Thursday, June 4, 2015

V is for Vacuum

Debra explores what surrounds our characters.

Although writing can at some points be a solitary, somewhat lonely endeavor, authors don't live in a vacuum. They are surrounded by external stimuli that provides inspiration, advice, support, and encouragement. It is important to remember that our characters don't live in a vacuum either.

Authors can spend a lot of time setting up scenes with vivid descriptions and details, but once the initial paragraph is passed, sometimes those settings languish in the background. Don't forget to have your characters interacting with their surroundings. Do they hear the ticking of the Grandfather clock in the entryway? Does the brocade on the sofa feel rough against their bare legs? Do their toes sink into the plush, soft carpet? Does the twittering of the birds outside remind them of camping trips with their dad?

If you 'serve' your characters food or beverages, make sure they eat it! Have them take a sip of the wine every now and again. What is their reaction to it?

Incorporate all of the senses. We tend to focus on sight and sound, but let's not forget about touch, smell, and taste.

Secondary characters not only 'fill' in background space, but they make a great way to learn about our main hero and heroine without pages and pages of inner monologue.

There is a world surrounding your characters, make sure you haven't put them in a 'bubble' and forget it's out there.

Until next time,

Happy Reading!



  1. Great post, Debra. All these details, sprinkled carefully, make scenes and stories come alive. Without them, we create bubbles that pop separately and never come together.

  2. You're right! And I love using best friends or family members as secondary characters to give insight into my main ones. Great post.

    1. Sometimes I then give those secondary characters stories of their own, but sometimes they are just there to move things along and help the reader to understand my characters better.

  3. Great post, Debra, and an excellent reminder to use a variety of ways not to just to bring our characters alive but also the world in which they live.