The cinnamon roll. A smol bean. We invent all kinds of affectionate nicknames for the cuddly teddy-bear characters we adore. But what about characters who have a few prickles? Or are downright cold? As writers, we strive to create characters readers will root for. Otherwise our books won’t stay open for long. But not every story requires a happy-go-lucky Olaf. Sometimes a story needs an emotionally detached Elsa. But how do we endear aloof characters to readers? If we tinker with four areas, we can warm these characters up just enough that readers won’t get frostbitten.
Cliffhangers are intrinsic to sensational writing, hurtling readers into the next chapter. Whether a hero dives into a colossal waterfall to save his lady love, or a sidekick literally dangles from a precipice, these scenes all follow the same strategy: raise the tension to a feverish pitch, then switch story lines.
Human beings are hard to figure out. We rarely express our full thoughts or feelings, and when we do, misunderstandings still arise. How we process and react to situations is unique and impacted by everything from mood to history to personality. As we’re crafting characters who are intended to embody specific worldviews or lessons, we need to keep human complexity in mind. The strongest, most memorable characters expose their layers during pivotal moments rather than all at once.
Why does Christian fiction as a genre have to exist? Why can’t we ditch the special label and simply write good fiction? In the first installment of our article series exploring The Promise of Jesse Woods, Josiah answers these objections and explains what the book teaches about crafting explicitly Christian themes that resonate with readers.
When you write, you don’t aim to recreate reality. Instead, you excitedly create a secondary world. Although a few aspects resemble reality to make the story understandable, other aspects are intentionally unrealistic to make a point. If this describes your work-in-progress, you know I’m talking about speculative fiction.
When crafting a story, writers spend as much time agonizing over the characters who populate it as they do the events that happen. Without relatable, realistic, and distinguishable characters, readers will feel disconnected, no matter how interesting the setting or plot is.
Editing is easy to overdo. You open your latest draft to restructure a scene, but as you reread your work to get your bearings, you can’t resist tinkering with a clunky paragraph in the previous chapter. Then you remember a worldbuilding element you need to research so you can use it to set the mood when your protagonist meets her love interest. And soon you’ve spent an hour brainstorming the perfect analogy for his blue eyes.
Whenever I’ve asked my students to write a poem, I invariably hear the question, “Where do I start?” My immediate reaction is consternation, plus a certain level of frustration (in case you don’t know, writing teachers can be an exasperated bunch). Poetry is all about your surroundings, right? So, formulating a topic should be as easy as attending school, going to work, or otherwise carrying out your daily routine. Why, oh student writer, are you overthinking this task? It’s supposed to be fun!
A plot may stimulate readers’ minds, but even the most unforeseen twists won’t linger in their memory unless the events are deeply rooted in the characters’ lives. Strong character development engages readers’ emotions, giving them someone to invest in and identify with. It’s a crucial component of fiction, but the execution looks starkly different in a plot-driven story than in a character-driven one. By comparing the two styles, writers can learn how to capitalize on the one that best serves their work-in-progress.
When you think about fast-paced stories, what comes to mind? Cliffhangers that keep you awake late at night, turning pages so quickly that you get paper cuts? Or anemic character arcs and half-hearted themes. Sometimes films and books sacrifice character development for the sake of fight scenes and car chases. But if a character’s experiences don’t change him at all, what’s the point?