Mandy Eve-Barnett's Blog for Readers & Writers

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Author Toolbox Blog Hop- Character Building

August 13, 2020
mandyevebarnett


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Whether you spend time intricately plotting and creating your story line or let the story flow unbidden, one facet of all stories that must be created and created well are its characters. Your protagonist, antagonist and all the supporting characters have a ‘job’ to do. They must give our readers an insight into their personalities, their struggles, ambitions and fears. Characters build the ‘world’ you have set your characters within by showing it through their eyes, their thoughts and actions.

Every writer has his or her own methods, when it comes to the creation of a character.

  1. Name,
  2. Physical attributes
  3. Personality traits.
  4. Setting.

For example, Setting: an alien being trapped in a spacecraft, a monster hunting its prey or specific behavior traits for period pieces.

Physical features: This primarily gives our readers an image but more importantly an idea of their personality. A thin, acne-faced teenager will not automatically give our readers the idea of a ‘superman’ kind of personality but a muscle bound, athletic type could.

Name: a good starting point for our creation, but it is also a minefield. Research into real persons, living or dead should be foremost, unless of course you are writing about that particular person.

Accent: a character’s voice says a lot about their location and background.

Real people or not: We can base characters on people we know or a combination of several or from people watching – an author’s favorite pastime. As writers situations, overheard conversation and life in general is a constant source of inspiration.

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There are numerous ‘character development work sheets’ available on the Internet and it can be useful to fill them in for your main characters, if you have no clear ‘picture’ of them to begin with.

I tend to write the story letting my characters dictate how their story will unfold. In so doing the characters develop creating their own story. This tends to change the narrative from my initial perception.  In this way they may develop characteristics I had not considered or react quite differently to a situation from my preconceived idea. This method may seem harder than having a detailed description of each pivotal character, their backstory and emotional compass, but it is my method.

We ‘live’ with our characters for a long time and they become ‘real’ to us. This enables us to write the story with ‘insider knowledge’ of our characters backstory, their emotional compass and their ultimate goal. This knowledge becomes paramount during the subsequent drafts and editing process, giving us a well-rounded character and a believable one for our readers. In truth, the initial draft is the testing ground for our characters, and revisions make them well rounded and ‘believable’.

Character profile

How do you create your characters?

Recognize these characters? Remember how irate poor Wile E Coyote would become with Road Runner? No matter what he did he never succeeded in catching his ‘dinner’. Beep, beep would ring out as yet another ACME kit damaged the coyote instead of the bird. It was truly a lesson in perseverance. No matter how many times the speedy bird escaped the coyote he would try, try, try again. I actually went past a road sign to Acme on my way to Canmore one time and wished I could have made a detour just for the fun of it.

wile-e-coyote-roadrunner

The art of creating such lovable and memorable characters is what every author strives for. We hope our creations will stay in our readers minds long after the last page has turned. Character profiles and back story play a large part in ensuring our characters are well rounded and believable. We delve into their personality type seeking out traits and habits to make them react to their crisis situations in an authentic way.

Do you make up scenarios for people you observe? Have any made it in to a manuscript?

 

Without characters our stories would have no real impact on our readers. We write to engage and intrigue them and hopefully make our protagonist the character our reader cares about. If your experience is anything like mine, there is usually one, or possibly two characters, that make their presence known in no uncertain terms. They want the starring role in our narrative. These characters are usually more defined in our minds and are ‘easier’ to relate to, whether because of a personality trait or that they are more fun to write. When creating the protagonist and antagonist in our stories, we give each opposing views and/or values. This is the basis of the conflict that carries our readers along their journey. Each character, whether major or minor, needs to have flaws and redeeming features, motivations, expectations, loyalties and deterrents.

With such a guideline our characters become clearer. A lot of the details will never reach the pages of our manuscript but knowing our characters well makes for a more believable personality as they struggle through the trials and tribulations, we subject them to. As most of you know I am a ‘free flow’ writer so everything is by the seat of my pants until the editing starts. This is where I find character flaws or great character traits that I can correct or build upon. My characters live with me during the writing process and usually lead me in directions I had never considered – I’m sure many of you can relate to that. As these personalities gain strength they become more ‘real’ and that is the moment their true selves appear.

When creating characters we must remember to ensure that each character acts and responds true to their given personality. Character profiles are a good way of ‘getting to know’ our characters. For example this sheet.

character

How Do You Make Your Characters Emerge..?

June 18, 2014
mandyevebarnett


reblog

Today’s re-blog feature is from Julie Eshbaugh on her blog Pub (lishing) Crawl… I love the title!

http://www.publishingcrawl.com/2012/05/17/revealing-character-through-details/

It is part of the art of story writing to describe our characters in such a way our readers can make up their own mental image of them. The trick is to ensure you give your reader enough description without over doing it and boring them – or worse still taking them out of the narrative.

What devices do you use for characterization?

Character Cube

This link from James Thayer is awesome for characterization points:

http://www.authormagazine.org/articles/thayer_james_2009_08_15.htm

Be True to Your Character…

May 28, 2013
mandyevebarnett


Veridical – definition: truthful : veracious : genuine

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When creating characters we must remember to ensure that each character acts and responds true to their given personality. Character profiles are a good way of ‘getting to know’ our characters. Here are a few examples but obviously you can tailor make your own depending on your genre.

http://imaginingsofacreativewriter.blogspot.ca/2012/05/character-profile-sheet.html

http://ladyoffenn.wordpress.com/2013/05/24/phineas/

http://www.epiguide.com/ep101/writing/charchart.html

With such a guideline our characters become clearer. A lot of the details will never reach the pages of our manuscript but knowing our characters well makes for a more believable personality as they struggle through the trials and tribulations we subject them to. As most of you know I am a ‘free flow’ writer so everything is by the seat of my pants until the editing starts. This is where I find character flaws or great character traits that I can correct or build upon. My characters live with me during the writing process and usually lead me in directions I had never considered – I’m sure many of you can relate to that. As these personalities gain strength they become more ‘real’ and that is the moment their true selves appear.

Do you have any tips regarding character profiles or character building?

Are You Overlooking Something..?

April 15, 2013
mandyevebarnett


Nadir – definition: 1) the lowest point; 2) the point of the celestial sphere that is directly opposite the zenith and directly under the observer.

Aurora Borealis observed in Norway on 2006-10-28.

Aurora Borealis observed in Norway on 2006-10-28. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I could relate star gazing experiences or the fantastic moments I have witnessed the aurora borealis here in Alberta but my mind went to the characters and parts of a story we can overlook. When we are engaged in writing about our main characters and their story they are our primary focus. We can neglect what is literally under our noses. The interaction with secondary characters can be an artful way of enhancing our main character. Their reaction to someone else will illustrate their personality more effectively than using endless descriptions. Of course secondary characters can also be important in their own right not only implementing momentum in the story arc but also as individual characters with their own ‘lives’ that are affected by the circumstances they and our main character find themselves in.

Take a look at this post:

http://crimsonleague.com/2013/04/11/creative-writing-tip-character-traits-in-secondary-characters/

Even the smallest detail can eject your reader from a scene. Would a historically set story really have burgers on the menu? Would a character wear a wristwatch? This is where research is vital for accuracy and to ensure your reader totally believes in the world your characters inhabit. The choice of weapons, clothing and social conventions build your world making it all the more believable. A Victorian lady would not go on a girls night out but entertain a few friends in the parlour during the day. A space commander would probably not spend his evenings knitting. Pirates use a cutlass, an alien a laser.

Here’s a great post:

http://susanleighnoble.wordpress.com/2013/04/11/realistic-food-in-your-fantasy-novel/

No matter your genre, your world building must have rules, structure and conventions that your hero is fighting to maintain or struggling against. Their methods and actions must reflect what is available to them and most importantly it must be believable.

A Writers Bane…

February 9, 2013
mandyevebarnett


Desultory definition : 1) marked by lack of definite plan, regularity, or purpose. 2) not connected with the main subject; 3) disappointing in progress, performance, or quality.

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Well this is certainly a word we can all relate to. In a perfect world we would be allowed to write, create and dream up our stories without interruption. But real life has a habit of intruding – laundry, housework, meal preparation, time with family…well you get the picture. I will admit there are times I just want to be left alone, in a Greta Garbo kind of way!

So let’s take each numbered definition at a time. Number one – lack of a plan, regularity or purpose. Whether a casual writer or a professional one, time to immerse ourselves in our creations is important.  To enable us to have that time we have to engineer ‘writing time’ in any manner that works within our individual life styles. Maybe, like me, you work full time, have children at home and a household to run. Where can you squeeze in writing? This is dependent on a great many things, such as the age of your children, how stressful your job is and how much ‘help’ you get from your significant other.  With careful planning and a schedule you can balance wants and needs. You may display a ‘do not disturb’ sign on the door of a room you can escape into, plug in head phones or leave the house altogether. Whatever works for you is best. The main thing is to have the understanding  of your family that ‘writing time’ is an important element in your life.

Number two  relates, I feel, to character building. As we delve into a new character and his or her struggles, we need a real sense of their character, likes and dislikes and how they would react to certain situations. If we cannot connect with them the plausibility of their reactions will suffer.  Whatever device works for you go with it. Character sketches, research into personality types or people watching are all great ways to know your character better. This will ensure whatever obstacles they come against their reaction and coping skill level will be believable.

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The last definition is one we all know and is related to our self belief in our abilities. We have all berated ourselves at one point or another when a plot does not work, a deadline is not going to be met or we are unhappy with how we have written something. Take heart in the knowledge that no-one is immune to these thoughts and feelings. Use your support system to help you. This might be your writers group, a mentor or a supportive family member, whatever or whomever it is don’t consider yourself alone. Reach out and bounce your ideas off them, receive their encouragement willingly. You may have to revise a character, a story line or perspective but you can do it – just believe your muse is with you.

Have you suffered with desultory feelings? How did you overcome them?

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