Character Backgrounds 101

After choosing the type of character you’re writing, you should start working on their background. A Character’s background defines who the character is or why they act the way they do.

A characters’ backstory must show why the character acts the way they do, why they have specific beliefs and how they deal with people. Most writers (I’m one of them) love to give their protagonists tragic backstories. While a tragic backstory is fun to experiment with and make your characters more understandable, it’s not necessary. Your character could have the happiest childhood ever but stumble upon something that changes their fate.

So the question is: How do you write a good backstory?

Step 1: Identify your character and their personality

There are two ways to go around this, either have your character personality and physical traits ready and craft their backstory based on it. Or come up with a backstory first, then build up their personality. I prefer doing it the first way, but every writer is different, what works for me might not necessarily work for you.

If you go with the first way, right down a list of your characters’ personality and physical traits then decided what situations could cause this. For example, one of my characters always has eye-bags which I then came up with the fact that he can’t sleep well due to past trauma.

Step 2: Choose a life-changing moment

Decide what moment in your character’s past changed them and made them the way they are today. Ask questions like:

  • What changed in your character’s past that changed the way they are?
  • How were they before said event?
  • What exactly happened in the event to change them or the way they think?
  • Did this point of change spark motivation, anger or resentment in your character?
  • If it weren’t for this event, would they have changed nonetheless or stayed the same?
  • Did this event change them for the better or worse?

Step 3: Avoid Info-dumping

Info-dumping is when you write a full paragraph talking about something instead of gradually showing it throughout the story. For the most part, you should avoid this as much as possible. Try showing small parts of your backstory or your character’s background through dialogue, flashbacks and actions. For example, if your character was abused in the past. Don’t just state it, show it through their actions. They could have an anxiety attack while witnessing something that reminds them of that abuse.

Thank you for reading, I hope this post was helpful, be sure to check out my social media links below!

Writer’s Block? Here’s How to Overcome it!

I’ve been suffering from writer’s block recently, so I thought this post could help many other writers going through the same. If you aren’t familiar with the term ‘writer’s block’, It is when you get a creative or motivation block which makes it hard to write. Today, I’ll be showing you ways to get over this stage and get back to writing.

1- Change up your schedule

Most times, writer’s block is caused by repeating the same routine over and over again. So try changing things up! If you write in the morning, try writing at night instead. If you write on your laptop, try brainstorming on a notebook. Make any change necessary to feel like it’s new experience instead of a constantly repeated one. If you write in your bedroom, switch up the environment and write somewhere else.

2- Do something physical

Sometimes moving around can get your creative juices to flow, so if you’ve been sitting by your laptop for a few hours, get up and go for a walk or do a short workout, it really helps!

3- Read

If you’ve been stuck in a writer’s block for many days or weeks now, try reading instead of writing. If you’re writing a romance novel, then read one for inspiration. I’ve been reading many mystery novels recently to gain back my motivation to write.

4- Journal/Stream of Consciousness

If you don’t know what stream of consciousness is, it’s basically when you journal without a prompt, you just write whatever comes to mind. Sometimes just writing what comes to your mind or writing about your day can help.

5- Listen to new music

Try switching up your music playlist, browse some new music, try listening to a different style, read lyrics from inspiration.

6- Force yourself to write

If all fails, you’re left with nothing but to force yourself. As much as forcing yourself to write won’t feel good, sometimes it’s the only way to get things done. You can always edit your draft later if you don’t like it, just write!

Hope you enjoyed this post, and I hope it helped you out! Check out my social media below for more tips on my instagram page. Thank you for reading!

When Should You Use a Pen Name?

As a Writer, you’ve probably heard about pen names before. If not, well a pen name, also known as a pseudonym, is a name your book/work is published under. You may be wondering, should I use a pen name? Well that’s entirely up to you! I’ll list some situations below on when to use one.

1- Privacy

Let’s say writing is just a side-thing for you, or maybe it is your main job but you don’t want it too caught up with your personal life, this is a perfect situation to use a pen name. However, keep in mind that publishers will still get your real name as you have to sign legal documents to publish.

2- Confusion

If your name is pretty basic or common, you might want to use a pen name since many other writers probably published under that name and you don’t want your readers to be confused. You can simply check if your name is used by other writers by going on Amazon or Google and typing it out.

3- Branding

The name displayed on your book plays a big role in branding. Is your name suitable for the genre you’re writing under? For example, if you’re writing a horror novel, you wouldn’t want the name displayed on your book to be too soft or innocent sounding. You may be wondering if a reader would actually care about the author’s name. Well from personal experience as a reader, I’ve realized that I’ve done it multiple times subconsciously. So choose a genre you typically write under and brainstorm pen names that suit it.

4- Simplicity

Having a super long and complicated name is cool and all, but as a reader, would you pronounce a writer’s name that is too hard to pronounce? The easier it is to read the better, because not only will people read it out loud more often but they will probably remember a simpler names over a complicated one. So if your name is too long or hard to pronounce, I’d suggest using a pseudonym. This doesn’t mean that your pen name can’t be unique, just make sure it’s memorable.

How to Choose a Good Pen Name:

1Research

You can use online name generators, or go to a top 100 names list and write down your favorites. This part is probably the most fun when it comes to pen names, so enjoy it! I created my pen name by taking the first two letters of my first name and the last two letters of my last name. There isn’t any right way to do it. You could also write down a list of names you already like and work based on that. Or you could rearrange the letters in your real name- although not everyone will get a good name using this method. (Use a Anagram Generator to make this easier)

2- Use it

Now to make sure no one takes the name you came up with, set up whatever social media account you use with that name. If you’re planning to keep a writer’s blog, create a domain, and if you’re ready to publish, do it!

Hope you enjoyed this post! Thank you for reading, make sure to check out my other posts to help you on your writing journey.

How to Create a Lovable Main Character

I’m sure we’ve all read books before, whether they’re 500-paged novels or short stories from Literature class. Most times if you like the main character, you will enjoy the story. However, if the main character is somehow annoying or never changes, readers wouldn’t want to reread the book or read any future sequels with that main character. So as a writer, you need to make sure that your main character is as lovable as possible, and I’ll teach you how to do that!

Step 1:

Give your character a good and detailed backstory. Why do they act the way they do? What motivates them to embark on their journey? How were they treated as kids? I go more in depth about that in another post.

Step 2:

Give them positive traits and negative ones, no one likes a perfect character. The more relatable the characters are to the reader, the more the reader enjoys reading about them. Make sure they develop throughout the story, unless they’re static characters. What do they learn? How do they change?

Step 3:

Make them understandable, a lovable character doesn’t necessarily have to be a good one! Lots of people like villains, chances are the author explained why that villain acts that way. As long as a reader can understand the character, they’ll love them way more. Like I mentioned in step 1, a proper backstory is a must!

Step 4:

An easy way to make sure your character is realistic is to base them off of real people, whether they’re your friends, family, enemies or celebrities. Real people have real backstories, real personalities, real lives. What makes someone interesting is when they’re not too predictable but not unpredictable in predictable situations. For example, your character just failed an exam and they’re a straight A’s student, most probably, they’ll be upset. But let’s say it’s a less common situation, for example, a character finds a dead body, that’s when an unpredictable reaction makes more sense. They could call the cops, they could run away and ignore it, they could investigate it, etc.

Step 5:

Give them unique traits, it could either be something physical like the way they look or the way they talk, or a hobby or a personality trait that sets them apart from their surroundings. For example, you could have a character that swears a lot, or a character that addresses people using ‘Love’. Every person talks differently, your characters are no different.

THINGS TO AVOID:

  • Don’t make your character perfect.
  • Don’t make them only have flaws, even if they’re a mean character, there must be some positive traits.
  • Avoid boring stereotypes.
  • Your character not learning from the same mistake.

Hope you enjoyed this post! Make sure to check out my social media accounts and other helpful writing tips on my blog, thank you for reading!

How to Write a Book Blurb That Sells

Imagine this: you’re at a bookstore, looking for a new book to buy, you go into your favorite genre’s section and look at all the new options. You pick up a book that seems interesting, the cover is very vibrant and exciting, but then you flip the book to read the summary.

Whether we want to admit it or not, people do judge a book by its cover, but it doesn’t end there, if you’re lucky enough to attract the reader by the cover, you have to make your book blurb even better, and that’s what I’m going to teach you how to do today!

Book blurbs are the short summary in the back cover of any book, they are usually used for promotion, so writing a good one is crucial.

So how do you write a good blurb?

First, identify what genre your book is under, based on the genre, you’ll write the blurb. If you have a horror book, for example, you’d want a blurb that is brief, chilling, and attention-grabbing. So based on each genre, you set the mood your excerpt is supposed to give.

After identifying the genre, write down the main points of your story- excluding the ending, then arrange the points. After that you can modify it to your liking by changing the words, fixing the organization, and by adding or removing some points.

If you don’t want to reveal much about the plot, you could just choose some of your favorite lines from your book, it could be a small part of an important dialogue, or a monologue, and use that. But make sure it’s interesting enough to stand alone without a description. Whether you want to use part of a dialogue or a summary, it’s best to choose your personal favorite part; since you probably put the most effort into it. However, make sure that part is relevant to the main plot line, don’t mislead your readers.

Another way to write a blurb is by including the turning point of your book, for instance, the moment the main character decides to embark on that dangerous mission or the moment when a character is about to make a crucial decision, but don’t reveal if they ended up doing it or not. To be more clear, “Jamie looked at the pros and cons scribbled down on the paper in front of her, and she finally came to a decision, one that may change her life.”

See? It doesn’t have to be long and boring to be a good blurb, something as short as that makes a reader want to find out more about the book. The readers now knows Jamie made a decision, but they don’t if it’ll change her life for better or worse, they don’t even know what the two choices were, now they most probably want to find out.

Another important point to keep in mind: make sure to reveal the problem. What is it that the character is trying to solve? This will give readers a basic idea of what your story is about.

Things you shouldn’t do:

(Keep in mind, this is your book and your blurb, so I’m just mentioning some stuff you shouldn’t do in general, but your book could be an exception.)

  • Don’t include the ending of your book
  • Don’t make it too long, 100-150 words should be enough
  • Don’t reveal too much
  • Don’t make it too short, unless it’s effective enough to gain a reader’s interest

Other points to keep in mind: Put yourself in your reader’s shoes, read your blurb and imagine you’re the reader, would you pick up this book if it wasn’t yours? If you’re worried that you’re too biased, you could ask an honest friend or other writers if they’d read your book based on the summary, you could also go to my contacts page and send me an email or a direct message on Instagram with your blurb, I’d love to give you my opinion!

To summarize it all:

  • Know the genre you’re writing under
  • Choose your favorite part
  • Use dialogue
  • Choose exciting part (rising action)
  • Write down the basic story line, then choose what to include and what not to
  • Show the main problem the character needs to solve

Hope you enjoyed this post! If you did, don’t forget to comment, share and like! You can find my instagram and ko-fi account below, I post weekly tips there!

Finding Inspiration to Write in Quarantine

Sadly, we aren’t in a great situation right now. With the massive spread of COVID-19, more places are closing down and lots of places are under full lockdown. However, on the bright side, we have way more time now to do other things we never had the time for. For example: Learning a Language, Practicing an old hobby, Working out or for us writers, writing. It may be harder to write because of lack of motivation and the sudden free time is overwhelming.

So how can you be inspired to write?

MAKE TIME FOR IT

The best way to start writing is simply by making time for it. Set a schedule using Google Sheets, by Writing it down on a paper, or just use your phone notes. I personally find it easier to commit to something when I write it down physically and hang it somewhere I always look at (my wardrobe). Schedule out the best times you’re free to write or the most times you usually have inspiration- whether that’s at night or during the day.

MOTIVATE YOURSELF

During these times, it’s a bit hard to write for most; so motivate yourself. If you write on notebooks, try ordering new ones online. If that’s not possible, try to decorate it, use a new notebook, organize it, remove unnecessary pages, etc. If you use a laptop/computer to write, organize your files, delete unwanted things, finish incomplete work, etc. Getting a new start will motivate you to get back into writing. A good way to motivate yourself is to start a writer’s journal.

MUSIC

Another way I like to motivate myself is by listening to music while writing, if you also enjoy that, create new playlists or add new songs onto current playlists for something new to listen to and refresh your mind with new ideas. You can check out my playlist for inspiration!

CHANGE IT UP

If you usually write in your bedroom, try to write somewhere else, sometimes the feeling of boredom and not having inspiration to write is because of the same routine. Especially nowadays since most people are at home, staying in the same room might get boring. If it’s too noisy in other rooms, try wearing headphones and listen to music to cover up the noise.

I hope this post inspired you to get back into writing in these unfortunate times, make sure to follow my Instagram for weekly tips that could inspire you more and help you improve your writing. Thank you for reading!

How to Start a Writer's Journal

A Writer’s Journal is a journal that keeps records of your ideas, inspiration, and thoughts for future reference. It helps enhance creativity when you have writer’s block or just don’t know what to write about.

Why you should use a Writer’s Journal:

  • Whenever you run out of ideas, you can go through the Journal.
  • Free of distraction that writing on devices could cause.
  • It’s fun!

How to choose a notebook:

  • Make sure the paper is thick enough for the pen to not bleed through.
  • The notebook can be big or small depending on your preference.
  • If you make lots of mistakes, it’s better to get a spiral notebook since it’s easier to tear out pages.
  • Get a hard cover for protection, if you’re planning to take your notebook everywhere.

Some notebook I personally tried and or heard about:

(Moleskine, Smythson, Leuchtturm)

Obviously, You don’t have to buy an expensive notebook, any good quality notebook will do! As long as it meets the description I mentioned above, it should be good to use.

So what can you write in a Writer’s Journal?

  • You can start by introducing who you are and why you write; this way, if you ever lose motivation to write you can see what makes you write in the first place.
  • Write about random conversations you overheard.
  • Ideas you get in the shower or before you sleep that you don’t want to forget.
  • Interesting stories that happened to you or someone you know.
  • Dreams or nightmares.
  • Practice describing any object or person in front of you.
  • Write new vocabulary you learned.
  • Write a sentence you like that you want to use later.
  • Inspiring quotes
  • You can even print out images and stick it in your journal!

If you end up starting a writer’s journal, I’d love to see it! You can share it with me on Instagram!

Character Development 101

What is Character Development?

Character development is the process of creating a fully rounded, complex, and believable character within your writing with the purpose of making readers interested in them and their journey.

Other than the plot, Characters will make or break your story. So making sure you give them good traits. In this blog series, we’re going to build strong characters from scratch!

The first thing you need to know is that there are four basic types of characters: Static, Dynamic, Flat, and Round.

Types of CharactersStaticDynamicFlatRound
DescriptionCharacter that stays the same throughout the whole story.A character that changes due to the events in the story. Usually a dynamic character is also a round character.A character we know very limited information about. A complex character we know a lot of information about.
ExampleDraco Malfoy from the Harry Potter SeriesHarry Potter, Ron Weasley and Hermoine Granger from the Harry Potter SeriesCrabbe and Goyle from the Harry Potter SeriesHermoine Granger from the Harry Potter series

Lots of people get confused between static and flat characters, so what’s the difference?

Static characters are characters that could be significant to the story but just don’t change at all, whereas flat characters can usually be described in one word like “Teacher” “Mean” “Considerate”, their personalities are not complex. Most flat characters are static but static characters aren’t necessarily flat. Flat characters still have to serve a role in moving the plot. Static characters can be the protagonist is a story and can play major roles, while flat characters can only play side roles. An example of a flat character is Elizabeth Proctor in The Crucible by Arthur Miller. While an example of a static character is Sherlock Holmes or Scar from The Lion King, They both play major roles yet their personalities don’t change/develop.

So now that you’ve determined what type of character your character is, it’s time to work on them and develop them accordingly.

How to write Dynamic Characters:

  • Make sure they have flaws, no person is perfect. Start by making a list of their traits, good and bad. Good traits: Patient, Loving, Considerate, Honest, Loyal, Respectful, Intelligent, Independent, etc. Bad traits: Arrogant, Bad-tempered, Bossy, Cruel, Dishonest, Forgetful, Hypocritical, Impolite, etc.
  • Give your characters preferences, have them have favorite foods, shows, books.
  • Give them dreams, goals and motivations. This is what keeps your story going, your characters should try to reach their goals, and you being the evil writer will make sure they’ll accomplish it in the hardest way ever.
  • Give your character a good backstory (history), You don’t have to reveal it all at once. It’s just easier to come up with character motivations and goals when you know their past.
  • Make them have enemies, weaknesses and fear. This could be other characters, mental illness, or phobias. Your characters need obstacles and conflicts for them to learn and grow.
  • Plan out how they’re going to change throughout the story, for example: His mother’s death caused character X to become distant, later on meeting character Y makes him social again. You have to know each event that causes your character to become either better or worse.

(We will get into each aspect in detail later on in future posts)

How to write Static Characters:

  • As we did with the Dynamic Characters, come up with the list of traits they have. But remember, these traits won’t change throughout the entire story, so make sure you’re satisfied with all of them.
  • Once again, give them preferences, dreams, motivations, weaknesses, and a backstory.
  • DON’T forget that these traits won’t change at all, make sure you like everything (and if you want to change anything later on, it’s not a big deal as long as your story is still a draft, so don’t get too stressed over this)

How to write Round Characters:

  • Round characters are like Dynamic characters except for one thing, they don’t need to change throughout the story, they can be round and static or round and dynamic, whatever you prefer! As long as the readers know a lot about them, they’re considered Round characters.
  • So like the Dynamic characters, write down the character’s strength and weaknesses, their motivations, their backstory, their likes and dislikes and anything you know about them.

How to write Flat Characters:

  • A Flat character is usually a character that readers don’t know much about and they usually just serve to keep the plot going.
  • So choose your character’s purpose in the story, how do they help the plot line?

Questions to help develop characters:

  • What’s their backstory? How does it affect their motivations?
  • What’s their full name?
  • What’s their nationality?
  • What are some of their hobbies?
  • What are their strengths?
  • What are their weaknesses?
  • What their deepest secret?
  • What’s their biggest dream?
  • What’s their biggest fear?
  • Do they have any medical conditions or mental illnesses?
  • Favorite food?
  • Favorite color?
  • Favorite show?
  • Favorite book?

You can download some worksheets I created to help you with the types of characters! I’ll put the link below! I’d greatly appreciate it if you could support me on my Ko-fi account, and thank you for reading this post, hope it helped!

link: https://ko-fi.com/album/Character-Development-Types-of-Character-sheets-C0C21I47G

Wicked People, Noble Minds

The world is awfully quiet, 
 When you feel alone and loveless
 A starless night is long, 
When you find yourself wandering aimlessly 

The world is a loveless landscape 
Filled with war and pain and loss 
With unloved remains and desperate cries 
That leave some quiet and unfound 

The world is a loud hell 
When one is looking for peace 
Fires in hearts and minds
Begging to be extinguished 

Wicked people fighting noble minds 
Hopelessness in the face of doom 
As hope quick as water runs 
Lost and fleeting in a single second

A bittersweet world is what we have 
Of conflict and hatred and love we find 
Of crows loving murder, 
Of humans losing mind

by jadeoswaldpoetry on Tumblr

Tips on Writing Mystery and Crime

I recently watched Knives Out and it was so good! So I thought, why not write a post about Mystery writing?

The main reason readers enjoy Mystery writing is because of the suspense, they want to know who did it, why they did it and how. Mystery writers should be able to give these answers without exposing too much too soon- readers enjoy trying to guess the suspect themselves before it is revealed.

So what exactly makes a Mystery novel intriguing? How can you keep readers eager to flip to the next page?

1- Avoid Clichés:

No one enjoys a story that is too predictable. However, getting inspired by other mystery novels is okay, as long as you do not copy the same story line and events.

2- Start with the action:

You want to get readers hooked, so start with the action. What mystery are the main characters trying to solve? How did they get into this? Was it pure coincidence? Was it curiosity? Are they somehow attached to this? For example, their friend is murdered or they keep getting weird calls from an unknown number. What’s driving their motivation to solve this mystery? You can do this in the prologue or in the first chapter.

3- Put your protagonist in a life or death situation:

A good way to keep your story suspenseful is to put your character in a place where readers aren’t sure if they’ll make it out alive. For example, a solo encounter with the murderer unarmed.

4- Have a plot twist:

This is obviously not necessary but it makes readers shocked and more interested to read the rest of your book. However, there are wrong ways of doing it.

  • Don’t make the plot twist too different from what was expected. You should make the plot twist unexpected but still reasonable so that readers think “Oh, I should’ve seen that coming!”
  • Leave many clues so that readers can understand how the plot twist happened, but keep them discreet.
  • You should keep it reasonable as mentioned above, but not too expected to the point readers think that’s the original plot from the start.

5- Make sure to have a detailed outline for your plot:

From your writing, it will definitely show if your story was prepared beforehand or if it was made on the spot. Having a good outline before writing your mystery novel ensures that there are no plot holes or unexplained events, which is a common mistake new mystery writers do. Outlines are especially important in Mystery novels because you have to know every detail about the murder or case to make sure you don’t forget anything.

6- Have details:

Your characters, background and storyline should have lots of detail, but make sure to keep it interesting, something including too many details can be boring.

7- Avoid Info dumps:

Info dumps happen when a writer puts all the information in one paragraph without spacing it out throughout the story. It’s boring to read and your readers will probably lose interest. For example: Marie was calling her bestfriend, Rosie. They met in 5th grade and had multiple fights but remained close friends. Once Rosie stole Marie’s boyfriend and Marie thought she’d never forgive her, but months later they started talking again…You get the point, it’s boring and too much to read in one go. Instead, you should space it out throughout the story, that way it’s more entertaining.

8- Research Weapons and Poisions:

If you’re writing a murder, take some time to read about Weapons, how fast they kill and how they kill. That way your writing can be more realistic and descriptive. If your character gets killed by poison make sure to research that as well! Search up different poisons, their side effects, where they’re found and how long it takes to kill a person. For example, Agatha Christie worked at a hospital during World War 1, making her exposed to all sorts of medications and poisons which later came in handy when she wrote all her mystery novels.

9- Research Laws:

Depending on the era and setting you’re writing in, you should know some basic laws, like punishments, how wills work, what’s illegal and what’s not, etc. The more you know, the better. That way, you won’t risk writing something that isn’t true (Obviously, you only need this if your story is based in a real setting)

10- Read other people’s work:

Reading other writers’ work can help you learn new techniques that you can use in your own writing, but as mentioned above, never plagiarize or copy! It’s fine to get inspired as long as you don’t copy. An author I’d recommend is definitely Agatha Christie (Yes, I’m obsessed) If you don’t know her, she’s basically an author with over 60 detective novels. Her stories are very well planned, she keeps all the hints in plain sight but hidden at the same time.

Thank you for reading this post! If you have any questions, feel free to ask! If you enjoyed, I’d appreciate if you shared it with anyone you think needs it. Follow me on Instagram for weekly posts, writing tips and updates on the book I’m currently working on (Which is a mystery novel ;3 )