A piece of advice I’ve gotten from pretty much every author who is asked how to become a writer is to read as much as you can. Although most of the time I’m searching for another answer since I’ve heard it so many times already, I have to agree that it’s good advice.
I always find it really helpful to have books I can go to when I’m having writer’s block or if I’m writing something I just have no idea how to approach. I also find that after reading certain books, they find their way into my own writing somehow and help transform it. A friend of mine asked me to help her edit the novel she’s working on and I found myself frequently recommending books that have similar elements to her story or are good examples of things I think would help her writing. So I thought it may be fun write a post sharing some of the books I like to go to when I need help with all of you. I’ll try my best not to spoil anything.
Because there are so many influential books that come to mind, I’ve decided instead of writing one super extremely long post, I will write multiple long post. I am by no means an expert in writing in any way, but I wanted to also include some of my own tips for whatever subject the post discusses. Feel free to comment your own or let me know if any of this is at all helpful. 🙂
If I were to talk about what I think are my strengths and weaknesses, crafting characters would probably would fall under both. In some of the stories I’ve written, the characters just come to me. I have their whole history figured out, their relationships with others, their likes and dislikes, their voice. In others, it takes me long while to figure out who they are. I’m a big pantser, meaning I like to write without an outline, and most of the time the characters will reveal themselves to me as I continue to write.
Although, one of the things I did do when I started my latest fantasy novel is make character charts for my three leads, which I should really update because now there are arguably 4-5 leads. On this chart I list their age, appearance, qualities (negative and positive), skills / abilities, fears, ambitions / wants, background / history, important people in their life, and their family. Admittedly, I’ve forgotten to look back on it, but I think it was really helpful in the earlier stages when I had no idea really what my book was going to be about.
Another thing I did with this fantasy novel was create character playlists, which I may share with you later (I’ll link it here if I do). In this book there is the protagonist, I’ll call her MC, then there is the prince, and then there is the other guy. For MC and the other guy, it was easy. MC gets a lot of power, dark. and angry music, so a lot of Fall Out Boy, Sia, and Halsey to name a few. For the other guy, he gets some overlapping angry music, but a lot of break up / sad love songs. Poor guy. So he gets FOB, Adele, Troye Sivan. Then for the prince, I still am working on his playlist, but he’s got Mumford & Sons and Green Day so far.
If those doesn’t work, all I can say is just keep writing. Eventually you’ll figure it out. 😉 Now onto the books!
Shatter Me Trilogy by Tahereh Mafi:
- Juliette’s transformation throughout this book is just incredible and not only do we see it in the things she does and says, but we also see it in the writing. We meet Juliette at the beginning the series when she’s been isolated in prison for 264 days and is bordering on losing her sanity. She’s very afraid and kind of filled with guilt and self-hate, but throughout the series we see her grow and transform into a strong and confident leader.
The Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken:
- This is another series where the main character transform from a very afraid, very quiet, very broken person in the beginning and finds so much strength throughout the series. Ruby’s character arc and her growth does not happen without set backs. There are many parts in these books where she closes herself off and she makes some not so great decisions, but I greatly admire how Alex was able to create and develop such a complex character.
A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas:
- This is the second book in the A Court of Thorns and Roses series, but I’ve chosen this book because Feyre’s transformation throughout it is so inspiring and so well done. I’ll try spoil the books for you, but at the beginning of this book Feyre is going through some really serious PTSD and a lot of guilt. She really is not in a good or healthy place and she’s really broken but throughout the book she begins to heal. She begins to find herself again and love again. Even in life, I find her strength inspiring. All the things she’s endured, all the things she’s overcome, reading her story, even though it’s fictional, reminds me of the strength we all have to persist and carry on and succeed.
Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo:
- The characters in this series have my heart and so does Leigh Barudgo’s writing. One of the things I love the most about this book is how we are introduced to the characters. The main cast is built from six different people, all criminals, all morally gray, and all with very complex pasts. I love how as we read, their histories are slowly revealed to us and in such an organic way. It’s like flashbacks but the flashbacks are so seamlessly woven into the story that you don’t even realize you’re being taken out of the present story line, if that makes any sense. Either way, it’s genius and has been a great help in my own writing.
Throne of Glass Series by Sarah J. Maas:
- I know for some people, they feel like the characters have changed too much throughout this series, that in the later books, they seem like they’re not the same characters at all, but that’s what I really like about Throne of Glass. Five books, six including the prequel, have been released for this series and so much has happened since Throne of Glass. To me, I would be surprised if our characters stayed the same, so that is why I’m also including this series under character development. I think what SJM excels in general at creating characters. There are so many characters in this series, a huge main cast, and also many supporting and minor roles, but somehow she’s able to make them all very individual and unique and complex. It’s something I find really interesting and something I really admire, the fact that she can have so many characters in this series and still get them all straight. Also, I know it’s not the same for everyone, but I’m genuinely interested in all the characters. For some of them, it took while for them to grow on me, but by book 5, I’ve really developed a love for all the main cast and I feel no urge to skip over any of their POVs.
Thank you for reading! Next up, I’ll talk about world building!