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10 Posts tagged with the character_arc tag

The Halo Effect

Posted by CreateSpaceBlogger Feb 7, 2018

Should you chase the Halo Effect to sell more books?


I'm short and bald.... Well, shortish. According to the unwritten rules of personal bias, those are two strikes against me. I get no love from the Halo Effect.


I should explain. The Halo Effect is when you and I (independently or collectively) judge someone based on our personal biases. For example, tall men are generally viewed as strong and powerful before anything is even established about them. They don't have to speak a word before they are viewed as leaders. Obviously, not all tall men are leaders, but we have a cultural bias that often times causes us to assume that they are. They are given the benefit of the doubt. I'm sure there are tall men reading this, and they are countering the above statement with a litany of incidences that prove there are more drawbacks than benefits to being tall and male, but that is beyond the discussion I want to get into. What I'd like to discuss is how the Halo Effect impacts a writer when it comes to character development.


Think about it. If you want to know what your own personal biases are, look at the characters you've developed, particularly your protagonists, and then look to see how your personal character bias matches or defies societal norms. The question you are faced with is would it help you sell more books if you developed characters that are more in line with what society considers appealing.


Personally, I’d advise against chasing the Halo Effect in an effort to sell more books, but I fully admit that I don’t know if that is the right "business" move.  A lot of romance novels do very well, in part because they include characters that take full advantage of the Halo Effect.


I guess I'm perpetually pulling for the underdog. I love it when the shortish, bald guy gets the win.


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Richard Ridley is an award winning author and paid CreateSpace contributor.

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Character Development Lessons from Breaking Bad

The ordinary protagonist

1,314 Views 11 Comments Permalink Tags: character, character_development, character_arc, characterization, writing_characters

I'm going to commit a literary faux paus today and discuss an element of story in a different medium, one that traditionally is not met with favor among novelists. That medium is television. Now, in case you just groaned and rolled your eyes, let me explain that today's television programming is varied and much grittier than it once was. There's a lot of high quality narrative writing at nearly every stop on the dial or phone app or streaming service, however television is consumed these days.


The show I want to talk about, Breaking Bad, ended its run a few years ago, but it's one of my favorites. I've said repeatedly that watching that series from beginning to end is like taking a Master's class in character development for any type of storyteller. Walter White, the protagonist, may be one of the most fully realized characters I've ever encountered, but I want to talk about another character, the villain, Gustavo "Gus" Fring.


Gus is menacing. He's stoic. He's brutal. He's duplicitous. He's everything you want in a villain and more. The creators of the show did something brilliant with Gus' villainy. They hid it under a cool exterior that could even be soft at times. I think he yelled once during the entire time he was on the show. He did bad things, but he did them in an almost businesslike manner. The creators allowed you to see his tragic past and witness what turned him down the psychopathic road. They gave you a reason to root for him. They managed to make you feel uneasy about him and sympathetic toward him at the same time. It helped that his nemesis was a somewhat volatile good guy that you weren't always sure was the good guy.


So, today's Breaking Bad lesson is that your bad guy has to be just as complicated as your protagonist. Yes, he's the heavy, but that doesn't mean you skimp on his dimensions. Find something that will give the readers pause, where they may even find themselves hoping he (or she) survives.


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Richard Ridley is an award-winning author and paid CreateSpace contributor.


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The Basic Elements of a Character Arc

Taking a Character from Good to Bad

1,551 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: novel, author, writing, characters, storytelling, character_development, character_arc, writing_characters, villians, scene_writing

I think we have to come up with a different word for what we all do. We don't just write. We invent. We research. We consume large quantities of coffee. We battle angst and doubt over every little word. And we spend huge chunks of time reading what we've already written. At least I do. In fact, when all is said and done, I would say that I have spent more hours reading a book I've written than I have actually spent physically writing it.


If I didn't know better, I'd say all this reading is a waste of time. But I honestly don't think it is. Reading and re-reading a novel as I'm writing it burns a story into my brain. The more I read the pages I've written, the more attached I become to the vision of it. Eventually, that vision more or less grows on its own.


I can't say for sure, but I think this organic growth of story happens in the re-reading of it every day because the tone of the book becomes second nature to me. I absorb the tone and keep it consistent throughout the writing.


Tone is perhaps the most underrated aspect of a story. With the wrong tone, a story goes nowhere. Without a consistent tone, a story goes nowhere. Reading material I've already contributed to a novel helps me fine-tune and keep the same tone throughout a story.


As far as finding a different word for what we do, I have no idea what the solution is. I'm thrilled to be labeled a writer. I just wish people understood that the act of writing is actually a very small part of what we do. We are, in essence, storysmiths.


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Richard Ridley is an award-winning author and paid CreateSpace contributor.

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Avoid Gratuitous Material

Change It Up!

5,569 Views 2 Comments Permalink Tags: authors, book, writers, publishing, writing, story, draft, craft, tone, character_development, writing_tips, character_arc, author_advice

I just completed the first draft and first rewrite of a new novel, and it is now in the hands of beta readers. I'm in that horrible no-man's land where I await their feedback before I undertake a second rewrite. It's horrible because I have no idea how delusional I was in thinking this manuscript was ready to be seen by someone other than my wife or myself. A few beta readers have contacted me privately with encouraging feedback, and I must admit to breathing a sigh of relief upon receiving their messages.


The thing that has me so on edge with this story is the way I structured my protagonist. He's the most despicable good guy I've ever created. I've played around with various unsavory skeletons in the closets of my heroes before, but this time I fell in league with a fictional good guy that has more in common with Hannibal Lecter than he does with Harry Potter.


Allowing such a character to lead a story is tricky business, but here are the five rules I followed in order to create this good guy who is anything but:


  1. He is beloved - Even though this protagonist is an awful character, he has at least one person who is totally devoted to him and believes in him no matter what.

  2. He is resolutely loyal to another human being - Conversely, while he does terrible things, he does genuinely care for another human being and even looks out for him at tremendous cost.

  3. He is what he can't control - While he does bad things, he is a product of his past and the misfortune that was heaped upon him. He's bad because he believes being good cost him everything.

  4. He is honorable - That sounds like a counterintuitive statement about a guy who does bad things, but he never pretends to be anything other than what he is, and he never apologizes for it.

  5. He is vulnerable - He does heartless things, but that doesn't mean he doesn't have a heart. He displays blips of weaknesses that give the readers a glimpse of his sensitive side.  


Now all the feedback isn't in yet, and I can't truly say I've nailed it, but early word seems to indicate he won't be the focus of my second rewrite. How about you? How bad are your good guys?


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Richard Ridley is an award-winning author and paid CreateSpace contributor.

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Make Your Protagonist Likable

Defend Your Antagonist

4,695 Views 7 Comments Permalink Tags: writing, craft, branding, character_development, character_arc

Welcome to the Weekly News Roundup - a collection of news, advice and opinions from around the virtual globe.




How to Create Characters So Real You'll Be Tempted to Add Them to Your Christmas List - The Seekers

Author Lisa Carter explains how she approaches character building.    


8 Reasons Every Book Needs a Business Plan to Achieve Success - Writer's Digest

Indie authors don't need to create a book proposal, but they still need a business plan.    




5 Tips for Recording Better Location Audio When Shooting As a One Man Band - Norm Kroll

A bad audio capture can ruin a good film.   


'3 Days to Kill' Director McG Shares Six Golden Rules of Filmmaking - nofilmschool

Besides having the coolest name in film, McG knows how to make a blockbuster.     




How Are You Listening to Music? - Musician Makers

An infographic that shows the listening behavior of today's typical music lover.


Clever Way to Make Your Song Lyrics More Tweetable -

Given the character limitations of Twitter, lyrics seem to be tailor made for tweets.


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Richard Ridley is an award-winning author and paid CreateSpace contributor.


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Weekly News Roundup- March 7, 2014

Weekly News Roundup- February 28, 2014

3,473 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: filmmaking, business, writing, lyrics, character_development, character_arc, music_production, film_location

A character arc is a fancy way of explaining how a character changes throughout the course of a story. The arc can be physical or emotional, and it doesn't have to be major, but you want your main characters, especially your protagonist, to experience some sort of change along the journey that is your novel. If your readers get to the end of your book and think "She didn't learn anything! He's still so selfish! No one matured at all!" you probably didn't tell a very interesting story. You want your readers to think the opposite. "Wow! She finally grew up! He learned that hard work does pay! They got what they deserved!" Character arcs satisfy readers, and satisfied readers come back for future books - and tell their friends.


I know from experience that the idea of "crafting an arc"can be daunting. However, it doesn't have to be. Here is a good way to approach it: As you set out to write, think about where your main characters are at the beginning of the story. Ask yourself questions such as:


What do they want?


What are they missing?


What is holding them back from getting what they want or where they need to be?


Ask yourself these questions first. The answers can be as broad as "She wants to find love" or as specific as "He wants to get back the ring that was stolen from his office desk." Then, as you go about developing the plot, keep those questions in mind. If the things your characters do and say throughout the story are consistently in pursuit of a goal, however small, an arc will naturally develop. Keeping those questions in mind will also stop you from going off on tangents and writing scenes that don't push the story forward, something I'll address in a future post.


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Maria Murnane is a paid CreateSpace contributor. She is the award-winning author of the romantic comedies Perfect on Paper, It's a Waverly Life, Honey on Your Mind, and Chocolate for Two. She also provides consulting services on book publishing and marketing. Learn more at


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The Basic Elements of a Character Arc

What Do Your Characters Want?

4,863 Views 1 Comments 0 References Permalink Tags: self_publishing, writing, craft, character_arc

So you've gathered a group of beta-readers, and they've all given you the same feedback: Your characters are a bit one-dimensional. After mending your broken heart (and treating your throbbing headache), you decide you have to attack the problem. But how?


The best way to give characters depth is to give them a life outside of your novel. Back in the days before a web of technology connected the world virtually, some authors would create pages and pages of background information on their characters that served as a guideline for the behaviors they displayed in the novel itself. In most cases, this background information was completely independent of the plot of the novel. It was just a way to grow the characters and make their actions more organic.


The bonus of doing such a thing today is that you can take the strategy to the social media environment and give your characters a virtual background. Many authors set up accounts on various sites under a character's name and let a character mature in a very public manner. In essence, the character is forced to deal with "real" life and develop depth. As the writer, that extensive knowledge of depth will help you create a multidimensional character within the context of the story, and - BONUS - it will help you create a following and readership for your book or series. 


One tip before you implement this strategy: Be upfront about what you're doing. Don't present the character as a living, breathing human being. In your description, announce that this is the persona of a fictional character for your upcoming book. You don't want to mislead people into thinking they're developing a relationship with a real person.


Giving your characters virtual depth can give you the access to reach a lot of fans for your upcoming release and help you write a better story.


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Richard Ridley is an award-winning author and paid CreateSpace contributor.


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Character and Action

What Do Your Characters Want?

2,752 Views 1 Comments 0 References Permalink Tags: authors, author, writers, craft, character_development, character_arc

A good story has three main components that give it stability. There are countless minor components that give a story style and genre appeal, but as I've studied the art of storytelling, I've identified these primary components as the foundation of a good story:


  1. A likable protagonist - If you've crafted an engaging plot where every twist and turn is carefully conceived and orchestrated, it will be all for naught if your protagonist isn't likable. Notice I used the word "likable." In my experience, the most likable people (real or imaginary) are deeply flawed. They aren't perfect. They don't always make the right decisions. What makes them likable is their desire and struggle to be better.

  2. An unpredictable antagonist - Bad guys are truly terrifying when they are uneven. They dole out punishment in unequal measures. You never know if they are going to bring down the hammer or simply an admonishing glare. And it's important to note that your antagonist doesn't always have to be a person. It can be human, beast, disease or anything else you can imagine

  3. A well-defined conflict - A reader should be able to identify and describe the main conflict of a story in one concise sentence. "Michael loves a woman who is out of his league." "Susan faces a battle with stage 4 lung cancer." "Detective Franks hunts down a cunning serial killer." Of course there's more to your story, but this is the anchor conflict. This is how your readers will ultimately describe your story.


That's the crux of a story. Call it the three-legged stool definition. In order for your story to grab a reader's attention and keep your stool from tipping over, these three elements must be constructed with precision and care.


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Richard Ridley is an award-winning author and paid CreateSpace contributor.


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Is There Value in Formulaic Writing?

Keep Them Guessing to Keep Them Reading

58,573 Views 0 Comments 0 References Permalink Tags: writers, writing, characters, fiction, drafts, creativity, conflict, craft, character_arc

You've paced your book perfectly. Each paragraph, page and chapter has created a perfect base for your final crescendo. You type the last word of the conflict your story has been building up to and then?you realize there's still more to write.


But how can that be? You've designed your entire story around the conflict. How can there still be more to write? Writing a book is like any other journey. You start off plotting your course to reach a destination, but when you reach that destination, you understand it's not the end of your journey. You don't stop living just because you've arrived where you set out to arrive.


It's that sliver of life after the conflict that will carry you to the end of the story. My familiar refrain is my number one piece of advice on how to approach the action after the conflict. Do what's best for the story. What I mean by that is don't concern yourself with how things should end from the reader's point of view or even from the writer's point of view. Separate yourself from these two roles. Get inside your characters' heads. Draw on what you know to be the chaotic and unpredictable nature of fate. Identify the tone of the story you've written thus far. Take all these elements into account and create the final pages of your book.


If that doesn't clear things up, try another approach. Ask yourself how your readers are expecting your book to end. If you get a clear idea of what those expectations are, do the opposite. Write it out. Include it in your first draft, and then tinker with it until you're satisfied it's right for your story. Above all, readers want to be surprised. If you can come up with an ending that both fits the rest of your book and surprises your readers at the same time, you have a book they'll be compelled to discuss with their family and friends.


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Richard Ridley is an award-winning author and paid CreateSpace contributor.


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Is There Value in Formulaic Writing?

Be a Rule-breaker

2,894 Views 0 Comments 0 References Permalink Tags: authors, characters, writing_process, craft, character_development, ending, character_arc, point_of_view

Let's face it: as novelists, we often have to do awful things. Even though the awful things we do are to imaginary characters in works of fiction, they still don't always come easily. Our jobs are to bend, break, and build characters.


I've said many times on this blog that you can't let yourself worry about the reader when you write. Uninteresting novels with flimsy characters are what happens when you write for the reader. You must remain committed to what's best for the story in order for it to be authentic and worthwhile. We all know that sometimes what's best for the story is to challenge characters in unthinkable ways.


And this applies no matter what category or genre you specialize in. Let's look at an example from a children's book: how many of us were devastated when E.B. White did not let Charlotte live in Charlotte's Web? Wilbur had to face the loss of his dear friend. He had to experience grief and anguish.


Try to think of what would have happened if Charlotte hadn't died. What if E.B. White couldn't bring himself to do that one awful thing and he spared the beloved spider? You'd end up with a story that lacks any kind of depth. In fact, I'm willing to bet the story would have been somewhat of a disappointment, and it likely wouldn't have gone on to influence generations of young readers.


Do those awful things, not because you're a bad person, but because it's the right thing to do for your story. Your characters will be richer, your plots will be better developed, and your readers will have a much more fulfilling reading experience for it.


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Richard Ridley is an award-winning author and paid CreateSpace contributor.



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What Do Your Characters Want?

Peripeteia: Another Storytelling Tool Explained

1,404 Views 0 Comments 0 References Permalink Tags: authors, writing, characters, craft, character_development, character_arc


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