Connecting with Our Characters

They Can't All Be John Smiths

There's only one character I know of that can pull off the name "John Smith," and 1) he’s an alien, 2) he travels through space and time in big blue police box,  3) he uses the name a pseudonym, and 4) I don't believe a more compelling character has ever been created.  If you don't know who I'm talking about, you better find out.  Until then, just know that your life is incomplete.

The point is, every character I create needs to be different.  They all must have characteristics that set them apart and make them memorable.  They need flaws that others can connect and relate to, but not so much so that they're unbelievable.  I can't think of a single book I haven't loved that didn't leave me feeling invested in its characters.  One perfect example is Harry Potter.  Some of my favorite characters in that series weren't even central to the overall story.

Professor McGonagal, confident and proud, always knew the right thing to say.  She never let anyone push her around, but after everything that happened to her, we realize that she's just like us.  She mourns the death of her friends and she protects the people that she cares about most, putting their lives before her own.  The following scene for the most recent and last Harry Potter film, shows the climax of her passion and devotion.  In this moment, we knows where her heart lies and we know why we've grown to love her the way we do.

I don't think I've ever felt as many goosebumps creep up my spine as I did in seeing this.  J.K. Rowling paid all her characters the same attention and made sure each and every one of them was as developed as the rest.  This is something I aspire to do.

A Fellow Writer's Thoughts

While browsing for inspiration, I stumbled upon a writing blog similar to mine.  Writer Unboxed is a blog devoted to all things writing and a recent post addresses this idea of character development.  I think the author of the blog, Ann, said it best in her post "What Makes a Book Magical?"

"When I read, I will overlook flaws in worldbuilding and plot, if the characters are compelling. But conversely, if the characters are cardboard or I can’t relate to them, it doesn’t matter how strong the world or how meticulously the book is plotted. Every single time, I will put the book down, wander away, and not return."

Characters are what drives a book's plot.  They are the decision makers, the risk takers, the lovers, the fighters, the explorers, the heroes, and the villains that make us come back for more.

To Wrap Up

Crafting characters is a crucial step in writing a novel.  My next "official" post will focus on my own process and tricks for coming up with characters, their personalities and flaws.  My main focus will be on the characters in the project I'm working on for this blog, but I might delve into what went into crafting Evelynn, the heroine in my novel, Chasing Evelynn.  She's the character I am, by far, most proud of, and I hope you'll get to understand why.

Expect the first chapter of this blog's project soon.  I'm almost done.

Until next time,

An Aspiring Companion.

The Subtle Art of Brainstorming

I can’t count the number of times I’ve found myself sitting in front of my computer, staring at the black cursor as it blinks upon a completely blank page, willing something worth writing about to pop into my head.  But the truth is, it won’t.  Through experience, I’ve discovered that I write best when I go into a session with a clear idea of what I plan to write.  (A session is what I call the periods of time I set aside to focus on just writing.)  Whether it’s a single scene or an entire chapter, I need to know what’s going to happen before I plop myself down at the computer with the intention of writing.  Otherwise, that blinking cursor won’t move an inch.

It would make sense then, that the first step in writing a novel is coming up with an idea.  This is the first of many choices I make when I write.  I need to choose something that my readers will connect with—something that will grab their attention and hold it until the last page.  I need to make my characters not only relatable, but flawed and unique.  I need to create a setting that is both remarkable and believable, so it paints a vivid picture in my reader’s head.  I need to develop a conflict that will make whoever reads about it feel connected to the story I’m trying to tell.  And finally, I need to choose something that I will enjoy writing, otherwise I know I won’t have any hope of finishing it.

As teenagers, my friend, Will, and I created our own world.  To this day, we continue to develop and expand upon its lands, its people, its magic, and most of all, its stories, but there was a time when none of it existed.  At least, in our minds.  We both loved to read and from this passion stemmed another: an unquenchable thirst for adventure.  We enjoyed exploring new places deep within the woods and losing ourselves in whatever stories we felt like telling.  Whether we were two hunters lost in a dangerous forest, or two knights sent to retrieve a princess from an evil sorcerer, our childhood was never devoid of fantastic quests and adventures.  There came a time, however, when we decided we were “too old” for such games and refocused our creativity into something more productive.  To this day, we still help each other in any way that we can.  Whether it’s running ideas by each other, or asking for an opinion on something we’ve written, we’re always eager to help the other along.  What I’m trying to say is that brainstorming isn’t something I can do while sitting in front of computer, or even by myself, for that matter.  Inspiration comes from experience, which is honestly true of anything.

Because I’ve been on a teen fic(tion) kick as of late, I’ve decided to take a stab at the genre and see where it takes me.  I’ve had the rough outline of an idea bouncing around inside of my head for a while, but it wasn’t until this opportunity presented itself that I decided to give it a whirl.  I suppose I’m cheating if I use a concept I’ve been toying with for a while since it means I’m not necessarily starting from “scratch,” but most of my stories begin this way.  I start with half an idea and let inspiration fill in the rest.  I plan to construct a city and create characters based off of places and people from my real life, then tie them into the story I’m writing.

So, what’s the idea I’ve come up with?  Well, books with teenage protagonists, such as Harry Potter and Percy Jackson and the Olympians, are some of my favorite to read.  This makes me certain I’d have fun writing a similar story.  Then I got to thinking, what if I built a story around a teenage male protagonist with a unique ability, just like these.  It will have to be unique, because this type of story has been written many times over, but I believe I can do it.  That’s all I’m working with now, but I have the first scene already envisioned in my head and I’m eager to begin writing it.

Expect to read the beginning of this project soon, which should be sometime within the week.  I’m really excited to start, so I’ll leave you here.  Just remember what I said.  Inspiration comes from experience, so get out there and explore everything that your world has to offer.

Until next time,

A fellow writer.