The Devil’s In the Details

This isn’t the first article I’ve written about characters. Characters are important! All of the action and plot twists and witty dialogue in the world won’t do you any good if your readers do not feel a connection to your characters and care about what happens to them. People read to see what will happen to your characters. End of story!

I know many of us have some pretty strong emotional investments in our characters. Some of us even feel as though they have their minds of their own, and have taken on their own lives and make their own decisions and we are simply taking dictation.

We are all adept at making our characters live and breathe for us. But, what makes them live and breathe for the reader? Well, when I think of characters that really came alive off the page for me, I think of Robert Langdon;  I think of his fear of elevators and his Mickey Mouse watch. When I think of Harry Potter, I think of his glasses, trainers, and his scar. In other words, the devil is in the details.

When I’m writing and trying to bring a character into focus, I start thinking about details. What cereal does this person eat for breakfast? What stores do they shop at? I’ve frequently been amazed by how working out these tiny details can make the big ones come into clear and brilliant focus.

Of course, overwhelming your reader is something to be careful of. You’ll bore your readers if you fill your page with descriptions of meal preferences and nail polish shades. But,  that doesn’t mean it won’t help you to know them yourself or pay for you to spend some time thinking about them.

And, picking a few key ones to share, like a Mickey Mouse Watch, can really make your character stand out.

What are some of your favorite character quirks and details? What details about your characters endear them to you?

I’d love to hear.

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Non Fictional Feelings about Fictional Characters

Valentine’s Day has come and gone. Chocolate is half price, and many of us are thinking about love in one form or another. And, it made me think about something I’ve seen circling the internet. fictional

 

Have you ever had an emotional attachment to a fictional character? While we all know that “the real thing” requires a real person, emotional attachments to fictional characters are pretty non-fictional. Whether it’s one of ours or one from our favorite story, I think most of us have fallen in love with a fictional character.

 

My own crush is a common enough one. I saw Les Miserables on stage when I was thirteen years old, and read Victor Hugo’s sweeping novel shortly afterwards.  Since then I’ve had a very deep emotional attachment to the character of Enjolras. It’s funny, my view of him has changed over the years, from a teenage girl seeing him as heroic and noble, to an adult woman seeing him as idealistic and naïve, but with a touching innocence and purity to his absence of cynicism and faith that his revolution would bring about change.  But, while my view has changed, my feelings haven’t.

 

How many fictional character crushes have you had? Do you think that it is normal and healthy, or is it strange? Do you think that fictional character crushes are devices used to market mediocre fiction to young readers, or does it take talent and skill write a character that a reader can fall in love with?

 

What characters do you love?

 

I’d love to hear about it.

Writing Resolutions

Hello, everyone! The combination of stress and joy that is the Holidays has passed. 2012 is gone and 2013 has begun.  New Year’s is always a time for goal setting and newfound optimism. This year isn’t any different.

New Year’s is also a time for resolutions. In addition to the usual personal improvement resolutions, involving work and social goals, I’ve also made a number of writing resolutions. I thought I’d share them.

  1. Write something every day: It doesn’t matter if it’s a character sketch or a random snatch of dialog, as long as it is something. There is no minimum word limit here, just to write something.
  2. Spend more time in character development: Let the characters speak their own minds to me. Let the plot develop organically from their personalities rather than trying to make them jump through hoops and fit into boxes I make for them.
  3. Set a writing schedule: Schedule time in the day that will be my writing time, and stick to that schedule.
  4. Read more: Nothing helps my writing like reading good writing. Also, I have a lot of craft books that I have not read yet. I resolve to read those before I acquire more.

I realize fully that these are fairly standard suggested resolutions that one will see in any given writing book or blog. None of this is original. But, I hope that publishing this here will help me keep my resolutions. I always believe that telling people about your resolutions makes you more accountable to them. Don’t you agree?

I would like to know what some of your writing resolutions are.

Have a great 2013!

November

Just a quick note to say that late October and November kind of got away from me. I apologize. I love this blog and all of you. Between getting ready for Nanowrimo and actual Nanowrimo, and adjusting to a new work schedule at my day job, I have been very busy. But, I will be posting about my November escapades very soon.

 

Happy Thanksgiving!

The Writing Prompt Rorschach Challenge: Conclusion

Well, it’s time for me to bring my self-imposed challenge to a close.  This post has been a little slow-coming, but I’ve been going back and looking at my prompts in the two previous posts. I’ve enjoyed myself, really. It was a fun thing to do.

Unfortunately, as I look back, I don’t believe the results were anything particularly amazing. I did enjoy doing it. It was a fun challenge to write the same prompts twice over at different times of the day and in different moods. The prompts and schedule are here, if anyone would still like to try.

What did I learn from this exercise? In truth, not what I’d hoped. I had hoped for some kind of a pattern. Like, I’m more whimsical or fanciful when I’m stressed or that I’m more literal in the morning. I’d have thought that my mood or the time of day might have influence over what I write, and that I would be able to notice that influence in a small experiment like this.

I didn’t. I wish I could say that I did.

In a way, this surprises me. I seem to be just as whimsical when I’m at work as when I’m relaxed. I seem just as silly in the morning as I am at night. That’s not to say that I didn’t learn anything. I think a lot of what I found about was how I respond to a prompt. I write about my daydreams, things that I think are exciting and funny. They’re things that I want to read, or want to see. In that regard, I think I’m something of a selfish writer. Perhaps if I’d done more prompts, and repeated them more times, I would have found something. Yet, I didn’t.

Did anyone else try this?  Did anyone gain any more insight than I did?

Challenge Delayed by Fire

I was doing the The Writing Prompt Rorschach Challenge! with the writing prompts.

Perhaps it is ironic to the point of being appropriate that life got in the way. The town in which I live was surrounded by brush fires last week. There was some property damage,  but no loss of life was recorded. I am fortunate that the only way in which I was affected, is that the poor air quality resulting from the smoke played havoc with my allergies.

I was safe from the fire, but my nose and eyes were in misery.

In a Benadryl fog, looking at everything through watery eyes, constantly rubbing my nose, I thought to myself, “Well,  this will make an interesting contrast for future entries of the writing challenge.” However, it held on for so many days. Not wanting to write a week’s worth of “I wrote this when I was sick” prompts, I’m starting over again this week.

I might post some sick prompts after it is over though, just for laughs.

If anyone else is going to try the challenge, let me know!

The Writing Prompt Rorschach Challenge!

If you’re reading this blog, you write. And, if you write, you probably use writing prompts.  Even if you’ve taken so much as a Jr. High language art class, you’ve probably used writing prompts. But, how does your mood affect the way you would respond to a prompt?

It’s a bit like the famous Rorschach test. What do you see when you look at the ink blots? What do you think about when you read the prompt? People in different emotional states will give different answers. So, it occurred to me, does my mood have an effect on what I write? Are my characters’ emotions subject to my own?

So, I propose a challenge. Feel free to take it with me and share your results.

  1. Take these five writing prompts. Write on one prompt a day, Monday through Friday.
  2. Each day when you write, make note of the time of day, your mood, etc.
  3. Take the weekend off from the challenge!
  4. Repeat starting on the following Monday. Do not re-read what you wrote the first time you wrote on the prompt, but do go back and look at the notes. Try to write on the same prompt, under the different circumstances.
  5. Compare! How do you write when you’re stressed versus when you’re calm? What is the difference between how you write in the morning versus in the evening?

I’ll post my own results later in September. I’d love it if someone else wanted to try it and shared their results with me. I expect some of them may be radically different, and some of them may be exactly the same. Who knows?

Now, to the prompts!

Monday: You arrive at work to find that something is missing and has been replaced with something else.

Tuesday: During your morning coffee, you open the newspaper and read something shocking about someone you know.

Wednesday: You go swimming and while you’re at the pool, you meet someone from very far away, who is in need of your help.

Thursday: Write about the best possible way to meet the love of your life.

Friday: It’s the end of a long work day. All you want to do is relax, but something keeps preventing it.

I hope you like it! I can’t wait to see what results this yield!