characters / writers tips

Writers Tip #54: Do You Know Your Characters

When you read your story, does it sound off, maybe you can’t quite put your finger on it, but you know you’ve done something wrong? Sometimes–maybe even lots of times–there are simple fixes. These writer’s tips will come at you once a week, giving you plenty of time to go through your story and make the adjustments.

Today’s tip: Show (Not Tell) Your Characters

If you saw your main character walking down the street, could you tell it was him/her by the confidence in their stride, the tilt of their head, the way their eyes scan the crowd? Could you smell their unique after shave/perfume? Do they talk with their hands or clench their fists when they’re angry?

A large percentage of real-life communication is nonverbal. Everyone has unique mannerisms that separate them from their peers. Don’t depend upon dialogue tags to characterize your actors. Show me they’re shrieking by their wide eyes, their flying hands, the way people around them pull back as though struck by the shrillness. If they’re whining, show it by an ingratiating smile, in slumped shoulders. We should be able to identify who is talking without the tag.

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More on non-verbal communication:

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Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy. She is webmaster for six blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer, a columnist for and TeachHUB, Editorial Review Board member for Journal for Computing TeachersCisco guest blog, IMS tech expert, and a monthly contributor to Today’s Author. In her free time, she is the editor of a K-8 technology curriculumK-8 keyboard curriculumK-8 Digital Citizenship curriculum, and creator of technology training books for how to integrate technology in education. Currently, she’s editing a thriller that should be out to publishers next summer.

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8 thoughts on “Writers Tip #54: Do You Know Your Characters

  1. Pingback: Writers Tips #58: Torture Your Protagonist | WordDreams...

    • Ha! That’s clever. You are definitely wrapped up in your writing. If I saw my characters, I’d probably stealthily observe them, see how they acted so I could faithfully represent them. It would be quite a lot of fun!


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