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Writing Award Tips To Win Quick Cash Prizes

Updated on June 19, 2011

Is it all in the face?

Suppose we meet up with a stranger in the flesh for the first time. What's the immediate thing we observe about that person? Their unique face. That's logical. It's the way we have learned from infancy to remember them later on, however they're clothed. The dilemma for writers is, usually there are few ways in which we can detail a character's facial features, short of a cartoon.

Do we state they are fresh shaven, metal eyed (whatever is a metal eyed character?), brown of hair, beaky of nose and pale of skin? That is a forensic report. It's boring. Your reader will probably have forgotten all about that character after the next phrase.

Or have they got little moist eyes, like a half-poached pigeon egg? The reader will certainly remember that.

Needless to say, the manner in which we dress discloses the way we wish to present ourselves to the public. So our readers will assess a person by the things they wear. You can bundle a good deal of characterization into just one piece of apparel. If a character when they arrive sports a scarf like a piece of chewed string it reveals a lot, true or false, about that person.

What's more, you can helpfully refer to their regrettable fashion sense when they appear in the future. Your reader will remember that person at once. Of course, this tactic is only helpful with lesser figures. You will need to characterize your important characters far more creatively.

First impressions count in stories as in life

Initial impressions are almost everything in a story, as in reality. Beware of making a caricature of your characters when they make their entrance by insisting they behave in some outlandish manner. It's the sign of a newbie writer. Be much more subtle. It's better to have a minor character continuously chew on their fingernail or fiddle with their hair or inspect the ceiling. Small things are more plausible.

Such tics of conduct work fine when bringing personality to a bit-part character but be careful about over-doing it with a protagonist. It's important for that person to grow into a rounded and interesting human being.

Odor can characterize too

Folks are so conscious of cleanliness nowadays, almost everywhere, that we might not typically differentiate a person by their aroma. Consequently a figure can be made all the more noteworthy if they carry a noticeable smell.

But beware of attracting attention to a character's odor except when it's odd or misplaced. Historical writers frequently make their players notice the robust body smell of unwashed servants. In a period when only a few people bathed habitually, personal odor might not have been remarked on.

If a rural laborer smells of manure, that's not unusual. Your reader will pay no attention to it. But if that bit-player invariably reeks of lavender, it says something interesting about that person.

Speech can be a wonderful tool for characterization, needless to say. We don't typically remember an individual on their first appearance by their speech alone. We expect it to be apt to their nature and the occasion. So a little master trick of characterization is this. It can bring you a cash award in a major writing award. Have your supporting character speak in a fashion that conflicts with their outer image or with the reader's expectations.

A filthy car mechanic quotes Shakespeare. Possibly an Oxford Fellow curses like a farm hand. Or a charming young lady growls like an all-in wrestler. Maybe a Mafia hitman shrills like a castrato.

The person becomes at once a real person. But save this tactic for spear carriers. You should use much more complex methods to build the qualities of a protagonist.

Little people can win you a writing award

Of course, often you don't want the reader to remember a trivial character. A waiter enters with a drink or somebody vends a newspaper. They should remain anonymous. But if you want to bring that person back into the story, these little ploys can ensure they are not forgotten.

Make even your minor characters remarkable and your tale will acquire a unique vitality. It will appear to be wholly genuine, a place to itself, although it's imaginary. Judges of writing awards will grade it highly.

A free mini-course in creative writing

A wealth of 97 further ideas like these is presented in a free mini-course in creative writing from Writers' Village at:


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    • John Yeoman profile image

      John Yeoman 6 years ago from Story writing land in the centre of England

      Thanks for your thoughts, AngelLady. Applicability is everything!

    • Angelladywriter profile image

      Claudette Coleman Carter 6 years ago from Media, Pennsylvania

      Nice information that I can apply in my stories. Keep up the great suggestions.

    • John Yeoman profile image

      John Yeoman 6 years ago from Story writing land in the centre of England

      Thanks, Dotty. When you insert odor into your story, don't forget about the other four senses as well! The more sensory data you pack in, the more 'depth' the story will acquire.

    • mljdgulley354 profile image

      mljdgulley354 6 years ago

      Thank you for this information. Being new to hubpages I am looking for all the help I can get.

    • dotty1 profile image

      dotty1 6 years ago from In my world

      Thank you for your very interesting and useful hub :) I am off to insert odour into my book

    • John Yeoman profile image

      John Yeoman 6 years ago from Story writing land in the centre of England

      Thanks, ThoughtSandwiches. BTW: That's a great title for a book! I look forward to reading your stories.

    • ThoughtSandwiches profile image

      ThoughtSandwiches 6 years ago from Reno, Nevada

      Hi John...thanks for the timely info (I am looking at contest options as I type.) You have given me some insights and I am deeply appreciative. Voted Up, useful, interesting, and following.

    • ubanichijioke profile image

      Alexander Thandi Ubani 6 years ago from Lagos

      Great tips. Excellent!

    • Don Bobbitt profile image

      Don Bobbitt 6 years ago from Ruskin Florida

      Good Read! Thanks for the information.

    • John Yeoman profile image

      John Yeoman 6 years ago from Story writing land in the centre of England

      Thanks, De Greek. I am flattered! I am replying to you offline.

    • De Greek profile image

      De Greek 6 years ago from UK

      I have sent you an email asking if, FOR A FEE, you will simply read what I have written to date and let me have your opinion :-)

      Always hoping of course that the fee will not break the bank :-)

    • John Yeoman profile image

      John Yeoman 6 years ago from Story writing land in the centre of England

      Ignorance is invidious, I agree. But, duh, what emails?

    • De Greek profile image

      De Greek 6 years ago from UK

      I am learning a lot from you and I thank you. YOU are a wonderful teacher. If you answered your emails, you would be even better :-)

      Oh, and I suggest that you save this message because one day you will be showing it around for advertising purposes. :-)