You’ve heard of writing prompts, now we have revision prompts! Each prompt will give you a specific writing issue to check for in your WIP, along with tips on how to fix each. Going through this process one issue at a time will not only help polish your current novel but will also teach you specific ways to improve your writing for your next story.
Introducing Characters: You obviously want your readers to get to know the wonderful characters you have created for your story. The first on the scene is usually the protagonist, but if you introduce him at the same time as you bring on stage a bunch of secondary characters–maybe a family or a group of friends–even the protagonist can get lost in the mass of names and descriptions.
CHECK: Look at your first several paragraphs. How many characters have you introduced. Ideally, it should be only one, and that character must be involved in some type of tense action, conflict, or bring up a burning question. Sometimes a secondary character may be in the scene as well and needs to be introduced. If so, make sure that they are different (names are dissimilar, build and hair color are different, etc.) so the reader can easily keep them apart.
CONTINUE READING THROUGH THE FIRST SEVERAL PAGES: How many characters have you introduced? If it’s more than two, you should seriously consider revising, so the readers have fewer characters to remember at the beginning. Give them a little time to get to know the protagonist (and maybe one other).
CONTINUE READING THROUGH THE FIRST TWO CHAPTERS: How many characters have you introduced? Depending on the length of your chapters, the readers have probably had time to connect with the protagonist, and you’ve probably introduced the hero (and possibly the antagonist), as well as some minor characters. At this point, however, you’re still introducing your main characters, so you want them to be at the forefront of the story. Your readers will also be concentrating on the main characters and deciding if they like them or not (in other words, whether they want to keep reading). So you don’t want to distract them by introducing a passel of people.
IF YOU MUST INTRODUCE A GROUP OF CHARACTERS AT THE SAME TIME: Make sure to make them distinct and different from each other. Introduce them individually, as they interact with the protagonist(s) rather than a simple, around-the-table listing of who is who. Come back to each of them (or at least the ones you want the readers to remember for later) two or three times, and focus on one particular trait or describer for each. The repetition can help the readers remember each one, and giving them only one thing to focus on for each will help them to keep each character distinct from the others.