How To Create Realistic Characters: General Tips For Self-Publishing & Indie Authors

....This is a very random post, but it’s going to be an important one. I used to write posts like these everyday, when I first started out, about four years ago. I gave advice on how self-published writers can help themselves and do better.

It wasn’t because I was an expert––because let’s face, I’m not an expert on anything. I’m just an ordinary nobody: a writer who loves to write. That’s it! I’m not famous. I’m not a bestselling author, who has sold a million copies.

I’m not Stephen King, Dean Koontz, Edgar Allan Poe, [insert popular writer here], and I will probably never be one of The Greats like them. I didn’t have anyone to help me when I was first starting out. That’s why I created this blog, because I wanted my experiences (good or bad) to aid struggling writers, who were just like me. If I fail in the process, then maybe you can learn from me and succeed. I may not have a chance, but you might.

For general stuff and some helpful links, they are on the headers above you. There’s a list of posts with tons of information I’ve collected over the years. In addition, there’s duplicate links. Everything’s at the right hand side, down below. There’s a list of resources at your every disposal. I list and name the most important ones. I haven’t looked back at some of these old posts, so there may be some horrible grammar mistakes in them.

Any websites I’ve named or shared with you, some of the links may be down or broken. I have corrected and updated a few posts, but not every one of them. If you want to know more about self-publishing from my experiences, it’s right there for you to look up and read.

I haven’t written any advice blogs lately or general info on self-published books, because quite frankly it’s time consuming and I just don’t have the time anymore. Not to mention, I too have tons of projects to do. Even though I don’t look busy, I’m constantly thinking about my projects. However, since I have more time than usual I’m going to try to give some tips, and you’ve probably stopped reading at this point. That’s fine. I’ll carry on. 

A Slap In The Face...Once again, I never write book reviews. I’ll say this again. I don’t write reviews on any books I’ve read in the past, especially after what I’ve seen and been through. If I ever gave you a book review in your life, consider yourself lucky, because I will never do that again. Trust me when I say this, I’ve done book reviews for friends and it has ended friendships.

I’ve read books from many Indie authors in Writer’s groups, chatrooms, and in forums. Many of them now hate me for life when I told them I didn’t read their books. If I give them my honest opinion about their books (the parts I didn’t like reading), I am deeply resented and hated for it. I have even been harassed and stalked because of it. This is the world we now live in. People will always be offended. It doesn’t matter what I say or do, I probably have more enemies than friends. And they tend to be other writers. This is no joke.

When it comes to self-published writers, I find it harder to write reviews, because I’ve been there. I understand the pain, the loneliness, and the isolation a lot of writers go Crying..through. Nobody wants to read our stories. Not even our own family members believe writing is a serious career. People laugh at you. Mock you. They think we’re crazy…and maybe some of us are.

We writers tend to take things too personal. We want people to love our books. Who wants bad reviews? Grant it, every author/writer is going to believe they have the greatest story ever and that it must be shared with the entire world. This is our life’s work. How could anyone not love our characters that we spent 50 years creating? Why would anyone hate us for a book? 

Sweatdrop...If you’ve made it this far, congratulations. Let’s get to the point of this discussion.

I read something today…

Have you ever read the first chapter of a novel and was like…

[insert funny image below]

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And I won’t say what the title was or who the author is, but it was a book written by a self-published author. The first chapter is everything I basically feared it would be. A disaster. It was like watching a train wreck happen, except this time I was reading it in a book. I don’t know why I continued reading it, but I did.

I reached a scene where I was rolling my eyes…and I had to stop myself completely. I will never pick it up and read it again. The grammar wasn’t too horrendously bad; however, the paragraphs were extremely long. None of the characters’ motivations made any sense. Extreme violence and gore for the sake of shock value only. No reason for things happening.

...No explanation whatsoever. There was no point in continuing it at all. If you really don’t care about your characters and storyline that much, why should I? Why would any reader for that matter? Why care about characters that are given no physical descriptions whatsoever, no backstory, no history on?

Not even the dialogue was remotely interesting. Just curse words galore. Trust me when I say this, I am not a prude and I can tolerant quite a lot. However, what I can’t stand is serious lack of character development and just bad storytelling in general.

Not every person talks the same way, especially if they’re not the same age. Children do not speak the same way as adults do. Boys and girls may say the same things, but certain words may have a different meaning, depending on their gender. People of different backgrounds and social status will have unique mannerisms, education, and speaking habits. Using racial stereotypes will not give you any award points, unless you can do something unique with them.

OMG!

Constant usage of cliches are not a good sign of storytelling. Even if your book is horror…if every chapter is filled with nothing but rape, violence, and gore this is not a good sign of storytelling. In fact, these are the opposite. Very bad signs. Use them sparingly.

Just because it’s horror doesn’t mean you should throw all the characters and the entire story and plot under a bus for instant gory gratification. If you want to kill all your characters, that’s fine by me. You do whatever the hell you want to. But I’d rather read a good horror story that made me feel something for the characters, besides pain and torture. Make us root for them to survive these horrors. Go for the Goal!!!

Make the women fight back and actually win. They’re not all helpless victims and just folder for your sick, twisted, power hungry male fantasies. There, I said it. 😐 I’ll probably get like ten million e-mail messages of hate or spam for this. Bring it on!

If you want an emotional and powerful scene that’s on the edge of your seat action-packed, your characters shouldn’t be making jokes or talking about how sexy it is about being raped. Especially, not while they’re actually being raped by someone they’ve trusted and known for years. Love is not rape. Rape is not love. It’s about power over someone else (control of an individual).

When a character has nearly been beaten to death, it’s not funny if they think this is the greatest thing that ever happened to them. Unless, you’re doing a satire or some dark comedy that deals with some political elements, then I can understand somewhat. If you want us to feel anything for your characters, in life and death situations…you need to watch real, true crime stories about people in the actual world. Please, read history, nonfiction books, and biographies.

Remember self-publishers, please make a new paragraph after 4 or 5 sentences. If it’s six short sentences, it’s fine. You can leave it. But please indent your spaces for crying out loud. It is much harder for a reader to view and read a page full of sentences without a page break, an indentation, or a space between them. Also, it just looks more professional and neater that way, breaking the paragraphs up, and it helps with the flow of reading your words faster.

Smashing-computer-GIF

All right, after that very long rant. I’m going to show you how to fix these problems…

Please, do not set your computer on fire.

HOW TO CREATE REALISTIC CHARACTERS & CHARACTERISTICS:

  1. First of all, have you heard of building your own character profile? This time actually write one out: Name, Age, Height, Weight, Personality, Description, Hairstyle, Lifestyle, Race, Blood Type, Gender, Education, Goals, Fears, Family Members, Weaknesses, Strengths, Pet Peeves, Job, etc, etc.
  2. Make them have actual, real flaws. And no, not liking Elton John is not a fatal flaw in anyone’s character. That’s a Personal Preference or a Pet Peeve. Get it right! It could be Depression, Addiction, Narcissism, Spoiled Brat, Egos, Ignorance, Arrogance, Vanity, Naive/Gullible, Greed, Mental Disorders, Eating Disorders, Phobias, and so on and so on.
  3. Finding a voice for your character is difficult, but it’s not impossible to do. Depending on the race and social status of your character, look up possible slang terms and vocabulary online. Do they curse a lot, and why? Does your character have a thick Southern accent? Are they from a strict, religious upbringing? Do they say, “Ma’am or Madam,” “Them or ’em,” “Can’t or cannot,” “Want or wanna?”
  4. Descriptions need to be realistic in a sense that not every character should be played by a sexy, super model. What makes your character unique from all the ten million other characters? Why should the readers care? How do other characters view this character? Why are they good or bad?
  5. Making Villains: Why is this villain any different from the others? Why should we care about this villain? How did they become a villain? What were they like before? And please, don’t say they want to rule the world and make a lot of money. If everyone’s dead, how are they ruling the world? How will they make millions of money on a virus that destroys everything in sight? Ask yourself this… if my villain rules the world and has all the money/power, what will they do next? Will they go to Switzerland? Are they going to open a checking account? Maybe pick up basket weaving as a hobby? If you come up blank, there’s something obviously wrong with your villain. There are better things than ruling the world, unless your character is some body-snatching, sort of alien species or a plant fungus.

HOW TO CREATE REALISTIC MOTIVATIONS:

  1. Who? What? Why? And How?
  2. What are your characters’ true intentions?
  3. Good or bad?
  4. Why do they think this way?
  5. Once again, why should the readers care?
  6. How does your character accomplish their dreams and goals?
  7. What do they think about constantly?
  8. What do they strive to do in life?
  9. Why are they determined to reach this goal?
  10. What happens if they fail in reaching this goal, how would they react to this situation?
  11. If they give up, what would they do next?
  12. How would they move on?
  13. What happens if they succeed, how would they react to this?
  14. What other goals do they have in mind?
  15. What do they love to do?
  16. What do they hate to do?
  17. What are they most afraid of?
  18. What are they not afraid of?
  19. What are their insecurities and flaws? Please explain why.
  20. Internal and external conflicts? Explain what makes them tick.
  21. What are their views about themselves and the world around them?
  22. Who inspires them the most?

HOW TO BUILD SUSPENSE AND EMOTIONAL SCENES:

  1. Show Don’t Tell.
  2. Location, location, location.
  3. Build a scenery and expand on it.
  4. What does the house look like? Where’s the furniture? Is there a lakeside view? What’s the park look like?
  5. Where is this story taking place? And why should we care?
  6. What is the weather like outside?
  7. Use the 5 Senses. Sight, smell, taste, hearing, and touch.
  8. Less can be more. Unless you’re writing horror. However, readers do have imaginations. So less graphic and gory details can be powerful in certain situations.
  9. Use foreshadowing. I hardly see this in Indie books anymore. Stop spoon feeding the readers on every exposition. Give them vague little clues. Make them think a little. Your readers are not stupid and will probably figure it out anyway, before the end of the book.
  10. Every chapter should have conflict, whether it’s internal or external conflicts. It should make the reader want to continue and find out what happens next. Use plot points to help you move the story forward, not backward.
  11. Use plot twists sparingly.
  12. Do not end every chapter with a cliffhanger. It gets annoying after awhile.
  13. Please describe emotions in physical details. Having a character say, “I’m afraid” is not showing emotion. Having a character sweating profusely and stuttering their words often is showing one of the signals of fear or shyness.
  14. Get rid of unnecessary repetition/dialogue. If you describe a scene or a character in vivid detail, please do not repeat the same thing over and over again, in the exact same chapter… in the very next page or paragraph.
  15. Limit cursing in descriptions, unless it’s for a POV of a character or their dialect.
  16. Character thoughts should be limited, especially in a life and death situation or a scene that’s meant to be tragic. Too much internal dialogue can actually ruin a powerful or emotional scene. Jokes in a rape scene are not funny or witty, especially coming from a character who’s a rape victim. It doesn’t make the scene sad at all. In fact, it’s more of a gimmick for shock value that demeans the character and the integrity of the author. It makes the writer look like an amateur (or a sicko) whichever one, who has no intentions on learning the moral implications of what real rape victims and survivors go through. Period. END OF STORY.

Let’s just make this clear. I have no problems with rape in any story; however, it is not erotica or romantic if there is no consent between (only adults) both parties. I will not discuss this any further, since this is a huge Pet Peeve of mine. But whatever, that’s just my personal preference. Go ahead and enjoy your rape fantasy novels, because I really don’t care. 😀

So that’s it. I hope this helps in some way. I’ll probably write more later.

Depressed

But for now, I’m going to sit in my corner of shame and bleach my eyes out…

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