Did Your Story Lose Its Pop?

What did you say

This may be the fault of your characters and not the story. Go back and read aloud several chapters. Yes, aloud. Do the pages jump with vitality and visual information. You know the type, where you see and feel everything. If you can’t, neither will your readers.

What makes the story pop? Characters. What gives the characters their own flare? Individuality, but something else needs to happen. Give your story family their own senses. Let the reader know each one in smell, sound, sight, touch and taste.

SMELL – make your characters so unique that when readers begin the first chapter, they know them by a special perfume, aftershave lotion or even a special shampoo. Maybe a character lives in the city and brings the smell of gas fumes inside. What about pets? Some people need their four-legged friends as much as they need the two-legged friends.

SOUND – this acquaints your reader with all of your characters. Females have bracelets, which jangle, or high-heeled shoes and the staccato sound they make.  Males might find the necessity to click a pen off and on, or jingle coins in a pocket. A nasal sound or a whisper instead of talk, can give the reader a sense of which character is on the front line.

SIGHT – how do your characters move? Well, you need to people watch. The best place for this, along with your notebook, is a busy mall. Observe slumped shoulders, handbags clutched close to the chest, guys twirling key rings. Then hit the Food Court and watch body language. Look at a slight raise of an eyebrow, how many times do legs cross and uncross. Males have a habit of bouncing legs up and down and looking at each female passing by. Every movement shows a story in progress.

TOUCH – everyone needs a hug, a pat on the shoulder, a hand held in sympathy without endangering his or her own space. Watch the females as they brush hair away from their face or pick lint from their clothes. Males have  a habit of checking their jackets, straightening their ties and making sure the wallet is in either the jacket inside pocket or the rear pocket of their slacks. These small movements replace conversation. Can’t get to the mall? Not to worry. Turn on your television, turn off the sound and watch people at home. You can see what goes on without any talk.

TASTE – is another way to identify your characters. Sure you have steak, spaghetti, salad, fish…..you get the point. But look at another side of taste. One of your female characters strives for excellence in her life and home. She does not like things out of place, is frightened of people making a mess and never invites anyone to visit. A male character makes Waffle House his home for meals. Why? He does not like to grocery shop, has no idea of how the stove works and could care less. A female character likes jazz, opera, romantic music. The male goes into hard rock, country and hot music.

All of these senses create each character. Then when you have different views, you get conflict and conflict moves the story. Make your pages POP with actions, not words. Give your characters many pages to move forwards, sidewards and yes, even backwards. Keep the POP – POPPING.