How To Make Your Writing More Intense

Write Better Now
Write Better Now
How To Make Your Writing More Intense
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It’s Writing Tip Time and we’re going to give you three fast and dirty writing tips today that’s going to make your writing more intense. Ready?

Think about your tense

What’s that mean? It means don’t be writing like things are happening now and then shift over to writing like things were happening in the past. If you want the most immediate writing experience, write in the present tense.

Here’s a quick example:

I lost feeling on my entire left side of my body during our long run on Friday. I thought I might be having a stroke.

That’s in the past tense, right? We read this, notice it’s in the first person and figure that the narrator has survived because she’s telling us about this after-the-fact.

Try it out in the present tense:

I lose feeling on my entire left side of my body during our long run. I think I might be having a stroke.

It’s more intense, right?

Let’s make it more intense.

Take out the distancing words.

In first person especially, it’s really hard to get away from a lot of looking and knowing and words that pull us out of the moment and the immediacy of the character’s experience.

Distancing language tends to be the words like ‘seem,’ and ‘look,’ and ‘heard,’ and ‘know.’ When I revise, I think of these words as placeholders for where I can go back and dig in more deeply in certain places.

So, let’s take that sentence again and make it more immediate.

I lose feeling on my entire left side of my body during our long run. I think I might be having a stroke.

Change that up and it looks like:

My entire left side of my body starts going numb during our long run. My left foot numbs first. Then my left hand and arm. When the left side of my mouth starts going numb, I gasp. I might be having a stroke.

You’re in there a bit more with that character now right. Is she having a stroke? What the heck is she running for? SHE IS BROKEN!

Try not to use the same word too many times too closely together.

In the example above I deliberately use the word ‘numb’ and ‘my left’ over and over again. I’m cool with the repetition of ‘my left,’ but not so much with the numb. There are better, cooler words to mix in there and grab the reader’s attention. Let’s try.

My entire left side of my body starts going numb during our long run. My left foot disappears first. Then my left hand and arm. When the left side of my mouth starts to tingle, I gasp. I might be having a stroke.

There you go!

We’ve learned three fast tips to making your writing more intense.

Writing Tip of the Pod:

Be in the present (tense). Don’t be distant. Mix up your words, man.

Hey, thanks for listening to Write Better Now. These podcasts and more writing tips are at Carrie’s website, carriejonesbooks.blog. There’s also a donation button there. Even a dollar inspires a happy dance in us, so thank you for your support. The music you hear is made available through the creative commons and it’s a bit of a shortened track from the fantastic Mr.ruiz and the track is Arctic Air and the album is Winter Haze Summer Daze.

When Should You Add A POV Character to Your Novel?

Sometimes an author will get super in love with a character that isn’t their protagonist or main point-of-view character and they’ll think, “Maybe this sexy beast deserves their own point of view.”

Then they will second guess themselves.

Then they will go back to thinking yes.

Being an author is confusing sometimes.

When you have two protagonists (co-protagonists), you want to make sure that each get pretty close to the same amount of time in the story. They should be almost equally (if not equally) important.

So, let’s go back to that main question: When should you add a POV character or when does a character in your novel deserve to be promoted to POV.

The simplest answer is this: You need to have a good reason.

Reasons to have a story with more than one POV character include:

  1. There’s no way to tell the story from just one character’s POV because the story that’s being told NEEDS to be told from multiple perspectives. If all your characters don’t get the other characters and their motivations or they hate each other (think The Girl on the Train) then your story might be well served to have more than one POV.
  • Each POV shows us something different about the story. They have to show us something new, something the other POV can’t show us.
  • You are writing an epic beast where the story lasts for more than one lifetime.
  • You want the story to be super fast-paced. There’s a power in switching in and out of POVs when each POV ends on emotional or plot cliffhangers.
  • Each POV character has their own narrative arc, goals, big lie, and transformation.

Remember: If both your POV characters are in the same scene, you can still only show that scene from one of those characters’ POV not both.

My little, creepy book baby is out in the world because who doesn’t want sad, quirky, horror with some romantic bits for the holiday season?

It’s a young adult novel (upper) called WHEN YOU BRING THEM BACK, please buy it!

It’s super fun.

When To Delete Your Characters in Your Novel

Sometimes even though you love them with all your heart, you might have to get rid of a character in your novel. Or even—gasp—a few.

So how do you know when you have too many characters?

Part of it is a bit subjective. It depends on your story.

But a big clue is that if the readers are having a hard time keeping track of who the characters are or remembering them? It means that you have work to do.

It might mean that you’ve fragmented the narrative with such a super large crew.

It might mean that you just haven’t made each character memorable enough or distinctive.

It might mean that your story is a bit flabby in a time (2021) where a lot of readers lean toward the story that’s lean.

Your first step is to think:

  1. Who is this story really about? Don’t get rid of those characters or character.

Now that you have that covered, think about:

  1. What other characters are really needed to tell this story?
  2. Go through your non-main characters (the ones the story isn’t really about) and ask yourself if you can get rid of them without ruining the story.
  3. If not, can you combine a couple of those characters into one character?
  4. If your story has more than one point-of-view, can you get rid of one of those POVS if that’s the issue. If your story feels fragmented to you or the reader, that is often the problem.

Janice Hardy has a great old blog post back from 2013 where she tweaks an exercise of Robyn Hood Black in order to determine if her novel has too many characters in it.

She has a lovely four step process that I’m going to share here.

“Step One: Take a sheet of paper and draw two boxes in the middle, evenly spaced apart. Write your protagonist’s name in one box, your antagonist’s name in the other. Add boxes if you have more than one of either. If you find yourself adding a lot of boxes at this stage, you probably have too many main characters.

“Step Two: Add boxes with the other character’s names. Put them below the protagonist if they’re directly connected to her, above the antagonist if they’re connected to him. Put down:

1. Major secondary characters first (friends, sidekicks)

2. Then important characters (people the plot or story hinges on, but aren’t hanging out with the main characters)

3. Then minor characters (recurring people who play smaller roles and are seen multiple times)

4. Then walk-on characters (people in one or two scenes who don’t do much, but have names anyway)

5. Then any character who interacts with your protagonist or antagonist who isn’t already listed

“Step Three: Draw lines connecting the boxes. Use a solid line if the character directly interacts and affects the protagonist, or a dotted line if they are connected more to someone else connected to the protagonist. For example, when your hero is mugged by three thugs, and only one speaks to him and actually interacts in a meaningful way, he gets a solid connection line. The other two thugs would get dotted lines to the first thug, because they’re connected to him, but really don’t affect the protagonist much.

“Step Four: Draw wavy lines between any characters who are connected to each other so you can see the relationships.”

On the podcast Tuesday, we’ll talk about another way to determine if your novel’s character needs to be there. But, you should check out Janice’s full blog because it’s really a great resource!

RESOURCE

http://blog.janicehardy.com/2013/06/does-your-novel-have-too-many-characters.html

My little, creepy book baby is out in the world because who doesn’t want sad, quirky, horror with some romantic bits for the holiday season?

It’s a young adult novel (upper) called WHEN YOU BRING THEM BACK, please buy it!

It’s super fun.

Secret Writing Advice

DO NOT SIGN UP WITH A LOCAL INTERNET PROVIDER WHO WILL ALLEGEDLY EMBEZZLE FUNDS FROM HIS EMPLOYEES’ 401K ACCOUNTS AND THEN DISCONNECT THE SERVICE, THE SERVER AND THE 

PHONE LINES

AND THEN EVERYONE INCLUDING YOUR EDITORS AND YOUR AGENT AND YOUR MOTHER WILL TRY TO SEND YOU AN EMAIL 

AND THEY WILL GET A MESSAGE THAT YOU DON’T EXIST.

No. Sorry. That’s not it. Although that is good important advice I wish someone had told me before it happened to me.

Below is my real advice and it’s not about computer fraud or even strictly about the craft of writing. Instead it’s about the mind state of being a writer.

Yes, the mind state.

Yes, that sounds hokey.

The thing is that sometimes writing is easy.
The thing is that sometimes writing is not … easy.

These are the days of writers. People blog. They text. They NaNoWriMo.

You are probably one of those people. You know that it’s hard. I know that it is not easy for me to be one of those people, a writer in the days of writers and especially in these times of economic turmoil where people are getting laid off or fired and entire publishing houses are restructuring, trying to stay alive.

Let me tell you something about writers in these days of writers.  Sometimes when we look at a page we see the world. Sometimes when we look at a page we see hope. Sometimes when we look at a page we see nothing at all.

But even on those horrible days — those self doubt/writer angst days — we approach the page anyway. We lurch towards it, hands bloodied, heart attacking our ribs. We lurch towards it because we want so badly to reach out to others; we want so badly to make story; we want so badly to be heard.

Writers matter. Stories matter. You matter.

It all matters despite the economy and the pandemic and the divisions or maybe even more so because of it.


It all matters despite the fact that the whole world can write and blog and text, or maybe even more so because of it.

So we lurch. So we bother. So we search our mirrors and our lives. So we search in hearts and in actions and we make stories.

No matter what: We make stories.

So go on. Read and study, think and play, feel the truths that form solidify hard in the gut and in the throat. Write your stories, blogs, texts, and poems and don’t worry if it’s Proust or gobbley gook or even if it will get published.

That’s my secret advice: Just write.

You owe it to the world and the world owes it to you.


My little, creepy book baby is out in the world because who doesn’t want sad, quirky, horror with some romantic bits for the holiday season?

It’s a young adult novel (upper) called WHEN YOU BRING THEM BACK, please buy it!

It’s super fun.

Being A Writer Takes Ovaries Sometimes

1. One of my blogging friends was feeling sad even though he is published because, basically, he’s worried about being a mediocre writer.

2. It is easy to worry about this.

3. There’s that essential sense of horror about never being good enough, never making a difference, never being on a NYT bestseller list or being nominated for a National Book Award.

4. That’s not what writing is all about. (Note: I forget this a lot.)

5. One of my friends who became my husband wrote me this in an email back when he was just my friend when I was worrying about not doing enough good in the world because I am just a writer:

 “You never know what kind of positive effect you are having in someone’s life as an author. Even if it is just that someone can escape for an hour from their life, that may be the best part of their day. Think of the kid who doesn’t like their home life or maybe their school life or maybe both. When they pick up a book by Carrie E. Jones, they get to escape the realities of their life and lose themselves in somebody else’s for a while. How cool is that?”

If you are a published writer and having a bad day you can just substitute your name in there because it’s true for everyone.

If you are unpublished writer and having a bad day you can do the same thing because you are writing, you are creating, you are escaping and thinking and plotting and feeling and that is a positive for you FOR YOU and hopefully for other people too some day.

Being a writer can be hard. People write stuff in reviews that can be cruel rather than constructive. You’ve got to ovary up to deal with that stuff when you’ve poured your heart and soul into a story.

So, be kind to authors when you review them. And musicians. And businesses. Don’t get off on being clever and cruel. Get off on being kind, okay?

Spreading kindness is so much lovelier than spreading cruelty.

NEW BOOK OUT!

It’s super fun. An adult paranormal/mystery/romance/horror blend. Think Charlaine Harris but without all the vampires. Instead there are shifters and dragon grandmothers and evil police chiefs and potential necromancers and the occasional zombie and a sexy skunk.

It’s out November 1, which means you can buy it now, and I seriously love it. So, it would be cool if you bought it so I can be all motivated to write the next book.

Oh, and it’s quirky.

This is because most of my books are quirky.

Be ready to resurrect your love of the paranormal in the first novel in the Alisa Thea series—the books that give new meaning to quirky paranormal.

Alisa Thea is barely scraping by as a landscaper in small-town Bar Harbor. She can’t touch people with her bare skin without seeing their deaths and passing out, which limits her job and friendship opportunities. It also doesn’t give much of a possibility for a love life, nor does her overbearing stepfather, the town’s sheriff. Then along comes an opportunity at a local campground where she thinks her need for a home and job are finally solved . . .

But the campground and its quirky residents have secrets of their own: the upper level is full of paranormals. And when some horrifying murders hit the campground—along with a potential boyfriend from her past who may be involved—Alisa starts to wonder if living in a campground of paranormals will end up in her own death.

Join New York Times and internationally best[selling author Carrie Jones in the first book of the Alisa Thea Series as it combines the excitement of a thriller with the first-hand immediacy and quirky heroines that Jones is known for.

It’s fun. It’s weird. It’s kind of like Charlaine Harris, but a little bit more achy and weird.

best maine paranormal carrie jones
Almost Dead Series – Meet Alissa Thea, a sexy skunk, a haunted campground and a lot of quirky

What is a Character Profile?

So, usually one of the first things an instructor will present in a character development class is the character profile sheet, but I tend to delay this because of my own belief system, which is probably something I shouldn’t admit, but it basically comes down to this:

I care more about my characters’ insides than their outsides. Yes, the demographics of who they are and how they grew up and their physicality absolutely impacts who they are, but I want their yearnings, wants, big lie, human worth and flaw to be the things that matter the most to me as the writer and the reader.

But character profiles are beautifully concrete tools and approaches that can truly help you nail down your character (not literally, no hammers involved).

A character profile is basically a tool that:

  1. Helps you not get confused with the details as you write.
  2. Helps you round out your character’s psychographics and demographics.
  3. Organizes your thoughts.

Writerswrite.com says,

“A Character Profile is just meant to be a guide where you can list facts and details to help you get to know your characters, especially if you get stuck on one character who doesn’t quite seem real. You also want to be sure you don’t create a Mary Sue character. Maybe he needs a new characteristic — a hidden trauma, a fabulous skill or a deadly secret — something that will make the character come alive for you. If you are having trouble coming up with character details try to see how your character performs using a writing prompt or walk them through a situation known well to you.”

When I was in fourth or fifth grade, I loved character profiles, filling in all the blanks on the sheet, but what I didn’t know then is that while the profile is a fantastic organizational tool that helps you think about your character, it isn’t what makes your characters believable or lovable or be the kind of characters that readers want to invest time in.

Bringing life to the character doesn’t happen in the outline or the profile, it happens on the page as that character deals with conflict, goes after their yearnings, takes action, interacts and moves across the story, guided by their own yearnings that we readers can relate to.

Those yearnings are a much bigger deal than demographics because it’s those yearnings that make us (and our characters) human.

Resources/Links

https://www.writerswrite.com/characters/character-profile/

https://blog.reedsy.com/character-profile/

NEW BOOK OUT!

It’s super fun. An adult paranormal/mystery/romance/horror blend. Think Charlaine Harris but without all the vampires. Instead there are shifters and dragon grandmothers and evil police chiefs and potential necromancers and the occasional zombie and a sexy skunk.

It’s out November 1, which means you can buy it now, and I seriously love it. So, it would be cool if you bought it so I can be all motivated to write the next book.

Oh, and it’s quirky.

This is because most of my books are quirky.

Be ready to resurrect your love of the paranormal in the first novel in the Alisa Thea series—the books that give new meaning to quirky paranormal.

Alisa Thea is barely scraping by as a landscaper in small-town Bar Harbor. She can’t touch people with her bare skin without seeing their deaths and passing out, which limits her job and friendship opportunities. It also doesn’t give much of a possibility for a love life, nor does her overbearing stepfather, the town’s sheriff. Then along comes an opportunity at a local campground where she thinks her need for a home and job are finally solved . . .

But the campground and its quirky residents have secrets of their own: the upper level is full of paranormals. And when some horrifying murders hit the campground—along with a potential boyfriend from her past who may be involved—Alisa starts to wonder if living in a campground of paranormals will end up in her own death.

Join New York Times and internationally best[selling author Carrie Jones in the first book of the Alisa Thea Series as it combines the excitement of a thriller with the first-hand immediacy and quirky heroines that Jones is known for.

It’s fun. It’s weird. It’s kind of like Charlaine Harris, but a little bit more achy and weird.

best maine paranormal carrie jones
Almost Dead Series – Meet Alissa Thea, a sexy skunk, a haunted campground and a lot of quirky

How To Begin To Develop Character In Your Story?

The character in your story is pretty much the key to make it all work, to inspire the readers to keep turning the page or scrolling down the screen.

Dwight Swain writes:

“A character is a person in a story.

“To create story people, you grab the first stick figures that come in handy; then you flesh them out until they spring to life.”

So, the question becomes how the heck do you flesh them out, right?

Matt Bird writes, “Character is the human element of your story, the aspect that the audience actually cares about.”

And that’s the big deal.

You can have the best plot in the world and most of the time, it won’t matter because people want characters that they can cheer for, commiserate with, worry about.

Bird believes that there are certain elements that need to be there for readers to care about your character:

  1. They have to identify with them (the character).
  2. The character needs to be resourceful.
  3. The character needs to be active.
  4. The character who is misunderstood is more lovable than the one who saves the cat.
  5. The character doesn’t have to be likeable to be lovable. Go for lovable.
  6. A character who is vulnerable is good and even a badass can be vulnerable.

In the Secrets of Story, Bird brilliantly splits three aspects of hero/protagonists into three needs:

  1. Believe – They have to feel like the character is real.
  2. Care – The reader has to be emotionally engaged with the character’s journey.
  3. Invest – The reader has to be into the character. Bird says this comes from active characters who are resourceful and aren’t like the other characters in the book.

Bird further goes on to say:

Matt Bird from his blog (link here). http://www.secretsofstory.com/2017/07/how-to-create-compelling-character.html

But it’s his first bit that interests me the most right now.

Humans are stunningly complex. We contradict ourselves. We don’t always make sense and to encapsulate all of that in a novel is pretty impossible, so we have to pick and choose the contradictions and details to highlight. How do you deal with that?

Swain writes,

“A story is a record of how somebody deals with danger. One danger, for a simple story; a series of inter-related dangers, for one more complex.”

He advocates developing your character only so much as it is needed to deal with the story or to ‘fulfill his function in the story. You give an impression and approximation of life, rather than attempting to duplicate life itself.”

Swain believes that character begin with a fragment and then the author adds more and more on to that character, individualizing her until she becomes more real, more believable.

That individualization occurs through free association and layering in observations and details. What begins as a fragment of an idea (guinea pig hero) becomes a believable, lovable character as the author “supplements” that fragment with “Thought and insight.”

And that can be hard.

Swain thinks it’s hard because in real life, we tend not analyze people’s behavior and motivations. We take them and their actions for granted, he says.

“Consequently, when we try to build story people, we find that we lack a grasp of mental mechanisms: motivations.”

And motivations? They are a big deal. They are why characters go after goals. They are the yearnings that we readers connect to.

So, Swain says this is where the imagination steps in.

“To understand a man,” he writes,” you have to grasp the essence of that wholeness . . . its gestalt, the totality of its configuration.. . Each of us is an entity, a personal and private whole that transcends its components.”

I advocate taking a journal or diary when you’re really lost developing a character and go somewhere safe and observe people, think about why they might be acting the way they are. What is it that’s going on with them. Practice trying to understand people and you build those character development skills. 

NEW BOOK OUT!

It’s super fun. An adult paranormal/mystery/romance/horror blend. Think Charlaine Harris but without all the vampires. Instead there are shifters and dragon grandmothers and evil police chiefs and potential necromancers and the occasional zombie and a sexy skunk.

It’s out November 1, which means you can buy it now, and I seriously love it. So, it would be cool if you bought it so I can be all motivated to write the next book.

Oh, and it’s quirky.

This is because most of my books are quirky.

Be ready to resurrect your love of the paranormal in the first novel in the Alisa Thea series—the books that give new meaning to quirky paranormal.

Alisa Thea is barely scraping by as a landscaper in small-town Bar Harbor. She can’t touch people with her bare skin without seeing their deaths and passing out, which limits her job and friendship opportunities. It also doesn’t give much of a possibility for a love life, nor does her overbearing stepfather, the town’s sheriff. Then along comes an opportunity at a local campground where she thinks her need for a home and job are finally solved . . .

But the campground and its quirky residents have secrets of their own: the upper level is full of paranormals. And when some horrifying murders hit the campground—along with a potential boyfriend from her past who may be involved—Alisa starts to wonder if living in a campground of paranormals will end up in her own death.

Join New York Times and internationally best[selling author Carrie Jones in the first book of the Alisa Thea Series as it combines the excitement of a thriller with the first-hand immediacy and quirky heroines that Jones is known for.

It’s fun. It’s weird. It’s kind of like Charlaine Harris, but a little bit more achy and weird.

best maine paranormal carrie jones
Almost Dead Series – Meet Alissa Thea, a sexy skunk, a haunted campground and a lot of quirky

YOU’VE GOT CHARACTER FLAWS, HOW DO YOU USE THEM?

If you checked out this post, you’ve spent some time figuring out your character’s flaws, and now it’s time to actually use those flaws to make a better novel.

And the first thing you need to do is let the reader know about that character’s flaws and where it came from.

  1. HOW DID THIS HAPPEN?

You want to show the reader why the character is the way they are.

Can you blame their childhood? Or something terrible? A lot of times our negative scripts in our brains or something horrible happening to us characters creates that flaw that is currently keeping us from having a nice, happy story.

Can you blame conditioning? Not the kind of conditioning you do for being fit, but the kind of conditioning that teachers, parents, the robots, the authority figures put you through. Is the flaw or negative belief system inherited via education or example?

Is it just your character’s brain? Sometimes our characters are not the smartest tools in the shed and they have big lies that motivate them or big flaws in their thinking or their logic because they make wrong assumptions because of things that they’ve experienced or seen in the past.

  • MAKE SURE THE FLAW WORKS

You want your character’s flaw to flow well with the character. Most of us don’t know that we have flaws and we might ignore it (and bristle when someone brings it up) or think it’s actually a strength. A Slytherin doesn’t think cheating on a test is a bad thing. They think it’s being cunning or ambitious. A Carrie Jones doesn’t think being self-deprecating is annoying. She thinks it’s being authentic.

  • REMEMBER THAT ONE FLAW LEADS TO ANOTHER

A lot of times you have one specific flaw destined and planned out for your character, but then they go and add more. That’s good. Most of us have more than one flaw.

How to Give Your Characters Humanizing Flaws

I’m teaching a class over at the Writing Barn about character and we’re half-way in. I’ve talked about character motivation and goals, yearning, making them memorable, human worth, stakes, and the big lie. But one of the most important factors in creating a character’s inner landscape is the humanizing flaw.

The humanizing flaw is about where your character is messed up.

It’s part of what’s holding them back from getting their goals and yearnings.

It creates conflict. It keeps them away from that Superman perfection.

NowNovel writes:

Character flaws serve multiple purposes. Often, they’re the faults and shortcomings that create conflict between key players in a story. Yet flaws are also useful for creating attraction between characters. Without them, characters feel wooden, ‘too perfect’. Without them, attraction might seem too instant.

I have some issues with this term from a disability perspective, honestly. And the first type of flaw that editors/coaches/teachers will cite is:

THE PHYSICAL CHARACTER FLAW OR DISTINCTIVE DETAIL?

This might be about a character’s appearance. It might be about something that goes against society’s “beauty norms.” It might be about something in their physical nature that makes them different and potentially judged negatively for.

The way your character deals with/thinks about/relates to this “flaw” is important. Is it a positive attitude? A negative one? An impartial attitude? Their perception of their flaw helps build their character.

So, both I and author Libba Bray can’t see out of one of our eyes. Libba usually talks about this in a jocular way. I usually blurt it out, unthinking, while I explain that I have a horrible time seeing people raise their hands in Zoom sessions. How we handle our blind eyes helps define who we are as people. It’s the same thing for characters on the page.

NowNovel talks about finding “beauty in the eye of the beholder,” saying:

“The common phrase ‘beauty’s in the eye of the beholder’ reminds us that attraction is often highly subjective. One character might joke with another, saying, ‘What do you call a potential boyfriend shorter than six foot? A friend’ The friend, on the other hand, might have a strong attraction to shorter men.

“Often someone’s ‘flaws’ – a mole, some or other detail – is also what gives them their ‘them-ness’. It’s the distinctive detail that another character associates with them. It represents them in the other’s mind’s eye.

“When writing romance between characters, think about physical details a character might dislike about their own appearance. There could be a ‘too much’ or ‘too little’ that a lover wouldn’t have any other way.”

THE PERSONALITY OF POOPINESS OR EMOTIONAL FLAW

These are big ones, really. And they can be confusing. Think of going on a date with someone. It’s your first date and then you have a few more. They text you a lot. They want to hang out with you all the time. You think, “Oh, what a cutie!” But then it turns out that if you don’t text them back within the hour, the send out an all points bulletin looking for you.

Aspects of personality that seem lovely can be turned around into a negative and vice-versa.

Or, as NowNovel says:

“The imbalances in people are often the things that attract and repel others.

“This push and pull between finding emotional flaws or imbalances attractive and frustrating makes relationships interesting. The character who ‘chivalrously’ holds the door for the other could easily become irritating in their determination to hold up gender ‘roles’ or traditions.

“These double-edged character qualities are especially useful when you want to show how characters pass from hating to loving each other (and vice versa). An extrovert character who finds another’s shyness off-putting, for example, might find themselves getting drawn more and more to their quiet or gentle quality.”

It’s hard to manage those flaws sometimes.

And finally, we have . . .

THE IDEALOGICAL WHAT THE HECK IS WRONG WITH THEM FLAW

Just like each of us, our characters have an ideology. There are values that they live their lives by. They have beliefs.

It’s a bit like going on Facebook or Twitter or TikTok and seeing a bunch of memes that lean a certain way politically. You quickly know how a person on your friends’ list stands if they share those things, right?

When your characters have different ideologies, one might decide the other’s way of thinking is a flaw. One might be a vegan. One might be all about meat and potatoes. One might love STAR WARS. One might think STAR WARS is a capitalistic venture creating bipolarities meant to dumb down the world.

Sometimes a character might think another’s idealogical flaw or difference makes them hot. The difference in belief systems can help a character in a young adult novel rebel against their family if they are expressed in a potential love interest. It can be a place to insert humor and conflict in your characters, but it can also repel characters.

How To Deal With Your Inner Critic So it Stops Sucking Out Your Soul

You suck. You will never be good at anything. Wow. You just equal ew.

A lot of us have a critical inner voice. We might call it our internal editor or our internal critic, but it’s a bit of a destructive bastard, honestly.

It criticizes.

It thinks only of the worst case scenario.

As J’aime ona Pangaia writes:

“If you take some time out for yourself, an inner voice tells you that you are lazy and/or selfish and that you’ll never amount to anything. When you work hard, keeping your eyes on your goals, this inner critic will lambaste you for not having a life, or quality relationships, or for being a 2-dimensional workaholic. Your inner critic will get you coming and going.

“Most people are so used to hearing their inner critic monitor and judge their every thought, word, action and appearance, that they don’t even realize the steadily eroding effect it has on them until they are plunged into a flat-out depression. A common approach these days is the decision to “not indulge in negative thinking”, so ‘affirmations’ are chanted as if they were magical mantras that will somehow eradicate the messages of the inner critic.”

For a lot of writers, that internal critic or inner editor makes us completely blocked and unable to write on the page.

According to Lisa Firestone Ph.D. for Psychology Today,

“Getting to know and challenge this “voice” is one of the most essential psychological hurdles we can overcome in striving to live our version of our best life.”

So, how do we overcome that voice. Where does it come from? Why does it torment us like this?

Again, Firestone:

“We can start by understanding one major concept: we are, in many ways, ruled by our past. From the moment we’re born, we absorb the world around us. The early attitudes, beliefs and behaviors we were exposed to can become an inner dialogue, affecting how we see ourselves and others. For example, the positive behavior and qualities our parents or early caretakers had helped us form a positive sense of self as well as many of our values. If we felt love, acceptance or compassion directed toward us, this nurtured our real self and the positive feelings we have about who we are in the world. However, the critical attitudes and negative experiences we withstood formed and fueled our anti-self. Early rejections and harmful ways of relating affect a child’s budding self-perception, not to mention their point of view toward other people and relationships in general. These impressions become the voices in our heads.”

Firestone details a few steps:

  1. Pay attention when the critic pops up. Realize it’s the critic being an insulting troll.
  2. Write down what that critic says, but use the YOU pronoun rather than the I pronoun. It gives it less power and sometimes writing things down makes us realize how silly they are.
  3. Give a hot second to figuring out what your inner critic sounds like. Your mom? Dad? Brother? A teacher? Who does it feel like is talking to you through this voice? Does it sound like your avo?
  4. Stand up to the critic. I do this by creating an internal cheerleader, but you don’t have to be that extreme. When something self-hating happens, says, “Shut up. Look at all this awesome I am. I do this and this and this and think this and this and this, you inner critic dork.”
  5. Try to look for patterns that happen. Does your internal critic’s voice only speak up when you’re writing? Trying to revise? When you’re studying? Want to try something new? Look for when it happens and if you are limiting your actions and behaviors because of that damn voice.

Tasha Harmon has a great PDF all about taming that inner critic and what she suggests is remembering this, the “inner critic’s job is to protect you from harm/ensure you are okay.”

It’s interesting to think of The Inner Critic as Trying to be Helpful–but failing.

That inner voice is trying to keep us safe, but it’s overactive and does too good a job. So it creates worst case scenarios and tells us what those scenarios are. Then we often believe them and that’s where the stagnation happens.

Tasha suggests “seeing the inner critic as the scared child; recognize the fears, acknowledge them with compassion.”

It’s a different approach than Firestone’s. One is about facing them down. One is understanding them and controlling them with empathy and love.

Harmon also suggests trying to visualize your inner critic.

I do that all the time. Mine is John Wayne. My inner cheerleader is Grover from Sesame Street. You can draw a picture to do that if you need to. Or you can write out dialogue where you and the critic chat. Ask them why they won’t stop talking about certain things and what they are trying to accomplish with their negativity.

According to Pangaia,

“Give an ear to your inner critic; it would love to lose the weight of all that under recognized vulnerability! The power of its insults have been in direct proportion this vulnerability. Your inner critic is just trying to help you become more aware of who else you are inside so you can take better care of all of your selves”

How you deal with those negative internal voices and scripts is up to you, but I hope that you’ll look them in the eye or hug them or whatever you need to do to give them less power over you. That power that they have? They don’t deserve it and you? You deserve to live as big and full and amazing a life as possible. You deserve that inner cheerleader. Grover says he’s totally good with me loaning him out, but I bet you can find your perfect one, too.

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