Character development is critical for an easy to read book. I absolutely love building my characters.
I always think of which celebrity I think most looks like my character… And I use Pinterest a lot to just pin what I see in my minds eye based on the characters essence. I’m so finicky about my characters 😀😀😀 sometimes it’s scary. I build extensive profiles going as detailed as to what elementary school they went to. I wrote a blog post on how to do this. Part of the Family details the process I use to build my characters..
How do you build your characters? Drop me a comment let me know.
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Over the past ten years, we’ve been inundated with a number of talent and reality shows. While I don’t particularly indulge in any, (personal preference & time) one that has caught my attention over the years is NBC’s The Voice.
Now if you’re like me and is always late to the party, The Voice is a singing competition where the contestant sings to a group of 4 judges who while they are singing cant see them. Simply put, blind auditions. The only thing the judge has to go on is…The Voice( brilliant naming right?) any ways. What I’m trying to say is that they accept or decline a person based on what they hear ONLY.
When I first started writing, it was drummed into my by the internet and a host of my wonderful mentors that the first page, in fact the first sentence of your manuscript is EXTREMELY important. It is all you have to hook your reader. At first I was like huh? why? but then as I have come to understand that the competition for the attention span of readers is being stretched by so many other means of entertainment or other authors. A new reader only has so much time to give you to prove yourself.
Just like with THE VOICE, the reader is more than likely judging the rest of your book by those couple of pages. Will they stick around? While I don’t really stress about the first line, I should, but hey I am picking my battles…I try to do justice to the first chapter. Here are some tips that can help.
- Avoid too much detail: the setting and larger problem can be weaved into the story later but in those first couple of pages…less is more.
- Tension: The lack of tension is a fatal mistake. This is what will make the reader turn to the next page. If after 2 pages, they have no immediate question that they are just dying to find out the answer to, they will put the book down. Now here is where established authors have an advantage because readers already know to expect with their stories. But for fairly new( like me) or new authors there is no such luxury. The flip side of this is not to create mayhem that will more than likely confuse the reader.
- Boring characters: While we shouldn’t know the character’s life story just there and then but there has to be something that makes the reader want to know more about them. Some amount of their identity should be revealed.
- Core Plot: Okay, since I’m an avid reader this is so important for me to…I cannot stress how important it is for me to read the first chapter of a book and know what the core of the plot is trying to answer…Give me something…
- Where : Am I in the 21st Century or the 18th? Is it Winter or Spring? Am I in America, Europe or Africa…I gotta know where.
Now this is a freebie. There is some arguments on the importance of the prologue in a story. A lot of people claim it shows laziness in the author. I think not. 2 of my books have prologues and they were short but needed. So if it’s needed…knock yourself out but don’t make it too long.
Readers any advice to authors on crafting the perfect first chapter?
Writers add the tips you use below.
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As you know by now, my books are mainly set in Nigeria or most recently Kenya and some US cities. When a reader tells me that when they read my book they felt like they were there..in Nigeria or Kenya I smile.
Apart from the obvious compliment, it means I have done my job. You see apart from the Nigerian cities & Atlanta, I haven’t been to some of the other cities I write about. And I write for an international audience. It is a tricky to balance being authentic to my work and giving the reader an enjoyable experience.
Here are 3 things I do to take my international audience from here to there;
- Characters & Plot: I aim to weave tales where the plot and character interaction is universal. So although there may be certain concepts that are different to my readers, I don’t get too detailed about the details of the customs. That’s what book discussions are for 🙂
- Scenery & Setting: I try to describe the location, village or city the story is set in only once. I don’t want my reader stuck in trying to figure it out but I try not to short change my readers either. Earlier on in my writing, I struggled with over description but that’s what good editors are for.
- Theme: Whether my characters are from the East, West, North or South they share something in common. They struggle with their faith and are need to be restored. The common theme in all my books are faith, hope & love…those are universal themes.
Of course at the end of the day, I’m that writer that fuses faith, romance & African spice 🙂 , so I give my readers what they expect when they pick up one of my books…entertainment,romance, faith filled fiction, and the ability to learn something different about the culture…that I do through dress, food, music & language.
Those are my little tricks… if you are a reader, is it important for you to feel the true essence of the book without getting lost? If you are a writer, how do you take your readers to places you have never been?
So I really haven’t talked about my books in a while (bad author). Yeah I know, I have been pre occupied with a lot. However but I can feel things slowly settling down now and I can get back to doing what I love. Talking about and writing about my faith and romance mixed with some African spice.
With that said I have so many things I want to do competing with things that I absolutely need to do right now. This is a writer struggle or at least my struggle. The reason I struggle is that I have all these characters that are about two books away talking to me or some projects I want to finish. So I just want to stop and write a few scenes, or tackle what’s going on in my head. But the practical part of my brain tells me what needs to happen.
So I had to reevaluate my wants vs needs.
I really want to start on my special collaboration project. Also to write my ‘revenge’ story, finish two short stories I have exclusively for my subscribers, send out more newsletters and blog more consistently- Motivation Monday, Writer Wednesday & Goodreads Friday. However all these wants are all going to take a small back seat (except blogging & the newsletter I hope) until those things I absolutely need to do.
Now to my needs; I need to finish up Anchored By Love. It is way overdue. I need to prepare the PowerPoint presentation for the workshop I’ll be giving at the Black Writers &Book Clubs Literary Festival in Memphis next month and finally start seriously writing Final Ultimatum, it is due to my publisher (Brown Girl Faith) by November.
So how do I stay focus and finish out the year strong with my writing goals?
- Call on my Ever Present Help: First and fore most I’ve called on my Ever Present Help -Jesus. He and I have been talking… “I can’t do this by my might Lord. I have a plan but I’m gonna need you to help me out. Please clear my mind and keep me focused.”
- Making a plan : I’ll divide my days into dedicated writing days and dedicated social media days.
- Set Time table: My PowerPoint. Anchored By Love and Final Ultimatum all have hard target dates.
- Putting everyone on notice: Every living thing..lol in my house has been put on notice. “Mummy has to get this done, She took of the whole month of July for y’all, so you’re gonna chip in and help her do this. No distractions during my blocked out time” Yep that’s the speech I’m gonna give.
Also important, I’m gonna need you to keep me accountable. Check on me through Facebook or Twitter and ask me how I’m doing?
How do you keep focused when your wants and constantly clash with your needs? Drop some advice in the comments.
Oops I almost forgot, I joined Periscope follow me at “unwankwor”. My own personal TV channel..ha! Haven’t gotten the full hang of it, but come show me some love.
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