The development of characters is something that I have always admired in books. It is satisfying to realise that they are changing and overcoming barriers. I like observing how events impact their thoughts and behaviour. In my novel Censure and Liberty, I had to build the story of two teenagers (13-14 years) until they became young adults (20). It was, for sure, the biggest challenge in my book. After all, what on earth changes more than a teenager? Their body, behaviour and mind are in constant evolution. Therefore, this article will approach the topic of how to achieve the growth of the main characters.
How to show the changes of your main character evident throughout your book
Here are some writing strategies useful to develop characters.
Make your character’s weakness and struggles clear!
You cannot simply say that you are character is this and that. From the very beginning, you should show their traits with their words, actions and thoughts during scenes of the book. Often, I set a couple of short scenes that seemed to be irrelevant to the storyline just to make clear that my main character struggles with certain aspects of life. For example, my stubborn and bold is only thirteen and had recently lost his father. In the first chapters of my novel, I built a whole scene where he has to learn how to shave with his uncle. That was a scene that I could take away from the novel, but it served well the purpose of displaying traits of his personality and his struggle with changes in life.
Plan the points of change and impact
Surely, life events play a great role on changing people. Have in mind that meeting new people and some tragedies may force your character to develop. Having these changing points clear in your mind, it will be easier to insert new behaviours from those moments on. My main character, Theresa Parker, moves from England to the USA in order to study at the age of 14. At first, she was an insecure shy girl. However, I was sure that after coming back from a situation of relative independence, she had to be more secure when returning home.
Challenge your characters or make them fail
If you put your characters in a situation in which they have to tackle their fears or have their morals tested, you give them the chance to overcome their struggles. At the same time, when they fail, they may reflect on their mistakes and even regret their ways.
Make your characters face the same situation twice
Set a scene at the beginning and a parallel one at the end part of the book. Same problem, same place or same people. When characters face the same situation and behave differently or better, it is clear to the reader that they have evolved.
“The Bath paper one morning announced the arrival of the Dowager Viscountess Dalrymple, and her daughter, the Honourable Miss Carteret. . . ” – Jane Austen, Persuasion
I have often wondered about dowagers and their status in Regency society in relation to widows. When did a widow become a dowager? Did all 19th century widows acquire the title? Why or why not?
Mirriam Webster Dictionary provides an answer : “Dowager – The widow of a peer, eg the Dowager Countess of Somewhere. The term was not added to a woman’s title unless and until the new holder of the title married.” The definition contains the clue. Until the new heir married, an aristocratic widow retained the title she acquired on the day of her own wedding.
Widows were legally entitled to a dower share or a third of the value of her husband’s estate after his death, for under the…
How to bring creativity and deepness to your side when you are writing your WIP.
Creativity and writing walk together. Lately, I have not had many problems with building characters, plots or dialogues. That is why I have thought of sharing some creativity hacks that have been helping me to get inspired Probably, you may well already use some of them, but I am not here to judge what it is obvious.
Just to be clear: this is a post about tips to write with more creativity. In other words, this is not an article on writing block or on how to feel motivated or on how to have discipline. I will assume that you are already motivated to write and produce. Trying to write without unwillingness is really a creativity killer. Therefore, I firstly advise you to find ways of getting into the mood. Strolling, releaxing etc. Sometimes lack of motivation and creativity has to do with mental health, and it is not your fault that you are struggling with discipline. Most of my problems with writing discipline have to with my mood swings, so I try to forgive myself for not being productive.
Having said these, here we go to the creativity writing tips.
1- Create a file with ideas for your book on Pinterest
You can browse and save images of things related to the universe where you write. For instance, my Work-in-Progress is Censure and Liberty, a Regency Novel in 1816, so I am constantly browsing objects and paintings of that year. Recently, I have seen this paiting of three girls secretely reading a letter. My young main character is always writing letters to a friend, and I thought that it could be interesting if my book had a scene where some bully girls read her letter to mock her. It was just another random pin of painting, but it brought me an idea to enrichen the story and brign some sparkingling to it. I also like choosing a random portrait or house for every character and modify them in my head.
This pinterest tip works for any book genre: if you write fantasy, you may want to browse pins about legends and myths. Writing is not only words!
2- Follow hashtags, places, “cosplayers” or artists on Instagram
You are procastinating on Instagram. Suddenly, a cosplayer of the vintage period appears strolling by Paris. Bang! It occurs to you that you can make your character to go to Paris. Then, you look at photos taken in Paris. Cafés and happy couples everywhere. Bang! You character will fall in love at this Café! Love is in the air! Later on, a French painter whom you now follow posts the drawing of this handsome man in a nice suit with lots of blue colours. Now you have the perfect blasé atmosphere for your main character’s crush.
3 -Create a playlist with what your characters would sing
No, I am not talking about a playlist of all those nice songs that you like. I am talking about using a playlist whose lyrics express your character’s feelings, personality, thoughts, or behaviour. Listen to the playlist whenever that character is in action during your writing. It will make you get into his head. It workds for me a lot! I am not telling you to use part of the lyrics but to surround yourself with a sountrack of musical empathy.
For example, my main character Mr Paul Spencer inYour Sweet Voice in the Darkwas angry with the other main character Ms Josephine Felicity. I found that the contemporary song Complicated by Avril Lavigne put me into everything that he would think about this other character in 1812! No, Josephine was not wearing “preppy” clothes, but she was acting “like somebody else”. Addint to this, I thought that the song Hot N’ Cold by Kate Perry expressed how annoyed Josephine Felicity was withPaul’s indecision.
Sometimes I do not even like the song very much: if it is perfect for the character, I will listen to it. Also, one song might only serve to a scene, so yeah. When I am done, bye bye. Just do not fall to the trap of sticking too much to what the song says because your character is more than that.
4- Do the dishes or whatever too boring
There is a writing mistery involving the laundry. It might enfuriate you, but the best ideas may come to you when you are doing anything but being in front of your computer. When you are out of ideas, do something boring that does not fill your thoughts or require so much attention. The only reason why you brain won’t stop giving the most brilliant ideas when you try to sleep is because you are not either paying attention to anything or inputing any information ot it. Maybe, your problem with creativity has been trying to be crativity for far too long rather than doing something ordinary.
5- Ask yourself questions, interview your character, pretend that you are their therapist, change POV for a moment
Why are you behaving this way, Mr Jones? Where would I go if this happened to me when I was fifteen like my character? Open up your heart to me, Mr Jones. What object can my character see and relate to? What animal would you be? Am I using my character’s five senses rather than only sight? What would be the worst/best thing to happen to you now, Mr Jones? What is your favourite colour? How do you see yourself in the next 5 years? hahahahah
Once, I had to get into a very important introspective part in the story. That is the reason why I changed my Point of view from third person to first person. Afterwards, I wrote it back to third person. I was surprised with the results.
So, let me know if you have more creativity hacks.
More than 60,000 words written right there in front of me. A relief followed by a feeling of hesitation. And now?
I finished writing the first draft of my book! When we reach the aimed number of words, and when the story hit the desired end, we may ask ourselves what we should do next. Should we rest or should we start editing right away? Normally, we tend to fear procastination so much that we don’t leave any space for refreshing. We want to rush for with the post-writing! Is it the best option?
I googled for some pieces of advice from more experienced published authors. Some of them gave good models of post-writing scheduling. However, I believe there is no definite schedule, even though they helped me a lot. At the end of july, I had finished a new draft, and felt as thoughI had built a castle yet to be painted. I did what was the most terrible thing for an anxious person: wait. Sweet Heavens! That was hard! But, that was what I was told by the others. Let me share with you what I did during the first week after finishing my draft. Peharps my experience can help you.
The first weeks after finishing the draft
1- I rested
Do you really think that you are earning time rushing to edit your text on the day after you finish? You have just worked on the same project for months or weeks! Give yourself a small break before daring to look at the text again. I didn’t look at the book for one week when I finished the draft
That rest week was crucial for me to rethink some aspects of my novel. Lots of the things I am doing now editing occurred to my mind during my “break”. When I came back to the text I felt renovated instead of worn-out.
2- Read some books and enjoy life!
Inspiration comes from life. If you don’t live a bit, you may not be inspired to continue with the hard work. Have some fun! Reading other people’s good book may also help you evaluate your writing style.
3- Take a look at the ideas of other books
Every writer must have written a story which was stopped at the first chapter or at least a bunch of plots in mind. Before starting the edit of the draft, I tried to develop some old ideas. I look at the ready draft and think about how it would be nice if that paused story was also a ready draft. This is a great way of encouraging yourself to keep writing. Just don’t get so caught up by the new book you forget you have 60,000 words to go over.
4- Work on your marketing and networking
To prepare the terrain for my regency novel, I have personally taken some time to know other authors and building this website. I do enjoy virtually socializing with the writing community, but I confess that the website was a very tiresome but necessary task. Those are just some examples you can do for your marketing. I finally announced the draft was ready and had some glad comments. This is a very important moment in the process of finishing a draft. You can encourage other authors while telling publishers you have something ready to edit.
My Regency book, Your Sweet Voice in the Dark, has a reason for its title
Mr Paul Spencer
My main character, Mr Paul Spencer, came back from war earlier than expected because he had lost his sight during a battle. For obvious reason, his experience involved lots of internal conflicts which I, as an author, could only imagine. After all, this person had to learn a new way to do things and follow with his life. Paul, however, lived other great conflicts during the narrative and his blindness was only a small part of what he faced. His disability was not his person. Therefore, I decided that the book would not be focused on Paul’s blindness, even though his new reality was an important factor in the plot.
Because of his family’s wealth, my main character could afford a guide servant and other servants to help him. Unfortunately, that was not the reality in lower social classes. Compared to our times, blind people in the Regency period (1811-1820) had fewer facilities than I had thought. That was one of my challenges in building the story to a character like Paul Spencer. Hence, I had to research about what method was at his disposal.
For example, although visually impaired people had been using canes since ancient times, the white cane would only be invented in 1921. The same goes for books in the Braille system, which started to be implemented in 1852, and the widespread use of trained guide dog was established in the XX century.
Lessons I have learnt with Mr Paul Spencer
It was a great joy for me to build Paul Spencer. I tried to portray a deep protagonist with traits and trials beyond the proposed lost of sight. I reflected through some lessons from Paul’s life perspective and behavior.
Fight self-pity: From the very start, Paul Spencer resented pity and self-pity. He had problems beyond his new condition to face and could not allow his blindness to define of what he was capable.
Sometimes we create our own barriers: This character had lots of qualities and flaws: prudent, mature, and generous but always minding society’s opinion and putting his own genuine interest aside. His own personality created himself more problems than his new sight impairment.
We should be grateful for life: Paul struggled during the story, but the character evolved to be a thankful man.
A person can be both brave and coward depending on different situations.
I hope this blog post teased you to know a bit more Paul’s life in my newest Regency novel, Your Sweet Voice in the Dark, available on Amazon (also free for kindle unlimited subscribers).
More information about the general history of blindness can be found in the links below:
No one can deny that the sub-genre of Regency novels is of great significance in English Literature. More than just good stories, Regency novels have the potential to show their readers how English and European society thought and behaved during the early XIX century. By now, most of us know that the utmost of Regency Literature was the works of the writer Jane Austen. Nonetheless, we cannot forget that this brilliant author wrote stories in contemporary reality. As mere writers from the XXI century, I humbly believe we shouldn’t expect to write any Regency Novel close to masterpieces like Pride and Prejudice.
Having said this, I would like to share some difficulties that I had bumped into while writing my first Regency Novel, Your Sweet Voice in the Dark, so we can discuss what our role as Historical Fiction writers is. Feel free to comment on yours.
The fear of being historically inacurate about Regency period
Well, describing an unfamiliar reality is an obvious struggle that any writer can tackle. Historical fiction writers have to deal with a different time from theirs, and our readers expect us to be minimally true to History. As an internationalist, I had studied about economical and political aspects and events of our contemporary era. French Revolution, the Industrial Revolution, the Congress of Viena, the Invasion of Iberic countries by the french. However, Regency Novels are more about common culture in that period. Often, I had to do extensional research on how people did simple tasks during the Regency period, such as eating or taking a bath.
Moreover, I had to check on the existence of some common knowledge in the past. Was hypo-tension known in 1812? Lots of technologies we use today are inventions of the later XIX century. Trains, telegraph… ENVELOPES! I really took envelopes for granted in that century, but they would only exist in 1907. Whenever I had to start a new chapter, I had to google lots of things. Sometimes I had to google the weirdest things ever.
The fear of creating very “up-forward” characters
We all love characters who think ahead of their times. I believe, however, there are some limitations to that personality. Were my female characters being “too independent” without being questioned? Are these characters being too informal and intimates to each other next to other people? When my characters did things that were not expected, I tried to show another character’s disapproval or surprise towards that behavior. That is really tricky to without being repetitive or being mistaken! How can we limit our wonderful characters to the expectations of a period of time if we, as individuals, cannot fit in our own times sometimes?!
If we are to build characters during the recent past, we cannot understand lots of their social hesitation at all. My grandmother feels embarrassed in certain situations I am not able to understand until today, let alone people who lived two hundred years ago. Etiquette studying was not enough. Having to replicate past behaviors and thinking that I don’t relate to was one of my greatest challenges.
The fear of Contemporary vocabulary in dialogues
In Brazilian portuguese, my first language, people spoke utterly different in 1812. Obviously, lots of words did not exist in the past. If I had to write dialogues in older Portuguese, that would involve a lot of research for me. Now, I proposed myself to write a Regency novel in a foreign language, but I am certain that the foreign language was not the most difficult thing. My main preoccupation was the being loyal to building reasonable dialogues of that time. Dialogues in “Regency English” can be challenging to both native and foreign writers.
As a reader, I don’t care if a Contemporary writer uses Contemporary language in a third person narration as long as I feel that the dialogues of their characters are historically plausible. It even gathers the best of both worlds: inspiring stories in the Georgian times and easy to read narratives. That’s the reason why I personally believe that there is no reason to fuss about the presence of Contemporary vocabulary and grammar in the narration part itself. We can take it as part of being a writer of our century telling a story in a past we don’t know much to readers of our century. The fear of historically improper language in Dialogues is real, though!
The fear of not representing well the Regency period
As I said before, the Regency sub-genre is very important in English language literature. People love it, and I would like to deliver the best writing possible. What if I am not writing well enough about it? What if am I missing out on important details? What if my characters are not Regency-like? What if am I not portraying what it really meant and means to millions of enthusiastic Regency novel readers?
The fear of being judged by other Regency writers or Regency fans
Whenever I was writing my Regency novel, coming across all those etiquette rules and Regency habits, a very scary image came to my mind. That image was of an engaged reader or a Regency writer saying something like ‘this would never happen during the Regency period’ or ‘this is not Regency!’ with a smirk in their lips. They both wearing Regency gowns. hahaha, The fear of criticism and bad reviews is real to all writers. However, writing Regency brought me this fear of being criticized for writing a good story but not a good Regency book. Like, an excellent story was not enough to Regency fans; it had to represent well what the Regency period was. I was very fearful of bad reviews.
How to overcome the fear of being a failure in writing a Regency book
All these fears are still there. I have overcome them because I didn’t let these fears stop me to proceed with my novel. In order to keep going, I told myself some truths, and I hope these truths can help you as a Regency writer or a historical fiction writer:
I am not Jane Austen. I don’t write as well as Jane Austen. I didn’t live what she lived and wrote about. I won’t be harsh of myself.
I am doing the best I can to bring a book of historical quality. If I am not able to please everyone and make lots of mistakes, I can always learn from them.
Readers have the rights to criticize whatever they spent money and time reading if they are not doing it just for the sake of hatred. Regency fans like good books about what they love. I ought to accept critics and get better.
I like the story. I like my plot. I love the characters. I would like to read it even if I wasn’t the writer. I can always improve my style and historical accuracy overtime. Even if it is not a good regency novel, I am sure it is a nice story.
I should be humble. I am not the best writer in the world. My book doesn’t have to be the best or even a masterpiece. There will always be someone better than me. That’s ok.
I hope that this article has been helpful to you!
You can purchase “Your Sweet Voice in the dark“, the novel that I had written when I posted this article, on Amazon. It is also free for Kindle Unlimited subscribers.
Besides the NO’s from publishers, good friends may say things that do not help at all.
Should you tell others that you are writing a book or that you want to become an author? It is perfectly normal to want to share your dreams of becoming a writer with people you love! You must at least be aware of some inconveniences.
First things first: any goal you may start to pursue in life, be certain you will hear a bunch of things that you don’t want to hear. Becoming an author is just one of these goals. If you want to lose weight, you may hear you shouldn’t. If you desire to learn to play the drums, someone may say you should try the piano. If you want to have a baby, people say babies are money wasters. If you don’t want to have babies, people will say that you are going to regret it later. Starting something new that people are not used to seeing you do is the perfect passport for criticism, non-desired suggestions, or really bad advice.
That’s ok! Just forgive them, and follow your dream. You probably do the same to your friends sometimes, right?
Let me tell you some great “motivational” things I heard before starting to pursue a career in Historical fictional writing.
“Your poetry is good. Nobody reads poetry though. Just focus on prose or you will starve.”
Write for fun! Focus only on your actual profession.
“Your prose is great! Shame no one can write for a living in Brazil because Brazilians don’t like reading; and when they do, they don’t like Brazilian authors.”
Those same words came from the same person at different times of my life. When I heard the first sentence, I was a very prolific poetry writer. I didn’t write much prose. So this person advised me to write more prose so I could earn some money with it. That was exactly what I tried to do. But, guess what? When I said something about dreaming with earning money with writing passion, this person said it was impossible to do so in my country. Was this person mean? No! Was this person envious? No! Was this person trying to shatter my dreams? No! This person was only casually talking.
Instead of ruminating bitterness against this friend, I simply turned what was said into three pathways:
I started writing more prose, and here am I now.
I focused on my international relations studies, which was perfect for what I needed at that time. Now I use that kind of knowledge in my writing.
Since this person told me that Brazilians wouldn’t read my fiction books, I decided to broaden my public by also writing in English. I love writing in both languages; that just makes everything more fun.
Well, once I had these three things in mind, I had to put up with three extra great suggestions when I was just in the middle of my novel.
“Why are you writing your story in England? It should be in Brazil just like our great writers.”
“English? I can’t read English! Why don’t you write this novel in Portuguese so your friends and family can read?
“You shoud be proud of Portuguese language, and write in Portuguese!”
At no point, these people considered my writing was half ready. Imagine if you are painting a dog, and when you are almost finishing your oil canvas, someone told you it should be a dragon. How could I ever answer these? Oh, of course, I will give up on my plot and everything I struggled to think so the story happens in Brazil. Thanks for your good suggestion! I definitely can’t write anything completely very Brazilian another time in my life. As for the second quote, it came from multiple people, even my loved mother. I have lots of texts in Portuguese. Do you know how many friends asked me to read them? One! So I am sorry, but I am not rewriting half a book so you can read it. The same goes for the third affirmation: I don’t have to write all my books in Portuguese to prove anyone I love my language.
They didn’t think that being a historical fiction writer sometimes include placing your stories in other countries or that I wanted to use English so I reach readers from all over the world. None of these people could understand well my personal writing goals and were only speaking common sense. So, why blame them and feel offended? The same applies to you. People will advise you through their perspective, not taking your reality into account. If you are confident of what you are doing, keep with the good job.
Last but not least! I have saved this precious one because this was one of main reasons I chose a Regency novel to be my first Historical Fiction book.
We are looking for a native speaker of English. I am sorry!
random publishing company looking for a Regency novel ghostwriter on a freelance website
That’s it! Unemployed, I saw the freelance job opportunity and thought I could earn some money by writing a nice novel.
Why not? I love this kind of book! What matters if I don’t get any credits? (What on earth was I thinking to exchange months of hard work for a plate of lentils?) So I made up a plot, and I was eager to write it to sell it to them! Fortunately, they said beforehanded a huge No, thank you. You must be a good writer, but we prefer native writers. As a good Brazilian, what did I do? I did not give up! I started writing the Regency novel so I would send it to a publisher that didn’t care if I was a foreigner.
Afterwards, I did deeper Historical research about the English Regency period at my pace. I have stubbornly written in a foreign language until the very end of the book. So to speak, it was freaking fun to do so! So to I fell in love with everything in that novel, from my Regency characters to my plot.
Thank you, random publishing company I don’t know the name, for not believing a foreigner could write a decent novel for you! I would never ever have started this whole challenge without you! And, I am not being ironical, every no we receive guides us to the right paths.Be grateful for the no’s you receive, man!
If you speak and write English as your first language, you are simply ten blocks ahead of me in the line. Please do not let a random commentary about your writing put you off!
Should I tell people about my writing or not?
Yes! You should be proud of saying you write! However, be selective if becoming an author is new in your life though. Ask yourself the next questions:
Am I ready to hear discouraging things or suggestions I don’t want to hear?
Do I know exactly what I want so I don’t get confused with my choices?
Does this beloved person believe in my talent?
Does this person need to know? (I mean, if they are not someone who would see you writing all the time, why should you tell them? In case people who live with you are discouraging, simply try not to talk much about it or write somewhere else).
Does this person know enough about my goals about writing?
Is this person one of those “writing is not a job” people?
Is this person capable of advising on writing or any aspects of it?
Is this person very critical to everything I say or do?
Is your book almost ready so whatever this random person mention, you are more prone to ignore it?
Only one person knew that I was writing my first book: my husband. He was the first to believe in it. Then, throughout the book, I started telling some other close people: such as my friend Evelyn and my mother. And, of course, a group of random people who said things that I didn’t want to hear… Finally, I told lots of my friends when I was in the last chapter. When the draft was ready, I mentioned writing it on Linkedin.
Has anyone said something that discouraged you during your writing career? Please comment below!