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.

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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.

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Lurid Tales & Violence…

September 27, 2013
mandyevebarnett


Lurid – definition: 1. gruesome; horrible; 2. glaringly vivid or sensational

Macabre Base instincts are difficult to confront at the best of times. Unfortunately, we are bombarded with gruesome scenes on the daily news ranging from senseless bombings to murders and violent acts between people. Have we really evolved from caveman mentality? On a global scale, countries are grabbing resources from each other and stock piling weapons – usually in secret or so they think! On a lower level violence has become lessened in its impact with a multitude of games and movies favoring violent acts as the main theme.

How can we teach future generations that there are consequences to such acts when they only see a player resurrected and literally get away with murder? Can we ‘unlearn’ this ‘need’ for violence? Is it possible to show real consequences and ensure our youngsters understand it is make believe unless, sadly the images are on news programs?

Have you written lurid scenes for a novel or story? Care to share? How did you balance the good and evil? Did you become uneasy with the character?

William, a character in my novel, The Twesome Loop, has bizarre sexual practices and I had to think outside my comfort zone for his motivations and desires. Sinking into such a mindset is disturbing to say the least but William had to be true to his personality. His accomplice shares his desires (or claims to!) and supplies William with victims thereby releasing herself from being subjected to his debauchery. Once I had structured William’s base instincts, I was asked what his redeeming quality was. Honestly, I had not thought it mattered if he had one or not, but no-one is all bad. So I had to create a feasible reason for his adult actions. I will not spoil the story by revealing what it was but my fellow writing group members thought it clever and believable.

Are Your Characters Tractable..?

June 27, 2013
mandyevebarnett


Tractable – definition: easily managed or controlled : docile

Are most of your characters tractable or are some intractable?

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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. This leaves us with the problem of developing our supporting characters with as much attention to detail as the main antagonist and protagonist.

There are many character development tips and lists available on the internet that can assist us.

Do you have a favorite? Have you created your own?

I follow K.M. Weiland whose Helping Writers Become Authors blog is crammed full of useful tips and information. Take a look – http://www.kmweiland.com/writingtips.php

For my part I listen to the voices! After all who knows themselves better than the character themselves..?

 Graphic by: http://www.pyramidreading.com/unit-6.php

 

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