Writing tips Archives





Dr. Maxine Thompson Live Internet Radio Shows
This Week’s Guest – Monday, June 19, 2017


Maxine Thompson

Dr. Maxine Thompson,
Publisher, Literary Agent, Author, Host of Internet Show is cross-referenced to her other businesses

Dr. Maxine ThompsonArtist First Internet Radio


Dr. Maxine invites you to join her this week on her various shows where she will be speaking with some interesting people.


June 19, 2017


8:00 P.M. Eastern Standard Time

This Week’s Dr. Maxine Thompson will be the Guest – Monday, June 19, 2017

Email dj@artistfirst.com with questions for the host or Dr. Maxine Thompson


June 19, 2017


June 19, 2017


Justice Clark
Author of

Emotions in Ink
Host of
Art of the Artist
Sharing Insights into Writing and Publishing



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EXECUTIVE SPONSORS:

January 4, 2010

Dr. Maxine Thompson

Author of
Hostage of Lies

Voted A Best Book of 2009

EDC Creations
Black Pearl Magazine

Black Butterfly Press

If you are interested in becoming a guest and/or a sponsor you may visit:

www.maxinethompson.com
,

www.maxinethompson.com/artistfirst.html for available dates
or via e-mail: maxtho@aol.com

>Home

This press

release may be viewed with links at www.maxinethompson.com/pressrelease.html





Dr. Maxine Thompson Live Internet Radio Shows
This Week’s Guest – Monday, May 22, 2017


Maxine Thompson

Dr. Maxine Thompson,
Publisher, Literary Agent, Author, Host of Internet Show is cross-referenced to her other businesses

Dr. Maxine ThompsonArtist First Internet Radio


Dr. Maxine invites you to join her this week on her various shows where she will be speaking with some interesting people.


May 22, 2017


9:00 P.M. Eastern Standard Time

This Week’s Guest – Monday, May 22, 2017

Email dj@artistfirst.com with questions for the author or Dr. Maxine Thompson


May 22, 2017


May 22, 2017


Liz Crocker
Author of

Transforming Memories
Sharing Spontaneous Writing Using Loaded Words

With Author, Polly Bennell & Holly Book, Co-Authors



Listen to Archives: Replay

Sponsored by:


EXECUTIVE SPONSORS:

January 4, 2010

Dr. Maxine Thompson

Author of
Hostage of Lies

Voted A Best Book of 2009

EDC Creations
Black Pearl Magazine

Black Butterfly Press

If you are interested in becoming a guest and/or a sponsor you may visit:

www.maxinethompson.com
,

www.maxinethompson.com/artistfirst.html for available dates
or via e-mail: maxtho@aol.com

>Home

This press

release may be viewed with links at www.maxinethompson.com/pressrelease.html




Dr. Maxine Thompson Live Internet Radio Shows
This Week’s Guest – Monday, February 13, 2017


Maxine Thompson

Dr. Maxine Thompson,
Publisher, Literary Agent, Author, Host of Internet Show is cross-referenced to her other businesses

Dr. Maxine ThompsonArtist First Internet Radio


Dr. Maxine invites you to join her this week on her various shows where she will be speaking with some interesting people.


February 13, 2017


9:00 P.M. Eastern Standard Time

This Week’s Guest – Monday, February 13, 2017

Email dj@artistfirst.com with questions for the author or Dr. Maxine Thompson


February 13, 2017


February 13, 2017


Dr. Rosie Milligan
Publisher, Author, Founder of

Black Writers on Tour



Listen to Archives: Replay

Sponsored by:


EXECUTIVE SPONSORS:

January 4, 2010

Dr. Maxine Thompson

Author of
Hostage of Lies

Voted A Best Book of 2009

EDC Creations
Black Pearl Magazine

Black Butterfly Press

If you are interested in becoming a guest and/or a sponsor you may visit:

www.maxinethompson.com
,

www.maxinethompson.com/artistfirst.html for available dates
or via e-mail: maxtho@aol.com

>Home

This press

release may be viewed with links at www.maxinethompson.com/pressrelease.html

By Dr. Maxine Thompson

http://www.maxinethompson.com

http://www.maxinethompsonbooks.com

Taken from my book, The Hush Hush Secrets of Writing Fiction That Sells

http://amzn.to/1S2yid7

As a fiction writer, you should create strong characters who will hold a reader’s interest for 300-400 pages, whether the character is a good person or a bad person. Who the character is will determine what he wants.

One tip: Make your character act in a courageous way that readers will admire. Test your character. Will he steal $50 if he finds it lying around?

In one of the first writing classes I taught, as an icebreaker, we played a game called ―Two Truths and a Lie.

Each attendee told two truths about himself and one lie. Surprisingly, no one ever guessed the correct answer for any of the participants. For instance, one workshop student said that he had been on Oprah’s show, had six children, and had been to prison. Everyone thought that the statement that he had been to prison was the lie. The truth was the student had been on Oprah’s and had been to prison. He also was a minister with five, not six, children.

Remember, people are full of contradictions. We used the game to show that you can’t judge people by only one aspect of their lives. This not only showed the different parts of people, it showed how a person’s behavior can change over the years.

In writing, the best characters do change and grow or fail to grow. They are also conflicted.

Another exercise we did showed the difference between stereotypes and rounded characters. We used a stereotype that has been used to death in literature and movies, for example—“the red-necked sheriff.”

We shifted the archetype and the situation. What if the character was a white law man with a conscience when a lynching took place during the Depression? Now there’s a story that goes against type and goes against the grain. (Of course, this is reminiscent of the wise father/attorney, Atticus Finch, in Harper Lee’s novel, To Kill a Mockingbird, who defended an innocent Black man in the South during one of the most segregated periods of time, during the Depression.) No wonder this book won a Pulitzer Prize and the movie version won an Academy Award.

Another powerful method for bringing characters to life is The Konstantin Stanislavski acting method. What would you do if you were in that character’s shoes? Act out each character’s role and put yourself in the middle of the story. One exercise was used to show the shifts in power in relationships from scene to scene. This is where you learn to use reversals such as from dominating to dominated.

In the exercise using the Rogerian theory, an attendee was assigned to interview people unlike themselves to understand their characters. This is crucial when you’re writing about a despicable character, such as a child molester (Vladimir Nabokov did this in the famous classic novel, Lolita,) or a serial killer, the infamous character, Hannibal Lecter, (from novel, Silence of the Lambs, by Thomas Harris.)

The Carl Rogers theory was used to develop communications between the United States and the Soviet Union during the Cold War. Its purpose is to have each person understand someone who holds a polar opposite point of view.

If someone asked you to describe a certain person, how would you do it?

Exercise: Write character sketches and descriptions for five different characters. Be sure to include important details about their history, personality, and context (setting—time and place). Then pick the character who interests you the most, and write a brief scene putting that character into a conflict in an imagined setting (time and place.) The critical part of this is to think, in advance, how you would describe someone to a friend if he asks you what you think of a certain person. This simple method is the single fastest, most “telling” way of getting at character that I know of.

The other key to creating interesting characters with built-in conflict is to bring together characters from different backgrounds. Your characters should come from disparate lifestyles, different classes, different races. How do they connect? Disconnect? Put together your characters and look at ways to derive built-in conflict, such as the old HBO special, ―“Oz,” where men of different backgrounds find themselves in prison.

How to Build Your Character’s Personality

1. If your character applied for a job, what would they put on the
application?

2. What is your character’s religious background?

3. How does your character’s physical appearance affect his self-esteem?

4. What are some of your character’s mannerisms?

5. Is your character urban-bred or country bred?

6. What is your character’s social or economic class?

7. How many family members are there and what birth order was she born in?

8. Where does she live? In a house or in an apartment?

9. What kind of work skills does she have and how does this affect her
role in the story?

10. How is your character different from others and how does that affect
the story? Is your character marginalized by race, sexuality, or ethnicity?

11. Is your character married or single? Any children?

12. Any physical handicaps? Speech impediments? Quirks?

13. What makes your character an outsider from the norm in terms of race, gender, sexual orientation, age, or ability?

14. In what ways is your character conflicted? Does he have a friend, or even a child, from another race, but is part of the Ku Klux Klan?

15. What is your character’s deepest secret?

16. Outline your major scenes and use index cards for each character.

17. Ask yourself, what is the worst thing that can happen to my character?

18. How can it get even worse? I call it the “Throw-everything-but-the-kitchen-sink-at-your character” technique.

19. Who is going to solve this problem? Your hero or heroine or a helper? (Preferably your protagonist will work out his own problems.) In Winston Groom’s novel, Forrest Gump, the main character, Forrest, with his 70 IQ, was such an innocent, loving person, that he became the agent of change, or catalyst character, who changed his love interest, Jenny Curran, for the better and the world around him.

20. Is your narrator just an onlooker, observing the agent of change, the person who affects everyone around him? In The Great Gatsby, the narrator, Nick Carraway, relates the story as he watches the main character, Gatsby, as he self-destructs.

Remember. Characters are what make your story. People might not remember all the plot, but they will remember an intriguing character long after they close the pages of a book.

Tagged with: Creating characters • Creating fictional characters • developing characters •Fiction

Filed under: Books • Character Development • Fiction • Reading • Writers on line • Writing tips

Dr. Maxine Thompson
http://www.maxinethompson.com
http://www.maxinethompsonbooks.com

Using Research to Find Topics for Your Stories


Through research you can find topics, subjects and ‘seeds’ for stories. Pick five different topics that interest you, and research them on the Internet, or through your local library. These topics can be virtually anything, as long as they interest you, and the information is available. Write brief summaries of specific pieces of information that you come across—seeds that could become the basis for future stories. After the summary, list things you’ve learned or thoughts that could form the basis of future stories.

Examples:

Through my research, I discovered old-fashioned practices for abortions, birth control and other home remedies during and after slavery. The deeper level of meaning was that life was almost so unbearable for Black women at that point in history that some women would rather abort using primitive methods and risk her life than bring another child into the world. There were even plantations where it appeared the women were barren, and that was not the case. They even knew how to use herbs to abort. I used the idea of old-fashioned, illegal abortion in The Ebony Tree. In my novel, Hostage of Lies, the blacksmith who was not branded because of his ability to work with horses, later exemplified a black man whose soul could not be branded, chained, or enslaved.

Topics I am currently researching: The North Carolina Sea Islands where the culture is similar to after slavery. The slave castles on the West Coast of Africa. Children who are reared in foster care, and its after effects. (This was the seed for my novels, LA Blues, LA Blues 2, LA Blues 3.) The coming of a military state or concentration camps in the United States.

Sometimes you can combine different story ideas for an interesting story.


Where Can You Begin?

Know your idea. Start with a “What if” premise. For instance, what if there was a secret conspiracy to put African Americans in concentration camps? (Author, John A. Williams, The Man Who Cried I am.)

You might bring a moment in history alive through weaving fact, poetic license and fancy. Use old newspapers to find out how people viewed the world in a different era. You can find these on microfiche at the library. Look for subjects of your interest such as animals such as ferrets, computer dating, the criminal justice system, the mass incarceration of Black men, mass shootings, ISIS, terrorists, serial killers, (particularly if you’re a mystery writer.) Go on field trips in your local area to add local color to your book. Go to travel agencies to get information for different locales your book, if you can’t visit a location. Or you can use mind mapping to use a non-linear approach to outlining your book’s significant details.

For mind mapping for subject ideas, you can find software at www.mindjet.com.

Therefore, there is never a shortage of ideas for your stories. When you hit a brick wall in your writing, you might just need to do more research.

Sign up for the free newsletter at http://www.maxinethompson.com or http://www.maxinethompsonbooks.com.

About the Blogger: Dr. Maxine Thompson is a novelist, poet, columnist, short story writer, book reviewer, blogger, an editor, ghostwriter, Internet Radio Show Host, and a Literary Agent. As an editor, she has edited/ghostwritten numerous best-selling books (Including New York Times Best Selling books), for African Americans, including many books for men and women who are incarcerated in the prison system. In a down economy, as a literary agent, she has negotiated over 100 book deals for African Americans. She is the author of Novels, The Ebony Tree, Hostage of Lies, LA Blues, LA Blues 2, and LA Blues 3, A Place Called Home (A Short Story Collection), a contributor to bestselling anthologies, Secret Lovers, (A Black Expression Bestseller) All in The Family, and Never Knew Love Like This Before, (Also a Black Expression Book Club best-seller, and Kindle Bestseller).

She is also an ebook author of The Hush Hush Secrets of Writing Fiction That Sell 1, 2, The Hush Hush Secrets of Making Money as a Writer, The Hush Hush Secrets of Creating a Life You Love, Novellas, The Katrina Blues, and Capri’s Second Chance, contributor to anthology,Proverbs for the People, and Editor/Contributor to anthology, Saturday Morning.

Her novels, The Ebony Tree, (Won a small Pen Award in 1997), Hostage of Lies, (Voted a Best Book of 2009), LA Blues, (2011), and LA Blues II, (2012), which were featured in Black Expressions’ Catalog in August 2012. LA Blues 3 was published in August 2013.

Ten Tips for Raising the Stakes in Your Fiction/Screenplays

By Dr. Maxine Thompson

http://www.maxinethompsonbooks.com
http://www.maxinethompson.com

Give your characters quirks, if you want to raise the stakes in your fiction.

Have your character be the outsider, at odds with his environment, or even a threat, where people isolate or attack him, such as in Toni Morrison’s novel, Beloved. After escaping from slavery, in an act of desperation, Sethe slashed her baby’s throat, rather than see the child go back to bondage. Although later, when she was released from jail, the community threw up an implacable wall of scorn and disgust towards Sethe and her surviving children. In the end, though, Sethe realizes her need for community.

Janie, the protagonist, in Zora Neale Hurston’s 1937 novel, Their Eyes Were Watching God, is also an outsider. She is ostracized because she married a younger man.

Often, I feel like an outsider and it struck me. Most writing is penned by artists who feel like outsiders. Women of other races have felt same sense of being different, judging from the misfits in Carson McCullers’ debut novel, The Heart is a Lonely Hunter.

As an African American woman, I can identify with feeling like an outsider, feeling marginalized. I know how it feels to live on the fringes of society. I know the double whammy scourge of both racism and sexism.

Here are ten more tips for raising the stakes in your fiction/screenplays. This will produce both suspense and tension, which will compel your reader to stay up all night reading your book/screenplay.

1. Put your characters on the edge. The best fiction, films, and plays do this. (Consider Tennessee Williams’ play, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Edward Albee’s play, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? and the movie, Set It Off, based on the screenplay written by Kate Lanier and Takashi Bufford.)

2. Set a timetable. The characters only have one week or better yet one day to save their kidnapped child’s life in exchange for a million-dollar ransom.

3. Put danger of loss of some kind in the character’s life. Example: One student in my writing class opened her novel with a child twirling in the mirror. I said change the point of view and let the mother wake up and not find her child in bed. That definitely would raise the stakes. That’s every parent’s worst nightmare—not being able to protect their child and keep her safe.

4. Life is hard. Show it, but in the end, be kind to your characters. Even in a dark story have some redemption. (Example: Henry Dumas’s short story collection, Goodbye, Sweetwater.)

5. Love all your characters, the good, the bad, the ugly. This shows in the respect you give a character. Even if the character is a serial killer, see his side of the story. It worked with serial killer, Hannibal Lector, in Thomas Harris’s novel, Silence of the Lambs.

6. Turn the juice up on your characters, like in the movie, Forrest Gump, (starring Tom Hanks, which was based on the novel by Winston Groom.) I loved the scene in the movie where Forrest’s friend, Lt. Dan (played by actor Gary Sinese), Vietnam vet/amputee, climbed up high on their boat’s sail mast, lightning and thunder swirling about him. He all but cursed God for how he had lost his legs in Vietnam, and to paraphrase, he asked God, “Is that all you got? Give me more.” (Sinese’s sensitive portrayal of a once invincible soldier reduced to a pathetic self-pitying specter of his former strength brought him the Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor.) Do just that in your writing. Give your characters more problems than it seems they can handle.

Likewise, go for the jugular vein in your characters. Let it rip. Now here is the paradox. Be kind in the end, yet, at the same time, you should not resolve the character’s problems. Allow the characters to solve their own problems. It is all right if your story has an unhappy ending. But don’t be too kind to the characters along the way, when it comes to piling on the complications and problems. That means you’ve identified too closely with them.

7. If your character has cancer, double this whammy up by having her husband
leave her, after she has her breast removed. Kimberla Lawson Roby does this in her novel, Best Friends Forever.

8. Sandbag the main character when he’s down, and paint him up into a corner, where there doesn’t appear to be any way out.

9. Use secrets to up the ante. A ghost, by definition, is something which haunts. When people have family secrets they are like ghosts. Writers can’t mine family secrets enough for story ideas, and I do this in both of my novels, The Ebony Tree and Hostage of Lies. A family can be very clannish and protective of its secrets. But you know what? Every family has secrets. Every family is somewhat dysfunctional. Another secret could be that your character hit, possibly killed a person or a child, in a hit-and-run car accident and never reported it. This will haunt the person’s conscience.

10. Have your character have to choose between two negative outcomes. Critical choice is important in a work of fiction. (Should you pull the plug on a child in a coma, or let the child live on indefinitely with no quality of life?)

These are just some ways you can raise the stakes in your writing and keep readers turning pages.

About the Blogger: Dr. Maxine Thompson is a novelist, poet, columnist, short story writer, book reviewer, an editor, ghostwriter, Internet Radio Show Host, and a Literary Agent. As an editor, she has edited New York Times and numerous other best-selling books for African Americans, including many books for men and women who are incarcerated in the prison system. During a down economy, as a literary agent, she has negotiated many book deals for African Americans.

She is the author of Novels, The Ebony Tree, Hostage of Lies, LA Blues, LA Blues 2, and LA Blues 3, A Place Called Home (A Short Story Collection), The Hush Hush Secrets of Writing Fiction That Sell, a contributor to bestselling anthologies Secret Lovers, (A Black Expression Bestseller) All in The Family, and Never Knew Love Like This Before, (Also a Black Expression Book Club best-seller, and Kindle Bestseller).

She is also an ebook author of The Hush Hush Secrets of Writing Fiction That Sell 1, 2, The Hush Hush Secrets of Making Money as a Writer, The Hush Hush Secrets of Creating a Life You Love, Novellas, The Katrina Blues, Capri’s Second Chance, and Summer of Salvation, contributor to Proverbs for the People, and Editor/Contributor to anthology, Saturday Morning.

Her novels, The Ebony Tree, (Won a small Pen Award in 1997), Hostage of Lies, (Voted a Best Book of 2009), LA Blues, (2011), and LA Blues II, (2012), which were featured in Black Expressions’ Catalog in August 2012. LA Blues 3 was published in August 2013.

Blog: Ten Tips for Creating Multi-Faceted Characters


By Dr. Maxine Thompson
http://www.maxinethompson.com
http://www.maxinethompsonbooks.com

Taken From The Hush Hush Secrets of Writing Fiction That Sells
by Dr. Maxine Thompson (2002)

When I was sixteen, during the Civil Rights era, as part of a one-way student exchange program (from the inner city of Detroit to a northern suburban, Traverse City, Michigan), I lived with a white family. This was part of an integration initiative. (For me, it was an escape from the drugs taking over my neighborhood and some other demons in my life, but that’s another story.) Anyhow, the mother of the family I lived with was an artist, a sculptress, who encouraged me to write when she saw my love of the written word. Her name is: Verna Bartnick, (http://oldmissiontavern.com/verna-bartnick-studio/). To this day, she continues to create works of art in the form of sculptures.

When she prophesied that she saw a writing talent in me, I wasn’t so sure.

After all, if, at the time, I had told my family I wanted to be a writer, they would’ve laughed and said, “Go get you a good job.”

Well, as life rolled around, I went to college, then became a social worker for the next twenty-three years, while raising 3 children. All the while, I used to wonder, when was my literary destiny going to begin? In 1989, I won money in Ebony’s first writing contest for a short story, “Valley of the Shadow,” then had a few short stories published in a college quarterly, called “Obsidian.” I was happy, but something was still missing.

Ironically, by the time my novel writing did emerge, I had buried my mother and become a grandmother, two milestones, which forced me to take action.

I realized how transient this life is.

From living, I gleaned many things about my journey, but this is one thing I can’t say enough about now—everything I learned about building multi-faceted characters I learned as a social worker.

These are ten tips for building multi-faceted characters.

1. I learned that babies will die from maternal deprivation if a process called bonding does not take place. From that, I’d like to make an analogy. I learned that, as a writer, you must make your reader bond or emotionally connect to your character or your characters will die from reader deprivation. You do this through reader identification, emotions and loyalty. The reader will then begin to root for your main character(s.)

2. Even a “crackhead” has redeemable qualities and a motivation for what led to him or her becoming a substance abuser. Give your villains (or antagonist) a motivation, a past, and some good traits. Also, I learned, just like in life, that in fiction the best lines can come from bums and what I call “street corner psychologists.”

In my novel, Hostage of Lies, these are gems spoken from my character Poor Boy, an alcoholic derelict. “When you don’t love someone, you just don’t love them. They can be ever so nice to you, but you can’t make yourself love them. And vice-versa.

“I been in love both ways. The kind where I didn’t love someone back, and the kind where the other party was just using me. I know this is sad to say, but graveyard love done killed a many people. Got more people in the cemetery than cancer.”

3. Also, just like in life, in fiction, being good is not all it’s cracked up to be. It’s easier to do the wrong thing. The person, such as a do-gooder social worker, who tries to do the right thing, has the hardest struggle.

Show this in your characters, particularly in your protagonist or main character. Fiction is about struggle and the fight to do good in a world filled with evil. Good intentions are generally what lead to conflicts in books.

For example, a good mother, with well-meaning intentions, can overprotect her children, creating followers and people who make bad choices. (So if your main character is a goody-two shoe, give her a critical flaw.)

On the other hand, sometimes you can use the bad guy as the lead character. They seem to inspire a lot of admiration from ordinary, law abiding citizens. Remember how in The Godfather, more people loved the Godfather than they did Fredo, his wimpy son, who was not a murderer? So don’t rule out using anti-heroes as your lead character.

4. Things happen to people that can either build their character early in life or destroy them. One teenage mother can go on to become a lawyer; another will drop out of high school, become a welfare queen or a substance abuser. One child can grow up with a schizophrenic parent and go on to become a successful adult; another child can grow up with a silver spoon in his mouth and become a serial killer.

Remember. A character’s back-story is important, but it doesn’t always determine what kind of person he or she will become. The best early life experience does not always produce resilient, tenacious people, nor does the worst early life experience always produce bad people. That’s why it’s often said that hardship builds character.

5. Life is often about compromise. Don’t give your books neat little happy endings. In my novel, Hostage of Lies, Nefertiti reunites with her birth daughter she’d had as a teen and placed for adoption at birth, but she pays the price of always wondering what would have happened had she opted to raise her child at a time when society was merciless to “unwed mothers.”

6. People generally grow during downward spirals. The worse life experience can sometimes turn out be the best thing that can happen. The grandmothers who had to take in crack grandbabies often looked younger than their crack daughters and were really better mothers the second time around.

Hitting rock bottom is often where people grow (or become discombobulated by life’s mishaps.) Put this in your fiction.

7. Show the dark side of your characters; this adds to complexity. How about a man who works with children, then goes home and batters his wife? People are full of contradictions. Or, the flaw could be more subtle. Perhaps look at how people get stuck in bad relationships and refuse to move on—that is, until something happens (the death of a child) such as in Anne Tyler’s novel, The Accidental Tourist, which forces the characters into action.

8. In the capacity of a social worker, I buried an AIDS baby and a Down Syndrome’s baby. I witnessed the after results of murder—a man had killed his wife—(which I revisit in my novel, LA Blues), and I had to place the surviving children in the middle of the night.

From this I learned: the line between life and death is tenuous.

Capture this dichotomy between life and death in your fiction.

9. Life is full of stories. The caseload’s foster mothers used to tell me stories. My clients told me stories. My clients’ families related all the family skeletons as they pointed to the “black sheep” of the family as the fault-line.

From this, I learned that everyone has a story. Everyone has a secret. Show me the inner life of your characters.

10. The Ten Commandments were written because man is essentially in need of God. How different men find their spirituality and their salvation can be a rocky road such as Paul on the road to Damascus. Take me, as the reader, on this journey. Walter Mosley does this in Always Outnumbered, Always Outgunned, as we travel with Socrates, as he redeems himself for the murders that he committed earlier in life.

In summary, show how your flawed characters try to redeem themselves.

Try some of these tips and see how your readers will fall in love with your characters.

About the blogger:

Dr. Maxine Thompson is a novelist, poet, columnist, short story writer, book reviewer, an editor, ghostwriter, Internet Radio Show Host, and a Literary Agent. She is the author of Novels, The Ebony Tree, Hostage of Lies, LA Blues, LA Blues 2, and LA Blues 3, A Place Called Home (A Short Story Collection), The Hush Hush Secrets of Writing Fiction That Sell, a contributor to bestselling anthologies Secret Lovers, (A Black Expression Bestseller) All in The Family, and Never Knew Love Like This Before, (Also a Black Expression Book Club, and Kindle Bestseller).

She is also an ebook author of The Hush Hush Secrets of Writing Fiction That Sell 1, 2, The Hush Hush Secrets of Making Money as a Writer, The Hush Hush Secrets of Creating a Life You Love, Novellas, The Katrina Blues, Capri’s Second Chance, and Summer of Salvation, contributor to Proverbs for the People, and Editor/Contributor to anthology, Saturday Morning.

Her novels, The Ebony Tree, (Won a Pen Award in 1997), Hostage of Lies, (Voted a Best Book of 2009), LA Blues, (2011), and LA Blues II, (2012), which were featured in Black Expressions’ Catalog in August 2012. LA Blues 3 was published in August 2013.

Character Development Exercises For Fiction Writers

By Dr. Maxine Thompson

http://www.maxinethompson.com

http://www.maxinethompsonbooks.com

Taken from my book, The Hush Hush Secrets of Writing Fiction That Sells

http://amzn.to/1S2yid7

As a fiction writer, you should create strong characters who will hold a reader’s interest for 300-400 pages, whether the character is a good person or a bad person. Who the character is will determine what he wants.

One tip: Make your character act in a courageous way that readers will admire. Test your character. Will he steal $50 if he finds it lying around?

In one of the first writing classes I taught, as an icebreaker, we played a game called ―Two Truths and a Lie.

Each attendee told two truths about himself and one lie. Surprisingly, no one ever guessed the correct answer for any of the participants. For instance, one workshop student said that he had been on Oprah’s show, had six children, and had been to prison. Everyone thought that the statement that he had been to prison was the lie. The truth was the student had been on Oprah’s and had been to prison. He also was a minister with five, not six, children.

Remember, people are full of contradictions. We used the game to show that you can’t judge people by only one aspect of their lives. This not only showed the different parts of people, it showed how a person’s behavior can change over the years.

In writing, the best characters do change and grow or fail to grow. They are also conflicted.

Another exercise we did showed the difference between stereotypes and rounded characters. We used a stereotype that has been used to death in literature and movies, for example—“the red-necked sheriff.”

We shifted the archetype and the situation. What if the character was a white law man with a conscience when a lynching took place during the Depression? Now there’s a story that goes against type and goes against the grain. (Of course, this is reminiscent of the wise father/attorney, Atticus Finch, in Harper Lee’s novel, To Kill a Mockingbird, who defended an innocent Black man in the South during one of the most segregated periods of time, during the Depression.) No wonder this book won a Pulitzer Prize and the movie version won an Academy Award.

Another powerful method for bringing characters to life is The Konstantin Stanislavski acting method. What would you do if you were in that character’s shoes? Act out each character’s role and put yourself in the middle of the story. One exercise was used to show the shifts in power in relationships from scene to scene. This is where you learn to use reversals such as from dominating to dominated.

In the exercise using the Rogerian theory, an attendee was assigned to interview people unlike themselves to understand their characters. This is crucial when you’re writing about a despicable character, such as a child molester (Vladimir Nabokov did this in the famous classic novel, Lolita,) or a serial killer, the infamous character, Hannibal Lecter, (from novel, Silence of the Lambs, by Thomas Harris.)

The Carl Rogers theory was used to develop communications between the United States and the Soviet Union during the Cold War. Its purpose is to have each person understand someone who holds a polar opposite point of view.

If someone asked you to describe a certain person, how would you do it?

Exercise: Write character sketches and descriptions for five different characters. Be sure to include important details about their history, personality, and context (setting—time and place). Then pick the character who interests you the most, and write a brief scene putting that character into a conflict in an imagined setting (time and place.) The critical part of this is to think, in advance, how you would describe someone to a friend if he asks you what you think of a certain person. This simple method is the single fastest, most “telling” way of getting at character that I know of.

The other key to creating interesting characters with built-in conflict is to bring together characters from different backgrounds. Your characters should come from disparate lifestyles, different classes, different races. How do they connect? Disconnect? Put together your characters and look at ways to derive built-in conflict, such as the old HBO special, ―“Oz,” where men of different backgrounds find themselves in prison.

How to Build Your Character’s Personality


1. If your character applied for a job, what would they put on the

application?

2. What is your character’s religious background?

3. How does your character’s physical appearance affect his self-esteem?

4. What are some of your character’s mannerisms?

5. Is your character urban-bred or country bred?

6. What is your character’s social or economic class?

7. How many family members are there and what birth order was she born in?

8. Where does she live? In a house or in an apartment?

9. What kind of work skills does she have and how does this affect her
role in the story?

10. How is your character different from others and how does that affect

the story?

11. Is your character married or single? Any children?

12. Any physical handicaps? Speech impediments? Quirks?

13. What makes your character an outsider from the norm in terms of race, gender, sexual orientation, age, or ability?

14. In what ways is your character conflicted?

15. What is your character’s deepest secret?

16. Outline your major scenes and use index cards for each character.

17. Ask yourself, what is the worst thing that can happen to my character?

18. How can it get even worse? I call it the “Throw-everything-but-the-kitchen-sink-at-your character” technique.

19. Who is going to solve this problem? Your hero or heroine or a helper? (Preferably your protagonist will work out his own problems.) In Winston Groom’s novel, Forrest Gump, the main character, Forrest, with his 70 IQ, was such an innocent, loving person, that he became the agent of change, or catalyst character, who changed his love interest, Jenny Curran, for the better and the world around him.

20. Is your narrator just an onlooker, observing the agent of change, the person who affects everyone around him? In The Great Gatsby, the narrator, Nick Carraway, relates the story as he watches the main character, Gatsby, as he self-destructs.

Remember. Characters are what make your story. People might not remember all the plot, but they will remember an intriguing character long after they close the pages of a book.




Dr. Maxine Thompson Live Internet Radio Shows
This Week’s Guest – Monday, May 16, 2016


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May 16, 2016


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This Week’s Guest – Monday, May 16, 2016

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May 16, 2016

Carolyn Howard Johnson
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