Four Simple Ways To Build Charismatic Characters and a More Charismatic You

When I was little I tried to hide.

I was this kid who talked like a Muppet. Everyone made fun of me so I didn’t talk at all in first grade. I was known as THE QUIET KID WHO GIVES HER SNACKS AWAY – SO DO NOT BEAT HER UP. This was an effective strategy against bullying, honestly.

The teachers couldn’t figure me out. I wasn’t intellectually challenged, but I never actually said anything. Teachers tend to like kids who raise their hand and talk.

But talking meant people noticing me. If people noticed me, they might make fun of my voice. It was way better (in my six-year-old wisdom) to be nothing. Quiet. Just there. This is not terribly charismatic.

Then, I wrote a haiku in September of second grade. I had all the syllables right (a big requirement). It was all one sentence (another requirement). It wasn’t about Tonka trucks (against the teacher’s rules). It was about nature. I was the only one who did it right, so the teacher, Mrs. Snierson, posted it in big letters on the wall and decided I was gifted. Whew. Did I fool her.

The poem was:

Spring is fun you see
Because flowers grow with rain
And robins come home.

This is how I learned that teachers are important to writers’ egos.

That one poem got me into gifted programs.
That one poem got me noticed.
That one poem put my life on a trajectory that didn’t have to do with silence.

And I used all that time watching people to learn about the kids who had the ‘it’ factor. Charisma. They were kids like Sarah Silverman and Steven Sills and Julie Zito and Andrea Henrichon. These shiny, golden people. I watched what they did and longed so much to be like them. That poem was my first step.

Let’s face it. Not all of us writers are super charismatic. Some of us prefer hiding in a reading nook to going out and talking to actual living people.

That’s not the rule, obviously. There are some super charismatic authors out there.

So, what does that mean when we’re writing characters who are supposed to be charismatic? What even is charisma any way?

Charisma is when you or your character is so darn compelling or attractive that people become devoted to you.

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This dog is charismatic even when flopped down.

I’ve met and interacted with a lot of authors with a lot of big followings and most of them build those massive followings with a lot of social media confidence, and a lot of that confidence that I’ve seen is false. They create an online presence that is full of flaunting and preening. They call their readers cute fan club names even when they only have two readers. And that way works. Being super confident works to build charisma.

But I can’t do that. Why? Because I prefer to be authentically me. And authentically me is sometimes sort of confident, but most of the time I am self deprecating and I doubt. This is totally evidenced in Dogs Are Smarter Than People’s Tuesday podcast where my husband almost convinces me that I am wrong about the ingredients in a white Russian.

Sidenote: My husband is a super confident man even when he’s wrong and I actually appreciate that about him because it makes me feel safe. When do I not appreciate it? Um.. when he’s confident that I’m wrong when I’m actually right.

There are a lot of blogs out there talking about charisma and almost all of them are talking about being confident. So you automatically think that if you aren’t confident, you aren’t charismatic, right?

Wrong.

Those blogs aren’t talking about personal charisma. They are talking about charismatic leadership. Those are two different things.

According to Ronald Riggio, PHD, “Personal charisma is a constellation of complex and sophisticated social and emotional skills. They allow charismatic individuals to affect and influence others at a deep emotional level, to communicate effectively with them, and to make strong interpersonal connections.”

So what is this special constellation of skills? Can’t you just believe you’re awesome and be charismatic?

Not really.

We all know the blowhard who saunters around thinking how awesome they are. We write them into our stories and movies. They are almost always a big, white dude who ends up getting beaten up by the hero at the end of the movie.

So how do we make a charismatic character without making someone who is annoyingly over confident? We make someone likable.

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Charismatic people don’t think the world revolves around them.

We’ve all met the people who only talk about themselves. You can be standing in front of them bleeding profusely and they will look at you and say, “Hey, you know I once got this cut that bled like that for like hours. It was a paper cut. Man, that thing bled. You know my mom says I have always been a big bleeder, blah, blah, blah.”

That person is obviously not charismatic. Being into yourself so much to the exclusion of all others no matter what the situation is sort of an anti-charisma.

This goes for characters, too. The character that only thinks about their self when their friend has just lost a hamster, or their zombie girlfriend, or whatever, is an unlikeable and uncharismatic character.

So, how do you fix this? Two quick things: 

  1. Listen to other people when they talk to you. Have your character listen to other characters.
  2. Don’t make a conversation all about you. Don’t make the internal monologue about your character all about your character all the time.

Own Your Space

When you go somewhere, own that somewhere. When your charismatic character enters the wizarding tournament, don’t have him shirk off to the side. Have her swagger onto the court. Have him stride to the field. You can do this, too. You might be a writer, but own your writing space. This is yours. You deserve it.

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Be Kind

When I go the grocery store, people wave to me. Why? I think it’s because I try to be kind and open. I like to hear about their days and connect with them because they are cool people. I never realized this was a weird thing until one of my friends went with me.

We walked through those sliding front doors, a whole bunch of awesome cashiers waved, smiling, and my friend grabbed my arm and scurried over to produce whispering madly, “Those people love you.”

I said, “They are nice.”

And she said, “Carrie, they don’t love everyone. They love you. They aren’t waving to everyone. I bet some of them even know your name.”

She was totally flabbergasted and I was flabbergasted by her being flabbergasted, but then I realized that my normal isn’t everyone else’s normal. The awesome people at my grocery store don’t think I’m better than anyone else because I’m not. But they might think that I treat them better than most other people.

That is actually sad.

Everyone should treat each other with a bit more kindness and openness, honestly. A charismatic person and character, is comfortable enough with who they are that they can treat others well and want to know their stories and connect with them.

How do you do that? 

  1. Be enthusiastic if other people take the time to try to connect with you. This goes for characters, too.
  2. Be optimistic when you can be optimistic. Lift up other people and their goals instead of trying to drag them down.
  3. Don’t be afraid to smile or laugh when you feel like smiling or laughing.  the

Be Expressive

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A charismatic person (and character) isn’t afraid to express her genuine emotions. A lot of time, I tell my students that something emotionally huge just happened for their character, but they aren’t showing that on the page and so the important scene falls flat.

So, they’ll write something like this:

Ezra leaned forward and kissed me. I kissed him back. After a moment, he broke away. 

There is no emotional investment in those three sentences, right? It’s just actions. You know what happened, but you aren’t invested in that scene. There is no charisma in the character right there, right? Compare that to:

Ezra leaned forward like he was going to kiss me. That couldn’t be right. Ezra Jones would never want to kiss me. Swallowing hard, my lips trembled. I almost looked away, but his lips met mine before I actually could.

Ezra Jones’ lips were touching my lips!

And my lips were touching his lips right back. 

 The cat screeched in the other room and we broke away, laughing. My hand fluttered up to my mouth. Ezra Jones had kissed me. Me. 

So, my point here is not about Ezra Jones’ kiss, but about emotion and expressing that on the page or in your own life. We all walk around broken and pieced back together. People are fragile, inside and out. And it’s natural sometimes to try to hold in our emotions.

Charismatic people are genuine people. They let their emotions be out there for the world to see, but they don’t usually make scenes. They are genuine, but they know the impact that their emotions have on other people and they care about that impact, so they do control their emotions when interacting with others in what could be perceived as a potentially negative way.

That ability to care about others? That expressive empathy? That’s charismatic.

So, to recap. How do you make characters charismatic? 

  1. They don’t think the world revolves around them.
  2. They own their space.
  3. They are kind.
  4. They are expressive. 

Random Marketing and Book Things

My nonfiction picture book about Moe Berg, the pro ball player who became a spy was all official on March 1 and I’m super psyched about it. You can order it!

Kirkus Review says:  Jones gives readers the sketchy details of Berg’s life and exploits in carefully selected anecdotes, employing accessible, straightforward syntax.

And also says: A captivating true story of a spy, secret hero, and baseball player too.

Booklist says it’s: An appealing picture-book biography. . . Written in concise sentences, the narrative moves along at a steady pace.  

This is lovely of them to say. Also, I can be concise! Most of my friends don’t believe this.

The Spy Who Played Baseball

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’ll be in Exeter, New Hampshire, on a panel for the release of THINGS WE HAVEN’T SAID.

Thursday, March 15, 2018 – 7:00pm
 
Water Street Bookstore
125 Water Street
Exeter, NH 03833
Things We Haven't Said: Sexual Violence Survivors Speak Out Cover Image
 

And the podcast, DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE, is still real. I’m still terrified.

My Post-2 copy

There are new podcasts every Tuesday and our handle on the tech gets better as you go along. I promise.

We talk about love, marriage, living in Maine with dogs and also give writing and life tips with linked content back on the blog.

Yesterday’s podcast was about how I can’t have a donkey farm or be Bono, but it’s also about character and blocking and how dogs are smarter than people.

 

 

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My Love Affair With Big Foot and Why I Write Books About Girls Saving People (and hairy creatures)

When I was a kid, I played alone most of the time.

Yes, this is VERY- VERY sad.

My siblings are way older than I am. We lived out in the country. There was a lot of woods and a lot of swamp. My parents worked. So after school I would be all alone.

This meant that most of the time:

1. I read library books
2. I wrote stories when I ran out of library books.
3. I looked for Bigfoot when I got writer’s cramp.

I looked for Bigfoot a lot actually.

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This book cover is pretty much what I wanted to happen. I wanted Bigfoot to come and steal me away and I would save him from evil scientists who wanted to kill him. We’d take care of each other and potentially fall in love.

It was a lot like the Disney plot of Harry and the Hendersons...

Only in my version there was no John Lithgow and the Bigfoot was a lot – um – sexier? Yes, it is possible for Bigfoot to be sexy. DO NOT DOUBT!

So, thinking about this today made me feel kind of lonely. I just read about some other authors who had these great memories of playing with people and siblings. My memories of play are these solo made-up stories of me searching for Bigfoot or sitting alone on a rock by the highway writing Star Trek fan fiction for my brother in a little college-lined notebook.

And occasionally I would hang out at Debbie Muir or Kathy Albertson’s house where their moms would feed me things.

Is it no wonder I lost when I ran for office?

So, it’s funny too, when I was thinking about this. It made me realize that my stories all have this large theme running through them about saving people and being heroic and standing it up for what you believe in. I think this whole theme started up with the whole me saving Bigfoot theme in my early play. Weird. I think I’ve grown up so much and then I’m all like  DUDE. I AM STILL WRITING ABOUT HAIRY, HOT GUYS WHO AREN’T QUITE HUMAN AND THE GIRLS WHO SAVE THEM.

Yes, that is a spoiler about pretty much every single fiction book I ever write, ever. Sh. Don’t tell.

When you write books, the things you care about, the things that make you the person you are? They come through. Sometimes it’s a conscious choice. Sometimes it isn’t. A woman once asked me in an angry way, “Why are all your books about strong girls having horrible things happen to them?”

She was trying to get me to not visit her school.

And I was like, “Because horrible things do happen to strong girls.”

But the real truth is that I write books about friendship, about girls saving themselves and the ones they love, and often the world because I needed stories like that when I was a kid. I write those stories because I don’t know how to not let my own inner self leak onto the page. I write those stories because kids need to be lifted up not pushed down, to be told to shut up, to be silenced, because they some adults don’t like what they are saying.

I write those books because teens matter. I write those books because girls and women matter. I write those books because people have to have the courage to save themselves over and over again in one lifetime.

Do Good Wednesday

According to a story on NBC news, suicide rates are spiking in Puerto Rico right now. The relief effort is still happening. A simple thing you can do to help (and get something in return) is buy the salsa remix of Almost Like Praying. This effort is organized by Lin-Manuel Miranda and a bunch of amazing musicians. Your proceeds go directly to help Puerto Rico.

Note: I made that link super large to try to convince you to do it.

Random Marketing and Book Things

My nonfiction picture book about Moe Berg, the pro ball player who became a spy,  is still coming out March 1 and I’m super psyched about it. You can preorder it. 

Kirkus Review says:  Jones gives readers the sketchy details of Berg’s life and exploits in carefully selected anecdotes, employing accessible, straightforward syntax.

And also says: A captivating true story of a spy, secret hero, and baseball player too.

Booklist says it’s: An appealing picture-book biography. . . Written in concise sentences, the narrative moves along at a steady pace.  

This is lovely of them to say.

The Spy Who Played Baseball

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’ll be in Exeter, New Hampshire, on a panel for the release of THINGS WE HAVEN’T SAID.

Thursday, March 15, 2018 – 7:00pm
Water Street Bookstore
125 Water Street
Exeter, NH 03833
Things We Haven't Said: Sexual Violence Survivors Speak Out Cover Image

And the podcast, DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE, is still real. I’m still terrified.

My Post-2 copy

There are new podcasts every Tuesday and our handle on the tech gets better as you go along. I promise.

We talk about love, marriage, living in Maine with dogs and also give writing and life tips with linked content back on the blog.

Yesterday’s podcast was about how I can’t have a donkey farm or be Bono, but it’s also about character and blocking and how dogs are smarter than people.

Tips on Not Going to Jail on a Friday

My Post-2
1. When you say “hi” to a mean lady while perusing the turnips in the produce section and she TOTALLY ignores you, pretend she did not hear you. Do not decide she is rude. Do not throw a turnip at her. This counts as an assault, possibly with a deadly weapon, depending on the hardness of the turnip.
2. When the mean lady cuts in front of you at the fish counter at the grocery store and then asks what the difference between sea scallops and bay scallops are, then follows up that question with the comment on the price ($4.49/lb) and then asks if they’ll be fresh tomorrow, and then asks for a different amount than originally specified, and then once she’s finally done buying a pound of scallops, asks about whether it’s halibut season, not because she’s going to buy any, (“Gosh, aren’t they cheaper in late Spring?”) and then verifies that the price for the damn scallops was $4.49 not $4.41 Do not kill her, no matter how tempted you are. Dunking someone into the lobster tank is not a good idea either. This counts as murder. You go to jail for a long time for murder.3. When the fish man finally gets to you and finishes your order in 20 seconds do not ask him why he skipped you in the first place, or lecture him about it, because he has probaby had a hard day, plus he might give you bad fish in the future. Try to smile. It will be hard.

4. When the nice cashier lady asks you if you found everything okay and how your day is going do NOT get hysterical and tell her about the mean lady saga and then compare it to being invisible and unloved and unworthy and how maybe you should just have an all-dessert lunch to make up for it, so you can be sugar high and guilty feeling as well as depressed over your new invisible status because then the nice cashier lady might call the police who might take you in for disturbing the peace, especially if you stand on the check-out line and try to choreograph a dance in a mad attempt to prove that you are human and you are visible.

5. Just calmly walk out. Smile. Get in car. Do not run red light. Do not bash into mean lady’s car when she decides to stop at a GREEN LIGHT! Yes! Yes! I swear she did.

6. Just go home, crawl into bed. Vow to never go to grocery store again. Feel guilty for being so angry. Wonder if perhaps you need therapy. Wonder if you’ll see mean lady there.

BOOK APPEARANCES

I’ll be hanging out at the launch of THINGS WE HAVEN’T SAID on March 15th and having  a panel discussion with editor Erin Moulton, Aaluk Edwardson and Ella Andrews at Water Street Bookstore in Exeter, NH. 7pm!

“How to describe the feeling of not being believed? It is the feeling of disappearing.” -Stephanie Oakes

PODCAST AND BOOK NEWS!

Moe Berg

My nonfiction picture book about Moe Berg, the pro ball player who became a spy,  is still coming out March 1 and I’m super psyched about it. You can preorder it. 

The Spy Who Played Baseball

Podcast

In my big writing news, the podcast, DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE, is live!

My Post

LIVE!

Please go leave a comment, or a review, and pretend to listen, because I’ve been freaking out about this so hard. It’s on iTunes and Stitcher and Castos at the moment and the RSS feed is also here. The feed has bonus material and free things. It’ll be on GooglePlay if I can ever get the screen to validate to not be just a big webpage of blankness.

Ten Writing Prompts for the Weird

I know that everyone in the entire writing universe loves writing prompts.

I do not love writing prompts. I know! Big admission there. Way to bring on the trolls.

The theory is that writing prompts help authors suffering from the dreaded writing block. I do not ever suffer from the dreaded writing block. I know! I’m hiding now.

Full disclosure: I don’t suffer from writer’s block because I have no internal censor, and also because I accept the fact that my first drafts will be terrible. It’s also because I come from the world of newspapers and poetry. In those worlds, you have big work ethics and are used to making no money at all. So, I refuse to have writer’s block because I am too busy realizing how freaking blessed I am to get to do this at all. So lucky. And I don’t want to be a newspaper reporter again.

I want you to be lucky, too. I want you to be a rockstar of writing, but a cool one without ego issues or substance abuse problems.

My Post-2

But back to writing prompts.  They help people and people get unblocked.

I look at them, and I get… I get bored.  So, I decided to jazz up some really common ones with a weird twist. I live on an island in Maine, according to my friends that makes it okay for me to be this weird. My friends are liars.

The Ten PROMPTS OF WEIRDNESS

Outside the Window: What’s the monster outside your window doing right now? If that’s not inspiring, what’s the monster in your coffee mug? Oh, yeah. You know it’s there.

The Bloodfeud: Write about the conflict that has torn your family apart for generations. Bonus points for the use of the undead.

The Shuffle: You hear a shuffling noise. Is that from outside or in?

Food: Write a poem about the last time you were served for dinner.

Hamsters in Love: Two hamsters. One love. Separate cages. 

Enemies: Write about the person in real life or pretend life or undead life that you can’t stand. Make them your teacher or your parent. What would that be like?

Unicorn Time: There’s a unicorn. What’s she doing?

Done with You: Write a poem where the first line is “Done with you.”

The Found Poem: Find a blog. Print it out. Circle words. Make a poem out of those words.

The Cat: Write about what’s going on in this cat’s mind.

 

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There! Easy and weird. I hope they help!

 

Adobe Spark-6

PODCAST AND BOOK NEWS!

In my big writing news, the podcast is live!

LIVE!

Please go leave a comment, or a review, and pretend to listen, because I’ve been freaking out about this so hard. It’s on iTunes and Stitcher and Castos at the moment and the RSS feed is also here. The feed has bonus material and free things. It’ll be on GooglePlay if I can ever get the screen to validate to not be just a big webpage of blankness.

 

I am so freaked out this that I actually made a video! And I will probably eventually make a contest or something.

But no matter what, it’s quirky and real, and so much random fun.

I think I’m so worried because it’s so authentic and because I was bullied mercilessly about my Muppet voice when I was a kid. So, yeah…. big vulnerability issues there, which is also why I had to do it. I had to face my fears. Right?

Someone say, “right.”

Please….?

Pausing To Try To Be Chill. Failing. 

My nonfiction picture book about Moe Berg, the pro ball player who became a spy,  is still coming out March 1 and I’m super psyched about it. You can preorder it. 

The Spy Who Played Baseball

Bonus Podcast – How Carrie Messes Up Everything and Still Got Traditionally Published

Bonus Podcast – How Carrie Messes Up Everything and Still Got Traditionally Published

 
 
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So, um… the title sort of says it all, doesn’t it?

This solo podcast talks about how I did, indeed, mess up my entire submission, but still (unagented) got out of the slush pile and had a book deal.

 

A much longer written version of this story is on my website here.

Marsie’s Monday Motivation – Be Vulnerable and Ignore the Dogs

Marsie the Cat: Let’s talk about fear, human.

Me: Again?

Marsie: Yes. Again.

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Me: I’m just afraid of so much stuff.

Marsie: You’re afraid of failing, of being vulnerable, of exposing yourself to the world, am I write? Or worse – What if nobody even notices you?

Me: 

Marsie: 

Me: How do you know so much?

Marsie: I am a cat. Therefore, I know all things. Plus, I know about fear. But I don’t care. I live my life. Look at this photo. I am on the dog bed and right there – it is the evidence that the dogs destroy things! That was a perfectly good owl toy and it is dead now. That dog has jaws of steel and could eat me in a second for daring to be on her bed. But do I care? No! I still claim the dog bed. You, human, need to claim the dog bed.

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Marsie doesn’t understand that sometimes it’s hard to claim the dog bed. I wrote about this on Instagram yesterday because I was thinking about my grandmother.

She wrote so many poems and made so many paintings that she never let anyone see.

She couldn’t handle the scorn. But she couldn’t NOT create things.
She was afraid of the ocean, thought it was this massive, beautiful deadly force.

Men can be like that too sometimes, she told me. I don’t know why we are expected to be so strong. Why must we be so strong and vulnerable?

I was like ten when she asked me that so I didn’t have an answer.

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This painting is inspired by one of her paintings that she left unfinished. I don’t know if she had copied the original or if it was her own, but the woman walking across a realistic earth, approaching the sea all huddled and afraid and then reaching out for the unreal sky makes me think of her. Afraid but reaching out.

I am not an artist. I have absolutely no training at all except for a high school art class, but all I want to do is paint.

I am not a great philosopher, but still I’m compelled to share what I think.

I sound like a muppet and slur my s’s, but still I’m making a podcast and I’m in charge of a really intensive online writing class that forces me to talk on video to 12 people every month. And the whole time I think – I am so afraid to do this. People will hear my voice and laugh (not in a good way).

All these things scare me so much.

And every time I write a book, I think: 

What if nobody reads it?

What if nobody likes it?

But life and creating is all about vulnerability. It’s about saying yes to experiences even though it’s so scary. Yes, just writing a blog post is scary to me because it’s vulnerable.

What is it that makes you vulnerable? 

What is it that makes you scared to say ‘yes’ to things? 

Because here’s the thing: You are enough. You are good enough and real enough and authentic. Your story matters. And if other people don’t see it? Their loss. What matters is that YOU see it.

I’m totally trying to work on this right now. Seriously, all my tweets are about it. The podcast that’s premiering in February is about it.

I hope you’ll work on it with me.

Random website link is here – www.carriejonesbooks.com