• Who We Are

  • Schedule

    Mondays ~
    Tuesdays ~ Snarky
    Wednesdays ~ Dreamer
    Thursdays ~ Naughty
    Fridays ~ Dreary
    Saturdays ~
    Sundays ~

    Whenever ~ Smokey, Mighty, Eerie and Wicked

  • Snarky’s Tweets

  • Kinetic’s Tweets

  • Dreamer’s Tweets

  • Wicked’s Tweets

  • Eerie’s Tweets

  • Mighty’s Tweets

The Process

Sometimes I like to pretend my favorite authors are like superheroes, you know, somehow not quite human.  I go between wanting to know everything about them, and not wanting to know anything about them.  I sometimes even hesitate to look at their bio at the back of the book, worrying that knowing something about them might take away from their story.  It is an absolutely silly thing to think, I know it is, and yet, I feel like my favorite authors can only fall off the careful pedestal I’ve created for them.

This being said, I recently decided to research one of my beloved authors.  I was surprised to find how snarky she could be in her question and answer page, but I was also relieved to find that she seemed honest about herself and her experiences.  And most of all, I was shocked to find out that she only works with a rough outline for her books.  I thought with all the intricate details, she must map her books out entirely before writing them.  It seems though, she actually hates going into too much detail with her book outines in the beginning, because then she feels like she has already written her book.  She actually just spends a great deal of time editing and revising, I gathered.

This might not seem like a very significant bit of information, but it was a huge relief to me.  I write in a very similar style.  I create a character, and outline, and world information.  Then, I start writing.  Things often change as the story develops, but all of this actually leads to a need for a lot of editing and revising.  It is daunting to finish a book and still have so much work to do, but it eases my mind a great deal to know that a writer I admire so much also has such a daunting task, and creates such spectacular books through this process.

Creating Complex Characters #2

Why did he do it?  His father hit him.  Why did he lie?  We all saw it.  He was scared.  His eyes begged us for help.  But he lied, and the police left… left him there to endure it again.

The next day at the bus stop, he shoved another kid.  He grinned and laughed with his friends, but the laughter never reached his eyes.  Normally, I intervened.  I stopped him from hurting other kids, but today I wasn’t a participant in this story.  I was an observer, an analyzer.  I wanted to understand his motivation for his actions.

This is our job as writers, to fully understand our characters, even if most of what we know about our characters never reaches the page.  The boy may truly love his father, and this is the reason for his silence.  He may have been too afraid to speak up, the classic issue for victims.  Or perhaps he worried for his mother, who would stay with the man, even if he were taken away.  The reader may never learn his reasons, but the author should understand them.

He shifted in his chair, always the last to complete every assignment.  His brows are drawn low over his dark eyes, and I’m surprised by the feeling of pity that coursed through me.  Pity?  I used to enjoy watching him struggle in class.  I used to think, ha, that’s what happens to bullies.  But now, I long to help him, to ease away the stress of this multiplication test, so his life is just a little bit easier.

Who are we learning about here?  The narrator, or main character, is being revealed just as much as the bully is, through her reactions to him.  Remember that authors don’t need to spend all their time describing their characters, hand-feeding information to the readers.  This does both your reader and your characters an injustice.  Your readers should learn about the characters just as they move through the plot, discovering more about them by the ways they react to different characters and different situations.

Creating complex characters is not an option if you want to write a truly remarkable book, because creating a complex character means that you are creating someone real for your readers to root for.

Creating Complex Characters

People are complex.

There is the childhood bully, who isn’t a person to you until the day you see his dad hit him.  You hear the neighbors talk, words you, as a child, have never been privy to.  This isn’t the first time he’s been hit; it’s not the first time the police are called.  The neighbors hear the yelling, they see the boy, and the adults understand him and his situation better than us children.  We only saw him as a bully.  I only saw him as a bully, until that day, and then, he became a victim in my eyes.

People are complex.  So, why are characters often so simple?

Character= Personality + Relationships + Motivations + Experiences

People could be broken down in the same formula, but there is more to people, and should be more to characters, than this.  We, as the writers, should understand our characters better than they understand themselves.  They might not know why the possibility of love terrifies them, but we should.  They might not know that even while they are afraid, they have an inner drive, an inner spirit, that keeps them fighting, but we do.  The problem is that many writers reduce their characters to stereotypes, and guess what, characters deserve more.

In young adult books, the main character is usually someone who has lost their parents, or their support system, and must find a way to survive in an unjust world on their own.  But, the books that truly stand out often have just one quality that makes their character so unique, they seem real to us.  And the more unique, the more you are creating a character that will transcend the pages, and become a real person to your readers.  This is why we as authors need to be fair to our characters, and our readers, and move beyond the stereotypes, to breathe life into our characters.

My Evil Plot

Okay, it’s probably not evil, but for me plotting is evil. I am a panster at heart and I find it very difficult to force myself to have a cohesive plan. But after last week’s revelation I decided I needed to try something different. Now that I have Scrivener (plotters personal holy grail) I have no reason not to give it a go. For those of you not familiar with Scriviner it has a side bar where you can can put various chapters/scenes/notes/research all in a cohesive manner. This is difficult to explain so I highly recommend checking out a Youtube video or going to http://www.literatureandlatte.com/ to browse a bit. 

I also decided I needed to analyze my characters more and decided to see what the web had to offer me. I found this character worksheet http://jodyhedlund.blogspot.com/p/character-worksheet.html and have begun the process of psychoanalyzing my characters which is both fun and tedious. I have to admit I am learning a lot about my characters. For instance I had no idea that Peg’s favorite color was orange or that she was a big Stephen King fan. She also collects tea cups (fun fact for all of you). 

So far this journey has been fun and I have to admit my favorite part is finding all of these wonderful tools online. Writer’s are truly fortunate these days because we have so much information at our finger tips. That is if we have access to the internet (I’m going to assume that you do if your reading my post). I have found a lot of things this past week that I believe will make my novel rock my socks off and hopefully one day a larger audience. 

J.K. Rowling and J.R.R. Tolkien

What do those two have in common? Both are extreme back-story authors. Rowling reportedly has literally hundreds of notebooks filled to the brim with information such as the 700 rules for Quidditch; Tolkien felt the need to develop a complete new language for his tales.

While these two may be on one polar end of the scale, many others have only the merest whiff of their fictional world prior to writing.

Both approaches have been successful. It is up to the individual writer to find what works for them. I personally have found that the more I develop in terms of back story, character studies and general world building, the easier the plotting and actual writing goes.

Why is that?

I think going through the process of developing your characters and world helps suggest the type of story that should be told.

It is not the quickest way to get a manuscript to its first draft stage, but it may be one of the quicker ways to reach a good final draft. Knowing what the terrain is like on the other side of the mountain before you get there allows for proper foreshadowing in the first draft, and will lead to fewer re-writes.

Is all that extra work worth the effort?

If you’re like me, and your story runs out of gas at a certain point, or your characters head off in directions unknown, it’s worth looking into.

Just a thought.

A free product–FreeMind–is a mind-mapping software for those who prefer keeping information on their computer rather than hand-written notes and journals.

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