This little baby (the character arc) is how your character evolves or doesn’t after she/they/he go after their yearnings and goals. It’s how they change during the story.
Do they start off confident and end up scared?
Do they start off scared and end up confident as all get out?
That’s a bit part of the change that happens to them (the character) because of the things (events) that happen in the novel.
If they end up in a better place? That’s a positive change arc.
If they end up in a worse place? That’s a negative change arc.
If they end up in the same place? That’s a static arc.
Usually you have:
A character wanting something.
A character trying to get that something.
Things getting in the damn way as they try to get that something.
A big climax and oh-la-la they have changed.
So, for all that to happen, the character has to have some goals or wants. And they have to have the motivation to get that goal/want.
You have to make your character want something and give them a reason for wanting it. Then your awesome readers read the story to see if they can get it. That’s why you throw in obstacles because you don’t want it to be too easy, right?
Obstacles can be events (hurricanes), other people (bosses, spouses, fathers, kids, vampires), or the character’s own self.
The thing is that these obstacles have to eventually make the character grow in one way (positive) or another (negative).
Then at the climax—poof!—the character is different. They are no longer who they were on page one and they’ve become something cooler or less cooler, their world is better or it’s degraded into a dystopian hellscape.
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.
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.
Share this if you want and also because it would be super nice of you!
Hi! I know this is Carrie’s blog and you all look forward so much to hearing from her, but today I have commandeered it and I may do that once in a while because she is such an incredible woman and I don’t want her to be so overworked that her magnificence dulls.
By the way, this is Carrie’s husband. Actually, it should be Carrie’s Husband because that is the actual title I have come to be known by to a good portion of our friends. My birthname is Shaun though, if you didn’t already know, and I am okay with being Carrie’s Husband, because she is that crazy awesome!
But I digress. I am not an author by any means and Carrie asked me to talk about something to do with writing, maybe a prompt. Ugh, my brain hurts already! So, I took a few minutes to mull over what I would have a hard time doing if I was trying to write a book (I have tried and many accolades to you writer folks.) and I came up with so many ideas it is embarrassing. But I got stuck on one and that is, character traits and/or development. Heck, maybe these are two totally different subjects to you, but as I said, writing is not my bailiwick.
I thought, “I have no idea how to give words on a page human traits and make them feel real to people. How would I do that?”
Well, I decided that I would sit down and just think and reminisce about the people in my life who influenced me as a young person and who helped make me who I am today.
My mother and father divorced when I was two years old and I never saw him again until I was nine years old when he came back into my life bearing my two-year-old half-sister. He and my mother eventually got married again, my mother adopted my half-sister. They had another child, my younger brother, and eventually got divorced again when I was in my early twenties.
I never really liked my father nor did I mesh with his viewpoints on life, although as we both matured, we grew into a polite relationship of acceptance. In reality I just gave up on arguing with him and trying to make him see anybody’s point of view other than his own. Within this paragraph, there are hundreds of story possibilities, but I am only telling you this so that I can say that I was raised and influenced mainly by my mother and my grandfather. There were times when my mother and I lived on our own, with roommates (friends of my mother’s), and also with my grandparents.
Thinking about my mother, father and grandfather brings back so many memories, both good and bad, and to replicate their personality traits would be relatively easy because even as my memories seem to fade, memories of them are still strong and vibrant.
So, to make that supremely realistic character I am going to ask you to not think about those people in your life that are so easily remembered, but go beyond them and dig deeper. Think about someone whom you may have forgotten, someone who may not have been in your life long perhaps, but still left an impression, good or bad. We do need both kinds of characters after all.
Just writing this is causing me to remember people that I have forgotten. People who I didn’t otherwise know, but for a brief, chance meeting, but who still left an indelible mark upon me. Such an experience, possibly long forgotten by you, can help you create a character of difference or help you get out of a rut where you feel your characters are not deep enough or possibly seem to similar.
I don’t know if anything that I have written will be useable advice to you, but I can say that I have been thinking about this off and on for about four hours now and I have had a great time. Regardless of whether or not I have helped, I would recommend taking this thought journey! I am not one into yoga or meditation but just sitting quietly and pondering this I have basically run the full gamut of emotions and rejuvenated many memories that had faded from the forefront. Truth be known, my eyes are watery ,but that is just part of the process and sometimes I can be an emotional wimp. If there were no emotions involved, it doesn’t seem like a worthwhile experience whether you are trying to create a better character or you are just reminiscing.
Carrie and I have spoken about character building, in many ways, on our podcast Dogs Are Smarter Than People and I would invite you to listen if you haven’t yet made that journey. There’s a link below.
Thank you taking the time to read my ramblings and may you have a happy and safe 2021!
The author Gwen Hawes has a book that’s all about writing a romance, but I think a lot of her elements really apply to more genres than that.
One of those elements is what she calls, “whole-hearted.” It’s when the lovers are at the end of the book and you think, “Wow. Have they grown or what? Look at how big their hearts are now. Look at how different their lives are. Those are some whole-hearted people right there.”
And that’s what story (with a positive ending) is all about. It’s about making those characters whole-hearted, and allowing us readers to see their journey.
There’s a line in this song from Hamilton that always resonates with Carrie and it goes:
Look at where we are
Look at where we started
The fact that you’re alive is a miracle.
Just stay alive. That would be enough.
These lyrics get her because they are so true. Life is a process. We start at one point. We move on to another. And when we look back and take stock? That’s where those wow moments happen.
That needs to happen in books too.
And a really good way to bang that difference home is to set up a mirror image at this whole-hearted point of the book that reflects something that started happened at the beginning of the book.
What exactly are we talking about? It’s like this:
Beginning of a series: Wizard gets on a train and goes to magical school.
End of series: Wizard sends his son off on that same train to that same magical school.
Beginning of a book: A girl rides in her grandmother’s car on her way into the remote Maine woods and sees a man pointing at her.
End of a book: A girl drives her own car through those same woods and a man waves goodbye.
See what we mean?
But the thing is that this isn’t just true for our characters. It’s also true for us. A lot of times we believe lies about ourselves. We think that the opinion from a random critique or of a single publisher or reader means more than our process, our art, our our own understanding of self worth.
This is about letting a rejection or a criticism change our whole entire identity.
We stop believing in our creative purpose or our skill and in ourselves. Right? Instead of trying to improve our craft, we give up and internalize the criticism from “Hey, Arthur Levine didn’t like my story,” to “I am a failure. I suck. I should never write again.”
That’s not whole hearted. That’s not where your journey should be. Look at how much better you are now than when you were five, ten, 15, 20-years-old. Be proud of how much you’ve grown and accomplished and learned. Even if that’s just knowing that a lot is two words and not one. That’s growth, baby. Hold onto it.
Shaun is proud that he no longer spells quite – quiet.
Dog Hint For Life: Rejoice in where you are now. Luxuriate in it. Gabby and Sparty were both rescue dogs. Gabby was malnourished, constantly chained to a tree for the first year of her life. Sparty was roaming the streets of the South scavenging for food. Now they live on the coast of Maine and they get to frolic and feed. And be loved. They enjoy that every single day.
Writing Tip of the Pod: Write change. Write mirrors. Look at where your story started and have it journey somewhere else.
And when you do those things? That’s usually when your writing career starts to grow. By understanding the journey of your characters, you get to make your own journey even better! How cool is that?
Shout out: The music we’ve clipped and shortened in this podcast is awesome and is made available through the Creative Commons License. Here’s a link to that and the artist’s website. Who is this artist and what is this song? It’s “Night Owl” by Broke For Free.
Our podcast DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE is still chugging along. Thanks to all of you who keep listening to our weirdness. We’re sorry we laugh so much… sort of. Please like, share and subscribe!
ENHANCED PAPERBACK RELEASE!
Carrie Jones, the New York Times bestselling author of Flying, presents another science fiction adventure of cheerleader-turned-alien-hunter Mana in Enhanced.
Seventeen-year-old Mana has found and rescued her mother, but her work isn’t done yet. Her mother may be out of alien hands, but she’s in a coma, unable to tell anyone what she knows.
Mana is ready to take action. The only problem? Nobody will let her. Lyle, her best friend and almost-boyfriend (for a minute there, anyway), seems to want nothing to do with hunting aliens, despite his love of Doctor Who. Bestie Seppie is so desperate to stay out of it, she’s actually leaving town. And her mom’s hot but arrogant alien-hunting partner, China, is ignoring Mana’s texts, cutting her out of the mission entirely.
They all know the alien threat won’t stay quiet for long. It’s up to Mana to fight her way back in.
“Witty dialogue and flawless action.”—VOYA
“YA readers, you’re in for a treat this week. Hilarious and action-packed, this novel is sure to be the perfect summer read.”—Bookish
“Funny and playful, with a diverse cast of characters and a bit of romance and adventure, Flying is the perfect light summer read.”—BookPage
Order Your Copy:
Cough. That was pretty self-promotional, wasn’t it?
The Final Time Stoppers Book
What is it? It’s the third TIME STOPPERS book! It’s also one of the reasons that I forgot about ENHANCED’s release.
Time Stopper Annie’s newfound home, the enchanted town Aurora, is in danger. The vicious Raiff will stop at nothing to steal the town’s magic, and Annie is the only one who can defeat him–even though it’s prophesied that she’ll “fall with evil.”
Alongside her loyal band of friends Eva, Bloom, SalGoud, and Jamie, who still isn’t quite sure whether he’s a troll or not, Annie journeys deep into the Raiff’s realm, the Badlands. The group will face everything from ruthless monsters to their own deepest fears. Can Annie find the courage to confront the Raiff and save everyone, even if it means making the ultimate sacrifice?
What People are Saying About The Books:
“An imaginative blend of fantasy, whimsy, and suspense, with a charming cast of underdog characters . . . This new fantasy series will entice younger fans of Harry Potter and Percy Jackson.” – School Library Journal
“The characters show welcome kindness and poignant insecurity, and the text sprinkles in humor . . . and an abundance of magical creatures.” – Kirkus Reviews on QUEST FOR THE GOLDEN ARROW
“An imaginative blend of fantasy, whimsy, and suspense, with a charming cast of underdog characters . . . This new fantasy series will entice younger fans of Harry Potter and Percy Jackson.” –School Library Journal on TIME STOPPERS
How to Get Signed Copies of Any of Carrie’s Books:
For signed copies – email firstname.lastname@example.org for Sherman’s or email email@example.com let them know the titles in which you are interested. There’s sometimes a waiting list, but they are the best option. Plus, you’re supporting an adorable local bookstore run by some really wonderful humans. But here’s the Amazon link, too!
Share this if you want and also because it would be super nice of you!
Usually, I have a little list in my head of THE COOLEST THINGS THAT HAPPEN TO CARRIE IN ONE WEEK. This is how I keep the horrible things from bothering me, and believe me thanks to Sparty’s breath smelling like the litter box and Gabby having some doggy indigestion, things haven’t been too swell around here. (Note: How goofy is the word ‘swell?’)
And, I think I already have a winner for the COOLEST THING THAT HAS HAPPENED TO CARRIE THIS WEEK!
I was out taking photos and all strung up with cameras and lenses when I saw a librarian walking across the parking lot.
She also saw me.
Her face lit up.
I instantly panicked and stressed about the overdue books in a bag in my car. I wondered if I had enough cash in my camera bag to cover my fines. Would she tackle me? Would she slap my wrists with something? I didn’t know… Maybe I could outrun her, hide in the produce section of Hannaford’s Maybe…
But then she smiled and said, “Carrie! I read your book!!!”
And then I remembered that she isn’t a librarian in my actual town. Doh!
And then she told me that she read my ancient, old book because another librarian talked about it on a listserv and then she said the most amazing words an author can hear: I LOVED IT, CARRIE. I really loved it.
But it gets better than that because then she hugged me!!!!
There is nothing better than a librarian hug. Except maybe a kid hug. But they are pretty close.
I hope you all get hugged by librarians this week or at least dog kissed. Gabby would be happy to provide the service:
And speaking about kissing… let’s talk writer advice here with:
Lines of Desire and Character Wants
Desire. It sort of sounds like erotica, but desire needs to be a part of all story. Not the rated-x kind, but the kind that relates to your character and your character’s longing.
Humans are always wanting, needing, and desiring.
We are born. We want to be fed. We want to be held. We want sleep.
And so it goes all our lives. When it’s about your characters’ multiple levels of desire, it is often about yearning.
What is it that your character yearns for above all else? This is also often called the super objective. This is the place where readers connect with your character – this yearning. It’s what resonates with them. Why? Because they yearn too.
A lot of writers have super objectives and desire lines inserted into their characters without even realizing it. Their character pops out yearning and it’s merely a tweaking of that in prose.
But sometimes? It isn’t that easy.
So what do you need?
You need two main things: A concrete desire and an internal desire are the big ones that are meant to drive your character through most (if not all) of the book.
What is concrete? It’s something real, tangible. It’s making a team. It’s getting a kiss. It’s saving a town.
What is internal? It’s what happens on the inside. This is where the characters emotional desires are pulling her or him through the book. It could be a want for home, family, friends. It could be to feel worthy. It could be to feel loved. This propels the character through the book, too.
So, along with that, in theater when we do character studies, we think about these three questions in every scene we play. So in writing, we’d think about these things in every chapter we write.
These are the characters’ questions:
I want –
I need –
I must have –
And we fill in the blanks. In each scene, we see those three objectives and how they relate to our character. We can do that with novels too. What is it that the character wants, needs, and must have (super objective, greater than all other objectives, the desire line of objectives)?
The super objective or must have is what creates that arc throughout the entire piece/novel/play – the want that provides the throughline and arc.
Pretty cool, huh?
Random note: You can do this for more than just your characters. You can do this for your life. What is it you want, that you need, that you absolutely must have?
DO GOOD WEDNESDAY
You want to make a difference in the world. I know you do.
According to its website, Amnesty International is “a global movement of more than 7 million people who take injustice personally. We are campaigning for a world where human rights are enjoyed by all.”
Zara in the NEED books was big into writing letters to political prisoners via Amnesty’s network.
This link brings you to a page where you can sign a petition to add your voice to thousands of others who are calling for an end to the assault on Syria’s Easter Ghouta.
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:A captivating true story of a spy, secret hero, and baseball player too.