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Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Characters

This idea was also suggested by Jessica in our suggestion box.  So this post will be all about characters.  From the ones we love to the ones we love to hate. 

Every character has their own voice, a personality that is unique to them.  No matter how stereotypical you try to make a character, they are still very much their own person.  Just as actual people are all each unique.  Stereotypes, in my mind, don't really exist because even if you fit into a category, you're not the same as another person that fits the category.  Anyway, because each character is unique, there's really no way to tell you how to develop them to make them "real".

However, knowing your characters inside and out is very important in the development process.  When I began writing the first draft of my novel, I had absolutely no idea where I was going with it nor did I really take time at the beginning to get to know Hallie, Edward, Dale, Tabitha, and Gale (and every other character in the novel).  Without doing this everything I wrote was kind of like discovering another piece to a puzzle.  Which was kind of interesting because my characters somewhat created themselves, but it was also kind of tricky because I wasn't always sure how a character should react to things or if they would say something or not.  I think it's really important to know your main characters inside and out (I mean, I even know what Edward's house in England looks like ^^), but the minor characters you don't need to know everything about them - just what's essential to the story.  In doing so with your minor characters I think you'll be surprised to discover some random things about them as you go through the story.  I know through the course of writing Solace I've discovered that Dale is a really interesting character to me, and some other characters I kind of want to tell their stories.  Or at least I want to know them.

In a wonderful book called "Writing Magic" by Gale Carson Levine it gives this basic profile for a character.  This is how I filled out Hallie's character profile:

Character Sketch of Hallie Pearson


Name: Hallie Leanna Pearson

Nickname, if any: Hal

Kind of being: Human

Age: 21, almost 22

Sex: Female

Appearance: 5’7”, mid-neck length, brown hair, Caucasian, blue eyes, 120-125 lbs.

Family members: Michael, Lydia, Sophia, Clay, Brent, Jackson.

Pets: none.

Best friend: Gale

Room: Baby blue, gray, black, and white d├ęcor. Old look. Book shelves.

Way of speaking: English.

Physical characteristics: Optimistic, cautious, guarded, a little hurt, accepting, loving.

Items in her purse: Phone, perhaps pepper spray to please cop-of-a-cousin, Brent.

Hobbies: Reading, spending time with friends and family, music, writing.

Favorite sports: none (likes watching OSU football).

Talents, abilities, or powers: Accepting and loving, seeing the best in people, writing.

Relationships: Cautious because of past. Beginning to get back into relationships. When she is in a relationship, she’s in it with a passion--always giving her best.

Fears: Being hurt, dark, losing someone she loves, marriage.

Faults: She worries a lot, she has a hard time opening up to people.

Good points: She’s strong, accepting, loving, and very down-to-earth and modest. She has a beautiful laugh and loves to use it--though she doesn’t use it all that often.

What she wants more than anything else: To be whole again, to follow her beliefs and to not go against her values. Later on, Edward.

By doing this I discovered things about Hallie that I didn't really know - granted some of them aren't important and are never mentioned.  Such as her interest in writing or her fear of the dark.  Although I kind of knew these things - to an extent - seeing them all written out and right there in front of my face was amazing.  The character that I have and am working so hard to develop, seem real, is basically explained right there in one page apposed to the 180+ pages of draft two so far. 

I would use this same exercise for creating both your protagonist and antagonist.  Maybe for your antagonist add some things like "Why they became this way" or "Motive".

As for a secret to creating believable characters:  People.  Real people.  Use the characters in your life to create a basis.  DO NOT USE EVERYTHING ABOUT THAT PERSON!  But truly, observe people, see how they interact - or don't interact - with the public.  Now, I'm not telling you to stalk people.  I'm just saying when you're out in public, keep your eyes open and take everything in.  You might look a little creepy sitting at a table staring at a person across the room and writing things down.  Just make mental notes as write them down as soon as you can.  Oh, and don't make staring obvious.  Think about a TV show.  The characters on say "Criminal Minds" are real to us because they could easily be someone we know, or even us.  (I'd be Reed or Garcia.) And the unsubs and victims are real to us for the same reason because we could easily know these people - which sometimes is chilling.

As for perspective, I like to write from a female perspective, because I'm female.  However, I have experimented writing from a guy's POV and have discovered that I can do it, it's not hard, but not as well as the female perspective.

You also need to have your characters face conflict.  I know that sounds really basic, but it's true.  I had a hard time facing this fact in draft one, and therefore a lot of the story is just Hallie and Edward living life.  Never did they have one fight.  It's unrealistic and doesn't make for a good story.  In the words of my writing mentor, "Chase your characters up a tree.  Then throw rocks at them."  :)

Hope this helped, Jessica, and everybody else!  Let me know what you wanna hear about next! And tell Charlie to come back!  He won't listen to me.  This is Two Teens, One Dream, after all.  ;)

~Hanna~

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Beginnings

First off I'd like to apologize for the lack of posting.  It's been a long, hard week, so I haven't been able to post anything nor could I really think of anything to post about.

Jessica was the first person to use the suggestion box. One of the things she suggested we talk about was beginning your stories. Beginnings are kind of essential, to anything you write. When you do public speaking, they like for you to begin with a joke or a strong point. For example, I read a poem at my great-grandma’s funeral and I began with “You know, waterproof mascara is the best invention ever.” Just as so, it’s very important that your story, poem, or novel starts with a strong point. You need to draw your reader in, make them want to start reading what you’ve written. Your whole piece could be amazing except for the beginning. But if no one wants to read the beginning and get to the parts that are wonderful, it won’t matter.



My wonderful writing teacher my eighth grade year referred to these such beginnings as “Interest Grabbers” or IG’s.


This is the most accurate name I’ve ever heard of describing beginnings because that’s truly what they’re there for: to grab the interest of the reader.


So if you haven’t caught on by now a beginning is very, very important. Finding a good beginning, though, can be somewhat tricky. It really depends on your topic, and what type of piece you’re writing. One way to generalize this topic is to think about things that usually grab your attention (not like the hot guy sparkling over there, more general than that). Leads may include, but are not limited to:


Dialogue,
Action,
Thoughts,
Flash-forwards, or
Moral-to-the-story-foreshadowing-what’s-gonna-happen.


So, tell me. Which of the following pieces would you be more likely to read?


1) Today I decided to go to the mall because I was so mad at my mom.


2) The door slammed shut as my fist clamped around the car keys so hard I was sure I’d puncture my palms. Throwing my purse into the car, I followed suit and thrust the keys into the ignition, heading out in the direction of the mall. No matter how much I focused on the road, all I could think about was how idiotic and irrational my mother was. Just because she doesn’t like my boyfriend doesn’t mean she has the right to tell me who’s right for me.


It should be a no-brainer, but whatever. Number two would be an example of a combination of Action and Thoughts.

So, do you see how much more likely you would be to continue reading one piece over the other?  It's important because I would have put the first piece down by now, where as the second has my attention because it has captured my interest.  Would millions of people have read Twilight if Stephenie Meyer had started the book with "I'm Bella and I'm moving in with my dad in Forks, Washington."?  I will be the first to say that there are a LOT of books with slow beginnings.  And the slower the beginning, the harder it is for me to get through a book.  But sometimes the beginning (after the IG) needs to be slow, because you need to give some back story or information.  I agree, those are the most boring things to read and write, but they are needed.

Hope this helped!
*In the comments (after commenting on the post or whatever) tell Charlie you want him to start posting again.  He got spoiled with all of the new books he picked up in England. :P *

~Hanna~