So today, I’m going to wing it! Yup, I had an idea of what I wanted to talk about today and then I changed my mind on a whim. Maybe it’s not a good idea, maybe it is, the real question is: “Who cares?” So what’s today’s post on? I’ll give you three clues: characters, characters, and characters. For all of you who said hamsters…you’re a little off…
We live in a big world, full of people. You’re writing a story which qualifies as a world in itself. Obviously it needs to be inhabited by people, also known as your characters. I’m not saying that there aren’t stories which are completely devoid of characters but… if you’re not writing that kind of story then you should really give your characters lots of thought. They’re important, they deserve it.
So characters, they’re the people who inhabit your story, it’s their reality. If they seem more realistic, so will the world you’ve built, at least that’s what we all hope for. Basically, you need to create a person and not in the way that requires nine months and an epidural. Instead you have to create a person that you know inside and out. A person you know just as well as you know yourself and maybe even better.
I could give you a character profile sheet or whatever those sheets are called. You know the ones I mean, they have a bunch of categories like ‘Name’, ‘Eyes’, ‘Hair’, etc. However, you can easily find one or create one, a character creation goes beyond knowing what your character looks like or what they do for a living. It even goes past knowing what they’re scared of or their blood type or their pet peeves. When you create a character you need to make your readers feel like they could be sitting next to them, breathing over their shoulders.
I’ve found that some of the best ways to bring a character to life are through dialogue and action. There are several Young Adult books which display this beautifully such as Strange Angels by Lili St. Crow, The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins and Uglies by Scott Westerfield. In ‘The Marquise of O-’ by Heinrich Von Kleist, the author is said to never describe his characters, instead he goes through the entire book defining his characters through their actions and their words. I know this is highly unhelpful and thus requires separate posts on dialogue and action in writing (le sigh), however, I figured you guys needed a break from expanding upon your ideas and maybe needed to focus on smaller details a bit more. So I’m going to give an example of ‘character development’ from my own writing. Please don’t be too hard on me, here it is:
“But, Danny,” I pouted. “I’ve been going dry ever since we talked. I haven’t been with anyone else since I met you. I haven’t even looked at anyone else since we got together.” I curled up in his lap and batted long lashes at him. “I want you so much.”
“No, Katherine.” Danny got up quickly, letting me fall off his lap. “Don’t you get that this is a pretty big move for me?” He threw back his head and downed his glass of very red wine in one gulp. “I mean, jeez! You’re asking a lot of me!”
Ignoring the fact that it’s not very good, you get a pretty good idea of what’s going on. One of my characters wants something and she’s the kind of person who’s not afraid to use her body to get it. This tells you she’s comfortable with herself or that she’s the kind of person who’s willing to do anything to get what she wants. My other character doesn’t want to give Katherine what she wants and he’s feeling stressed and looks to alcohol to calm his nerves. Now look at the dialogue. It’s actually not half bad. It flows easily. I could picture that scene and hear someone saying that without wincing or rolling my eyes. To put it simply: dialogue needs to sound natural, something you would overhear in everyday conversation (People say some weird things, trust me).
So… You know where I’m going with this now right? Writing exercise time!!!!!
Writing Exercise 4:
You’re going to need two characters for this exercise. They can be characters you create solely for this exercise or existing characters. Now write them in a scene. Within this scene they need to be having a conversation, an argument, a debate, whatever you want as long as it’s between the two of them. This interaction has to reveal something about the kind of people they are, their personalities, their principles. Their actions or non-actions need to reveal something about their feelings or their motives etc. You get the gist. This is your exercise in character development. You’ll ask yourself: “Is my character the type to flounce away? Or is she the type to die a little on the inside?” These sort of things go a long way in helping you learn about your character.
So, as everyone noticed, I’ve changed up the scheduling of posts so I no longer have Mondays to figure out where I feel I’m at as a writer. So on another spur of the moment whim, I’ve decided I’ll update you here. As I might have already mentioned I’ve got a work-in-progress, which I’m very enthusiastic about but I’m getting stuck on it. I hate when I get stuck in my writing so I’m trying to just write a bit at a time, a paragraph here, a sentence there, until I get over this hump and I’m able to start coasting. I know I can force myself to write, I’ve finished a book before (it was horrible but I finished it for the sake of finishing it and now it’s done and I can say I finished a book, so let’s not talk about it anymore) and sometimes it’s that determination that can get you through a first draft and then after that…rewrite a lot. So keep your fingers crossed for me guys!!! Good luck with your writing exercise. By the way, I’ve been thinking I’d put up what I write for my prompts and for some of the writing exercises on for critiques etc. I figure it would be a good idea. Feedback appreciated.
Have an awesome Wednesday people!
K, the Popinjay.