Posts Tagged ‘developing characters’

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Don’t make your characters like this guy.

 

Just how well does a writer know his characters?

Does he know them backwards and forwards or does he hardly even know their full name?

Main characters to any successful story must be fully developed. There may only be one of these special characters but in order for the book to fully develop, the character must somehow be relatable to the audience and create a feeling in the reader. If the protagonist is not well thought out or developed, there is an empty feeling in the entire tale. The writer must make the character believable and have substance. They must begin at the beginning.

Names are the beginning to every character. Some have meaning behind them. A brunette might have a name meaning dark one or it could reflect parts of the character’s soul. Perhaps the brunette is dark souled as well as having dark hair. Perhaps, she had cruel intentions behind what she does. While names can be the beginning of the character, now the writer must flesh him or her out.

The writer has to add the character’s strengths; but more importantly, he must know what their flaws are. The total population of the world is made up of flawed people. The writer must use real people as an example for his books in order to make them relatable. Any writer will automatically begin with what his character’s strengths are. At first, he will begin to slowly rattling off their various talents, habits, and sweet things that they might do on occasion. Then the next question comes. What are they bad at? What is that one quality that drives everyone around the character crazy? The flaws to the character must be more than their strengths. If the writer is hoping to make a semi-relatable character for the audience to latch on to, then he must make the character as human as possible. People tend to have more flaws than good traits, and your character in your story should too.

How well does the writer know his character’s story of life? Does he know what the voice sounds like? How does he move and what is his body type? Does he limp when he walks or struts? Characters, main characters especially, must have a backstory and a distinct personality. A solid character must have a beginning, middle, and an end. He must have a story within himself. All characters cannot all be alike or manifestations of the writer. No one is exactly alike. Even twins have differences. The writer must improve his characters and know exactly who they are backwards and forwards. They should have a backstory as well as a consistent attitude through every part of the tale.

 

 

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Give them character like this little lady up above. To give her a little personality, she kind of embodies Monday because she’s forever a wet blanket and constantly angry all of the time. She mostly gets good grades but is forever getting no recognition for it so that feeds her horrible attitude. She doesn’t really have very many friends; she likes to think that she’s too busy for them but in reality, nobody very much likes her sulky attitude and grumpiness so they stray far away from her. She’s become weirdly close with the librarian since the librarian sees her as a younger version of herself-therefore, actually gives her the benefit of the doubt that she’s a nice enough girl when not doing any sort of schoolwork. She’s also pen pals with a few British girls who remain her only friends around her age throughout high school.

You can tell this girl has character from her outfit and her attitude. She’s grumpy from the umbrella popping open and soaking her with the cold rain. Her school doesn’t allow hats; so her hair is getting ruined from the rain and also soaking the rest of her.

She was part of an art project that a few friends and I were doing as a challenge but you can also use this as a practice for adding a background for these characters. Draw a simple character that flows from your imagination and practice adding character in the still picture. Make them unique. Everyone doesn’t always have to particularly like the character either.

 

Dream up whatever you want to and keep practicing!

 

xoxo, Ella 🙂

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During the month of November since I’m so busy with my school, basketball and NaNoWriMo, I asked some of my wonderful writer friends to do guest posts to update my blog while I took my time off to catch up on my busy November. And without further ado…

 

A guest post by Chloe, the grand duck

 

I have something to admit. I find writing really terribly boring a great deal of the time. I’m not inspired, my fingers are tired from typing, and all my remaining story ideas are about as complex and brilliant as a mole crab’s ideas about how to solve national debt.

 

This is where I always find myself about halfway through the month of November. And you know what? All I really want to do is x-out all my word programs and sneak into the kitchen and drink an entire jug of chocolate milk.

 

A lesser person would do this, but seeing as how we’re writers, this isn’t exactly an option. So instead, here’s a list of really good ideas to make whatever you’re writing seem… maybe just a little less boring. Maybe.

 

(but wait up a minute while I go get a glass of chocolate milk.)

 

(okay, back.)

 

Basically, this is a list of all the little boredom-eating games and exercises I invented last year, and wished I could’ve already had on hand at the beginning of the year.

 

Yet another title for this article could be “Chloe’s Writing Commandments”, because that’s the form this list of stuff will be taking.

 

 

 

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COMMANDMENT ONE: Don’t write with the same materials you always write with.

I get bored and slightly panicked when I stare at a blank page. Sitting at a desk, staring at a computer screen is absolutely positively soul crushing sometimes. Especially during NaNoWriMo, when you’ve been sitting typing on the same project for like a billion years straight. To combat this bored panic, I like to write using different materials than the same old computer program or word processor. Last year, I found that if I used different writing materials I thought in different ways. I wrote much faster on a white-board than I did when I was sitting at a computer.

 

IDEAS:

 

-Write with marker on paper. Just writing on paper is novel enough in this age of electronic supremacy– when you write with marker on paper, everything just feels bizarre. The marker feels larger in your hand in a pen, the lines work differently, and the writing is very smooth. It can help your creativity. Trust me on this.

 

-Steal a whiteboard and write on that. Similar to the marker thing, this is gives an extremely different feeling to the actual movement of your pen. Remember to take a photograph of your writing before you erase your work.

 

-If you have the means to do so, dictate a part of your story rather than writing it. Record yourself (or try using Dragon Dictation) randomly spewing out story or ideas, rather than writing with a pen. The most interesting thing about this is that you have no eraser. Later you can just write down the parts that interest you.

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COMMANDMENT TWO: Know thine character.
Ask anybody who has actually had contact with me and they can tell you that I am completely, thoroughly, and wholly coconuts over my characters. I can tell you the texture of their eyelashes. I can tell you what they ate for breakfast this morning. I can tell you what avatar they choose when they play Mario Karts. I know everything. I am omnipotent.

And so obviously I believe very strongly about having good characters. You have to know them in order to write an engaging story. How do I get to know my characters? BY NEVER SHUTTING UP ABOUT THEM. OHHHH YEEEAH. And, you know, developing relationships and writing about them.

 

IDEAS:

 

-Draw your characters (if you like to draw. If not, skip down to the next suggestion. I won’t make you draw if you hate it.) I like to draw my characters as infants, as children, as teenagers, and as adults. And of course think about how I’ve successfully made the entirety of their lives horrifically awful.

 

-Take a break from writing and fill out a short character questionnaire for each of your main cast. This actually helps a lot. Try thinking of different aspects of your character that you haven’t paid much attention to. There are a lot of great questionnaires out there if you look for them. I recommend starting with NaNoWriMo’s own certified questionnaire, found here.

 

-Write short pieces about your characters when they were children. Your character probably didn’t enter the universe as the person they are now. They were once children, and what happened to them as children will shape them as they grow older. You don’t have to write a novel about their youth, but knowing about their past is vital to understanding their present.

 

-What do your characters wear? You probably shouldn’t go so crazy as to plan out what they wear in every single scene (unless you happen to be writing a graphic novel), but knowing their general style is good. Also put some thought into where they buy their clothes, and how they pay for it. (A character who dresses entirely in shorts and button-up plaid from the one-dollar rack at the thrift shop is obviously different from a character who owns nothing but skinny jeans and fitted superhero t-shirts and high heels).

 

-Have you ever visited the website “Humans of New York”? If you just answered ‘no’, well, then, I really just don’t know what to tell you except that you need to go check it out now. I linked it for you. After you read it for about five hours, you can come back and read the rest of this prompt. I’m just going to assume that you are back now. Hi. Alright, here’s the exercise: think about what your characters would have written in the caption if their picture was taken and plastered on the HONY website. Obviously, think about what they’d say and how they’d say it. Really think about it. What would your character say if they had their picture taken and then were asked a bunch of questions?

 

-I’m going really wild with this one– turn inanimate objects into characters, too. Bear with me. One of my stories has a private library in it. I had so much fun writing this library, because I developed it as a character. I worked hard thinking about what it smelled like and how the lighting worked and what the outside of the building looked like. I wanted it to have a very particular mood about it– threatening and labyrinthine at first, but slowly becoming more welcoming and more comfortable as you got used to the winding shelves and the ticking clocks. It honestly just made it so much more fun to write it as a character rather than just a background. Other examples of this is Doctor Who’s TARDIS*, which is given a very specific personality; the house in UP, the Horcruxes in Harry Potter**, The Four-Story Mistake inThe Melendy Quartet, and Roxaboxen in the children’s book Roxaboxen.
(*actually this is a sentient example, but it is a box, so I’ll include it)
(**another technically alive example)

 

 

BONUS AWESOME THING YOU SHOULD TOTALLY DO

 

Chloe’s favorite character development game ever (which she only recently discovered):

 

The House Game

 

Pick one of your characters. Describe their house/living space in detail, but not telling anything in particular about the people who live there. Then give this description to a friend (preferably one who won’t hate you if you bug them about this sort of stuff) and force them to describe who they think would live there. I have one of my own examples for you here today, but you can write your descriptions however you want (I mean, duh. That goes without saying. This is just how I play the game.) Obviously, the game also differs greatly depending on the friend, too.

 

My description: a little single-wide trailer with a porch, with a small back yard where there’s a sizable vegetable garden. The inside of the trailer is cramped and cluttered with books, notebooks, cups of pens, and random weird knick-knacks from around the world. there are rugs of different sizes and textures all over the floor, along with a love seat and a small wing-backed armchair. the porch has two mismatched plastic lawn chairs, a cigarette pan set on top of a wooden produce crate, a really weather-beaten rug, and tons of hanging plant baskets and window boxes tomatoes hanging over the railings. there’s an enormous, stereotypical hippie VW van with bumper stickers parked outside. there are two pairs of rain boots on the bottom step to the porch.

 

My friend’s interpretation: A little white trash, kind of earthy and hippieish; vegetarian; someone who travels a lot and can’t throw anything away; there are two pairs of boots, so there are two people. I like to think it is a mother and child. The daddy left them, and the mother is kind of flighty. The kid is about six or seven, a girl. They’re always on the road, going somewhere and doing something cool and having adventures and making the best out of things; they sell a lot of things at the farmer’s market;

 

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COMMANDMENT THREE: Write a lot of stuff that has no practical purpose except to excite you.
This commandment is here mostly because it’s fun, not really because it’s productive. Writing is supposed to be fun. The end.

IDEAS:
-Write tear-jerking death scenes for every single character in your novel.
-Write about your characters if they were in a totally different genre. I have many stories that involves people with superpowers, and I spend a great deal of time writing each set of characters as if they were merely ordinary human beings. It is tons of fun, and it can also help you flesh out other aspects of the character relationships that you wouldn’t pay attention to otherwise.

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COMMANDMENT FOUR: Write a whole lot of stuff in general.

 

Like learning to play an instrument or studying a foreign language, writing will come to you much easier if you work at it every single solitary day. Not just during NaNoWriMo. You need to write every day, even if it is only a tiny bit and it sucks. Yes, there will be many days when you would rather light yourself on fire than write. I am telling you to put the matches away and write anyway. Do I need to say it again? No, you’ve got it? Okay, listen. You simply just have to write something every day.
IDEAS:
-Try Write or Die .com (AKA the best writing thing in the universe)

 

-Freewrite all the time, even when you aren’t working on a set project. Keep an idea list for the days when you have no idea what to write about.

 

-Yes– fan-fiction is in fact writing. Do not be ashamed of it. And also, on days when you can’t get into your own story it is okay to blatantly copy someone else’s work. I’m not saying you should publish a thinly-veiled rip off of Maximum Ride. I’m saying that you need to do whatever you possibly can to keep that writerly flame inside of you from winking out, ever for one day.

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COMMANDMENT FIVE: Change where you write.
Scenery affects us. Change the scenery, change your productivity.

IDEAS:
-Go to Starbucks. Try bringing a notebook instead of a computer so you’ll look stupid if you’re just sitting there staring at a blank page. You’ll write stuff to avoid the social stigma that comes with doing absolutely nothing in a public place, I promise you. (Also you should probably bring some cash so you can buy something to drink. Otherwise you’ll look like a jerk.)

 

-Here’s an oddball one that I love and get a lot of flack over: write while watching TV. Yeah, I just said that. Sometimes you just have to watch an NCIS or Doctor Who marathon. And a great way to balance productivity and television is to turn it into a competition. When the commercials start rolling, you start writing. Write as quickly as you can and try to get as much written down as physically/mentally possible before the show comes back on. (Pro tip: watching Netflix doesn’t work because it doesn’t have commercials.)

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COMMANDMENT SIX: Just be practical, idk.

 

Common sense. It isn’t overrated, guys. Nurture your practicality. Use your heads! Be smart!
IDEAS:
-Carry something with you to write on no matter where you go. I myself carry my iPod Touch everywhere and I have over 100 notes. Before I wised up and began carrying it with me, I was writing on the backs of my paychecks and receipts. I’ve lost tons of good ideas while out and about, simply because I had nothing to write on. Trust me, you will not remember this stuff later. Bring writing stuff with you everywhere.

 

-Use the computer if it helps you. BUT, if you find yourself scrolling through Pinterest or Tumblr or TV Tropes or something, perhaps you’d best invest in a word processor (like Neo Alphasmart) or force yourself to turn off the Internet. (I don’t actually know how to turn off the Internet, which is why I have a word processor.) If your internet is a distraction, do not tempt yourself with it.

 

-A lot of people say you should get in a schedule for writing, and write the same way each and every day. I don’t hold to that (I get bored if I have to sit at a desk all afternoon), but I also agree that you should definitely have a cohesive order about your writing. Schedules are, if fact, good for you. Do you remember a few points back when I said that you have to write every single day? It is going to be easier to do that if you plan for it.
-Keep a list of questions you have about your novel. If there are little things that don’t make sense, write them down on the list. Your brain will begin working through the issues. You will have brilliant ideas about how to fill plot holes. Your characters’ motivations will begin to make more sense. Some puzzle pieces will click together and create picture that will blow you out of the water.

 

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COMMANDMENT SEVEN : Never be bored, always find dumb new things to do while writing.

-Make a list of words that describe each of the characters and settings in your novel. These words can be describing anything– personality, appearance, speech patterns. Look up synonyms to those words and think about how they might also apply to said characters. Try to find as many words as possible. And as a bonus, you start to build a really fabulous dictionary in your brain.

 

-Related to the above, keep a list of words you want to look up. If you use a word and aren’t entirely sure what it means (pander, illustrious, emitted), write it down. If you write a word and realize it is spelled totally bizarrely (food, syllable, poignant), write it down.

 

-Dress up like a writer while you write. You know, put on some suit and a fedora and borrow somebody’s pipe. Get some half-moon glasses.

 

-Alternatively, dress up like your character while you write. I have at times been known to deck out in a mishmash Catholic school girl uniform, despite my aversion to skirts. (Skirts never have pockets, eep.) It does help me get into my character’s head, though.
-Let go of chronological order. It is okay to skip over a part that you just cannot bear to write. Remember, you will have to go back and write those scenes– but it doesn’t mean you have to write them right this exact minute. If something isn’t working for you, by all means drop it and leave it alone for a little while.

 

Well, that is indeed the end of this incredibly long blog post. Thank you all for reading all these words (Unless you’re just skipping to the bottom of the page and didn’t read them… in which case you should be ashamed of yourself)!

Hopefully some of these will help you as you fight through your writings this November! Good luck!

Chloe is the author of a lot of stuff, most notably a graphic novel, “Resolved”, which is about teenagers, murder, and the definition of piety. It will be gracing the interwebs around April 14th.

You can see her DeviantArt page at: misshoneyham.deviantart.com

Feel free to buddy-fy her at her NaNoWriMo page at: http://nanowrimo.org/participants/the-grand-duck

 

Many thanks to my awesome friend Greta for both playing the House Game with me all the time and allowing me to use her synopsis for my article-writing purposes.