While we’re Chatting about Characters …

Just wanted to touch upon character “depth and development” a bit more today . . . give more of that proverbial food for thought.

WPchrac4When it comes to detailing our characters (villains included), we want to provide:

♥  enough facts and features to paint a vivid picture    ♥  layers to create complexity and intensity.

We don’t, however, want to offer so many details and components that we deliver an abstract depiction, one that lends itself to an unbelievable and/or non-“seeable” person.

Consider the factors most relevant to your characters, those that make them come to life for your readers.  Do we need to know every facial feature?  Of course not.  Just those that impart details that build on—add dimension to—the character/villain.

For example, let’s take a gander at types of:

eyes – monolid, hooded, almond-shaped, close-set …

♥  Ronald’s sad kelp-brown eyes scanned the reception area.

lips – thin, wide, full, bow-shaped …

♥  Her perpetually pouty lips drew into a tight line when she noticed the ever-irascible Detective Smith had entered the lobby.

noses – fleshy, turned-up, narrow, flat, Roman, bumpy …

♥  The intern’s ski-slope nose had an odd jagged scar running down the left side.

chins – double, pointed, long, fleshy, scarred, pimply …

♥  Unable to meet Jason’s intense crow-black eyes, the man spoke to his strong square chin.

eyebrows – S-shaped, thin, rounded, tattooed, hard-angled, soft-angled ….

♥  Roger eyed the professor’s thin plucked eyebrows and absently noted how they seemed eternally arched.

What about arms, legs, body shapes?  There are so many options available!

♥  thin, slender, slim, short, flabby, zaftig, curvaceous, shapely, voluptuous, colossal, fat, skeletal, tiny, large, vast, frail, fragile …

What about the clothes and jewelry characters/villains wear . . . or don’t wear?  Telling or not?

♥  Sam Evans III zipped up his Alexander McQueen satin bomber jacket and glanced at his Luminox titanium watch.  His arc-shaped lips pulled into a frown.

♥  Lenny looked at his Timex watch and a loud sigh pushed past flabby lips.  Anxiously, he adjusted the collar of his loud-print polyester shirt.

♥  She tossed the diamond-encrusted watch onto the corner of the handcrafted desk as her slender frame sank back into the plush contour chair.

If you have an overabundance of attractive or secretive characters, take it further.  Attractive in what way?  Pretty?  Handsome?  Comely?  Secretive in what way?  Reserved?  Reticent?  Cagey?  What differentiates them?

Having edited numerous manuscripts, it seems that characters are often taken for granted by the writer.  He/she knows what the they look like, but the readers don’t because the delivery is lacking.  Hence my “nudge” for more selective—appropriate—word choices.

WPchar2Get to know your thesaurus.  It offers a wealth of alternatives to the flat and mundane.  Consider those words the colors you can utilize to paint your characters alive.

Clumsy Characters = Chaos

Perhaps a little dramatic a heading, but the fact is that if characters are described/portrayed in a vague or awkwardly constructed fashion, the result will lend itself to chaos, also known as confusion.

What’s makes for vague or awkward characters?

Those that have:

minimal descriptions  ♣  they all have eyes and are either male or female, but there’s not much more to let us know what they look like

similar descriptions  ♣  all have dark eyes and are tall

identical speech patterns  ♣  they utilize the same jargon/slang or sound the same

alike reactions  ♣  their eyes open wide with confusion or fear (regardless whether they’re detectives, criminals, boys, girls, teachers or waitstaff)

stereotypical personalities/appearances/mannerisms  ♣  they read like characters found in countless dramas, novels, soap operas

little or no depth  ♣  come across as vapid or weak (there’s no backbone or spirit, not even a hint of personality).

If characters come across as dull or lackluster, readers won’t be inspired to continue reading.

Make your characters compelling, appealing.  There should be “something” about them—something that attracts us to them as readers (or “viewers”, as we do visualize the scenes).  Or repels us.  If you’re going to have a villain, make him or her chillingly evil or sad, or compassionate—but memorable.

Think of fictional persons who’ve captured our/your attention: Columbo  /  Steve McGarrett  /  Alex Delaware  /  Jack Torrance /  Macbeth  /  Hamlet  /  Elizabeth Benet  /  Jessica Fletcher  …

WPpaint1The writer in me always likens the creation of a character to the painting [completion] of a canvas.  The final picture should captivating, powerful. 

Generally, we like [love] characters who are trustworthy and supportive, keep promises and play fair, and have objectives [and missions] we can relate to or empathize with, among many other attributes.  Additional likable qualities: they love animals, are helpful, stand their ground, and fight for unfairness [without complaint].  And it never hurts if they’re really good-looking and fit, funny/witty, and [relatively] brave.  Think: personality.  What makes a character tick?  What makes him/her resonate?  Think of everyday folks who have that je ne sais quoi.

That said, don’t go overboard and make characters overly good or villains excessively bad.  We all have failings, but we all have virtues.

Give your central character(s)—the protagonist(s)—an intriguing skill/talent or pastime.  Maybe your hero/heroine is a detective with a remarkable track record.  He/she has many friends, can fight well (has fists like a prizefighter) but only engages in a skirmish when absolutely necessary.  He/she is attractive, tall, slim, and fit/toned.  But so are lots of detectives.  So provide dimension.  Perhaps he/she scuba dives on the weekends and volunteers at a homeless shelter two nights a week?  Perhaps he/she takes cooking classes?  What’s your character’s history and background?  What motivates him or her?  Paint that detailed/vivid picture!  Give that character something to make him/her, yes, stand out.

And don’t forget to give your protagonists the odd challenges.  Let them feel and express feelings.  Dilemmas and issues occur in real life that feed on/off emotions; the same should hold true for fictional characters.

More on character development in the future.  Happy painting!

 

It’s All About Almost

I’m giving the gals, particularly ever-enthusiastic Rey, a break from posting.  Given I haven’t touched upon editing recently, maybe it’s time to do so again.

In my editing travels, I’ve discovered that “about” and “almost” are two frequently overused words.  New writers, in particular, seem to adore them.  An abundance of these two words, however, is not always in the story’s—or writer’s—favor.

Both certainly serve viable purposes, but they can also be weak words that lend themselves to a flat storyline.

About (adverb, preposition)

It’s about time you showed up.  ♠  designates anger or impatience

He was about ready to explode.  ♠  doesn’t add anything

The story is about a teacher and his class.  ♠  yes, okay, doable

The childhood story reveals how a well-loved teacher encourages his keen, young students.  ♠  a little more dynamic . . . maybe?

Almost (adverb)

I’ve almost had it with him.  ♠  designates anger or impatience

Jason was almost scared.  ♠  was he or wasn’t he?

It’s almost noon.  ♠  okay, but stating it’s five minutes before noon is more specific

The thief wavered and almost climbed back down.  ♠  did he or didn’t he?  (hopefully, the next sentence/paragraph will provide more information)

The detective shot the culprit in the head; he died almost instantly.  ♠  the suggestion is he lingered (perhaps something [eventful] transpired in that second or two?)

WPget2An assessing ear helps: yours.  Read each sentence aloud.  Listen.  Attentively.  Do they work—are they stronger or weaker for adding “about” or “almost”?  Would they keep the reader interested?  Or might they create a “zzzzz” effect?

She was almost fearful of what might happen.  ♠  ech

She had a fearful look on her face.  ♠  okay, but not very dynamic

Fear flickered in her sapphire-blue eyes.  ♠  more descriptive, more visual

Words make [and sometimes break] your writing.  Be specific.  Be detailed, but don’t go overboard.  Take a simple sentence and build on it.  A high-rise is fine; there’s no need to go for a skyscraper.

♠  Detective Smith looked up at her partner and almost smiled when he was about to pass her a coffee.

♠  Detective Smith smiled cheerfully as she accepted the mug of steaming coffee from her chuckling partner.

♠  Detective Smith’s fern-green eyes glistened as a cheerful smile pulled at her glossy lips; she accepted the huge mug of steaming Kona coffee from her grinning partner, Jack Blake.

♠  A cheerful smile played upon young Detective Smith’s sensual . . .

. . . and on it goes.  You determine how descriptive you want to be.

Envision your story, characters, and events.  Paint a vivid picture.  Make the action come alive.  Don’t just reel those readers in . . . yank them!   

As said, “about” and “almost” serve their purpose, but you have to recognize when they do and when they simply serve as unnecessary [snoozy] padding.

Martyn was about to learn what the impact would be.    ♠     Martyn listened intently to hear what the impact would be.    ♠     Martyn perused the multi-paged report to ascertain what the financial impact would be.

Helena took note at the way everyone was seated, almost confused at the seating arrangements.    ♠     Confused, Helena observed how everyone was seated at the bare dining table.  Who’d decided that?

It’s not about almost accomplishing an outcome; it’s making it happen.  You can do it.  It’s merely a matter of application mixed with perseverance and determination.  Remember, Rome wasn’t built in a day . . . great writing takes time to realize.

It’s almost the weekend and I’m almost certain you’re about to have an awesome one.  I certainly almost am.  Cheers.

The Mystery of the Latter Years

Hey-ho, it’s Rey.  The Boss is working on an editing assignment today.  Linda and Cousin Jilly are a bit miffed that I got post patrol today, but I didn’t exactly hear them eagerly volunteer.  I’m so enjoying this now, I can’t help but jump at the chance to blog.

Our boss likes those Nancy Drew mysteries so much (says they help “calm” her during major bouts of stress), I got motivated and borrowed a few.  I really got to like them; small wonder, seeing as I’m a private eye.  He-he. 

Seems, though, that the young amateur sleuths are like forever 18.  That gave me an awesome, fun idea!  Why not feature the young detective and her best chums, Bess Marvin and George Fayne—years later

What would they be doing at the age of 30?  Still traveling around the world solving mysteries, enjoying those not-too-shabby allowances?  Linda and JJ liked the idea, so they’re not miffed anymore.  Here’s our take, starting with my BFF.

Linda:

WPNancyUseNancy decided to go to law school in her early 20s and then partnered with her father for a couple of years.  At 30, Nancy opted for criminal law, and recently set her sights on becoming a DA.  Ned Nickerson stopped pining for her after graduating from university (when she turned down his marriage proposal not once but thrice).  Multi-skilled and never shying from challenges, she’s also working on a part-time medical degree.

Bess married Dave Evans, her sweetheart, and had three children.  They moved to a small town in Iowa, where he currently serves as a high-school football coach.  She remains a stay-at-home mom, designing and sewing clothes for the family when she’s not preparing meals based on famous chefs’ recipes (she has a cookbook collection that, at last count, stood at 589).

George studied Sports Management and opened a small sports marketing firm.  She did so well, she moved to NYC at the age of 27 to open an agency.  She just married a well-known sports announcer, who shall remain nameless for the time being (the wedding was made known to a select few, given a very messy divorce).  George and hubby have just adopted two Shelties—Moon and Stone—and a cross-eyed tabby named Larkspur.

JJ:

Nancy had no desire to marry Ned Nickerson, despite his persistent proposals.  She actually ended up marrying Detective Bridge Blackwood, who she met when solving a mystery that involved her housekeeper’s kidnapping.  When Blackwood didn’t agree with her decision to pursue a career as a police officer, she divorced him and has had no regrets.  She’s currently—and most happily—a Maine Police Trooper.

WPBessUseBess threw off that towel of timidity and opted for pursuing a business career.  She moved to Los Angeles at the age of 20, where she attended culinary school.  Proving a talented cook, she opened a small diner—with much success.  She’s now a well-known Food Network star with a weekly half-hour show called “Bess in Show”.

George moved to Paris to study art.  She’d always been a decent sketcher, but had never had the time—or the inclination—to do anything with that talent until she met an aspiring watercolor painter at a family picnic.  Jean-Pierre swept George off her feet and she followed him to France.  One thing led to another and both are doing exceptionally well, thanks to the three-story gallery they opened last year.

Me (Rey):

Nancy opened a professional P.I. agency when her dad agreed to finance it.  It proved successful.  How could it not, considering she’d made a name for herself, not just locally, but around the world?  The agency did so well in fact that two years ago she opened an office in Seattle and there’ll be one in Los Angeles soon.  She married Ned a few months after he graduated university, but the marriage only lasted a year.  They’re still friends, though.  Sorta.

Bess became a plus-figure model at the age of 20 when a famous fashion photographer bumped into her—literally—as she was leaving an ice-cream shop.  Her triple-scoop cone ended up on his Prada shoes.  They both found it funny and Fate (Cupid) stepped in.  She’s still modeling and has just opened a boutique in Boston, where she moved with the photographer after they got married last year.

WPGeorgeUseGeorge is still living in River Heights and enjoying her job as a phys-ed teacher.  She married Burt Eddleton, who owns his own electronics shop.  This “unadventurous” life suits her just fine.  She stays in touch with Nancy and Bess, and the three are planning on taking a ten-day Caribbean cruise.

Yeah, 18 is fun . . . but not forever.  

Day 7 – Hulaing Along

Can You Hula Like Hilo Hattie is free for one more day.

It’s Linda today—Rey’s on monk-seal volunteer duty today and JJ’s meeting up with a former beau.  In case you missed Rey’s rundown yesterday, let me provide one.

In Hula, we established the Triple Threat Investigation Agency.  That name, by the by, was my BFF’s idea.  You can’t argue with Rey when she gets an idea in her head—it’s like trying to pry a Black Friday sale item from an avid, rabid cut-rate-price shopper.

We have our first official paying assignment: to discover the secret of an elderly millionaire’s young wife.  It seems clear-cut—until she’s found murdered, floating in the beautiful sapphire waters of a deserted beach.  The three of us endeavor to uncover the killer amid a cast of curious characters and find a few secrets, not all belonging to the deceased wife, as well as a number of bodies.

While piecing together the puzzle, we end up taking a few detours—to the sordid and dodgy domains of drug pushers, informants, and gangs.  Serious game players, these folks play for serious keeps.

Here are some Amazon links The Boss provided:

https://www.amazon.ca/Hula-Hattie-Triple-Threat-Mystery-ebook/dp/B01KEEBNOS

https://www.amazon.com/Tyler-Colins/e/B01KHOZAL2%3Fref=dbs_a_mng_rwt_scns_share

https://www.amazon.com/kindle-dbs/entity/author/B01KHOZAL2?_encoding=UTF8&node=618073011&offset=0&pageSize=12&searchAlias=stripbooks&sort=author-pages-popularity-rank&page=1&langFilter=default#formatSelectorHeader

Aloha Sunday!

WP16ABCD

Day 6 – Looks Like another Shameless Saturday of Self-Promotion

Can You Hula Like Hilo Hattie is still available for free.  Yes, f-r-e-e (a marrrvelous word, if I do say so myself).

Hey, it’s Rey. If you’re wondering what Hula is about, let me give you a quick rundown.

Now living in Hawaii (like, how sweet is that?) we take on our first official—super exciting—case.  As professional private eyes, we have to uncover the secret of this elderly millionaire’s pretty young thing, uh, wife.  There’s a twist: pretty young wifey is found dead on a deserted beach.  And there’s a secret all right, one of many (and they’re not all hers).

As we’re collecting clues, we kinda end up with a collection of bodies . . . and a mass of suspects.  There’s a whacked-out druggie, a weird drug dealer or two, and a tetchy gang member or three.  Yeah, we make a few enemies, but we also form some friendships.  It’s all part of the P.I. learning curve.

What seems a straightforward task becomes anything but.  Thanks to a crazy week in Connecticut however, we’re used to dealing with murderers and quirky (crazy) personalities. And we have enough faith in our budding talents to persevere and solve this challenging case.  It’s one heckuva fun ride, though.  Maybe you’d like to accompany us on it?  You won’t be disappointed (my personal opinion only, of course).

Here are some Amazon links courtesy of The Boss (they look kinda messy to me, but whatever):

https://www.amazon.ca/Hula-Hattie-Triple-Threat-Mystery-ebook/dp/B01KEEBNOS

https://www.amazon.com/Tyler-Colins/e/B01KHOZAL2%3Fref=dbs_a_mng_rwt_scns_share

https://www.amazon.com/kindle-dbs/entity/author/B01KHOZAL2?_encoding=UTF8&node=618073011&offset=0&pageSize=12&searchAlias=stripbooks&sort=author-pages-popularity-rank&page=1&langFilter=default#formatSelectorHeader

Have an awesome Saturday everyone.

WPmarketingFeb3

Please note: $0.99 promotions are active only in the US and UK stores, and free promotions are available in all Amazon marketplaces!

Day 5 – Gotta Love Shameless Self-Promotion and What Better Day . . .

. . . than Valentine’s Day!

Maybe you’d love to partake of the discount / free promotion for The Connecticut Corpse Caper and Can You Hula Like Hilo Hattie?

Promotion price for both are yes, indeedy-do:  FREE

Caper: A haunted antebellum mansion, several corpses, and a slew of suspects inspire JJ, Rey and Linda, to become P.I.s.  In fact, they so loved being amateur sleuths, the trio moves to beautiful Hawaii and opens the Triple Threat Investigation Agency—with respectable success.

Hula: Our aspiring private eyes take on their first official case: discovering the “secret” of an elderly millionaire’s young wife. All appears straightforward enough—until the wife is found murdered on the lovely oceanside. As Jill (JJ), Rey and Linda determine to uncover the killer amid a cast of curious, unconventional characters, they stumble across more than one “secret” and trip over a few bodies . . . and don’t they just love the challenge(s)!

Here are various Amazon links (because I love to cover all bases):

https://www.amazon.ca/Connecticut-Corpse-Triple-Threat-Mystery-ebook/dp/B01KEDWHMG

https://www.amazon.ca/Hula-Hattie-Triple-Threat-Mystery-ebook/dp/B01KEEBNOS

https://www.amazon.com/Tyler-Colins/e/B01KHOZAL2%3Fref=dbs_a_mng_rwt_scns_share

https://www.amazon.com/kindle-dbs/entity/author/B01KHOZAL2?_encoding=UTF8&node=618073011&offset=0&pageSize=12&searchAlias=stripbooks&sort=author-pages-popularity-rank&page=1&langFilter=default#formatSelectorHeader

I hope you love reading them as much as I loved writing them.

Happy Valentine’s Day everyone!

xox

WPDay2A

Day 4 – Some More Shameless Self-Promotion (coz I just Can’t Provide Enough)

The Connecticut Corpse Caper and Can You Hula Like Hilo Hattie are still available for a discount / free promotion.

Promotion price for both:  FREE  

Caper: A haunted antebellum mansion, several corpses, and a slew of suspects inspire JJ, Rey and Linda, to become P.I.s.  The threesome moves to beautiful Hawaii and opens the Triple Threat Investigation Agency—with decent success.

Hula: Our aspiring private eyes take on their first official case: discovering the “secret” of an elderly millionaire’s young wife. All seems straightforward enough—until the wife is found dead along the lovely oceanside. As Jill (JJ), Rey and Linda determine to uncover the killer amid a cast of curious, unconventional characters, they stumble across more than one “secret” and trip over a few bodies.

Here are various [messy looking] Amazon links (coz I’m not that technically brilliant when it comes to them, LOL):

https://www.amazon.ca/Connecticut-Corpse-Triple-Threat-Mystery-ebook/dp/B01KEDWHMG

https://www.amazon.ca/Hula-Hattie-Triple-Threat-Mystery-ebook/dp/B01KEEBNOS

https://www.amazon.com/Tyler-Colins/e/B01KHOZAL2%3Fref=dbs_a_mng_rwt_scns_share

https://www.amazon.com/kindle-dbs/entity/author/B01KHOZAL2?_encoding=UTF8&node=618073011&offset=0&pageSize=12&searchAlias=stripbooks&sort=author-pages-popularity-rank&page=1&langFilter=default#formatSelectorHeader

Thank you.

Please note: $0.99 promotions are active only in the US and UK stores, and free promotions are available in all Amazon marketplaces!

WPmarketingFeb2

Day 3 – More Bout(s) of Shameless Self-Promotion(s)

Aloha Wednesday.

WP2Don’t forget, please – The Connecticut Corpse Caper has been selected for a discount / free promotion.

Promotion price for The Connecticut Corpse Caper (Feb 10 – 14):  FREE

A haunted mansion, a number of corpses, and a sundry of suspects motivate JJ, Rey and Linda, to become private eyes.  The trio moves to beautiful Oahu and opens the Triple Threat Investigation Agency—with not too shabby success.

WP1And starting today (through the 16th), you can also receive Can You Hula like Hilo Hattie free.

The novice private eyes take on their first official paying assignment: discovering the secret of an elderly millionaire’s young wife. It seems straightforward enough—until the wife is found dead in the sapphire Hawaiian oceanside. As Jill (JJ), Rey and Linda strive to uncover the killer amid a cast of curious, unconventional characters, they stumble across several secrets and fall over a few bodies.

Here are various Amazon links (to cover all bases):

https://www.amazon.ca/Connecticut-Corpse-Triple-Threat-Mystery-ebook/dp/B01KEDWHMG

https://www.amazon.ca/Hula-Hattie-Triple-Threat-Mystery-ebook/dp/B01KEEBNOS

https://www.amazon.com/Tyler-Colins/e/B01KHOZAL2%3Fref=dbs_a_mng_rwt_scns_share

https://www.amazon.com/kindle-dbs/entity/author/B01KHOZAL2?_encoding=UTF8&node=618073011&offset=0&pageSize=12&searchAlias=stripbooks&sort=author-pages-popularity-rank&page=1&langFilter=default#formatSelectorHeader

Thank you kindly!

Please note: $0.99 promotions are active only in the US and UK stores, and free promotions are available in all Amazon marketplaces!

Day 2 of Another Bout of Shameless Self-Promotion

Happy Tuesday.

A quick reminder that The Connecticut Corpse Caper has been selected for a discount / free promotion.

Promotion price for The Connecticut Corpse Caper (Feb 10 – 14):  FREE

If you’d like to learn what inspired JJ, Rey and Linda, to become private eyes and open their own shop—the Triple Threat Investigation Agency—please check out Caper.

Here are three Amazon links (I like to cover all bases):

https://www.amazon.ca/Connecticut-Corpse-Triple-Threat-Mystery-ebook/dp/B01KEDWHMG

https://www.amazon.com/Tyler-Colins/e/B01KHOZAL2%3Fref=dbs_a_mng_rwt_scns_share

https://www.amazon.com/kindle-dbs/entity/author/B01KHOZAL2?_encoding=UTF8&node=618073011&offset=0&pageSize=12&searchAlias=stripbooks&sort=author-pages-popularity-rank&page=1&langFilter=default#formatSelectorHeader

Thank you!

WPDay2A

Please note: $0.99 promotions are active only in the US and UK stores, and free promotions are available in all Amazon marketplaces!