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.

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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

Wordsmith’s Collective Thursday – Weather Affects Our Writing

July 9, 2020
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July has been a wet month so far here in Alberta. Walking my little rescue pup, has left us often soaked, but when we do manage to escape a thunder storm and finally catch a break in the clouds, we enjoy the sunshine to the fullest. Sammie is an enjoyable addition to my life – my step count have gone through the roof! Another good point in our writing life – bum off seat for exercise.

BBQ SAMMIE

The weather can affect our writing too. Sunny days draw us out into the warmth away from our usual writing spot. A patio or deck, balcony or beach or mountain retreat become our new inspiring spot. Cold weather has the opposite effect – cozy in front of a fire, huddled in blankets and fluffy socks. Whatever the weather, our writing changes ever so subtly. We may not even realize it.

Do you write more in the colder months or does creating outside in the sunshine increase your word count?

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Do your character’s situations reflect how you feel? Frustrated not to be outside in the warmth? Or happy not to have to trek through snow drifts?

Are your characters experiencing your weather or climate? Does it change how you write the scene? Or does it inspire you to accelerate their situation to extremes of weather?

With the effects of COVID19 across the world, we have either found writing to be an escape or a block on it. Maybe, we cannot find the inspiration for a narrative but our journal writing has increased. A record of our experience for future reference.

sofa

Have you written a scene a certain way because of the weather you were experiencing at that time?  There are ways weather can be used in a narrative. It can give a mood or be symbolic, or even complicate the character’s situation.

I have currently returned to a manuscript, where the main protagonist escapes into the wild and the current storms helped set the mood. I could feel the intense foreboding, the expectation, the fear of the next thunderclap.

What weather inspired writing have you experienced in 2020 so far?

Wordsmiths Collective Thursday – 10 Tips To Get Your Writing Mojo Back.

June 11, 2020
mandyevebarnett


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Typically, I write my entire first draft without getting feedback, with the “door closed,” a la Stephen King. For me this draft is a flow of words as the story plays like a movie in my head. Yep, madness rules when a story grips me.

However, for the past few months, I did not look at my current manuscript. It was although, I had lost interest. Although, I read, edited and commented on other author’s works, mine was left desolate. As the COVID19 months passed, I became worried that the writing bug had left me. I felt bereft. I didn’t mean to stop writing.

Has that ever happened for you?

There are lots of reasons that our creativity, in whatever form, can be cast aside or forgotten. Illness, a new baby, a new relationship, a new home or job, divorce, financial stress and many more. To find that creative spark again, we can use one or more of the following:

1. Firstly, do not feel guilty – it is counterproductive and harassing your muse is a form of procrastination.

2. Start writing – use a prompt, do a character study, write out a story idea.

3. Keep Writing – give yourself a time limit 20 minutes or an hour, or write a page, or 250 words. Choose one and stick to it.

4. Finish a small project.

6. Change the location of where you write – it can even be in a different room or somewhere local like your library.
7. Take a writing class.

8. Do another creative activity.

9. Make up book titles – based on well known novels or use a title generator on the internet.

10. Create a character description – including all their back story.

himalayan salt lamp near laptop on wooden table

Photo by Andrea Davis on Pexels.com

For me the spark came back after a discussion on strong female characters and how to make their role believable. It ignited that interest again and I spent the past weekend editing and polishing my steampunk heroine’s character. This writer is back!

 

 

Author Toolbox – 8 Lockdown Tips for Writers in COVID19

May 21, 2020
mandyevebarnett


book on a white wooden table

Photo by Ylanite Koppens on Pexels.com

We are all feeling the repercussions of isolation, social distancing and lack of ‘normal’. It has affected everyone in a multitude of ways. For writers, who are normally ‘isolated’  in their writing life, there has been a change in atmosphere, inspiration, alone time and creativity. (Or lack thereof).

Whatever your normal routine, be it the impact of family at home, remote working arrangements or lack of access to resources, we can adjust.

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Here are a few tips to try (or not):

  1. One of the best options I have found is a virtual writing time. A group of us ‘meet’ on Sunday’s for a couple of hours. And although for the most part, it is a silent meeting, knowing we are connected helps with motivation and makes us accountable. We share what we will be writing at the beginning of the meeting and then summarize what we achieved at the end.
  2. Outside time – this is vitally important to refresh the mind and body. It can be a walk, a bicycle ride and a hike. Whatever, works best for you within the confines of the social distancing parameters.
  3. Writing space changes. It sounds odd but even a reorganization, a new arrangement of objects, a vase of flowers – can make all the difference. Maybe write in a different area of the house.
  4. Reserve writing time. Make a commitment to write for a certain amount of time each day. As we all have favourite times of day to be creative – this can be before everyone gets up, when they are all asleep or maybe a time when you can be alone in the house. Don’t add to your stress by putting a word count on this time. It can be to write, of course, but also to plot, edit, note down new story ideas or even read some research.
  5. Enter a contest. This idea will either spur you on or not. To create something new can be a good way to engage your Muse. Even if you decide not to submit your work, it is a great way to spark your creativity.
  6. Online writing workshops. There are now lots of options for online workshops and courses. Maybe it’s time to hone your skills? I enjoy the monthly creative workshops my local writing group organizes. They are held on the last Saturday of each month. (Link here for May’s workshop: https://www.wfscsherwoodpark.com/event-details/creative-writing-workshop-online-3 )
  7. Writing prompts are also a great way to refresh the writing brain. There are a lot of sites and books available on the internet. Try a few, whether they are images, word collections or story starters. You never know where they might take you. Again my local writing group has prompts every Saturday, if you want to try. Link: https://www.wfscsherwoodpark.com/our-blog

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What have you found to help your writing during COVID19?

 

Wordsmiths Collective Thursday – #AuthorToolboxBlogHop – Hashtags for Writers, Authors & the Writing Community

April 16, 2020
mandyevebarnett


HASHTAG

Today’s #AuthorToolboxBlogHop

We are all vying for attention on social media and one of the ways we can get more exposure is to use hashtags.

Put simply a hashtag is a label for content. It helps followers, who are interested in a certain topic, quickly find content on that same topic. Once someone clicks on that hashtag, they’ll be brought to a page that aggregates all of the posts with the same hashtags, in real-time. It is also a great way to discover other authors, writers and books in your genre(s).

Hashtags can be used on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. There is a plethora of them specific for writers, authors, readers, the writing community and books. Here are a few but I’m sure you can list more!

Hashtags for writers.

#amwriting #amediting #writingtip or #writetip #writingprompt
#book #novel #nonfiction #fiction #paperbacks #short or #short #story or #shortstories or #shortreads #litfic #histfic and #histnovel #womensfiction
#scifi or #science #fiction #romance #paranormal #crime #suspense #kidlit #Writing #AmWriting #Creativity #Editing #WordCount #WriteChat #WriteGoal #WritingPrompt #WIP #StoryStarter #Creativity #MustRead #Novelines #FridayReads #TeaserTues #WriteTip #WritersLife #WritersLifeChat #5amwritersclub #WritingCommunity #readercommunity

Now over to you – how many more can you list?

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

 

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