Editing Challenge Day 16: Know Your Character Like Yourself

This is a new part of my 30-Day Editing Challenge. Start at the beginning or find other days here.

One of the great joys of sinking into a good story is feeling that we truly understand a character. Out of that understanding and knowledge comes sympathy and investment; even if the character ends up making terrible choices (see yesterday’s exercise about touching the bear), we can still empathize if we feel that the character is real and human. In the short space of a short story, this building of character is often neglected; we’ve got so much to do already, after all. We’ve got to get in and get out.

But today’s goal it to let your reader feel just a few more sparks of recognition in your story, to feel that the character is real. Pull out your editing journal and think about brainstorming five to ten possible details about your character that could be incorporated into a scene or as a quick mention about the character’s past. I remember in one story by a colleague, a quick mention of a character playing with her cereal in a certain way made me feel a powerful aha! because it was the exact way I played with my cereal as a kid.

Other examples might be:
*the way he or she drives a car or puts on clothes (does she hook the bra behind her back or hook it in the front and swivel it around?)
*how he stirs ice cubes in a glass
*the annoyed politeness she uses when speaking to telemarketers
*the way he brushes his teeth
*the sensual pleasures she finds in life: digging hands into sacks of rice, getting stuck glue out of a bottle, cleaning her ears

What examples can you think of that will make your reader say, “Aha”?

Ready to take your writing to the next level? Consider my professional manuscript consulting.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *