Tag Archives: Character Development

Be Your Character – Literally.

RedditThey say that to write a book, you need to get into the head of your character. What better way to do that than be an online persona of your character and have people interview him/her/it.

At the IAmAFiction Sub-Reddit, you can log on as your character and interact with readers who will pose questions and help you to add flesh to your ideas.  A few of my favourite proposed characters I’ve come across are:

To be honest, I’m a complete novice with Reddit, and I don’t quite gettit (*excuse the pun* – couldn’t resist. Honestly,  you have my sincerest apologies, please don’t go…). The premise seems good. All you need to do is submit your character as an interview subject, and you can give your character a test run in the forum with avid readers. The Reddit peeps say:

If you are working on developing an invented character for creative writing, roleplay, or pure novelty, this is the place to expose your character to the world and subject them to questioning to help you flesh them out.

IAmA posts work just like a regular IAmA post, except the poster assumes the role of his/her character.

Please be a good IAmAfic citizen and comment on other people’s submissions as well as your own. Remember, they’re not real people — so no need to be shy!

my own character development

I may well make use of this in future – when I finally figure out Reddit.

My current state of affairs with Four and Twenty Blackbirds, and character development thereof, is a bit of a shambles. Embarking on my current plan of 4and20BB without a huge amount of novel- writing experience was a trifle ambitious. I have been aiming to write 3 separate and distinct storylines in a world of my own creation and weave the stories so that they all tie up nicely. The only problem was that although I have characters and a world and a few dramatic scenes inferring an over-arching storyline. The truth is, that I have been making it up as I went along. I have no story. It was all very well for a while, but I am now thoroughly lost, with a whole bunch of scenes, but no plot to speak of. Just a bunch of curious characters meadering through their strangely eventful lives.

I’ve been ill the last few days, and although it hasn’t been fun being stuck abed, it has given me ample opportunity to think and plan. The good news is – I now have a plot! The bad news is, for the moment at least, I need to cut the majority of what I’ve written. Ouch! Ah well, at least now I have a path, much better than the frustration of being completely lost and listless… into the woods I go!

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Retired Leprechaun and Curious Observer: Jupp Quegley Treatise

I’ve been getting down to a wee bit of writing as of late. Sadly, the actual novel is not moving, but the backstory and framework for Four and Twenty Blackbirds is coming on apace.

character biography: Jupp quegley

Jupp QuegleyOne of the ways I’m putting the backstory together is by writing character biographies. In the case of Jupp Quegley, who is a minor (but important) character and a sometimes scribbler himself, I am writing his treatise. This exercise has been really helpful in getting me to focus on the parameters on my world and how it operates.

The artwork on the right is from The Alchemist by Pieter Bruegel the Elder, a renaissance grotesque painter. His work is very dark, and I find it both inspiring and applicable to 4and20BB. I see Jupp in this picture.

By way of a very brief taster, the opening few lines of Jupp’s journal is as follows (depending on how much I reveal about the plot points in 4&20BB, there may be more of Jupp’s treatise to come):

From the Early Treatise of Jupp Quegley (age – old enough to know better, young enough not to care), curious observer, and retired Leprechaun. By way of a record for all who would stop long enough to listen.

Magic. It’s everywhere now. It used to be only ever wielded by the Fae, as the humanfolk call us, and the rare pursuit of those few who were wealthy enough or ruthless enough to pay the cost of entry. But where does magic really come from? Any street rat would tell you that it’s from dust. Fairy shite, they call it, HA! Ignorant urchins, who probably have never been more than half a mile from where they were spawned, let alone ventured beyond the borders of the city. And yet, they still know of dust, harvested from the thorn tree orchards that extend beyond the Tanglewood. There, at dusk, the hundred thousand fairies ducking between the trees create dancing constellations across the evening’s landscape. It is a sight that will never cease to stir my soul.

Omnipotent World Building: The Troubles and the Triumphs

World BuildingPerhaps this entry should actually be called “The Troubles and the more Troubles…” Creating a world from scratch is no easy task. I envy all of those writers who set their novels in the here and now, or historical fiction authors who, through meticulous research can find the framework for their imagined worlds. Even J.K. Rowling rooted Harry Potter somewhat in the real world, her magical world was an extension of it. The same could be said for Star Trek, where there is the ready made framework of earth (albeit an earth of the future), so at least there are some parameters to follow.

ready-built worlds

I look at Terry Pratchett’s Discworld, or the world in Game of Thrones or MiddleEarth or Earthsea, and all of them have logic and depth. There are political systems, rival factions, creation myths, ancient legends, detailed family histories. All of these points on which I am flip-flopping all over the place. Looking back at the first 2 Discworld novels: The Colour of Magic and The Light Fantastic, the structure of the world itself was quite raw, and much less established than it is today. In fact, somewhere in my overflowing library of books I have an early map of the Discworld, and there are definitely some new landmasses that have appeared since the early days. But that aside, the essence of the Discworld were still there in the early books. The gods, the way magic works, where the Discworld came from, the governmental structure, the tribes, etc. All the basic building blocks were there. All the points I am having trouble with.

This is what I know: the world of Four and Twenty Blackbirds is the land where fairy tales exist and evolve. Black and white and primal. I don’t know if there are any gods, but there are definitely monsters, lots of them. As yet, I don’t know how the world was created, how my main city was created, or the many other cities and nations that there are or the rivalries between them, and how they may influence my story. These are all questions that I have to answer.

World building to do list

I am currently working on my creation myth, but I think I should put my world building to do list down here for clarity:

  • Origin of main city, and what is the archtitecture like (building materials, etc)
  • Origin of surrounding cities
  • Political structure of main city and surrounding cities, and rivalries and alliances thereof
  • Trade – what are the traded commodities and who has them
  • What is the monetary system
  •  NGOs that influence city life – street gangs, secret societies, family alliances, pirates, etc.
  • History of important figures, legends and old blood feuds
  • Where does magic come from and how does it operate.
  • Geography and ecology and how that affects the movement of populations
  • Are there any gods?
  • Where do the monsters live?

Don’t get me wrong, I have a thought about some or all of these points at one time or the other, and have worked out the basics on a lot of them. However, I haven’t made any concrete plans or worked around how one point would influence the next. Perhaps I am overthinking it, but I feel that if I don’t get the basics right, my story can’t progress any further than it has. Perhaps this might require further research into the building of worlds…

Any other suggestions of points I should consider and may have overlooked are very welcome.

Editing Fantasy – Words are Wind

A friend “book-bombed” me the other day. By that, I mean that she sent me a book she just read through the post and labelled it – a w e s o m e. I dropped all my other reading material in favour of this newly acquired and well-thumbed tome – The Night Angel Trilogy Book 1 – The Way of Shadows by Brent Weeks. (Thanks Lex, you rock!)

The Night Angel Trilogy

trust the reader

It came out in 2008, and a cursory search online tells me that it has a bit of a following. I’m about a third of the way through thus far, and the characters and the world are really well developed. There is some great use of language, imagery and scene setting. But I find myself frustrated as I mentally edit the book as I read. At the moment it’s good, but it could have been great. An example below:

Chapter 9

The following is told from Solon’s point of view. The scene has been set. My editing is as per the strike through

               “Men!” Logan said to the guards loudly to cut her off. “Lady Gyre is tired and overwrought. Escort her to her chambers. I’d appreciate it if one of you would watch her door this night in case she requires anything. We will all dine in the usual room in the morning.”

               Solon loved it. Logan had just confined his mother to her chambers and put a guard on the door to keep her there until morning, all without giving her an avenue for complaint. This boy will be formidable.

Trust the reader. Show don’t tell. The reader knows that this (the language that has been struck through) is what Logan’s done, he’s just said it. Brent Weeks didn’t need to repeat what he meant all over again. I find it really frustrating and distracting, because this sort of clumsy language is repeated throughout the book. It’s almost as if there should have been one last pass of editing that was never done. I am enjoying the depth of the story and the characters, and may well end up reading the full trilogy. But at the moment, it is only my friend’s recommendation that pushes me through the frustration to believe that the book will deliver.

lessons learned

This is a book that has been published by a major publishing house. I’m not sure that it means that their level of editing is inadequate, or it’s simply a lesson to all us unpublished authors that we need to get our level of editing right before our work is submitted.

For me, Brent Weeks’ world is inspiring, because there is so much depth to it. It encourages me to focus on my back story, and world building. But it also reminds me that I need to edit like hell and be ruthless with cutting material. Every word needs to fight for its right to be in my novel: Four and Twenty Blackbirds

Writing 1,000 Words a Week?

One of my belated-resolutions was is to write 1,000 words a week for my book Four and Twenty Blackbirds. As my belated-resolutions began on 1st February, and I’m counting a “week” as a calendar week starting on a Monday (playing it fast and loose, I know)… that means I have until the end of tomorrow to write my week’s quota.

writer’s block

As much discussed in i.am.sophus., I’ve been suffering from writer’s block for a time now. I started this blog to address this, I’ve also attended a drop-in session at an Anne Aylor writing class. Both of these things have helped in revving my mind up. I’ve picked up a pen for the first time in an age and have started working on my novel again: the background, the characters, the world in which it is based. No actual word count increase yet, but I’m moving in the right direction. In writing this blog, I’ve reminded myself of my novel writing rituals, which is helping me get back in the groove. I’ve even gone out and bought a scrub stick because I associate the scent with sitting down and writing.  I’ve included a photo of my sage-burning and character background planning, below.

Char Dev

It’s an outline of the Twelve Families Harbottle – the 12 families that make up the Harbottle tribe of brownies. A brownie is the point of view of a little less than a third of my narrative, so a comprehensive background is really important. By brownies, I do mean the small elf-type individuals (and the fairy tale/ folklore type of elfs that live under toadstools, not the elves from the Lord of the Rings/ Forgotten Realms vein).

slash and burn editing

Writing from a brownie POV for an adult novel is challenging, and my aim is to make the brownies very dark. I’ve written about fifteen thousand words or so thus far, and very sadly, it’s too light and fluffy. I do really like what’s I’ve written. However, having restarted my writing brain and dedicated some proper time thinking about 4&20 (I think that the sage burning helped too), I’ve come to face the fact that it’s going to have to go. I’m going to have to start again. It feels like I’m severing a limb. But better to do it now than later on. Still, it is very dispiriting.

I will be counting my rewrite as going towards my 1,000 word a week count. Not to do so would be far too depressing. I will keep planning this evo, and get cracking on the rewrite early on tomorrow. Wish me luck.

Realism in Writing Goals

Reality Check aheadOK, I have an admission. Although I did enroll in Coursera’s Science Fiction and Fantasy course with the University of Michigan. I’m realising that it’s one commitment too far, there are simply not enough hours in the day for me to do this, my blog, my novel and all the other extra-cirricular activities that I am involved in. It’s one thing too many, lest all the balls that I am juggling come tumbling down.

The reading list is great (and I think it I will follow it), the course materials are great, but enrolling late and trying to launch myself into it was a little optimistic. I think that I will definitely enroll into another course where I have prepared myself  timetable-wise. In fact, Online Games: Literature, New Media, and Narrative, a Coursera course with Vanderbilt University which starts in the summer looks particularly entertaining (one of the classes is held in the LOTR MMORPG), but I digress…

Progress with writing 4&20

As far as crafting long-form fiction goes, I am a slow writer. I spend hours agonising over every word and phrase. Constantly fact-checking and looking for better suited synonyms to make my writing just so. Although I would say that overall my standard of writing is fairly good, there isn’t very much of it and to put it frankly, a snail would easily outpace me.

Blog-assisted inspiration

I’ve been blogging for just under 2 weeks, and I really feel that it is helping me. Helping to give me focus in my writing. I have been in a writing slump for nearly half a year: I set aside my novel 4&20 and my fairy tale fantasy world, and they’ve been gathering dust in a shadowy corner. Although I have not yet added anything to my word count for Four and Twenty Blackbirds, it has been foremost in my thoughts this past fortnight. I have been world building and developing my characters, something that I have not done in an age. I’ve also signed up for a drop-in writing class this Thursday with the very awesome Anne Aylor, which I really think will help get my proverbial ink flowing.

100-Word story: jeffrey archer short story challenge

On other fronts, I have finished my 100-word story for the Jeffrey Archer Short Story Challenge, entitled FreeCycle. I will be going over it with my writing group WLWG on Wednesday, and will post it here after submitting it to the competition.

Happy writing, one and all.

The Terrifying Blank Page

I’ve been blogging about resolutions, of which I have given myself a handful (double meaning of handful intended). ‘THEY’ say that if you want something done, give it to a busy person, so I am applying that rationale here, if I laden myself with tasks, perhaps things will indeed get done.

So continuing with my ‘blog everyday for 100 days‘ resolution, this morning, I was staring at my “Add New Post” page with every good intention, but my mind was a blank. I couldn’t think of anything at all to blog about. It is really amazing running-inspirationthat we have so many blog-appropriate thoughts but when the moment comes to connect the dots, everything evaporates. So I turned to another resolution – exercise, and I conquered the many excuses and made it  out for a run. Although the at the start it was a struggle, at the end I was really getting into my pace. For me, there is definitely a link between exercise and peace of mind, and leading on from peace of mind, I get clarity on my creativity. Basically, during my run my mind had the opportunity to be distraction-free and I thought of lots of things to blog about and many ways to address my writer’s block for Four and Twenty Blackbirds.

Addressing writer’s block

Firstly, I am going to map out some family trees for my main characters: parents, siblings, uncles, aunts, friends, relations, family feuds, etc. I think it would be a good exercise.

Along side that, I am going to do a little world building: sketching out maps of the world that I am creating. In a spurt of either desperation or enthusiasm, I recently purchased some slightly pricey software by Profantasy called Campaign Cartographer. While it does seem to be able to make brilliant maps for fantastical worlds (which is perfect for my fairy tale world), it also requires some practice and perhaps watching a couple of tutorials on how to make the best of it, which I have not yet bothered with. However, rather than get distracted from my drive to move my story forward, I think I will sketch by hand first, and perhaps leave the specialist cartography for another day.

Which Witch?

Long time no blog.

After much silence, during which I have written a little, but by no means enough, I’ve decided to start this little project up again. And I’ve decided to start on the topic of witches. I’m in a quandary, after reading my exposition, please help me make a decision by participating in the poll below.

I’m working on my main protagonist’s past, and I know that he was abandoned at childbirth and was raised by a witch in the wood. Raised evil. The witch must be typically evil, in a guts and gore and blood sacrifice of the innocent kind of way. She’ll raise Dixie (said protagonist) as a prize for her to trade at a later date.

As my tale is essentially a deconstruction and amalgamation of the fairy tale, I’ve been going through famed witches to cast in the role. There are several to chose from, and I have whittled it down. Leading the pack was Baba Yaga of Slavic folklore fame, which one commentator has said is the witch. But my writing group has poo pooed the idea as she is too iconic for such a role and deserves attention in her own right. Perhaps. I may still have to disagree.

Next up, we have Morgan la Fey (or whichever rendition of her name you would prefer to go by). She’s fairly appropriate, especially with the “fey”- fairy connotation, but it may be a little too much towards the “fairy”, I’m not sure if I want Dixie being brought up by a fairy, but then again, it might produce some interesting results. Hmmmmm, things to think about.

Or we could instead delve into history and go towards Mother Shipton, although she’s much more of a soothsayer than an all out evil bi-atch.

Or I could step back from the reverent/ irreverent fairy tale integration and just go with my own invention of Morag Witherlin, whose character I could shape and mold as I wish.

Or perhaps someone else entirely who I haven’t given due consideration…