Mandy Eve-Barnett's Blog for Readers & Writers

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Characters – The Hub of Your Narrative…

December 22, 2014
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articlesWithout 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.

character-development

This leaves us with the problem of developing our supporting characters with as much attention to detail as the main antagonist and protagonist. 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, this can be achieve mainly by utilizing character’s names, personality traits, appearance and their motivations. A name is a vital part of creating a mental image of our character for readers. The right name can give them a quick visualization of our character’s age, ethnicity, gender, and even location, and if we are writing a period piece, even the era. For example if I say the girl was called Britney, you would probably picture a young girl because of the association with Britney Spears. However, if a female character were called Edith or Edna, you would imagine someone born several decades ago. So you see a name is not just a name.

A burly man would be called something like Butch but not Shirley, unless of course you are going to tell the story of his struggle throughout childhood to overcome the name.  There are plenty of web sites available, which list the most common names for each decade and locations around the world.  These are great resources for writers, who require particular names for period stories or want to stay true to a certain decade.

Character Cube

The use of a nickname will also give your character an identity, be it an unkind one given by a bully or one of respect or fear for the bully. You would expect Big Al to be just that, a large person, however, Little Mikey would be the exact opposite. Nicknames, or sobriquet’s can work very well in defining an ethnicity as well but care must be taken not to offend a person of color. Obviously there are certain words that were in common usage decades ago that are not politically correct now, so we need to be diligent in their use.

We should also consider giving our characters a conscience. Will the hero question his actions if they are extreme to his morals? Does the villain have a deep-seated angst? What motivates them? Some flawed characters can be difficult to write on occasion as they are far removed from our own personality (well I certainly hope so!) but with care we can accomplish a believable character.

How do you set about building a character?

Do you write out a full description of your characters?

Have you based a character on someone you know, a famous personality or mixed up several people’s traits to make a new one?

Infinite Inspirational Sources for Characters…

September 29, 2013
mandyevebarnett


Nocturnal – definition: of, pertaining to, or active at night

lesser_bushbaby

There are numerous animals that roam in the night, adapted to life in the dark. One of my favorites is the bushbaby not just because it is the sweetest little bundle of fur but also because my parents nicknamed me, Bushbaby. I was a small child but had the largest blue eyes ever.  It is the bushbabies large orange eyes that are so special enabling perfect sight in the dark but none in daylight hours. The size of them restricts any movement so the creature is constantly turning its head as it travels in the treetops. If a human skull structure was similar our eyes would be the size of soccer balls.

When we create stories and characters things that interest us can be a great source of inspiration. Characteristics of a creature can be adapted for a fantasy personality. Take the bushbaby for instance. An alien that can see in the dark would be a great predator – this adaptation has been used in the movie Riddick.

It goes to show anything and everything can be inspirational if we keep an open mind.

Have you used a natural world adaptation in a character?

Character Development…

January 9, 2013
mandyevebarnett


Words have a power all their own

Words have a power all their own (Photo credit: Lynne Hand)

Yesterday’s word had me puzzling on how to incorporate it into a blog article. Could I be clever enough? Then life got complicated and I had to leave my train of thought and deal with the situation. So you have two for one today! I’ll let you be the judge on the outcome.

Sobriquet (sho-bri-kay) – Definition: a descriptive name or epitet – a nickname.

In character development we give a lot of thought to our character’s names, personality traits, appearance and their motivations. A name is a vital part of creating a mental image of our character for readers. The right name can give them a quick visualization of our character’s age, ethnicity, gender, and even location, and if we are writing a period piece, even the era. For example if I say the girl was called Britney, you would probably picture a young girl because of the association with Britney Spears. However, if a female character were called Edith or Edna, you would imagine someone born several decades ago. So you see a name is not just a name.

A burly man would be called something like Butch but not Shirley, unless of course you are going to tell the story of his struggle throughout childhood to overcome the name.  There are plenty of web sites available, which list the most common names for each decade and locations around the world.  These are great resources for writers, who require particular names for period stories or want to stay true to a certain decade.

The use of a nickname will also give your character an identity, be it an unkind one given by a bully or one of respect or fear for the bully. You would expect Big Al to be just that, a large person, however Little Mikey would be the exact opposite. Nicknames, or sobriquet’s can work very well in defining an ethnicity as well but care must be taken not to offend a person of color. Obviously there are certain words that were in common usage decades ago that are not politically correct now, so we need to be diligent in their use.

English: Common Clownfish (Amphiprion ocellari...

English: Common Clownfish (Amphiprion ocellaris) in their Magnificent Sea Anemone (Heteractis magnifica) home on the Great Barrier Reef, Australia. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Our second word for today is: Symbiosis  – Definition – the living together in close association of two different organisms especially when mutually beneficial.

My immediate thought was two-fold, family and writing life. Most of us have to balance these two sides of our lives, it can be tricky at times but life on the whole is better if we can. From my own experience I know that ‘Mum’s writing’ was thought a bit barmy at first. My family members would notice me frantically typing but had no trouble interrupting me. It took some time for them to understand that the act of writing was extremely important to me and when I was given the space to write, I was happier. Three years down the line, I have worked out a flexible routine and everyone knows my writing is not a passing fad but an essential part of me. So much so that they notice how much happier I am once words have been put to page. The benefits are obvious a happy Mum means a happy home. Getting to this point was not easy but I am glad I persevered.

How do you balance your writing life? Can you share your experiences?

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