Short Stories & Novellas- Workshop Day II – Characterization

FYI, I will be checking in on the blog when I can, but I wrote this before I left for Alaska, and while you’re reading this, I’m up in the land of the midnight sun, so chances are, I’m not thinking of blogging and workshops.

However, I’ll be sure to look through comments when I get back, so if you have questions, comments, whatever, feel free to leave them in comments. Wanting more info about LB&LI08? Go here.

(edited to add)

Her current workshops…

  • World Building


    Left Behind & Loving It 2008

    although I’m not exactly here to be left behind anyway…but that’s beside the point

    Writing a short story/novella


    As mentioned in day I, the two main issues I read when I asked about novella gripes were:

    • Plotting
    • Characterization

    So today, I wanna talk characters.

    You need to make the characters believable. Chances are if you’re hanging at my blog, romance is your thing. So you also need to make the reader believe that HEA is gonna happen at the end of the book, which means they need to fall in love, too.

    If you kept things simple in the plotting part of the book, that should leave you some room for developing the characters. But again, the confines of short stories and novellas don’t always leave expansive room for seriously complex characters. A widowed man can definitely fall in love within the confines of a short story, but if the widowed man also has some baggage, like his deceased wife messed around on him with his best friend and then when confronted by her husband, she kills herself…baggage…might be hard to resolve in a short story.

    Get to know your characters

    Do your characters have:

    • quirks?
    • issues?

    What do they look like?

    • Tall?
    • Skinny?
    • Round?

    Something I’ve very recently started doing is character worksheets-definitely something handy. A couple of links/tools I’ve found useful…

    Tara K Harper

    Pamela Dowd (this one is a PDF)

    PBW’s Novel Writing Notebook

    Think about your characters and know who they are before you start telling their story. Longer stories allow for more time to get to know them and I usually learn more about my characters as I write them, but with a short story, I like knowing exactly who my character is.

    Know exactly what your character looks like. (This is still a work in progress for me…I’ve got a bad habit of forgetting eye color…)

    Giving your character quirks can make them seem more real. Like a caffeine addiction. Giving them issues can do the same, make them seem more approachable, more real to the reader, but be careful with issues if the issues are going to cause problems in the relationship between the H&H. Remember the space constraints with this kind of story.

    Getting them together

    Do your characters already know each?

    • Is there already some hidden attraction going on?

    Do they get together at the start of the story?

    • If not…you might want to rethink that. The short story doesn’t allow much time for a delayed meeting. if they don’t meet until page 14, and the story ends at page 60…25% of the story is already gone, leaving much less time for the relationship development.

    If they are strangers, how are you going to make me believe they fall in love by the end of the story?

    Certain events can put two people together and the two people learn more about each other than they would under other circumstances. A dangerous situation, for example. Use your imagination. Dangerous or volatile situations tend to bring out our baser urges-the H&H will see other as they really are, not the ‘good impression’ so many of us try to present on first dates and stuff.

    Plus, dangerous situations can bring about a great sexual tension.

    If you’re going to use the ‘love at first glance’ twist, make sure you think it through. DId both of them ‘feel’ that right off the bat? Is one a little more hesitant? That right there can be a story’s entire plot, too. Nothing complicated, leaving plenty of room for really developing the relationship.

    Getting that intimate connection

    Remember to work in the romantic and sexual tension as you write. Even if the characters aren’t together on the page, have them thinking about each other.

    When it comes to sex, no problem having in the short story and if it’s erotic romance, you have to have it in there. But remember to make it believable. If you’ve got two people on the run, are they going to think to pull over and have a quickie when the bad guy is breathing down their neck?

    More, if it’s a short story, and you’re going for romantic suspense rather than straight romance, are they going to be able to resolve whatever the conflict is if they are having sex every three pages? Probably not.

    One or two well-written sex scenes, especially if there’s a lot of sexual tension going on throughout the story, will serve you a lot better than throwing in the sex left and right, but skimping on everything else. Sex doesn’t automatically establish a good intimate connection, especially if it’s sex that’s written just for the sake of sex.

    Sex might sell, but badly written or poorly written sex scenes aren’t going to have a bunch of readers putting you right at the top of their TBB list.

    Getting to the HEA

    …is gonna wait until the next day.

    Also, because PBW told me to, because it might make it more fun, I’ll be doing a giveaway…anybody that comments (and uh… I don’t consider, oh, how nifty! a comment) and/or adding to the discussion will entered into a drawing for a prize…probably something I’ll pick up in Alaska and a copy of Private Places since I anticipate finding my author copies upon my return home.

    Edited to add…because I promised pics…