Tag Archives: characterization

How to Build Up Suspense In Any Genre

Whether you are writing a mystery or a horror, or even a romance, suspense can be a total game changer in any kind of story. Here are some tips that will have your readers hanging on the edge of their seats in anticipation.

What is Suspense?

Dictionary definition:
A state or feeling of excited or anxious uncertainty about what may happen. A quality in a work of fiction that arouses excited expectation or uncertainty about what may happen.

Simply Put: The fear of the unknown. Keeping the reader guessing. Who is the true murderer? What’s in the haunted mansion down the lane? Building suspense means offering the reader a question that they feel they must learn the answer to. The trick is to prolong giving them that answer while maintaining their interest.

Now, let’s talk about techniques you can use to help build up suspense in your story.

Solid Villains and High Stakes

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A stirring tension and conflict can be crucial in any genre. Great antagonists who challenge the protagonist create that exciting conflict. Explore the villains motivations. Why has he set this evil plan in motion? What is his connection to the hero? Throw away the idea of a villain who only wants to rain on a parade for no good reason. Really flesh out the character and make them a worth opponent for the hero.

The stakes must be high. Whatever is at risk, whether it’s a loved one’s life or the world’s safety, needs to be important to the protagonist. So important that they will jump through any hoop the antagonist throws at them. And if they fail, they would be devastated.

Point of View

Focus on the character’s perspective. See the world through their eyes. Let the reader learn information as the character does. Narrowing the point of view is an excellent way to build tension. Unlike an all knowing, omniscient narrator, the character won’t know what’s around the corner and what will happen next. Consider who tells the story, and how the story gets told.

Think about it like this. Imagine shining a flashlight into a dark room. You only see the beam of light, and not the rest of the room. The freaking Frankenstein monster could be standing in the corner, and you wouldn’t even know. Gives me the chills just thinking about it.

Image result for flashlight shining in dark cartoon

Pacing and Ticking Clocks

Experiment with style a bit. Short, fragmented sentences give a feel of breathlessness. Brief pauses will add weight to a scene. Keep in mind about the pacing of the overall story. The longer answers stay hidden, the longer some readers will continue reading. But don’t hold out for too long, readers may loose interest. It’s all about leaving a trails of information breadcrumbs for them to follow.

The use of time is another way to build suspense. Everyone can relate to the feeling of time running out. Your MC should be working against the clock. That’s why scenarios like “You have 24 hours to find the girl” work so well. Will the hero make it in time? What will happen if time runs out?

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After a Dark and Stormy Night

Hope you guys use these techniques when adding some suspense to your next story. What’s your favorite moment of suspense in a book or film? When I think of suspense, I always think of the movie, Speed. Keanu Reeves and a bomb strapped to a bus? Classic suspense thriller.

Write with Heart,

Lady Jabberwocky

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How to Write About Fictional Foods and Feasts

Food, in any story, is almost unavoidable.

Whether your characters are cooking a traditional meal from their culture, or grabbing a bite to eat, food can become a memorable part of a scene.

Personally, I love when I get the chance to write about food, because of how descriptive you can be when talking about a meal. And its those small details that bring a story, and it’s characters, to life. Take a line from my WIP as an example: “I was rewarded with freshly baked bread topped with minced garlic and a generous drizzle of olive oil.” Got your mouth watering already, right? It’s the little sentences like that will hook reader’s attention in a snap.

No, you don’t have to sound like a menu when talking about what’s on the plate. However, plugging in descriptive details will enrich your story and build a realistic, clear image for your characters, and your readers.

Preparation

  • Boiled
  • Broiled
  • Fried
  • Baked
  • Roasted
  • Steamed

Taste and Flavor

  • Sweet, Sugary, Salty
  • Juicy, Fresh, Tart
  • Bitter, Sharp, Sour, Acrid
  • Refreshing, Rich,
  • Smokey, Fiery, Zesty, Vinegary

Texture

  • Crispy, Crunchy, Greasy, Oily
  • Charred, Sticky, Soft, Doughy
  • Mushy, Slimy, Luscious, Dry, Airy
  • Melted, Stringy, Tough, Ooey-Gooey
  • Ripe, Rotten, Chilled, Piping Hot

Rapid Fire Tips

  • If your writing about a cuisine from a culture that’s not your own, do the research. You’ll want to be accurate with the information from another heritage.
  • Writing Sci-Fi or Fantasy? Be creative with inventing delicacies that tie into your setting. Consider incorporating holidays that center around a certain meal. What does Thanksgiving look like on Pluto? You tell me.
  • When the story takes place in another time period, think about what food was common back then and how it was prepared.

Throw away vague words like “delicious” and give your readers something to chew on. What are some food related moments from your favorite stories? Does your WIP have a line regarding a good meal? Talk to me in the comments! Have a great weekend you guys. Right now, I’m off to an escape room.

Write with Heart,

Lady Jabberwocky

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NaNoWriMo Day 12: Legend Stan Lee on Writing Characters

Frankly, I’ve been having a bit of writer’s block lately. Past bad habits are rearing their ugly, distracting heads. Currently, I’m hovering around 11-12,000 words. I’m not really counting, at the moment. Just trying to keep writing, keep some momentum going.

On a sad note, I just heard the news that Stan Lee has passed away. He was truly a legend. He brought life and creativity into everything he worked on. As a writer, I admired him very much and he will greatly be missed.

A couple months ago, I found this snippet of an interview with Stan Lee. He was talking about where his characters come from during the writing process. I thought it was an insightful look into the mind of an amazing creator. How an author’s life influences the way they create characters and make them real. Here’s a brief excerpt from the clip:

“…I’m sure that every writer who writes any character… is taking this character from experiences he’s had, from people he’s known, from other things he’s read. Everything we experience is somehow stored in our mind. Even if you have a horrible memory like I do, it’s still somewhere in your subconscious….”

If you’re interested, check out the full clip. In the midst of a stint of writer’s block, he inspires me to keep writing from the heart.

Rest in peace to a real-life superhero, Stan Lee.


Write with Heart,

Lady Jabberwocky

How to Not Write a Total Jerk Character In Fiction.

Mayday! Mayday!

You’re writing a story. When suddenly, a character you’re creating is taking a nose dive right into unlikable jerk territory.

Have no fear, Lady Jabberwocky is here! Let me try and help save your character from being total terror.

Whether they be hot tempered, or rude, or just have a nasty attitude,  you have created a character who is nothing but bad qualities. Yes, there are antagonists and villains and personified rain clouds, however, is that all they are? Just… the bad guy?

Here are some tips for creating a character we love to hate (and not hate to hate).

Changing Point of View

If your story involves multiple perspective and narratives, perhaps consider having your jerk character try on the narrator hat for a bit. How do they see the world? Are they really as nasty as they seem? What are their home lives like? Is there a reason for their rudeness? Take a walk in their shoes. By doing this, it can give the reader insight to that characters backstory and perspective.

Create Obstacles

Let there a be a struggle that shows another side of their character. The reader will gain a level of empathy for this character if they see them face some kind of hardship. Maybe the character learns from their past mistakes? Or feels guilt about something? Or has to face a real, serious conflict, either internal or external. Give the character a hill to climb.

Give Them a Redeemable Trait

Anything. There has to be something good. No matter how horrible and cruel someone is, there must be some redeemable quality. Are they charming? Quick witted? Hard working? Show some level of respect or affection towards another? Like animals? (Who doesn’t like puppies?) You catch my drift. Any sort of positive trait to balance out the not so positive traits.


Don’t just have a character who is only recognized by the reader as being a terrible person. Real characters, like real people, need a balance in order to be complex.

Hope this helps some writer out there. In the comments, let me know who your favorite jerk character you love to hate.

Write with Heart,

Lady Jabberwocky.

5 Tips for Naming Characters

indecisive-novelist

Comic by Tom Gauld

 

I don’t know about you guys, but for me, naming a character is like naming a child. When creating a character, the name you choose for them is incredible significant. It ties them to the setting, to their roots, even to a greater symbolic meaning. I can’t start writing about a character until they are given their name, the name that just fits. Here are my tips on naming fictional characters.

Baby Naming Website 

Okay, this may sound weird, right off the bat, but trust me on this one. Those baby naming websites for overly pregnant ladies are actually really helpful. If you are looking for a name with a certain letter, number of syllables, or cultural origin, there’s information on those kind of sites. Just be careful if someone sees you looking at baby names, they may be concerned.

Historical Context 

If your story takes place in another time period, keep in mind the historical context. Find out what names were common at the time. If you google something like ‘names from 1920s’, a list of popular names from the 1920s will probably pop up. Also the Social Security Administration website will appear with a ranked list of common names of the decade. It’s pretty useful, and it’ll give you a feel for the time.

Sound it out. 

Out loud. If it doesn’t sound right, or its difficult to pronounce, or just sounds like a mouthful, something’s off. Keep trying. Once you’ve found a name that suits your character, it should just click.

((Pet Peeve Break))

((I have this pet peeve of names that sound completely made up. Like Chloe Stormgrave or or Jace Winterfang. When would you ever meet someone with a name like that in real life? Other than in a game of Dungeons and Dragons? Choosing a name just because it sounds cool is just unrealistic. Yes, I know, somewhere out there may be a Stormgrave family or whatever, but you gotta admit, it is an unlikely name. So please, for me, choose a name that sounds realistic and not like a character for an RPG game. Seriously, it just bothers me. ))

Named After Someone

Occasionally, I’ll name a character after someone in my life, whether they are still alive or deceased. Not their full name, of course, usually just their first name. Another option is naming them after an author, or an actor, or some lady on the news, anyone really. Names are all over the place, you just have to keep your eyes open. My character Oscar, his last name, Fitzgerald, came from F Scott Fitzgerald.

Be Careful of Similar names.

Try not to have two characters’ names sound similar. Stuff like that can really confuse readers. One time, in fiction writing class, a classmate had two characters named Flip and Clip whom, if I remember correctly, were involved in gang related activities or hunted by police. One of them, we’re not sure who, got shot by an undercover cop and died. The whole class had no idea which one died nor what was happening. Just be aware of that and distinguish your characters from one another.

Hope these tips were helpful for the next time your stuck on a nameless character. Tell me in the comments below how you go about naming the characters in your stories.

Write with Heart,

Lady Jabberwocky

Writing The Hero and The Villain

As I am writing this post, I am watching my boyfriend, Michael, play a tabletop game called Warhammer. From my understanding, it’s like Dungeons and Dragons.
Watching this miniature war unfold, It’s got me thinking about heroes and villains and the importance of a good conflict. I have this pet peeve of protagonist being perfect and over powered and overcoming obstacles with little effort, very convenient. Then you’ve got villains who are evil for no reason other than the fact that they are completely rotten to the core. Literally cringing while writing these pet peeves right now.
Real characters, like actual human beings, aren’t so black and white.
Let’s start with protagonists. Here are some key things to keep in mind when constructing a hero.

  • Goal: What is the hero’s motivation? Why are they doing what they are doing? Having a purpose gives your character, and the over all plot, a direction. Also it throws fuel onto the conflict fire (if that makes sense).
  • Be Real: Being realistic means having flaws. Don’t make your character too cookie cutter perfect. Readers relate to imperfections. We want to read stories with characters who have positive and negative traits, who face obstacles with some struggle.
  • Growth: Over the course of a story arch, the character at the beginning of the must be different in some way to the same character at the end. Think of us, as people. We grow, we evolve, we change, and we learn things. Fictional characters must do the same.

There’s been a “tragic” dice roll.
I suppose that’s a good enough transition to writing antagonists.

 

  • Goal: Like your protagonist, the antagonist needs solid motivation. Have them act with purpose, not just because their evil. If your villain wants to destroy a city, it shouldn’t be because they just want to ruin someone’s day.
  • Be Real: Even an antagonist can have positive traits. No one can be completely bad. As I said before, things aren’t simply black and white. However, your antagonist should have an intimidating presence, to the hero and the audience. There are some villains we just love to hate.
  • Integrity: Put up a worthy adversary against your hero. The villain should put up a fight and carry out every threat made. When Darth Vader said he was going to blow up a planet, he blew up a planet. If at the end of the story, the antagonist loses and cries “Curses! Foiled again!” then just melts into a wimpy puddle, you may want to reevaluate things.

And here’s a question; does the hero have to win every battle?
Take note of some of your favorite hero and villain characters and really think about what makes them great.
Write with heart,
Lady Jabberwocky.

hemingway quote

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