August 03, 2008

Daily Blog 3: Writing, Inspiration & Sense, Five Tips to Making Characters Real

Day 3: Inspiration and Making "Sense"

Writing, I've heard, is 3 parts inspiration and 1 part perspiration. Or is it the other way around? One thing it isn't or shouldn't be - automatic.

Sure, there are supposedly writing/computer programs that will "write" for you. But a program or computer can only do so much. It can't "feel" as we do (please, no computer geeks telling me otherwise- computers are still not human); they can't sense as we do; they don't process memories as we do.

Good writing touches the senses. To care about a story or book, the reader has to care about the character and that means making them real by giving them quirks and using the senses.

Sometimes when you write it's easy to forget to include all five senses - (sight, smell, taste, touch, hearing).

Author Karen Duvall is doing an excellent series on the senses at her blog. Made me think.

Funny thing, I remember someone mentioning their pet peeves with words – wafting was one. But I like that word and I've used it; more than once, in fact. I'll have to see if I used it in Searching For A Starry Night, A Miniature Art Mystery. I think it's a good one for the sense of smell. Sorry, if it's one you hate.

Five Tips to Making your Characters Real

Most of these tips are old hat - (oops, cliche! Ok, old sombrero :>) ) to experienced writers, but sometimes a reminder doesn't hurt.

1. Remember less is more. Effective use of the senses means adding texture to your writing. A little description goes a long way in making writing more real to the reader and making the character come to life. Example: Describe what the characters sees and feels (the slick yellow tablecloth instead of just the tablecloth) or what they taste: The apple reminded her of honey.)

2. Think light drizzle, not typhoon. Don't drop your descriptions all in one place. Drizzle them in so the story isn't overwhelmed.

3. Try something new. I know, I know, don't use clich├ęs. It's mom's fault, I love those old sayings. You can use them – but make them your own or your character's. Maybe the character has a memory problem and likes to mix her metaphors, which can have some humorous results. And if at first you don't succeed, forget it. (Sometimes that's better than try, try again, right?)

4. Write what you know? Most writers have heard that one over and over. Better yet – write what you don’t know. Forget those old term paper nightmares. Research can be fun. Really.

5. If at first you don't succeed…. Start over. Sometimes, a book, a story, etc. simply won't/doesn't work. Some writers give it the 50-page rule; if it doesn't work, they start over. I'm stubborn. I hate to think I wasted all those words! But yes, sometimes you have to scrap the pages, redo them or rearrange them.

** Your turn: Have a favorite writing reminder or word of your own?How about a word you feel is overused or that you hate? I'd love to hear yours!


  1. Great post! I don't really have anything to add, but nice job.

  2. Just wanted to say that you can go back during the editing phase and add in descriptions.

    Sometimes I'm so caught up in the action, plot or characters that it's not 'til I go back that I realize I've left out descriptions. I can then decide what needs to be described and how (and how much!).

  3. Less is definitely more when it comes to romance, including the senses! LOL.

    Good post, Chris. Now go follow my daily advice at

  4. Hi Chris,

    I stole this from Gillian Roberts:

    "Don't write it right, write it down."


  5. An irksome word or two. I just read this misuse in a novel. The protagonist claimed she was "nauseous". She really meant she was "nauseated". I hate it when good writers misuse those two words!


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