7 Character Non-Negotiables

by Michelle Griep, @MichelleGriep

What’s more important . . . plot or character? Yeah, that’s a loaded question. The answer is they’re both important. But today let’s focus on character.

To make a really great character—meaning one that sticks in a reader’s mind for a long time after they shut the book—you need to have a few essential elements. Okay, I lied. It’s more like seven.

1. Conflict

Is your character feeling like life is all rainbows and happiness and their pants aren’t digging in at the waist? Too bad. You’ve got to mess it up all up for him. Make it rain. Break his happy bones. Give him a weight gain of five hundred pounds.

2. Desire

What does your character want? He’s got to want something. A burp to ease his heartburn. A new Porsche. Maybe some Smart Wool socks because his toes are cold. What’s his goal and what’s motivating him to get there?

3. Confusion

Misdirect your character and you misdirect the reader. That’s a good thing. As long as you’re keeping your character guessing, you’re keeping your reader guessing as well. Just make sure to tie things up by the end of the story and make everything clear.

4. Credibility

Your character has to deserve his losses and earn his victories. Coincidence won’t cut it or your reader will slice you to pieces with a one-star review—a sharp, pointy, throwing-ninja star.

5. Flaws

Nobody loves a perfect character. They’re annoying. Every character needs to have some kind of flaw, even if it’s just a zit on the end of her chin. Okay, that’s annoying too. Don’t use that flaw. Make up a better one.

6. Cluelessness

Don’t make your characters all knowing, unless your character is God, and that seems kind of heretical. The point is that it’s fun for the reader to know something the character doesn’t. Makes the reader feel all superior and hey-look-at-me-I’m-brilliant.

7. Success

Every now and then your character needs to be successful. Yeah, you’re supposed to be upping the stakes, leading to a blood-gory climax, but along the way the reader needs a break. Put little park benches of wins for your character to give the reader a rest from the action.

Next time you’re working on an epic, make sure to include these traits in your main characters.

TWEETABLES
7 Character Non-Negotiable by Michelle Griep (Click to Tweet) 

What’s more important . . . plot or character? Michelle Griep (Click to Tweet) 

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12 Days at Bleakly Manor

Imprisoned unjustly, BENJAMIN LANE wants nothing more than freedom and a second chance to claim the woman he loves—but how can CLARA CHAPMAN possibly believe in the man who stole her family’s fortune and abandoned her at the altar? Brought together under mysterious circumstances for the Twelve Days of Christmas, Clara and Ben discover that what they’ve been striving for isn’t what ultimately matters . . . and what matters most is love.

Author Michelle Griep

Michelle Griep’s been writing since she first discovered blank wall space and Crayolas. She is the author of historical romances: The Innkeeper’s Daughter, 12 Days at Bleakly Manor, The Captive Heart, Brentwood’s Ward, A Heart Deceived, Undercurrent andGallimore, but also leaped the historical fence into the realm of contemporary with the zany romantic mystery Out of the Frying Pan. If you’d like to keep up with her escapades, find her at www.michellegriep.com or stalk her on FacebookTwitter, or Pinterest.the next level.

How Many Books Are Too Many?

by Michelle Griep, @MichelleGriep

Which would you rather have your favorite author do . . .

Pump out three books a year, maybe a little lighter in content, the characters not quite as complex, and the plot is a bit predictable.

— or —

Write one book in a year with multi-faceted characters, a twisty-turny plot, and a theme that makes you wonder about life’s big meanings.

Your choice? And no, you can’t have it both ways, not consistently. So pick one. Go ahead. I won’t judge you . . . leastwise not on this issue. Shoes are an altogether different topic.

Personally, I like a meaty, heavy-fisted book that whacks me upside the head. But that’s just me. If you answered differently, then more power to you, Scooter, because here’s the deal . . . there are two distinct types of readers:

  • Those who devour books like there’s no tomorrow, who are satisfied with an entertaining story that’s not necessarily profound. 
  • Those who like to dig into the what if’s and how come’s of life in a story format.

And you know what? That’s great news for you, writer, because it gives guilt the big beat down. You need no longer feel pressure to either ramp up or down your writing speed.

Writers are psychotic little mammals, all worried about if they’re putting out enough books in a certain amount of time or if what they’re putting out is too fluffy. Yet in light of reader diversity, open your arms wide writer, because there’s a place at the readerly table for you.

If you’re a writer who loves to pound out words at high speed and have so many plot ideas you could type your little fingers to nubbies, then do it and quit fretting about not having themes that vibrate a reader’s heartstrings for months afterward.

Or if you’re a writer who’s slow but sure, anguishing about word placement and choice, and the thought of finishing two books in a year is not only exhausting but devastating, then listen to this round of applause. It’s okay to not work at lightspeed.

Newsflash: there is no magic number of how many books you need to put out in a year, despite what marketing gurus say, because readers are as diverse a group as writers.

Guilt about what you create and how you create it will suck the joy right out of your bones—and ain’t nobody got time for that.

TWEETABLES
How Many Books Are Too Many? by Michelle Griep (Click to Tweet)

_________

12 Days at Bleakly Manor

Imprisoned unjustly, BENJAMIN LANE wants nothing more than freedom and a second chance to claim the woman he loves—but how can CLARA CHAPMAN possibly believe in the man who stole her family’s fortune and abandoned her at the altar? Brought together under mysterious circumstances for the Twelve Days of Christmas, Clara and Ben discover that what they’ve been striving for isn’t what ultimately matters . . . and what matters most is love.

Author Michelle Griep
Michelle Griep’s
been writing since she first discovered blank wall space and Crayolas. She is
the author of historical romances: The
Innkeeper’s Daughter, 12 Days at Bleakly Manor, The Captive Heart, Brentwood’s
Ward, A Heart Deceived, Undercurrent
andGallimore,
but also leaped the historical fence into the realm of contemporary with the
zany romantic mystery Out of the Frying
Pan
. If you’d like to keep up with her escapades, find her at www.michellegriep.com or stalk her on Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest.

Hot Headed Heroes

by Michelle Griep, @MichelleGriep

Rage. Everyone blows a gasket now and then . . . or at least feels like it. But anger can be constructive, especially to a writer. It helps create real characters because characters need to feel and express anger as well as real people. Everyone expects the villain to grump and growl and stomp around, but heroes must roar now and then as well.

3 REASONS TO ANGER YOUR HERO

INJUSTICE

The best and most obvious reason for a hero to snarl is when the little guy is getting beaten to a pulp by a bully. That’s when a hero can shine by getting all indignant, swooping in, and dishing it right back to the bully.

This doesn’t have to be used in only violent situations. An injustice can be a legal matter, a matter of the heart, or simply righting some wrong.

SHORTCOMINGS
Who isn’t frustrated with their own shortcomings? Your hero needs to have flaws, and those flaws need to annoy him. In the long run, he can either overcome them or adapt, but while those flaws are present, he needs to be irritated by them. Think about it . . . what kind of hero is content to be less than perfect?

LOT IN LIFE
Not every hero is born with a cape and pearly white teeth. It’s okay for a hero to be angry about his lot in life because that gives him the motivation to change his situation. Or he could also accept that lot. Either way, gives you a great character arc.

Note, however, that you don’t have to inflame your hero over all these situations. In fact, don’t. Be judicious. Readers don’t love a hothead. But do go ahead and have your hero get annoyed with things now and then to make him more believable.

TWEETABLES

3 REASONS TO ANGER YOUR HERO~ Michelle Griep (Click to Tweet)

But anger can be constructive, especially to a writer.~ Michelle Griep (Click to Tweet)



Author Michelle Griep

ABOUT THE AUTHOR ~ MICHELLE GRIEP

Michelle Griep’s been writing since she first discovered blank wall space and Crayolas. Follow her adventures and find out about upcoming new releases at her blog, Writer Off the Leash, or stop by her website. You can also find her at the usual haunts of FacebookTwitter, or Pinterest.

Like what you read? There’s more. WRITER OFF THE LEASH: GROWING IN THE WRITING CRAFT is a kick in the pants for anyone who wants to write but is stymied by fear, doubt, or simply doesn’t know how to take their writing to the next level.

The Two Demons of Despair

by Michelle Griep, @MichelleGriep

You’re writing along, la-de-da-de-dah, all happiness and sunshine. Life is good. Unicorns are romping. Your manuscript is quite possibly one of the best you’ve ever written.

Then you get an email from an author buddy. They just landed a $20k book deal. At first, you’re high-fivin’ and fist-bumpin’ and even tossing in a hip-check for congratulations.

But after the celebratory pat on the back for your buddy, two ugly demons perch on each side, right there on your shoulders, talons drawing blood. Their names? Jealousy and doubt.
THE JEALOUSY DEMON
Sure, you’re truly delighted your buddy met with success . . . for like five minutes. That feeling quickly morphs into “Hey! Why don’t I get a contract like that?” and suddenly you’re not just a pretty shade of spring green, you’re drowning in nasty pea-soup sludge of envy. I don’t care how righteous you are. You will always feel at least a twinge of why-wasn’t-it-me syndrome.

But here’s the deal . . . open up your hands and let it go as quickly as it came. You can’t help being tempted by jealousy but you can help wallowing in it. I’ve met some bitter writers in my time, and not one of them has moved on to bigger writing contracts because they’ve not moved past the jealousy.

THE DOUBT DEMON

Shortly following envy, another poisonous gas fills your nostrils. Doubt. You wonder if your writing is a heap of literary hoo-haw. You wonder if you should just quit. You wonder if you shouldn’t just take a nap on the nearest railroad tracks and end it all. Okay, so maybe not that drastic, but you do begin to think your writing must not be as good as Author X’s because clearly he landed a contract with his sweet writing skills and you didn’t.

But here’s the deal . . . first, acknowledge that this feeling is completely and totally normal, and that it’s okay. This is what keeps a writer humble. But going overboard and berating yourself, your heritage, doubting whether you can even pen a proper suicide note and end it all is NOT okay. You write like you. You do not write like Author X. If X is what the market happens to be buying currently, guess what? That will change. Maybe not next year, or maybe even in five, but it will change. And that will give you the time you need to bone up on your writerly skills and kick your writing up a notch.

So go ahead and Snoopy dance with your writerly buddies, own the negative feelings that are sure to follow, then kick jealousy and doubt to the curb and get back to honing your skills.

TWEETABLES
The Two Demons of Despair by Michelle Griep (Click to Tweet)

Their names? Jealousy and doubt.~ Michelle Griep (Click to Tweet)

Kick jealousy and doubt to the curb and get back to honing your skills.~ Michelle Griep (Click to Tweet)

Michelle Griep’s been writing since she first discovered blank wall space and Crayolas. Follow her adventures and find out about upcoming new releases at her blog, Writer Off the Leash, or stop by her website. You can also find her at the usual haunts of FacebookTwitter, or Pinterest.