Wednesday, January 28, 2015




It happens to all of us, I'm sure. The point of view character is too flat, too boring, too cardboard. Dead.

Readers love books because of an emotional bond to a character. There have been arguments about what is more important, plot or character, and character wins 99% of the time. What's GONE WITH THE WIND without Scarlett O'Hara? Whether it's Michael Connolly's Harry Bosch or J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter, it's the character that drives the story forward with his or her actions and those actions taken are caused by the character's needs and desires. A dead character lies there on the page and no one cares. In other words, she's too boring to drag a reader through 350 pages.

How do we revive a dead character if our first readersyawn, set the draft aside, and say, "too unlikable" or "couldn't relate" or "not very interesting" and we've got to put on the gloves and give that lead a personality transfusion?

I've discovered two ways to resuscitate a character.

1) JOURNAL. You may have tried journaling because there are many benefits. I teach journaling, in fact, and have seen lives transformed. It's a way to heal, make decisions, express gratitude, rant, sort out problems, deal with grief, be thankful, and discover the deeper, creative, inner you.Journaling actually improves physical, emotional, and psychological health.

But have you ever experienced journaling from your character's point of view? Write in third person as your character and watch her blossom. Allow her personality to emerge. Discover her likes and dislikes, her fears and dreams. Let her tell you who she is and how she feels. Ask her what she wants to happen in the story and how she wants to be portrayed.

Journaling as your character enables you to get into her mindset and discover all sorts of new things you didn't know before. You'll be surprised when you start hearing her voice in her head because you'll be the conduit for this personality to come alive.. I think you'll like her better when you know how she treats animals or talks on the phone. This technique will help you during revision. You will improve your character's overall health.

2) ACT. Become your protagonist in an improv scene. Grab a friend and read a page of dialogue together. Sit the way your character would sit, eat as she would eat, and try to get into her frame of mind.

Many authors I know get out of their chairs while writing and act out a scene they are struggling with, trying to get a character's words right and how those words are said spot on.

Have I tried these techniques? You bet.

I did a bit of improv recently while writing a fight scene inCHANGED IN THE NIGHT, my new YA novel. Pretending to be my protagonist, I stood up and took some swings with an imaginary sword. Doing that helped me get the scene written. I got on my hands and knees to shootmarbles as a ten-year-old when I wrote KNUCKLE DOWN. That helped me better understand, not only the game, but my character's state of mind. I journaled as an 8th grader while writing a first kiss scene in WARRIOR'S DAUGHTER. My character willingly expressed in the journal exactly what she thought and how she felt, and why the scene wasn't working. Talk about collaboration! It can be almost magical at times.

If emergency help is required on a dead or dying character, try these life saving and story saving techniques.

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