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Tag: Rebecca Forster

Home > ArchivesTag: Rebecca Forster

Character Flaw(less)

February 16, 2017 by in category The Write Life tagged as ,

 

Recently we celebrate my oldest son and my husband’s birthdays. They are a day apart, much to the chagrin of my husband. Thirty-two years ago he brought home the biggest, spiciest burrito he could find in the hopes of jumpstarting labor so that our son would share his birthday. Needless to say, the burrito story was one of many we told at this year’s birthday dinner. We laughed, we clarified details, and we took tangents and remembered those who had been part of our lives but were no longer with us.
As I listened to all this in the company of my husband, my two sons and my ninety-two year old mother, I realized that my family is key to what readers tell me is my strength as a writer: characterization. After generations of evolving as an extended family, I know what makes each member of my family tick. I know why they are special – and why they aren’t.  I know how they speak, how they think, how they will act and react, what makes them happy and what doesn’t. I know who they love and admire. That means, if they act out of character, I know to dig deeper to find out why; if they act in character, I completely accept their actions and reactions because I know them so well.
If depth of characterization eludes you, try this exercise.
IMAGINE each of your main characters at a family dinner table.
IDENTIFY where that character fits in e.g. the bartender, the perpetual guest, and the lingerer-in-the-kitchen guy.
ESTABLISH where each character came from and whether or not they are permanent family fixtures or a family member who has distanced themselves.
TAKE their coats. Fur? Wool? Blazer? Sweatshirt? Notice what they’re wearing.
DETERMINE their purpose at the table: the joker, the commentator, the peacemaker, the witch, the politician, the philosophe, the put-upon wife or angry husband (or vice-versa).
LISTEN to the conversation around the table. Do not focus on just one character. Rather, close your eyes, hear all their voices, see all their gestures, listen to their words.
What you ‘hear’, what you ‘see’ at your dinner table will help you create fictional characters that are as familiar as family and as unforgettable.
Rebecca

Rebecca Forster

www.rebeccaforster.com

 

 

 

 

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10 Things NEVER TO DO When Writing

September 15, 2014 by in category Blogs tagged as ,
WHEN YOU’RE WRITING NEVER:
10. Stop Reading:  After a long day of reading your own work it the last thing you want to do is pick up someone else’s but do it! You will stay motivated. I learn something new with each book I read.
9. Rely on Inspiration: Don’t waste a day waiting for inspiration. Sit down, get to work, and inspiration will come calling.
8. Neglect Genre: It’s tempting to want to walk in between genres. What would be better than a science fiction, erotic, mystery right? But remember, if you want to find passionate and engaged readers, you have to find the genre that you most want to write and stick with it.
7. Get Bored: If you’re bored, chances are your readers will be to.  If you find yourself becoming bored, or your main character is skating through the plot with ease, throw some roadblocks in the way. Conflict moves stories.
6. Rely on Pretty People: Men don’t always have to be fearless and women don’t always have to be sexy. Your readers will spend a lot of time with your characters so make sure there is something going on in their heads and their hearts. Readers love characters for their imperfections and shortcomings just as much as their looks.
5. Lose the Through Line:Remember who’s story you’re writing and what the point is.  Veer off the path and you lose your readers.
4. Be Afraid to Cut, Cut, Cut: Cut close to the bone. Make the tough choices and take out the things you really love. They may be great but only if they move the story forward.
3. Throw in the Towel: Too many people have half finished books, or books without an ending floating around on their hard drives. The easiest thing in the world is starting a book. The hardest thing is finishing one.
2. Let your Characters Off Easy: Just because you love your characters doesn’t mean you have to go easy on them. Let them struggle and sometimes fail. Anything that you put in your characters’ gives the readers greater insight into their lives. Give them a goal to work towards, make it hard to get and you can’t go wrong.
1. Beat Yourself Up: The book isn’t shaping up the way you want it to? Someone read a chapter and didn’t care for it? Feel like jumping off a cliff? No worries. Those days happen, but remember that every day that you’re thinking, “woe is me,” is another day that you could be finishing a chapter or polishing a plot point. You can spend your time beating yourself up or beating your characters up. I do a lot of the former but am trying to stop.

Happy writing.
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WHAT A CHARACTER

August 15, 2012 by in category Blogs tagged as , ,

One of the nicest compliments I ever received was from a reviewer who called “Josie Bates (heroine of my witness series) one of the best characters ever”. For an author, that is the highest praise.
Think about the millions of words written about thousands of fictional people, and then ask yourself how many stuck in your mind, reside in your heart, or continue to haunt you years after reading the book? If you’re like me, there are a handful of such characters in your memory. My list includes:
Gone With the Wind: Scarlett O’Hara, Rhett Butler and Miss Mellie.
 Princess Bride: Buttercup, Inigo Montoya, Westley 
The Hunger Games: Katniss
Girl With the Dragon Tattoo: Lisabeth Slander
Johnny Oops: Johnny Oops (a fine Indie book)
Analyzing these characters helped me become a better writer, and here’s what I have learned. Memorable characters are:
Spiritually Unique: Villain or hero, each one has his or her own demons and desires, strengths and weaknesses. Strength on its own is uninteresting without weakness.
Physically identifiable: A great character manifests his or her uniqueness in dress, mannerisms, and speech patterns. Imagine an actor tackling your character on screen. Can you hear them? See them? Are they so real you would know them walking down the street?
Logical: A character with a unique speech pattern may amuse your reader for a while but if the words coming out of that character’s mouth aren’t appropriate to story, plot and core of that character,  the affectation is illogical.
Unapologetic: Readers may not always embrace your vision, but if you give a character an unusual life, let them live it. Do not be swayed by fear of political incorrectness or tempted to take the safe route. Writing is about nurturing your bold voice.
Purposeful: A character’s journey is guided by principles born of experiences. In Josie Bates’ case, she is formed by her mother’s abandonment (personal) and her belief that the law and justice are two separate things (professional). The author’s objective is to create a passionate character willing to go to great lengths to protect what they believe in or secure what they desire.
For Example…
•   Katniss’s (Hunger Games) and Scarlett’s (Gone With the Wind) fight for basic survival.
•   Westley’s (Princess Bride) relentless search for his lost and true love.
•   Salandar’s (Dragon Tattoo) desperate desire for self-determination.
•   Rhett Butler’s (Gone With the Wind) code of honesty.
•   Melanie’s (Gone with the Wind) passionate belief in Scarlett’s inherent goodness.
•   Johnny Oops’ (Johnny Oops) wry but heartfelt search to define his teenage self.

Don’t be afraid to refine your characters. We are not born the people we will become; neither are those who populate your books. Nurture them, define them, polish them and they will live in the reader’s memory for a very long time.
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What A Dog!

May 15, 2012 by in category Blogs tagged as , , , , , , , ,
My grand dog Tucker

Today a lady wrote to tell me she loved my book Hostile Witness* because I hadn’t killed Max. I’ve been traveling a lot in the last three weeks and it took me a minute to figure out who Max was and why it was so important to her that he was alive. Max, of course, is Josie Bates’ dog; Josie is the heroine of the witness series. I was touched by the reader’s concern for the fictional canine.

As an author and a reader I had to ask myself: Why is a book that includes animals richer, more entertaining, and more engaging than one without? The answer was simple: Animals bring out the best and the worst in a human character. This makes for great drama and provides an emotional touch point that is critical for an exciting read.

Max-the-Dog (his legal name) was originally created as a reflection of Josie, his mistress. Both had been abandoned, both had to fight for their lives, both were protective of others. But Max became so much more than Josie’s mirror as the series unfolded.

Here are four ways Max made a difference in the witness series:

HE ENHANCED HUMAN CHARACTERIZATION: Those who attack him were inherently more evil than a bad guy who ignored him. Those who love Max were more admirable because they cared for and protect him.

HE WAS AN ANIMATED SOUNDING BOARD: Internal dialogue can be tedious. Allow a character to speculate to an animal and the rhetorical questions or monologues sound natural.

HIS PRESENCE SET A TONE: A scene tone can be set by the way a human character speaks to or interacts with an animal counterpart. A whispered warning creates a much different tone than a screaming command; a languid pet conjures up different visions than a playful ruffling of fur.

HE HELPED MOVE THE PLOT FORWARD: An animal’s needs can put a human in a place they might not have been in. For instance, in Privileged Witness, Josie took Max out for his evening constitutional and ran into her fugitive client who was hiding outside. Without Max, Josie would have no reason to go outside and never would have discovered her client. An animal’s heightened senses can also assist a human to warn of danger or alert a human to a change in their surroundings.

From The Hound of the Baskervilles to Lassie and Blue Dog, My Friend Flicka and The Black Stallion, The Cheshire Cat and Puss-in-Boots, animals have frolicked as humans, served to reflect human frailties and strengths, and just plain worked their way into reader’s hearts because of who they are.

So, to the kind lady who was concerned about Max, have no fear. He will never come to a violent end. No matter what happens to him, his presence or lack thereof, will be a decision motivated by story and plot and, of course, love, because Max is as real to me as if he sat at my feet while I wrote my stories.

*Hostile Witness is free for all e-readers and is also available in print.

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