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Monday, August 24, 2009

Creating Characters Beyond Expectation

By Jennifer Hudson Taylor

Readers want to feel an emotional pulse when they read your story. You can't just tell them how a character feels. Make a reader feel what a character feels. A writer's goal is to make a reader's pulse quicken and their heartbeat race as if they are the one inside the story.

Does the sentence below move you?
Donna frowned, angry Jerry had the nerve to raise his voice.

Or is this better?
Jerry's booming voice penetrated her past into the leering, taunting tone of her father. The memory of his hand raised with a black leather belt took her breath away as she squeezed her eyes tight. She cringed, waiting for the hot sting to slice through her flesh. Her heart pounded. Blood pumped through her head, but one determination steeled her heart. She wouldn't cry. Not now. Not ever.

Now Donna can open her eyes and her reaction to Jerry will be warranted. Whatever she does, will not only be understood by the reader, but approved and cheered on by the reader. Your characters must win over your readers. Only then can you get past what is "expected" by your characters. Once your character has won the reader, then that character can step out of line, over-react, make a bad decision, to up the stakes. Just make sure there is sufficient motive and the character has good intentions or reacts of out strong emotion. When your readers feel the character's pulse, they will understand why that characters has to say what they say, and do what they do. It must be believable.

Seeing is believing and a reader sees with the heart.


I liked the improvement you made. I've got tons of those that need to be made in the WIP I'm editing. Great example!

Beautiful writing in the second example. I think in any work of fiction there are times to be vivid and detailed, and times to be succinct. I think the former example would be good in some contexts, where you want the action to move along, but the second example is much, MUCH more beautiful writing!

Good job elaborating and opening the scene up in my mind. :O)

Hi, Jennifer!

I nominated you for an award on my blog! Hope it makes you smile! Have a great day!

Definitely a good illustration. Though there are those occasional times when you think "I'm running out of words! Can't I tell JUST ONCE?" LOL. Not nearly as effective, but much more concise;-)