Tag Archives: characters

Writing My Characters

21 Jan

Recently I got a question about how I write my characters. Since I write character-driven stories, characters are important. They have to be real, complex, and relatable. I never put pen to paper if I don’t know who they are. If I haven’t had a shrink session with them in my head, then I can’t write them well. It might be that I have them answer questions, but sometimes I get images, scenes that show me who they are. It’s can be a vibe.

The key to transferring this vibe to the reader is by giving them crumbs instead of the entire cookie. My characters have secrets, or things they’d rather not want others to know for some reason and that’s what I hint at. I don’t necessarily share the secrets, maybe not even any of the secrets, but I sure as hell hint at them. Readers are smart. Spelling things out usually annoys rather than helps.

Currently, I’m writing a main character who is also an antagonist. She is bad. I mean really bad. She has power and wants to keep it, if not get more. She kills without blinking. Now it is extra important that the reader UNDERSTANDS her. Otherwise they won’t accept her behaviour or care about what she experiences. This novel is a puzzle of her and slowly but surely the reader gets to know her. Characters need to grip you, otherwise why would you care? That’s why I can’t read plot-driven novels. I lose interest. I don’t care enough to read on.

Basically I write my characters with great interest and as if they are a puzzle that readers need to put together with clues. Subtle clues. The plot allows room for that, in fact, it helps the character show us who she is. There also has to be a contrast. My character is evil, sure, but she is also fragile and can’t stand violence against women even if that makes her a bit of hypocrite. Conflict is in every novel but there should also be conflict in characters if you want them to be interesting, no matter how small that conflict is.

Make things difficult, and let them show you what they’re made of.

Advertisements

Feedback

23 Jan

….is food for the writer. It even has the word ‘feed’ in it. As a writer/author feedback is very important for your growth, but also for the growth of your story. Every draft you write takes you closer to the version that it was meant to be in the first place. It’s like creating a sculpture out of lifeless lump of clay. You can see what it’s supposed to be, and it will take a while to get it there.

After almost two years of being swallowed up by my new work, querying has taken a backseat. But now that I feel like I’ve got the hang of that thing we call Real Life, I’m back in the game. As I’m still querying the first novel in my cosy mystery, I’m already working on the second. At first I thought that was pointless, because I haven’t even published my first novel yet. I have the luxury, however, of being able to work on multiple stories, so it’s not like I can’t query more novels as a plan B. Also, I let a very critical friend read it and her boyfriend heard about the story and wanted to read it too. Now they’re both hooked and he kept asking me when I’d write the second novel. If that isn’t motivational, I don’t know what is. I also considered it a good exercise of my writing muscles without the pressure of knowing I want an agent to look at it. So I put finger to keyboard and mind to page and here I am…I have a murder in a hotel, an emotional mystery writer, and a love interest who is getting closer to making his move. Yay, the excitement.

What’s even more exciting is the feedback. I mean, after not playing with my characters for a while, it’s nice to know I still got it. And hearing that it’s well-written and just drags you in is just the thing you need to hear. Not just as an ego boost but also because it’s important to know when you’re on the right track. That’s equally important to knowing you’re not. Also, because my beta readers are impatient, I send them a few chapters each time so when they pick up on an inconsistency, I can immediately change it. I’m still going to let more beta readers ravage it, but only after I’m done. In the meantime I’m so happy to reconnect to my characters and let them grow even more.

More murders, more fun. Wait, that sounded psycho. I really must be a writer, then.

Post-Planning

11 Jan

The whole point of planning is to do it before what it is you are undertaking. It’s so all you have to do is follow the path instead of wading through the wilderness. What if I told you, though, there’s also something like post-planning?

You might think I’m mad. And I am, but that’s neither here nor underwear. Personally, I have tried to plot and plan, but my biggest dream of actually plotting most of my novel and writing like the blazes because of it has only happened once. A small thought stepped forward while I was trying to train myself to plot and it occurred to me that writing a first draft IS the plotting. You write it and afterwards you make a lay-out of your scenes and character growth and all that. It makes it easier to check your work and then make any necessary changes. Basically it makes you an edit-plotter, though I’m sure there’s a cooler name for it. Hang on, I’ll think of one.

This means that really there are no wing-it writers, there are just different ways of plotting. What ever works for one writer, will not work for the other. I mean, think about it, our characters are so different from each other. Doesn’t it make sense that humans are are also very different from each other?

DEATH DRAGON WRITER. Yes, that’s the cooler the name. Spread the word. You’re writers, you’ll be good at that.

 

Trouble

4 Jan

Knock, knock. Here’s trouble. We all have them, don’t we? Why wouldn’t we, we’re constantly surrounded by the most dangerous species on this planet…HUMANS. The thing is, it would be boring without them. Our troubles teach us so many things. We learn, we evolve, we become better versions of ourselves.

Doesn’t the same apply to our unsuspecting characters? We would never want to read a story about a character who is fully content and has absolutely no problems or cares in the world. He’s just breezing through the story with a smile plastered on his perfect, symmetrical face. BORING. We want characters with hidden scars and secrets. Even better if we only get to find out a few, as long as we know they’re all there. They don’t call it ‘sweet sorrow’ for nothing. Our characters should face their demons and come out victorious because all their troubles have prepared them for it. That’s what makes the ride worth it, at least, for me.

Sure, trouble isn’t always fun, but the main thing to remember is that what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger. Let our characters show us that there is hope and that we are strong, but even stronger than we know.

Themes Make the Story Go Around

19 Feb

Like a carousel with haunting horses and dark chariots.

Some people might think that themes are unnecessary creativity stifling monsters that force you to actually think about your story and go deep, but since when are those bad things? There’s something to be said for just writing, and thinking can sometimes block you. However, there will be moments, especially at the start of a story, that your mind will block because you HAVEN’T thought about your story. Every character needs a main reason to do what they do and be who they are. It’s the same for the story itself. What drives the story? Including all its characters combined. It’s the base, the centre. Without that, the story won’t spin around.

I’ll give an example. At some point a writing bug caught me and I started working on a story involving a weird circus. I was inspired by an image and really wanted to create something wondrous to do that image justice. However, I was stuck after four pages. Why? Because of the theme. What was this story about? What did I want the characters to learn? To achieve? What was the point of it all? I’d put the curious girl and her fearful friend in the circus. They’d seen exotic animals without leashes, a mirror hall that showed strange reflections, and circus people that could give Lady Gaga a run for her money. But what was I going to do with them afterwards? I had just thrown them in there without instructions. Poor characters.

I find it difficult to think of a theme. I find it extremely difficult to think of where they are going. Yet, if I want to do my story justice (and I do), then I have to brainstorm on this. I have to figure them out. I have to put the story and its characters on that sofa and ask them psychologist-y questions, travel deep into their minds with pickaxes because that is kind of what writers do. And isn’t it wonderful?

Move It

20 Dec

I like to move it, move it…to a new home. It’s been a few weeks since I left the nest and set up camp in my very own apartment (with a balcony and French doors, thank you very much). I have tasted freedom before so now that I have a steady income you can imagine my joy that finally I could find my own place. Don’t get me started on my pet dragons. Initially they don’t like change but now they’re flying around the place like butterflies on drugs.

It does mean that writing has taken a back seat and it is not happy about that. It keeps asking me if we’re there yet and sulks like nobody’s business. I feel guilty, but contrary to popular belief, writers are human and sometimes life locks our characters in the basement and swallows the key.

Dust settles, however. And before you’ve even taken out the key, creativity is already seeping through the keyhole. What you bottle up, must always come out. So here’s to a new home and to new stories.

Let It Sink In

11 Oct

My muse has been playing truant since a few weeks ago. I wrote the first draft of my first magical realism novel and it was one hell of a ride. It’s probably the story I’m most proud of and I can’t explain why. Perhaps because I’ve done my best to add some beautiful prose, or because it has an Addams Family feel to it. But man, it was so frustrating, because after rereading it and getting back feedback from my ninja readers I realised I had to rewrite the ending. It was as slow and painful as having my nails pulled out. Exaggerating? Me? Nah.

My heels spontaneously began to drag themselves when my creative mind hit a brick wall covered in thorns and barbed wire. Somehow I couldn’t even work on other projects, because deep down I wanted to finish this story first. I had to. But how could I when my characters were playing hide and seek without having told me?

So as you can guess, I haven’t written in a while and as a writer, that is torture. I felt like a flower who hadn’t been watered. But today, finally, I had my eureka moment! Nothing is as enticing as a blank page and a pen. It’s like putting a chocolate cake in front of someone who’s extremely hungry. I had to write but didn’t really know what. My thoughts drifted to my story and I thought about the theme and what my character really wanted in those final pages. And bam, I had an idea. And bam, I started writing. And BAM, I had my flow back! Oh, finally. I’m no longer starving for words. What a relief.

For a while I thought I would have to lick the words from the books I have, but none taste as good as my own. Anyway, I’ll stop being weird. My point is that there’s no rush. At least, not when you don’t have an agent (yet). Sometimes it’s good to distract yourself with other things before having another brainstorm session. Sometimes it’s good to let your story sink in. Sometimes it’s necessary.

%d bloggers like this: