Jun 18, 2010

Characters and Sparkle

by Joan Sowards

I’m writing a novel. Surprised? I love the theme, plot, and characters, but as I first worked on it, getting the story out of my head and onto the page, it lacked sparkle. I outlined, rough drafted and weaved the characters’ subplots in and out, and still didn’t see any sparks or feel the magic that I knew the story possessed.

Maybe the novel idea just wasn't good after all. Or did it only need perking with a few paranormal elements and more chocolate?

Then, as I developed my characters further, the story came to life. Each blossomed in their own personality, quirks, likes and dislikes, interests—and with them came the sparkle.

I discovered it isn’t chocolate or a ghost in the basement that makes a story shine. It is all about making characters real. Each character--main and supporting--need their own unique personality.

And, of course, a little bit of chocolate along the way helps.


  1. Great lesson Joan! I like the charcters you have introduced to me in your books. Keep writing! hugs~

  2. Chocolate always helps, but I'm going to give Jeff Savage's character bible a try for my next book. Whatever method you use, you need to dig deep to know your characters and their motivations, fears, etc. All of that will help ground your story and make the characters come to life (or "sparkle," as you put it).

  3. When characters come alive in my imagination, writing them is like taking dictation. They tell me their story and I write it down. At the end of the book, I thank them for their time and they go away. Usually. In one case recently, two characters had more story to tell, so I kept taking dictation and it turned into another book. Every character has a personal history, but not all of that will fit into the story; however, I need to know it so I can understand the character. I marvel at how, as a writer, I can have a life and still have characters inhabiting my brain, living their lives, too. I've learned that I can't write in moderation. It's a compulsion. Someone once referred to it as a divine madness.


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