Newbie lesson #1 – Planning out characters.

For the past few weeks I’ve been a part of the Young Writer’s workshop – which has been awesomely put together by Brett Harris and Jaquelle Crowe.

What I love about the workshop the most so far is the facebook group that is filled with the most awesomely amazing nerds ever. They all support each other, answer questions and read each other’s work. (I got my first beta reader btw!)

I really love being a part it!

It does mean that I’m exposed to a lot of brand new writers though. Writers who haven’t written their first novel yet. Writers who don’t know how to write that fist sentence or how to plot that first character. There are questions being asked on the group every day.

Inspired by their questions, I have decided that I want to write a writing lesson on one of the basics of writing.

How to create a character.

So here it is.

How to create a character – My own method.

In my time writing I’ve discovered that no matter how bad the rest of your story is, people will still love it if you’re characters are well written. That’s not a promise but that is how it works for me. For me characters are the heart of a story.

So that’s why it’s the first thing I want this series to cover.

Let’s get into it.

The first thing you need to do to create a character is grab a piece of paper. I use a normal A4 sheet with lines on it. You will hopefully not need too much more paper than that at first.

Now what do you put on the paper?

(there is an example of how it should look at the bottom of the post. Fill in sheet style)

Name:

At the top of your paper write down your character’s name. If you can’t think of anything go check out this baby naming site.

I like using a name with a meaning behind it, because that way I already have the first aspect of my character figured out. (example: Nava- beautiful. Bellona – goddess of war)

Gender:

In the next line write down either male or female… simple right?

Age:

Third line is age. I was taught that if you’re a new writer try to keep your characters around your own age – give or take two years. That way you can relate to them and as a result they’ll be more realistic. If you’re a grown writer who wants to write children’s books you may skip this advice.

Appearance:

Now the fourth part is where things get exciting.

In about 6 lines (on the paper) explain how your character looks. Go into detail.

When I was just starting out I thought that all you needed to describe a character was eye and hair colour. I was very naive back then.

No – eye and hair colour is not what takes to make a character appear to your reader. Instead try to go into depth in how your character looks at certain times of the day. Think about how they move. Think about the tiny scars that cover their arms etc.

Good things to use in descriptions are how they move, what kind of body build they have, how they dress, if they have long thin fingers or short chubby ones. These details help make a character real so take a minute to write down as much as you can think of.

Where necessary also add how they feel about their appearance.

Hermione had large front teeth. She hated them.

Doesn’t that give way more of an impression than eye colour?

Character’s life

Now take another six lines and fill in a bit about the character’s past and present.

Before you can write a story you need to know what mindset your character is currently in.  So go ahead and write down what you have figured out about them by now.

Here you should basically start by writing a quick overview of the character which can be prompted with questions such as. What social class is your character in? How caring is this character? How many family members does this character have, who do they care for the most etc.

Next think about their past. What have they lived through? What was a couple of defining points in their lives? Who helped them along the way?

Lastly what is your character’s current mindset? What is your character busy doing with in their life before your story begins? What is your character doing day in, day out? Does your character have any goals?

This will help you know who your character is when you just start off with a project.

That’s it. Those are five simple areas that if answered correctly give you a character.

Now write.

The next step would be to honestly observe your character. I’m going to give you a scene and then you just place your character into the scene and write it out so you can see what kind of character you have.

This helps because it sets you into the mindset of your character, and if the character acts out of the guidelines you built, you’ll be able to decide how to fix that problem before you start with your main project.

Scene

Your character is about to have a lesson in (insert interest of choice) and is laughing with their friend to the side when their instructor barks at them to come show off what they had been practicing the week before.

How your character approaches the lesson is up to you.

Got it? Go.

When you’re done, feel free to share your writing with me. I love reading how other writers interpret my prompts.

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Character introduction: Peggy

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I’m so excited! I finally get to introduce one of my characters to you and she really is one of my favourites! When I planned this post I wasn’t exactly sure how I’m going to be introducing her to you…
So thinking about how I’m going to go about this I remember having read somewhere that there are 36 questions that will scientifically make people fall in love. (A bit of a oversimplification I think) So I figured those questions can make great interview questions to introduce this character to you.

I’m just going to jump in and get started here but quick disclaimer, none of these answers are my own and they are purely how my character would answer them.

So let me introduce to you Peggy Carter, main character and the banshee with pink hair.

 
1. Given the choice of anyone in the world who would you want as a dinner guest?

I’m not really certain I haven’t really fantasised about spending time with anyone lately. The only person who I actually enjoy spending time with, I already see every day. I think I would like to have dinner with Benjamin because he’s the only one I’m really comfortable with but I’m not sure that’s what you wanted to know…
Otherwise I’d probably go for Robbie Amel (the arrow)

2. Would you like to be famous, in what way?

When I was little, I used to fantasise about being a famous singer but that’s not really realistic. I don’t want to be famous anymore, in fact I’d enjoy simply being left alone. It would be nice if my online business got some more attention though, but since I work under a ghost name that wouldn’t really count as being famous.

3. Before making a telephone call do you ever practice what you’re going to say? Why?
Yes! I definitely do this, it helps keeps me speaking even if I’m a little nervous.

4. What would constitute a “perfect day” for you?

The perfect day for me would be waking up happy and just going to the cafe like I always do. From there I think I would like Benjamin to take me somewhere new. I don’t like going new places on my own but if he is there, I think it could be a lot of fun.

5. When did you last sing to yourself? To someone else?
Last time I sang to myself was this morning, I was singing along with the radio in my room. The last time I sang for someone else was more a recording really, I had to write some lyrics for a client and then recorded it for them.

6. If you could live to the age of 90 and retain either the mind or body of a 30 year old for the last 60 years of your life, which would you want?

I’d say mind because I’m already unfit anyway and really most of what I do require my head over my body. Also it actually scares me a little to lose yourself when you grow older, I wouldn’t want that.

7. DO you have a secret hunch about how you’re going to die?

That’s a really sucky question. Not one that I’m really comfortable with to be honest. There was a time I could put either murdered or suicide down as my answer but I don’t want to think like that anymore. I don’t know what Benjamin did to me but I actually really want to believe that I’m going to die at an old age, with happy memories to think on and not believe that I’m going to be caught one night and killed.

8. Gotta skip this one because it involves you more than Peggy.

 
9. For what in your life do you feel most grateful?

Benjamin. I’m certain I would have ended my own life quite a while back now if he didn’t magically get me to be happy. Just the fact that he made an effort to talk to me, when no one else had in months, meant a lot more than I could ever express.

10. If you could change anything about the way you where raised, what would it be?

I would change the fact that we moved around so much. I think I would have liked growing up in a single home and not constantly moving around as if we were being chased.

11. Tell your partner your life story in four minutes.
Okay here goes… My mother was a banshee and my father is one of the decedents of one of the four Irish clans. She was supposed to be the banshee that screamed when he died but she fell for him instead and they got married. I’m the result.
So being raised a banshee we travelled around a lot and I’m currently settled in South Africa. I was around fifteen when I and my mother got caught by banshee hunters. My mother was killed and I was branded two marks onto each arm as a symbol to the fact that I’m a monster. I was saved before they killed me and soon after banshee hunting was made illegal. My dad stayed maybe two months after that but then he left and soon enough so did all my friends. They said they couldn’t be friends with a monster. So I spent a lot of time alone and eventually grew a little depressed but meeting Benjamin helped a lot and after that I’ve been busy putting myself back together again. I even have a legitimate business now!

12. If you could wake up tomorrow having gained any one quality or ability what would it be?
If only this question was if I could lose one ability. Anyway if I could gain one ability I would want the ability to fly. I think it would be really nice to have that kind of freedom and I’d probably just end up flying forever.

 

Now we do round two.

13. If a crystal ball could tell you the truth about yourself, your life, the future or anything else, what would you want to know?
I would want to see every episode of the DC series in advance because I’m really tired of waiting a week between episodes.

14. Is there something you’ve dreamed of doing for a long time? Why haven’t you done it before?
I like to dream about going to comic convention or something like that. It seems like a lot of fun to cosplay but I haven’t done it yet because I don’t really have the nerve. I’m sure I’d enjoy it if I just went but I’m not sure if people will approve. (not that I’m all that certain who’s approval I really want)

15. What is the greatest accomplishment of your life?
I sold my first song not too long ago and I thought that was pretty awesome.

16. What do you value most in friendship?
I’m not certain… most of my friendships failed. If I think about my friendship with Benjamin though, I think what I value most is comfort or perhaps it’s the opposite and I value how he pushes me out of my comfort zone sometimes. I’m not sure, Benjamin somehow manages to offer me both.

17. What is your most treasured memory?
When I was little I and my parents went to a park. There was one of those see-saws, so me and my mother sat on the one side and my father sat on the other side. It was so much fun as we went up and down, me giggling like the seven year old I was and my parent both laughing.
It was really nice.

18. What is your most terrible memory?
The night me and my mother got kidnapped, I remember my mother using her ‘screams’ to kill the men around us, but they had sticks and they struck at her, forcing her to be silent. I remember seeing those men in their dark clothes while my mother’s screams still rang through the air and thinking: this is it… I’m going to die.

19. If you knew that you would die in one year what would you change in your life?

I like to think that I would stop listening to the fear and maybe travel a bit. I’d like to do some bungee jumping or skydiving. I would want to sing on a stage and not just behind a computer.
I really think that if I was pressed I would stop living with this fear and do some bodacious things.

20. What does friendship mean to you?
Benjamin would be able to say something profound for this one. Or perhaps the answer is in that new Netflix series ‘stranger things’ and friendship can be defined by someone who doesn’t lie to you. To be honest I think what friendship means to me is someone who is there. It sounds stupid sure but in my life almost everyone has left and so I think to me a real friendship is someone who would stay.

21. What roles do love and affection play in your life.
They used to mean a lot to me, when my parents where both still alive and present. Now I’m really sure because the thing is that I’ve learned to live without anyone who outright loves me. I think Benjamin cares for me and he often does nice things which could be seen as affectionate but I’m not always sure why he does it though.

22. Skip this one. It needs you to share what you like with your partner.

23. How close and warm is your family? Do you feel you’re childhood was happier than most other people’s?

If you haven’t been able to tell already, me and my father aren’t close anymore. My childhood was rather nice though and while not perfect I’m certain it was nicer than some other people’s.

24. How do you feel about your relationship with your mother?

When my mother was still alive we had a good relationship. She was a little distant when I asked her about help for being a banshee and I had to figure most of it out on my own, but I’m certain she loved me and I obviously loved her very much. She was a good woman who was strong for her family.

Part 3

25. Skip this one for same reasons as the previous two times.

26. Complete the sentence: “I wish I had someone whom I could share…”

I wish I had someone whom I could share my fears with. I don’t want to burden Benjamin with them seeing as how I’m not sure how fragile our friendship is but I would really love it if I had someone else who would be willing to help me carry these thoughts.

27. If you where to become friends with your partner (you who read this) share what they should know about you.
I don’t trust easily and often withdraw from people so it’s hard to communicate with me. If however you do manage to just stick with me I promise that I will be there for you when you need me. I really do think that I’m there for the people I care for.

28. Skip

29. Share an embarrassing moment in your life.

Why!? Hasn’t this entire thing been bad enough?
Fine then!
There was this one time when I was about twelve when I went to the market with a friend. We were just buying some sweets and there was this man in front of us who just wanted to by a single lollypop but he needed thirty cents. We paid and I realized we have exactly thirty cents left so while we walk out I debate giving it to him. I ask my friend what she thinks and she just rolls her eyes at me and says that if I want to do it I should do it. So grinning I turn around and hand it to the man. He took the money and frowned down at me but I was too proud of myself to care and I walked to where my friend was waiting for me. There she just shook her head and told me I’m an idiot and that I gave the wrong man the money. I felt like such a dimwit! I swear though, they looked exactly alike.

30. When did you last cry in front of a person? By yourself?
I haven’t cried in front of anyone in a while, not even Benjamin. I do have bouts though where I feel really bad and so I would cry myself to sleep. It hasn’t happened in a while, maybe a couple of weeks back now.

31. Skip.
32. What if anything is too serious to be joked about?
I know that a lot of people joke about their pain to make it seem lighter but I think a line should be drawn when it comes to joking about other people’s pain. It’s why I’ve never been a supporter of dark humour. I really don’t think it’s cool to mock other people’s suffering.

33. If you where to die this evening before being able to communicate with anyone what would you regret saying and to who?
Two people, I would regret not saying thank you for Benjamin for how much he’s done for me. I haven’t told him yet because it feels like a weird thing to do, considering he probably doesn’t even realize just how much his acknowledgement of my existence mean to me.
The second thing I’d regret would be not telling my dad just how angry I am at him for leaving me when he did. I think I deserve better than that, he is my dad after all.

34. Your house catches fire. After saving your loved ones and pets you get to dash in one last time to save one more thing what would it be?

Are you trying to make me choose between my laptop and my books? I don’t think I can make that choice!
I guess I’ll have to save the small box in the back of my closet, it contains all my money and some of my mother’s old jewellery but boy will I be upset about my books and laptop.

 
35. Of all the people in your family, who’s death would be the most disturbing?
My dad the only family I have left… and I guess it would be really disturbing because it would mean that he truly did leave me and that I’m not seeing him ever again.

36. Share a personal problem and ask your partner for advice.
Okay, that’s simple, I’m currently building a list of all the ways to fight my fears and depression is there anything specific you would suggest I try? I’m already thinking about picking up exercise.


Okay that was all the questions and it leaves me to mention here again that these answers has nothing to do with me the writer… got it?

 
Now I have to leave you with a question though because it’s pretty much all the questions I left out summed into one.
What one thing would you say you like about Peggy so far?
All comments welcome!

Deciding on a POV character to be the voice of your story.

In the past two weeks I have written why POV matters and then we compared first person POV IMG_6174to third person POV. Today we’ll take a look at how you decide on a POV character and how to define their voice.
Your POV character is the character from whose perspective you are telling your story. It isn’t specifically the hero of the story but in most cases it is.
Who your POV character is affects your writing because everyone reacts to things differently and like different things.
So if you choose a book lover as your POV character and you let her into a study her eyes will notice the books.
If you choose a carpenter as your POV character and you put him in the same study, he will notice the bookshelves.

This is important because it effects how you will be writing the entire book. If you are writing in third person like we discussed last week then yes you can have more than one POV character, but are you sure that’s a good thing?
Every PO character you have must have their own voice and be indistinct enough that the reader can tell them apart even if you don’t say their names. So if you are new to writing than I suggest that you don’t have more than 3 POV characters. If you are experienced than you can have any amount under 7. If you are writing in 1st person than stick to only one POV character.

First you need to pick a POV character.
Things to consider before you decide is.
• How close to the action will this character be?
Your reader doesn’t want to simply read about a character drinking tea while his friends are out fighting a war. Your readers want to be in the middle of the story where all the tension is. So make sure that your POV character is involved in the story.
• Does this character have anything at stake?
We want your readers to care about your POV character not just everyone around them. Make sure your POV character has something at stake and then make sure your reader cares about it.
• How well do you know this character?
If you don’t know your POV character all that well than go figure them out. If you don’t know your POV character you won’t know how they view the world and you won’t know what to write.
• One last tip is that before a scene ask yourself who’s perspective will be the most interesting in this scene.

So now you have decided on a character you need to work on defining their voice. This is best done through writing exercises.

I start by simply writing a rough scene so I can get the general feel of my character. It’s often really bad but every here and there some piece of the writing strikes true and is my character’s voice. I read this over so I get to know my character a little better.

The second writing exercise I use is to imagine a scene in my head. I place the setting and the characters without so much as putting a word on paper. I then simply start making a list of things my character would notice in this scene.

The third exercise I do is asking myself, what kind of words do this character use?
A prince who has been educated would use different words to describe things than say an uneducated barber.
The words you use are important because people pick up different words and let it become a part of their internal thoughts as well as their dialog. Also if you are writing from the perspective of an artist you will need to have words ready for descriptions because simply saying that the girl had blue eyes and brown hair wouldn’t do if your character thinks in terms of ice blue and midnight blue.
Here is a final exercise for you.
If you are writing from more than one point of view than write a scene with all your POV characters in it. Make sure something happens to all of them. Now rewrite it from one of the other POV character’s perspective.
Rewrite the scene as many times as you have POV characters. Then compare the writings and see if each character has their own voice.
While writing, remember that each character have their own wants and their own set of fears.
I hope his was helpful to you guys, if you have any questions or something to add then don’t be afraid to do so.
How many POV characters do you have? Who is your main POV character?

weekend writer’s block. (Inspiration for desperate times)

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Now I realize that last week I gave you all this really cool detailed version of a story. If I keep writing post like that I will soon have nothing to share with you and nothing left to write.
From here of on I will share snippets of story ideas instead of the whole thing at once. Occasionally I might share the whole thing at once but I will leave those as surprises for you.

For today I have a character.
Looks.
When it comes to details this character is pretty fearsome. She has a pointed face with strong cheekbones. Her hair is blond and at one side of her head a section of hair is braided tightly to her skin. She is tall and well muscled.
She wears a dark red leather jacket over a black t-shirt with skinny jeans and ankle length boots.
Her nails are painted black except for maybe one or two that she simply paints whatever colour she wants.
She wears dramatic eye makeup and simple black studs in her ears.
She has scars. The first one people notice is the small one that cut through one of her eyebrows. She has more of course, they cover her arms and back.

Where you can find her.
No one knows where this character is at day but at night you can almost certainly find her in the bar by the pool table.
She doesn’t talk to people except when making a bet.

Her actions.
She doesn’t prowl towards people, she doesn’t have a confidant step in her walk. She definitely doesn’t walk like some hunting cat.
She simply walks. Her focus is never on others instead she does and goes whatever she wants as long as it doesn’t draw to much attention to her.
She is really good at pool and always agrees when someone challenges her to a game.
If a fight breaks out she keeps playing pool and no one tries to drag her into the fight because in the past she has broken a pool stick over someone’s neck.

Extra.
She doesn’t smoke, instead she always has a lolly pop in her mouth.
She never cheers when she wins a match at pool.
When walking back to her home after a night at a bar she sings.
She comes from a big city but now lives on a farm not too far out of town.

Questions.
Why did she move to the small town?
What does she spend her day’s doing?
Where did she get those scars?
Why is she so good at pool?
Why does she not smoke?

I hope you like the character, you can name her whatever you want.
In what story would you put her? What would you do to make her seem more real? What do you think her past hides?

weekend writers block. (inspiration for desperate times.)

This is a new feature here and it will most likely be renamed and get a better picture in time.

This post is basically a sketch of a story. I day dreamed it and now I’m sharing it here. IMG_5180 - Copy
You guys can browse through it and if something in here gives you any ideas feel free to use it.

How the magic works.
You have something inside yourself that can control magic but it is surrounded with a barrier.
Women’s barrier is stronger than men’s and they don’t develop magic.
This barrier is expertly broken by someone who can already do magic.
Sometimes barriers brake naturally without someone’s help, this is a sign of magical strength.

The school.
The school for magic has a strong system.
They normally gain new members that are turning 14 at the beginning of the school year.
Every year they have battle games. The battle game teams are led by the young men who’s barriers broke naturally.
They are each given equal amounts of first years, second years and so on to complete their teams.
They have to train their teams and complete tasks for points. At the end of the year there is a massive battle between the teams to determine the winners.
There are two winners the one with the most points and the one who won the last battle. Normally though it’s the same team.

Who is the character?
The character is a girl who’s brothers are both naturals.
The thing is when she was six she was angry at them and to prove herself she climbed up a cliff they had told her she would never able to scale.
She made it.
What she can’t remember is that someone was waiting for her up on the mountain, who pushed her back over the edge.
When she struck the ground she broke nearly every bone in her body.
The only reason she stayed alive was because the fall had weakened her own barrier and magic had healed her.
When she woke she was in the school’s medical wing her mother crying over her and her brothers screaming their apologies to her as if the where afraid she would die hating them.
She soon found out that she could actually control magic and joined the school.
She is now the only girl there but she is not to be underestimated since her magic is much stronger than most.

Plot.
It’s her first year training her own team for the battle games and she is set on winning.
Her brothers who up until then lovingly helped her with her training has now become her opponents and one of their teams always win.
The thing is the person that pushed her just realized that she is still alive and didn’t die that day.
He attempts to kill her, but she no longer six and has been trained as a magical warrior.
She buffs all attempts on her life and defies all odds in the contest proving that she is just as good as her brothers.

Extra.
Her brothers are very protective of her now and one of the ways they proved this is by making sure she was never teased for being the only girl in the school. As she grew older this moved from stopping people from teasing her, to stopping people from hitting on her. They break anyone’s fingers who as much as whistle at her.
Her training methods are pretty extreme and to get her team to let go of all fear they jump of off the same cliff she fell off and use their magic to keep the landing from breaking their bones.

The different tensions and how to use them in your writing.

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A few weeks ago while writing I realized that something in my story just wasn’t sitting right.
I had my characters and I knew the basic plot points but it was feeling a bit flat.
I realized that my story lacked tension.

Knowing what was wrong I had to scrap nearly half of what I have written and rewrite. So take my advice and start adding tension now before you have to restart completely.
Tension is all about opposing forces. When two characters argue, it’s tension. If your character is struggling with a decision, it’s tension.
There are so many chances for tension that I have divided it into different types of tension.

Plot tension.
The plot tension is the tension that is written in your outlines. It is your villain versus your Hero.
Your plot tension is when what your MC wants clashes with what your Villain wants.
To maximize this tension ask yourself, why are your MC and villain on opposite sides. What does each one of these characters want and why does that mean they cross paths?

Character tension.
When characters dislike or disagree with each other there is tension.
To build on this tension make sure your characters have opposite traits and react to things differently. If your MC is selfish make sure there is a selfless character in your story.
If your MC is a daredevil make sure there is a character that is timid. Give your characters reasons to argue and fight.

Scene tension.
Scene tension is when things go wrong. This kind of tension is when your character is trapped in a situation and need to get out as fast as possible.
If a character is trapped in a burning building there is scene tension.
If a character is being hunted by the law there is scene tension.
Ask yourself, what does the character want in this scene? What does your character fear in this scene? Then make sure the worst thing possible happens.

Inner tension.
This is the last one I’m going to mention in this post and it’s when your character has to make a difficult decision.
Let’s say your character has to choose between saving themselves and others. While your character is wondering what to choose there is tension.
Make sure these decisions are personal to your character. Both sides should be equally bad and it should seem like there is no way around it.

Is there anything I missed or did I not explain well enough?
Please feel free to ask questions and I’ll make sure to help.