Once Upon a Character

Once upon a time, a character appeared. No one knew this character. No one spoke to him. No one invited him inside to sit and carry on a conversation. This poor character couldn’t get anyone to notice him. He wondered what sort of world that he had come across. He wondered who he was. “Do I have a name?” whispered the man.

And though the man remained quiet for the longest time, he began to twitch here and there. Still, the man had no name. Precisely, at the moment just before he was going to give up entirely; he thought he might never have a name. Suddenly, out of the blue came a name. It was a good name. He was told by the Wise Woman of Leveda, that his name was Bucca Twofoot.

At this point in the story, you have only scratched the surface of creating a character. You’ve named the character, you’ve brought in the wise one, who usually gives the hero/main character the quest that takes the hero through all the steps of plot to create a story. But what else do you know? Not much. Are you hooked? If not, why? What got in your way? If so, why? What hooked you? These are the questions you must ask yourself for every piece you write.

Longer works can take a bit longer to hook the reader, but typically, readers may open a book and read the first paragraph. If you haven’t caused that reader to want to read more, they likely won’t buy the book.

This article is about character development, which is the first building block of fiction. What constitutes a character? Inanimate objects, such as setting and environment, plus animate beings like humans, animals, etc. can all become characters.

Even a poor plot can often be salvaged though strong character development. When writing, you have to paint the picture of who, what, where, when, why and how for both character and plot or even down to scene in novels, where you most likely are dealing with multiple characters.

Because novel-length fiction is longer and has more complicated plot arcs with as many as three different plots that intertwine, you end up having quite a few characters that you are pulling together. Typically, what happens is you may begin to write in characters on the fly. This leads to poor characters and more flat or two-dimensional characters, which doesn’t hold the interest of readers.

One way to avoid that is to create a Character Profile, which might be more like a Character Checklist or even a Character Sketch Survey, for each character. Printing out these profiles and keeping them in a binder will help you keep track of which character is which. It will also keep you from developing almost identical characters or characters with the same or similar name.

Especially if you are writing for children through young adults, it is important not to create characters that begin with the same sounds. Having John, Jim, Jerry, and George in your story can create chaos to the reader, because it is hard to keep track. Early readers and people with certain disabilities need distinctly different names to enable them to comprehend that these are not the same character, which would be quite confusing.

To help writers with character development, there is a Character Checklist as a FREE gift for registering. (See right-hand column.)

Connie is the author of 10 Ways to Develop Characters, which is available at: https://www.createspace.com/4708123. Other books can be found at: BOOKS.


How Long Does It Take To Write a Book?

I get this question a lot…

Well, I’ve written a book in a day on several occasions. I will say that Children’s Picture Book manuscripts are so short that on a good day, I might be able to write two or three. I’ve also written 30-page or less books in a day that are on a topic that I know well.

I just wrote a book over the weekend. It was a challenge. Maybe, I shouldn’t have watched the movie on Saturday night! But for goodness sake, when you invite people over for dinner and a movie, it does seem rude not to watch the movie! So, the good news is that I wrote the entire book – all 62 pages of it. The bad news is that it’s too long for my original purpose. The good news is that I know how to solve it!


You see, one way to get noticed on the Web is to post Guest Blogs on other people’s sites. It’s also a good way to market your book. At the end of every blog post is your signature. Did you know that you can direct readers back to your site to get something free? So, 62 pages might get downloaded, but probably wouldn’t get read.

I have this wonderful mentor, D’vorah Lansky (http://www.bookmarketingmadeeasy.com), who told me that I needed to break it down into about five pieces…so that’s what I’m going to do. I can give one piece away, and sell the other four. Or, I can give one away immediately and get them to come back to my sight four more times and possibly buy other things.

How intriguing? Yes, indeed. And I’d tell you how I’m going to make that book become five little bites of marketing wonder, but I haven’t made all those decisions yet.

But I will give you the answer to: how long it takes to write a book? Well…the true answer is that it’ll take as long as it takes. However, I have a newly published book, “Creating a Timeline for Your Book: Beyond the Basics,” which can be purchased at: https://www.createspace.com/4661875. This book will help you create a timeline for your book, so that you can more easily schedule your time.

Connie Dunn is a book coach, speaker, and author of more than 30 books, screenplays, and Religious Education materials. Her most recent books are: “Children’s Book Illustration for the Non-Traditional Creator: Four Techniques from a Crafter’s Point of View” (https://www.createspace.com/4580959); Book Launch 101” (https://www.createspace.com/4666321); “12 Steps to Publishing – Workbook” (https://www.createspace.com/4661897. All of these books are focused on helping authors.