Mandy Eve-Barnett's Blog for Readers & Writers

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Author Toolbox Blog Hop- Character Building

August 13, 2020
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character-cube

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.

character-development (1)

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

Predicaments A Plenty…

September 25, 2013
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Predicament – definition: an unpleasantly difficult, perplexing, or dangerous situation

horsemud

As a fan of pet rescue programs, I have seen my fair share of heroes risking life and limb to save an animal and we have all seen selfless acts when someone has found themselves in trouble. Many of these heroes are complete strangers to the rescued person or animal. It gives us faith in human nature for a change. It is the stories of animals rescuing other animals that are so amazing. It shows empathy, something not realized for a long time but proved by recent experiments by scientists.

Here is the link: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/12/111208142017.htm

When I found this quote by Jim Lynch it raised the question – what arLynch quotee our stories driven by?

What factor drives you?

It may be one or a combination of these that has us writing frantically, trying to capture the essence of a character, a scene or the overall conflict. At the heart of the narrative is the predicament faced by our characters. How they overcome them or adjust to them makes the reader turn the page.

Unique predicaments may not be common but the path taken to conquer them is as numerous as there are writers. Each story leads us on a journey of discovery. Everyone problem solves differently and a large part is how we grew up and witnessed adults around us solving their trails and tribulations. Some may bury their head in the sand and wait for ‘it’ to go away, while others will battle head on.

Our characters should be true to their personality traits in this regard as well – a meek and mild youngster would not boldly confront a situation as opposed to a muscular grown man stepping into a conflict.

Have you used a particularly unusual predicament in a story? Care to share?

preparation

Lastly, a useful saying to help with those speaking events so many of us attend or for those wondering how to prepare for their first. It all comes down to preparation – the more methodical you are the better. Practice your speech, excerpt or presentation as many times as possible before the event. As you relax into the rhythm of it and the words become easily remembered, you will find you can ad-lib or break off to answer questions without panicking. I have a presentation to learn for the upcoming months, in regard to how to begin your memoirs. The workbook to accompany this presentation will be available shortly at http://www.dreamwritepublishing.ca. My co-writers and I will take turns performing it for seniors in our locality but hope that the book will assist many aspiring memoir writers near and far.

I’ll be printing this off and sticking it onto my writing desk as a reminder.

Balancing Your Priorities…

September 11, 2013
mandyevebarnett


Precedence – definition: the right to be higher or earlier in order, rank, or importance; priority

220px-Pert_chart_colored.svgPERT chart for a project with five milestones (10 through 50) and six activities (A through F). The project has two critical paths: activities B and C, or A, D, and F – giving a minimum project time of 7 months with fast tracking. Activity E is sub-critical, and has a float of 1 month.

Looks like a complicated way of organizing the writing and editing of a novel while participating in life’s other activities to me. We all multitask to a greater or lesser amount depending on our personality type. We marvel at people who can juggle it all seemingly perfectly but is it just an illusion? Are they constantly busy and never finish anything?

The movie, I Don’t Know How She Does It, starring Sarah Jessica Parker, showed the reality of trying to do it all. The comedy centered around the life of Kate Reddy, a finance executive who is the breadwinner for her husband and two kids. The plot has Kate struggling with more and more demands on her time.

Are your methods this complex? How do you prioritize your writing and family life?

Here is a great post about the subject : http://www.thereviewreview.net/publishing-tips/books-and-babies%E2%80%93how-do-writers-families-bal

Building Memorable Characters…

September 8, 2013
mandyevebarnett


Irate – definition: angry; enraged

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 last weekend, 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.

Some may be based 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.

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

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