Tuesday, May 29, 2018

#TipfulTuesday: Steven James and Characters

Today on the Writer's Alley, we focus on character. No matter the genre or the age of the audience, these tips will benefit any writer.
Author Steven James teaches this principle:
To initiate your story, your protagonist will either
1. lose something vital and try to regain it
2. see something desirable and try to obtain it.
3. experience something traumatic and try to overcome it.
Any of these scenarios will set up tension for your story. Whether you write a love story, a mystery, a historical, a children's book, whatever, your main character MUST have tension. A problem to solve. A period in his or her life that we the reader are compelled to turn pages to see what happens next.
When a book's opening pages draws readers into the story and compels them to feel an understanding, a compassion for the Main Character facing the tension, questions are asked. Pages are turned to find out if the character will be safe. Not just physically, but in all manner: emotionally, mentally, spiritually, etc. Will she find their true love? Will he escape? Will she overcome her barrier and get a job? Will the kids at his new school like him? Will she find love, joy, peace, etc?
To put this on a simple scale, think of children's book, "Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day." A staple for all home libraries. The title alone draws readers to open the cover. And yes, Alexander's day does not get any better for many pages. Tension mounts as we read. Our compassion grows for a little boy who is having one of "those days". The kind we've all experienced. We even laugh, because, yes, we completely understand what he is going through. I won't spoil the ending. You'll have to read the book to find out what happens.
Other great character tension examples can be found in: Scarlett O'Hara in "Gone With the Wind". Joseph's story in the book of Genesis. Frank Peretti's "Monster". Across the board. Every genre. Every age audience. A great book can be defined by the tension the character experiences and the compassion a reader can't help but feel.
So, test your manuscript. Ask a beta reader these questions:
Do you love/are drawn to the main character?
Do you feel compassion for the character?
What caused you to feel this compassion?
(If the answer to the last question indicates a moment of tension, then you have done your job.)
Mystery/suspense, Christian Fiction author, Steven James taught several classes and spoke as the keynote for one night at the Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writer's Conference #BRMCWC last week. He will also be the keynote at #ACFW this year. This is a speaker you will not want to miss.
~Mary Vee (photo by Mary Vee)
#TipfulTuesday #TheWritersAlley
Your thoughts?


Mary Vee -  Mary Vee - Rock climbing, white-water rafting, and hiking top Mary’s list of ways to enjoy a day. She was homeless for a time, earned her MA in Counseling, and married an Air Force vet.  Mary has been a finalist in several writing contests and writes for her King.

Visit Mary at her websiteblog, and her ministry blog to families: God Loves Kids. Or chat on Facebook or Twitter

Mary's new release, Daring to Live, is a new release on Amazon.


Sherrinda Ketchersid said...

This is GREAT, Mary! I got my edits back a few days ago and found out my character is not very nice. While I thought I was making her sassy, she just comes across as mean. I am having to go through and change her actions and reactions to make her more likeable. Thank you for the timely reminder.

Mary Vee Writer said...

I once wrote a character like that too. I was totally blind to the negative vibes readers picked up from this character. No surprise, the manuscript was never picked up by an agent. It took a bit of time in the desk drawer before I opened the pages and saw what others saw.
This book is still waiting for me to rewrite it. It's a story that God let's surface in my thoughts every few months, as if to say, are you ready to take a second whack at this? ;)
I am. I really am. I want readers to see him as a misguided teen with a heap of hope.

I've been waiting to hear about these rewrites, Sherrinda. I'm cheering you on!!