Help! Please Enter My Name That Character Contest!

So there I was, sitting in front of a blank screen, the stupid big fat clock staring at me from the wall across the room. I would have been unnerved by the ticking if the clock had a ticker, but you know everything is digital these days–never mind, I digress. There I was, with the blank screen and the clock AND the DEADLINE.

Let me digress pause here to address the non-writers in the room–and I hope there are billions many of you–to let you know that the picture of the blissful artist working away in their turret spinning fancy words into mesmerizing stories is a bad joke hoax. We working stiffs authors really work at the kitchen table, the desk, the lazyboy chair, the drivers seat of the car (although we try to stop driving first), the dentist office waiting room … You get the picture.

Why? It’s the clock. And the deadline. Even if we don’t have a publisher or editor setting our deadline, we still have a deadline. Life throws them at us in the form of mortgage bills, grocery bills and the occasional prompt from a loving impatient reader.

What does any of this have to do with a Name That Character Contest you ask? Well, I don’t technically know if you’re asking, but Myren, my chauffeur, is asking and he’s the ridiculous unofficial stand-in for an below average reader for the purposes of this stupendous informative blog. I’ll tell you.

So there I was, not sitting in my turret, staring at the blank page and STUCK. Why was I stuck you ask? (Let’s not go over again how I know you’re asking.)

I was stuck because I needed a name for the bad guy and I couldn’t think of one. He was about to lower the hatchet and I had no idea what to call him.  X. That’s what I typed. Not for the first time. I was on page 152 and I had a story filled with X after X where the character’s name ought to be.

I threw down my pen closed my lap top (although this action lacks the dramatic appeal of throwing down a pen) and decided I needed to get rid of all those Xs. But how, you ask? (You’re so full of questions!)

Now backed into a corner, chased there by dozens of Xs, there was only one thing to do. Yes. I had to hold a Name That Character Contest!

(This is a true story, I swear.)

And so now, in order to get unstuck, in order to go on and complete my current work-in-progress, Beachcomber Love, I am reaching out and asking for your help, dear readers!

Enter the Stephanie Queen Name That Character Contest Here!

(Yes, there’s a prize in it for you, but I KNOW you’re really entering it to rescue me from my sticky spot.)

Here’s some details about Beachcomber Love and the character X:

BEACHCOMBER LOVE is the next novella in the Beachcomber Investigations romantic detective series. This bad guy, X, has come to town on Martha’s Vineyard from the mainland. He’s a he, a seedy low-life who mysteriously wants to extort money from the Lucky Parrot (local dive bar frequented by ex-special ops legend Dane Blaise and his partner/lover ex-Scotland Yard detective, Shana George, the hero and heroine)–and X thinks (incorrectly) that he can get away with it. Someone must have sent X to ruin Valentine’s Day. What’s his name?

Thank you so much for saving my life entering my contest to help me name X and get unstuck!

**Beachcomber Love will be released in the set A Valentine She’ll Remember, an anthology of 8 very special valentine romances, on February 1st. Look for it on Amazon for only $.99 or read the set for free on Kindle Unlimited.

Thank you for entering the contest!

5 Easy Ways to Breathe Life into Your Characters

hand-281995_640If you love to write fiction—be it short stories, novellas, or novels—you need to people your tales with characters. And, if you want readers to flock to your stories, these paper people need to be believable and interesting. So how does a new writer learn to develop characters that rise above flat Dick & Jane figures?

Here are five techniques to get you started. If you use all of these in your storytelling you’ll move your fiction above and beyond the realm of tired clichés.

Make them talk. In real life, people interact by speaking to one another. Characters who live in their own world, rarely interacting with others—you may call them loners—can come across as uninteresting, one-dimensional navel-gazers. Try putting them into situations where they’re forced into conversation with others. Introspection is fine, but when you let characters voice their desires, goals, intent, fears or even threaten each other…they seem so much more real.

Roger  Kathryn from Roy

Make them move. Today’s fiction is all about creating scenes that readers can visualize. We’ve been trained by the media. We go to the movies, watch TV, spend hours viewing videos on our computers or phones. We expect visual entertainment. If you don’t make your characters run, walk, gesture, eat, throw things, make love and do hundreds of other things to create visual images in the reader’s mind, you’ll have a very small audience for your stories. We need to “see” a story to become engaged in it.

Give them a friend (or enemy). When we observe a person who is acting as if they are in love, worried about another person, being kind to a stranger, or fearful of someone—we know what that feels like. Emotions are universal. We identify with a character through the feelings this person experiences towards others. And when we identify with a fictional character, we become curious and want to find out what happens to them in their story, so we keep turning pages.

Give them a history. Real people don’t just appear out of nowhere on a street, in a house, or at a place of work. They have a past, and their past determines their personality and how they react to situations. Try “interviewing” each of your main characters. Ask them where they grew up. Did they come from a warm, close family…or a troubled childhood? Was religion a part of their upbringing? What did they want to be when they grew up…and what did they actually become? Ask them anything you like. If you write the questions and answers as an exercise, similar to the format of a magazine interview, you’ll gather valuable information that will bring your people to life. Then use what you’ve learned about them to write your story.

Give them a challenge. A hard one. Don’t leave your characters to idly muse over their lives, their troubles. Force them to act. In real life, we are fascinated with people who tackle their problems with gusto. We love stories about the immigrant who came to this country with nothing and built a successful life. We love stories about the “little guy” who, against all odds, beat out the powerful corporate or government figure. Because they act when faced with a challenge, we believe they exist.

Above all, have fun with your characters. If they entertain you, you can be sure they’ll also entertain your readers.

Want more tips to bump up your fiction? You might enjoy the book inspired by courses Kathryn teaches for The Writer’s Center and Smithsonian Associates programs in Washington, DC. You can find it here: CoverFinalSM-TheExtremeNovelist—Write-Drafting/dp/0692420835/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1471356664&sr=8-1&keywords=The+Extreme+Novelist