Tag Archives: character profile

25 Jan

My Character’s Whispering Secrets

Shh! Don’t tell anyone else, but my character just told me a secret.

Great Way to Find Unusual Secrets

http://www.flickr.com/photos/cannonball_jane/120325556/One common complaint about a first draft is that the characterization needs to be deeper. In Sol Stein’s book, Stein on Writing, Chapter 16 talks about the secret snapshot technique. Stein recommends that you think about what secret snapshot is hidden in your character’s wallet. Secrets in general deepen characterization because they provide motivation and emotional depth. Stein says, “I remind you that the best fiction reveals the hidden things we usually don’t talk about.”


So, I was fascinated to find the Post Secret blog. Readers are encouraged to send a postcard that explains their secret. Updated on Sundays, the blog is an interesting look into the hidden life of a wide variety of people. Be forewarned: some are PG-13 or X-rated, but most are general topics. I’m finding it interesting to read them with the idea of possibly adding them to a character’s background. Find any of interest for your work?

There are now three PostSecret books featuring past postings:

Read more of 15 Days to a Stronger Character.

24 Jan

5 Ways to Keep Characters Consistent

When you write something as long as a novel, how do you make sure the character stays in character? When you revise, there are several ways to check.

Creating Consistent Characters


  • Create a Bible for your character. It doesn’t have to be complicated, but have one file, or a couple note cards that list characteristics. Left handed, blue eyes, lopsided smile to the right, hates licorice, loves flannel sheets, wears a cross necklace, right ear is pierced, etc. It’s surprising how such little details can escape your notice. In one of my picture books, a character suddenly changed from left-handed to right-handed and the illustrator had to redo that bit of art.
  • Create separate dialogue files for each character. More than anything else, a character’s dialogue needs to sound consistent (unless, of course, you’re using it to indicate character changes). By creating separate files, I can read straight through just what a character says and edit, then put it back into the novel.
  • If there are long spaces between writing and editing sessions, then be sure to re-read the previous sections. It sounds obvious, but it’s easy to neglect.
  • Immerse yourself with a character for a day. For an entire day, walk around and think about what your character would say, do, feel about the world around you. Immerse yourself in your character’s outlook on life. Then, go back and re-read and tweak. (It makes for great conversation: Why are you so weird today? You don’t usually like gingerbread. Today, I’m being Gretel/Hansel!
  • Write an obituary of your character. It’s another way to focus on the main character traits, dreams, hopes, goals. What DID your character accomplish during their lifetime? Then go back and make sure your character more or less consistently works toward that goal

Read more of 15 Days to a Stronger Character.

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