Friday, September 24, 2010

Creating Compelling Characters

I'm participating in the Great Blogging Experiment writing about creating compelling characters.

When it comes to making a character compelling I think the most important part is to have the character's stakes in their conflict be clear to the reader. A major character can be likable or not, but either way there needs to be a clear understanding of what the character has vested into the story's conflict and what they stand to loose. This applies to the protagonist and the antagonist. 

The character's stakes don't have to be life and death. What they can risk loosing through various choices is related to their main conflict. This does relate back to character driving plot. What a character doesn't have and is trying to attain becomes the conflict for the story. From this conflict comes the plot. Without compelling characters plot can fall flat. 

Another part of a character's stakes are the choices they make through the story. When writing these choices it helps to understand what the benefits and costs of each option are for the character. What will happen to the protagonist if she decides not to challenge what a former friend is saying about her? What about if she says something to this person? Or about this person?

In real life we all face choices and risk loosing or gaining things. As a reader seeing this in characters makes them more interesting and almost real in a way. Plus to feeling that risk that a character faces helps keep an interest in the story. We read on to find out what choices the character makes to work out their conflict and how it is all resolved. Does the character loose what's important to them? Do they solve what they need to?

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Character Visualization: Their space

I use Excel for various writing organizational tasks and I also like to play around with the different options/tools. While playing with the insert-shapes I  discovered a frame shape. After putting frames around random pictures I thought this might be a good exercise to visualize what a character's space could look like. It's another dimension for getting to know characters better.

In addition to figuring out what your character might have in their space it is also fun to figure out where various things came from. It's almost like brainstorming in a way to tease out more details about a character and their relationships.

For example, with this bird picture maybe it belongs to a young woman and she has hung on her living room wall. Well most of the time. Maybe she really dislikes birds but the framed picture was a gift from her boyfriend the budding nature photographer so she doesn't want to hurt his feelings. She keeps it in a drawer most of the time then makes sure it's displayed when he's coming over. And maybe he notices the little amount of dust on it compared to her other nick-knacks. He could wonder if she's hiding it, or he could think that she's taking extra special care of it because it's from him.

The bird picture is one I took this spring, the texture on the frame is a default pattern in Excel, and the purple around the picture is supposed to be wall color. The frame shape isn't curved by default, I transformed it to a free-form shape then edited the points. I'm thinking of putting together a little walk through post on some of the Excel options I used here.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Story Taking Shape

This post idea has been knocking around for awhile and is one of those gardening pondering topics. Starting in the spring I've been pulling out a multitude of seedlings. We have a maple tree in our front yard along with two Roses of Sharon "shrubs". I use the term shrub loosely here the one "Sharon" is taller than our house.

With both the maple and Sharon seedlings I noticed that the first set of leaves are unique from the rest of the plant's leaves. At first I wasn't sure what the plants were until I saw more leaves grow. The picture in this post has Roses of Sharon seedlings, which I took back in May. Two of the plants in the picture only have their sprout leaves, which are wide and rounded. The plant in the front has it's first true leaf, which has a narrower shape and the little ridges. This true leaf is a small version of the leaves on the adult plant.

Yes, a little gardening mention to transition into the writing related thought I had while gardening. Seedlings are like stories. In that the first set of leaves are the start of a story idea and that the true leaf is the story all polished and found.

For me my first draft is the sprout leaves. I do some light outlines, but my novel drafts are still rather rough and exploratory. I'm currently working on notes in preparation for revision in which I want to get my novel closer to it's true form. I know where I want to take it, what its true leaf looks like. My process currently is working out the details and deciding various character and world traits that will make my story arrive there.

For other people who have more details figured out ahead of time, they could be closer to their true leaf in the first draft then I am. Or maybe the first draft is really exploratory.

Where would you say your sprout leaves are for your process? What helps you flesh out your idea enough so that the writing stands up to your true leaf idea? Or have I been spending to much time pulling weeds?

Monday, September 6, 2010

Time and days off

Why do days off meander away from relaxing to a multitude of things to do? Here I have this nice block of time but I keep switching from task to task to random amusement trying to fit things in. Though I haven't started the Wii up yet today, yesterday I spent some time on Mario Cart. I wanted to update my blog, the dishes can wait for later.

I want to be more regular with my blog. I do enjoy blogging and it's a nice way to keep up with other bloggers. Plus writing regularly is a good thing. I've been pondering the direction of my blog recently and I came to a realization this weekend. I like the general content I've been posting, and I'm still looking forward to the character conflict series I mentioned awhile back. I even have a post started saved as a draft. The tricky part is I have some really great thoughts while away from the computer for post wording that seam to evaporate once I'm at the keyboard. I'm tempted to buy a voice recorder to save said thoughts. That would be handy for things like cleaning and gardening.

I also decided that it would be fun to blog about books on occasion. I have a "to-read" list on Goodreads and it would be nice to share my reviews in my blog to. And it would be extra nice to read/review books by people I've met through blogging and online communities.

Then there are my cats. I'm thinking they might be mentioned on occasion in my blog, and mostly from the perspective of including pets into a work of fiction. I love animals, especially cats. If I'm not careful I could easily right too much about them.

Well, that's my post. I'm still participating in the Blog BBQ so I will be hanging around blogs today.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Blog BBQ party

Coming Down the Mountain: From Reclusive Writer to Published Author: Are You Ready to Find a Bunch of Awesome New Followers...: "It's time for the Blog Party BBQ to begin! I've jazzed up my blog with some new color, how about you? Are you ready for a bunch of new visi..."

This is my first time using the "Blog This" button from another blog, so hopefully the formatting looks alright.

I'm participating in Karen's Blog BBQ event and I wanted to mention it in my blog. I also figured it would be a good chance to have a more recent post here. If you don't already read her blog go over and check it out.

I've already received some comments from other BBQ people (yay) on an older post which unfortunately that post is old enough for comments to go to the moderation queue. Blogger e-mails me so I saw them shortly thereafter.

For anyone wandering over here from the party feel free to say hi on this post or my previous one. Either post works. I'd meant to have a more recent post, but with taking my one cat to the vet twice this week it's been a little hectic.

I am planning on visiting other BBQ blogs this weekend. I don't have any constraints on my time all weekend. Well, aside from making sure kitty gets lots of attention.