Make the Most of Your Cast of Characters

Hi All,

Today I’m sharing a post I wrote for Fictionary that I thought might help any of you who are working on your characters.


 

Readers love to cheer for a character. Make them feel the sadness, the terror, the happiness your character feels, and you’ll keep them reading.

In a novel, giving your readers someone to cheer for and follow for 300 or so pages might make the difference between the reader dropping your book on the coffee table after chapter one and staying awake late into the night reading until the climax satisfies their need to know what happened to the character.

The Cast of Characters is the list of characters in your story.  These characters act and react. They create emotion. They show motivation. Without any of this, you don’t have a story. That’s a tall order for your characters. So how do you make sure you’re getting the most out of them?

The first thing to do is review your Cast of Characters.  This is my cast from an early version of my first novel DESCENT as shown in Fictionary StoryTeller.

Cast of Characters

 

Once you’ve written a first draft of your story, you can create a cast of characters. StoryTeller does this for you, if you’d like to try it. StoryTeller scans your manuscript on import and within seconds, creates your cast of characters.

While reviewing your cast of characters look for:

  • Character names that are too similar. There’s nothing more frustrating to a reader than if a character is killed and it’s Bill, but there’s also a Bob in the story. If the reader is left wondering which character was actually killed because the names are too similar, they might put your book down.
  • Names used for more than one character. This one may be a surprise, but it happens. Working on a novel over months or years makes it easy to forget a minor character’s name and use it again.
  • Any typos in the names. This list will help you catch typos that are hard to find when proofreading. For example: Kristina versus Kristine. Your spell checker won’t find an error, but when you see the names listed together, you can’t miss it.
  • Too many characters.

Character Names That Are Too Similar:

Review the names when listed together, and look for names that would confuse the reader by having names that are too similar.  You can see above I have Derek and Donny. These names are similar (both start with D and have two syllables), telling me I should change one of the names.

Here’s an example:

In a book I was reading, a sheriff and his young deputy are questioning an older woman and a young nurse. The deputy’s name is Molly, and the nurse’s name is Maggie. Both are young women. Both names start with M. Halfway through the scene, one character put her hand on the older woman’s shoulder. I thought, “Why would the deputy be so personal?” I had to reread and check which character touched the woman. Of course, it was the nurse.

This was frustrating. Renaming a character is an easy fix.


Names Used For More Than One Character:

Once, I gave two minor characters the same first name. One was in an early scene, and one was in a later scene. None of my beta readers nor my editor picked this up because the names were too far apart in the story, but StoryTeller did. I was glad I caught this before Imajin Books published my novel.


Typos:

Viewing your cast of characters in alphabetical order for both first and last names allows you to quickly see any typos. Here StoryTeller has shown me I’d used Ginnie and Ginny for the same person.  It’s a small detail, but one that could cause readers to drop the book.

 

Cast of Character Typo

 


Too Many Characters:

You don’t want readers to flip (or click) to previous pages to find out who a character is. Too many characters can cause this problem. Here, StoryTeller counted my characters for me. Including minor characters, there are 34 characters in DESCENT. Not bad for a 86,000 word novel.

Total cast of characters

If you’re worried there are too many characters in a scene, ask yourself if the story needs each character. It’s not your need for the character that matters, it’s the story’s. Can the plot move forward without a character? Then it’s time to cut, cut, cut. 

You can also reduce the number of characters by combining two characters into one. Can the role filled by one character be fulfilled by another? If the answer is yes, think about getting rid of the character. 

Here’s an example:

A novel I edited for one of my clients had too many characters. The main character had a best friend who had a wife and two kids. The main character also had a brother who had a wife and two kids. I suggested merging the brother and his family into the friend and his family. This meant rewriting the scenes with the brother (replacing him with the friend), but it also meant a tighter story where the reader had more time to get to know the friend and his family. The author decided to make the changes, and her story is more powerful.

The fewer characters there are, the more time there is available to develop each one and the more time a reader has to grow to love the characters.


Next we’ll cover how to look at your characters on a scene-by-scene basis.

Are you a visual learner? Watch our 1 minute  video on Cast of Characters.

If you’d like to listen to an in-depth discussion on story editing, check out Story Edit Like A Pro.


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StoryTeller is creative editing software for fiction writers. Transform your story, not just your words. Successful stories depend on your ability to edit, improve, and revise your work. Only when you master story editing, can you master storytelling.

Why not check out Fictionary’s StoryTeller free 14-day trial and tell powerful stories?

Download our free eBook, Story Editing: 15 Key Elements of Fiction To Ensure Your Story Works and learn how story editing is all about evaluating the major components of your story.

The End is Near…NaNoWriMo

Today, I’m thrilled to welcome author, Jennifer Leeper.  She’s here to motivate your through the final days of NaNoWriMo,

Jennifer has a new release, coming out tomorrow: The Poison of War. How great does this sound?

Two Mexican drug smugglers are murdered on Native American soil and the only clues left behind are two single arrowheads in this compelling page-turner of tribal secrets and distrust at the border.

When detective Frank Silva of the Tohono O’odham Nation arrived at the scene of the crime he immediately feared his investigation would require him to turn inward—to his own people—in search of the killer.

The End is Near 

THE END. These two words are a far-off promise—a mirage both figurative and literal, for many, if not most writers on day one of Nanowrimo (National Novel Writing Month). These two words represent the end of a 50,000- (or more) word purge that can drain away optimism, sleep and even hope, in more dire instances. 

By this last week of Nanowrimo, most writers don’t have the creative momentum they began with on November 1. The fortune-cookie wisdom and positivity floated by everyone within the Nanowrimo community during the first half of the month is deflated. In this spirit, I’m offering some end-of-the-line motivation to bathe the overworked, creative brains out there, and stoke the fires of Nanowrimo for just a few more days—or, in this case, a few more words. 

General Motivation

  • Most people never run far enough on their first wind to find out they’ve got a second.
    ― William James
  • If you’re going through hell, keep going.

― Winston Churchill

  • It’s not about passion. Passion is something that we tend to overemphasize, that we certainly place too much importance on. Passion ebbs and flows. To me, it’s about desire. If you have constant, unwavering desire to be a cook, then you’ll be a great cook. If it’s only about passion, sometimes you’ll be good and sometimes you won’t. You’ve got to come in every day with a strong desire. With passion, if you see the first asparagus of the springtime and you become passionate about it, so much the better, but three weeks later, when you’ve seen that asparagus every day now, passions have subsided. What’s going to make you treat the asparagus the same? It’s the desire. — Thomas Keller, Interview with Mark Wilson

Writing/Nanowrimo-Specific Motivation 

  • [Writing] is like wrestling; you are wrestling with ideas and with the story. There is a lot of energy required. At the same time, it is exciting. So it is both difficult and easy. What you must accept is that your life is not going to be the same while you are writing. I have said in the kind of exaggerated manner of writers and prophets that writing, for me, is like receiving a term of imprisonment — you know that’s what you’re in for, for whatever time it takes. — Chinua Achebe, “The Art of Fiction, No. 139,” The Paris Review

Remember you love writing. It wouldn’t be worth it if you didn’t. If the love fades, do what you need to and get it back. Remember writing doesn’t love you. It doesn’t care. Nevertheless, it can behave with remarkable generosity. Speak well of it, encourage others, pass it on. — Al Kennedy

  • Respect the way characters may change once they’ve got 50 pages of life in them. Revisit your plan at this stage and see whether certain things have to be altered to take account of these changes. — Rose Tremain
  • If you get stuck, get away from your desk. Take a walk, take a bath, go to sleep, make a pie, draw, listen to music, meditate, exercise; whatever you do, don’t just stick there scowling at the problem. But don’t make telephone calls or go to a party; if you do, other people’s words will pour in where your lost words should be. Open a gap for them, create a space. Be patient. — Hilary Mantel

As for me, I’ve never conquered the beast called Nanowrimo, but I keep those two words I mentioned earlier at the forefront of my imagination each November. I hope you push on toward November 30th, even if you stumble away in defeat, short of your I targeted word count. I hope you’ll return next November and do it all over again, because it’s never been the word count that really counts. 


 

You can find Jennifer Leeper’s latest work, THE POISON OF WAR, a southwestern crime/mystery  here, or visit www.thepoisonofwar.com to follow her ongoing writing journey. 

 

Who is Jennifer Leeper?

 

Ms. Leeper is an award-winning fiction author whose previous or forthcoming publications credits include Independent Ink MagazineThe Stone HoboPoiesisEvery Day FictionAphelion WebzineHeater Magazine, Cowboy JamboreeThe New EngagementAlaska Quarterly Review, Falling Star Magazine and The Liguorian. She has had works published by J. Burrage Publications, Hen House Press, Inwood Indiana Press, Alternating Current Press, Barking Rain Press, Whispering Prairie Press, Prensa Press and Spider Road Press.

In 2012, Ms. Leeper was awarded the Catoctin Mountain Artist-in-Residency, and in 2013, Ms. Leeper was a Tuscany Prize Novella Award finalist through Tuscany Press for her short novel, Tribe. Ms. Leeper’s short story Tatau was published in the journal, Poiesis, and was short listed as a finalist for the Luminaire Award in 2015, and nominated by Alternating Current for Queen’s Ferry Press’ Best of Small Fictions of 2016 Prize. In 2016, The Saturday Evening Post honored Ms. Leeper’s short story Book of the Dead with an honorable mention in its Great American Fiction Contest.

Ms. Leeper’s short story The Bottle won second place in the Spider’s Web Flash Fiction Prize through Spider Road Press. 

 

New Release by Fictionary Beta Tester Kelly Brakenhoff

Sometimes people are generous of heart and Kelly Brakenhoff is one of those people. It was early days for Fictionary, we had a prototype ready, and we were looking for Beta testers.

Kelly volunteered and give us valuable feedback on how to turn Fictionary into a tool that could help many authors.

It’s time to congratulate Kelly. Her debut novel was released yesterday!

DEATH by Dissertation

Ambitious Cassandra Sato traded her life in Hawai’i for a dream position as Student Affairs VP at Morton College in tiny Carson, Nebraska. She expected the Midwestern church casseroles, land-locked cornfields, and face-freezing winters would be her biggest challenges, but it’s her job that’s rapidly becoming a nightmare.

A deaf student is dead and the investigation reveals a complicated trail of connections between campus food service, a local farmer’s beef, and the science lab’s cancer research. Together with her few allies, Cassandra must protect the students caught up in the entanglement.

Dealing with homesickness, vandalism, and a stalker, Cassandra is trapped in a public relations disaster that could cost her job, or more. No one said college was easy.

You can but DEATH BY Dissertation here: https://amzn.to/2CPcoND

KELLY BRAKENHOFF

Kelly Brakenhoff is an American Sign Language Interpreter whose motivation for learning ASL began in high school when she wanted to converse with her deaf friends. Following the April, 2019 release of her debut mystery, Death by Dissertation, and the sequel, Dead Week later in 2019, her children’s picture book series featuring Duke the deaf dog is coming in the Fall of 2019, beginning with Never Mind. She serves on the Board of Editors for the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf publication, VIEWs. The mother of four young adults, a cranky old dog, and a rambunctious puppy, Kelly and her husband call Nebraska home.

Here’s a quote from Kelly who was kind enough to share her excitement with me.

” I wanted to thank you again for your part in helping me get my plot together by using Fictionary and helping you beta test your system.”

Farley’s Friday: Baby Gates and Guide Dogs

Farley here,

Our house is changing its look. When my humans go out, I get the run of the house. I sleep on the couch, I sleep in their bed, and sometimes I sleep by the front door pining from them to come home.

Jan is our guide dog puppy in training. But my humans don’t want her lose in the house when they’re not home. Sometimes humans are strange.

They brought home a baby gate, and Jan quickly figured out how to climb over by sticking her toes in the gaps for leverage, then pushing a back paw against the door frame, gaining traction and jumping out.

So my humans got smart – they thought. They put a bench with a high back in front of the gate.. I was lying in the next room listening for her — ’cause it’s my job to look after her– and within minutes I saw her head peek around the corner. She’s gotten over the back of the bench and was sitting on the seat wagging her tail. I’m thinking she’s smarter than my humans. We both laughed at our humans.
But the humans got even smarter. Here’s what they came up with…

 

Will Jan climb this one too?  Only time will tell.

Woof woof.

Ghost Writer: Another fabulous read!

As we continue on our journey through the wonderful mystery novels published by Imajin Books, the sale continues. Today, Alison Bruce is here to share a story that gives us insight into her and her characters…

Ghost Writer is on sale for $1.99.

Are all writers Stubborn?

By Alison Bruce

2013-Bruce-author-400My life isn’t so much an open book as a Columbo episode. 

Columbo, an American mystery series starring Peter Falk as the eponymous homicide detective, always started with the murder. The mystery wasn’t a whodunit; it was all about Columbo working it out, gathering the clues and getting a confession. Not that my life adventures required many confessions. But I’ve always been fascinated why things happen and why people do things…including myself. 

Once I decided to take a different route home from school. There was an apartment building at the end of my street.  That is, there was an entrance to the apartment building’s parking lot. I reasoned that the front of the building must be on Kingston Road, which was the road I walked along to get to my high school. If that was the case, I should be able to cut through the parking lot to get home.

This wasn’t a shortcut, by way. I had to go past the street that most directly led home. I was also wrong about the building. Another apartment building fronted Kingston Road. The one I knew backed onto it. The parking lots could have been connected, if someone hadn’t put an eight foot link fence in between.

A reasonable person would have backtracked. A more athletic person would have had no problem scaling the fence. I was neither athletic nor reasonable, but I was stubborn. I managed to climb the fence but just barely made it over. I left a swatch of denim and a chunk of my skin behind.

I do my best to make my protagonists different from each other. They have different family situations, different professions, different skill sets, different tastes (coffee excepted). However, I think all of them have the similar dumb episode in their past. Like me, they hate backing down.

GHOST WRITER

By Alison Bruce

Bruce-GhostWriter-400She has to deal with two kinds of spooks: spies and ghosts.

But which one is trying to kill her?

Jen Kirby has seen ghosts since she was a child, but she can’t talk to them or help them cross over. And, after a violent death in the family, she doesn’t want to see them anymore. 

In her role as ghostwriter, Jen joins a Canadian Arctic expedition to document and help solve a forty-year-old mystery involving an American submarine station lost during the Cold War. The trouble is, there are people—living and dead—who don’t want the story told, and they’ll do anything to stop her.

Now Jen is haunted by ghosts she can’t avoid or handle alone. That means confiding in the one man she doesn’t want to dismiss her as “crazy.” But can he help? Or is he part of the problem?

http://getbook.at/GhostWriterAB

Alison writes novels that combine mystery, well-researched backgrounds, a touch of romance and lots of coffee. She is the Executive Director of Crime Writers of Canada.

Website: www.alisonbruce.ca 

Twitter: @alisonebruce 

Facebook: www.facebook.com/alisonbruce.books 

Pinterest: pinterest.com/alisonebruce  

Amazon Author Page: http://viewauthor.at/AlisonBruce 

Ties Up With Strings – On Sale!

The Imajin Books  Sale just keeps on giving. Today, Madeline McEwen is here with a funny story. What she doesn’t know is that the secret skill she’s sharing is one my husband also has. And Mathew used the skill to make the girls laugh – in grade 3! Can you guess what it is…

So listen carefully… Then check out Tide Up With Strings.  On sale for $0.99!

It’s All About the Ears

by Madeline McEwen.

author headshotKristina suggested we share a nugget of information with readers—something not generally known. However, my life is an open book or rather, an ancient Kindle without the software updates—as useful as a tablet of stone. Hence, I decided to go old school and announce I’m the only person I know who can wiggle their ears.

Ear wiggling is a vestigiality—a remnant of human development—like the coccyx, appendix, and wisdom teeth. I like to think this means that at one time in human history, everyone one of us could wiggle our ears—we were the norm and signaled emotions as simply as we do with our lips, smiling or pouting.

Now, we’re an anomaly as most people have lost the art and ability to greet and communicate with one another with a quick ear wiggle.

Sadly, this genetic trait, if not mutation, wasn’t inherited by any of my four offspring. I am the end of the line, the dodo, doomed to extinction.

TIED UP WITH STINGS

HiResCoverTUWS-1TIED UP WITH STRINGS, currently on sale for 99 cents

http://getbook.at/TiedUpwStrings

When curmudgeonly private detective Betty Grape visits a young friend, who is housesitting in a remote village in England for Christmas vacation, something seems out of place. Her friend, Catia, is visibly nervous. Is she worried about the young men in the decrepit caravan in next door’s back garden? Or is Catia involved in the disappearance of the homeowner’s invalid wife?

As an American, Betty discovers the locals are full of friendly gossip but taciturn about solid facts. Though they are determined to keep Betty from butting in on their territory, she blunders through the social morass of narrow-minded foreigners and their broad Dorset accents. Can she unravel the tight knots of this mystery? Will she find the perpetrator under thickly thatched rooves or behind floral chintz curtains?

Check out this very cool video about Tied Up With Strings:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YP1OedSNmSk

And let’s end with something funny.

CWCtwotiered

Children Of The Fog – Get ready for a thrilling ride!

It’s Farley’s Friday, and Farley is so excited about Children of the Fog being on sale for only $1.99 he asked me to use his blogging time to share this with you.

This is a special treat. Cheryl Kaye Tardif is the CEO of Imajin books, supporter of writers, publisher extraordinaire, dog lover (why Farley loves her), and instigator of the Imajin Books holiday sale.

Imajin Logo

I’ll be show-casing the books that are on sale, so you can enjoy them over the holidays. I’ve personally read all of them and love them.

 

But first, we get “Confession from the Author”…

by Cheryl Kaye Tardif.
As a writer, I find I am always thinking of or exploring the “what ifs,” and sometimes it carries over into real life. When my daughter was born, I was terrified that something would happen to her. Since I’d lost my son the year before, her safety was of utmost importance. I’d sometimes watch her breathing at night, just to make sure she was breathing.
The first 10 years I fought being an overprotective mother. But the one thought that scared me most was the thought of my daughter being abducted. What would I do? How would I fight back? I’m not physically strong. I’ve never been a physical fighter. What if I were incapacitated and had to watch someone take my daughter and disappear into the night?
That’s how CHILDREN OF THE FOG was born…out of my fear and my determination that I’d do whatever it took to get her back. I’d fight, negotiate, go after the abductor–because no one was going to take my daughter from yet.
My daughter is married now–to a police officer. True story!
Children of the Fog 2018 Cover

* International & National Bestseller (200,000+ copies sold worldwide)

 

YOU HAVE 10 SECONDS TO MAKE A DECISION: Let A Kidnapper Take Your Child, Or Watch Your Son Die. Choose!

 

Sadie O’Connell is a bestselling author and a proud mother. But her life is about to spiral out of control. After her six-year-old son Sam is kidnapped by a serial abductor, she nearly goes insane. It isn’t just the fear and grief that is ripping her apart. It’s the guilt. Sadie is the only person who knows what the kidnapper looks like. And she can’t tell a soul. For if she does, her son will be sent back to her in “little bloody pieces.”

 

When Sadie’s unfaithful husband stumbles across her drawing of the kidnapper, he sets into play a series of horrific events that sends her hurtling over the edge. Sadie’s descent into alcoholism leads to strange apparitions and a face-to-face encounter with the monster who abducted her son–a man known only as…The Fog.

CHILDREN OF THE FOG is on sale at Amazon: http://getBook.at/COF2018

#psychological #thriller #horror #suspense #alcoholism #PTSD #abduction #kidnapping #awardwinner #bestseller #99cents #amazon #kobo #itunes #googleplay #supernatural #amotherslove #Canadiansetting #goodreadsauthor #dreamBIG