Monday, January 31, 2011

Character Comparisons

Using comparisons in illustrating characters can be very effective. Check out these various ways of describing characters.

1a. He was graceful.

1b. He moved as fluidly as Michael Jordon executing a perfect layup.

2a. The room smelled horrible.

2b. Even skunk odor would be an improvement over the smell in that room.

3a. Ellen was the smartest woman in her class.

3b. Ellen could give science lessons to Einstein.

4a. Fred was too handsome to be a Fred.

4b. Cary Grant, Brad Pitt, Adonis, Apollo--every one of them would envy Fred's classic good looks.

5a. Fido was the ugliest dog I've ever seen.

5b. Fido's looks would be standard fare if he were a bulldog, but he was a French poodle.

Using a comparison in describing a character adds punch and style to a story.

Have a great week!


Fran Shaff, Award-Winning Author

Monday, January 24, 2011

Character Characteristes Revealed

"George was a stupid man."

Pretty boring, right? There are many ways to say "George was a stupid man," and they are all much more fun to read than this plain, colorless statement of fact.

"The teacher explained four times the process of opening a jar of peanut butter, but George still did not understand the procedure."

"The third time George placed the nail into the electric outlet, he decided it was too painful to indulge his curiosity."

"When the banker handed George the loan agreement and asked him to sign his name he explained he wasn't deaf and had never learned to sign."

Showing the traits of characters when writing a piece of fiction instead of telling facts always makes perusing the story more interesting for readers.

So remember, we don't say: "Judy was old." We say, "When Judy was twelve she witnessed President Harry Truman's marriage to Bess." or "Judy lost a fortune when the stock market crashed in '29."

Next week, more on character creation.

Have a great week,


Fran Shaff

Monday, January 17, 2011

Flash Blogging and Characters

Stories consisting of a few hundred words, maybe a thousand words are referred to as "flash fiction."

I've been thinking about brevity in writing, and I've decided to start "flash" blogging. We're all too busy to read long posts, no matter how much we may enjoy taking in a well developed column. So, starting this week, as I resume my blogs on writing technique, for the most part, I'm going to keep my posts brief, but highly informative (hopefully).

Character creation is challenging for beginning writers. They wonder, how can I make the people in my stories as real as possible?

Here are two easy ways to jump start creative juices when inventing believable fictional characters.

1. Let your character emulate a real person you know or let him be a composite of two or more people you know (know personally or through the media, etc) Write a complete description of these real people, embellishing where you see fit in order to create the character you envision for your story.

2. Let your character emulate a fictional character you see as very real, someone who is as messed up, evil, good or heroic as you want your fictional character to be. Write a complete description using this fictional character and embellish as liberally as you need to in order to create the character you want.

Naturally, character development is much more complicated than this, but these two starting points are excellent places to begin to get the creative juices flowing.

Try it!


Fran Shaff, Award-Winning Author

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Calling Writers of All Skill Levels

Do you know about Watt Pad? (

I just discovered this writing website recently. It's quite an ingenious site, and it has millions of readers.

At Watt Pad everyone can post her creative writing for everyone else to see, comment on, like, vote for, etc.

Teens through adults, male and female, truly everyone is posting there. It is a blast to see the variety of stories. I especially enjoy reading posts from teens. Some of them are quite talented though their stories often need lots of work from a technical point of view. Most of the time they've got great titles, premises and usually they're about things of interest to young people--peer relationships, school-related activities, etc.

I'm looking forward to learning more about Watt Pad as I try to figure it out. (Maybe I should message one of the teens for help.)


Fran Shaff, Award-Winning Author

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Reaching Goals in 2011

Long-term goals are reached by working on them one day at a time.

Happy New Year, Everyone. It's time for reassessing, reorganizing and regrouping in order to set and meet goals for 2011.

A few days ago I set up a plan to meet my goals for this year. As usual, I've got a long list of things I hope to accomplish. At first glance the list is rather disheartening. I wonder just how I will have enough time to accomplish everything I want to get done.

When that gloomy feeling came over me I wanted to cross a few things off the list. I knew I'd have to make sacrifices in order to succeed in reaching all of my goals. But success doesn't come to quitters (unless quitting is their objective as in giving up smoking or some other activity :-) ).

Once I "womaned up" and decided to forge ahead despite the difficulty I'm bound to have in achieving my goals, I set up a day to day plan I will enact and follow in order to reach my goals.

We're all familiar with the saying, "A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step." It's a well-known saying because it is true. No matter how lofty our goals may be, we can achieve them by consistently working toward them each and every day whether we are trying to quit smoking, lose weight or complete that first novel.

Best of luck to all of you in reaching your goals in 2011, and God bless each and every one of you with a wonderful year.


Fran Shaff, Award-Winning Author