I'm thrilled to welcome author, Augustus Cileone to my blog today for my writing tips series. Gus is a member of my local SINC chapter (Sisters in Crime). I can tell you that he is smart, interesting and accomplished. I'm excited to share his writing tips. Gus will be here today talking about building characters and next Thursday, he will return to discuss using your own experiences in fiction writing.
Here's a little bit about my guest:
Augustus Cileone won the Dark Oak Mystery Contest sponsored by Oak Tree Press, for the novel, A Lesson in Murder, about homicides associated with a Philadelphia Quaker school. His second novel, Feast or Famine, a satire, deals with a traumatized man dealing with his Catholic Italian American upbringing in the 1960's and 1970's. His latest novel, Out of the Picture, published by Sage Words Publishing, is a mystery loaded with movie references, and deals with social outsiders. He has been honored for his writing by Annual Art Affair, Hidden River Arts, the annual Writer’s Digest writing competition for two plays, The Philadelphia Writers’ Conference, the Montgomery County Community College’s Annual Writers’ Club Poetry and Fiction Contest, Filmmakers International Screenwriting Awards, and the Annual StoryPros International Screenplay Contest. His short stories appear in the anthologies entitled South Philly Fiction and Death Knell V, and in the literary periodical Schuylkill Valley Journal.
And now, Mr. Cileone:
I’ve attended a number of workshops on fiction writing, and the successful writers teaching these sessions agreed on many points as to how to create believable and interesting characters. Here are some suggestions:
1. Physical descriptions are important, such as sex, age, vocal quality, and even clothing. But, don’t get bogged down in superfluous lists provided by an omniscient author. Try to provide details through the eyes of other characters. This technique also tells the reader something about the observers.
2. Character traits reflect the basic personality of a person. Many times one predominant mood or temperament adds to believability and distinctiveness. These come off as a person’s attitudes or reactions to surroundings.
3. Motivations are desires. There may be several in the major characters. It is in this area that emotions and objectives come into play. These desires can be subconscious or conscious. Readers like characters that care about something, such as other characters, or a cause.
4. Deliberative thoughts show a character’s reasoning before forming an opinion or plotting a course of action. It is an active process and produces dramatic action.
5. Decisions define characters, are types of action, and are, thus, tied to plot.
6. Back story helps the characters feel real to the writer, and, therefore, also to the reader. Knowing about a character’s parents, religion, place of origin, education, ethnicity (if relevant to the story), helps sculpt the person created, even if all of these facts don’t make it into the final story.
7. Action and humor should flow from the characters, and not be inserted just for thrills or a laugh. They should be consistent with and reveal personality.
8. Stakes must be high. Readers become invested in characters that have a lot on the line. It doesn’t mean that a story has to be a thriller to include this element. For example, a person might be fighting to hold on to his family, or to overcome an addiction.
9. Flaws in a character’s personality make a person more believable. Also, perfect people are boring.
10. Fears are what the characters must overcome to reach goals and lead more satisfying lives. Plots should include characters facing or running away from their fears.
11. Conflicted characters show struggling with what they believe and what they should do. Without conflict, there is no dramatic interest on the part of the reader.
12. Distinguishing characteristics create uniqueness. Supply characters with signature likes, dislikes, actions, or ways of speaking.
13. Change must occur in major characters. Through the events in the plot, they should go through an arc where experiences alter their lives.
From the Amazon page:
Vince Singleton, a writer, part-time English professor at Philadelphia Sacred Covenant University, and huge movie fan, suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder. He witnessed the accidental shooting of his wife by a policeman during a robbery. Vince, however, suspects that her death was intentional. Now, an old friend of his is found dead amid unusual clues. Vince helps the lieutenant working the case, despite his wariness of policemen. Faculty members associated with animal abuse are murdered and strange items are discovered near the bodies. Vince determines that the clues refer to movies, and, with the help of his daughter, his journalist brother, and a female professor, tries to find the killer before another person is taken … out of the picture.
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