Mandy Eve-Barnett's Blog for Readers & Writers

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Author Toolbox Blog Hop- Character Building

August 13, 2020
mandyevebarnett


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

Author Toolbox Blog Hop – Creating A Writing Session

July 16, 2020
mandyevebarnett


Nano Blog and Social Media Hop2

We all want the time and space to write more. Life gets in the way a lot of the time, but if you make some ‘writing’ time within our normal life, it can be done.

person writing on notebook

Photo by Julia M Cameron on Pexels.com

Firstly, it seems obvious but set a goal for your writing session. Do you know what your objective is? Are you brainstorming, creating a character description, outlining a plot, starting a new project or completing one?

Secondly, prepare for what you will be writing, do your homework for locations, period etc. Brainstorm ideas before you start, make notes. Create a inspiration list and find images for your story’s setting and characters. Make up a board, either physical or digital that you can have in front of you as you write.

TIP: Don’t be too ridge, let the story flow – it doesn’t always go to plan! But that’s the joy of writing.

 Thirdly, gauge how committed you are to this piece of writing? Are you excited to start or is it feeling like a chore? If the latter, try something new or another project.

TIP: Use word or picture prompts to ignite your Muse to get you started and in a writing mood.

Also make sure you are in a good writing spot. Have you minimized distractions? Do you need quiet or music, a cafe or library setting. Or is your home space best for you or will there be too many interruptions?

Decide on how long you will write for. Don’t make the session too long or it will dampen your enthusiasm. Ensure you have breaks for refreshments, to stretch or even go for a walk.

Once you have these elements in place check your clock and set the timer. Don’t look at it constantly – just write. Lose yourself in the narrative. Enjoy the process. Don’t edit as you write – let the process flow. Let your imagination expand.

TIP: Don’t edit or revise – just write.

I like to sit in my living room with my laptop on a little table – in the warmer months, I can look out at the lawn and watch the birds & bunnies and in the cold months, I enjoy the fireplace. When we go on road trips, I usually sit at the desk or on the bed with my little table.

 Where is your ‘go to’ writing spot?

What are you working on currently?

Wordsmith’s Collective Thursday – #AuthorToolboxBlogHop – Define a Genre for Your Narrative

February 20, 2020
mandyevebarnett


genre-picture-2Being aware of your genre can help you contextualize your story but remember—just because you may have been writing towards a certain kind of genre, it may not mean that’s what your story actually is.

Common Genres include:

  • Thriller –built around the fast-paced pursuit of a life-or-death goal.
  • Fantasy – typified by fantastic aspects, such as magic.
  • Sci-fi – Sometimes called ‘speculative’ fiction. Fiction typified by scientific aspects, such as nonexistent technology or alternative realities.
  • Horror – instilling dread or fear in the reader. Sometimes but not always featuring supernatural aspects.
  • Mystery – solving of a mysterious set of circumstances.
  • Crime – typified by a focus on criminal activities.
  • Historical – set within a defined time period but drawing context from the cultural understanding of that time.
  • Western – typified by aspects of the American frontier.
  • Romance –focuses on a romantic relationship as the source of its drama.
  • Erotica – primarily intended to instill arousal in the reader.
  • Literary – focuses on realistic, weighty issues, typified by character-focused writing and a lack of other genre features.
  • Adventure Story
    A genre of fiction in which action is the key element, overshadowing characters, theme and setting. … The conflict in an adventure story is often man against nature. A secondary plot that reinforces this kind of conflict is sometimes included.
  • Biographical Novel
    A life story documented in history and transformed into fiction through the insight and imagination of the writer. This type of novel melds the elements of biographical research and historical truth into the framework of a novel, complete with dialogue, drama and mood. A biographical novel resembles historical fiction, save for one aspect: Characters in a historical novel may be fabricated and then placed into an authentic setting; characters in a biographical novel have actually lived.
  • Ethnic Fiction
    Stories and novels whose central characters are black, Native American, Italian American, Jewish, Appalachian or members of some other specific cultural group. Ethnic fiction usually deals with a protagonist caught between two conflicting ways of life: mainstream American culture and his ethnic heritage.
  • Fictional Biography
    The biography of a real person that goes beyond the events of a person’s life by being fleshed out with imagined scenes and dialogue. The writer of fictional biographies strives to make it clear that the story is, indeed, fiction and not history.
  • Gothic
    This type of category fiction dates back to the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Contemporary gothic novels are characterized by atmospheric, historical settings and feature young, beautiful women who win the favor of handsome, brooding heroes—simultaneously dealing successfully with some life-threatening menace, either natural or supernatural. Gothics rely on mystery, peril, romantic relationships and a sense of foreboding for their strong, emotional effect on the reader.
  • Historical Fiction – story set in a recognizable period of history. As well as telling the stories of ordinary people’s lives, historical fiction may involve political or social events of the time.
  • Horror – includes certain atmospheric breathless and unexplainable dread of outer, unknown forces.
  • Juvenile – intended for an audience usually between the ages of two and sixteen. The language must be appropriate for the age of the reader, the subject matter must be of interest to the target age group, the opening of the work must be vivid enough to capture the reader’s attention and the writing throughout must be action-oriented enough to keep it with the use of suspense and the interplay of human relationships. Categories are usually divided in this way: (1) picture and storybooks (ages two to nine)… ; (2) easy-to-read books (ages seven to nine)… ; (3) “middle-age” [also called “middle grade”] children’s books (ages eight to twelve)… ; (4) young adult books (ages twelve to sixteen.
  • Literary Fiction vs. Commercial Fiction
    Literary, or serious, fiction, style and technique are often as important as subject matter. Commercial fiction is written with the intent of reaching as wide an audience as possible. It is sometimes called genre fiction because books of this type often fall into categories, such as western, gothic, romance, historical, mystery and horror.
  • Mainstream Fiction – transcends popular novel categories—mystery, romance or science fiction, [etc.] and is called mainstream fiction. Using conventional methods, this kind of fiction tells stories about people and their conflicts but with greater depth of characterization, background, etc. than the more narrowly focused genre novels.
  • Nonfiction Novel – real events and people are written [about] in novel form but are not camouflaged and written in a novelistic structure.
  • Popular Fiction
    Generally, a synonym for category or genre fiction; i.e., fiction intended to appeal to audiences for certain kinds of novels. … Popular, or category, fiction is defined as such primarily for the convenience of publishers, editors, reviewers and booksellers who must identify novels of different areas of interest for potential readers.
  • Psychological Novel
    A narrative that emphasizes the mental and emotional aspects of its characters, focusing on motivations and mental activities rather than on exterior events.
  • Roman a Clef
    The French term for “novel with a key.” This type of novel incorporates real people and events into the story under the guise of fiction.
  • Romance Novel – the romance novel is a type of category fiction in which the love relationship between a man and a woman pervades the plot.
  • Romantic Suspense Novel – romantic suspense novel is a modern emergence of early gothic writing and differs from traditional suspense novels because it moves more slowly and has more character interplay and psychological conflict than the fast-paced violence of [most] suspense thrillers.
  • Science Fiction [vs. Fantasy]
    Science fiction can be defined as literature involving elements of science and technology as a basis for conflict, or as the setting for a story.
  • Techno-Thriller – utilizes many of the same elements as the thriller, with one major difference. In techno-thrillers, technology becomes a major character.
  • Thriller – intended to arouse feelings of excitement or suspense focusing on illegal activities, international espionage, sex and violence.
  • Young Adult – refers to books published for young people between the ages of twelve and seventeen.

Do real research, describe aesthetic/tone/vibe over content, and be open to adjusting your decision down the line as you grow more accustomed to working with genres.

genre

Genre is different from age group

Genre isn’t the age group you’re writing for.  Age group and genre are often said together, so it’s easy to think they’re the same, but they’re not. For example: Young adult is the age group – Spy and thriller are the genres.

The primary age groups are:

– Board books: Newborn to age 3
– Picture books: Ages 3–8
– Colouring and activity books: Ages 3–8
– Novelty books: Ages 3 and up, depending on content
– Early, levelled readers: Ages 5–9
– First chapter books: Ages 6–9 or 7–10
– Middle-grade books: Ages 8–12
– Young adult (YA) novels: Ages 12 and up or 14 and up

Choose a primary genre

When you pick your primary genre, you’re identifying the most prominent elements of your book. Ask the following questions.

You may have a handful of these elements in your book but when picking a primary genre focus on the most dominant aspects of your novel.

Is there magic?

If the answer is yes, then your book is most likely a fantasy. Is it set it in a fictional world that you created from scratch (like Lord of the Rings)? Then you probably have a high fantasy. Or is it built into our own world? If so it is most likely an urban fantasy.

Is it a fairy tale or a fairy tale retelling then you might want to classify your book as such.

Are there paranormal creatures (such as vampires, zombies, etc.)?

If there are, then it could be a fantasy, or it could be a supernatural/paranormal. Fantasy and paranormal are closely related and share some overlap, so it comes down to what is the more dominant element. If the magic is the more dominant element, then you have a fantasy. If the creatures are the more dominant element, then it’s supernatural.

When is it set?

If it’s set in the past, it’s probably a historical fiction. If it’s set in the present, you’ve got a contemporary and if it’s set in the future, it’s probably science fiction.

Where is it set?

If it’s set in this world, it might be a historical or contemporary. If it’s set in a world you made up, it might be some kind of fantasy or science fiction.

Is there manipulated science/technology?

If you are using significant manipulation of the science, we know today it’s likely to be science fiction. If you have time travel, then you could consider it science fiction.

Is there an element of mystery/crime to solve?

If the main purpose of your plot is mystery, then this is the genre you will use.

Is it laugh-out-loud funny?

If it is, then you’ve got a comedy

Is it a tear-jerker or a book with a lot of interpersonal conflicts?

Then it’s probably some form of drama.

Is there a romance?

Use the romance genre when the central plot of the book is a romantic relationship.

Is it intended to scare?

Then you’ve got a horror.

Is it “literary”?

If it’s a deep book, rich with symbolism and deeper meaning that’s meant to be dissected an analyzed than you most likely have written a work of literary fiction.

Is it action packed?

If your book is littered with action scenes like fights and car chases, then you have an action or thriller on your hands.

Is it about a terrible version of this world?

Then you’re looking at a dystopian.

Now decide which elements you think are the strongest/most prominent. That’s your primary genre.

Do your research

Make sure you do your research and have a good understanding of genre conventions. Readers of each genre have certain expectations. While you can most definitely take some liberties, you want to make sure you’re giving your readers what they’re looking for.

Note*** I did a series of posts throughout 2018 detailing every genre if you want to scroll through put ‘genres’ in the search box.***

#AuthorToolboxBlogHop

More Toolbox Blogs here: https://raimeygallant.com/

 

Author Interview – Rick Prashaw

November 26, 2019
mandyevebarnett


AuthorInterview

rick

Soar, Adam, Soar, by Rick Prashaw with Adam Prashaw, (Dundurn Press, 2019)
What inspired Soar, Adam, Soar? I intended to write my own, unusual life story. A Catholic priest married and became Dad to a child identified as a girl, named Rebecca Adam by smart parents (LOL), the kid who took us on a 22-year ride to the “boy in the mirror” he knew he was. His drowning at 22 from a seizure gave the memoir a new twist and urgency.

How did you come up with the title? It’s my final 3 words on a Facebook tribute to him the night he died. The post is Chapter 12 in the book. The phrase popped into my head writing that night about our long ago love of the movie, ​Lion King. Mufasa telling the small Simba that one day he could look to the sky to find his father. Except here, in a cruel tragedy,the old Mufasa lives. I look for my Simba in the stars.

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Is there a message in your book that you want readers to grasp? Love wins! Diversity is good. “Beauty comes in many colours”, Adam posted once.Freedom is what we do to what happens to us (Jean-Paul Sartre). Despite the tragedy, Adam’s infectious joy, positive spirit and wicked humour infuse the story, especially with his 125-plus social media posts. ​Jan. 20, 2016​, two days before the drowning: “Death is not the greatest loss in life. The greatest loss is what dies in us while we live (Norman Cousins)…”

Where can readers find you on social media and do you have a blog? Everywhere, like my son LOL! Web site, http://www.rickprashaw.com with blogs (book tour, transgender, grieving, organ donor, faith). @RickPrashaw on Instagram, Linkedin and Twitter. There’s a FB Author page here ​https://www.facebook.com/RickPrashaAuthorw/

Do you have plans for your next book? Is it a sequel or a stand alone? 2 books moving forward, simultaneously. ​Father Rick, Roamin’ Catholic, stories from my faith journey that capture my crooked, straight path to heaven’s gate. Adam will show up here. ​Private Dick Prashaw, D-Day Dodger, will be my Dad and Mom’s WW2 love story, a creative non-fiction book I throw myself into as a character to finally get Dad’s war story out of him.s

Do you favor one type of genre or do you dabble in more than one? I read and am writing memoirs, biographies. There will be a few more memoirs drawing on my political and newspaper lives. The creative non-fiction book has me in a sweet place of writer’s terror. And I’m loving short stories falling out of my heart to the screen.

What is your best marketing tip? From my NGO and political work, I knew John McKnight’s community assets mapping. Map all the universes you inhabit — work, play, sports, hobbies, neighbour, school, past lives etc. Identify their social media, meet-ups or gathering places to market the book. Parenting, grieving, Pride and organ donor universes are part of why ​Soar, Adam, Soar ​ is in its 4th printing eight months out.

Do you find social media a great tool or a hindrance?
Both! I love telling Adam’s story but I crave a hermitage right now. Instagram is new and good. Twitter with its trolls and fights is a necessary evil. Facebook works as readers and my friends devour the stories behind the book and from the 32-city (and counting) tour

What do you enjoy most about writing? All my life until now, I wrote for others, e.g. news editors, religious superiors, NGO and political bosses. Now I write to myself. The best book compliments are from people who know me and say your book is exactly as if I am speaking to them. I found my voice.

Do you read for pleasure or research or both? Pleasure, with a heaping side plate of research. I am reading a few war and faith books prepping for my next two memoirs. Waub Rice’s​ Moon over Crusted Snow is my stepping into fiction writing coming soon!

Who is your best supporter/mentor/encourager? My mutt, Dallas, a 7-year-old flat-coated retriever who Adam adopted, stalks me everywhere. Adam’s my agent.

Where is your favorite writing space? I wrote this memoir at my home office, in Adam’s old bedroom. Cereal bowls of coffee, 6 a.m. to 1 p.m. writing, punctuated by two walks with Dallas

Do you belong to a writing group? If so which one? Ottawa Independent Writers Group that meets once a month. Online, the Canadian Authors Association, National Capital Region.

If you could meet one favorite author, who would it be and why? It’s often the book I have just finished. Hmmm, one. Michelle Obama, to soak up her class and energy and thank her for being my book’s guardian angel in the O Biography section, with​ Becoming,
​ a shelf above and over ​Soar, Adam, Soar.

If you could live anywhere in the world – where would it be? 2 answers. (Sorry. I’m bad with rules) Right here in my beautiful Ottawa and back “home” in Northern Ontario (North Bay, Sudbury)

Do you see writing as a career? Well, as an emerging writer at 68, till my last breath….

What reward do you give yourself for making a deadline? Wine, chocolate,​ Peaky Blinders.

Bio:

Rck Prashaw has had a diverse career as a journalist, Catholic priest, executive director of a national NGO, and political staff to members of Parliament. He is a winner of the National Ron Wiebe Restorative Justice Award. Rick lives in Ottawa.

The Hub of Your Narrative – Characters

November 19, 2019
mandyevebarnett


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.

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?

 

 

 

 

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