September 11th, 2019

Ten More F-Words for Writers and their Characters


Fae Rowen

I promise this is the last in what was never intended to become a series. But it seems every time I think of "F" words, more come to mind...

My blog with the first six words can be found here. Like the first six words, these F-words are perfectly "clean" for mixed company and young ears, so no worries, no matter where you're reading this.

Let's start with a group of three words that might make life difficult for your characters: festering, forbidden, and frantic.

Is there something in a character's backstory that is like a festering wound? We all know that to avoid staying two-dimensional, our characters need a backstory. Backstory is true in the eye of the beholder, so it will have a lot more impact on your character than those who experienced the same event in your story.

You probably don't need to think deep to find something in your own past that you remember differently from a sibling or a parent. For you, it bordered on traumatic. For someone else, they barely noted it. They certainly remember it differently than you do.

If something was forbidden, that, too, can add to backstory. If it is currently forbidden, well, you've just upped the conflict in your story. Remember that the sooner you resolve the forbidden element, the sooner you've resolved the tension in that thread. To maintain reader interest, you can resolve the forbidden element then up the stakes by adding a new layer of tension.

How do you do this? Well, let's say your romantic couple each have reasons for their affections to be forbidden. She believes he loves her sister. He believes he's the bastard son of her father. When she discovers that he doesn't love her sister—that was just her sister's girlhood fantasy and revealed when her sister happily gets engaged to someone else—your female lead character believes the way is clear for her to love—and have that love reciprocated by—the male character. Oops, he still believes she's his half sister, and no matter how attracted to her he is, he's going to fight the attraction, even to the point of hurting her. For her own good.

These first two F-words can lead to making characters frantic, but so can a lot of other things, like ticking clocks, plot twists, other characters. You know...all the things that make writing your own stories so much fun. A frantic character can make mistakes take work for you, as the author, for the rest of your book. Or you can semi-resolve them and leave your characters with a worse dilemma.

Which brings us to the next group of F-words: facade, flexible, and family.

Maybe you thought of family as in F-word when you read my first blog on F-words. There is no doubt that, for many people, family is an F-bomb. There is a reason so many people dislike (even hate) the holidays. How many of your friends currently aren't speaking to one or more of their relatives?

Feel free to take out your aggressions, your feelings of being slighted or devalued, the times you were powerless to state your truth, around your family. Those experiences will make your story, and your characters, more authentic. On the other hand, you may be one of the lucky ones who had great parents and supportive siblings. That would color a character's backstory as well.

Perhaps you, or your character, or the "good child" in your family because you've developed an impenetrable facade over the years. What an effective way for one character to keep out another character. And what a wonderful way to build a relationship—it could be very rocky at first—as one dedicated person chips away at the facade of the other because they know there is something of great value below that facade.

Family and facade can lead to learning how to be flexible to survive. Of course, you can be flexible without calling on a character's facade or family. Flexibility can also be seen as a weakness particularly in male characters.

The final group of F-words can be a writer's treasure chest of ideas when wanting to throw out one positive nugget of a character. Friends, fascination, fulfillment, and the future can shade your characters with attitudes that bring readers back to your books for those satisfying endings.

How many times have you heard those sayings like friends being the family we choose for ourselves? The people we choose to surround ourselves with show a great deal about us—our strengths, or weaknesses, our likes and our dislikes.

What fascinates your characters? Do they thirst for knowledge? Do they work to perfect a craft, a hobby, a trade, a physical ability? How do they pursue their fascination? Do they bring others, like friends and loved ones, into their fascination?

How do your characters see their futures? This probability will change during the course of your story as your characters move through their character arcs. Good for you! This gives more depth to move your characters from cardboard to real. You can also use what a character wants for their future for motivation and conflict and plot-driven nuances of your story. Similarly, a character can react to a possible future in a strong negative way which helps them grow and "improve."

Finally, that leaves F-word number ten: fulfillment. By the end of your book, your characters need to have their hearts and lives filled with happiness, and probably love, even if you aren't writing a romance. I write science fiction, on the speculative fiction side of the genre, and my characters better feel that they've made their world a better place to live and learned to love themselves. If they've learned to open their hearts to another, so much the better.

Do you have another F-word to add to our collection? How has it improved your writing?

About Fae

Fae Rowen discovered the romance genre after years as a science fiction freak. Writing futuristics and medieval paranormals, she jokes that she can live anywhere but the present. As a mathematician, she knows life’s a lot more fun when you get to define your world and its rules. 

P.R.I.S.M., Fae's debut book, a young adult science fiction romance story of survival, betrayal, resolve, deceit, and love is now available at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

Fae's second book, P.R.I.S.M: Rebellion, will be available for pre-order in October 2019.

7 responses to “Ten More F-Words for Writers and their Characters”

  1. Laura Drake says:

    Ah, family. That's something you can mine for more than one book! 😉

  2. Sue says:

    Wonderful blog, Fae. I'm working on a story now, and this fresh take on some of the classic issues that need to be addressed is stimulating the ole brain cells. Love "festering."

    • Fae Rowen says:

      Thanks, Sue. There are certain words that conjure immediate images. For me, festering is that kind of word. It always gives me a chill if I let my brain have at it to build the picture.

  3. dholcomb1 says:

    fealty...to the craft of the story, to follow where it goes, open up the characters, and let the story unfold, till it finds its own ending.

    denise

    • Fae Rowen says:

      Fealty is such a great word in historical, but it works everywhere, Denise. It may be an older, more "rigid" form of faithfulness, but it is immediate in its recognition. Thanks!

  4. Jenny Hansen says:

    This is so fun! I love all your F-words. And this would make a fun infographic...we should make one!

  5. Fae Rowen says:

    Only you would think of this, Jenny! I'm slinking around telling my non-writer friends (when they ask) that, yes, I have a new blog up today. When they ask what it's about I whisper, "F-words for writers." Well, you can guess the reaction.

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