Thursday, September 23, 2010

How to compell - let me count the ways.

It's blogfest time and today it's all about writing compelling characters. I feel a little intimated to write this post, because frankly I'm still learning, but here's what I've read from a great book. The First Five pages by Noah Lukeman

Characterization Issues:
1) Using stock, cliche or overly exotic names. No John Smiths or Raylazan
2) Introducing too many characters at once (this is something I've been guilty of)
3) Confusion over who the protagonist is.
4) Generic character descriptions.
5) Having an unsympathetic protagonist.

Here's how to fix those problems:
1) Research names, look to mythology, look at the meaning of names.
2) Have patience - learn to stagger your character's entrances.
3) It's hard to enter a new world, give the reader a friend, a guide, someone to follow.
4) Make the character unusual looking, describe different body parts. Notice your characters cheeks, complexion, posture, aspect.
5) Remember what might be interesting to you, might not interest others.

To me writing compelling characters means that the reader has someone to relate to, someone to route for, someone whose just a little extraordinary. Readers want someone who captivates them, whether they be the hero or the villain.

I'm looking forward to reading other posts on this subject.

Remember Monday is the start of another blog week, but if you can only do it for one day that's okay. It's all about seeing how much time we really spend writing.

Have a good weekend.

38 comments:

Jessica Carmen Bell said...

Great points! I ought to get me that book :o)

Elaine AM Smith said...

That is a useful book. I love the suggestions describing less prominent features.
Are you posting at THE REJECTIONIST'S Public Humiliation Uncontest on Monday?

Misha said...

Good points. :-)

I think that the most difficult thing about writing compelling characters is the fact it's all subjective.

Some readers will be compelled. Others won't...

Laura Pauling said...

Someone to relate to and route is what is important to me when I'm reading!

Jennifer Shirk said...

I LOVE The First Five Pages. In fact, I think it's about time to re-read it!

SusanneWrites said...

Great post! Overly exotic names bother me in books. There are so many names, why does someone have to create one?

Melissa Gill said...

This is a great blog fest. I've learned a ton already. Thanks for this.

Patti Lacy said...

You have such great ideas, you should write a book!!!

LOL.

LOVE that idea of compelling characters..and plot. And these days it has to happen like on the first page.

Sigh. Am having to severely curtail blog visits until I meet two deadlines. Only through the grace of God will this get done!!

In the meantime, I sure hope you can stop by my place every now and again so I can at least "hear" you that way.

Blessings,dear one.
Patti

lotusgirl said...

Good things here. I'm going to have to read those Lukeman pages.

Carolyn V. said...

I always get so confused when there are a ton of characters in the first chapter! It's so hard to remember who is who and who likes what. Great post Patti! This fest has been so fun!

Terri Tiffany said...

I like it when the characters come on the scene slowly so I can get to know them better and then move to the next. Good list:)

Talei said...

Good points! I haven't heard of this book but will look out for it. I love that your reminder that what interests us maybe not interest others. So true and we forget it sometimes. ;)

Laurel said...

The idea of having your character be a friend and guide is intriguing. And I totally agree about excessively weird names. As a reader, it turns me off.

Jenn Johansson said...

I'm just getting ready to start an edit and I love this list. It's always great to have a place to start. Especially the beginning, it is so crucial.

Robyn Campbell said...

Patti, these posts are all excellent, yours included. Strange names get me, too. I like names I can relate to. It makes the characters more real. And my kids in my head are friends to me. And very real.:)

Susan R. Mills said...

Great points, Patti. I'm looking forward to next week.

Shannon O'Donnell said...

Excellent post! I'll have to check out that book. Thanks, Patti. :-)

Elana Johnson said...

I love how you said they have to captivate us. Even if they're the bad guy (Sylar, anyone?).

Dara said...

It's difficult when writing a historical in another country and you have to choose accurate names but ones that aren't too exotic for Western readers. I still encounter that at crit group--no one can pronounce the names although I tried my best to come up with easier ones. I can't name them all "Yoshi" for crying out loud, LOL. Oh well :P

And of course, what book do I have next on the list? One who's culture has even more difficult names (India/Persia...) Leave it to me to make things difficult :P

Also guilty of generic character descriptions. I have the hardest time picturing people in my head and then trying to describe them without being cliche.

Jennifer Hoffine said...

I use the Social Security baby names site to make sure I get a names that are right for the age of the character.

Loved FIRST FIVE PAGES also!

Sandra Ulbrich Almazan said...

I like your approach to this topic. It's important to know what issues can keep a character from being compelling and how to fix them.

Sharon K. Mayhew said...

Noah Lukeman has two free books you can download too...both are really helpful! Great post!

Tamika: said...

I'm rooting for EXTRA- ordinary!

Melissa said...

Some excellent points. I like how you included pitfalls and then told us what to do to correct them. Showing us that every negative can be a positive!

L.T. Elliot said...

Excellent points. I think I'll have to get that book, too.

Tabitha Bird said...

Thanks for sharing those pointers :)

Christine Fonseca said...

Someone to relate to...ABSOLUTELY!

Hannah Kincade said...

I'm a huge fan of name meanings and mythology! Great tips!

N. R. Williams said...

Short, sweet and to the point, thanks.
Nancy
N. R. Williams, fantasy author

RaShelle said...

Hi - What a great idea - give the reader a guide - to lead them through the story. Thanks. =D

Lisa Potts said...

Noah Lukeman is fantastic. Great job of summarizing some of his more important points.

Nicole Zoltack said...

Great post! Character names are so important. It's best not to have a character name that no one can pronounce.

Olivia J. Herrell said...

Great points, thank you!!

~that rebel, Olivia

Eric W. Trant said...

Patience, ah... you can screw that up with too many short stories!

It's like speed chess v. classical chess. One game is not like the other.

For a short, pound it out quick and be done.

For a novel or longer piece, be patient and careful and don't cram it down fist-first.

I research the heck out of names, by the way. It's the first thing I start with.

I mean, what's the first thing a person says to you? Hi, my name is (name).

Same with my chars. Names first.

- Eric

Krispy said...

Patience is one of my issues too. I tend to freak out about introducing everyone and back-story type stuff, but it's important not to OVERLOAD your reader too.

Kirsty said...

love the no cliche or exotic names rule! So true

Jen Chandler said...

Great points, Patti! And thanks for the book recomendation.

Cheers,
Jen

Ishta Mercurio said...

This is a SUPER post! I love the way you listed some common problems, then talked about some solutions. And I need to write down number Four!

Thanks!