Monday, 27 September 2010

How to Create Convincing Characters for your Novels

The writer may discover after reading the first draft of a novel that the fiction characters seem more like chess pieces than warm blooded creatures. They lack soul, life or believability and seem to comply too easily with the author’s wishes. How can the author create realistic characters within the novel?

Dos and Don’ts of Creating Characters for Novels

Creating characters for novels is not always easy, particularly if the writer cannot identify with any of them. The following malpractices in novel writing could result in cardboard cut-out of characters.

  • Creating a character merely to serve the plot. For example, a conveyor of information or a manoeuvre of the other characters into situations, places or states of mind. “Gadget characters” as I call them, could be a best friend, a doctor, an office gossip or a wizened aunt.
  • Subconsciously allowing stereotypical characteristics to leak into the characters. This could be a secretary who gossips, a copper with alcoholic tendencies or a librarian who reads a lot.
  • Not understanding the characters enough by not giving granting motives and desires to drive them, or not paying heed to what makes them tick.
  • Making blanket assumptions about how a character might behave or think when in a certain situation or role. Such as, all fathers are little boys at heart, or all women really want to get married, or all school children hate Mondays.
Conflicts within Characters

Take a listen to a short excerpt of one of my novels, Nora, also on audio.  Here, we learn how the past and the present collides upon Nancy, the main character. This sheds some light upon her behavior, but it also poses more questions than it answers. We can see that Nancy is troubled and that something untoward had occurred at the care center where she had once worked. The fact she has a 'pretty face' has significance and creates conflict upon the sort of person she has become. She has a pretty face, but what is her true nature? What has she done? Such contrasts can add depth to fictional characters and have impact upon their behavior.

Fictional Characters with Strong Identities

The tips to creating realistic characters in novels are to be brutally honest about them. Consider the following remedies:
  • Cut the deadwood characters, particularly those that seem to stand by and do nothing. Would the plot miss them? Consider combining two or more minor characters.
  • Conduct a character questionnaire to draw out the character by inventing backgrounds, tastes and family history. Filling in details will help make the character more real and better understood.
  • Draw on the self. Give the character a common ground with the author. Drawing on personal experience such as divorce or displacement will make the author empathise with the character and more likely, the reader will too.
  • A stereotypical character with unusual or unexpected qualities will make the character more interesting, such as a pub landlord who collects fine art or a nurse who is secretly dyslexic.
It is also important to think about how the characters relate to the plot. A successful novel is one that has a character-driven story. In other words, characters that have such a life of their own, they move the story along without author intervention. It might help to create contrasts between the characters and the story by introducing obstacles that test the characters to the limit. Entwining the characters within the plot is likely to create a more coherent novel with a strong identity.

Making Characters Interesting in Novels

Wooden characters in novels just need a tweak or two to make them more believable. The key is gaining an intimate understanding of what drives them. Identifying with them on a deep and personal level will create depth to the character, and the reader will pick up on this when reading the novel. Cut the deadwood. Combine two minor characters or give a stereotypical character unusual qualities. A character questionnaire will also help the author get to know their characters more.

Links on How to Create Realistic Characters in Novels

Books on writing novels
How to create characters in novels
Making fictional characters believable
Character development questionnaire
How to write dialogue in fiction

Sunday, 12 September 2010

Make the Most of Free Adwords from Google

Google’s Adwords is a great way of getting relevant traffic to your website. But every so-often, Google issues Adword coupons worth a fixed amount to webmasters, giving them the opportunity to take part in the Adwords program for free. But how does the Adwords coupon work?

Gain Website Traffic for Free from Google

Google AdWords For Dummies
click to buy from Amazon
Most webmasters earn revenue from companies that display adverts alongside their web content. Potential customers, who click on such an ad, earn the webmaster revenue. The click might be worth a few pence or a few pounds depending upon the product offered and the competition. These ads can also be seen on Googles SERPS, or search result pages. These advert links are known as Adwords.

How Adwords Work

Well-thought out Adwords could draw customers into the website via the ad link, meaning only relevant customers seeking a particular product or service will visit the website. This could prove invaluable to the webmaster wishing to make sales or earn commission (such goals are known as “conversions”) and is a cheap way for entrepreneurs on a budget to advertise and find customers.

Free Adword Coupons from Google

The beauty of using Adwords is that the webmaster pays only if the potential customer clicks on his or her Adwords. To get to grips with how the free Adwords work, it is necessary to explain how Adwords normally work.

Google Adwords Plain and Simple

Setting up an Adwords account is easy.
  1. Firstly, the webmaster wishing to promote his or her services via Adwords may visit and select the desired currency with which to pay for the Adsense program.
  2. Decide on the desired audience or ad group. This means selecting the language and the region of the customers sought after, and even the time of day for exposure. A website adverting holidays in the Lake District for example may wish to display Adwords only in the UK. A company offering online courses in screenwriting may advertise nationally.
  3. Select your budget. This means deciding upon the maximum you are willing to pay for each Ad click or cost per click (CPC) if a customer visits your site via an Adword. Higher bidding keywords will be placed near the top of the search page; cheaper ones, nearer the bottom.
  4. Consider a title for the Adwords, which must not exceed 25 characters, followed by a brief description of what the website offers. The webmaster must deliberate on this part to ensure the title and description is enticing and yet accurate. Google offer Adword tutorials to help webmasters select the best Adwords for their businesses.
Free Advertising from Google

The webmaster would normally pay to take part in the Adwords program. For many, Adwords is invaluable, for a click into the website could culminate in a sale or a commission.
But Google offers free Adsense coupons for those who are reluctant to take part. A coupon to the value of £75 is worth 300 visitors if each click were worth 25p each. And by using the coupon, it is all for free.

It must be noted, however, the coupon reduces in value after a period of time, so the decisive webmaster may benefit from acting promptly. Such a free trial may result in such an increase in website traffic and sales, the webmaster may decide to continue with Adwords in the future.

Is Adwords for Me?

Adwords is essential for the success of many websites and niche businesses, as a click worth 30p or so, could result in the sale of art materials worth £30; another click worth £2 could result in the yearly subscription to a car magazine worth £20. But the webmaster who does not offer a product as such, but informative advice, may think twice before taking part in Adwords. Although it might result in an increase in traffic and therefore more Adsense, the profits might not be so marked.