Posts Tagged With: characters

Who could?

Writer's Quirk 4

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Motivated Beginnings

What makes a good beginning for a book? This is undeniably the crucial part of the book where the author’s talent needs to shine and he or she needs to draw you in so that you’ll bother reading the rest of the book. I usually know whether or not I want to read the rest of the book by the end of the first chapter. So what makes a good beginning?

Here’s what I like:

  • A problem – You’d think I have enough of those in my life, but for me to become interested in a book, I have to discover why the author wrote it and darn quick. If the first five chapters of a book give no hint as to why the characters do what they do, I lose interest. It can even be a hint of a problem and it will draw me in. Continue reading
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Serious Humor

Wha? Serious Humor sounds like an oxymoron. Well, it is, but it’s also a legitimate technique that I love to use.

Serious humor is mostly situational. A character is engaging in activities that are not humorous, but something occurs to make them humorous, or the nature of the scene makes it funny. I used this type of humor a lot in How to Win Friends and Influence Magicians. You get all the laughs of a joke without ruining the serious messages of your book.


‘“Really?” I scolded the nearest building, showing it my most fierce expression of reproach. “Is this how you’re going to do it?” The building tried to pretend it didn’t hear me. I turned to a building on the other side that I know was in on the whole thing too. “Are you serious?” I demanded of the building. “Are you honestly going to set up some hocus-pocus barrier to keep me in like a trapped rat?” The building looked belligerent, knowing it was guilty. But it didn’t apologize. So I yelled at it for a while, though it didn’t help me get out.’

Everyone has yelled an inanimate objects. The character is serious and angry, but the situation is funny. Serious humor!

Another example would be a group of characters following another character in secret. The purpose is serious and the characters are serious about it, but you can make it really funny as they try not to get caught and have to react to the movements of the one they are following.

Face it, life is hilarious. If it doesn’t make you laugh, it makes you crazy. So laugh! It costs less than institutional care.

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I’m learning a lot more about what makes a book “readable” or not. This is completely unrelated to the plot, characters, and themes. You can excel in all of these things and still not have a readable book. What makes a book “readable” for you?

Here is what turns a book from a “nice read” to a “fantastic read”, for me:

  • The book begins by developing an emotional attachment in me to the character. Ways to do this: sympathy, mystery, thrills, a problem
  • The book stays on the story path of the main character and side characters without too many switch-offs and rabbit trails. Some are interesting, but too many are confusing.
  • There is balance between the time spent describing the inner emotions of the character and time spend on their actions. If the balance is off, you get cold, unlovable characters or you get sappy characters and a lagging story line.
  • There is mystery/suspense in the plot, but I am clued in subtly throughout. It is a tough balance between excitement and confusion, understanding and over-explanation.
  • The writing is done in uncomplicated style, but using correct grammar, punctuation, and word usage. It isn’t as vital in character dialogue, but in the story body it is absolutely necessary. The wrong use of a word or an awkward sentence snags my whole attention and I lose track of all the nougat-y goodness of the book.
  • There is a definite conflict going on that unfolds throughout the story. A simple series of events can occasionally draw me in but it takes some pretty fantastic writing for that to happen. Excitement generated by love, danger, rivalry, and/or tragedy helps draw me through the story.
  • Humor doesn’t work in every story, but when it does, it really enhances my enjoyment. I really enjoy “serious humor” in a story that might not have room for outright silliness. I define “serious humor” as passive humor that results from character circumstances that would otherwise not contain humor.


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Fantastic Names

I love names in books. They shape the character and how the reader feels about them. Where do you get your names for your writng?

Believe it or not, my character name searches started out with baby name searches. Our church is famous for lots of kids and big families, and so it was a challenge finding names that every other parent hadn’t already used. I started combing the web and books and anything I could find to name my kids. I wanted names that meant something too, not just cool-sounding names that meant “A man” or “field of squash” or something like that. My kids names mean “One who rejoices”, “Behold how beautiful” and “A gift set aside for God”. That’s what I mean.

Well when we decided that we shouldn’t have any more kids, I had a giant list of names left over. My hubby was very picky and there were lots of names there I loved but he hated. (I also hated the names he loved so we were even.)

But he doesn’t get to name characters in my books! Nyah!

My go-to site for character names is now All the names from The Lustre, I found here using the “enter a meaning” search. They have to sound like the character I am describing too, so often I spend quite a while searching.

How do you decide on your character names?

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