogue to move the story along. (That may include sentence fragments, slang, dialect.)
- Always be a student of the craft of writing and learn it well. Read successful author’s books on the topic of writing. Here’s a list of Johnnie and Pat’s suggestions:
-The Emotion Thesaurus:A Writer’s Guide to Character Expression by Angela Ackerman & Becca Puglisi (There are six in this excellent series. I own four and am eager to add the others.)
-The Emotional Craft of Fiction: How to Write the Story Beneath the Surface by Donald Maass (I’ve just begun this one – two chapters in, and I know he has much to teach any author.)
-Getting into Character:Seven Secrets a Novelist Can Learn from Actors by Brandilyn Collins (Another great little volume already in my author’s library.)
-Self-Editing for Fiction Writers: How to Edit Yourself into Print by Renni Browne & Dave King
-Story Trumps Structure:How to Write Unforgettable Fiction by Breaking the Rules by Steven James (Now that sounds interesting. Know the rules but break them.)
-Writing Deep Viewpoint:Invite Your Readers into the Story by Kathy Tyers,
-Writing with Emotion,Tension & Conflict: Techniques for Crafting an Expressive and CompellingNovel by Cheryl St. John
Part Two of Lynn’s post will appear on Monday.
Lynn U. Watson combines many years' experience in women's ministry, love of essential oils, and her passion for God's word to bring her readers freshly inspired encouragement for their walk with Jesus. Her devotional, The Essence of Courage, was recognized as a 'must read' by regional publishing industry leaders. Married since 1973, Lynn and Steve have filled their Bartlett, Tennessee home with handmade treasures and lots of love for family, especially their five beautiful (of course) grandchildren. Aromas of freshly baked bread often fill Lynn's kitchen. Jasmine, her tuxedo kitty, enjoys sleeping in Lynn's lap while she writes. Here is my website link: https://lynnuwatson.com/