Every Monday, MYSTERY OF CHARACTER FEATURING SHANNON MUIR focuses on the art and craft of writing, from Shannon’s perspective or that of guest authors. To catch up on all posts, check out the MYSTERY OF CHARACTER FEATURING SHANNON MUIR portion of the website!
This week welcomes a guest post from author Jana D. Barrett.
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Guest Post from the Author
HOW TO GET PAST WRITER’S BLOCK
You know the saying don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater? This is a good motto to follow when experiencing writer’s block.
When you are developing a story or narrative, expressing thoughts with words, you may be on the brink of shaping a unique thought or idea- possibly you can ‘feel’ it on the tip of your tongue! Keep hammering at it! Don’t throw away your hard work (the baby) when there may be something essential developing in the original mass of messy text (the bathwater.) It takes time and editing to shape your words into something meaningful.
Other suggestions are utilizing what inspires you! Try these basic tactics! Music- for me diversity is key- not all your characters are the same, so the music that inspires your writing should vary! Scenery-mix up where you write! If you consistently go to the local coffee shop, try writing at the library or outdoors. Engage – writing is about making genuine connections! Talk to people, be genuine and you’ll find it overflows into your writing.
HOW TO HANDLE PLOT
I’ve learned from writing my first novel that organizing your plot is essential! It is awesome to have great ideas, and mind-blowing plot twists (which I suggest writing down as soon as they float into mind- in a notebook or on a digital notepad on your phone- you don’t want to forget!)
But, unless you have super memorization powers- you must manage your plot, or the order and synchronicity of your story will be amiss!
Post-it notes on a bulletin board or a white board with multicolored pens can be very helpful! Why yes – you CAN pretend you’re an investigator on an episode of CSI – I do!! Lol.
Stick to an order on your bulletin/white board that makes sense to you according to the timeline in your novel. So, if you are writing in chronological order, easy-peasy! If you are writing in an order a little more complicated, such as two parallel stories simultaneously occurring then keep the two basic timelines for those stories on your board parallel in different colors so that you make certain your timeline is accurate.
In my novel, The Boat House, there were multiple points of view. Each character was coded in a different color, all occurring within the same linear timeline.
Have fun with it!! That is one of the many reasons you started writing in the first place, right?
HOW TO HANDLE DIALOGUE
I love a good conversation between characters! I think dialogue can make a really good book, excellent! I would suggest (drumroll) . . . have conversations in your mind with your characters. All of them. Try and imagine yourself as each character and have conversations with yourself as that character. Isolate this exercise from your plot. So, just imagine random scenes not included in your story line (waking up next to the character, being in an extremely awkward situation) How would each specific character respond/act/feel? Consider this a baseline exercise for developing each character.
HOW TO HANDLE CHARACTER
Character development is possibly my very favorite part of writing! It’s a chance to create life – well, sort of!
You probably have a few main characters swimming around in your mind. Go ahead and plot them out! Keep character sketches in a word document or in a notebook.
Remember to keep your characters real. Real people have flaws. The flaws are what make them interesting and relatable! Readers envision characters as they are reading a writer’s descriptions. A good writer will build out each character with layers and consistency, not lay it all out in one paragraph.
Keep in mind that not every character should be envisioned as attractive as say… an actor in a beer commercial or the characters on an episode of Riverdale. (No offense Riverdale, your amaze! So are you, beer!) Again, remember real people aren’t perfect.
Study people. What interesting habits, traits, idiosyncrasies do the people around you have? You want your reader to be able to connect with your characters, what traits (good or bad) achieve that connection?
As you add layers to your characters, keep sketching them out in one specific place that you can reference. (Note: if you keep your sketches in a Word document you can easily search via CTRL F if you need to go back and find a certain date or characteristic pertaining to one of your characters, this comes in handy!)
About the Book
The Boat House
by Jana D. Barrett
Release Date: October 2017
Genevieve Vandermere-Anderson lives in an elite world carefully crafted by her stepfather. While other girls her age revel in the freedom of their first summer break from college, Genevieve has no choice but to return to her childhood home in Hilton Head, South Carolina to play sidekick to her vindictive stepfather. Forbidden from social media and isolated from her peers, she returns home disheartened and oppressed by the actions of her past, governed by secrets.
Though she is fearful of the repercussions, Genevieve decides it is time to start making her own choices. She sneaks out of her fortified house to attend the annual beach bonfire. There she meets a handsome stranger and follows him to an abandoned boathouse hidden in low country marshes. Little does she know that this small act of rebellion will be the catalyst for unraveling the truth about her regretful past, and the layers of deception her stepfather has masterminded.
When she begins to investigate the boating accident that tragically killed her mother and two other people, she discovers that her stepfather’s suspicious behavior and control tactics are all part of a greater agenda.
BARNES and NOBLE
About the Author
Jana was born and raised in Charlotte, North Carolina. An avid reader, she loves to travel, cook and try exotic foods. She is a self- proclaimed ‘city girl’ who fell in love with a country boy. Jana, her husband and their daughter live on a retired pasture, with a lovely farmland view. An animal lover she has Siberian Husky named Blizzard, a barn kitty named Winter and an impolite group of wild turkeys.
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