|What do you think?|
Lainey glared at him. "You’re better than this, Quinn."
"Maybe I am," he said. "But maybe, to make the world safe, I have to be worse than I am."
So now, let's talk about characters. I always have to do some character sketching before I can really move on to writing my story. Of course, my characters ALWAYS change throughout the course of writing, but I have to have an idea of who they are before I begin.
This is the character sheet I use, created by Anne Olwin. It's one of the most complete ones I've ever found. I love that it contains various traits and characteristics.
However, I add several other things to this sheet. Sometimes, if I have a vague idea of the type of person my character is, I start off with the color code personality profile and the Myers-Briggs personality profile. Sometimes I do these a little later, if I'm not really sure yet who my character is going to be.
The last thing I add to the standard character sheet is the 3-2-5 questions. Who is this character? Who are they becoming? What stands in their way? How are we like them? How do we want to be like them? What are their flaws, handicaps, strengths, quirks, and motivations?
I do this one last because it's hard to do it without knowing a few things about my character first. Sometimes, I don't even complete it until after the first draft.
I keep all of this in one document labeled with the character's name. Then, I do a Google search to find a face that could be my character, and sometimes do a Polyvore wardrobe set. All of this is kept in a file within my story file labeled Characters.
And voila! It can sometimes take a while to do all this, but I've found if I at least do the protagonist and antagonist before I start, I can write a much stronger first draft.
So, my friends, how do you create your characters? When do you design them? Do they come to you fully formed, or do you have to drag information from them kicking and screaming? Share with us-- or sign up for the blogfest and share it then!
But today, I wanted to start at the beginning: the idea.
There are a million ways an idea for a book starts. For Devs, it started with a quote from a movie. For BaB, it was another book I read. For TUGL, it was a conversation with my dad and husband about an article I'd read online. The point? Ideas can come from anywhere.
I've tried to train my brain to look for them. With every new thing I find fascinating, with every odd person I see on the street, with everything I read, I ask myself this: Where is the story in this?
Once that little spark of an idea takes root in my brain, it percolates for a few days-- or sometimes much longer. My subconscious works at it even when my conscious brain doesn't. I start to form a story from the initial concept. Who is my main character? A girl or guy? What's the setting? How does this, that, and the other work-- what are the rules?
After my brain has hashed out some of the basics, I create a new file under my "Shallee's Stories" file. The very first document that goes into this new file is my idea dump. I type out all the things my brain has come up with, and then I just let it go. I ask a million questions about all the details I've come up with so far, including a lot of "whys" and "so whats." I start developing the world. I start finding out about my characters beyond their gender. I try to figure out where the actual STORY is in all this mess of questions.
This usually takes days, at least. The very last thing I do is something new I'm trying out with TUGL. I got it from this amazing article by Donald Maas. I ask myself the questions he says to ask:
"The gift: Think about your favorite fiction…what element unifies it? In other words, what do you love best about the novels that you love?...Make sure that element’s strong in your WIP.
The challenge: What is it that you—yes, you—least want to accept, refuse to feel, fear is true, find unbearable, feel angriest about, or avoid at any cost? What do you see around you that makes you sick? What in yourself makes you terrified?
Go further: What’s the truth that underlies all things? What principle guides human behavior? What’s the greatest insight you’ve even had about yourself? Or even just this: What do you know about anything that nobody else does?"
I was amazed at how much of my actual story became more clear once I answered these questions, and how strong it made my initial story concept. Once I have this all figured out, I separate out the different parts of my idea dump into new documents so it's all organized.
Then I'm ready for my next step: characterization. We'll talk about that on Wednesday!
So, my friends, how do your ideas come? How do you develop them? Share with us-- or sign up for the blogfest next Tuesday, and give us the nitty-gritty details then!
I read an interesting article last night on CNN that stated Goldman Sachs' investment in Facebook is a sign of the beginning of the end for the social networking site.
I don't know if this has any merit, but it made me think. As writers and aspiring authors, we are encouraged to use Facebook as a marketing tool. What would happen if Facebook, or Twitter, or Blogger-- the trifecta of social networking-- were to collapse tomorrow?
We debate all the time about whether we should tweet, and if we should have a fan page on Facebook, and how often we should blog. One expert says do it this way, and another says to do it differently. You MUST post more than once a week, you MUST interact with others on Twitter, you MUSTMUSTMUSTMUST.
No, my friends, you musn't.
What you MUST do, if you plan on selling whatever fabulous book you are writing, is to connect with people. Oh, you must write a fabulous book, of course, but that's just a given.
Social networking is just what it claims to be: networking. Making connections. Reaching out to one person at a time and saying I understand you, or we are the same, or let's learn from each other, or millions of other things. People once did this by talking to other people, like in person, maybe at a grocery store or a bus stop...it's sort of cool, if you want to give it a whirl.
So stop stressing about whether you should Facebook, Tweet, or blog, and start focusing on making connections. Where and how you do it is up to you, but keep in mind that these sites are just tools. If social-network-site-Armageddon came tomorrow, you'd find another tool to reach those people you've connected with.
As long as you're making those connections.
So, my friends, how are you making connections? Any thoughts on the demise of Facebook? Who will you talk to/tweet/blog comment to today?
P.S. For the best book I've ever read on marketing/networking/sales, check out The Greatest Salesman in the World. It's not even boring, I promise-- it's fiction.
As I've been hashing out the idea, coming up with characters, and formulating a plot, I've thought a lot about my writing process. It changes a little every time I write a new book-- hopefully for the better. I started out years ago as a die-hard pantser because I didn't know there was another way to do it.
Since then, I've learned about and tried many different tools for planning my novel, and I've learned something important: I don't have to do it like everyone else. And I shouldn't do it like anyone else. My brain works differently than someone else's, and that's okay. That's really good, actually!
All writers have different process for different parts of their writing, and I have learned a lot about what works for me and what doesn't by trying out other writer's processes. So...I'm hereby announcing the What's Your Process Blogfest!
If you want to participate, sign up below. On Tuesday, January 18th, blog about ANY part of your writing process-- how you create characters, how you plot your novel, how you organize your rewrites, your whole writing process from start to finish, anything. Even if you're a complete pantser, tell us your pantsing process. Do you write chronologically? Jump around? Edit as you go, or just dump it all on the page? Let us know!
Hopefully, we'll all be able to see how other people write, and pull out a few new gems to help us with our own creations! Sign up below, and pass the word around. The more of us there are, the more we can learn from each other.
One of the biggest things that stood out to me was how the story was driven so clearly by the character's wants-- their desires. Those are what motivates them to action. It's one of the most common pieces of writing advice: define what your character wants in order to drive the story forward. It creates a stronger story to have characters who act rather than react all the time.
But let's dig a little deeper. I'm going to be using examples from Up, and there may be spoilers, so if you haven't seen it, you have been warned. Let's break down wants into smaller, more useful bits.
Unique and specific wants - Say your character wants to find adventure in South America. Cool. Say instead your character wants to take his whole entire house on an adventure to South America to fulfill a promise to his wife. Way cooler. A lot of the uniqueness of Up is in the uniqueness-- and specificity-- of Carl's wants. What he wants drives him to find a fantastic and original solution: he flies his house to South America with helium balloons.
Emotional wants - Carl's desire to fly his house south isn't just a whim. It's a very deep, emotional want. He feels as though he broke a promise to his wife by never taking her to have an adventure in South America. The guilt and sorrow he feels strengthens the emotional ties to the story, and makes the ending that much more cathartic. It makes it easier for the audience to be connected to the story when there's emotion involved.
Complex, multiple, and hidden wants - Russell, the young stow-away on Carl's flying house, has one initial want: to be of service to Carl so he can earn a badge for his Wilderness Explorer group. As the story progresses, Russell also wants to help Kevin (the giant bird) get back to her babies. This want echoes the deeper desire underneath Russell's initial want-- he wants his final badge so his father will come to the badge-pinning ceremony. The intertwining and hidden wants make Russell a more complex character than just a boy scout trying to do some good.
Changing wants - Near the end of the story, Carl finally acheives his want: His house sits in Paradise Falls, just where his wife always wanted it. However, feeling somewhat unfulfilled, he pulls out an old scrapbook his wife made and realizes their adventure was in their lifelong relationship. At that moment, Carl's wants change-- he wants the adventure of an unselfish relationship again, starting with his new friend Russell. This change of his want is the change in his character that drives the satisfying end to the story.
Every character in Up had desires, from Kevin's desire to get back to her babies to Dug's desire to bring Kevin in so his doggy-friends would like him. (I can't even tell you how long it took me to catch my breath after laughing over Dug's "please, oh please be my prisoner!" line.) All of these wants are what made this story-- one that could have been small and unimportant-- into a story I fell in love with.
So, my friends, what do your characters want? Is it unique, emotional, complex, or changing? Is it strong enough to drive your story? How do you determine your character's desires?
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- How to Write Strong Character Relationships
- 5 Tips for Writing Memorable Romantic Scenes
- How to create a character's personality
- How to Write a Character's Voice-- Attempting to Define the Undefinable
- Turn an Idea into a Killer Story Concept: Go Big or Go Home
- How to Dump Info without Info-dumping-- Writing Lessons from Inception
- Why I Wrote a Character with a Mental Illness: because for a long time, I never knew I had one
- Banned Books Week Review: The Handmaid's Tale
- The Name Game-- Keeping Character Names Consistent in Your Novel
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- What's Your Process Blogfest Tomorrow!
- The Writing Process: Creating Characters
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- Announcing the What's Your Process Blogfest!
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