OKAY…the wildness of the Christmas/Winter Holiday season is upon us! What a marvelous time to observe characters! According to the PEWS Research Project for Excellence in Journalism 2012 report, the majority of the top-selling magazines are people focused. I call them GS’s (gossip-spreaders). The journalists who write for them call them M&Ms (money-makers). Whatever the label, the techniques used in developing these “people stories” are excellent tools for serious fiction and non-fiction writers. And there are millions of readers to prove the relevance of their methods. Among the fifteen top best-selling magazines (which include People, Better Homes and Gardens, Reader’s Digest, Good Housekeeping, Family Circle and Sports Illustrated) over 26 million readers each month “observe” their favorite “characters.”
Here are a few tips we might consider adopting when developing real or imaginary people to walk and talk in our stories.
- Vices and Victories. These two elements in a person’s life hold great interest for readers. Recently a much admired TV personality was “exposed” in the media (followed by multiple magazine articles) for “crimes against others.” Even though the revelation broke many hearts and diminished the trustworthiness of humans on this planet, readers still want to know more and are buying the magazines (with books to follow, I’m sure) to accomplish that. THE OTHER side of that coin is the “true stories” of victorious living—about the people who have overcome disease and disabilities (Christopher Reeve/Superman) or great tragedies in their lives (Holocaust and/or natural disaster survivors).
- Children and Pets. When Liza Minnelli talks about her Mom, Judy Garland, or Stella McCartney mentions her Dad, Paul, journalists are there to tell the story. When Sandra Bullock carries her rescued dogs down the street or Serena Williams cuddles her pet Yorkie on the tennis court sidelines, it creates “news” AND a look into their personalities. YOUR CHARACTERS should be developed at this same level. PEOPLE want to KNOW the details. Even if those details are only briefly mentioned in the novel, they allow the reader to develop their own perspective of the characters.
- Personal and Not-So-Private Relationships. Have you noticed the multitude of YouTube and celebrity tabloids that constantly headline “Then and Now” titles? Drew Barrymore (the little girl who screamed at the top of her lungs when meeting E.T. for the first time) is a writer’s dream as they “watch” her on-film and off-film life evolve. Ben Carson is also a major example of change-of-life experiences—from belligerent child who did poorly in school to neurosurgeon, professor and now potential presidential candidate. His life intrigues readers.
Bottom Line: Writers cannot avoid the necessity to be investigative observers who keep detailed, descriptive files of the life and living examples appearing right before our eyes. The folks who buy our books do so for many reasons (LOOK for my blog series in 2015), and certainly a main one is the element of “self-identifying.” Of course, no two people are ever exactly alike. However, we all share commonalities in the good, bad and ugly of our lives and seeing those things PLAY OUT in the lives of storybook characters HELPS us define and redefine who we are and where we are going.
This is a FUN part of research that brings living, breathing characters to the pages of our books!
|ABOUT ROYALENE DOYLE: Royalene Doyle is a Ghostwriter with Outskirts Press, bringing more than 35 years of writing experience to authors who need “just a little assistance” with completing their writing projects. She has worked with both experienced and fledgling writers helping complete projects in multiple genres. When a writer brings the passion they have for their work and combines it with Royalene’s passion to see the finished project in print, books are published and the writer’s legacy is passed forward.|