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Today, I’m excited to introduce Katie Axelson as our newest regular contributor. After a grueling selection process where I made several people cry, Katie emerged as a victor (Hunger Games style). Katie is a professional freelance writer working on her first novel. Follow her on Twitter and check out her blog. Glad to have you, Katie!

Universal Paradox

Photo By Lorena Cupcake

Let me tell you a secret: Universal characters are boring. Everyday characters are dull. Trying to create universal characters doesn’t work.

Rather, the opposite: the more unique you make your characters and their surroundings, the more universal your story becomes. Janet Burroway calls this the universal paradox.

So how do you make your characters more unique and less generic?

Be Specific

The more specific you are in your setting and character-development, the more you open up the piece to the reader. As readers, we don’t want to walk through some stereotypical town.

We want to be the 15-year-old with pig-tail braids, pink bangs, and a plaid skirt walking through Thomasville, North Carolina, passing by the giant chair on our way to Monkeez Brew for a latte.

Rather than aiming for someone or something typical, write about quirky Glenda doing Bikram yoga on the top of a volcano: a specific person doing a specific thing in a specific place.

These details give the reader something to latch onto and someone to visualize. They let readers travel the world without ever leaving the comfort of home.

Who is the quirkiest character you’ve ever come up with? 


Pick a setting familiar to you but one that is also unique and quirky. It doesn’t have to be where you live. It could be a place you’ve vacationed or even somewhere you’ve heard about a lot.

For fifteen minutes write a piece using the culture of the town, the vernacular of the people, and the local cuisine. When you’re finished, post your practice in the comments.

Jump right into the conversation; be part of the community. Be sure to read and comment on other pieces too.

Katie Axelson
Katie Axelson
Katie Axelson is a writer, editor, and blogger who's seeking to live a story worth telling. You can find her blogging, tweeting, and facebook-ing.
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